Analyzing The SCG Invitational Metagame

As 2011 comes to a close, the Innistrad Standard Metagame is still on the move. Patrick Chapin tells you to think rogue and analyze metagames to make decks for the future.

As 2011 comes to a close, the Innistrad Standard Metagame is still on the move. The final major events of the year, the SCG Invitational and SCG Open Charlotte took place this past weekend, and while the format’s evolution may finally be showing signs of slowing, we have not yet reached an equilibrium.

Let’s start by using the results from this past weekend to paint a picture of the metagame we should be focusing on for any tournaments we have the rest of this year. First, we have the SCG Open that was held this past weekend at the same time as the Invitational. As a note, this week, I have separated Tempered Steel from Misc Haunt Aggro (Moorland Haunt decks besides Illusions and Tempered Steel, now, such as U/W Blade, W/u Humans, and Puresteel). This is because Tempered Steel is different enough strategically and put up good enough numbers to get its own slot. First, the top 8:

SCG Charlotte Top 8

Tempered Steel 2
Solar Flare 1
Illusions 1
Wolf Run Naya 1
Misc Haunt Aggro 1
G/W Tokens 1
Infect 1

Next I added in the top 32 of the event (which intentionally causes us to double count every deck in the top 8).

SCG Charlotte Top 32 + Top 8

Misc Haunt Aggro 10
Wolf Run 7
Illusions 5
Tempered Steel 4
U/x Control 3
Mono-B Infect 3
G/W Tokens 3
Mono-Red 2
Solar Flare 2
Pod 1

Those numbers form half of this weekend’s metagame data, with the other half coming from the Invitational proper. To calculate the Invitational Metagame numbers, I added all the 6-1 or better Standard decklist stats to the Invitational Top 8 stats. This results in some decks being double counted, by design. The Invitational was a two-format event, with Legacy making up the other half. As a result, some players like Alex Bertoncini may have taken multiple losses in Standard, but managed to sneak into the top 8 with an undefeated record with Brainstorm. Regardless, we care both about the decks that did best (6-1 or better) and the decks that are going to be most visible (top 8 decks, which can’t have taken that many losses anyway).

Invitational 6-1 or better Standard decklists

Wolf Run 4
Illusions 2
U/x Control 2
R/x Aggro 2
Solar Flare 1
Misc Haunt 1

Invitational Top 8 Standard Lists

Illusions 3
U/x Control 3
Wolf Run 1
Tempered Steel 1

Once we combine all this data with the data from Worlds and SCG St. Louis we get a fuller picture:

Archetypes Worlds / St. Louis Meta Invitational / Charlotte Open Meta Suggested Meta
Wolf Run 20.70% 21.30% 21.10%
Illusions 20.40% 18.80% 19.30%
U/x Control** 11.40% 16.30% 14.60%
Misc Haunt Aggro* 9.40% 15.00% 13.10%
R/x Aggro*** 13.40% 7.50% 9.50%
Solar Flare 8.20% 5.00% 6.10%
Tempered Steel 2.60% 7.50% 5.90%
G/W Tokens 8.40% 3.80% 5.30%
Infect 3.70% 3.80% 3.80%
Misc (Pod, etc) 2.00% 1.30% 1.50%

* Moorland Haunt Aggro besides Illusions and Tempered Steel, i.e. W/u Humans, U/W Blade

** Blue Control decks besides Solar Flare

*** Mostly Mono-Red, but includes any aggro decks with Mountains

Worlds / St. Louis Meta – 50% Worlds Metagame, 50% St. Louis Top 16

Invitational / Charlotte Open Meta – 50% Invitational 6-1 or better lists + Top 8, 50% Charlotte Top 32 + Top 8

Suggested Meta – 33% Worlds / St. Louis Meta, 67% Invitational/Charlotte Open Meta

Formats most commonly reach equilibrium when they fall into a paper-rock-scissors dynamic. As long as the format has more than three unique pillars that are fundamentally different from each other, there is a tendency for the format to be dynamic, fresh, and ever-changing. What are the pillars of the format at this point?

Aggro – Aggro Control – Control – Combo

It is not just that there is tremendous diversity among each of these macro-styles of play; it is that all four represent over 20% of the field. This is the very definition of a healthy, balanced, diverse, yet dynamic format. Looking at each of these styles:

Aggro (R/x Aggro, Tempered Steel, G/W Tokens, W/u Humans) 27.3%

Aggro Control (Illusions, U/W Blade, Infect) 29.7%

Control (U/x Control, Solar Flare) 20.7%

Combo (Wolf Run) 21.1%

Both Wolf Run and Illusions have made claims to being the format’s top deck on numerous weeks. Both are strong, so it is not at all clear which is the strongest, but it does seem that Wolf Run has retaken the lead. Wolf Run decks have so much more room to customize their build to combat the metagame they expect, whereas Illusions is a much more scripted 60.

Let’s start by looking at the coolest Wolf Run deck of the weekend, Magic Online champion, Reid Duke:

While R/G Wolf Run with Inferno Titan, Galvanic Blast, and Slagstorm is common (based on the world champ’s list), Wolf Run Naya has been gaining in popularity again. Duke’s list goes one step further, introducing a medium Birthing Pod plan to Wolf Run Naya. With only two Birthing Pods, this is certainly not Duke’s Plan A (which is still Primeval Titan for Kessig Wolf Run and Inkmoth Nexus). Instead, Duke has a relatively minimalist chain that primarily features creatures he wants anyway (Emissary, Solemn, Acidic Slime, Primeval Titan, and Elesh Norn). The only place Duke seems to be making concessions to Birthing Pod is at the three spot, where he uses a Palladium Myr and a single Blade Splicer to fill the spot on the curve.

Long time readers will recall the discussion about Baneslayers and Mulldrifters. Palladium Myr is the Baneslayer (if it lives, we will gain a huge advantage from it), while Blade Splicer is the Mulldrifter (it gives you the value when you play it, not needing to live). This means when you have a Birthing Pod and want something great right now, you can get Palladium Myr and try to jump straight to the top of your curve next turn. On the other hand, if you are concerned about removal or just need to work your way up the chain, Blade Splicer is your man.

Four Primeval Titans, four Green Sun’s Zeniths, AND two Birthing Pods? Impressive. While Duke’s build is extremely vulnerable to problematic permanents (two Day of Judgment, two Acidic Slimes, and Elesh Norn is his entire maindeck removal suite), he does have a bit more in the board (Gut Shot, Days, Beast Within, Grudge, Ghost Quarter), as well as the Stingerfling Spider and Viridian Emissary, which both work overtime here. Both Green Sun’s Zenith and Birthing Pod mean that Duke has a large number of ways to find his answer to Olivia or Consecrated Sphinx.

Overall, this is one of my favorite decks of the weekend and a strategy that is on top of my list to experiment with. I am not sure it will gain a mainstream following; however it is fundamentally sound and quite futuristic. Which Wolf Run deck you put in your gauntlet is definitely a function of what you are trying to accomplish. Duke’s is probably the best for tournament veterans that already have a lot of experience against the other Wolf Run decks. However, the hierarchy is probably something like this: Wolf Run R/G (with Inferno Titan) then Wolf Run Naya then Wolf Run Pod.

If you are just jumping into the format, this is a current build of Wolf Run R/G:

If you already have experience against Iyanaga’s style of Wolf Run, the recent trend has been towards Wolf Run Naya, such as John Farrow’s list from this weekend:

Of course, if you have experience against both, then Reid Duke Wolf Run Pod is going to offer the most insight. Whichever way you slice it, Wolf Run is not only the most popular deck in the format again, it is also among the best performing. This is definitely step one of the gauntlet, but equally important is step two, Illusions. Going forward, I would not want to play a deck that didn’t beat Wolf Run AND Illusions. Ambitious? Sure, but definitely doable, I think.

It is tricky, since Wolf Run and Illusions try to pull you in such opposite directions; however, both have a number of vulnerabilities. Let’s take a look at current Illusions and consider some of those vulnerabilities:

This first list is just about as stock as they come. Bertoncini’s list will probably be the most notorious, as he walked away with the check. Mentor of the Meek out of the sideboard is cute, but overall, nothing too unusual. He is known for playing uncannily consistent versions of whatever the format’s bad guy is (Faeries, Jace decks, Illusions, etc.), among other things, so this is not surprising.

His Invitational finals opponent, good man Adam Prosak, had a slightly unorthodox style of Illusions (an archetype that generally doesn’t see much variation, these days).

Prosak’s build isn’t that many cards different, but cutting four copies of Lord of the Unreal for two Merfolk Looters and two Midnight Hauntings reveals a very different philosophy than most have ascribed to the Illusion deck. It also suggests further evolution away from the Illusion tribe, perhaps hybridizing with U/W Blade or even some sort of Invisible Stalker deck. The key cards? Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage, Phantasmal Image, Gitaxian Probe, Ponder, Mana Leak, and Moorland Haunt. Beyond that, everything is negotiable.

Feeling of Dread is an underrated Innistrad card that is just finally breaking through as one of those excellent draft cards that is so efficient, it actually breaks through to Constructed. It is obviously a tempo trick, but one that is sort of a cantrip. Often, you use it early to do something great (like get damage in, tap Illusions, or kill a planeswalker). Then, it sits in your graveyard as a pseudo-card that you can look to cash in whenever the best moment arises. On top of all this, it is obviously a mondo-combo with Merfolk Looter. I think we are going to see more of Feeling of Dread in other decks, as time goes on. It isn’t insane or anything, but it is solid and could be worth checking out in other Moorland Haunt Aggro decks.

I definitely think Bertoncini’s list is the one to face when you put your brew through a trial by fire, but if you are an Illusion player (or might want to be), Prosak’s list should be considered. I do think it is a downgrade in power, but there is value to hitting from an angle your opponents are not prepared for. What other ways could Illusions be modified (short of playing eight Mountains…)?

Making our way down through the format, we get to one of the most interesting macro-archetypes, U/x Control. What makes this class so interesting is the diversity we see, as week-in and week-out, we see the most successful U/x Control lists be the exotic, rogue builds. Each week, the netdecked control decks falter, and we see new and unusual blue control decks at the top. My personal favorite from this weekend is the Michael Jacob/Gerry Thompson collaboration, Five Color Control:

MJ and Gerry’s list is the love child of Solar Flare with Grixis. Alchemies, Ravings, Ponders, and Blue Sun’s Zenith make it very possible for the 5CC player to access any card in their library. This makes bullets like Elesh Norn, Unburial Rites, Day of Judgment, Dissipate, Blue Sun’s Zenith, Pacifism, Ratchet Bomb, and Ghost Quarter all much stronger than they would be.

Pristine Talisman is a new addition, courtesy of Adrian Sullivan and Ben Dempsey’s “Martell U/W.” It may feel counterintuitive to play so much colorless mana in a five-color list, but it actually works very well with Shimmering Grotto. Shimmering Grotto’s drawback is being down quantity of mana when you filter with it, which makes the usual problem that if you play enough land to power the Grotto, you are down spells. Here, the Talismans function as spells and land at the same time. It gives you a colorless for your Grotto that doesn’t set you back a turn (since the Talisman accelerated you), nor down a card (since the Talisman is functioning as a life-gain engine at the same time.

With just Alchemy, Nihil Spellbomb, Unburial Rites, and Ancient Grudge, this is mostly just a U/W/R list. It is tempting to consider the red just a splash as well, but Desperate Ravings is actually central to 5CC’s game plan and is needed much earlier than black or green. Obviously it would be a bit easier on 5CC’s mana to just use Think Twice instead of Ravings (letting us cut most of the red mana), but Desperate Ravings really is that much better than Think Twice.

Weekly Raving about Ravings Aside

Desperate Ravings has the same raw card economy as Think Twice, since both are neutral if you don’t flash them back and +1 if you do. Of course Brainstorm has the same card economy as Opt. That doesn’t mean they have the same power level. What makes Brainstorm so much better than Opt? The amount it improves your card quality. Desperate Ravings is both card advantage (like Think Twice) and selection (like Preordain), improving your average card quality. How is it selection? You get to have a higher average number of new cards in your hand each time you do it (and you control when that is). Additionally, your graveyard is a second hand (albeit one that is generally worse than your normal hand), so most of the time you can get cards from your library into your graveyard you are better off. Preordain and Brainstorm are among the easiest cards in all of Magic to play wrong, and Desperate Ravings is no different. Cheap library manipulation is very challenging to master, but it is WELL worth it to practice.

End aside

What one blue control deck you include in your gauntlet is definitely a judgment call on your part. Five-Color Control is unlikely to gain that much mainstream adoption; however it could be educational to work with. Another option is Caleb Durward’s Esper Control deck:

This is just a U/W Control deck with Doom Blades and Alchemies (not to be confused with Solar Flare, an Unburial Rites / Sun Titan / Phantasmal Image deck). The most popular style of U/x Control recently that has been having repeated success has been Grixis, such as Eric Brown’s build:

Brown has removed two Precursor Golems and an Olivia for a Snapcaster Mage, Batterskull, and Grave Titan, which seems very reasonable. Precursor’s most recent stint in the spotlight left was contingent on a format full of Oblivion Rings. Now that G/W Tokens has almost completely fallen off the map and neither of top two decks uses the card, it is time to find other kills. Grave Titan is totally awesome and was barely cut from West and my Worlds’ build. The direction the format has gone seems quite friendly for Gravedad. Doom Blades, Dismembers, Galvanic Blasts, Slagstorms, Gut Shot, Vapor Snag, and so on add up to a lot of weaknesses to Grave Titan. Day of Judgment has been gaining in popularity, which keeps it is check, but a lack of Oblivion Rings is good news for Titans everywhere.

Batterskull helps gain some much needed percentage against Red aggro. It would be nice to play another copy of the superior Wurmcoil Engine; however, we already have three six-drops, so a minor curve consideration is solid.

Snapcaster Mage number four replacing Olivia number three is just a matter of tuning. I might lean towards Olivia (which continues to be positioned incredibly), but it is close either way.

As Shouta Yasooka did not attend this year’s Invitational, we instead turn to Eric Williams for our Tezzeret-Fix:

Williams’s innovative list combines not only U/B Tezzeret and Olivia Grixis, but incorporates elements of U/W Blade. Solemn Simulacrum may not be ramping into “6s,” but he does carry a Sword quite well. Interestingly, Williams has opted for Sword of Body and Mind instead of the usual Feast and Famine. Batterskull, Olivia, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, Liliana of the Veil, Phyrexian Metamorph, Sword of Body and Mind, and Inkmoth Nexus (+ Contagion Clasp) make for a surprisingly large number of angles of attack. Add to this Phyrexian Crusaders, Volition Reins, Grave Titan, and Sword of Feast and Famine out of the board, and we are really going to catch a lot of people off guard.

Grixis Tezzeret plays an excellent Tap-Out game, which is important due to its complete lack of countermagic or discard (save two Negates in the board, plus a tiny bit of Liliana/Feast and Famine). Instead, it focuses on using cheap removal to buy time to start deploying a versatile mix of difficult to deal with threats.

Six colorless lands is a lot, and only five basics makes the M10 Duals weaker than we’d like. I like no Sphere of the Suns, but I definitely question this list’s ability to cast Slagstorm turn three. If you like Tezzeret decks, this is a great one to work with. I particularly enjoy Galvanic Blast, here. On the whole, more “traditional” Grixis Control is more likely to remain popular.

What about Solar Flare? Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can include Solar Flare as the blue control deck to test against if you don’t have a lot of experience against it, but it’s not a good deck. If you like Solar Flare, I would check out MJ and Gerry’s 5CC list, which is actually a Solar Flare deck with better mana.

If Wolf Run, Illusions, and U/x Control are the first three stops in your gauntlet, what about the fourth spot? Well, Combo, Aggro-Control, and Control are all represented, so I would select a Moorland Haunt Aggro deck that is more on the aggro side. With Gavony Township all but falling off the map this week, big gains were made by Tempered Steel.

Temporarily, Tempered Steel stole the spotlight a lot, right? Illusions illustrated its durability during hostility, holding so strong while Wolf Run ran rampant. Now, knowing Steel feels less heat, less defeats due to having had hate await. Inevitably, Inferno Titan took that small fall in perceived popularity, that tells us the coast could be better cleared for the format to feel Steel (Weird…).

Wolf Run is still a disaster for Tempered Steel, as are the various Grixis decks, but Steel performs well against Illusions, U/W Blade, W/u Humans, G/W, and Solar Flare, just to name a few. Basically, non-red decks are going to have a much harder time, at least among the mainstream varieties. With G/W Tokens all but off the map, there is a need in the metagame for “the best non-red aggro deck.” With the Open winner being on Steel, two Steel in the top 8, plus a Steel in the top 8 of the Invitational, this seems to be the ideal fourth deck for the gauntlet, this week.

The use of two Chimeric Masses as the “rotating” spots is very reasonable, giving extra percentage against sweepers and making Glint Hawk better. What is more interesting is the replacing of an Origin Spellbomb with a Feeling of Dread, offering a new angle of attack.

Another option for the fourth gauntlet deck is W/u Humans. It never quite takes the spotlight or escapes being merely tier 1.5, but it often flies under people’s radars that only focus on the very top decks.

I am not a fan of the Midnight Hauntings, in here, but they aren’t bad. It is just that we have so many other good options at three. I have trouble imagining wanting to play this deck with only one Destiny. If we believe that Destiny isn’t a good card right now (which is a reasonable conclusion to draw), one is left wondering why we are even Humans instead of Illusions. W/u Humans is popular, but often seems to be more of a top 32 deck than a tournament winner. It is definitely reasonable to test against it instead of Tempered Steel if you prefer.

Of course, U/W Blade is also an option. It isn’t really tier 1, yet, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be.

As you can see, Holmes has taken a page out of the Illusions playbook, with Delver of Secrets replacing Blade Splicer or Mirran Crusader. This seems like the right direction to take U/W Blade, though one wonders what else we can borrow from Illusions?

A strike against U/W Blade is the splash damage it faces. Caw-Blade was often the only aggro-control deck in the format, earlier this year. U/W Blade is trying to exist at the same time people are trying to fight Illusions, W/u Humans, U/R Delver, and even Infect. In addition, Inkmoth Nexus, Tempered Steel, Birthing Pod, Swords, Metamorphs, Wurmcoils, and more mean no shortage of artifacts to entice people to play with answers to your Swords. Still, the ability to play the sweet U/W Control cards (like Day of Judgment and Consecrated Sphinx) and the sweet Illusions cards (like Delver of Secrets and Moorland Haunt) is worth giving some thought to.

Our fifth gauntlet spot has got to go to Red Aggro. It is the fifth most macro-archetype, but it is also unique enough to warrant its own slot. It attacks from such different angles as the other decks, it is important to give it its due.

This is definitely the most popular style of Red Aggro and the one I would put into a gauntlet to test out new brews (though Illusions and Wolf Run are certainly top priority). If you are considering playing some sort of Red Aggro, you’ll want to check out Ken Adams’ clever R/b Aggro:

While still aggro, Adams’ list is definitely bigger and more midrange than the other red aggro decks. He keeps only the very best red creatures (Noble and Phoenix), cutting the rest for more controlling removal and some Olivias. (Control, Tezzeret, Wolf Run, Pod, and now R/x Aggro—How many more places will she end up?)

Tribute to Hunger works excellent with all of the Geist Flames, Arc Trails, and Slagstorms helping keep small creatures under control. Devil’s Play, Geist Flame, Arc Trail, Slagstorm, Koth of the Hammer, Olivia, Batterskull, Chandra’s Phoenix, and Stensia Bloodhalls all provide ways for the R/b deck to gain card advantage or at least some virtual card advantage turn after turn.

Night Terrors instead of Despise, out of the sideboard, is cute. It is actually probably even better against current Wolf Run decks, plus it is a fine sideboard card against control decks. Distress may be a better option for heavy black decks, but it is definitely possible you’d want more than four.

Enslave is a greatly under appreciated reprint. Obviously Volition Reins doesn’t see all that much play, but it is possible that black appreciates a Control Magic more. One of the most important creatures to be able to steal is Wurmcoil Engine, a card that is generally challenging for R/B to deal with. Sever the Bloodline is also a fine answer to Wurmcoil, of course.

Where does that leave us? Well, with no major tournaments the rest of the year, the metagame isn’t likely to evolve quite as quickly. That said, it does mean there is increased chance to find an opening in the format and exploit it. It also means there is a little more time to develop brews, since real world information isn’t going to be as common. This lets us spend weeks trying ideas, rather than having to be up to date every week.

To capitalize on this, I will be returning to brewing next week. There are still so many powerful cards that haven’t found the right home yet. For many, it is because they are a card or two short of where they need to be; however, by working with them and exploring what else the format holds, we will have an advantage over everyone else once Dark Ascension rolls around. The Pro Tour is just days after the set’s release, so we are sure to see another Pro Tour like Paris or San Diego where cutting edge decks using crucial new cards are able to dominate.

U/W Control: Jace + Tectonic Edge

Mythic: Jace + Manlands

Boss Naya: Stoneforge Mystic + Manlands

Caw-Blade: Sword of Feast and Famine

Tezzeret: Tezzeret + Inkmoth Nexus

By exploring the strategies that haven’t already broken through, we can have an idea of what to look for in Dark Ascension. As a nice little bonus, brewing new decks is just about the most fun activity in the world!

Whatever we build is going to have to go through the gauntlet:

1. Wolf Run

2. Illusions

3. Blue Control

4. Haunt Aggro (Tempered Steel, W/u Humans, or U/W Blade)

5. Mono-Red

What card would you like to see explored next week? Ideally, it should be a card that you believe is underrated. Most people just look for the best cards and best decks in a format, but that is not how you see the future in Magic.

Designing futuristic Magic decks involves evaluating every card in the format not on the basis of raw power, but on the basis of realized power. For instance, Primeval Titan is one of the absolute best cards in the format, but everyone knows that. Birthing Pod, however, is a very powerful card that was not being fully utilized. Does Wolf Run Pod require Primeval Titan even more than Birthing Pod? Absolutely, but the Pod element is how we are to blaze new ground. It isn’t good because it is different; it is innovative because it uses a resource (the ability to play Birthing Pod) that others don’t know how to harvest.

Part of the way Michael Jacob and I design decks is by asking each other what cards we “like.” This is not which cards we “enjoy,” which is a function of fun. In this context, what we are really asking each other is what cards are underrated. Even a card like Jace, the Mind Sculptor can be underrated when people think it is arguably the best card in the format. How is this possible? Well, if you think it should be banned and that the entire format revolves around it, while others think it is merely the best card, one of you may be under or overrating it.

Going into Worlds, MJ asked me what cards I like. My answer? Desperate Ravings more than anything, then Olivia Voldaren, Day of Judgment, and to a lesser degree, Precursor Golem. As crazy as it sounds, we actually considered playing with all four but ultimately came to the conclusion that one of the colors had to go (at least as a main color). Alex West and I decided to go with Ravings, Olivia, and Golem. MJ and GerryT decided to go with Ravings, Day of Judgment, and the Golem.

Why does it matter what cards are underrated? Don’t we just care about power and synergy? No!

See, the metagame adjusts to what it believes is going on. So when the metagame believes that G/W Tokens is good and that Olivia is unplayable, there is an imbalance. When everyone thinks that Olivia is unplayable, they make tiny little decisions differently than they do when they think she is playable. For instance, G/W Tokens was actually the most popular deck in the format. It beat the control decks! Of course, they did not take into consideration that Olivia was not only playable, but great. This is only one of numerous factors, of course, but every person that plays G/W Tokens that wouldn’t because of Olivia matters. Changing one matchup is enough to tip the scales for a non-zero number of players.

This is only a small part of it. Basically, everyone is making decisions from what deck to play to what mix of Doom Blades, Victim of Nights, and Dismembers to play. The more wrong you believe everyone is about a card, the more deckbuilding decisions they are going to make that lead to decks that are worse against you. It isn’t just the first level of them not playing cards that are good against your card and playing more cards that are weak against your card. On level two, everyone is aiming to beat them, and then aiming to beat the decks that beat them, and so on. The more wrong they are about a good card, the more vulnerable the metagame is to be exploited by it.

You have to watch out for splash damage, of course. For instance, after Pro Tour Paris, G/W Quest fell off the map. This is because of the amount of splash damage they took from everyone adding cards to their deck to beat equipment out of the Caw-Blade decks. You want to find cards that are good but are also not just going to get hated out by the cards people already want to play.

This is part of why it is so important to not just measure the power of cards to the best of our abilities but to evaluate how good they are compared to what everyone else thinks. This doesn’t mean you can’t play cards like Mana Leak or Doom Blade, which may be almost exactly perfectly rated. They are quite powerful! What this means is that if we were imagining a rating of 1-100 for every card, we don’t just stop with the card’s power rating, we also add to it the difference in perceived power compared to the rest of the format. This means that while Iyanaga’s Primeval Titans may be a 99 on power, they were thought of by the format as being only an 80 (since at the time, Wolf Run had greatly fallen out of favor), making its effective level 119. In addition, Inferno Titan may have been thought of as a 50, while it was more appropriately rated around a 90, making its effective level a 130.

Now these numbers are all just pulled out of thin air, and we don’t actually sit around deciding arbitrary numbers for each card. This is mostly just to illustrate the general idea of weighing the format’s mis-evaluation of a card as a benefit, a technique very few seem to take advantage of, or discuss.

Quite often, rogue decks can be better choices than mainstream ones. One of the keys is realizing when the metagame, as a whole, is underrating some element of that rogue deck.

Master the ability to evaluate which cards are the most underrated (and overrated), and your decks will look like they are from the future.

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”

P.S. Please share your suggestions for which cards are most underrated, for next week!

P.P.S. The Next Level Magic E-Book is back in the second edition with the full paperback text for the first time ever! For a limited time, the upgrade to the 2nd edition is just $5 for everyone that already purchased the original! More information can be found here .