Crunching numbers is way better than doing real work.
Knut suggested that I look at the entire top 8, instead of just the winners and finalists, so I spent more time compiling databases and scrounging the web for decklists. I have been forwarding all the decklists I can find to StarCityGames.com, so they should show up in the Regionals Tech section soon.
I now have at least partial* top 8 listings from eleven German, five French, two Polish, one Swiss, one Hong Kong, and one South American Regionals / Nationals. Many thanks to the websites that post lists, especially Maroox.com and this site, for those I have so far. I have been trying to find more. If anyone knows of websites that have Regionals results – preferably in English – please email me, or stick a reference in the forums. (I did not include the decklists from the Last Chance Qualifiers at Kobe, however, since those are getting a bit old, now.)
For many countries, Regionals have not yet started. I’ll try to compile data from the Regionals and National Qualifiers month by month. It will be interesting to see how, and if, the metagame changes.
Here are the decks that have made top 8, as of Wednesday, March 24, 2004:
Ravager Affinity: 52
R/W Slide: 20
Goblin Bidding: 24
U/W Control: 14
G/W Beats: 2
Mono-Red (various types): 3
R/G Beatdown: 4
G/B Cemetery: 4
12Post / Tooth and Nail: 3
Proteus Staff: 2
The”other” category included some strange stuff: two U/R control,”Rat Deck Wins,” and an Obliterate / indestructibles deck.
Digression: Personal Results (more metagame analysis follows)
I have been playing in some small store tourneys recently – trying out some of these random decks. The opposition has been very heavily weighted to Ravager Affinity, with a dusting of Goblin Bidding, but these are small tourneys, so the stats aren’t much good.
I still cannot get R/G to perform against Affinity, not even maindecking four Viridian Shamans, Viridian Zealots, other artifact kill, burn and Pyroclasms. Skullclamp is just too good.
I have had a fair amount of success with Mono-White Control that maindecks Damping Matrix. Since that shuts down Mindslaver and Weathered Wayfarer, I went back to old MWC tech and put in Silver Knights. They are everything they always were against Goblins, and the look on a Gobbo players face when you play turn 2 Knight, turn 3 Matrix is worth seeing. Surprisingly, they work well against Affinity, since they kill Frogmites with first strike damage, and that makes Wing Shards even better. Basically, they hold the ground while you wait to wreck them with Akroma’s Vengeance.
One word of warning: don’t assume your opponents have paid attention to the metagame. I have had opponents playing Genesis Chamber – which was okay when speedy Ravager Affinity was rare, but it stinks in the mirror. More notably, my two tournament loses with MWC have come against a twelve-counter Broodstar Affinity deck (with Thirst for Knowledge and Thoughtcast instead of Skullclamp) and a R/B land destruction deck. Broodstar isn’t hampered much by Damping Matrix, and I can only fit two Wing Shards in the deck. Fast LD is really good against MWC, although pretty bad against Affinity and Goblin Bidding. Those decks beat me, then folded to practically everything else.
The point is that random decks do get played, and will get played at Regionals. Of the people I saw playing Broodstar Affinity, or Clerics, or other strange decks last week, nearly every one planned on attending Regionals. Many will bring this type of janky deck. Some may even survive through the early rounds. Looking over the decklists from various Regionals and Nationals, I have spotted several that look like a player’s favorite from a previous block or format, and were never updated with Darksteel even when it fit. Some people are still living in Onslaught Block, and you could end up facing them in Round 5, no matter what your record is. (Look at Dustin Kohler’s Contested Cliffs/Tephraderm deck from Hessen for a flashback to Onslaught based T2.)
What Not to Wear
This may prove my point. Somehow, this deck made the top 8. Maybe it was a small tournament. Maybe the guy is an amazing player. Maybe I understand even less about U/W and the format than I thought, but this looks bad, even to me.
3 Seat of the Synod
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Tower
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Darksteel Colossus
4 Mana Leak
3 Remove Soul
4 Thirst for Knowledge
2 Echoing Truth
4 Oblivion Stone
3 Decree of Justice
The guy’s amazing sideboard tech: Leonin Bladetrap. That, plus Annul, Duplicant, and the fourth Remove Soul. But he was obviously still in contention in the final rounds of the tourney, and made top 8, so I stand by my comment. You never know what you might face at Regionals.
So why did I waste the space on that decklist? Hey, just imagine the reactions of those people who just scroll down an article until they hit a decklist…
Okay, on to real stuff. You’ve waited long enough.
R/W Astral Slide Breakdown
Last time I looked hard at Affinity, and did a card by card analysis. This time I’ll do the same thing with Slide. Twenty Slide decks made T8, and I had decent decklists for all but one. I’ll provide the card by card as follows:”X, Y,” where X is the number of decks playing the card (max. 19) and Y is the average (technically, mean) number played. For example, assume that thirteen of the nineteen decks analyzed ran Spore Frogs. Of those, eleven ran a full complement of four, while the other two ran three each. That gives an average of 3.846 (50/13), so it would appear as”Spore Frog: 13, 3.8.”
Cloudpost: 3, 3! (one person ran just one, but that’s probably a typo)
Mirrodin’s Core: 10, 2.4
Temple of the False God: 16, 2.7
Akroma’s Vengeance: all, 2.7
Astral Slide: 15, 3
Damping Matrix: 12, 2.8
Decree of Annihilation: 3, 1
Decree of Justice: 16, 2.6
Gilded Light: 8, 2.75
Lay Waste: 2, 2
Lighting Rift: all, 4
Obliterate: 5, 1
Renewed Faith: 10, 3.2
Slice and Dice: 6, 1.8
Spark Spray: 15, 3.4
Starstorm: 15, 3.3
Wing Shards: 3, 2.3 (several more decks had Shards in their sideboard)
Wrath of God: all, 3.9+ (one deck ran three, rest had four)
Eternal Dragon: all, 3.6
Exalted Angel: 16, 3.25
Also appearing: Mindslaver, Fireball, Pulse of the Fields, and Solemn Simulacrum.
I am not going to do all that math for all the sideboard cards, just list those commonly played. Fifteen decks ran Shatter. Fourteen ran Circle of Protection – you can guess which color. Nine ran Pulse of the Fields. Eight ran Scrabbling Claws. Eight ran Dwarven Blastminer. Eight ran either Obliterate or Decree of Annihilation. Six ran Damping Matrix (mainly those that did, did not run it main, but some ran two or three main and more in the sideboard.) Just three decks ran Wipe Clean, which shows the power of enchantments in this format.
Other sideboard cards included Detonate, Duplicant, Mind’s Eye, Echoing Ruin, Sacred Ground, Pyroclasm, Darksteel Colossus, Electrostatic Bolt, Gempalm Incinerator (only one deck), Mindslaver, Gilded Light, Ivory Mask and Boil.
Compiling that took several hours, and I’m not going to redo the whole thing to double-check accuracy. It is pretty close, but if a number is a bit off, that’s par for the course.
Goblin Bidding Breakdown
Think I’m going to waste time doing this? Not a chance! The whole deck is pretty much built for you. Four each: Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Warchief, Gempalm Incinerator, Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Prospector, Goblin Sledder, Goblin Sharpshooter, Skullclamp, City of Brass, Bloodstained Mire, and Mountains. You have maybe six cards to change around, and decide on some mix of the fourth Gempalm, Dark Banishing, Echoing Ruin, Shatter, Sparksmith and Terror.
Instead of doing a card by card, I’ll just rag on Goblin players for a while. They all seem to be robots. They have no variety. Play a Red guy. Attack. Burn you if I can. Play a Red guy. Attack. Burn you if I can. Play a Red guy. Attack. Burn you if I can. As a shocking change of pace, Attack. Play a Red guy. Burn you if I can.
Even original speech is hard for Goblin players. Last weekend, playing MWC against Goblins, I dropped a turn two Silver Knight and my opponent said”Damn, I hate that card.” Next turn I dropped a Damping Matrix, and he said”Damn, I hate that card.” I played out a CoP: red, and lip-synced the response. Next turn I dropped a Sacred Ground, and he said – any guesses? – right. I cycled Decree of Justice, to the exact same refrain. It’s always the same.
It’s not that all Goblin players have no brains. I know at least one Goblin fanatic that has a very good brain. He keeps it under his bed, in a box. [Bitter much? – Knut, who also plays with the stack when he runs Goblins]
At least there is some variety in sideboards for Goblin Bidding. Here are some usual suspects:
Artifact kill: Echoing Ruin, Shatter, Detonate, Naturalize
Creature kill: Electrostatic Bolt, Dark Banishing, Terror, Starstorm(!), Pyrite Spellbomb, Barter in Blood, Pyroclasm, Festering Goblin
General annoyance: Sulfuric Vortex, Stabilizer, Flashfires
And some random stuff: Threaten, Dwarven Blastminer, Tendrils of Agony, Ensnaring Bridge, Persecute(!!), Cabal Slaver, Sword of Fire and Ice, Fireball, Reckless One, Oversold Cemetery, March of the Machines, Shifting Sky, Rorix, Clickslither.
Only a few decks run Oblivion Stone, and only one ran Culling Scales. I know that CoP: Red is something you can get around, but Damping Matrix and CoP isn’t – it might make sense to have a sideboard out.
U/W Control Breakdown
Surprisingly, given that a lot of writers have declared it dead, U/W Control took a lot of top 8 slots. Aside from Ravager Affinity, Slide and Bidding, it is the only deck in double digits. (No -“other” doesn’t count.) I will break down this archetype, too. I found fourteen U/W control decks in the T8s, but only had eleven decklists that were accurate, complete, and worth analyzing. (That last criterion was intended to cut out the decklist with Remove Soul.) That said, here’s the breakdown, using the same format as above.
Ancient Den: 2, 1.0
Cloudpost: 9, 4.0
Coastal Tower: 8, 3.4
Flooded Strand: 11, 3.8
Mirrodin’s Core: 1, 2.0
Seat of the Synod: 4, 1.5
Temple of the False God: 8, 2.9
Urzatron (one deck ran the set)
Eternal Dragon: 11, 2.9
Exalted Angel: 6, 3.7
Solemn Simulacrum: 2, 2.0
Weathered Wayfarer: 2, 4.0
Akroma’s Vengeance: 9, 3.1
Annul: 1, 4.0
Chromatic Sphere: 1, 2.0
Complicate: 1, 3.0
Concentrate: 3, 2.3
Damping Matrix: 6, 3.2
Decree of Justice: 9, 3.6
Echoing Truth: 2, 2.0
Mana Leak: 8, 3.8
Mindslaver: 6, 2.8
Mobilization: 1, 2.0
Oblivion Stone: 4, 2.8
Pulse of the Fields: 8, 2.5
Renewed Faith: 3, 4.0
Rewind: 5, 3.0
Stifle: 6, 2.2
Thirst for Knowledge: 9, 4.0
Wing Shards: 2, 2.5
Wrath of God: 11, 4.0 (finally, consensus)
The decklists do not agree on much. Flooded Strand, Eternal Dragon and Wrath of God are the only consistent inclusions, and only Wrath gets four slots in every deck. The most common other components are the expensive rares: Decree of Justice, Pulse of the Fields, Stifle, Damping Matrix, Exalted Angel and Mindslaver, but some cheaper cards – Thirst for Knowledge, Mana Leak, Coastal Tower, Cloudpost and Temple of the False God also make it into most decklists.
The sideboard is, if anything, even more random. CoP: Red was an obvious inclusion, and Stifle appeared in a lot of decklists, either instead of, or in addition to, a maindeck appearance. Other maindeckable cards also held sideboard slots. Sacred Ground appeared frequently, probably to oppose Flashfires and Dwarven Blastminer. Beyond that – well, take a look and tell me what you think.
Akroma’s Vengeance: 2, 2.0
Altar’s Light: 1, 3.0
Annul: 2, 2.5
Chrome Mox: 1, 3.0
Circle of Protection: Black: 1, 1.0
Circle of Protection: Red: 10, 3.6
Damping Matrix: 5, 2.4
Decree of Justice: 1, 1.0
Decree of Silence: 1, 1.0
Discombobulate: 1, 1.0
Echoing Truth: 2, 1.5
Exalted Angel: 2, 2.0
Future Sight: 1, 1.0
Last Word: 1, 1.0
March of the Machines: 3, 2.7
Metal Fatigue: 1, 4.0
Mind’s Eye: 1, 2.0
Mind Slaver: 5, 1.6
Oblivion Stone: 1, 2.0
Purge: 2, 3.5
Rewind: 1, 2.0
Sacred Ground: 4, 3.0
Scrabbling Claws: 6, 2.5
Stifle: 9, 2.0
Tempest of Light: 1, 2.0
Weathered Wayfarer: 1, 4.0
Wing Shards: 1, 2.0
There, that should make the job of building a gauntlet U/W deck a lot easier.
Things That Make You Go Hmmmm….
Okay, these are all supposed to be top 8 decks from various Regionals and Nationals. That means that they should have made it through at least a five rounds of Swiss, and probably more. However, I found a number of things that I didn’t expect. Some make sense, some are just strange (and I’m not even including the one sideboard Krark’s Thumb, which is almost certainly a joke.) So here are a few things to think about:
- Maindeck Fireball in a R/W Slide deck.
- Running a single Cloudpost maindeck.
- I spotted one Karma in all the sideboards – and next to no Black decks made the T8s. How the mighty are fallen.
- A couple of interesting U/R decks made T8s. Check out 4th place at Ergebnisse.
- Tendrils of Agony in a Goblin Bidding sideboard.
- Triskelion in an Affinity – almost an Arcbound – deck. (at Hessen)
- Bjorn Eggers Proteus Staff deck – with main deck Spy Network! (also Hessen)
- March of the Machines as anti-affinity, anti-Skullclamp sideboard tech.
- Is Dwarven Blastminer really fast enough? (No, that’s not a short joke.)
- Wail of the Nim in Affinity sideboards.
- Can you reliably cast Furnace Dragon with just eight lands that can produce Red mana?
And here’s a list of cards I did not expect, but that showed up none-the-less:
Might of Oaks
Blackmail (in Affinity sideboards)
“Redewed Faith””Elektrostatic””Marias” and”scullclump”
Finally, a couple decklists to marvel at.
BU Pox/March of the Machine by Jonathan Goudonnet
2 Polluted Delta
1 Visara the Dreadful
2 Greater Harvester
1 Phage the untouchable
3 Decree of Pain
4 Talisman of Dominance
4 Talisman of Progress
4 Damping Matrix
4 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Dark Banishing
3 Death Cloud
4 Mana Leak
3 Echoing Decay
4 March of the Machine
Rat Deck Wins 2004 by Romain Lisciandro4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Mirrodin’s Core
3 Ravenous Rats
4 Greater Harvester
4 Withered Wretch
4 Chittering Rats
3 Death Cloud
4 Dark Banishing
3 Wrench Mind
3 Echoing Decay
2 Phyrexian Arena
4 Talisman of Dominance
That’s all for now. Once the next round of Nationals is reported, I’ll take another look. Any bets on how the metagame shifts?
*Some decklists have been withheld or are missing.