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Monday, October 2nd
As I write this, I'm flying from Denver to Boston to compete in the Magic World Championship. My testing process for large tournaments, namely Pro Tours and those that involve new formats, has been a constant struggle for me over the course of my career. It's been the single most important thing for me to fix and I've been working tirelessly to improve it.
Oddly enough, the World Championship is the tournament I've felt the most prepared for in a very long time, and it's still a week away.
That said, while I'm happy with my preparation, my play has been lackluster as of late, so that's mainly what I'm worried about at this point. If I do poorly, that will almost certainly be the result of it.
Anyway, I was in Denver for a week staying at Josh Utter-Leyton's (aka Wrapter's) place along with Martin Juza and Sam Black. Between the four of us, we're probably the best-rounded group working together for the World Championship, so I like our chances, even if I don't necessarily think I'll do particularly well.
We started by drafting a ton while waiting for the Magic Online bots to stock up on Standard singles, but soon I was hopping in the Standard Leagues. My process is now more refined, and it goes something like this:
1) Identify what the best/most powerful strategies are and why.
2) Identify things that have promise, i.e. the brews.
3) Test brews.
4) Test the good decks.
5) Refine all the decks.
6) Test brews.
7) Identify potential decks I would consider playing and hyper-focus on those decks. Creating sideboard strategies is a huge part of this step because having a great sideboard will yield better results than simply having a good deck.
8) Double-check my work.
9) Pick a deck, test, and tune it.
Phew. I honestly got exhausted just typing out that list and thinking about everything I've done so far.
Generally the process ends with Step 9 occurring right before the Pro Tour (or in this case, the World Championship). Instead, I'm kinda there already, which absolutely never happens.
The point of the whole testing process isn't to pick a deck and learn it. For a big tournament, that's dangerous because you might spend a bunch of time refining a deck at the beginning that ends up not being well-positioned in the metagame. Results are coming in from Magic Online and the SCG Tour® and what you thought might be a good pick for the metagame ends up being a good choice for two weeks ago.
Things move rapidly, especially post-rotation when people have a ton of new information they need to figure out. In most cases, rotation tends to make a new format entirely. That's not really the case here, since Ixalan is a relatively tame set and decks like Temur Energy and Ramunap Red are powerhouses that didn't lose any important pieces.
This metagame is moving slowly and will probably continue to do so, only because there's not much you can do; Energy and Ramunap Red are that good.
Still, we've seen some small shifts with Winding Constrictor returning to form, and that will likely cause some shake-ups on its own. At the World Championship, I wouldn't be surprised if some control deck that Shouta Yasooka or Eric Froehlich comes up with ends up being a big player.
The issues with my processes have been numerous, and slowly but surely I'm cutting out my bad habits. What ultimately matters is what is true, not what I wish were true. We have to be willing to kill our darlings and constantly be challenging our own beliefs, especially when presented with new information.
This process led me to B/U Reanimator, although I may not play it. Part of it has to do with the anxiety from playing a "new" deck at the biggest tournament against the best players, not necessarily because the deck might not be good (it is), but because I could entirely misread the metagame.
Sam Black, in trying to justify him playing a "Sam" deck, asked me where I thought I would get my edge in this tournament. It's a fair question, and while part of my edge comes from Limited, the bigger part comes from having better plans than my opponents, and this deck has that.
For that reason, I won't be posting any sideboarding guides at this time, but those can come later (maybe in the comments section after the World Championship is over). I could conceivably see myself playing the deck, regardless of whatever concerns I have.
The main reason I wouldn't play it is because my mini-team thinks they have something better, and I mostly agree with them.