A New Frontier – Gaining Steam
“A New Frontier” is a new series of articles based around the recently created MTG format that uses only cards with the new border from the M15 set and onward. In these articles I plan on following the results from tournaments, talk about viable decks in the format, as well as powerful cards. I hope to do at least an article each month with updates on the format, results, as well as the current status of its popularity. Please keep in mind that these are merely exploratory articles and that the Frontier format is still trying to find its footing. It could end up doing very well and develop a following like EDH has, or become just another footnote like Tiny Leaders.
It’s looking more and more like Frontier’s true home is going to be online, much like Pauper gained most of its popularity. Between Xmage, Cockatrice, and Untap, there are 3 different leagues for Frontier going on at the moment. While some of the players tend to migrate from software to software depending on where the best competition is, for the most part you can find a group of Frontier places at each place. As I write this, the final week of Untap League is finishing up and we’ll soon be moving onto the Top 8. In today’s article I’d like to talk about the metagame during season 2, how I did with my deck, and what my plans are for season 3. If you’re curious and want to learn about how you can join the next season, please jump to the last part for details.
Let’s start off with some numbers. In season 2 of the Untap League, 36 players joined. About 10-12 of these players were on some form of aggro, with some version of red aggro being the most popular one. There were some hardened scales as well as UR Ensoul aggro, but the Atarka Red/ramunap red versions were the most popular.
As for control, about 6-7 people were one some kind of list using a combination of blue and black, chock full of Torrential Gearhulks, Dig Through Times, and Search for Azcanta. The were quite a few brews as well (another 6-8), but for the most part people were using previously Tier 1 and Tier 2 decks. There were a handful of Saheeli Rai combo decks (which also added to some of the control decks), Aetherworks Marvel, and of course Collected Company builds. Overall I would say that the format was very healthy, with lots of viable strategies.
I was asked to sign up for the league via Twitter mere days before registration ended, but I was curious and itching to play some Frontier. I ported over the Mardu tokens list I had built a while back after my tourament with BW Tokens at Hareruya back in January , but I hadn’t updated it since Aether Revolt. That would prove to be troublesome as the season progressed. There were quite a few new strategies such as Scarab god control and Saheeli Combo. Yes, it’s been THAT long since I actually played any real Frontier.
In my first round I was in for a rude awakening as Saheeli combo handled me easily 0-2. I simply couldn’t stop the combo in either game, and my SB was poorly equipped to deal with the deck. In round 2, I got my first win against an oldie but goodie, Abzan Aggro. I got 2 fast starts with plenty of tokens and managed to go wide and deal a lot of damage before my opponent could stabilize. My removal such as Murderous Cut was key in clearing a path for me. Reckless Bushwhacker + Raise the Alarm helped me end it after a Flaying Tendril’s -2/-2 wiped my board.
I was feeling pretty good after my first ever competitive online Frontier win, and I used that momentum to grab a win against UB control 2-1 in round 3. Speed was key as my opponent had tons of spot removal, but not a lot of wipes to stop me from going super wide and getting around it. Smuggler’s Copter did a lot of work, and when I managed to fight through his counterspells to play a Gideon, it was over.
After round 3 though, it got a lot tougher. I lost a close match against UB control in round 4, mostly because I had nothing in my sideboard to combat it (control wasn’t a thing the last time I played). He would counter my win conditions and then finish me with Gearhulks. Needed more of a long game and more pressure.
I then proceeded to lose against Saheeli combo once more in round 5 due to not having hate cards like Authority of the Consuls in the SB, but Gideon and Saheeli proved to be too much for me, even without the combo. Round 6 I thought I could handle Naya Humans rather easily, but a slow hand without removal killed me in one game, and when my opp went super wide with a Atarka’s command game 3 I knew it was over.
I finished a disappointing 2-4, but I learned so much that I can’t be truly upset at the results. I’ve already made quite a few changes to my Mardu tokens build and feel that I’ll have a better chance come season 3 (which starts on November 15th if you’re interested).
|Mardu Tokens Frontier|
|60 cards, 15 sideboard|
2 Inspiring Vantage
2 Concealed Courtyard
2 Wooded Foothills
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Smoldering Marsh
1 Cinder Glade
1 Canopy Vista
2 Windswept Heath
2 Westvale Abbey
|4 Legion’s Landing
4 Smuggler’s Copter
4 Raise the Alarm
3 Secure the Wastes
4 Fatal Push
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
2 Kolaghan’s Command
26 other spells
So basically, the reason why I went to Mardu tokens from my original BW version was to take advantage of cards like Reckless Bushwhacker, Goblin Rabblemaster, and Kolaghan’s Command. Red also gives you a few more sideboard choices against control decks, such as Outpost Siege which I’ve also grown to like.
The biggest addition to the deck has been Legion’s Landing. Unlike standard, there are a lot more ways to flip this card on turn 3 in Frontier. A turn 2 Raise the Alarm is great, but playing Smuggler’s Copter followed by a Goblin Rabblemaster would work too since you can crew with the Rabblemaster then let the Goblin token attack with the vampire to flip it. Getting a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Sorin, Solemn Visitor out on turn 3 from a Raise the Alarm/Vampire flipping it would be amazing, but even getting a turn closer to flipping a Westvale Abbey into Ormendahl would be huge.
While my deck was great at shotgunning damage in one turn, it didn’t have that great of a late game outside of Ormendahl or planewalkers. Drawing a late game Sram’s Expertise or Hordeling Outburst was alright to stop an attack, but wasn’t winning me games. Therefore, I took the advice of some of the other players in the league and switched over to Hangarback Walker and Secure the Wastes. Both can be huge late game and get you back into the game, especially if you have a Fatal Push or Kolaghan’s Command to pop your Walker for tons of tokens. I think the deck is much more balanced this time and I have high hopes for it in season 3.
The Top 8
- Shrapnel Red
- Atarka Red
- UB control x3
- Bant Company
- Bant GFGift
The New Season & How you can get Involved
Season 2 is just about over, with the top 8 playoffs starting soon, and if you’ve been wanting to try your hand at Frontier you don’t have to wait to get involved. For starters, if you’re merely curious and have questions you can hop on over to the Discord Frontier chat and talk with the community about it. If that piques your interest, then I would definitely consider signing up for an Untap account as well, which you can find on Untap.in (and soon to be untap.xyz for version 3). Version 2 of Untap is available both on Firefox and Chrome, but I believe version 3 is currently only for Chrome since it’s still in beta. If you’re not sure you’ll be able to use the interface, jump to to the next part to see how Untap works in your browser.
Season 3 of the Frontier Untap league will be starting on November 15th, but registration has already gone up. If you want to participate this time, follow this link to the Google document and follow the directions. You’ll need an Untap account (with screen name), a discord account (with screen name), and the rest is pretty self explanatory.
Using Untap on your Computer
I’d be happy to help some of you learn how to use the Untap software, but I’m sure there will be plenty of other people in the Frontier Discord group that would help you out as well. Today I’m just here to give you a basic primer on using the browser based program, and to explain how somethings work.
- Signing on
Once you create an account, you’ll be greeted by this page, which shows you who’s online, gives you a basic chat function for talking to people and finding matches, and an empty right side column. We’re going to start off by adding a deck.
- Adding a new deck
Clicking on the new deck button gives you many choices for card games. Since we’re going to be playing Magic the Gathering, you’ll want to click on MTG.
- Importing your Deck
You’ll have a few options for adding a deck, but for this tutorial you should click on Paste Deck.
- Paste Deck Function
This is by far the easiest way to add a deck. Select main or sideboard, and simply copy and paste a deck you’ve been brewing into the box to the right. Make sure that the names of the cards are correct, and add a number before the name to denote how many of the card you want to play.
- Sample Paste Deck
Once you input your list, click the Insert Cards button to add them all at once to your deck. Very quick, and very easy (but not always accurate which we’ll talk about next).
- Paste Deck Result
As you can see, most of these were fine, but instead of Atog, it added Atogatog, and instead of Gearseeker Serpent, Strike the Serpent was added. You can click on the blue arrow and select “remove card” to get rid of them, and then type the cards into the box to the right of this in the “find card” function. Hovering over the cards shows pictures, so you can be sure to select the right one before double clicking it to add it to your deck. It automatically adds cards this way as a 4 of, so click on the number in your main deck and change it if need be.
You can then do the same import for your sideboard if you want, or type them all in manually and click on the blue arrows next to them to switch them to the sideboard. As for tokens, you can find them on there, but they can be tricky to find sometimes. Again, you’ll have to add them to your main deck, then change them to “tokens” when you click the blue arrow menu next to the card’s name. Let’s get ready for a game now. Save your deck in the top right corner, above the Find card box.
- Your Decks
Once added, your deck should show up in a list on the right side of your sign in screen. As you can see, I now have Affinity Pauper added to both my Frontier and standard decks. At any time, you can click on the deck and are presented with the options to edit, copy, or trash them. If you want to change your list, it’s as easy as clicking edit, then removing the card with the blue arrow menu next to the card name, then using the “Find Card” field to add the new card you want. Sometimes cards won’t show up, but in that case you can add it yourself by doing an image search online for the card then copying the image address and filling out a few fields. This option usually shows up after you do a search. Anyways, let’s look for a game now.
- Game Selection
By clicking on the game tab, you’ll be presented with a list of games currently in progress or available to be played in. You can usually jump into whichever type of game you want if it’s open, but if you don’t see a game you want to play, such as playing Frontier, you have to make your own.
- Creating a Game
You can’t choose this function until you’ve verified your account by mail, after you do so you can click on the “New Game” button and input the parameters of you game. Once ready, click create game. It will take about 1-2 minutes, but once the game is created, click ENTER GAME and you’ll see the game interface.
- Getting Started: Selecting your Deck
Step 1, click the select deck button and choose which deck you want to use for this match. When you do, the deck is loaded and ready to go, and a small pile of face down cards will appear next to your name.
- Drawing Cards and Checking Hand
By hovering over your deck, you can double click to draw cards 1 at a time, or you can hold the letter C + a number to draw that many cards. C + 7 draws your opening hand of seven. If you don’t like it, you can push M to mulligan. If you do mulligan, you can click on your deck once and see the menu. There is a VIEW option. To scry, click ‘view top card’, then click on the card it shows you in the box and decide if you want to move it to the top or bottom of your deck. This hand was an obvious mulligan. Down to 5 -_-;;
Once you decide to keep, tell your opponent, then click and drag cards from your hand to the battlefield. Double click the card to tap or untap it.
- Adding Tokens
By clicking your deck, you can also add tokens, found at the bottom of the list. It will show you all the tokens you’ve added to your deck, and you can click and drag them onto the battlefield to use them. If you don’t have that token, you can use a blank one and click on it to “Make a note” such as its name and abilities. You can also push K on a token to clone it (or any other card for that matter), and you can also destroy a token (or any other card) with the letter D short cut (which sends it to discard).
On the left side of your screen, you’ll see 4 icons. The fist one is a chat function I believe, the 2nd one is a 6 sided die, the 3rd one is a 20 sided die, and the final icon is for a mass untap. You can untap everything at once instead of double clicking each permanent to do so.
- Deck Options
There are various options when you click on your deck pile. You can draw to your hand, graveyard, or play for example, you can view for scrying or when a card lets you, when you use fetchlands you can use Find Cards to look at your entire deck, flip top is good for reveal effects such as Courser of Kruphix, Shuffle should be used after you Find cards every time (and has the short cut V), scoop and sideboard ends the game and takes you to your sideboard menu, View sideboard lets you look at what’s there, and tokens lets you choose tokens to add (like I talked about earlier).
If you click on card, you’ll also be presented with various options. Face Down works when a card is exiled that way or if you morphed something (usually you’ll play from hand as face down), move to sends it to exile, discard, or other location on the board, send to deck is if your card is put back on top or bottom of your library, shake is for helping your opponent to pay attention to a certain part of the board, adding notes is for writing memos (like if you name a card with Pithing Needle you can add a memo to it), cloning is if you want to make copies of a card, and you can also google the card if you want to get more information about it such as rulings, etc.
After game 1, you can click the scoop and sideboard function to clear your board, and then go to your sideboard menu. From here, simply slide cards between both sides until you’re satisfied with the result. Then push the close button to go back to your game.
It might seem like a lot at first, but the interface is pretty intuitive and it becomes easy to play after a few matches. There are many more functions and features I didn’t cover, but I’ll leave that up for you to learn about by yourselves or to have other people teach you.
This program is great for me, not only because it’s free but because now I can brew like crazy when a new set comes out and see if a strategy will be viable or not without spending any money at a store until I’m absolutely certain on a deck list. From now on, whenever I post a new deck idea on my blog, I’ll be reminding people that they can join me on Untap to test it out or to play against me. This blog has been one sided for far too long, so I’m excited to finally get a chance to play some MTG against some of my readers. If you ever see “JapanHobbyist” on Untap, hit me up for a game!
Bonus Frontier Deck for your viewing pleasure
Having access to Untap has made it so much easier for me to revise and perfect my builds, so I’d like to share with you one more incredibly fun deck I made that’s been having quite a bit of success. It’s a revision of another deck I made quite a while ago, my GR See the Unwritten deck.
|GR See the Frontier|
|60 cards, 15 sideboard|
4 Cinder Glade
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Sheltered Thicket
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Elvish Mystic
|4 Lightning Strike
4 See the Unwritten
8 other spells
This deck is an absolute blast to play. With board wipes and shock effects largely absent from the metagame, now seems like a good time for mana dorks to shine. Go big early, get out a turn 3 Surrak, Ulrich, or Verdurous Gearhulk, then play See the Unwritten on turn 6 for some shenanigans. Ulrich and Gearhulk let you make sure that your mana dorks are relevant at all points of the game, and also help you to create multiple creatures with 4 power so that you are sure to get double creatures form your See the Unwritten spell.
Besides hitting incredibly hard, it also offers you a few ways to win aside from smashing face. Playing a Combustible Gearhulk, for example, and then having your opponent choose to put cards in the graveyard could end up dealing 20+ damage to them in one turn if you put Emrakul, Atarka, and See the Unwritten there. You could also pump up your creatures with Ulrich or Verdurous Gearhulk, then sacrifice them after an attack with a Heart-Piercer Manticore trigger. It might struggle against some aggro or combo decks, but you’d be surprised how out of control this deck can get, and how quickly it can do it.