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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 11:11 am 
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Hello Duelers,

A disclaimer - I want to write about the meta for Duels in true spike, try-hard fashion, but with all that is screwed up with the game right now I am just going to write whatever I feel like. If you judge it as unworthy Magic strategy, then please judge it as an attempt to entertain. If you think I suck at that to, fair enough.

I've wanted to make an entry about testing for sometime, and since we have resounding silence on the issue of the Battle for Zendikar update, as the great Daughtry once sang it, "What about now?". But first a quick update on what Duels is doing for me lately.

I saw a Reddit post offering the suggestion of rolling back your Duels version to a release prior to the Sept. 10th patch. Now I am not a technical guy, I thought jail-breaking my iPad meant sneaking it into a movie theatre, possibly hidden in a cake. However, it occurred to me that I broke my iPhone around Sept 10th, and when I did that I turned it off and haven't turned it on since. So I powered that cracked screen up, transferred the Duels app to iTunes, I deleted the app from my iPad (it was as good as dead, zero cards, zero gold, zero connections in a month) and installed the 1.03 version of the app from my iPhone, now on my iTunes, onto my iPad. iConfused? Anyway, I was asked cloud or local...I hoped that transferring the app transferred my cards, it sure was a large enough app in megabytes, so I picked Local. Nada. So I did steps one through whatever again, and picked cloud. Well, I still have zero gold and no unlocked cards, but I connected to the servers. So I can earn gold again. Now I think, this is a beautiful thing, if only I had all my coins and cards back. What can make that happen? Wizards customer service of course!

So I knew that calling Wizards would likely suck, and I've had experience with going SOCIAL on companies, so I found the @Wizards_help on Twitter. It even says they are available 7 am to 7pm, so I tweet at them (so confrontational!). After ten minutes, no response of any kind. In fact, this being a full 24 hours later, I am going to open Twitter and see right now what happened .... ahhhh .... just 15 minutes ago, as in a full 24 hours later, I received the following;

"We would be glad to look into your account. Please contact us at http://spr.ly/6010BOns4 with your customer ID."

That link goes to the main Wizards support page where I originally found the Twitter handle. How's that for prompt and useful service via Twitter!!

So anyway, after ten minutes I gave up on Twitter support and borrowed my wife's phone to call the help line. A friendly recorded dude told me I was fifth in line. I put the phone on speaker and proceeded to read every article on the Star City Games homepage. After 31 minutes of holding, I got a person on the phone. The most interesting part of the conversation is where the guy tried to tell me not to update my version of Duels to the latest version without telling me that. A lot of "ummmms" and "uhhhhhs" and vagueries (yes, I make up words sometimes). I took away the notion that Wizards knows they screwed everyone over with the Sept. 10th patch, and still they haven't done a rollback. It blows my mind. For those of you worried about the end of this not-so-fantastic voyage, things did not turn out Coolio. After being on the phone over 50 minutes in total, my new buddy who we will call Jonathan told me he was going to send an email to people who will resolve this. I asked for, but was not given, an estimate of how long it would take. I asked for, but was not given, an email address or call back number to check on this issue. Basically, some folks in a dark room will get around to fixing this someday and I need to sit quietly in my room until then. And now we are update to date...

Ok, so testing. How should you be testing your decks? What should you look for? How do you settle on one card vs others? When is it OK to lose? When is it OK to have a bad matchup? I'll try to answer questions like these from my point of view and experience.

When testing it is important to start with goals. Is your goal to win every game of Magic you play? If so, let me know how that works out for you. I can promise that anyone doing honest testing will lose games, and will likely lose a lot of games. But perhaps your goal is to win as many games as possible. Well, that is a goal, but it is also a really silly one, and here is why - YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU WILL PLAY AGAINST, and because of that, you are saying that you are preparing for everything. When you prepare for everything, you weaken your matchups against the truly good or the truly popular. My favorite goal for testing is this - To win as much as possible against the decks other players are most likely to play. In Duels Origins, this could mean that if we go for weeks without playing against Sphinx's Tutelage, we don't prepare for beating Sphinx's Tutelage. Now sure enough, the next game you play will be against Tutes, and you should play to win, but if you lose you shouldn't go right into your deck editor and add 4 Solemn Offerings. We didn't prepare for that matchup for a reason, and you can't let the pain of losing warp your deck. Now, if you lose to Tutes four times in the next three days, and especially if these loses are from different players, you may need to rethink the meta.

Speaking of the meta, I am a strong believer in THE GAUNTLET. In Magic testing terms, a "gauntlet" is not a medieval times obstacle course, but instead a group of decks that your prospect deck must compete with before you call it a serious contender. For fun, and because I have nothing but time here without a Duels game to play, I'm going to take a Time Walk back to my first experience with a Gauntlet.

The event was Pro Tour Dallas, Nov. 22-24, 1996. My sister and I had qualified for and competed in Pro Tours earlier that season, and we had realized the importance of forming a team. Our preparation for events used to involve battling each other all weekend, she liked Red/Green and only played those colors, so I would end up with a control deck that was good against Red/Green aggro while she would end up with a Red/Green aggro deck that got better against control. Neither of those things turned out to be very helpful against Necropotence. So we looked for localish (we lived in the middle of nowhere, localish is still 40 - 100 miles away) players to test with us on the weekends and travel to tournaments with. We had an awesome showing at a PTQ in Toledo where we put three players into the top 8, and our new teammate Adam took home the trophy and the invite to Pro Tour Dallas. Now it was time to prepare for the Pro Tour.

We expected a lot of Necro at the Pro Tour, because Necro was just broken. Adam built a hyper-aggressive Red/Green deck with a lot of burn, trample and haste that made it a very bad idea for the Necro decks to draw cards with Necropotence. In retrospect, it wasn't the perfect strategy, but it was the idea at the time. The matchup with Necro was good enough, I played the Necro deck against what Adam would call Master Blaster over and over again, and most of the time Master Blaster won. Then I said we should try some other matchups, and I busted out Erhnamgeddon (a green/white deck that used the "combo" of Erhnam Djinn and Armageddon) which was widely considered the second-best deck in Type II (standard) at the time. Ernie, as Mr. Djinn is known to his close friends, destroyed the Master Blaster deck. I believe the deck went 0-6 against the green/white menace before Adam became frustrated. I remember him saying "all I want is to beat Necro" and with that testing was over. I hope some of you caught that. In six frustrating games, his goal for the Pro Tour went from winning the most matches possible to just beating Necro. A fine goal if your opponents only shuffle up Necro, but even back then when Necro was so obviously overpowered, it still didn't crack 50% of the field. Adam was going to battle against other decks, and if he couldn't compete in testing he would struggle on game day. The story has the sad ending you would expect. I got to watch Adam's first match in Dallas, and he sat down across from an Erhnamgeddon deck. On day one, he played Necro once and beat it, and he was happy about that, but I don't know if he won any other matches that day. The breakout decks of that tournament would be Mono Red Aggro, which believe it or not wasn't a thing until that event, and Blue/White Winter Orb Prison, and control deck that did un-fun things like keep your one land tapped with Icy Manipulator.

So what is the lesson? Don't expect and plan to beat just one deck. Even when one deck is popular, it doesn't make up 100% of the field, and in Duels I haven't seen a deck make up for than 33% of the competition within a one week testing cycle. Have a gauntlet, and have expectations for your deck within the gauntlet.

For example;

Our gauntlets contained 3 to 6 decks, with five being the most common number.

A deck could have a single bad matchup in the gauntlet and that was allowable, but if the deck that was the bad matchup became the most popular deck in the format we had to disqualify said deck.

A prospect deck running the gauntlet had to do better than fifty percent in match-wins against all but one of the decks to be considered a contender.

Gauntlet decks where not our best builds of decks, but the decks we expected others to play most.

OK, so lets apply some of this to Duels. One of the things I like and don't like about Duels is the lack of a sideboard, and the lack of best 2/3 matches. This means that the sixty is the sixty, it has to stand on it's own to compete. No more using the sideboard to turn around a bad matchup, and you can't afford to take chances on a mana base. These things mean that a lot of decks don't survive a gauntlet. When selecting the decks that go into the gauntlet as the obstacles, I look for a combination of the most common decks and the most powerful decks (they aren't always the same thing). Here is my last known Duels Origins gauntlet;

Gruul Monsters
Izzet Thopters
Golgari Control
Red Aggro
Golgari Elves

I don't claim these to be the best decks, although I have been vocal about Monsters, Thopters and Golgari Control for some time. I do think these decks offer the most relevant angles of attack that a deck needs to overcome to be competitive. For example -

If you have a good matchup with Golgari Control, you will likely be alright against Sultai, Jund and Abzan control because these decks have so many cards in common.

If you can beat Red Aggro consistently, you will likely do fine against Boros Auras.

If you can beat Elves, you will probably do fine against Elves, because a lot of people like Elves.

If you can beat Thopters, you will do alright against Jeskai or U/W fliers in all likelihood.


Generally my gauntlet contains a red aggro deck, at least one control deck, a non-red aggro deck, and the popular midrange and/or combo decks.

So, the big alarm bell going off in the heads of some of you probably sounds like this -

"But Covert, we can't choose our opponent or Ai's deck in Duels like we could in Magic Duels 2015, how are we supposed to run the gauntlet?"

So glad you telepathically asked!

I try to find players on my friends like to battle with, but you can never keep them around long enough to get really real testing results. So you have to keep ALL your results, and be selective about what you examine.

For example, I want to see how U/G tempo will do against the gauntlet. Well, I fire up multiplayer and start playing, and I track the results.

When I play against johnny magic with no cards unlocked and a G/W garbage pile, I mark it as a win, but it is goes in the OTHER column. Please note that the OTHER column for wins is important, because having a deck that is good against the wide range of the field matters, and it will tell you if your gauntlet is off (for example, if you are dominating the gauntlet but losing a lot of games to "OTHER" you may need to adjust the decks in your gauntlet). Please also note, in the past I have excluded the johnny wins all together because I don't feel I learn much from them, but I have been asked many times on this site to include all my results.

When I play against a competent opponent running Red Aggro, and I win or lose, that result goes in the Red Aggro column. Same with the other four gauntlet decks. If the opponent makes way too many mistakes, I don't count the win (if I win) in the Red Aggro column. Over time, say 100 games a week as I tended to do, you get a real picture of how the deck does against the decks you most care about beating, and you get an idea of how it does against the rest of the pack. An example, after one week of online testing -

UG Tempo - 53 W, 28 L

Red Aggro - 9 W, 2 L
Gruul Monsters - 6 W, 4 L
Izzet Thopters - 4W, 7 L
G/B Elves - 7W, 3L
Golgari Control - 5W, 6L
OTHER - 22 W, 6L

Plenty to learn here. First, you shouldn't feel bad about playing Simic, it is clearly a decent deck with strong game against the field. In gauntlet though, the deck gets shaky under more pressure. It only has two losing records, Thopters and Golgari Control, and the control matchup is really close, but the weakness to Thopters is an issue because the deck remains very popular. You love to see that awesome Red Aggro matchup though, and if you see a ton of red out there this is a good deck to run.

So now we have results, what should we do? When is a bad matchup better to ignore and when should you change some cards in your deck for it? Those are tough questions. In this case, I would examine running Reclamation Sages in the deck. They help out in both of the tough matchups (Thopter Spy Network, Evolutionary Leap), but do they damage the rest of the deck and the other matchups? You have to be able to draw on the knowledge gained from the 100ish games - what are your best cards, and what are your worst cards? Can you shave a few copies of worse cards to help you out specifically in tough matchups?

Another way to help against Thopters is Calculated Dismissal. I find this card great against Thopters because of how important their turn four play is. A Caclulated Dismissal on Whirler Rogue, Pia and Kiren Nalaar or Thopter Spy Network is a big play. But what does adding Calculated Dismissal do against Golgari Control? I would argue nothing good. It is certainly nothing proactive. Against a bad player you may counter a worthy spell, but against a good player the card will sit in your hand while they durdle with dorks and build an advantage. Calculated Dismissal is a route I have tried and would not recommend.

So in this example of U/G Tempo playing a bunch of games, with specific focus on matchups we care about aka The Gauntlet, we showed how a deck builds knowledge, then knowledge builds the deck. You make your first design, you play it a lot with an eye on matchups that you care about, then you refine it to improve those matchups that need improving while hopefully maintaining all the good stuff. Hopefully the next week with U/G Tempo, a few Reclamation Sages and other tweaks will turn that Golgari matchup north of five-hundred while and maybe even check the Thopters too, and of course you want to see consistent results in your other matchups. Over time, and many more games, you continue to refine your deck until you have what so few Magic players every actually have...a tuned list.

Speaking of tuning, tune in next week for more Duels Diaries. Either (A) we'll have new cards to talk about, or at least a list of new cards, or (B) I'll go over every damn card in Battle For Zendikar and mention what decks they will fit into. Either way, I'll be typing it up, and if you are religious and have some powerful deity's ear, please ignore all the other problems in the world and ask them to restore my gold and card collection, pllllleeeeeaaaassssseeee :)

<3 CGB

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 12:10 pm 
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Ah, the weekly diary entry. That was a fine ramble :) (touché my friend). I have to get motivated in my current predicament but at least I have full collection, gold unknown because I cannot connect.

I was playing Magic 2015 for a bit (as you know) but a posting by beast and a bit of encouragement re sharing even AI matchups results was better than nothing.

So with that 'kick in the pants' I started testing. What I had done from your previous diary was patiently build out all the decks. Took a while but at least I have the equivalent of a former dotp tuned list a la Covertblue.

To be honest I was already pig sick of Gruul Monsters (been there, done that) and to an extent Golgari control. I took up your advice (you have a habit of that lol, but all good brother) and watched a pro tour video, all 10+ hours of it. It was the day 1 of the Origins Pro Tour. For me better as at least I recognised the cards. Days 1-3 were the sneaked draft. Watching the build from a few was revealing, educating. Just shows you too though that the Japanese player with what looked like a decent sacdos build with the husk and victor did not do so well. But I guess a pro tour is a marathon not a sprint.

The rounds from 4 on were constructed. A lot of cards I had not seen, from the Khans block and fate reforged I think. What was great to watch is that red aggro was a thing. There was Keral of Abbot's keep in more than a few decks, there was foundry street denizen, here a Mage-ring bully. But other cards I had never seen. Good cards. Devastating cards. Turn 4 matches. Now that's aggro!

Reason for this ramble, it leads me on to my deck (of yours) for testing, yup red aggro. I had a chance to play on the train (at least I didn't have to worry about a connection lol). It is over a 2 hour trip. 2 matches and 2 wins. Pretty comfortable. Damned AI (but a nod too to the deck building). Anyway it inspired me to start a mono thread challenge and try and gee up the community, especially after another round of baiting *sigh*.

So I took a break from the red aggro and went to try and build a half decent mono blue. Suddenly I was enjoying duels again :D. The build still needs work but it went 7 and 3 v AI. It can be better, probably a lot better but that's hardly the point.

Three has been a bit of community interest in the thread, but no decks or results so far other than my mono blue. Posts have sort of dried up. There was another series of blocked threads. *sigh*

My point is there is still merit in visiting NGA. Actually I have realised I barely ever do what most must do, visit the decklist sub forum. For a lot of visitors they think that is the main reason d'etrre for the site. Maybe their right. It is not for me however. What keeps me coming back are threads like yours, and threads from the others. When it is good it can be really good, at other times .... Well best left unsaid.

But in a very long winded rambling way it's to thank you again for getting me back on the magic bike. And peeling off the main cycle way to an off visited track. A few other cyclists passing. Now back to working out the tweaks in the deck.

In some ways this is off topic so apologies. Your key point was building for the meta right, and I guess a mono anything will not cut it. But it is fun and a different type of challenge.

Thanks!

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 2:04 am 
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Thank you for keeping up the diaries, CGB. Honestly I think you could write about pretty much anything (like your encounter with Jonathan) and make it interesting. You've got some writer's talent.

@Squider: For what it's worth, I love mono colour decks and really like your thread.....I would gladly run mono black and mono green but I don't have nearly enough cards unlocked.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 2:39 am 
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Hey Left4. I guess you have come to the game in recent times ;). I assume you have a good grinding deck. I did a thread when the game first landed on iOS as a grinding diary and the progression as I unlocked what was a mono red. Boros is a good choice and I think I also switched to a mono white towards the end.

I assume you are on either steam or the bone and not iOS which for me and others including Covert has the dreaded server connect issue meaning we cannot go online and thus earn gold. I still retain my fully unlocked status though so can do some testing as Covert outlines.

If you would like to check out my grinding thread let me know and I will work out how to put a link to it.

EDIT: I may have worked out how so here's the link.

viewtopic.php?f=38&t=10393#p325368

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Check Out my You Tube Channel - Cube Draft and Random versus for AER. NGA iOS KOH matches. iOS Trials of the Elder Dragon tournament videos. MtG Arena Undercity Coliseum Tournament videos.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC29hO5 ... 71kNpJmjKg


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 12:51 pm 
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I did not come to the game in recent times, I started brewing decks before the game was released. Then I found out it wouldn't run on my laptop and it still doesn't. The few hours of play I get in are on my gf's laptop.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 3:36 pm 
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Left4Doner wrote:
I did not come to the game in recent times, I started brewing decks before the game was released. Then I found out it wouldn't run on my laptop and it still doesn't. The few hours of play I get in are on my gf's laptop.



Yeah, Doner has been around since ancient times and my Mono G decklist. :D

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 4:06 pm 
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Oh that sucks man. I guess getting another laptop is out of the question, or being able to play on a console or iOS device :(.

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Check Out my You Tube Channel - Cube Draft and Random versus for AER. NGA iOS KOH matches. iOS Trials of the Elder Dragon tournament videos. MtG Arena Undercity Coliseum Tournament videos.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC29hO5 ... 71kNpJmjKg


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 6:28 pm 
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Quite frankly, as much as I appreciate you educating us plebs; I find your advice misleading. This is not a constructed format. This thing finds itself betwixt various 'established' formats of play. There are too many 1 offs and 2 offs to reliably build around a given card or a given deck idea besides the handfull of archetypes that were visibly pushed by the developers. You can run your gauntlet a hundred times and find that your gauntlet is correct, and there you will find an end to it. There is no meta, there is no debate. Meta implies flux and change; but the pool does not support it. If you are running 90% wins it's because you play vs idiots. There is simply not the consistency of a constructed deck POSSIBLE in this pool and its restrictions to claim otherwise.
It's just a dissapointing product, and the hope for it to tickle the fancy of those that enjoy limited formats/ pauper or new players in the future, if it ever gets updated.

thanks for your writeups, they are pretty good.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 7:46 pm 
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A bit harsh Rabblemaster though I can see the point you are trying to make. As I understand it constructed is limited too. It has a bigger pool but they are still considering cards from a fixed set. Duels has always had a limited subset of this and yes rarity restrictions mean that for mythic and rare cards it can hardly be 'build around'.

It's still valid to talk about a meta though however limited the pool, the fact that different deck types across platforms are more or less dominant illustrates the point. It's also a bit early in the series (but assuming it does continue on) would you still hold same view after the first expansion, second, third ....?

I guess so as the rarity restrictions will also be applied. But I argue if a meta exists across the full set it applies to duels as well, the lower number of permutations is just a question of degree. But for now as it's been exhausted until the next expansion drops most folks would agree with you I guess ....

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Check Out my You Tube Channel - Cube Draft and Random versus for AER. NGA iOS KOH matches. iOS Trials of the Elder Dragon tournament videos. MtG Arena Undercity Coliseum Tournament videos.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC29hO5 ... 71kNpJmjKg


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2015 2:40 pm 
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Great post CGB!


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2015 5:06 pm 
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Excellent post, as always. Thank you.

If you manage to resolve your connection bug, or even if you can't I suppose, I'd be curious for your thoughts on this mono-blue deck: viewtopic.php?f=52&t=10288&start=20#p373435 . I'm 9-2 with it - a small sample so far, to be sure - but I think it seems very, very good, and I'm 5-1 against tier one decks (3-0 v evoleap control, 2-1 v Gruul Monsters) with it on Steam. I'm rank 40 and most of my opponents have been in that region. I think it has good to great match-ups with evoleap control and Gruul Monsters, and while I haven't played against thopters with it yet, I suspect it's probably 50/50 there.

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