Tuesday Tournament Talk (7/3) – Hiatus

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

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

Tuesday Tournament Talk (6/19)

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

Economics.  It works.

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

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

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

Yasi and Metronomy are Living the Bash Dream

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

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

Neat Stuff

MikeMeron’s Gnoll Aggro

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

Feralfuel PackhunterFuelmasterAspect of the Squirrel

Fuel!  Fuel!  …Squirrel?

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

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

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

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

BirthingPodder’s Thk’Tatcha Elemental Aggro

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

RunebindAlchemiteBriny Ray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Tournament Talk (6/12)

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

Take #1: Where have all the candles gone?

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

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

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

Take #2:  Demented Whispers is awful card design. 

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

Demented WhispersPrimordial CockatwiceWithering Gaze

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

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

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

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

Twilight Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things I’m less sure of:

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

Take #5: The ridiculous combos are coming.

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

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

Take #6:  Honest Hex As Corey Burkhart Intended

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

A couple questions here, though:

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

Conclusions

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

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

Tuesday Tournament Talk (6/5)

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

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

SW Rowdy Stuff

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

Earth MotherTilling the SoilAcolyte of Shoku

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

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

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

Yasi’s Evolving Blood-Diamond Sacrifice Pile of Cards

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

BD Pile 1.0:  Zombies

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

Voracious ZombieRelentless ZombieGiant Centipede

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

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

BD Pile 1.1:  Now With More Interaction

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

BD Pile 2.0: MetamorphoYasis

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

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

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

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

BD Pile 3.0: Smooth Criminal

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

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

 BD Pile 3.1: Run it back

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

Withering GazeWinter's GraspFatalfuel Alpha

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

Tuesday Tournament Teachings 5/14/2018

Everything is Awesome!

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

CCS Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing this one hurt.

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

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

Lesson 3: Scour the Archives Rises

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

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

Two Sweet Sapphire/Diamond Control Decks

Let’s begin with Raposao’s 7-0 deck.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Stuntbum’s Blood/Diamond Rebirth Deck

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

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

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

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

 

Monday Morning Metagame (5/7)

Monday Morning Metagame is Dead Forever

It’s pretty clear, at this point, that the good people at HexTCG looked at my success as a Hex Blogger, my Scrooge-McDuck-esque Money Vault that has been filled with hundreds of pennies from my lucrative Hex Blogging Career…and they are jealous.  Targetting me personally, they identified my weakpoint:  I had foolishly named my column after a day of the week.  In a fit of pique and vicious rage, these monsters (while giving me everything I ever wanted in terms of letting hex grinders be able to afford new cards by playing tournaments) scheduled half the Bash, every week, ending at 11 PM EST on Sunday.

This was A STEP TOO FAR.  How could I bring you, the people who shower me in Hex Moneys, quality content and still…get some sleep.  So it is with a heavy heart that I announce:  I am dissolving the crack team of analysts that brings you Monday Morning Metagame.  IT IS DEAD FOREVER.

Long Live Tuesday…Something…Something.

I’m going to be traveling the next two weeks, preventing me from writing.  I will be back with Tuesday…uh…something that starts with a T.  It will be all new content:  Analysis of constructed tournaments and highlighting interesting decks I see.  I promise that you’ve never seen anything like it.

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!