Quick Hits: Standard & Other Weird Stuff

2012 Florida State Champion Mark Nestico covers a number of different topics, including what he would play at #SCGRDU or #SCGMKE this weekend.

From time to time I like to let my brain loose and just type. 99 times out of a hundred I have a refined topic, but sometimes I feel the need to talk about a million things all at once. Quick Hits is something you’ve probably seen me do before, but today since I have so much that I want to talk about, I felt like dedicating the entire week to it.

If you are a fan of multiple topics, tune the hell in. We’re gonna go deep. Like Inception deep.

How Awesome Is This Coverage Boom?

Last weekend marked another very successful Standard tournament at the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Cleveland, and it wasn’t just about the Magic.

The coverage of #SCGCLE broke well over 10,000 viewers due in no small part to the excellent team that was assembled to announce for it. I’m including nice things about it because my natural inclination being from Pittsburgh is to bash on all things Cleveland with reckless abandon but last week my editor told me to "tread lightly." So in order to make reparations, I feel the need to point out that the Browns are 3-2 and the Steelers are 0-4. Ah . . . so this is how the other half lives.

That number is outrageous. In the scheme of things, when compared to League of Legends or SC2, the numbers aren’t nearly as high, but what I’ve seen in the last six months has been nothing short of ridiculous. 300% growths aren’t something that you just shrug off. Keep spreading the word and keep tuning in. This is only going to get bigger and bigger, which blows me away.

It’s not just that Magic is getting more interesting to watch because in all honesty it isn’t. Either you like the game or you don’t. You can’t just tune in to a match and understand immediately what’s going on, and that’s always been the Achilles’ heel of trying to get a random person to flip over to a Magic tournament. With computer games, it’s very lively; you can almost immediately pick up on what’s happening, and generally the announcers cue you in by just saying what’s happening on the screen. It’s not that easy with Magic. The cards are smaller, the print is almost unreadable, and mostly you’re checking it out to get expert-level commentary and see what decks are doing well.

Where SCG is blowing away even Wizards coverage in my book now is the fact that not only do they include fillers but they talk about every single aspect of the game. A buddy of mine who hasn’t played a game of Magic before told me recently that he wondered what all the hype was about regarding this card game I play. He watched a live stream last week and told me how neat it was. He was asking me rules questions and even made a few game assessments. This is a guy who has no clue about Magic, but the commentary was so engrossing that he started learning as he was watching. He’s thinking about buying cards now and wants me to teach him how to play. How dope is that?

U/W Master of Waves Won a State Championship!

So that deck I wrote about last week? Yeah, about that . . . .

This past week it was continuously tested and refined, and I still feel like we’re on a great path with it. Mono-Red Aggro showed up in droves last weekend in Cleveland, and the obvious foil to it is a G/W Aggro deck like the version that won. This didn’t go unnoticed.

Figuring that those two decks would be popular, a friend of ours who lives in the salt flats that is Oregon made a couple of changes and sleeved it up for his State Championship. Here is his slightly altered list:

Davey was super excited to relay the news to John Dean, who in turn called me up to let me know. After getting in contact with me, Davey couldn’t stop gushing about the deck. While his board is a lot different than mine, you can’t overlook the power level of it. Dramatic Rescue is very good against the red decks that are out in full force right now. Domestication is a card we overlooked, but luckily it’s an oversight that can be rectified quite easily. Aside from adding to your devotion count, the G/W decks out there have very little in the way of dealing with it aside from Selesnya Charm, making it a great answer to something like Voice of Resurgence. Swan Song was cited as the MVP of the tournament and is a card that I’ve been in love with since it was spoiled. I’m glad to see it served him well.

Right now this deck is absurdly well positioned. With Mono-Red and G/W Aggro being the two winners from the previous SCG Opens, U/W Master of Waves is poised to strike as a potential foil to both of them given that the matchups are quite lopsided in its favor.

I’m not saying that you should go out and buy a playset of Master of Waves. That would be foolish.

I’m telling you to.


Predicting Metagame Trends

This past weekend I battled with Esper Control at my local FNM and had a blast piloting it. Honestly it was one of the most fun times I’ve had playing Magic in a long time, mostly because the deck is quite complicated and there are tons of decision trees with it.

Would I have played it if I had gone to Cleveland? Trick question! I’d never go to Cleve—

I mean . . .

No. No I wouldn’t have.

Why is that?

Clearly Mono-Red Aggro was going to be popular in Cleveland. Whether you prefer the sleeker, faster version with twelve one-drops or the more burst-oriented Fanatic of Mogis build, there was a good chance that the archetype would be overrepresented last weekend. This made G/W a very attractive option, one that I would have gladly embraced.

Despite putting only one pilot in the Top 32 of Worcester, G/W boasts a very reasonable matchup against the Mountain-heavy menace. Unflinching Courage; Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice; and Loxodon Smiter are about as good as you’d expect against red, and Erik Finnegan walked away with the trophy because he kept it simple.

I spent the week talking to a lot of players, and most of them seemed resolved to play Mono-Red Aggro or U/W Control, figuring that those decks were well represented and did very well at the previous Open. When I suggested Esper Control or G/W, they balked at the idea. My reasons were the following:

1. By playing G/W, you’re giving yourself the best chance to beat the week’s previous winner. Just because it didn’t do well last week doesn’t mean the deck is bad; it just means that it didn’t do well. Sometimes it’s that simple. Last season if a Jund deck didn’t Top 8, did everyone stop playing it? Of course not. It just meant that other decks shined that day. It happens.

2. By playing Esper, you could potentially next level the people that were trying to go over Mono-Red Aggro. In this week’s Versus video, Todd Anderson with G/W Aggro pulled the clean sweep over Brad Nelson piloting Esper Control, but I think that’s certainly an anomaly. I’ve tested that match enough to know that it’s not particularly good for G/W, but Todd was right—sometimes to win a tournament you have to draw well (and of course I don’t get to test with people of Todd’s caliber).

3. One deck gives you the edge in the expected field (G/W), and the other is the next level of that theory; if you expect a lot of U/W Control and G/W, you should play Esper but tune your board to beat Mono-Red Aggro more efficiently.

Option one is your best bet since it’s almost a guarantee that Mono-Red Aggro is going to be the most-played deck. It’s cheap, and in the first few weeks of a format, that’s a big deal. When you’re looking at less than $200 for a very competitive deck, it’s attractive and enticing.

I predicted that G/W was going to be a breakout deck last weekend, and I was right.

This is a skill that I strongly suggest you work on.

While I’m not always right—in fact, far from it—I’ve been on the nose more than my fair share of times, which has led to some tournament success.

To build it, all you need to do is analyze the format and don’t overthink it. Playing Esper in Cleveland would be trying to next level the next level. Instead of that, it would have been wise to address the holes in the format and exploit them, which is what G/W and Erik were able to do.

Do your homework. Read as much as you can. When big names like Brian Kibler, Luis Scott-Vargas, or Patrick Chapin tell you that a deck is good, you bet your bottom dollar a lot of people are going to take their advice. Warp your testing and deck choice not only around what deck you feel comfortable playing but what decks you think are going to be out there. This will give you the leg up in a field and make you feel more comfortable playing against a wider array of decks.

Predicting is easy. It’s getting it right that’s hard.

What Would I Play Next Week?

Predictions aside, I think next week is either a slam-dunk for Esper Control or U/W Master of Waves.

I’ve touched on them a bit this article, but I can’t articulate to you enough that I think these are the two decks that represent where you’ll want to be at an upcoming tournament.

Esper Control is fantastic against midrange and creature decks, and with G/W showing that it can win an Open along with the other decks that emerged from Cleveland, it’s clear to me it’s a great time to be the control deck. I tend to play a little faster and looser with my life total piloting Esper in order to not allow the faster decks to build momentum. I look at it as virtual life gain in the long term; taking two from a shock land on turn 5 and dropping to nine might sound scary, but maximizing my mana has been the key to keeping decks like G/W and Mono-Red Aggro off balance and eventually letting my more powerful threats take over.

As I said earlier, U/W Master of Waves has a great matchup against all the midrange and aggro decks out there. If the format keeps going that route, that’s where I’d be without question. Don’t be afraid to battle with it either. You could have been a State Champ too!

Who Is The Biggest Winner From Cleveland?

Without a doubt, I think the answer is Brad Nelson.

This is exactly what I picture happened in my head:

So Brad is testing for the Pro Tour when someone—I guess a butler because they’re in a freaking castle right now—bursts through the door.

Brad: "I told you not to disturb me. We’re trying to break Standa—"

Butler: "But sir, you told me to alert you if it happens."

Brad: "Wha—wait, you’re telling me . . . ?"

Butler: "Yes, Mr. Nelson. A deck with Overgrown Tomb made Top 8 of the latest Open."

The silence in the room is tangible. You can cut the tension with a knife. His jaw hangs low for no less than three minutes.

This is it. Brad Nelson is going to win the Pro Tour because a deck with Overgrown Tomb is not just playable—it’s very, very good.

Dan Musser made a beast, and I’d love to hear his thoughts on this deck and get some insight into any potential changes because it looks very, very powerful.

Taking all the good things that decks like G/W do, he went over them by splashing black to get access to extremely powerful cards. The most obvious of interactions is the sickness that is Whip of Erebos + Obzedat, Ghost Council. Infinite Obzedats that never die is good, but this deck just oozes value. Against aggressive decks the Whip will gain you absurd amounts of life, and against control you’re packing reoccurring creatures, Advent of the Wurm, planeswalkers, and a board that I can only describe as beautiful. This deck covers all bases, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves going forward.

He didn’t quite take home the hardware, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this deck was the most interesting thing to come out of Cleveland.

I can’t believe I just said something interesting came out of Cleveland. I need to go take a shower now . . .

Best Album Out Right Now

Koi No Yokan by The Deftones. I can’t take the darn thing off repeat on my iTunes.

The Best Basic Lands Ever

In the comments section, aside from any feedback, tell me your favorite basic land art cycle.

If your answer isn’t "APAC and Euro," you need to seriously reevaluate your choices. Guru doesn’t count—unless you’re David McDarby, in which case I hate your guts for having them because I SOLD MINE LIKE AN IDIOT AND YOU PROBABLY HAVE THEM YOU HOARDING SON OF—


Here are my top lands:

People always say, "You seriously pay that much for basic lands?" I like to call those kinds of folks "haters."

"Haters" have a propensity to "hate."

Yes, I do spend money on my basic lands because I like looking hella dope when I play Magic. You know what kind of people spend money on basics? People that use phrases like "hella dope" with impunity! Consequences of looking like a fool be damned!

. . .

. . .

. . .

Well, I managed to unlock a personal achievement today—successfully use the word "dope" or a derivative of it in an article three times—so there’s that.

This week you should totally join me for some streaming because I’m going to get silly on some Theros queues.

I have a ton of testing to do this week to help my team get ready for some tournaments this weekend that I’m unable to attend, as well as to get ready for a PTQ I have on the 19th, so I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any discoveries that I may have from that.

For now? I’m going to get back to watching Goodfellas.

"Everybody takes a beating sometime." Words to live by.

Catch ya on the flip-

Watch me stream! http://www.twitch.tv/Mark_Nestico
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Gaze in awe as I attempt to tweet things! @DynamoNestico