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!

 

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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.

 

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 (4/2)

Monday Morning Metagame (4/2)

Okay!  3rd Bash of the season, and the best decks are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the crowd.  I thought I’d start today’s article with an overview of who’s doing well and why.  These are the decks you need to be keeping in mind and testing against: even if you don’t end up with a favorable matchup, you need a plan.  So here’s the list:

The Final Bosses

Diamond-Wild Momentum

This deck has won all 3 Bashes this season.  It couldn’t possibly have a bigger target on its head.  But the keys to its dominance are simple:

  1. Every card in its deck is individually high powered, and a potential 2-for-1. From Leprechaun Artist to Shamrock and Palm of Granite and Exalted Pathfinder, every card demands removal or it begins to take over the game.
  2. It has potentially aggressive draws that kill on turn 4 or 5
  3. It has draws that are grindy and can produce a lot of card value.

There are two versions of this deck.  The more aggressive version (consider Ramundi’s Bash-winning version) features Righteous Waxshot, and is generally favored in the mirror.  The more grindy version (consider Bobinchese’s semi-finals version) features Guidance, and a slightly more reactive plan; it’s better against interactive decks typically because its cards are better off the top.

If Diamond-Wild’s cards hit the battlefield, they’re really tough to stop.

The best way to beat this deck?  Stop their big payoff cards from hitting the table.  Exalted Pathfinder and Shamrock are virtually guaranteed to 2-for-1 if they hit – the solution is to play interrupts and don’t let them.  Weirdo Obliteron Solis control decks won 75% of their matches against DW this Bash, the only decks to put up a positive winrate repeatedly.

Sapphire-Wild Rowdy

One of the most powerful mechanics to emerge, and a force from the first Bash, this deck continues to put up numbers while not winning anything.  Last week, SW got murdered by aggressive decks.  During the Arcanum Vault, Diabunny and MTGCollector both tinkered with the versions we saw in last week’s bash, adding more 2-drops like Moon’iaru Sensei and Warpsteel Shardsworn.  Not only do these troops play nicely with Consult the Talons, they provide key blockers to buy you time to perform your combo.  You can see this in the BR Refuel matchup – last week it went 1-3 and this week it went 4-2.  Small sample sizes, but shows what some blockers and maindeck runebinds can do.

This deck’s scariest thing is that it can both grind, thanks to potent card-advantage cards like Dreamsmoke Diva, and combo off from hand once it hits 7 resources (a thing it will often do on turn 5 or 6).  It basically never loses to control or slower decks.

Sapphire-Wild can struggle with consistent pressure, but is pretty unbeatable if the game goes long.  

To deal with this deck, you want to apply early pressure and disruption.  Every single DW deck in the top 8 played 4 sideboard Wise Magistrate, 3+ Eldurathan’s Glory (a clean answer to both Rowdy Piper and Dreamsmoke Diva), and well as more ways to find them (Oakhenge Ceremony and Guidance).  One player described his deck as a “Turbo-Eldurathan’s Glory” deck, if that gives you any indication of how focused on disruption it was.

For bonus points, try to have an evasive game plan, or more reach.

It’s worth watching how this deck evolves – I don’t think we’ve gotten to the final build of this deck.

BR Refuel

Tpeezy and martypunker have been tweaking this deck for a couple of weeks now, and have put up reliably good results in the Bash.  It punishes decks that stumble, it has a ton of reach with refuel and Blightbark Burster, and it has powerful draws that stack up with other decks.

The problem?  It’s bad against Momentum.  Like every other aggro deck, it runs into a lot of trouble dealing with the steadfast keyword on a Leprechaun Artist that just gets bigger and bigger every turn.

It is, however, terrific at beating control decks without lifegain, because Blightbark Burster just keeps draining for 3 damage, continually.

RD Candles

We’ve written about this deck a million times.  It’s good.  It’s cheap.  If you come ready for it, you’ll beat it.  If you don’t, it’ll beat you.  It goes wide.  It makes a lot of troops.  Don’t forget about it.  We all know what this is…but last time we forgot about this (2 weeks ago), candles came in and ruined everybody’s tournament with its darned face-smashing.

So what we have here…

Is a classic pincer maneuver.  RD Candles and DW Momentum are decks that crush you if you don’t come prepared to interact.  SW Rowdy and BR Refuel are really tricky to interact with.  Diamond-Wild Momentum is the deck that’s currently walking the line:  it’s fast enough to kill non-interactive decks and has enough grind to brawl with interactive decks.  So it’s won 3 Bashes in a row.

Neat Stuff

MustacheMagic’s 4-Shard Reanimator

First, let’s salute the first top-8 by a legitimate 4 shard deck:  a deck which actually has the ability to create thresholds of the four worst shards in Hex.  Blood, Sapphire, Diamond and Ruby.  This deck features a number of great ways to do very stupid things to people, and MustacheMagic rode them to victory.

The plan?  As always, straightforward.  Take a champ who discards things, 4 Briny Rays and 3 Voice of D’endrrahs to let you pitch cards to the crypt.  Add 4 Scribes of the Flayed Man to cheat them into play on the way there.  Add 4 Mordrom’s Gifts socketed with Twinstrike to try to cheat them back out once they get there.  Add in your fatties of choice (Doombringer Kha, Primordial Sabretooth and Eternal Seeker), some runebinds to make sure they stick, and stir.

Scribe of the Flayed ManMordrom's GiftDoombringer Kha

Now this is just clean living.  Nothing shady to see here…

Most notably, this deck kills somewhat faster than the best combo deck, and most builds of Diamond-Wild Momentum actually can’t interact any with of its fatties at quick speed.  Voice of D’Endrrah is a particularly cute addition, as it enables a quick-speed discard outlet for acting at the end of the opponent’s turn (Excruciate can also do this, albeit a bit more expensively).

Ultimately, this deck is pretty easy to disrupt – if you want to beat it, pack Gravebane Vials, Loregoyle Curators, and keep Scribe of the Flayed Man off the table.  Still, keep an eye out for when people’s crypt hate starts slacking, and this deck will be there to prey on you.

StorrowN’s BRS Discard…Aggro…Elemental…Nameless?

Somebody saw Smradd’s deck from last week and thought:  “I can do that!  But like…this is a prismatic set, right?  So we should be more prismatic?  Great.”  Enter:  Sapphire, Ruby and Blood Elementals…and Discard…and Nameless?!  And a bunch of other stuff!

Briny RayUnhengeMalevolent Mi'go

Yes…Yes…what?!

So first, let’s get this out of the way:  StorrowN played a @#$%ing murderer’s row of players.

  • Parni Top-8’d with SW Woken Combo in the first bash. But he was not @#$%ing prepared for Flare Imps.  Easy 2-1.
  • Heaton’s won the Clash twice and Top-8’d 4 Bashes. He was no match for Nameless Dustman.
  • ProfessorFrench brought Mono-Blood. Let’s ignore him, it’s the nicest thing we can do.
  • AstroSquirrel has 2 Bash Top 8s, but didn’t play Malevolent Mi’go in his deck, so he never stood a chance.
  • Khendral top-8’d just last week…but was deeply unprepared for 4 maindeck Demented Whispers in an aggro deck. You know who loves Demented Whispers?  Nameless Dustman and his Mi’gos.
  • Enyma and YungDingo finally put this beast down (8 Bash Top 8s between them).

Basically, it’s possible that Storrow had the hardest draw in this whole tournament.  And he still went 4-3 playing a vicious assortment of draft chaff.  The basic theme?  Somebody’s going to be discarding, and we don’t know who, but we’re going to profit off of it.  Needless to say, I have some questions:

  1. This deck looks like Nameless Dustman invited an RS discard deck and a Mono-B Bury deck to a three-way. Aside from Dustman, there’s little interaction between the two halves of your deck.  Why?  Couldn’t we just go full RS?  Maybe even splash Dustman?  What about other evasive threats, like Shred of Gloon or Voice of D’Endrrah?
  2. Talk to me a little about Unhenge. It seems like a wicked tempo play…that you should be building your deck around, rather than these blood cards?

Anyhow, this deck is sweet…but probably a bit of a stretch.  Aggressive decks generally want to hit their shard drops and colors correctly, and playing Briny Ray along with Demented Whispers and Nameless Dustman is likely asking too much of Hex’s opening hand algorithm.

Conclusions

DW wins again.  Thanks to some tweaking, the master of midrange flipped its matchup vs. SW Rowdy (the second most popular deck), while keeping its overwhelming advantage vs. aggressive decks.  If you’re brewing this week:

  • Try to find a profitable way to keep Shamrock and Eternal Pathfinder off the table, or deal 22 points of damage to champion before they can spend all their cards.
  • Try to find a way to sneak those same points of damage past an SW Rowdy player…or get ready for a long, hard fight on the chain when they’re trying to combo off.
  • Don’t forget about the aggressive decks. They’re lurking right outside of the top tier.  And they hungry.
  • Nobody’s come up with the defining control deck of the format yet.  Possibly this is because the format is so broad, and attacks from so many angles; we also do not have a clear control build-around like Dark Heart of Nulzann with Clarity Gem.

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 (3/26)

Introduction

Guys, I have a confession to make: I love the first month of a new Hex season.  Right now, the metagame is in flux, people have no idea what’s good, and nobody has any idea how to build a tri-shard resource base, or even if it’s a good idea.  Now is the time where anything is possible, where nobody’s even figured out the good Count Dragomir deck, and where ridiculous nonsense is running wild. Second Bash (and first important one) of the season this week.  Let’s see what happened.

Something Rowdy This Way Comes

The most popular decks this week were Rowdy Sapphire-Wild decks playing one of the cards we told you might be @#$%’d-in-half good:  Rowdy Piper. We told you this card might be busted before the set was published, and last week, we highlighted the first instance of this deck to place well.  I’ve long been a fan of “if you think a deck’s Plan A is busted, make that deck’s Plan A the best it can be”, and it looks like people followed our advice.  Pippit Hustler got cut, Sugar Rush got added, and 11 copies of this deck got registered (though champions were split between The Blackberry Knight and Balthasar the Elegist).

Rowdy PiperDreamsmoke DivaSugar Rush

Why play a few cards in your deck when you could play all of them?

This deck combos off by getting Dreamsmoke Diva and Rowdy Piper on the table at the same time, and repeatedly triggering Piper’s Rowdy ability to draw more and more cards, take extra turns with Eyes of the Heart, and eventually either burying the opponent’s deck by using Sugarpuss’ Dandy Candies, or just attacking people with a giant Grapes of Wrath over your extra turns.

Last week, this deck interacted too much, and got run over a bit.  Let’s check this deck out vs. the decks that we know or suspect are good:

  •         1-3 vs. Mono-Blood.  Only 4 people registered it, but it turns out that the deck that relies on 3 specific cards (Rowdy Piper, Dreamsmoke Diva and Exalted Pathfinder) has a tough time vs. Herofall and Massacre.  Weird.
  •         71.4% vs. DW Momentum.  Ah-ha. I see why we’re playing this deck.
  •         2-1 vs. Candles – consistent with results from last week
  •         25% vs. Thk’tatcha and Tork.  Are these the good all-in aggressive decks?

Let’s not be too surprised here:  At the beginning of any season, one of the “pre-cons” (the dominant mechanic in a shard pairing) will emerge as the deck to beat.  SW beats up on fairish midrange decks like Diamond-Wild Momentum a reasonable chunk of the time, and that gave it pole position as the most popular deck.  Expect to see this change as aggressive decks round into form and interactive decks evolve to face it.

Don’t Forget About Aggro

This was a good week for aggro.  The Top-8 of the Bash featured a BR Tork deck, a Mono-R Thakra deck, a Candles deck that squeaked in at 4-2, an incredible DS aggro deck that we’re going to go in-depth into later, two DW Momentum decks and two SW Combo decks.  SW decks aren’t looking to interact – they’re looking to combo off, so any deck that can just go ahead and deal 22-25 damage to the face before SW combos off can generally get there.

ZomboyzRefuelBlightbark Burster

Get ready to see these guys in every metagame where nobody’s playing early interaction.

Specifically, I want to briefly appreciate martypunker and tpeezy, who 5-1 and 4-2’d the swiss with an RB Tork deck involving a lot of Zomboyz and Refuel, in the spirit of Metronomy’s deck from last week.  This deck eschews slightly clunkier cards like Feralfuel Alpha for 4 Refuels, 4 Zomboyz, and 4 Blightbark Bursters, as well as 4-of the best reanimate targets at 1 cost (Escape Goat and Boltspasm).  Their records speak for themselves: they savagely beat down every deck that wasn’t Momentum.

I’ve always considered aggressive decks to be format police – they make any competitive deck be prepared to interact, or face death on turn 4-5.  Refuel and Zomboyz give this particular BR deck a lot of reach and explosiveness that wasn’t available last set. With luck, we’ll see interactive decks that can handle both these aggressive decks and the combo goodness of SW.

Neat Stuff:  Entirely DS Aggro Section

Normally we talk about a lot of decks here.  Not this week. Because, I gotta be honest, I’ve been wanting this deck to exist since the new gems got revealed.  I’ve been saying “I want to see evasive threats and Battalion Gem in Brilliant Annihilix”. And my prayers have been answered.  An angel has been sent to us, and his name is…uh…Smradd.  As in U SMRADD BRO?  This deck is great.

Brilliant AnnihilixExalted Commander

Bounce your troop.  Make all of my troops enormous.

So, the core principle of the deck is this:  There are a lot of effects in Hex right now that give +1/+1 to all troops.  Major Gem of Battalion and Exalted Commander both show up in Diamond. It might be tempting to pair them with Gloaming Edict in BD for a third “Anthem” effect, but what Smradd figured out is what Turbo-PA players have known forever:  Consult the Talons is a much better payoff for having a bunch of small troops than a +1/+1 effect.

So Smradd played all the best troop-creators: Warpsteel Shardsworn, Llama Herder, Skittering Cultivator, Replipopper 4000.  He paired them with Arcanovex and Cosmic Calling to hit his most important cards. Finally, he added anthems in Major Gem of Battalion and Exalted Commander…and Runebinds to slow down the opponent.

He also plays the new champion Thk’tatcha – I have to admit, this one flew under the radar for me.  Basically, this champ clears out a blocker and taxes the opponent 1 mana at a relatively low cost, automatically gains tempo.  Also, when you’re trying to attack with a huge amount of low-power troops, getting rid of a big blocker means a lot of your attackers survive.  Very good design.

His sideboard has a nice clarity of purpose to it:  He needs to clear out Wild troops efficiently with Blinding Ire, he needs to be able to interact with sweepers like Massacre and Scars of War, he needs to not lose to combo with Robogoyle.  But it does leave me with some questions:

  •         What is Dark Heart of Nulzann for?  Are you going to try to pivot to a control deck?  What does it come in against? Surely something like Gravebane Vial or some other plan to shore up weird aggro/combo matchups does a better job here.
  •         Why is Minor Gem of Mists in Warpsteel Shardsworn?  You care infinitely more about Brilliant Annihilix surviving than a 1/1.  Feels like Minor Gem of Tactics should be in the Warpsteel. I know the shards don’t line up perfectly, but protecting Annihilix from cards like Hawkward Turn seems very worth it.

I love this deck.  I’m not sure it can survive in a world where everybody comes to their senses and starts playing more Mono-Blood, but I like that it establishes a quick clock while being able to play plenty of interaction and grind.  It’s everything a good, aggressive deck should be, and it showed it in this Bash: Beating every deck except DW Momentum, which it went 1-2 against.

Conclusions

  •         Mono-Blood is still excellent.  Massacre is a strong solution to a lot of the stupid stuff people are doing, including the “counter” to Mono-Blood, Brilliant Annihilix.
  •         DW Momentum is still the best deck in the format, particularly so long as people aren’t playing Mono-Blood.  It has explosive draws, value, and punishes the opponent for stumbling.
  •         There are still a ton of combo decks happening in the format.  As a general rule, you want to have a clock right now – some big troops that can attack or a combo of your own, because eventually Sapphire combo decks are going to stock up enough Runebinds and interaction to beat you on their turn.
  •         There are a ton of amazing aggressive decks happening right now.  It’s a great time to be attacking with all your troops.
  •         Bring your Eldurathan’s Glories.  That card shores up aggressive matchups, can clear up an SW Rowdy Board, and also does wonders against go-wide anthem decks.

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 (3/19)

Everything must be different now!

So, it’s a new season!  With the biggest set release ever!  I can’t wait to see how these new cards invigorated new archetypes and cracked the old format in half!  Let’s take a look at the Bash Results!

Okay, cool, cool, so DW Momentum and RD Candles were two of the top 4 decks of last season, but I bet these have some new twists!  Wait.  Literally, not a single Doombringer card in any of the top 4 decks?  Not one?  Not a Brilliant Annihilix with Battalion gem?  Not a single …guys.

Oh god! Last season’s decks! Why you do this to new season’s decks?!

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?  The cards in Doombringer must be terrible!  The new archetypes must be terrible.  Nothing can stand up to the all-consuming power of candles and momentum!  Oh wait.  This happens every single first Bash of the season.

…oh right. Because people are relying on 4 copies of runebind to stave off aggro.

Remember the start of last season?  When the best aggro decks from the season before that (Ardent Haraza) took 2 of the top 4 spots, and an Angus deck took the rest?  Remember how those decks ended up being basically unplayable?

Great.  Because here’s what happens:  The first week of the season, everybody tries to do new crazy stuff, and often fails to answer the simple question:  “Can my deck beat a good aggressive deck?”.  What’s awesome is that RD Candles and Momentum aren’t even phenomenal aggressive decks.  RD Candles got stomped by the prevailing midrange decks last season, and Momentum is certainly a midrange deck.

But in the interest of trying out interesting things in the set, people put together new, weird decks.  And the plan is always to do something sweet…but it’s not always to beat the decks that people might play.  Somewhere in between the awesome, go-for-it combo and a boring regular deck is usually a sweet deck that can be competitive.  So instead of focusing on the results this week, let’s spend our time checking out some decks that went for it and got lit on fire.

Those Who Dared

Parni’s SW Silent Woken

This deck is just a flavor fail.  So the Silent Auctioneer is selling a Woken Drokkatar?  What the hell is the point of being silent when there’s a giant 25-cost troop stomping around?  The plan of this deck is super simple:  Play Silent Auctioneer, use Theorize or Blue Sparrow’s Hero Power to discard Woken Drokkatar and bury the top 24 cards of your opponent’s deck.  Use a Copycat or a second Silent Auctioneer to bury 48 or 46 cards, respectively, and you should be within rock-throwing distances of burying all of your opponent’s deck.  Do we have a backup plan?  Absolutely not.

Silent AuctioneerWoken Drokkatar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This deck is sweet, but it needs to evolve a bit if it’s going to deal with aggressive draws.  It went 6-0 vs. non-aggressive decks (so it probably kills pretty fast, and is hard to stop!), but it also has only tools for delaying (runebinds, dingles, Weave into Nothing); if it can’t combo off, it’s going to die.  It went 1-2 vs. aggressive decks – while that might work for Durdle Nirvana, it’s not going to get it done when 12 people bring RD Candles.

Thoughts: This deck reminds me of a great deck from a few seasons past:  Mono-Sapphire Empress.  Mono-Sapphire’s in for otherwise useless bodies to trigger Consult and be blockers.  And that deck was relatively great vs. aggro.  Maybe instead of the linear combo pieces, put some blockers that can make it tricky for an aggro opponent to attack through for lethal?  Either way, we need a real plan vs. other aggressive decks other than “Be faster” – it’s not THAT hard to kill a 0/3 Silent Auctioneer, and this deck has no plan to win if it can’t stick a Silent Auctioneer.

Metronomy’s RB Thakra

Metronomy has been trying to make this deck work and punish greedy stuff all year.  Doombringer gave him a bunch of new tools – great new cards up the curve like Flare Imp, Zomboyz and Refuel along with the Remnant of Hatred to make the resources more realistic.  All of a sudden you can play both Fatalfuel Alpha and Boltwing Phoenix without fretting the resources.

ZomboyzRefuel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holy god, we got some aggressive cards!

The curve on this deck is just gorgeous – and it features some neat tricks.  Fatal Dose can combo with Boltwing Phoenix to do 6 damage to all an opponent’s troops at instant speed, or just make an attacker do 4 more damage.  Heart of Agony gets you halfway to another set of blaze elementals.

This is a pretty well-made deck that knows exactly what it wants to beat in the sideboard:  Other aggressive decks.  I’d ask the following simple questions:

  1. How often was the 2nd or 3rd Fatal Dose dead? You only play 14 troops with more than 4 toughness.
  2. Refuel seems like one of the draws to this archetype. Seems like a no-brainer to play 4 in the deck.
  3. Did you consider Necropolis Coins? They provide much-needed reach, and you have plenty of blood shards.
  4. Surely either Flare Imp or Escape Goat was better. Which was it?
  5. Would a Crackling Magma be a useful thing to have in the sideboard, as opposed to all the Cheap Shots?

Fluquor’s SW Turns

Rowdy PiperDreamsmoke Diva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not the last time you’re going to see these two together.

We said Rowdy Piper was a messed up card.   When paired with Dreamsmoke Diva and all the other Rowdy cards, it can also make for a heck of a good time.  This deck’s plan is simple:  Get a whole ton of Rowdy triggers off Dreamsmoke Diva and Rowdy Piper while still just playing the whole suite of great cards:  Pippit Hustler, Exalted Pathfinder, Consult the Talon.  It’s worth noting that The Blackberry Knight’s champion power also helps to power out early Consult the Talons for serious draw power.

This deck seems to have done a bit better vs. aggro than the other combo decks, going 3-1 vs. Candles.  Looking at the interaction, it doesn’t seem good enough to stay alive – so that suggests that this deck is reliably comboing off or killing on turn 5.  If that’s true, it bears checking out – it’s tough to disrupt and can play a very reasonable quick speed game.

Questions:

  1. Seems like you need to find a Dreamsmoke Diva or Rowdy Piper. Why not play 4 of each?
  2. What is Pippit Hustler doing for you here? It’s medium at dealing with wide boards out of Candles, and it’s probably too slow/fair to deal with most stuff.  Your Plan A maindeck should probably be comboing off.
  3. I’d love to see some more troops to power out Consult the Talons.

Conclusions

There was a lot of other stuff that didn’t make it – bunch of very interesting ideas going around.  But here are some takeaways:

  1. Srsly, guys. Test your decks vs. the best decks from the last season.  Don’t try to make “meta calls” in week 1.  Ask yourself:  What is my plan to beat an opponent who wants to play efficient threats and kill me?  Looks like most players didn’t ask that question this week – we can do better!
  2. Puts some Robogoyles in your sideboard. With just a single Robogoyle, you can’t be combo’d off by a single activation from Silent Auctioneer – your entire deck will be buried, and then 5 cards will return to the deck.
  3. Reminder: Mono-Blood is probably still great.  A lot of these strategies are still dead to Massacre.  Then again, who wants to play mono blood when there’s so much sweet stuff to do.  Leave it to Heaton.

All in all, looks like there’s a bunch of promising stuff.  Looking forward to seeing these decks get refined!

 

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Monday Morning Metagame (3/12)

A Tale of Two Tournaments

So every season, we get a really interesting pair of tournaments.  The top 64 of each ladder get to battle it out in the CCS the same weekend (and day!) that people play in the Bash.  If you consider the CCS players to be the best, most invested-in-winning Hex players, this can be something of a reasonable case study:  what happens to the metagame when you have a whole tournament full of people trying to break a format.

Let’s start by looking at the deck that everybody loves to hate:  Mono-Blood.

Nothing here is crazy.  Bardak is coin-flippy to a little favored against Lady Avalanche and murders DS (and RD).  It’s notably a dog to RS sockets, but people haven’t been playing a lot of sockets recently.  The difference?  Everybody in the CCS came knowing who the top dogs were, and tuned their decks to deal with them.  In the CCS, Mono-Blood won 35% of its games against the decks not in that table.  In the Bash, Mono-Blood won 62% of its games against the decks not in that table.

Basically, if you were losing to Mono-Blood all season and couldn’t beat it, you had two options – play Ruby-Sapphire Sockets, or tune your deck better.  Nice to see both of those employed by the CCS players.

R(eturn of ) S(ome) Sockets?

It’s also worth asking:  Why did RS make such a big comeback, putting 4 in the top 8 of the CCS?  Well, the rule of the big 4 (RD, RS, DW, and Mono-B) used to be:  Sockets beat Mono-B and got run out of the game by the bigger, more aggressive troops from RD Candles and DW Momentum.

But people stopped playing Sockets after the nerf…and RD Candles lost to both Mono-B and DW.  So people stopped playing it.

Then, the builds of DW had to evolve to be good against Mono-B…leading to the Prismatic Conclave version, which is much less aggressive and much grindier…and probably significantly worse against RS Sockets.

The result?  A meta where RS could crush, winning 62% of its matches.  R(ockem) S(ockem) Robots!

Hex’s Design Team is Clever

I’m in the tank for Hex’s set design team.  Hex does a lot of stuff fine, but the best part of Hex (aside from its superb in-game UI) BY FAR is its set design.  These guys are so goddamn clever.  And I think a lot of the subtle things they do go under-appreciated, so I’m going to point out some stuff.  You know, just in case you guys ever go off and design a TCG.

A lot of Hex Mechanics seem to arise as an answer to the following simple question:  What is common knowledge among good deckbuilders, and can we make those good deckbuilders re-evaluate what they think they know?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both of these force experienced deck designers to think…and consider what they think they know about deckbuilding.

Here’s an example:  everybody knows that you should play 4 of the best cards in your deck, particularly if they’re low-cost.  4 Leprechaun Artist, 4 Vampire Prince, 4 Guidance, 4 Exalted Pathfinder.  You want to draw the best cards as often as possible.  So what does Hex print?  Herofall.  Eternal Curator.  The result?  People trim 4-ofs in their decks versus, for instance, Mono-Blood.  Because getting a Pathfinder ripped out of your hand by Herofall feels awful.  Getting your deck reduced to size 20 because you only have 20 cards feels…really questionable against a bury archetype.  Hex has broken you out of your previous thought patterns by printing these cards.

Let’s take another example.  Anybody who’s played a TCG format with powerful cards knows that one of the best things you can do is play two impactful actions early in the game.  You’d much rather cast Thunderfield Seer and Arcane Focus than cast Theorize.  Cheap cards are the best, particularly when they’re good – if you have a lot of resources, you can cast multiple ones, and if you have few resources, you can still at least play your cards.  Throughout the history of Hex, decks like Mono-Ruby Lazgar’s and Turbo-PA and DS Control have used super-powerful 1 and 2 cost cards (entire decks full of them!) to dominate formats.  So we have the common wisdom:  Play cheap cards.

Hex sees this.  Along comes the Rowdy mechanic.  All of a sudden, cheap cards have a downside – they’re not triggering Rowdy Piper, they’re not triggering Dreamsmoke Diva.  Other decks, built on playing a resource every turn and playing a 2-drop, 3-drop, 4-drop curve, can take advantage of these.  Again, we’ve broken a standard deckbuilding pattern – now, we’re interested in playing a few more 5-drops or 6-drops in a Rowdy deck, because that’s going to let us trigger these cards one or two more times.

There are a lot of examples of stuff like this, but it’s good to appreciate what good game design does:  it makes you question your assumptions about what’s good and opens up new possibilities for deckbuilding.

Neat Stuff

With all respect to Yasi, who played Greater Qazarus, and Escangalha, who registered 4 Piledrive, the best deck of the weekend goes to:

TrueDuelist’s Sapphire Wild Ghost-Bug

God, it’s been a while since I’ve seen this combo.  What a freaking beauty.  As always, it involves Cost Reduction.  Anybody surprised?  Nobody?  Great, glad you’ve been reading for a while.

Illusory FormMonk of the Sacred Stones

Ghost.  Bug.  Cooomboooo!

So.  You start with Mindcall.  Add a dash of Illusory Form.  And add in Monk of the Sacred Stones.  You need to:

  1. Mindcall your Illusory Form.
  2. Illusory form your Monk of the Sacred Stones.
  3. Sacrifice Illusory Form. Monk of the Sacred Stones’ deploy trigger can bring back your Mindcall, your Illusory form, and something else.
  4. Repeat the process. Once you’ve got a 0 cost Mindcall and a 0 cost Illusory Form, you can make all the cards in your hand cost 0.  Once you’ve got a 0-cost Change Course or Theorize, you can find any card in your deck.
  5. Eventually, you find Psychic Ascension. That 0-cost card that you keep copying?  It now generates a Copycat every time.  You make infinite 4/5s.
  6. Find Eyes of the Heart, take an extra turn, and kill them.

I salute TrueDuelist for two reasons:  He kept SW Ghost-Bug in his back pocket for when the metagame slowed down enough.  And it did.  And he incorporated it into a shell of already good cards.

Can’t really find anything to criticize here!  He plays the maximum amount of ability to find his combo.  The quickest possible ways to ramp up.  And his sideboard is entirely low-cost cards that he can board in to stall off aggressive decks, deal with annoying cards, and defend himself.

What a well-built deck!

 

Monday Morning Metagame (3/5)

Metagame Breakdown

As I write this, the Bash is happening.  I’m pretty sure we know, at this point, what the best decks are:  DW Momentum and Mono-Blood.  For the last two weeks, these decks have put up positive numbers vs. the field, and coin-flipped with eachother.  Some aggressive decks (RW Elk, ruby Thakra decks) can get under Mono-Blood.  So let’s just cut to the chase:

  • DW and Mono-Blood are probably going to be 5-6 out of the top 8 decks.
  • Probably 2 aggressive decks sneak in there.
  • This is probably where we live for the next couple weeks until Set 9 comes out.

Why is this the case?  Well, these two decks play the best two cards in this format (by leaps and bounds):  Exalted Pathfinder and Bride of the Damned.  Those cards take over games unchecked, defend against early aggressive, and also generally get value the turn that they’re played.  The rest of the cards in these decks (Shamrock the Goldfather, Herofall, Vampire Prince) are no slouches, but those two cards carry a lot of the load.  That said, there are worse things than having midrange, interactive decks as the best two decks in your format…but you’d love to have a metagame involving 3 or more decks.

…aaand, now the Bash has happened.  DW and Mono-Blood were 7 out of the top 8 decks, and 11 out of the 14 5-2 or better lists.  I was wrong about the aggressive decks sneaking into the Top 8.  But yeah.  This is the format, and it shows no signs of changing.  Mono-B lists did better against DW lists than they did previous weeks, I guess?

How did we get stuck with Mono-Blood, anyhow?

We’ve talked about how we got here.  But what’s a bit interesting is that this is the first season in recent memory where an aggressive deck hasn’t cheesed the format in half with cost reduction.  From Lazgar’s Vengeance to Cyclone Shaper, we’ve had a series of formats defined by decks that were just doing something much more powerful than everything else.  Mono Blood has more or less existed this whole time…it just wasn’t as powerful as the other stuff going on.  Eventually, the power level of the format dropped a (a lot of the cheaty mechanics rotated out), and trusty Mono-Blood was very good.

Lazgar's VengeanceCyclone ShaperBride of the Damned

I knew Lazgar’s Vengeance and Cyclone Shaper.  You, Ma’am, are no Lazgar’s Vengeance or Cyclone Shaper…

So what’s the big deal?  Why do people complain about this deck so much?  It’s like this:  People hate discard.

And people aren’t wrong.  Discard is an inherently uninteresting mechanic when it’s overly prevalent.  The argument is simple:

  • TCGs are more interesting when players have a larger variety of decisions that matter.
  • When you have fewer cards in your hand, you have less options, and thus less decision variety.

So what’s happened the last few sets is, Lanupaw’s Sight (the best card draw – 3 cards for 3 resources) rotated out of standard, and we got Primordial Cockatwice, Culmination in Blood and Demented Whispers.  So the card draw got worse, and the discard/disruption got much better.  In particular, Cockatwice and Demented Whispers are offensive:  Cockatwice is card advantage early and a game-winning body late, while the 2nd and third Demented Whispers runs people out of games.

Culmination of BloodPrimordial CockatwiceDemented Whispers

Which card is too much?  Dis Card is too much…

It’s important to differentiate: these cards are not too good.  They’re not close to as powerful as Pathfinder or Bride.  But they often lead to non-games where players have little agency, because the set of decisions they get to make is super limited.  In general, TCGs should aim to give players as many decisions as possible – it leads to the most interesting games, as well as the best way to show the skill/decision making of players.

And that’s why people dislike Mono-Blood.  Even though there are plenty of decks in this format that are about 50% against it.

GEMS ARE OUTRAGEOUS

Hex is slowly releasing spoilers for Set 9: Doombringer.  But let’s talk about the real cards…the ones everybody gets for free…the gems of Set 9.  Hex’s formats have, in many ways, been defined by gems.  4-Cost Dark Heart from Major Gem of Clarity, aggressive Haraza builds with Major Gem of Galvanism.  Before this, quick gems, gems that gave spellshield and mill gems shaped formats.  And everybody gets them for free.  Here’s my brief Gem Review of the Set 9 gems that got spoiled here.

All Prismatic Gems:  …I guess.  Fine.  Whatever.  You basically get two gems worth of effects if you control a prismatic troop, nothing if you don’t.  There aren’t even many socketed prismatic troops you could guarantee the effect on – Soulspeaker Revenant and Weeping Banshee are it.

Minor Blood Orb of Ghouls:  Now we’re cooking with gasoline.  This is exactly the gem that Deathcry decks needed.  BW and BD deathcry both needed to play C+ cards like Giant Centipede and Ghastly Exchange to be able to sacrifice troops when needed.  Now we can put this in Cryptcurse Knight or Underworld Crusader – troops that already attack well…and make blocking a real nightmare as well as enabling deathcries.

Minor Diamond of Tactics:  In any aggressive matchup, exhausting enemy troops is pretty real.  Just ask Grim Skull Tactician.

Minor Ruby of Savagery: Solid.  This will help push damage regularly, particular against decks that don’t play a lot of troops early.

Minor Sapphire of Mists:  Don’t sleep on this.  It does a lot of things:

  • Put it on a 1 or 2-drop and your troop can’t be removed ‘til the opponent’s third turn, except by Primordial Sabretooth
  • Put it on a 3-drop and you will at least trade evenly in terms of resources spent with your opponent. That’s particularly good for cards like Underworld and Ardent Crusader that have good deathcries.
  • This blanks all the good Diamond removal. Decree of Banishing and Winter’s Grasp can’t target cards with this gem.  Nobody wants to have 2 diamond thresholds to play Bring to Justice at basic speed.  Similarly, it can force a Herofall on a card that the opponent probably doesn’t want to Herofall.

This might not be the gem you start your troops off with, but after you see an opponent’s deck, you may want to swap this gem in during the reserves step.

Minor Wild Orb of Festivity: Terrific for curve-out decks.  You might see this in Brighthammer Adept in DW momentum, or another deck that’s just playing nice, big threats every turn.

Major Blood Orb of Migraines:  Repeatable.  Discard.  Guys.  Plz no.  I have written a Haiku to express my feelings:

Zorath’s Rectory

This Gem plus Horrors of War

I downvote this deck.

Major Diamond of Battalion:  I like anthem effects.  Currently, Massacre is doing a really good job of making sure they don’t get played.  I hope we can make some use of this.

Major Ruby of Pyromancy:  Sounds fine.

Major Wild Orb of Calling:  Yeah.  Also fine.

Major Sapphire of Vanishing:  Now we’re talking.  I could write an article on ways to use this thing.  Somebody probably should.  Fundamentally, the cards we can actually stick major gems in are generally worth keeping.  This lets you buy back deploy triggers at the low, low cost of 1 card…and you get a discard outlet!  Stick this in Nefarious Corruptor and just keep stacking up damage triggers on the opponent.  Stick it in Moonrise Elder, generate a ton of Valors, then discard one of them to do it again next turn.

Neat Stuff

Sadystik’s DS Control/Turbo PA

Sadystik brought a really neat deck that’s a sort of hybrid of Turbo-PA and classic DS control decks.  Early in the season, we talked about how momentum decks had a really hard time beating Diamond-Sapphire control because Clash of Steel and Dark Heart controlled their board so well.  Now that Momentum is one of the two defining decks of this format, it seems like DS might be back on the menu.

While AstroSquirrel and others have been playing this deck for some time, focusing on its ability to power out early Consult the Talons via Warpsteel Shardsworn, Light the Votives and Wax Sacrament and finish strong with cards like Psychic Ascension.  This version leans slightly more into Dark Heart of Nulzann and Clash of Steel maindeck, which puts the opponent in a bit of a bind:  Leave in your single-target removal and feel a little embarrassed when you have to use it on candlekin…or not have any way to get rid of Dark Heart of Nulzann.

Sadystik went 3-2 vs. Mono-Blood, bowing out in the finals, but crushed every other deck he faced.  I like this archetype, and think it looks like it’s getting some neat things next season.  I’d keep an eye on how this deck can evolve to keep up.