The News

State of the Game – November 2019

Wednesday saw the publishing of the November State of the Game. Included was some exciting news, and gave some clarity on their vision of the future of Arena. Highlights include:

  • Performance Check-in
  • Friends List – Nov 21
  • Historic Anthology – Nov 21
  • Remastered Sets and Pioneer

The Arena team continues to place performance as a top priority, and thankfully so. The client seems to have gotten closer to stable for most people over the last few months, and less complaints have been popping up week to week on reddit. They also believe they have the memory leak issue and stutter issues fixed with the next release. I sure hope they do!

Social Features 1.0, better known as the Friends List, is going to be released with the patch next Thursday. This is far from a feature-complete implementation, but it is a start. In this iteration, you’ll be able to add, remove, and block players using their display name or email address. Direct Challenge options will be available in the Friends List interface. They plan to add messaging and deck sharing in a future update.

In the State of the Game, WotC announced that Historic Anthologies is going to be the name of the 20 curated cards they announced earlier this year. Along with that, there will be a Best-of-One event from Nov 21st to 25th, and a Best-of-Three ranked queue until Theros Beyond Death releases mid-January. We’ll dive into the specifics of this down below.

Beyond Historic, the team plans to begin releasing “remastered” sets that are made up of the most relevant cards across multiple sets. They plan to start this later next year, pushing the client toward full Pioneer support, though that will take many releases to complete.

Historic Rollout

In a separate article, the Arena team goes over their vision for Historic moving forward, and in doing so give some clarity on why it’s “Historic”.

To start with, November 21-25 we will have a Historic Launch Event which will be a Best-of-One play as many games as you like event costing 200 gems or 1000 gold. In the event you will be able to earn cosmetic treatments for 5 of the Historic Anthology 1 cards.

Also, from November 21 to January 15, a Best-of-Three Ranked queue will be available for Historic. This will affect the same Constructed rank as the current Ranked queues.

And finally, there will be a Tournament sometime before January 16th (the release date of Theros Beyond Death) that will include some “epic” prizes, though they don’t give any specifics.

Historic Anthology 1

Let’s talk about Historic Anthology 1 a bit. These are 20 curated cards from Magic’s past. Thankfully there aren’t any Wurmcoil Engines or Dark Confidants in sight. What we get are some powerful, but not over-the-top cards.

White

White got a few cards to improve lifegain or weenie style decks with Serra Ascendant and Soul Warden, and Kinsbaile Cavalier for a Knights themed deck.

Blue

Blue will have Treasure Hunt and Distant Melody added. Both of which are fairly weak Sorcery speed card draw spells, though they both have potential to see play in the right strategies.

Black

In my opinion, Black came out on top with quality cards. Hypnotic Specter is an old school favorite I suspect you’ll be seeing a lot of. Phyrexian Arena is one of the better but fair card draw enchantments. Tendrils of Corruption is good instant speed removal that points to a mono black deck. Finally, Cryptbreaker is a card used in Pioneer Zombie decks, so that tribe might see some representation in Historic.

Red

Red brings in Kiln Field, which shows up occasionally in Mono Red Prowess decks in Modern. Goblin Matron shows a bit of support for the Goblin Tribe. Then there’s Hidetsugu’s Second Rite, which can deal 10 damage to a player if they’re at exactly 10 life.

Green

Green picked up some fun elf tribal support. Elvish Visionary is a solid 2 drop, though Elves wasn’t really lacking for those currently. Imperious Perfect is a strong elf lord that makes your team bigger and can also pump out an elf every turn. The card to keep your eye on is Fauna Shaman. While it is an Elf, the ability to both throw creatures into your graveyard while simultaneously tutoring for any creature in your deck, is very strong. Just ask Survival of the Fittest.

Gold

Gold added Burning Tree Emissary, which is at worst a free creature. The card sees a good bit of play in Zoo style decks in Modern, Pioneer and Pauper, but I think the printing of it at Uncommon here means it won’t be available in Arena Pauper. Captain Sisay is an interesting include that doesn’t see much play outside of Commander. But I think the potential here for doing broken things alongside Kethis is very real. Keep an eye on this one.

Artifact

Finally there are some fun artifacts. Mindstone is one of the better two mana rocks printed, and will certainly be used to ramp. Ornithopter is an affinity cornerstone that with the right hand can get Emry out very early. Darksteel Reactor is a quirky wincon that sometimes shows up in miserable control decks, but might also give Proliferate decks something to strive for other than Simic Ascendancy.

Overall, I’m happy with these card choices, and am very glad they opted out of the much-too-powerful cards they had previously mentioned.

Wizards plans to roll out a new batch of 20 cards every quarter, likely coinciding with the month-long quarterly Historic queue.

These cards will be available for crafting with wildcards, or you will have the option to buy the entire playset of 80 cards for 3400 gems or roughly $20.

Mythic Championship VI

This past weekend saw Mythic Championship VI completely taken over by Oko-based decks. Just shy of 70% of the decks registered were playing Oko. Six of the top eight were playing Oko, and both decks not playing it were eliminated in the first round.

The finals saw Ondřej Stráský with a Simic Food deck winning 3-2 over Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa who was also playing Simic Food.

There were some interesting decks played at the tournament, a few of which I will post below. However, the overwhelming presence of Oko is disheartening to many players. This is what a solved Meta with a clear Tier 0 deck looks like. We can only hope that some bannings happen this coming Monday to help.

Banned/Restricted Announcement

On the subject of banning cards, this coming Monday is one of the most anticipated Banned/Restricted Announcement dates of recent history. Oko is a larger part of the meta than even Hogaak was in Modern over the summer.

While it’s important to recognize that not everyone thinks Oko is getting the axe, the number of comments in favor of the ban far outweigh the number who think he won’t be banned. I’m of the opinion that he will be gone come Monday, but there are some other cards that could see bans too. Other potentially problematic cards people are speculating bans on include mostly the supporting cast around the Oko decks. Near the top of the list are Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Veil of Summer. Other picks I’ve seen are Hydroid Krasis, Once Upon a Time, and Gilded Goose. If I were to put my money on anything it would be Oko and either Nissa or Hydroid Krasis. Veil of Summer is likely too, but I don’t think they will hit Once Upon a Time or Gilded Goose as both seem underwhelming in individual power.

Festival of the Fae – Chapter 3: Cascade

This Sunday starts the third and final chapter in the Festival of the Fae event series. The event will run Sunday through Tuesday.

Event Details: Each player begins the game with a Maelstrom Nexus emblem that has the following ability:

  • When you cast your first spell each turn, exile cards from the top of your library until you exile a nonland card that costs less. You may cast it without paying its mana cost. Put the exiled cards on the bottom of your library in a random order.

Event Format: Cascade
Entry Fee: 2500 Gold or 500 Gems
Banned Cards:

  • Deafening Silence
  • Fae of Wishes
  • Field of the Dead
  • Flaxen Intruder
  • Lavinia, Azorius Renegade
  • Lucky Clover
  • Rule of Law
  • Teferi, Time Raveler

Event Record: Rewards up to 5 wins, losses are not counted
Rewards:

  • 1 Win: Rimrock Knight Showcase card style
  • 2 Wins: Foulmire Knight Showcase card style
  • 3 Wins: Fae of Wishes Showcase card style
  • 4 Wins: Lovestruck Beast Showcase card style
  • 5 Wins: Realm-Cloaked Giant Showcase card style

The Decks

This week I want to take a look at a few non-Oko decks that did well in MCVI, but didn’t quite make the Top 8, so we can see what the meta might start to look like if Oko is banned on Monday. You will notice that the sideboards for these decks are incomplete. Due to the way the decks are published, we don’t actually know the number of cards in the sideboard.

Gruul Adventures (8-2)

from: Javier Dominguez

Deck
4 Bonecrusher Giant (ELD) 115
4 Rimrock Knight (ELD) 137
4 Edgewall Innkeeper (ELD) 151
4 Kraul Harpooner (GRN) 136
4 Lovestruck Beast (ELD) 165
4 Questing Beast (ELD) 171
4 Domri's Ambush (WAR) 192
4 Once Upon a Time (ELD) 169
1 Veil of Summer (M20) 198
3 Embercleave (ELD) 120
10 Forest (ELD) 266
10 Mountain (ELD) 262
4 Stomping Ground (RNA) 259

Sideboard
1 Veil of Summer (M20) 198
1 Cindervines (RNA) 161
1 Embereth Shieldbreaker (ELD) 122
1 Experimental Frenzy (GRN) 99
1 Flame Sweep (M20) 139
1 Lava Coil (GRN) 108
1 Shock (M19) 156
1 Sorcerous Spyglass (XLN) 248

Mythic Championship V winner Javier Dominguez brought a different take on Gruul than what he used to win MCV. This version, while still very aggressive, leans on the card drawing engine of Edgewall Innkeeper. Considering the two non-Oko decks that made Top 8 centered around Edgewall Innkeeper, I think it’s a safe bet that Adventure decks will be continue to be strong no matter what happens on Monday.

Jeskai Fires (7-3)

from: Louis Kaplan

Deck
4 Teferi, Time Raveler (WAR) 221
1 Kenrith, the Returned King (ELD) 303
4 Cavalier of Gales (M20) 52
4 Cavalier of Flame (M20) 125
3 Drawn from Dreams (M20) 56
4 Shimmer of Possibility (RNA) 51
4 Deafening Clarion (GRN) 165
1 Solar Blaze (WAR) 216
3 Aether Gust (M20) 42
1 Mystical Dispute (ELD) 58
4 Fires of Invention (ELD) 125
3 Castle Vantress (ELD) 242
4 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
4 Hallowed Fountain (RNA) 251
2 Island (ELD) 254
2 Mountain (ELD) 262
1 Plains (ELD) 250
1 Sacred Foundry (GRN) 254
4 Steam Vents (GRN) 257
3 Temple of Epiphany (M20) 253
3 Temple of Triumph (M20) 257

Sideboard
1 Mystical Dispute (ELD) 58
1 Devout Decree (M20) 13
1 Dovin's Veto (WAR) 193
1 Legion Warboss (GRN) 109
1 Shock (M19) 156
1 Sorcerous Spyglass (XLN) 248
1 Time Wipe (WAR) 223
1 Tithe Taker (RNA) 27

This is a deck I’ve been playing quite a bit on the ladder this month, and I’ve found it very strong. Linearly, the goal is to drop a Fires of Invention on turn 4, and follow it up with a pair of Cavaliers on turn 5. That doesn’t always work, so the rest of the deck is set up to help you survive until you can assemble the pieces.

Jeff Pyka, who is credited with coming up with the deck runs a much different list than this. I may go into that list next week, but it runs many more creatures including Brazen Borrowers and Bonecrusher Giants, completely skips on most of the spells other than Deafening Clarion, runs Prison Realm as spot removal for Planeswalkers, and insists on running 29 land. It’s hard to say which version is better, or will come out of Monday better positioned in the meta, but I like them both and this is a fun style of deck to play.

[Brawl] Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner

from u/paid-by-tencent

Commander
1 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner (WAR) 232

Deck
11 Forest (ELD) 269
1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds (WAR) 180
7 Island (ELD) 257
1 Risen Reef (M20) 217
1 Repudiate // Replicate (RNA) 227
1 Maraleaf Pixie (ELD) 196
1 Gyre Engineer (RNA) 180
1 Incubation Druid (RNA) 131
1 Paradise Druid (WAR) 171
1 The Great Henge (ELD) 161
1 Cavalier of Gales (M20) 52
1 Gilded Goose (ELD) 160
1 Neoform (WAR) 206
1 Finale of Devastation (WAR) 160
1 Beanstalk Giant (ELD) 149
1 Nissa, Who Shakes the World (WAR) 169
1 Arcane Signet (ELD) 331
1 Firemind Vessel (WAR) 237
1 Breeding Pool (RNA) 246
1 Castle Garenbrig (ELD) 240
1 Temple of Mystery (M20) 255
1 Thornwood Falls (M20) 258
1 Command Tower (ELD) 333
1 Lotus Field (M20) 249
1 Stonecoil Serpent (ELD) 235
1 Hydroid Krasis (RNA) 183
1 Roalesk, Apex Hybrid (WAR) 213
1 Zegana, Utopian Speaker (RNA) 214
1 Bioessence Hydra (WAR) 186
1 Voracious Hydra (M20) 200
1 End-Raze Forerunners (RNA) 124
1 Thorn Mammoth (ELD) 323
1 Aggressive Mammoth (M20) 337
1 Feasting Troll King (ELD) 152
1 God-Eternal Rhonas (WAR) 163
1 Cavalier of Thorns (M20) 167
1 Questing Beast (ELD) 171
1 Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig (ELD) 185
1 Agent of Treachery (M20) 43
1 Shifting Ceratops (M20) 194
1 Leafkin Druid (M20) 178
1 Tale's End (M20) 77
1 Circuitous Route (GRN) 125

Last week, reddit user paid-by-tencent posted a sweet Kiora list they had been having success with on Brawl Day. I tried it out this week and it blew me away. I’m not sure that I even lost a game while playing this deck on Wednesday. Everything in the deck is gas, and built to just run over your opponent.

The Wrap Up

After a few weeks of less-than-stellar community excitement, it feels like we might be getting back to a good place with Arena. Between the direction of Historic, and the announcement that Pioneer is on their radar, I think we can start being excited about the game again.

But we must also remain vigilant in letting WotC know when they’re messing up, and hold them accountable for making a game we want to play, and not just a digital Skinner Box money trap.

Until next week, Big <3
Hank

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