For the Love of the Game

Richmond, Virginia hosts the first StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard Open of 2009!
Wednesday, February 18th – If you haven’t heard, StarCityGames.com is running ten – that’s right, ten – $5,000 Standard Open tournaments in the coming year! Between this tournament series and the Grand Prix series, players of all shapes and sizes will be able to compete in an abundance of high level tournaments. I have to say I am very excited for the first tournament this weekend, in Richmond Virginia.

If you haven’t heard, StarCityGames.com is running ten – that’s right, ten – $5,000 Standard Open tournaments in the coming year! Between this tournament series and the Grand Prix series, players of all shapes and sizes will be able to compete in an abundance of high level tournaments. I have to say I am very excited for the first tournament this weekend, in Richmond Virginia. Other than the ability to play in so many large tournaments over the course of a year, I am really looking forward to see the evolution of the Standard metagame with the aid of thousands of decklists from a variety of different players and regions.

Conflux is legal for the first tournament, and you have already seen many people get excited over the cards like Banefire and Path to Exile. Overall, I am not too impressed with Conflux’s effect on Standard. I do not expect to see many Conflux cards in the Standard mix until after Lorwyn rotates out. I’m more excited to see what is going to come down the line over time. Over the course of a year, we will see several new sets and the rotation of Lorwyn. The introduction of 11th Edition will sure shake things up dramatically. More importantly, we will consistently see the Tier 1 archetypes again and again, and we’ll observe how other decks evolve to gain edges against them. In turn, we’ll see how the top decks evolve based on these format changes. This is one of the many reasons I actually play Magic. I enjoy seeing changes based on a format. I once saw Fledgling Mawcor become super tech for Faeries, but word got out the day before, and before the tournament had even begun, it was out of date and became a bad sideboard choice. So many factors affect the metagame, it is almost impossible to narrow it down. Sometimes it feels as if the game of Magic is a breathing entity.

This tournament series will bring thousands of players from around the country playing in an ever changing format. When Lorwyn rotates, so does Faeries, which is a huge change, which means decks with sorceries will be viable again. This is just a small taste of changes to come. Faeries has been a dominant deck for so long, and I cannot recall a deck in recent memory that has made so many other archetypes completely non competitive for tournament play.

I feel Standard is the best format out there. If a ridiculous card is printed, such as Bitterblossom, It will eventually find its way out of Standard, and become stuck in a pool with thousands of other cards in Extended and Legacy, making it much less powerful. Since Standard is a vacuum, it is really difficult to ever find a card worth banning, since broken/unfair synergies mostly come with cards that are not Standard legal, with few exceptions of course (such as the entire Urza’s Block, heh). This happens because cards are developed mainly within their respective block, and it is really difficult to see changes in other formats. For example, everyone could see how good Tezzeret was going to be in Vintage, but not many saw the power of Donate plus Illusions of Grandeur. The last time we saw a plethora of bannings was Mirrodin Block. Although it was about a month too late, I guess Wizards needed to see decks play 4 Furnace Dragon main before something had to be done. I feel Wizards have done a very good job in keeping the format balanced over the last few blocks. It is very difficult to do, so my hat is off to them. Who knew the difference between “Enchantment” and “Tribal Enchantment — Faerie” would be so huge? Of course, none of this changes the fact that Standard is by far my favorite format.

When preparing for a large tournament, knowing the field is so important. It can mean the difference between winning and losing. Finding all the edges is so important in modern Magic. All knowledge, no matter how unimportant it seems, should be used to stoke the fires.

If I was to play say Five-Color Control in Richmond, I would definitely play two Runed Halo main, and two in the board. Why? Because people from the area like Mountains more than they probably should. People will run Banefire main because it is new, and will plan their game to win with Banefire. Also, Red-based decks are amazing right now, so the die-hard Red players have great cards at their disposal. The Red deck can evolve to include Magma Sprays, four-toughness creatures, sweepers, cheap guys, and answers to Burrenton Forge-tender . They can even include additional colors to combat the format. As I said above, it is all about knowing what you expect to face.

Recently in an Extended PTQ in North Carolina, I walked into the room and tried to guess what 20 players were going to play, without any prior information other than what information I knew about the person from the past. I was surprised with my 15 out of 20 score; I believe this was a high result due to the location, but it seems easily adapted to any territory. With one of my guesses, namely “Player X will be playing a deck with Thoughtseize,” I had to be a little vague. “Player X” loves this card, but it turns out he was playing Affinity with Thoughtseize in the board. His deck was difficult to deduce since he has a soft spot for decks off the radar. Although Thoughtseize is not very common in Affinity, you can see the point I am trying to make. Having a good idea of what to expect is always going to benefit you in some way.

So, knowledge of the metagame based on the players it contains is pretty good… but at the same time, it shows how often players play the same deck over and over again. I am no exception to this rule; I tend to play Blue decks in general. I will also play the same deck again and again, since I will become very experienced with the deck over time. For instance, I played R/G Mana Ramp in a variety of tournaments as well as the Pro Tour. When it rotated, I picked up Five-Color Control and never looked back.

Recently I have decided to try to make accurate metagame assumptions and pick a deck based on the field. I played Elves in a recent Extended PTQ to combat TEPS, easily winning my two TEPS matches, and my relatively easy matches against Zoo, Affinity, and Death Cloud, with my elimination from the tournament coming via two Faerie pilots who made Top 8. Even though Faeries was not the most popular deck, it was played by the more experienced players in the tournament, and it took seven of the eight Top 8 Slots. In hindsight, perhaps I should have picked a different deck, or tuned my sideboard to combat this difficult matchup. I will take what I have learned and try to adapt for this weekend’s tournament. If I am unable to decide on the proper choice, I will just play Faeries, since it an obviously powerful deck and competitive against the entire field. So in the end it comes down to playing a deck that is either a great choice for a particular tournament, or a deck I feel very comfortable playing against any opponent.

Stop 1: Richmond, VA

I expect these to be the most popular decks to kick off the Standard season at this year’s StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open series debut:

$5,000 Standard Open – February 21st
R/W Boat Brew
Red Deck Wins (with a side of Blightning)
B/W Tokens
Bant Deck
W/U/B Lark
Five-Color Control

Extended PTQ – February 22nd
Death Cloud

I have not decided exactly what to play at this time, but I am leaning towards Five-Color Control for Standard. I believe the deck is pretty good for large tournaments, such as the rather open field that I am expecting. If everything works out optimally, the Bant and RDW decks should beat the Faeries and Lark decks, giving me good matchups for later rounds of the tournament. Small edges will eventually add up… you just need to take advantage of them all. Even though I expect Five-Color Control to be the least played “popular” archetype this coming weekend, rogue or new decks notwithstanding, I still feel it is potentially the best deck. The only drawback is that is somewhat difficult to pilot, and if you make a mistake, it is not a very forgiving deck at all.

I decided not to include any decklists this week, since I feel our other writers here at StarCityGames.com have done an amazing job of laying the groundwork for Standard coming into this weekend. Pro Tour: Kyoto is just on the horizon, so expect to be hearing more about Standard soon! I actually really enjoyed David Irvine recent “Evolution of Lark” article, and I am looking forward to his next piece. The majority of deck list posted on our site seem to be well-thought-out, and at the very least they are excellent lists with which to tune.

I will be watching a wide variety of matches this weekend. I feel I will be able to gain some excellent information on the developing metagame. If you plan partake in this weekend’s fun, please come up and say hi. Be sure let me know what your deck of choice is for this weekend, and how it’s working out for you!

See you in Richmond!