How I Meta-Gamed Vegas (and What I'm Doing for Nationals)

by Tyler Horspool, Mark Chamberlain 29th October 2021 3 : 43
This article is narrated by Mark Chamberlain, and is available only to subscribers. Subscriptions are currently managed via the FaB DB Patreon page. You must purchase Supporter+, Majestic+ or Legendary+ to get access to The Rathe Times' Pro Series content.

You cannot win a game of Flesh and Blood- let alone an entire Calling- without putting yourself in a position to win first. It might seem obvious when said aloud, but most players don’t adhere to this simple fact. I was halfway to winning a Calling before I even showed up in Las Vegas to play the first round. This is how I did it.

Step 1: Don't Play Bad Decks

Once again, we're laying out what seems like an obvious axiom- but this turns out to be the most disrespected rule of all.

The first question to ask yourself on your road to playing a good deck should be “Can I beat over 50% of the field I am likely to face?” For Las Vegas, there were 12 Classic Constructed heroes that were legal to play. I gravitated toward Prism in the first place because I felt I had a positive matchup into a majority of these heroes. With only the core Auras build (no sideboard cards), I felt I had winning matchups (to varying degrees) against Bravo, Dorinthea, Kano, Viserai, Azalea, Boltyn, and Dash. I felt I had a losing matchup against Rhinar, Levia, Katsu, and Chane. Without getting into representation, that's 7 winning matchups and 4 losing ones- a distribution I was satisfied with for a start.

The first question to ask yourself should be “Can I beat over 50% of the field I am likely to face?”

For those that are more advanced, you will notice that some of these matchups might be winning at a 55% clip and some could be losing at a 70% clip. It is important to take these numbers into account as well. Having auto-wins during a tournament can be a huge plus when you are expected to play 14 rounds across 2 days in order to win the tournament. Prism has auto-win buttons vs. Bravo, Dorinthea, Kano, and Azalea. I was able to play against 1 Bravo and 1 Dorinthea- including in Round 10, where you can watch my deck absolutely do its thing vs. a Bravo player.

Step 2: Play Something That Can Challenge Level 0 and Level 1 Decks

This is the start of “metagaming”. You need to guess at what decks are going to be played at the tournament you are going to. Specifically, you need to guess what the best and most played decks will be. These might not always be the same thing. Sometimes the best deck is not the most played deck.

For Las Vegas, it was very obvious what the most played and best deck was: 

Header Chane

Once you have identified what the best and most played decks are, you can consider these decks Level 0- or in other words, the decks to beat.

After this, it’s important to consider what decks players think play well into the Level 0 deck (or decks). Keep in mind that those decks don’t actually have to do well- the perception means they're likely to show up in force. These are your Level 1 decks.

At the time, the perceived Chane counters were Dorinthea, Bravo, Katsu, Boltyn, and Dash. Note that, of the 6 decks that were identified as Levels 0-1, Prism had favorable matchups into 4 of them- and that 2 of those I considered auto-wins.

It’s important to consider what decks players think play well into the Level 0 deck .

In preparing for the tournament, I did not believe I had a good matchup against Chane- which would be fine if all the Level 1 decks could prey on the Level 0 deck. But I expected to see a ton of Chane going into Day 2. So why did I end up playing Prism?

Step 3: Use Your Sideboard to Fix Your Bad Matchups

Following the axioms I laid out in steps 1 and 2, I believed Prism Auras to be a pretty good deck, with one glaring problem: It could not beat the format boogeyman. This is where sideboarding comes into play.

To that point, Prism players were trying to race Chane players by using red Heralds in their sideboard cards, boosting their aggression and reducing the presence of auras. This had not produced good results during the Road to Nationals season, and it had not worked for me either. I decided to go in another direction and attempt a fatigue strategy, relying on two cards to stop Chane's infamous Rift Bind turns: Arc Light Sentinel and Snag.

These cards- and the change in overall strategy- produced miraculous results for me, as I turned a bad matchup on its head to go 7-1 vs. Chane players over the weekend to win a Calling! But I could not have done it without putting myself in a winning position.

What's Next: Nationals

Lastly, I’ll leave you with what I’m doing to prepare for Nationals. Chane no longer has the presence he once did, and we have 3 new heroes as part of the equation. So it’s time to go through these steps again:

Step 1: Can the deck I choose beat most of the 15 heroes Rathe has to offer?

Step 2: Can the deck I choose beat Level 0 and Level 1 decks? (My Level 0 picks are Bravo & Prism; Level 1 consists of Briar, Dash, Boltyn, Lexi, & Katsu.)

Step 3: What can I do with my sideboard cards to turn these matchups in my favor?

Remember, no matter how big or how small your next tournament is...

The game starts now.

Tyler Horspool

Tyler (@Pony_Puddle) was the winner of the Las Vegas Calling in 2021, and at that time was the highest rated Constructed player in the United States.

Mark Chamberlain

Our narrator, Mark Chamberlain, is a long-time card game player-- but they're all sitting on the shelf while he practices Guardian in Flesh and Blood. Mark is based out of Colorado Springs, USA.

Discussion (13)

fabalters
MEMBER
7 months ago

What are the level 0 decks right now? For blitz or CC

Peps
READER
7 months ago

From the article: "My Level 0 picks are Bravo & Prism"

cactus
READER
7 months ago

I think Bravo is looking like a level 0 CC deck, at least from how I hear people talking about him

CatcusMan
READER
7 months ago

This was a terrible article. You talk nothing of how you're preparing for nationals, briefly touched on on Vegas, and are basically just saying "gitgud"

Tyler Horspool
CONTRIBUTOR
7 months ago

The entire article is about my preparation for Vegas (which is the title) and how you can apply it to Nationals. Not sure where your assessment is coming from.

CatcusMan
READER
7 months ago

I'm saying it's very surface level and the article has no substance since two of your points can be summarized by "Play a good deck" while only briefly touching upon what makes a good deck. And the title of the article is "How I meta gamed Vegas(and what I'm doing for Nationals)". If you're worried about your Nationals tech being leaked don't even mention it in the title. Why not just go in-depth of preping for Vegas, just putting up pictures of Snag and ALS for your sideboard section is hilarious.

Tyler Horspool
CONTRIBUTOR
7 months ago

I think your criticisms can be boiled down to - "Your article is too short, I want more." Sure that is valid. There are nicer ways of asking though :) I am brand new to this but if you have any questions I am obviously here to answer.

CatcusMan
READER
7 months ago

I guess that's a way to put it, but you just don't elaborate on any of your points in the article. You say Snag and ALS, plus a change in strategy turned Chane into a winning matchup. Why? What's unique about these cards? What was the change in strategy? I know these thoughts are in your head, just putting them on paper can be tricky. I know you're new to this and I actually don't blame you at all, Somebody should have been helping you more.

Alex Truell
ADMIN
7 months ago

I think part of the perception here of 'incompleteness' is that Tyler is writing to a conceptual audience of people who saw how his deck was played (he linked to a gameplay example) and get the shorthand of deck archetypes that are used in this game. He actually does describe his change in strategy from other Prism builts pretty clearly: "To that point, Prism players were trying to race Chane players by using red Heralds in their sideboard cards, boosting their aggression and reducing the presence of auras. This had not produced good results during the Road to Nationals season, and it had not worked for me either. I decided to go in another direction and attempt a fatigue strategy." He then lists two key cards that he used to pivot to a fatigue strategy. He doesn't offer a deck guide- and notably, he never claimed he would- and so I would not expect him to spell out the technicalities. The advice he offers here is more universal: identify the threats (not just the top dog, but the accepted counters too), play a deck that's strong against the whole field (Azalea may handle Chane, but she's not gonna win a big event), and critically examine conventional wisdom (Prism was a losing prospect not because the class was doomed to fail, but because the common strategy for the class was). All that said, you and I agree on one thing: I'd love to hear more from Tyler!

Derrick Cantu
MEMBER
7 months ago

What do you mean by level 0 or level 1 decks?

Kirk Bushell
ADMIN
7 months ago

I personally found the article enlightening and helped to frame ideas I had in my head that hadn't formed in to full well-thought, fully conceptualised ideas. Thank you, Tyler :)

Tyler Horspool
CONTRIBUTOR
7 months ago

A level 0 deck is the deck to beat. Level 1 are the decks that beat that deck. Level 2 would be another layer (didn't go this deep) it's a way to look at the metagame and decide what to play

Tommy Mains
CONTRIBUTOR
6 months ago

Thanks for the article, Tyler. I definitely used to be the kind of player who would bring a dark horse meta-beater to big events only to never play against the top deck in Swiss. With FAB, I completely agree with your analysis. If you want to win, you have to bring a good deck that can adjust to the other top decks in the format.

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