A New Frontier: God of Frontier – Playing all the ‘Angels’
I actually started out writing this as a standard metagame diaries report, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go through with it. Standard is great right now, don’t get me wrong. I love all the difference choices you can make and I’ll definitely be preparing for Grand Prix Shizuoka by jamming a lot of games on Arena and Untap. There’s just so many other blogs and websites out there writing about standard that I think my article is pretty much pointless. It becomes nothing more than white noise, lost amidst the countless others.
That’s why I’ve decided to instead talk about the current Frontier metagame after the other weekend’s God of Frontier in Tokyo at Hareruya tournament center. I think it’s probably a good idea to start with the online Untap Frontier league though to set the stage for this end of the year Frontier tournament. I realize I’ve talked a lot about how sets will impact the Frontier metagame, but I haven’t really talked about the metagame in depth for quite some time, so let’s start off with some data from the online league.
The Untap Open League
I think I might have talked about it already in my Guilds of Ravnica article, but this season’s Untap Frontier Open ended up getting a record breaking 49 players. This is a huge gain for an online community that started with a mere 11 player league. Now it consistently gets a lot of interest in the Discord community. I think it’s safe to say that the online community has a pretty big influence on Frontier metagame now. One of the drawbacks, however, is that the Untap Frontier league usually drops about 1-2 weeks after the newest set spoiler is released so testing is incredibly hard. You can end up playing a deck that was great the season before that gets totally hosed in the current season. I’d like to take a look at what most people were playing in season 7, and compare it to the God of Frontier metagame last season. Viperfang4 from the Discord community made a great spreadsheet that shows you how much the metagame has grown.
As expected, lots of people were on some kind of red deck to take advantage of shock lands. There were 11 red aggro decks, 13 actually if you included UR Ensoul on top of Atarka Red, UR Prowess, and mono red wizards. Overgrown Tomb and Temple Garden’s reprint helped out a number of decks, which is why you see Abzan midrange making a comeback of sorts, and some people trying out Jund or Sultai decks.
I would say that a large amount of these are still kind of rough ideas since there wasn’t proper time to test them, but a few didn’t need to change too much and only added a card or two. One such card is Thought Erasure in UB/x control decks, which numbered 7 if you count the midrange decks like Sultai and Grixis that tend to play more kill spells than counters to win the game.
I will say one thing about the Untap league, there tends to be a lot more jank and fun decks online than there usually are in paper at Hareruya, but both groups come up with some interesting stuff.
Results, Results, Results
Before I get into which decks performed the best in the Untap League and at the God of Frontier event, I’d like to share which deck I was working on the most this season: BW Angels.
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
4 Caves of Koilos4 Isolated Chapel
4 Concealed Courtyard
3 Shambling Vent
1 Scavenger Grounds
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
|4 Grasp of Darkness
4 Fatal Push
2 Utter End
2 Transgress the Mind
1 Settle the Wreckage
13 other spells
15 sideboard cards
The deck went 5-1 in season 6 of the Untap Open. That open was only 34 players due to many people traveling for summer vacation, and the metagame was largely aggro decks such as Atarka red which this strategy preys on rather well. I also put up a top 8 finish at Hareruya in Tokyo at a 23 person God of Frontier trial, so I felt really good about it.
Joining me in the top 8 that season online was 2 Atarka Red decks, Esper Vehicles, 4 Color Ascendancy, Green Black Elves, Green Red Unsealing Stompy, and Aetherworks Marvel. It was a rather diverse top 8, and the one at Hareruya was an even crazier top 8 with two 4 Color Aetherworks Marvel, Mono Red Wizard burn, Ramunap Red, Blue Black control, Black Red Aggro, and Mono black control.
I ended up losing in the quarterfinals of both rounds; to Aetherworks Marvel in the Untap Open when I couldn’t deal with Ulamog on turn 4, and to the hyper aggressive mono red Wizard burn deck at Hareruya’s trial.
God of Frontier and Untap Season 7 Results
I felt good going into season 7 of the Untap Open with a slightly updated version of my black white Angels deck. The big change was adding Ritual Of Soot into the sideboard and Remorseful Cleric for graveyard strategies. I thought I’d be fine, especially against aggressive decks but the season started off very poorly for me against two blue black control decks. I ended up getting destroyed by both of them due to their superb hand disruption in Thought Erasure. They picked my hand apart consistently and then killed or countered anything I had left. I realized at this point that I simply had no way to get ahead of these decks in terms of card advantage and I was stuck in top deck mode most of the time. It was an un-winnable match up.
I then lost against green black Elves when I couldn’t draw any removal, beat an Abzan aggro deck, then got wrecked by a blue black Dredge deck when I couldn’t exile his threats. I ended up dropping at 1-4, and for some reason I thought my fortunes would be different at the God of Frontier. I made some changes to the deck like trying out more planeswalkers such as Sorin, Grim Nemesis and Ob Nixilis Reignited, but the result was the same.
I ended up going 3-3 at the God of Frontier 2018 fall tournament, losing to a blue black control deck, a green white tokens deck, and a Temur energy deck. I had focused so much on taking out atarka red and the other hyper aggro decks that I was poorly prepared for go wide strategies or midrange decks. I don’t think the deck is bad, but that it doesn’t match up well against combo and control strategies. I’ll need to work on something else for next season to be sure.
The turnout wasn’t that great at this season’s God of Frontier due to Grand Prix Shizuoka coming up, which diverted at least a dozen regular players to legacy and standard to prepare for that event. Still, 44 players was decent. The Top 8 decks ended up being:
- 2 mono red
- 2 Esper Control
- 2 Hardened Scales
- Aetherworks Marvel
- Sultai Dredge
- Bant Turbo Fog
Aetherworks, Mono Red, Hardened Scales, and Bant Turbo Fog ended up making their way to the top 4, but in the end Aetherworks Marvel ended up coming out victorious. The previous God of Frontier winner also used a similar deck, and while it’s powerful I would say the game was won in no small part to the high skill level of the player, Mishina Ryouta. While the top 8 might now show it, there was actually a large amount of graveyard strategies this season at Hareruya. Dredge decks were incredibly popular and took all shapes and sizes. Even the Soulflayer combo decks ended up doing well again and just missed out of the top 8. For a full list, check out Hareruya’s website.
As for Untap season 7’s top 8, it was:
- Cherkbutt (abzan)
- Phooey (abzan)
- viperfang (dredge)
- candygandhi (red wizards)
- 8071 (4c midrange)
- varticke (atarka)
- masinmanc (atarka blue)
- griffin888 (esper humans)
I’d like to congratulate them all on a well played season in a very competitive metagame. As you can see, it was almost entirely different from the Hareruya tournament. Whereas the Japanese players love to use control and mono red decks, the online community tends to go for more raw power decks like Atarka red and Abzan. While aggro seems to be the most popular archetype, there’s no shortage of different strategies to go around.
Looking forward to 2019
It was a very exciting year with a lot of new decks showing up and quite a few getting powered up to tier 2 or tier 1 status. Control has also been doing very well thanks to cards like Thought Erasure, so it would definitely be in your best interest to play decks that can draw you out of trouble against them, or that are more resilient like Dredge. Speaking of which, Surveil has done a great job of giving graveyard strategies like dredge just what they needed. Dredge might have some bad variance sometimes, but it’s gotten to the point where I can safely say it’s tier 1.
I look forward to revisiting my Mardu and BW decks next season when Ravnica Allegiance brings us the remaining shock lands, and I’m sure we’ll see a more balanced metagame because of them. Control of all colors will finally have good mana, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see midrange make a comeback next season as well.
As always thanks of reading and supporting the Frontier format! I hope you enjoy brewing and playing it as much as I do. If you can’t play it at your local game shop, remember you can always join the discord Frontier channel to chat about it, as well as play it on Untap, Cockatrice, or Xmage! We look forward to having you join the community!