Welcome back, everybody! Before I dive into this week's topic on a certain deck that's been performing well for many Kaijudo players in recent weeks, I want to talk about some news. For anyone who isn't aware, Wizards of the Coast has just taken a huge step in the right direction for the competitive Kaijudo scene by announcing set rotations and the addition of a "Standard" format. Similar to Magic: the Gathering, this format will only allow cards from the last two "set blocks" to be used. There will also be an "Open" format which allows cards from every set ever released. In addition, they announced that there will be fourteen cards per pack starting in May, and the sets will be designed in a way that will support plans for competitive Booster Draft events, so you can definitely expect some content from me about that in the future! And fear not; as long as WotC adequately supports both the Standard and Open formats competitively, I will be creating articles and videos about each as well. For now, let's talk about "The Pile."
I'm not sure if I was the first person to call this deck The Pile, but the name has definitely stuck. Basically, what I'm talking about with this deck is a larger control/ramp deck that aims to drop an array of giant finishers. These decks are generally at least 48 cards, and there was even a 61-card version that made the top eight at the Winter Championship in Texas. The introduction of [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] into the metagame in September gave us a ridiculous finisher to ramp to and caused a spike in the popularity of these decks.
The core civilizations for The Pile, as is the case for just about every control deck at the moment, are Light/Water/Darkness. Nature is present in nearly all of them for the use of cards like Sprout, Reap and Sow, [ccProd]Mana Storm[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Wildstrider Ramnoth[/ccProd] to help ramp up to finishers, and Fire has even started seeing some play recently. LWDFN Pile had two top four appearances at a recent 1k, and the builds made use of cards like [ccProd]Drill Storm[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Major Ao[/ccProd] for defense against aggression (and combos with [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd]), and finishers like [ccProd]Heretic Prince Var-rakka[/ccProd]. For more details and specific deck lists, be sure to check out articles by Corey Gaudreau and Zach Hine going up here on ARG throughout the week. Now, let's talk about some of the specific strengths of the deck.
- The Pile isn't as restricted by card count or civilizations as other decks, and can include a plethora of cards to deal with any expected matchup
- All Pile variations tend to run Nature for a pretty solid ramp suite, which gives the deck an advantage against less greedy control decks and Dragons.
- The inclusion of the Fire section gives The Pile a better array of options against aggro. Walking into a [ccProd]Major Ao[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Drill Storm[/ccProd] can be disastrous for those decks.
- With draw power like [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd] and the ever-important search capabilities of [ccProd]Crystal Memory[/ccProd], the deck has no problem getting to its many power cards in the late game.
While the deck can and does include cards relevant in every matchup, the best two by far are Dragons and control decks that aren't as greedy (meaning they run less high-level cards and probably less civilizations). The Pile can just put an obscene amount of mana in play quickly and drop bomb after bomb. Unless Dragons have an immediate answer for [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] or a way to get by it and go for game, it can easily signal the end of the game if it was ramped up to. In a control mirror match, The Pile can play [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd] quickly and run enough discard to hopefully deal with the opponent's options before burying them in finishers. It truly is the greatest deck in the late game deck since it has all of the best cards at that point in the game.
So, we've gone over the strengths; now, let's take a look at possible weaknesses. With the KMC season rapidly approaching, o one should be fooled into thinking they won't see this deck, so we might as well figure out how to beat it!
- The Mirror Match - pitting two similar Piles against each other often makes for a match that isn't very skill-intensive.
- Like any control deck that focuses so heavily on the late game, there's always the possibility to get blown out by a simple Rush deck.
- Tempo progressions, usually capped off with the likes of General Finbarr, are still incredibly problematic.
You might not think number one on that list is very relevant if you're trying to build a deck that defeats The Pile, but it's important to consider. It's actually one of the reasons I try to stay away from the deck if I feel another deck is a valid option.
In regard to different types of decks, The Pile is as greedy as they come. It has a ton of high-level creatures and a high card count, and while the mana ramp and defense can get you there, it can just as easily draw pretty badly. Getting out-drawn in the mirror match can just lead to un-winnable games where it's possible to play around the draws in other matches, like the Dragon or Tempo mirrors. One of the reasons for this is the reactive role it takes in every matchup. It never wants to be the aggressor in the early or mid-game, and it only wants to finally break shields when there's no possibility of the opponents having any outs to the board state it's put them in. This means much fewer decisions are being made and each player has less opportunities to make mistakes. It sucks to say, but the mirror match often comes down to who plays the best cards each turn, and that's a pretty serious flaw in taking the deck to a major event in my opinion, unless it happens to be teched out hard against the mirror match. Of course, if you do that, you really open yourself up to the second and third weaknesses.
Rush doesn't need to be discussed too much, since it has the same place in the meta that it has always had and always will have. It's the deck that can easily get under this whole Pile strategy as easily as it can hit an untimely Shield Blast and lose to a turn two [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd]. There are defenses to the deck in The Pile, but the more cards you add, the less consistently you see them, and being unprepared for Rush can cost you a crucial match in any tournament.
Tempo decks like Megabugs, Enforcer Tempo, and LWD tempo have an interesting matchup, and I would definitely call it favorable as long as the tempo player knows how to read and plays around the correct cards. Tempo decks really began as an answer to the giant LWDN [ccProd]King Tritonus[/ccProd] control decks of the Clash meta, and they serve that same purpose today. The Fire section admittedly can give the deck some problems; Megabugs definitely don't want to get hit with [ccProd]Drill Storm[/ccProd] in the shields, and if you attack at the wrong time with a [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd], [ccProd]Major Ao[/ccProd] can just make you lose the game. However, most variants have a solid amount of creatures that get over those two cards, and as long as you think about each attack, it's possible to put The Pile in a very bad position and allow [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd] to put the nail in the coffin, as it often does.
Another defect in The Pile is the heavy reliance on spells. Except for early blockers (including Ao in the Fire versions), just about everything the deck can play against rush or tempo is a spell, making cards like [ccProd]Cyber Scamp[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] very good against the deck. They don't even have to be attacking every turn if you don't want to run into [ccProd]Major Ao[/ccProd] or a Shield Blast at the wrong time; just letting them sit there can often limit The Pile's options enough, or give you enough extra cards that the game becomes much more winnable.
The Pile of the Future (?)
I normally wouldn't go into my thoughts on how a specific deck will behave in the future right now, since we currently know none of the cards coming out in the next set, The 5 Mystics. However, this is the deck that I think will be affected the most by the recent announcement of Set Rotations coming in late May. As I mentioned in my article about the top cards of 2013, [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] is really the card that allows the giant control decks to stabilize against aggressive strategies and being able to run three copies of it all the time lets The Pile get away with running so many cards. Cards like [ccProd]Serpens, the Spirit Shifter[/ccProd] can kind of imitate Andromeda in decks like [ccProd]Queen Kalima[/ccProd] Control and Dragons, but Andromeda is the queen of stabilization for a reason. It's my personal opinion that even though cards like [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] will still exist, Andromeda's absence in the new Standard format in a few months will force control and ramp decks alike to become smaller, more concise, and adapt a more versatile game plan than "durdle to big guys." I'm not sure if we're looking at the death of The Pile in Standard per se, but it will be heavily affected. Fortunately, the deck is pretty linear and most competitive players agree that you shouldn't be able to put a bunch of good cards in a pile and have that much success, so it might not be missed all that much if it does see a decrease in viability. Only time will tell what really becomes of the deck!
Hopefully you all enjoyed the article and it gave you some things to think about in regard to this highly-popular, effective strategy. You don't want to find yourself unprepared for it in the next season of KMCs, so throw it in your testing gauntlet and sling some different decks against it! Be sure to check out articles by Zach Hine and Corey Gaudreau this week further discussing The Pile, and until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!