April 06 2016 Wednesday at 11:01 AM

Telling Time - Questions and Predictions for the Oath/Shadows meta

Hang on guys, this is my last rambling blog post about Shadows and Oath without having played Shadows and Oath.  Sometime in the late afternoon or early evening, we are scheduled to get a long overdue Duels update with new cards, a new look, hopefully some new music, and a whole new meta.  This little post will discuss some of the big questions I will try to answer about the new format.  In any new format it is important to “reflect” on what you know and what you don’t know.  Once you know what it is that you don’t know, make it your business to know it!  Here are my burning questions -

Who can beat Ramp?

This question isn’t so much for the Hakumite 2.0 or other tournament play, as I expect competitors will be Ramp-weary and happy to play something else.  This is for the randoms.  Once we have new boosters to open, I expect players that are low on cash and low on gold to bust out the best decks that win the fastest.  One of those is Red Aggro, the other is Ramp.  Red Aggro is a good baseline test for any new deck and I am confident that I can tune my new brews to beat it.  Ramp is different.  In our last format, it made some amount of decks competitively useless.  This could still be the case, Ramp does have new toys after all, but so do we.  I will be paying close attention to the performance of my new brews against the Ramp menace, and if I can find something with a favorable, not bearable but favorable Ramp matchup, you can bet I’ll be sharing it.

Are tribal strategies good?

Shadows gives us some tribal strategies that will hopefully outshine Allies and get more on the level with Thopters - Vampires, Werewolves and Humans.  Humans and Werewolves are almost one tribe with most creatures counting as both.  Of these, Vampires and their Madness mechanic seem the most pushed, but not so fast!  The Green and Red lycanthropes and the White Humans may turn out to be the real winners here.  Regardless, I’ll be digging into all three of these strategies.  For some initial, untested brews check out my deck box page - http://tinyurl.com/zr8ke6w

What is the best shell for colorless Eldrazi?

This is a tribe that doesn’t need to be tested to know it is good.  The real question is where do we put these colorless critters?  We got a serious serving of power from this Oath Eldrazi crew, and now they need the right home.  As you can see from my deckbox page (http://tinyurl.com/zr8ke6w), I am trying a lot of things.  And perhaps the correct color will be no color at all - Colorless

Do we have good countermagic yet?  Or, is control any good?

I will certainly try some control lists and see what happens, but I don’t see many reasons to get optimistic.  Yes, removal got better, particularly in white and black, but I see cards like Declaration in Stone and Anguished Unmaking to be far better in aggressive and midrange shells than in control decks.  I think I already know the answer to this one, this format will remain a format where you need to maintain a creature-based board presence to compete.

How good is Reflector Mage in Duels?

I know the answer in Standard Paper Magic, and I can guess at the answer in Duels.  Maybe the real question is this - Are the rest of the Blue/White cards in Duels good enough to make Reflector Mage as dominant in Duels?  Reflector Mage is clearly the lead singer, how talented is the rest of the band?

How good/bad is the mana?

Mana is mostly unchanged from last time, except for the addition of some great utility lands.  The new man-lands like Needle Spires enter the battlefield tapped, and therefore add more challenges to curving out.  Most three color decks already played far too many tapped lands, and from the brews I am already seeing posted online, I think this trend will get worse.  Therefore, my plan for the most part is to stick to consistent two color decks.  While we are on the subject of mana, playing the Eldrazi with diamond mana requirements is not easy.  If you want to cast these super-powerful creatures and spells, you have to treat the colorless requirement like an extra color.  That is why I feel like the best Eldrazi decks will be one color plus Eldrazi, not UW Eldrazi or BU Eldrazi or things of that nature.  On the other hand, you can do what my UW Eldrazi list is trying to do, and keep the colorless mana requirement to a light splash to just use one or two Eldrazi spells.  Don’t forget that Scions can also pay for your diamond mana.  Westvale Abbey is a great card, and will likely get jammed in every deck, but it is a brown land at heart, and makes your mana base less consistent if it takes away from your colored sources.  I personally don’t play to play less than 25 lands in Abbey decks, because I don’t want my Abbey’s disrupting my mana base too much.  Making the best decks in a new format should start with your mana-base, and then work to see what the best things are that you can do with that mana-base.  There are only so many things you can do with your lands, you can do a lot with tuning your deck.

So what do I foresee in the new Duels meta?

I think that the Eldrazi will be part of tier one deck when we find the right home for them.

I think that some kind of UW Aggro-Tempo deck will be competitive thanks to Reflector Mage.

I believe that Ramp will be a top tier deck, but I don’t think it will be as mind-numbingly dominant as it was, and I think after the randoms unlock some cards there will be an unwritten agreement to stay off Ramp for a while.

I believe that the quality of removal and the increase in good early creatures will make life really hard for Red Aggro.

I believe that control decks, if they are to survive, will have to lean heavily on planeswalkers and awesome creatures to maintain a board presence.  Draw-Go is an outdated strategy in this writer's opinion, and it goes against what Wizards wants for this game.  Swimming against the tide only gets you so far.  If you want to play control, plan to kill the first few threats or sweep the board, then drop an awesome creature or walker that is hard to deal with and ride it to victory.

I believe that midrange decks will return.  Now that we have stronger creatures in spots two, three, four and five, midrange decks can punish ramp decks for tapping out to ramp.  Midrange decks also have good removal spells to get rid of Ramp’s big threat.

OK, that is enough ramble ramble from me for today.  Time to figure out what else I can do with my time as I watch these last few hours tick by.  It snowed this morning in my part of the world, and I feel like a kid on Christmas….except I have to wait several more hours to unwrap my new toys!

<3 CGB

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