пятница, 21 апреля 2017 г.

Hearthstone. Standard Un'Goro Competitive Meta Guide

Hello, folks!

This time I would like you to know everything that I have learned Standard tournament and ladder meta with Journey to Un’Goro. I am not just going to reference archtype names and give a few tips. I will give many tips, describe trends and also prepare you for the format, in case you are not a regular player. In case you are, but you don’t play many tournaments, this guide will still be useful for you.

I maxed at Rank 1 in the April season as of writing this. Mostly with Aggro Mage. Then I hit the meta shifting waves, which I will talk about here. There are no definite answers in the meta still, because after it stabilized, each deck still has a counter.    

Good Crab and Bad Crab

Hunter decks can get away with running them, since it is a beast. But at tournaments you are likely to ban Warrior just not to test your luck or not play against Taunts with an aggro lineup. Even on the ladder Pirate Warrior seems to be dying out, because the meta now is not just about Rogue, and many control decks have picked up. It is a very effective card, but against Rogue you would just want better aggro starts for general meta or be on the aoe side with burn.

Murloc Midrange Paladin thing

The deck has certainly picked up. Should be strong both on Ladder and at events.
I would recommend Murloc version over more classic N’Zoth ones, because then, while you do lose some top end, you do retain some, but you get crazy aggro starts in the style of Token Druid, that both Rogue and control decks might not handle.

Midrange Hunter is awkward for many

There are a few reasons this deck is, in my opinion top tier atm and takes a large portion of meta. Early aggro game against Rogue and decent late game version Control. It’s not just any mid-late game, but “sticky” board, that keeps the pressure going. Pumps, burst and hero power just round it up. However, a smooth control/midrange deck like Medivh Priest or Medivh Mage or Elemental Shaman can have good stats vs Hunter.  

Control Meta has arrived

It is here. Control Priest, Value Mage, Midrange Paladin, Quest Warrior, Shamans. Compared to Week 1, Week 2 has progressed into a very grindy Ladder experience. There are no easy win streaks against aggros anymore. And playing aggro just asks for trouble vs all value decks. Unless you are a Hunter, then you have chances due to a grindy deck composition.

Pirate Warrior is too risky on Ladder. Not only because of taunts, but also due to healing and secrets in many decks, and because Crabs didn’t go away yet. Plus Murloc Paladin can race you as well. You can still do fine with Token Druid or Quest Rogue, of course, but simply because you can have nut draws and do degenerate things. But decks like Zoo Warlock cannot. But they still can thrive, if you spot enough consecutive Rogues and Hunters at your rank.  

Freeze Mage is great but clunky

The deck is one of the new stellar forces to reckon with. However, there is a reason why Medivh mage appeared as the new approach. Freeze Mage would often lose to itself and suffer from awkward draws against Hunter or Rogue, or Murloc Paladin for that matter. Medivh Mage lacks in ways to deal with massive boards, but it has flexibility, can adapt to the situation, and can also get on board early and stem the bleeding before it gets out of hand and you fall too far behind. Freeze Mage’s matchup against Quest Warrior is not even that good, it is rather fair.

At tournaments Freeze Mage is probably better, since then you have more information. But the shake ups on Ladder each week can easily translate into Cups, if most people catch up with the shifts. And they probably will, considering the sheer amounts of data and coverage on the web. Hence, adaptive powers might be indeed needed for Mages as well, just to hedge against the massive variety.

Control Dragon Priest is great value

Dragon Priest are catching more momentum at the moment compared to other versions. Probably based on the “safe” nature of the deck. Non-Dragon Control is probably something I favor more, but proactiveness and better board is a nice bonus with Dragons. It makes Hunter and Rogue, and Murlocs a bit more manageable I suppose.   

It’s 2 of 9 quests format
By now we can probably say that only 2 Quest out of 9, are actually worth it in terms of competitive play. Others just don’t really fit into the shells they are designed for. Quest Mage takes too much setup, in Zoo you are better off speed wize without any “cuteness”, and so on. All Quests are great entertainment and fun value, though.   

Knowledge is power

If you know what decks are actually the best ones and you know what is inside them, you can even build your own deck, use any class, use any acrhtype. Teching is a mastery that comes to the most active players. Opportunities in this Standard format are very vast,

Paper, Scissors, Rock

Elemental Shaman is very polarized. It beats aggro, but that’s pretty much it. Quest Warrior is soft to Rogue, and some value control decks. Rogue is soft to a few aggro decks. Value control decks are just dicy, meaning that remind you why you love and hate this game. Token Druid is soft to control decks. And then there is slow and Murloc Paladins. Those are strange. They do not necessarily have bad matchups and can adapt a bit, but sometimes they lack power or flexibility.      

Tournament versus Ladder

One doesn’t simply play control on Ladder. It is either that the meta pushes you this way, or you want to have proper games or have fun, or high enough on the Ladder, that you want to have, well, more control over the games, and do your best to win them, since they matter more. It is not like Rogue decks are that fast, and not exhausting to play with. Obviously, you are not playing control with the aim to climb and win streak the Ladder quickly.

At tournaments on the other hand, you can afford to play the durdliest control deck. You have the time, and the events are usually single or double elimination. So the games are worth way more. And the rounds usually are not timed. But Round 3 games could be starting while some control mirrors are wrapping up their match in Round 1.   

Lineup Roulette

Aggro Lineup is not good anymore. Although, that doesn’t mean that having an explosive aggro deck in your tournament lineup would hurt you. Usually, the more diverse your lineup in strategies the better. But if there is a deck ban included for the event, then sometimes you might get away with an all control lineup by just banning your worst control or worst aggro matchup (like Rogue). Anyhow, there now too many value control decks refined to justify going all aggro.
It was good Week 1, and All Control was also a good plan was also good. Control decks were just not sorted out that well right after Un’Goro launched. But Week 2 and moving one, your best plan is to have flexible decks and a flexible lineup. All heavy anti-aggro type of lineup would not work, unless you are certain about, say, your local meta.    
Each class is playable with multiple archtypes within

Speaking more about diversity and opportunities, this is basically what the the subheading says. All classes are potent, and most classes have several archtypes within then. Although Warlock is suffering a bit. There is no consistent control Warlock deck and Zoo is just badly positioned after Week 2. Zoo cannot grind and doesn’t get nuts like Rogue or Druid.

Ways to read your opponent in first few turns

If warrior doesn’t present the Quest first turn in the matchup he should keep it, they are on Pirates. Certain cards in Priest indicate a particular build. Mage is very hard to read atm, could anything, or any hybrid. That regards early turns, but after turn 5, you would know. Rogue might be able to afford to hold on the Quest against a slow deck to keep you guessing, but I don’t see a good benefit in that. Ramp Druid is not that popular to worry about it here.   

Think for your opponent

Most likely the play or card you expect will be cast/made at that spot at that spot. If it wasn’t, well, good for you. In general, this format is pretty easy to plan your opponent’s turns. There are enough liner decks to forecast how the game will go. Playing a lot, and playing different decks certainly helps here, just to see, e.g. what turn they can possibly complete their quest or how much reach with burst and charge they can have left.   

Think of your turns during theirs

On Ladder this is especially important. Time is valuable, and the time you save on reaching Legend, that is reach it faster, you can use on HCT Cups to try to qualify further up, etc. But try not to let this habit trap you at events.

Try tempo pressure  

If you can afford to play fast and play correctly, that is a big advantage. It does not imply any sort of bad manners or bad sportsmanship. You simply pressure your opponent with time, because often they may get trapped by this and play as fast. And that may lead to a lot of mistakes on their part.
No insane aggro, no great healing

This is a myth by now. Week 2 proved both of these statements wrong. Rogue and Druid are still badass, but other aggro decks have more challenges. Hunter is just not that hard to counter.

Murloc Paladin can have insane aggro draws, but my statement implied rather having an aggro deck, that just doesn’t fall off that hard against a good counter. Aggro had/has a lot of burst spells to go around taunts and catch opponents off guard, when they think whether they have to heal this turn or not. Bloodlust does help a bit, especially in Token Shaman, but simple Aggro Shaman is something I hope would get even more momentum. At tournaments at least.

In the past few days you may have noticed Paladins with decent amount of healing, Quest Warrior lists with armor to generate, and various Priests with cakes and funnels and spells, Alexstraza and Barrier count for healing I suppose, and maybe even Ice Block, but it is still different without Reno. Maybe that’s why we now have hybrid Mages.      

Timing of the day

You are more likely to face aggro decks in the morning and in the afternoon, and then control decks towards the evening, but then, in my opinion, aggro decks again late in the night. You can certainly use this to your advantage, depending on your goals. But this also largely depends on your rank too. People at lower ranks probably don’t care much about fast laddering.   

Many small and big minions from Un’Goro

Journey to Un’Goro brought upon us piles of Taunts and Quest Rogue, but from the perspective of amounts of cards being used in Constructed, it is, well, astonishing. Myriads of neutral 2 and 3 drop minions see competitive play, as well other cost cards. You probably should admit, that this amount of commons, and rares used from the new set is an achievement of its own.

Matchups Roulette

Hunter stands a chance against most decks. Zoo Warlock is good versus Hunter and Rogue. Control decks are just flexible. And yes, some control decks just win fast matchups, or otherway around, only slow matchups. I play this game for about 2 years perhaps, and I haven’t seen such a matchup roulette before.

Nickname Spotting

Silly sounding nickname probably means aggro version. This is a slightly rude stereotype, but it has its merit.    

Filter your perception

High Legend Streamers will be going for experiments and entertainment, but will also give long-run decks, if you notice them running the deck during more than one of the days.

Data mining by weeks

Week 1 decks might not hold on and move to Week 2 in a fresh format. Just get used to the fact, that there are enough people playing and publishing about it in all major card games, that even a casual player might want to get more in touch with what is happening each week.  

Just play, observe and reflect

This just means that if you think of all card games like this not just like an eSport, but, well, sport, then it becomes much easier in terms how to improve or get ready for something.

Watch compilations and streams

To have laughs, to get better, to know new updated decks’ versions and trends.

Tutors and discover cards are insane

Primordial Glyph and Shadow Visions are some of the best cards in the set. And I would like to see more cards like Tracking as well. More discovers, tutors and so called “cantrips” are good for most card games. Discover cards do bring a bit of extra RNG, but they bring much more balance and consistency at the same time.

Polarized decks at tournaments

Silence or OTK Priest might be great for Ladder, but it is very narrow for current tournaments.
Quest Mage may counter slow draws and Quest Warrior, but even that is not guaranteed, and even not very likely, just possible.

Thank you very much for reading!
Good luck at your local and online tournaments!
Stay tuned for more articles!

- Aarne Pyulze
- OthalaBor on Hearthstone
- Ekvilor or BoatBrew in other game accounts

- BoatBrew at all channels and media  

вторник, 18 апреля 2017 г.

MtG. Simple and Complex Deckbuilding Lessons in Magic. Part 1. The Causes

Hello, folks...

This time I would like to go through some important themes and topics that mainly have to do with deckbuilding.

Some of these lessons might be obvious, some on the contrary. There will be no drastic tie to current or upcoming Standard, but particular examples from certain formats and certain decks will be included. I would also making very general parallels with other card games for comparison and stressing some points.

30 vs 60 cards deck (other TCGs). 45 vs 60 vs 75.

First of all this topic is obviously about frequency of seeing certain cards from your deck. Most of the time, if your deck is enough to finish your game, you should play with the industry aka format standard amount of cards in it. It is silly not to, if you are allowed. Since by doing so, you maximize the chance of drawing your best cards.

On the side not, to explain the numbers in the subtitle a bit more, different card games have different standards for deck size. And yes, in some game your Constructed deck is usually 75 cards. And in another game in both Limited and Constructed the number is 30, not less, not more.

I think Magic got it right, if you include anything that resembles lands. Without them, yes, 30 is ok.
And I think the split between 45 and 60 is rather useful. In Limited games are not that long and more aggressive and, to be honest, a bit less interactive. So in Limited drawing your best cards quicker is more important. In Constructed you do want enough versatility, diversity and so on. Proper deck there would be a smooth mix of a few things. Not just lands and non-lands. And not just creatures and non-creatures (although there have been some successful very creature-heavy or spell-heavy archtypes). In general at least. Exceptions do happen. Your typical generic deck will feature various roles for non-creatures: removal, burn, buff, draw, counter spell, etc. 75 for maindeck is just too much. You will probably never ever deck out, but 60 just runs better for odds of drawing what you need in a game. And in Magic in 60 card formats sometimes it is about getting that certain busted card, but there are so many strategies and ways to interact, so that we need 60 and not 45 or 30, especially with lands. And land cards is not a thing I am a fan in Magic even after these years, but that is another story.

Despite having good rounded numbers we are not limited by them. We can play 42 in a draft with a control deck, play 62 in Standard due to tutors and toolboxes, and we also can alter land counts within the deck to fit its plan.     

Transformational sideboard. Their main vs post-side configurations.

When you ask or somebody asks a strange question like why not this and that moved to maindeck from sideboard or vice versa, well…, you will have to explain to them, that not only your deck, but others too do have a specific main and post-side deck configuration.  

It is defined by the regime or mode or role your deck in Game 1, and then in Game 2 and 3, and sometimes 2 and 3 may change. Few factors kick in. What they take in or out, what plan works best in the meta most of the time, hence that maindeck form, can that deck beat your special differentiated post-side plan, etc. Plus all the poker style mindgames and reading your opponent.

In Standard, for example, if a person just got into the game, say, this year, and haven’t changed the deck for months, because he or she doesn’t play that often and not that seriously, then in mirror match of mardu Vehicles I would side-in Fumigates, aka mass removal spells. I expect the opponent to staying aggro post-side and not become midrange.

Another good example of transformation is the classical take out removal vs control or combo deck. And then you get punished because they actually brought in creatures. But you only get punished if you take out all versatile unconditional removal as well, like a few of those in black that kill planeswalkers or creatures. And then there are cases, when I would take out all removal in favor of extra threats and pressure, even if I know how they side and it means creatures maindeck and sideboard. Those are cases when their clock is slow and doesn’t mean contending or controlling the board too well. And there will probably be some protection spells in the mix as well.   

Context of the whole deck in evaluating cards.

Separately Puresteel Paladin or Devoted Druid do not raise an eyebrow, but in the context of the deck together with their respective packages they provoke the “oh I see” kind of effect. When you stumble upon a weird card in a decklist, it actually means a lot in the context of the format's metagame and format interactions, as well with specific cards in the deck that basically break it.

That spare Magma Spray or Lightning Bolt may seem like an underwhelming twick at first, but than later in testing you would see that it was just right in order to smoothen your deck and your draws in first few turns. Nearly everything boils down to numbers eventually and the curve, but just nearly. Because otherwise Magic will be super boring if that would be all it takes. And I am not talking about screws or floods. For example I often think of the task of the cards and rely on intuition in sideboarding, even if I know all format decklists.

Study metagame decklists and solve your deck.

Not just the range of archtype, but what is in their decks, in all versions, in all maindecks, and in all sideboards. Playing around things, when you are far ahead is very justifiable, if you know all their possible outs.

At the same time, playing something outside of the netdecking hemisphere can be hugely rewarded, for similar reasons, as your opponents will not see them coming. But do not justify simply bad cards by this surprise factor.

In eternal formats most of the time we answer certain decks with specific cards. In Standard it is more about answering certain cards with your cards. One can brew a complete new archtype, which will look like a swiss army knife with tools for all situations, just by knowing well what is currently played (control decks by Shoota Yasooka).  

Flexibility of the deck

Unlike in some other card games, you bring only one deck for tournaments. Yes, there is a sideboard, which is a luxury many games don’t have. But one deck means you cannot use certain decks to counter certain matchup. You can generally afford to lose one game in a match, but there are so many factors affecting your game outcome. There is no “poker style” mulligan, you mulligan the whole hand. There is mana screw and mana flood, and just bad draws.

There is a reason that, outside crazy draws from aggro decks, overall blue decks have been the strongest. Availability of cantrips, or any means to control your hand and topdecks, gave a huge advantage, since even when a format meta consists of 3-5 decks, often times those decks do have different game plans and strategies. Without cards allowing you to sculpt your hand and draws, you will fall down with the typical “I drew the wrong half of the deck”.

Toolbox, tutoring, topdeck manipulation

Sometimes non-blue decks can rise up just on the back of flexible cards with above average power level (various Abzans is Modern and Standard in the past few years). But that is a dangerous path and it often leads to a power creep, to Birthing Pods and Stoneforge Mystics.

Tutors is another thing that can be great for the game in some incarnations and terrible if not done right. We do not get more new busted 1-mana tutors, and that is great. But that type of card is, in opinion, something that should appear every now and then, in, say, every second set in some shape or form. Glittering Wish and Mystical Teachings were amazing at the times of their prime. Aggro decks were also good enough then to contend those. But with such expensive and limited tutors a lot of people got to really enjoy the game. Tutors are just one good way to balance a format. Some other card games started to pick them up as well.  
Tutors plus the toolbox package basically extends your deck, making it feel like two or more. Winning in Magic often revolves around having the right card for their card. Lining up threats and answers. With tutors you sacrifice some speed in order to stay in the game, it is a fine price for having a chance to win the game.

While having an extra card to go second and scrys after mulligans do bring some balance, but it’s of a different kind. Aggro decks often can get mana screwed or flooded and lose the game or a match just because of that. Tormenting Voice is not an amazing card, but if you have Madness cards in your deck, you probably do need something like that to smoothen out your draws.

Speed of the format

This means whether you can technically play an aggro or control or combo deck in a format at certain time. For example, we are not really allowed to durdle around all that much in current or coming Standard, since we are likely to still have Vehicles decks and Saheeli-Guardian decks.  

This topic also coincides with the next one.

Speed of your deck

I grew to appreciate creature-combo package in a control deck, even from both sides of the table. Closing out games fast enough makes playing control viable in terms of avoiding extra unintentional draws, and it makes removal important for most of the metagame.

Whether it is Saheeli-Cats, Restoration Angel - Kiki-Jiki, or Splinter Twin - Deceiver Exarch, I am just looking at the bright side as well. Grind fests and value-driven matches are nice, but you have to think of the greater good. Old-school control decks are super exhausting to use in a long tournament, especially if the format has many different midrange and control decks. Don’t get me wrong. I in no way mean that there should be something like this every set block, but formats based around removal are not bad for the game. Those deckbuilding limitations are not that absurd, it is much better than, e.g. Affinity prime year, where it wasn’t just about any removal, but also about speed, and value, and everything.    

Puzzles pieces missing or just appearing

New Wrath type of a card in Amonkhet, might give Martyr Control, or Soul Sisters, a very big boost in Modern. In new Standard it is not just likely to see aggro decks at first, including something red, but Amonkhet actually pushes those decks to a good extent.

My problem with big pushes to aggro, is when there is not enough control tools given at the same time. Yes,cards like Supreme Verdict, Sphinx’s Revelation and Lightning Helix are very dangerous for Standard, but Magma Sprays and Shock would not solve everything. Yes, we still don’t know half of the set at the time I am writing this, but I want a bit more than just a Renewed Faith reprint, not enough for me to believe.      

Winrate of the deck

In some games 56% winrate overall is considered good for a deck. But for Magic this is terrible. Yes, those 56 often mean 70+ for certain player for certain days, yet in Magic you need 60%+ against most tier 1 decks. However sweet your deck maybe, if you aim for competitive play, your deck should demolish at least some top decks to have the right to hang out there.

However, couple cards changed, some techs slided in, and your win percentage overall and vs top dogs may rise up rapidly. Although, matchup techs often come at a price of worsening some other matchup. Hence, be careful what you wish for and aim for.  

Thank you very much for reading!
Good luck at your local and online tournaments!
Stay tuned for more articles!

- Aarne Pyulze
- OthalaBor on Hearthstone
- Ekvilor or BoatBrew at other game accounts

- BoatBrew at all channels and media