It’s a week later, and I’ve got some testing results for the new deck I’m brewing. In the absence of anything better I’ve been calling it Dream Quest but am willing to hear suggestions. Check out the results below, or read part 1 if you need a refresher.
Where we last left our questing DJ, I was planning to test this list here against some popular decks, either here or online. Before I got around to it, though, I re-read Nice Moves, Kid about four times and realized that it really requires the opponent to have a fair number of actions banked in order to do anything at all. Based on that, I reconsidered and put Let’s Get This Party Started back in instead.
Even though there isn’t a big event coming up, my goal in this set of articles is to look at a deck going from idea through the testing process to being a refined version. I didn’t document the process with CT, and then regretted it when I started writing about the deck. I think it’s both interesting and useful to look at. So I decided to use roughly the same methods testing this deck as I did testing for Champs.
The first step I took in both cases was playing a bunch of test games against decks I had lying around or that were on the Internet, mostly against myself. The latter is not ideal, but it’s hard for me to schedule time to play a lot of games against strong opponents, especially in busy weeks like this one. You can’t totally trust testing against yourself. It’s generally better than testing against significantly less skilled opponents, and certainly better than nothing, but it’s very difficult to pretend not to know things. Particularly things like “does he have a Stand Still” or “is this troublemaker a villain and/or Nightmare Moon?” Still, it’s a fine way to get a feel for how to play certain matchups, and if your deck is routinely losing in solo play, that’s a very bad sign. I kept track of the games in a google sheet, noting which deck won, which was on the play, and general notes about how the game felt. Here’s the table, sorted by opposing deck:
|Bluewhite||1||Pretty easy win||N|
|Bluewhite||1||Vs Derek, not particularly close||N|
|QuickD||1||Not sure I played QuickD right this game||N|
|QuickD||1||No RTO, very close||N|
|QuickD||1||QuickD no blue||Y|
|QuickD||1||No RTO, had to tank seriously last turn||Y|
|Tower||1||NMM/YPS t1 on play, close. Sunset Shimmer good||N|
As you can see, I played at least four games against each each of three different opposing decks. I also made sure not to randomize who was on the play; each deck played exactly as many times on the play as opposed to on the draw. Team member Derek Minasian played some of the games against me as well, which was nice.
The deck obviously performed well, winning at least 75% of the games against each opposing deck. At this stage I’m not committed to these matchups actually being that good. Again, it’s difficult not to favor a new deck you’re testing when playing against yourself, particularly over ones you didn’t make (like the QuickD matches). On the other hand, it’s also difficult to kid yourself enough to dominate matches that are outright unfavorable. The utility of data like this is that it helps you assess specifics about matchups. You can get a good feel for how good individual cards are, what board states are good or bad for you, what cards you’re excited to draw, and the overall shape and pace of the game when the decks are playing. So it isn’t useless at all. Many of the good initial changes to CT came from solo testing, even if the fine-tuning is best served by play against others. And, of course, the games against Derek were full testing.
Let’s talk about what I learned from each of the matchups.
Here’s the blue/white aggro list I was testing against. This list is close to the one I was playing all summer during the pre-R&R metagame, with some minor adjustments based on the new meta and the addition of Ten Seconds Flat from Celestial Solstice. (It isn’t technically legal yet, but will be very soon and everyone local already has them because we got advance copies at GenCon.) I like the list well enough, even if I think decks that don’t run DJ Pon-3 as their main are probably not tier 1 at the moment. (Maud possibly excepted.)
One big issue I only noticed after running the test games is that this list doesn’t have Stand Still in it. This is because I was testing it against Tower builds to make sure my new version was still good against this kind of deck, and Stand Still is worthless there. It’s a pretty good card against Dream Quest though, so I wish I’d thought to figure out how to fit it back in. Alas.
In any case, this matchup is one of the closer ones we played, and would be even closer with Stand Still in the Dash deck. Both decks have very little in the way of defense and are tuned to maximize the score phase starting very early. The Dash deck has the advantage in forcing and winning double problem face-offs, because of all the movement chain action. Snips and Snails and Ten Seconds Flat also both serve very similar roles in the matchup: giving you fresh problems to confront on your own turn even if the opponent didn’t set up a face-off. As usual, though, the DJ is just a more powerful main character than Rainbow Dash, so Dream Quest is likely to draw more of the key cards more quickly, thus giving an advantage. That said, the games don’t last long, so the DJ only nets a few extra cards, and if the Dash deck draws a bunch of Rarity, Truly Outrageous and Dream Quest doesn’t, that’s likely to be decisive. It’s also possible for Dream Quest to fail to be able to pull off a key late-game double confrontation, whereas it is basically impossible for the Dash deck to fail to do that.
As the notes for the first game imply, I hadn’t played QuickDash before testing it here, so I’m not confident I played it right in the first couple of games. In particular, the deck has what I would call ambitious entry into blue, and I think I got overzealous playing Nightmare Moon in the first game, costing myself several Spread Your Wings and making it hard to unlock the beefy blue friends the deck relies on.
Nonetheless, this seems like a manageable matchup. Dream Quest can confront far earlier than QucikD and get an early point lead, and the troublemakers aren’t a huge early threat because deploying them within the first few turns seriously disrupts QuickD’s early game plan. QuickD has significantly better flips, so defeating the TMs yourself is probably a bit ambitious, but Snips and Snails can see them off and QuickD doesn’t have any solutions to Rarity, Truly Outrageous. If they do go in for Nightmare Moon early, What’s Old is New Again can be a huge blowout.
Dream Quest is certainly the aggressive deck in this matchup, as QuickD both starts slower and has a bunch of troublemakers to draw, basically forcing it into the more controlling role. I don’t think the matchup is unlosable for Dream Quest. You can certainly get locked out and games where you don’t draw Rarity, Truly Outrageous are rough. It did feel favorable overall, though. It’s important for Dream Quest to get a few early points to force QuickD to try to defeat its own villains to catch up. If you can do that successfully, Snips and Snails and Stand Still are good enough against that plan that the game should usually turn out in your favor. You need to be prepared to never win face-offs, though, even ones that look very difficult to lose.
This matchup makes me incredibly happy I decided to include What’s Old is New Again. Almost every game played out roughly the same: Dream Quest confronted early and got a few points. Tower got out a few troublemakers that it could easily defend. Dream Quest scored a few more points on a Snips and Snails play. Tower looked to begin to take over the game. Then Dream Quest put a What’s Old is New Again turn together and got like 7-10 points and won.
The game Dream Quest lost was because both problems got locked down by discard troublemakers before it could confront at all, so it was choked on early AT and couldn’t quite recover before Tower got around to winning the game.
One issue Dream Quest has that is particularly pronounced in this matchup is home limit issues. It needs two white friends to unlock What’s Old is New Again, and a blue friend to unlock Winged Wonder. While that’s only three, it leaves relatively little room for Cloudchasers and face-down Dr. Hooves, so it can be hard to prioritize what to keep. I quickly discovered that in any matchup that might go long, you need to prioritize keeping What’s Old is New Again available. This is particularly true against Tower. Bell Tower + Nightmare Moon can cost you your hand with no notice, so just having 3 white between hand and board isn’t enough.
Overall I felt like this list worked well. I didn’t feel like I was sad to be lacking Nightmare Moon, and all of the cards seemed to be pulling their weight. There are a lot of random vanilla friends, but that seems unavoidable with a three-color list. Right now it’s doing what it’s supposed to: starting to confront on turn 2, getting a few points, then closing out the game with a combo finish. I think the draw deck is really strong, and there’s a good chance this is one of the best decks in the meta.
One thing I’ll probably tweak is the problem deck. Several pink/white decks I’ve seen recently have used Goof Off plus a three point problem to beat One Pace combo decks. You do this by using Goof Off to make sure you have the three-pointer on top, then not playing any friends until you can go from 0 to 15 in one turn with a double face-off assisted by several Rarity, Truly Outrageous. Goof Off is nearly as easy to confront as Special Delivery, and putting one random 3 point problem into the deck is unlikely to mess things up too much. Since I hate One Pace and never want to lose to it, I’ll make this adjustment for next time just to make sure the deck doesn’t lose to flipping the three pointer often enough to be annoying.
The plan for next time: more testing, this time against other players with some different decks. I want to do more testing against QuickD since it’s currently getting a lot of talk. I also want to test against a pink/white aggro deck. I think Dream Quest is unlikely to be significantly disadvantaged in that matchup, but it never hurts to test.
“Next time” may or may not be next week. I once again have a busy one coming up. But either way, see you then.