saints brings his killer insights once again to this week's Meta Report. Here's what you need to know to get to start climbing the Ranked leaderboard ;-)
Aggro, via Light and Death, continues to make a statement in the meta. Control decks are still viable, but require specific tuning to perform well against Aggro and especially Deception, which can counter both Aggro and Control. Onslaught War has taken a significant step back in the meta, as did Control Nature due to the recent Overkill redesign last patch.
Gods Unchained provides a lot of different avenues for pursuing Aggro. You can have decks that are really good at "going face" (dealing direct damage to the opposing God), like Soulburn Death, Cheat Deception, and Iron Kopis Slayer War.
On the other hand, you have Zoo decks, which populate the board and end the game swiftly. We've seen a variety of Zoo decks: Four weeks ago it was Nature Flourish Zoo, last week, Undying Wish Zoo, and this week, the newcomer, Light Zoo. While balance changes can always change things, the key lesson here is that there isn't a single Zoo identity, and enterprising deck builders should always be figuring out new ways to reinvent the archetype.
For instance, Is there a faster way to play Zoo as we know it? Is there a slower way to play Zoo that gives you a bit more consistency and value mid-game? What happens if you swap Singsong Satyr with Anputian Magus? Can you play both? Is The Harvester a must-add for Death Zoo?
There are a variety of options available and new refinements every week as a result, but one thing is clear: there's still a lot of room for innovation in the meta. Last week, Dr3ad's Light Zoo was developed as a counter to Undying Wish Zoo, and this week, Light Zoo became one of the most used decks. I go over what makes it work in the Light section below.
Besides Aggro, Deception continues its run due to its unique ability to react well against Aggro as well as Control decks. Top-heavy Control, specifically the Magic variant, is starting to get phased out of the meta as a result Aggro and Deception's heavy presence.
This in turn should also open up some opportunities in the future for non-Magic Control decks, which typically didn't see much popularity since they were often disadvantaged against Magic Control.
For the second week in a row, Undying Wish Zoo (decklist) was the most popular archetype, with Undying Wish being taken in 20% of all Mythic-level matches this weekend (and performing at a 63.1% winrate).
Its most popular counter is Deception with Memory Charm, which likely contributed to the popularity of Deception this week as well.
In case you missed it last week, I'll echo my statements on Undying Wish Zoo here:
Undying Wish Zoo has a lot going for it — it’s fast, entirely free-to-play, competitive, and also has an element of “easy to learn, hard to master” to it. Now that Tondy has a video on his decklist and mulligan strategy, I expect more people to pick it up, barring any crazy meta changes.
Besides Undying Wish Zoo, I'd like to see the proliferation of Control Death (decklist) as a counter to Zoo. Death generally has a lot of things going for it in the anti-aggro department, like one of the cheapest, strongest board clears in the game in Dust to Dust, board clears that break through Ward and Protected in Apocalypse, Now! and End Times, and the ability to heal back via Blood Ritual.
With Control Magic's presence weakened in the current meta, Control Death only gets countered by Deception, but that can be mitigated by preferring a more mid-game centric approach, perhaps with cards like the recently-buffed Hotep.
Memory Charm was the winningest God Power this week, clocking in a 69.5% winrate over 318 matches at Mythic. Its flexibility isn't a surprise to anyone familiar with Deception, the most versatile God, since it offers Deception players the ability to either stall threats or trade up against them. Stalling is generally important for Deception since one of its key swing turns often comes in the form of playing Rapture Dance while having a board (thanks to Hidden) after mana 6.
Umber Arrow, Mugging, and Memory Charm offer Deception a lot of strong tools in the early game attrition war, which is giving it the edge over Light right now in conjunction with Rapture Dance mid-game.
The community seems to be vocal about the mechanics behind Cutthroat Insight and Rapture Dance. Cutthroat Insight generally stops slow decks and combo decks cold. There's generally no greater sense of anxiety than playing Control and drawing one of your late-game win condition cards before you can play it, since it's a sitting duck for Cutthroat steals in the meantime.
Rapture Dance has made a mark as being one of the best board clears in the game. And while Deception needed a reliable board clear, its generally plays like a significantly cheaper Inferno since it can activate 3 turns earlier.
Prior to Rapture Dance, Deception had always teetered on the verge of unplayable to very strong, and the line was thin. It typically existed as a check on Control, especially during a time when Magic Control dominated the scene.
I fear nerfing Cutthroat Insight and Rapture Dance may reduce its viability, so how else can we indirectly nerf Deception?
In my mind, it's by buffing Nature (all readers collectively groan). I'll get into that more in the Nature section.
Last week, I wrote:
The semi-recently re-lived Papal Bull is also underrated, with Protected essentially acting as a proxy for Ward against spell-heavy decks. Plus, the health boost also helps get creatures over a lot of spell damage threshholds, meaning the only single hard counter against a populated Light board that's been Papal Bull'ed is Death's Dust to Dust. As a result, Light Aggro may be viable moving forward, as Dr3ad demonstrated with his Light Aggro deck (decklist).
That prediction came true, as Light had its best showing since the Serene Blade nerf. Light Zoo (decklist), which had its origins in countering Undying Wish Zoo and Onslaught War by utilizing Papal Bull, was one of the most popular decks at the onset of the weekend.
It contains a traditional Zoo core, but a few techs that give it an edge in a variety of matchups. You can learn more about the deck in Dr3ad's overview video.
Papal Bull is curious, it almost feels as if the health boost should've been nerfed alongside Thaeric Blessing, but Papal Bull managed to avoid it since it was unlive at the time. But I don't know if it warrants a straight nerf since it can still be a dud without the right setup and few have tried to operate its natural counter in Control Death.
It also suffers from the same issue Light decks built around Serene Blade had in the past — decks are so reliant on the card but Light lacks good card draw engines, and if you don't end up drawing it, you're stuck with a board full of easy-to-remove tokens that can't put up a good fight towards the mid-game, or you simply get your board wiped with ease.
Having said that, the ability to create infinite tokens, along with access to Highborn Knight, which is nearly indestructible against Control, gives Light Zoo some stability over its faster cousin, Undying Wish Zoo. If Papal Bull is played with the right setup, the game easily snowballs in the Light player's favor from there.
Deciding which Zoo variant to play seems predicated on where the meta shifts. In spell-heavy metas, Undying Wish's ability to stick on board is probably slightly more consistent than that of Light Zoo. In creature-heavy metas, as well as Deception metas, Light probably performs a bit better since Umber Arrow isn't as punishing and you can preserve more cards with Summon Acolyte.
I've talked extensively about Control Magic's continuously weakened presence in the meta, but that doesn't mean there's no hope for Magic. There's a lot of value to be found in other crevices of your Workshop to not have to rely on Neutral bombs like Helian Elite (which is probably on the chopping block for a nerf anyway).
Discovery is already one of the strongest God Powers in the game. Being able to refresh your spells means that, for the cost of some mana, you can essentially play with a 60 card deck (at least!).
The latest balance patch redesigned Ocular Fiend to be a card-generator and tempo swing in one. And combined with Discovery, that card generation starts to compound dramatically over the course of the game.
This week we saw the competitive birth of Rune Magic (decklist). It's a spell/Discovery-oriented deck that found an increased ability to keep boards clear by refreshing Rune of Fires created via Backstreet Bouncer, Ocular Fiend, and Runestorm to supplement its existing board clears and single-target removals. Over time these decks can generate enough damage spells to force a win condition via direct damage to the opponent's God.
Direct face damage in conjunction with not needing to rely on key late-game pieces means it also performs well against Deception, which is currently tuned to prefer a slower game against Magic.
While Magic suffered at Mythic in general, two players, revan and Aldoc, running Rune Magic had great results. So is Rune Magic here to stay? Like Onslaught, I think Discovery is just too incredible to not be a meta factor in some shape or form. If it ever phases out, it's likely just a meta shift or balance change away from becoming a meta staple again.
On the topic of balance, making Runes soulless by default would be a pretty fair adjustment in my opinion, just so you can't derive eight Rune of Fires off of 2 Runestorms and Discovery over the course of a full match.
We'll see if the meta pays closer attention to Rune Magic. If it gains tremendous popularity next week, expect long-forgotten Aggro decks like Cheat Deception to see popularity again, since Magic without Blastwaves and Frontlines means Deception can set up its killing blows with Shade Walkers while Cheat keeps them untargetable on the board.
Despite gushing about Control Nature last week, it took a major blow in the balance patch this week when Overkill was nerfed to not trigger on the opponent's turn or on Roar. This significantly impacted the efficacy of cards like Rampaging Leviathan and Vinebound Jotun, and Control Nature needed to go back to the drawing board, with only sparse success with it this week (decklist).
They have a plethora of cheap card generators like Tainted Treant and Opalised Roots. They have practical immunity against Umber Arrow due to the lack of early-game creatures under 3 strength, as well as some of the best early-to-mid-game creatures in Overgrown Rhino and Avatar of Nature.
In the meantime, the most promising Nature deck is Amazon Nature (decklist). Arkmonian Onslaught, at 5 mana, activates a lot quicker than you'd expect for a massive tempo swing in Gods Unchained. *cough* and people are also using Myrto's Daughter bug to give herself +4/+3 *cough* *cough* ;).
Animal Bond also appears to perform very well against Undying Wish, since being able to generate cheap tokens helps mitigate Death's board by at least ensuring you some tempo for each of your turns.
Animal Bond held a 62.5% winrate against Undying Wish, but that might just be a sample size anomaly.
Onslaught War's (decklist) prior dominance came about due to its ability to counter Aggro Nature and Control Magic, two of the most popular decks a few weeks ago.
Onslaught War's entire premise is keeping the board immaculately empty, like servers at fancy restaurants who clean up your table after every bite you take. Unfortunately for War, the meta has shifted towards Hidden creatures (Deception), creatures with Protected (Papal Bull), and creatures that spawn on Afterlife (Undying Wish). Or even no creatures to begin with (Discovery Magic).
As a result, this means Onslaught War takes a step back for now, but the Onslaught God Power is simply too good and too cheap to be phased out entirely. In other words, keep an Onslaught decklist in your back pocket just in case the meta ever shifts away from board stickiness.
Full List (make sure Ranked Constructed is selected). Only included players with greater than 20 games.
NameGodDeckHoejDeceptionControl[Mythic] Dr3adLightPapal Bull Zooz3llDeceptionTempoIhavesomecardsDeceptionControlbuchinatorWarOnslaught[Pulse] AldocMagicRuneGsysDeceptionControlVictorVonHomDeceptionTempoGynijkeWarOnslaughtsingsongDeathUndying Wish Zoo
Shout out to gudecks.com for providing a rank filter on its Ranked Constructed stats, which was invaluable for this report.
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