The Path to Champion V
Last season I had my fastest climb to Champion, but as I expected, things were not quite as smooth this season. Normally I will pick a deck and play it for the entire season, but this season I played five decks over the course of my climb:
14-7 - GO Spells
7-4 -RO Aggro
5-3 RO Midrange
With a new meta it can take some time to find what works. In this article I'll discuss my climb and how I approach laddering after an expansion.
Where to Start?
The first days following an expansion are always wild. Anything goes: new archetypes, crazy combos, and returning players reviving decks of seasons' passed. How do you choose the right deck? I always like to start with something proactive. And for a change of pace, I usually take the opportunity to switch to something completely different from the previous season. It is easier to play proactive decks in an undefined meta because you can focus on your gameplan instead of worrying about everyone else's.
Media Autocam was the card I was most interested in playing with, so I built an aggro deck to make use of it. It had an excellent win rate at the start, but regressed as decks became more refined and more controlling decks started to populate the meta. This is a deck I could have pushed hard with at the start of the season to get deep into Mythril, but I rarely have time to play that many games. While I could have reached Champion with it, I decided to switch to something else when I realized it had lost its advantage.
Mistakes and Losses
I hate making mistakes and I hate losing. And if one leads to the other I can very hard on myself. However, playing with new cards is one case where I give myself some slack. How many times have you read a card and remembered what you thought it did? Yup, I do that all the time too. Misunderstood a new interaction? Not alone. Or how often have you been very confident in your position only to get blown out by a card you forgot existed. *Raises Hand* These are the woes of playing with a new set of cards.
Even when I start to become comfortable, or even confident, with new cards, I'll often find myself making extra mistakes as some of my focus is still diverted. Similarly, whenever I play 2v2 I will make some truly boneheaded plays as I'm out of my element and there is so much extra to think about.
These mistakes will happen to all players, and it is important to take them in stride. And don't shame concede! You never know when your opponent is going to make a mistake to put you right back in the game. But what if you are playing well and still losing?
A big part of improving as a player and being effective on ladder is being self-reflective. I'm constantly running through questions after a game:
Did I make mistakes? Did they affect the outcome? Is there a pattern to the mistakes I make? Did I play flawlessly and still lose?
Did I have a bad hand? Do I often draw poorly? Do I often have bad hands/draws with this deck? Was it a bad matchup? Do I often find myself in bad matchups?
Was I outplayed? Did I understand my opponent's deck and what it was trying to do? Did I take the wrong lines of play?
It's important to consider the answer to all these questions as it helps to determine the viability of a deck. If you are consistently making mistakes it can be tough to judge a deck's power or place in the meta. If it feels like you are always having bad hands or draws your deck might not be consistent enough. And if it feels like you are playing well and losing, or every match feels like an uphill struggle, the deck might not be strong enough or the right choice for the meta
Finding the Right Deck
When I am in an unknown meta and I need a different deck to play, I'll frequently revisit an old staple. I find it easier to view a meta through the lens of a deck I already know. Sometimes you'll find the deck is still good and the search is over, while other times you'll find it doesn't quite get the job done. But even if the deck isn't a great fit, it should help contextualize the meta. I tried some of my staples to mixed results:
RO Aggro (7-4) - A lot of cards have been nerfed since this deck's heyday, and while ROI provided some new cards they didn't quite fill all the holes. While the deck definitely wasn't optimized, it felt like it was more than a few tweaks short of being a consistent threat. It was lacking both punch and reach.
AngelLoop (1-0) - I only played this on ladder to cap off a stream. While it can be great in some metas, it often wins slowly and requires a lot o mental energy. It is not great for laddering if you want to rank up quickly
RO Midrange (5-3) - I knew my version of RO Midrange, which is very teched and lacking the standard bombs, would not be a good choice before I even queued. The success of the deck is predicated on having knowledge of the meta. It requires identifying your role early in the match and knowing what removal to use against what minions. It is impossible to know this when you can't immediate identify what style of deck your opponent is playing, let alone what cards it might contain.
It's important to know how you normally fair on ladder. If you are overperforming, keep it up! But if you are underperforming it might be worth trying a new deck, or reviewing your losses to make sure you're playing at your usual level. In Mythgard I'm looking to hit a 75+% winrate with a deck on ladder. I feel if I'm not in that range then I am playing the wrong deck. My experiments above weren't a total loss though, they told me quite a bit about what the right deck might be.
The Right Deck
BR Forge was a deck I put together in Q-mode to test a few cards. That version was not meant to be competitive, but I knew if I cut the chaff and tuned the list, it had real potential. BRushy BRushy was born. It feels different when you have the right deck for the meta. Almost unfair. You pick up easy wins and the close games still feel slanted in your favour. BRushy BRushy also had the advantage of being a fast aggro deck, so I could really feel a momentum as the wins were piling up. This had a real positive reinforcement on me, leading me to play more and rank up faster than I normal. I closed out the run on a nice 8-game winstreak including a couple matches against top-tier opponents.
The meta is constantly shifting, what is good one day might not be tomorrow. Sometimes we can become too attached to the deck we are playing. It is important to understand whether are losses are coming from our play, or our deck. Choosing the right deck to play is as important as choosing the right play for the deck.