Gods Unchained Meta Report 11/25 (Post-reset edition)
Welcome to the first Meta Report since the Core reset! Unfortunately, it won't include any decklists, for a reason I'll explain in a bit, and instead focus on stand-out cards and God trends.
There are a couple key changes to keep in mind. The first is the obvious Core reset, which wiped all players' Core card collections, offering Genesis hodlers a momentary advantage. This put the meta in a weird state for a few weeks, especially before the Marketplace opened.
Players who were used to having a complete Core collection suddenly found themselves playing with sub-optimal decklists. Moreover, even if clear "best decks" were identified, it's possible they wouldn't become immediately popular because a lot of players might not have the Core cards needed to pilot those decks.
Once the Marketplace came online, it offered players a way to collect missing Genesis cards, but a development change affected the way cards were identified, which meant third-parties could no longer automatically record played decklists. In other words, unless a player voluntarily creates the deck list on a site like gudecks.com, people could no longer look up which decks players were running over the weekend.
Depending on your outlook, this momentary fog of war either keeps the meta fresh by ensuring people can't just blindly follow top-performing decklists, or it adds even more confusion to the current state of competition that was already shaken up by the Core reset.
In this Meta Report, I'll try my best to reduce some of that confusion, but bear in mind that I won't be able to link to any decklists for now.
There's a large variety of different decks being played at the moment due to the reset, but there are noticeable trends. Zoo is understandably popular since it depends on low-cost, common creatures, which are easy to acquire even with small collections. Rune-based play is popular, which relies on the cheap efficacy of runes combined with Genesis standouts like Ocular Fiend or Anputian Magus to develop mid-game advantages.
Control players who like to take things slower have a lot of options, depending on what cards are available. Over the past few weeks, we've seen Control variants from Magic, Deception, War, and Death take turns dominating the top ranks as well.
For deck builders, this is an exciting time to be experimenting. Players who simply want to arm themselves with a top-performing deck and climb to Mythic might need to be a bit patient during this period.
The obvious question after the reset was to ask which Genesis cards would be meaningful in a brand new meta. While Core is a stronger set than Genesis overall, there are stand-outs in the Genesis set that were also impactful pre-reset. One that was already a long-time fan-favorite, especially in Zoo decks, was Anputian Magus.
Unsurprisingly, Zoo was the first archetype to take off after the reset. Both Death and Light were capable of running strong Zoo lists, but Death synergized strongest with Anputian Magus with its God Power, Undying Wish, and its ability to make use of Rune of Life to compensate for self-inflicted damage from their own Bombflies and Void Banshees.
The preference for Rune play made Ocular Fiend a logical Mid-range option for some. I covered Ocular Fiend extensively before the wipe—at one point in the meta, Ocular Fiend Death Zoo was the top performing deck—and its power level increased in a meta where Core single-target removals, like Ratify, were more rare. Ocular Fiend, even after its nerf, is practically Legendary-quality since it's unique in its ability to clear a board, develop a big creature, and generate card value all on the same turn.
Aggro was making a statement in the meta while players were still assembling their Core collections, so Control players started turning to Demogorgon as an answer. Mostly used in Control War pre-reset, players quickly adopted Demogorgon as a counter to practically everything. Like Ocular Fiend, its power level can be deceptive, but when you actually encounter one played on a game-defining turn, you quickly see why it can be frustrating to deal with.
Demogorgon is expensive at 7-mana but it stalls a turn, offers significant healing for your God via Leech, develops a body, but most importantly, it steals initiative from your opponent. This means you can stop an entire opposing board dead in its tracks and the decision on how to clear it is left to you, not your opponent. This sets up powerful swing turns and puts a clock on Zoo: they must defeat you before the Demogorgon gets played, if not sooner. Combined with the numerous nerfs to Zoo staples (like Bombfly and Traveling Bard), Zoo became a lot less dominant than they were pre-reset.
A significant chunk of the meta revolves around these three Genesis Neutrals: Anputian Magus, Ocular Fiend, and Demogorgon, which can be found in a variety of decks across multiple Gods. Coincidentally, they also represent the three card game archetypes: Aggro (Anputian Magus), Midrange (Ocular Fiend), and Control (Demogorgon).
There's one other Genesis Neutral that's also riding a second wave of popularity, Pyramid Warden, which is used in a variety of decks across all archetypes. It also benefits from a shallow card collection, since its natural counters like Light's Levy, Trojan Battlemage, and even Mana Toad are all Core as well.
Over time these four cards' popularity will decrease as the meta shifts and card collections deepen, but for now they'll represent the strongest of what Genesis has to offer.
Death is still the God of choice for grinding quick wins, which the Weekend Constructed format implicitly rewards. Aggro has a few different options in Death: The traditional Undying Wish Zoo, Ocular Fiend Zoo, and Soulburn Aggro.
Unfortunately for most Death Zoo players, Zoo has been negatively impacted by balance changes multiple times over the past couple months, but the archetype remains fairly popular at the highest levels of play.
What I was most surprised to see recently is the re-emergence of Control Death. It might be profiting off of the fact that Zoo is in a weakened state, or that Control Magic isn't as popular, but it's starting to find some headway. I noticed a few different lists over the weekend, so I'll refrain from highlighting a specific variant for now, but there's a lot of fun stuff being worked on around Golem Centurion plus afterlife-triggering cards like Sand Scorpion and Canopic Hoarder, as well as Reanimate and Siren of the Grave (although this interaction is likely bugged at the moment).
Deception traditionally thrived in a Control-heavy (especially War and Magic) or Zoo-heavy meta, but as of late, a lot of the Ocular Fiend play has been trending decks towards Midrange, leaving Deception with fewer easy matchups. Umber Arrow is still un-live and isn't expected to come back until the next big game update, but Deception seems to be doing fine without it.
Deception has always been adept at board control and Control Deception has been popular lately, especially with the addition of Demogorgons to make up for Deception's lack of healing. Its control variant relies on cards like Cutthroat Insight and Double Dealer to develop card advantage and also Memory Charm + Charm or Anti-Magic Expert to flip a stalled creature for lethal. By keeping a single, large creature Memory Charmed, it's not only put to sleep but also receives a damage buff each turn. This way, once the opponent is in lethal range, Charm or Anti-Magic Expert can flip it for an instant win.
There are a lot of options for Deception beyond just Control, but I attribute their low popularity to the fact that a lot of crucial Deception cards are Core and therefore hard to fully assemble at the moment (like Switch Duelist, Slip Blade, Hunting Trap, Cutthroat Insight, etc.). I expect Deception to adapt along with the meta over time and don't see it becoming a weak God any time soon.
The only Light deck seen at competitive levels is Light Zoo, which runs similar to its Death Counterpart, with a few differences.
It's more susceptible to board clears, but has more gas (via Summon Acolyte) to compensate. Light's Levy is still a stronger spell than any Death spell, and Canonize is also good for setting up value trades or lethal. Highborn Knight is a Genesis card and is one of the best cheap frontlines in the game, which provides longevity for your other creatures.
Magic was immediately impactful post-reset because its God Powers, especially Blastwave, are inherently powerful. While Control Magic is seen occasionally (sometimes even Aether-flavored), Magic players are definitely favoring Rune Magic at the moment.
Rune Magic was popular pre-reset, but most of its key ingredients are Genesis cards, like Ocular Fiend, Runestorm, Backstreet Bouncer, and Rune Smuggler, so it was easy for players to re-adapt Rune Magic even despite the efficiency nerfs to Discovery and Morgana's Grimoire.
Demogorgon can also be included to help stall, which is useful since Rune Magic's strength comes from assembling card value (collecting runes and reducing spell costs) over the course of the game. Now that Zoo has been weakened, Rune Magic players are given more time to set up
While the reset changed many things, it didn't change the fact that Nature is still unseen at the highest levels of competition. There's unfortunately not much to add here except that there might be light at the end of the tunnel if the constant nerfs to Aggro ever make it unpopular enough among the player base (although with the Weekend Constructed reward format, I doubt this will ever truly happen).
Nature has plenty of awesome Midrange and Control options, it just tends to do poorly against wide boards (and, honestly, even some tall boards). Without any drastic changes, it may be a while before we see a Nature-dominant meta again.
While Slayer War has been popular in isolated pockets in the past, it's starting to become noticeably dominant in the current meta. It's an Aggro archetype that relies on burst damage from a relic, such as Scythes of Harvest, with spells like Whetstone and Sharpen to punish greedier play styles, especially Magic and Deception decks. With the proper setup, it's common to be able to see upwards of ~15-20 damage done in one turn!
I expect Slayer War's popularity to increase (it's Aggro, after all, and people like fast decks). It'll be interesting to see how the meta shifts as a result—it's possible relic hate (like Iron-tooth Goblin) inclusions aren't enough, and that we'll see the playerbase revert back to favoring frontlines like Trojan Golem and Tomb Blademaster.
Pre-reset, Onslaught Control War was becoming one of the most dominant archetypes, largely fueled by the pre-nerf Amplureal, Sentient Shard. Being able to include Amplureal meant a Control War player could free up card slots in their deck that other Gods normally needed to reserve for emergency single target removals.
Amplureal's nerf was tremendous and Control War decklists became significantly less effective as a result. The archetype is still formidable, but it encountered a few issues: It can no longer use fatigue as a win condition without Amplureal, it can become out-valued by more greedy Control decks (especially those Control Death decks I mentioned earlier), it's notoriously expensive (I personally run five Genesis Legendaries in my current Control War decklist).
Onslaught tends to find itself fluctuating between being the most used and dominant God Power in the game to being somewhat mediocre. My advice is and has always been to keep Onslaught in mind if the meta ever becomes creature-dominant, which it mostly isn't at the moment with decks like Rune Magic and Control Deception floating around.
Apologies for the lack of decklists, as I'm sure the lack of context surrounding some of these deck names aren't helpful to new players! I expect next week we'll have a more clearly defined meta, with players having more time to shop on the Marketplace as well as decklists possibly becoming public again.
Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this, you can check out more of my Gods Unchained content by following me on Twitter at @saints_gu.