At the Gathering – States 2009 Guidebook

Claim your territory at The 2009's State and Provincial Championships!
Wednesday, December 2nd – This coming Saturday, the 2009 State/Provincial Championships will be held in the United States and Canada. Locations throughout the country will play host to Standard tournaments open to anyone who wants the coveted title of [Insert State Here] Champion 2009.

This coming Saturday, the 2009 State/Provincial Championships will be held in the United States and Canada. Locations throughout the country will play host to Standard tournaments open to anyone who wants the coveted title of [Insert State Here] Champion 2009.

Today, in anticipation of that tournament, we’re going to give you the comprehensive guide to the 2009 State Championships, or as they’re affectionately being called, the 09’s.

[Announcer voice] First off, tell ‘em what they’ll be playing for, Johnny! [/announcer voice]

In addition to the obvious title of State Champion, the winner will also take home a commemorative 2009 State Champion plaque, product prizes as determined by each individual organizer, and FREE entry into all premier level Constructed events for one year by all participating organizers. (This entails a special DCI card, to be mailed later)

All Top 8 competitors will receive a commemorative play mat, and product as determined by each organizer.

(Void where prohibited by law. Purchase is most definitely necessary to play. Organizer not responsible for bad beat stories arising from mana-screw, bad builds, play mistakes, or just plain sucking at magic. For full details, visit http://www.the2009s.com)

Yowza! Free Constructed tournaments for a year! Every American and Canadian Grand Prix, Pro Tour Qualifier, Grand Prix Trial, and side event (Constructed, of course) for free? Yeah, seems like a good deal to me. We’ve seen many of last year’s State Champions do well for themselves by being able to take advantage of these perks. Cedric Phillips has had his fair share of tournament fun (and saved a fair share of money doing so, I imagine) after his run through the Indiana State Championships.

However, even if you don’t win, the event itself is bound to be loads of fun. I recommend finding a carload of friends and having at it.

Moving on, let’s tackle the likely suspects you’ll be facing across the table come round 1.

Worlds failed to show us any groundbreaking new technology, but instead told us what we already knew: Jund is good. You can find all sorts of data, and articles analyzing said data, but the gist of it is that Jund is pretty much the powerhouse everyone expected it to be. Efficient removal and card advantage, all rolled up with a nice creature package, makes for the de facto best deck right now.

A notable amount of Jund decks moved away from Putrid Leech, for a variety of reasons, and instead we saw additions such as Master of the Wild Hunt, which is a powerhouse in the late game, providing creatures every turn. Even if it eats a removal spell, it’s still eating up a precious answer your opponent has, while you can hopefully still power out threat after threat. Jamie Wakefield would be proud.

Another deck that saw a rise to prominence in the aftermath of Worlds is Naya Lightsaber, as piloted by current World Champion Andre Coimbra. Many people will see this deck’s sweep of Jund in the finals, not to mention the fact that it’s the Champion’s deck, and they’ll believe that it rolls Jund. From what I’ve seen in testing and preliminary reports, it appears to be about a coin flip in the first game, with a good sideboard package giving it a better than 50% average post-board, although that number has varied depending on the Jund build. I would expect a lot of players to pick this deck up in light of Worlds, and play it either blindly or with minimum practice. Realistically, the deck requires practice to really find the edges against Jund, and I expect the deck to perform poorly in the large scale, based as much on inexperienced pilots as anything else. Note that any Disciples of Flores will likely have more experience playing the deck, probably having played it before its breakout in Rome.

Eldrazi Green, as piloted by Kali Anderson to her StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open championship in Nashville just a few weeks ago, seems to have fallen from favor. The deck is based on a linear strategy, and knowing how to combat it is 80% of the battle. The deck is still playable, and I would expect more than a few players will be either slinging a deck full of cards they put together in light of that $5K, and now are experienced with, or are hoping that it can take the field by surprise once again. Once you play against this deck sufficiently, it loses a bit of its shock and awe, and becomes a deck which is easier to combat as long as you take the right angles of attack.

Vampires is an interesting deck. I imagine there will be a fair amount of ‘Little Kid” Aggro Vampire builds, as linear tribal strategies are popular, and on occasion they will power out a sick draw which leaves the opponent stumbling. I expect a more mid-range build of Vampires will actually do better, perhaps utilizing the combo of Bloodghast and Eldrazi Monument? Vampire Nocturnus provides a powerful end game, and a simple Mono-Black manabase provides a more stable progression of spells.

Boros Bushwhacker has been a popular and powerful aggro strategy, utilizing the most powerful landfall strategies to power out absolutely disgusting attacks on the early turns of the game, allowing the deck to put opponents in a precarious position if they do stabilize. Of all the decks listed here, I have the most experience with Boros, and its ability to reload with Ranger of Eos, or just straight burn you out with Lightning Bolt and Burst Lightning (strictly better than Shock, by the way) gives the deck incredible finishing power. I have had more than one game where the opponent stabilizes at some single digit life total, and a single fetchland activation on their part is all I need to end things in my favor. I am in favor of Kibler’s build, personally, and would advise any potential Boros players to start there.

Finally, the last major deck I would concern myself with is Manuel Bucher Bant deck, which was also played at Worlds and in the Top 8. Manu uses the power of Noble Hierarch to great effect, powering out monsters like Rhox War Monk as early as turn 2 to help combat both Boros Bushwhacker and Jund. The deck only gets more powerful up the curve, with all-stars like Emeria Angel, Captain of the Watch, and Knight of the Reliquary, and of course, everyone’s $50 MVP, Baneslayer Angel. Honor of the Pure served as an efficient pump, giving everyone but Borderland Ranger and the mana-producing one-drops +1/+1. Ajani Goldmane serves as an additional pump option or even just some nice life gain if the situation warrants it. The only selection that puzzled me was the choice of a singleton Kabira Crossroads over Sejiri Refuge or Graypelt Refuge. Without any way to recur it, it just seems like the mana fixing would be more powerful than the extra life. However, I haven’t put in as many games behind the wheel as Manu likely has, so perhaps that one life really is that important.

Finally, your States guidebook would not be complete without… A NEW CAR! Just kidding, no instead, we’re going to tackle the most hallowed of tournament traditions, the Tournament Report. So, here it is; your Pre-States States Tournament Report guide.

First off, each report will start off with some small introduction, and then a story about the ride there. Some will be epic, some will be mediocre. Actually, they’ll all be mediocre, but some will be made to seem epic! Here’s a potential travel story.

The sun burst upon my face as I awakened the morning of the tournament. I immediately panicked, because my alarm had not gone off, and instead, was gleefully flashing backup battery engaged. Shoot, power gone. I am gonna have to yell at my Mom about not paying my power bill for me. Bad beats already, this day is not starting off the way I thought. My Samsung a210 (Actually a crappy phone, but using the model number makes it seem awesome) told me it was 8:45. Crap. I rushed to get breakfast, and called my crew, who said they would swing by and get me. I walked out the door just before 9, and before I knew it, we were at the site (Author conveniently forgets to mention they live one block from the site, so as to add drama to the story.)

After the travel story, they will talk a little bit about their tech, and what deck they are rocking, why it’s the absolute stone blade, and how it’s going to roll this tournament. You may hear a few of the following terms, which I’ll conveniently define for you here:

This deck rolls deck X: I played 3 whole games against Deck X, piloted by my little brother, and won all of them.

After a last-minute decision: I totally didn’t come up with anything good, so I just defaulted to whatever I had sleeved up on my bedroom floor.

My group playtested extensively: We sat around and played multiplayer games, and no one actually played their final list.

We came across Card Y, which is great in this matchup: John found this card on the ground, and we played it against a messed-up list, and it worked. We never actually tested it against the stock list, though.

We felt we had nailed the metagame: We read Worlds coverage and a bunch of articles, and then realized that the local guys have played the same decks since October.

After this, you’ll get the round by round report of how the tournament went. If it’s a guest article, expect that they will have won or made Top 8. If that’s the case, you can probably skim to the Top 8. If it’s by a regular author, they might still have won, or they might have sucked it up royally. However, since they have a deadline, and they were expecting to do well enough to make a tournament report, you get stories from the event that are probably informative, and hopefully entertaining. Examine these reports for play mistakes, so that you can learn from them.

The winner’s report will be about how awesome they are, how their opponents all were good, but not good enough, and how they are now going to conquer the Magic world. Basically, GerryT, but without the skills to back it up, and not nearly as entertaining.

The Top 8 reports will probably be the best, as they will be good enough to write an informative report, but not winning will leave them a little humbled. Basically, knowing they can do better, but just not getting there for some reason. However, they’re still hungry to make that leap, and it shows.

There is some terminology from the round-by-round portion of the report with which you’ll want to familiarize yourself.

I lost to the moron with the Pink Sleeves: I judged my opponent before I even shook his hand, and played horribly. Say it with me; Pink sleeves are not a bye.

The lucksack topdecked perfectly: My opponent appeared to have an answer to my threats, and I lost. I assume he topdecked, because that makes me feel better about myself.

I kept a slow 7, while he mulliganed to 6, then rolled me with a nut draw: My opponent is better at mulliganing than me.

I beat him, then crammed my hand in his face while screaming “Still had all THESE!” : I am an *sshole.

I lost to never drawing that crucial Xth land: I am unable to recognize a hand I should mulligan.

After the round-by-round, you’ll get some in-depth analysis about the deck. Mostly, this is worthless, as the writer has his vision skewed by the few matchups he played in the tournament. If the opponent lost to three straight Eldrazi Monument decks, despite there being only five in the room, they will probably overcompensate and recommend fifteen artifact hate cards in their sideboard, even though doing so is overall a bad idea. In reality, you are probably better served reading matchup analysis by someone who has done extensive testing, and then planning a sideboard around your expected metagame.

Well, there we have it, your handy guide to the 2009 State Championships. I’ll be taking the monumental 234 mile road-trip (full of epic tales, surely) to my state capital to battle it out for the coveted title of “Dude who gets into tournaments for free” State Champion.

Good luck to all those battling it out, and remember: Don’t make the Loser Choice.