Worlds is over. Congrats to those who did well, etc. etc.
Let’s see what Worlds taught us.
The new Type II is about what everyone expected. The undefeated decks were 2 two Psychatogs and a Squirrel Opposition. The final T8 on Sunday was seven Psychatogs and a Squirrel Opposition. Seedtime – the card that was intended to be this amazing Fact or Fiction hoser – wasn’t enough. Narrow anti-something cards rarely are…. Although Seedtime is useful against more than just Fact or Fiction, so it did appear in a lot of sideboards. However, that was not enough to stop Fact or Fiction from fueling several flavors of Psychatog. In fact, counting the different colors of Psychatog as different decks, Psychatog came in first, second and fifth in terms of most common decks.
Here’s some quick numbers:
Psychatog: 117 (44 UB, 59 RUB, 13 BUG)
Misc Control: 39 (18 Opposition, 7 Hunting Grounds, 4 Trenches, 5 4-color)
Beatdown: 31 (8 RG, 5 WG, 4 WUG, 4 WGR, etc.)
Madness: 27 (26 UG, 1 UR)
Black: 11 (6 Braids, 5 mono-black control)
Assorted other decks: (2 Tings, Burning Wish, Desolation Angel, etc.)
I could piss and moan about how the format is all about blue control decks, but that’s not too useful. Besides, Constructed decks either have to follow one of two routes – or strike a path in between.
Route one is pure speed: These decks say”I am going to kill you this way, and I’ll kill you before you can do anything about it.” Weenie decks from Mirage / Tempest did this. Fires did this. Even combo decks do this.
Route two is control: Control decks prevent the opponent from doing anything, then win with whatever they can find.
The middle path is to include some disruption or control elements to mess with the opponent while you do your thing.
It’s just that Psychatog is such a good fit for counter-control decks that it tends to dominate. That’s why it is still the best deck in the format… And will be, right up to November 1st.
The most fun deck in the format, on the other hand, is Hunting Grounds. I like decks with Wrath of God, counters, disenchants and a powerful finisher. I have to admit that it feels good to have Threshold, Hunting Grounds in play and six mana untapped, Counterspell, Memory Lapse, Repulse and Mystic Snake in hand, then to cast Living Wish for Phantom Nishoba and pass the turn.
Yes, I know that it’s a control deck, and that it is every bit as annoying to play against – when it works, which it usually does – as Psychatog, but it has a much less gritty feel.
Next up: OBC block. I wish I had some amazing tech or great insights to pass on, but I don’t. I have been playing the same set of test decks as everyone else – U/G madness , threshold and Quiet Speculation with Grizzly Fates builds, mono-black control, and the Walamies UW deck. Everyone has heard about those decks endlessly, and I really don’t have anything to add. I do have some random designs that are not all over the web – but they can’t beat both fast flying beatdown and control black, so what’s the point in even talking about them?
At the PTQ last weekend, I went 2-0 then lost the next two rounds and dropped. It wasn’t until game 4 or 5 that I played a game that was not decided by mana screw or mana flood.
Here’s a typical match:
Game 1: I draw five lands, no pressure, and mulligan. No land, mulligan. No land, mulligan. No land, keep, die turn 5 to Mongrels and Wurms.
Game 2: He draws too many Islands and dies to flying Rootwallas, Mongrels, and so forth.
Game 3: He goes first, draws his Krosan Reclamation first, and wins with flying Rootwallas, Mongrels, and Wurms.
The tourney report – I drew some good cards; I drew some bad cards. I made some great plays; I made some mistakes. I won some games because I played well, and some because my opponent had drawn enough land to hard-cast Crush of Wurms (of course, no one plays that, but you get the point). I played mono-black and lots of U/G. I saw lots of U/G, some mono-black, and a handful of other decks (G/W, Mirari’s Wake / Time Stretch, etc.)
There is some variety in the format – but an awful lots of it is defined by big, cheap flying creatures. Flying seems even more important in the block than in Limited.
Speaking of limited, I had a Phantom Nishoba enchanted with Shade’s Form out a while back. We had a huge creature stall going, and that was my way of breaking it. I hear a 7/7 trampling, unkillable, pumpable, Spirit Linked beast that comes back if it dies is pretty good. You win with that, right?
Actually, no. He topdecked (literally – his hand was empty) Faceless Butcher and my victory condition left play. Then I died to something with Unquestioned Authority, if I recall correctly. I had plenty of creature removal… In my graveyard.
Less than two months before we start playing limited with a whole new card set – and less than a month before I start drafting it. Onslaught’s prerelease is Sept. 28th, and I expect to start drafting it the following week. Even if I don’t win a ton of packs, I play with two judges who will probably get a box in payment for working at the tourney.
Some final thoughts on Andrew Healy’s article on eliminating the banned and restricted lists for his multiplayer group. I think that could be a problem. I sent him an email; here’s a copy.
I think the most telling statement in your article is that the blue mage doesn’t own Ancestral. The power of Ancestral and that type of card drawing is amazing.
Playing without the restricted list is just asking for combos. Even with a previous restricted list, before Vampiric Tutors and Yawgmoth’s Bargain were banned, I built a Bargain / Drain deck that could kill up to eight people on turn 1, and it usually went off by turn 3. Without the banned and restricted list, it can easily kill turn 1. The deck simply combined the Academy / Mind over Matter engine with Bargain for card drawing, Initiate of the Ebon Hand to turn the mana black, and Drain Life for the kill.
If everything were unrestricted, and money were not an object, I would rebuild a deck somewhat along these lines:
4 Tolarian Academy
4 Black Lotus
20 Moxen (4 of each Mox)
4 Time Walk
2 Time Spiral
4 Ancestral Recall
4 Demonic Tutor
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Mind over Matter
1 Yawgmoth’s Bargain
1 Initiate of the Ebon Hand
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
4 Drain Life
1 City of Solitude
That should get a first (or at least second) turn kill on about eight people. With more people, 1 Mirari might be useful, or some Burning Wishes. If your group runs Force of Will, then the list needs adjustments – it needs four Force of Wills as well, and possibly an Abeyance or two, depending on the size of the group. Abeyance is of little value in groups of four or more.
Of course, no one has that kind of money, but the Worldgorger Dragon combo decks that kill turn 1-4 can easily be built with the current restricted lists. Allowing multiple Ancestrals and Lotuses would be totally broken.
Your comment on seeing a lot of Maze of Iths is also telling – it means that your players play with creatures. (Maze is not much good without them.) That probably means that few opponents are playing with combo decks – and if your group is not playing combo decks, then eliminating the B/R list will not be immediately suicidal. However, once people learn the power of combo, then the loss of the B/R list would be a problem, because no creature decks can compete with an full-bore Academy deck.
If your group continues to play creature decks without the B/R list, more power to you, but if your group starts heading for comboland, reconsider. Multiplayer games are less interesting when games are reduced to mulliganing for Force of Will, or losing before you get an attack phase.
That was pretty much off the top of my head. I kept thinking about potential combos using an unrestricted Power Nine. The trick is to kill several people – not just one. The most interesting idea I can come up with is an Academy engine deck (unrestricted Time Spirals, Academies, Strokes, etc. – not again!) which kills with Prosperity and Obstinate Familiar. Pack in lots of Moxen and zero cc artifacts, Prosperity, Yawgmoth’s Will and one Obstinate Familiar, so you don’t deck yourself. (You cast Prosperity once, for most of your deck. Then cast the Familiar, dump a bunch more mana into your pool and Prosperity everyone else out of the game.)
A better kill option might be Whetstone (to mill everyone) and Soldevi Digger or Scroll Rack to put a card back on your library, plus some Tormod’s Crypts and/or Coffin Purges in case an opponent has Gaea’s Blessing. Still, winning with Obstinate Familiar has style points.
Worldgorger Dragon combo decks would thrive without the B/R list. Megrim/Memory Jar decks would thrive once more – and those decks can kill any number of people in a single turn – and an unrestricted list would mean that would often be turn one.
Any decks that could dump lots of cards in their graveyards could run off the Yawgmoth’s Will / Recoup combo. Those decks could play something like Hermit Druid to dump the deck into the graveyard, then Recoup Yawgmoth’s Will, play Fastbond and Zuran Orb, play a lot of lands, then do something to win – like playing Glacial Chasm and a global x-spell for 20+.
Aside from the combos, other unrestricted decks could be completely out of control without the B/R list. A white deck packing four Zuran Orbs, four Balances, four Land Tax, four Scroll Rack, and the rest of Parfait’s gear would be pretty brutal. Four Balances would mean that other decks would face a combined Wrath/Geddon combo every few turns. A deck like that could even win with something really cheesy, like four Ivory Towers and Spell Book, followed by Test of Endurance/Time Walk.
That doesn’t even touch the problems that Unglued can cause – although many people would still ban Unglued, even if they dump the rest of the Banned and Restricted list. Stupid combos like using Renounce to sacrifice Academy Rector and all your permanents to fetch The Cheese Stands Alone is, well… Cheesy.
Sacrificing the banned and restricted list isn’t going to do anything broken for creature decks. After all, none of the T1 Banned/Restricted list includes creatures – and only Berserk requires a creature in play at all. It is the anti-creature, fast kill decks that would be a problem. Mind you, I love building those decks, but they are not always fun to play in multiplayer games… At least, not in game after game. If your group enjoys them, more power to you. If not, consider why the DCI banned some of these cards in the first place?
On the other end of the spectrum, some banned cards are not banned because the games are too short and over turn 1. Here’s one example: Imagine a deck with Mirari, Fork, and four copies of Scheherazade.