Block Rock

“Always choose rock – good ol’ Rock”

-Bart Simpson, shortly before getting wrecked.

What, one Rock isn’t enough for you? How about this amazing variety – the elusive triple Rock, Rock, Rock metagame! Nate offers some advice on how to deal with a format where the two big decks are, um, equal.

People keep telling me I should write more.

Everywhere I go I hear,”Nate, keep writing them, I’ll keep reading them!” While this sounds great in theory, I then turn to them and say,”If I wrote something about this block, would you really want to read it?” After which they think for a second and give me the big frown.

ph33r n0t! I have decided to write it, but it may not be what you saw coming – you who ask shall receive.

When it comes to Block constructed, people get all excited about testing out the newer cards in a format all on their own. Call it a rite of passage for cool new cards, call it a test of endurance for over-hyped power cards, call it the beginning of a new era. Whatever you do – don’t call it fun.

Odyssey Block constructed has to be one of the worst Constructed formats ever. For all the bitching and whining we did about awful combo-oriented environments and Fires of Yavimaya decks, we never saw the real train wreck coming. Last year’s Block Constructed was amazing – Invasion block was one of the most fun formats in Magic ever, it brought a ton of players either into the game or back to the game. Odyssey Block was looking so sweet with great mechanics like flashback and madness, but then it started… First at PT Osaka, then later in the PTQ season. It is something that has never really happened before in Magic….

Remember how people used to always describe how formats eventually fell into the Rock, Paper, Scissors metagame no matter what? Well, now we are witness to the birth of the new metagame: Rock.

“Always choose rock – good ol’ Rock”

-Bart Simpson, shortly before getting wrecked.

What, one Rock isn’t enough for you? How about this amazing variety – the elusive triple Rock, Rock, Rock meta-game.

What the hell? Rock, Rock, Rock?

There have only ever been three real decks in the OBC metagame: In Osaka, there was Psychatog, Blue/Green, and mono-black. Then Wonder and Quiet Speculation came along and killed Psychatog in one fell swoop. The metagame turned quickly to what it looks like now – Blue/Green and Black. The trouble is that neither seems to have an advantage on the other. I mean, sure, there are about 42 varieties of Blue/Green, but they are very similar in the end, and they still all have roughly the same win percentages.

The thing that always created the Rock, Paper, and Scissors environment is the fact that certain decks do better against some deck than others. In OBC, this just isn’t the case: You can’t really hope for much better than 50/50 over the course of an entire match when sideboarding is taken into account.

Rock Rock Rock, it’s the block block block rock.

There has been a recent increase in the amount of Mono Black that is being played, along with an increase in the amount of Grizzly Fate decks. Luckily, neither of these things bust open our stable, stonelike metagame.

What does a metagame like this mean? Besides the fact that it makes every tournament seem awful, it seems like a stronger deck build is more important than ever. Whole tournaments can be won or lost before you even show up – everything that happens in this format is predictable. There are almost no surprises. Sure, every so often you will get comboed or Battle Screeched out, but its so rare and those decks aren’t even very good anyhow – they don’t realistically bust the 50/50 margin, either. So when you are building your deck, think very hard about what you will do against blue/green and mono-black. I wouldn’t worry about too many other decks… Green/white Glory and white/blue birds are the only other decks popular enough to statistically make a difference.

Sideboarding is crucial – think about how many sideboard cards would just be better in your main deck! How many mono black decks in a row did you play against last time? Perhaps the Envelops are better in the maindeck? When I played threshold/Standstill Blue/Green, I played against four Mono Black decks in a row, and all I kept thinking was,”I wish I had the fourth Phantom Centaur in my ‘board – or in the Main!”

While it very easily could have been four U/G decks in a row that I could have played, I felt the need to hedge my bets if I were to play the deck again. Maindecking sideboard cards may be a very crucial strategy in this metagame. If all you see is Rock, and all you have is Rock, then you gotta play a few Rock crushers in the maindeck to get that slight but ever important statistical advantage. Would I sound crazy if I said it was best to maindeck four Phantom Centaurs and four Envelops? Centaurs and Envelops are not all bad against U/G, and they crush monoblack. If you are running Speculation, why not run a single Acorn Harvest, just to mess with Braids? If you would rather hedge against the U/G with U/G, then run Reclamations or Moment’s Peaces. Basically, take anything that you were going to sideboard in and just throw it in the maindeck if it is reasonable against other decks too.

Perhaps we will reach a point where a rock/paper/scissors metagame forms via sideboard metagames. One person will counter-sideboard to react to his opponents’ main deck sideboard cards. It wouldn’t be much variety, but it’s something. Actually, it’s idiotic – just like everything else in this format.

C’mon, Onslaught!!

Nate Heiss

[email protected]

Team CMU