**Disclaimer: The recaps below reference a "Universal Damage Power Index (U-DPI)" a lot. While completely nonsensical, the Index is essentially just a power ranking designed to compare teams across each season. The formula is as follows; U-DPI = (Avg. Damage Dealt per Game * Win Percentage)/1000. The higher the number, the more powerful the team. The lower the number, the worse the team. If a team won every game by 50pts (damn near impossible), then they'd have a 0.500 U-DPI. The average U-DPI across all seasons so far is 0.0792 (i.e. 14.72 damage per game w/ a 50% win percentage). Ok, sufficiently confusing, now let's move on..**
The Doldrums. Annnnd that's all folks! The only team to post an all-time win percentage under 20% is, finally, and without further question, being put to rest. SOMEHOW, The Doldrums lulled us to sleep early on this season starting 3-3 and faking us into believing their Season 3 foibles were resolved. No sir. From there, though, the wheels came off. They finished on a 2-13 slide to end their second season at a paltry 5-15, not to mention a sterling 0-6 record against the top 3 seeds. This squad was doomed upon conception - a team built predominantly on counters meant, ideally, all defense and next to no offense. Check out the chart on the right - they were doling out only 6-7 points of damage per game! That's abhorrent! Not only that, but this Team finished with the second-worst Universal DPI ever; 0.016. The one Team they beat? Themselves from Season 3. Yuck. Doldrums were quiet in the playoffs, getting blanked in two games against the somewhat-superior Thrulls. Note from their season-ending loss against the Thrulls; "Can't wait to stop playing with this deck." Prayer answered.
Extinction. A begrudging end to a hopelessly hopeful squad. The glimmer of faith this season was in harnessing a secondary strategy centered around enlivening artifacts. How'd that go? Heres a comment after an ugly win in Week 11, "It feels like the artifact-to-life concept for Extinction isn't real - haven't seen it play out once this season." OK, so, not great. How about this comment after getting slow-roasted by eventual-champ Crusade II in Week 15, "Extinction stinks. They're made to kill opposing creatures but can't seem to do so with any level of effectiveness." Core to the roster was the ability to destroy opposing creatures, yet their most frequent reason for defeat was due to opposing creatures!! How does this happen!? As a result, X finishes the season with a bottom-6 U-DPI mark all-time (0.035); i.e. one of the least powerful teams ever. With their hopeful hopes now lost, and a few key parts sold off to the highest bidders, X fans become ex-fans after heading for the exits.
Fire Drilled. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Season 4 was not kind to the Drillers, not in the slightest. The former champ started off winless through the first 8 weeks of the season, and didn't nab their second win until Week 13. One of the primary reasons for their demise has been the recent influx of enchantment spells. Most every team has added them, and even altered other areas of their roster to generate a unique blend of offense and defense. In fact, Fire Drilled was arguably the first to do this very thing with Furnace of Rath (pic) and Mana Flare. That said, FD has no way to get rid of opposing enchantments, or any other non-creature resources for that matter. This puts their opponents at an immediate advantage. Not only that, but the two cards mentioned above can actually aid the opponent. No wonder the Drillers slid so far and so fast. That, and FDs roster has gone largely unchanged since Season 1, yet everyone else has evolved. At this point, most teams have strategies centered around some variety of resource removal. If FD is to remain competitive, they'll either have to join the party, or dive head-first into resource providers, like Mana Flare, to overcompensate for, and once again overpower, their opponents. The League's simply not the same without a contentious Driller Team.
Thrull Frottle. The sadness is real. The Thrulls were initially cast in a spotlight deck 20 years ago, as the description in the Team Directory states, but we've reached their expiration date. For 4 seasons now, they have been the perpetual underdog, tied tightly to the 'thrull' identity and dealing with the consequences that comes with it (Read: Getting smoked more aggressively than a yule log on Christmas). As the league competition level increased, the Frottle's win percentage decreased -- 50% in Season 2 to 44% in Season 3 to 35% this season). A look at their wins this season tells an interesting story; 4 were due to opposing mana struggles (scratch those), 1 was against the the league's worst team ever (scratch that), another was a close win against Team 10 (nice, count it), and then there's one more from Week 19 -- that makes it two good wins, TWO!! Just terrible. But Week 19 is where things got interesting. The Frottle signed 9 new free agents prior to their match-up against the then-2nd place Slivers - the largest team turnover of any team all season. The game went 12 long turns as the Thrulls took it to the Slivers, winning by 2 points in a dog fight - a great win. Fortunately, with more changes in store, it finally looks like there's a future for this team. Unfortunately, it has little to do with our Thrull friends. Say goodbye to the Frottlers, and hello to The Attritionists.
Team 10. A beloved squad, Team 10 was an early fan favorite who surpassed expectations in their comeback season going 10-10 in an increasingly competitive league. Analysis of their match-up data pegs them squarely in the middle - as their record would suggest. They beat up on the bottom of the league, going 5-1 with the lone loss coming in a close one against the artist formerly known as "X", and get pummeled by the elite, losing 5 of 6 against the top 3 teams. Heck, their soft initial schedule pumped them up to even 3rd place by Week 7. After sliding into 9th place by Week 11, the 10 traded for Titania's Song from Extinction to help throw a little spice into their recipe. It paid dividends immediately, and gave them hope for the playoffs. Team 10 took it #2-seed Bad Ass Fault in their first game of the playoffs, going down by a final score of 1 to -1. Had they one more turn, Titania's Song would've undoubtedly swung the game to Team 10. Two games later, though, their season was ended in a doors-blown-off 43 point loss. Yowza. Nonetheless, a stumbled-into-strategy of marrying Titania's Song with Yawgmoth Demon showed serious promise, and is the very catalyst behind the coming rebrand to the Frozen Stiffs. Thanks for the memories, 10, the pleasure was ours.
Swamp Things. This seasons' winner of the "So Much Fun to Play With You Can't Believe It" Award marched to a 10-10 record behind their wonderfully unique graveyard-resuscitation scheme. It took some time for the roster to gel, but additions like ultra-heavyweight Polar Kraken significantly amped up their offensive capabilities in an impressive way. Make no mistake, though, the tag team of Buried Alive & Living Death is the heart and soul of this team - accounting for Game MVP in 6 of their ten victories. Their 1-5 record against the top teams isn't great, sure, but they weren't in full-form yet. No matter, they still had enough oomph to take it at the Slivers in Round 1 of the playoffs, blasting the fearsome foe in 5-turns (30pt win), then 6-turns (26pt win) and finally 8-turns (12pt win). They hung tough against Bad Ass Fault too, taking two games before falling in six. They've been busy this off-season, though, already turning over 8 roster spots as they move even closer to full strength. High hopes for this squad heading into Season 5.
No Lands For You. Stamp it, one more solid season for NLFY. In this one, they push to a 13-7 record, set a personal best in Damage Power Index rating (0.113) en route to a 4-seed, yet manage to do so by operating at the 5th slowest win pace of all time, averaging 13.15 turns per win. Oddly, that win pace is almost 2x what they averaged last year (7.36 turns per game) when they went 11-7. No major changes to their roster, yet as radical a change in pace as we've seen - a bit perplexing. Nonetheless, NLFY continues to produce winning seasons in an increasingly competitive league. But success in the regular season only gets you so far, as, for the third straight year, No Landia fails to escape the first round of the playoffs - this time losing to the eventual champ; Crusade II. It was the perfectly wrong series for them, as they didn't have the pace to match C-IIs speed, nor did they have the defense to hold off their bevy of creatures. No Landia still struggled against creature-heavy teams (e.g. 0-2 vs. Slivers) so will need to address this hole in their defense. There's also a very clear way to strengthen their core identity - so those changes will be made as well. Definitely a season of more good than bad, and that's certainly the expectation heading in season five and then some.
Sliver Lining. Last seasons's most surprising Team, the Slivers clock a 14-6 record in this one - now 27-11 in their past two seasons (top of the league) - and pull down the #3-seed. The Slivers have quickly become a team no one wants to play - they're the only squad in the league with a 4-turn win (Week 10 against Swamp Things), and they operate at the fastest win pace of any team, needing only 7.86 turns to down their opponents (a top 5 pace all-time). Did we mention they dealt the most damage per game too - at 20.25 points per game? Each team starts with only 20-life points! Do the math - the Slivers are beastly. Their combination of pace and damage produced a all-time Top 5 U-DPI rating too; 0.141. Are you getting the point - Sliver Lining had a historic regular season and, yet, they only managed the 3-seed? Yup, tough league. Darwin (#1) and Bad Ass Fault (#2) also cemented all-time Top 5 U-DPI ratings. Make that, 'real tough' league. As potent as the Slivers were, they faltered mightily down the stretch, losing twice in the last 4 weeks of the season; a 2pt loss to the Thrulls in Week 19 and a critical regular season finale-loss against fellow-top dog Bad Ass Fault in Week 22. This changed the entire playoff picture and may have had a major hand in the Slivers' demise. Without those losses, they take home the top seed, elude the havoc wrought by Swamp Things's Living Death in the first round, and then who knows. Wild. One thing is for sure, it's safe to say the Slivers are pissed off, and pumped up about next season.
Bad Ass Fault. Anyone see this one coming? Neither did we. The Fault, in their first season, go from Zero to Hero as they make history by winning 12 straight, pushing them from 11th place to a #2-seed. Their U-DPI? The second highest of all-time (0.146), behind only an uncontested Fire Drilled team from Season 1. Absolutely stunning season from the Fault. So what happened - let's get a look at this win streak one at a time;
- Week 10 @The Doldrums = Summon two 4/4s (Hidden Horror & Rukh) on turn-3, and win four turns later
- Week 11 @NLFY = Win in 7-turns behind beautiful combo-synergy of Pox, Rukh, & Megrim
- Week 12 vs. Fire Drilled = Destroy 2 of FDs Mountains, ride double-Megrim and Entropic Specter to victory
- Week 13 @Thrull Frottle = A tight 6pt win after 19-turns thanks to a board clearing Jokulhaups
- Week 15 vs. Doldrums = Blank them 20-0 in 8-turns, no contest
- Week 16 vs. Extinction = Froze X via land destruction, used Pox to put a game-ending Rukh in play
- Week 17 vs. Crusade II = Trounce the 5-seed as two Shockers + Megrim deal 30-damage in one turn
- Week 18 vs. NLFY = Win handily by 34pts in 7-turns after destroying opposing mana supply
- Week 19 @Team 10 = Destroy opposing lands, freeze them out and win in 12-turns by 24pts
- Week 20 vs Swamp Things = Win in 8-turns by 32pts, again immobilizing opponent
- Week 21 @Darwin's Doom = Darwin fails to show up (few creatures/mana), and loses by 8pts in 11-turns
- Week 22 @Sliver Lining = Knock 6 critical cards from Sliver hand, and the Lining can't recover
What's working for them? Bad Ass Fault's roster make-up is arguably the most complementary of any team - they do a very nice job blending land destruction with removing cards from the opposing hand. If/When successful, opponents have no resources to do anything, and are left for dead as a result. Pulling a Pox at the right time is simply harmony. This Team didn't feel another loss until Round 4 in Game 2 against a solid Swamp Things team. They managed to dispatch the Things four games later, then saw their luck run out as they went down to Crusade II in the finals 4-2 (more on that later). Below is a look at their rise in the league standings week over week (orange line) - what a great run:
Darwin's Doom. The Doom have done it! The illustrious #1-seed is theirs to have and to hold til death do them part, or until next season. In the most hotly contested regular season in history, the Doom were demonstrative in their success, holding the top seed in 16 of the 22 weeks of the regular season (as shown above). They showed no significant weaknesses as they swept most of the competition, splitting games with the other two top teams, and losing only one season series (to NLFY). Their Universal U-DPI rating (0.149) was good enough for 4th best all-time. Their roster saw only one revision in Tranquility, giving them a bit more defense against the growing number of enchantments in the league. Their roster appeared very well-balanced, as 11 different cards won game MVP during the regular season. They showed a bit more versatility this season in terms of game length, as they won five games in 10 or more turns (only 2 last season). They, once again, handled long-time rival - Fire Drilled - in the playoffs winning in 3-straight. Round 2 was quite different - Crusade II had their way, winning in six games on the backs of land-destruction cards like Armageddon and Cataclysm. It's not often that Crusade II uses two of those cards in a game, but that happened 3x in this series and totally dismantled any momentum Darwin could muster. It was simply too much for Darwin to handle, as they'd respond nicely to an initial hit, but would falter in response to the second. Their two wins in this series overcame an Armageddon each time with great help from all-timer Force of Nature. It was a great series, and one Darwin would love to revisit. Hard to tell if Darwin's in need of roster turnover given their success this season, but something to be monitored going forward.
Crusade II. There's only one way to start this off. Let's look at a excerpt from last seasons' recap on Crusade II - "The answer to 'Can this Team win a Championship?' may still be 'No', especially given the increase in competition throughout the league." Welp, there's your reverse jinx everyone!! All Hail the Crusaders!! They truly defy the odds by taking home their first championship in their 4th season, silencing the haters in the process. Well done, C-II. Their regular season was solid, but nothing spectacular, finishing at a game above .500 (11-9) with an 0-6 record against the so-called-top-dogs, and stamp a middle-ground U-DPI rating at 0.087. Their regular season, and, more importantly, playoff success came from league-MVP; Armageddon. The Jenny Award winner just decimated opponents time and time again, sometimes multiple times at a time, and they had quite a time doing it. Recaps from their playoff match-ups were highlighted earlier. but important to mention that Crusade didn't exactly waltz through the playoffs. Rather, they outlasted opponents, surviving in what looked to be a dog-fight each round; 3-1 vs. NLFY, 4-2 vs. Darwin, 4-2 vs. Bad Ass Fault. This is what they're built for - just when opponents gain a bit of momentum, or have a little light, they slap another game-changing card on to the table. They're scrappy, versatile and have the toughest defense of anyone in the league. This marks the second time a #5-seed has taken home the championship (See: Boss Fight in Season 3). An extremely impressive march to the crown for Crusade II. On that note, there's been a not-so-anonymous request from their superfan for a name change (this occurred pre-championship). In the spirit of "Where would be without our fans?" the request has been accepted! The newly minted 'Smashed Potatoes' will aim to build off of C-IIs momentum, as the Crusaders retire at their apex. Only way to go out.