The article you are attempting to view is only available to StarCityGames.com Premium Members.
(If you are having trouble viewing this content, please consult this FAQ.)
My plan for today was to discuss new Standard decks going into SCG Dallas. The only problem is, I don't have any.
I've tried a few things out, and nothing's seemed to stick outside of Ramunap Red and Temur Energy. Of course, there will be new things out there, but I don't know if I'm going to be the one who finds them. So instead of just throwing some lists out there and calling it a day, I would instead write about something a little more thought-provoking. Something that's been on my mind for a while now, something that may make you better at evaluating decks and your own strengths, something that may make you a stronger tournament player overall. Sounds better than some lackluster decklists, am I right?
To paraphrase a bit, he described Modern as a format where deck selection is as strategic as the games themselves. Playing the "best deck" will not win you the event, making it a better decision to play the most degenerate thing people aren't prepared for. This article stuck with me for some time, as there was something off about it, but I couldn't quite put my finger on exactly what that was. Multiple readings only perplexed me, as it was almost impossible for me to render a cohesive anti-argument, yet I knew there was one.
There's no error in the initial message. Playing a degenerate deck that people aren't expecting is in essence the format. We've seen it for years now as the metagame constantly evolves, and new decks that do spectacular things take down events. Finding these decks for the "perfect" weekend has been a wonderful recipe for success. I had to dig deeper into the article to actually find where my hangups were coming from.
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 4 Dwynen's Elite
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 1 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Vizier of Remedies
- 3 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
- 1 Archfiend of Ifnir
- 4 Desert Cerodon
- 2 Faerie Macabre
- 4 Fulminator Mage
- 4 Horror of the Broken Lands
- 4 Monstrous Carabid
- 3 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Street Wraith
Throughout the article, Tom effectively talks about the "cream rising" when he talks about certain decks finding their way into the winner's bracket, and others that have a couple of losses. He even goes on to say that he had a middling finish with Infect thanks to a couple of early losses, yet Todd Anderson playing the same deck went on to win the whole thing, as he wasn't in "medium-bracket hell." On the flip side, Tom won an Open with G/W Tron when he stayed with the cream that didn't have his bad matchups for that weekend.
Right on the surface, this sounds like results-oriented thinking, as predicting what will have zero, one, or even more losses is practically impossible, especially in such a big event like an Open. Too be fair, having a plan is very important when selecting a deck, so for now let's just say I disagree with this, but it's still a process which is very important to have.
I'm not even going to get into whether I believe Infect or B/W Pox is good for the metagame or not. That's not what today's about. The story's actually about the deck selection process, and why I don't subscribe to this "first or dead last" strategy.
The More, The Merrier
To begin, it's important that everyone should have a unique process. We all have differing skills and histories with the game, so we shouldn't all try to prepare the same. So for this exercise, we need to center it around Tom Ross himself, and look into why he choses this mentality.
Now, it should not be an insult to anyone when I say Tom Ross is among the most talented players in the room when he enters an SCG Tour® event. His resume speaks for itself, and he has proven time and time again that he can maneuver his way around his opponents with ease. It's only when he faces more challenging opponents that his win percentage wavers. My major reference for this "fact" is his performance in three SCG Players' Championships.
So why is that?
I believe he chooses the wrong decks for the wrong reasons, and the "first or dead last" theory is proof of that.
To break this down, it's best that I first explain my theory on deck selection based on the spectrum of decision placement. This is a largely unexplored framework for deck selection that I've begun putting great thought into for the past couple of seasons.
There are three major branches of targeted decision placement, but the lines between them are extremely blurry, given how complex Magic is as a game.
1. "I make the tough decisions."
Strategically, those in this category are at the high end of the skill spectrum for the event they are playing in. They want the tough decisions, because they believe they can make them correctly.
Reid Duke is a prime example for this, as he's infamous for choosing decks that cater to him making the hardest decisions. He gravitates towards high-top-end control decks like Miracles in Legacy, Jund in Modern, and Control in Standard. Okay, so Jund may not be a true control deck, but it sure does put the onus on the pilot to make the correct decisions more than the opponent.
2. "We both make tough decisions."
The strategic value of this style of deck is that you can make tough decisions that force an opponent to make even tougher ones. Mistakes are less forgiving, but high-level plays can be more rewarding, as you can more easily turn inexperience against the opponent.
I often fall into this category. I often play midrange decks that have the ability to play offense or defense. They can get overpowered or quickly run over, but in the mid-game they tend to be superior. Examples of these decks are Bant Company, G/W Tokens, Grixis Death's Shadow, and Grixis Delver.
3. "They make the tough decisions."
Get out in front of the opponent with something fast or powerful. Your deck does most the work, and it's the opponent's responsibility to react correctly in a short period of time. Decks that fit this mold are Infect, Tron, Modern Burn, Mono-White Humans, and Mono-Black Zombies.
This is where Tom Ross lives.
Most of his deck choices get off to an early start and force the opponent to make tough decisions to stay alive. If they can't make the correct plays or have the perfect cards, they lose on the spot. If they can or do, it becomes quite difficult to win the game.