Duels Diaries - May 2nd, 2016
It needs to be a fast one today, maybe I’ll do a longer post tomorrow depending on how much I get done. Any married guy knows when the in-laws come to town unexpectedly, your plans for the day no longer matter.
A glimpse into my Magic Dojo. I get up on Monday morning and head to the computer. I don’t check email, or sales for my company, or anything else. I check NGA and Reddit for breaking Duels news, and there is usually none, so I start reviewing my notes from the last week of playing, I record those results in a spreadsheet, and I start writing. The process of writing out these posts often takes me two to four hours, depending on the topic, how much results/spreadsheet-oriented work needs to be done, and how deep I decide to dive on certain things. It isn’t weird for entire entries to get rewritten if the process uncovers a post I find more interesting than what I started with, and I always start from a blank page. Oh, and in the end I have to add images if I want pictures in my post, expect none of that today! Today I have less than an hour to put this together before leaving the house, time to hustle, expect some spelling errors and stream-of-consciousness rambles.
I’ve had a fun two weeks of Magic for the most part. Watching the Pro Tour was fun, and if you have never kicked back and watched the pros play Magic I do recommend it -
I continued my binging of watching awesome Magic this weekend with Grand Prix Toronto. The coverage became very repetitive with Black/White Eldrazi crushing G/W Tokens over and over and over. All the while, I put plenty of time into Duels to try to find the right deck or decks for the upcoming Steam Showdown and XB1 Fight Club.
When I see a deck doing well online, I can’t help but try to adapt it to Duels. I just want to be having the fun the pros are having, but so many things seem to go wrong.
Bant CoCo - This deck uses a lot of creatures that Duels has, so shouldn’t Bant be a good Duels deck? Well, it is good, but it is no kind of powerhouse like it is in paper Magic. Collected Company is THE reason you can play all those creatures and do well, without it the deck is casting one reasonable creature at a time and hoping that is good enough. When you fall behind or lack removal for something bigger, it isn’t good enough. I have taken to calling the Duels list Bant SoSo. How good is it? It’s so so.
Black/White Eldrazi - This deck has most of the cards that make it into the Standard version, but we really don’t have enough of them. Ultimate Price and Ruinous Path are notable absences, but what hurts in Duels is the 2x Thought-Knot and 1x Avacyn. It makes the endgame unreliable and easy to thwart with just a couple removal spells. Is there a way to fill Thought-Knot and Angel-sized shoes? Hard to say. I certainly haven’t found a build of Black/White that stands up to Ramp decks yet, but that is mostly common for midrange.
Green/White Tokens - We only get one Gideon and one Nissa, and those cards are what makes the deck work. You can build it, but will the Walkers come? Without them we have a bunch of 1/1’s that do almost nothing. Secure the Wastes is another missing ingredient that makes a huge difference.
There are still a lot of decks out there in the paper metagame and in Duels, and I am very curious to see what players bring to the digital table this week. Last week I put out a primer on what I feel like are the most common decks, and I don’t want to backtrack too much, but here is how my preparation is going. In my efforts to over-analyze and next level the other players, I often revert to the three level meta, or rock-paper-scissors meta.
Level One - The most popular deck that is likely to see a lot of play.
Level Two - A deck or decks that is very good against the level one deck.
Level Three - A deck or decks that are not good against the level one deck, but are good against the level two decks.
In paper magic, where netdecking is common, being at level three is likely a good way to go. In Duels, where netdecking is far less common and most players are happy to play their own favorite creation without doing much actual testing for the best deck, being at level one can make sense. That is why I played the obviously meta-warping Gruul Ramp deck in B4Z season. This time, I am still trying to fill out the levels and decide where I want to be.
If I had to guess at level one in this season, it will be some kind of Superfriends list. The deck has so much going on that most people will want to play it. Being four or five colors means you can customize it with all your favorite pet cards, and add some amounts of spice to make it feel like a homebrew even if you win most of your games by casting walker after walker after walker. I doubt many of the entrants will be able to resist.
Level Two - Blue control, Burn. At it’s core, this deck is a midrange deck if it runs Woodland Wanderer and other fatties and a control deck if it runs Planar Outburst and other sweepers, but it is a non-blue control deck, and historically you can beat a non-blue control deck with counters. That is what I am going for with my creatureless Esper Control deck, and so far I have been very successful. If you decide to pick up the Esper deck, know it is frickin’ hard to play. There are a lot of decisions, you have to make a lot of them correctly so they compound and you win the game. Making even a few bad ones can compound and turn a win into a loss. The matchup advantage isn’t so overwhelming that will overcome below-average play. I’ll come back to this in a minute.
Another deck that I think may fit well into level two is Izzet Burn, or on a good day, Izzet Prowess. While I don’t like the Prowess version of the deck, I think it is decently positioned against a bunch of Planeswalkers as long as the player understands when to go face and when to hit walkers. Most of the time, just bypass the walkers and kill the player. My Izzet Burn list has been very solid at dispatching all kinds of midrange decks and while I struggle to trust the results, I think it deserves consideration.
Level Three - The decks that beat up on the Level Two decks. The two I came up with for this role are Red/Green Ramp and Abzan Midrange. Of these two, I find Abzan Midrange the more reliable right now. The deck has a lot of life-gain built in to thwart burn strategies, and it has a lot of recursion and cheap, pain-in-the-neck threats that have build-in card advantage to drive the Blue control decks crazy. The matchup with Superfriends isn’t unwinnable, but it isn’t very favorable either, as either player will struggle to hold a board presence and the game often hinges on Anguished Unmaking or a super-grindy threat like Greenwarden.
Let’s get back to my comment on Esper and how hard it is to play.
An important to understand in general for this format - more cards means more complications, and that makes playing well HARDER. If you are not getting better at playing as more cards are introduced, you will struggle to get results. I speak not from a mountain top here, but from humbling personal experience. My game coming into this season is worse than it used to be, mostly because I fail to focus. Between playing a lot of games on Twitch, and having Twitch and YouTube on while I play, my focus needs more focus.
Magic is an amazingly deep game, and playing perfectly requires a lot of brainpower. When you get deep into a game plan, the slightest mental hiccup can cause a mistake. An example would be my recent Twitch-streamed game against T-sh1rt, where he cast Kozilek. I had Ob Nixilus with four loyalty on the battlefield, and I knew since Kozilek came back from the top of the deck via Mortuary Mire, I knew T-sh1rt would cast Kozilek that turn. I had prepared for that the turn before, ticking up Ob Nix and planning to tick him down to kill the big guy. However, when my turn came all the way back around, I drew Declaration in Stone. I checked my Twitch comments on the computer, I checked the time because I had to leave ASAP and I was trying to wrap up the game, and then I came back to the game and +1’d Ob to draw a card without giving it much thought. Game over, I lost from what I considered a winning or at least even position.
When I first started streaming with Twitch, I gained a new appreciation for the players that do this because I found out right away that commentary with Magic is hard. After so many years of playing Magic in my head before making a move, talking it through presented a challenge. I can think a lot faster than I can talk. The process usually goes - think about twenty thoughts, try to put one or two of them into words, talk them through, make the plays. The problem is that talking through the one or two plays that I figure out how to verbalize often makes me forget the other twenty possibilities I tried to account for, and then something slips through the cracks.
Any viewers of my videos know I make misplays, plural, every single day. I am speaking honestly when I say I used to be able to play for days without making a mistake, at least one I was able to catch, and I do feel that the many distractions offered by Twitch, Xbox Smartglass, the internet, YouTube, and so on deserve most of the blame. I don’t have any intention of giving up streaming, I find it more fun than being a spikey spike, but if this blog is to continue and if I am going to be as competitive in the tournament as I want to be, then I need to find a way back to my own best Magic. I am resolving to trying to play a few games this week with my computer screen off, the phone off, ignoring my Xbox Live messages, and try to recapture some of the awesome gameplay that I used to be so proud of.
Like I said, this will have to be brief, and I have in-laws to appease, so I’ll try to make it up to you awesome readers with a blog post midweek. Thanks for reading!
The End Credits -
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