Thoughtful Dismissal in the Type 1 Metagame

Reflexive dismissal should never have existed. Reasoned or thoughtful dismissal is a far more useful thing. I’ll define and discuss”thoughtful dismissal” more at length in this article and tell you why players continue to dismiss certain metagames and why it’s a good thing.

[author name="Philip Stanton"]Philip Stanton[/author] wrote an article that had its heart in the right place, but seemed less than objective in its opinion in that it really only explored one side of the issue of the metafight. Before I begin, I’d like to make clear that I don’t condone metafighting in the form of either snobbery or bragging. I think Phil made many excellent observations, but I just think that perhaps he painted with too broad of a brush.

“This reflexive dismissal has outlived its usefulness.”

Reflexive dismissal should never have existed. Reasoned or thoughtful dismissal is a far more useful thing. I’ll define and discuss”thoughtful dismissal” more at length further down.

“Europe gets a lot of dismissive hand-waving from American players who don’t see their own pro-control bias. In fact, anything outside the Northeast earns this scorn, like Minnesota or Ontario. (Virginia has been redefined to be in New England due to the actions of Darren Di Battista several years ago and Team Short Bus in more recent times.)”

I haven’t seen any dismissal of Ontario at all, but maybe I’m missing something. Europe is a two-sided coin in that while some tournament results are taken with a grain of salt, places like the Netherlands and Germany (Dulmen) are often heavily dissected and used for ideas. Minnesota has been dismissed because they seem to have a far different metagame than those in places like the Northeast, Europe, and even the West coast.

Until just this past month, they have not been running proxies and while a number of the people who play in that environment own power, a large amount of players do not. As a result, we see things in reports that make us turn our heads the other way like:”round 1: Type 2 deck” and”round 3: White Weenie” in the same report.

This brings us to our first example of thoughtful dismissal: Irrelevant reports.

A certain member of my site once posted the perfect model report. Not model in the that’s-how-all-reports-should-look fashion, but in the why-I-don’t-take-it-seriously fashion. The report, simplified read like this:

Round 1 – Mono-Black Beatdown

Round 2 – Suicide Black

Round 3 – Hulk

Round 4 – Mirror

Round 5 – ID

Top 8 – MUD

Top 4 – Hulk

Finals – Mirror

Looks sort of mediocre right?

The deck that won this tournament was Gro-a-Tog, which has a very good match against Tog. Next we have two mirrors (against a teammate if I’m not mistaken). Now look at the tournament round layout and dissect it.

Round 1 – Who cares?

Round 2 – Who cares?

Round 3 – Duh.

Round 4 – Mirror

Round 5 – Nothing played, ID

Top 8 – Who cares?

Top 4 – Duh.

Finals – Mirror

Now does that look as respectable as you had thought? Even when this tournament was played months ago, Suicide and MUD were questionable at best. We’re severely lacking insight of how Gro-a-Tog handles hard decks. At this point in time a healthy mix of Slaver, 4cC, and Dragon would have been something a Gro-a-Tog player in particular could benefit from. Instead, we have”I beat some bad decks, won two mirrors, and beat the deck I have a good matchup against twice anyway.”

“I’d like to assert that the Europeans, and Italians especially, deserve a lot more respect than they’ve received. One of the long-persistent myths is that Europe doesn’t play Wastelands, which is what allows them to run”irrational” manabases. Here’s a sample of tournaments showing the emptiness of this myth.”

First, I have one major gripe with the argument that followed this quote which cites some statistics from top 8’s. Tell me if you see a pattern below:

  • The top 8 people from my graduating class all took AP Physics, therefore all people in my graduating class took AP Physics.

  • The top 8 employees of my data center show up on time, therefore all my employees show up on time.

  • The top 8 of European Tournaments all feature a heavy amount of Wastelands, therefore there were a heavy amount of Wastelands.

I don’t know how many Wastelands are roaming around Europe now, but I’m willing to bet that they run more now than they did a year ago. The fact is, until someone takes attendance at these tournaments, we have no idea of the actual number of Wastelands being played in relation to the overall field (the top 8’s tell us little, since many European tournaments tend to be gigantic). The only thing we do have is speculation based on what our European friends tell us in the dark corners of IRC channels.

While I cannot possibly prove that Europe is or was Wastelands light due to the lack of factual data, you also cannot prove that Europe is Wasteland heavy. In the court of Zherbus, your argument is not permissible.

“The other major thing they’re accused of is playing bad decks. I’ll admit some rather odd creations have appeared in Europe, but if you look around on TMD you’ll find North America producing things like B/W Aggro-Control in a Lotus tourney T8 in Maine (31 players). Even in the SCG Power Nine tournament, the long-derided Landstill made Top 8, as did a Stacker variant. From Italy, these decks would be mocked as further evidence of ineptitude, but in America, they’re politely disregarded as anomalies or praised for inventiveness.”

First, even the best of metagames gets accused of having bad decks in attendance. It’s true, every metagame has bad decks that somehow do well. That’s not the issue though, it’s the ratio of good to bad decks that’s the subject of our disagreement.

You had to dig pretty hard to find that B/W Aggro-Control deck from the backwoods of Maine, a place that is the newest addition to our metagame (even despite being in New England, as its 3-7 hours away from most New England hot spots), didn’t you? I bet you for every Top 8’d”bad deck” you find in the Dr. Sylvan defined Northeast, I will find you at least one in Europe Top 8’s within a month from the date you specify. Of course to make this work, we need to define the most important variable – bad decks.

This leads us to our second example of thoughtful dismissal: bad decks.

What is a bad deck? A deck that is not a good deck is the most concise answer I can provide. If this is true, then what is a good deck? I would argue that by definition a good deck is a deck that consistently will perform well… or”good”. Did you notice I added the word”consistently” to my definition? This is because any deck, good or bad, can get lucky once and do well but that does not make for a good deck.

So a deck that does well consistently rules out the following:

Metagame Decks – The decks that are only good in a specific metagame cannot be good because they cannot be consistently good. Some decks are fantastic metagame calls in odd circumstances, but that makes the player a good metagamer and does not make a deck good by definition.

The Obvious – This would entail my aforementioned”Type 2 deck” and”White Weenie” examples. They are defined as bad because, while they may be a work of art in their own right, they cannot beat a good deck with any sort of regularity.

A worse-than-good deck – This deck is a bastard child of a good deck. It started out as something tried and true, but rather than an innovated step of improvement like say… Deep Analysis in Tog, Skeletal Scrying and Exalted Angel in 4cControl, and Crucible of Worlds in Stax – these decks have experiments gone awry. They get played because the player just hasn’t realized they are playing”StrictlyWorseThan(name of a good deck here).” This category is by far the most convoluted because each case of a”worse-than-good” deck has to be proved inferior first. This makes it especially hard if the deck had a good day, therefore further masking the decks true nature. This leads us to…

The luck-monger – These are the decks that have proved nothing with their performance. They beat White Weenie, Type 2 deck, 4cControl with no draw spells, and went 1 and 1 with Fish to get to the Top 8. They went 2-0 against Suicide, won a mirror, then ID’d into the finals. They beat a good player with a God hand (by far the worst aspect of Type 1 in that it totally removes the skill from the game when this happens, thankfully it’s relatively rare). The deck may or may not be good but we’re still lacking evidence of either.

Going back to the argument, all metagames have every bad deck category listed above. Even worse, in every metagame one of these will pop up in the top 8 to fuel your need for a WTF of the Month. The only metagames that I see being thoughtfully dismissed are the ones that are dominated by the 4 categories, but thankfully I cannot recall seeing one in quite a long time.

“To me, it just looks like Americans are ignoring data that isn’t confirming their own preconceptions. I’m not sure quite why we’re so control-biased (I’m sure there’s a good sociology thesis in there somewhere), but it’s definitely causing us to unnecessarily dismiss the most consistent and coherent metagame in the format, even when that metagame goes along with so many of the ideas ardently advocated by our most brilliant and outspoken writer! Fortunately, I’ve recently seen some change on this front. TMD members like Jeff Rieck (Methuselahn) and David Lawrence (Eastman) have been recognizing the innovations in TPS and rapidly adding to the credibility of those ideas. I doubt that GenCon will look like an Italian Top 8, but I would be surprised if their ideas didn’t have an influence”

Thankfully, the format has picked up a great deal to the point of where we see many tournament results every week. Every metagame makes its representation and we’re now at a point where we must sort out the information. Taking in every idea, result, and oddity is a ton of work; that’s why you have a fifty person and up limit on your analysis, despite the majority of Type 1 tournaments being between thirty and fifty people. We must be selective to what we pay heed to or else we will run low on time and, even worse, be distracted by ideas that are basically a waste of effort.

This is why I advocate thoughtful dismissal as an admirable practice. There’s a difference in keeping an open mind and using common sense. I personally don’t pay attention to Italian Top 8’s as much as I do New England Top 8’s because, well, I don’t live in Italy… or Germany, or California, or Minnesota.

I live in New England where I must turn my focus towards a meta full of 4cControl, aggro-control, Workshop decks, and Control Slaver. When Italy starts looking like my metagame, then you can bet I’ll look at it with great interest, but for now TPS isn’t making any waves here. For that matter, neither is MadDragon.

Minnesota is undergoing a severe change right now and for that I am utterly excited. They are finally going to a 5 proxy system. I look forward to seeing less R/G”this is all I can afford” beats, White Weenie, and block decks. The lack of a proxy system creates a bigger gap than you might think, and that’s why we’re not exactly running out to get cards to add R/G beats to our gauntlets over here.

Ontario, as far as I’m concerned, hasn’t ever had more than the usual inter-metagame jibbing. They even come down here sometimes for large events. They have the normal love for the archetypes that get birthed there, but that’s to be expected. I’ve seen some flaky things come from some of the players up there, but that’s no worse than our own bastardized creations.

People have been discounting those C&J’s tournaments in the bay area of California recently because they have tournaments under twenty people, which doesn’t exactly draw a direct comparison to Waterbury or a SCG event if you get what I mean. It’s half the size of our smaller events that get about 40-45 people.

Germany is alternately very relevant to us, or not at all relevant. Lately it’s been looking quite similar to New England’s metagame, so I’ve been scouring the lists to see what people are doing.

There you have it, a New England player’s outlook on the global metagame. I am slightly surprised to see that I had to justify what’s been happening and why certain metagames are ignored. It all goes back to relevancy and to be fair, you have to remember that many Europeans are doing the same thing to us over here, with our silly control-bias being invalid to their purposes.

Steve O'Connell

a.k.a. Zherbus

Team Meandeck

Owner/Administrator of TheManaDrain.com

Steve O'Connell lives in New Hampshire with his wife and is part of the New England Type 1 scene. He also owns and operates TheManaDrain.com.