April 04 2016 Monday at 12:55 PM

Duels Diaries Week 36 - The Final Diaries of B4Z Season

You’ll have to forgive me if today’s post doesn’t get particularly in depth.  You see, I have a lot going on.  It is a huge week for Duels, with two new expansions set to hit on Wednesday.  My super awesome plan is to get all my work done today, Monday, and tomorrow so that I can do nothing but battle and brew, tune and test when the update drops.  It isn’t the best time for that.  I have a lot of taxes to get done, I have a lot of stuff in general going on, but I will make this work.

So yeah, this may be brief, but there will be no lack of blog content and Duels content in the near future.  Don’t you dare be sour…

Let’s tie a bow on the Battle for Zendikar season by reviewing some of the competitive results from the last week -

The Steam Showdown

The first Steam Showdown tournament is finally in the books.  If you don’t want spoilers, don’t keep reading, instead visit THIS PAGE and watch the battles.  Takeaways and ramblings to come further in the article, for now go watch some good Magic if that is something you are into, and I hope you are!  Congrats to the big winner, certainly someone who I feel deserves the win.

XB1 Single Elim event

Not much progress since last week, and I am doubting this tournament will conclude with the update looming.  Of note, habitual tournament competitor T-sh1rt has made the finals with an interesting Bant Tutelage deck you can check out here - http://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/391490#online

iOS Tournament

This one is in the books.  Yours truly, CovertGo Blue, dispatched Annuj’s Gruul Ramp deck in a quick and ugly fashion, 3-0.  It wasn’t a pretty one.  All three games involved Jace on play for me, and if you can get luckier in this matchup I am not sure how.  From that point, I either used Acid-Moss to keep AJ out of the game or I used Spell Shrivel’s to keep him from resolving ramp and threats.  This match played out dramatically differently from our Swiss match, where AJ beat me 2-1, and it still leaves me wondering if either Gruul Ramp or Blue Ramp is favored or if this is just a coin flip.  For the record, here is my iOS Tournament winning decklist -

4 x Clutch of Currents

1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

4 x Gatecreeper Vine

4 x Disperse

2 x Displacement Wave

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

4 x Nissa's Pilgrimage

2 x From Beyond

4 x Mwonvuli Acid-Moss

1 x Kiora, Master of the Depths

2 x Drowner of Hope

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Oblivion Sower

1 x Part the Waterveil

2 x Nissa's Renewal

2 x Gaea's Revenge

1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

7 x Island

12 x Forest

2 x Lumbering Falls

2 x Hinterland Harbor


3 x Jaddi Offshoot

3 x Reclamation Sage

2 x Aligned Hedron Network

1 x Disciple of the Ring

4 x Spell Shrivel

2 x Dispel

This deck was registered hastily, because the day before the deadline I discovered Blue Ramp and really thought I was on to something.  The sideboard was completely untested and poorly conceived.  The main deck had some things right and several things wrong.  First of all, Clutch of Currents is unnecessary, and it takes the deck overboard on the bounce theme.  Disperse is the better of the two and should stay in the deck.  Jaddi Offshoot is needed in the main deck.  It plays a huge role in keeping you alive long enough to employ your mana denial strategy.  Dispel, Disciple and Hedron Network never did much, even in the Ramp matchup.  Spell Shrivel came in very handy against Ramp, but nothing else.  I also think I would go up to 25 lands at the expense of two Gatecreepers, and I would turn the other two Creepers into Visionaries.

Now let’s check out the winner of the Steam Showdown, Legend’s Red Aggro -

3 x Goblin Glory Chaser

2 x Goblin Arsonist

4 x Foundry Street Denizen

4 x Fiery Impulse

4 x Titan's Strength

2 x Twin Bolt

3 x Ember Hauler

2 x Abbot of Keral Keep

4 x Dragon Fodder

3 x Infectious Bloodlust

4 x Mage-Ring Bully

2 x Exquisite Firecraft

1 x Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh

1 x Avaricious Dragon

1 x Akoum Firebird

20 x Mountain

When I saw this decklist I thought it looked like the most consistent list of Red Aggro I had seen registered, and that consistency certainly paid off.  I gave the deck my highest grade, and I don’t deserve a pat on the back because I got a lot of things wrong, but what I am trying to say is that if you are looking for a Red Aggro list that will let you down the least I would start here.  Legend has been making videos week in and week out for a long time, taking few breaks and keeping us entertained.  I always loved his March Madness tournaments, and while I missed watching them this year, I can say that seeing him win the real thing was also extremely fun.  I think Legend would agree that he had to run “hot” (see what I did there?  Red, burn, hot?) to pull this off, and in a world of two Firecrafts you often need both to make it all the way.  Luck happens, but it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.  Here's a trophy!

Now into the conclusions part.  Let’s look at the finalist decks from all of the major competitive events in B4Z season -

Gruul Ramp

Blue Ramp

Green Ramp

Red Aggro

Simic Tempo

Red Aggro



The first takeaway for me is that more people need to consider mono-color and two-color decks for tournament play.  The mana consistency in Duels just isn’t good enough for three color decks to stay consistently competitive.  It isn’t really that we lack the mana sources to build a reliable manabase in three or more colors, it is really about the tap lands.  When your lands enter the battlefield tapped on a turn that you could have played something, you have granted your opponent a free turn in a sense, a Time Walk for you old-school players.  If you have one land enter tapped, probably no big deal, there isn’t much that decks do with turn one these days.  If you play two or more tapped lands in your first five turns, you may be in deep trouble.  Decks that have made the finals of our competitive events rarely have this problem and victimize decks that do have this problem.  Do recall that over half the field in the Hakumite and a large share of the Steam Showdown field was made up of three-or-more color decks.   I think that deck builders like tri-color builds for more options and more power.  Duels rarity restrictions limit the ways to build an awesome deck in one or two colors, and if you want to play with plenty of planeswalkers and bomb rares you have to branch out.  The results show that the desire for more powerful rares and mythics doesn’t translate into match wins.

Another takeaway for some may be that Ramp isn’t dominating the format.  Perhaps that is the right way to look at it - Ramp is not dominating the format, but I can certainly argue that it is warping the format.  The decks that rose to the top in a ramp-heavy field clearly had a consistent game plan to compete with Acid-Moss and Co, and that plan was to punish the Ramp decks for ramping.  Casting Pilgrimage, Natural Connection, From Beyond and Acid-Moss typically requires all the Ramp player’s resources on important turns of the game.  The decks that overcame Ramp punished Ramp for ramping by casting hard-hitting creatures that could apply pressure while Ramp got it’s seven-to-ten mana together.  Which brings us to what we don’t see…

Control failed to make the finals.  It isn’t news to my readers that control is not as competitive as we’d like in this format.  Rather than a typical Aggro, Midrange, Control paradigm we have been working in a paradigm where Aggro is Red Aggro, Midrange is Thopters and Simic Tempo which resemble aggro, and Ramp is the Control.  As the season concludes, it looks like this paradigm will go unchallenged.  Nobody ever quite put together the control deck that could handle the brutal combination of Ramp and Aggro decks that the format fielded.

As we got deeper into the season, players dealt with Gruul Ramp better, which is great.  It is nice to see that the players who stuck it out where able to learn, grow and adapt from the experience.  We saw Gruul’s 80% win-loss ratio in competitive play decline to just 67% at the end.  It is a shame that we never really found a deck that could get a decisively positive record against Gruul Ramp, as such a deck would shift the meta dramatically, but it is a sign of better Magic when players find ways to beat the big bully in the room.

Here is the winner’s circle for the four major events -

Red Aggro


Blue Ramp

Green Ramp

Four different deck types, giving the passer-by a glimpse of what looks like a healthy format.  Yes, there will always be a Gruul Ramp, Acid-Moss deck to complain about, but I don’t think the domination is as overblown as some think.  The real problem is that this game is mostly a casual endeavor, and mages who like traditional control or midrange strategies didn’t really get to enjoy those strategies while Gruul Ramp stomped Acid-Moss footprints in their lands.  With Moss leaving the format and hundreds of new cards arriving, these Midrange and Control will once again get a chance to prove themselves.

For one last look, let’s list the decks that played over thirty competitive matches this season and see their final win-loss ratios.  One more quick look back, and then nothing but forward :)

Thopters - 52%

Jund - 45%

Gruul Ramp - 67%

Azorius Aggro - 42%

Esper Control - 39%

Simic Tempo - 54%

Red Aggro - 57%

Tutelage Fog - 51%

Green Ramp - 74%

Rakdos - 27%

Blue Ramp - 58%

Please join me on Twitch on April 6th for the Shadows/Oath launch party, all day from the moment I get the update until I can't physically play anymore.  Also come check out my Twitch interview with Hakeem on Tuesday night, hit us up in the chat and ask questions if you have them.

The End Credits -

Bookmark - http://www.hauntedflower.com/blogs/duels-diaries

Twitch - http://www.twitch.tv/covertgoblue/profile

Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/user/danno029

Twitter - https://twitter.com/danno029

About Duels Diaries - http://www.hauntedflower.com/blogs/duels-diaries/79645700-what-is-duels-diaries

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