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?
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.
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.
Balthasar the Elegist
2x Rotting Chompknight
3x Gravebane Vial
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