El Kamino: "El Kamino is broken." This was the inserted comment after their fifth game of the season - a 36-point drubbing by Crusade II. SOMEHOW, this group took on too much at once - like they were at a BBQ on the 4th of July. They had some strong wins - NLFY by 20, Darwin by 19, & the Boss twice by an avg. of 23 - but they had one of the worst loss differentials in the league (>22ppg). Mana issues was present too often for this tri-color squad, as they struggled to summon what they needed when they needed it. Safe the Commissioner isn't ready for that level of complexity in deck building. So long, Clones.
The Doldrums: I know, I know. "How is this team not in the "Deconstructed" group after going 2-16?" I get it. Well, there are three reasons this team isn't going the way of El Kamino; (a) they were being played incorrectly for most of the season, (b) white wasn't a helpful partner-color, and (c) they have help on the way. Let's start with the first point. Up until Week 16, The Doldrums strategy was to mill-first, counter-second and kill creatures as needed. That week, however, the Doldrums flipped the script and secured their first victory over the then-desperate now-defunct El Kamino, winning on 16th turn despite being down 19 to 1. It was clear at that point to counter-first, mill-second, and then kill the opposing creatures when possible. Keep any/everything off the battlefield, let turns pass, and mill once they're out of resources. They won again three rounds later against top-tier team in Crusade II. Also, killing creatures sounds redundant if the counter-strategy is being employed, which brings me to the second point; it doesn't make sense to keep white in this deck. White was being used to destroy opposing creatures. Can Doldrums use more counters to accomplish the same thing? Yup! And what is this 'help on the way'? How about adding the Dreadnought crew? You betchya. Counter first, second and third, then mill away once their initial strike has been sapped and, as the turns continue to elapse, slap a Dreadnought or two down for a good extra-measure. With these changes in store for the lowly Doldrums, the League, finally, gets their first mono-blue deck. Bazinga!
Swamp Things: The Swamp Things feel like a ball of clay right now. It's hard to know what to make of them. Over the course of their inaugural season, they dropped a color (white), swapped out ten more cards, and still made the playoffs at an even 9-9. Their win total is a bit deceiving, as only 4 of them look strong at this point. The Things' graveyard resurrection strategy is coming along, though, and yet it's not clear if the inclusion of green helps this Team at all. In fact, some fans (?) are wondering whether green should be swapped for blue to give the Things a bit more protection. The answer, which comes as a surprise to the Commish, is undoubtedly 'yes'! But what happens to Yawgmoth Demon! Could a resurrection of Team 10 be on the horizon!?!?!
Thrull Frottle: End of last season had them as an Up'n'Comer. This time around, it feels like they've regressed. The Frottlers had two good wins in the regular against playoff teams, two anomalous wins, then four against the bottom-dwellers. A total of five losses were due to mana issues (led the league). Something's not right here, though, and the Commissioner has a radical thought as to why; Thrulls stink!!! They're terrible! An entire deck built around them? Cmon 10-yr-old-me!! Terrible idea. A major retooling is in store here because this Team isn't going away. How to make them more competitive is the question, and the answer likely has to do with less Thrulls. That said, they did push the T-Yellow Award-winning Slivers to a measly 3-point victory in Round 1 of the playoffs before being eliminated, so there's that..
No Lands For You: A 2-4 start had them looking at a 7-11 record over their previous 18 games - basically, since they won the championship in Season 1. Not great for the former champ. Fortunately, they turned things around in the final two trimesters of the season, going 9-3 to secure the #2-seed. In Season 3, NLFY won games 33% faster than they did in Season 2. They even took home the Murphy Award for most aggressive team, not to mention Black Vise's second Jenny Award (MVP). Sounds lovely, but let's not count our chickens. In four of their wins, opponents only mustered 1 or 2 mana drawn - drawing few mana early on against NLFY is the equivalent of bringing checkers to a chess match. The 4 wins, then, feels a bit misleading. On the other end, NLFY lost 4-games to lack of defense against artifacts and creatures. In the playoffs, a lack of defense against black creatures, specifically, plagued them as they were upset by the Swamp Things in Round 1. Sure, they rode some late-season momentum to a 2-seed, but the look-back exposes serious holes in their defense especially against other teams sporting black creatures (4 other teams did this season). Tweaks needed.
Crusade II: Despite a first round playoff exit, this third season marked a sizable improvement for the Crusaders. Here's a few reassuring stats comparing their third season to their first two; (a) secured their highest win percentage, (b) largest point differential in wins (more than doubling last season's), and they were (c) beating opponents at a faster pace than ever before. It's also worth mentioning that their point differential led the league this season. The shift toward a smaller, nimbler team worked out extremely well and was critical is securing a top 4-seed. Problem, though, is that they're still getting beat. The answer to "Can this Team win a Championship?" may still be 'no', especially given the increase in competition throughout the league. Somehow, their lack of defense against creatures seems to be a sore spot - it's how they got beat in Round 1 of the playoffs to Boss Fight. White, as a color, is fraught with cards that can help, and the Crusaders will need to address this in the off-season in order to get stronger in Season 4.
Fire Drilled: Well, it's happened; the Drillers got knocked around for the first time in three seasons. Their win percentage has gone from 80% to 75% to 61% season over season. They got beat by familiar foe - Darwin's Doom - in the first round of the playoffs after beating them in the championship last season. Looking back, the number of turns it took for them to lose, on average, was the lowest it's been - meaning other teams are beating them to the punch faster than they ever have before. On the plus side, they lost four games due to mana issues (an anomaly), and remained competitive in the others losing by only 13.2 points per game (2nd best in the league). There might be a little wiggle room on the Drillers roster to hasten their speed as Drillers prepare for a bounce-back season coming up.
Darwin's Doom: Have to admit, the Commissioner did NOT see this type of finish for Darwin. Two straight appearances in the championship round, even if it came with two straight losses. Looking back, Darwin was a shining 9-5 heading into the final four game stretch. Some of their success could be attributed to significant roster turnover, with 12 players being swapped out during the season to to increase their speed, defense and battlefront heft. A Commish favorite in Force of Nature (right) was signed in Week 13 delighting many fans, or maybe just one. They then faltered, going 1-3 with dropped games to Crusade (critical tie-breaker), Boss Fight, & El Kamino to drop from projected #4-seed to the fifth seed. Their road to the finals wasn't easy either but they were resilient; in Round 1 they beat the stalwart Drillers 2-1 with an MVP-game from the formerly mentioned Force, exterminated the high-flying Slivers 2-0 in Round 2 thanks to Hurricane, then went down fighting in the finals 2-1 to fellow-green-team Boss Fight. Strong output for Darwin with an even more positive outlook in the season ahead.
Sliver Lining: Whoaaaaa baby! How 'bout them Slivers! Big, big props to the new addition City of Brass, who was runner-up for the Jenny Award in their first season on the Slivers. The previously 6-16 Slivers built off of their new flexibility in the mana department by burying opponents by the largest margin of any team in Season 3, which propelled them to take home their first #1-seed, and, subsequently, their first T-Yellow Award. If that wasn't enough, the Slivers were also the second fastest team in victories, taking only 7.54 turns, on average, to blast opponents. They rode the in-season momentum into the playoffs, blanked the Thrulls in the first round, and were then upset in the second round by Darwin. Losing to Darwin in 2-games marked the third time this season that the Slivers lost to this squad, the only opponent with such an advantage over the #1-seed. Mana played a part in four of their losses - perhaps there is a way to bring even more flexibility to their stable of mana-producers to ensure no struggles moving forward. Great, great season by the Slivers, and the Commish didn't even mention their "OMG it's +" and WTF Awards (See: top image of page).
Boss Fight: Who else?! The Boss lives up to the name in their inaugural season, beating down any and all opposition who dared approach their level, at least in the playoffs. The regular season told a different story as Boss Fight scratched and clawed their way to a playoff berth as the #6-seed with a 9-9 record. When they lost, they lost hard, owning the second largest deficit in losses (22.67 points per game). But did it matter? Nope. The took care of business against #3-seed Crusade II winning 2 games to 1 with a punishing finale where they won by 29 points (2nd highest deficit in the playoffs). Round two had them paired up with fellow upsetter-Swamp Things, winning again two games to one with a shutout in the finale. Then, Darwin. The first game was almost anomalous for the Boss as they took a 12-point victory by the sixth turn - a very fast pace for them. Game 2 went the other way, with Darwin punching back with force. In the championship finale, a dog fight ensued, concluding with 23-point T.K.O. ushered by the Boss to fellow green-team Darwin. Now, listen, Boss Fight will NOT be included as a regular team in Season 4. They proved our entire fan base correct by taking home the crown in their inaugural season which, though this may appear controversial, wasn't supposed to happen. As a result, they'll watch glaringly from the sidelines.