February 14 2016 Sunday at 03:44 PM

Duels Diaries week 29 - From Hakumites to Steam Showdowns, Moss grows on EVERYTHING

Hello Duelers,


I should start with some insight into my own life, and the reason is that I want to assure all my readers/viewers that I am not going anywhere or disappearing.  You see, for the last week I received a lot of messages through a lot of places (Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, gMail) from a lot of people who feared I was dead or something.  I’m not!


There are a few weeks a year when I have to work hard for a living.  My average workweek is likely enviable, as I get to work from home in my pajamas for just a few hours a day.  It is what allows me to play Magic more than a respectable adult should.  However, a few weeks of the year have to be dedicated to hustling like H.O.V.A. to make sure the rest of the year works the way it should.  Last week was one of those weeks, next week is one of those weeks.  I dropped my last blog entry and jumped on a plane to Salt Lake City where I did nothing but network and sleep.  When I finish this entry, I am jumping on a plane to Las Vegas, where I will do nothing but hagle and sleep.  When the dust settles next week, I should be back to my writing and video-making self.


But CGB, why don’t you just take a laptop and write on the road?  Thanks for asking!  I don’t own a laptop, and I don’t travel with more than 4.5 kg (10 lbs) EVER.  No checked luggage, no roller-bags, one tiny backpack that usually still has room in it.  Traveling light as an art form is a thing I love.  It doesn’t matter if my trip is a week or a month, 4.5 kg limit.


OK, now that my travel details have bored you to death, let’s do what we are here to do, talk Magic Duels.  I’ll cover the top eight of the Hakumite and the 24 now-public decklists of the Steam Showdown.


HAKUMITE Top 8 Playoff -


The prize structure is pretty awesome -


1st Place - $100
2nd Place - $50
3rd Place - $25
4th Place - $25

5th through 8th place - 1250-coin bundle


Not bad for getting together with a friend and playing a cool game!


Here are the matches


First seed, CGB, Gruul Ramp vs 8th seed, Megabeast, Five Color Ramp


This match already happened, here is a video -


http://www.twitch.tv/covertgoblue/v/44589223


Spoilers coming up, so watch now if you want to.


My games with this matchup showed that I had to be the aggressor, Beast had more planeswalkers, removal spells and card draw if the game got drawn out.  Some Moss and a big threat where what I needed to keep the game from getting that far.  My deck came through for me in both games, but I think Beast needed to trade Wanderer win Colossus in game one and his refusal to do so cost him in that instance.  If he knew what I knew about the matchup, that he had to play like a control deck, I think he would have taken that trade.  Try to know who you are in any given matchup, if you should be trying to manage the board or trying to end the game before your opponent can manage the board.


Second seed, Gemini, Naya Ramp vs Seventh seed, Barney, Thopters


This match also already happened, here is another video -


http://www.twitch.tv/infamousgemini/v/44776959


Spoiler time, watch before you scroll.


This is our first big upset of the top eight, and I was pretty shocked myself.  I expected a really close match, but Gemini seemed to lack his usual polish and his deck didn’t help very much either.  So often it seems that Magic comes down to drawing the untapped land, and so often we get let down.  Despite a great run to reach top eight, Gemini will be left wondering what coulda and shoulda been.  Missing the Evolving Wilds activation before blocking just seems so unlike Gemini, and the graphics bug in game one seemed to tilt him a bit.  For those who don’t know, if your opponent attacks a planeswalker you control, you set up a block and then withdraw a block, the graphics show creatures attacking you, although in virtual Duels reality they are still attacking the planeswalker, as you see in Gemini’s game one.  Barney quite frankly just went for it, holding back nothing in the face of sweeper potential, got the game finished just in time.  Fiery Conclusion is clearly in the deck just to sacrifice Perilous Myr for the lethal two, if it deals five damage to an opposing creature that is just bonus material to Barney.


Third seed, Peepy Squeeps, Jeskai Tokens vs Sixth seed, HailtotheKing, Esper Control


A match that hasn’t happened yet and will hopefully happen later today, yippee!  I do feel confident that Peepy’s mana will fail to come together at least once, but I don’t see King being able to contain his token-makers for very long.  King has 13 ways to counter or remove multiple creatures.  Peepy has 22 ways to create multiple creatures.  The math isn’t in King’s favor, and it means he can’t play the control game the way he’d like.  He must stop the initial push and then thread the needle and finish the game before the math overwhelms him.  Easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  I think Peepy will take this, but I really look forward to watching this match as weird things may happen.


Fourth seed, Smoke, Jund Midrange vs Fifth seed, Hakeem, Thopters


This match also hasn’t happened yet and hopefully will later today.


The Hakeem revenge tour starts with Smoke, who defeated him in the swiss.  The winner of this match faces CGB, me, who also took out Hakeem in the swiss.  It is a tough road for Hakeem to be sure, but it adds a touch of drama to the event.  I am confident that all the participants know Hakeem, have read his posts and watched his videos for years, and most of us surely want to see him succeed.  To do it, he must face the demons of his recent past and rise above.  In my match with Hakeem, a few fortunate draws swung the games.  Against Smoke, an extreme tilt appears to have cost 928 the match.  Now all wrongs can be righted if Hakeem can take his best two-out-of-three match against Smoke and then do it again against yours truly.  Sadly, it will be a tough road.  Smoke has so many sweepers and giant monsters, the combined bane of the Thopter tribe.  If Smoke can take the match, he’ll also have a revenge match with me.  Based on decks I have to pick Smoke to win.  Based on what I want to see happen, I want to face Hakeem again and see if he can take advantage of an opportunity to right the wrongs of his Runed Servitors from just a few weeks ago.


This is how the semi-final round is shaping up -


CGB vs Smoke/Hakeem winner


Peepy/Hail winner vs Black Barney


I am sure Barney would love another crack at Peepy’s token deck, which should be a decent matchup for him.  I am not sure how Hail does in either case, if he gets past Peepy he has to face for tokens in thopter form.  Personally, I like my chances as much as I did before round one started, but this is the playoffs, two bad hands and I could be out of the event.  The record from swiss doesn’t matter any more, it is all about these last few games.  Best of luck to the remaining competitors, and stay tuned to NGA if you want to catch a game live.  


http://forum.nogoblinsallowed.com/viewtopic.php?f=38&t=13012


In the meantime, Nighthawk233 is working to get a Steam Showdown tournament off the ground.  The format is basically the same as the Hakumite.  There are twenty-four participants, and the decklists just went public.  It is always exciting for me to see decklists that players chose to bring to an event.  It is one thing to make a post for a new deck you are having fun with, it is another to register that deck for a competitive event with a real cash prize.  It is like the difference between asking a person if they WOULD buy a product and asking them TO buy that product.  The former is usually met with a “Yes, of course I WOULD buy the product” and the later is often met with a “well, I don’t have the money now, maybe after payday, or tax season, or never”.  Speaking of the real cash prize, I have contributed to the prize pool in the name of my blog, so the Steam Showdown competitors now have a chance to win my money!  (25 pounds, about fifty bucks).  I am looking forward to following this event and writing about it, the Hakumite has torn me between being an enthralled observer and reporter and being a competitor.  No such conflict with the Steam Showdown, and it will give me a break from running Gruul Ramp all the time.


On my Twitch channel and YouTube page I have already started testing and reviewing the registered decks -


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-UZjHl2kZ-6XKBLgbFgGAQ


http://www.twitch.tv/covertgoblue/v/44678451


For my beloved blog, I’ll do a quick rundown and give my initial reactions to the submitted lists.  A note for the brave and wonderful competitors who may be tempted to over think what I write - these are mostly uneducated opinions expressed for the entertainment of my readers and to create hype and anticipation for the event.  Do not take them too seriously, as any testing you did to create your decks is likely far more comprehensive than my off-the-cuff ramblings.  I can be, and have been, wrong...many times...like, a lot, a lot.  Don’t take a bad grade from me as a death sentence.  I picked Steely Danno to win three times after all.


Babasoonist - Golgari Ramp


4 x Gatecreeper Vine

2 x Evolutionary Leap

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

4 x Complete Disregard

4 x Natural Connection

3 x Titan's Presence

4 x Eyeless Watcher

2 x From Beyond

2 x Languish

2 x Brood Butcher

1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Oblivion Sower

2 x Nissa's Renewal

1 x Breaker of Armies

1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

1 x Desolation Twin


8 x Swamp

9 x Forest

2 x Woodland Cemetery

1 x Mortuary Mire

4 x Golgari Guildgate


This deck was the first one I tried out on my Steam Showdown Testing video.  Before testing, I would have given it a pretty average grade.  After testing, I gave it a B+, which means it is a very promising deck.  To get anything in the A range, a deck really has to be perfect for the meta, every card fitting perfectly.  This deck has a few outliers that I don’t think will do what is needed, particularly Languish, Complete Disregard and Brood Butcher.  However, I have a greater appreciation for the Natural Connection and Eyeless Watcher tag-team of ramp in place of Pilgrimage and Acid-Moss.  It makes Acid-Moss much less effective, and it keeps a solid board presence.  In the case of Complete Disregard, I count only twelve of the twenty four decks to have “good” targets for Disregard (I consider a good target a creature with power under three that doesn’t generate value just from entering play.  I also don’t count a one-of Jace in control lists).  I fear that Disregard will end up sitting in Bab’s hand a bit too often.  There is also blowout potential against Red Aggro if she casts it into a Titan’s Strength.


Beard - Naya Ramp


1 x Felidar Cub

4 x Gatecreeper Vine

3 x Rolling Thunder

1 x Nissa, Vastwood seer

2 x Radiant flames

3 x Nissa’s Pilgrimage

2 x Woodland Wanderer

3 x Suppression Bonds

2 x From Beyond

4 x Mwonvuli Acid-moss

1 x Gideon, Ally of zendikar

2 x Planar Outburst

1 x Angelic Edict

1 x Oblivion Sower

1 x Nissa’s Renewal

2 x Emeria Shepherd

2 x Gaea's Revenge

1 x Ulamog the ceaseless Hunger


4 x Plains

4 x Mountain

5 x Forest

2 x Cinder Glade

2 x Canopy Vista

2 x Rootbound Crag

2 x Clifftop Retreat

2 x Sunpetal Grove


One of the interesting things about Gruul Ramp is that it can add colors almost at will.  The big question is...what are you trying to accomplish with the colors you add?  The white addition is clearly to become more controlling, an even better late-game deck.  This can pay off against other Ramp decks if you build with the right answers. Suppression Bonds has become popular since B4Z dropped because of planeswalkers, as well as Ulamog, but I don’t believe it to be the “right” answer.  Why?  If your opponent can remove the enchantment, it is a massive tempo swing and usually a fatal play.  13 of the 23 other decks have Felidar Cub, Reclamation Sage, Angelic Edict or some mix of those three, and even more have Ulamog.  At four mana, Bonds is very slow against the aggro decks.  I don’t really love Emeria Shepherd x2 with only six plains total in the deck.  You have to assume two or three of those lands will come into play as you try to make your way to seven mana.  I would like to see Omnath make the cut, in my play experience two Shepherds is overkill.  We also have two From Beyond and no Evolutionary Leap.  I like Leap in decks like this because it gets you more than Ulamog, and set up Ulamog sac/get back with Shepherd recursion against other grindy Ramp decks.  That interaction may be important in the many ramp mirrors that may be in store.  It also makes the one-of Felidar Cub harder to find when you need it.  The deck is light on ramp spells for my taste, having shaved a Nissa’s Renewal and a Nissa’s Pilgrimage, other ramp decks will get to the top rope faster.  There will be a lot of pressure on Suppression Bonds and on the opponents to remove them.  I give the deck a B- on paper, testing could always change my mind.


Boh - Red Aggro


3 x goblin glory chaser

4 x foundry street denizen

1 x fiery impulse

2 x titan's strength

2 x abbot of Keral keep

2 x ember hauler

3 x makindi sliderunner

3 x mage-ring bully

4 x infectious bloodlust

3 x twin bolt

1 x chandra, fire of Kaladesh

2 x thopter engineer

2 x exquisite firecraft

1 x touch of the void

1 x akoum firebird

1 x avaricious dragon

2 x Pia and Kiran Nalaar

18 x mountain

3 x foundry of the consuls

2 x rogue's passage


It is nice to see some Red Aggro in the field, and thankfully Boh isn’t the only one running it.  I love 23 lands, I don’t love 2x Rogue Passage and 3x Foundry, some amount of the time the brown lands will bite you.  It may not be as important in best two-out-of-three, but I don’t think getting bonus value from lands is nearly as important as casting multiple red spells in a crucial turn.  A lot of the tweaks are weird - two Thopter Engineer and one Touch of the Void instead of three Engineer.  Two Ember Hauler and three Sliderunner, one Fiery Impulse and three Twin Bolt.  It reminds me of Patrick Chapin’s Next Level Deckbuilding, but it rarely gets applied to an aggro deck.  I give the deck a B on paper, mostly because I am unsure about the brown lands.  I do believe Red Aggro is a great call for this meta, most of the other decks will surely have zero or half-a-star of speed in the deckbuilder.


BounceBurnBuff - Abzan Ramp


3 x Jaddi Offshoot

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Oblivion Sower

1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

2 x Celestial Flare

2 x Reave Soul

3 x Retreat to Kazandu

1 x Complete Disregard

3 x Natural Connection

4 x Read the Bones

1 x Suppression Bonds

1 x Languish

3 x Rising Miasma

2 x Mwonvuli Acid-Moss

1 x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

2 x Planar Outburst

1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited

2 x Nissa's Renewal

3 x Plains

3 x Swamp

4 x Forest

2 x Shambling Vent

2 x Canopy Vista

2 x Woodland Cemetery

2 x Isolated Chapel

2 x Sunpetal Grove

1 x Foundry of the Consuls

4 x Evolving Wilds


BBB’s Abzan Ramp deck is one of the decks I played in my first Steam Showdown Testing video.  Before testing, I would have likely given the deck a B, because how tough could it get for a ramp deck?  It still has Acid-Moss Ulamog, after all.  After playing a handful of games, I have to call it a C.  When adding colors to ramp, what are you trying to achieve?  I don’t feel like the deck has the required game against other ramp decks to take control of the board.  I never got Celestial Flare to (a) resolve and (b) hit something good.  I was also reminded how irrelevant lifegain can be if you are not playing against aggro.  Once an Omnath board gets out of hand, your life total becomes nothing more than a countdown.  Rising Miasma was particularly disappointing.  BBB said on NGA that he expected more Thopters, and I don’t blame him there, I would have expected some too.  Without token strategies showing up, it will be hard to get much value out of the card, it just doesn’t hit many things in this format.  I think BBB tried to build a deck to counter it all and ended up in some awkward no-man’s land where he doesn’t beat the other ramp decks consistently.


Darkshock - Jund Husk


4 x Blisterpod

1 x Bone Splinters

3 x Carrier Thrall

2 x Rot Shambler

2 x Evolutionary Leap

1 x Liliana, Heretical Healer

2 x Fleshbag Marauder

4 x Nantuko Husk

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

4 x Act of Treason

2 x Smothering Abomination

3 x Eyeless Watcher

1 x Flameshadow Conjuring

2 x From Beyond

2 x Brood Butcher

2 x Chandra's Ignition


7 x Swamp

2 x Mountain

4 x Forest

2 x Smoldering Marsh

2 x Cinder Glade

2 x Woodland Cemetery

1 x Rogue's Passage

2 x Evolving Wilds


Darkshock registers a heck-of-a-deck, and one I will want to watch closely.  I have qualms with Rot Shambler, as it is vulnerable to almost any removal in the format.  Early it dies to burn and Reave Soul/Complete Disregard, late it fails against Angelic Edict, Suppression Bonds, ect.  Basically, it dodges nothing, but if it is irrelevant (just a 1/1) it can be ignored.  Not my kind of card.  I have also never loved Brood Butcher in this strategy.  There are better effects to sac your creatures for, and five mana is a chunk for a deck like this without ramp that doesn’t want to pitch it’s Scions for mana.  Butcher is another card that often sits in no man’s land, too late to save you from Red Aggro, too small to help against ramp.  That is what I don’t like, what I love is the Husk combo engine and the courage to jam in Chandra’s Ignition as well.  Hopefully we will see the deck get some quality wins out-of-nowhere.  This deck will also benefit from a meta that lacks wide-board strategies like Elves and Thopters, which are likely the two worst matchups.  Ramp decks could just die if they tap-out for Moss on turn four or some creature-bomb on turn five.  Aggro and tempo matchups will be tough, as this build is really reliant on Act of Treason to “act” as a removal spell.  I also fear the deck is too light on red sources for a Moss world.  B, not tested.


Dream Maker - Sultai Ramp


1 x Jace, vryn's prodigy

4 x Gatecreeper vine

3 x Eldrazi Skyspawner

1 x Nissa, Vastwood seer

2 x Reclamation sage

2 x Guardian of Tazeem

2 x Gilt-leaf Winnower

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Sire of Stagnation

1 x Oblivion sower

2 x Gaea's Revenge

1 x Ulamog, the ceaseless hunger

2 x Evolutionary leap

4 x Natural Connection

2 x Languish

1 x Rising Miasma

4 x Mvonvuli acid-moss

1 x Ob Nixilis, reignited


2 x Hinterland Harbor

2 x Woodland cemetery

2 x Sunken hollow

4 x Evolving wilds

4 x island

7 x forest

4 x swamp


I have never been able to figure out where Sultai fits in the current B4Z season.  Controlling the board seems to be asking too much.  Out-ramping other colors seems to be asking too much.  Keeping up with Red is alright but still a challenge.  I played this deck in my first video, and it narrowly won a third game in a best two-out-of-three with Steely Danno’s HAKI deck (which was 0-5 in swiss in that event).  What I think will really damage the deck is that it has completely given up on early game.  No Reave Souls, no Disregards, no bounce spells, not even a Fog.  When this deck plays against Husk or Red, it will be Languish or die, and even then it may be too slow on the draw.  Sky Spawner isn’t much of a roadblock against Twin Bolt and/or trample.  Winnower may pay off as most decks have good targets, but turn five is a ways out.  The deck has an odd mix of threats, which I would mostly classify as midrange, but it plays eight ramp spells and four Gatecreepers so well over half the deck is committed to mana-base development.  Hard to Moss, which is good, but prone to flood which is bad, and the threats are too easy to answer for my taste.  Like other ramp decks, we are relying on Gaea’s Revenge and Ulamog to come down and win the game, but unlike other ramp decks I really dislike the support package.  C, tested.


Deusx_ophc - Sultai Mill


2 x fog

4 x elvish visionary

4 x mwonvuli acid-moss


1 x jace, vryn's prodigy

2 x telling time

3 x sphinx's tutelage

4 x artificer's epiphany

4 x spell shrivel

4 x brilliant spectrum


2 x languish

1 x ob nixilis reignited


4 x alchemist's vial

1 x oblivion sower

1 x ulamog, the ceaseless hunger


5 x forest

5 x island

5 x swamp

2 x sunken hollow

2 x drowned catacomb

2 x canopy vista

2 x cinder glade


I owe this guy a thank you for retweeting my tweets, so a big THANKS from CGB.


Wow, what a bold call.  This is the kind of deck that I need to test, so expect my grade here to change.  Two Fogs in a Fog deck surely indicates that Deusx expects a field of very slow ramp decks.  He is mostly right.  Adding Acid-Moss to a Fog deck is something I never tested, and I imagine it improves the ramp matchup at the expense of the aggro matchup.  Frankly, I find the aggro matchup to be hideous.  Languish-or-die hideous, and even a turn four Languish can be too late on the draw.  I love the use of Acid-Moss to max-out converge on Spectrum with the battle lands.  Spell Shrivel is also a nod to a slower meta call.  One reason I don’t like Tutelage decks very much in B4Z is because I have played against many, many great double Tutelage draws and still managed to beat them with Ulamog.  Reducing the library to zero is still much slower than reducing the life total to zero.  More than half the field has non-Ulamog answers to Tutelage as well, which will make life tough.  Still, I can’t lie, I want this deck to do well.  B- without testing.


Grimric - Jund Ramp


4 x Blisterpod

4 x Perilous Myr

3 x Rolling Thunder

3 x Vile Aggregate

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

2 x Reclamation Sage

2 x Radiant Flames

3 x Nissa's Pilgrimage

2 x From Beyond

2 x Woodland Wanderer

2 x Languish

1 x Chandra's Ignition

1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

2 x Nissa's Renewal

2 x Plated Crusher

1 x Ulamog

3 x Swamps

3 x Mountains

10 x Forests

2 x Smoldering Marsh

2 x Cinder Glade

2 x Mortuary Mire

2 x Clifftop Retreat


The thing I get stuck on here is Vile Aggregate.  I don’t see a ton of colorless creatures, and I don’t see any ingest synergy, so I guess Grimric really wanted a 1/5 blocker.  With three colors I have to believe that spot could be better served.  It is also a ramp deck that doesn’t touch Acid-Moss, and I fail to see what is so good in it’s place.  Plated Crusher over Gaea’s Revenge for the sake of what appears to be a one-of Chandra’s Ignition doesn’t speak to me.  Where this deck will likely shine is against the side of the bracket that isn’t ramp - Red Aggro, Husk decks, Tempo decks.  I see those decks having a hard time with Blisterpod, Myr, Aggregate, Radiant Flames, Languish.  I don’t think ramp decks will have much trouble.  I don’t think the Clifftop Retreat touch is a good one either, maybe it will help against Acid-Moss if the opponent isn’t paying attention to the decklists.  D+, but I will make it a point to test this deck and the grade could change.  I am being harsh because I don’t think this deck will do well against Ramp and Ramp is most of the field.


GTFL - Not Black Ramp


4 x Gatecreeper Vine

3 x Rolling Thunder

3 x Pilgrim's Eye

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

2 x Radiant Flames

2 x Woodland Wanderer

2 x From Beyond

3 x Brilliant Spectrum

4 x Mwonvuli Acid-Moss

1 x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

2 x Planar Outburst

2 x Angelic Edict

1 x Jace

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Oblivion Sower

2 x Nissa's Renewal

1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger


3 x Plains

3 x Island

3 x Mountain

3 x Forest

2 x Lumbering Falls

2 x Cinder Glade

2 x Canopy Vista

1 x Prairie Stream

1 x Sunpetal Grove

2 x Rootbound Crag

3 x Evolving Wilds


This deck reminds me of something I wrote about a week back, using Ramp with more colors as a control strategy against other Ramp decks.  The deck is very low on early interaction, and may have been very well-served to squeeze some mix of Fiery Impulse and/or Twin Bolt into the build.  As-is, I can’t picture the deck winning against Red Aggro without Radiant Flames into Woodland Wanderer.  However, I think every match outside of Red Aggro has the potential to be favorable.  The build is very reminiscent of Megabeast’s five-color list.  GTFL isn’t as color greedy, having cut black, but he is still very crowded at the four-drop spot.  I really don’t know if Brilliant Spectrum and Acid-Moss belong in the same deck, if you draw both and cast both you have spent two big turns and eight mana without affecting the creatures or planeswalkers on the battlefield, and I don’t know if I can get behind that.  That aside, I have found decks very similar to this to be favored in Ramp vs Ramp matchups, and in that case this deck has the potential to go far.  B+ without testing.


Murder Poet - Dimir Control


3 x Telling Time

2 x Horribly Awry

1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

1 x Disperse


4 x Spell Shrivel

2 x Scatter to the Winds

1 x Calculated Dismissal

3 x Titan's Presence

1 x Complete Disregard


3 x Inspiration

3 x Countermand

2 x Languish


1 x Ob Nixilis, Reignited

2 x Blight Herder


1 x Sire of Stagnation

1 x Drowner of Hope

1 x Oblivion Sower


2 x Ruin Processor


1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger


4 x Evolving Wilds

7 x Swamp

10 x Island

2 x Sunken Hollow

2 x Drowned Catacomb


In my quest for a good Dimir deck, I have failed miserably again and again.  This deck has very little in common with what I have played with.  Might we actually see processing do serious work?  I don’t believe it...yet.  Controlling a field of ramp decks is asking a lot.  Don’t let the two-color nature fool you, this deck is mana hungry.  Inspiration, Countermand, Sire, Processor, eventually Ulamog, they all require a critical mass of lands that Moss can throw off.  I love the seven, SEVEN, three mana counterspells, especially the one-of Calculated Dismissal which I have been using in my Blue lists for some time.  Horribly Awry is also better than most think.  Countermand and Inspiration are hard for me to support.  I know we lack good options, but those two have let me down many times.  The deck has also given up on the early game for the most part, with no Disregards or Reave Souls.  Another Languish-or-bust approach to Red Aggro, which may just be a slaughterhouse waiting to happen.  On paper I see a deck that can’t keep up with aggro and likely can’t control ramp, so I am going with a C+, but this is a deck I need to test.


Kryder - Gruul Ramp


4 x Gatecreeper Vine

4 x Twin Bolt

3 x Rolling Thunder

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

2 x Reclamation Sage

2 x Radiant Flames

4 x Nissa's Pilgrimage

2 x From Beyond

4 x Mwonvuli Acid-Moss

2 x Outland Colossus

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Woodland Bellower

1 x Oblivion Seer

2 x Nissa's Renewal

2 x Gaea's Revenge

1 x Omnath, Locus of Rage

1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger


7 x Mountain

10 x Forest

2 x Cinder Glade

2 x Canopy Vista

2 x Rootbound Crag


Finally, a soft-ball.  How best to grade a deck I have a ton of experience with?  Well, I think the swap of Twin Bolts in place of Fiery Impulse is wrong for this field, the token decks didn’t show up.  If Kryder nails a two-for-one against Red Aggro so-be-it, but I don’t see it happening, and I bet he will wish he had Impulse before too long.  The rest of the deck is solid.  I am not a Bellower fan, but it appears Steam loves the card as it appears in far more decks than I would have expected.  I also don’t see Gruul Ramp being as dominant in the Steam Showdown as it has been for me in the HAKI, as most of the players surely picked decks with this menace in mind.  Still, it is a proven, consistent deck that is difficult to counter while keeping up with the rest of the field.  I can’t put down Kryder for running it, I can’t agree with his changes, but I think he will do just fine.  B+ without testing.


Legend - Red Aggro


3 x Goblin Glory Chaser

2 x Goblin Arsonist

4 x Foundry Street Denizen

4 x Fiery Impulse

4 x Titan's Strength


2 x Twin Bolt

3 x Ember Hauler

2 x Abbot of Keral Keep

4 x Dragon Fodder

3 x Infectious Bloodlust

4 x Mage-Ring Bully


2 x Exquisite Firecraft

1 x Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh


1 x Avaricious Dragon

1 x Akoum Firebird


20 x Mountain


Legend has an odd amount of experience in Duels tournament events that has no rival due to the fact he has held his own tournament events with his decks for the last two years on his YouTube channel.  That knowledge surely contributed to his deck choice, because the best aggro decks seem to always get to the finals.  I can appreciate the RDW build here, not overboard on auras, not overboard on removal.  I would have increased the Mountain count to at least 22, but the tournament is best two-out-of-three and that will help here.  Legend can lose a game to his own lands one time, his opponents have to actually beat him the other two.  So far I have seen very few decks equipped to keep up with his deck, making it a great meta call.  I would cut the Dragon for one more land, but that is all I can really get picky about.  A- without testing.


Light - Sultai Control


1 x Jace Vryn's Prodigy

3 x Carrier Thrall

3 x Gatecreeper Vine

3 x Elvish visionary

2 x Disperse

3 x FleshBag Marauder

1 x Nissa, Vastwood seer

1 x Reclamation Sage

2 x Scatter to the Winds

3 x Spell Shrivel

2 x Complete Disregard

2 x Languish

1 x Rising Miasma

1 x Disciple of the Ring

1 x Cruel Revival

2 x Necromantic Summons

1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Woodland Bellower

1 x Gaea's Revenge

4 x Island

4 x Swamp

4 x forest

1 x Lumbering Falls

2 x Sunken Hollow

2 x Woodland Cemetery

2 x Drowned Catacomb

2 x Hinterland Harbour

3 x Evolving Wilds


This is the type of Sultai deck I have seen quite often, just lurking around since B4Z dropped.  I can’t say I love the Ramp matchup, and since Ramp is a big chunk of the field, I can’t love the deck’s chances.  In what has been a common theme, the early game removal doesn’t seem great and the late-game control doesn’t seem great.  I am also really surprised to see a lack of Evolutionary Leap, a card that usually fits into these builds, but the lack of it leaves the opponent’s enchantment removal out in the cold so I can appreciate that.  I don’t have anything against the build, it is hard for me to find card choices I dislike, but I don’t think the archetype is good for the tournament.  B- without testing.


Lionheart - Temur Ramp


4 x Gatecreeper Vine

2 x Rolling Thunder

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

2 x Reclamation Sage

3 x Bounding Krasis

2 x Natural Connection

2 x Radiant Flames

2 x Nissa's Pilgrimage

2 x Woodland Wanderer

2 x From Beyond

2 x Brutal Expulsion

4 x Mwonvuli Acid-Moss

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Woodland Bellower

1 x Oblivion Sower

2 x Nissa's Renewal

2 x Gaea's Revenge

1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger


3 x Island

4 x Mountain

8 x Forest

2 x Lumbering Falls

2 x Cinder Glade

2 x Rootbound Crag

2 x Hinterland Harbor

1 x Sulfur Falls


Interesting take on Ramp with a Temur angle.  I would love to get Omnath into the deck, as that card can just run away with a game.  I also think the deck is light on Blue and Red sources when you can expect one or both to get Mossed.   Krasis is an interesting substitution for a red removal spell like Fiery Impulse or Twin Bolt, or for Jaddi Offshoot, and it will be better against Ramp decks and a touch slower against Red Aggro.  Radiant Flames, Wanderer and Brutal Expulsion should be strong in the Red matchup.  I would have loved Evolutionary Leap in place of From Beyond because I feel the deck is too crowded with four drops, and Leap can get you some turn two value which is completely left to Gatecreeper.  I also can’t believe Jace didn’t make the cut, flash-back Acid-Moss is so nasty against rival Ramp decks.  The grade is an untested B.


Marnel.Estrada - 4 Color Control


1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy


4 x Gatecreeper Vine

2 x Skyrider Elf

3 x Rolling Thunder


1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

4 x Spell Shrivel

2 x Radiant Flames


2 x Woodland Wanderer

2 x From Beyond

4 x Brilliant Spectrum

1 x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

1 x Kiora, Master of the Depths


2 x Planar Outburst

2 x Angelic Edict


1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Oblivion Sower

1 x Chandra's Ignition


1 x Omnath, Locus of Rage

1 x Ulamog, The Ceaseless Hunger


2 x Plains

2 x Mountain

2 x Island

2 x Forest


2 x Cinder Glade

2 x Canopy Vista

2 x Prairie Stream

2 x Rootbound Crag

2 x Sunpetal Grove

2 x Glacial Fortress

4 x Evolving Wilds


This deck forgoes the Ramp element entirely to play more control in the form of Spell Shrivel.  As a result the deck is light on fixing, relying on Vines and Evolving Wilds, and I don’t love that against Moss, although Shrivel can be a counter to Moss if getting blue mana online isn’t an issue.  I wish the deck had a way to gain life, because I like it’s spell package against Red Aggro but I think it will just lose eventually without lifegain.  Three Rolling Thunders without a ramp spell doesn’t seem right to me either.  At the end of the analysis, the deck leaves me feeling a bit uncomfortable.  I feel like a long-game ramp opponent will create a big mana advantage, neutralize Spell Shrivel, and resolve awesome stuff while this deck struggles to get the mana together to do big things of it’s own.  That, combined with the lack of lifegain to endure the Red Aggro matchup, leaves the deck with an untested B-.


NightHawk233 - Temur Midrange


4 x Gatecreeper vine

2 x Elvish Visionary

2 x Evolutionary Leap

4 x Twin bolt

1 x Rolling Thunder


1 x Reclamation sage

2 x Radiant Flames

1 x Nissa, Vastwood seer

3 x Bounding Krasis

2 x Exquisite Firecraft

3 x Eldrazi Skyspawner


2 x Flameshadow Conjuring

3 x Whirler Rogue

1 x Akoum Firebird

2 x Woodland Wanderer


2 x Drowner of Hope

1 x Woodland Bellower

1 x Gaea's Revenge

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa


3 x Island

5 x Forest

3 x Mountain

2 x Cinder Glade

2 x Lumbering falls

2 x Rootbound crag

2 x sulfur falls

2 x Hinterland Harbour

1 x Gruul Guildgate

1 x Izzet Guildgate


If I had been asked what deck type I would avoid, I would have said midrange.  Ramp just loves to devour midrange, all the time, all the days of the week.  At least Nighthawk thought of that and added in some combo elements with Flameshadow Conjuring and Evolutionary Leap.  Still, these are mana-intensive combo pieces, and they come at the expense of the deck being more aggressive.  With all the Reclamation Sages, Bellowers, Felidar Cubs and Angelic Edicts, I don’t think Hawk will live the dream of the Flameshadow value beatdown too often.  I did test this deck, and I have to say it gave me two of the most fun experiences I have had on Twitch, one in an epic loss and the other in an epic win.  The deck can be a joyride, but in terms of this event I think there is a crash waiting at the end.  C+, after playtesting.  Even Nighthawk, ever the gentleman, replied with “Seems fair”.


Pact - Abzan Ramp


3 x gatecreeper vine

2 x elvish visionary

2 x evolutionary leap

2 x Woodland Wanderer

1 x nissa, vastwood seer

1 x reclamation sage

1 x retreat to kazandu

4 x natural connection

2 x suppression bonds

2 x from beyond

2 x languish

4 x mwonvuli acid-moss

1 x gideon, ally of zendikar

1 x gilt-leaf winnower

2 x planar outburst

1 x angelic edict

1 x ob nixilis reignited

1 x greenwarden of murasa

1 x oblivion sower

1 x ulamog, the ceaseless hunger

4 x plains

3 x swamp

4 x forest

2 x shambling vents

2 x canopy vista

2 x woodland cemetery

2 x isolated chapel

2 x sunpetal grove

4 x evolving wilds


Pact’s Abzan list runs Evo Leap, embraces the Moss, and has some one-of spice and Woodland Wanderer for some midgame.  In the end, I see a lot of softness to early aggro and not enough power for late ramp-battles with Rolling Thunder on the other side.  I would have loved to find room for Nissa’s Renewal to pull completely out of Moss range, and I am not convinced that two From Beyond and two Evolutionary Leap are all necessary.  The deck does go deep on enchantments, which could potentially overwork the Reclamation Sages he is sure to face, but that doesn’t mean the big temp blowouts the Sage creates won’t still happen.  I give the deck a B-, pre-testing.


Quasim - Gruul Ramp


4 x Fiery Impulse

4 x Gatecreeper Vine

3 x Rolling Thunder

1 x Nissa

2 x Reclamation Sage

2 x Radiant Flames

4 x Nissa's Pilgrimage

2 x From Beyond

4 x Mwonvuli Acid-Moss

1 x Outland Colossus

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Oblivion Sower

2 x Nissa's Renewal

2 x Gaea's Revenge

1 x Omnath

1 x Ulamog

1 x Desolation Twin

1 x Woodland Bellower


1 x Plains

5 x Mountain

12 x Forest

2 x Cinder Glade

1 x Canopy Vista

2 x Rootbound Crag


Another softball, the deck is just like my HAKI deck except that he added a Woodland Bellower and cut an Outland Colossus, and he also cut a Mountain for a Plains.  I dislike both changes, Colossus has been so good in ramp mirrors that I think the trade is a bad one, and I never found the ability to fetch a basic Plains THAT important, while getting double red is always important.  Still, the changes are just small wrinkles in a shell that is very good.  I think that Colossus may be missed though.  B+, without testing.


Randomname - Orzhov Control


4 x Cleric of the Forward Order

4 x Felidar Cub

3 x Shadows of the Past

3 x Fleshbag Marauder

1 x Liliana, Heretical Healer

4 x Read the Bones

3 x Gravedigger

2 x Languish

1 x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

2 x Gilt-Leaf Winnower

2 x Planar Outburst

2 x Angelic Edict

1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited

2 x Emeria Shepherd

9 x Plains

8 x Swamp

1 x Mortuary Mire

2 x Isolated Chapel

2 x Shambling Vent

4 x Orzhov Guildgate


I want to love this deck, I just can’t.  I did put a lot of work into Orzhov Control, inspired by randomname to some extent, and I came out on the wrong side of ramp.  I could nail every other matchup, but freakin’ ramp still always found ways to win.  One Moss isn’t a big deal, but multiple Mosses really impact the deck’s ability to get stuff done on time.  I think the deck will do great against Red Aggro, Tempo and Midrange, and it can give control fits with the graveyard interaction, Shadows of the Past and walkers.  I wish random had found a better use of the spots occupied by Forward Order, something to give a little more edge to the ramp matchup.  B, without testing.  If random can dodge ramp decks and maybe snipe a few of the less tuned ramp lists, he will be fine.


StepUp28 - Gruul Ramp


4 x Fiery Impulse

2 x Twin Bolt

3 x Rolling Thunder

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

2 x Reclamation Sage

2 x Radiant Flames

1 x Exquisite Firecraft

4 x Nissa's Pilgrimage

2 x From Beyond

4 x Mwonvuli Acid-Moss

2 x Outland Colossus

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Woodland Bellower

1 x Oblivion Sower

2 x Nissa's Renewal

2 x Gaea's Revenge

1 x Omnath, Locus of Rage

1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

7 x Mountain

11 x Forest

2 x Cinder Glade

2 x Canopy Vista

2 x Rootbound Crag


“What more can I say?” - Jay-Z.  More red burn and less Gatecreepers is an interesting take that will do great against Red Aggro and other small creatures.  The cost could come in a few missed land drops against Ramp and Moss, and I will be interested to see how it plays out as I have considered a similar swap in Gruul Ramp more than twice.  My lord, you SteamPunks love that Woodland Bellower.  B+, untested.


Terazin - Simic control


4 x Elvish visionary

1 x Eldrazi Skyspawner

2 x Frost Lynx

1 x Reclamation Sage

3 x Bounding Krasis

2 x Whirler Rogue

2 x Willbreaker

1 x Drowner of Hope

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Woodland Bellower

2 x Gaea's Revenge

1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

1 x Kiora, Master of the Depths

1 x Dispel

2 x Horribly Awry

3 x Disperse

2 x Scatter to the Winds

3 x Spell Shrive

2 x Displacement Wave

10 x Island

9 x Forest

1 x Lumbering Falls

2 x Hinterland Harbor

2 x Evolving Wilds


I don’t like the bi-polar nature of this deck, as it struggles with identity between tempo and control.  In the end it must be control, because there is no way this deck puts up a fast-enough clock of beatdown against ramp or control.  Willbreaker, Willbreaker, can it work?  Well, let’s check out how many decks in the tournament have at least four answers to a resolved Willbreaker - TWENTY.  Twenty out of twenty three opposing decks have twice as many ways (four) to KILL (doesn’t count bounce) a RESOLVED (doesn’t count counters) Willbreaker as Terazin has Willbreaker in his deck (two).  So yeah, it looks unlikely that ‘Breaker will take over many games.  Aside from ‘Breaker, we have Simic Control deck without removal and a big-creature endgame without ramp.  I give this one an untested C because the creatures are pretty strong, and backing one or two of them up with a counter could be tough for Ramp decks to deal with.


Tsh1rt - Red Aggro


3 x Goblin Glory Chaser

4 x Goblin Arsonist

2 x Fiery Impulse

3 x Titan's Strength

2 x Perilous Myr

1 x Abbot of Keral Keep

4 x Mage-Ring Bully

3 x Call of the Full Moon

4 x Infectious Bloodlust

4 x Twin Bolt

1 x Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh

3 x Flaring Flame-Kin

2 x Exquisite Firecraft

2 x Act of Treason

1 x Pia and Kiran Nalaar

21 x Mountain


Tsh1rt did a 180 after his lackluster performance in the HAKI and switched to Red Aggro.  I think it is a good switch, so many of the Steam Showdown decks lack sufficient interaction on early turns and lean heavily on midgame sweepers.  This build is more aura-heavy and therefore vulnerable to red instant-speed removal.  Plenty of decks have it, plenty of decks don’t, so there will be a lot of performance baked into the luck of the pairings.  Flaring Flame-Kin is a card I have had success with and is often misunderstood.  It is high-risk, but if you combo it with an enchantment the game can just be over.  If you lack an aura, you can cast it on turn three and the opponent usually bends over to remove it if they can because the risk of it being enchanted is too great a risk.  If you have Bloodlust, you can hold Flame-Kin and Bloodlust in your hand, waiting for a tap-out, and then play both on the same turn.  I don’t love Act of Treason as a card, but as a two-of in the deck in a tourney with known decklists, I love the mindgames.  Can a Gruul Ramp player chance the two-of spell and just tap-out for Colossus?  Or Ulamog?  How about the Woodland Wanderer decks?  It will certainly give many an opponent pause.  B+, without testing.


WrightJustice - Sultai Crats


4 x Blisterpod

2 x Bone Splinters

3 x Carrier Thrall

3 x Elvish Visionary

1 x Shadows of the Past

2 x Evolutionary Leap

1 x Liliana, Heretical Healer

2 x Fleshbag Marauder

4 x Nantuko Husk

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

3 x Sphinx's Tutelage

2 x Smothering Abomination

3 x Eyeless Watcher

2 x From Beyond

1 x Kiora, Master of the Depths

1 x Drowner of Hope

1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited

2 x Island

3 x Swamp

4 x Forest

2 x Lumbering Falls

2 x Sunken Hollow

2 x Woodland Cemetery

2 x Drowned Catacomb

1 x Rogue's Passage

2 x Mortuary Mire

4 x Evolving Wilds


I love it.  The deck is very soft on removal in this form, relying more on flooding the board against aggro and comboing off against ramp.  This is a deck I have played with a lot, almost with this exact list.  The toughest matchups are linear aggro decks like Thopters and Elves, and those decks aren’t here!  Little tweaks, maybe Gatecreeper for Visionary to make sure the mana works out in Moss land.  I don’t love Shadows.  Despite a double-blue requirement I think Whirler Rogue belongs, but keeping the mana simple may be the better play with all that land destruction in the house.  If WrightJustice is a worthy pilot (it can be tough to play and is often a misclick from disaster), I think this deck could surprise plenty of ramp decks.  I give the deck an A-, without testing.  I am biased, I love this deck, I don’t care.


Yondar - Simic Tempo


2 x Clutch of Currents

3 x Undercity Troll

4 x Snapping Gnarlid

3 x Skyrider Elf

2 x Disperse

4 x Frost Lynx

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

3 x Bounding Krasis

3 x Wildsize

3 x Whirler Rogue

2 x Woodland Wanderer

2 x Adverse Conditions

2 x Guardian of Tazeem

2 x Outland Colossus

6 x Island

7 x Forest

2 x Lumbering Falls

1 x Woodland Cemetery

1 x Drowned Catacomb

1 x Rootbound Crag

2 x Hinterland Harbor

1 x Sulfur Falls

1 x Glacial Fortress

2 x Rogue's Passage


There we go, that is more of the pure Simic Tempo deck that I think everyone wants to see.  Can it walk the line between Red Aggro and Ramp and come out shining?  I have read claims that such a performance is normal from this deck, but in practice I have been unable to achieve it.  I will also be curious to see if the converge mana-base ends up biting Yondar, as it only takes one or two lands EtB’ing tapped to ruin the tempo the deck is trying to achieve.  Is a bigger Elf or Wanderer worth it?  We shall see.  I am not a huge fan of Wildsize or Adverse Conditions, and in a tournament with public decklists I would love to see one or two Spell Shrivels instead to at least make Ramp players worry about their big spells getting to resolve if you have three open mana.  Grade?  An untested B.


Sum it up!


Ramp Strategies - 11 - 46%

Aggro Strategies - 4 - 17%

Control Strategies - 5 - 21%

Rogue Strategies - 4 - 17%


Ramp is the lord and master of the Showdown.  If any of the decks above found a way to crack the ramp code, expect them to go far.


Top decks by CGB grade, just for fun -


A- Legend - Red Aggro

A- WrightJustice - Sultai Crats

B+ Tsh1rt - Red Aggro

B+ StepUp28 - Gruul Ramp

B+ Quasim - Gruul Ramp

B+ Kryder - Gruul Ramp

B+ GTFL - Not Black Ramp

B+ Babs - Golgari Ramp


More analysis to come, including most popular cards, most popular colors, and of course predictions and results once rounds are paired.  Stay tuned to the blog, NGA, Twitch, YouTube and Twitter.  You know, all the things.  


And remember guys and gals, the judgemental ramblings I engage in are just for fun and entertainment, and I look forward to being proven wrong (or right) when the games are played.  Many props to everyone who entered and put themselves out there.


<3 CGB