The Importance Of Consistency
Meet Timmy. Timmy is a Magic player. Timmy just read an article about Zevatog - and boy, was he enthused.
He keeps thinking and thinking to himself,"Man, that is a really good deck, but I don't think its kill condition is consistent enough. I mean, what if they counter the 'Tog after the Upheaval? That just won't do."
So Timmy keeps on thinking... And eventually he says,"All I have to do is put in red - then I'll have burn! I can run Flametongue, and my problem will be solved!"
Ever done something like that? Ever think that adding another color would make the deck all that much better? Ever have that much of a desire to go rogue that you can't help it?
Well, Timmy adds red to the deck. He changes the normal 24 or 25 land to something like this:
His decklist looks something like this:
Now he has ten sources of red mana, along with thirteen red cards; seventeen sources of blue mana, along with twenty-two blue cards; and ten sources of black mana, along with eight black cards.
Keep in mind that a lot of this mana overlaps, so the land base is about right.
Not bad, right?
Over the next six turns, he draws Counterspell, Swamp, Urborg Volcano, Fact or Fiction, Upheaval, Psychatog. At the end of his first ten turns, he's at fourteen just from pain alone. He didn't necessarily get a bad draw; in fact, it was fairly decent. He just had to really take some damage to get what he wanted to.
In his second game, he gets a hand of two Urborg Volcanoes, an Island, a Swamp, a Counterspell, a Nightscape Familiar, and an Upheaval. This is not such a good hand. He only has one source of blue mana, and the only blue spells he can cast are Upheaval and Counterspell. He mulligans.
Get the point?
In Magic, especially in Standard, players try to use too much. They throw caution to the wind, sacrificing consistency for power. This is a very common occurrence. How many of us have decided to make a 5-Color Green deck, given the current lands we have right now? How about a B/G/U deck to stuff all the good B/G/U cards into? I know I have; I know a good number of you have as well.
The problem with this comes when you are in a tournament. The chances of you drawing all the wrong colors at the wrong times goes up, even if you're just playing two colors. But the numbers are still pretty good if you run two, especially if they are allied. Now, if you run three colors, those chances go up even higher.
This risk - this mistake, if you will - is why so many people don't do well at tournaments.
Look at Pro Tour: Osaka. Magic Colony isolated themselves from the world to playtest for it, and they came up with two decks: U/R/b Psychatog, and U/G Madness. U/R/b Psychatog didn't make top 16, while the U/G Madness won the whole thing. The OTog deck sported such cards as Violent Eruption and Compulsion to go along with it - incredibly powerful cards given the environment. Why didn't it do well? Because it had too random draws. The strains that three colors puts on your mana is detrimental to any deck, let alone a format restricted to just two sets.
If you look at Standard right now, the best decks out there are all two-color combinations, or run green for Birds of Paradise. R/G has been a staple for three Standard environments now, and it's no surprise it has been - because of its incredible consistency.
In grinder tournaments, such as Regionals or Grand Prixes, this glaring problem is magnified to its fullest. When players have to go through nine and ten rounds, they're going to have mana problems. The chances of these mana problems go down with the number of colors a deck has to play. While there were no great decks at this Regionals (most likely because of Invasion) that did particularly well, no deck running more than three colors did - and once again, all the three-color decks had green in them.
Why has Sligh been around for so long? Because it has such a fast combo in it? Because the cards in it are that much more powerful than the others? I think not; it's because of its consistency. It's a mono-red deck that has enough punch that it can just win sometimes. If it's opponent gets a bad draw, it's almost an autowin.
It also takes consistency to win at the highest levels. Look at Worlds last year; Machine Head won, a two-color deck that had allied colors.
What was the Nationals champion? Fires.
For those who want to win at the highest levels, they have to make sure their deck has consistent draws - because if they're susceptible to inconsistency, they'll eventually lose a big game when it counts.
Don't get me wrong, though. Three colors isn't a definite no-no. If you can make the mana work, then do it. But if you justify running amazing cards together instead of synergy, then you probably won't go 8-1-1. The numbers just don't add up.
In short, to get to the next level, a player must try to cut down the risky business of his deck, and hone it. He must work on his triceps and quadriceps, and put his biceps and abs on the back burn.