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Tuesday Tournament Talk (7/3) – Hiatus

Hey all!  The internet is full of content, and I wouldn’t want you coming here for watered-down nonsense.  Truth is, I’ve got nothing interesting to say about the tournament scene at the moment.  Standard’s been out for 3 months, we’ve talked about literally every deck, and nobody did anything crazy enough this week for me to make fun of them for 1000 words.

I’ll be back when new stuff catches my eye.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday Tournament Talk (6/26)

We’re nearing the end of the season, so this column, which tends to be dedicated to new and exciting things that are happening in the metagame, is going to vary a bit in length as there are more or less interesting things.  In hindsight, I started to ask myself what, if I were a game designer, I’d consider a successful end to a set.

First, if there was a stable metagame, I’d like it to be a good one with something for everybody.  This is probably the hardest thing, because balancing TCGs is tough.  But the metagame’s about as good as a metagame can be.  There are viable combo decks (Reanimator, SW Rowdy), aggro decks (Candles, Mono-R, RB Refuel), midrange decks (BD Sacrifice, DW Momentum) and control decks (BD Verdict, SDR Control).

I’d love it if some of those decks were non-obvious, and took a while to get figured out.  People saw SW Rowdy and RB Refuel and Candles immediately; they were clear build-arounds when the cards were spoiled.  But seeing genuine tri-shard SDR control lists and a BD sacrifice mid-range shell pop up two months into the season?  I’d be proud of that.  Deep set design leads to brewers being rewarded.

I’d like it if there weren’t a huge power gap between the best decks and the rest.  We see that here too.  Every week, a brew 3-1s or 4-0s, generally something we’ve never seen before.  Most of those decks (I’m looking at you, RW Gnolls) aren’t as objectively powerful as the ones 4-0ing every week, but they’re pretty great.  We’ll talk about a new one later.

I’d want all of my mechanics to have been used.  Mechanics are generally a guide for players, as to what synergy decks can look like.  RB Refuel, SW Rowdy, DR Candles, DW Momentum, BD Sacrifice, BD Verdict, SD Discard…all mechanics.  Rage and Boon turned out to be a bit underwhelming.  Thank god Blood-Sapphire “Profit from your opponent discarding” didn’t become a thing.  But a lot of the mainstream mechanics made their way into competitive constructed decks.

I’d want games to have a lot of important decisions, so skill mattered a lot.  Tough really to measure this, except:  you see the top players 4-0ing or 3-1ing every week.  It isn’t a coincidence.  Everybody else has access to the same decks.  Turns out that skill overcomes variance more often than not.

Finally, I’d want as many people playing my game as possible.  And the fact is, there are less people playing in these constructed events than there were a few weeks ago – a bit of a shame, given the quality of the format.  But ultimately, players are interested in new stuff, and we’re starting to reach the end of what we can do with these cards, so interest flags.  If nothing new shows up next week, maybe we talk about Rock, or Immortal!

For now, though, an old face brought back some new nonsense:

ThufirHawat’s bRW Ramp

If I were a dev, I would write ThufirHawat a thank you note for his love of the Portal mechanic.  From the first moment he saw Striding Syzygon, nobody has played more mediocre, “GREAT IN LIMITED” all-stars than Thufir.  Eldurathan’s Glory?  Make way for Roaming Pulsagath.  Why play more Eternal Seekers when you could play Greater Quazarus?

Striding SyzygonRoaming PulsagathGreater Quazarus

I’m not saying that ThufirHawat splashed the wrong shard.  But one of his favorite cards is missing from this deck.

Let me tell you how Thufir built this deck, because I assure you that to a master deck analyst such as myself, it is perfectly clear:

  • Big cards are the most powerful cards! So let’s start with 4 Roaming Pulsagath and 4 Greater Quazarus.  Put the Major Gem of Calling in the Greater Quazarus so I can get even more value.
  • Okay, fine, I should probably play some Sabretooths and Seekers. Cut 2 Greater Quazarus, but NOBODY TOUCH MY PULSAGATHS.
  • Woooorkin’ my way down the cuuuurve…4 Exalted Pathfinder, yep, deck is perfect…
  • I wanna be….your sleeedgehammer! I like how Pathfinder can threaten to just crush the opponent pretty fast, so let’s add another 4-drop that does that…Radical Rockslider.  If it gets to attack, it’s 8/8 of power and stats for 4 resources.  VALUE CITY.
  • Ugh, boring. Low cost cards.  Why do we put these in the deck?  I guess…I need to get to 4 resources ASAP, so I need some ramp spells at 2.  Tilling the soil and…whoa, Howling Rebel also attacks?    I’ll take a 3/2 Acolyte of Shoku any day.  Who needs 3-drops when you always ramp to 4 on 3.
  • Howling Rebel and Radical Rockslider basically make me a gnoll deck, right? Let’s add in some Dogpile.  It’s good removal that adds bodies and helps me race.
  • …man. I’m going to have all these useless portal cards sitting around.  And these crappy 1/1 gnolls.  What am I supposed to do with all of them?  …

WAIT I’VE GOT IT, SPLASH BLOOD FOR MAJOR BLOOD ORB OF FLESHCRAFT.  Why would I want to just normally give my 5/5 twinstrike when I could sacrifice another troop to make it an 8/8?  Plus, as a bonus, I get to light my reasonable resource base on fire.  I can take way more damage from stuff!  I can try to curve Withering Gaze into Howling Rebel (…spoiler…)!  And I can play Jouncing Carnage!

Yep.  That’s it.  We’re blood for Major Blood Orb of Fleshcraft, Withering Gaze and Jouncing Carnage.  Could we have played Ruby of Twinstrike, any 1-or-2 drop, and Pyre Strike instead?  Absolutely.  But then our resource base wouldn’t do a ton of damage to us, and we’d feel bad for having Balthazar the Elegist as our champion.  You know, ‘cause he gains us life back.

Howling RebelDogpileRadical Rocksurfer

Just playing all of the most popular gnolls

I know I normally have a lot of questions, but with a thought process as transparent as (Dogpile + Major Gem of Fleshcraft = Profit), I see no room for improvement in this deck.  It 4-0’d, and beat aggro, midrange, control and combo on its way there.  Shame and scorn be heaped upon CaptRalfio for changing the reserves of this deck on Sunday.  I can see that the gods inflicted him with the 0-3 for his impudence.

The deck is basically perfect.

Edit:  Ahem.  It’s possible that I got very excited at Sacrifice Gem + Dogpile synergy, and forgot that the Abomination gem rotated last set.  Thufir is running the “Make a 5/5 zombie when this dies” gem in Roaming Pulsagath.  Shame on and scorn be heaped on ME.

If you want to give feedback, or say Hi, or just thank Matt at Battleshopper for sponsoring these articles, stop by Battleshopper’s Discord channel!  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday Tournament Talk (6/19)

And a lovely Tuesday to you all.  Looks like a lot of people spent the weekend celebrating Father’s day or (gasp) going outside!  That’s said, still plenty to talk about.

Economics.  It works.

First, I want to give a shout-out to the Hex Dev team for signature decks.  I’ve been a long advocate for Hex having a lower price entry point, and the Devs have done a couple things recently that have really improved that factor.  First, the Bash started giving out a lot more platinum and packs.  Second, Signature Decks were introduced.  As a case study, let’s look at the Sugar Rush deck, which cost about 25k platinum a few months ago.  Now?  Fisket and Aldevar 3-1’d with Sugar Rush combo decks costing about 10k.  That’s a huge drop.  That means you could just, 4-0 a Bash and straight buy the Sugar Rush deck wholesale.

The only card left with a silly price tag?  Eyes of the Heart, the only card that wasn’t in Havoc’s Signature deck.

In short, signature decks had exactly their intended effect, and it’s great.  I can only hope we see a LOT more of these, and they rotate.  They are one of the absolute best tools for getting new players into the game.

Yasi and Metronomy are Living the Bash Dream

We all have it happen.  New Hex Set comes out, buncha sweet cards, but we don’t reaaally want to pour all our money into it, and we know they’re going to get cheaper over time.  I suggested that good competitive players should be able to pretty easily go infinite on platinum in the current format, earning enough Bashing to buy the next set when it comes out.

Yasi and Metro are sure putting this to the test.  They’ve played basically every Bash, and recently have won 3 or more games in almost every single one, Metronomy with his signature Earth Mother Sugar Rush deck, and Yasi with a refined version of Blood-Diamond Sacrifice that he’s basically been playing for 3 weeks.

Neat Stuff

MikeMeron’s Gnoll Aggro

So I almost got very, very confused here.  Because this looks like Wax Cannon build, with Communion of Wax and some 5-drops.  But it is not.  It is just angry, gladiator gnolls from top to bottom.

Feralfuel PackhunterFuelmasterAspect of the Squirrel

Fuel!  Fuel!  …Squirrel?

The plan is simple:  We’re playing a 2-drop with 3 power.  Then we’re playing a 3-drop, probably with speed.  And eventually, the opponent is going to die.  Mike’s only match loss was to an elemental aggro deck that presumably tempo’d him off the board.

But despite its perceived simplicity, there are a lot of touches I like here.  At its core, this is a deck about playing speed troops and making them feral, as well as getting permanent bonuses on those speed troops.  Here are some opinions, in no particular order:

  • So I love the idea of Aspect of the Squirrel in this deck. You’re playing a bunch of early drops, and you’re playing replipopper.  The idea of putting Aspect of the Squirrel on a Boltwing Phoenix that the opponent can’t do @#$% about seems terrific.  Feels like I’d want one more of this.
  • …I have always hated Witch of the Wishing Well, and I continue to hate it here. This card doesn’t do enough – it’s 1 power and lets you filter a bit, in the absolute best case where you have it on turn 1.  Why can’t you love Pack Mule the way he loves you?  HE BELONGS IN YOUR GNOLL DECK.
  • Is Feralfuel really that narrow? Feels like an easy include when you have 8 troops it “combos” with.  Many more if you put in Pack Mule, and free cards/damage are generally convenient.
  • This is my regularly-scheduled plug that, even in your aggressive deck, roots are probably better than shards.
  • I assume that the 2 Replipopper/2 Quenchinator (boy those two cards have ridiculous names) split is for budget reasons? Because that should definitely be 4 Replipopper.

This deck is neat – definitely one of the least explored archetypes of the Frostheart era.  Glad it put up a result.

BirthingPodder’s Thk’Tatcha Elemental Aggro

HOO BOY THIS LIST IS CLEAN.  FOUR-OFs:  Runebind, Boltspasm, Righteous Outlaw, Briny Ray, Replipopper, Unhenge, Conjured Candleghast.

RunebindAlchemiteBriny Ray

Runebinds and Alchemites, Mantas with Wings…these are a few of my favorite things!

This was originally a Blue Sparrow deck, but it’s embraced its tempo roots with Thk’tatcha, the Mantis God of Pick-Your-Shit-Back-Up-Sir-We-Don’t-Serve-Blockers-Here.

I’ve already screamed at how much I love these 4-ofs.  It’s worth noting that Light ‘em Up isn’t here because there’s no way to get it back except Whip Crack.  Instead, it’s trusty Boltspasm.

Because he swapped away from Blue Sparrow, he needs another discard outlet, so he plays Alchemite – straight up the best card nobody ever plays.  I love Alchemite.  It’s a quick-speed discard outlet that attacks, draws a card, and you can bounce to your hand.  But it also frostforms as an elemental to enable Unhenge, the real powerhouse in this archetype.

This deck has a whole bunch of nonsense it can do.  First, you can Runebind a frostformed Arcanovex and Alchemite and when they come back, they’re not frost-formed.  Alchemite, of course, is basically impossible to actually get rid of.  Go ahead and see what happens if you try to Winter’s Grasp an Alchemite in response to somebody bouncing it to their hand.  It does not go well for you.

And what’s most important is that this deck is doing all these cute things and surrounding them with really good cards.  Briny Ray, Righteous Outlaw and Replipopper are really, really threatening cards.

I have but one criticism:  Why only 3 remnants?  Did you forget to put in the last one?  Swap out any basic shard for it, for the love of god.  There’s no reason not to play 4.

If you want to give feedback, or say Hi, or just thank Matt at Battleshopper for sponsoring these articles, stop by Battleshopper’s Discord channel!  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday Tournament Talk (6/12)

Hey guys!  A bit of a quick article this week.  Didn’t want to miss out on the sweet stuff, but I’ve written a lot for work and I’m sick of writing things.  That, said, it’s time for TAKES.

Take #1: Where have all the candles gone?

Remember when longtime Battleshopper contributor, Tuesday Article Fill-in, and Burgle Backstabber Thufir Hawat took three lessons home from May 14th?  These were three things he and I had disagreed about – I thought Scour the Archives was good, Lady Avalanche wasn’t killed by the nerf, and (hot take…’cause it’s candles) that Candles was a replacement-level aggro deck.  The thing it was doing was not powerful enough to warp the format around it.

At the time, I was right about 2/3, but Candles kept being persistent.  But you know who has two thumbs and isn’t settling for a 67% grade?  THIS GUY.  This week was No Candles Week!  One Bash had ZERO CANDLES DECKS, and the other had 3…which won a total of 28% of their matches.

I’d love to take more credit, but this just feels weird – it’s the best deck per dollar in Hex, and it’s not close.  Get your friends into Hex – Budget Candles is the easiest way to go infinite in this game.

Take #2:  Demented Whispers is awful card design. 

Stop me if I’ve said this before (…pretty sure I have):  Demented Whispers is an awful design mistake.  Primordial Cockatwice is also a design mistake, but not as bad.  I praise Hex continuously for their good decisions, and Demented Whispers is NOT ONE OF THEM.  Simply put, it’s too easy for decks to strip the hand of the opposing player.  Empty hands lead to less decisions, lead to less interesting game play.

Demented WhispersPrimordial CockatwiceWithering Gaze

Plz no more.  Let’s stop pretending that printing critical masses of discard doesn’t discourage interesting gameplay.

This isn’t a “Fun is zero-sum!” game.  This is math:  it’s objectively better to have games with more decisions.  Top-decking is the least interesting form of TCG play.  Hex has done a good job making decks play both resources and non-resurces.  Don’t @#$% it up by putting a mechanic that makes a player empty-handed by turn 4.

Demented Whispers may or may not be overpowered.  It’s definitely an absolutely miserable card, and I’m pretty sure is far and away the leader for “Card that makes most people stop playing Hex” (shout out to the entire Sugar Rush, though, for trying!)

Take #3:  I do love that this BD Verdict deck is here, though.

Twilight Justice

This one’s okay.  It’s a 4-cost constant that will take over the game slowly if unanswered.  My verdict is that this type of discard can stay.

I’ve written a lot about this deck, and it’s a nice take on troopless control.  I won’t write too much about it, other than I wish that it didn’t have Demented Whispers – Verdict is by far the best “Punisher” mechanic I’ve seen in a TCG, and being able to drop powerful constants and grind your opponent out is great.  3 players registered it, and all 3 3-1’d on Sunday.

Take #4: BS Control = but…sapphire control…

 I’ve always had a soft spot for BS Control decks, and I like this one.  The ability to splash, very lightly, for sapphire to deal with some of the problems Blood traditionally has is very neat.  Squeakycookie knows that with 4 Whispers and 3 Cockatwice, he’s already pre-boarded for control matchups, so his sideboard is just full of cards that are good against aggressive decks.

It’s worth noting that, by splashing, he picks up an a maindeck answer to Brilliant Annihilix in Engulf (in addition to Massacre and Stalking Quarry out of the sideboard).  Which is good, because he ran into 3 Brilliant Annihilix decks.

I salute Squeaky, in particularly, for avoiding playing Nameless Truths and Clutch of D’endrrah, because I 100% would not have been able to.

Things I’m less sure of:

  • Roots over Shards. You’re holding up resources a lot, playing roots instead of shards seems pretty free.
  • I don’t think you can reliably get Sapphire on 2. Is Verdict of the Ancient Kings really your go-to option for Sapphire sideboarding?
  • Maindeck Blood’s Favor almost certainly does a lot of work. Why not 2?

Take #5: The ridiculous combos are coming.

Shout out to the guys playing some combo nonsense.  Metronomy double 3-1-ing with Sugar Rush.  Jeff Hoogland with the 4-0 on Twisted Sister.  LifeSSBM, MustacheMagic and Androod with 4-color Reanimator.

There’s a lot of ridiculous stuff going on in this format – it’s sort of amazing that we still have all these decks running around.

Take #6:  Honest Hex As Corey Burkhart Intended

Let’s take a quick poke at some people who are playing the fairest – specifically, NephilimArmy and ImmortalEchoes, who went 7-1 in the Bash Sunday playing the same deck.  This is an absolutely classic tri-shard control build.  It’s primarily Diamond-Sapphire, interacts at quick speed the whole way, and features the classic Scour the Archives Silver Bullet Package.  If you wanted to play a non-miserable control deck (Sorry Demented Whispers Lovers), I would play this.  It features Guidance, Blaze of Glory, Winter’s Grasp, Discombobulate, Runic Upheaval…just every control player’s happiest possible curve of filtering and removal.

A couple questions here, though:

  • I’m going to die on the Roots > Shards hill, when you’re a quick-speed deck. Roots flip Runebind, and are not slow shards when you’re holding up resources.  You can’t run too many of them, because you don’t want to have a pure Roots hand, but up to about 4, if you’re expecting to hold up resources, you should be playing roots over shards.  I’m looking at you, Shard of Conquest.
  • These Scouring Lights in the reserves could definitely be better cards (like 2 more Annihilates or Verdicts). Those cards can literally only be brought in against BD Verdict, where they are suuuper mediocre.  I feel like even a Hawkward turn would do a better job.

Conclusions

Hope everybody had a good weekend, and hope that everybody brings Candles next week and burns it all down.

If you want to give feedback, or say Hi, or just thank Matt at Battleshopper for sponsoring these articles, stop by Battleshopper’s Discord channel!  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday Tournament Talk (6/5)

So, one of the “downsides” to having a wide-open meta where a whole bunch of decks in every shard are good is that all the amazing tools that Fred over at HexPVPTools.net puts together become a bit less useful.  When you have 20 players on DW Momentum and 20 players on Mono-Blood, you can really hone in on what percentage that matchup is.  When you’ve got 5 players on DW Momentum and 3 on SW Rowdy, there’s a reasonable shot that none of those players even play eachother.

But my loss is your gain.  This metagame continues to be wide-open, and the innovators continue to throw new stuff at it and do reasonably.  So let’s take a look at the 9 decks that started 3-0 in the Bash: 3x Sapphire-Wild Rowdy, 2x Blood-Ruby Refuel (SORT OF!), Diamond-Wild Momentum, Adoni-Zeddek Control, and 2x Yasi’s Evolving Blood-Diamond Sacrifice Pile of Cards.

SW Rowdy Stuff

I’ve been on the “SW Rowdy is the best deck” train for a little while, and the decklists are relatively similar.  They differ on two axes:  how linear vs. interactive they should be, and what ramp spell they should play other than Palm of Granite.  Sadystik’s version goes for interactivity and Tilling the Soil – he’s playing Pippit Hustlers to stop his opponent’s plan.  Metronomy sends that nonsense to the sideboard.  He plays Earth Mother instead of Tilling the Soil and Acolyte of Shoku, and plays all four Sugar Rush.

Earth MotherTilling the SoilAcolyte of Shoku

Earth mother is neat tech.  It also ramps one, but you can occasionally get multiple ramps out of it.  Goes great with extra turns, too!

I’m not going to weigh in on which of these configurations is better -tough to say, and it’s also tough to say if it makes a difference.  I can say that using Earth Mother to Consult the Talons sounds freaking sweet, and Metronomy’s list looks very clean.

So there was a lot of neat stuff this week, but I want to tunnel in on a multi-week event, and look at how a deck evolves over time.

Yasi’s Evolving Blood-Diamond Sacrifice Pile of Cards

Frequent readers will know that I have a soft spot for Yasi, hero to brewers everywhere, and a guy who registers an interesting pile of cards 9 times in 10.  Given that most of the other archetypes are rather stable, I thought it might be worth taking a look at a series of decks in the same archetype that Yasi entered into the last 3 weeks of Bashes.  And so I present to you…the Yasi-volution of Blood-Diamond Spirits.

BD Pile 1.0:  Zombies

So this was the first thing he registered.  As you can see, it’s similar to the BD Rebirth deck we talked about a few weeks back, with…a number of salient differences.  Mostly, where the BD Rebirth deck is focusing on going wide quickly, this deck is focusing on everything, always coming back.

Voracious ZombieRelentless ZombieGiant Centipede

With a ton of sacrifice outlets, this deck is NEVER going to let these zombies get exiled.  Which means they’re going to keep comin’ back…

So what I love about this version of the deck is how @#$%ing inevitable it is.  You can board wipe Llama herders.  A quick Eldurathan’s Glory ruins everybody else’s day.  Not this deck – it has TWELVE sacrifice outlets that can be activated at quick speed, which means that while Eldurathan’s Glory is on the chain, everything’s getting sacrificed to Voracious Zombie, Brilliant Annihilix or Giant Centipede.  So you’re _never_ voiding those zombies…which means that as soon as he finds another voracious zombie, there’s a huge board state again.  This deck is a control deck’s nightmare, and you can see it in his results – dumpstering two control decks, and only getting beaten by a twisted sister deck that he has literally no interaction for in his maindeck.

BD Pile 1.1:  Now With More Interaction

The next Bash, Yasi realized that control decks couldn’t beat his deck, so he removed Culmination in Blood and added in 2 Decree of Banishing as catchall interaction.  Again, no trouble vs. aggro and control, but got combo’d out.

BD Pile 2.0: MetamorphoYasis

This deck sucks.  It went 0-2 and is one part prayer, one part ambition, and one part chewing gum from the movie theater floor.  But it teaches us something about the previous decks, and let’s us learn something about the archetype.

First, see how there are two Voracious Zombies and 0 Relentless Zombies?  This clues us in as to how we got on the zombie package in the first places:  we identified that we wanted lots of sacrifice outlets, and after playing Annihilix and Giant Centipede…still wanted more.  So we added in Voracious Zombies, and then Relentless Zombies because why not.

Second, this deck is significantly more interactive than previous iterations.  After getting run out by Combo a few times, Yasi added Moonlit Snack, Withering Gaze, Winter’s Grasp, Fatalfuel Alpha.  He also changed to Marshall Josephina – he didn’t need more grind, he needed the ability to push damage and race against combo decks.

He put 4 Wise Magistrate in the board.  It didn’t work.  No problem.

BD Pile 3.0: Smooth Criminal

This version is infinitely smoother.  Gone are the fun-ofs.  In is the ability to play Terror of Anybody Who Cast Transmogrifade (err, Terror of Bleakbark Bog).  No huge innovations here, just trimming underperforming cards and adding in more good ones.  Yasi 3-1s, again failing to close out against a combo deck.

You can see what cards got kept:  Fatalfuel Alpha is great at making a wide-board super annoying to block, and the interaction is good.

 BD Pile 3.1: Run it back

This deck is tuned to be about as good as it can be vs. SW Rowdy – 3 maindeck Withering Gaze, 3 maindeck Winter’s grasp.  All of the fat is trimmed, and it’s a lean, aggressive card.  He gets the 4-0!

Withering GazeWinter's GraspFatalfuel Alpha

Disruption, disruption and pressure – the best way to finish combo decks fast.

All in all, I gotta say that I think the first version of the deck is my favorite.  Using Voracious Zombie as a sac outlet is just awesome, and it makes your deck SO inevitable.  I sort of wonder if he tested his final deck, -4 Giant Centipede, -3 Fatalfuel Alpha, -1 Rimeclaw, +8 Zombies.  Losing the ability to sacrifice your entire board stinks, but…zombies, man.

Conclusions

Anyhow, hope you all enjoyed this embarrassingly deep dive into how one player evolved one deck.  This is the stuff that I really like to look at – what somebody did, what motivation they could have had.  It lets you take away ideas as to how to change similar decks.  See you next week!

If you want to give feedback, or say Hi, or just thank Matt at Battleshopper for sponsoring these articles, stop by Battleshopper’s Discord channel!  Thanks for reading!

Tales of Insight: Immortal 101

Immortal 101

Hi and welcome to the first article in my new series here at Battleshopper, Tales of Insight. This series is going to focus on Constructed, but not necessarily Standard Constructed. The first couple of articles will be about Immortal. An article could be a card spotlight, deck tech, gauntlet run or something completely different. If you want me to write about a certain topic, let me know in the comments.

With Immortal Gauntlet coming next week, I wanted to take a moment and talk a bit about Immortal. What are some of the defining cards? What archetypes can you expect to play against?

Why do I love Immortal?

As a Magic player I gravitate towards Legacy. Legacy is basically the format where you can play with any card you want except for a list of banned cards. That means that you can play with almost any card created between 1993 and today. Even though only a small subset of cards are playable in Legacy it creates deep and rewarding gameplay. You get rewarded for knowing the format, interactions between cards printed years apart and experience is another way of giving you an edge against your opponent.

Immortal speaks to me in the same way. I get to play almost any PvP card and gem made in HEX. Pair this with using any Champion and your options are almost endless. As someone who has played HEX since Alpha it’s also a trip down memory lane. Topdecking Extinction against a lethal board, hearing Stomp-Stomp-Rawr and drawing cards from Winter Moon brings back memories. I am glad that I can experience that again in a competitive on-demand setting.

Defining cards

There are a lot of cards to look out for when playing Immortal. I wanted to list a few cards that I think defines the format. These powerful cards are played in multiple different archetypes so you can expect to see them a lot when playing Immortal.

Nine sets into the game and we haven’t seen a cheaper more powerful sweeper  than Extinction (unless you’re counting Broom Bot). Over committing into an Extinction is always painful, but playing too conservative can give your opponent the time they need to stabilize the game.

Herofall changed the way decks were built when it was released. Players could no longer rely on a single win condition against a controlling Blood based deck. Being on the receiving end of Herofall while you hold a copy of the destroyed troop in hand feels excruciating.

Socketed cards are much more versatile in Immortal. You can socket cards with gems from all the way back to Shards of Fate. This means that the power level of socketed cards are higher than in Standard. It also means that there are more valid options when changing sockets in reserves.

Turn two Rune Ear Hierophant is one of the most back breaking plays in Immortal. It’s a hard threat to answer due to Spellshield from Minor Wild Orb of Conservation. Pair this with Major Wild Orb of Dominance and you have one mean Rhino creating Shin’hare that usually runs away with the game.

Brilliant Annihilix is even more threatening in Immortal than in Standard. Major Blood Orb of Migraines and Minor Blood Orb of Frenzy can wreck combo decks. Major Wild Orb of Growth and Minor Diamond of Life creates a huge lifedraining threat.

Transmogrifade is a one cost answer to any troop. It can turn a powerful troop into something you wouldn’t even touch in limited. It can backfire, but it’s a great tool to have for some early interaction.

Runebind gives Sapphire players a catch all panic button. While it doesn’t permanently answer anything and the new resources have made it a tiny bit worse Runebind is still a powerful tempo play.

Making all actions cost one less makes you able to chain through a lot of cantrips in the same turn. You can play Psychic Ascension on as early as turn 3 or start taking extra turns on turn 4. Cyclone Shaper is a must answer threat that can be played on turn 3 with Runebind backup. Being able to Empower it is just icing on the cake, protecting duplicates from Herofall and giving you a decent clock on your opponent.

Consult the Talon gives troop heavy decks a cheap way to refuel. With cards like Warpsteel Shardsworn, Light the Votives and Thunderfield Seer there are a lot of efficient ways to use the triple Mobilize.

The fear of Stomp-Stomp-Rawr is real. There is a reason you hesitate when playing a second small troop against triple wild shard. Crocosaur is a brick wall and a great source of card advantage in Mono Wild Ramp.

Balthasar gives Wild based midrange decks a way to refuel. Drawing 5-6 cards as a ramp deck gives you the tools you need to be able to withstand a board wipe or two. It might also have the best text box of any card in the game.

Howling Brave is the best ramp troop ever printed. Being able to play three drops on turn two enables some of the most powerful starts in the game. The extra Wild threshold triggers Mightsinger of Ages and gets you closer to play your Crocosaur.

Chlorophyllia reads something like this: Gain 1/1. Gain a charge. Gain a Wild threshold. Thin your deck. The downside is that you have to have a critical mass of Wild Shards in your deck, just like when building resource bases with Palm of Granite.

Fireball is the most effective burn spell in HEX right now. One resource for three damage to any target, the downside being that you have to have a heavy commitment to Ruby.

Sunsoul Phoenix is a powerful finisher in action heavy decks. It’s free to play if you played three actions on your turn. Being able to play it from your crypt for another four speed damage makes it very threatening for your opponent.

I can’t talk about defining cards without mentioning the resources. The number of good dual shards in the game has finally passed the point where you can build a stable resource base using more than two shards. Remnants and Wells are a great foundation to any resource base, while the Allegiance resources give certain archetypes access to 12 dual shards.

Defining decks

There are a lot of decks that can perform well. There are too many decks to be able to talk about all of them in a single article so I’m going to bring up a few of the decks I believe will be popular in the Immortal Gauntlet. I’ve collected decklists from the most recent Immortal Weeklies as well as the April Immortal Championship.

Sapphire Turns is a very resilient deck that can win from nothing. Arcane Banner from Nineveh gives the deck inevitability after playing Eyes of the Heart. Sugar Rush is similar combo deck that has seen a bit of Immortal play.

Turbo PA and Turbo Parade exploits cost reduction from Mobilize and Cyclone Shaper to play a lot of actions early. Both decks win by going wide while maintaining cards in hand by playing a lot of card draw.

Yotul Burn is one of the most affordable decks in Immortal. Morwath made top 8 last ICS without any non-resource Rare or Legendary cards. I’ve seen Light ‘em up in Yotul, Candlekin can give the deck both protection and a bit of reach.

Ruby Deck Wins is made for one thing, dealing damage to your opponent as quickly as possible. The deck plays some of the best Ruby Speed troops as well as the most efficient spells that can damage your opponent.

Mono Wild Ramp and Diamond Wild Momentum can play both Rune Ear Hierophant and Crocosaur. Chlorophyllia triggers momentum and Mightsinger of Ages. Gawelen was 6-0 in the last ICS, beating a variety of decks. Momentum gets access to Lifedrain in Brilliant Annihilix making it even harder to beat for aggressive decks.

Blood Wild Kagulichu used to be a Standard powerhouse and it translates well into Immortal. You get to play turn two Rune Ear as well as powerful blood removal. Mustachemagic and SargonVito moved away from Underworld Crusader and added Diamond to the archetype to get access to the powerful Count Dragomir.

Mono Blood Control gets to play the vampire trifecta of Vampire Prince, Vampire Princess and Vampire King. If you choose to play Bloodspinner Zorath it gives you access to the card drawing engine that is Xentoth’s Malice.

Wrapping up

I hope you enjoyed my first Tales of Insight. Next time I’ll write an in-depth deck tech about one of the decks I’ve enjoyed the most in Immortal. You can catch me streaming Immortal and other things HEX on my twitch channel.

Tuesday Tournament Talk (5/29)

There’s a lot going on

So at this point, it’s pretty clear that no season has taken longer to converge, as a metagame, than this one has.  Part of it is the fact that we had a metagame “reset” mid-season with the top two decks receiving direct champion nerfs (Lady Avalanche and The Blackberry Knight).  But the other part, the more impressive part, is that is genuinely seems like there are a huge set of playable decks that are all at the same power level in different archetypes.

Since I’ve been playing Hex, at some point in every season the field has boiled down to 2-3 decks.  And while Hex is a game you should be playing for fun, I would have said you were hurting your chances of winning if you’d played anything other than those 2-3 decks.  Here’s a non-comprehensive list of decks that you could probably play this season without hurting your chances of winning:

  1. DW Momentum: The player’s choice at the FiveShards Finale.
  2. SW Rowdy: The best performing deck in the Bash, minus this week.
  3. RD Candles: Never going away.  Budget, hard to play well, requires (ugh!) math…
  4. BR Refuel: Just a good aggro deck that’s hard to put down because of its burst ability.
  5. Solis Control: Regularly a high-performer.  Good against DW.
  6. RS Sparrow Control: Hororizon’s Baby.  Also good against DW, a bit more consistent than tri-shard builds, but worse against aggression because it lacks Blaze of Glory.
  7. 4-Shard Reanimator: My favorite deck, strong performances by skilled pilots.
  8. Twisted Sister Combo: Androod’s favorite deck. Not a lot of people play it, but when they do, it does well.
  9. BD Rebirth: When your cards come back from the crypt, everything’s a 2-for-1.
  10. Something With Blood: You know what’s still great?    Massacre.  Etc
  11. Weirdass Tempo Thk’tatcha Decks: What an underdog story.  The Mantis Champ turns out to be everything go-wide synergy decks wanted – just one more turn to kill your opponent.
  12. Mono-Ruby Aggro: Yeah, it never left.  It just got murdered by DW for a while.

So that’s a dozen decks, all of which are good, and I’m sure I forgot some.  They’re all good.  They’re all putting up results.  And, somewhat more saliently, the field is so wide that it’s tough to really judge matchups.  So anybody who tells you “Deck A crushes Deck B” is either showing how much they’ve tested, or talking out their ass.

This metagame is a gift.  Most metagames, if you want to play something your heart truly desires, you’re going to also have to eat a lot of losses, because your heart is probably a rebel and wants to play its own random stuff.  Turns out, this standard is super balanced:  Whatever you heart desires is PROBABLY A REASONABLE DECK CHOICE.  So become a master of it, and take your deck to Cosmic.  Me, I’ll be doing 20 damage to the face with Doombringer Kha.

Neat Stuff

Martypunker’s Mono-Ruby Aggro

F4 specialist martypunker, after a brief flirtation with non-aggressive decks, has returned to his roots.  You know what’s great?  Attacking with everything.  And look at the field:  some decks are playing three shards and a whole bunch of remnants that damage them…other decks are not playing a meanful card to the board until turn 3…and some decks are doing both.  Why not punish these people with efficient threats like Flare Imp and Righteous Outlaw?

Flare ImpFleetmaw TerminusMama Yeti

Little bit of new.  Little bit of old.  

Aside from using Rhiannon as a an almost-strict upgrade to Tork Slamstyx decks of yore, marty made a couple of interesting changes.  The first is to play no Boltspasm, and instead use Flame Imp.  This is a big upgrade when your opponents are playing Whip Crack and Soul Severance, and also hedges against those pesky candlekin off Wax Sacrament.

The second is the inclusion of Fleetmaw Terminus in the spot usually occupied by more Boltwing Phoenix or Ayotachi brute.  I think this is a nod to the deck’s desire to punish other decks that can’t interact with it:  Feral and Speed turn out to be super-important keywords, with Feral helping the brute and its friends push through additional damage.

This is definitely an underplayed archetype:  If you want straight, reliable aggro, this is an excellent deck to be playing.  Look at that list on the left:  only a couple of those decks play lifegain, and very few of them can race you.  I expect to see this becoming more popular.

I don’t have many questions about this deck, except to wonder what the board plan is vs. go-wide decks that block well, like BD Rebirth.  Should Heart of Agony see play in this deck, as being able to anthem a second time could push a lot of damage with crush?

SargonVito’s BD Verdict

In the flavor of the old Judge Burgle decks, this is just a good, grindy control deck that is ready to wipe the board over, and over, and over again until the opponent has no stuff left.  Soul Severance on 2, Massacre on 4, Eldurathan’s Glory on 5, From the Ashes on 6.  Add in some solid design mistakes like Demented Whispers, and the inevitability engines of Mysteries de L’angoisse, Twilight Eclipse and Journey into Nightmare and you have a deck that’s ready to grind.

Soul SeveranceMassacreFrom The Ashes

So I heard you hate creatures.

Take a look at how it performed in the Bash:  killed Momentum (…plays all boardwipes, beats creatures decks?  Checks out!), killed Solis Control playing 3 maindeck interrupts and few early ways to get a constant off the board, Beat RS Aggro (I bet Soul Severance was good vs. the Briny Ray deck), and beat RB Aggro.

The downsides of this archetype are that it can be a bit inconsistent.  While I’m sympathetic to the idea of a blood-centric deck not wanting to play deck-thinning diamond cards that cost 1, Guidance can go a long way to fixing this problem, and is certainly one of the things I’d change about this list.

Conclusions:

Play your favorite decks, guys.  This format has something for everyone.

If you want to give feedback, or say Hi, or just thank Matt at Battleshopper for sponsoring these articles, stop by Battleshopper’s Discord channel!  Thanks for reading!

 

Tuesday Tournament Talk (5/22)

Burgle Back

Hey all!  I’m back from being abroad – many thanks to ProfessorYana and ThufirHawat for filling in while I was gone.  Since my last column, they’ve introduced cosmic coins, brought back signature decks, and made some changes to the ladder system.  My extremely brief takes on these:

  • Cosmic Coins – Great. Reward people who play a lot of Hex at the highest level for continuing to play Hex.  I love the bonus coins for win streaks, because they encourage people to play more competitive decks on ladder.  Can I get some sort of flame icon, a-la-NBA-Jam, to let my opponent know how hot I am right now?!
  • Signature Decks – Great. Let people buy decks with clear upgrade paths to Tier 1 competitive decks from Hex.  Hex gets money, secondary market prices of staples like Exalted Pathfinder go down.  Everybody wins.
  • Ladder Changes – Sure, why not? You no longer get a bonus star for 2-0 wins, but you still get a bonus star for win streaks.  Not a big change.

Exalted PathfinderBoltwing PhoenixShamrock, The Goldfather

Signature Decks made a bunch of decks more accessible.  Nice work!

Of these, the most impactful by far was Signature Decks.  Hex went to NeroJinous, Snake and Havoc, and gave them some rules:  Build decks with no cards from the Herofall or Scars of War sets, with as many commons/uncommons as they like, each rare/mythic being worth a specific point value, and a specific point budget .  Notably, rares and mythics from Doombringer had a higher point value.  This isn’t an awful plan – you don’t want to sell somebody a deck and have the cards rotate out that soon.

The result of this was that Nero and Snake, making DW Momentum and BR Refuel respectively, were able to build effective decks by putting in a lot of rares and mythics from previous sets.  Momentum Mastery is basically 4 Wells of Life and a couple Eldurathan’s Glories off of the Tier 1 Momentum deck.  The Refuel Rampage deck leans on Bolting Phoenix and Promiscuous Succubus and Replipopper because, again, those are cards from previous sets – cheaper on the point budget.

The hardest hit by this points system was the Sugar Rush signature deck.  Because the competitive sugar rush decks seen in the Bash basically play every relevant Rowdy rare or mythic, and those are all from Doombringer, Havoc could only afford to put in 3 Rowdy Piper, 2 Dreamsmoke Diva and 2 Sugar Rush. That said, this deck isn’t too far off the Sugar Rush combo deck which is putting up top results in the Bash.

These signature decks hit the constructed scene hard:  Lady Avalanche, which had been middle-of-the-pack for a few weeks, was suddenly the most-played deck in the field for both Bashes and the 5Shards.  So hats off to Hex for the Signature decks – they’re making cards available to people who might otherwise not be able to play them.

So where are we at?

We know the most popular deck is DW Momentum.

The best deck?  SW Rowdy, and it’s not close.  It hasn’t put up a losing week in forever.  It won 59% and 53% of its games in the last two Bashes.  If you’re not prepared for it, it stomps you, and if you are prepared for it, it will still probably stomp you.  It has blockers that can get big, and a nice plan to goldfish its way to victory.  Happily, it’s not overwhelmingly favored against any tier 1 decks – sweepers and interrupts can hurt it, as can fast clocks out of Refuel or Momentum.  However, like its spiritual predecessor, eventually it’s going to get all that value, making it a tough matchup for a lot of late-game decks.  That said, happily, everybody’s not playing it, so we can still have a fun format the rest of the time

Candles and Refuel Aggro are still excellent aggressive choices (candles is better).  A million different Obliteron Solis builds have been getting Obliterated, So Let’s wait and see if anybody can figure out a control build that can produce consistent resources and handle the wide array of threats in this format.  And plenty of fringe decks, from 4-shard Reanimator, BRS Pain Sisters, and assorted go-wide Thk’tatcha and Takahiro builds are out there putting up reasonable results.

Neat Stuff

Downside to being a few months into a season is that we’ve seen most of the good decks!  Impressively, this metagame didn’t shrink down to DW Momentum vs. Mono-Blood like last season…so that’s great.  You could legitimately consider 8+ decks competitive, which is an incredible feat of standard design.  One other deck has been popping up on the radar, and I wanted to talk a little bit about it, because it’s awfully pretty.

FryChikN’s BD Rebirth

We’ve seen a lot of go-wide decks in this format.  Refuel, Thk’tatcha, RD Candles and others have taken advantage of having Anthem effects that enable them to overwhelm an opponent.  With the lack of Massacres out there, these decks can afford to block giant momentum troops and then counterpunch for lethal damage.  This BD Rebirth deck is a very clean fusion that’s been putting up consistent results in tournaments.  It has a beautiful curve, plays 3 and 4-ofs, and can grind.

Blightbark ReserveHeart of AgonyWax Sacrament

Weird.  It seems like all of their resources do better things than all of ours.

Let’s go through some cool things about it.

  1. This deck makes phenomenal use of the best two drop-shards, Wax Sacrament and Blightbark Reserve. Further, it plays Heart of Agony to pick up additional charges.  Heart plus Takahiro’s hero power is just “sacrifice a troop, draw a card”, which is awesome on a resource.
  2. It plays 3 Graven Geist, a card that’s mostly used to give all your troops scrounge. But its ability triggers when a troop leaves the crypt, so every time something gets reborn, Graven Geist gets bigger.  Neat synergy.
  3. It gets maximal use of the good sockets: Major Diamond of Battalion in Zorath’s Rectory and Migraines/Ghouls in Brilliant Annhilix.  Other decks get access to one or the other of these combos – this deck gets both.
  4. The best removal in the set – Winter’s Grasp and Herofall.

This maindeck is impeccable.  You could see why Yasi would add Voracious Zombie and Relentless Zombie, or Incindium would add Vampire Prince, but I think Llama Herder’s aggression helps more.  This deck’s natural predators are combo decks that are tough to interact with like Sugar Rush (or Reanimator), and Llama Herder races faster than these other versions do.

That said, we need to do something about this sideboard.

4 Withering Gaze?  Sure.

3 Culmination in Blood?  Absolutely.

4 of Battleshopper Preview Card and Constructed Powerhouse Soul Severance?  We’ve never been prouder.

4 Stalking Quarry?!?!  What?  Show me on the doll where last season’s RS Sockets meta touched you.  Sockets ain’t a deck.  Reanimator is.  Play 2-3 Diamond’s Favor in the board to hedge that matchup, along with a fourth Herofall.

Conclusions

Burgle back.  Format great.  Super diverse.  Play rowdy.

Tuesday Tournament Teachings 5/14/2018

Everything is Awesome!

Hello!  I am ThufirHawat, and this is a great week to being filling in for the inimitable BurgleBurgle. We had the Cosmic Crown Showdown, and it was awesome. The new Clash and Bash formats are awesome. The CCS decks were awesome. The current standard meta-game is awesome. Everything is awesome. Without further ado, let’s get into all this goodness!

CCS Overview

Personally, I can’t recall a Cosmic Crown Showdown where I had a more difficult time picking a deck – and I’ve played in all of them so far. There were just so many to try, that seemed to be so very close in power level, and in every archetype. We had Aggro in Blood/Ruby Rhiannon of the Flame, Mono-Ruby Angus the Arsonist and Ruby/Diamond Candles. There was classic Mid-Range, with Diamond/Wild Momentum. Esotericist piloted a sweet Ruby/Sapphire Thk’tatcha Tempo deck to 8th place. There were all kinds of different Control decks – Sapphire/Diamond, Sapphire/Ruby, Blood/Diamond, and Mono-Blood. Sapphire/Wild Sugar Rush upheld the honor of Combo. Stuntbum finished second overall in the Swiss portion of the tournament with a very cool Blood/Diamond Aristocrats (sacrifice synergy) deck – more on that one later. And all of these decks finished 5-2 or better! This was an incredibly diverse field, where players could and did bring pretty much whatever they wanted and do well with it. It was a great send off to the cash prize era of competitive Hex. I wish I could go in depth about all of these sweet decks, but given the impracticality of that goal, here are what I think are the important takeaways from the CCS.

Lesson 1: Ruby/Diamond Candles is a Good Deck(TM)

Out of all of the most played decks, RD Candles performed the best. It placed two players in the top four and boasted an impressive 57.7% win rate across the 12 players who entered with Cassia Goldenlight as their Champion (which includes one SD Turbo PA player who went 2-3). There is a school of thought among some critics (cough, *Burgle*, cough) that Ruby/Diamond Candles is a weak deck that is easily disrupted and only does well when the field at large does not prepare to beat it. As I’m writing this column this week, please allow me to express my feeling, with all respect to my estimable colleague, that this opinion is bovine excrement. Ruby/Diamond Candles is consistent, powerful, aggressive, and more resilient than many players recognize. It is in my opinion, along with Diamond/Wild Momentum, the deck that it is easiest to think you have a good match-up against and be totally wrong in that belief. The deck has put up consistently good tournament results for months now, and it’s past time we collectively took it seriously rather than viewing it as a deck for N00bs and Eaglov. I think a lot of players feel that playing RD Candles is somehow beneath their skill and sophistication (I’ve been one of those players myself at times), but that may be letting pride get in the way of prudent deck selection. Candles is good. Serious players can and should play it.

Some of you already knew all of this, but I don’t mind preaching to the choir.

Lesson 2: Diamond/Wild Momentum Isn’t Going Anywhere

When the nerf to Lady Avalanche was announced, I thought that the deck she led to prominence was badly wounded, and would no longer be a serious contender. I was dead wrong, as DistantSouth has by this point proven over and over again, with an impressive three first place finishes in Five Shards Weekly events in two weeks(!). My reasoning all made sense: Ruby/Diamond Candles was only a favorable match-up for DW Momentum because of reasonably consistent turn four Eldurathan’s Glory enabled by Lady Avalanche’s Charge power. With the nerf, now the only way you could play Glory on turn four was if you had Palm of Granite on turn three. I’m guessing you sharp eyed readers have already spotted what I overlooked:

Missing this one hurt.

It turns out that trading a bit of life and threshold consistency in order to restore the old explosiveness of the pre-nerf DW Momentum deck is a steal of a deal. DistantSouth is quite simply the master of this archetype, and his build is the best. Here it is, if you play DW, you should play it:

DW Momentum was the most played deck, with 16 entrants, and yet it still had a very respectable 53.7% win rate. It is no longer the clear #1 deck it might have been in the past, but it just as clearly is here to stay as a contender. Folks, don’t sell your Goldfathers just yet.

Lesson 3: Scour the Archives Rises

Here is another topic I was dead wrong about. Before the release of the Doombringer set, I argued vehemently that Scour the Archives was terribly over-rated and viable only in combo decks, and that it was just a bad card for Control or value-oriented decks. Oops. While it took a while to figure out the best shell for this uniquely powerful and versatile card, the CCS was its coming out party. Turns out it was Sapphire/Diamond Control all along. The two pilots who brought Sapphire/Diamond Control with Scour the Archives went an incredible combined 12-2, with Soptrup posting an excellent 5-2 record while Raposao went a perfect 7-0. Both decks were interesting and well built, and we will take some time to look at each of them. Notably, the combo decks running Scour the Archives (Pain Sisters and Reanimator) had markedly worse win rates.

However, I think that Scour the Archives in the context of a toolbox style Control deck was the key to their success. The day after the CCS, I built Raposao’s deck (the only change being substituting his single Namless Draught for the fourth Wax Sacrament), and I’ve played it in several ladder matches over the last two days. I can not believe how consistently good Scour the Archives has been and am kicking myself for not testing it before now. In my first five matches with the deck, I used it to tutor up the following cards: Pyschic Ascension, Dark Heart of Nulzann, Eldurathan’s Glory, Winter’s Grasp, Weave Into Nothing, Sunlit Sentence, and Silver Talon Adjudicator. In every instance it was exactly what I needed, and I won each of those games. Let’s take a closer look at how Scour the Archives works in the context of these decks in the next section.

Two Sweet Sapphire/Diamond Control Decks

Let’s begin with Raposao’s 7-0 deck.

This one was of great interest to me personally, because it is so very different from how I build Sapphire/Diamond Control decks, which are an archetype that I had thought that I understood quite well. My versions, and what I think of as the classical Sapphire/Diamond Control approach, were focused heavily on card advantage, generally playing four copies of Heart’s Whisper (or before that Lanupaw’s Sight) and Silver Talon Adjudicator, two copies of Psychic Ascension, and rounding things off with whatever available Champion generated the most card advantage (historically Dreaming Fox, Rutherford Banks, the pre-nerf Adoni-Zeddek, and more recently Obliteron Solis). Raposao chose instead to eschew traditional sources of card advantage in his main deck. He’s not running any card that draws more than one card other than three Silver Talon Adjudicators. On top of that, he’s even chosen to play seven main deck cards that represent card disadvantage in 4x Runebind and 3x Hawkward Turn (as the Runebinds spend a full card to leave behind a Rune which often turns back into a card and the Hawkward Turns leave behind a 2/2 flying troop). His Champion is Thk’tatcha, who has previously been more associated with Tempo or Aggro decks rather than Control, and who again does not draw cards. So what is going on here? Why does this deck work?

In a word, Tempo. This deck places an extraordinarily high value on keeping up with explosive decks such as RD Candles and DW Momentum in the early turns, which makes perfect sense. It’s even willing to trade full cards in Runebind and Hawkward turn for less than a full card, just to slow the opposing deck down enough to stabilize. The trade off is really quite simple: This approach is very hard to over-run in the early turns of the game, but it risks not being able to pull ahead later on. But that risk is much lower than I would have guessed, due to Scour the Archives.

At heart, this is a toolbox style deck. What does that mean? Somewhere in the 60 cards, for whatever problem you are facing, there is a good answer, even if there is only one copy of it. Scour the Archives lets you find those single copies of potent cards such as Psychic Ascension (the ultimate solution to your card advantage needs) and Annihilate (the ultimate “clean this mess up now” card). However, the best tool this deck has is Dark Heart of Nulzann. It’s best played as a 6 drop now, so that you can protect it with Major Gem of Vanishing. But if you can play Dark Heart onto a relatively stable board, it’s functionally immortal against most decks, and often it can win all by itself. It is also an extremely common target for the tutor ability of Scour. I never would have built this version of Sapphire Diamond Control, but having tested it, I’ve got to say that it works very well. One more notable thing is that Rapasao has paid very close attention to his threshold requirements, and is running a full 13 Dual Shards that can make either Diamond or Sapphire threshold.  Another neat point is that against decks that can not make Sapphire thresholds, the combination of Hawkward turn and the charge power can permanently remove nearly any opposing card from play.

 

Soptrup took a somewhat different approach to building Sapphire/Diamond Control, much more in line with my instincts.

This version is less well equipped to defend itself against the most aggressive draws of the format’s more bloodthirsty decks, but in return gains an impressive ability to grind out card advantage later in games against slower decks. I particularly like the idea of using Mysteres to find Scour the Archives or Bounty of the Magus, creating a draw engine that very few decks can keep up with. Soptrup was kind enough to answer a few of my questions on his build, and from what he said, the four copies of Wayfaring Sharpshooter in reserve were all-stars. He went 4-1 in the tournament against aggressive decks, and credited Sharpshooter with each of his wins in those matches. The two main deck copies of Assimilate also function as additional late game win conditions, as does the single Dreamcall, and the reserves bring additional late-game value generators in Bowie Starlight and a second Psychic Ascension. This is not a deck that plans on losing any long games. Again, Scour the Archives serves as a toolbox card, and can go get Mysteres, Eternal Seeker, Pyschic Ascension, Eldurathan’s Glory, Annihilate, or Dark Heart of Nulzann – a similar, if still meaningfully divergent, list of tools than in Raposao’s.

Both these decks look very well built to me, and I expect to be spending a lot of time working on Sapphire/Diamond Control myself in the weeks ahead.

Stuntbum’s Blood/Diamond Rebirth Deck

This one is sweet, and I’m so glad that something like this is good. The list:

There is so much to like about this deck, even before considering that it went 6-1 in the CCS. First, the curve is a thing of beauty. We have a bunch of plays on turn one, a bunch more on turns two and three, and the curve stops with three copies of Commander P.R.O.M.P.T as four drops. It plays good removal in Winter’s Grasp and Herofall, and in a good number (a total of seven). The synergy within the deck is obvious and powerful. It attacks on an axis that few decks in the CCS were prepared for. Llama Herder is one of my favorite cards, and can dominate a game by itself if unanswered, as can Zorath’s Rectory and Brilliant Annihilix. Zorath’s Rectory is a stealthily potent threat against Control decks, as the dreadlings it make give +1/+1 to other troops, so that for 6 resources it can make two 3/3 dreadlings, or for 9 resources three 4/4 dreadlings. As a socketed card itself, Rectory is not vulnerable to opposing Dark Hearts of Nulzann. The charge power guarantees a healthy flow of cards, and the reserves are incredibly potent. Reserve cards don’t get much better than Withering Gaze and Soul Severance, and Stuntbum brought the full four copies of each, along with three Diamond’s Favor to protect his team against Eldurathan’s Glory and three Culmination of Blood to ruin the day of Control opponents. A sweet, sweet deck and a well deserved top 8 finish!

Next week BurgleBurgle will be back, and I’m sure that you all are eagerly looking forward to the return of his wit and insight along with me. Thank you for reading, and happy Hexing! This Standard format is the most wide-open and fun I can remember. Everything is Awesome!

Questions? Comments? Please join us in the Battleshopper Discord!

 

Tuesday Tournament Teachings (5/8)

The Show Must Go On!

With the lovable BurgleBurgle out this week and next, I am pleased to take the (temporary) pleasure and time to keep the series rolling!  It’s also my birthday as of the time I’m writing this, and I’m giving you all a gift?  I’m too kind.  Next week, ThufirHawat will be taking on the role of BurgleBurgle, and we’re ready to keep the weekly metagame series alive and well.  With champion changes and a new Bash format in play, let’s see what happened last weekend in the world of tournament Hex!

Twice the Bash, Twice the Fun!

As promised, Hex provided us with twice the opportunity to play constructed Hex during the weekend with a brand new format for the Hex Bash!  What does this mean for tournament players?  Let’s look at the positives:

  • Players in different time-zones now have a reasonable opportunity to play tournament Hex without destroying their sleep schedule – no more 8am Bashes for west-coast USA-based players like myself!
  • More forgiveness for trying new things.  The flatter payouts are more forgiving to players that don’t consistently top 8 Bashes.  This means the potential for trying different decks is higher, and the format sees some new life.
  • More plat = easier entry into events and building more decks.  While the cash prizes were nice for folks that always did great, winning platinum gives the potential to pay for future Bashes, later decks, drafts, and more.  The changes to the Bash payouts are a net positive for all but the absolute upper echelon of players; this is a good thing for the health of the constructed tournament scene.

Onto the Results!

Given the new capped 4-round tournament structure, I’ll be focusing in on the top 16-ish decks, give or take a few, depending on the tournament’s attendance.  This gives the following rough breakdown:

  • 4 players with undefeated records
  • ~12-16 players with 3-1 records

This week, we saw a combined 8 undefeated decks and 28 decks finishing with 1 loss.  The combined breakdown of archetypes is as follows – decks with only 1 result are considered ‘Other’:

Variety!

Gotta love that (kind of) new format smell.  The combined champion changes and the new Bash format proved successful in the first tournament weekend, with multiple archetypes having strong showings.  Unsurprisingly, Candles, Diamond-Wild Momentum, and Sapphire-Wild Sugar Rush were the top 3 archetypes, but no longer did these decks completely dominate.  Many other archetypes existed and flourished in this new world of Standard.  I was particularly impressed by Bar’dak the Butcher placing 5 decks into the 3-1 or better standings, and with 3 different styles of play!  Control, Midrange, and Aggro were all represented, and Bar’dak is showing its flexible muscles in this new world of Standard.  Two of these decks, in particular, struck my fancy; we’ll discuss those in a bit.

Rhiannon of Flame came out of the woodwork this weekend, showing that with the right format tweaks, Aggro-centric decks that don’t include the word ‘Illuminate’ can make waves.  3 Blood-Ruby Rhiannon Aggro decks made the 3-1 cut this weekend, including a 4-0 performance by Lavigne.  I’m excited to see where this archetype goes as the format continues to shift in the coming weeks.  Flame On!

Going beyond individual Champions, it’s great to see some fresh life in the styles of decks seen this weekend.  Aggro, Midrange, Control, and Combo decks were all represented in the top finishers, showing that a little change goes a long way.  I’m thrilled to see some new variety in the Standard metagame, and this weekend’s results should further motivate players to innovate and try new things moving forward.

Neat Stuff

As alluded to above, several new decks made waves this weekend, and, because I’ve seen my fair share of Candles, Momentum, and Sugar Rush decks, let’s see a few of the awesome innovations that the tournaments this weekend saw come to life.

Lavigne’s Blood-Ruby Rhiannon Aggro

Rinse.  Lather.  Repeat…or should I say, Bolt, Lather, Repeat!  While several Rhiannon decks showed up this weekend, I liked this particular iteration the most.  Utilizing the power of Boltwing Phoenix alongside sacrifice and reanimation effects, Lavigne decided to have his cake, eat it…and then have more cake.  A constant swath of damage to opposing troops, while still allowing flexibility in attack strategies, gives this deck a ton of play, while being dangerously consistent – every non-resource maindeck card is a 4-of!

I really like the potential of this deck, combining board-wipes with a highly aggressive curve and great recursion.

Fahrenheit 451 – Khendral’s Blood-Ruby Bar’dak and Piecetinker’s Blood-Sapphire Bar’dak

Who said banned books were a bad thing?  Mysteres de l’angoisse (Literally: Secrets of the Anguished, or in lore, Secrets of the Flayed Man) has been quietly kept on the library shelves, seeing fringe performance, at best…until this week!  Khendral and Piecetinker each brought sweet variants of Bar’dak the Butcher decks utilizing Mysteres de l’angoisse – one is a more purely control variant, the other a combo-control variant.  Let’s start with Khendral’s control-focused take:

Khendral passed on Bride of the Damned, focusing more on a deck that provides lines of play during the early, mid, and late-games, while becoming a card-selection powerhouse with Mysteres online.  It seems Khendral was ready for any creature-oriented deck that came their way, packing a whopping 19 pieces of removal (not including Dark Heart of Nulzann)!  Demented Whispers is a strong inclusion for the control decks that one may face with this deck, and gives a reserves toolbox that allows the pilot to shift between removal and hand disruption, depending on the matchup.  Mysteres seems like a fantastic way to make the most of a transformative, toolbox-style package, and Khendral made the most of it.  Nice.

Piecetinker, on the other hand, was clearly trying to find a way into my heart.  Playing a Yana-approved, top-4 Doombringer card in Voice of D’endrrah, alongside my favorite Chaostouched troop in The Librarian, I couldn’t pass this deck up this week.  Add to it our favorite banned book?  Sold.  Let’s take a look at the list:

No, I did not add this card by mistake.

I personally feel that this deck is harder to play than Khendral’s variant, but has a much more rewarding and powerful payoff.  Oh, and the deck plays 4 copies of Zip Zapper.  ZIP.  ZAPPER.  Standard all-star Zip Zapper, as I will now always refer to it, gives the escalation cards Piecetinker included a ton of extra firepower, and forces the opponent to remove it (I would hate having to spend removal on Zip Zapper…let’s be honest), which means more opportunities to stick powerful threats like Voice of D’endrrah and Dark Heart of Nulzann and keep them around for awhile.  If we look closer, though, we see a potential for a combo-esque finish in Voice of D’endrrah and The Librarian.  With The Librarian’s best friend Library Curator making all Chaostouched unblockable, it stands to reason that discarding a lot of cards to Voice of D’endrrah can end the game in a flash.  With card advantage outlets in The Librarian, Bounty of the Magus, extra card draw afforded by Voice of D’endrrah, and the great selection granted by Mysteres, the deck seems surprisingly consistent and resilient to both ground and air-based threats.  This is an awesome take on Blood-Sapphire control, and this is a candidate for my favorite Doombringer-era Standard deck thus-far.

In an neat twist of fate, Khendral and Piecetinker squared off against each other during the Bash!  Khendral took the set, 2-0, likely because they seemed a bit better suited to face a control-style deck with a maindeck duo of Demented Whispers and Zeddek’s Judgment.  I’m anxiously awaiting the innovations each player makes to their respective decks – hats off to each of you!

Conclusion

It’s great to see some fresh air breathed into the Standard metagame, and with a new format and tournament structure, I, for one, am way more excited to brew and play tournament Hex again!  It seems that, regardless of your style of play, there’s a deck out there ready to be played to success.  Good luck, have fun, and may the top decks be ever in your favor.

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