Duels Diaries Week 22 - Why not me?
Since Duels Diaries Week One there has been a flaw in my process. I can write all about what the best decks are, about my records with them, the quest for a 90% win rate, and I can put a lot of words on this blog saying things like, "I've tested this, I've played it, I've won a lot of games, I'm X-1, ect". But is it true?
I've had my assertion that you can win 90% or more of your Duels games challenged plenty of times. It is frustrating, but I don't let it make me angry if I can help it. I can't show you the games I play...or can I?
Updates to Mac OS allow me to plug in my iPad and record my battles, but that only works if I am connected to my Mac. What I love about being an iOS gamer is I can take my console anywhere I go, and do battle at any time, so the idea of recording my iOS games is still a non-starter.
XB1, however, is different. It is always in the same place, and recording is easy with the Twitch app. So why not me?
There are still reasons, the biggest being my own ego and anxieties. I don't fudge my numbers, I don't lie about anything to do with Magic, that doesn't work for my personal code of ethics. I do, however, screw up sometimes. Trust me, I punish myself plenty when I do. I have screwed up in front of crowds before, some of which included my best friends and fellow gamers who look up to me and respect me. In realtime Magic I have learned to cope with these things, but the thought of playing badly in front of the world is a weight I am not sure I want to carry.
And yet, if I can do some of the things mentioned above surely having a Twitch or YouTube channel isn't much harder right? And what good are all these words I spend time typing if I can't back it up with results?
So I am thrilled to announce the CovertGo Blue Duels Diaries Twitch Channel.
I have and will continue to record all my XB1 games and testing, much of which I will write about. I hope it will be a helpful resource, as not only will I write about a deck, but I will be able to link to a video of me using the deck as well so you can see how it works. I hope it will be fun.
I still haven't quite found my Twitch groove yet. I play at my best when I forget I am being recorded, when I ignore the chat, when I keep my mic turned off. That is important to me, both because I want to win and because I don't want my testing of a new deck idea to be corrupted by my short attention span. While I have tried some videos with my mic on, and while I notice those get and keep more viewers, I think it will be more common that you see my games but not hear my voice. On my end, I put on my Magic Time playlist, jam out to a weird mix of tunes, and focus on the battles. I do check the chat between games or at low points in games, so don't be afraid to type at me.
OK, enough about my personal neurosis about Twitch, let's talk about the last week in Duels.
The Hakeemvitational (a name I have given to the upcoming XB1 tourney hosted by Hakeem) is on the horizon and I am entering to battle for the title. In the last week I've already been asked multiple times what deck I will play, so I'll put the answer right out there - I will play my best performing deck. As we are tracking every win and loss for the decks that I feel are the best for this meta, we will also be narrowing down my deck choice on the road to the Hakeemvitational. Here is an update to the leaderboard,
Abzan Control - 23-2
UW Tempo - 19-1
Not Black - 18-2
Gruul Ramp - 18-2
Sultai Friends - 17-3
BP Burn - 16-1
B is for Barney, P is for Pure, I guess Pure pioneered the list but Barney posted it to my blog. God help us if this keeps up.
Now let's check out the meta and get into the decks I played the most and how they did.
|Deck||Week 4||W4 Meta|
|4 and 5 Color||7||3.33%|
I have removed 30 games of Junk from the results, which accounted for 12.5% of total games.
I am going to do something different this week and ramble about decks that I think are dead, decks that I think are overplayed and decks that I think are underplayed. Maybe there are even some goldilocks decks that are just right.
Decks that are dead in the current meta -
Black, Blue and White make sense because all of these decks have holes in them that are successfully filled by other colors. The mana is good enough that these three colors should be paired with a buddy. I feel the same way about Green, but some players seem to have a love for the pure Green ramp deck. Jund, Temur and Mardu have always struggled to keep popularity, and the combinations are not proving strong enough for this meta. I have a Jund list and a Temur list that I like, but in both cases I cannot say for sure that you aren't better off with Simic or Golgari instead. Acid-Moss also oppresses mana-intense strategies.
I feel like the overplayed award goes to the following -
Rakdos has roots in steal/sac and also tried to abuse Ingest and Devoid. I don't like steal and sac, even against ramp, but it is a lot worse against good counterspells, artistocrats and Evo Leap. Ingest and Devoid are, in my opinion, some of the worst mechanics and themes in modern Magic, and building around them seems to result in frustration and pain for the builder. We know that a situational card is only as good as the frequency of the situation. Well, a Processor is always situational and you have to build the rest of your deck around bad creatures (Ingesters) to create the situation! In doing so, you have basically built a situational deck.
I say "maybe Dimir" because of the same thing. A lot of the Dimir decks I encounter are based around Ingest, and what I said about Rakdos applies here as well. Even more Dimir decks I have seen are built around Tutelage and counterspells. While I am not opposed to the strategy, and I tried it out a considerable amount this week, I ended on the verdict that Blue/White is better for control, and playing Dimir means playing with too many narrow answers that line up wrong at all the wrong times. A video of that is below -
All said, there is a good Dimir deck that is likely not played enough, and I'll write more about that soon.
I feel like Boros decks are either (a) less reliable red aggro, or (b) underpowered linear aggro Allies strategies. I would either play 4 color Allies or Red Aggro, depending which path you want to travel, and ditch Boros. That said, a deck I don't see much that does have promise is Boros Tokens, a deck I will probably try on camera this coming week.
Golgari decks are typically either Elf linear aggro decks or Evolutionary Leap value control decks, and I think both are over-played. Elves have a good matchup with Red Aggro, but that has declined in popularity every week and this week is no different. Now that Red Aggro is just barely in the top ten, I dislike Elves even more. In my linear aggro hierarchy, Thopters > Allies > Elves > Vampires. Evolutionary Leap decks probably need a buddy, and I think White is the best but many players opt for Blue. It doesn't have to be a heavy splash, and it probably shouldn't be a heavy splash. My Sultai list has three cards from Blue, my Abzan list is heavier in white. Golgari is also home to an Aristocrats style list, but I think G/B Crats may be among the weakest options.
There is no good reason not to give Green a buddy color. Moss itself fixes mana. Every time I see someone go Forest, Forest, Gatecreeper, Forest, I want to cry for them. My Red/Green ramp deck is pretty awesome, it only uses seven red cards, and I can't recall ever losing a game to awkward mana. You need a really good reason to stay mono-Green with all the awesome mana fixing Green has that you are probably running anyway. Primal Bellow doesn't count.
Underplayed decks -
4 and 5 Color
Red Aggro, of various forms, is really good. It keeps all kinds of decks in check, and while that makes the meta less fun for many, it defines the meta for competitive players. If we ignore Red, and the Goblins fall off the radar, the meta gets very diverse, all manner of funky mana bases and colors get out there, and then Red comes back and cleans up. Red is a deck you should never lose respect for. I get that it isn't fun for some, and feels repetitive, but it should be played more.
Abzan is pretty awesome. There are a lot of ways to build it, and it can be seasoned to taste to beat aggro, control, midrange or ramp. Trying to find a balance for the deck, or even an overall theme, can be tricky. Anyone who wants to play Golgari Evo Leap Control should be trying Abzan because White has the answers you need to the new age of threats out there (Ulamog, Firebird, planeswalkers, token armies).
4 and 5 Color seems like conflicting advice given that I am also promoting Red Aggro, but a good 4 Color control deck like my Not Black list can hold it's own with Red out there. The real boogyman for these decks seems to be Moss, which is still around, but I find a good mix of Natural Connection, Pilgrim's Eye and Gatecreeper and a good mix of basic lands to fetch in the mana base can keep you in the game. These decks have powerful planeswalkers and late game plays because they can draw the best from all colors, and I believe they are undervalued at the moment.
Azorius has two great options right. I believe with a few more weeks of testing I'll be able to say U/W Control is the best of the pure blue control strategies in this format. On the other hand, my tempo-style Azorius Aggro list has been able to pick up a lot of wins by going under ramp and over aggro. It seems to strike the right middle-ground balance, and the consistency is impressive. Blue/White is a color combo with plenty of options, and your results and experience will suffer if you play the wrong ones. This is a color combination that rewards smart, focused deck building without going all-in on a theme or having your eggs in too many baskets.
A quick word about a Khan that is always in, or around, the top five each week - Sultai. There are a lot of options in this color combination. I have played against and with Sultai Control, Sultai Ramp, Sultai Fog, Sultai Crats and Sultai Thopters. Of these, I am a huge fan of Sultai Aristocrats right now. Aristocrats styles in general are underplayed, and they are a great strategy in an open meta because nobody is preparing to beat them, if they even know how. The Sultai version with Tutelage feels like a gimmick, but I am coming to believe it is a legitimate combo that wins without the red zone, something we really don't have otherwise. More to come.
So that is the meta. Gruul still on top, followed by Izzet and Golgari. It look identical to the Origins meta. While I think Thopters is not hard to beat if you want to, most players aren't preparing for it, and it gives decks based on synergistic aggro or spot removal fits. I've said my piece on Golgari. Red should be up there, and Azorius should be too. Hopefully we can see a shakeup in the coming weeks. Stale metas make CGB a sad panda.
So here are some decks I played this week, and some results to enjoy.
Sultai Crats - 5-2 - I got the first version of this deck from DJ0045 of the NGA community
The thread has a lot of stories and obscene screenshots to give you an idea of what the deck can do. I played it for Hakeem's Tuesday night Twitch stream here -
http://www.twitch.tv/hakeem928/v/31328390 - the game in question starts at 09:42
Fun, and crazy, and capable of absurdness. I feel strongly about adding four Bone Splinters after playing it some, and I feel just as strongly about adding two Whirler Rogues. I know we are keeping the blue mana requirements low by sticking to the single blue Tutelages as the splash, but Whirler Rogue reads "I win the game" in many situations that this deck regularly gets into. If you could play a fourth and fifth Tutelage to win the game, you probably would. If you have double blue when you have Rogue, great, you probably win. If you don't, the deck rarely lacks for options with it's mana. I think the opportunity cost is low and the upside is high.
I would cut Greenwarden, Fleshbag, Ob Nix and Brood Butcher. The games with this deck are often about mana efficiency - using all your mana, every turn, to build the biggest snowball possible. All of the cards I propose cutting are not as mana efficient as other options. I think these changes will make the deck less versatile, but more efficient, which is the path a combo deck wants to travel.
It is the Hakeem deck that I posted about last week -
The deck ends up on the wrong side of the Sultai Crats deck in the video I link to above, and it also gets played many more times that evening. I pilot it to victory against Naya Ramp starting at 01:48.
While the deck hasn't had a breakout week, I am big fan of the angle of attack. Having a wide, and recurring board of tokens is hard to deal with for control. I also think the deck has a ton of play to it, it is a Decepticon because there is more than meets the eye. While it can play a long controlling game, it can also end the game very fast with token beatdown. I find it to be the best G/W ramp strategy and the best enchanted castle strategy (a name I've given to decks that try to put a lot of global enchantments on the board). That said, it has a lot of room for work and tuning because it is a bit of a one-trick pony, and the pony still doesn't feel fully broken in. One card I added that seemed to increase the resiliency and add another level of attack is Emeria Shepherd, which can revive enchantments and Ulamog. Here is where my build sits -
3 x Jaddi Offshoot
4 x Elvish Visionary
2 x Evolutionary Leap
1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer
1 x Retreat to Kazandu
4 x Natural Connection
3 x Nissa's Pilgrimage
3 x Retreat to Emeria
2 x Suppression Bonds
2 x From Beyond
1 x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 x Zendikar's Roil
2 x Planar Outburst
1 x Oblivion Sower
2 x Nissa's Renewal
2 x Emeria Shepherd
1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
5 x Plains
12 x Forest
2 x Canopy Vista
4 x Evolving Wilds
Sultai Friends - 17-3
Lockhammer won't stop trying to make a Golgari-based Evo Leap deck out of any and all available colors, and he messaged me that he had a 12-0 creation on this hands. I played it on a ten game stream here -
I stand by the changes I made at the end. I hate that the deck rolled over to Moss the one time I played it, I want more games against G/R Moss to base some conclusions on. Otherwise, it is resilient, it has a planeswalker and Evo Leap snowball and it gets to Ulamog, all the threats your control decks want. Here is The Hammer's list -
Take out the Drones, Jace, Sire and two Islands.
Put in more removal like Bone Splinters, raise the Reave Soul and Complete Disregard counts, add two Drowner of Hope, and change one Gravedigger into a Necro Summons. That last bit is one of my favorite changes because it creates the potential for Greenwarden + Summons + Evo Leap. That combo is an unkillable 5/4 that also pulls another creature out of your deck every turn. I pull the combo off at 02:32:00 if you want to see it in motion.
Reanimator - 8-2. The deck has a lot of options, making it hard to play, and that is honestly often a sign of a good deck that just needs to be played correctly to have more success. You can watch the deck in action here -
The list isn't finalized, the double trounce from 4 Color Allies at the end makes me want better ways to solve Linear Aggro problems.
Dimir Crats - 10-0 - I had a late-night Dimir Aristocrats run that was undefeated. Here is that video -
Six of the ten games I would classify as junk, so the deck needs a better gauntlet to run through. Still, 10-0 matters, and the deck is nothing to sneeze at. Like my recommendations for Sultai, it is streamlined to be very repetitive, mana efficient and redundant where possible (Coralhelm Guide for unblockable Husk anyone?)
4 x Salvage Drone
4 x Bone Splinters
4 x Perilous Myr
1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
4 x Coralhelm Guide
2 x Despoiler of Souls
3 x Carrier Thrall
4 x Eldrazi Skyspawner
1 x Liliana, Heretical Healer
4 x Nantuko Husk
2 x Smothering Abomination
3 x Whirler Rogue
2 x Sunken Hollow
2 x Drowned Catacomb
4 x Dimir Guildgate
8 x Swamp
8 x Island
Red Burn - 16-1 - Last week Black Barney provided a list for a burn deck, and puresynesthesia had some comments for me as well. Barney says the deck is in the trash now because of life gain, but since I don't face many Jaddi's and Nissa's Renewal's in my travels as a planeswalker, I wanted to see what could happen. I really don't understand most of the wins. Frankly, I won a few games where my opponents played badly. I also lost a game I would expect to lose to Elves, and got bailed out in another similar game by drawing a one-of Firebird and a two-of Firecraft. Still, results are results, and while my notebook has a lot of asterisks and words like "misclick", "bad opponent", "5 card hand" and so on, the record is still the record at the end of the day. A choice I can't get behind is Gearcrafter over Abbot, I could write a whole article comparing those two cards, but I'll keep it brief and say I have to run Abbot in that spot or I may vomit. I also put one Looming Spires in the deck for a Rogue's Passage. So far I have activated Passage once in 16 games, and I have had value off Spires every time I have had it. Not once have I wished it was a passage. Here is a video of a ten-game run with the deck. Readers, and Barney especially, you are welcome to tell me how I am not good at playing burn if you find all my misplays.
I also put significant time into Golgari Aristocrats, and while the record is 12-2 I am enjoying Sultai and Dimir Crats significantly more. It may be a bias to all the card draw and Whirler Rogue, but I just think blue has more gas for the deck.
Here are decks I am still working on and considering to have top tier potential.
Red Aggro (traditional mana-curve style)
Not Black Control
That is a still a lot of options for Top Tier potential, and it is one reason I am really loving this format. Getting this list down to five decks, and then down to one for the tournament will be a lot of work, but it will also be a lot of gaming and a lot of result posting and analysis, which never feels like work to me. Follow the adventure here on my blog and on my Twitch channel.
And please, PLEASE, if you have a deck you think needs to make that list, tell me about it!
As I wind down this week's epic post, I want to say that I hope you all had a great holiday season and that all of you YouTubers and Twitch broadcasters need to stop hanging out with families and doing mushy stuff and start streaming and recording again, because I miss you :)
Hakeem has given me a standing appointment with him on Tuesday nights on Twitch, where I will put his latest creation(s) through the CGB gauntlet of death. We had a blast last Tuesday, here is that video -
May favorite moment? Skip to 58:00 for the full game or jump to 1:12:00 for the draw of the day. Twitch quote of the day - "That's why they call it "Clutch" of Currents".
Much love to all of you and I'll see you on Twitch or next week on the blog.