I’m aware that the interest in Hatebear style decks isn’t very big and that this thread probably won’t get many replies. Still, I got inspired by vaughbros’ thread on Dredge and wanted to post here, because why not, and to hopefully spark just a little bit of interest in the archetype and to discuss these types of decks if anyone wants to.
10 years ago Stephen Menendian wrote an article on Meandeck Beats, and since then I’ve been fascinated with the archetype and haven’t played much else. A lot of new printings have seen the light of the day since then, and the Hatebear decks now look a lot different. Back then we had no Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, no Cavern of Souls, no Deathrite Shaman, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Grafdigger’s Cage, Containment Priest, Sanctum Prelate, Abrupt Decay and no Force of Vigor. And although every other deck has changed a lot since then as well, the Hatebear pilot now has so many tools available that the archetype is more fascinating and viable than ever.
My purpose with this post is, as mentioned, to hopefully spark a little bit of interest and discussion about the archetype by presenting my current build – one of many possible takes on the archetype – and the record for my last 100 matches with this deck. I never actually had as a goal to play 100 matches and then post here. I just wanted to evaluate the performance of the deck by myself and I thought that 100 matches would be a good sample size to do so based on. This is by no means a bragging post. I’m fully aware that Hatebears is not the best deck in the format and that my winrate is higher than it would be in a more competitive environment.
Along the way, the deck has changed a bit. I’ve made slight adjustments now and then, but the core of the deck has always remained the same. I’ve toyed with the numbers of each card and tried to adjust the maindeck and the sideboard to the metagame when WAR and MH1 came out – and of course I’ve added new printings to my deck as well. Anyway, here’s the latest version of the deck:
# GWB Hatebears ## Griselbrother Creatures (30) 4 Deathrite Shaman 3 Collector Ouphe 3 Dark Confidant 3 Sanctum Prelate 3 Spirit of the Labyrinth 3 Tarmogoyf 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben 2 Scavenging Ooze 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar 2 Yixlid Jailer 1 Containment Priest 1 Gaddock Teeg Other (6) 3 Mental Misstep 2 Assassin's Trophy 1 Grafdigger's Cage Acceleration (4) 1 Mox Emerald 1 Mox Jet 1 Mox Pearl 1 Black Lotus Lands (20) 3 Cavern of Souls 3 Marsh Flats 3 Savannah 3 Scrubland 3 Wasteland 3 Windswept Heath 1 Bayou 1 Strip Mine Sideboard (15) 4 Force of Vigor 3 Path to Exile 2 Infernal Reckoning 2 Seeds of Innocence 1 Abrupt Decay 1 Containment Priest 1 Mental Misstep 1 Tarmogoyf
Here are my results with the deck. 71 of the matches have been played on MTGO and 29 on Cockatrice. My winrate was almost the same on the two platforms (63% on MTGO and 66% on Cockatrice)
Overall record: 64-36
Record by archetype (sorted by most matches):
- Dredge: 11-11
- Xerox: 9-4
Jeskai Mentor: 3-2
UR Pyromancer/Delver: 3-1
Esper Mentor: 0-1
- BUG: 8-4
- Paradoxical Outcome: 7-5
- Shops: 7-2
Ravager Shops: 3-1
Karn Shops: 3-1
- Survival: 4-2
- Oath: 4-0
- Eldrazi: 2-2
White Eldrazi: 0-1
- Grixis Thieves: 2-2
- Landstill: 2-1
- Dark Petition Storm: 2-0
- Two Card Monte: 1-1
- UR Planeswalker Control: 1-1
- Belcher: 1-0
- Rector Flash: 1-0
- Reanimator: 1-0
- GW Hatebears: 1-0
- Red Burn: 0-1
Here are my thoughts on the most common matchups.
I went from a 8-0 record to a final, disappointing 11-11 record against Dredge. What used to feel like my best matchup now feels like my worst. The maindeck is very well suited to fight Dredge and, ironically, I actually think that my game 1 winrate is higher than my game 2 and game 3 winrate against Dredge, although I don’t have the specific numbers on this.
My first versions of this deck had 2 Containment Priests maindeck, and when I started losing more, I made room for 2 Yixlid Jailers as well (I also swapped the 1 Priest for 1 Grafdigger’s Cage as the latter has more use in other matchups). However, the Jailer’s didn’t really do much as my game 1 was already pretty good against Dredge and what really needs to be improved is the game 2 and 3. I’ve always been very light on Dredge sideboard cards as my game 1 record made it less necessary to load up on Dredge hate in the sideboard, but going forward I’ll need to reconsider that approach and I’ve now made room for 3 Ravenous Traps in the sideboard which I still haven’t tested yet. I might also cut the Jailers again as they don’t have much use outside the Dredge matchup, and game 1 you don’t need that much hate to overcome Dredge.
It might be wrong to classify all these decks together because there’s actually a lot of difference between them, from the more aggressive Pyromancer and Delver builds to the more controlling Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Monastery Mentor builds. However, the fundamentals and the way you should approach these matchups are more or less the same, hence I decided to classify them all as Xerox decks. What really makes a difference, though, is whether you’re playing against Mentor or not.
The matchup against the UR(g) builds feels very, very good, whether they play the more traditional Snapcaster and Pyromancer version or the newer Dreadhorde version, though the latter seems even easier to beat than the first. The key card here is Sanctum Prelate. I’ve always been a big fan of that card, which I’ve always described as a Meddling Mage on steroids rather than a Chalice on legs as it’s often been referred to. Prelate set at 1 is more or less game over against the non-white versions as they simply can’t remove your creatures when unable to cast 1 casting cost spells. I remember one specific game that I won in which my opponent had 3 Young Pyromancers in play but simply couldn’t produce enough tokens to actually fight through.
The matchup against the White versions is much tougher, specifically because of Monastery Mentor which, contrary to Young Pyromancer, can actually pretty easily win through a Sanctum Prelate. Balance is also a card that I’ve lost games to and is hard to play around. Still, the matchup feels decent and I wouldn’t change much even if my metagame was filled with Xerox decks.
Who comes out on top when two fair decks fight each other? Well, lately the GWB version has defeated the BUG version. I’ve found that BUG is very reliant on Deathrite Shaman to function optimally, and this deck fights that strategy very well. Scavenging Ooze and Thalia, Heretic Cathar are allstars in this matchup, but my real discovery was adding Tarmogoyf’s to the maindeck. Initially I didn’t play Tarmogoyf in my build, and I found that when I lost to BUG (I started out with a 2-2 record before adding Tarmogoyf to by deck) it was mainly because of opposing Tarmogoyfs. So when BUG lately started seeing more play, I decided to try and fight fire with fire and that has been working out like a charm.
Outcome has almost disappeared from the metagame and so I haven't played against that archetype much lately. The matchup feels pretty close and the games are often blowouts one way or the other. Either I’m simply just dead before I get to do anything meaningful or my opponent is prevented from playing spells. Mental Misstep, Sanctum Prelate and Gaddock Teeg are amazing in this matchup, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Collector Ouphe and Spirit of the Labyrinth are obviously all great also.
When Outcome was popular I used to play more Outcome-hate both in the maindeck and the sideboard (I’ve played stuff like Mindbreak Trap and Eidolon of Rhetoric in the sideboard and Kambal in the maindeck and in the sideboard), but with the disappearance of Outcome from the metagame, I’ve cut down on specific hatecards for this matchup. However, the Force of Vigors out of the sideboard are amazing against Outcome as well, so I wouldn’t be too worried about this matchup going forward even if we see an uptick in Outcome after the London mulligan again. I’m very confident that Force of Vigor will be incredibly important then.
Historically, Shops has been the worst matchup for Hatebears, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was very surprised by my very good record against Shops. However, I’m also fully aware that this record is by no means representative for the matchup which is probably closer to 50/50 and perhaps even slightly unfavorable.
There are some good news, though. The shift from Ravager Shops to Karn Shops feels like a good one for the Hatebears player as the density of threats is much lower in the Karn Shops builds than in the Ravager Shops builds, and Karn itself isn’t as scary for the Hatebears player as it is for many other archetypes. Ravager Shops, on the other hand, seems a lot tougher to beat with its many creatures and its somewhat immunity to targeted removal. The other good news is Force of Vigor, which is everything Hatebears have always wanted to fight Shops. The ability to interact for free on the first turn is so huge that it’s hard to describe how much of an upgrade it is to other options available. I’ve been playing 4 Serenity, 4 Seeds of Innocence and every other imaginable card to improve the Shops matchup, but none of these options come close to Force of Vigor.
During my matches, I also found that Tarmogoyf is a major player here. The gameplan against Shops is to buy yourself some time, stabilize and then take over the game with Collector Ouphe and creatures that are larger than your opponent’s. While Force of Vigor buys you time (among other things), Tarmogoyf can also help buying you time, while at the same time taking the role as the big beater you need later in the game.
This is the matchup that made me include Scavenging Ooze in my maindeck a while ago when Survival was on the uprise. Now I think the matchup is pretty good with a lot of maindeck graveyard hate. My earlier versions would often lose to Hollow One, but Tarmogoyf has improved the matchup a lot. I’m still not 100% sure how much graveyard hate is needed and I’m also not sure how many copies of Force of Vigor is the right to bring in for games 2 and 3, but the list feels pretty stacked to fight Survival on different axis.
Oddly enough, Oath has never been a big issue for Hatebears. What should on paper be a pretty bad matchup is really not that bad. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty good. This deck plays a lot of Oath hate, directly and indirectly, and Force of Vigor out of the board has tested really well also. The Oath builds with hardcastable creatures are usually rougher than the ones without, because you have to play out your creatures to prevent your opponent from developing their board and being able to hardcast their creatures.
Unfortunately, I haven’t faced a lot of Eldrazi. I’m pretty confident that this is the worst matchup by far, as Force of Vigor doesn’t do much if anything in this matchup and you’ll face down creatures that are larger than yours. The White Eldrazi matchup feels worse than the KarnDrazi matchup but again, I don’t have much data to prove this. Tarmogoyf has made this matchup feel a little better, but I’m still looking for some really good sideboard cards to improve this matchup. I’ve tried out Plague Engineer (not as a specific Eldrazi hatepiece, but more of a general utility card) but it hasn’t tested that well unfortunately – I really do like the card on paper though.
So that’s pretty much it. Going forward I would look into making the following changes:
-1/2 Yixlid Jailer, +1/2? I will probably try out a Knight of the Reliquary and/or Ramunap Excavator.
-2 Seeds of Innocence, -1 Path to Exile, +3 Ravenous Trap. The Seeds of Innocence feels like overkill (until I start getting beat up by Shops again) and I need to improve the game 2 and 3 winrates against Dredge which is everywhere at the moment.
Anyway, as mentioned, I don’t expect much discussion or anything in this thread but if it sparks just a little bit of interest, I’d be happy to discuss!