February 29 2016 Monday at 05:18 PM

Duels Diaries Week 31 - More rounds than I could write about!

Hello Duelers,


It’s CGB, and I’m back with more Magic Duels commentary, strategy and deck dissection for your entertainment.


Today we will cover some notable matches from the Steam Showdown, the XB1 Double Elimination, we’ll dump some stats on you from the tournaments, and I’ll spout off about some new control lists I’ve been brewing up.  There’s only so many words I can physically type in a day, so let's jump right in.


Steam Showdown -


The Steam Showdown continues with many of the round two matches in the books.  One of the side effects of so much awesome Magic Duels happening is that I don’t have time to give each event round by round coverage, but I will be watching many of the rounds and I will point you to matches that I found particularly interesting.  Here’s some highlights from SS rnd 2 -


Yondar’s Simic Tempo vs boh’s Red Aggro


https://youtu.be/OvUTy2b81YE


What I found most interesting about this match is how much time Chandra spent being a very sad 2/2-for-three-mana liability.  Much less mythic, much more tempo negative.  If you are Red Aggro and you play against tempo, it will be hard getting under them, especially with auras or Chandra because of bounce.  Titan’s Strength is much more valuable than auras because of the instant speed, and it is the only way to trade up against their creatures.  You also need to swarm the board hard, and “must attack” can become a liability.  I don’t know if boh’s hand allowed him many other lines, but the lines he took ended very poorly.  In this matchup, Red needs more tokens and burn spells and less auras and combo pieces like Bully that limit your options and let you get stuck on being the aggressor.


Legenvd’s Red Aggro vs Kryder’s Gruul Ramp


https://youtu.be/wJCjefQ_gfc


I feel as though this is one of the BIG matchups in Duels.  Red Aggro’s ability to hang with Gruul Ramp is one of the reasons it sticks around, because Red Aggro isn’t amazing against many decks in the field including Elves, Thopters, and various control decks.  Now Red Aggro isn’t a solid trump to Ramp, my experience puts the matchup at around 50/50, and that is with Jaddi Offshoot in the Ramp deck.  When I saw that the Gruul Ramp players left out Jaddi, I expected the Red Aggro decks to have an edge, and I still think that could be the case.  Turn three Radiant Flames is what the games ended up hinging on, and that isn’t too surprising.  The card is bananas against Red Aggro.  I thought that Goblin Arsonist and Ember Hauler really underperformed for Legenvd, and I would reconsider their place in the deck.  If those had been a Thopter Engineer or Pia/Kiran perhaps…  I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this matchup many more times.


XB1 Double Elimination Coverage


Gemini’s 4 Color Control vs Mono Green Ramp


I really wanted to watch this, but the quality was low and the video kept stuttering.  Come on Gem, fix your video!  It appears to be an interesting control deck vs a format entry point in mono-green ramp, and I heard it came down to Celestial Flare glitch abuse by the infamous one.


T-sh1rt’s Sultai Fog vs Unbeatable’s Simic Tempo


How about that game one victory, just hanging on at one life!  It is a double Tutelage draw, and Languish was juicy, so I am shocked it was still that close.  Game two you’ve gotta love a Talent of the Telepath that pays off!  It is definitely correct to dig seven with Telepath for an answer instead of digging just two with Epiphany.  The finish was great, Talent + Wildsize on the opponent’s creature to draw a card and activate double Tutelage and mill Unbeatable out.  Just vicious.  Plays like that convince people to never, EVER remove Talent from their mill decks!


Stats


It is easy to get bogged down in the numbers, and frankly hitting my readers over the head with numbers was never really my goal.  I approached “solving” the Duels meta the way I worked on solving paper Magic metagames, but there are too many moving parts for the numbers to really make sense.  Most players will grind gold (Red Aggro, Thopters), spike rank 40 (ramp), and then play whatever they like (weird brews and colors that aren’t actually very good) if they play at all.  Having tournaments opens up a new way to approach stats, because players who register and compete in the events can have some assumptions made about them -


  • They are registering a deck that has proven to them in some way that it is good or believed to be good.
  • They have a floor on their skill level.  We shouldn’t see tournament players who don’t know when to cast a Fog or who keep equipping Strider Harness to Fortified Rampart five times in one turn.
  • They care, to some extent, about winning and have built their deck with that in mind (as opposed to, for example, building a deck with all one drops to see if you can do it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVPAzPYee0M)

  • This means we can draw more meaning from the stats, so I am compiling a stat sheet for tournament Duels matches.  Interested?


    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1rrQa5Obct0VQQNbvMqSqUVfqLS2whUGm9gbfXbixL1s/edit?usp=sharing


    This sheet includes the complete HAKI results, round one of Gemini’s Double Elim, and round one of the Steam Showdown.


    Gruul Ramp jumps off the page with an 86% win/loss ratio, and I look forward to getting a larger sample size from the Steam Showdown.  Since the builds only have minor differences, the results should be rather trustworthy.  Other archetypes are harder, but if the decks seem to have around 50 cards in common I try to combine them into an archetype (Jund Crats and Golgari Crats often only have four cards and six lands different).  Sometimes and Esper deck may have little in common with another Esper deck, but they both have the same goal of controlling the board, and I grant leeway there.


    The champions of the Hakumite, Izzet Thopters, only boast a 58% win/loss ratio.  Of course, of the HAKI decks, only four boasted winning ratios.  It looks like we have a ways to go as a community as far as building and selecting consistent, powerful decks for tournaments, but hopefully the numbers come around as the Steam Showdown and the Gemini Truffle Shuffle battle on, and I will add the iOS results when the decklists become public.


    Tourney magic vs Online Dueling


    If you are considering joining a Magic Duels tournament, or if you already have and can’t wait to do more, it is important to consider the differences between tournament play and matchmaking against random competitors and Dueling your friends.  Tournaments may have their individual rules quirks, such as sideboards, but the largest difference is what all the tournaments I have seen so far have in common - a best two-out-of-three match structure.


    When I am dueling against randoms, and I want to know if my deck is good, I track the progress in my notebook.  My goal for a good Duels deck on XB1 is to win 90% of my games, and this is because I expect a share of those games to be against new players or players without access to the full collection.  In a tournament, typically you will be playing against other players with access to the cards they want, and you can assume that if they enrolled in a tournament that was started on a website that is all about playing Duels that they will have some amount of skill at the game.  Winning 90% of your games is both unlikely and unnecessary.


    If you look at the stats from the Hakumite, you see that Thopters, the deck that made up both sides of the finals, only had a 60% win/loss ratio.  It did not truly dominate the tournament.  When I think of decks that were built with the best two-out-of-three format in mind, I think of Gemini’s Naya Ramp and Peepy’s Jeskai Tokens.  Gemini’s deck has inconsistencies, as it is a combo deck with multiple combos, and with limited numbers (3 Retreats, 2 Nissa’s Revelation, 1 Omnath, 2 Shepherds, 1 Gideon) you know he won't assemble the combos in every game.  In the XB1 random wilds, I can’t achieve greater than a seventy percent win/loss ratio, which keeps that Naya deck from hitting my goal for random dueling.  Getting a best two-out-of-three gives the deck a do-over when the cards don’t line up.  Peepy’s deck is even more extreme.  The deck wants double white, double red, double blue, and doesn’t have all the dual lands it needs.  Peepy probably knew going into the event that he would lose one out of three games to his own mana being off curve, but he knew that in the two-out-of-three that mana lined up that he would be very tough to stop.  This is another deck that doesn’t meet my goals for random domination when “pubbin” to borrow a Counter-strike term, but it made the semi’s of a tournament.  The deck doesn’t have to be 90% consistent to do well in a tournament, it has to be 60% consistent but extremely powerful in those 60% of games.  You can take more risks in deck building.


    Speaking of deck building, you should consider if decklists will be public when you join a tournament, and this should influence your deckbuilding.  I am sure that the players who registered Jund lists four Act of Treason did very well when pubbin’, but when decklists are public the other player will not simply give you an Ulamog to steal.  Other cards that lose a lot of value and can be played around include Celestial Flare, Bounding Krasis, and counterspells of all types or the lack-thereof.  When you look at the decks that performed well, there is little in their decklists that can be effectively played around.  Knowing Hakeem runs Whirler Rogue doesn’t help you when he plays it.  Knowing I have Rolling Thunder doesn’t keep it from leveling you.  So does that mean we can’t play Act of Treason or counterspells in tournaments?  No.  But you should use the public decklist as a way to manipulate your opponent.  Imagine you are playing Red Aggro and your opponent is playing Ramp.  Mr. Ramp untaps with five lands and Outland Colossus in hand.  Let’s say he is at 12 life with no board to speak of, and you have a red prowess dork.   If your decklist shows no solution for the Colossus, you can be sure the opponent will spike it and you will be in trouble.  However, if you have just one Act of Treason in the deck, your opponent has to give pause.  Can they afford to spike the Colossus?  What happens if you have Act of Treason?  What if you don’t?  And what if you actually do?  In terms of strategy, this one-of Act of Treason in the list doesn’t have to be in your hand to affect the game.  


    If you are playing a counter-spell deck, it is probably important to vary your counters.  Instead of 4 Spell Shrivel, you may want 2 Shrivel, 1 Horribly Awry, 1 Dispel, just to drive your opponent nuts.  Any type of reactive or situational card that you plan to run in a tournament should be examined, should you have a variety pack instead to make your plays less predictable?  This isn’t the case for threats, as typically one threat card is better than others.  You wouldn’t add an Aeronaut to the deck instead of a Whirler Rogue just to vary your threats, one card is clearly the stronger choice.  Just keep in mind what a public decklist does to your opponent.  You only need to run one Fog in your deck to force your Crats opponent to play around Fog.  


    Control decks


    For some reason I have become obsessed with a number of control decks.  I still want to find a deck that can keep the ramp decks and the aggro decks in check, and I just miss the traditional control builds that most formats enjoy.


    The Ah-Ha! moment that ignited my control planeswalker spark came from playing yet another draw-go esper deck.  I just found that I spent too much of the game doing nothing.  I would sit on answers, and my opponent would draw threats that forced my answers until I had no good answers left.  What I needed was proactive control, but the spells I wanted to use (Read the Bones, Coastal Discovery, Angelic Edict) didn’t play well with the cards I had a hard time giving up on, the counterspells.  In this format you can expect to be Mossed, so you can load up on Spell Shrivel and Calculated Dismissal to counter Moss if you like, but countering Moss leaves you without an answer to a threat.  Ideally, we could ignore Moss and wait for something threatening to happen.  The problem with that is that Moss damages our ability to deal with things.  My new tactic (at least to me) became not to counter Moss, but to draw out of Moss, keep the lands coming and make sure I had the answers when the big monsters arrived.  The best answers for the big threats are Angelic Edict and Celestial Flare, and neither of those play well with counterspells.  Removing the Shrivels and other awkward counters allowed me to play other cards that never quite mixed, like Read the Bones and Solemn Offering.  So here is the Esper list that changed my stance on control and led me to make a video with several different decks -


    http://www.twitch.tv/covertgoblue/v/51360369


    1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

    4 x Alchemist Vial

    2 x Celestial Flare

    2 x Horribly Awry

    2 x Reave Soul

    3 x Fleshbag Marauder

    2 x Scatter to the Winds

    4 x Artificer's Epiphany

    2 x Solemn Offering

    3 x Coastal Discovery

    2 x Languish

    1 x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

    1 x Disciple of the Ring

    2 x Planar Outburst

    4 x Angelic Edict

    1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited

    3 x Plains

    3 x Island

    2 x Swamp

    2 x Shambling Vent

    2 x Sunken Hollow

    2 x Prairie Stream

    2 x Drowned Catacomb

    2 x Isolated Chapel

    2 x Glacial Fortress

    4 x Evolving Wilds


    Vial into Epiphany creates Divination at the loss of turn two, and I found most matchups didn’t have a great use for turn two anyway.  Vial, along with all the card draw, lets us run twenty-four lands instead of 26 or 27 like many modern control decks, which reduces our risk of flooding out.


    The deck used to run Read the Bones, but Coastal Discovery took it’s place as the deck needed both more win-cons and to keep on drawing cards.  Coastal Discovery is a card that hasn’t been properly broken yet.  I feel it doesn’t make ramp decks because the effect is diminished, drawing two cards is rarely a strong play in ramp because of the density of lands and ramp spells, making the average draw a high variance situation with a few hits and many misses, and if a land gets blown up after awakening it can have a large ripple effect in ramp.  On the other hand, Coastal Discovery doesn’t often make control decks because it is not an instant, so in this deck with a pretty low emphasis on countering things it makes more sense.


    Two Horribly Awry keep getting juggled for two Displacement Wave, as the amount of Thopters and tokens decks keeps fluctuating.  Wave works well with Awaken and Vials, and has few downsides for our deck, but it can be awful in several matchups.


    Two Solemn Offerings feel janky, but when combined with Angelic Edict we have six ways to interact with resolved enchantments, and it is often needed against Crats, Thopters, Abzan, some Ramp decks, Red Aura Aggro, and especially Tutelage.  Without the Offerings, I found the Edicts overworked and I always want to have an Edict ready for Ramp’s payoff cards, except of course for Gaea’s Revenge which meets Fleshbag or Flare.


    The weakness of the deck is still Red Aggro, and sometimes Thopters, which make Edict into a bad card and punish the deck for spending more time drawing cards than removing creatures efficiently.  Hence, the deck needed some new colors.


    Jeskai Control


    4 x Fiery Impulse

    1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

    4 x Alchemist's Vial

    2 x Celestial Flare

    4 x Twin Bolt

    2 x Scatter to the Winds

    4 x Artificer's Epiphany

    2 x Radiant Flames

    2 x Exquisite Firecraft

    3 x Coastal Discovery

    1 x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

    1 x Disciple of the Ring

    2 x Planar Outburst

    4 x Angelic Edict

    3 x Plains

    3 x Island

    3 x Mountain

    2 x Prairie Stream

    2 x Clifftop Retreat

    2 x Sulfur Falls

    2 x Glacial Fortress

    1 x Azorius Guildgate

    1 x Boros Guildgate

    1 x Izzet Guildgate

    4 x Evolving Wilds


    This deck lacks lifegain, but it is designed to resist taking damage in the early game with four Twin Bolts and four Fiery Impulse.  The weakness is Gaea’s Revenge followed by Rolling Thunder.  The deck has answers and ways to cope, but it isn’t rock solid.  Still, the deck is more competitive than expected in the ramp meta, and it would be very good if everyone ran aggro decks.


    Still, I am greedy.  I wanted to push the awaken mechanic, I wanted more card draw, and I wanted a strategy that resembles the standard deck Jeskai Black - draw cards, kill your stuff, draw more cards, kill more stuff, play threats, kill more stuff, draw more cards.  Here is what I got -


    Izzet Oreo


    4 x Fiery Impulse

    1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

    2 x Telling Time

    4 x Twin Bolt

    3 x Ondu Rising

    3 x Fleshbag Marauder

    4 x Read the Bones

    2 x Radiant Flames

    3 x Coastal Discovery

    2 x Languish

    1 x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

    2 x Planar Outburst

    4 x Angelic Edict

    1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited

    2 x Plains

    1 x Island

    2 x Swamp

    1 x Mountain

    2 x Shambling Vent

    2 x Smoldering Marsh

    2 x Sunken Hollow

    2 x Prairie Stream

    1 x Drowned Catacomb

    1 x Clifftop Retreat

    2 x Dragonskull Summit

    2 x Glacial Fortress

    4 x Evolving Wilds


    No counters at all.  No Celestial Flare.  No Alchemist Vial/Epiphany shenanigans.  Ondu Rising providing some lifegain allows us to spam Read the Bones and get away from some of the reactive elements.  This deck looks and feels like a control deck, but it is much more proactive.  Kill stuff, draw cards, awaken a hasty land and attack, repeat.  Since the lands have haste they are great for killing walkers and getting in four-point chip shots.  A 4/4 awakened land is a tougher creature to deal with than expected, the following cards don’t solve the problem - Fiery Impulse, Twin Bolt, Touch of the Void, Radiant Flames, Disperse, Suppression Bonds, Displacement Wave, Planar Outburst, Tragic Arrogance.  Ways to kill the land at instant speed are even rarer, meaning you can almost always hit for four with good timing.


    The mana isn’t as greedy as it looks, the deck only needs double black and double white to function, just one Blue or Red source will cast all the spells in those colors.


    All of this is a work in progress.


    The best deck for pubbing right now is probably Jeskai Control, while Jeskai Black or Esper is likely best for competitive play.  


    OK, now that I’ve been writing for a while, I am psyched up to go play!  I’ll catch you all next week when I return with another entry to Duels Diaries.


    <3 CovertGo Blue


    The End Credits -


    Bookmark - http://www.hauntedflower.com/blogs/duels-diaries


    Twitch - http://www.twitch.tv/covertgoblue/profile


    Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/user/danno029


    About Duels Diaries - http://www.hauntedflower.com/blogs/duels-diaries/79645700-what-is-duels-diaries


    Awesome Duels resources and recommendations -


    Magic Duels Reddit - https://www.reddit.com/r/magicduels/


    No Goblins Allowed - http://forum.nogoblinsallowed.com/viewforum.php?f=38


    Hakeem928’s YouTube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8mBGuYP99vIwDJpof7nawQ


    Mobius’s YouTube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8mBGuYP99vIwDJpof7nawQ


    Nighthawk233’s YouTube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHkyvV-IbA3_udD0M3wiQ3g


    Legenvd’s YouTube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/user/LegenVD


    Twitch Magic Duels - http://www.twitch.tv/directory/game/Magic%20Duels