Test-Piloting #11 - TealRed’s Maokai Bard
For our eleventh test piloting, we tested another one of genius deck builder TealRed’s spooky creations: Maokai Bard. Was their success with it great piloting, great brewing, or both? Let's find out!
For our eleventh test piloting, we tested another one of genius deck builder TealRed’s spooky creations: Maokai Bard. They achieved an impressive win rate with the deck in the APAC Masters ladder. Was it due to their great ability to play, their great deck building, or both? Let's find out!
Caitlyn Mill alchemist Astrofeesh took it for a very short spin and was unable to get a win after three games played,
Treasured Trash editor regularbird took the deck to the Gold ladder and managed to go 3-2,
Time-traveling jott skoplin managed to stabilize a 54% win rate on the Platinum ladder, and his future self came back to tell us even more about it,
Shen Sivir creator and all-around great deck builder Ana went 2-5 before using her skills to modify it a bit and go 2-1 with it,
and Yondy, who took a 40% win rate dive with it on Diamond.
About the Deck
As is something of a tradition in the LoR world, TealRed popped out of nowhere with a crazy win rate using a deck no one had seen before: Maokai Bard. When we began our testing, this was the record in APAC Masters:
Which got them to #3. At the time of writing, and arguably even more impressively, their win rate has stabilized at 65% after a whooping 150+ games played.
Is the deck the next meta shaking contender or is it due to their insane skills as a pilot? Let’s hear what our testers have to say about it.
Yondy: This is a control deck that wants to stall the game until the opponent either runs out of cards or loses the will to keep playing. The main idea behind this deck is brilliant, as TealRed's inventions often are: Tossing cards means you have less cards your chimes can go to, which means bigger units. It also means leveling Maokai which obliterates your opponent's deck. Your opponent loses. The end.
regularbird: It sustains itself through Lifesteal and drain while sacrificing units and tossing to flip Moakai. You are looking to generate value from cards like Sea Scarab, Thorny Toad, and Spirit Leech, by forcing awkward trades or killing them off yourself in order to trigger their toss and draw effects. It's an easy gameplan to pull off in most situations, and on paper it makes sense.
Ana: The deck is very centered around the two champs, and aims to level both of them to win, in most cases via massive chime draws.
Astrofeesh: I agree that it's solidly in the control category.
Yondy: jott, what sort of deck would you say this one is?
jott skoplin: …
jott: Survival horror. You want to flip Maokai and hold on for life. If the opponent has low enough card quality you might also be able to win by not dying.
Yondy: You know what, I’m inclined to agree. However, is there anything that felt good to you about the deck?
jott: I guess you get quite the adrenaline high. However this is not what I'm personally looking for in a children’s card game. At least the champions don't get tossed. And sometimes you get chimes on Deadbloom Wanderer or Esmus, Breath of The World.
Astrofeesh: You found a lot more positive things than I did. There’s honestly not much that feels good to me about the deck. You can get some big units late game because of the tossing, but you can get big units through playing any Bard deck anyway. It is capable of leveling Maokai, but any other Maokai deck can level him much faster.
I guess hitting a chime on your cheap units feels pretty nice, but that's again no different from any other deck that runs Bard.
Yondy: Those are my thoughts exactly. Everything that feels good about this deck can feel good in other decks. What about Ana and regularbird? Anything you found enjoyable?
regularbird: Well, it wasn't hard to figure this deck out. Most of the units in the deck force the opponent into awkward decisions on attack and defense, even without chime buffs. More than once, I had tossed my deck down to two copies of Bard, which meant that with a Bard already on board, I would draw his spell at the start of every Round, turbocharging my board.
Ana: Yeah, this deck is all about the funny interaction that happens when you go down to only having champ spells left in deck, and infinitely shuffle them to gain three [jott: Sometimes up to nine!] chimes each turn.
Yondy: Sadly I didn’t see that in any of the 10 games I played with it. Which gave me the opinion that while the idea is great on paper, it rarely works that way.
Astrofeesh: I agree. Almost every aspect of this deck felt anti-synergistic. Since you have no Elusive or Overwhelm units other than Esmus, Breath of the World, your chimes feel pretty useless even when you get lucky with them. Because you have no Maokai synergy outside of SI, he takes so long to level up that you just lose before he's relevant most of the time.
regularbird: Exactly, it’s too slow. I thought it felt great at first; Bard decks all have a pleasant high-rolley feeling to them. Flipping Maokai is your only wincon, basically, and it can take forever to do. Games went very long when opponents refused to surrender.
Astrofeesh: You don't have any form of mill protection as you would with Nautilus or PnZ, so you're more likely to deck yourself than your opponent. The deck just runs out of followers.
Yondy: Victories feel more like the opponent threw and defeats feel like there was nothing you could do from the beginning. Each game feels like there's not enough you can do to keep your deck from killing you. The units you get bigger do nothing by themselves and the opponent can go both around you and under you. Sometimes you toss all your answers and are left with cards so bad you feel like you're a particularly weak encounter of a Path of Champions adventure your opponent is currently playing.
jott: Other things that felt bad: The unit curve ends at 4, yet this deck wants, probably better to say has, to go to the late game. There is Maokai, a finisher that you have to use as an engine as many of the cards do nothing. Some do nothing on a stick. One game I Spirit Leeched my Maokai. It was against aggro so I'm okay, but this is not okay. Sometimes the Spirit Leech is a 10/7???
Astrofeesh: I think you really just need to hard mull for as many Sea Scarabs as possible, since that seems like the only real way to level Maokai fast enough to be relevant.
Yondy: I completely agree, you want Sea Scarab and blast anything else. If you don't level Maokai you're probably going to lose the game.
One notable exception is aggro, which you can stall by mulliganing for blockers and then blocking and healing until they fall on their own sword.
regularbird: Low cost units are a must and one Moakai, but you have enough ways to recover health that your starting hand is pretty flexible. Horny Toad, Sea Scarab, Esmus, and Byrd are obvious keeps.
jott: Keep Maokai, some removal maybe, and the sticks that won't fall over unless a chime blows on them.
Ana: Maokai, Scarab, Minion (post-tweak, which I’ll comment on below), Deadbloom, Byrd and Toad are mostly a keep. Spells can be kept depending on matchups
Yondy: I don't feel like neither Tellstones nor Spirit Leech are pulling their weight. I'm not sure what I'd replace though because I'm fairly confident TealRed found the best cards to add to this sick monstrosity.
Despair felt really good against Illaoi and other decks which have low attack threats, so I'd like to add a few copies.
Ana: I swapped 3x Spirit Leech for 2x Camavoran Dragon and 1x Minion, and 2x Shadow Isles Tellstones for 2x Black Spear. I cut Spirit Leech and Tellstones because they are almost always dead draws. Leech is a proactive Glimpse Beyond with a meh body, and it’s only good when some chimes get onto it. In comparison, Camavoran Dragon also activates unit death, drains 1 from the enemy Nexus, and has an incredible body that can drain more as it trades favorably. Not to mention it also progresses Bard through Fury.
Minion is just infinite death fodder. I added a single copy because you don’t want to draw it twice, and it’s okay if you don’t draw it.
As for the Tellstones, there are three options: Mark of the Isles is a funny Bard progress but at the same time you are losing a unit, which may be good if you are trying to trade up but doesn’t help much otherwise. Spirit Journey is almost never used because it’s a 6 mana stun that activates their summon effect. Crumble is neat at times but can be a liability since you might not want to kill any of your units on board. Swapping to Black Spear allows me to trade away my units and kill another after combat, which can be game changing especially in the early game.
Astrofeesh: Thorny Toad didn't feel too useful, though it might have just been the matchups. I would say it could be lowered down to at least a 2-of, maybe even to one copy.
Like Ana did, I would either cut the draw since they're completely dead cards half the time, or add in Go Hard so you at least have some protection against decking yourself. Honestly though, I don't know if there are any changes that can make this deck playable at all.
regularbird: I don't think there's much you can change. Sapling Toss and Sap Magic are the other toss options available, but I don't see the point in making room for either.
jott: I don't care about winrate, I want Nautilus back.
Astrofeesh: I'm probably somewhat biased since Deep is one of my least favorite archetypes, but this was one of the least fun decks I've ever played in this game. Having to constantly monitor your own deck count and worry about milling yourself takes away a lot of enjoyment from the game, and it feels like you have to fight against both your opponent and your own cards when playing it.
regularbird: I disagree and think this deck has a great idea, but I would rather play something else. If you want to play Maokai, there might just be more fun ways to use them right now. If you want to play Bard, you have so many options... including some of the best decks in the game.
jott: One of the reasons I wanted to test this deck was because I realized that I have no understanding of playing this type of deck and felt like improving my play. Improvement of course is a double edged sword. At first there is this great mystery regarding the functioning of the deck and whether it can win. For me this has now been replaced with some key insights on how to use the cards and the knowledge that I can’t win with the deck.
Yondy: Testing this was like playing Russian roulette with yourself as your only opponent. There's a high chance you blow your brains out, and if you win it's only because you were lucky enough to forget to load the gun. TealRed truly is a crazy good player to be able to make this work.
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