The Path to Champion II
That was easy! This journey to reach Champion took fewer games and was a much smoother ride than last season. While we often learn the most from our losses it can also be helpful to take lessons from a group of games as a whole. Critical analysis and self-reflection are two very important tools when looking to improve. And if you aren't improving, you're getting worse (as others improve around you). In this article I'll examine some more things you can do outside the game to increase your chance of success.
Choose the right deck
That doesn't just mean pull up the latest tier list and pick the deck at the top. There are a lot of things to consider:
Do you enjoy playing the deck?
Do you have the skill and mentality for the deck?
Do you have the required cards? (some decks are more friendly to substitutions)
Is the deck good?
Does it have a reasonable matchup at least some of the most common decks?
In Mythgard, playing your deck well will serve you better than playing the meta.
That was my record to Champion. I played the same Red-Orange deck for the entire season. For those of you that haven't left in disgust...
Let's play a game, write down the mythics you think are in my deck. I'll talk about the deck in a bit more detail in a minute.
It is not uncommon for me to have over a 70% winrate with a deck, but when it starts to approach 80% it's a red flag for me. (Angel Loop was approaching 85% in Alpha when the nerfs came.) While the sample is fairly small, it is only 1% above the overall winrate I've had with the deck over close to 200 games. I did set it down when Fire Eater was running rampant, but overall it has been powerful and consistent for all of Beta.
I think part of the reason for my success is that I'm one of the few people playing this deck. The meta hasn't been forced to adapt, so I get to keep on doing what I'm doing. How much of the win rate is the deck's strength and how much is it abusing a niche in the meta? It is impossible to say for me to say.
But, I'm playing a very synergistic deck, with the added bonus of most of the cards being independently strong. Normally you get one or the other. I expect we will see at least a few balance changes to the core of RO decks come the next balance patch. Now, look at the mythics on your list, which of those do you think require a change? Are any of them even in my deck?
name: Red Orange Aggro
coverart: Journey of Souls
path: journey of souls
2 ironflesh performer
4 strigoi pup
4 daring trapezists
4 ironbelly wyvern
3 panic raider
2 red carnival
2 shopworn bull
2 wings of abaddon
4 eager recruit
1 spear of destiny
2 xerxian recruiter
3 insurance broker
2 peri at the gates
1 scion of pride
Meat and potatoes with just the right amount of seasoning. You don't need to be fancy to be good. People tend to look at the mythics first when talking about power level and balance changes, but they are only the spice, not the dish.
People often wonder how this deck wins games. Lucky for you, someone already wrote an article about it: RO Aggro.
There was no grind
Personally I really appreciate the long ranked seasons. It allows me to play ranked when I feel like it without having to push to reach the highest tier. Overall that makes the laddering experience much more enjoyable to me. I never feel like I "have" to play.
Doesn't afraid of anyone
I played the entire season with "match anyone" enabled, which would have been suicidal last season. This ended up being mostly irrelevant as over half of my matches were against mid-mythril to Champion players anyway, but there were two things that made the entire matchmaking process less of a crap-shoot this season:
Less punishing RP change for Win/Loss based on rank discrepancy (with an increased minimum gain)
No "Oops I win" deck like Rainbow Rush of last season. For all the complaints RO Midrange receives, it is a deck with numerous decision points, giving inexperienced pilots lots of chances to make mistakes.
Overall this made laddering a much more enjoyable experience as progress wasn't easily negated by one unlucky or frustrating loss. I feel like they've found the sweet spot.
Shake off the rust
Sometimes I'll go upwards of a week without a chance to played ranked. Everybody gets rusty, but it affects people differently. I can normally go a couple days without playing a deck before my play starts to slip. Normally my play speed drops first and if I go longer, I start making mistakes, or bad decisions. One game is often enough for me to settle in. Considering playing a Brawl game before hoping on ladder, or a couple ladder games before a tourney. Stretch your mental muscles.
Autopilot is often worse
Have you ever missed a turn because you were "driving to work" on a Saturday? The same thing happens when playing games. And just like that, you missed your chance for a slick play, or crazy lethal. I find that after as few as five or six games I'll start slipping into autopilot. Thinking is hard and our brains are lazy. Don't let them slack off! Even taking a quick break can force you to refocus.
Keeping it fresh
While I did play the same deck throughout the entire ranked season it was interspersed with building and testing new purple decks or picking away at the faction quests. Learning other decks gives you an idea of their strengths and weaknesses, and therefore insight on how to play against them. It also forces you to keep thinking, breaking you out of autopilot. Familiar and fresh is where you want to be: an active and engaged mind is the key to success.
Know when to quit
I missed lethal. It wasn't a trivial one; there were numerous options, math, clearing lanes, and a lot of almost-lethal lines. But if I was thinking ahead, I would have had more than enough time to find the correct line. I lost the game the next turn. Two games later I lost again, and well my opponent was a bit lucky, if I had played better I think I could have won anyway. I played one more game, which was a mistake, but my opponent's heart wasn't in it either, and they conceded quite early. I know I dodged a bullet, and called it quits for the night. (I say "quit" but over the next several hours the missed lethal kept popping into my head.) Sometimes it's just not the right time to play, don't chase your losses.
Know when to fight
I lost my first win-and-in to Champion. It was a long, hard-fought game against another Champion player that could have gone either way. Sometimes, you just have to say, "Good Game" and Requeue. The next game I managed to turn an overwhelmingly favourable position into a struggle through a dexterity error. (Somehow I managed to swap adjacent minions instead of making an attack.) While that is a prime candidate for a shame concede, that play isn't in my playbook. I managed to claw and scratch and put myself in position for a top-deck, and...got there! If this was a movie, that win would have pushed me into Champ (but in reality I was just short and the following match was very anti-climatic). Mistakes happen. Own them and try harder, and don't make inferior plays to hide your mistake!
Think about it
When are you most successful? Do you need to play more or less? Are you better running back the same deck over and over, or do you need to keep it fresh. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, so you know how, when, and what to play is just another way to stack the deck in your favour.