Not only did I personally put up what was probably the worst performance in my short magic career, but also I witnessed and was part of what was probably the worst performance by a pro team, well, ever. Our top finisher was Osyp at a cool 41st, and we only put six players (of about twenty or so) in day two. Suffice to say that it wasn’t our best moment.
However, despite my shortcomings at figuring out an unknown, totally open format, I feel like I can still give an accurate assessment of where each deck stands and what decks you should be considering as the PTQ and GP season begins. I decided to make a rating system based on how good the deck will be in the upcoming season.
* : Completely unplayable.
** : The deck is fundamentally bad but abnormal local metagames might make it a good choice.
*** : The deck is fine. If I had a tournament, I wouldn’t play it. If you are one of the people who only play a certain type of deck and this one fits the bill, it’s not a terrible choice.
**** : This is a very solid choice, and could, potentially, turn out to be the best deck. A definite tier one contender.
***** : I would play this if I had a tournament tomorrow.
This is the deck I piloted, and I felt like I had a pretty good list within the confines of Goblins. I went 1-1 against Tings, which is about right, even though the loss was a lopsided affair which involved me mulliganing six times in two games. I won my lone mirror match and lost to a Red/White deck with Boros Signet after taking the most brutal beat in my entire life (which would be too painful to relive here). Finally, I went 1-2 against Affinity, which I was beating handily in testing thanks to the white cards in my deck: Kataki, War’s Wage and Disenchant. Basically, I got screwed. That said, I still played Goblins and therefore made a bad deck choice; I can’t completely blame bad draws for my abysmal record.
Out of the 37 Goblins decks in the tournament, only seven of them made day two. That, by itself, shows that the deck is simply not strong in the extended field. In upcoming PTQs, it will be even worse. With the great success of Red/Boros Deck Wins, and PTQ players’ love for such decks, they will run rampant in the qualifier field. As that is one of Goblins’ worst matchups, it gets even worse than it was at the Pro Tour. The only worse choices than it were probably straight UG Madness and completely rogue decks. It makes me feel better that plenty of donks ran rogue garbage that was worse than Goblins, until I remember I went 3-4, and nothing can really make me feel better.
Affinity was the most played deck at the Pro Tour. Out of the 55 Affinity decks played, 23 of them made day two. Affinity had strength in numbers, but its high day two percentage proves the deck is for real. Before the PT, it was my second choice; looking at those results, I wish I had played it. However, once in day two, these Affinity decks didn’t fare as well. This evidence supports the claim that Affinity is great against random decks but once the field is streamlined everyone is ready for it. I agree with this completely; underestimating Affinity was one of the biggest mistakes someone could have made getting ready for this Pro Tour. It is also one of the biggest mistakes a person can make before a PTQ. If you want to bring your Ravagers, it’s not a bad choice; you’ll beat up on a lot of players in PTQs. If not, though, you probably want to consider Kataki or Pernicious Deed or you might be on the wrong end of a beating. Not even these cards guarantee victory against Affinity. Just adding them to your deck might not be enough. On the flip side, I recommend that players who run Affinity have six to ten non-artifact lands in their deck. It makes it a bit less explosive, but with the amount of anti-Artifact cards that should be in the field it will be well worth it.
This Extended staple just has to be mentioned, but unfortunately not in a very positive way. Only twelve of 42 Rock players made the cut to the second day, and nobody piloting it got to play under the lights. Basically, the problem with Rock is that it cannot be good in a wide open metagame. You can build it to beat aggressive decks, or control decks, or combo decks. However, it is impossible to make it beat all three and hard to beat even two. On the upside, the Rock is a bit stronger in PTQs. With an abundance of aggressive decks, one can tune it to crush them. Furthermore, the relative lack of skill of control players will give the Rock player a better chance against combo and control despite not being focused on beating them. Even with those upsides, the deck is not good. Playing decks with so many bad matchups is just a gambit I would not be willing to make.
UG HEARTBEAT COMBO ****
This deck is very strong. The reason I dismissed it early is that some hate cards can really devastate you, such as Pyrostatic Pillar. I should have realized, though, that not many people would play cards as narrow as that, and considered this deck more. Even with this in mind, though, I think it is a bad choice for PTQs. First of all, PTQs will include more Red decks than the Pro Tour. Even if a low percentage run Pillar, it is still more likely that you will see one. Granted, it is of course beatable, but it is a rather large nuisance. Additionally, while this deck is very strong if played to perfection, it is very weak otherwise. It takes an amount of practice that most players don’t put in just for PTQs and an amount of skill that most PTQ players don’t have. If you think you are the exception, this could still be a good deck for you; it is definitely Tier One. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Let me tell you, I’m not a big fan. However, a 66.6 day two percentage cannot be ignored. There is a plethora of reasons why this deck is bad, but it just wins. I will just present these reasons and let you, the reader, weigh them against the fact that it wins matches. To begin with, it is a strictly worse control deck than Tog. The basic control elements are just inferior, since Tog has good cards in the spot of the Scepter deck’s Scepters and ChantsÂ—which are crappy on their own. More importantly, however, there are so many cards that see extensive play for non-Scepter purposes but are just accidentally nuts against it. The list includes, but is not limited to, Pithing Needle, Overload, Pernicious Deed, Naturalize, and Oxidize. As I said, I don’t like the deck, but some people swear by it. If you really want a deck that can occasionally shut your opponent completely out of the game, this might be for you.
RED/BOROS DECK WINS ****
Red Deck Wins has always been terrible in my opinion. I never thought I’d see the day where I gave it four stars out of five, but it has indeed come. Putting three copies of the same deck into the top eight of an extended Pro Tour is no small feat these daysÂ—the two previous extended Pro Tours saw eight different archetypes in the top eight. Basically, I think the reason the deck is so strong this year is that (as Fujita said in his interview) basically every card from last year’s deck is replaceable. Meanwhile, other decks lost irreplaceable cards. It must be understood, first of all, that Boros Deck is superior to Red Deck. The fact that Fujita played one over the other should be enough evidence. Pretty much, though, having White just gives the deck power and versatility at the same time for virtually no cost. There is absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t run it in this deck. As I said, this deck has never been better. I think it may be a bit worse in PTQs than in the Pro Tour, where many people underestimated it and thus were not prepared for it. Regardless, it will surely make its presence felt and is certainly not a bad choice.
BALANCING TINGS ***
This deck was almost rogue enough to warrant not being included in this article. On second thought, though, Masashi played it! It’s got to have some merit. Balancing Tings is a fine deck. I would never play a deck like based on the fact that it has some really, really, bad matchups and some cards it just can’t beat (read Blood Moon), but at the same time it does have some really good matchups in most of the aggressive decks. I think it would be a little bit better in PTQs than in the Pro Tour, where only six out of fifteen Tings mages played past the first day, since there would be more aggressive decks and worse control players. This deck is just good enough that I wouldn’t laugh out loud if a friend told me he was about to run it.
DREDGE-LESS TOG ***
The deck that won the PT automatically has to be at least ok. At the same time, though, I think the deck is just strictly inferior to Dredgeatog despite Antoine’s 3-0 thrashing of Kenji. To begin with, I actually tested Psychatog for PT LA. For me, Tog without Dredge was just bad, particularly thanks to its bad matchup with Affinity. Dredgeatog, on the other hand, I did not get to test. We only had it a few days before the PT and by then I had already decided to play Goblins for lots of bad reasons. Going back to regular Tog, though, I just don’t see how Antoine’s deck can beat Affinity. I can see how it would be solid against other decks but being weak against Affinity is just too big a weakness to ignore. I don’t see why anyone would play this over Dredgeatog, but winning the PT earns it the third star.
Finally, we have the deck to play. What can I say, the Japanese broke it again. This deck just has everything you need. I think I would make some minor adjustments to Kenji’s decklist and play it if I had a tournament tomorrow. If that tournament was a PTQ, I may gear it a bit more towards aggressive decks than it already is. I wasn’t there to watch, but I am forced to assume the man got screwed somehow to not win the whole Pro Tour. I can’t say I’m upset; it leaves me with something better than him, but I doubt it will be long before that changes. Anyway, this deck is just awesome; it has all the tools you could ever need. It has all the right defensive cards to stop aggressive decks cold as well as the Dredge element for control matchups. This is a deck I would certainly want to practice with before taking it to a tournament, but nowhere near the amount that I would want to practice with, say, Heartbeat. To make a long story short, play Dredgeatog if you want to win as many matches as possible.
In addition to all of the above, there is a good deal of rogue decks that are at least worthy of mention. I would say most fall under the *** category and some would be placed in the ** section.
Dutch Gifts ControlÂ—they didn’t win a lot but I am a fan of dedicated control decks such as that one and they all maintain they tested infinite, had the nuts deck, and got screwed.
Domain GiftsÂ—I can’t say I know much about this deck. However, a deck so versatile and powerful is at least worth a look if you are someone who is serious about the format.
GR BeatsÂ—This deck is better than it looks. It packs a lot of punch and has more resilience than a lot of the aggressive decks. Probably the best rogue aggressive deck.
Golgari MadnessÂ—I think this is likely to be the best of the rogue decks. If it sees success I can definitely see it moving up to tier one. The deck’s ability to kill on turn four or even three is something that should definitely be explored.
The SolutionÂ—This kind of deck is a one-hit wonder every extended season. Last year it was Ben Dempsey at GP Boston. This year, it could be YOU!
I don’t think anything else is really worth anyone’s time. Feel free to prove me wrong.
Besides the actual Pro Tour, another exciting event in the Los Angeles Convention Center was that all the players with their own cards got a stack of themselves. It was a rather awkward moment when I was approached by Gab Nassif with his card in his hand. He wanted to trade one of his infinite he got for mine as he was collecting the set. There is only one small problem with this…I asked him if he was kidding. The answer was no. He just simply assumed I had a card.
I mean, it’s not the fact that I don’t have one that is upsetting. It is about some of the people who have one over me. Please. Everyone knows who I’m talking about. At least it gives me a little comfort that Kenji doesn’t have one either. At least someone better than me got screwed out of one too. Second Edition, here I come!
I have more thoughts about the Pro Player cards, though. This one came to me as the Second Rate Pros challenge was being set up. It was basically limited to players who don’t have a card, but when I tried to enter, I was impolitely rejected. Apparently, my resume was too strong to enter the challenge, according to whichever second-rate pro I happened to be talking to at the time. Anyway, this led me to the belief that all players level three and above should have a card. These are the people that I suppose can be considered pros. After all, they are qualified for every Pro Tour. Does baseball only make cards for the All-Stars? No. The backup right-fielder on the Royals gets one, too. That’s because he’s a pro, by definition. Since my definition of a magic pro is a player level three or above, I feel we should all get one.
Last but not least, I think the backs should be changed. Instead of the blurbs that say a little something about the player’s accomplishments, there should be raw statistics like on real sports cards. Here is a little sample I created:
The stats are inaccurate but that’s not the point. These kind of stats are better than having Wizards just tell you Kai is the most feared player or whateverÂ—you can deduce that for yourself. This way, you can track how they did each year, how they improved, how their game declined, whatever, the exact same way you can do for other sports cards. To be perfectly frank, it really doesn’t matter if this is done. I don’t really care either way. I just think people would like this better, so I thought I might as well bring it up. I’m sure it was already considered and decided against for some reason or another.
Besides, who wouldn’t want a BIG OOTS card to sit pretty in their binder along with their, say, Murray The Maulers and Pierre Canalis? I’ll leave that one for you to figure it out. Until then… I’m out and peace out.