What's up, everybody! I'm back with my second installment in "Preparing for Kaijudo Master Challenges". Last week, I talked about the importance of playtesting well during the days and weeks leading up to these events. This week, I'm going to be taking a more specific look at where the metagame stands currently, and discuss some cards that have really shaped the meta in the weeks since Dragonstrike Infernus' release.
The current metagame is very important to take into consideration when preparing for these events. After all, there are three whole weekends of Kaijudo Master Challenges before the next set, Clash of the Duel Masters, releases a little over a month from now. Before that set changes everything yet again, the first three weeks of KMCs are sure to be heavily influenced by the powerful cards we're currently experiencing. Hopefully this article will help give you all some ideas of what to expect at a KMC in terms of specific cards and combinations, and some ways to deal with them.
Andromeda of the Citadel
I think it would be a little blasphemous to not start with this card. [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] has, in my eyes, unquestionably stolen the title of "Best Super Rare from DSI". [ccProd]Infernus the Awakened[/ccProd] (which gets the title of second best in my opinion) probably has a better effect during the time it's on the field, since it can shut down whole strategies, but after it's dealt with with a card like [ccProd]Terror Pit[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Death Smoke[/ccProd], the threat is over and it might have only banished one creature. Andromeda, on the other hand, retains its value after it has been banished since it has a come-into-play effect which allows its user to gain two shields. Those shields are here to stay even if Andromeda isn't, and its second effect is really icing on the cake at that point. If an aggressive deck gets you down to zero shields, Andromeda can put you right back in the game and them having an answer to Andromeda itself isn't going to do anything to stop it.
This card also has its drawbacks. It's usually played in the very late game, and it's usually run in multiples. With an effect that reduces the number of cards in your deck by two, it's important to play this card intelligently and never risk the potential of decking out unless you absolutely need the shields to survive. If you believe your Andromeda-playing opponent is down on deck size when they summon one, it might be appropriate to switch your game-plan entirely. Bouncing it back to their hand repeatedly with a card like [ccProd]Rusalka, Aqua Chaser[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Waterspout Gargoyle[/ccProd] could lead to them decking themselves out. This is sometimes a good strategy at times when you think they'll have to replay Andromeda again if they want to put enough presence in he battle zone to win the game through breaking your shields.
There are reasons this card has risen in popularity in the last few weeks, and they were all released in Dragonstrike Infernus. This card is a timely and relatively cheap answer to cards like Andromeda, Infernus, and [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd], which is why I'm putting it after the section on Andromeda. Cards like that are very good, but slow, and if you can deal with them for a small amount of mana with a card like this before they start attacking you, it's almost always a good move. It's also a very timely answer to cards like [ccProd]Hyperspeed Dragon[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd], which are both popular in dragon-based decks. [ccProd]Death Smoke[/ccProd] has almost become a staple in control decks recently and many players are using more than one copy. If you're running a deck like Blurple or control, and you require answers to those giant dragons before they shut you down, look no further than this card.
Dragonstrike Infernus gave us a cycle of Fire Birds, one for each civilization: [ccProd]Lux[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nix[/ccProd], [ccProd]Umbra[/ccProd], [ccProd]Kenina[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Belua[/ccProd]. Going into KMCs, it's absolutely important to be aware that a lot of decks will be running a combination of them. Many players might think that cards like [ccProd]Tendril Grasp[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Barrage[/ccProd] will see a decrease in play with many players flocking to more control-oriented strategies, but those two cards are probably the best two answers we currently have to the Fire Birds.
They're all threatening in their own way, but in multi-civilization dragon decks, the ones I've been seeing getting the most play are [ccProd]Lux[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nix[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Umbra[/ccProd]. As the three cheapest birds from DSI, it's easy to get multiples of them into the battle zone, and watching as your opponent summons a [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd] for two mana and draws two cards because of their birds is never good. Decks like Water/Fire/Light and Water/Darkness/Fire/Light have been played to some good success at my local because of the mass amount of birds they're able to summon. These cards, almost even more than Rush, are the reason a strong early game is important; if you can deal with the birds one at a time, they won't cause too much damage, but as soon as your opponent can get three or four in play and start generating huge advantage off them, you're in trouble.
Bottle of Wishes
Those who know me know I dislike this card. There are reasons why I'd personally never play it due to the consistency issues it has, but there are a lot of people who do play it, and even go so far as to build decks around it. I've had a turn five [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] played against me off a [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd], and I'm sure I don't have to describe how unpleasant of a feeling it was. With the popularity of the card among some people, it's important to be prepared for the situations in which it's played on you. A lot of the time, it won't grab its user anything too noteworthy, but just like my article on preparing for the worst-case scenarios, it's prudent to understand your outs to a turn five Andromeda, Infernus, or similar powerhouse. This is another bonus to running cards like [ccProd]Death Smoke[/ccProd], and another reason every attack at shields has to be carefully planned against decks running Bottle. The possibility of you hitting a Bottle and them getting the perfect answer to the current situation is probably very small, but it's there nonetheless, and it has to be factored in.
This card started out strong in the post-DSI meta at my local, taking several top places in tournaments. It's recently seen a slight decline in play because of the focus on all the new dragons, but the aggression that this card represents is still important to consider, and decks like Saber-Bolt are still very capable of competing in numerous forms. The idea that a [ccProd]Bronze-Arm Sabertooth[/ccProd] can come down on turn four and double break with 7000 power is still unmatched by anything dragons can do at that point in the game. A dragon deck such as Water/Fire/Light often has limited answers to such a scenario, having to rely on cards like Lyra to stall out until it can either summon something bigger or make up for their loss in shields. [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel [/ccProd] is definitely one of the more solid late game answers to Sabertooth, but still, precautions need to be taken for the early game, not only because of Sabertooth but other aggressive strategies as well. Decks running Darkness have the easy answer of [ccProd]Scaradorable of Gloom Hollow[/ccProd], which is very effective against Sabertooth and rush decks running cards like [ccProd]Gilaflame the Assaulter[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Laser-Arm Drakon[/ccProd].
This card is definitely seeing more play than it did before Dragonstrike Infernus released. Sure, some rush decks like mono-Fire are more viable now, but on the whole, the meta has gotten a little slower, with dragons becoming more popular than Blurple with [ccProd]Emperor Neuron[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Hydra Medusa[/ccProd]. This has given [ccProd]Skull Shatter[/ccProd] a jump in popularity. If a control player can answer a dragon deck's mid-game plays and drop a devastating [ccProd]Skull Shatter[/ccProd], it really helps lock up the game. With more and more games lasting longer than before, control decks are sure to rise to the occasion using this card in at least a few KMCs.
This card also ties into Bronze-Arm Sabertooth in that "Dark Saber-Bolt" is still a popular strategy. An aggressive deck using Nature, Darkness, and Fire, it's able to be aggressive in the early game but still have copies of [ccProd]Skull Shatter[/ccProd] to generate huge advantage right when you start to find answers to its aggression. For this reason, Shatter can't be thought of as purely a control card; if you discount the possibility of an opponent running it, the surprise factor of having it played on you could in fact lose you the game, so it's something to watch out for. Even so, it has traditionally found the most use in control decks and F/D/N Aggros.
I think that about does it for the standout cards I've been seeing recently. Of course, not all decks require these specific cards to do well at a Kaijudo Master Challenge since we have a very diverse meta, but I do think that in preparing for these events, you need to be familiar with the ones I mentioned because you'll probably be seeing a lot of them. You don't want to be caught with an unfamiliar deck across the table and have no knowledge of how to play around it, so be sure to take these cards into consideration when testing, both for your use and to learn how to play around them. To see some more practical application of these cards, be sure to check out Aiden Thorne's first official article on ARG going up early next week. He'll be discussing a bunch of popular decks going into the KMCs, and I'll be back next week to talk about the proper mindset you should have going into these events. Until then, leave a comment down below with your thoughts, and Play Hard or Go Home!