Category Archives: Primer

Overwatch Agent D.Va!

Good Morning Readers!

We’re back, two weeks in a row and we’re keeping this train a-rollin’. As I previously mentioned, I’ve been spending most of my time in Overwatch. I played a ton during the beta, and then decided to buy it when the game was released. It’s a ton of fun, it has a ton of potential, and I really think it will only continue to improve as Blizzard finds what direction they want to take the game in.

When I first started playing, knowing I am absolute garbage at FPS’, I decided to keep it simple and just play some one who wasn’t very mechanically complex like Tracer or Genji. I stuck to Reaper due to his power, bit a bulk, and the ability to heal as you eliminated people. His teleport and temporary invulnerability also give him mobility and a fail safe if you get in a sticky situation. The two biggest problems I encountered with Reaper were his inability to be played in every game type, and the fact that everyone wants to play a damage dealer. Reaper always seems to be great on attack, and not nearly so much for me on defense. Of course he CAN be played every game, but I often felt that he just wasn’t as optimal as other picks.

Which also leads to the second issue of team comp. More often than not I find most teams lack Tanks and Healers. I haven’t followed competitive as much as I would like, but I’ve done seem reading. The general consensus seems to be a balanced team comp of two damage dealers, 2 tanks, and two support are generally a good starting point. More times than I can count we’ll have 1 healer OR Tank, not even both, and a bunch of people trying to be the hero.

Wanting to actually contribute to winning, and find a hero I could play in most situations, lead me to a couple of choices. Mei always seems to be good at whatever she was trying to do. Reinhardt is actually close to being one of the best heroes in the game. Winston and Road Hog both have great advantages as well. After trying a bunch of different heroes, I couldn’t play any of them except for Road Hog. While I enjoy playing Hog, he is a much more offensive tank, with the ability to heal himself, and peel but he can’t block like Reinhardt can.

Finally I settled on D.Va. I had tried her in Beta, didn’t really get her, and decided to give it another go. I very quickly went from Reaper being my most played characters at around 9 hour, to D.Va going from 0 to 15 hours of game time. This was also right around the time of her buffs. I started to learn to play her before the buff, and I only got better once the buffs were in place. Since picking her up, I was able to start climbing a bit in ranked. I quite often feel like i can carry, especially with good heal support keeping me alive. For a tank, it’s not uncommon for me to have the gold medal in damage. She can shield incoming fire and entire ults for your team. Her ultimate can clear or help you objectives. She does it all.

First thing’s first, her auto attack never needs to be reloaded. When not tanking you can constantly pepper the enemies to whittle them down. While the range on the guns is short, you are the tank so you’re going to be mixing it up with the enemies. You will almost always be close enough to rain a constant stream of damage onto the opposing team, especially in choke points like King’s Row.

Her shield will block almost every projectile and ranged auto in the game outside of Zarya’s, Symmetra’s and Winston’s lasers. The shield can be held up for 4 second straight before it needs to recharge. When you aren’t using the shield, it recharges over time. Proper management is key. You don’t want to blow the Defense Matrix when you don’t need  it and not have it for when you do. Timed right, you eat an entire Phara ult, McCree High Noon, 90% of a Whole Hog, or stand between a Reaper ult and your squishies.

These two “attacks” in conjunction with each other allow you to get in the fight, harass and chip down the enemies, weave your shield in between attacking to absorb the heavy blows like Soldier 76’s helix rockets, then go right back to attacking while they are reloading; giving your shield time to recharge. Add a solid healer to the mix, (looking at you Matt, Machine Gun Monk) and you are hard pressed to ever take too much damage.

D.Va’s shift is similar to Solider’s sprint, but in my opinion, much better. Upon activation, D.Va will rocket boost straight ahead for a few seconds or until canceled with your attack button. You have the ability to turn while you are using it, which allows you to charge in or out of combat if you get in a bad spot. The big different between this and Soldier sprint is D.Va’s ability to fly with the boosters. You actually leave the ground when you use it, so you can reach high ledges, or fly over gaps. This makes closing distance on a hard to reach Widowmaker, Hanzo or Phara much easier. When you make contact with someone while boosting, they will actually be knocked back and damaged. That means timed correctly, and in the right direction, you can knock people off the map for an easy kill. Just be careful not to fly off the map yourself. You can also use it to knock people away from your squishies for a little bit of peel. The dealt damage is not insignificant, so I routinely finish off fleeing enemies by running them over.

Lastly you have your Ultimate. D.Va self-destructs her Mech and jumps from the suit. After a 3 second delay, the suit will detonate killing anyone in Line of Sight. It deals enough damage to kill almost every champion in the game in one shot. Even the tankiest characters do not want to stand near when this goes off. Now, while powerful, all your opponents need to do is hide behind a corner. As soon as they are out of LoS, they are safe from the blast. So our job is use this when they are grouped up, least expecting it and do not have time to escape. A well timed self-destruct will easily net 4-6 kills. I have yet to get a solo team kill, but I’ve gotten plenty of Quadra Kills. The key is using the Booster in conjunction with the Ult.

Once your Ultimate is ready, you want to booster your mech in an angled position to fly the Mech off the ground and towards the opposing team. Once flying, pop the ulti, D.Va will jump out and watch her Mech soar through the sky. After reaching maximum distance the Mech will drop out of the sky and onto the opposing team, hopefully not giving them enough time to escape. Good Bye, Enemy Team.

There are tons of really neat tricks you can do, like jump the Mech over walls and starting your boosters far away from the fight. You can try to flank the team after a death and cut off any escape route the may have.  This way, they never see it coming.

It’s also worth noting that because of the Mecha, D.Va essentially has two lives. Once you take enough damage to die, the Mech is destroyed and D.Va jumps out. You don’t immediately die. You then have much less life, no armor, and just a pistol to defend yourself. You are given a second Ulti which calls a new Mech for you to jump in. This ult charges much faster than normal ulti and can be filled faster by dealing damage with the pistol. The damage is not weak either. Don’t be afraid to keep fighting while you are out of the suit to get it back faster and to keep the damage going. You’ve got long range on your pistol, keep the fight up by backing out of direct line of fire.

You just want to avoid being focused while you are out of the suit because you WILL die. You cannot take any hits. If you can stay alive to call back the Mech, you get a second life again and can keep the cycle going. You can chain these “lives” back to back and it makes D.Va a very difficult hero to kill.

All of these things combine make D.Va a great pusher, defender and attacker. I have been able to make her fit and work in all game types and she fills a much needed role in MOST of the games I play.

General Tips:

Again, you are the Tank. You want to get in, soak damage, have faith in you healers and really disrupt the enemy team. On big pushes or ultimates, be sure to have your Defense Matrix ready. Your team can fire on the enemy while you protect them from almost all incoming damage. Since D.Va always does a surprising amount of damage, disruption can be in the form of shooting the enemy and making them move, along side shielding to block their assaults. It’s all about being able to shift gears quickly.

When you’re close to winning the game either by making a final push with the payload or preventing a final push from the enemy team, save your ult! If you need to keep the enemies off the payload, you can ult right on top of it. They will have to run which will either get you the last few feet you need, or they will all die, and you’ll get the last push you need. Same thing goes for defending. They can’t push the payload if they are dead or running away. Don’t be scared to save your ulti for these last second scenarios when you see the game in coming to an end. Don’t fire off your ulti blindly if you may need it a minute later.

When calling back your Mech, try not to do it in front of the enemy team. If you’re taking lots of fire, you’ll pop right back out of the suit when the animation is done. You’re a sitting duck until the animation is over.

If you have Self-Destruct, and are about to lose the Mech, there’s a time frame of roughly 1 second where you can ult while the Mech is being destroyed. This can be good in times where you don’t have time to re-call the suit THEN Self-Destruct . Just press Q as you’re about to eject and then fight like hell.

When you re-call your Mecha, you start with full life again. This can be key if you are down to only 10-20 life outside of the suit. By calling in a new Mecha, you start off fully healed, so just keep surviving and dealing damage and you’ll back to tanking in no time.

Nerfs:

Blizzard just released notes on the PTR about the next round of nerfs. D.Va is on there. The good news is they are just adjusting her shield recharge time. It’s going from 0.5 second to one full second. Meaning when you lower your shields, it takes 1 second to start recharging instead of 0.5 seconds. This is not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I believe that what this does is make her shield use more reasonable. As it stands, the up-time on the shield is nuts. It’s very powerful. In addition to being more balanced, it’s going to force us D.Va players to really work on managing the shield more accurately. I think this raises the skill ceiling and rewards the better D.Va players. You just have to be hyper aware of your gauge and know it’s going to take a bit longer to get the recharge going.

Once the full patch notes are official, we’ll go over everything and see where that places all the heroes. There are also changes to the way rankings are going to work, which is nice. Since the season just ended, i’m looking forward to doing my placement matches for season 2. I think I’ve already improved leaps and bounds from when I started playing this game. I will definitely be streaming my placements and ranked games. Ill be sure to give heads up on Twitter and the Facebook page on when streaming is happening. In the mean time, i’m going to keep practicing Tanks so I have several to choose from. Reinhardt is next on the list.

Nuzlocke Update:

Ok, so far, so good. I didn’t start the challenge until I was able to buy pokeballs, so I quickly rushed through the beginning, got my Pikachu, pokedex, and pokeballs. I started by heading back to Route 1, and encountered a lvl 5 Pidgey. Bingo. Pikachu’s Thunderbolt couldn’t knock it out in one shot, luckily, and I had my first pokemon. I ran to Route 22, but was careful not to engage Gary and luckily found a Male Nidoran, which would be key in the future. This was the coolest find and a pokemon I’ve never used before. I am excited to get a Nidoking in the future. I moved onto Route 2 and the Viridian forest, counting them as separate zones. I caught a Rattata and a Caterpie, respectively. Finally pressing through to Pewter City, I made this my base of operations. I could train my guys just outside the city and get their levels up to try and beat Brock. Once my Pikachu was lvl 11, my Nidoran was lvl 12, and my Caterpie (which evolved) was lvl 9, I felt I was ready. Nidoran picked up Double Kick at lvl 12, which makes fighting Rock types a breeze. Brock was no more, and I readied myself to move on Mt. Moon and Misty.

I think the key is going to be having tons and tons of potions to make it through long stretches without a pokecenter. My pre-teen memory served me well, and there’s was pokecenter on Route 3 outside of Mt. Moon. I ended up running into a Mankey on the first shot. I really don’t remember the pokemon being THIS cool early on in RBY, but I’m not complaining. I trained up the team to the mid teens, aimed for lvl 15 each. After fighting tons of Spearow, and even a couple of Sandshrew, I realized how lucky I was to get a Mankey. Having a fighting type will be huge. I’m really only using the Butterfree, Nidoran, Pikachu and Mankey because I don’t want to use a normal type rat, and I’m not sure a flyer is needed right this second. I’m going to keep them as reserves if i get introuble and Trani them up if need be. I decided to step into Mt. Moon to catch my guy, and lo and behold, instead of a crappy Zubat which was almost guaranteed, I found a Geodude. I wish I had a way to stream my Nuzlocke run, because my team so far is almost unbelievable. You’ll just have to trust I will be playing the game with the utmost integrity and documenting everything.

After taking the Mankey and the Geodude back to Route 3 to train, I got them a little higher and decided to go through Mt. Moon. I have Pikachu to kill flyers, Nidoran with normal and fighting moves for a lot of coverage, Butterfree with Confusion to kill fighting and poison types, plus sleep powder for catching and utility, Manky for pure fighting, and Geodude who currently only has tackle will act as a wall until i can get some rock and/or ground moves. I tried to fight as many of the trainers as possible to explore more of Mt. Moon even though I can STILL remember the fast way through the mountain. Funny how memory works.

I had plenty of potions to keep the team healed, I fought the Maniac and took the Dome fossil. I’m pretty sure Kabuto is better than Ominite but I guess we’ll find out after the run is complete. My Nidoran Evolved into a Nidorino, and I made it to Cerulean City after defeating Team Rocket. I went back and caught a Spearow just before the City for another reserve poke. I healed up at the pokecenter, went to fight Gary who was also a breeze since I was ready for it, then called it there for now.

I just have to hope I don’t rush too quickly, keep my guys all topped off, and be ready for those long stretches without access to a pokecenter. So I’m on track to have an absolutely insane run. I think so far with this team I can go the distance. I’d like a fire type and a bulky water type, but other than that, my team isn’t full of useless guys and I’ve already got two poke in reserve.

Recap:
Lvl 16 Pikachu
Lvl 17 Nidorino
Lvl 13 Mankey
Lvl 12 Geodude
Lvl 16 Butterfree
Lvl 7 Pidgey

Reserve:
Lvl 3 Rattata
Lvl 8 Spearow

Brock has been defeated, I am in Cerulean City, and no poke-deaths yet.

Thanks for reading! You can email me comments and questions at ModernGentlemenGaming@gmail.com. Click “Follow” over on the right side to follow the blog and never miss an update! Be sure to follow me on Twitter @TheGreat_Andini for stream times and posts. We also now have a Facebook Page! All blog posts will be pushed live over there:

https://www.facebook.com/ModernGentlemenGaming

Thanks again, and good luck!

Advertisements

Hearthstone: Hybrids and Data!

Welcome back everyone!

Today I need to talk a bit about Hearthstone. I’m deep on the ladder with lot of time left in the season. This is the first time in a while that I’ve played a deck that feels like It has game against everything. I spoke a bit about the Mage decks, and I do believe Tempo is still very good. Face Hunter was the other deck that I’ve had a lot of success with. The biggest problem with Face (and aggro decks in general) is you can just stall out if you don’t kill them fast enough. The decks aren’t designed with staying power in mind. So the next logical choice is Hybrid Hunter:

Hybrid Hunter:

2 Web Spinner
2 Haunter Creeper
2 Mad Scientist
2 Ironbeak Owl
2 Knife Juggler
1 Piloted Shredded
2 Houndmaster
1 Sludge Blecher
2 Savanna Highmane
1 Dr. Boom
2 Animal Companion
2 Unleash the Hounds
1 Hunters Mark
1 Quick Shot
2 Kill Command
2 Eaglehorn Bow
1 Explosive Trap
2 Freeze Trap

The idea behind this deck is to utilize many of the same aggressive cards and burn spells for reach, but go a little bit bigger in your top end. This gives us the ability to make plays around turn 7 and 8 that aren’t “Leper Gnome, go.” This deck is still capable of aggressive starts, which is key to beating a lot of the top tier deck right now. A lot of the same theories apply for this deck that also apply for Face. You want to be aggressive, and kill your opponents as fast as possible, but now we get some larger threats that are far more resilient.

You can find the Face Primer [Here]

When mulliganing, you always want to look for Web Spinners, Haunter Creepers, Mad Scientists, and Knife Jugglers, I try not to keep Owls because you usually want them later in the game to deal with a Belcher or another problematic guy. I ONLY keep Animal Companion if I have the coin and can play it on turn 2, and I only keep Houndmaster if I have a Creeper, and then can Coin into turn 3 Houndmaster. In all other cases I am shipping cards away for my 1 and 2 drops.

Web spinner is insane as it is early beats, can be buffed by Houndmaster, and gives you a free “card” when it dies. This helps you keep pumping out the threats that can ALSO be pumped by Houndmaster, need be.

I was originally playing with 2 Shredders, but after realizing how many beasts I had, the Taunt from the second Houndmaster is invaluable. I have not had many instances where I could not buff a minion. Houndmaster does not tend to ever get stuck in your hand.

You will quite often want to save your Jugglers to play on turn 5 with Unleash the Hounds. Sometimes it’s worth trying to Coin out a Juggler on Turn 1, but it’s a pretty risky play. You’re generally better off waiting until you are sure you can get value.

I originally felt that the deck didn’t have enough reach and removal with JUST two Kill Commands, so I added a single Quick Shot. It’s a great early game removal spell, and and even better late game top deck since it can-trips.

Between Explosive Trap and Snake trap, there are many arguments for both. I’ve really like have Explosive Trap with all of the aggro deck running around, as well as the extra reach. Snake Trap plays better with Juggler and Houndmaster though. I would like to give Snake Trap a try at some point.  Freeze Traps take some time getting used to. You don’t want to keep bouncing their Defender of Argus or Heal Bots, so you need to make sure you eliminate recursive threats. Otherwise, the tempo Freeze provides is crazy.

Boom and Highmanes top out our curve. And allow us to drop late game bombs. The great part of these cards is they always leave behind more threats. Boom has his Bots and Highmane leaves 2, 2/2 Hyenas. So even if they bite the dust, you can still keep applying pressure without losing all of your tempo.

So, I’ve taken this deck from Rank 15 to 5 in about a week and roughly 170 games. Here’s the breakdown:

Overall Win percentage: 56%

Meta Break down: (% of matches played again this class / win rate)

Druid: 11% / 55%
Ramp – 11% / 55%

Hunter:  15% / 56%
Face – 8.3% / 50%
Hybrid – 6.4% / 63.6%

Mage: 16% / 66.6%
Freeze – 10.2% / 76.5%
Tempo – 3.4% / 66%
Mech – 2.3%/ 25%

Paladin: 12% / 40%
Aggro – 8.9% / 33.3%
Midrange – 2.9% / 60%

Priest: 3% / 40%
Midrange – 3% / 40%

Rogue: 5% / 50%
Oil – 5% / 50%

Shaman: 5% / 63%
Mech – 2.5% / 100%
Midrange – 2.5% / 25%

Warlock: 21% / 54.2%
Zoo – 11.3% / 73.6%
Hand – 7.7% / 30.7%
Demon – 1.8% / 33.3%

Warrior: 13% / 62%
Control – 5.4% / 77%
Combo -7.2% / 50%

So these stats are JUST from the games I’ve recorded. I was not always near my computer when I played, but my thinking is the games I missed probably followed these trends. We can see what our good and bad match ups are when we record out games like this. Then as we see trends in what people are playing we can adjust our deck lists accordingly. It’s a lot of work, and I hear there are programs out there available to make it easier (I’m an excel spread sheet kind of guy). So I highly suggest recording matches.

It’s very interesting how starkly different some match ups are. If you look at Shaman, we’ve crushed Mech every time, but we struggle against Midrange. Against Zoo-Lock, we have an incredible win rate, but against Hand-Lock we get slaughtered. This is exactly the information we need to know how we should be playing out our matches.

Now I only have anywhere between 10-30 matches per class, so much more data will be needed. As of this writing I am still recording games, so I will have to do an update if I hit legend. Plus I fully intend to keep playing this deck next season, so there will updates to come regardless.  My Teammate Matt was telling me about a video he watched by a pro player, where it was stated that you need a 58% win rate overall in order to hit legend. As long as you play enough, if you’re winning 58% of your matches, you CAN hit legend. When I got to 150 games recorded, I was at 58%. As you can see I’ve fallen a bit. It’s very difficult to maintain. The reason 58% is so important is because you no longer get Bonus Starts at Rank 5 and lower. These bonus stars can seriously pad your win rate and help you get to 5. Rank 5 is where the real grind starts.

So I’m going to keep it up and push to legend. I am sometimes tempted to just go back to Facing people when I get discouraged, but I honestly believe Hybrid is better. It’s more flexible and has the tools to beat most decks.  I’m sure I will continue to make slight changes here and there based on the meta. That is just what’s required to be amongst the top players. I have a feeling it’s going to be close this season what with Otakon around the corner, but I’ll grind on anyway.

Speaking of Otakon, just a few updates; I will be presenting my panel on Saturday Morning at 9:00 am EST in Panel Room 3. If you are a fan of “Over the Garden Wall” or a fan of the blog here, PLEASE come watch! It’s going to be a blast and I would be honored to meet readers. I’m also helping with another panel on Friday at 8:45 pm EST. It’s dealing with morality and villains in “Avatar: The Legend of Kora.” Both should be a blast.

I might not have a huge update next Friday because I’ll be busy with the con, but I will try to get something up. Thanks again for reading. I hope you had as much fun scoping out this data as I had collecting it.

As always, feel free to email me with comments, questions and concerns. You can reach me at ModernGentlemenGaming@gmail.com.  Be sure to follow me on Twitter @TheGreat_Andini. Click “Follow” over on the right to follow the blog and never miss an update! Good luck everyone, and keep on grinding!

-Andy

Hearthstone: Burn it to the Ground!

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen!

Sorry about the late post today. There was a last minute change in your regularly scheduled article. With the new Hearthstone Ladder season starting just a few days ago, I’ve been back on the grind. Last time we talked I was playing a lot of Face Hunter. I’m still switching back and forth, but more recently I’ve been playing almost exclusively Mage. This class has several awesome builds (no, not Freeze) and they are a ton of fun to play. The key to successful Ladder climbing is to be flexible. You can do this one of two ways: Stick with one class, and alter your list as you move along the ladder, or switch decks and classes that have better match ups along the way depending on what you’re playing against.

Once I saw Flamewaker, and its true power I knew I wanted to stick with using the card.

14445

Tempo Mage:
1 Arcane Missiles
2 Mirror Image
2 Mana Wyrm
2 Flame Cannon
2 Frostbolt
2 Unstable Portal
2 Mad Scientist
2 Sorcerer’s Apprentice
2 Arcane Intellect
1 Counter Spell
1 Mirror Entity
2 Flamewaker
2 Fireball
1 Kezan Mystic
2 Azure Drake
1 Sylvana Windrunner
1 Emperor Thaurissan
1 Dr. Boom
1 Ragnaros, the Firelord

So there you have the list. I have tried several version of this list. I still don’t think I’ve found the best one. The basic idea behind the deck is to use lot of cheap cards that give us lots of value. Flamewaker dishes out huge damage, can clear boards, and gets better the more spells we play. There is a lot of synergy here, so lets take a look at all the cards individually.

Mana Wyrm: One of our major threats, he gets stronger for each spell we play. He’s got solid stats for a 1 drop, and benefits from the synergy of a spell heavy deck.

Mirror Image/Arcane Missiles: These are cards I’ve gone back and forth on 1 or 2. They are both really great against aggressive decks, and we need cheap Flamewaker enablers. I generally run a 2-1 split of Mirror Image and Arcane Missiles or vise versa. If you are running into less aggro then you’ll want less of these.

Flame Cannon: A cheap removal spell. We are generally able to keep the board pretty clear with all of our direct damage spells, so this one should generally hit the mark. Some list only run 1, i wouldn’t run less than 2. It’s too good for the price.

Sorcerer’s Apprentice: A tool to help make our spells cheaper, and set up big Flamewaker turns. Can also put some sizable damage on the enemy.

Arcane Intellect: Refills our hand with more cheap spells to keep fueling our Flamewakers.

Flamewaker: This is the key to our deck. All of our cheap spells make it so he is able to burn everything on our opponents side of the board.

Frostbolt/Fireball: These give us reach, as well as act as removal when we need them. We can easily finish someone off with Fireballs, or use them to take out huge threats.

Scientists/Secrets: These are the start of our value/tempo package. Obviously you never want to keep a secret in your opening hand. Scientist gives us a beater, or a blocker and fetches up a free secrets. Counterspell is great for locking an opponent of out a key spell at an important moment. It can protect out important creatures. Mirror Entity gives us tempo since it copies the minion our opponent plays and allows us to attack with it first. This helps us develop our board and get ahead.

Unstable Portal: For being a card that does “Random” things, I have never had this be bad. It’s yet another cheap spell, and it gives us a cheap minion. It can quite often be a great minion, but at the very least it helps add to our board presence.

Kezan Mystic: This girl is absolutely insane if you are facing lots of Hunters and Mages. Every time I play the card, I like it more and more. It’s another very swing-y tempo card. Plus getting your secrets stolen just feel so bad.

Azure Drake: Drake is card advantage, increases our spell damage and is decently sized. Great midrange threat.

Sylvanas Windrunner: More tempo. This gal is a big threat, but if they remove her , we steal a creature. sort of a “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t” kind of thing.

Ragnaros, the Firelord: Control finisher. Standard. Some lists don’t use him, other use Pyroblast. I’ve also seen Archmage Antonidas who I believe is way too slow. Ragnaros at least does something the turn he comes into play.

Emperor Thaurissan: He helps make our cheap spells cheaper. We can use him to set up huge turns with the Flamewaker.

Dr. Boom: Don’t really need to say anything about him. Another hay maker.

There are two ways to play with this deck. Depending on your opponents’ class/deck, you can slow the game down, and set up massive turns with 4+ spells to churn out insane amounts of damage the same turn you play the Flamewaker, or you can just play normal Mage, and get value out of Flamewaker where you can. Clearly, there are games where your opponent will be too fast to not do anything before turn 5+.  That’s OK! If that’s the case, you just play normally and allow your cards to naturally give you value to help you get ahead while protecting yourself.

It’s not uncommon with an Apprentice or Thaurissan activation to easily play 2-3 free or 1 mana spells in a turn. You can also do this the same turn you play the Flamewaker to make sure you get the triggers. This can require you to wait until later in the game but the pay off is real. If you ever manage to keep the Flamewaker alive for more than 1 turn, that’s when you can fire off a million spells with a full mana tray.

So, our goal is to keep the Flamewakers alive. In order to do this, don’t play him without being able to get at least one activation. It’s too risky. Wait until turn 5 or 6, if you have to, mulligan the Flamewakers away as they don’t normally help you in the early turns. Your Mana Wyrms have targets on their heads and will help you keep focus off the Flamewakers. If you have a couple Wyrms in your opening hand, you can quickly grow them into legitimate threats especially with back up from the Mirror Images.

For as often as slowing the game down can be helpful to pull off big turns, you also have the ability to have some very quick starts. Between Mana Wyrms and burn spells, can put your opponent on the back foot very quickly. If you do have a quick start, you can use any of your many large threats to end the game and clean up. Don’t be afraid to run out your Emperor, as even one activation can turn the tide of the game in your favor. If they don’t have a removal spell, then you can easily run away with the game. Force them to have the answer.

I thought about adding Clockwork Gnome to the deck, in order to have even more cheap spells, (spare parts) but I haven’t tried it yet as there aren’t too many things I’ve wanted to take out. Lowering the curve is a possibility if there is a ton of Aggro. Emperor could be redundant with the Apprentices but I don’t think so. If you aren’t facing a lot of Aggro, you’ll probably want a Flamestrike. It’s good to give you some staying power in the late game. Just keep in mind this deck can be flexible. Don’t be afraid to use your burn spells for removal if it furthers your goal of protecting the Flamewakers and putting more damage out in the long run.

This deck does have it’s weaknesses (like all decks), but everything can be adjusted to, For instance, I was absolutely thrashing Priests, Warriors and Handlocks, but having a hard time beating Zoolock, and Face Hunter. The minor adjustments mentioned above can help. All in all this deck is a blast to play. This morning I picked up another Mage deck that plays a bit more for the long game.

Based on Firestorm 3.0 by MarineKingHS
2 Mana Wyrm
2 Frost Bolt
2 Unstable Portal
2 Mad Scientist
1 Counter Spell
1 Duplicate
1 Mirror Entity
1 Vaporize
2 Flamewaker
1 Kirin Tor Mage
2 Fireball
1 Polymorph
1 Kezan Mystic
1 Piloted Shredder
2 Water Elemental
1 Antique Healbot
2 Azure Drake
1 Sludge Belcher
2 Flame Strike
1 Dr. Boom
1 Pyroblast

This deck goes a little bit bigger and plays a ton of one-ofs. By playing cards like Vaporize and Duplicate, we can throw our opponent off as it makes our secrets that much harder to guess. We also get more value out of out of our one-ofs with a nicely timed Duplicate. The core of the deck is the same, but with much less focus on Flamewaker. We still have a strong, tempo-oriented early game, but a much more powerful late game. By playing 2 Flamestrike we can fight through the midgame and make it to a game winning Pyroblast. A second Kirin Tor Mage may be needed since we play so many secrets. Every secret we play with the Scientist or the Kirin Tor is basically a free card. I am still messing around with the numbers. Dr. Boom alone may not be enough for late game threats. I’ve thought about playing Ragnaros along side him and Pyroblast. I am doing surprisingly well so far today with this deck (14-7). I’m sure my losses are mostly attributed to my lack of experience playing this deck, but I am still surprised  at some of the games I’ve won. I will continue to play this until it either is poorly positioned in the meta or I get bored.

Again, this deck is extraordinary flexible and can be tuned to different metas. Until I play it more, I cannot much more than this. Both of these decks are great if you are looking for fun, and still competitive decks to try. I would absolutely recommend both. Tempo can be tough to get used to but it’s a lot of fun.

Feel free to email me at ModernGentlemenGaming@gmail.com . Follow me on Twitter @TheGreatAndini. Click follow on the right and you’ll never miss an article! Thanks for reading and good luck on your ladder climb!

-Andy

Scapeshift Primer: A Surprising Top 8!

Good Morning Everyone!

Welcome back to Modern Gentlemen Gaming! Last weekend was GP Copenhagen, and there was yet again, quite the Top 8. I wanted to break down the entire top 8, but that’s going to have to wait for Monday. In the mean time, this seems like a good opportunity to repost the Scapeshift primer I did a while back. Let’s take a look at the Primer and then we’ll discuss the list that Top 8’d the GP.

——————————————————————————————————————-

I’ve been drawn to RUG for a long time, and Scapeshift gets to play many of the cards I love. It plays a “control” role and can have multiple angles of attack after side boarding. Since it IS a dedicated combo deck, sometimes you just get free wins. The combo is land based, which makes it difficult to interact with, and you (generally) only need to resolve one Scapeshift.

Image 1 Image 3

The goal of the deck is to get to seven lands in play as quickly as possible and resolve a Scapeshift. You sacrifice the 7 lands in play, fetch out 1 Valakut the Molten Pinnacle and 6 “Mountains”. All the lands and Mountains enter play simultaneously, which means each Mountain “sees” five others and places 6 Valakut triggers on the stack. When these triggers resolve, you’ll be able to do 18 points of damage directly to your opponent. Almost every single deck in modern runs Fetch/Shock lands, so by turn 4-5 your opponent will almost never be at 20+ life. Let’s take a look at and compare a couple of different Scapeshift Lists.

Jun Young Park’s Scapeshift:

Creatures(7)
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
3 Snapcaster Mage

Spells(29)
3 Cryptic Command
2 Electrolyze
3 Izzet Charm
4 Remand
2 Repeal
4 Scapeshift
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Serum Visions
3 Telling Time

Lands(24)
1 Breeding Pool
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Flooded Grove
3 Forest
1 Halimar Depths
3 Island
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Mountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Stomping Ground
2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Park won GP Minnesota with this list, which more or less established, and revived the archetype. There are a few things that need to be said about the core before we dive into decks specifics. Obviously, we are running four of the name sake card. Next, we want to run 4 of the best mana ramp cards we can get. Sarkura-Tribe Elder works like a Farseek, in that it allows us to fetch up and basic we need. Search for Tomorrow can be suspended on Turn 1 or cast for 3 mana. The up side of Search for Tomorrow is the basic land we search for comes into play untapped. The deck has some strict mana requirements in Double Green for Scapeshift and Triple Blue in Cryptic Command so the ramp effects will help us cast our spells appropriately. This deck is also running a lot more basics and shocks than most modern lists. This is due to the requirements of Valakut. We need enough “Mountains” to trigger the effect, so we use all shocks that count as Mountains in Steam Vents and Stomping Grounds. The number of basics we run also helps make our list “Blood Moon Proof.”

The next thing you’ll notice about Park’s list is the amount of Cycling he has. Every spell in the deck, besides creatures, Scapeshift, and Search for Tomorrow, all can-trip. In my opinion, this list is the “All In” version of the deck. The goal is to sift through your library, finding counters and combo pieces as quickly as possible. Every spell gets you closer to Scapeshift and answers by drawing cards.

Repeal is a sweet piece of tech that acts as tempo, and helps remove a threat just long enough to combo. Telling Time draws us a card as well manipulates the top of our library. Both Remand, and Cryptic Command also accomplish the same goals. Of course, Snapcaster Mage ties it all together.

This list was Pre-Treasure Cruise Modern, so let’s take a look at a more recent list.

Jonathan Goldman’s Scapeshift:
Creatures(7)
1 Eternal Witness
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
2 Snapcaster Mage

Spells(28)
3 Cryptic Command
2 Electrolyze
3 Gifts Ungiven
2 Izzet Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Noxious Revival
4 Remand
1 Spell Snare
4 Scapeshift
4 Search for Tomorrow

Lands(25)
2 Forest
3 Island
2 Mountain
2 Breeding Pool
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Flooded Grove
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Steam Vents
4 Stomping Ground
2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

This list is running a SWEET Gifts Ungiven package. I really liked the idea of Gifts, so this was the deck I chose to run in testing. Goldman is also running 4 Lightning Bolt which gives us reach and more removal. This list appears to be more of a RUG control list as opposed to the all-in combo list of Park’s. He has less can-trips and more counters like Spell Snare to stop the omnipresent Goyf Menace. The Gifts Ungiven package is also pure card advantage. It is an instant speed “card draw/tutor” effect, so I was frequently casting it at the end of the opponents’ turns. With Eternal Witness, Noxious Revival, and Snapcaster we can create situations that make our opponent have to make difficult decisions.

So it goes like this… Gifts makes us find four cards with different names, present them to our opponent, and they choose two to put in our graveyard. If we already have our 7 land threshold, we cast Gifts at the end of their turn, and find Scapeshift, Snapcaster, Noxious Revival, and Remand. If they put Scapeshift in the graveyard, then they HAVE to put one of Snapcaster OR Noxious Revival in our hand, because they cannot put 3 cards in the graveyard. Either Snapcaster or Noxious revival will then allow us to “rebuy” the Scapeshift in the yard, with remand back up. They can put the Scapeshift and something else in our hand, but then we untap and can attempt to resolve and win. Gifts with E-wit and Revival put our opponents in situations where we will ALWAYS get to try and cast a Scapeshift some way. This is nice because we don’t have to rely on cycling through our deck; it gives us a way to just “tutor” for Scapeshift.

In all reality, while I was playing the deck, I never really liked grabbing Noxious Revival or Eternal Witness. I was almost always just casting Gifts for value because I already had a Scapeshift in hand. My piles were much more frequently like this: Snapcaster, Remand, Cryptic, and Izzet Charm (or Spell Snare or Bolt or even another Gifts, etc. etc.). I just quite often found myself in a position where I needed the ammo to force through a Scapeshift in my hand. This could be because I was playing against another blue deck, and this could change when playing against Junk/Jund or a creature based deck. More testing will be the answer, but I like the idea of keeping gifts and losing the E-Wit and Revival.

I felt that I also didn’t have quite enough can-trips. There is probably a balance between counters, Bolts, and can-trips that I need to find. Some number of Visions would be good, and I probably don’t want 4 bolts AND 2 Electrolyze. I liked Izzet Charm a lot because It was extra ammo for fighting counter wars, as well as a loot when I needed it.

I also had a very interesting line of thought while watching Matt think about tapping out for a spell. I was sitting there, (admittedly NOT focusing on what he was doing… because I’m bad at Magic) and thinking:

“Hmmm… looks like he’s tapping all his mana… I have a Snapcaster in hand, I might be able to get some free spells in… too bad I can’t Flashback that Scapeshift on his turn… Man, wouldn’t it be sweet if Scapeshift was an instant? That would be so busted… God these Goyfs are annoying… I can’t kill a bunch of 4/5s… I need Supreme Verdict HA HA… Quicken > Verdict was always funny… Holy hell… HOLY HELL… QUICKEN > SCAPESHIFT!!! LOLOL! YOU’RE DEAD!!!”

Image 5

So I sheepishly proposed the idea and we both decided that really it would only take one instant speed death by Scapeshift to scare your opponent into playing around it for the rest of his or her life. Plus, it can-trips for one blue mana, so it’s never dead. Just imagine the look on your opponent’s face if they tap out to play a threat at the end of your turn and, in response, you cast Quicken into Scapeshift. Even if they KNOW it’s coming, it will inhibit the spells they can cast, because they can never tap out. It looks a bit gimmicky on paper, but I really don’t believe this is a corner case scenario. All Quicken is, is a can-trip that opens up more opportunity to resolve Scapeshift, and I think that’s exactly what we’re looking for.

Moving forward I would update the deck thusly:

Andy’s Scapeshift:

Creatures(7)
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
3 Snapcaster Mage

Spells(26)
2 Electrolyze
3 Lightning Bolt
3 Cryptic Command
2 Izzet Charm
4 Remand
1 Spell Snare
4 Search for Tomorrow
2 Serum Visions
2 Gifts Ungiven
2 Quicken
4 Scapeshift

Lands(24)
2 Forest
3 Island
2 Mountain
1 Halimar Depths
1 Breeding Pool
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Flooded Grove
3 Misty Rainforest
4 Steam Vents
4 Stomping Ground
2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

So that’s what I’m going to try next. Here are some thoughts and analysis on game play. One of the first things to realize is we have serious inevitability. We have counter spells for days, so we’re essentially playing a RUG control deck. We have no requirement of combo-ing as quickly as possible. We can and should fight the long game if your opponent is playing blue. Now this doesn’t mean we CAN’T close it out quickly if we get an opening. Here’s a series of turns that shows the fastest we can cast Scapeshift.

T1: Green source > Suspend Search for Tomorrow (2 counter)
T2: Remove a Counter from Search > Land > Tribe Elder (Sac Elder before our Turn 3 > we have 3 Lands)
T3: Remove final Counter from Search, Resolve it and Get and Untapped Land > Land for Turn (We now have 5 Untapped Lands) > Play 2 more Elders or an Elder and a Search for Tomorrow for seven total Lands
T4: Cast and Resolve Scapeshift for 18 damage

Now clearly this is the perfect draw, but when you’re running 4 Scapeshift, 4 Elders and 4 Search for Tomorrow, there is a % chance of this happening. Also this is completely unimpeded. It is important to know how quickly we can get to seven lands though. Again, yes we are playing a control style deck, so speed generally won’t be our thing.

Some things to keep in mind: When you Scapeshift, once you put all 7 lands into play, all 6 of the Valakut triggers go on the stack. Valakut reads “If you control at least 5 OTHER mountains…” meaning if something were to happen to your 6th mountain and you were to only have 5 or less mountains when the trigger resolved, you wouldn’t get a single trigger and your opponent would take no damage. So you need to keep that in mind when your opponent is playing with Tectonic Edges or Fulminator Mages. Be sure to play around Land Destruction effects. You also don’t need 7 UNTAPPED lands to win, just 4 to cast Scapeshift and 7 in play to sacrifice to the spell.

Most of our game plan is to slow down and disrupt the opponent until we can combo, which all of our spells allow us to do effectively. Sakura-Tribe Elders are chump blocker against aggro decks. Lightning Bolt helps us stabilize, Remand Time Walks opponents, Cryptic taps down opposing armies, and Snapcaster allows us to cheaply rebuy all of the above. Each extra turn we get strengthens our inevitability.

If I don’t like Visions, I might try out Gitaxian Probe, as it will let us see when they way is clear to just win. I have a feeling Visions is just better though.

Lastly, let’s take a look at some common side board options:

Side Board:

Ancient Grudge: This guy is a cheap all-star that allows us to blow holes in affinity’s game plan. Plus it’s always a 2 for 1 in our favor with the flash back for a single Green. This also has plenty of uses for other decks that bring in artifacts like Grafdigger’s Cage or Relic of Progenitus.

Anger of the Gods: Just a beating against any type of small aggro decks. Zoo and, again, Affinity will be hard pressed to have high enough toughness to stop it. Since we’re running no creatures, this is a one sided wrath in some match ups.

Spellskite: Always a great utility creature. Great against Bogles, Twin, and Burn.

Batterskull:  We’re running lots of lands, so Batterskull is completely bounce-able in this deck. This will give as another resilient angle of attack and help against decks where we need life gain.

Engineered Explosives: Always a solid card in a deck with lots of land types. Hits many, many relevant threats at 1, 2 and, 3 charge counters.

Obstinate Baloth: Acts like Batterskull in that he’s great when we need life, but also function best against Liliana of the Veil decks (Junk, Jund and 8-Rack).

Vendilion Clique: Matt talked about the importance of this card on Monday, and almost all of the same things go for Scapeshift. It can act as a Probe to see if we’re clear to go for the win, or it’s just an efficient creature with evasion.

Primeval Titan: Some decks used to bring a pair of these bad boys when they knew their opponent did not have any removal. It will almost always be bigger than Goyf and can trample over anything dumb enough to get in its way. Same goes for Inferno Titan, which can do a ton of work. This could be a meta call.

**SOMETHING TO NOTE: Most decks will be taking out a large portion of their removal, so bringing in creatures can be a great way to catch them by surprise. You can also play mind games with people, and NOT board in creatures depending on the match up of course.**

Swan Song: This is a cheap counter that helps us win counter wars. We do not care about a 2/2 flier at all then we are fighting over a game winning Scapeshift. Let them have their bird!

Flash Freeze: Great in so many match ups. Hit’s Rhino, Bolts, Burn Spells, Twin. Seem great in the mirror match.

Molten Rain: Could be good in a color heavy meta or in the mirror. Definitely worth looking at. (Props to Matt for the “You can Quicken > Molten Rain an opposing mountain while triggers are on the stack!” Just brutal… Quicken is just looking more and more dangerous.)

Counterflux: We can always use a counter that can’t be countered. Helps against control in resolving the game winning card.

Kiora, the Crashing Wave: This is an interesting idea. We can play her turn 3, she can-trips, and ramps us. She can lock down a threat, giving us time to combo, also if she goes unchecked when the opponent is boarding out Bolts/ Removal then 9/9 Krakens will win the game.

Gigadrowse: This card is just the lulz. It’s a strange one, but it has a lot of use. It’s another stall type card, but it can also tax your opponents resources. If you EoT attempt to tap all their lands, they will either let it resolve, and you untap and win, OR then attempt to cast spells in response, tap all their mana, then you untap and win. It’s interesting.

——————————————————————————————————————-

So some notes, I used to play this deck a lot. I really enjoyed it. The reason I stopped was our Game 1s were usually very good, and then things got WAY harder in Games 2 and 3. This could reflect my side board choices or the way I built the deck. I Honestly did not test enough game 2s and 3s to try and find a solution to the problem. Next, I would absolutely go back to playing 4 main deck Lightning Bolt. I had taken it out expecting nothing but Junk match ups and clearly the meta has changed. Scapeshift has a very difficult time beating Infect, and Aggro type strategies, You will not beat these decks without Bolt. Third, With all of the Collected Company Running around, one of two things is possible, Anger of the Gods is SO GOOD against that deck, that we are able to compete against them, or their life gain and value engine is too much for us to over come. I stopped playing this deck long before CoCo was a thing, so I am not sure. Let’s take a look at the Top 8 Deck and see how this gentleman did.

Scapeshift by Steve Hatto

Creature (6)
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
2 Snapcaster Mage

Sorcery (10)
4 Scapeshift
4 Search for Tomorrow
1 Farseek
1 Pyroclasm

Instant (19)
4 Cryptic Command
4 Remand
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Peer Through Depths
2 Electrolyze
2 Izzet Charm
1 Repeal

Land (25)
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Flooded Grove
2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
2 Breeding Pool
2 Mountain
2 Forest
3 Island
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Stomping Ground
4 Steam Vents

Sideboard (15)
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Anger of the Gods
1 Back to Nature
1 Inferno Titan
1 Creeping Corrosion
1 Counterflux
1 Vendilion Clique
2 Negate
2 Thragtusk
3 Obstinate Baloth

So I like this list a lot. The maindeck Pyroclasm is probably a concession to CoCo and Elves, which is great as it gives us an even better shot against the deck we aren’t good against game 1, including Infect. There are 5 life gain creatures out of the board, which I think is pretty wild. He is also playing 1 main deck Farseek. This acts almost like a 5 STE. He is also not playing a single Serum Visions or Probe. Outside of those few things I mentioned, this list is pretty stock. People have been trying to play anticipate, but I believe Peer Through Depths is just better. It’s very possible this cantrip light version is the best way to go as then all of your spells are having as much impact as possible.

As much as I do not think this is the best deck, I have always enjoyed it and found it interesting. I am glad it had a good showing this past weekend. I am looking forward to taking an even deeper look into the Top 8 of GP Copenhagen on Monday. Be sure to come back and we’ll break it down.

If you have any questions or comments, you can email us at ModernGentlemenGaming@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @TheGreat_Andini. Feel free to hit “Follow” over on the right hand side and you will never miss an update! Thank you for reading, and good luck!

-Andy

Twin to Win: A Look Backwards and Forwards!

Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen!

This will be one of the first conversion posts from the old blog. We had a ton of great content, mostly primers, that I’ll be moving over here. My teammate Matt wrote this article just after the first Modern Pro Tour. He had been messing around with Twin variants long before we settled on Junk.

So here is the article, with some updates, and additional information at the end. Enjoy.

RUG Twin

Greeting, folks!  The other half of Team Modern Gentlemen Gaming here, to bring you a brief and unfiltered look into our testing from the other side of the table.

To start, the list I piloted during our first gauntlet run can be found below and is loosely based on the list provided by Jacob Wilson of ChannelFireball.  I made a few changes, namely removing Keranos from the main board in favor of Vendilion Clique and some changes to the removal/cantrip/counter suite.

RUG Twin:
Creatures(13)
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Deceiver Exarch
2 Pestermite
1 Vendilion Clique

Spells(25)
3 Splinter Twin
4 Serum Visions
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Remand
2 Mana Leak
2 Spell Snare
3 Gitaxian Probe
1 Flame Slash
1 Izzet Charm
1 Cryptic Command

Lands(22)
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Breeding Pool
3 Sulfur Falls
1 Hinterland Harbor
3 Island
1 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Desolate Lighthouse

A little background on me: For a little over a year, I piloted Jeff Hoogland’s UR Fae deck to moderate success.  Playing at instant speed is near and dear to my heart, as is the interaction between Lightning Bolt and Snapcaster Mage. After acquiring my fourth Tarmogoyf, it seemed in my best interest to go the RUG Twin route given the uncertainty of the meta and the notion Junk/Jund may come out in droves.  After some initial testing, it looks promising.

My thoughts on the deck after some games:

-The ETB effect of deceiver exarch (and by extension, Pestermite) has several uses/subtleties that make for very interesting game play. I’ll be playing more than 4 combo creatures going forward, because oftentimes their effect is of enough value to warrant so, combo aside.

-Because we play Lightning Bolt, our opponents have to respect our Tarmogoyf attacks. This means we may get to attack into their Tarmogoyf, knowing they won’t be willing to block since it means they might lose their Goyf to an ill-timed Bolt. We can often get in “free” points of damage by attacking and using the ETB effect of our combo creatures to untap our Goyf to block (if we have a spell to do the extra point of damage) or tap their attacker.

-Compounding on the above, untapping a Goyf or another Exarch to block/double block a Geist of Saint Traft is A+.

-Remember, Exarch’s ability is modal while Pestermite’s is not.  That means if you choose to untap one of your own permanents, it can’t be redirected by a Spellskite.

-Splinter Twin has uses outside of being a pure combo card. On a Snapcaster Mage, it’s “all aboard the value train” and on Vendilion Clique, thanks to the new legend rule, you can abuse the ETB effect to cycle through your deck.

-More on Vendilion Clique- Don’t be laser-focused on casting it on your opponent’s draw step. There are plenty of times when this is correct, and plenty of times when it’s not.  Even more important – remember the ability to make an opponent “bottom” a card is OPTIONAL.  When you force them to reveal their hand, if their hand doesn’t interact with you in a meaningful way or you have answers to what you see, DON’T TAKE ANYTHING.

-I like Gitaxian Probe.  It helps us sculpt our game plan based on more information.  It also works well with visions to draw a card after Scrying.

-Loot effects, particularly Desolate Lighthouse, can help grow Tarmogoyf in response to removal spells or after blocks.  Remember this.

-I chose not to play Keranos in the main. Tapping out for a 5 mana creature that does nothing the turn you cast it doesn’t exactly tickle me pink. I can buy it in the board against a select few decks, but I think in many cases I prefer Batterskull.

-Sometimes, against certain decks, just going for the win on turn 4 is worth it.

After more testing I made some more changes to the list:

RUG Twin:
Creatures (14)
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Deceiver Exarch
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Pestermite
1 Vendilion Clique

Spells (24)
1 Flame Slash
2 Gitaxian Probe
4 Serum Visions
4 Remand
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Cryptic Command
2 Spell Snare
1 Dispel
4 Splinter twin

Lands (22)
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
1 Breading Pool
1 Stomping Ground
2 Sulfur Falls
1 Hinterland Harbor
4 Island
1 Mountain
1 Forest
1 Desolate Lighthouse

In: extra combo pieces (1 Pestermite/1 Twin), 1 Dispel, 1 Cryptic Command

out: 1 Izzet Charm, 1 Probe, 2 Mana Leak.

So far, I generally like these changes.  I think Cryptic Command is better in multiples and don’t particularly care for Izzet Charm.  Looting is great, but I think the extra combo pieces are better.  I do miss the extra counter magic for the early game (Mana Leak) so we’ll see how further testing unfolds.

There’s a logical argument to be made for cutting both Cryptics in favor of a Mana Leak and maybe another threat like Scavenging Ooze or Huntmaster of the Fells.  Similarly, I think if Lingering Souls is going to be prevalent (read: it already is) Vendilion Clique loses value as a 1 toughness flier. Both because it gets chumped and killed by a single token and gets blown out by electrolyze, which is likely to see a rise in popularity as a means of combating said lingering souls.

During testing, the major issue I’ve noticed against Scapeshift is that, preboard, we’re never going to win a counter war.  Because of Tribe Elder and Search for Tomorrow, they’ll always have more mana, ergo always allowing them to play a spell with counter back up against us.

I think, based on this fact, our best bet is deploying a threat and playing “protect the queen” to beat down. Sadly, this plan has two major flaws: we don’t have many threats and Tarmogoyf generally doesn’t grow past 4/5 in this match up. While a 4/5 for two is great, it’s not so much when you’re getting chumped by the occasional snake and bounced via cryptic command. The Scapeshift player can afford to take a few hits from a 4/5 body (assuming he’s even that big on turn 3 or 4) knowing they only need to make it to turn 5 or 6 before going off with counter back up.  Only more testing will tell. (Please keep in mind our testing has been with 60 card lists and these thoughts reflect a series of “game ones”. Testing with sideboards is the next step as we finalize our 60.)

Speaking of changes, last night I ran a 60 card set up almost identical to Antonio Del Moral León’s Pro tour list (U/R, no green).   So far I have to say I don’t care for U/R twin.  It just feels like… it doesn’t do anything when it doesn’t combo.  I’m not much of a “pure combo” player so if U/R Twin, focusing primarily on the combo, is the correct way to play the deck I’ll be looking elsewhere.  Several pros have recently written and articulated that Plan A of splinter twin + exarch is good enough, and anything in the deck that does not contribute to that plan is simply dilution, not diversification. (This stands in direct contrast with the philosophy behind the creation of RUG twin – more on that below).  I don’t have enough games under my belt to speak to this conclusively, but I do know that a combo-centric U/R list doesn’t suit my taste nor play style.

With the U/R list, I had reasonable results against Junk but the Scapeshift match felt borderline unwinnable.  I will admit I’m still learning the deck so I’m positive I made mistakes along the way AND The Great Andini was drawing like an absolute madman, so, it’s possible it’s not as bad as it felt. Nonetheless, I’ll be sticking with RUG for now.  Even though I know this is a knee-jerk reaction based on a terribly small sample size, and even after discussing the merits of it with Mr. Splinter Twin himself (more on that below), I think RUG twin is still worth it.

The next iteration of the deck will likely include another threat and a change to the counter magic suite.  As I continue to adapt and evolve the deck I’ll be sure to keep a log of the changes (and, more importantly, the reasons for them) for reference.

On another note, as my esteemed colleague noted on Tuesday, Team Modern Gentlemen Gaming was at Pro Tour Fate Reforged in full force!  Since we missed qualifying, our goals upon arrival were threefold: look good, make some deals, and watch some great magic.  Andy was able to snatch up some played misty rainforests for incredible value and I pulled the trigger on some Liliana of the Veils and Tasigurs (can you tell which deck is going to be my back-up plan?!).  Most importantly, though, we got to witness some sweet matches and do some testing without being bothered by my “whirlwind of destruction” Black Labrador retriever.

My personal highlight of the day, though, was meeting and chatting with Patrick Dickmann. Seriously, I have to tip my hat to the guy – he just got runner, runner Skullcracked with a BATTERSKULL on board to lose the match deciding game against burn and yet was as pleasant as ever.  We talked a little about the area (his first time in DC), his testing, limited performance, and why he chose to go Grixis for the weekend. Being well known for piloting the Splinter Twin archetype, he’s been a consistent performer in modern.  His last innovation (roughly a year ago?) was the green splash to the deck- adding Tarmogoyf!  He explained that now you get to bring the beats and no longer rely on the combo, diversifying your threats and having a strong Plan B.  As noted above the general consensus seems to be that this is, in the current meta, incorrect. During our conversation, he indicated that in a field full of Junk, even he thought RUG twin was ill-suited.  He told me they do the “Tarmogoyf beat down plan” better than we do (namely they have Abrupt Decay), so he wanted to switch to Grixis for Tasigur and Terminate.

Now, you’re probably thinking: Why is splashing green, something you just mentioned was dilution and not diversification, unfavorable yet splashing black works?  The impression I have is that splashing black is more for the ability to grind out card advantage instead of advancing a threat.  See, with RUG, you stick a Tarmogoyf and force an opponent to make a decision: Do I use removal on this?  Do I spend resources here or wait for the combo?  With Grixis, you’re playing more of a combo game but using Tasigur not just as a beater (note: he’s still real good at that) but as a card advantage engine. You’re rebuying combo pieces to win, lightning bolts to buy time, serum visions to dig, etc.  It allows you to halt the pace of the game to more of a grinding/card advantage/resource war as opposed to simply playing a beater and hoping to race. Obviously terminate gives you removal that hits the creatures lightning bolt can’t. This is something that I’ve yet to test, but admit it’s probably something I need to try.

It’s worth nothing, though, he later indicated via twitter a straight U/R build would have been better for that event.

So where does this leave us?  Who knows?  As always with a deep format where the metagame is hard to predict, I believe sticking to a plan/shell and learning it inside and out is better than consistently trying to predict and shift your deck.

To that end, it’s my opinion RUG Twin has been “more powerful” and plays the type of magic I like more.  As we continue to test and learn, things may change.

Thanks for tuning in!

PS: I’m having a blast producing content and documenting my thoughts- If Andy will keep letting me, I’ll keep posting!

-Matt

————————————————————

SO! There’s a lot to take in in all the above. Since the PT a lot has changed in the meta, as we’ve been discussing over the past few weeks. I think Grixis has regained popularity since the PT (as we’ve seen lot of results) even though people felt it was a bad pick for the PT. Our very own Patrick Dickmann even went back to RUG Twin at GP Charlotte. That’s what I want to take a look at. The man is a twin genius, and I trust his judgment:

RUG Twin by Patrick Dickmann:

Creatures (14)
3 Deceiver Exarch
2 Pestermite
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Tarmogoyf
1 Vendillion Clique

Spells (24)
3 Splinter Twin
2 Cryptic Command
1 Dismember
1 Dispel
1 Electrolyze
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Remand
1 Spell Snare
2 Gitaxian Probe
1 Roast
4 Serum Visions

Lands (22)
1 Forest
3 Island
1 Mountain
1 Breeding Pool
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Hinterland Harbor
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
3 Sulfer Falls

Sideboard (15)
1 Spellskite
1 Izzet Staticaster
2 Thragtusk
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Counterflux
1 Dispel
1 Nature’s Claim
1 Negate
1 Keranos, God of Storms
2 Pyroclasm
1 Roast
1 Desolate Light house

Not too much has changed for this deck.  Of course,  a few more magic cards have come out since the Pro Tour. We can see Flame Slashes have been replaced by Roasts. Dickmann also ran a few less combo pieces, so all in all Matt was VERY close to what Dickmann ended up playing. It still has a powerful Plan A in the Twin Combo, and it still has a powerful Plan B in the Tarmo-plan.  It’s great to see Thragtusk getting some play again. It’s a big threat that lets you play a longer game, and is “resilient” in that it leaves behind a 3/3. I really like the Lighthouse of out of the side. If you are expecting a lot of aggressive decks, you aren’t going to have a lot of time to use Lighthouse, so you’re better off saving it for a controlling match.  It’s also worth noting that William “Huey” Jenson also played the exact same list. I’m curious to see how popular this deck becomes and what the break down are between RUG, Grixis, and U/R Twin as we move forward.  It’s something I’ve talked to matt about switching to since the Junk plan has been a little rough.

On Friday we’ll discuss GP Copenhagen and yet another crazy Top 8.

Thanks for tuning in to learn about Twin. You can email us comments, questions, or topics you’d like to read about at ModernGentlementGaming@gmail.com. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @TheGreat_Andini and @DelvingSecrets. Be sure to click “Follow” over on the right to follow our blog, and never miss an update! Until next time!

-Andy

Hearthstone: Let the Hunt Begin!

Happy Monday Everyone! Welcome back to Modern Gentlemen Gaming! This past weekend was the Grand Prix in Charlotte, NC. There is a ton to talk about so we’ll be doing an article on Friday about it. In the meantime, while watching the GP, I was able to get a good amount of Hearthstone in.

Last season, Team MGG was very stubborn about making Dragons work. Brian Kibler actually wrote a very extensive article on Dragons in Hearthstone and posted something like 30+ different lists that he tried. In short, it isn’t worth your time. We were so reluctant to give it up, it took me half the season before I finally said “SCREW IT!” and just went back to playing Face Hunter. I ended up just not having enough time and ended the season at Rank 5. I have a feeling had I not messed around for 2 weeks I’d have be able to hit Legend. The fact of the matter is that if you’re trying to win, there is enough variance in HS as it is, so you’re better off picking one solid game plan and sticking to it. The more linear your game plan, the more consistent and less variable your deck will be. Let’s take a look at a list.

Face Hunter:
1 Hunter’s Mark
1 Abusive Sergeant
2 Leper Gnome
1 Worgen Infiltrator
1 Glaivezooka
2 Explosive Trap
2 Quick Shot
2 Haunted Creeper
2 Ironbeak Owl
2 Knife Juggler
2 Mad Scientist
2 Eaglehorn Bow
2 Animal Companion
2 Kill Command
2 Unleash the Hounds
2 Arcane Golem
2 Wolf Rider

The things that make this deck so powerful are Charge, and the Direct Damage spells. These obvious equate to Haste and Burn in Magic: The Gathering. Since there is no way to block in HS, Charge becomes very powerful. Unless you have a Taunt in play, you are taking the damage from whatever Charge minion they play. There is nothing you can do to stop it. If your opponent does play Taunt minions, like Sludge Belcher, you can very easily use Burn to circumvent the blocker and finish them off.

I have tried different variations of this list throughout my time climbing. Let’s take a look at the card choices.

Hunter’s Mark Versus Tracking:

I originally used a copy of Tracking as I thought it would be great to have a way to draw a card after you’ve used your hand up. The truth of the matter was if I used it early, there was often more than one key card I wanted, or cards that did not help my current situation. It was often not nearly as good as just plain old Quick Shot.  It wasn’t a way for me to progress the board, or get through a Taunt guy. It didn’t really make sense to me, but I just got the feeling there were better things I could be doing over Tracking. Hunter’s Mark on the other hand, is a really great fail safe to large Taunts like Belcher and Deathlord. Instead of spending 3-4 minions to get through them, you use 2 cards instead. Even if it’s not a taunt guy and just a must-remove minion, you can Mark it, and then sacrifice a 1/1 to kill say Dr.Boom.

Ironbeak Owl:

The more I played Hunter the more Owls I kept adding. It’s a 2/1 body so it can put in work on the offensive, but its Battlecry is what puts it over the top. Between silencing Belchers, opposing Mad Scientists and Knife Jugglers, he just does so much it’s hard to imagine running less than 2. He’s great against Handlock, and he’s also a Beast to enable your Kill Commands. Plus, protip, if you have lethal on board but some pesky Freeze Mage froze your lethal Minion, you can owl him to remove the Freeze and win.

Only 1 Abusive Sergeant:

I was originally running two, and it enabled some seriously huge damage plays by playing two out in a turn on an Arcane Golem or Wolf Rider. The issue is that he requires another minion on the board to get an value out of him. Plus, with all the Tempo Mage running around right now, if you try to play him out turn 1, he will most likely just die to their hero power.

Haunter Creeper:

This is a minion that gets better the more “Deal 1 Damage” spells are flying around. The issue is he is usually a very underwhelming top deck. It might be best if I shave a copy and go up an Abusive Sergeant. I will be trying to find a replacement for 1 copy in the future and see if that works better. It may not be the best call, as he is insurance against opposing Explosive Traps, Hell Fires, and Blizzards. So it could completely depend on what you find yourself playing against as you climb the ladder.

Weapons:

Eaglehorn Bow is absolutely essential. Combined with your secrets you can clear problem minions or just deal insane amount of damage over the course of a game with a single bow. The Glaive is also very good. Going Turn 1 Gnome into Turn 2 Glaive is pretty sick. Don’t be afraid to use your weapons to clean out a minion if you absolutely have to, but generally they act as just more burn.

Charge Minions:

The wolf riders are self explanatory. They are just very good. The Arcane Golem can be a bit tricky. You don’t want to help them get to their board clear faster. Its turn 4 for Paladins and Priests, Turn 7 for Mages. etc. So just keep in mind the amount of mana your opponent has and try to avoid ramping them into big threats.

Everything else in my list is pretty stock. So how do we play this lovely deck?

The goal is to send everything you have at the face of your opponent. As you play against the different classes you will start to understand which cards you HAVE to trade with, and which card you can completely IGNORE. There are very few decks that can keep up with your damage output, so the sooner you get out ahead, the sooner you put your opponent on the defensive and force them to try to stabilize.

The rule of thumb is when in doubt, go for the face. Obviously there are things like opposing Knife Jugglers that must be removed. An active Juggler can wreck your board of X/1’s and put you in an unrecoverable position. Flamewaker is very similar. Don’t let him sit on the board because he will wipe your team. Warrior’s Armor Smiths can be a huge pain. Try to remove it in only 1 or 2 hits before the opponent’s other minions start racking up the armor count.

Against any deck that may run Belcher, save your Owl’s. Don’t waste them on a random minion just to add to your board. Owls are your silver bullets and can help you push though that lethal damage.

You also want to avoid over extending. What this means, is if you are playing against an archetype that generally plays board wipes, you do not want to dump your entire hand onto the field. If you do, and they kill every single one of you guys, you’ll have nothing left in your hand or on the field. In situations like this, you want you deploy your minions in twos or threes. This way you still have back up minions to keep applying pressure. Forcing them to use a board wipe on two or three minions prevents you form running out of steam, and makes them use their spells inefficiently.

When mulliganing, try to get your low cost guys. One drops are very important. You almost never want to keep secrets in your opener, as Mad Scientists will fetch them up for you. I tend to send Unleash the Hounds back into the deck as you will almost never cast it on turn three. This depends on the match up. but your opponent wont quite have the boar to make it work. Again, none of these are hard and fast rules. If you think that your Paladin opponent might Muster to Battle on Turn 3, they keeping Unleash may be correct. Playing Knife Juggler into Unleash on turn 5 is also a sweet wombo combo.

Just use your Hero Power as often as you can. It helps put a quick clock on your opponent. Anytime I have a beast in hand I tend to fire off my Kill Commands. Nothing is worse than holding a Kill Command and having to fire it off for only three when you had a chance to use it for 5 earlier. The extra points of damage are generally worth it. I will only hold it if I know my opponent is going to play something that I MUST remove. Some giant threats are even just race-able.  My opponent is almost always close enough to death that I don’t care about things like Emperor Thaurissan. If they make the things in their hand a little cheap, who cares if they are dead next turn? In that example I’d rather to throw the Kill Command to the face and end the game. Keep that in mind. There will be times where you literally just don’t care about your opponents’ threats provided they aren’t directly stopping you from winning (taunt).

This deck is a ton of fun to play. I know most people hate playing against it because it so prevalent, but in my opinion, I don’t want to mess around and I just want my opponents dead. This is a great deck to pick up if you are just starting. It is cheap to build, and its very strong. It will also help newer players understand the basics of Hearthstone. If you don’t have a background in card games, Hearthstone is a great place to start. Again, this deck is another great place to start.

I will try to keep these primers updated as new card are released or we see shifts in the meta game. This was a very introductory start to Hunter, and on of the two popular way to build it. In the future, I want to write about Hybrid Hunter, Tempo Mage, and good, old Matty Ice has been playing a ton of Shaman, and Warlock. So we’ve got a lot of really great content coming up. This Friday we’ll discuss the GP and what it means for the Modern Meta Game, and I hope to post some MTG Deck Primers. There is a ton to talk about, so keep tuning in!

If you have any questions or comments feel free to email us at ModernGentlemenGaming@gamil.com. We also love suggestions for what YOU GUYS want to read! Follow me on Twitter @TheGreat_Andini. Click the “follow” button on the right and you’ll never miss an update! Thanks again for reading and keep pushing to legend!

-Andy