Clash of the Duel Masters is finally here! I hope you were all able to attend your local Set Premiere event this past weekend.
Clash limited play is actually very involved. You end up likely having to play all 5 colors (and a generous helping of multi-civ cards), which makes your mana decisions very difficult. Getting early attackers onboard while the opponent is still charging tapped mana can make a world of difference, since there aren't any removal shield blasts at common or uncommon. You may also stumble upon a locked-down board state that stagnates until one player busts it wide open with a power card. There are some definite bombs, too: [ccProd]Sword Horned[/ccProd] backed by a [ccProd]Dawnflower Quartz[/ccProd] is very difficult to beat, and [ccProd]Shapeshifter Scaradorable[/ccProd] is a nightmare. I also had an opponent curve out [ccProd]Lizard-Skin Puppet[/ccProd], [ccProd]Freakish Test Subject[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Featherfin Stalker[/ccProd] against me! Needless to say, I got slayed in that one.
But you're not here to read about sealed.
There are three KMCs this weekend, and every competitive player wants to be the one to crack the 7CLA environment wide open. The pool of successful decks at the inaugural KMCs became less diverse over time; the metagame solidifies and it gets harder and harder for rogue decks to compete.
But that first weekend with a new set available? It seems like anything can happen. Take down the competition with your deck, and you can set the tone for the future KMCs.
I've still got a lot of testing to do. That being said, I do feel like a have a firm grasp of the metagame as it stood in the late 6DSI metagame. If you want to innovate and succeed with Clash cards, you need to know your enemy.
Where We Were: Dragons Rule the Metagame
KMC results are very clear:
- Control decks reigned supreme. Midrange strategies like Blurple were utterly decimated by [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd], [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Spellbane Dragon[/ccProd].
- SaberBolt variants were unceremoniously pushed out of the meta entirely.
- Rush decks were very hit or miss. A perfect curve would virtually guarantee victory against Greed Dragons, but there is always the fear of a [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd] in shields. WDL Control can usually deploy enough blockers to make the matchup well in their favor.
- You needed to be playing at least 4 colors. Greed Dragons proudly and successfully waved the 5-color flag, and even "standard" WDL Control decks started splashing [ccProd]Root Trap[/ccProd]s at the last few KMCs.
Hating on these two popular control strategies proved to be ineffective:
- A bevy of high impact shield blasts made all-or-nothing early game attacks very risky.
- [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd] actively punishes you for simply playing small creatures. The opponent curving into Lyra or a [ccProd]Stormspark Blast[/ccProd] could end the game.
- [ccProd]Spellbane Dragon[/ccProd] discourages any non-shield blast spells / non-kill spells.
- Discard creatures like Fumes and Razorkinder Puppet are very effective against Greed Dragons, but are punished by [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Infernus the Awakened[/ccProd]. Greed Dragons also has a lot of live topdecks that can immediately take the battle zone back. Discard is not as effective against WDL Control because it isn't as one-note and can pressure you from multiple avenues.
All of these things are still true, even with the arrival of Clash of the Duel Masters. Regardless of the specifics of the control deck in question, you can be sure that Dragons cap off its curve. 6DSI Dragons are not merely finishers -- they control the board immediately, and force the opponent to play on their terms.
That being the case, there are two ways to get an edge: either mitigate the strengths of WDL/Greed, or go "over the top" with an even more ambitious late game strategy.
Where We're Going: Multi-Civ Cards
Multi-civilization cards in 7CLA allow for much greater color fixing, but at a cost. Entering the mana zone tapped is a huge drawback. For example, in the crucial turns between a Lyra and a 9-drop, Greed Dragons will usually have only a few cards in hand. The deck thrives on its ability to mana one card and then deploy a singular threat/removal spell, in an attempt to hold on until the 9 drops clean up. Topdecking a multi-civilization card in these scenarios could spell doom for the Greed Dragon player. At the same time, however, it can help smooth out the deck's early curve. Greed is largely inactive in the early turns anyway, with the exception of [ccProd]Nix[/ccProd] ([ccProd]Lux[/ccProd] can usually be played off-curve effectively), so the tapped mana will many times be irrelevant. This inherent tension forces you to carefully consider which ones you include in your deck.
For your efforts, you will typically get a creature with above-average power for its cost, and/or a unique blend of existing effects that play off one another. Let's take a look at some of the more highly regarded multi-civ cards in Clash:
[ccProd]Weaponized Razorcat[/ccProd]: I've seen a lot of players lauding this card, and I find it a bit curious, to be honest. I know this card bears a resemblance to a popular Duel Masters creature, but I can only evaluate Razorcat through the lens of the current Kaijudo format. Let's consider the positives: Beast Kin loves 2-drops, and 4000 power on a 2-drop is definitely worth noting. However, to go so far as to say that [ccProd]Skeeter Swarmer[/ccProd] will be a relevant option to counter this guy is misguided.[ccProd]Weaponized Razorcat[/ccProd] would feel at home in a SaberBolt shell, but his 4000 power isn't giving you enough bang for your buck here. The only way SaberBolt can find success is to apply successful pressure in the early turns, because the control decks won't even be attempting to wage small creature battles. Against your typical Greed Dragon deck, he's no more effective than, say, [ccProd]Moonhowler Tribe[/ccProd]. Both of them can pick off a Fire Bird, and at least you're not putting pressure on your mana base with the Moonhowler. It's difficult enough to summon a worthwhile 2-drop. Why complicate matters further with a multi-civ creature? Are you really worried about [ccProd]Sun-Stalk Seed[/ccProd]s or [ccProd]Rain-Cloud Kraken[/ccProd]s?
Successful early turn pressure in Kaijudo right now is not dictated by creature power, but rather the fact that you summoned a creature at all. 4000 power also falls in combat to the always-looming [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd]. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I don't see the Cat making any impact in the KMCs soon to come.
[ccProd]Sword Horned[/ccProd]: This one intrigues me a little more than the Razorcat, but it's fallible in many of the same ways. Beast Kin and Enforcer are two of the most supported races in the game right now as far as evolutions, and 5500 power gets you out of Herald-range. So far so good. The fact that he is a 3-drop may prove to be a detriment, however. If you are able to evolve a [ccProd]Bronze-Arm Sabertooth[/ccProd] on a 2-cost Beast Kin, and leave [ccProd]Sword Horned[/ccProd] ready and willing to smash, then he may be able to get in for a shield or two before Lyra comes down. That can put you so far ahead that the control player is grasping at straws. However, for every time you do this, there will be another time where you're forced to evolve the Sabertooth on [ccProd]Sword Horned[/ccProd], essentially negating the benefit of his 5500 power. And even if [ccProd]Sword Horned[/ccProd] is able to swing in for a shield or two, he's still susceptible to every single high impact shield blast in the Greed Dragons deck. You're also forcing yourself to include Light cards in a steadfast Red/Green shell, which also really wants to splash Darkness for additional removal and access to [ccProd]Skull Shatter[/ccProd]. Again, SaberBolt just doesn't feel like a natural home for this guy.
I'd love to see someone successfully develop a true Nature/Light deck that made use of [ccProd]Sword Horned[/ccProd]'s Enforcer side, as well as cards like [ccProd]Fullmetal Lemon[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Starseed Squadron[/ccProd]. Considering the ease with which a deck like this can lose to [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd], though, I would be a little wary. Light and Nature also want to ramp and play for the late game, while cards like Sword Horned want to make their mark in the midgame, so it's a bit of an awkward fit.
[ccProd]Steamtank Kryon[/ccProd]: Now we're talking! Kryon looks to have a lot of upside, though it make take some time for players to unlock his true potential. The advantage of the Fire section in Greed Dragons is that cards like [ccProd]Hyperspeed Dragon[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Spellbane Dragon[/ccProd] allow you to switch gears on a dime, going in for a catastrophic number of breaks when your opponent isn't quite ready. Kryon, on the other hand, sports a big neon sign that makes it perfectly clear what is about to transpire. Your opponent sees it coming, but they have a limited window to deal with it.
Fast attacking double breakers are one of the scariest things in all of Kaijudo. If a fast attacking double breaker manages to dodge a removal shield blast on its initial attack, and it came in before turn 7, there is very little your opponent can do. Even locking your double breaker down with a Lyra will prove ineffective if you are able to immediately answer with another fast attacker on your next turn. Your opponent must deal with the [ccProd]Steamtank Kryon[/ccProd] on the turn after it's played if he or she wants to be completely safe.
It will be interesting to see if a Red/Green midrange deck is able to put the squeeze on Greed Dragons. Such a deck could conceivably include a slew of big fast attackers, and it could make smaller creatures relevant once again -- drawing out removal shield blasts that could otherwise target the Steamtank. It must be noted, though, that a deck like this would get unmercifully creamed by [ccProd]Infernus the Awakened[/ccProd], so you would have to cross your fingers and pray not to see an opposing [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd]. Darkness also received an additional tool to combat a deck like this in [ccProd]Soul Schism[/ccProd], but we'll save the mono-civ cards for another time.
[ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd]: [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd] screams "build around me!" to any deckbuilder worth his or her salt. He costs one more than a [ccProd]Skull Shatter[/ccProd], but that's alright. Dumping your opponent's hand and putting an 8000 power double breaker into play puts the opposition on a very short clock.
You may be annoyed at the fact that you also have to discard your entire hand, but that's where calculated deckbuilding comes into play. If the Scourge is the centerpiece of your strategy, then ideally you will be discarding far fewer cards than your opponent. What better way to accomplish this than to ramp with Green spells?
Every card your opponent discards is one fewer mana he or she has access to. That was the beauty of Rob Wolinsky's "Greed 53" deck that went 7-0 in Swiss at the Poughkeepsie KMC. Yes, it played a bunch of 9-drops, but it actually had the ability to control the pace of the midgame moreso than any other deck. Leaning on Nature's generous supply of ramp will leave you very light on cards, but if you are able to discard your opponent's hand before you get too far behind, you've defeated them on two fronts. Any large creature you draw is going to be imminently playable, while your opponent is forced to essentially skip their turn to get back into the mana foot race. [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd] adds to this inequity by halting your opponent from attacking and blocking on the following turn, so you get a free turn to draw answers to already on-board threats, while simultaneously making yourself immune to any surprise fast attackers. Get ready to face this guy down at a KMC near you. Even if an ambitious [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd] strategy fails miserably, you can still count on tournament players to give it a try, so build your decks accordingly. There's nothing more satisfying than dumping your opponent's entire hand on turn 5 or 6.
If things work out, we could have a fun push/pull format where decks try to rush down the opponent in the midgame so as to avoid Scourge ramp, but make themselves susceptible to more traditional Greed Dragon blowouts. And what of WDL Control? That deck won't be going anywhere -- it got a couple of nice tools in 7CLA to help it adapt to whatever shape the metagame takes on. I'm always in favor of a "rock-paper-scissors" meta, because it allows for innovation within a given context, but provides a rigid enough framework that the better player will usually win.
Clash of the Duel Masters is absolutely going to shake things up, but be sure to take stock of where the format was before you excitedly throw 20 multi-civ cards into your deck. Set up a gauntlet with Greed Dragons, WDL Control, and Rush, and put your new contraptions to the test! But hurry -- the 2nd phase KMCs are fast approaching.
Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!