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.

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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.

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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 (5/8)

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.

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!

Monday Morning Metagame (4/30)

Bash Changes

So Hex announced some changes to the Bash and Clash formats, and my short take is that they are some of the very best changes that Hex has made in a long time.  My biggest two problems with competitive Hex are that the best constructed tournaments take an entire day of my weekend, and that it’s prohibitively expensive for even grinders to afford the new decks in a new set.

Let’s talk about how these new changes address these problems.  First, to summarize:  Every Saturday and every Sunday, there will be a 4-round Bash and Clash.  2-2 will pay out 5 packs, 3-1 will pay out 12 packs, and 4-0 will play out 10k platinum.

You can play these tournaments in 4 hours.  Don’t know about you guys, but this is a big draw for me.  I have a job, weekends are my time to see friends, get outside, etc.  Committing a whole day to a tournament is a really big ask.  I did it once (even got to intentionally forfeit the last round so I could go get food), but was just laughing at myself and being like “God, can I lose so I can go do other stuff?”.  4 hours dramatically opens up the pool of potential players.

This is going to put more packs into circulation.  If each Bash has about 64 players, 4 players will 4-0, 8  players will 3-1, and 16 players will 2-2.  That’s 8*12 +16*5 = 96+80 = 176 additional packs per Bash (~352 per weekend).  To compare, Limited Events put an average of 339 packs into the system per day this year (33.9 drafts per day, 10 packs per draft).  Whether or not these packs are opened, put into limited, etc, that’s more packs in the system…and more cards in the system.

If you’re a competitive player, you can realistic grind enough platinum to “go infinite” and buy each new constructed set for plat when it comes out.  It takes roughly 40k platinum to buy 4x of every card in a new set (roooughly).  3 sets are dropped a year, and there are 52 weeks in a year – so 34 Bashes per set.  You need to win 4, so you need about a 59% match win percentage to 4-9 4 out of the 34 Bashes.  That’s actually pretty reasonable.  So expect to see competitive players effectively being +platinum if they’re willing to play the Bashes over the weekend.

Overall, I’m super into this.  Hex Devs just made competitive Hex easier to play, and said: if you want to play competitive Hex every weekend, you’ll be positive enough on platinum that you will be able to afford cards in the new set.

So what actually happened?

The same thing that happens every time a format gets shaken up, Pinky.  Aggro decks murder everybody.  Most notable, it was a RD Candles vs. RD Candles final.  With Diamond-Wild decks not being able to guarantee a Turn 4 Eldurathan’s Glory off just a hero power, the Candles/DW matchup swung crazy in the favor of candles.  In fact, this metagame looked a lot like the one from the first bash this season:  Lady Avalanche, Cassia, Bardak and Blue Sparrow all posting solid results against the field.  When nobody knows what the metagame should be, people bring decks they think are generically good.  This Bash saw 5 aggressive decks and the decks we’ve been seeing at the top:  Diamond-Wild Momentum, Ruby-Sapphire Control and Sapphire-Wild Rowdy.

I’m not taking too much away from these results.  What I am looking at is the neat freaking decks that people are bringing, because this top 8 was wild.  (Oh, also?  New Bash format?  No feel-bads for 5-2ing and not making the top-8.  Everybody gets the same reward for the same performance in the swiss portion).

Neat Stuff

Boy, I would have shouted out Hororizon’s RS Control deck…but we did that last week.  And my love of Scour the Archives would have compelled me to mention LIFESSBM’s 4-shard reanimator…but we did that the week before.  I DEMAND NEW NEAT STUFF.  BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! Just kidding.  I don’t want to be seen as taunting Bar’dak the Butcher.  He is terrifying and it is only by the grace of Lady Avalanche and BR Refuel that he did not make the top 8.

ZBounder’s Wax Wildfire

Long-time readers of this column know that I love this archetype.  Good, old-fashioned, honest, get ‘em dead on turn 4 aggro.  This archetype, which focuses on putting Major Ruby of Twinstrike in Communion of wax and cheating out a troop that does a bajillion speedy damage on turn 4, took a little bit of a hit with the last patch – Rabid Rider only gives +2 instead of +3 to attack with his champ power.

FuelmasterCommunion of WaxDreamweaver Ancient

Smashing your opponent to death on turn 4 will never get old.

You know who didn’t give a crap?  ZBounder, who 6-1’d the swiss.  -1 to attack, you say?  What if we put Fuelmaster in our deck to give it +1 attack through gladiator?  What if the opponent’s life is just 4 lower because we play a couple of falling fangs?

The major advantage that this deck has over previous versions that played Grandfather Elk is resource consistency.  Those decks needed WW thresholds in a mainly ruby deck on turn 4 in order to use their hero power.  Rabid Rider’s hero power is RW, which is a lot easier to hit…and it gets the new Roots to help it out.  I particularly like the use of Oakhenge Ceremony and Witch of the Wishing Well to enhance consistency.

On to the questions, comments, concerns and celebrations:

  • Oakhenge Ceremony helps you find the best troop to cheat into play, which justifies 1-ofs of Locke, Lorenzo and Brosi-Buk. Why aren’t you playing 4 Oakhenge?

Yep, that’s it.  I had other questions, like “Why are you playing 4 Dreamweaver Ancient?”, but then I realized that, unlike Grandfather Elk, Rabid Rider doesn’t grant crush, and Ancient is about the only speed/crush troop at 5 in RW.

Fatahlia’s DRAGOMIR DORKS

That’s right.  We’re calling this Dragomir Dorks.  You know why?  Because this soup has TWO INGREDIENTS.  Count Dragomir.  And a bunch of crappy 1/1 dorks.

Moon'ariu SenseiCount DragomirGlimmer Fox

Each of my little friends gives me one power, one health and one card!  That’s three things! One!  Two!  Three!  Ah.  Ha.  Ha.  Now we’re Counting!

The plan?  Well, it’s pretty straightforward:  We’re going to play a bunch of useless 1/1s like the candles from Wax Sacrament, Glimmer Fox and Moon’airu Sensei.  We’re going to play Brilliant Annihilix with the sacrifice gem in it.  We’re going to throw those things under the bus and eventually grind people out of cards using Dragomir as removal.  Both your champion power and the Lurking Rotjaws with rebirth, and the Call the Graves start getting double-value once you start Counting.  Ah.  Ha.  Ha.

Both Fatahlia and ThufirHawat played this archetype.  It didn’t go too poorly.  As a big fan of the Count, this archetype seems neat in a grindier metagame.  I do, however have some concerns:

  • This deck needs Blood on 1, Diamond/Wild on 2, Diamond/Wild on 3, Diamond/Wild on 4…and Blood again on 5. Typically, the most consistent resource bases are two-shard for a bit, then branch into a third.  I guess my simple question is:  Is there a way, without sacrificing too much, to push the decision for a third shard farther down the line?  Like maybe play Daughter of the Poet or Initiate of Wax or Echohorn or any other Diamond or Blood card (assuming you want to stay with Blood on 1)
  • Does Ozawa’s Wish have a place somewhere here as a backup champ power?
  • I do appreciate your clarity of purpose. 4 Gravebane Vial, 4 Soul Severance, 4 Wise Magistrate in the reserves.  I see that you did not want to lose to Reanimator, Candles or SW Rowdy post-board.  You went 4-1 in those matchups, so it looked like it worked.

Conclusions

It’s a big, open meta out there.  These champion changes feel pretty good – both SW Rowdy and DW Momentum, the decks that were hit the most, seem like they’re still top-tier decks, but the field is also open to more aggressive decks that might get under them.  It’ll be fascinating to see how everything adapts!

 

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!

Monday Morning Metagame (4/23)

Monday Morning Metagame, 4/23

I think they remembered

Remember that time, like, oh, pick a number, 7 days ago?  When for some reason all the Diamond-Wild Momentum Players decided to take a sabbatical and let Sapphire-Wild Rowdy run rampant?  They showed up this week.  18 players brought Diamond-Wild Momentum with Lady Avalanche, and they won 60% of their matches and took the top 4 spots in the Bash.

What?  Play the best deck in a competitive tournament?  Seems unsportsmanlike.  SOMEBODY CALL COUNT DRAGOMIR, HE’S NEEDED.

Notably absent this week:  Candles.  Which was good, because Candles has a long and storied history of getting butchered by Diamond-Wild.  Only 4 people showed up with it.

I’ve got a couple mini-takes from this week, so let’s run them off:

Diamond-Wild is still an underdog to interactive decks with good removal.  Blue Sparrow decks beat it 4 times in 6.  Bar’dak the Butcher decks beat it 4 times in 7.

Sapphire-Wild seems to have fixed its Momentum Problem.  A few weeks ago, Sapphire-Wild was in the crosshairs and every DW Momentum deck was packing 4 Eldurathan’s Glories and 4 Wise Magistrates.  A lot of DW decks have trimmed a copy or two of these cards, and SW decks have become more refined.  That matchup sits at an even 50/50 at the moment.

Both of these decks brutally slaughter fringe decks.  At their core, these are two decks playing very good cards.

Control Decks are fiddling around the edges of the format.  Obliteron Solis decks did well against SW Rowdy, awful against Momentum.  Soptrup’s was probably the cleanest, going only two-shards.  Blue Sparrow decks did a lot better – it turns out, when the two best decks in the format are doing infinite damage to you, starting at slightly lower health doesn’t matter.

Blood-Based Grind is back.  Two Blood Bardak decks in the top 8, both 5-1 in the swiss.  This deck was never bad, at Massacre is a serviceable card against Momentum, Candles, and SW Rowdy.

Neat Stuff

Etruia’s Diamond-Wild Momentum

WHAT?!  How can a Diamond-Wild Momentum deck qualify in “Neat Stuff”?  Isn’t it, by definition, the most mainstream, normcore of decks?  Well, check this puppy out:

Pureflame ProtectorSkylance CaptainMylaanth the Lifebinder

May I present…Diamond Wild Momentum staples!

Yeah.  That’s right.  Excuse me, I’d like to cut some Shamrock the Goldfathers from my deck and add Mylaanth the Lifebinder?  What’s that you say?  Palm of Granite is bugged?  It’s cool, I’m going to play 5 wild shards, 4 Palm of Granite and two Verdant Rifts because my level of fucks given is absolute zero.

Here’s Etruia’s point, though:  The fact that your second Palm of Granite probably reads “Spend 3 Resources.  Do Literal Nothing.” is not a problem for him, because he’s planning to get his opponent SUPER dead by then.  While other people are trying to grind out incremental advantage with value cards like Brilliant Annihilix, he’s playing 4 Skylance Captain.  That thing flies.  You know how many fliers under 7 resources every other DW Momentum deck played?  Zero.

Plus, think of how it looks to face a Skylance Captain as a SW Rowdy or DW Momentum player.  That card’s going to probably kill you on turn 5, you can’t chump block it with a Grapes of Wrath or Candlekin, and it creates free chump blockers.

If you think of each card, and each deck as lying somewhere on the spectrum from “explosive” to “grindy”, most of the standard DW cards are somewhere in that sweet spot in the middle.  Shamrock, Pathfinder, Annihilix…all potentially explosive but also grindy.  Etruia split the difference:  he added cards that are super explosive (Pureflame Protector, Skylance Captain), but also cards that are super-grindy (Dragonspeaker Daliah with Major Diamond of Battalion, Roaming Pulsagath and Mylaanth the Lifebinder).

Some comments:

  • Srsly? Only 5 wild shards with 4 Palm of Granites, 2 Verdant Rifts, and an active Palm of Granite Bug?  Surely at least that diamond shard could become a 6th wild shard.  I get that Pureflame Protector makes the resources a bit tougher, but this seems like it can be overcome.
  • Surely either Dragonspeaker Daliah or Roaming Pulsagath is better. Same with the singleton Brilliant Annihilix and Shamrock, the Goldfather

Hororizon’s Ruby-Sapphire Actions

Much like my boy lightmre, you have to admire somebody who has an idea for a deck and executes on it.  Hororizon (I feel like this name should have an extra R. Was there a 10-character limit?  Horrorizon!) wanted to play a lot of freaking actions and make a lot of decisions in a beautiful deck.  So let’s go through the steps:

  1. He put in the best action-based win condition, 3 Psychic Ascension, and then one more for the lulz:
  2. Psychic Ascension is a pretty crummy card to have in your opening hand, so he put in some ways to discard it (Briny Ray, Excruciate, Hero Power), as well as a way to cheat it into play (Scribe of the Flayed Man)
  3. He added in the best interaction in his shards, to get to a powerful late game. Runebind, Dingle, Weave into Nothing, Scars of War, Excruciate.
  4. He played 6 copies of 4-of resources. This guy gets it.  8 Ice, 8 Drop Shards, 4 Remnants, 4 Wells.  A++ resource-base building.

Chaos BoltExcruciateYetigeddon

I love all 3 of these cards.  Chaos Bolt does not love me back.

He ran into the Rabid Rider twice (2-0).  Must be nice to be packing all quick-speed removal there.  He split games with DW Momentum and blood.  I’ve played the heck out of this deck, and you’re going to be shocked…but I have some questions:

  • Is Chaos Bolt good? It doesn’t seem good.  It seems like you’re paying 2 resources to randomly trash some of your hand, and there’s a chance that it doesn’t even remove the thing you want removed.  Can I introduce you to my friend Primordial Sabretooth?  Sure, he’s basic speed, but you can also cheat him out with Scribe of the Flayed Man, cast him on turn 7, and he kills Shamrock the Goldfather without giving them any cards.  I know you need a lot of actions to power down Psychic Ascension and up Yetigeddon, but…
  • Speaking of which, did you win any games with Yetigeddon? It seems like it would take a small miracle to put enough actions in your crypt to make it lethal.  Maybe Candlelight is a better damage-oriented, win-the-game option here?
  • I feel like no Ruby-Sapphire action deck is complete without Runic Upheaval. These are my feelings.  There are many like them, but these feelings are mine.
  • 4 Scars seems maybe a bit excessive in a deck that’s also playing 4 briny rays and a lot of ways to find them. Maybe sideboard some to make room for more Dingles?  That card is excellent.

Very sweet deck.

Okay.  In a post-note, ThufirHawat pointed out to me that he lost twice to the following awesome sequence:  Discard Psychic Ascension, Play Yetigeddon, and Runebind the Psychic Ascension Yeti to cheat Psychic Ascension into play.  That 3000-Scoville-Unit hotness may be worth playing Yetigeddon for.

Conclusions

DW Momentum is king!  Fliers are pretty friggin’ good.  Interactive decks do pretty well against Momentum, so keep tuning those control brews for next week!

Monday Morning Metagame (4/16)

Monday Morning Metagame

Hey guys.  Bit of a weird column today, to follow a weird Bash.  Let’s review:

Pictured: Choices.

  • Apparently people got bored of playing the best deck, DW Momentum. Only 7 people registered it, as opposed to the 20 from last week.  Those 7 still performed about as well.
  • SW is the next best deck. It murders interactive decks by packing a lot of value as well as a combo kill.  Without DW to prey on it, it put 4 copies in the top 8 and won.
  • Interactive Decks with quality quick-speed removal like RS and Blood variants can beat DW. They can’t beat SW.  Without DW to keep SW down, they didn’t do particularly hot.
  • RD Candles has a puncher’s chance against anybody except DW, particularly if they didn’t show proper respect.

All in all, Doombringer has introduced the SW Rowdy archetype, and added in a couple of options for RS decks.  But big cards like Count Dragomir, Scribe of the Flayed Man, etc, have found an extremely limited home, and the metagame has changed relatively little since Week 1.

I think it’s tempting, in these circumstances, to blame DW Momentum.  It’s a good deck playing good cards that are good at everything with a good champion…you could say it’s a Good Plan.  The interactive decks posting good win-rates against it have glaring weaknesses against aggressive decks like candles and BR Refuel.

But, as it turns out, there are a number of good decks that have been introduced by the new season.  A lot of them have game against DW.  A lot of them are also freaking sweet.  Let me introduce you all to my baby, Sparrow Reanimator.

Scribe of the Flayed ManMordrom's GiftDoombringer Kha

We have many fair and balanced ways of winning the game.  Many.

My first experience with seeing somebody Mordrom’s Gift Doombringer Kha was on the ladder, when it didn’t even occur to me that doing 20 damage straight to my face thanks to Ruby Gem of Twinstrike was even a thing.  Later, MustacheMagic took it to a second place Bash finish (he did pretty well this week too).

  • It plays all the cards I love: Scribe of the Flayed Man, Voice of D’endrahh, Briny Ray, Primordial Sabretooth, Doombringer Kha, Scour the Archives
  • It does powerful things. It can grind.  It involves a ton of decisions.  It sees a lot of cards.
  • It’s great against DW Momentum – they often have no way to stop fliers, and their removal isn’t quick speed. Game 1 is easy, and the part where they can’t really spend their resources for fear of getting murdered lets you run them over.  Your removal (Primordial Sabretooth, Jouncing Carnage, Excruciate) lines up well with their big troops.  Amazingly, your cards are as good as their cards!
  • It’s one of my absolute favorite decks in any TCG I’ve played.
  • As of the writing of this article, it costs 34,167 Platinum to build.

In order to have an evolving metagame, and tuned decks, and brewing, people have to have access to the cards.  If you wanted to switch between DW Momentum, SW Rowdy, Candles, and this deck, you’d need to invest nearly 70,000 Platinum.  That’s an insane price tag to have access to the best decks in the metagame.  Doombringer, as a set, is incredibly sweet.  I’d bet there are sneaky-awesome decks out there with Rebirth, maybe discard-based control in Blood-Sapphire…there are all these mechanics that haven’t been explored.  Because nobody’s going to spend 15,000 platinum to try out a new idea.

The effect of prices on the metagame is tangible:  People are locked into decks, and so they play what’s best.  Battleshopper writer ThufirHawat is probably the most successful constructed player in Hex – he’s not brewing, he can’t afford it.  Plays DW Momentum because he has it.  If the best players can’t switch between decks, why should we expect the metagame to evolve?  This is a problem that needs to get dealt with if Hex is going to have a healthy competitive scene.

Neat Stuff

Felucius’ Shadow Fuel

We didn’t see a lot of the traditional Tork refuel decks this week.  What we did see was a lot of people asking “What could a third shard do for me?”  Felucius found a couple of things he wanted in Wild, so he put in Eternal Pathfinder and Palm of…oh, wait.  No.  He put in Pack Frenzy; a card I had to go look up, and played Shadow of Blightwood.

FuelmasterPack Frenzy

Who needs Lord Blightbark or Baroness Fiona, when you’ve got this bad boys?

Let’s take it from the top:  This is an anthem deck that creates a sticky board that’s difficult to remove, then boosts the power and toughness of its troops in one go to  create an overwhelming attack.  The anthems?  Shadow of Blightwood is one:  On turn 4, you can sacrifice one of your troops to give the rest +1/+1 permanently.  If you’re doing this using a Blightbush, a Corpse Lily, or something you just brought back from the crypt using Refuel (or Zomboyz), this is pure profit.  Fuelmaster is the second:  So long as its in play, all of your troops are entering with a permanent gladiator 1 bonus.

Finally, Pack Frenzy.  This is a a very neat twist, because it’s effectively an uber-anthem:  Every one of your troops gets +1/+1 (good)…and when socketed with Major Ruby of Pyromancy, summons a 3/1 to attack.  So basically, each of your troops adds 4 power to the board, and it’s insanely hard to block all that power.

The numbers in this deck look pretty good.  It’s playing 4 of its best cards (Fuelmaster, Zomboyz, Replipopper and Burster), 3 of the cards it can’t afford to draw more than one of (Pack Frenzy), or are bad (Corpse Lily).  I’d ask a couple of questions:

  • Is Scrios Forgefist better than Escape Goat? With the wild gem, it can attack for 3 on turn 2, but Escape Goat attacks for 1 on 1, and 2 more on 2.
  • Sideboard seems a bit slapdash. Deck’s natural weakness is going to be DW Momentum.  Pyre Strike is pretty resource-inefficient there.  Have you considered Primordial Sabretooth or Burning Ire?  I think I’d want more cards for this matchup.
  • Corners of the World is neat tech – it’s going to be a repeated mini-refuel for you. What matchups does it come in against?  Blood-based stuff?

JoeZimmers’ Diamond/Ruby/Sapphire Fog Control

“Fogs”, in TCG terms, are cards that prevent all the damage that a player would do in a given turn.  JoeZimmers top-8’d this week with a very cool tri-shard deck that leaned on Fractured Faith and Blinding Light to keep him alive long enough to get to his powerful late game.

Fractured FaithBlaze of GloryBlinding Light

This deck has a lot of ways to stay alive.

Fractured Faith is a hell of a card.  For X,  you can force X troops to attack you, and no other troops can.  So…if you choose X=0, for 0 resources you can’t be attacked that turn.  Control decks have plenty of cards; their problem isn’t how to have more cards than their opponent.  Their how to spend cards efficiently early to not die.  Fractured Faith, for no cost, buys you an entire turn to get to Sunlit Sentence or Annihilate.

This deck, in particular, has some elegant twists.  First, Obliteron Solis shuffles all your prismatic cards back into your deck.  So Fractured Faiths and Hawkward Turns and Blaze of Glories that have been used go back in.  Second, your opponent is under a fundamental pressure:  every turn, you’re holding resources up on their turn, bluffing that you have Fractured Faith or Blinding Light, and they need to attack in, in case you don’t actually have these things.  But if what you actually have was Sunlit Sentence, attacking in gets their board destroyed.

I like how Joe leaned hard into quick speed cards, and prismatic cards for Solis’ ability.  He’s not playing Silver Talon Adjudicator, because it doesn’t power out Psychic Ascension, nor is it quick speed.  Eventually, when he Ascends, the X-cost of Faith and Blaze of Glory will let him make Immaculate Mortruses to his heart’s content (It’s the only 6-cost RD troop).

I’m not going to ask about the resource base (I think it’s pretty clear that people don’t have genuine tri-shard resource bases figured out yet), but I will ask:  Joe, what would you change if you wanted to have a shot at beating SW Rowdy?  Because you were 4-0 vs. other decks, and 0-3 vs. SW.  I understand that value/combo decks like SW traditionally just maul control decks, but what would you change?

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!

Monday Morning Metagame (4/9)

Monday Morning Metagame (4/9)

Happy Monday, everybody – thanks for coming and reading.  This weekend’s events were interesting, largely because a pair of bugs threw some wrenches in the metagame.  The first was a known bug with Diamond-Wild Momentum staple Palm of Granite, in which Palm of Granite might randomly choose the same two Wild Shards, thus only giving you 1 Wild Shard and putting it into play.  This caused a couple players to play less Palm of Granite…and probably caused a couple Palm of Granites to fizzle unfortunate.  We’ll mention this in the next section when we talk about how DW performed.

The second was that Trial of Totems, with Major Gem of Battalion, provided a permanent +1/+1 bonus to all your troops.  We didn’t know about this one (and it’s not super clear that that’s…not how it’s supposed to work?), but a player named HellCrescent lit the swiss on fire with a 6-1 take on DS Thk’tatcha tempo.  HexEnt asked him to drop from the top 8, so as not to impact the semis or finals with a bug.  He said he understood, asked for the battleboard and sleeves, and the Hex guys gave them to him.

I thought this was worth highlighting – in this space, we often talk about good brewers, good players, and good decks.  We don’t often talk about good sports, and people playing this game with their eyes on the prize: that it’s a game, played for fun.  HellCrescent could have been upset that he’d been denied a shot at Bash cash prizes, but both sides were refreshingly adult about things.  So that deserves a tip of the hat.

Tracking the Favorites

So it’s always good, when checking on the results, to see how the favorites did.  First, let’s put it out there:  DW Momentum is still the best deck in the format, and everybody knows it.  22 out of 79 people brought the deck, and it still won 53.4% of its games.  This deck is just super hard to hate out:  it’s doing a fundamentally fair thing and playing good, valuable troops on curve.  What it specifically does is absolutely murder aggressive decks:  It won 14/18 matches, good for a 78% win-rate, against aggressive and tempo decks, while coin-flipping with the second most popular deck, SW Rowdy.

The new-comers this week, as the format continues to evolve, were interactive decks designed to beat DW Momentum.  These decks had some simple plans:  Try to minimize the number of Shamrock the Goldfathers and Exalted Pathfinders that hit the battlefield.  Foremost among these was trusty old mono-blood, packing Strangles, Herofalls, and our old favorite Bride of the Damned.  Mono-Blood posted a 71% win-rate vs. DW Momentum.

Why?  Pretty simple.  In order to boost its win-rate vs. SW Rowdy, Momentum decks are playing more aggressive cards, straying from the card-value version that showed up towards the end of last season.  As a result, it’s worse against Blood decks that can take away their powerful threats.  It’s tough to build a midrange deck like DW with a good sideboard plan against aggression while devoting 4 slots to Wise Magistrate.

So why didn’t Mono-Blood, the deck which beats the best deck, do better than 4-3?  The aggressive decks.  It was 0% (yep) against Blood-Ruby Refuel and Candles.  ITMensch, on Candles, went on to win the whole thing.

Rise of Ruby-Sapphire

Finally, it’s worth touching on a few of the Ruby-Sapphire decks that popped up in response to Momentum’s dominance.  These came in a couple of flavors, but the idea was pretty straightforward:  keep the problematic cards off the table, then play a crazy game-winning spell.

DiscombobulateStifling StingExcruciate

Just playing all the best Ruby-Sapphire interaction.  Eat your heart out, Brilliant Annihilix.  Protection from non-prismatic THIS.

CheekyBreeky’s deck is a good example.  I don’t think this is the finished version of this deck, but it does a couple things very well:  It kills troops early with Primordial Sabretooth, then just plays a beautiful curve of quick speed disruption.  Stifling Sting, Discombobulate, Excruciate, Candlelight.

These decks posted an 83.3% win-rate against DW.  If they can figure out a way to do well against aggressive decks (0-3 there), this could be a contender.

Neat Stuff

NephilimArmy’s Twisted Sister Combo

This deck is absolutely awesome, and it’s great to see it do well at a Bash.  I would tell you how neat this deck is, but Androod already has.

Lightmre’s Bury Control

So this was one of the better finishes by a deck with a bury theme in it ever.  Lightmre played this deck to a 9th place finish, narrowly missing the top 8.  He did so by feasting on other control decks (4-0), but I mostly wanted to highlight the deckbuilding that went on here, because I think it’s neat.

The LibrarianCult of the Nameless CityVoice of D'endrrah

This deck picks up a ton of take-over-the-game cards with Sapphire.

This deck is basically Mono-Blood, but instead of better answers (Bride of the Damned), it’s playing better threats.  By playing some Sapphire cards, it attacks at an angle that’s hard to answer:  burying the opponent’s entire deck, and also gets some hard-to-remove cards.  Here’s some questions and comments on the deck.

  • Big thumbs up on the threat diversity. The Librarian is a tricky card to answer fairly and will take over the game if left unchallenged.  The same can be said of Cult of the Nameless City.
  • Good job using all the buffalo. Mono-Blood already wanted to play Demented Whispers for the discard, why not get use out of the bury?  Vampire Prince buries cards too.
  • By going sapphire, we pick up a lot of card advantage. Cult of the Nameless City can draw 3, the Librarian can get you an extra card every turn, Voice of D’endrrah can take over games and Demented Destiny is also nuts.  We have none of these things in mono-blood.
  • We then play 4 Massacre, 4 Vampire Prince and 4 Herofall because we know we need to get to the late game.
  • We also pick up all the good Sapphire cards which interact on the stack in the sideboard.
  • I like the restraint on Cult of the Nameless City. 4 might be right, but there’s an argument for 3: this is a miserable card to draw multiples of early game.

This is a well-crafted deck (…aside from the resources: this is a 23/24 resource deck, not a 22 resource deck, and you probably need more ice).  It’s lightmre’s third Bash with Yarna, and you can sort of see him zeroing in (Try 1, Try 2) on good versions of the deck.  I’m excited to see where he takes it.

Rolfusius’ Mystery Skyshaper

You might look at this deck and see 2 Arena Regular and 2 Unhenge.  You might, foolishly, believe that here goes a man who can’t make up his mind.

I see a fiendish dedication to craft and curve.  I see a man who would play 6 Righteous Outlaws if he could, but instead is forced to play another ruby 2-drop that pressures life total.

You might ask why we’re playing 3 Runic Missiles…and 1 Return to Cinder

I would tell you that you should study the Way of Fire…that damage done to the face is never wasted, and Briny Ray will discard your sins.

You might question Rolfusius.  You might ask what this singleton Boltwing Phoenix is doing here.

I would ask you, Seeker of Knowledge, if you were feeling discombobulated.

Why are we playing Typhoon Skyshaper, a 4/5 with double-sapphire threshold in our ruby aggressive deck?  When we have no good troops to bounce to hand except our 7-cost Primordial Sabretooth?

There is a reality even prior to heaven and earth;

Indeed, it has no form, much less a name;

Eyes fail to see it;

It has no voice for ears to detect;

Absolutely quiet, and yet illuminating in a mysterious way

Typhoon Skyshaper allows itself to be perceived only by the clear-eyed.

 

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#HotTakes: A look forward and back at new formats

The Setup

Hey Guys, I’m Matt, owner of Battleshopper. I am here today to start a fun new series. Sadly this won’t be a weekly event, or even a monthly, but about twice a set. Card evaluation is really hard, and I thought it would be fun to ask the Battleshopper content producers what they thought would be the most influential cards would be. This is something I’ve seen very often in other reviews, but I wanted to do something a bit different: right before the next set drops we revisit this article and see how right or wrong everyone was. And then do it again for that set and so forth. The goal of this is not necessarily to be right, but to have fun in the process (and be right.) Now it is definitely worth mentioning that all the opinions written here were sent to me BEFORE the set was released, the fact that its being released now is entirely my fault. Now on with the random guesses and assumptions!

ThufirHawat

 Brilliant Annihilix
1. Brilliant Annihilix: This is Rune Ear Hierophant 2.0. While it may not have the potentially broken power level of Scribe of the Flayed Man, this humble little Ender is the ultimate value card, capable of generating card advantage every turn with either the Major Blood Gem of Migraines or the Major Wild Gem of Calling (aka Oakhenge ceremony gem), difficult to block, and difficult to remove. Terrific card.

 

2. Scribe of the Flayed Man: This creepy Sister of Pain on the other hand asks quite a lot of you. She almost requires that you run Blue Sparrow as your champion, requires two different thresholds, and is not particularly impressive unless you are using her to cheat things into play. But for all that she asks, the power she offers is worth it. Turn 4 kill combos have already been found, turn 4 Psychic Ascension is downright easy to pull off, and even turn 4 Candlelight or Primordial Sabretooth are not half bad. Easily the most potentially busted card in the set.
Moon'ariu Sensei
3. Moon’ariu Sensei: A quiet addition to the core commons, this little fellow is one of the cards I am most confident will see consistent Constructed play. It smooths out draws, trades well against aggro, can contribute meaningful chip damage, fixes the curve for many decks, and now you can even turn it into a real threat with Lady Avalanche. A very welcome reprint.

 

4. Treacherous Search: This is among the best cantrip cards Hex has printed yet, and a worthy heir to the dearly missed (by me) Arcane Focus. You can Search on turn one with a clear conscience if you need to dig for more shards or a play on turn two, but late game it scales up into a near-tutor. Search for 10 or 11 has an excellent chance of finding whatever you are looking for. Its flexibility means it is a welcome card to have in hand at any point in the game. Further, as a card with a cost of just “X”, it has some other interesting corner case applications. It can trigger any Rowdy cards you have (particularly useful with Lord Blackberry), even if they’ve already triggered a few times, without messing up your curve by including too many expensive cards in your deck. And there are possible shenanigans afoot with cards such as Auspex of Lanupaw (play it on turn for, search for x=0) or Monk of the Sacred Stones.

ProfessorYana

Scribe of the Flayed Man

1. Scribe of the Flayed Man: Shenanigans. That is what Scribe of the Flayed Man will do in constructed. It enables so many silly, abuseable tactics that I’m actually surprised this got printed. Scribe of the Flayed Man will be an absolute all-star, and is the most powerful card in Doombringer.

 

2. Brilliant Annihilix: Scribe of the Flayed man may be the most powerful card, but Brilliant Annihilix has the most flexibility in potential for game-play options. Sockets? Check. Ruby-Diamond Ardent? Check. Momentum? Check. Control? Check. Beats Mono-Blood? Finally. I personally think this card has the most potential in decks running Sapphire that can use the Minor Gem of Mists, but Brilliant Annihilix gets my #2 slot because of its adaptability.
Rowdy Piper
3. Rowdy Piper: I’m kind of scared about Rowdy Piper. I think it will be inherently powerful – most cards in TCGs that replenishes resources can be abused. I’m scared that this card will send DW Momentum over the edge in terms of power level; it slots perfectly with the deck and the Momentum strategy, which is already Tier 1. Beyond Momentum, I’m curious to see what this deck does in Sapphire-Wild Rowdy decks. This card is fantastic, almost too much so.

 

4. Voice of D’Endrrah: I love card draw. I love 5/5’s with flight on turn 4. I love being able to discard at my leisure to keep it strong. Where this card becomes great is in Discard strategies that can interact with crypts (Reanimator, perhaps). Chaostouched decks were seeing fringe play before Doombringer (and I love Blood-Sapphire Chaostouched decks). I’m hyped about this card’s ceiling in terms of power.

 

Honorable Mention – Soaring Cataclyst: While not properly on my top 4, this card will boost the power of Ruby-Diamond decks. For 2 resources, you get a 2/2 with flight and provides permanent buffs to your troops in hand. It’s on curve, provides evasion, and has further upside. It’ll definitely see play, but will fight with Wartorn General on curve.

 

Honorable Mention – Doombringer Kha: Call me crazy for not having this in my top 4, but make no mistake: this card is strong. It warps the way players can design control decks, as this can be a control deck’s endgame over, say, Psychic Ascension. Beyond control, the deck screams ‘Cheat me into play.’ If this finds a home in fast reanimator decks, I’ll eat my words in a few months, as it should have been a top 4 choice.

 

YungDingo

Count Dragomir

1. Count DragomirThis card has fantastic synergy with a lot of the new, powerful rebirth creatures, and will quickly take over the late game. Being on the five drop spot of the curve means that this fits nicely with powerful four drops, such as Exalted Pathfinder, and can be followed by Rakaanozov the Starved in order to destroy a card every draw step. The one con of this card is that it looks foolish in the face of strangle, as the rebirth trigger would bring it back as a 0/0.

 

2. Brilliant Annihilix: This card is the literal swiss army knife of Hex. It does it all if a variety of different decks. It can be played as a sacrifice outlet that makes the opponent discard with migraine and ghoul gems in a sort of rebirth shell, while dodging all of the most popular removal in the format and it can be a vanishing, double damage threat in a Doombring Kha deck. It really does it all. The only downsides to this card is that it is going to make hailhawk turn a chase uncommon, and it’s soft to blight.

Sugar Rush

3. Sugar Rush: This is the finisher that SW Turns has been waiting for. This generates insane amounts of card advantage in that deck, in combination with Merry Caravan and Eyes of the Heart. With cards like Palm of Granite being the format, it shouldn’t really ever be a dead card, and who doesn’t want to loop Sugar Rushes and Eyes of the Heart?

 

4. ChugThis is a bit of an underrated card as of right now, but this card has serious potential when put in the correct aggro shell. In a world with Escape Goat, Righteous Outlaw, Boltwing Phoenix and Refuel, this card will become very large very quickly. This feels like a card that aggressive decks have wanted for a long time, as it provides the deck with powerful top-decks in the late game. The only downside is that it forces wild to be in the deck. However, with the new Remnant Shard fixing, aggressive decks don’t mind taking two points of damage here or there. Remember the last time there was a standard legal card that got better when troops attacked? Lazgar’s Vengeance anyone?

ProfessorFrench

1. Brilliant Annihilix: “Excellent card design complemented by versatile gems” would be the tagline for Annihilix. It’s literally a Swiss Army Knife. If you want discard, you got discard. If you need an ever-growing threat, you got it. Did I mention that it has even more text? The untargetable and unblockable by non-prismatic cards gives it an edge most decks would feel comfortable playing.

Eternal Curator

2. Eternal Curator: The Eternal cycle sees another fine addition with this bad boy. It has excellent stats, a relevant keyword (invincible), and an insane ability. Removing all duplicates in a deck is absolutely busted, especially if you ramped Curator out before turn 7 as this also hits shards.

 

3. Rowdy Piper: Replenishing resources is busted. Being able to chain replenish resources is even more busted. All that needs to be said is this ideal Turn 4: Lady Avalanche Hero Power -> Exalted Pathfinder -> Verdant Rift -> Wildlife for 3 -> Eternal Curator. That’s a draw 3, ramp 3, play 5 creatures, and still having resources available for anything else you happen to draw into.

Assimilate

4. Assimilate: Removing a creature, gaining its thresholds, and being able to summon additional copies of the creature you took from your opponent spells value. The downside to playing this quick spell in a control deck is practically non-existent.


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