Deck Garage: Building Mid-Range Strategies

September 3, 2013 in Articles, Blood, Deckbuilding, PvP, Ruby, Source, Wild by John Tatta

Anyone who knows me when it comes to playing CCGs knows that I’m a huge fan of control and mid range strategies.  I’m a fan a sculpting a game plan in turns 1-5 and then executing it in the middle of the game to create a board state that becomes unbeatable.  Now, many players don’t like this deck concept because you are constantly playing from behind but after you learn how to navigate the rough waters it’s smooth sailing.  One of my favorite decks in MTG is Jund (Black, Red, Green); not because of how popular the deck is or how much it wins but because of the power level of the deck.  It’s a perfect example of what a mid range deck should look like.  It has efficient removal, solid creatures, and a very good resource base.  One of the main things that you want in a mid range deck (and control deck) is the ability to create card advantage through single cards.  We’ll go more into that in detail here in a bit.

Before we get into everything too deep, let me elaborate on what the different types of decks there are so you know exactly what I’m talking about.

  • Aggro decks – These decks typically play 8-12 1-drops and a full suite of efficient removal and damage spells and aim to kill you before you can hit the midgame.  If the aggro deck gets to turn 6-7, and the opponent isn’t dead yet, it’s likely that they’ll get overwhelmed by bigger and more powerful troops.  These tend to be the most popular decks in any game for their relative ease to play as well as card availability.
  • Midrange decks:  The deck we’re talking about today.  These decks tend to take control of a game around turn 5-6 with efficient troops and abilities.  The abilities and troops in the deck have ways to two-for-one an opponent and create overwhelming board states.
  • Control decks:  Control decks tend to overwhelm you with card advantage and card quality over the course of a long game.  The longer the game goes, the more you’re playing into the game plan of the control deck.  Around turn 8-9 the control deck starts to take over by clearing the game field of troops and then laying their own large threat.

Because we’re talking about midrange decks today, and because Black, Red, and Green is historically the most powerful color combination, we’re going to be constructing a Blood, Ruby, Wild midrange deck.  Our goal is to include cards that generate card advantage as well as efficient ways to deal with the opponents threats and provide our own.  Given the cards that we’ve seen so far, and one particular one from the conventions over the weekend, I think that we can come up with something pretty powerful.

Let’s jump right into what kind of troop base we want.  Keep in mind that we won’t really want to necessarily include very many low drops (1-2) as our game plan is to stabilize in the middle of the game rather than apply a constant clock early on.  We don’t want to limit our options too much though and might end up including something like that if it’s also efficient later on.  We just want to avoid “dead” draws once we get back into the game.

Mancubus – This is a card that I’m excited about as long as the format is ripe with two power or less creatures.  Either way, I’d like to experiment with him and would like to find room for at least one copy.  What he allows us to do is play him and the following turn threaten to steal an opposing creature.  We might also want to include a copy of Wild Growth, Wild Aura, or some number of Wild Root Dancer to increase his effectiveness.

Wild Root Dancer – This is a card that works very well with Mancubus as well as several other cards that we may choose to play in the deck but ultimately I’m not sure if it’s where we want to be.  He doesn’t have any kind of evasion and there will be many times where he’s the only troop on the field which doesn’t trigger his ability.  I don’t doubt that Wild Root Dancer is a great card, but I don’t think he’s the right man for this deck.  We’ll see as we add to the list of troops.

Battle Beetle – This is the troop that inspired me to even write this article.  I think that this troop has tremendous upside and is very, very flexible in what he can do.  He’s likely the decks primary win condition as well as a two-for-one on a stick when socketed with the wild major.  From just glancing at the gem chart, the only options for a midrange deck would be the WIld major that causes a fight when he enters play, the blood major that damages opponents when he enters play, or the Ruby major that destroys resources when he damages an opponent.  More often than not, we’re always going to want to fight but if we’re allowed to change gems during sideboarding that’s going to really make this guy’s value go through the roof.

Royal Falconer – This is another guy whose value goes way up if we include the growth cards that we talked about earlier.  Giving him permanent +3/+3 goes a long way to closing out games with the two created Royal Falcons.  Even giving +4/+4 for a turn with WIld Growth can be devastating and is representing  20 damage in a single turn (Six from the Falconer, seven from each Falcon).  I think we’ll end up playing this guy in some quantity mainly for his value and potential upside.

Bombsmith – One of those situations where we might play a two drop.  This guy stems off the early 2/1’s as well as provides us with 1/1 body to potentially trade with other X/1’s.  He might be a sideboard card for now but if aggro decks are very popular early on he should be worth adding to our main deck.

Xarlox the Brood Lord – Another value card that is sure to make the deck.  Again, not only does it come down and destroy a troop, it also provides us with a sizable body to block with.  There’s really no downside to this guy other than the rare case when an opponent has a response to his trigger and somehow makes us kill our own creature in play.  To me, he’s very akin to Flametongue Kavu from MTG glory.

Sensei of the Milky Eye – He’s worth mentioning because he does have some value when he enters play but he is  just a 1/1 for two resources on the surface.  We don’t have any way to make him a threat and he isn’t going to fuel any kind of sacrifice engine or trade with anything relevant.  For that, I doubt he makes the final cut.

Warlock Inquisitor – Another card that I feel will be a backbone of the deck.  He’s been talked about before at length and he’s one of the perfect cards for this deck.  The gem choices for this guy are very similar to the Battle Beetle except that the battle gem isn’t as appealing.  The destroy a resource gem though is much more appealing on a three drop troop.  Also, the gem that damages an opponent is also relevant as it turns him into a pretty sizable threat as he can continually come back to damage an opponent over and over again.

Jadiim – I’m a big fan of this card and he does provide a pretty fast clock.  That said, not having a comes into play ability is a pretty big downside for a deck that has a bunch of value cards in it.  I think I may still play one copy to test him out though as he does have evasion and can potentially one shot an opponent if they don’t have an answer for him.

Master Beast Rider – Because he’s socketable major, he’s certainly worth mentioning.  He can give himself the +2/+2 bonus for the fight gem or he can also gain the resource denial gem if we want to go that route.  I do quite like this card however and will likely end up playing some number of him.  Currently, the belief is that you can only have four of a certain gem in your deck so that also could limit the value this guy has.  Nothing is official yet but we’ll assume for now that is the case.

Vampire King – Another of my personal favorite cards, I feel like this guy is one of the top cards in the entire game right now so naturally he’ll be featured in a midrange deck.  He has the ability to just take a game over with your targeted removal spells and value troops.  There’s little to no downside to him and will win games if not dealt with in a timely manner.

Uruunaz – I think he might cost just a little too much for a midrange deck and is more of a control players dream card.  We will consider him, and might play a copy if we have room, but I think we’re going to want to have control of the board by the time we have a chance to play this monster.

That’s quite a list of troops at our disposal and the list will only grow as more of the set is spoiled.  Let’s move on to the abilities and constants which will assuredly be a smaller list.  Right?

Incantation of Fear – This card is pretty solid more for the reason that we don’t have to actually do anything we wouldn’t already be doing to trigger it.  It triggers when an opponent discards a card, it triggers when we kill a troop (or a trade in combat happens), and it triggers when an opponent plays an ability.  The Nightmare that it creates isn’t too terribly threatening but it is a threat nonetheless.

Wild Growth, Wild Aura – The more I think about these cards the more that I want to play them.  I don’t think I’d play any more than like one of each and maybe even one copy of just one of the two, but it’s potential upside is pretty huge with Falconer and Mancubus and also shouldn’t be overlooked  with cards like Warlock Inquisitor’s comes into play gems.  We’ll see where this takes us.

Runts of the Litter – I’ve made this reference before but in MTG there is a card called Lingering Souls that essentially made four 1/1 tokens for five mana (or just two for three mana).  It is an incredibly efficient card and Jund decks were splashing white for a while in order to play the card because it allowed them to stall the game out to when they could take over.  While the card isn’t quite as powerful in this game, I feel like it serves the same purpose and is worth at least testing.

Chlorophyllia – Every midrange deck should have something that ramps them.  In MTG there was Farseek and Rampant growth and in this game there’s Chlorophyllia.  There’s a huge difference in two and three resources, don’t get me wrong, as well as many other major differences, but I feel like the deck should still play the ramp ability.  Time and testing will tell but for now we’ll give it a shot.

Ragefire – I have a gut feeling that this card isn’t quite what we want in this deck, and may be better off as Burn, but I think we’ll give it a shot even if the resource restrictions are steep for a three color deck.  I’m getting a bit greedy with the resources for now just to see how far we can stretch the resource base.

Chaos Key – I feel like any mindrange or control deck should include one copy of the key in their deck just for a catch all answer to constants and artifacts.  I’d elaborate more on that but I feel like it’s pretty self explanatory at this point that constants need to be dealt with before they get out of hand and having access to something that does that is pivotal.

Zombie Plague – I really love the flavor of this card but I feel like it’s better fit for like a Blood/Diamond control deck or a Blood/Sapphire deck.  In a three color deck I think we’ll end up with better options or at least more consistent ones.

Relentless Corruption – The Blood escalation card and something we might want to seriously consider for our deck.  It’s essentially card draw but the cost is pretty steep.  We may not play many copies of the card but I do like the concept and the idea.

Omen of Oblivion – The gift that keeps on giving!  This is another answer to constants and artifacts except it affects them before they actually see the light of day.  This is another really awesome designed card and something worth considering as another one-of or more.  If you can draw it and play it early, it just continues to create a copy every time you void something and never goes away.

Murder – The bread and butter targeted removal spell of choice.  Nothing more to really saw about this one.

Extinction – Just another catch all for troops.  It’s poor when your board includes something like Vampire King but it’s great when you’re behind.  We’ll likely fit a few copies in.

Atrophy – The permanent -1/-1 is what makes this card a lot more appealing.  I think we’ll try it out in some number.

Now, we’ll for sure have more options once the entire set is previewed but let’s start piecing together what we’ve talked about to form an actual deck:

Blood, Wild, Ruby Midrange
4 Warlock Inquisitor (Blood major – deals damage to opponents on entering play)
2 Master Beast Rider (Ruby major – resource destruction on damage)
1 Mancubus
3 Xarlox the Brood Lord
4 Vampire King
3 Battle Beetle (Green major – fights when etners play)
1 Jadiim
2 Royal Falconer

3 Murder
1 Atrophy
2 Extinction
1 Omen of Oblivion
4 Chlorophyllia
1 Chaos Key
3 Ragefire
1 Wild Growth

4 Shards of Fate
8 Blood Shard
5 Ruby Shard
7 Wild Shard

I’m not too disappointed in the final list.  Keep in mind that this is version 1.0 and any card is subject to change.  At the moment the resource thresholds are a very big problem and may make us reevaluate our entire strategy by cutting Ruby completely and going with more of a Blood/Wild base.  For that, we need to see a few more cards that would push that strategy.  I’m also hoping for one other non-basic resource that help the three shard decks.  Yet another option is playing is Adaptable Infusion Device to fulfill our shard threshold needs.

The lack of card draw is typically an issue for midrange decks and they try to fight that by just having every card in the deck be efficient at what it does.  The way they win is by coming over the top of their opponent turn after turn.

Overall, I’m satisfied and can’t wait to try some version of this in Alpha.  Until then, we’ll just keep updating the list as new cards as spoiled.  Next week we’ll take a look at an updated control deck.  Until then, thanks for reading!