Identifying (and Defying) KMC Trends

zack hineThe first two weekends of Kaijudo Master Challenges are now behind us! Wizards of the Coast hasn’t provided any comprehensive live coverage of the events, but luckily, the Kaijudo community is filled with people that produce original content and keep everyone up to speed. Check out Aiden Thorne’s most recent article right here on ARG for short breakdowns of the decks that won in week 1.

Two solid weekends of competitive Kaijudo gives us a baseline for some metagame evaluation. In my article two weeks ago, I made the case that the format had shifted toward late-game control decks that prominently featured the 6DSI Dragons. I outlined why Evo Fury darlings faced an uphill climb, and it looks like I was correct. None of the six KMC-winning decks I’ve seen reported are of the SaberBolt or Blurple variety.

Identifying Trends

Let’s take a look at the makeup of six KMC-winning decks:

* Saracon, Storm Dynamo is being counted as both colors.

Color Choice

All five civilizations are being represented in the winning decklists, but the clear favorite so far is Light. Light was a primary color in five of these six builds, with no less than a 12 card package in any deck that elected to play the civilization. In addition, three of the five decks utilizing Light cards used them as the primary civilization. The two that did not – Durkin and Gilbert – played no fewer than two Light cards less than their other primary civilization. At least two copies of [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] were included in every winning deck that played Light! The message is clear: you either need to be playing him, or specifically trying to outrace him.

Nature and Fire bring up the rear; Brian Durkin was the lone proponent of Fire, and while Nature was included in two of these decks, it was only a lone card splash ([ccProd]Root Trap[/ccProd]). Quite a shift from a few months ago!

Verdict: Light is the most prominent civilization in the current metagame. Nature is the least prominent civilization in the current metagame.

Deck Designation

Here’s how these decks can best be categorized:

  • British Columbia – Tyler Winther: Mono-civ / Midrange
  • Georgia – Nathan Bond: 3-civ / Control
  • Kentucky – Brian Durkin: 4-civ / 5th civ splash / Dragon Control
  • Texas – Joe Bass: 3-civ / Control
  • California – Sam Gilbert: 3-civ / 4th civ splash / Control
  • Milwaukee – Jerah Doxtator: 3-civ / Dragon Control

Each of the five 3-civilization bases included Water, Darkness, and Light. Durkin’s 4-civilization base added Fire. Five of the six winners were control variants, and each of them played at least two 9-drop Dragons (decks above were categorized as Dragon Control only if they included at least two sets of Fire Birds).

Verdict: WDL Control variants are the most successful decks right now.

Deck Size

None of these winners played the minimum 40 cards. Given that control decks are the expected metagame, it makes sense that players find themselves needing to (a) accommodate three or more colors, and (b) include enough late-game-viable threats.

Verdict: The average deck size of a KMC-winning deck is about 46 cards.

Blast Ratios

Digging deeper, we notice some stark differences in Shield Blast ratios among our winners. The low end to the high end differs by around 16% – a statistically significant number considering we’re only talking about 40-50 cards.

Tyler Winther played the lowest percentage of Shield Blasts, but actually put a strong emphasis on them by playing the maximum number of "high impact" blasts available to a mono Darkness deck. That helps to explain the difference in ratios. Moving onto the control decks, Nathan Bond and Jerah Doxtator represented the lowest percentage of the multi-civ decks; each clocked in at 15 Shield Blasts in 49 and 48 card decks, respectively. Averaging out the six different blast ratios yields a ratio of 34.72%.

It’s also interesting to take note of the number of “high impact” shield blasts in each deck as well. It’s nice to get a free search with [ccProd]Crystal Memory[/ccProd] or to draw cards with [ccProd]Spy Mission[/ccProd] – and those cards can certainly win games – but the most potent Shield Blasts are typically those that interact with creatures on the board. [ccProd]Crystal Memory[/ccProd] can search you a fast attacker than wins you the game, but I think it's more helpful to limit our criteria to blasts that have an immediate effect on the battle zone. I’m including all removal in this metric (i.e. [ccProd]Bone Blades[/ccProd] might not always be able to banish something, but it will still be regarded as a high impact blast for our purposes).  Anything that affects combat math on the board (i.e. tapping creatures, reviving creatures, relevant power boosts) is also getting tossed in.

Note: I’m also including [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd] in this calculation (for Durkin’s deck but not Doxtator’s deck), because Team SBK built the deck so as to make it a high impact blast the majority of the time, whereas Doxtator tried it out as more of an inconsistent curio by his own admission.

The differences in percentages here are much more noticeable. Winther and Durkin’s percentages are largely unchanged, but the other 4 decks drop by well over 10%. Each of the WDL Control decks fall at or under the 20% mark, and Gilbert rises above that figure solely due to the splashed [ccProd]Root Trap[/ccProd]s. Chances are quite good that there will be fewer than two “high impact” shield blasts in the starting 5 shields of the popular WDL Control decks, whereas Durkin’s Greed Dragons list is virtually guaranteed two or more.

Verdict:  The average blast ratio of a KMC-winning deck is 34.72%. The average “high impact” blast ratio of a KMC-winning deck is 24.93%.

We can rationalize all the verdicts above, except that of the shield blast ratios. The table above does not tell the whole story. Why is there so much variance in high impact percentage? Why is there no consensus on shield blasts among control decks?

This paints a much clearer picture. Notice the inverse relationship between the number of Blockers played and the high impact shield blast percentage.


  • Durkin - Lowest Blocker percentage (0%) / Highest "High Impact" percentage (41.9%)
  • Winther - 2nd lowest Blocker percentage (7.1%) /2nd highest"High Impact" percentage (28.6%)
  • Gilbert - 3rd lowest Blocker percentage (10%) / 3rd highest "High Impact" percentage (24%)
  • Bass - 3rd highest Blocker percentage (15.6%) / 3rd lowest "High Impact" percentage (20%)
  • Bond - 2nd highest Blocker percentage (16.3%) / 2nd lowest "High Impact" percentage (18.4%)
  • Doxtator - Highest Blocker percentage (18.8%) / Lowest "High Impact" percentage (16.7%)

Bond and Doxtator's respective percentages are practically flipped; Doxtator felt safer including [ccProd]Sun-Stalk Seed[/ccProd]s, while Bond opted for the more expensive (but higher utility) blockers. Bass and Gilbert were the only players who gave any credence to the power of Level 6 or higher Blockers, with Bass opting for [ccProd]Grand Gure, Tower Keeper[/ccProd] and Gilbert trying out Saracon, Storm Dynamo. Grand Gure is highly effective in the SaberBolt matchup, since the SaberBolt player will need to expend a "power removal" spell to banish it. With the huge success of WDL Control decks, however, Grand Gure's usefulness drops dramatically. I think we will see players moving away from Grand Gure, and possibly playing Saracon (or no big blockers at all).

Whether intentional or not, it is clear that players feel confident playing fewer "high impact" shield blasts if they supplement their deck with a decent number of blockers. Likewise, players who attempt to stuff as many power spells into their deck as possible will likely not have room for Blockers, but the relatively high chances of a 3+ blast opening can help to offset this dramatically.

Verdict: The average blocker ratio of a KMC-winning deck is 11.3%. There appears to be an inverse relationship between number of Blockers played and number of high impact shield blasts played by KMC champs.

Defying Trends?

If these first two weeks set the trend for the coming KMCs, then it stands to reason that WDL Control should be the primary deck to test against in your gauntlet. Winther's Mono Darkness deck is a solid list, but from a representation standpoint, I wouldn't expect to encounter it too frequently. Durkin's Greed Dragon shell may or may not have influenced Gilbert to splash the [ccProd]Root Trap[/ccProd]s in his Dragon Control build, but the success of Greed Dragons was not replicated in the 2nd week. Make of that what you will. I haven't seen any lists of the other supposed 5-civ Dragon decks, so they might have been Greed Dragons, or they might have been something else entirely.

If you're still making tweaks to your deck, or if you're unsure what to play, the data we've encountered tells us that sticking to these guidelines is a recipe for success:

  • Play a 3-civ control deck
  • Play Light creatures, specifically [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd]
  • Play no more than 46 cards
  • Make sure at least 30% of your deck is shield blasts
  • The fewer blockers you play, the more high impact blasts you need
  • The inverse is also true; the more blockers you're playing, the less you'll need to rely on blasts

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Are these results definitive? Or is the metagame in an echo chamber state where WDL is the highest represented deck, but not necessarily the best?
  • Assuming these results speak to the metagame of the coming KMCs, is there any way you can give your existing deck a better control matchup?
  • If you do gear your deck to hang with control, what concessions are you making to the aggressive decks? You need to strike the right balance -- after all, the Swiss rounds will certainly find you playing against a few decks that are different from the winners' builds.

Keep these results in mind, and practice hard for the upcoming KMCs! I plan to attend the KMC in Poughkeepsie this weekend. Hope to see you there!

Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!