• Pretending to Know Stuff Vol. 11

    Attachment 4638 Welcome back for another edition of Pretending to Know Stuff. The unlimited or constructed "Meta" – what is in RIGHT NOW. This column will be full of bias. The comments are a place to politely point out where you disagree and let me know what I might have missed. Let's dive in and talk about the bigger picture...

    This is, in part, inspired by @Indy Mon. I saw a poll he posted on Facebook, and feel like this discussion is timely for the ever-changing meta landscape…

    I tend to think of the game in two archetypes – aggro and control. That’s my own limited experience in gaming shining through. The reality is that there are archetypes, sub-types, blends, and combos. For a while, I have felt that control has had the upper hand. It’s my opinion that Mera turned the tables. Before that, aggro had the upper hand. We saw turn 3 wins in both US and Canadian Nationals last year. Then, along came a global that would stop all that with a single mask. Suddenly, the setup required to do a super swing could be negated with an energy that was probably already being saved for another global. It’s one thing to have to save energy you’re unlikely to use for another purpose (say, two fists)…it’s something entirely different to only have to spend an energy you’re already saving on something that helps you mitigate a premature loss.

    In successive sets, control saw the addition of Human Paladin, Constantine, Zombie Magneto, and the Mera global. We want new sets to provide meta-impacting cards, and this game is still young, but the control archetype really got teeth as these sets came out. It’s no secret that I really like combo teams. The Patch-Jade Giant team I took to CanNats last year is a combo team. The Phoenix Fastball team I played at GenCon last year is a combo team. I like the alpha strike – swinging for lethal in one shot, rather than chipping away at my opponent. Those combo teams had varying amounts of aggro and control elements, but both probably bend towards aggro (Phx Fastball for sure). The game, in my opinion, formerly favored more aggro play. Then control.

    Enter Bard Blitz. Now the turn 3 kill was available without the Professor X global. Maybe not very likely, but possible. So we’re back to favoring aggro. Then the ban happened (or does in a week and a half, I guess). And now the global that has made aggro so intensely dangerous is gone (for now). To be frank, I’m thankful the ban happened the way it did – that it was THAT global that was addressed and not some of the aggro attacking abilities. Abilities like Guy Gardner and the Half-Elf Bard make aggro continue to be a real, viable threat, but without as much of the oppressive turn 3 wins that make the game significantly less fun. In Top 4 of Canadian Nationals last year, I was guilty of a turn 3 win. I use the word guilty because that’s how I felt. But on the other hand, winning was simply like a drug, and my appetite for it was insatiable. So insatiable, in fact, that I took an ill-brewed combo to World’s to test my luck with dice and try to swing for big damage really early to see what might be possible. I found out it’s possible to go 1-4 with a bye!

    Yesterday, Michael Le started an ordered tier list of teams, which begs lots of discussion. I would say that I am pretty much in agreement with him, but I’m not sure my opinion should count for anything since I have such a hard time evaluating in a vacuum. The reality is pilots make more of an impact than anything else. I have learned so much about the game by playing poly control. It’s made me a better pilot – running a team that uses so many parts counter to my natural tendencies. This is the real story here. I’ve learned a ton more recently as we put the Bard Blitz through a gauntlet of testing and I was forced to play some other meta teams I’m unaccustomed to piloting (Parallax Gobby chief among them). And this is going to be the norm for the next few releases… Meta impacting cards will be released, they’ll be put on teams or teams will be built around them and we’ll have to re-evaluate everything as we move forward.

    What if the real reason the meta shifts is that we, collectively, learn more about how to manipulate churn and ramping, handle less than ideal rolls, build more complete teams, learn to play against threats without direct counters, and pursue consistency over flash-in-the-pan type teams? Note: I do not think Bard is a flash-in-the-pan. Not in the least. The consistency Bard provides (particularly in the mid-range type build) is absurd. But it’s not just about what the Bard can do – it’s about how we learn to play towards the optimum. And the change we’re seeing (making), is a continual kind of change, because the pool of available abilities is continually changing.

    The best example of this that I can think of is the churn engine Bard Blitz brings with it – Ring/Resurrection globals. That engine allows for next turn draws of virtually every purchase without offering your opponent PXG. So if you can develop a team that does not require energy gluttony, maybe that’s the engine you’ll decide to bring. Evaluating if teams perform better with PXG, BEWD, Red Dragon global, a combination, or Ring/Res with any of the above is going to be key as folks look for the next meta-shocking team. As we enter the heart of the WK competitive season with National Championships, WKO round 2, and then World’s and US Nats at Origins, the meta will move and shift a little, but how it affects you, or how you affect it, will be completely dependent upon your ability to pilot your team to maximum effect. Can you improve your ability to see how to play your team by learning to play another?

    The teams we know will be competitive are not likely to disappear overnight. But there may be some strong counters show up in the next release or two. Will someone find an optimal build and learn to pilot it well enough to send shockwaves through the meta like the Bard Blitz and ensuing variations? You tell me – with your builds and tournament reports…

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. gkpon66's Avatar
      gkpon66 -
      WOW! Nicely put JT. A concise sum up of where this game sits. I also find that for all of my mental exercises, I find that actual play testing teaches me so much more. Especially when I have to learn how to run that other team during testing. Keep the articles coming, Gary
    1. jevansfp's Avatar
      jevansfp -
      Excellent analysis. It will be an interesting ramp up to World's