A Call For Thought

Things didn’t take long to settle down, did they? Okay, we still have a lot of decks out there that are considered rogue and that are doing very well, but we also have a bunch of decks that everyone knows about, thanks to the omnipresence of the net. A month ago we were all looking…

Things didn’t take long to settle down, did they? Okay, we still have a lot of decks out there that are considered rogue and that are doing very well, but we also have a bunch of decks that everyone knows about, thanks to the omnipresence of the net.

A month ago we were all looking forward to the new environment, or decrying the death of our favourite combo deck. Two weeks ago, we were all frantically playing with ideas, playing with new cards, trying to find the Next Big Thing, trying to break cards that looked like they could be broken.

Last week we all sat back and looked at the results from the States, and now? Now we have our global metagame back, whether we want it or not. It’s not complete and it’s changing very rapidly at the moment… but there is one.

I’ve written a few articles about the metagame in the past, and still stand by my assertion that the metagame is a local thing. It’s probably not important, as I think it’s an obvious enough statement that no one will argue. Local might not be the best word for it, mind – relative might be better.

The Pro Tour has it’s own metagame. Most of the players have access to all the cards they need (through friends, teams or traders), they all know that fact and therefore can guess that most players will be playing good decks. That’s their relative metagame – the ultimate metagame, perhaps? The Bath tourneys are filled with players who have two or three of a rare they need four of, and so add odd cards to their decks to fill out the space, perhaps even choosing to play a different deck because they can’t quite build the one they want to. That’s our relative metagame.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the meta-game over the past few weeks. I had hoped to follow up”Meta-Late than Never” with an article predicting the metagame at Bath, then another the week after to see if I was right or not. I will be doing this early next year when the environment has settled down a bit more, but I’ve had a lot of other thoughts too but the most important, to my mind, is the following:

Can you really guess metagame on a local level?

When you know what the top decks are you can playtest all the combinations, build a good sideboard and know how you’re going to do. If you can find out what a number of the players will then be playing, you can try to work out how well you’re going to perform.

No matter how clever you are, you can’t do this at a local tournament. Why? Because there will always be the lad that turns up with the twenty Circle of Protections in his deck and a sideboard that you didn’t consider. And if you thought about him, you won’t have thought about the player who’s dug up his old goblin deck and updated it to Type II because he like goblins, or the player that’s decided that her infinite turns, Magistrate’s Sceptre deck needs an outing.*

So, if you can’t guess the metagame 100% should you try?



There are a hundred and one decks out there at the moment. You can’t test all of them sufficiently to know how any deck you build will perform, but you can shortcut this to test against the best decks out there, the Pro Tour decks, the Net decks. Once you’re happy with how your deck is working, you’re a fool if you stop there.

Mister Circle of Protection and Miss Magistrate’s Sceptre will have been busy; they’ll have been looking through their Classic cards, peeking at their Masques Block cards and they’ll have taken five minutes to wonder through their brand-new Invasion cards too.

If they’re doing it, you should too. You’ll be surprised – take Evil Eyes, for example. Do you know what it does? I know that I have some, but I couldn’t remember off the top of my head – I had to look them up. Although they might not be the best players, the players that try out new ideas all the time might just give you an answer to a tricky sideboarding problem you have – they won’t be doing it intentionally half the time, but pay attention and have a look through your cards yourself.

More than likely, you’ll see a few cards that you’ve seen players playing at tourneys before. Were they part of a player’s favourite deck? Were they trying out some concept that you didn’t quite catch on? Who was playing them? Do they work well with some new cards that have just come out?


Think about where you can go with the card. What supporting cards might be in the deck with them?

There are advantages to doing this. Firstly, because you look through the cards relatively often, you’ll become more aware of what is in the different sets. This helps you with Limited more than you’ll realise, and will help you every time a new set comes out because you’ll know straight away that new cards will work because the support cards are there for it.

You might be thinking that you don’t need to, but consider the following:

Is Divine Transformation in Classic?

If you wanted to play a deck with first strikers in it, what cards could you play with?

What does Embargo do?

Will Deathgazer kill a Blastoderm?

Many of you probably know the answers to all of these questions, but I guess you’ll have to reach deep into the back of your mind for some of these.

More than anything, I guess, I’m calling for players out there to pay attention to what’s going on around them. Try out new cards, try out your crazy combo decks, try out off-the-wall cards that no one else is using. Why?

For NOW is the time of the rogue player.

Now is just about the only time you’ll get to play decks that no one else is playing and see them adopted by the Pros.

Now is the time to make yourself famous, even if it is by accident. You might just play a card for one reason and be credited for bringing it to someone else’s attention, just before they build a deck and win a Pro Tour with it.

I’ve long been a proponent of rogue decks, even if I choose to play Net decks from time to time. Nowadays, I’ll only play one of my own decks if I’ve playtested it enough and it beats the other decks that I can see out there. It takes a long time to do it, and I have to keep testing and tuning all the time – but I’m still working on them.

This is paying off. My Type II ranking is heading back up to 1800 again after doing VERY badly at the UK Nationals this year and losing nearly 100 points. My combined ranking is now the highest it has ever been, thanks to reading a lot about Draft and Sealed deck and actually getting some practice in. I know that 1800 isn’t that good on a global scale, but it’s a start.

So, on a final note, I have a few ideas for some new decks. Some of them have creatures in and some of them don’t. They’re all very bad at the moment, though, so I won’t bore you with them. I’m still looking for ideas, so if you have any crazy combo decks feel free to send them. I promise I’ll play at least four or five games with them and send you some feedback – hell, you’ll be doing me a favour, since I might just see the card I’m looking for to get one or two of my more nutty ideas to work.

You may be interested to know that buying houses is a pain the backside. Many of my older readers will know this already. Whatever anyone tells you – don’t believe them until the contract is signed and you have the keys in your hand.

Cheers, Jim.
Team PhatBeats

* – My Magistrate’s Sceptre deck doesn’t work so well anymore. Voltaic Key really gave it any edge that it had.