March 28 2016 Monday at 12:58 PM

Telling Time - Things that will change in Shadows/Oath Duels

“Meet the old boss, same as the old boss” - The Who - Won’t Get Fooled Again


The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Or will they?  Will our beloved Magic Duels and the meta of that game fall into such cliches?


Wizards is removing Acid-Moss from the Duels platform, thus taking some of the frustration and sting out of the Ramp decks.  That is a good thing, because people hate losing to Acid-Moss, but let’s get real for a minute - players hate losing, period.  If Ramp is still a dominant strategy, and it still easily dispatches other decks that could be more interesting, thus shrinking the playable card pool, then players will still hate Ramp.  I would make an argument that Ramp, not Moss but Ramp, made White completely unplayable as a competitive color in the last format.  Look at the top tier decks from my last post (HERE).  How much White do you see?  White had perfectly fair creatures and spells, which made it easy for Ramp to go right over the top.  Therefore, you need something better than fair creatures and spells to compete.  So what do we know about in the Shadows/Oath update that could be considered a little less fair (at least compared to what we’ve had for the last six months)?  Let’s hit the list and talk about some of the biggest changes coming to the Shadows/Oath meta-


Thing #1 - Real removal spells are coming to Duels -


Declaration in Stone, Angelic Purge, Grasp of Darkness, Oblivion Strike, Bearer of Silence, Isolation Zone, and Anguished Unmaking are all arguably upgrades to our existing tools that will likely see play.  Killing Ulamog was hard work in this format, and it led to very average cards like Angelic Edict, Suppression Bonds, Celestial Flare and Aligned Hedron Network seeing some play.  Declaration, Purge and Unmaking can all do the job of exiling Ulamog at a much more reasonable cost.  Interestingly, Gaea’s Revenge can’t be targeted by any of this stuff, so the card may see more play than before.  I don’t know about Angelic Purge in constructed, but I think it will serve a role in Duels.  Having the flexibility to remove enchantments and artifacts is a big deal.  Early in the game, sacrificing a permanent is a tough proposition, but sometimes it is worth it, especially if you have something like a Clue lying around.  Late in the game it is easy to give up an excess land or redundant enchantment like Evolutionary Leap for the effect.  With lands being safe from Moss, and with so many strong removal options, can a Black/White based control deck just take the route of removing everything, waiting for Ramp to run out of gas, and winning with whatever?


Black/White Shadows-Oath Control First Draft -


2 x Reality Smasher

2 x Thought-Knot Seer

1 x Sorin, Grim Nemesis

2 x Anguished Unmaking

1 x Archangel Avacyn

2 x Angelic Purge

1 x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

2 x Oblivion Strike

2 x Bearer of Silence

3 x Grasp of Darkness

1 x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

2 x Planar Outburst

3 x Carrier Thrall

2 x Languish

1 x Liliana, Heretical Healer

1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited

2 x Read the Bones

3 x Fleshbag Marauder

2 x Declaration in Stone

2 x Shambling Vents

1 x Wastes

4 x Evolving Wilds

4 x Foresaken Sanctuary

1 x Crumbling Vestige

2 x Isolated Chapel

6 x Plains

5 x Swamp


Thing #2 - There is a sixth color, and it has some great cards


Check out the decklist above.  Look at the power it gains from a bit of colorless mana!  Thought-Knot, Bearer and Smasher all fit right into our theme of incremental advantage, and that is IF they are dealt with.  Otherwise, you just win the game.  However, adding a Wastes to your deck that already uses Evolving Wilds won’t be a free-role.  If you already play three real colors, it will be a stretch to get the colorless creatures into your deck.  I’ve had little trouble slotting in the devoid superstars in two color decks like Thopters, Golgari and Black/White, but I can’t make it reliably worth with Esper, Sultai or Jund.  A brewer will have to make some serious decisions about what these great four and five drop Eldrazis are worth to them.


Thing #3 - All of our decks are getting more mythic.


Here are some of the mythic rares we have confirmed -


Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Arlinn Kord

Nahiri, The Harbinger

Chandra, Flamecaller

Wolf of Devil’s Breach

Kozilek’s Return

Archangel Avacyn

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Crush of Tentacles

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets


It is no big Magic mystery that mythics are often more powerful than your average card.  While Duels Origins and B4Z have relied on commons and uncommons to hold decks together, Shadows/Oath Duels pushes us closer to the tipping point where we have enough powerful mythics available that we don’t have to rely on commons and uncommons, we just pack our decks full of the strongest mythics and rely on overall card power to win games.  This is best exemplified in any of the “Superfriends” planeswalker decklists.  Let’s start a new Four Color Superfriends list shall we?


1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

1 x Jace, Unraveler of Secrets

1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited

1 x Liliana, Heretical Healer

1 x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

1 x Nahiri, the Harbinger

1 x Sorin, Grim Nemesis

1 x Chandra, Flamecaller

1 x Archangel Avacyn

1 x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet


That is a lot of Mythic action going on, and we are just warming up.  In a world where rares and mythics provide all the power, the goal of getting as many as possible into one deck will be a worthy endeavor.  Without Moss messing with the mana base, it seems less crazy than before, and unlike Standard Paper Magic, Duels mana will continue to improve as sets and cards are introduced.


Of course, building a Commander-style deck with one of every mythic won’t get you anywhere in the synergy or speed rankings, so what does the future hold for those strategies?


Thing #4 - Aggro and tribal strategies are not looking good right now


It will take some pretty awesome spoilers to change this.  We are clearly getting better removal spells and more planeswalkers.  This is not good for aggro decks, and so far the spoilers don’t include any cards that get me excited to play old-fashioned beatdown.  The vampire madness tribal theme has some folks excited.  I watched a video the other day of two accomplished players battling, one was using a proxied-up Rakdos Vamps list and the other was playing a reanimator deck.  The Vamps got crushed.  Now I realize this is paper, and Duels will be very different, but it is my experience so far that mechanic driven synergies are tough to pull off with any consistency in Duels.  Our latest disaster in that space was Ingest/Processors.  Now Madness/Discard is a much more powerful effect than Processors, but the gist is the same - we need the right number of enablers, which usually are underwhelming on their own, and we need the right mix of payoff cards.  The rarity restrictions in Duels make this even harder to achieve.  While I will be testing Vampires and Allies on day one, I don’t expect either tribe to hold up very well to the mythic invasion.  Aggro fans, I predict things will get worse, not better.  A card that could twist that image is Reckless Bushwacker, and I hope we get it for the sake of the Aggro archetype itself.

Thing #5 - The bar for creatures is rising.


Since we have more planeswalkers, and since players love planeswalkers, you can assume you will start seeing walkers on turns four, five and six very regularly in the near future.  We only have a few spells to directly interact with them, so we need to kill them with creatures more often than not.  If you want to kill a walker, you can’t be a creature that is easily chump blocked.  Trample, Haste and Flying, and great EtB abilities will be a requirement for creatures to make an impact in the new format.  With all this great new removal and improving mana, you won’t be getting far with an army of Grizzly Bears.  


Thing #6 - Ramp is not done.


Ramp gets better with this expansion, and I don’t think it is debatable.


4 x Explosive Vegetation

1 x Kozilek's Return

1 x Chandra, Flamecaller

1 x Arlinn Kord

1 x Nahiri, the Harbinger

2 x Thought-Knot Seer

2 x Reality Smasher

3 x Walker of the Wastes


Those are the new options that could make an impact so far, and the impact is not a small one.  Access to more planeswalkers is going to give Ramp a lot more staying power.  Another sweeper in Kozilek’s Return is super relevant, and Chandra fills that role as well.  I have tested with the Eldrazi and I think they are worth it, and Walker of the Wastes may be surprisingly overpowering in Duels.


Thing #7 - is in the ice…


It is confirmed, we are getting Thing in the Ice.  While some are convinced that this card will destroy constructed formats, I still have a lot of questions about how it will perform in Duels.  I see two directions for attempting to exploit this Thing - Izzet Prowess and Esper Control.  Let’s conclude today’s Telling Time ramble with some Thing in the Ice brews -


Prowess Thing -


4 x Twin Bolt

4 x Titan's Strength

2 x Pia and Kiran Nalaar

4 x Fiery Impulse

2 x Exquisite Firecraft

2 x Abbot of Keral Keep

1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

3 x Jhessian Thief

3 x Anchor to the Aether

4 x Umara Entangler

2 x Thing in the Ice

1 x Jace, Unraveler of Secrets

1 x Chandra, Flamecaller

3 x Disperse

2 x Sulfur Falls

3 x Evolving Wilds

3 x Highland Lake

8 x Island

8 x Mountain


Esper Control Thing


2 x Thing in the Ice

1 x Jace, Unraveler of Secrets

3 x Grasp of Darkness

1 x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

3 x Oblivion Strike

2 x Angelic Purge

1 x Archangel Avacyn

2 x Anguished Unmaking

1 x Sorin, Grim Nemesis

1 x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

2 x Planar Outburst

1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

4 x Disperse

2 x Horribly Awry

2 x Languish

1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited

2 x Scatter to the Winds

2 x Declaration in Stone

2 x Brain in a Jar

2 x Plains

2 x Swamp

2 x Island

2 x Drowned Catacomb

2 x Isolated Chapel

2 x Glacial Fortress

2 x Sunken Hollow

2 x Prairie Stream

2 x Shambling Vent

4 x Evolving Wilds

1 x Crumbling Vestige


“Smile and grin at the change all around,

Pick up my guitar and play,

Just like yesterday,

And I get on my knees and pray….

We won’t get fooled again!”

<3 CGB

The End Credits -


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Awesome Duels resources and recommendations -


Magic Duels Reddit - https://www.reddit.com/r/magicduels/


No Goblins Allowed - http://forum.nogoblinsallowed.com/viewforum.php?f=38


Twitch Magic Duels - http://www.twitch.tv/directory/game/Magic%20Duels


Competitive Results Tracking Spreadsheet - https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1rrQa5Obct0VQQNbvMqSqUVfqLS2whUGm9gbfXbixL1s/edit?usp=sharing