Hello everyone, and welcome to another installation of Meta Monday from Team Rankstar! I’m Tim, otherwise known as Tchamber5 on ladder. Let’s dive in!

We had a double down tournament weekend this week, featuring the Direwolf Digital Envoys Test Tournament as well as the final week of this season of the ETS. The meta may look a little familiar to most of you, though we had some cool new additions and tech decisions.

Take, for example, the Victor of the ETS, MustacheMagic with a very appropriately titled deck, Let me take you to valuetown.

This deck, as. The name implies, is focused on generating lots of value with individual cards, and relies less on synergistic strategies. Cards like Heart of The Vault and Mystic Ascendant are great on their own and develop some really nice card advantage. Vara and Sandstorm Titan act as great roadblocks for any aggressive strategy, and are backed up by cheap removal and Quarry for card selection.  I really like what this deck has going on, and I think it was well constructed for this weeks meta. In Cold Blood is a great call for this week since so many players are leaning on big justice threats like Rizhan, Icaria or Tavrod to name a few. It’s also never a completely dead card, and can do a solid impression of Slay if need be. This is also one of the first decks I have seen in which I really like Azindel as a four of. Don’t get me wrong: Azindel is insanely powerful, I just feel like we hadn’t found a place for him to shine until now. Previously he showed up in a few Mask of Torment lists or as a backup finisher in Talir combo or Xenan mid, but here, it feels like he fills a true purpose and is backed up by efficient removal and units to bridge the gap to eight power. Speaking of power, when I first saw this deck, I was surprised that the power count was so high (thirty-five sources if you count Seek and Find the Way). However,  Waystone Infuser lets you use this to your advantage, creating an additional source of card advantage by warping in power cards. This deck is really cool, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot more of it moving forward.

In second place, we have Team Rankstar’s very own Magikarp piloting his favorite deck, Praxis Tokens.

This is a tried and true archetype, and I’m not surprised to see it frequently perform well on ladder. What’s special about Magikarp is the amount of time and effort they put into tuning their deck from week to week. This week, they make a clear statement with several tech decisions. First, Ixtun merchant allows access to a very versatile market. Cauldron Cookbook is a new addition to the archetype, and a nod to the fact that a lot of games will go long, letting you keep up on card advantage in board stalls or against a more controlling deck. In talking with Magikarp about the archetype, he mentioned that cookbook was his least favorite inclusion in the market and would probably swap it out for either Purify or Flamestoker, depending on the expected field. Rally and Cloud of Ash serve a similar purpose in different situations, letting you win the game outright in some scenarios. Jawbone Greatsword is a card that I am really enamored with in praxis tokens lately and I love seeing it as a singelton copy in the main deck as well as the market. It snipes Icaria, Rizahn, and Vara (if she hasn’t grown), and can act as a really nice win condition since it is so easy to activate tribute and get a giant Brand, Without Fear. We also see the fourth obliterate in the market to deal with all the meta’s big-bodied threats, or to just deal the last few points of damage to your opponent’s face.

In third place, we have The Great Parliament’s Jez2781, playing Haunted Highway!

Not a whole lot to say about the archetype, since we have all seen it so much over the last few weeks, though there are some interesting decisions being made here. For example, The deck’s is running zero copies of Devour and instead maxes out on permafrost, crunch, and grenadin drone. I suspect that this is an attempt to streamline the deck, perhaps sacrificing longevity in certain matchups. I love the Rindra’s Choice in the market as it will let you deal with some very problematic threats for Haunted Highway without needing the two card combo of Madness and Combust.

Tied for third, we have SooNo from SeekPowerGaming, playing Combrei Mid-Range!

We often see SooNoo register well-constructed decks that are a great choice for the week’s meta, and this is no exception. We have seen similar archetypes in the past using the same core of powerful cards, and I like that this deck doesn’t have a lot of fluff in it. The game plan of the deck is super straightforward, and aims to beat your opponent  down with efficient creatures and eventually closing the game out with a Sword of Unity or a huge unit protected by Stand Together. There are a couple of neat innovations here. In the main deck, we see an absence of Initiate of the Sands, which is instead replaced by a full four Seek Power. Even though this slightly decreases the velocity of the deck, I think I like the change. With FJS and Haunted Highway decks being such a large part of the metagame, Initiate dies rather frequently when played early, and loses a lot of it’s impact when played late. Seek Power skirts around that problem a bit while still supplying your deck with the power that it needs. There also aren’t really any three drops that you are excited to play on turn three here anyway, making it less necessary to jam an Initiate on turn one. The market is nicely selected here as well. Infinite Hourglass, while rendering your opponent’s Permafrost’s useless, will also allow you to play on defense if need be. Sword, Stand, and Mystic Ascendant all give you easy access to the best cards in your deck, making your draws more consistent. Overall, I think this is a just a solid build of a good archetype for the current meta.

In fifth place, we have a very greedy pile of cards, piloted by Doc28.

Another familiar deck here, with a couple of….well, greedy inclusions. In addition to all of the normal FJS staples, we see four Caiphus, Wandering King and four Dark Return. It’s very possible that this is just the correct way to build FJS nowadays, with all of the grindy decks and removal running around.  Caiphus and Dark Return are kind of insane, and this deck takes good advantage of it by one-for-oneing it’s opponent with removal, and following up with Caiphus as a win condition after they are low on resources. Cookbook supports this gameplan really well, ensuring that you don’t run out of cards in the late game.

Tied for fifth place, we have a variation of Haunted Highway piloted by Hulkbust3r!

We still see the core haunted highway cards here, but with a twist: the addition of Gorgon Fanatic instead of Crunch, The Hoarder. I like this idea a lot, though I haven’t tested it myself. What draws me to Gorgon Fanatic over Crunch is the life gain and superior card draw. It basically turns your Haunting Scream text into: “draw three cards, deal three damage, gain three life,” which is pretty solid for 2 power. Being forced to sacrifice Fanatic can be a bit of a downside though, and Crunch will sometimes provide more sustained damage, especially since you can give him berserk.

Another deck that tied for fifth place this week is Rakano Valkyries, piloted by Kroge!

Kroge is truly an excellent pilot of their favorite archetype, Rakano Valkyries. The list is mostly comprised of the core cards in this staple archetype, but an interesting new card in the mix is Sword Of The Sky King. This ambitious addition to the deck is complimented by three Harsh Rule, making this week’s build a bit more controlling than usual. I would probably prefer to see an increase in the Bulletshaper-Amilli combo, though it’s decrease will likely lead to more versatility in the deck. I hope we continue to see Kroge do well with this deck, as it is an excellent example of weekly fine tuning for a single archetype.

Last, but not least, we have an interesting take on the tokens archetype, Praxscar Tokens,  piloted by Balthyde!

First, let me say that I was happy to see Balthyde top eight this event. I interacted with them a few times this week on ladder, and I was glad to find that they were very friendly. Their deck is also really neat. They keep all the staples of Praxis tokens but seek to add the long game element with cards like vault of praxis and cauldron cookbook. In the same vein, they have Devour and and Combust to get the most value out of the abundance of tokens, and to keep the board clear. There are a couple of finishers in the deck. The first of which is Scraptank, though this card is very good at almost any point in the game, and gets even better with the aforementioned Combust and Devour. We also have Gearcruncher as a way to burn out your opponent when you have a large board or the board is gummed up with units. Lastly, we have Torrent of Spiders, which can fill up your board with units after being ground out of the game or Harsh Ruled by control decks. I’m a big fan of this deck, and look forward to jamming some games with it on ladder.

As well as the ETS This weekend, we had the finals of the DWD Envoys tournament that I wanted to touch on briefly.

The entire tournament was taken down by Exline, piloting Haunted Highway. As well as the first place list, we saw Theovermaster pilot a similar list to a third place finish. Clearly haunted highway is still a great deck, and you should be prepared to play with it or against it if you are jumping onto ladder in the near future. We also had three different pilots (GeorgeA, Kartoffel, and Laurenman) bring FJS decks into the top eight, so I will echo the same sentiment.

We also saw Talir Combo top eight here in the hands of Painkiller88. Perhaps the best way to fight the meta game of streamlined aggro and removal pile decks is to do unfair things, i.e. drawing your whole deck and dealing over a hundred damage to your opponent at once.

The last two archetypes we have are Combrei Midrange, and Skycrag Aggro, piloted by 1232132 and Kleath respectively. Combrei remains a good call it into this meta, having a good amount of early units and life gain to fight aggro, while also being able to keep pace with late game decks with bombs like Mystic Ascendant and Telut. Skycrag is almost always a solid choice, and usually has a chance to just get free wins when it runs hot. I always appreciate a deck that’s mostly four-ofs since it usually signifies consistency in your gameplan.

Overall, I Feel like there is still wiggle room to brew in this meta, so don’t be too disheartened by the abundance of Haunted Highway and FJS. Perhaps a unitless control deck will pop up in the near future to go over the top of all these decks? Or perhaps we will see a shift to more value-centric mid-range decks like the winner of the ETS this week. I know I will definitely be experimenting with some cool new archetypes this week. What will you be playing? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on twitter!

See you next week!

Tim

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