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I prepared for the World Championship with Josh Utter-Leyton, Gerry Thompson, and Martin Juza. We met at Josh's place in Denver the week before GP Providence because he was the only one of us who had a day job and he had room to put the rest of us up, and so we tested there so that he could join us when he wasn't at work. I got there later than the others, staying Madison for the Prerelease and to get a few live drafts in while finishing some business at home and waiting for flights to get cheaper. When I got there, they'd also mostly been playing Limited.
By the time I got there, basically everyone in the pro community on Twitter had concluded that Ixalan wasn't a great Limited format. The issue is that the removal is pretty weak, and there aren't really any engines or mana sinks like River Hoopoe or Sunset Pyramid.
The incentive to go late is basically just to play bigger creatures, but there's a decent amount of hard removal and good combat tricks, so it's actually a lot easier to profitably interact with an expensive creature than a cheap creature, so the format basically rewards everyone for drafting the lowest-curve aggro deck they can with good tricks and Auras. Christian Calcano showcased the pinnacle of this line of reasoning with his 3-0 in the first draft at the World Championship with a bunch of Blight Keepers and Swashbucklings.
Beyond that, the drafts feel pretty scripted: stay open as long as it feels safe/necessary, settle into the open tribe, and take cards that fit that tribe when possible, or take the cheapest available trick. Removal gets taken in here somewhere; for me, I either take it early in an attempt to stay open or avoid it, favoring cheaper tempo plays, but I suspect others value it a little more highly.
This was how the format looked to me after my first draft, after my third draft, after my tenth draft, etc. I kept drafting pretty often online to make sure I hadn't missed anything for the first week in Denver, but by the weekend, I'd moved onto Standard and didn't bother doing another draft because it just didn't feel like there was anything else to learn. We disagreed a little about exactly which tribes we wanted to be, but for the most part, I think we agreed that the open tribe is the best tribe.
As for Standard, the evening that I got there, Josh had been looking at a U/B Control deck with his local friend and coworker Patrick Chapin, and they were arriving at some interesting conclusions. They didn't like Supreme Will or Glimmer of Genius. I advocated for more Vraska's Contempts and Search for Azcanta. They built the deck and we didn't touch it for a few days.
I tried to make myself play a bit of Standard basically every day to try out my ideas and figure out what other people were doing. I started with Anointed Procession decks with a Ruthless Knave / Marionette Master kill. Ruthless Knave was impressive with Anointed Procession and horrible otherwise. Dire Fleet Hoarder was serviceable filler, and I liked how easy it was to kill people with Marionette Master out of nowhere if I had some Treasure lying around.
As people started getting a lot of 5-0 results on Magic Online with a more controlling take on Anointed Procession, I realized the bad creatures were a liability and that the deck didn't need a dedicated finisher. It took me a little longer to realize that it was basically just a prison deck, not some weird combo aggro/value deck.
Thinking about it that way, I thought it might be good, and I tried it as late as the Wednesday before the World Championship, but it just felt a little too unreliable. It's so much better when it draws Hidden Stockpile than when it doesn't, and it has a really hard time with people who can actually answer enchantments.
I played a couple of matches with Vizier of the Anointed, but it also felt a little too clunky. Eventually, I decided I should try playing some games with U/B Control.
I went 4-0 in the first League I played (it's customary when preparing for a big event with a team to drop at 4-0 rather than risk having a list posted) and it felt extremely easy compared to the wins I'd been getting with Anointed Procession. I joked that I was ready to lock it in at that point, but I basically was.
After playing just a few matches with the deck, I understood exactly how messed up it is.
I genuinely have no idea how development let this deck slide. It's everything they say they don't want control decks to be. You have so many fantastic counterspells and such versatile removal that you can easily just trade cards until your opponent runs out of things to do, and then either reload or drop a finisher as your hand dictates. The deck has no bad cards, and every card is among the best ever at doing what it does. And all of that is before I even get started on Search for Azcanta.
The maindeck I started with was maybe three cards off of the list I played at the World Championship. I settled on this:
I don't think Harsh Scrutiny and Supreme Will are great in the deck. Josh and Gerry played Essence Extraction. I didn't like using Evolving Wilds to fix for 1UU and 1BB on Turn 3. Gerry played Submerged Boneyard instead, but I think it's too important to have Evolving Wilds to revolt Fatal Push and fill the graveyard for Search for Azcanta, so I wanted cheap interaction that didn't cost BB and those were the best I could find (Kelvin Chew played maindeck Aether Meltdown instead, which I think is horrible).