Greetings, tech addictsâ€”and welcome to World of Wefald, which is supposed to be a weekly column here on StarCityGames.com.
For those of you who have never heard of me, allow me to introduce myself:
My name is Ã˜yvind Andersen in event coverage and Wefald on Magic Online, and I’m a grumpy, old geezer of Viking heritage who can often be heard
mumbling about how everything was better in the 80s and 90s. I have a master’s degree in mathematics; I’ve worked as a journalist; I’ve released music
together with some fairly big names from the Norwegian Black Metal scene, and my Magic resume includes a seventeenth place at Pro Tour Valencia 2007, a
Nationals win (in Norway) in 2006, and a total of 30-something lifetime pro pointsâ€”which is decent but not in any way spectacular. There are many, many
players out there with Pro Tour results superior to mine, as evidenced by the comforting words of my buddy Jonathan Melamed:
3:07 AM Jonathan Lobo:
even i do have a pt top 16
So why then was I given my very own slice of premium pie, despite never having Top 8ed a Pro Tour or written a Magic-related article? If your guess has
something to do with Steve Sadin being indebted to the Scandinavian Mafia after some unfortunate high-stakes drafts, then you’re wrong. Sadin paid up.
His kneecaps are still intact. Case closed.
The correct guess: I got this column because I build decksâ€”decks that are different but still able to consistently compete on the Pro Tour level. Those
of you who were playing actively in 2006 will probably remember Satanic Sligh, the deck with Dark Confidant and Genju of the Spires that completely
took over the Standard metagame. I also designed the Cephalid Breakfast deck that took 17th and 26th place in Valencia the year after and multiple
decks that Top 16ed Pro Tours in the hands of other players.
World of Wefald is (naturally) going to be a Constructed column, but unlike certain other deckbuilders/writers (I’m not going to mention any names), I
won’t bury my readers under a nine-million-decklist avalanche and then brag infinite when one of those lists actually turns out to be good. I’m not one
to constantly brew and think about Magic during all my waking hours either. When I build a deck, it’s almost always because I have a specific Pro
Tour/Grand Prix/Nationals metagame that I want to beat. Proper testing is a draining and time-consuming process, and my pride level is way too high to
present random homebrews that haven’t been properly tested.
When discussing the details of this column with Mr. Sadin, we concluded that the audience we wanted to cater to was “a competitive crowd that’s fed up
with reading about the same decks over and over again.” There are more than enough writers out there already who will gladly teach you how to play your
Faeries deck against Valakut or how to sideboard in the Caw-Go mirror. So no need for me to do the same.
Instead, I’ll attempt to follow in the footsteps of Frank Karsten and his excellent Online Tech column and present you with fresh metagame information
from the digital Magic realms. This information is even more relevant now than it was back then, due to the introduction of Magic Online PTQs, and
hopefully the statistics I present will be useful when it’s time for you to go into battle.
In addition to giving you graphs and percentages, I will constantly be on the lookout for unusual decks that do well, be it in Pro Tours, Grand Prix,
PTQs, or in Magic Online Daily Events. (A deck doesn’t have to come from a well-known Pro Tour player to be good, you know.) Whenever I design a deck
myself that does reasonably well, I will (obviously) write about that, but as I noted earlier, that won’t happen every week. Or every other week, for
that matter. What I will occasionally do though, when presenting metagame statistics, is to give you some brewing tips by pointing in the direction of
where I would start my own testing if there was a Pro Tour lurking around the corner.
If you have any requests about topics you want me to take a look at in future articles, feel free to let me know in the forums. Just be aware that I
have zero interest in casual Magic of any kind. So until they make Commander or Singleton into Pro Tour formats, you’ll have to look elsewhere for that
kind of technology.
Anyhow, I think that’s enough of the introductory stuff. Time for something completely different:
Pro Tour Paris — A miniature tournament report by Ã˜yvind Wefald Andersen
After Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur in early 2008, I was more or less forced to take a long break from Magic to repair my rather messed up life. At that time,
my Constructed rating was something like ninth in the world, so I figured I could re-qualify for a Constructed Pro Tour at any time. But during my
absence, the Pro Tour started using mixed formats and changed to the total rating system, rendering my once-proud Constructed rating useless. So back
to grinding it was.
In the summer of 2010, I decided to play Nationals again, which would be my first proper tournament since Kuala Lumpur. I Top 8ed (for the fourth time
in my last five tries) but lost in the quarters, so no Worlds qualification. Nevertheless, my competitive flame was rekindled, so I decided to travel
to some events. Next up was Grand Prix Gothenburg, where I Top 64ed. Close but still no qualification. Then, after playing like a complete idiot in
Grand Prix Bochum, I was on the verge of quitting again. I don’t really mind losing, but playing badly basically makes me hate myself. Luckily, I
pulled myself together, 6-0ed a draft against Saito and his crew, and a week later, I was qualified for Pro Tour Paris after skillfully being conceded
to twice in a local PTQ. I then put together a small test crew with Christian Calcano and Markku Rikola as the most important ingredients and started
brewing. (Those of you who don’t want to read through my tourney report nonsense are free to scroll down until a decklist appears.)
You’re probably not all that interested in the details, such as my frustration during the testing process or my flight to Paris or my hotel or my foil
hunt or whatever, so let’s just skip to the actual rounds, shall we?
Not the best of starts, but at least I’ve finally learned how to avoid tilting. Last year at Nationals, I started out 1-2-1 and still made Top 8, so I
wasn’t out of this one just yet.
This time, I was up against Kuldotha Red. Not a good matchup, but I used my Trve NÃ¸rwegian Occvlt Powerz to make sure my opponent kept hands that
didn’t do anything.
Round 5: (against Joseph Jackson, playing B/R Vampires)
Another bad matchup, where I got completely demolished. My opponent was a really nice guy though, and he said this was his last Pro Tour. Furthermore,
he really liked my deck, so he filled out the result slip in my favor. How lucky, etc.
Round 6: (against some grumpy German — this was the first round of Limited, by the way)
Game one he had the Mindslaver lock with double Force of Will backup on turn 3, while I redundantly went to Paris (I just had to steal that line) three
times. How lucky, etc. While shuffling for game two, something dawned on me. Yes, it’s true that I was too busy hunting foils for my Constructed deck
to actually practice the draft format ( cuz it’s all â€˜bout the bling, etc.),
but I had at least read the Mirrodin Besieged spoiler a couple of times. And I couldn’t recall seeing Force of Will reprinted. I naturally called a
judge, and it turned out that my opponent had accidentally shuffled up his Constructed deck instead of his draft deck. So I was ruled the winner of
game one, and then we shuffled up for the rest of the match.
Game three I mulliganed to four to find my Duress, which I played on turn 1, taking his Mindslaver. Then, on turn 5, he instead went infinite with
Voltaic Key and Armored Cancrix. (Yes, I read Tim Aten articles, and
so should you.)
2-4, Drop: Yes
Not exactly a glorious return to the Pro Tour, but at least Christian Calcano managed to go 7-3 in the Standard rounds with the deck I designed. Here
is the deck tech he did with Brian
David-Marshall in the official coverage, and here is the decklist:
- 4 Nantuko Shade
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
- 4 Vampire Lacerator
- 4 Pulse Tracker
- 3 Phyrexian Revoker
The deck tech called it U/B Vampires, but I don’t really think that’s a fitting name, since there’s no tribal synergy in the deck whatsoever. I
originally named it Disrupt-Go, but when Mr. Rikola came up with the name Blue Blood, I started using that instead. (It’s an excellent name on so many
The maindeck is specifically built to beat Valakut and the different flavors of blue-based control, which together made up about 65% of the field in
Paris. It beats these decks through a combination of a fast clock and an abundance of disruption, but the matchups against most aggressive strategies
are not all that good. To make up for that weakness, most of the sideboard slots are dedicated to combating creature onslaughts.
Right before the Pro Tour, I was asked to write a primer on the deck in our testing forums, so that the newest additions to our little group could get
up to speed on how to play and sideboard with it. Here’s (a slightly edited version of) that primer, for all of you to read:
Listen up, people. I said I’d write a few words on how to play and sideboard with the deck as well. So here goes:
You’re all smart people, so I won’t waste time with too much obvious stuff. But I did learn a few useful things during my seemingly endless amount
of test games.
Don’t try to play the deck as a â€˜get twenty points in as soon as possible’ type of aggro. It’s more in the fish part of the archetype spectrum.
Your goal is to put a relevant clock on the table (four-to-six power’s worth) and then protect your attack force — not necessarily to try and win
as fast as possible. Use your counterspells and discard to strip the opponent of their (often very few) relevant spells, not to slow them down a
turn or two (if you have the choice). A good example of this is if you Duress a Valakut opponent early and see a hand of Summoning Trap and some
variety of acceleration spells, you normally take the Trap. Even if it looks like taking the acceleration will slow them down significantly.
Time your discard spells correctly. The most prevalent casting cost among the cards you wish to hit with Inquisition of Kozilek is two. (Spreading
Seas, Squadron Hawk, Khalni Heart Expedition, Kalastria Highborn, etc.), so on the draw, it’s almost always correct to play Inquisition turn 1
instead of a one-drop creature. On the play, you’ll normally cast a creature and save the Inquisition/Duress for a turn, but there are hands where
I’ll Duress turn 1 instead. The most relevant situation where this occurs is if your hand contains a Nantuko Shade. Shade hits so hard that getting
it out there as soon as possible (protected by the discard spell) is often the way to go.
Sometimes you have counterspell(s) in hand but no blue mana. In that situation, it can be correct not to play land number three, so that if you
draw Darkslick Shores, it comes into play untapped.
This deck gets really stable draws. It’s almost monocolor, has a low mana curve, and a lot of redundancy, so you won’t have to mulligan very often.
Mulligans to six usually work out well, but mulliganing to five should be avoided if possible. Better to keep a sketchy six-carder and hope to get
there. As long as you have at least one creature and at least one of your lands come into play untapped, any two-, three-, or four-land hand is
basically keepable (obviously assuming an unknown opponent). One-landers should normally be mulliganed, but if you have a bunch of one-drops in
said hand, feel free to gamble on keeping it. Five-landers should almost always be mulliganed (obviously), but I’ve kept a few that ended up well.
An example is a hand of Duress/Nantuko Shade/double Creeping Tar Pit/three random lands. I’d keep that one. A protected Shade tends to end the game
I’m not going to write down a fixed list of ins and outs for each matchup that should be followed blindly, but I will present the general idea:
â€¢ Blue Control:
Here you board in Dark Tutelage and Tectonic Edge and take out one Swamp, plus some combination of discard, removal, and counterspells. They’ll
board in more removal, and to combat that, you need to maximize your creature count, so no creatures get boarded out.
+2 Tectonic Edge, +2 Flashfreeze. I think it’s correct to board out one of the Unified Wills, since having six counterspells seems excessive.
Boarding out one of the one-drop guys seems fine too, but not more than that. The other two cards you board out should probably be one Duress and
one Go for the Throat.
Here you board in the eleven-card anti-aggro package (Wurmcoil Engine/Skinrender/Disfigure/Go for the Throat/Marsh Casualties/Tectonic Edge), plus
the Flashfreezes if the particular type of aggro you’re facing is packing red or green cards that are worth stopping (really subtle stuff here).
The first seven cards that go out are always Unified Will and Duress. The details of which other 4-6 cards you cut depend on the particular
matchup. If Pulse Tracker has anything relevant to block, then he stays, and Bloodghast takes a break to watch some
episodes. If not, then putting on pressure with Bloodghast is probably better than keeping in Pulse Tracker.
As you can see, the Tectonic Edges get boarded in against everything, so it might be correct to just play them maindeck. If I were to play the deck
now, I’d probably take out one Swamp and either a Duress or a Pulse Tracker to make room for the two Tectonic Edges. In order to consistently play the
Wurmcoil Engines after board, you still need the 25th land though, so I think I’d play one Bojuka Bog in the sideboard, since it also randomly gets rid
of Vengevines and Bloodghasts and such. Going in that direction will also free up one sideboard slot that would probably be used for yet another
removal spell to improve the aggro matchups.
So — do I recommend that you play Blue Blood? The answer to that question depends on what metagame you think you’ll face. If you expect a lot of
aggressive decks, you’re probably better off playing something else. But in a Valakut- and control-heavy environment, Blue Blood shines. Just be aware
that it’s not a very forgiving deck. Since it has discard and counterspells, it gives you the tough decisions of a control player but without the
powerful get-out-of-jail-free cards that a control deck can draw to get you out of a rough spot. If you screw up, you’ll most likely lose. So keep that
in mind if you want to try it out.
Alrighty then. Time to wrap things up for now. Join me next week as World of Wefald takes a look at the Magic Online Extended metagame to see how much
the introduction of Mirrodin Besieged affects the current PTQ format.
-Wefald- (signing off)