saints is back with his insightful Weekly Meta Report! 🙂
Read on to see a full analysis on the decks and strategies that dominated the Ranked Constructed leaderboards over the weekend.
As always, I’ll be mentioning balance changes that affected this weekend’s meta, so if you’re not caught up, be sure to check out the most recent balance changes for context.
As a result of weekly, progressive balance patches, the meta is in a fantastic spot, and each God has at least one competitive playstyle. In terms of archetypes, many decks appear to be playing Midrange or Control, but the most prominent Aggro deck, Death Zoo, had the spotlight this week.
The addition of new spells in the prior week was a game changer, but most notably, it elevated Discovery Magic to the strongest Control archetype in the game. While some decks, like Onslaught War, could adapt by tuning their decklists to be more end-game focused, others couldn’t.
The biggest casualty was Reanimate Death, which, prior to the new spells, was one of the most powerful Aggro decklists in the game. While it could generate significant value over time against creature-based decks, it couldn’t keep a board against seemingly infinite Magic board clearing spells (Deception’s Rapture Dance also gets a nod here as well).
What took its place was its cousin, the Death Zoo variant that runs Undying Wish instead. Besides being able to keep creatures on the board even after a board wipe, these decklists also run stat-boosters which help creatures survive Tracking Bolt and Crystal Rain clears to begin with.
Perhaps due to its sheer power or because it’s favored by those looking to grind for packs, Death Zoo was noticeably popular this weekend and forced slower decks to adjust as a result. This sort of enforcement is generally very welcome in a healthy meta, and just as there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, there must always be a viable Aggro deck as well.
So how about the balance changes? While it wasn’t a showstopper like the one we saw last week, the recent balance patch cemented Vinebound Jotun as a game changer and directly contributed to Control Nature’s rise in popularity.
Undying Wish Zoo (decklist) isn’t a newcomer to the meta. It’s been a quintessential Zoo deck since before Ranked Constructed, but what really pulls it ahead is the same Zoo core that had been popular when Flourish Nature dominated the scene three weeks ago. That weekend, Tondy rocketed to first place and many players followed his decklist to great success. The Undying Wish decklist is simply residue from that week.
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.
So if you played three weeks ago and you’re feeling a bit of déjà vu, it’s not just you. The moral of the story is, stat-buffing mixed with cheap creatures with the right God Power tends to be very strong in this game. As long as this holds true, Aggro will always have a presence in the meta.
While Death Zoo was very popular this weekend and held the #1 and #2 spots on the leaderboard, its dominance feels different from the oppression we’ve seen in the past by other stand-out decks. Death Zoo’s game is straightforward, and as a result, there are known counters to it, most notably in Deception and Control Nature.
Prior to getting access to Rapture Dance, Deception used to struggle against the old Flourish Nature and Reanimate Death Aggro meta. Its primary role was countering Control (mainly Magic) decks.
Nowadays, Control Deception (decklist) uniquely counters Control and Undying Wish Aggro. The difference is that Umber Arrow’s value increases tremendously when you steal an Undying Wished mob.
Rapture Dance is also a fail-safe, provided you can safely make it to mana 6. Both of these factors mean the Death player needs to build their boards with great consideration to play around both cards. Since its entire identity is building a wide board and buffing it with Singsong Satyr, it’s engaged in a weird game of chicken.
The only way for Death to win is to build a wide board, but by building a wide board, you open yourself up to vulnerabilities against Deception’s spells.
Where Deception really seems to struggle is against Midrange. Deception is fragile, lacks any sort of God-based healing, doesn’t run enough frontlines to stop relics hitting them in the face, and ultimately only has two significant types of removals: Deadly via Uncanny Rogue, which requires a board, and Slip Blade, which forces you to take more damage.
What’s helping Deception get over the hump is Memory Charm. Cheat is no longer the go-to God Power, Flip isn’t incredibly necessary against Control if you already run enough card advantage generators like Cutthroat Insight and Vault Vagabond, but Memory Charm has a lot of utility for a relatively cheap mana cost.
Memory Charm allows you to trade up more efficiently (especially with the tokens generated by Mugging and Viking Bloodguard), stall an opponent’s large threat until you can create an answer, it even has a lot of synergy with Umber Arrow scenarios, opening you up to trades that normally wouldn’t exist. I also like it a lot with Sleep Dart: If you don’t want to trade against a large threat, you can keep it slept each turn while the burn eats away at the creature’s health.
I’d like to see the popularity of Memory Charm lead into more sleep-based mechanics, such as combo-ing with Darkdream Hex and Nightmare. I think the only thing stopping it is that Deception can already play Control without investing in removals and late-game frontlines like typical Control archetypes. In fact, most of the Control Deception decklists tend not to run many cards over 6 mana, choosing instead to have more early game creatures. This allows Deception to compete on the board against Aggro while also allowing it to rush opposing Control decks if given a fortunate enough setup. Control Deception instead forges its own end-game through card steal/copy.
Overall, Deception’s in a decent spot, it counters many decks in the meta like certain Onslaught War decklists, almost every Control deck, and Undying Wish Zoo, but it has some inconsistencies that prevent it from being a powerhouse: It’s somewhat reliant on getting lucky with Cutthroat Insight and Vault Vagabond value, it’s extremely fragile so protecting God health is a bigger concern, but many of its plays are distinctly off-tempo, like playing Lightfoot Informant, Shady Merchant, Vault Vagabond, or Cutthroat Insight when your opponent can play even beefier creatures their next turn. As a result, Deception is one of the harder Gods to play, but in the right meta, can also be the strongest.
We’re beginning to see the reintroduction of Light into the competitive landscape; it’s starting to feel like where War was prior to the Onslaught meta, when I mentioned War was only a couple pieces away from being truly competitive.
To be clear, Light is still the least popular God by a noticeable margin, but it’s beginning to figure out its identity. First, the bad parts:
While Imperious Smite is very, very good, Purification Filter leaves a lot to be desired. I almost think Purification Filter should’ve been given to Deception instead to deal with its issues against Midrange boards, while Rapture Dance feels like a Light thing due to its identity to try and build cheap, wide boards.
Purification Filter is conditional and can hurt your own creatures, devaluing it a lot. While there is a lot of synergy in the 2-strength Light identity, it’s kind of an awkward identity because it’s noticeably weak against early game creatures with 3 health.
Inquisitor’s Summons was redesigned to help Light get back in the game if they lose board, especially against Zoo. But Summons is reactionary and allows the opponent to decide how they should clear your Acolytes. Chances are, if you’re behind on board and play Inquisitor’s Summons, you’re probably still behind your next turn as well. And if your opponent isn’t playing Zoo, then Inquisitor’s Summons becomes fairly weak to outright unplayable.
Now the good:
Few decks in the current meta are equipped to deal with super-wide protected or frontline boards created by Zealous March or Alexis, Archon’s Sword, especially over and over thanks to Radiant Embalmer value.
I initially started playing Control Light at Mythic level (decklist) as a counter to Onslaught War and Control Nature, and since decks are (rightfully so) tuned to deal with late-game bombs by running Deadly and single-target removals, they often lack the resources to deal with wide boards out of nowhere.
This is generally a terrible win condition against Magic, but the Chosen Visions God Power is a flex option that allows you to counter board-clear-heavy Magic decks, since those decks normally allow you a lot of free turns to tap your God Power to buff up your Chosen One. And, after all, they may have 8 board clears but they only have two Ratifies.
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 thresholds, 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).
So Light is nearly there, and if Inquisitors Summons been reworked to be a tad bit more powerful (i.e. like a classic board clear instead) or if Purification Filter didn’t have so many downsides, then maybe Light wouldn’t been more represented in competitive play, especially as a Control variant.
The usual Control Magic (decklist) decks have been a mainstay in the meta, but its counters are becoming more and more apparent with each week. Discovery is easily the highest-value God Powers in the game, especially when used in conjunction with value-generating cards like Runestorm and Recursion, not to mention the seemingly infinite board clears and direct-damage spells available to Magic.
Even against Control Deception, Control Magic can act as the aggressor and try to burn down their opponent by using Discover to recycle spells like Wyrmbreath.
Luckily, Undying Wish Zoo and Onslaught War’s popularity meant Magic wouldn’t be dominant this weekend, but that doesn’t mean Magic is obsolete. It’s still one of the best decks to have against anything that isn’t built to directly counter it and has a favorable winrate in most Control mirror matchups.
In these reports, I’ve often mentioned how the meta has adapted to the big frontline archetype that Control Magic likes to play and that there are more options with the amount of tools Magic is given. One such result is hello’s Midrange Atlantean Magic (decklist).
Phase Touched Golem is already gaining popularity due to its regenerative Ward and the recently buffed Boost Walker is a Traveling Bard on steroids. This generally allows Atlantean Magic to easily compete for board early on. Magic’s spells allow them to keep board control or deal direct damage to the opponent’s God. If enough damage is dealt, Discovery to reacquire direct damage spells usually puts the opponent on a clock.
As the only God with direct damage spells and multiple, versatile board clears, Magic has the most room to develop into new archetypes and I’m excited for its potential moving forward.
In my last post I mentioned that Control Nature (decklist) could be a counter to Onslaught War, but that there were probably better options. I was wrong, Control Nature is the premier counter to Onslaught War.
What I hadn’t taken into account was the effect that Overkill had. While Onslaught War could deal with Vinebound Jotun with ease, it translated into getting direct damage back to other creatures or your God. In short, Blitzing a Harvest Arachne into Vinebound Jotun meant you would take 6 damage back to your God pre-buff. Post-buff, it’s now 8. In short, Vinebound Jotun is a soft board clear, direct damage, and a must-answer threat in one — Magic players would salivate at the thought of having access to the Jotun in their own decks.
The buff to Vinebound Jotun definitely increased Control Nature’s popularity. Vinebound Jotun was already somewhat of a game ender, but the recent balance patch gave it a total of six additional stat points!
Overkill via Vinebound Jotun and Rampaging Leviathan, along with Control Nature’s ability to heal and generate (random) cards, allows the deck to comfortably play into the late game against Onslaught War as well as direct-damage Magic combo decks. Vine Armour, Wildfire, Staff of Roots, and The Hunt give Nature tools to deal with Aggro as well.
Where Control Nature seems weakest is against other Control. Nature’s single-target removals are unreliable and dealing with late-game bombs like Echophon can be impossible to deal in certain situations for Control Nature.
While we probably won’t be seeing the old Flourish Nature Zoo dominate the meta anytime soon, there are some advancements made in the non-Control departments for Nature. Ayo was successful with his Amazon Nature deck (decklist) and Hoej experimented with a Midrange variant (decklist) that relies on Nature, Overgrown setting up ridiculously powerful boards after mana 7.
Onslaught War’s (decklist) versatility continues to give War a significant presence in the competitive landscape. Individual decklists constantly adjust with the meta, but the core of it remains the same: Use Onslaught to control board and force either mana-efficient or 2-for-1 trades.
Recent iterations appear to make more use of frontline, which gives it more survivability against Aggro, still forces eventual 2-for-1 trades, and generally plays better against slower decks. The inclusion of some late-game weapons like Bast’s Claws and Ares’ Runeblade provide an aggressive win condition as well.
Unfortunately for the rest of War, there aren’t many other options. The new spells indicated Slayer War could function as a Control archetype, but in practice, War simply lacks the cheap board clears necessary to deal with Zoo. Instead, it’s finding more success with using Onslaught as its board control mechanic.
Full List (make sure Ranked Constructed is selected). Only included players with greater than 20 games.
|Yorku||War, Death||Onslaught, Zoo|
|Femto, the Chosen||Magic, Death||Control, Zoo|
|Hoej||Deception, Nature||Control, Midrange|
|Fastexe||Deception||Memory Charm Aggro|
|[Mythic] Dragonstorm||Nature, War||Control, Onslaught|
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