Duels Diaries 4-18-2016
To be honest, I don’t feel like I have a handle on this format. The last format was pretty clear pretty quickly, I knew I had to get the right build of RG Ramp. Red Aggro had several builds, each only marginally different and not clearly better than the others. I did find some of the oddities of the format as well, namely Jund Crats, rather quickly, and from there it was all about tweaking the formats.
This is likely the most challenging Duels format I have ever worked on, and I believe it can be attributed to the large influx of cards and the fact that many of those cards are new, and unlike previous Duels iterations I have very few points of reference for what is good. This is another skill in Magic all its own, being able to size up new cards and figure out what is best with limited knowledge. I prided myself on this skill back in the day, but this week has shown me that I am out of practice. How good is Delerium? I don’t know, I guess I have to test it, and there are only so many hours in the day. I still have a crazy amount of questions that need answers, and while I exist in this uncomfortable state of uncertainty you should be wary of my decklists as they will be subject to changes, possibly massive changes or going straight to the discard pile, at any moment.
One thing is very clear, regardless of if I play on iOS or XB1 - Ramp is still the fun police. There are a lot of control and midrange strategies that still get rolled by Ramp. Explosive Vegetation is the mascot card of the iOS meta, where it seems everyone plays four or five colors fueled by the card. While I can usually handle their army of planeswalkers with my various midrange and control decks, the endboss is still Ulamog, and while there are more ways than before to kill Big Daddy Eldrazi, the loss of two permanents is often backbreaking. Gaea’s Revenge is still a huge pain as well. While we gained some great removal spells that do exile Ulamog in Anguished Unmaking, Declaration in Stone and others, those cards still don’t hit good ole’ GR, and I think that makes Revenge better now in the format than she was before.
Let’s back up what I am talking about. Of my 200 games that I consider worth noting on XB1 and iOS, 37 where RG Ramp and 29 were considered Misc Ramp. So one out of three games ends up in a brawl with Ulamog. This is actually comparable to the meta before the new cards got released, so it seems most players still need gold or saw the new cards and thought now Ulamog would be even more exciting!
Making matters worse for the diversity of the game, Red Aggro seems to be dead in the water. I discussed the woes of the little red creatures last week, and as of today I have only played against the extremely popular Origins and B4Z archetype only five times, and I haven’t lost to it yet. In Battle for Zendikar season, it was common knowledge you could play three ways - fast Red, big Ramp, or you could try to tightrope the middle. Well, fast Red doesn’t work anymore, so those who don’t like the tightrope and want the best shot they have at the gold are running Ulamog. If only they knew that there is a new aggro deck in town…
White Aggro seems best positioned to give Red Aggro a run for the money. WeCoexist, or as my wife calls him, “the bumper sticker I talk to on the internet”, has been on this for a while. He says he has played over a hundred games with the deck and boasts an 80ish percent win/loss. I picked up the deck, or at least a version that is about six cards different, and promptly got smashed by Naya Ramp, but I stuck with it and worked on the list and by Sunday afternoon I was on a pretty respectable winning streak, dispatching all kinds of Ramp and Four Color Walkers decks. I am sure WeCoexist wants credit, and he definitely has some ego invested in his list, so here is the latest from him - http://www.magicduelshelper.com/decklist/details/8ac31304-542d-4347-9498-131189b3540e
I have some different takes on a few cards. The decks are very similar, but I think you have to cut the land count even lower and keep combat tricks to a minimum, while I have found Nimbus Wings to be a key card in the deck. This would be a bad strategy if the format still had a lot of Fiery Impulses and Twin Bolts in it, but right now those cards seem to be on the sidelines since Red Aggro has taken a break and most players seem to want to see how they can smash their mythic rares into each other. Here is what I am playing -
Straight white humans, less lands, more two drops, goal is to have a flier with 4 toughness or more.
1x Kytheon, Hero of Akros
3x Expedition Envoy
3x Anointer of Champions
2x Knight of the White Orchid
4x Topan Freeblade
2x Thalia's Lieutenant
3x Consul's Lieutenant
2x Hanweir Militia Captain
2x Relic Seeker
2x Bygone Bishop
1x Archangel of Tithes
1x Archangel Avacyn
2x Enshrouding Mist
2x Make a Stand
2x Declaration in Stone
4x Nimbus Wings
2x Always Watching
1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1x Stoneforge Masterwork
1x Westvale Abbey
View to this deck go to: http://www.magicduelshelper.com/decklist/details/b5f699dc-a2ff-41ff-a4a4-5f4527973ac1
Created using Magic Duels Helper: http://www.magicduelshelper.com
I keep going back and forth between topping out at Gideon or going to five for Avacyn, and for now it is Avacyn as she may the the final big push needed. The only real complication to playing the deck is guessing what your opponent has for removal and trying to play around it. If they are RG Ramp, they will have a hard time dealing with a flying creature with four toughness or more, so get Wings on a renown bear ASAP. Against White decks, you should consider Reprisal and Declaration in Stone before moving in with an aura. What makes the White deck better than it has been in a while is a new batch of power cards, particularly the anthem effects like Always Watching and Thalia’s Lieutenant. While they are rare, you will draw them much more often than you could in the past when White Aggro was a bit of a joke. Hanweir Militia Captain is a better card than my set review gave it credit for, and Anointer of Champions can pump itself if it has vigilance from Always Watching, becoming a 3/3 for one attacker. The renown brothers, Topan Freeblade and Relic Seeker, are better now than they have been in the past. Anointer and Nimbus Wings help them break through the three toughness barrier, and once they break through they are pretty tough to kill. Having the one-of Stoneforge Masterwork gives us a small payoff from Relic Seeker and is another way to make a big, bad flier, the absolute bane of Ramp. My record with this version of White Aggro is 10-2, and I honestly don’t know how often I will play it, it isn’t very exciting, but it gets the job done. Since the power spells are new Shadows Over Innistrad rares, I don’t know if White Aggro will catch on right away with the grinding crowd, but I expect the popularity to grow over the coming weeks.
One thing that probably had a negative effect on last week’s results was a lack of focus. I spent only a few games on each deck and kept hopping around. Going into next week, here are the decks I want to focus on -
UR Prowess - 8W 4L - Most of my losses have been to my own mana base, or other odd plays. I am certain there is a very strong deck in here, and I want to find it.
BWC Control - 4W 3L - Again, I think there is a deck here and I haven’t focused enough on finding it yet.
4 Color Walkers - 24W 8L - I have put in a number of games here, and I am still trying to optimize the build. The current version is slanted against Ramp, and I am curious if it will still hold up against Aggro.
Jund Crats - 17W 3L - This is another deck where getting the mana and the numbers right is difficult, but there is definitely a lot of strong value interactions going on here, and this is they type of midrange deck I want to play, one with some great combos and a ton of value.
RG Ramp - 14W 5L - Having the best Ramp deck is a still a worthy goal, as there is a change that it is still the best deck in town.
White Aggro - 10W 2L - As mentioned above, this is likely the new aggro deck for the season.
Abzan Eldrazi Control - 7W 0L - Perhaps this is the best four color Planeswalker deck, with the fourth color being Eldrazi.
Something with Reflector Mages - 13W 1L - My UW decks continue to win games, but they always feel clunky, and I still don’t think I have cracked the code.
Decks I am off of for the time being. It doesn’t mean they are bad, just that they don’t require much focus right now, and I feel the upside is limited.
Simic Tempo - 7W 2L
BR Aggro - 8W 1L
Thopters - 7W 3L
UB Reanimator - 19W 6L
Red Eldrazi - 8W 3L
Elves - 7W 1L
RG Wolves - 8W 3L
For decklists, visit this link - http://www.magicduelshelper.com/deckbox?userId=CovertGo%20Blue
Other musings about the format -
White isn’t the weakest color anymore. Whatever it is, it sure isn’t White. Green is still very, very strong, and Red still has the most efficient cheap removal spells. That leaves Black and Blue in the scrap for last picked kid on the playground, and for now I pick Blue as Kalitas, Ob Nixilus and Sorin have been excellent finishers for me.
Also, I had the privilege of getting kicked around by Gemini’s newest creation last night -
2 x Nissa's Renewal
3 x Telling Time
3 x Warping Wail
3 x Geistblast
2 x Tamiyo's Journal
10 x Forest
6 x Island
6 x Wastes
1 x Mountain
He is still tweaking the deck as many cards, such as Rolling Thunder, have come and gone in our games. What I love about this deck is that it seems to have an even bigger endgame than Ramp, and seems to smash on Planeswalker decks as well. What I don’t know is if it can ever hold up to aggro, and I plan to work on it a little myself. Gemini is certainly creative, and seeing this thing in action is very entertaining. I feel like there is room for tweaking. I am not in love with Warping Wail or Tamiyo’s Journal, and I have some ideas for those spots.
Now it is time to get back to work. Before I go, here are the three decks I would test out this week -
Gemini’s Temur Ramp Geistblast Combo Thing
Abzan Walkers Control
The End Credits -
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