by Johan Bisenius
The Swedish Metagame
I hope you enjoy reading about the metagame of Sweden, or more specifically, the metagame of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. This is where my friends and I meet up each Monday to play.
Sweden may be a small country, but that only means that, in relation to its inhabitants, weíve probably got the biggest ratio of Spoils players in the world!
Öor so Iíd like to think.
Anyway, let me take you back a couple of years, 2010 more specifically. I won the Swedish National Championships with a Writ-Bile deck.
For a bit of history and a deck list, you can read the tournament report here.
After this event, the rules for playoffs changed and instead of total amount of influence after time is called, you won based on who lost the least amount of influence. This meant a lot of people stopped playing Writ-Bile because, over the course of a game, you could easily have taken 40+ damage and still not have gotten the Writ-Bile loop going to kill off your opponent.
In 2011 my friend Hampus Eriksson won the Swedish National Championships with a new and improved version of the RI OTK deck. You can read all about his deck here.
Now weíre nearing the 2012 Swedish Nationals and a lot of things have happened, yet some things have not changed.
Let me explainÖ
The RI OTK Impact
We really only have one RI OTK deck, but with Hampus as a formidable pilot, I donít think we need another. Since it won Swedish Nationals 2011, it has popped up during several tournaments and has a fairly strong win percentage. After Seed 3 hit the shops, it got a boost in the name of Hilarious Refrigerator Alarm, but went mostly unchanged beside that.
The existence of this deck has caused the meta to shift. People build their decks with more focus on handling some of the things Hampus tries to pull off during the end of your turn. For some time, however, there was a sort of hopelessness as there is so much chance involved when facing off against Hampus. Your starting hand versus Hampusí starting hand really is the deciding factor (given Hampus playing perfectly, which he sometimes does not).
The impact of RI OTK on the Swedish metagame caused people to include tactic speed item destruction, deck reordering, or simply a Tactician Vacation in their decks. It also brought back some old strategies from 2010, but first let's look at the impact of the latest U.S. Nationals.
Barney to the Rescue!?
Last Gen Con showed some interesting results. There were a number of different decks in the top four and the RI OTK lost out to the new deck called ďBarney.Ē Barney is essentially a mono-Arcanist deck focused on control and it can either dominate early game through discard or gain mid to late game control using Inadequate Wand loops or Eccentric Inquisition to deprive the opponent of his most valued tactics.
What happened when Barney entered the Swedish metagame? Well, not much really. Mono-Arcanist and Wand loops had existed for a while, so most people knew that handling the Wand was important. Early discard, however, was relatively new. I donít know if it was auspicious timing or if Niklas or Kettil were just independently trying out new things, but letís just say that discard was not a viable option against these playersí new decks.
After some play testing, it seemed the Barney deck was not the savior it was thought out to be. Maybe against the RI OTK it is, because it really has some very nice win rates against that, but the deck lacks real damage output and with the Wand destroyed, the looping capabilities are very limited. If you can kill off the Devilfangs, of which the deck runs four, youíre probably all good in most situations. The real danger seems to be the exposure to Eccentric Inquisition. So how do you handle that? Well, there are a number of things you can do, for instance build a deck with little or no tactics or build a deck with tactics that are less valuable to your opponent than to you.
I still think that a control-based Mono Arcanist deck can be a viable choice, but I think running the Arcane Research engine and thus having another means of looping besides the Wand will mean more options against a variety of deck types. Itís something I intend to explore more in the near future.
(Re)Introducing Gold Summit
Kettil built a deck based around Gold Summit (GS) and discarding big characters (like Dragon Tank). He would stall with the Gold Summit, amassing huge amounts of influence through Selective Gluttony and the new Seed 3 card Fecal Urgency, then play Revivatate to bring the big guns back and swing for the kill in a couple of turns.
This deck concept is very good in the current meta. You donít mind discarding your big characters you canít even play normally, so Barney is not that big of a threat in early game. While Eccentric Inquisition can be a pain due to the high amount of tactics, some of them are less valuable and some are worthless to steal, like Fecal Urgency. It comes down to blind luck if the EI will get a good catch and thus will turn the game in Barneyís favor, or if the GS will eventually amass enough influence to prevent a win from the Barney player.
A GS deck means you gain a lot of influence quickly, so you have a chance of out-pacing the RI OTK deck, making it a pretty good contender against this highly ranked deck type as well. Against most of the other decks out there, a Gold Summit followed by some draw power means your opponent will never beat you in time. It may create a draw, but at least you wonít lose. Iíd say itís a solid choice for all match-ups except against Rogue, because Master Scavenger can eat through your discard pile in seconds. Still, with the Seed 3 card Anatidaephobia, you have a fair chance against that too.
Mono Warlord Aggro?
Wonít Mono Warlord aggro still be a good contender? Donít people play this deck in Sweden? Yes and no. Yes, itís a very quick deck that I personally think has a better chance of beating RI OTK than RI OTK has a chance of beating it. Still, it doesnít have any loops. If it wonít win early in the game, it will probably not win at all. Also, against a GS player, you MUST kill off any GS put into play, so that means another five effective influence for the opponent. If you play an all-out aggro deck, that can be the difference between winning turn three or the opponent stabilizing. Some decks in our meta play Fired Hand to boot, so any small critters you want to capitalize on (Spry Archer, Dying Hero) wonít really make it far. This goes for many of the Barney characters as well, for that matter.
Big Blue Barduses
Traditional Warlord decks may be struggling, so what can you do? Well, you do like Niklas and adapt. When Niklas started trading for Big Barduses and Emperor Barduses, I thought it would be yet another one of his wonky builds with lots of flavor but with little competitive edge. I was wrong and I was rather happy to be wrong about it, because the deck is cool.
Niklas has taken the mono-Warlord idea to new heights by introducing a deck with high-cost characters that have some sort of enters play effect and thus he can rely a lot less on tactics. He focuses most of his tactics on item destruction as well as some character removal (and a Karmic Cake or two Ė the only reason he includes a starting Greed). He then has four Crest of Rage and A LOT of characters and resources. In the early game, itís not uncommon to see Niklas pay four to play another resource and do that a couple of times. This is also a good answer to Barney, along with him discarding a couple of high cost, high thresh cards he still couldnít play early game, but can get back later through Dark Awakening.
When Niklas finally starts to play characters, it hurts. The early cards include Plunging Shriever, shutting down any decks relying on items. With Really Big Barduse and The Emperor Barduse, Niklas can inflict enough damage to his opponentís characters to clear the field and then start attacking. Did I mention Devilfang does not have much choice but to die when confronted with the above cards?
Playing high-cost characters have several other positive side effects. Roundalicious Breasticles needs time to work (and with Plungings about, thatís often not an option). Extravagant Contusion and Peculate quickly become very expensive. Most Rogue removal cards wonít work. As long as you can keep characters coming through the Crest or through just having lots of resources available to draw and lots of characters in the deck, it seems to work out fine.
Did someone say Ass? No, not with four Plunging and four Hammer Smash and God knows what else heís put in there.
This was just a bit of a sneak preview on whatís happening in Stockholm leading up to Nationals on November 10th. There may yet be room for more changes and, if the decks mentioned above mean that the meta is stabilizing, there may be new contenders just based on that, or even anti-meta builds.
While Iím not particularly psyched with the top decks being RI OTK or Gold Summit builds (both of which contains very boring and non-interactive mechanics), itís still an exciting time with lots of mind games and minor deck adjustments. And while Iíve dusted off my old deck box from Nationals 2010 to give the Writ-Bile deck a new chance (this time infused with Seed 2 and 3), it just feels odd that the top tier decks of 2010 and 2011 should still dominate the metagame in 2012.
Öor will theyÖ?