Today we welcome, Desmond Brophy aka Stranglebat to DDU.Network. Desmond has quite the reputation for brewing interesting decks that perform well in the meta in this article he’s going to share some of his secret sauce.
Imagine you are a kid, it is Christmas Eve and you’ve a plan to meet the man himself, Santa Claus. You set out the milk and cookies in the perfect location and hide behind the Christmas tree ready to jump out and meet him when he appears. He’ll be so impressed that there is no way that he won’t take you to his magical land. Now imagine that to prevent every kid from going to Santa’s magical Christmas land, Santa has some elves that’ll drink your milk cookies and eat the cookies, they’ll move your Christmas tree so you can’t hide and they’ll mess up your plans. Now replace the milk and cookies with cards and resources, the location with the board state, the meddling helpers with your opponent, and the plan with that sweet combo you just have to pull off. The destination is still magical Christmas land and it’s not likely you will ever go there without some serious planning and forethought.
When asked to write something for DDU.Network I knew immediately I wanted to write about deck building. I’m one of those special snowflakes who likes to build non-meta things, but I also very much like to win. Once in a blue moon your rogue deck might just transform into part of the meta. This happened to me once in Legacies when I modified Agent of Zion’s Yoda Hondo list for my regionals deck, and it ended up being on the Hyperloops gauntlet for the Legacies meta. I have written about that specific deck before here and this isn’t a rehash of that. Rather I wanted to put together some guidelines of things to do to successfully build something that is non meta.
Respect the meta decks.
The meta decks are meta for a reason, they are tried and true, they are tested and forged through competition to be the best they can be. Many rogue builders in my experience make the mistake of trying to hold themselves on some moral platform because they “Don’t play meta”. This kind of thinking then leads them to use it as an excuse when they lose, “it’s not my deck, my opponent played meta!”. You want to build something that is strong and can tackle the meta, not something that loses to them. Excusing your deck because it lost to a meta deck is not going to help it improve, it’s a form of denial, you are setting yourself the expectation that you will lose. Just remember that what the people who designed the meta decks did is the same as what you are trying to do now, except they did it into a blind field.
Play the meta decks in your weekly destiny nights
Following on from the respect point. Some brewers tend to have a disdain for playing meta decks themselves. Thrawn said “To defeat your enemy you must know them” and this 100% holds true here. Playing the current decks to a passable level will not only help you to get a feel for what a well-constructed deck should be doing but also help you to know their underlying strategy so you can build your deck against it. For example, whilst playing a meta deck you will start to see the situations where you will think “if they have X card I am toast”, these are super informative to your own building process.
Don’t be afraid to share your creation.
In the lead up to nationals I put together a line up based on the Drive by Shooting list but with a little more health for the WOTF meta. eYoda/Cassian/Rookie Pilot. The concept was sound, but I couldn’t get it to work. I shared the list with Steret (Fellow Perth player) and he really took it to the next level in ways I never would have thought of, coming 2nd at nationals and winning a regional with it. If you want to take something to the top, more minds are better. It really is his deck now but it’s still fun seeing something that you contributed to do as well as it did.
Build around strategies and objectives not specific cards
This is the part my introductory metaphor was alluding to. Too often you see someone look at a card like scoping the target and then imagine the best possible scenario. They add any number of cards as well as favourable context in their head and see that it can just end the game. The problem is that this is fragile. What if you don’t draw those cards, what if the opponent disrupts you, what if you don’t win your battlefield, what if… you get the point. Instead look to build around an objective. Something like, “I need to do wide damage”, “I want to get a critical mass of upgrades”, “I want to construct a game ending combo” are good starts. They don’t lock you into anything specific and have a clear goal. You want to avoid tunnel vision on pet cards wherever possible.
Be merciless on the parts that aren’t working.
This links back to the last point really but deserves its own mention. Sometimes an idea is really good but just doesn’t work. I had in my recent eJyn/eLor/LTP mill Nexus of Power as a finisher. The ability to roll it in turn to discard and threaten 2 to 3 discard off long term plan was great. Plus late game after they have lost their cards it can be used for the shield or resources. However great these upsides were, it had draw backs coming into the SoH meta. It was slow and costing 1 the card needs immediate impact to keep up. I was almost always more inclined to play a field medic than nexus. It also was susceptible to splash hate. People running Desperate Measures and the like suddenly got value from a card that was turned off prior. The challenge is to identify these factors then make the decision to remove it.
Hopefully this helps give some perspective on my thoughts on how to approach a non meta deck. The best takes away you can have is to be open, the place where most rogue builders come undone is in the conception of the idea and being too tightly bound to specifics.