Metagame Musings: Post M13 release in July

With a Pro Tour Qualifier coming up on Sunday in Nagoya (see my previous post) and a few more in early August, I think now is the best time to post the results of the metagame from the last two weeks to see how M13 cards have influenced the metagame and in which direction the standard format is heading. I was feeling really good going into the post M13 metagame after a very promising two weeks, but I soon learned that I still have a lot to learn about the new cards being played in standard.

As usual, I’ve been using my UR Titan Control deck that I talked about during my last Metagame post. It’s been doing well, but hasn’t been consistent for me against these new decks. I’m very comfortable playing against UW Delver, Zombies, and GR/Naya Beatdown decks, but against these new brews I’ve been making some misplays and keeping hands I shouldn’t have, which have led to a lot more losses than usual. I’m confident that in a few weeks, once I’ve figured out the metagame (and it’s stablized to a few top decks again), I should be able to improve my winning percentage with my UR Control deck.

Card Brunch, Friday, 7/13 – (1-2) mono green (lost), Esper planeswalker control (won), 4 color pod, mono white Token, UW delver, UW spirits (lost), UW artifact control (winner)

This was the first event where M13 cards were legal, and I saw a sprinkling of new cards being used. My first opponent was a Mono green opponent using Dungrove Elder/Rancor. He had a lot of mana acceleration and was able to play around my counter spells by carefully watching my mana situation. The whipflares I had were useless, and the only thing I had in my deck to stop it was Devastation Tide, but I never drew one so this deck quickly overrun me with trample.

The next deck was a typical Esper Planeswalker control deck. I’ve had plenty of experience against Planeswalker Control and was able to counter a lot of his Planeswalkers with Negates while Whipflares took care of his spirit tokens. This deck relies too much on Gideon, and if you get rid of him you’ll be in good shape.

The last deck  I went up against was a UW Spirit deck. At first I thought it was Delver, because that’s what it basically is. However, instead of Geist of Saint Traft, this player used Drogskol Captains along with Phantasmal Images and Snapcaster Mages. It had a lot of the typical spells you’d find in Delver, such as Thought Scour, Mana Leak, and Vapor Snag, and the player knew not to play his Captain until he had an Image in hand. It’s a good deck and has promise, but it’s highly aggressive and against similar beatdown decks in green it would probably lose out due to cards like Thragtusk.

The winner of the match was my friend Mitsuo’s UW Artifact Control deck (which is a little Venser Blink, and a little Solar Flare).

Big Magic, Sunday, 7/15 – mono red, Naya Beatdown, Esper Tokens, GW Pod, UW delver, Mono black control, RB Vampires, Mono green rancor, Naya pod, UW delver (winner)

I didn’t actually participate at this Sunday’s tournament, but while hanging out with friends I stopped in to see what people were playing. What I saw was lots of Thragtusk. All decks running green had at least one, if not two Thragtusks. It was in Mono Green, GR/Naya Beatdown, etc. I also saw a few Mono Black decks but other than that the group of about 38 players seemed pretty diverse. As I stated above, UW Delver won this event.

Card Brunch, Monday, 7/16 – (2-3-1) UW delver, UG delver x2, UGR kessig Burn control (lost), UB control (tie), Naya Pod, WG Tempered Steel (winner), WR Humans (won) Solar Flare (winner 2)

This was another tough week. Card Brunch isn’t about playing the strongest decks I’ve come to realize. No, Card Brunch is where the good players go to experiment and test out their new ideas. I’ve seen some crazy decks being played there that I don’t see anywhere else. My first match up was against a Kessig Burn Control deck and for the life of me I can’t really remember what cards were in it. My opponent was using Slagstorms and Bonfire of the Damned, along with some counter spells, and other than Zealous Conscripts and Primeval Titan,  I don’t remember much about his deck. I just remember having my Inferno Titan stolen by his Conscripts and dying one game, and in the next game he used his Kessig Wolf Run to good effect to kill me with trample. The UB control game ended up a tie because nobody could get any creatures out. Not much to talk about. The final game was against WR Humans and an inexperienced player. He made a lot of play mistakes which I capitalized on and that was that.

There were about 20 players at this event so there were 2 winners after 3 rounds. One person with Solar Flare, and the other using WG Tempered Steel. Didn’t get a chance to see what they were using. I should also note that I didn’t see too many M13 cards

Card Brunch, Friday, 7/20 – (3-4-1) Esper planeswalker control (won), mono green (FNM winner), RBW frites, RW human (lost),  UW Delver (lost),  BANT blink, RG wolf

This was a tough Friday for me due to an unreal amount of mulligans. Like the previous week I managed to get a win against Planeswalker control (Ratchet Bomb and Negate are great against Entreat the Angels), but I lost to RW Humans and UW Delver due to said mulligans. Thragtusk and Rancor started to appear a lot, and Restoration Angel continued to be a force to be reckoned with in white decks. That Dungrove Elder/Rancor combo ended up winning it all.

Big Magic, Sunday, 7/22 – (6-6-1) Esper control (won), mono green x2, GR kessig Wolfrun x3 (won 1, lost 1, also WINNER), mono green elf, UW delver x2, Esper tokens (won), UB Tezzeret, mono black, Grixis Control, Naya pod (lost), GR aggro (2nd winner)

This was my first time playing at Big Magic in almost a month. If you ask me, events at Big Magic and Hobby Station Osu/Meitetsu Eki are the ones that matter the most. The tournaments at these stores are very close to what Japan’s metagame is like overall due to the high level of competition at each place. A lot of the players there brew their own decks or follow the Japanese metagame closely from Tokyo and Osaka. The most technical players play there as well. So when I won my first 3 matches against an Esper Control, GR Kessig Beatdown, and a Esper Tokens deck, I was ecstatic. I don’t think I’ve ever won 3 in a row at Big Magic, so this was quite an accomplishment for me.

In game 4 I went up against the eventual winner of this 40 person event, and forced a game 3 against his GR Kessig beatdown deck. I was able to keep his Primeval Titan tapped with my Dungeon Geist and destroyed his Inkmoth Nexus’ with my Ghost Quarters, and I carefully chipped away at his life with the Dungeon Geist before taking out the rest of his life a Red Sun’s Zenith at the end. In the last game, he simply overpowered me when I couldn’t draw enough cards to stall the game.

Game 5 was against a Naya Pod deck, and again I forced a game 3 behind well played Pillar of Flames and Red Sun’s Zenith, but I was overwhelmed by his Blade Splicers, Hunt Masters, and Strangleroot Geists in the last game when I couldn’t draw any Whipflares.

For a 3-2 record I got 2 boosters though, which I’m proud of. More importantly this was good practice for the PTQs next weekend at Higashi Betsuin Kaikan in Nagoya.

Card Brunch, Monday, 7/23 – (6-9-1) UW Token (lost- winner), WR humans, Naya Pod, Mono green, Mono blue delver (winner 2), UB Tezzeret, mono black Beatdown (lost), Naya Beatdown (lost), Tempered Steel

Two interesting decks from Monday I’d like to mention. There were 20 players again at this event so it was split into two groups. One group’s winner was Mono Blue Delver, and the other was a UW Token. The UW Token deck was interesting in that it had ZERO creatures and was based largely around Token creatures. Against a play set of Ratchet Bombs it might have problems, as well as going against Esper Control decks that can wipe the board easily with Day of Judgement, but against aggro it has a very easy time.

The basic set up of the UW Token deck is:

  • 4 Intangible Virtues
  • 4 Favorable Winds
  • 4 Talrand’s Invocation
  • 4 Midnight Haunting
  • 4 Lingering Souls

He usually wouldn’t lay down anything until a Favorable Winds or a Intangible Virtue was in play, but once he had one, he’d then focus on putting in spirits as fast as he can. The spirits and drake tokens quickly become Angel-sized around turn 4, and by turn 5 they are dragon and Titan-sized. If you can’t wipe the board or keep those enchantments off the table, you’re pretty much screwed. Anything that deals damage, even Bonfire of the Damned miracled, won’t have any effect. Blasphemous Act might be good to use, but who has those main or in their sideboards? Nobody . . . But you won’t have to worry about this deck popping up any time soon. Like I said before, Card Brunch Kanayama is largely a place for experimentation.

So with two weeks of tournaments finished before the Pro Tour Qualifier, this is what the metagame is looking like based on the winners:

  • UW Token
  • Mono Blue Delver
  • Mono Green
  • GR Kessig Beatdown
  • GR Aggro
  • Solar Flare
  • Tempered Steel
  • UW Delver
  • UW Artifact Control

The metagame in Nagoya is still largely owned by Aggro strategies, but Delver has become less potent recently. I see GR and Naya beatdown decks making a comeback over the next few weeks and Control decks losing their strength. If you’re going to a PTQ in Japan soon, the decks you should prepare for are:

  1. UW Delver/UG Delver
  2. GR/WGR Beatdown
  3. Mono Green
  4. Esper Planewalker Control

Those are the decks I seeing as being used the most in the coming weeks, so it’s good to have some sort of strategy against them if you’re playing against them. I plan on using my UR Titan Control deck on Sunday because I like the matchup against 3/4 of those decks. Mono Green is going to be a pain for me, but I’m going to sideboard accordingly before the PTQ to be ready for it. It’s also important to note that you’ll most likely see Restoration Angel, Bonfire of the Damned, Delver of Secrets, Thragtusk, Rancor, Huntmaster of the Fells, and Primeval Titan at competitive events in the near future.

Hopefully you got some useful information about the metagame in Japan from this article if you plan on playing competitively. I don’t think you’ll see much change before the final 3 PTQs in Japan in the second week of August. Be sure to check back next week after Sunday’s PTQ for a report on what people were using! Thanks for reading.