November 22 2015 Sunday at 02:33 PM

Duels Diaries Week 17 ...sort of. New digs and the arrival of the Eldrazi

Hello Duelers,

First, if you are here reading this, welcome to the new home of the Duels Diaries blog.  This is the place where I take the noob-friendly game Magic Duels and take it way too seriously.  I try to figure out the best cards, the best deck builds, the metagame, I try to find the perfect card choices to make a competitive deck, and I crush the competition in total spike, try-hard style because that is my thing.  I love it, it is fun, and you can join me on my search for the best decks in the format.  You are also welcome to send me feedback and comments, I have a comments section, you are welcome to use it, it will be fun.  I reserve the right to delete all your comments if you suck at being a human.  This is my house, these are my rules, and I can't stop....and I won't stop....ok, I better stop, no more Miley Cyrus lyrics, I promise.

So yeah, it is time to start blogging on my own site.  I saw the post on NGA here which was really touching, thank you.  I also made a Q&A post here to answer most of the questions you may have about why I decided to start posting my Duels Diaries work elsewhere.  I don't know who will follow me to my odd little corner of the internet, but I hope some do.  I'll continue trying to put together entertaining and informative articles about Magic Duels for all who'd like to read it.  I think the value will be there for you, most of the lists I posted last season eventually defined the metagame, and the tier list I put out went mostly unchallenged (I didn't see anyone else even put out a thought-out tier list).  If I had it to do again, I would add a mono-red deck, because I finally settled on a great list.  But let's not backpedal, because after months of delay and community frustration, Wizards and Stainless have finally released the long overdue Battle For Zendikar update.

Of course, it's Steam's turn to bask in the sunshine while iOS and XB1 wait in the cold.  iOS is my weapon of choice, so I won't be playing the game itself for some as-of-yet undisclosed amount of time, but that doesn't stop me from getting to work.  We have a card list, so that means the brewing can commence.  Then there will be testing!  How?  The old fashioned way.  You see kids, back in my day we didn't play cards with our fancy touch-screen iThingies.  We had actual cardboard cards that we shuffled all the time, and we put them in sleeves to keep air from hurting them...

An unexpected side-effect of the lack of a B4Z update it is that I got back into paper magic.  I purchased a complete play-set from each standard legal set from, and I've played in three local FNM tournaments now as I get my feet wet again (I plan to chronicle what I am dubbing Comeback #4 in a different blog), but as a result I have all the physical cards from Origins and B4Z to build and play with.  I still lack the cards from the Starter Sets, but a trip to Amazon or will fix that quick enough, and proxies will work for today.  So yeah, I'll building and testing the decks with good old paper cards.  And don't tell Wizards that the frustrating and annoying delay and bugs with Magic Duels somehow forced me to spend thousands of dollars on their paper cards.  We can't let them think this is a good strategy.

Ok, let's get into decks.  These have not been tested, but they will be in the coming weeks, this is just where we are starting off.  It is worth noting that my blog doesn't have to cool code of NGA to identify cards, and linking to each card is not appealing to me, so I'll keep posting my lists there and simply linking for now.

Let's start with the top five decks from last season - 



Gruul Monsters

Red Aggro

Golgari Control

First up, Elves.  Elves got the shaft in my opinion in Battle.  I also happen to agree with some community members, that Elves is the worst of the decks in tier one, and they didn't get the help they needed.  The two cards that intrigue me are Skyrider Elf and Tajuru Stalwart.  Both provide bodies in the places elves need them, and they are sizable bodies at that, but they both require more colors, and while mana got better I don't think it is 3 or 4 color aggro good.  That takes fetch lands and battle lands.  What Elves really needed was Tajuru Warcaller, and I believe Allies really need this guy too, but time will tell.  In a nutshell, I am not updating or testing my Elves list yet, I am simply dropping it from my gauntlet because I believe it will not be competitive without more cards.  I would like to be wrong, and I am sure I will test it someday, but it wont be this week.

Next, Thopters.

Thopters was/is a tough cookie because it is so strong against removal.  Putting out a number of creatures with evasion turns out to be a lot to handle.  It is also very resilient to sweepers.  An opponent could Languish away your first three turns, but you still deal 2 with Perilous Myr, you got a hit in with your Thopter Engineer, and now you reload your board with a Whirler Rogue.  Good stuff.  

Thopters doesn't gain a ton from B4Z, but it didn't need much to remain competitive.  Our opponents gane Radiant Flames and Planar Outburst which makes life a little harder, but as I mentioned above, you are only a Rogue away from having a three-wide board again.  The additions I would make to the deck are 3x Vile Aggregate, 1x Nettle Drone, and 1x Akoum Firebird.

You don't want to overdo it on devoid, because devoid and artifact are different things.  The deck is built around artifacts, so we can't sub in too many devoid cards and think it won't mess with the synergy, but I think Vile Aggregate is worth it.  The trample ability makes this card awesome, but don't forget you can make it unblockable with Whirler.  I don't know about Nettle Drone, but I want to try it out.  I doubt I would ever want to draw more than one, and I also think it will make a good unblockable creature with Whirler.  Firebird is going to be pretty amazing in Duels.  There just aren't many good ways to deal with it, and there are few fliers getting played to fight with it in combat.  It gives aggro decks a hasty, evasion creature and something to do with lategame landfalls.  I believe it is better than anyone is giving it credit for.

Aside from those five cards I wouldn't change up Thopters much, including the mana base.  While I like the B4Z lands, I think in this deck they can only mess up your curve and tempo.  Getting to 2U, 2R mana available on turn four is the priority so you can case Whirler/Pia-Kiran, and new tap-lands and sac-lands can/will cost you that important turn four that this deck relies on.

Here is my updated Thopters list on NGA.  I don't think Thopters will see much play for a while.  The general lack of new cards and the desire to try out other decks and mechanics will subvert the artificer's creations for a while, but don't underestimate them, I expect them to remain strong.

Next up is Gruul Monsters.  Unlike other top tier decks, Gruul gained several goodies from B4Z, and we now have a lot of ways we can take the deck.  I consider Gruul Landfall Aggro to be a different archetype entirely from Gruul Monsters, so this build will not feature tiny creatures with Landfall, and will instead continue to focus on the midrange monsters strategy.  In a nutshell, kill some early dudes, ramp just once ideally, play some big dudes, win.  In that spirit, we gain a lot.

Here is the updated Gruul Monsters list on NGA.

So many options.  Rolling Thunder comes to mind, and I really want to play it.  If the format slows down and becomes about ramping to Eldrazi, we can replace Exquisite Firecraft.  Gaea's Revenge is another tough one for me.  Plated Crusher solves the issues I used to have, mainly being able to target it with Chandra's Ignition, but I don't know if that makes Crusher better.  Revenge is amazing against control, bad against armies of chump blockers, and potentially very bad against Eldrazi.  That said, control just got a new batch of counterspells, so maybe this is still a good time for Revenge.  I just watched a Legend video where Revenge sat in his hand almost the entire game.  He eventually loses without ever casting Revenge, even though he had the mana for a few late turns.  This video is heartbreaking for Revenge fans, viewer discretion is advised.

A reminder that this is all theory crafting, and I will get into testing next week, I look forward to seeing how good cards like Grove Rumbler, Omnath, Oran-Rief Hydra, Freenwarden, Firebird and Radiant Flames are in this strategy.

On to Red Aggro.

If everyone decides to try out Eldrazi Ramp strategies, Red Aggro will continue to pick up a lot of wins.  Someone beat me to that conclusion and already wrote about it here.  Red Aggro didn't gain a lot of new cards to play, but it doesn't need much to do what it does.  

Here is what I would be running today.

The new lands, Looming Spires and Blighted Gorge, are at their best here because they let us increase our land count to a healthier number without losing too much value.  Sure, six mana shock is bad, unless your opponent is at two life.  Looming Spires should be doing work here, making blocking very bad and attacking very good.  I have gained a healthy respect in the last month for Flareing Flame-Kin + Infectious Bloodlust.   Just when your opponent feels safe, you drop those two and things go back to ugly or just plain dead very fast.  Again, I think Firebird will over-perform expectations here, ceaseless hasty evasion is something this deck should welcome.

Finally, let's update Golgari Control.

New cards and a very different meta should push our Golgari Deck from a slow, durdle-fest into a more proactive deck.  Golgari can go over-the-top, playing bigger and better threats that are too much to answer.  Golgari can no longer take all the time in the world generating value from Evo Leap and win with whatever.  It is also important to realize that the counterspells just got a lot better, and a lot more cards exile stuff, so graveyard recurring is going to be harder and resolving win conditions is going to be harder.  Well what about Gaea's Revenge?  Yeah, that beats counters, but we also just added Aligned Hedron Network, which any deck can run, and Planar Outburst.  Mr. Revenge isn't as hard to kill as he used to be.  All in all, I don't think that durdling and eventually winning with one creature will be good anyone.

Here is where I would take Golgari Evo Leap, in a much more proactive direction with more synergy around the sacrifice mechanic.

Those four decks will make up the gauntlet, and perhaps I will add Legend's Green Eldrazi deck as well.  I meant to take time to write about all my new decks today as well, but this has already been a long entry, and a lot of writing.  Launching the new blog and catching up on the new cards is only part of my day, now I get to build and test all these decks, and I have to be honest, I can't freakin' wait!  So I am going to wrap up this entry, but first ... new deck ideas to devour...

Esper Control

Green/White Ramp

Gruul Landfall Aggro

Rakdos Aggro


Dimir Ingest

Bant Enchant

Abzan Control

That's my inner overachiever going to work, eight new decks for my readers to try out.  And please, if you try them, tell me about how it went.  What worked, what didn't, what you beat, what you lost to.  I would love it if any of them made it into a "Ten Games With..." thread.  You can post your results here, or on NGA, I am happy with either.  I am more likely to respond to a question or comment here, but I will try to keep up on NGA as well, I just get overwhelmed there sometimes (look, something shiny).  OK, that is more than enough Magic for one post.  I guess you could say I CAME IN LIKE A WRECKING BALL....blah, I thought I was over the Miley lyrics.  

Come back again and often for more Duels Diaries posts.  I may do reviews of Youtube Duels videos, I may do posts dedicated to one deck, who knows.  Let me know what you want most to see.  What decks didn't I brew up?  Do you think Elves and Allies are good?  How about that funky lifegain Black/White deck?  Don't be afraid to talk at me.  Until next time,

<3 CGB