So, the Legendary Vampire tournament and Day 1 of the European Championships were won by the same deck archetype – Girls Who … Then, another thread on the newsgroup has a metagame answer in a deck with Trochomancy. I can’t help but think that there’s nothing new about the problem of how to deal with master heavy decks.
Once upon a time, there was, of course, the Anson Anarch Revolt decks that could even go 100% masters. Change in Anarch Revolt has made that archetype scarce to nonexistent. Actually, I’m sure that it could still be built, it’s just that preventing or eliminating anarchs to ensure damage is a hassle.
Anthelios made tedious master heavy decks popular. Really, why is this card legal? Oh, right, GF that badly designed cards be purged in the name of making for healthier environments.
Anthelios, however, is not the core problem, just a great boon to such decks. Could argue that anything that generates multiple master phase actions is really the root problem. A good argument when you consider how popular Anson has been, how Nana made Guruhi go from suck to the in thing, and, of course, Cybele decks. However, there’s no will to fix that problem, so we have to move on.
We have had Liquidation for a while and it was some good with Shambling Hordes and Giovanni recursion. Then, Ashur Tablets comes along and recursion is open to every deck. The synergy between Liquidation and Ashur Tablets just being ridiculous, though the engine screams for multiple master phase actions, which is why we see it so much less in decks that either play fair or would only run The Parthenon (as my FoS deck I played in Vegas this year did).
Interaction is weak. This is a lesson gleaned from discussing CCGs and playing a variety over quite a few years. When you interact, things can go wrong. If you don’t interact, whoever has the mightiest plays in the least amount of time wins. This lack of interaction is a key feature of the winning deck mentioned above – stealth to oust, master bloat (and bounce) to survive. It’s also the feature common of turbo decks, Una (for most of the game), AAA, Malk94, First Tradition decks, and numerous others.
So, what metagame strategy does this leave us with? There’s always playing such decks, oneself. That’s what happened when Necropotence ruled the Magic scene. There’s attempting to go off faster either with a (better) combo deck or speed decks. An example here would be a weenie bleed deck.
There’s attempting to force interaction. Sure, there’s rush, but rush is often a weak strategy to begin with and runs into the problem that these decks often bloat so much that taking out the key minions doesn’t cripple the deck, and there’s always Golconda to ensure that the board is cleared to bring out another copy. A deck that could rush did win day 2 of the EC – in my mind, just further proof that one’s deck strength doesn’t matter that much. Then, there are winnie decks. Winnie Animalism with Deep Song is not so bad as it mixes pool damage with lots of rush ability.
There’s fighting a master war with Suddens or Washes, but threats are better than answers for a reason. First of all, there’s little chance that one will have enough counterspells to cancel all of the key master plays. Even if the deck has them, the chances of having a counter in hand at the right time is surprisingly low, as I’ve often found when I attempted this strategy. Of course, an environment where everyone runs 4+ Suddens/Washes changes the equation to one of absurd politicking to see what gets through and what doesn’t.
Eliminating the parts that improve the engine – Anthelios, The Parthenon – doesn’t hurt, but again, answers that may come up too late. Though, one would think that location destruction would be quite viable, except when I run it, I never have any targets. Can also be DIed, overloaded (drop second The Parthenon), or whatever. In Anthelios’s case, there aren’t that many options for eliminating it, and I’ve found The Uncoiling to be much worse at its job than I thought. Fourth Cycle requires distorting one’s own deck just to nail a small segment of the metagame.
Then, there’s tech answers. Trochomancy, as mentioned, is one (against the decks that recurse). Requires playing a specific discipline that limits deck options immensely, the discipline isn’t even that good, though there are very good decks that use the discipline. Mix with Shambling Hordes and it’s not that difficult to beat these decks down.
But, what about more general answers? I’ve considered The Rising, but it has the same problem as Fourth Cycle in terms of distortion and it only works if the prey of the offending deck does its job and doesn’t get ousted. Still, The Rising has such interesting effects, that I’m curious as to see what it does.
We can’t take cards like The Name Forgotten seriously, so permanent minion elimination seems unlikely.
Playing The Parthenon oneself, of course, is not unreasonable for many decks. There’s no reason to not put Information Highway into virtually every deck, so there’s always the possibility of contesting that. Same goes with Dreams of the Sphinx.
Cards that screw big vampires, which actually I see being quite good in general in current metagames, might help. Fear of Mekhet can hit a lot of commonly seen targets, but it doesn’t touch Cybele or Aksinya. Kaymakli Nightmares needs to come up early and, even then, doesn’t matter unless you hit the deck hard enough, nevermind that it does nothing useful for most decks. I so want to hate on large vampires these days, so I should be spending more time looking for plays that will screw them.
What we want are “natural answers” – answers that are not about targeting a specific deck but that arise naturally from doing what you want to do. Example would be fast decks with Suddens or vampires good for other things that randomly have abilities that are relevant – I had merged Sebastian Goulet in the Vegas Qualifier with an Imbued deck as my predator because DOM/OBF is passable and reducing the cost of my miscellaneous allies was … pretty much never relevant in that event. Of course, being unable to do anything to the Imbued deck even with Sebastian and Ambulance! just goes to show how answers are not as good as the threats they are meant to answer.
And/or, we want high quality answers – they must not be overly narrow or too weak to matter. If an answer can perform multiple functions, even if the secondary function is slight, like how Trochomancy is kind of a bleed card, so much the better. I’ve actually won a tournament with Victim of Habit (in the deck) – I often considered the card underrated; but, my attempts to recapture that magic haven’t gone well, so I’m not that enthralled with it. Still, it’s a relatively painless option that could be experimented with. Also, it’s not like the decks we are looking to hit are that redundant, they just seem that way. We aren’t talking about 20 Ashur Tablets or some such, so not only will one Victim of Habit only likely do 1 pool damage, but it can be worked around to where it probably won’t do any.
Or, just give up on metagaming against such decks and play what you want. After all, table politics can demise any deck.