So I witnessed the new Onslaught Block metagame up close and personal this weekend… And although we spent a hell of a lot of time reporting on everything that we saw, there were certain lessons that may have been lost in the shuffle. So let me condense the combined knowledge of thirty-seven articles and match reports to bring you the New Lessons of Onslaught Block.
Say Goodbye To Goblin Goon
Back in Venice, Goblin Goon was a fine choice for a Sligh deck; it was a 6/6 that could come out as early as turn 3 with a little help from a Skirk Prospector or two, and then start pounding.
Then Silver Knight came along. Silver Knight laughs at a 6/6 red critter – it could block a 12/12 critter without mussing its hair. But trample? Protection from red does bupkiss against trample. Furthermore, the addition of Wing Shards meant that sending a lone Goblin into play on turn 4 wasn’t your best option any more.
And so the metagame has shifted back to Clickslither, which not only has trample – thus allowing you to stampede right over any intervening Knights – but also has a fantastic game-ending synergy with Siege-Gang Commander. You can, as Gerard Fabiano did, cast a Siege-Gang and then attack the next turn with Clickslither, sacrificing two tokens to bulk it up to a +7/+7 and still leaving a sacrificial lamb back for Wing Shards.
In fact, in all the Goblins matches I watched, not one Siege-Gang token was turned into a Shock. All of them were fed to Clickslither, which does the same damage and doesn’t require mana. (Which is not to say that you can’t throw them at people’s heads, but the opportunity might not arise as often as you think – especially when your opponents concede in response.)
Furthermore, Clickslither’s haste allows you to punish people for tapping out. You’re going to be doing most of your damage in the first six turns or so, and the Slither gets in a free hit when your opponent taps below the critical 1WW.
Skirk Prospector = Public Enemy #1
One of the interesting things I saw good players doing was going out of their way to kill first-turn Skirk Prospectors, including foregoing their own first-turn Prospector when going second. I asked why, and it’s simple; Skirk ramps up into Rorixes and Siege-Gangs a lot sooner.
If you run Goblins, the only question is whether you maindeck it or sideboard it. (Keep in mind that it’s not that good in the mirror match.) This card not only shuts down Exalted Angels, Ravenous Baloths, and Renewed Faiths, but it gives you a hope in the long game, where your opponent will most likely be lower in life than you are. It’s also severe anti-Form of the Dragon tech, as the”go up to five at the end of your turn” is technically lifegain…. But be warned that most players will sideboard Forms out in anticipation.
Beasts Is Dead
A lot of people called Beasts”the best deck in Venice,” and maybe it was… But Beasts always struggled to beat Goblins, and Scourge was like a Gamma Radiation treatment for the little red guys. Siege-Gang Commander and Goblin Warchief sped the deck up into an extremely unfavorable game one, and Sulfuric Vortex shuts down Baloths in games two and three.
It may have solid matchups against other decks, but as long as Goblins rule the roost in Onslaught Block – which they always will in Onslaught Block PTQs, as more casual players love the beatdown – then Beasts remains a poor choice.
Do Not Forget Zombies
It’s real easy to forget the decks outside of the Top 8… But keep in mind the only reason that Zombies didn’t make it in was because of two God draws from Mark Herberholz. No less than nine Zombies decks made it into Day 2 (although admittedly, only three of them made it into the Top 32), which means they’re still pretty beefy.
Plus, it’s a low-level rogue deck that somebody will play just because it’s below the radar. I’m not saying to run it, but definitely stuff this MODO creation in your test gauntlet, or at the very least read our interview with Dave Williams about the deck. Ignore it at your peril.
Do Not Start With 4x Pacifism…
At least not in the main deck. Pacifism is at its weakest against the most popular deck, Goblins, where Goblin Sledders, Clickslithers, and Siege-Gang Commanders all serve to make it useless – even Rorix will still get a hit in before you can shut it down.
What Happened To Stabilizer?
You may note the lack of Stabilizers in the Top 8, leading one to the conclusion that good decks don’t run it. By and large, you’d be correct; Stabilizer is the Wandering Jew of cards, doomed to meander through Onslaught Block without finding a home… At least for the time being.
- Goblins can’t run it because it goes against their strategy; Goblins need to be pure aggression, and wasting their turn 2 casting a null card – or worse yet, drawing multiples – slows them down and puts them a severe danger of letting their opponent ramp up to an early Akroma’s Vengeance or, even worse, an Akroma, Angel of Wrath.
- Slide doesn’t want to run it because Stabilizer would take up four cards in their sideboard, thus leaving them eleven cards to come up with an alternate, non-Sliding sideboard strategy, which would leave them completely helpless in any matchup that didn’t involve Stabilizer.
- Mono White Control has better options, like sideboarding in Jareth and Wipe Clean, and they have access to the Slide-smashing Vengeance.
- Bad Form does not care about Astral Slide, being creatureless, and relies too heavily on Lightning Rift to shut down its own strategy.
- Zombie Bidding might be able to use it… But then again, their matchup with Slide is pretty good anyway, as they can set themselves up for a huge, one-sided Patriarch’s Bidding that requires the Slide player to have an Akroma’s Vengeance right then or die… And then have another one ready for the next Bidding.
There Is But One Version of Bad Form
As Andy Stokinger noted, there is a two-color U/R version going around in addition to Alex Shvartsman fourth-place mono-red deck. (There’s also a three-color Form deck that most pros dismissed as awful because it lost so badly to Goblins – and based on what we saw when we covered it, we’d have to agree.) Precisely two U/R decks made it into Day Two, and neither of them finished in the Top 32. This could be a statistical fluke, but I doubt it. Trust the YMG hangers-on, and run the mono-red.
Temple of the False God
Despite my own skepticism about the Temple and the danger of a double-Temple draw, the ability to ramp up is critical in many control matches – and a lot of Onslaught Block, as I noted, is still control. It’s very similar to Odyssey Block’s Cabal Coffers; if you have a long game in sight and can use it, do. And also like Cabal Coffers, the accepted number seems to be three.
Another interesting technique is to have the Temples in the sideboard, as Bob Maher did, and side them in for the control matchups where you need them.
And speaking of Bob….
You Are Not Bob Maher
Bob Maher won Detroit with his R/W Slideless Control. Now, do me a favor for a moment and read my coverage of the finals, where you get to see what Bob had in his hands at all times. Note the number of decisions that you might very well have made wrong.
Bob Maher’s deck is the new Wake; it’s complex, it’s splashy, and a lot of players are going to copy the deck like they were a human Xerox machine, and then bomb out horribly in their local tourneys.
Listen to me: Bob Maher can pick up this deck and just win with it. You cannot. If you’ve never won a PTQ, you’re not going to win it with this deck; take the time, sit down with it, and get some good news in. I can see the future of StarCityGames articles right now… And it’s going to be a bunch of incompetents claiming”excellent” results against Maher’s R/W deck because the guy who’s piloting it doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing.
This is the new future of control – more complex than ever. Playtest the damn deck. A lot. Get it right, then decide if you’re comfortable running it.