January 17 2016 Sunday at 11:21 AM

Duels Diaries Week 25 - HAKI round two and hype for round three

Hello Duelers,

It is that time, time for the weekly head-to-keys-to-internet mind-dump that is my Duels Diaries post.  I am a try-hard, I'm a spikier Spike then Bowser, King Koopa, and I treat Duels like it is the freaking Pro Tour.  It is my thing, I enjoy it, I love it, and perhaps you will to.

Another week in my life is another week in the Hakeem Invitational XB1 Tournament, which Mobius calls the Hakumite, and I call the HAKI for the sake of Twitter's character limit.  We have seen round two come to a close, so we have the results to review.  We have even kicked off round three, giving yours truly no chance to predict some winners (was that the point of starting only hours after pairings went up fellas?).  Still we can check out the upcoming matchups and those that have finished, and I'll leave plenty of links so you can watch the battles for yourselves.

Of course, not every Dueler's life revolves around the HAKI, so I'll give more links to some of the biggest Duels happenings and talk about the decks that are flying around at the figurative top tables.  Read on, and if you enjoy please remember to follow me on Twitter @danno029 so you can stay up-to-date with HAKI, perhaps catch a live game, and you'll know when I update my blog.

HAKI Round 2 -

CovertGo blue (Gruul Ramp) vs. DANNYreTARTABUL (Jund Steal/Sac)

Video HERE

Dieverse1 (Azorius Aggro) vs. Hakeem928 (Izzet Thopters)

Video HERE

InFaMoUsGeMiNi (Naya Ramp) vs. Mackey79 (Jund Steal/Sac)

Video HERE

HA1LtoTHEking (Esper Control) vs. smokyalaterz (Jund midrange)

No video

I Abuse Welfare aka Mobius (Esper Reanimator) vs. Westaine (Esper Control)

Video HERE

Megabeast37215 (5 Color Ramp) vs. Tsh1rt (Selesnya Ramp)

No video

Ender1313 (Dimir) vs. PeepySqueeps (Jeskai Tokens)

Video HERE

Black Barney (Thopters) vs. Steely Danno (Sultai Control)

Video HERE


CGB over Danny, 2-0

Hakeem over Dieverse1, 2-0

Gemini over Mackey, 2-0

Smoke over King, 2-1

Mobius over West, 2-1

Beast over Shirt, 2-0

Peepy over Ender, 2-0

Barney over Danno, 2-1

A reminder to all, there are five rounds of Swiss and any player who can three match wins should be able to advance to the top 8 playoffs.  Here are the standings after round two -

1. Hakeem928: Izzet Thopters 2-0
2. CovertGo Blue: Gruul Ramp 2-0
3. smokyalaterz: Jund Midrange 2-0
4. InFaMoUsGeMiNi: Naya Ramp 2-0
5. DANNYreTARTABUL: Jund Control 1-1
6. Mackey79: Jund Control 1-1
7. DieVerse1: Azorius Aggro 1-1
8. PeepySqueeps: Jeskai Tokens 1-1
9/10. HA1LtoTHEking: Esper Control 1-1
9/10. I Abuse Welfare: Esper Control 1-1
11. Megabeast37215: Five Color Ramp 1-1
12. Black Barney: Izzet Thopters 1-1
13. Tsh1rt: Selesnya Ramp 0-2
14. Ender1313: Dimir Midrange 0-2
15. Westaine: Esper Control 0-2
16. Steely Danno: Sultai Control 0-2

Round 3 Matchups:

Hakeem928  (Izzet Thopters, 2-0) vs. CovertGo blue (Gruul Ramp, 2-0)

Yes, yours truly takes on one of the most popular content creators in the game, Hakeem, in round three.  This will be a battle of the undefeated, as neither of us has lost a single game in the event so far.  We have set out match time for Tuesday, Jan 19th, 8:30 pm Eastern Standard Time, so you readers and viewers have plenty of time to clear your schedules.  Hopefully you can join us live for what is sure to be a great matchup between the Thopter darlings of Duels: Origins season and the new bully on the Zendikar block, Gruul Acid-Moss Ramp.

I predict we will have a very exciting match.  I have some testing to do, but I am confident and I know the Thopters deck inside and out.  While Radiant Flames and Rolling Thunder are obviously important, I am thrilled that I went with four Fiery Impulse and two Reclamation Sages for the event.  For the first time in the event, Hakeem's Chiefs actually have something to fear.  I think that Thopters is always about one turn too slow in the matchup, so Hakeem needs hasty Esperzoa and/or Firecraft to be able to reach out and end the game before I do my Ulamog thing.  This is a face vs face, good guy vs good guy battle.  We know each other, we pursue this crazy Duels dream together, but we have out differences.  Hakeem learned the game of Magic from Duels, and he doesn't really touch paper.  All of his skills and work has been done in-game on Xbox Live.  I have played with Magic cards since Black Lotus was something you could get out of a pack at the local store.  I have had some amazing highs and lows in the game, and after years away from Magic, I found Duels and it brought that competitive Magic player back to life.  On Tuesday, the Duels poster-child and hero of the Youtubeiverse takes on an old school pro, back from the dead.  Who will improve to 3-0, lock up top eight, and hold bragging rights well into the future?  Come out on Tuesday and find out.  I'll be streaming on Twitch,


smokyalaterz (Jund Midrange, 2-0) vs. InFaMoUsGeMiNi (Naya Ramp, 2-0)

While Hakeem and I twiddled our Twitter fingers and hyped ourselves up, Gemini and Smoke got to work and went to battle.  Yeah, this match already happened!  The winner advanced to 3-0 and is virtually guaranteed a spot in the top eight playoffs with a prize pool of over $140.

Video HERE 

This was the second Jund deck in a row for Gemini.  While Smoke has more ability to apply pressure than his Jund cousins, Gemini still has the big endgame.  I thought we may see Gemini's manabase finally bite him in game two, but Smoke was unable to take advantage of an awkward start, and all four Blisterpods went to work on Smoke's life total, leaving Gemini in a position to take the game with Ravaging Blaze.  A timely top-decked Nissa's Renewal will always leave the viewers and Smoke wondering what-if?

DANNYreTARTABUL (Jund Control, 1-1) vs. Mackey79 (Jund Control, 1-1)

The Jund mirror is sure to be entertaining.  All this Jund means they have to run into each other eventually, we saw an Esper mirror in each round already for goodness sakes!  This matchup feels like a coin flip, but I am sure it will be a fun battle.  Don't expect to see too many creatures get stolen however, both players can blank the opponent's treason effects with their enchantments, so this game may hinge on who draws more enchantments, Reclamation Sages and planeswalkers.

PeepySqueeps (Jeskai Tokens, 1-1) vs. DieVerse1 (Azorius Aggro, 1-1)

If I understand the situation correctly, Peepy built Dieverse1's deck.  Is there a chance that the master could upset the student?  I doubt it.  The go-wide strategy was great for Hakeem against Dieverse1.  The only thing I see between Peepy and a 2-1 record is his own manabase, which has no fetch or fixing and relies on drawing double white, double red and double blue.

HA1LtoTHEking (Esper Control, 1-1) vs. I Abuse Welfare (Esper Control, 1-1)

Will it ever stop?  For the third round in a row we have an Esper Control mirror.  Mobius just got out of one of these matchups, and now he goes right back in.  I believe he has to be happier about King's list, as it has less counters and relies on cards like Suppression Bonds, but it is still another grindy Esper Control battle.  Mobius made it out last time, can he do it again?  From King's side, how will he prioritize his counterspells vs tapping out to answer threats in other ways like Edict and Bonds?  What will he hold out for and what will he be forced to remove?  With so many one-ofs in the Mobius list, it is hard to know what the guy is getting at in a given moment.  I predict the player who has a planeswalker on the battlefield the longest will win.

Megabeast37215 (5 Color Ramp, 1-1) vs. Black Barney (Thopters, 1-1)

These two were also in a hurry to get things done.  Last night I got to watch this battle -


Game one looked really bleak for Barney, but in games two and three he did a good job of pacing his threats well and forcing Beast to have all the answers.  Spoiler - eventually, he didn't have those answers any more.

Tsh1rt (Selesnya Ramp 0-2) vs Ender1313 (Dimir Midrange, 0-2)

All of the 0-2 records are not out yet, as they can still win three matches in a row and they should make top eight.

I still don't get what Ender's deck hopes to achieve in games against ramp.  Ingesting doesn't create a fast enough clock, and sitting back doesn't offer enough answers.  I think the deck wants to beat up on other midrange decks, but so far Ender hasn't caught a break to play against those.  I wonder how he would fair against the Jund lists?  Shirt is a two color ramp deck, and I would have predicted he could have been done better in this event.  I hold firm to my believe that red cards belong in ramp decks, and since Naya and Gruul are undefeated so far I can keep believing I am right.  Still, I think Selesnya Ramp has some game, and I think this will be the match where Shirt can turn things around and perhaps start to climb back into the top eight picture.

Westaine (Esper Control, 0-2) vs. Steely Danno (Sultai Control, 0-2)

Get your caffeine ready and prepare for another grind-to-dust control battle.  I would consider these two decks the most reactive in the tournament, and here they are facing off at 0-2.   Ladies and Gents, I will say it again, this format is hard to control.  Guaranteed top-end finishers don't really exist, and having answers to go-wide, go-tall, and go-anywhere strategies is a tough proposition.  Now these decks get the pleasure of what may very well turn into a long staring contest.  The winner could well be the deck that draws ONE LESS card.  Yeah, we may see a control vs control decking battle.  Will we see Inspiration targeting Danno for lethal?  Does the very thought excite you?  Then this is your match!  Barney, don't wait up for this one, we already know you think it is boring, no need to spoil the vibe for the Disciple of the Ring fanboys and girls.

Zooming out to take in the wider Duels landscape, I have noticed some heard mentality in the meta at large.  Whether I am watching Steam games via YouTube and Twitch, or whether I am playing on iOS or XBLive, I see a lot of two deck types -

Izzet Thopters, or Ramp.  Perhaps it is the Hakeem nation, perhaps it is the recent rush of videos from the likes of BBB and Nighthawk, either way we have a lot of people going back to Thopters.  As Ramp remains popular, I don't think Thopters has a great matchup with ramp, but I think it does have great matchups with control and midrange decks that want to beat ramp.  Ramp makes cards like Radiant Flames, Languish, Twin Bolt and Fiery Impulse less good.  Thopters beats up decks that don't run those cards.  In a way, Ramp is the crocodile and Thopters is the bird that lives in the croc's mouth and cleans the reptile's teeth.  Decks that compete with ramp really can't compete with Thopters.  This makes life terrible for Esper Control and its cousins.  

Ramp, of course, is still ramp, and I include many variations - Naya, Mono Green, Gruul, Seles, Jund, Simic, ect ect.  I'll be trying a new Simic Ramp deck in my iOS tournament which starts later today, and I think it does well against other slow decks, but I still believe that Ramp is a dish best served red.  I know I say it ever weak, but come on, Rolling Thunder....Rolling Thunder you guys and gals....Rolling freaking Thunder.

One thing I have also noticed this week, bias.  Yep, I, like most humans I have met, have a severe cognitive bias.  You see, this week I stopped tracking the metagame color-pie results.  For every other week in the B4Z season, I have tracked in a notebook what colors my opponents play, and I have tracking what colors the opponents play when I watch Twitch and Youtube as well.  I kept expecting to see a real picture of the metagame, something like 25-30% Ramp, which is what a dominant Standard Magic deck would have.  Instead, week after week, I saw a pie of colors mixed between five and ten percent for most guilds.  Sure, Gruul was almost always on top, sparring with Mono Red who maxed out at fifteen percent, but since week one nobody has been over ten percent in a long time.  That led me to the conclusion that the meta isn't reliably predictable, and that most of my opponents aren't playing what is most likely to succeed, but instead are playing whatever they feel like playing.

It was with this thought in mind that I stopped tracking the meta by percentage, and decided I would guess what the meta was instead based on what I watched and played.  Now, left to my own devices, I would easily have guessed the meta contained at least 20% Thopters and 25% Ramp, but I would most surely be wrong.  The trend of the data would suggest it highly unlikely that either of these break ten percent, which leaves me extremely wrong.  Indeed, we humans see what we want to see.  Do you hate getting Mossed?  You will probably see Acid-Moss everywhere you look.  You will probably step in Acid-Moss and get fragged in Destiny, Counter-strike or Halo if you hate Moss enough.

My recommendation with this in mind is to prepare a deck that is consistent, that is pro-active, and has a tough-to-answer endgame.  Ramp, Aristocrats, Red Aggro, Thopters, and Boros Tokens all fit this bill.  I don't think you will win the most possible games with three color control decks.  You can and will win some, but I think the chances of you coping with everything are too low for my taste.  If you love your Azorius, Dimir or Esper Control, get off the draw-go, do nothing train and have a more active gameplay.  Walkers are good, Foundry is surprisingly good, Thopter Spy Network is good, Tutelage is good, flash creatures like Hixus are OK, large monsters are fine.  Just don't count Inspiration as a win condition.  It only takes one big spell from an opponent to undo all that card advantage.  And before you pick on my anti-control bias, let me at least get out there that I have the heart of a grindy blue mage - my first big tournament victory involved Millstone and Mishra's Factory, and no other creatures what-so-ever.  I played a Dream Halls deck in which Inspiration was the only win condition!  If it isn't right for the card pool, do yourself a favor and stop swimming upstream.  I had Force of Will in my control decks, you don't have that in Duels - B4Z.

So what is going on this week in Magic Duels?

Well, in case you missed it, we are not getting Oath of the Gatewatch for a long time.  Frown face.

Article HERE

So we get three more months of B4Z Duels, and then we get Oath and Shadows at the same time.  Interesting.  The first question on my mind is this - how many cards will we get with the Oath/Shadows update?  Will we get 170ish cards from each set?  Oath is only a 184 card set, so I wouldn't be shocked if we only got about 75 Oath cards and 150 Shadows cards.  I am guessing we wont know until it happens, so I will not lose sleep over it, but it would be really something to get a three-hundred card expansion.  It would be the equivalent of a whole new game!

So this makes me happy about something, and please bare with me.  While I never like delays, and I would prefer to have new cards every flippin' week if I could, I am a bit relieved by this delay.  You see, there are not many cards that Oath could give us that would make Ramp less good.  In Standard, Khans and Dragons of Tarkir are such powerful sets that Battle for Zendikar was/is seen mostly as junk.  In order to make Ramp a thing in Standard, because you want your new sets to look good and sell cards, Wizards had to make Oath really, REALLY good for ramp, and I am confident that have done that.  However, if you make Ramp much stronger in Duels, it may break the game.  I already feel Ramp is the best deck you can play, but at least there is a lot to explore.  I still have a notebook full of testing ideas, I am confident I can get to April with this meta and card pool.  Oath may have broken the format on its own.

Now that Oath is arriving with Shadows, there are options.  Wizards could cut the Oath card pool down to fifty or seventy cards, and keep the cards that would push Ramp too hard out of the pool.  Or they could give us those amazing cards but also give us some amazing Shadows cards that push other archetypes like aggro or control just as hard as Oath pushes Ramp.  Regardless, just due to the fact that Oath is so Ramp friendly but Shadows will be the new hotness come April, I am glad we get some more time in this meta, and I will repeat that mantra every time I get mossed :)  I am also glad the expansion didn't drop in the middle of the XB1 tournament, because I think most of us would lose interest in a B4Z season tournament as soon as B4Z season ended.  I'm not bitter, I'm happy, I think we can all enjoy this season for a while longer.  If you are already out of ideas or inspiration, keep coming back to my blog.  I'll be trying to release more videos/articles that focus on a new deck that I think is at least reasonably competitive.  This week we covered Gruul landfall and Boros Tokens -

Boros Tokens

Gruul Landfall

As I mentioned in a recent Reddit thread, Youtube and Twitch content for Duels has been exploding in the last few months.  I like to highlight folks who I see doing a lot of streaming and putting up a lot of content, especially new contributors.

Twitch streamer of the week - TurboSniper - HERE

Turbo has been putting up a lot of Duels content as of late, and his play and builds are starting to improve.  I have to be honest, he has a ways to go, he doesn't see the complex lines yet, but if he keeps putting those hours in it will pay off.  Props to being a reliable channel in the whee hours of the morning.

YouTuber of the week - OC616, also known as BounceBurnBuff on NGA - HERE

BBB comes with more than a pinch of salt, but I'd say he plays better than eighty percent right and his builds aren't lacking in interesting choices.  He has put up a good amount of content in the last week and if he keeps it up, I'll always have plenty to watch, so check it out.

Real Magic event of the week - SCG Open, Atlanta, Jan 23rd.

You should at least watch some real Magic, it is awesome and you can learn a lot that you can apply to your Duels hobby.  At the very least, you can put it on in the background and let some l33t skillz soak into your brain.  This weekend's SCG Open will be the first large tournament to feature Standard with Oath of the Gatewatch.  Cards that cut it in Standard will almost certainly be powerhouses in Duels when we get Oath in April, so get an edge on the competition and watch the coverage on Twitch starting on Saturday.


That's it for this week, I am off to prepare for my iOS tournament match against Annuj.  Last time I battled him, he slugged me hard with a Jund Control list that was rather polarizing in the Duels Origins season.  What will he have in store for me this time?  I am sure I don't know, but you would be surprised what a Magic player will do (parody of Samuel Jackson's line from a Hateful Eight trailer).

Follow me on Twitter @danno029 if you want updates on HAKI matches, blog posts and random bits of Magic.

<3 CGB