Madoka Magica Deck Tech – 4th at NA WGP Nationals

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Welcome to a 9th CX deck tech and tournament report! For today’s article we have a never-before-seen take on Madoka Magica that went all the way to 4th place at the 2016 NA WGP Nationals! Special thanks and congratulations to Rachael H. on her finish and for the interview.

Because the event was in JP, card names may be seen here in either their HotC or official Bushiroad EN translation. No cards were modified during translation, so if in doubt, use the card number.

Now let’s get to the list!


Deck Name: I’m Not Alone Anymore

Level 0 (17):

3 Homura, Watching Over (MM/W17-024)

1 Kyuuby, Supporting Role (MM/W17-067)

3 Kyoko, Farewell on the Subway (MM/W17-072)

2 Mami & Nagisa (MM/W35-003)

4 Mami, Lively Evening (MM/W35-009)

3 Madoka of the New World (MM/W35-030)

1 “Magical Girls’ Tea Party” Kyoko (MM/W35-064)

Level 1 (13):

4 Mami, Confronting Homura (MM/W35-001)

3 Mami, the Way She Wished Things Are (MM/W35-005)

3 Homura, Determination to Become a Witch (MM/W35-039)

3  Kyoko, Suspicion Towards the World (MM/W35-061)

Level 2 (5):

2 Homura, Time-Travelling Backwards (MM/W17-035)

1 Kyoko, Repelling Nightmare (MM/W35-065)

2 A Magical Girl Appears (MM/W17-078)

Level 3 (7):

3 Homura, Hope And Resignation (MM/W17-P07)

2 “Happy Now” Mami (MM/W35-007)

2 Kyoko, Relying on Intuition (MM/W35-062)

CXs (8):

4 Unavoidable Collision (MM/W35-023)

4 New Daily Life (MM/W35-079)


We’re going to jump right into the interview this time because we have a lot to talk about!

M: There’s a small elephant in the room- you elected to play Madoka for the event. If our reports are correct, you also used nearly the same list to qualify. Why Madoka?

R: A small, adorable elephant to be sure. Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica is, hands down, my all-time favorite series. It’s second only behind Gurren Lagaan. It’s a beautifully animated series. I also love its messages of friendship, hope, and triumph over the impossible. I sincerely believe it’s the best anime of all time.

As a Weiss series, most everyone seemed amazed that Da Capo won, but didn’t bat an eye at Madoka. That tells me that the people still believe the set works, although they’ll probably assume I’m running B/G/r in some combination.

…Which leads into my deck. The shell of the deck is Mami waifu. I got my spot in Nationals last year with mono-yellow Madoka, and top 12 at Chicago Springfest with a few refinements.

But between those events, I played R/Y Nanoha at Nationals 2015, and Love Live! Nico waifu at a Chicago 1K. I failed miserably at both. The former because I was inexperienced at deck building and testing. The latter because I was enamored with a brand new deck that hadn’t really been practiced or refined yet.

Both of those events hammered in the importance of sticking to Mami’s guns and playing with a set I’m comfortable with and love. That’s now more important to me than playing a set simply because of it’s perceived strength. I had a friend trying to convince me to pick up a “meta deck” in order to take my game to the next level. I even started having doubts again. I’m glad I held firm.

M: And that brings us to our next questions about the build. What were your thoughts as you sculpted this list? There is certainly a lot of damage that the deck can put out, and not in the ways that people typically think; no major CX finisher combo, but a lot of + soul.

R: That’s a long story because this deck is literally the embodiment of my past year.

As I said before, the shell was originally mono-yellow (with the 3/2 Nagisa combo). Mami was the primary motivation for me wanting to build that deck since she’s my favorite of the five girls. I’m fortunate that Melanie (of 9th CX) helped me build that deck and was willing to lend me the JP cards I needed to play at the regional I qualified in.

After my Nationals disaster, I started focusing on preparing Springfest. I changed the deck to be Mono-Mami and played it for 3 months straight. Play testing had been going horribly and I was much more excited for Vanguard than I was for Weiss. But when I started playing, things clicked. I found myself at the wrong end of a +2 soul trigger for exact damage in the last round. I missed out on Top 8, but final rankings had me in top 12.

That deck was more focused on the 3/5 event “New Encounter”. I ran the 2/1 Senior and Junior combo for the shot trigger with the goal of re-creating Yami’s (from TLR 2nd Darkness) strong finishing power. I even called it “You Can’t Spell Yami Without Mami”. Living the dream with triple punish burn on one attack was glorious.

I took that exact list to a team event in Chicago, but in the JP meta, I realized that build had a horrible flaw. If I’m unable to push damage, my finishing power is non-existent. I knew I’d have to change things up, and I had some ideas on how to do it. Unfortunately, deck building is still my biggest weakness so when Columbus regional came up, I played with my deck as-is and had my theories reinforced.

Again, I had more experienced players help me out. I asked Forrest, in our sister group to help me figure out the deck. The color split was exactly what I wanted, but I needed help for the initial ratios and tech.

After I had the new Y/R/g list, I started making changes based on my theories.

Theory #1: If your set can’t match raw power then go back to the one truth of Weiss: “Characters don’t win games, damage does”.

When I got into Weiss, Melanie taught me how to play and she told me that exact quote. When I used that as the base of my thinking, the +2 soul became the focal point of the deck. If you can’t over power their characters, you need to side attack effectively. And that’s because…

Theory #2: Today’s finishers lose power if they’re forced to play from behind.

Yami, Arle, etc. They’re all amazing and efficient finishers. I was supremely jealous that Madoka didn’t have anything close them outside of the gold bar Homura combo. But my struggles with “New Encounter” convinced me that I could do the same thing to my opponents. That proved true at the regional and national level. With my opponent at 3-X, and me at 2-X I was surviving finishers long enough to play my own and close out the game. Nothing was more evident than surviving triple Yami during Top 8.

Theory #3: You can’t control Weiss.

The game is about learning to manage what you can, adapting as best as you can, and learning to let go of what you can’t.

This has less to do about the deck itself, and more about the approach I take to Weiss. I see a lot of friends get frustrated with Weiss because they don’t get cancels, combos, or whatever. They play with the expectation that they can have more complete control like you would in games like Magic or BuddyFight.

To that end, I wanted my deck to have flexibility. I only run a single combo for card advantage which encourages me to consider the situation rather than sandbagging a CX for late game.

If I see that my opponent has hit early cancels, I can smell blood in the water. When my opponent has gone through at least 4 CXs by the time I get to level one, I slam down +2 soul and swing for the fences. Either I push them straight to level two, or they’re very close and just lost the CXs they need to combo off and push damage back which keeps me behind.

The same is true with my finisher line-up. My default is one of each: the Kyoko healer, the Homura clock-kick promo, and the Mami punish burn. I do that because Kyoko’s burn ability is too costly to use more than once a turn, and I want to stack as much power on Homura as possible to guarantee the kick. Mami doesn’t cost anything, so bringing her in was a natural fit. (Credit to my friend Tom who inspired me to do that when he used that line-up for Kantai and Fate/Zero, which I thought was really cool)

However, I can change the lineup based on my opponent. If I’m playing a high compression deck with power walls, I switch to two Mami and Kyoko. I definitely want Kyoko if I find myself behind since she can get an additional burn in. Against Yami, I wanted clock kickers to keep them from encoring, and so on.

As long as I can push damage fast enough in the early-to-mid game, I can focus on letting the girls get the finishing blow as the situation demands.

M: What did you play against during the event?

R: 

Round 1: I won against Y/R Monogatari.

It’s an interesting deck, but I don’t feel like it tries to do any of the “unfair things” that other top meta decks do right now. In an even match up, I’m very confident in my play. It also helped that I had a 5 damage swing stick mid-refresh, but that’s how most of my games went that day.

Round 2: I lost against [email protected] CG: Triad Primus.

Compression decks give me the hardest match up because they can dig through their damage with alarming speed. I didn’t get enough practice against these kinds of decks, so my timing with soul rushing and side attacking was off. I have yet to beat Triad Primus.

Round 3: I won against mono-blue “Is the Order a Rabbit?”

I playtest with Travis (of 9th CX) frequently, so I’d seen this build before. My opponent burned his +1 level characters on my level 0 reversers, so when I loaded my field with the Kyoko level one reverser he was forced to attack them to try and catch up. Against me, an empty board is a free climax in my hand.

I did have a twinge of fear on the last turn. He had two cards left in deck, was at 3/5 and I had two attacks left. I attacked with Mami, assuming that if she got canceled then her punish burn would stick and refresh would end it.

I completely forgot about the freefresh backup.

Mami’s attack was canceled, her punish burn stuck, but I was still able to end it with Kyoko’s burn ability. Talk about close!

Round 4: I won against G/B Love Live.

This gentleman was a darn good player. He had one inaccuracy at the end of the game that probably saved me the game. As it was, he killed my compression with the early play Rin and would have had me without timely cancels.

I don’t see the blue deck hitting the same power levels as green or red, so on that front we were about even. The level one Kyoko helps tip that in my favor since she can bomb walls and help my CX combo Mami get above counter range.

Round 5: I won against Shiyoko.

I have never seen anyone actually play Shiyoko, so I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry too much because my opponent was out 5 by the time I hit level one. I soul rushed as hard as I could, and I think I was just barely at level 3 when I clinched the game.

At the end of Swiss, I was 4-1 and guaranteed top cut 16.

Top 16: I won my rematch against the Shiyoko player Alex Noel, (I believe) the 2009 Melty Blood National champion.

Our game played out almost exactly as it had before. Afterwards, we spent some time talking and he praised my “competitive spirit”. Our game was still a lot of fun to play, and I’m very happy to have the acknowledgement of a previous champion.

Top 8: I won against Y/G TLR.

My opponent was clearly very exhausted, but he still put the fear of Yami in me. Admittedly, I was at my limit too. I figured I had at least one good game left in me before I started falling apart. (I got a warning in Top 4 for continuously slapping myself to stay awake)

I was struggling to keep a full field without my clock encores or hand plussing combos. It was to the point where I was so desperate to push damage that I was pushing assists to the front row just to have enough attackers. The upside is that I kept sending his wind (bounce) triggers to the waiting room when damage was cancelled.

When he hit level three, he forced refresh and dropped three Yamis to dig for his combo but couldn’t find it. He swung, and I cancelled. My hand was a pair of clock kickers that I couldn’t play because I couldn’t get to level three. With that being the case, I clocked one Homura away, dropped three cards and crashed to keep an empty board.

He played his combo. I cancelled all of the big damage, but still went to 3/6 from the burn triggers.

I played my Homura, and then the Kyoko. At that point, I only had one card in hand which was a level 0. I could either hold it to discard for Kyoko’s burn or I could play it as an attacker. I checked everything. Climaxes, damage needed, counters, etc.

I played the 0 as an attacker and swung. If my opponent had the anti-damage, then I severely lost my chance at winning. The third attack would at least give me a shot.

Homura’s damage stuck, and so did her kick. Kyoko’s attack was cancelled. My opponent was at 3/6.

Little Madoka swung. She swung and hit a +2 soul trigger. It all stuck.

Top 4: I lost to R/G Osomatsu.

This was the game where I knew I was done. Try as I might, I would slip out of focus when it wasn’t my turn. Combine that with the fact that I have never played against Osu before and I didn’t catch on to my opponent’s compression power fast enough.

My attacks kept getting cancelled and I died before I could even get him to level three. That player would get runner-up in the finals.

Bronze Match: I lost to Osomatsu. Again.

This deck didn’t have the same compression build that my previous opponent had, and I think I played it about as well as I could have. He had some good cancels and ended it with two clock kickers.

Team Questions

T: You stated earlier in the interview that this deck was an embodiment of the entire year. What was the biggest driving force into your decision to pilot this build of Madoka this season?

Frustration with power creep, and a love for Mami. As I said before, I love her character and playing Mami Waifu for the better part of the year made me very comfortable with the core of the deck for competitive play.

However, that deck has issues dealing with the raw power that characters and modern finishers have. So I wanted to play in a way that would allow me to compete and essentially ignore what my opponent is doing.

I was also annoyed that I was essentially told that if I wanted to be “competitive”, I would have to abandon my favorite series. I had friends recommend [email protected]: CG or Kantai, neither of which I care about as franchises. Weiss, to me, is not a game where you buy a set or a deck just because it’s “meta”. That’s why I sold my playset of Attack on Titan. I wasn’t in love with the show, so I didn’t want it.

One of the things Weiss sells you on is the idea that all you have to do is buy “your set” and you’re done, no further purchases necessary. But if your set becomes “obsolete” or “power creeped out”, and what are you supposed to do?

I felt frustrated and angry for those people who wanted to play their favorite sets but couldn’t. I believe that if you can completely master something, it becomes viable through your strength and familiarity. That’s what I wanted to declare going into nationals.

Now for our new fun section – Sample Hands!


Hand 1

shmm1

It looks like a pretty bad hand, but that’s only if we don’t draw into any level 0’s. I would discard a single +2 soul CX, as well as both of the other non-CX cards. I want to keep the yellow stock soul CX because if I can fire my level one combo then I can refill my my hand and mill through potential damage. I want to keep the +2 soul so that I can maintain pressure, even if I have less characters to attack with. At worst, I can clock it to make sure I have red at level one.

Hand 2

shmm2

In this scenario, I would discard the level one Kyoko, and a single level one Mami. The clock encore is vital for maintaining field presence, but we only need one. The stock soul gets kept for the level one combo, and I want to try and keep the 2/1 salvage event to help fix my hand before refresh. I’ll clock it if I don’t see a level 0 in a turn or so, but since I only run two copies of that event I’d rather hold onto it.

Hand 3

shmm3

Fairly easy decision. I’ll discard the “Freefresh” Homura. If I really need her, I’ll usually be able to salvage her back. I could discard the level one Kyoko, but it’s probably better to hold her as clock fodder if I don’t draw into something else I’d rather clock. The presence of a level 0 means that I can don’t have to dig as hard for that opening attack, and I’d like to have the level 1 presence right away for soul damage.

Hand 4

shmm4

Definitely one of the better hands. I would have discarded both level threes anyway, but the salvage event means I can do so and be sure I’ll get them back before refresh to set up for the late game.

Hand 5

shmm5

I’ll discard a CX and the level three here. I don’t like discarding CXs because they represent bursts of damage that I need to get off if my opponent hits too many of theirs too early. Some players get concerned with showing off too much information, but I don’t particularly care. However, I’ve been punished for trying to hold onto too many without characters to swing with, so I’ll make the concession of discarding one now, and potentially clocking the other if it means getting more useable characters. Discarding the level three is an foregone conclusion for me at this point. 


Another round of congratulations to Rachael on her finish, and more thanks for the interview!

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