4.24.02 - Plea For Help and Continuous Draft
There is a conundrum many are facing now. We had been deckbuilding in a void of information, as far as Standard is concerned. Now Regionals is here and we have plenty of solid and useful information. The problem is that there isn't much use for said information.
I, on the other hand, do not have this problem at all. What can I do with this information? I live within a 20 minute drive of where Nationals is being held. I can try to grind in.
For the unfamiliar, the Meat Grinders, as they are affectionately called, are tournaments held on-location shortly before Nationals. They are the last chance for anyone who wants to play in Nationals and hasn't yet qualified. A friend of mine and I are planning on participating. I don't honestly expect to play in Nationals, but as the date approaches I'll be trying to convince myself of that. My goal is a bit different. More on that later.
I'd really like to abandon the deck I stunk up Regionals with. It is a mediocre deck at best, but that's not the worst part. I felt somewhat guilty for playing with a certain sub-strategy that comes with it. You see, it was heavily control, and due to 2 copies of Dwell on the Past was in no rush to do anything so long as I wasn't going to lose the game soon. This can lead to very long games. The sub-strategy I was referring to is this situation: it's game 1 and fairly clear that my opponent can't win. Under that circumstance I would fail to back up Mystic Enforcer with countermagic regardless of how many times he was killed, since I could Dwell him back into the deck. Furthermore, I would sometimes delay playing him or "forget" to attack. I would also attempt to convince my opponent that they could still win, no matter how bleak things were looking for them. Why? If I win the first game without enough time to finish the second then I've won the match. That's not Magic. That's manipulating the time restriction of tournaments. I don't want to win that way-it doesn't prove anything other than my opponent is reluctant to concede the game.
So now what? What do I play? That's the biggest question of all. A cursory look over the winning decks from Regionals will tell us that the current type 2 is a wide-open field. I consider this healthy and good for the game, but it doesn't make deck selection very simple. If it was clear what decks are currently dominant, then there would be an intuitive next step. By that I mean what decks are clearly best suited to beat the current dominant decks and not completely roll over to rogue strategies at the same time. What consistently beats Red/Green, Psychatog, UGR Madness, UG Madness, Braids, and what I consider to be trace decks - decks that are going to be too popular due to their success in Regionals to be considered Rogue but are still far from dominant?
To answer that question I tried to look for common
traits between all the most popular decks. Here are some
Which do you think is easiest to exploit? Now what do I mean by clutch? I mean the card that puts the "Psychatog" in Psychatog decks. I mean the Spiritmonger that red/green often splashes black for. I'm talking about the Mystic Enforcer that red/green sometimes splashes white for. I'm talking about the Wild Mongrel that allows Madness decks to use the Madness mechanic. Oh, and let's not forget that Braids decks often use Braids, Cabal Minion.
OK, so I've picked up on a trend. How do I exploit
it? Unfortunately that question is not so easily
answered since Wizards has felt it necessary to make
creatures with absolutely absurd power levels. However,
below I'll list some cards that might be taken into
How sickening is it that I list two creatures when
I'm trying to come up with creature hate? Anyhow,
there's another thing to consider. I was using Wrath of
God during Regionals and I was unimpressed. Often it
would kill two creatures and they would be followed by
an even more vile threat. Teferi's Moat was much nicer
and Treva's Charm was probably the best, since it
doubled as enchantment removal when I needed it to and
in a matchup where it was totally useless (which never
happened, by the way) it was a sub-par cycler. Let's
revise the list, shall we, removing sorcery speed, high
cost one-time spells.
The 1-toughness kills are best suited to the
sideboard, since they'll be useless or close to it
against the number 2 deck (Psychatog) as well as some
other decks that are prevalent enough to be a real
Spiritmonger is an important part of the field, so
let's drop stuff that's useless against him (or close to
Well they don't all fit into one deck. Keep in mind that you have to be able to beat rogue decks and the less-popular decks like black control as well. Which ones do we choose? My favorites are by far Exclude and Ensnaring Bridge, though they don't work together very nicely. Exclude's only short-coming is Wild Mongrel, which unfortunately often hits the table before you have 3 mana. The traditional Counterspell or Memory Lapse could help out in those situations, though, if you're going that route. Ensnaring Bridge works best in a deck that empties its hand quickly (duh) but those decks are usually creature decks which have a hard time winning with the Bridge in play. One answer is Burning Bridges, but obviously that's going to be pretty much shut down by a single Aegis of Honor or Circle of Protection: Red. Harsh Judgment would stop that too. You can splash white to side in enchantment removal, but it's still a problem. The Bridge's other shortcoming is that if they happen to have a way to destroy an artifact, probably from the sideboard, the game will often end very quickly at that point. Nonetheless, it's a very strong card and works well with Beloved Chaplain.
The best way to choose which creature-hating metagame call we're going to use is to know what the rest of the deck is. That way we'll know which one works the best. Afterall, Terminate's pretty bad in mono white.
So then, which is the best deck? Since I have a decent idea of how I'm going to try to disrupt my opponent's strategy, what strategy is hardest for the set metagame (or the next level of the metagame, if I'm that intuitive) to disrupt? That is an extremely difficult question to answer. Let's try process of elimination.
I'm not impressed by truly aggressive weenie decks. There really isn't enough speed to overwhelm Psychatog or even Braids. The creatures Red/Green uses are typically just a tad bit larger than what a weenie rush would use, and that's very bad news. Madness/threshold decks can drop to 1 life, Aether Burst, and swing for the kill. Now if a deck could be truly aggressive and have the at least the second half of its strategy be burn, well there just isn't that much going around to stop it. Very little lifegain is getting played (mainly as a result of the virtual non-existence of white), and even the counter-control decks are using only 10-12 counters (I suppose I'm showing my true colors when I say only 10-12 counters). I suppose what I'm proposing would be something similar to Frog in a Blender. I'm really not to fond of that strategy, nor do I think it all too powerful in the given field. Nonetheless, if aggro were to be your path of choice, I think that would be the most successful strategy. Silly as it may sound, though, I honestly believe Sligh has a decent shot. Probably not winning a meat grinder or Nationals kind of shot, but still a shot at doing respectably. By the way, I tried a Red/Green aggressive weenie deck splashing blue solely for Ceta Sanctuary, and using a Basking Rootwalla and Fiery Temper that I could discard to the Sanctuary. The thing is, its strategy is operatively identical 90% of the time to Red/Green weenie decks, only it's inferior by nature of the design. In other words, don't try that at home.
When it comes to aggro-control, I honestly don't think you'll find anything much better than the Madness decks that are already prevalent. The problem here is that there are about 138 viable ways to build a Madness deck. Perhaps that's an exaggeration, but not by much. If I do decide to go that route I honestly don't think I have enough time to fully explore the details of the different options when it comes to deckbuilding. I may actually netdeck (pause for gasping).
As far as the control decks are concerned there is a
plethora of options. Some call Psychatog a control deck,
but for the sake of avoiding argument let's sit that one
in a category by itself. Blue/White Millstone decks were
popular in Regionals, but they didn't place any (to my
knowledge) in a top 8. That's a bad sign. There's land
destruction, and believe me I've tried it. I think I've
come up with a decent version too, but the metagame is
just to quick for it right now. That and a few
counterspells or Divert or Sacred Ground (which was
thrown in the sideboard for Braids) hurts this strategy
immensely. I was working on a BUG control deck, and
here's my current decklist:
I'm not happy with this for a few reasons. First is I'm about $100 worth of rares short of building it. Secondly, it's not winning all that much, which surprises me. Apparently painlands don't help control decks. Four Spiritmongers is probably too many, too.
Some are touting the virtues of Counter-Burn. This deck invariably uses Fiery Temper, Violent Eruption, Circular Logic, and Obsessive Search. There's a good reason for that. For the discard part of Madness, it typically uses either Compulsion, Wild Research, or both. Personally I've remained very unimpressed by this deck, and I just can't ignore that tremendous gut feeling telling me DON'T PLAY THIS DECK!
Domain is definitely a possibility, but does one include? Are we going to go the Early Harvest route? How about the Holistic Wisdom route? Both of those? Neither, and win with Ordered Migration? Board sweep with Pernicious Deed (one of the best cards in Standard)? Heck, I'd even consider Draco since there isn't a whole lot of artifact destruction running around. My feeling here is that there is not only a viable version of Domain, but a good one. The question is whether I shall be able to find it, and that isn't likely.
I've tried an enormous number of different strategies looking for the hidden gem. I've even played with things like Warped Devotion decks and base-white splash-blue control, to no avail of course. So where does this leave me? Without a deck, that's where.
I got a pager-watch as an early birthday present. I was telling my mother the other day how I found it odd that they would write "group of 7 industrialized nations" instead of "G7" since there is such limited room on the display. After all, they assumed we all knew who Thor Heyderdal was. She asks, "Why were they writing that on your watch." I tell her that the G7 is meeting in DC to discuss economics. She asks, "And they contacted you?" Apparently I forgot to tell her I was getting news updates on my watch. She thought world leaders were contacting me to get advice. I bet you never knew I was an inspiration to global politics.
I bring this up because I was thinking to myself how cool it would be to get Magic news on my watch. You can get sports news, entertainment news, financial news, etc.. Why not Magic?
Then I went to write an article, and it hit me. You guys can send messages to my watch. That's right, from now until June feel free to make my watch beep. Send me advice on what deck I should play, particular cards that are strong, or any other pearl of wisdom you might have for me going to the Grinders.
As I mentioned, there isn't much space on the display (even with scrolling) and it only accepts ASCII text, so just go ahead and stick your whole message in the subject line. It appears right next to the body of the message anyway. So send those advice-filled subject lines to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, of course, if you need more space you can write to my normal email address, EmpSchao@aol.com.
Kind of a strange article it is. The final conclusion being, "You tell me."
The first time I played this was in the Arena league, and it was quite a lot of fun. At the time we were using 3 boosters, out of which you would choose a card to keep for yourself permanently. That would give you the 44 needed to play. I remember getting a choice of which packs to use and I remember Stronghold being one of the choices but I don't know what the others were. This, by the way, was my first experience with a limited format. A few years later, some friends of mine and I had a continuous draft tournament. This time there was a new twist: bring your own 44 cards. This adds a whole new layer on it and I highly recommend this rule. We allowed any cards with the Magic back, which means there was a lot of Portal since it was pretty much worthless at the time, but do what you like. I lost in the finals of that tournament as a direct result of undervaluing Shambling Strider in the draft.
For a long time I considered this my favorite format, and I do recommend it very highly. One of the cool things about it is you end up playing with cards that would otherwise not see the light of day, especially if you're playing with the bring-you-own-44 rule. I remember seeing a Thorn Thallid with 4 enchant creature cards on it dominating the board. The other interesting thing about it is that, since half of what you're drafting out of is cards you drafted in the last round, there tends to be an evolution to your deck. If it goes for too many round it will probably stagnate, since people will tend to choose cards which will fit in their decks and those are most likely the cards they brought to the table, unless they're hate drafting of course.
May you find what you seek.
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