Late last month Corey Burkhart posted news on the main Hex site about an update to the Watch / Ban List:
Lazgar’s Vengeance was added to the watch list for both Standard and Immortal.
Today I am not going to spend much time speaking to Lazgar’s in terms of Immortal because we do not have nearly as much data available for this format. That being said – with all the powerful things you can be doing in Immortal, such as killing on turn three with Hideous Conversion, I think Lazgar’s Vengeance is probably fine there.
What I really want to focus on today is Lazgar’s Vengeance and how it impacts Standard. To start, let’s look at the objective data. I am going to choose to focus on the data from the Bash events today as opposed to mixing in ladder results. The primary reason for this is that the ladder tends to reward people who play more as opposed to winning more. This means aggressive decks, like the ones that want to be playing Lazgar’s Vengeance, are often slightly overrepresented on the ladder.
Getting down to business – how has Lazgar’s been doing in the Bash events as a whole? The last three Bashes had a total of 287 players in them. These players registered 455 copies of Lazgar’s Vengeance between them. This gives us around 125~ players out of 287 people, or about 44%, showing up with the powerful Ruby action in their deck.
While the popularity of a card is certainly important, how well those players did with that powerful card is also relevant. From these three events we had a total of 56 players who finished with a record of 5-2 or better. Among these 56 players there were 24, or 43%, that were playing Lazgar’s Vengeance. Based on these numbers alone you could likely make a strong case that Lazgar’s Vengeance is not too powerful for the current format. It had almost exactly the expected conversion rate of copies played to copies in successful decks.
That being said, you could also make a reasonable argument that nearly half of the field registering some form of aggressive deck with Lazgar’s Vengeance is a problem. While there are at least two distinct Lazgar’s Vengeance decks, Redlings and Mono Ruby, they are very similar in strategy when it comes to how their games play out.
Past the decks powered by Lazgar’s Vengeance the next most popular decks in the last few Bash events were Diamond Sapphire Control and Blood Wild Deathcry with 60 and 24 copies respectively between the events. While the Lazgar’s Vengeance based decks have had the expected performance, it is actually the Diamond Sapphire Control decks that have been over performing in the current metagame.
The 60 copies of Diamond Sapphire Control in the three Bash events converted into 18 of the 56 top finishing decks for the events. To compare the percentages like we did with the Lazgar’s decks: Diamond Sapphire Control has 21% of the decks played in the last three Bash events while it was 32% of the most successful lists. This is a sizable over performance for the control archetype, but honestly not one that surprises me.
Control decks tend to thrive in narrow metagames and that is what Lazgar’s Vengeance has happily been creating. All of the decks that could do a good job of beating up on Diamond Sapphire Control, fold in half against the Lazgar’s Vengeance decks. This leaves the Diamond Sapphire Control deck largely unchecked in a format populated with Ruby cards.
I have heard a number of people note similar data about Diamond Sapphire Control, but draw a different conclusion than myself. They have fired back with the idea that Diamond Sapphire Control is actually the problem in the format, naming cards like Psychic Ascension and Dark Heart of Nulzann as being the real issues. I disagree with this assessment.
Diamond Sapphire Control’s dominance is a response to what Lazgar’s Vengeance is doing to the format. It is only as powerful as it is because of what Vengeance has done to the metagame. I think if Lazgar’s Vengeance was removed from Standard, not only would the Ruby decks become weaker, but Diamond Sapphire Control would also be brought down to a more moderate power level as it readjusts to try and answer the wider variety of decks that would rush in to fill the space that had previously been all Ruby aggressive decks.
All in all I think the decision to ban Lazgar’s Vengeance could go in either direction. On one hand I would not call the current format unhealthy. Lazgar’s Vengeance is one of many different powerful cards that a variety of different decks lean on to be competitive. We have competitive aggro and control decks, while there are fringe midrange decks such as Blood-Wild Deathcry that are reasonable choices as well.
Outside of the Deathcry deck, however, Lazgar’s Vengeance makes most other midrange decks unplayable. I find this sad because midrange decks tend to be some of the most fun to play in TCGs. They provide a wide range of game play, from long interactive games, to ones where you get to take an aggressive role. The decks featuring Lazgar’s Vengeance are all looking to have short brutal games that end quickly.
The last thing that I think is important to factor into the decision on if a card should remain legal in a format is the gameplay experience it creates. I think of all the powerful cards that decks in the current format are built around, Lazgar’s Vengeance creates the gameplay experience that feels the worst. Not only is it a powerful one sided blowout that becomes free for doing what aggro wants to be doing anyways – attacking – but it is the type of card that could easily scare new players away from spending more time exploring Hex’s constructed format.
What do you think? Does Lazgar’s Vengeance deserve to bite the bullet or should we keep the one sided sweeper around until it rotates with set 10 a year from now?
Let me know in a comment below.