It's 2011. Caw-Blade is the best deck in Standard. Here's a brief refresher on Caw-Blade:
The deck that eventually got Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor banned in Standard, Caw-Blade, was very easily the best deck for its entire tenure in Standard. If your primary goal was to win matches of Magic, playing anything else was a mistake. Good players were able to win much more often, causing the deck to be heralded as a success, a boon, a Godsend by tournament players, but for The General populace, the existence of Caw-Blade and all its cold efficiency did not make for a very fun Standard environment.
Despite having access to three members of the current Modern banlist (Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Preordain, Stoneforge Mystic), the deck was beatable.
Once Caw-Blade started shaving on Day of Judgment in an effort to be better against the mirror, elves players found their Caw Blade matchups becoming a relative cakewalk. Dismember is great against players that want to go tall, but against Elves players actively trying to go wide, losing four life just to cast your one-for-one spell is terrible.
Fact: Every "best deck" can still be beat.
If we accept that an aggressive red deck is the best thing we can be doing in Duels, then the above pile of white and green cards represents the antithesis of that. Casting a card like Divine Favor, much like casting any card around that power level, is a risky gambit when the alternative is "do something good that doesn't rely on context."
The problem with "metagame decks" is that players don't always behave in their own best interest. You might be playing Elves, ready to mow down all the Caw-Blade players, but instead, you got paired against a bunch of Slagstorms and never saw another Caw-Blade deck. The fact that all those Slagstorm-wielding folks never had a chance against Caw-Blade is immaterial. They still beat you very easily, and Caw-Blade, in turn, beat them very easily. Choosing your deck based on the metagame in lieu of playing something more powerful relies heavily on matchups breaking your way. In other words, you end up banking on things largely outside of your control.
Sometimes, though, the metagame deck does some powerful stuff in its own right.
Auras have a special place in Magic's history as something of an intellectual trap. Novice players are drawn to them after the first time they attack with a 9/14, but after they eventually figure out how to track the reasons behind their losses - when one of their creatures with four auras on it dies, or when they lose the game with four auras in their hand and no creatures on the battlefield – they trend away from auras.
Traditionally, auras are bad. Magic: Duels, and its strange, NWO-informed card pool, flips this idea on its head.
With such a small card pool, it's likely that a strategy designed to beat the best deck will beat other decks as well. This is especially true when the best deck is simply the one that deploys creatures and attacks with them the best. With no true control deck able to punish anyone that's going tall instead of wide and gaining tons of life in the process, a white-based deck full of auras finds itself in decent position against a bunch of 1/1s and 2/2s. The removal spells in these decks – damage-based, and thus great against other small, efficient creatures – find themselves awkwardly outclassed when facing down a 6/7.
There's some fun stuff going on with the deck. When discussing Magic, "fun stuff" is mostly used as a redeeming factor in a bad deck, but it turns out that within the context of Magic: Duels, the fun stuff is oddly powerful.
I went 4-0 in games, mainly because I was lucky enough to play against Mountains every single match. As ever, my play wasn't perfect, but I caught the right matchup breaks. This gave me a wide enough margin of error to string together some wins.
There's no good Standard port of this deck for me to recommend, but this Modern deck might look familiar:
As bad as auras might be traditionally, it turns out they get a lot better when your creatures are hexproof, your opponents' removal requires a legal target, and the auras are really, really good. Seth Manfield, who piloted the deck en route to his decisive World Championship win, has more to say about the deck. Suffice it to say that on the right day, against the right decks, Bogles and other aura-based strategies can cut through a room like a hot knife through butter. It's a great feeling!
Moneyball is a book that's essentially about a man who identifies the logical flaws in the "conventional wisdoms" in baseball, and subsequently exploits them. In the aftermath of Billy Beane and his run in Oakland, a few teams have employed some of the metrics covered in Moneyball when evaluating potential players and how much to pay them. Going against the wisdom of crowds has a lot of upfront costs – usually measured in time spent – but as Seth Manfield and Billy Beane proved, sometimes everyone else is just wrong, and the time spent identifying how everyone else is wrong pays off.
Sometimes, auras are great!
See you next week.