This week I'll be covering a number of questions I received about my Glare deck from my last article, and then I'll add a few words about Boros in the current metagame.
The first list looked like this:
Now that I've had some time to test more, there are a few changes I've made to the deck.
These changes were made largely because control is less of a concern than Dredge / aggro at the moment, and one Sprout Swarm was too random to be all that useful. Saffi was chosen to help give the deck another early drop, and to be another roadblock for aggro to contend with (saving a Wall or Hierarch helps so much). The singleton Chord of Calling was something that's gone in and out of my deck for some time, but I prefer it to the third Saffi or fourth Call of the Herd... at the moment, at least.
If you expect heavy control, multiple Sprout Swarm is a great boon. They also tend to get better if you choose to go with the older versions with 3-4 Selesnya Guildmage in the maindeck, since then you have pump to help out. This adds a bit of extra redundancy over the versatility of Chord and Call of the Herd. Otherwise you just use the tried and true Detritivore plan to ruin their manabase.
The reasoning behind so many mana accelerants is because all of your decent spells cost four of more, and Detritivore really wants at least six or seven mana sunk into it to be awesome. In addition, thanks to Horizon Canopy and Edge of Autumn cycling, the high amount of mana works in your favor as it allows you to cycle safely down the road without being short on mana.
Of course, part of the versatility of this deck is to fiddle with the board and modify the answer selection to your liking.
1. Is this deck vulnerable at all to quick Boom / Bust or other LD color-screw attempts?
No more than other decks. Edge of Autumn, Birds and Elves give you twelve ways to fetch / make colored mana, and you have plenty of White sources for your secondary color. If they wait long enough and plan, yes they can cut you off Red or Blue, but it hasn't been a huge issue.
Note that I've seen people cutting back on the mana accelerants or cutting Wall of Roots for Llanowar Elves. This is dangerous against certain decks like Boros (especially the Japanese lists with heavy LD elements), because you really must get to four mana or you pretty much lose the game. They can't burn off Wall of Roots easily and a large part of why you can survive opposing Vore's and LD attempts is the number of lands plus immediate effect mana accelerants.
2. What are the boarding strategies? What's the function of each tutor target? Also, what about the inclusion of Dovescape or maybe Demonfire in your list?
The basic board strategy in each match is to analyze the fundamental turn of each deck along with how aggressive you need to be to succeed. This helps determine the number of mana accelerants worth keeping in the deck and if you can afford to remove any threats from the deck. Other than Glare of Subdual, which is pretty obvious in each match to keep in or board out, there's no other real "auto remove" cards in the deck.
The function of the cards in my board (and some I've considered) are as follows:
Congregation at Dawn
This was in my original list, but about halfway through my testing I removed it because it was just too slow to do anything. If I wanted a slow expensive answer to Gruul and other aggro, Teferi's Moat and Savage Twister were just better. Against Boros you waste too much time getting it online, and against Gruul with Moldervine Cloak they can simply smash through your defenses.
Knell is basically the biggest knockout blow you can throw at a control player lacking counters. Any kill conditions they have are now fighting Clones of themselves, and they can't try to stall you out since you can go into infinite Hierarch recursion if need be.
I had this in the alpha list, then removed it from my posted list because it didn't seem to be pulling its weight. I then re-added because of the speed of the post-board Dragonstorm games. That deck isn't exactly the most consistent thing in the universe and you can actually buy enough time in about half your games to make a shot at the Dovescape if you have the Wish. Once Dovescape resolves, you've pretty much won, I've lost only one game after resolving a Dovescape against Dragonstorm.
Great as an extra attacker against aggro for a finishing strike, and otherwise just a pain for some control builds to beat.
Glare of Subdual
There's still enough aggro for Glare to be useful. Although due to the increased cost from Wish, it excels against opposing midrange decks. It also stomps all over the slower Dredge builds which need to keep recurring Hellkite to clean the board before trying to win (which isn't even possible if you have Sprout Swarm or Vitu-Ghazi).
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
Excellent against DS and other storm decks, pretty mediocre everywhere else. The Arbiter is worth a few slots simply for the oomph against DS.
Self-explanatory. Thanks go to Craig for reminding me this guy existed.
Hide / Seek
Another weapon against DS, and this one sneaks in before Remand comes online. Even with a few pings from land, one of these buys you a full turn against Dragonstorm in most cases and combined with Glare of Subdual can completely shut down any non-lethal Dragonstorm attempts.
You have Wish. More Hierarch are typically better than less in any meta featuring Gruul. Hierarch in board = very yes.
This guy I actually added just so if I needed to throw down a huge guy on turn 6/7 and not lose him to Char, I had somebody. He really isn't all that good, but he's got a reasonable mana cost and the magical five toughness.
The main reason I didn't include a copy was because of the lack of space. Saffi is a perfectly reasonable addition to help return Hierarchs.
The ace in the hole against aggro decks. It may not excel against Gruul until the late game, but against something like Boros or the Green decks featuring men that are Glare resistant; this is the best weapon you've got. Plus it's a nice answer to the Hatching Plans and other storm decks that throw down token armies.
First in the maindeck, then moved as a Wish target and finally getting cut from the deck. Part of the problem was that I just couldn't Wish for it, play it and immediately put it to use. It required sinking another 8 mana into it before it really made a significant board impact. Spending twelve mana to drop Guildmage and making two tokens just really isn't impressive, especially when you consider Sprout Swarm and that ended up not making the final deck!
This is your Dovescape for Dredge decks. If you can live long enough to get Moat online, they can almost never beat it because of how few answers they have coming in from board and how often they dredge multiples away. It also fares well against Gruul considering the majority of their creatures are red or partially red. The problem is that it was too slow against the speed Dredge decks and Gruul was already favorable, so it didn't make the final cut.
Didn't do enough for what amounted to a seven-mana spell.
I would give a general boarding plan, but realistically you do very little boarding with the deck. Most of the exchanges are pretty obvious, but I'll be happy to answer any specific matches in the forums or via e-mail.
3. How do you answer swarm strategies that plan to overwhelm you and won't be stopped by Hierarch? This includes Empty the Warrens style decks and the slower less-one shot kill Dredge decks.
Honestly, the only good answers to these decks for a midrange Glare deck are Savage Twister and Void. Considering Void's cost though, many times it's not a reasonable answer. So this means the best plan is just to save your Wishes and hope they can't pull the same trick twice. This beats the previous plan of just losing.
4. What do you consider to be the auto-lose match-ups for this deck? And, more importantly, is there any auto-win match-ups?
I'm glad you asked!
Auto-lose matches would be decks like B/R/W control or other Firemane control decks. They can simply run you out of threats and gain enough life to make the Saproling army ineffective. I don't think I've won more than two matches against this deck out of fifteen or so.
Dragonstorm is an auto-loss game 1, but post board games mean the overall match is just bad instead of a pure stomping. Hide / Seek does a lot of damage to the combo by reducing its dragon output. The fewer guys it has dealing five to the dome, the more likely to get to a late-game where you dominate. That said, it's far from the auto-win card some people make it sound. Multiple Hellkites can still clear the board and finish you in two or three turns, but Glare of Subdual and the threat of killing them unless they have Gigadrowse is usually a great deterrent even in this worst-case scenario.
Dovescape helps in the long games, but you have to make it there first. Thankfully DS isn't as consistent as everyone would have you believe, so you make it there a lot more often than you would think. That said, you really want to have the full set of Hide / Seek, some amount of Grand Arbiter, and a Dovescape to really have a chance against the non-amazing DS draws. Fact is you won't be able to beat them if they have a great hand unless you have a sick hand and the mana acceleration to get it done and be on the play.
Having to play multiple answers to stop combo sucks like that, I'm afraid.
Dredge is split into two categories. You have the base Green builds, which are slower and can win around turn 5 or so uninterrupted, which you can deal with. They give you time to set-up creatures to die to shut off Bridge, Glare itself to turn off Hellkite or Grave-Troll, and Leyline is obviously great. Basically because they're more resistant to hate and such, they're slow enough for you to keep up with.
Now... the Dredge U/B Speed version (You can see it here in Sean McKeown's article) you can't race. You practically can't disrupt it except for Leyline of the Void. So that pretty much means you never win a single game that they don't either mulligan into oblivion or get awful dredges. Both of which are certainly possible, especially when Leyline of the Void is thrown into the mix, which means they have to actively shop for a Krosan Grip or something. However, it means you have no real shot in game 1, and the following games still boil down to mulligan into Leyline.
If you expect this to be the deck to beat going into Regionals, I'd pick a new deck. If you can't due to card allocation issues, then the best you can do is modify the maindeck with Jotun Grunt to aid Saffi.
Tron and Dralnu are favorable. Both decks hate Vore, Quagnoth, and have issues with token armies. In addition, Glittering Wish provides you with access to hard-to-kill threats like Solifuge and Debtors' Knell. Basically the deck can ramp up mana faster than either of these decks, destroy their manabase, or simply make cost efficient threats for them to overspend on. You win in large part because they have few effective answers to your threats and the biggest ones are uncounterable!
Gruul is your big auto-win match. All builds have major issues with Hierarch and Glare (Although the builds that have gone back to Burning-Tree Shaman obviously have fewer problems with the latter) and simply have issues dealing with larger creatures fetched via Wish. I've also been considering a few more men like Rumbling Slum or along those lines to completely sow up the match post-board. A 4/4 is bad news for them, a 5/5 or 6/6 is practically game over unless you were sitting on three life or less.
So we can break it down like so:
Completely Awful: Firemane Control and U/B Speed Dredge
Unfavorable: Dragonstorm and Project X
Even: G/B Dredge, Boros* and most non-base-Blue** control decks
Slightly Favorable: Tron and Dralnu
Favorable: Gruul and Zoo
This is not a deck you want to take if you expect Speed Dredge, Project X, and Dragonstorm to be the most played decks at the tournament. The more varied the field, the better off you are considering how well you can handle most aggro decks and how bad control packs it in to Detritivore
* It depends on the Boros list, some are simple like the heavy LD models or slower copies. Others like the most recent Japanese normal Boros list can win through multiple Hierarch and can deal with Wall of Roots and Call of the Herd far more efficiently than older models.
** Referring to stuff like W/B control or the Korlash control decks. They have pretty vulnerable manabases and things like wishing for a Knell can be a complete backbreaker.
So what changes can be made to the deck to help it compete? I'd like to fit Jotun Grunt in if the metagame stays as dredge friendly as it is at the moment. However this would also mean working on the number of wishable cards in the board or the number of Call of the Herds in the maindeck. Another possibility is the boarding of Detritivore into the sideboard if control is related to a secondary consideration, though I expect Korlash control to become more popular.
Another consideration is to build it into a Glare / Project X hybrid.
Take the list I presented with the two Saffi maindeck. Now consider that you really only need the following in the maindeck:
The board and manabase is already set-up for Wish targets so you have access to Tesya and Saffi that way too. Switch out 7-10 cards and you suddenly have a hybrid model.
And now for something slightly different...
I've been very impressed with Boros lately. At first I thought it was simply too slow and too underpowered to compete with the amount of combo floating around. However it turns out that most of them simply can't stand up to burn! Project X can't get around multiple removal spells, and Dredge rolls up into a little ball and dies for the same reason. Combined with a half decent Gruul and mid-range aggro match (i.e. can beat a Hierarch) I've been really happy with it thus far.
You can find the Japanese lists I got the Boros deck from here.
You'll notice the board is a bit different from the original posted list in large part, because I prefer LD to help the DS and U/B matches out. My original list also featured a set of Boom / Bust in the maindeck over a few of the larger men, but that was largely to try to give a bit of an extra boost versus combo. Otherwise the Japanese maindeck is nearly perfectly suited for the current metagame and the creature mix allows for a good mix of evasion, power and direct damage.
Before I wouldn't have given Boros a second thought, but now I'd seriously consider it as a viable deck and take some time to actually test against it.
What's been taking up all my time lately: Odin Sphere
All the time I've sunk into video games lately has been into Odin Sphere. It's one of the best video games I've played in the last couple of years and has some of the most beautiful graphics I've ever seen for any game on any system. Of course it's all 2D, which means a few people might take points off for no good reason, but honestly just see the game or the illustrations from the art book and you'll see what I mean. It's one of the few art-books I'm actually looking for a copy of because of the quality.
Otherwise it's like a side-scrolling beat 'em up with an advanced alchemy system which also makes for interesting inventory management. Basically it's like a 2D fantasy beat 'em up meets RPG. And the story is really good, I've only just gotten to book 3 (out of 6) currently and I'm hooked. You care about the characters, the story arcs are always rather clear in direction and the plot twists are pretty interesting and actually make sense within the story. I've already put in 16+ hours or so and only completed two of the books!
Final note: The game is hard. Most of the mini-bosses and big baddies can take you out in one or two shots with their special moves unless you spend a lot of time leveling up and the regular attacks do plenty of damage in the meantime. If you aren't careful or don't have a plan it's easy to die a whole lot in this game. And I'm talking about on Normal. Hard (and supposedly there's another level after Hard — "Heoric") reminds me of Dragon Quest level difficulty where everything you do early on could severely impact you down the road so planning is paramount.
The only drawbacks that have been whined about in the official reviews are slowdown at certain times when there are too many sprites on screen, and the load times. The load times could stand to be improved, but aren't that big a deal. The slowdown issue has been completely overblown and is less than the old SNES / Genesis games used to have (which is the best thing to really compare this game to). My old second generation big PS2 loads it quickly and fine and I've heard the PS3 helps even more so with the loading times.
If you own a PS2, go buy this game.
If I show you the world I experience,
You'll probably be paralyzed by fear.
A place of dreams? How foolish.
Cool Edition - Natsuko Kuwatani
E-mail me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom