October 09 2016 Sunday at 12:29 PM

My first week-and-change of Kaladesh Duels

Today we are going to drop some decklists and discussion about what Kaladesh has done to Magic Duels.  I know you netdeckers out there want some great builds to ladder with, and that Deck Wizard can only do so much.  I am not going to drop records on you, because they are misleading.  Only games against other strong players with unlocked collections and Black Lotus sleeves actually help you determine if a deck can truly be top tier.  If you read that and still want my records, assume every deck is 9-1, or 8-2 if you disagree with a card choice :)

If you have been playing Duels since Xbox Live was called Arcade, you have become used to limited selection.  We used to get 100 cards per deck.  When we finally got the ability to build our own decks, I believe we had about 300 cards to work with, going up to 450ish after expansions.  When Duels Origins dropped, we actually took a step back in cards, and we made things like Fiery Conclusion, Runed Servitor and Kird Chieftain work.  Look how far we’ve come.

The biggest change I feel right now after the Kaladesh release is in the deck building.  You can pick any color combination, and any somewhat mechanic or tribal or archetype theme and build a deck, and you likely won’t run out of cards that are respectively playable.  In fact, there are so many cards that many tried and true archetypes can be taken in several different directions.  An example would be red aggro; I had four mono-red aggro decks at one point, one with artifact synergies, one that maxed out at three drops, one they focused on four drops, one that focused on vehicles.  

This little pre-amble is to let you know there is more than one way to build all of these decks.  I have tried many of these options, but surely not all, and I encourage you to cut these up and try some of the other themes and see if you can do better.  I have played a few hundred games with about forty different decks and I have been enjoying just about every minute of it.  Here are ten decks that I believe could contend for a top tier spot this season.

GB Delirium
3x Gnarlwood Dryad  
2x Deathcap Cultivator  
2x Sylvan Advocate  
2x Tireless Tracker  
1x Reclamation Sage  
1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer  
1x Mindwrack Demon  
1x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet  
1x Verdurous Gearhulk  
1x Ishkanah, Grafwidow  
1x Noxious Gearhulk  
1x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger  
3x Grasp of Darkness  
4x Grapple with the Past  
3x Murder  
2x Languish  
3x Vessel of Nascency  
1x Liliana, the Last Hope  
1x Ob Nixilis Reignited  
1x Nissa, Vital Force  
2x Smuggler's Copter  
6x Swamp  
7x Forest  
2x Hissing Quagmire  
2x Woodland Cemetery  
4x Foul Orchard  
2x Drownyard Temple  
The biggest problem for Black/Green last season was a lack of ways to handle planeswalkers.  The new set has some support with Smuggler’s Copter and NIssa, Vital Force, but walkers are still a weakness.  I believe this deck can complete regardless because many of the aggressive decks I will be sharing have the chops to push the three and four-color walker-heavy lists out of the format for a little while.

This is a creature heavy deck, and it can play the beatdown role rather convincingly, but against other slow and grindy decks you need a good endgame.  Enter Ulamog.  This deck has some sneaky ramp cards in Deathcap Cultivator, Nissa Vital and Drownyard Temple.  You can also recur Vastwood Seer a few times to make sure you hit your land drops.  Between these cards, Grapple and Vessel you always enter the lategame with 10ish lands.  These cards also let the deck cheat on land count itself, running a lean 23 and leaving room for more answers.  

A few general format notes while they are on my mind -

Taplands - At first I wanted to get away from eTb tapped lands like Foul Orchard, and Aether Hub does make that possible, but I found the flexibility of the taplands in the midgame very important, and just in the last few days I have been leaning back to taplands.  What is likely correct is some mix of both taplands, Evolving Wilds and Aether Hub, but I remain uncertain.

Sweepers - Vehicles and hasty aggro cards have made sweepers like Languish worse, but oddly those “worse” cards have become even more important.  Decks full of vehicles require a lot of creatures to crew them, meaning the opponent has a deck full of creatures, and many times you’ll see several of those dorks on the battlefield at once, meaning your sweeper will hit harder than it used to.  You may take a punch the following turn from a Copter, Cruiser or something else, so you better have other forms of interaction beyond the sweeper or you will die.

Planeswalkers - These are the real losers from the Kaladesh introduction.  They are still great cards, but you likely need to rethink how and when you play them.  Last season you could cast a walker on an empty battlefield and have a reasonable expectation of letting it run away with the game.  Now it is far more likely that your walker will die to a haste-threat.  If you want your walkers to win games, it is more likely that you need to be more patient can careful about when to cast your mythic buddy.

RG Ramp



2x Sylvan Advocate  

1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer  

1x Ishkanah, Grafwidow  

1x Combustible Gearhulk  

1x Greenwarden of Murasa  

1x Oblivion Sower  

1x Gaea's Revenge  

1x Omnath, Locus of Rage  

1x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger  



4x Fiery Impulse  

3x Harnessed Lightning  

4x Grapple with the Past  

1x Kozilek's Return  



2x Radiant Flames  

4x Nissa's Pilgrimage  

2x Nissa's Renewal  



2x From Beyond  



1x Chandra, Torch of Defiance  

1x Nissa, Vital Force  

1x Chandra, Flamecaller  



2x Cultivator's Caravan  



4x Mountain  

2x Cinder Glade  

10x Forest  

2x Rootbound Crag  

2x Timber Gorge  

3x Aether Hub  

When I think about what I want to do when my competition is being aggressive, I want instant-speed red lightning bolts, sweepers and large threats that go over-the-top.  That is RG Ramp in a nutshell.  Grapple adds a lot of consistency and ensures you have the land or creature you need.  Impulse, Lightning, Radiant Flames and Kozilek’s Return keep the little guys at bay.  I feel weird without some big X spells, and I am concerned I’ll be weak in the mirror without them.  Gearhulk will have to do.  The Ishkanah spot is debatable.  We only have Grapple to churn the graveyard, but we have all the card types in our deck, and we can even use Caravan or Aether Hub to use Grafwidow’s second ability!

Jeskai Control


1x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  

1x Torrential Gearhulk  



4x Fiery Impulse  

3x Blessed Alliance  

3x Telling Time  

3x Harnessed Lightning  

1x Kozilek's Return  

3x Glimmer of Genius  



2x Radiant Flames  

2x Planar Outburst  



3x Sphinx's Tutelage  

2x Fevered Visions  



1x Saheeli Rai  

1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar  

1x Chandra, Torch of Defiance  

1x Nahiri, the Harbinger  

1x Jace, Unraveler of Secrets  

1x Chandra, Flamecaller  



2x Plains  

2x Prairie Stream  

2x Island  

2x Wandering Fumarole  

3x Mountain  

2x Needle Spires  

2x Clifftop Retreat  

2x Sulfur Falls  

2x Glacial Fortress  

3x Aether Hub  

4x Evolving Wilds  

Throw a few new cards into last year’s deck and you get this.  Mill isn’t going away, and is likely still the best control option in a world without sideboards.  While enchantment removal has improved, the issue is that you can’t afford to play it in your deck.  Even Reclamation Sage stays on the sidelines much of the time because deck space is limited and you can’t afford to have cards like Fragmentize sitting in your hand in this format.  It feels like more than ever, you have to interact with the board fast or get on the board fast, and that means Tutelage and Visions are still just as likely to stick around as before.  Besides, this deck has a plan B - Planeswalker spam.  Jeskai as a shard now has six playable walkers plus baby Jace.  You don’t need a fourth color for Super Friends anymore.  A few more general control bits -

Counterspells stink, don’t run them.

Geistblast is slow and misses the key threats in the format, if it isn’t a huge part of your endgame strategy it should be cut.

Insidious Will - See Geistblast.

Take Inventory vs Telling Time - I prefer Telling Time right now because of the instant speed, you want to have options open on the opponent’s turn with all the haste threats that RG and Boros are packing.

Here are the other decks still on my radar as contenders for the top tier.  I’ll write about three of them in my next Duels Diaries post.  Thanks for reading!

UR Burn

RB Vamps

UW Spirits

Bant goodies


RG Monsters

RW Vehicles

<3 CGB

The End Credits -

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