Mythic player and community contributor, Saints, breaks down the most effective decks and strategies currently being used in PVP.
Fewer bombshell balance patches and more access to cards (thanks to the Marketplace) are leading to a more stabilized meta.
As of now, Control Magic remains supreme, while Death Zoo shows no signs of slowing down. Control Deception took a noticeable hit in last week’s balance patch, but is still versatile enough to counter most decks.
War’s Onslaught identity is beginning to lose its luster, but War fans can still run Slayer War. Light is showing some momentary flashes of brilliance with multiple variants. Nature is gaining a bit more popularity as players explore different Midrange options.
Since I started writing these meta reports months ago, there had never been a point at which each of the six Gods saw greater than 10% usage, especially at the Mythic level (data courtesy of gudecks.com).
The variety this weekend was refreshing to see compared to previous metas where there had always been at least 1 or 2 ugly ducklings. In recent memory, Nature and Light were both noticeably underplayed, so what changed?
The meta after the Core reset has been dominated by three decks: Control Magic, Control Deception, and Death Zoo. While that didn’t change this past weekend, creative deck builders have been searching for unique ways to counter that meta, which we’ll go over in their respective God sections below.
This type of experimentation is a relief because deck building has been sandwiched lately. In the current Death Zoo and Control Magic meta, your deck must answer two questions:
- Can you survive against Death Zoo aggression?
- Can you win before Control Magic activates their Avatar of Magic + discount spell OTK (one turn kill) combo?
Zoo has been a top-tier deck for a while, so while players got used to that, it’s Control Magic that really hamstrings deck building at the moment. It effectively means that you can’t create other Control decks if they can’t prevent the Avatar of Magic OTK and your only choice is to play faster or play Deception and try to steal the Avatar of Magic herself with Cutthroat Insight or Charm.
Reading between the lines, the only way to beat Avatar of Magic is to ensure it never gets played. This typically means you should try to win before your Magic opponent gets to 9 mana. But since you need to survive against Aggro as well, it turns out that the best deck to play at the moment is Aggro itself. You’ll win 50% of your games against other Aggro decks on average while having an advantage over Magic and most other decks.
While I think OTK combos are fine to include in the game, it’s Magic’s extensive board clear, removal, and mana ramp arsenal that really ties everything together. While 9 mana takes a long time to reach, Magic’s ability to survive is unparalleled compared to other Control decks.
I’m confident that Control Magic’s oppression won’t last forever, either due to balance changes that directly nerf Magic, or simply because there are only 2,403 copies of Avatar of Magic in existence (buy one while you can!), but until then, deck design will be limited to Aggro and Midrange options.
Based on the screenshot above, Death was not only the most popular God, but it also had the highest win rate over the weekend. Death Zoo, using Undying Wish or Soulburn, is and continues to be one of the best decks in the game, especially as the meta gets more varied and has its attention set on countering Magic.
Simply put, as an Aggro variant, Death has the best of both worlds because it performs so well against slower decks while also not being at an innate disadvantage in the mirror. So while the deck isn’t nearly as oppressive as it was 4 nerfs ago, it’s still a top-tier deck in the current meta.
There isn’t a single, precise list for Death Zoo, most players have different variants (possibly due to different Core collections). Some considerations to make include whether or not to include Singsong Satyr, Dreaming Sceptre, Daemonic Offering, and others.
Death can be frustrating to lose against, but it’s a surefire way to not only climb the ladder, compete for rewards in Ranked Constructed, but also remain competitive in the meta. Few other decks provide this many advantages.
Deception was hit directly by the nerf stick last week. Cutthroat Insight no longer works on Gods with Ward (which is only accessible to Magic at the moment other than edge cases like getting a Guardian of the Gates via Amplification Machine) and Svart Basilisk was changed to counter the Memory Charm + Anti-Magic Expert/Charm combo.
Despite that, Deception still had one of the best win rates. Deception specifically performed overwhelmingly well against Light, Nature, and War decks while having disadvantages against Zoo and Magic. And I assume once Umber Arrow gets reintroduced to the game, that slight disadvantage to Death might get flipped around. In the end, having only one poor matchup is a luxury in Gods Unchained.
Light’s resurgence in popularity comes from its historic role as a Magic-stopper. Light’s card choices contain a lot of Protected and/or Ward cards that stick around better against Magic’s board clears.
More importantly, Chosen Visions allows Light to generate huge threats. When the Chosen One is a warded creature like Highborn Knight or Helian Blademaster, the game tends to snowball as Magic has few answers for high health creatures (and Chosen Visions can be tapped to buff the Chosen One even after it’s played).
Even Ratify isn’t a good, long-term answer since Light can keep generating more Chosen Ones.
And this isn’t just wishful thinking—Tondy was able to make it to the top ranks with his Midrange Light creation in the middle of the weekend, proving there’s some real potential with this deck.
Some players have also started playing a Control Light decklist which thrives on infinite value with combos like Radiant Embalmer + Jason, Medea’s Muse and Canonize + Osiris, the Eternal. While these decks might suffer against the current Magic meta, the concept is deceptively powerful and being able to generate infinite late-game value might make a major impact on the meta one day. For now, the clear representative for Light Decks are the Midrange variants.
Like Deception, Magic thrives on having few weak matchups while having plenty of really, really good matchups. I’ve already discussed the Avatar of Magic problem of inevitability earlier, but it’s interesting to see some of the trends these decks have taken as of late.
They started as a Rune-oriented variant running Runes with Ocular Fiends and Morgana’s Grimoire, but lately some players have also opted for quick ramp-variants that try to get to 9 mana as soon as possible with Mana Toad, Sip of Elixir, and Guardian of the Gates.
If Magic hits 9 mana early enough, it doesn’t need Morgana (nor does it have enough time to fully activate it), it can simply reduce spell costs with cards like Warp Engineer and Arcane Transcendant to pull off the combo instead, skipping the need for Ocular Fiend as a mid-game stabilizer.
The other option available for those lucky enough to have him is to simply run Frey, Archmage of Selene and aggressively Foresee into setups where you can ensure Frey will reduce Avatar of Magic’s mana cost to 2, allowing you to pull off the OTK the very next turn even if you’re not at 9 mana yet.
Either way you cut it, it’s clear that Control Magic is one of those rare decks in the meta that are not only top-tier but also outright discourage entire categories of decks from being playable.
If there’s one thing Control Magic and Deception both struggle with, it’s high-statted creatures being played turn-after-turn. Control is pretty good at controlling the board, but at some point, resources need to be devoted to staying alive.
When the Nature player can consistently follow up with more threats such as another Rhino, Avatar of Nature, or Green Giant, it forces Magic to over-defend, preventing them from taking value turns like opting for a greedy Runestorm.
As a result, deck builders have been experimenting with Midrange Nature decks. The most popular includes Amazon Nature, which has impressive burst damage potential with cards like Arkmonian Onslaught and Penthesilean Warrior.
Nature becoming more popular is a great sign for the game and hopefully these Midrange experiments lead to a more diverse meta over time.
Control War remains popular, especially at lower ranks, but the ship is starting to sail for its time as a top-tier Mythic-level deck. It famously suffers against the Big 3: Control Magic, Control Deception, and Zoo, which puts it in a really tough spot. It has an easy time against most other decks, but being at a disadvantage against the three best archetypes makes it frustrating to play.
Like in the past, Onslaught War will need to patiently wait for the right meta for its time to shine again.
The clear War frontrunner for War is Slayer War, an aggro variant that relies on incredible burst damage from Scythes of Harvest and spells like Whetstone and Sharpen, often combining for up to 15-20 damage in a turn for quick wins.
Slayer War can be a surprise wild card in the meta, but it also depends on how many frontlines and relic hate is run in the meta at any time. Overall I would say the presence of another Aggro deck in the meta (besides Death Zoo) is fairly healthy for the game.
The meta is definitely stabilizing around a few archetypes while experiments are being made to find consistent enough counters. I don’t anticipate things changing much, especially as the balance patches become less and less impactful. But that’s not a bad thing either, it’ll be nice to have some stability, especially before the new set arrives some time next year.
Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this, you can check out more of my Gods Unchained content by following me on Twitter at @saints_gu.
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