Food for Thought – a Metagame update

I’ve been busy preparing for my trip to the USA this Friday so I haven’t had that much time to write anything for my blog. The blog will be on a hiatus until 3/31/13 (when I fly back to Japan). As crazy as it sounds, Dragon’s Maze is JUST around the corner. Pre-releases are on 4/27, which means we should start seeing spoilers in another 10 days or so. Doesn’t it seem that Gatecrash is still new?  The last time I posted a metagame update, it was for the month of February up until 2/17. Today’s report will talk about what has happened since then as well as which decks have showed promising results and should remain strong in the future.

  • 2/19 – Hobby Station Sasashima – 9 players- used GW midrange

Naya aggro (won 2-1.), human frites (won 2-0.), UW control, RWB control, JUND zombies (won 2-0.)

Way back in February I was using a rather efficient GW midrange deck: 24 land, tons of mana acceleration, and I topped out at Angel of Serenity. I managed to win this event. going 3-0, but seeing as it was only 9 players that’s nothing special. It worked well against aggro decks and reanimator, and I’m considering going back to it now that aggro is making a comeback. The big problem with the current decks is that they are putting a lot of power on the board and there is no way to handle it. I’m still worried about it’s match up against fast Gruul and human decks though. This deck lacks a good strategy against that kind of speed.

  • 2/22 – Card Brunch – 9 people – used GW midrange

RWB midrange (won 2-1.), Bant hex proof (lost 1-2.), Bant control (WINNER), Esper planeswalker control (lost 0-2.)

My fears were realized during this tournament as I lost to both a fast aggro deck (Bant hexproof) and also lost to control. GW midrange doesn’t have a lot it can do against Esper control  so I went 1-2. While the midrange deck tops out quickly and is good against other midrange decks, it really needs to be more of a Junk token build with other planeswalkers in order to beat decks like BUW planeswalker control. You also have to watch out for cards that mill you like Nephalia Drownyard and Jace, Memory Adept as well. At the end of February, control decks were starting to show their ugly heads.

  • 2/24 – GTC Game Day – used GW midrange – 16 people

WB humans, (lost 0-2.), Rakdos aggro (won 2-0.), RWU midrange x2, Bant ramp control (lost 0-2.), GR Beatdown (won 2-1.), Naya humans

Top 8: Bant ramp control, WB humans, Naya humans, Naya humans, UWR midrange, Naya aggro, JUND midrange, GW aggr0

WINNER – UWR midrange

Not a bad turnout for Gatecrash Game Day. I continued to use my GW midrange deck, and continued to have problems against fast decks and control. Decks that focused on burn weren’t a problem for me as my creatures quickly overpowered their creatures and life gain kept me out of harms way, but decks that had access to board wipes and removal were hard to deal with.

I finished 2-2, and as you can see, quick aggro decks filled out the Top 8. UWR midrange won it all thanks to its tempo, board wipes, and life gain, but Bant Wolf Ramp control popularized by Melissa DeTora in the Pro Tour also had a good outing, finishing 2nd. I think it’s about time to go back to this deck for the current metagame. It has amazing card draw, lots of life gain, board wipes, tempo . . . everything needed against decks like Aristocrats and Gruul aggro. Kessig Wolf Run is a great finisher and gave that deck just the edge it needed against other control decks.

  • 2/25 – Card Brunch – 13 people – used Simic midrange

Bant hex proof (won 2-1.), JUND midrange, UWR midrange, RWB control, RG werewolves, Esper control, 4 color enchant control (rogue – tie.),Gruul aggro (lost 0-2.), JUND control

RWB Aristocrats WINNER – Jund midrange 2nd

February 25th was the first time I tried out my Simic midrange deck, basing it around the GW deck that I had decent luck with.  There were still some problems to work out, but it was doing a lot better against fast aggro decks thanks to tempo cards like Simic Charm. My mana base was still a little problematic however, and it led to some mulligans that screwed me over in a few games. This was the first time I realized that a 3rd turn Garruk or Thragtusk was viable, and it opened up a lot of strategy in future games. Once I found the right mana base, my deck became a lot more effective against fast aggro decks. That day I finished 1-1-1.

  • 2/26 – Hobby Station Sasashima – 10 people – used Simic midrange

UWR control (won 2-0.), RWB aristocrats (lost 0-2.), JUND zombies

This was a short tournament because the matches started late and the second round didn’t finish until almost closing time. I don’t think we even got points because of the shortened tourney. I did end up beating a UWR deck, but lost to bad hands against RWB Aristocrats. At this point my Simic deck was still evolving, and some cards were dropped altogether (like Gyre Sage). I wasn’t able to get a view of the other decks being played that day due to the amount of time I had.

  • 3/1 – Card Brunch – 5 people – used Simic midrange

Frites (lost 0-2.), GW humans (lost 1-2.), bye

This event wasn’t even worth talking about. 1-2. GW humans won the event I believe.

  • 3/5 – Sasashima Hobby Station – 8 people – used Simic midrange

Mono black control  – WINNER (lost 1-2.), Bant enchant control (tie 1-1-1.), Esper control (lost 0-2.), JUND aggro

After GP Yokohama, the metagame shifted to more control. I went up against a Mono black control deck, bant control, as well as Esper control and did poorly against each of them. I finished 0-2-1, and was starting to have reservations of Simic midrange’s chances in this metagame. Yes it did well against aggro, but I simply got out drawn and out tempoed in control match ups. The number of mulligans I’ve been getting has also attributed to my losses, so until I can solve my consistency problem, I think it might be time to shelve it.

  • 3/8 – Amenity Dream – 10 people – used Simic midrange

JUND aggro (lost 0-2.), black control, Naya Beatdown (lost 1-2.?), Bant control WINNER, bye

This wasn’t even fun anymore. I got absolutely destroyed by a double Hellrider attack at 17 life, even though I had more than enough creatures on the board to block with. Although it has disruption, my Simic deck lacks any type of permanent removal which would help it out of bad situations such as Falkenrath Aristocrats, Thundermaw Hellkites, etc. Naya beatdown simply out muscled me and had the removal to take care of my cards, and because somebody dropped I was left with a bye in the last round. Bant was the winner, but Naya and Jund had strong outings and showed their reach against a wide variety of decks.

  • 3/9 – C labo Mei Eki – 10 people – used Simic midrange

Grixis control (won 2-0.), Boros red, RWB aggro, Esper control (lost 1-2.), junk tokens (lost 0-2. ), GR Beatdown

Finally a control deck I can beat. Grixis control is too slow and lacks the ability to take out larger creatures once they are out of Mizzium Mortars/Bonfire of the Damned range, so a deck like mine full of Master Biomancers had no problem simply overwhelming my opponent. However, BWU control CONTINUED to be a thorn in my side and even with more Planeswalkers in the mix I couldn’t stay in the game. Sphinx’s Revelation simply gives my opponent too many answers for my  deck and they eventually mill me out. To add insult to injury, I lost to my old deck, Junk tokens as well. It was hard to remove all of the tokens while at the same time putting pressure on my opponent. I was stuck praying on a Cyclonic Rift, but those usually came too late. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is still pretty bad ass. I finished 1-2 on the day.

  • 3/10 – Big Magic – 28 people – used Simic midrange

Esper control (lost 0-2. ), Naya aggro (won 2-1.) Esper control, JUND midrange, Bant midrange, Esper control x2, RWB midrange, mono red, Bant control wolf run, UWR control (lost 0-2) , bye

This was the last straw for my Simic midrange deck. I finished 2-2, with my two losses coming AGAIN at the hand of control decks. This weekend was especially control heavy, and I convinced myself after this weekend to try something new. I was tired of getting so close in my games only to have it slip away each time. When control runs rampant, you need to run faster decks that hit harder and keep the pressure on so that your opponent uses up their cards. I had been testing out a new BG deck that I had gotten an idea for online, and if I had used that this Sunday instead of Simic, I think I would have done a lot better.

  • 3/12 – at Hobby Station Sasashima – 9 people – used BG aggro

RUG flash (won 2-0.), 4 color turbo fog (tied 1-1-1.), 4 color seance midrange

This was another short tourney due to bad organization on the store manager’s part, but I did get to see my BG aggro deck in action for the first time and I was very pleased with the results. The constant pressure totally outclassed my opponents, and if they didn’t draw amazing hands or top deck the right card, they lost the game. I was a little suprised to see Turbo fog back in standard, but there are enough board wipe effects and fog effects now that it can be very effective in an aggro heavy metagame. The addition of Blind Obedience and Merciless Eviction give it just the right balance of removal and tempo that it needs to be competitive (as long as it doesn’t get matched up against burn).

  • 3/13 – Hobby Station Mei Eki – 14 people, used  GB aggro

Esper control (lost 1-2.), Naya midrange, RUG flash, Esper control x2, mono black Bolas control, UWR control (Won 2-1.), the Aristocrats (won 2-1.)

There are always growing pains with a new deck, especially when you have to change your strategy from the week before. I learned the hard way that my BG aggro deck with 20 land doesn’t mulligan well. If you can’t get the right mana and cards that first time, it puts you at a severe disadvantage, especially against Esper control. However, cards like Abrupt Decay are great against control decks that are creature light and use enchantments such as Detention Sphere and Blind Obedience. The deck also has a very favorable match up against The Aristocrats, given that you can draw cards like Tragic Slip in your opening hand to stop Falkenrath Aristocrat on turn 4.  I finished 2-1 and was very encouraged by the results. Overall this was a good outing with BG aggro!

  • 3/15 – Amenity Dream – used BG Beatdown – 6 people

UW delver (won 2-0.), junk tokens (won 2-0. Deck was way too fast. Tokens can’t block trample), Naya humans (lost 0-2. Gotta keep hands with lots of removal and slow them down early), Naya aggro

More promising results from my BG beatdown deck. UW delver had some nice tricks and could put up a good fight if Delver of Secrets flipped early, but it has absolutely no defense and when my BG deck has 4-5 creatures out on turn 4 with 3 power, there’s no way it’s going beat me to the finish line. A timely Abrupt Decay also ruined his day. I also got revenge against Junk tokens this day, totally making his spirit tokens worthless thanks to my Rancors and Lotleth Trolls.

After AD I went to Hobby saloon and beat a some rogue decks. One was a Rakdos unleashed (won 2-1.) deck, and the other was a Naya fight deck (won 2-0.) My BG deck again showed that it has all the right answers and strategies for the current metagame. A little more life gain would be nice, but as long as I can kill my opponent before that matters, I’m happy.

  • 3/17 – S Cup – 25 people – used BG aggro

Gruul aggro (lost 0-2.), UWR tempo, Jund midrange, Esper control, 4 color seance midrange (lost 1-2.), Gruul aggro rogue (lost 1-2.), Bant aggro x2, junk reanimator, frites (won 2-0.), mono green surge deck (rogue. Lost 1-2.), JUND midrange (won 2-0).

Top 4: Bant aggro, Esper control, junk reanimator, Bant control

I decided to switch it up last weekend and take part in the S-Cup, a local tournament series that has special prizes for the top finishers each season. A lot of strong players participate in the event and after some good results with my Golgari beatdown deck the previous week, I thought it would be worth taking it to the big leagues. Did it do well? Well, as you can see I finished 2-4. This wasn’t because of misplays or anything like that, but in EVERY loss I lost because of mulligan after mulligan. Having only 20 lands finally caught up with me, and time after time I was mana screwed. You need to hit those land drops, especially against Gruul. I found myself dying on turns 3 and 4 in that match up, with the total match up only lasting about 8 minutes. Nut draws with Burning-Tree Emissary make it incredibly hard to to catch up to. I think you have to play defense against Gruul before turning the tables on them later on in the game.

Thragtusk, and the multitude of copies of it that was made by Seance made it incredibly hard for me to to beat in my second match, and mulligans again hurt me considerably in round 3. However, by round 4 I got my first win against Frites. Frites has a great late game, but nothing early on so it absolutely folded to my BG that was dealing 6 damage each turn.  Mulligans AGAIN led to my losses in a Primal Surge deck that I should have been able to beat if I had the mana when I needed it, but absolutely perfect hands against Jund Midrange (Experiment One, Strangleroot Geist, and Dreg Mangler in the first hand) let me handle that game easily.

  • 3/20 – HS Mei Eki – 12 people – used Simic midrange

Aristocrats WINNER, Black control, Gruul Red, Bant control, Esper control, rd 1 tie, Zegana Bant aggro (lost 0-2.),  WB zombies (won 2-1.), grixis control , BR zombie

After switching my deck a little, I tried out my Simic midrange again, but with a 1-1-1 record, I think it’s time to go with Bant midrange instead of UG. In my first match I played against a Bant deck that was almost the same as mine except that it had Restoration Angels, Armada Wurms, and Detention Spheres, and it made a world of difference. He also had Avacyn’s Pilgrim and all those put together made for a very consistent deck that gave you any color when you need it. I managed to top deck a Cyclonic Rift against WB Zombies for a win, and that was it. Because I came late to the tourney with a few other people, we all took first round ties.

What to watch out for in the coming weeks . . .

Phew, that was a lot of information to report. The later weeks of February saw a lot of aggro, but in the first weeks of March control decks reigned supreme. With Bant decks gaining traction again, it seems as though midrange decks are the way to go.  For the next week or two I think we’ll be seeing a lot more GWU (Bant) control and midrange decks, so it might be a good idea to look into alternate ways of winning. Aggro decks should taper off in the next week or so, and pretty soon I think Esper control or Esper (WUB) planeswalker control. The deck has all the right tools to take out midrange decks: Supreme Verdict, counterspells, removal such as Murder, Nephalia Drownyard, and Jace, Memory Adept totally disregard things like life and card advantage. If you’re looking to beat Bant, go with Esper. If you don’t have the cards, I think UWR control might also be a viable choice.

Well, thanks for reading through and I hope you’ve gotten some good information from today’s post (especially how some decks match up against others). I’ll be in the USA from 3/21-3/31, so there probably won’t be any significant updates until I get back. I plan on playing at least once while I’m home, and if I can I’ll check out some new stores to post about as well. If you have any questions about match ups or about anything else, please leave a comment. Only a few more weeks until Dragon’s Maze previews start. Look for news about it after I get back! Until then, good luck.