Thursday, October 24, 2019

Reaching for Platinum

Last week I posted about the Mono-Black mid-range deck I got from the Arena Boys at Channel Fireball and how it started to lift me from Silver to Gold in Standard Ranked Best of One games.

After the shocking 9-1 start to rocket out of Silver last week the win rate settled to a still impressive ~75% as I climbed through Gold 4 and was well on my way to Platinum on the weekend... or so I thought.

I was three wins into Gold 1, only two wins from Platinum on Sunday and then I went 2-2. Just a hiccough I thought. Then for the last three days I went 5-10, a dismal 33% win rate. I was frustrated. I thought this deck was going to get me to my goal of Platinum this season but it looked like that was not to be. I started looking at other options, deck from the Mythic Championship and other decks on Channel Fireball posts, but most of them required a lot of Rare and Mythic Rare cards I didn't have, and didn't have the wildcards for crafting them as I spent quite a few on this current deck.

Why did the win rate change so suddenly? I'm not sure. Maybe it was the ban announcement on Field of the Dead to cripple Golos/Field of the Dead decks so a bunch of people abandoned those decks for more aggro focused decks and Simic food decks? Or maybe I was just facing higher caliber players at this level now? Or was it a combination of bad luck and bad play from becoming tilted?

Last night I logged in deciding to accept that Gold 1 might be the high water mark for me this season (it was still a personal best after all) and just enjoy playing while I planned for next season's climb. I won 1... and lost 2. Then won 3 in a row... and lost 1. That put me two wins in on Gold 1. Then I won the next 4, including a 14 minute slugfest against a UBW planeswalker control deck! YES! Platinum 4 baby!

Needless to say I'm pleased as punch and ready for next season to improve on this season. Here are some stats and final thoughts on this Mono Black Midrange deck.

The final win rate was 63% (50 wins, 29 losses) and had a statistical advantage going first. The best match ups were anything that was aggro based creatures: mono red, mono black, knights tribal, mono blue mill decks and things in a similar vein.

The worst match-ups were decks that had a better long range plan than I did, or could get the pieces into place before I could get my best combos going. Going against Simic Food was a nightmare as they weathered any early or mid game push fairly soundly and had an endgame that was just punishing.

My deck had two main win conditions. The first was the Arya + Dread Presence combo that levels incidental damage through swamps and creatures entering the battlefield, especially when Arya could recycle the recurring Gutterbones and Sanitarium Skeletons. This win condition worked well in slow games where the opponent didn't have a lot of removal and/or big creatures.

The second win condition was basically beat-down from Cavalier of Night on the ground and Rankle in the air. Since they both had built in removal it worked really well against decks that needed creatures, and worked best in games that were moving faster.

And if I managed to get  both win conditions going at the same time, it was game over for my opponent.

However, that being said, the struggles I've had this past few days have demonstrated a weakness to this deck. Both win conditions need multiple pieces to be in place to pull it off: Arya or Dread Presence is not enough on their own to complete the deed usually, nor can Rankle or the Cavalier overwhelm the opponent by themselves. And one piece from each is usually insufficient as well: Rankle and Arya are both competing for sacrifices for their effects for example, and one or the other is negated somehow.

The upshot of this weakness is that if the cards don't cooperate this deck needs time to get rolling and the decks it is weakest against are decks that also need time to get rolling but have a bigger long range payoff. The 50% win rate versus the Golos-FotD deck is a microcosm of this issue: I needed to get the engine rolling and win before they could start creating fields of zombies.

So this feels like a hybrid mid-range / aggro deck. It needs to win before the long game. I think this is why it works very well against aggro decks: it has the wherewithal to survive the initial blitz quite well and dominate in the mid to late game. And useless against Simic Food where the long game engine was far more powerful and resilient.

In summary: decent deck, I'll keep it around as my gold standard that I compare other decks too for the time being (or should I say, platinum standard?).

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