The Path to Champion III
Last season I had a very smooth ride to Champion; this season I managed to improve on my record. I like that I don't have to play hundreds of games to rank up. I like that I have a competitive outlet, where I can still reach the highest tier, without having to devote countless hours (despite what my time played says!). Being able to achieve my goals by only playing when I want to is a huge selling point for me.
Wanting to Play
Lots of people expressed frustration or disinterest in playing ladder this season. This mostly centered around blue cards (Honed Edge, Godsblud Transfusion, and Ingrid Stormdottir), but I'm sure other reasons existed as well. My personal experience was different this season, but I've been there in the past (Rainbow Rush meta). It sucks. Games are meant to be fun; don't play them until you hate them. Sometimes that means taking a break, or playing less games in a session, or trying a different game mode. Everyone will reach this point, but it won't be the same for everyone. The blessing and the curse of CCGs is that they are always changing...any change to the card pool could bring hope or despair. (And it looks like the aforementioned cards will all be toned down for next season.)
Hope & Despair
Sometimes it is both. Just before the start of this season was a large balance patch. Several key cards where nerfed, while other buffs gave rise to some interesting deck possibilities, specifically for aggro. My go-to deck, RO Aggro, had several casualties, so instead of giving into despair, I decided to start the climb with PG Necro until I could build another deck. I had several ideas and I was hopeful one of them would pan out.
PG Necro is a strong midrange deck that is good against the field and can punish aggro. This is my current list which I went 4-1 with to start the season.
name: PG Necro path: disk of circadia power: smite 2 born-again 2 detained 3 raid the tombs 1 bela, witch queen 4 hopeless necromantic 1 shroud of the pit 3 volkov heavy 1 traitorous murmur 1 chort stag 1 iku-turso 2 indrik beast 4 racer in shadow 2 simuzen 4 sword saint 2 hotel barkeep 1 jin-sook, dollmaster 2 spirit away 3 lantern colossus 1 perfect grade
Sometimes I like to stream and tinkering with "new" cards was a perfect opportunity. I also have a second F2P account that was nowhere near the coin-cap. This led to playing and streaming a bunch on my second account while I hoped to stumble on to the next best deck. I tried some RY Aristocrats and BG Spells to moderate success, but that wasn't good enough. Somehow this led me to trying some RO Midrange instead of my usual RO Aggro. I started with a fairly standard deck and played a few games before making some changes. Sometimes tweaking decks is a slow process where you try a bunch of different things before eventually settling upon the configuration that works. However, this time I caught lightning in a bottle. After starting 4-2, I made some tweaks, and won 14 straight games bringing my record to 18-2. This brought my second account to mid-mythril without me really trying.
Ranking-up for Real
I set my PG list aside and took up my new RO toy back to ladder. And I kept winning. A few losses and and two more 10+ game win-streaks and I found myself sitting around M7. I played against different players on a variety of decks and generally had interesting and interactive games. (As I only play a few games in a session I am less likely to see the same player.) Often my sessions would end after a match against Valks, though probably not for the reason you'd assume.
Rainbow Valkyries is a powerful deck that can ride all over the unprepared. It was definitely this seasons's most hated deck, taking most of the heat previously targeted at RO lists. However. unlike RO, which has a plethora of deck-building options, Valkyries best build is a Tribal Rainbow deck, which has very few flex slots, so most lists differ by only a few cards. On top of this, the correct card to play on a given turn is normally self-evident. (This is not a criticism. Placement is still important and the difference between the skill of pilots is noticeable.)
The consequence of this is that you can fairly quickly get an idea of the contents of your opponents hand based on the cards that they have and haven't played. Tracking Rainbow draws against enchantments burned/played will give you even more insight. I found these matches to be incredibly taxing as I was basically playing both decks ( similar to how you think through all your opponent's possible moves in chess). Of course this matchup also has racing math, potential horn lethals, and a razor-thin margin for error. I really enjoyed these games, but they often led to me having a drink and taking a break. I won most of these games, but I did have this matchup in mind when I built my deck.
The tourney patch dropped! I love drafting and took a break from ladder to do some pod drafts. This limited style works as well as I had hoped for Mythgard and I am excited to participate in and host these events going forward. The patch also had a side-effect in that it introduced a bug with Serapis' re:spawn ability. This ability rarely comes up and I probably could have played the rest of the season without it being an issue. But, the idea of losing a game to the bug, or having to change my deck didn't sit well with me. I can be a bit neurotic about things like this, so I didn't play ladder until the bug was fixed and I could play with my deck just how I wanted it.
Aside from a small blip where I lost 3 out of 4 games my climb continued quit steadily. I was little over half way through M10, sitting in queue, when Tunestar logged in. Sure enough, a few second later we were in a game. We've had some epic games, but this was not one of them. Tunestar was on YO, one of my tougher matchups, and I didn't have any of my cards that allow me to grind out the game. However, his hand was full of corn, and despite drawing several Meso Libres to stall my kamikaze attacks, he wasn't able to find any of the several cards that would have won him the game. It was a good example of playing the hand you are dealt and taking the lines that give you the best chance for victory. We chatted a bit after the match. He felt like he shouldn't have lost, I felt like I shouldn't have won, both of us were probably right. This is just an acknowledgement that sometimes everything just does go right (we often only notice the opposite case). And to my surprise, the win gave me enough points to push me to Champion, furthering my mixed emotions. In total I went 48-12 (4-1 on PG Midrange/44-11 on RO Midrange).
In this series of articles I try not to focus too much on the decks. While having a good deck is obviously important, often we can find better avenues for improvement elsewhere than just looking at the set of cards we're slinging. In this case, I think seeing the deck is important, not for what it contains, but for what it doesn't contain.
name: ROM coverart: The Oak of Dodona path: journey of souls power: infuse 2 extract life 4 strigoi pup 4 daring trapezists 2 firesong prodigy 1 dashing ringmaster 2 melpomene muse 1 shopworn bull 1 the oak of dodona 2 wings of abaddon 2 magmataur 1 serapis, false apostle 4 eager recruit 1 dark passenger 2 ghul 1 spear of destiny 2 xerxian recruiter 1 serendipity ifreet 2 peri at the gates 1 scion of pride 2 seal of exile 2 temptation
To Heaven and Back, Stairway to Hades, and Armageddon Angel were all cut from this deck. That doesn't mean they are bad cards, they just didn't fit with what the deck was trying to do. Just because Mythgard's resource system allows you to play more expensive or techy cards than you could in game like Magic, it doesn't mean you should. Similarly, just because a card is incredibly powerful, doesn't meant it belongs in a deck.
I've suspected for a while if I've been too safe or too scared when building decks. This season I finally decided to try Orange Midrange without Angel. All experiments won't be this successful, but it does go to show that not everything we take for granted is necessarily true. AngelLoop was born from some crazy ideas, but you don't have to go full mad scientist to discover something new or different. I don't think we've come close to solving Mythgard theory, let alone deckbuilding. So, experiment, test conventions, bully(or get bullied by) the AI testing a wacky idea, craft a puzzle, draft a 5-colour FoC deck (I did, and it was glorious). A new season and a new patch await, so take the opportunity to do something new.