Last weekend was a pretty big deal. There was the StarCityGames.com Open Weekend in Indianapolis and the Philadelphia Grudge Match, which were the first major events to feature Standard with Innistrad.
The results from Indianapolis were slightly surprising to some, but I can't say I didn't see it coming. Aggro absolutely dominated. For the four rounds I played, I saw “Solar Flare” decks to the left and right of me, and all of them looked fairly stock. Honestly, the stock lists look very soft to aggro, and in the end, no Flare decks ended up in the Top 8.
Of that crop of players, AJ Sacher probably came the closest—he lost playing for Top 8 after not being able to draw in at 8-1. With a poor manabase and typically playing fewer Day of Judgments than necessary, aggro rose to the top.
Last week, I promised that RDW was something to be feared, and sure enough two copies met in the finals. Timely Reinforcements is still out there, but it's not the death of RDW that people make it out to be. Beating a single Reinforcements is certainly doable, and while a second copy is great…the red deck can actually still win. Cards like Koth, Chandra's Phoenix, Hero of Oxid Ridge, and even Garruk Relentless all do a number on Reinforcements. You need more than some life and some soldiers to beat red consistently, I assure you.
As for me, I stuck to my guns and played B/G Heartless Pod. I expected aggro to be all over the place and wasn't disappointed, so my deck choice looked brilliant.
There is a notion that “pros” only post bad decklists in their articles in order to gain an advantage in future tournaments. That couldn't be further from the case. Sure, I've seen a few examples from the past, but that's typically from players who can't see the long-term effects of their decisions.
For most pros, it's better to cultivate a solid following among readers. Building rapport, trust, and a loyal fanbase will do more for your Magic career than any amount of misinformation you could give before a StarCityGames.com Open or even a Grand Prix. Think about it—how much is there to gain by posting suboptimal lists? Most players will build and test for at least a few matches and change anything they don't like. Very few people copy decklists blind, as they want to add their own tweaks.
Information spreads so fast these days. Most players know what a metagame looks like, even if it's a tournament like Indy where it's a brand new format. If I post a bad Solar Flare list, how many people do you think are going to copy it straight up, and how many of those people do you think I'll play against? If I go deep in the tournament, how many players are going to still be alive playing my bad list?
Wouldn't it be better to post my real list, have people do well with it, and then become loyal readers of my column? Those sorts of instances have long-term applications, and are more likely to happen. That's the stronger move for me, and that's how I operate. Conrad Kolos once asked me why I post my lists before tournaments, and I answered confidently:
“There are very rare instances where the deck I post causes metagame shifts or players to pack more hate for me. Yes, some people might copy my list, and therefore it will get more popular, so maybe people should prepare for it a little more. How often does that happen, and how often will I get punished for it when I play against someone who is prepared for me?
On the flip side, if I do well with the same deck, I get to show everyone that I wasn't lying. Even if someone beats me because they knew what was in my deck, that's good for me too. Regardless, my articles also never cause ripples, so why not?”
There is one instance that I can think of where I got completely annihilated because I posted my decklist, and that's when I played Kuldotha Red at the last Indy Open. Star City was moving Ratchet Bombs, Pyroclasms, and Contested War Zones alike. Few of my opponents didn't know what I was playing, and most were prepared for me with maindeck sweepers.
I learned my lesson that day. Posting "glass cannon" strategies is probably not the best idea. However, I usually stay away from those types of decks. They don't appeal to my playstyle, and I don't like the fact that they are glass cannons. I especially don't like playing glass cannons when everyone is maindecking hate for me—that's just awkward.
Anyway, it's not even that this “debate” pops up all that often, but every couple years or so, I see a few people making these claims. As a pro player and a writer, it kind of irks me, and not just because it sullies my reputation. There are people out there like Brian Kibler, Patrick Chapin, and Brad Nelson that post a lot of decklists. Some might not be great, but they are showing you what they're thinking at all times. No piece of technology is held back, because they have no reason to hold it.
On top of it, these guys don't even attend tournaments regularly. If it's the week before a Grand Prix, Brad isn't writing about his Caw-Blade's mirror-breaking Gideon's Lawkeepers, but he's also not telling you to play a bad deck like Valakut. Even if a GP is about to happen, Kibler will probably tell you what green creature he likes best in Standard, and Chapin will likely be talking about what color he prefers.
My point is that I wrote about B/G Heartless Pod, talked about splashing blue last week, and played mostly the same list.
- 4 Perilous Myr
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 2 Wurmcoil Engine
- 2 Acidic Slime
- 1 Bitterheart Witch
- 1 Entomber Exarch
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 1 Skinrender
- 2 Treasure Mage
- 4 Viridian Emissary
- 4 Glissa, the Traitor
- 1 Sheoldred, Whispering One
I triple-checked this time. Sixty cards!
Chris Andersen and I suited up for the event. We weren't trying to #beexcellent, because we do that normally. In reality, we were attending Nick Becvar's wedding at 4:30 (congrats buddy!), but decided to battle for Planeswalker Points and fun.
The night before, Chris decided he wanted to play Turbo-Fog. Naturally, we turned to MTGSalvation to find the most updated, tuned list. He ended up with 75 cards he wanted to play, such as Mind Unbound (my suggestion) and Venser's Journal (his favorite), and decided not to cut anything.
Round 1: White Weenie
This was the exact type of matchup I expected. He had a minor Human theme and a whole lot of problematic removal. In two games, Oblivion Ring, Celestial Purge, and Revoke Existence blew me out of the water. My turbo Wurmcoil Engine plan worked, but exiling it was easy for my opponent.
Not a good way to start the day, but I was there for the wedding, right?
Chrandersen faced a good matchup in Township Tokens for Round 1, but ultimately lost games 2 and 3 to manascrew. Maybe thirty land wasn't enough in his seventy-five-card deck? We didn't really do the math. His opponent, Andrew Shrout, started 6-0. It's so crazy how many narrow misses there are in tournaments, especially one that size.
If Chris had taken his Fog deck a little more seriously (lol, right?), he probably would have crushed Shrout, who would have likely been eliminated soon after.
Round 2: U/B Control
The final game went late as well, and culminated in us both having Consecrated Sphinx in play. I drew up to the point where I thought I had enough gas, and he Doom Bladed my Metamorphed Sphinx. We traded cards back and forth until he was left with a Grave Titan and I had a naked Birthing Pod. Heartless Summoning was preventing my Viridian Emissaries from starting the chain, so I was in a tight spot.
As I said, Dissipate is the toughest card to beat. If they are just on Mana Leaks, resolving a Pod, Tezzeret, or Mimic Vat is usually game. Vat was the last piece of technology I needed to bring the deck together. I was thinking about how the draw-go or even Solar Flare matchups would be, and I couldn't see myself conceivably winning any long games. Last year, I used Mimic Vat in order to beat U/B mirrors, and decided to try it again. If that's what you need to beat, I recommend the Vat. Right now, they have no good answers.
Round 3: Mono Red
I killed his guys, gained some life from Wurmcoil Engine, and that was basically the match.
Overall, I'd say this is a good matchup. Clearly their best draws are hard to beat, but nearly any deck is going to have trouble with a perfect red draw.
Round 4: Tempered Steel
My opponent was a friend of a friend, so I kind of knew what I was in for. Both games, my plan worked perfectly. I would use Heartless Summoning or Birthing Pod to put a Wurmcoil Engine into play by turn 4.
I lost the match handily.
As it turns out, Wurmcoil is pretty bad against Inkmoth Nexus, and I couldn't race in either game.
At 4-0, I might have been a little salty about dropping to go to a wedding, but at 2-2 I was all about looking for a reason to drop. Planeswalker Points be damned!
Honestly, I wasn't very happy with my deck. However, most of that stemmed from my flawed plans. Wurmcoil Engine wasn't enough to beat aggro on its own, so maybe it's back to the drawing board? Some combination of Heartless Summoning and Grand Architect is probably a better fit. Glissa and Perilous Myr weren't assembled enough for my liking, so what's the point? At least Summoning and Architect overlap in what they do, unlike Summoning and Birthing Pod. It's pretty awkward when you can't activate Pod anymore because Summoning is killing all of your men.
Travis Woo wrote about some crazy Quicksilver Amulet shenanigans, and maybe that's the missing third piece of the puzzle. Between Architect, Summoning, and Amulet, you have plenty of ways to cheat out giga-fatties.
- Snapcaster is insane as long as you build around it. This means fewer Ancestral Visions, Pernicious Deeds, Lilianas, and (unfortunately) Jaces. You want a strong mix of cheap, good spells. Cards like Unearth and Riptide Laboratory fuel your late game.
- Tarmogoyf may or may not be necessary. Fast Zoo is one of the decks I lost to, and despite having a great record against Zoo overall, you basically need to draw a Goyf in order to win. If I cut the Goyfs, I have some ideas on how to move forward—but I'll save that for next week.
- I overloaded on Surgical Extractions, but never sided them in. In a couple interviews, I mentioned their applications in Snapcaster mirrors, but never had the testicular fortitude to bring them in. I wanted to ensure I didn't lose to Dredge or some such, and wanted a card that was good with Snapcaster. Leyline of the Void might still be better.
- BUG can survive with Mental Misstep gone, whereas Stoneforge Mystic decks likely cannot. Thoughtseize and Ghastly Demise are your Missteps.
- The manabase was good. I've slowly crept up to twenty-three lands, but Sam Roukas did me one better in Atlanta by playing twenty-four. I was impressed, and jealous. With Snapcaster Mage, I knew I wanted plenty of lands, so finally pulled the trigger. Creeping Tar Pit was very relevant, and Sunken Ruins was more than fine. As long as I'm playing cheap blue spells, Hymn to Tourach, Tarmogoyf, and don't see non-basic land hate like Blood Moon, I don't see a reason to play basics.
- I didn't miss the Wastelands. Riptide Laboratory was very powerful, and there aren't any specific lands you want to Waste these days. Most of the time, you'd rather have your land in play than kill one of theirs.
- The sideboarded Deed and Liliana don't play nice with Snapcaster, but they should be at the top of your removal curve. For example, you don't keep Deed, Jace, Snapcaster, lands against Merfolk. Demise, Snapcaster, Jace, lands is great, though. Ideally, you curve removal spells into a game-breaker like Liliana. This lets you sideboard up to ten removal spells against creature decks while still having powerful cards. If Liliana were just another Diabolic Edict, you wouldn't run away with the game, but Liliana allows you to do that. Just be sure to mulligan appropriately.
- The only card I wished I had was Spell Snare. Snapcaster is incredible, and having a cheap counterspell eliminates the hurdles you would have to jump through in order to beat opposing Snapcasters.
I liked the deck a lot. BUG has always been good to me, and this time was no exception. I finished 19th with a 7-2 record, similar to Atlanta. In both tournaments I could have played better, and I felt like I had the tools to win the tournament. My Legacy bucket list has grown recently, and I spent a solid chunk of time working on Pattern of Rebirth/Fauna Shaman decks, but this seemed like the best option.
The format doesn't feel healthy to me, as blue is still the obvious best color. While banning Mental Misstep was the correct choice, following it up with Snapcaster Mage doesn't do much in the way of usurping blue's stranglehold on the format.
For now, I suppose I'll settle for winning with blue cards!