March 14 2016 Monday at 01:59 PM

Duels Diaries Week 33 - Going Green

Play lots of Green this week, because it is an awesome color, and because you don’t want to get pinched!  Happy St. Paddy’s Day, early, right on time or belated depending when you read this.  Everyone go out and have a good time.  Me, I think I will spend the evening having a Green-themed St. Paddy’s Twitch stream.

The world of Duels has been rocked recently.  Clearly the big news to come out of the week is the exile of several cards from the Duels Starter Box (more info HERE).  The most important takeaway from these changes isn’t what cards are out, what cards are in and what they will do for this or that deck.  The biggest takeaway is that this happened at all!  Given the history of Duels, I didn’t really expect this, I sort-of wishy-washy hoped for it.  I mean, did they ever remove Reckless Bushwacker from Goblin Gangland? Did they ever remove Champion of the Parish from Avacyn’s Glory?  Did Young Pyromancer ever get kicked out of Magic 2015?  NO!  We were stuck with those cards.  Now that Duels is in-theory a permanent client, to be updated with each new set, the Wizards in the high tower see the need to manage the game to some degree.  In the past, it was drop a pile of cards on you and we are done.  Today, they have to at least monitor their product and make sure people still want to play it.

Personally, the removal of Acid-Moss makes me want to play the game more.  I have used paper cards to test some future Duels decks with Oath cards (more on that HERE) and while I enjoyed casting Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer, I LOVED not having to sequence my land around land destruction, and getting to build tool-box mana bases - for example, if I add one Wastes, 4 Evolving Wilds and 3 Pilgrim’s Eye I can get my Wastes rather reliably.  In Moss-land, I probably can’t run the Wastes package at all because I am too busy focusing on getthing double red and double blue for Pia/Kiran and Rogue.  Yeah, all this Acid-Moss has given me appreciation for the freedom to set up my mana and then worry about the fun stuff - creatures and removal spells!

I am confident that the next wave of competitive events featuring Shadows and Oath cards will be far more interactive and even more fun to watch.  I hope we get events on all of the platforms within a few weeks of the Shadows/Oath release.  This will give players the chance to really show off their innovative decks and technology before it becomes common-place in the meta.  Like the Pro Tour, but without trophies, money, fame, prestige, serious judges, live commentary and coverage, or anything else, because it is still Duels after all :)

Speaking of competitive play….

My spreadsheet has been updated with all the played matches in the XB1 Double Elimination event and round three of the Steam Showdown.  Changes from updating single rounds will not have huge impacts on the results at this point, but a few things are notable -

Red Aggro made a bit of a comeback on the week and brought its overall record to 19-14, led by MrNiceGuy’s run to the top of the winner bracket in the XB1 Double Elim.  Let’s check out his list -

2 x goblin glory chaser

2 x goblin arsonist

4 x foundry street denizen

4 x fiery impulse

4 x titan's strength

2 x abbot of keral keep

3 x ember hauler

2 x subterranean scout

2 x call of the full moon

2 x infectious bloodlust

4 x twin bolt

3 x dragon fodder

2 x ghirapur gearcrafter

2 x exquisite firecraft

2 x pia and kiran nalaar

20 x Mountain

On the plane of Zendikar, in a world of funky lands, his mana base is 20 Mountain.  I love it, and I do believe it is right.  In recent weeks I have shaved it down to 18 lands, but it is a risk-reward hedge that I don’t expect most players to make.  Some cards leave me scratching my head.  The big one is Gearcrafter.  I would run Thopter Engineer for the hasty 1 damage and the synergies with Pia/Kiran.  I also couldn’t/wouldn’t run Pia/Kiran if I cut any more lands, 20 is already dangerous territory for four drops.  Subterranean Scout is a throwback that I haven’t seen in some time, and I would be curious to see how it performed (there has been no video from his matches to my knowledge).  Two Bloodlust is odd, I haven’t seen any player cut that down to two, along with two Glory Chaser.  I would love to hear the logic on both choices, my first instinct is that he hasn’t unlocked all the cards!  Since there isn’t a single B4Z card in the list, that wouldn’t surprise me.  If MrNiceGuy can win-out and take the championship, he’ll be the second player (Barney being the first) to win an event with an all-Origins decklist.

Simic continued to improve and made it to an 11-8 record, an effort spearheaded by strong play from Yondar and Terazin.

I don’t add mirror match results to the sheet, as the point of the data is to identify positive and negative matchups between different archetypes and view win percentages against the field.  Mirror match stats don’t help with any of that, so Jund Crats has not been updated as the Crats players had a mirror match this week.

Gruul Ramp is still king of the hill, and is way ahead of the competition.  Only one deck has a winning record against Gruul Ramp, and that is Jund Crats at 2-0.  Hardly enough games to call it a sure thing, but it will be something to keep an eye on, to see if Jund Crats can keep pace with the Gruul bohomoth.  With only some unknown number of weeks left in the format, maybe it isn’t too late to find another top tier deck.  Or then again, maybe it is…

If you are looking make the top eight cut in the Steam Showdown, you can really only guarantee yourself a place by winning four swiss matches.  Here is a look at who/what stands where going into round number four-

Yondar - Simic - 3-0

Kryder - Gruul Ramp - 3-0

Darkshock - Jund Crats - 3-0

Grimric - Jund - 2-1

Boh - Red Aggro - 2-1

Legend - Red Aggro - 2-1

Dream Maker - Sultai Ramp - 2-1

StepUp - Gruul Ramp - 2-1

Spaunshadie - Jund Crats - 2-1

Light - Sultai Control - 2-1

Pact - Abzan Ramp - 2-1

Terazin - Simic - 2-1

Being 1-2, doesn’t mean you are eliminated, but it makes for a very tough road.  Some players will make it into top eight at 3-2 overall, but it will require good tiebreakers, and that means you want to lose late in the event, not early as the 1-2’s have.  Still, battle on you 1-2’s, you never know how things will break.

A tad under half of these strategies are Ulamog strategies, so non-Moss/Ramp decks have held their own so far in the Steam Showdown, and I am curious to see the results that future rounds bring.  I specifically want to see if any of the rogue Ramp decks can prove their place among the Gruul Ramp list.  We have plenty of contenders with more colorful Ramp strategies - Jund, Sultai and Abzan are still 2-1.  I also really want to know if Jund Crats can hold up, the deck has two players and the deck has only lost in the mirror thus far.  Simic and Red are the other straight-up two-color decks trying to out-aggro Moss without bumping into each other, where I am confident that Simic has the advantage.

For fun, let’s take a look at the current (as of Round 3) leader, Yondar, and his Simic list -

2 x Clutch of Currents

3 x Undercity Troll

4 x Snapping Gnarlid

3 x Skyrider Elf

2 x Disperse

4 x Frost Lynx

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

3 x Bounding Krasis

3 x Wildsize

3 x Whirler Rogue

2 x Woodland Wanderer

2 x Adverse Conditions

2 x Guardian of Tazeem

2 x Outland Colossus

6 x Island

7 x Forest

2 x Lumbering Falls

1 x Woodland Cemetery

1 x Drowned Catacomb

1 x Rootbound Crag

2 x Hinterland Harbor

1 x Sulfur Falls

1 x Glacial Fortress

2 x Rogue's Passage

The deck has five check-lands to assist with the converge on Woodland Wanderer and Skyrider Elf, and so far this has really paid off.  Finding the right mix between creatures and tempo spells in these types of decks is always tricky.  Yondar settled on 2 Clutch, 2 Disperse, 2 Adverse Conditions to go with 3 Wildsize and 4 Frost Lynx, and the deck’s avatar Bounding Krasis.  That’s 16 ways to disrupt an opponent who plans on blocking your guys, and that doesn’t count Whirler Rogue or Guardian of Tazeem or Rogue’s Passage.  To compete with this deck, you can’t plan on blocking the creatures.  Speaking of the creatures, the deck has 22 guys that are good threats on curve (I don’t count Lynx or Falls).  You need a lot of removal to handle this army.  The deck’s weaknesses are sweepers and cheap removal spells, and there aren’t many decks around that combine Fiery Impulse with Planar Outburst.  I also love this deck’s matchup with Red Aggro, as Simic just has bigger threats that quickly outclass the little Red dudes, and a bounce spell on an aura’d Goblin just feels so good.

I am curious to see if Yondar can keep up his run.  While Simic can compete with Ramp, I never found a way to tip the matchup decisively to the Simic side, and I want to see how he does against Kryder’s Gruul Ramp.  It could go either way, and should be fun to watch.

If you, like many of my readers, are wondering when I will get back to reporting my own Duels testing results, don't worry.  I am already working on Shadows and Oath decks, and we will get back into testing results posts once we have either the full update or a confirmed list of cards in the update.  The weeks after the Oath/Shadows update will be awesome, as there will be lots of Twitch streaming, brewing, record tracking and such for us all to wallow in.

In case you missed it…

I was rather post-happy this week, and put up a lot of content.  Here are some links in case you missed any of it -

My last Duels Diaries entry discussing the top decks in the format and the tourney result-

Telling Time discussing some of the confirmed Oath of the Gatewatch cards-

Duels to Watch, which contains my favorite Duels videos from the past week-

Telling Time discussing the Shadows Over Innistrad spoilers that could come to Duels-

CGB’s Inbox, answering some questions about Jund Crats-

CGB’s Deck Box, featuring the decklists I played with most last week-

Breaking News, where I write about the changes to the Duels Starter Box including the exile of Mwonvuli Acid-Moss from the game!

Telling Time again, where I play-tested Thopters and Ramp with Oath of the Gatewatch cards-

Don’t expect such an outpouring for the next two weeks.  While I will try to get some Duels content lined up this week, I am spending the following week in Florida, and I have to do my taxes tomorrow and the next day, so I may even miss a Duels Diaries entry (gasp!).  But don’t worry, I’ll be back as soon as I can make the time because I am very, VERY excited about Oath and Shadows, and I have many more words to dump on all you wonderful readers.

Before I leave you all today, a quick link to another blogger who also plays Duels -

Funny, slightly insightful, if you are looking for another blog about Duels and my temperament is a tad tame for you, give this a read.  Here’s an excerpt that hits the nail on the head for me -

“What's Magic Duels? you hate going outside? Hate having to speak to fellow players? Can only win games when you're naked? Then Magic Duels might be for you.”

Thanks for reading, bookmark and come back soon for more Magic Duels blogging fun.

<3 CGB

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