I didn’t really know what I wanted to write about this week, but Patrick Chapin is on my couch tonight, dropped off by his daddy in between Detroit, Boston, and of course Baltimore for this weekend (he is the Great Lakes Regional Champion after all). I am not really very interested in Block this year (though I like Patrick’s RebelGoyf strategy). I have been working on Standard non-stop for the past several weeks, testing with 2005 New York State Champion Julian Levin, GP Columbus Champion Steve Sadin, Paul Jordan LOL,
Resident Genius Mark Herberholz, Pro Tour Finalist (slacker) Billy Moreno, eternal #1 Apprentice Josh Ravitz, and the aforementioned Great Lakes Regional Champion. Unfortunately, I have been banned from writing about Standard. In fact, BDM cut off numerous Podcasts two weeks ago because I was talking about Standard.
I am talking about Standard.
As you know from The Legends of Team CMU, I am not currently qualified for the U.S. National Championship, despite positioning the aforementioned beautiful The Legends of Team CMU. As such, I am not preparing just for the U.S. National Championship… I have to get there first. For the first time in six years, I will be participating in the U.S. Opens, a.k.a. “the meatgrinders.”
Meatgrinder preparation is inherently different from actual Nationals preparation. When you talk to, say, Josh, he will have already have made calculations based on his ability at Time Spiral draft and will say something like “I need my Constructed deck to give me x-1, maybe x-1-1, to make the team.” I think that’s a lot to ask from a deck to begin with, but in a meatgrinder, you don’t even get that x-1 option. You need x-0. Furthermore, you have to approach the tournament on a fundamentally different axis. The meatgrinders are much more open than the main event for two reasons. By definition, perhaps more importantly, the meatgrinders are open events (hence the name “U.S. Open”), meaning you are much more likely to hit random opponents with crap-shoot sixties in front of them. As such, a deeply metagamed deck will probably be a better choice for the main event, whereas the Opens might not even have a real metagame. Moreover, the actual main event is informed by the meatgrinders in a fundamental way (though I supposed you can talk about successive meatgrinders being informed by preceding tournaments).
I had a nice long con planned for U.S. Nationals. I actually had a U/W deck that I liked that I had been testing for a while, and that was pretty good. It was one of those delicious Delay-into-Teferi decks that ran with beatdown and won in a grind. My strategy was to just start showing up to Finkel draft and playing Standard… badly. The theory was that Jonny would not be able to resist correcting the Blue play, and would simultaneously fall in love with the Blue deck and be forced to attend U.S. Nationals. This is neither here nor there, but I never got around to running this con. You have to admit it was a sick idea, though.
Here is something interesting that I did this weekend. Sadin has the fire lit under him. He is a standing Constructed Grand Prix Champion after a lifetime of primarily Limited concentration. He designed a deck for Regionals when he was unqualified for U.S. Nationals that is poised to be the most popular deck of the format. He refuses to plateau in a spot where most players would find nothing easier than languishing as a pretty good Champion and Pro… So he decided to come up for hardcore testing last Sunday from “11am until I threw him out.”
The problem was Bella Flores.
While you are exploiting your children for personal gain, that picture is cuter than anything Kyle Sanchez will post this week.
Bella is three now, and she is not as cool about playtesting as she was a year ago, when non-stop testing sessions with Osyp, Josh, Julian, Steve, every one, every week, were commonplace. In fact, when Billy was up testing for Columbus (i.e. putting together the first versions of the Grand Prix winning deck, grinding it out against my Chapin / Heezy Flash deck with Scroll Racks and Fathom Seer) Julian left the toilet seat up, so when Bella sneaked away (that is, her daddy was playtesting a round of B/W Pikula versus Threshold with the rising #1 Apprentice) she was able to drown Eeyeore in it and run down the hallway slinging a stuffed donkey full of potty water in literally the mad dash for attention.
With only the two of us fighting, Steve and I were worried about testing logistics plus watching Bella (with three I can just watch Bella and give commentary on the playtest matches). Whereas when Paul and I were testing for States – we just plopped her down in front of the TV and she watched Curious George three times in a row – at three, she just doesn’t roll that way.
So what ended up happening was I sat on the couch with Bella, laptop up; Steve sat at my desk. We battled Apprentice. Steve came over to my house… to battle motherf***ing Apprentice. This was almost as stupid as when I started testing at Jonny’s house last year so we could MTGO against each other in his massive computer complex.
Read Patrick on Monday. Humiliating. Not since I have been actively dating have I gone from desperation to maximum elation to dejection so sharply in a 24 hour period. Humiliating. Read Patrick on Monday.
We were trying to keep this under wraps (it was short list for our group, obviously) but we did a really bad job of it. At present we have one deck that legitimately beats Sadin.dec game 1. I am not a huge fan of this strategy, not because I don’t like the deck (the deck is awesome) but because I can’t figure out a way to get a real edge in the mirror. I am fine with most mirrors, but this one seems unduly draw dependant to me. Here is our version of Sadin.dec:
Like Dan Paskins emailed me last week, everybody’s Red Deck looks pretty much the same at this point. One idea Steve had was to sideboard four Treetop Villages so we could sideboard more expensive spells… Not sure where we are going with that.
After being on B/U/R for the past several months, I decided to go back to U/R/W (possibly) for the U.S. Opens. The reason? I see Sadin.dec being one of the most popular decks in the format, and U/R/W is the deck that is supposed to beat it. Possibly this deck is outdated now, given recent articles like Kyle Sanchez on Dragons and Blink, but for what it’s worth, this is the U/R/W I have been testing:
I like this version for a couple of reasons. First of all, I always liked Firemane Angel better than every other threat in Angel when I won States. I know she has fallen out of vogue, but even with Extirpate in the format and Tormod’s Crypt the most popular sideboard card from Regionals, I am willing to take the risk and make the investment in order to get the edge over aggro. Additionally, I have had literally no problem beating the dedicated control decks, which most Angel players have been complaining about (Angel is one of the decks left Dralnu is supposed to be able to beat). If the opponent doesn’t have one of the precision hosers, he usually will get grinded by a Firemane Angel.
I wanted to play Detritivore main in order to have some action against control; I needed to play two in order to have a reasonable chance of drawing it. I hate drawing Detritivore in some matchups, but that’s what happens. I tried to fix this by playing Careful Consideration over Court Hussar (also additional Angel dump). I can see playing -2 Detritivore, +1 Demonfire, +1 Careful Consideration (or one Detritivore main, but you have no way to find it).
Remand came from Osyp. I know Remand is stock at this point, but I never missed it when I was playing This Girl. Mainly the card is there to stop Gargadons. You can clean up on most everything else. The trick is correctly pointing Lightning Helix. For example, it’s often better to shoot the opponent with Helix than his Marauders.
After an intense playtest session with Sadin, we found that Angel Angel goes about 50% with Sadin.dec game 1, which is anything but inspiring. Almost every game would or could have gone the other way with one turn.
Still, I have Angel Angel on the short list because I think it is exactly the kind of deck I could conceivably score a grinder with. I actually lost all my aggro game 1s at States with This Girl, but was able to get there in the end due to having sufficient tools. Even if I can’t beat my Grand Prix Champ teammate playing his own deck more than half the time, the practice we put in could be invaluable. That said, if you know where I have been coming from for the past couple of years, you know that I am not the biggest fan of coin flip matchups. I have Angel Angel on my short list, but it is probably going to take a back seat to one of the next.
This is a G/W deck that I based on Patrick’s RebelGoyf (obviously); I think Becker is playing a version in the Opens. I borrowed Momentary Blink from Gabriel Stoffa’s Minnesota-winning deck, because if you get tagged by a Tendrils in G/W, that’s often all she wrote. That led to the land mix (though there I can see up to four as-yet unpublished Treetop Villages here). I like this deck because I think the Amrou Scout combo is cute, and because this deck seems like it is a beating against aggressive decks while being reasonably aggressive itself. I really love that you can Bound in Silence a Troll Ascetic off the Scout.
Last deck, also U/G/W, is Gabe Walls’s finals deck from last week’s Kentucky Open and my present top choice for grinding… Despite the fact that I haven’t played a single game with it. The structure of this deck is just something that seems perfect for the meatgrinders, which have so often been dominated by aggressive decks. It looks like it should have a monster game plan against both aggro and control between life gain, medium acceleration, and tempo.
- 2 Mystic Snake
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 4 Loxodon Hierarch
- 4 Riftwing Cloudskate
- 4 Aeon Chronicler
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 3 Venser, Shaper Savant
I am writing this very early in the week, with Patrick chattering over my shoulder. The Opens aren’t for two days, and Nationals itself doesn’t start for another day after that. By the time you read this, much of the important stuff will have already happened; I personally may have made wild changes in what I think or want to play. Craig might be a two-time National Champion.