Last week, Willy Edel informed me that I should be able to play in both the World Magic Cup Qualifiers and the World Magic Cup if I qualified, but I
couldn’t believe it. I was so used to the idea that playing Magic at the highest level wasn’t possible for another year or so, but after some quick
research and an email from Scott Larabee, I was good to go.
Words cannot express my excitement.
The past couple years, I didn’t even pay much attention to the WMCQs. I played in one that was relatively local, did poorly, and gave up. It didn’t seem
like something worth pursuing. I was already traveling a bunch, and booking a ticket for hundreds of dollars for what amounted to a PTQ didn’t even cross
my mind. So then why the sudden change of heart?
Because it’s there–It exists! Even more importantly, it’s attainable. I know I can make this happen and while playing well and winning money are fine
motivators, there is nothing I want more right now than to represent my country in France.
I feel like I’ve been given a chance. A year is a long time, but it’s a year that I knew was coming, and now it’s like I found a loophole. The
Invitationals are by far the best tournaments for me to play in, yet I can’t remember being anywhere near this excited to play in the last one. Sure, I
wanted to, but I knew that I would and it was just a foregone conclusion. The weekend came, went, and then I was back home again.
At this point, tournament Magic is scorched into the fiber of my being, and without it, I have no idea what I am. I’m nothing I guess. These WMCQs, even if
I die a horrible death in all three of them, are going to be some of the most anticipated weekends of my life. I wish I could bottle up this energy and
sell it to people, but instead, I’ll settle for being able to recreate this euphoria for myself and be able to actively enjoy what I’m doing.
I’m done with not caring. Now that I’m here, actually caring feels so much better. Whether it’s because you took an internship at WotC, graduated college,
or had a family, something will inevitably get in the way of you and Magic. It’s important to remember how good you have it before it’s gone.
So anyway, thanks Papa Willy. You earned my Hall of Fame vote this year.
Where do we start? Well, there are some decks to cross off the list. I started with Jund Planeswalkers, basically because it was the most exotic. It’s got
some fancy new cards (Hi, Nissa!), a relatively unique strategy, and a boatload of removal. I’m not a huge fan of tap-out control decks when they’re blue,
but Jund is just fine with me.
This deck just made sense to me. I was never impressed with Stormbreath Dragon or Polukranos, World Eater out of Jund Monsters, so being able to swap those
for planeswalkers felt great. Additionally, planeswalkers were the card type I wanted to draw the most against control and Black decks, so it felt like I’d
be pre-sideboarded and then some.
Willy had a list he’d been working on, and that guy knows his Jund decks, so I gave it a shot. Some tweaks were in order, but it was largely his list.
I’d like to say that Willy was the constant hero of this story, but alas, his deck failed me. I mean, I made it to the finals of an 8-man, but could
already tell the deck was a clunker and it wasn’t for me. That’s not to say that Jund Planeswalkers isn’t a powerful deck, because it is, but I was looking
for something a little leaner.
Armed with that knowledge, I headed down to Grand Prix Portland to hang out. I talked to seven pros about what I should play in Standard, and each of them
gave me a different answer. I guess that means this is a good format? What it really meant that I was on my own, or so I thought.
As it turns out, Brad Nelson was working on the deck I wanted to try next — B/W Midrange. Obzedat, Ghost Council is a pretty awesome card, and it gave me
fits when I was playing Jund Planeswalkers. Seriously, that deck probably needs to go further in the G/B splashing red direction for some Hero’s Downfalls.
Obzedat, and even things like Mutavault, can be nightmares.
Additional Putrefys also works, especially if you’re scared of Pithing Needle, and it doesn’t require a retooling of the mana base. But Hero’s Downfall is
also nice in the mirrors and against U/W Control, and it would allow you to cut back on Dreadbores. The only other changes I’d consider making are swapping
Thoughtseize with Duress (since you’re not boarding in Thoughtseize against decks with a lot of creatures anyway) and potentially adding some Magma Sprays
in place of Anger of the Gods. Liliana Vess would have been nice in a lot of games against R/W Burn, both as a way to pressure their hand and to find your
key lifegain spells.
As for B/W, Brad was doing Brad things to the decklist, such as cutting sleek, aggressive, metagame-specific, value-based cards like Lifebane Zombie for
overly powerful mythic rares, such as Brimaz, King of Oreskos. In a vacuum, that’s not such a bad change, but Brad rightfully admitted that it made his
mirror matchup much worse. Additionally, he chose to play Obzedat, Ghost Council instead of Blood Baron of Vizkopa, which is better against everything
except for the mirror. Obzedat is certainly no slouch there, but Blood Baron has a higher chance of outright winning the game on its own.
Despite that, he was killing it on Magic Online, going something like 15-0 in Daily Events before finally taking a loss to Blood Baron of Vizkopa. He even
did a video earlier this week, featuring this decklist:
This deck was another clunker. Four Brimaz is a lot, especially when you can’t always cast them on time. The sheer amount of cards just like it, such as
Underworld Connections, Desecration Demon, Whip of Erebos, Obzedat, and Elspeth all made the deck seem really clunky. In fact, post-board against some
decks, you’d have very few one and two mana plays, but a lot of threes and higher. That was just unacceptable in my eyes.
I’m not sure where to go from here since I think Brimaz over Lifebane and Obzedat over Blood Baron are reasonable upgrades against the field as a whole,
and it certainly fits the deck’s gameplan better. I knew that I wanted something sleeker if possible, but my options for that style of deck were limited.
Rabble Red, G/W Aggro, and R/W Burn are the frontrunners. Of those, I think Rabble Red is about the best that it’s going to be. Perhaps you could take the
CFB route and splash Chained to the Rocks if you wanted to, but other than that, the deck was tuned very well. G/W and Burn, on the other hand, seem to
never have a coherent sideboard, and I aimed to fix that.
I started with Burn.
Matt Sperling’s three Sacred Foundries was intriguing, but I elected to go with the full four because I was going to have more white spells, although I can
certainly see where he’s coming from. Shaving a Mutavault is another option. I felt flooded a decent amount of the time, so cutting one might not make
sense in that regard, but Mutavault wasn’t always able get through. Regardless, I think the manabase needs some work despite how simple it seems. I could
see playing 23 land and sideboarding a 24th for when I bring in Boros Reckoners, and that land would almost certainly be a temple.
I like the deck in general, but it had little to do with its excess lands. Despite that, I found that I was in most games, even the ones where I drew eight
lands, simply because of the hard hitting burn spells. Young Pyromancer almost always died on sight, but sometimes left behind a token or two, depending on
how long I wanted to wait to cast it.
My numbers might look weird, but playing four Warleader’s Helix and four Stoke the Flames didn’t seem right to me, although I definitely wanted all four
Helixes in the 75 somewhere. Shaving a Searing Blood was a concession to U/W Control that I think is warranted even though Searing Blood is pretty awesome
against everyone else. Even a deck like Jund Planeswalkers is going to play an Elvish Mystic or Xenagos, the Reveler at some point.
I could see not playing Chained to the Rocks maindeck, but the deck is at its weakest when the opponent sticks a large threat, such as Desecration Demon or
Master of Waves, and you’re forced to try and race even though it’s one that you’ll almost certainly lose.
I don’t think I fixed the sideboard, but it’s a start. Satyr Firedancer is lights out for a lot of decks, but Boros Reckoner is often very good against the
same decks, so maybe I don’t need both. Banishing Light is additional Chained to the Rocks, while functioning as a versatile Wear//Tear against cards like
Nyx-Fleece Ram and Staff of the Death Magus. The fact that it can hit opposing Banishing Lights, Detention Spheres, Master of Waves, and Desecration Demon
leads me to believe that it should be in the sideboard over cheaper, narrower answers.
Past that, I don’t have much else in the sideboard, but I’m not sure what else I need. Blind Obedience is decent in the mirror matchup, but Stormbreath
Dragon decks are basically dead so that can probably go as well. What am I missing that you think I should have?
I’m writing this Tuesday night, so I haven’t gotten to play too much with the next deck, but it’s my current project:
- 4 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Experiment One
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 4 Fleecemane Lion
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 2 Mistcutter Hydra
- 2 Sunblade Elf
This deck is a weirdo. You’re an aggro deck that doesn’t get to play Mutavault which is definitely a let-down. When your cards can’t be cast off colorless
mana, there have to be some sacrifices. Since your mana requirements are hefty, you’d like to play as many dual lands as possible, but Temple of Plenty is
frequently crippling. Your best bet is often hope and pray that your manabase delivers the correct ones.
I merged several things from the top performing G/W decks at Pro Tour M15. Jackson Cunningham had a heavy sideboard for Mono-Blue Devotion, Martin Juza cut
Boon Satyr to be better against Lifebane Zombie, and Brian Kibler had some sexy Back to Natures in his sideboard. I liked all of those things and
integrated them into my own decklist.
The plan against Mono-Blue Devotion is to win games 2 and 3, and I think we have the cards to do that. Ajani Steadfast and the fourth Skylasher are cards
that I’d want to add if possible, but I think the other cards are more important. There are some Mistcutter Hydras maindeck to save on sideboard slots and
to ensure we have enough “protection from blue” creatures to put Unflinching Courage on, so maybe the fourth Skylasher isn’t entirely necessary. It would
be nice to have, both for Unflinching Courage and Setessan Tactics.
Ajani’s Presence is a pretty nice card that lines up well against Supreme Verdict and Hero’s Downfall. It can also protect your creature when you go for
Unflinching Courage against R/W Burn. Back to Nature kills Detention Sphere and Nyx-Fleece Ram and might have saved Jackson Cunningham in the finals of Pro
Tour M15. Both of those seem like keepers.
Overall, I’d like to play a deck with a lower curve, some staying power, and ways to interact, but finding a deck that does that but also wins might be
difficult. Jund Planeswalkers and B/W Midrange are solid backup plans, but they don’t excite me.
Whatever I end up playing, I’m going to practice it as much as possible (time is running out!) and have good plans for all my potential matchups. This
Standard format seems to have opened up recently, so you never know what you’re going to face. I’m also going to play my heart out. These WMCQs mean a lot
to me, and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself unless I tried my hardest.