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Blowing A Hole In The Metagame

You know what’s funny? Go through the StarCityCCG.com Archives and look at the pictures. There’s nothing funny about that. UNTIL… you start imagining the faces as photos on driver’s licenses. Look at‘em! Erik Berg’s“hey, hey! Now you’re giving me the speeding ticket FOR SURE!” Strapping Manuel Bevand! “I’m Too Sexy for the DMV!” So sexy…

You know what’s funny?

Go through the StarCityCCG.com Archives and look at the pictures.

There’s nothing funny about that. UNTIL… you start imagining the faces as photos on driver’s licenses. Look at‘em!

Erik Berg’s“hey, hey! Now you’re giving me the speeding ticket FOR SURE!”

Strapping Manuel Bevand!

Dave Meddish“I’m Too Sexy for the DMV!”

So sexy it HURTS!

[sorry guys]

I’d make one up for myself, but mine just looks like a typical DMV picture (DMV being the Department of Motor Vehicles, for the non-American or under the age of fifteen reader). Feel free to make fun of my picture, though– I’m relatively good-natured. But, the DMV photos! You know, the lady says smile.

When someone tells me to smile, it always takes me a minute– I have to think about it.“How should I smile, exactly?” I think. At the DMV, though, before I can decide whether to do a Prom smile, Birthday smile, Yearbook smile or Hot Date smile, I hear it. CLICK.

Leaving me with the Mug Shot smile. The most hated of all smiles.

Which segues nicely into the topic: things that ruin my day. The main one, Magically speaking, is a four casting cost Urza’s Destiny card, which begins with an R and ends with your opponent taking thirty two points of combat damage from enchantments.

I’m not so concerned. More like, I’m disappointed. Until a few weeks ago, Type II had its best metagame ever. Best ever. You could play any color, combo or no, beatdown or control, midrange or land destruction. Anything you wanted. Rogue decks were good, provided there was enough design placed in them, and with so many playable archetypes, there was no“best deck.” There were even theme decks!

Theme decks! Was life ever so beautiful? There were rebels and goblins, oh my!

We had paper, rock, scissors, papyrus, concrete, shears and plenty of other related nouns. We had a full-fledged metagame that had a decent bit of work thrown into it. There hadn’t been this level of concert since post-Black Summer Type II.

But, in one sweeping motion, the hand of God came up, and returned all enchantments from his or her graveyard, burying the metagame under a field of Attunements, Opalescences, Parallax Waves and Tides.

Six feet under. I’m sure Charlton Heston would have something desperately inspiring to yell. Me, I’m out of ideas. So, here’s the Mad Libs Charlton Heston shout, edited slightly to take out the ambiguity. Please be creative.

“YOU MANIACS, YOU [VERB] [PROPER NOUN] UP! [EXPLETIVE] [PROPER NOUN], [EXPLETIVE] [SAME PROPER NOUN] ALL TO [PLACE]!

[NOUN] IS MADE OF [NOUN]! [NOUN] IS MADE OF [NOUN]!”

That’s better. Unfortunately, Type II is wrecked, no matter how we fill in the blanks.

Not wrecked like Masques Block Constructed, mind you, but just a step off of totaled. The environment is skewed, at least in perception, towards one archetype. Regardless of what the best deck actually is (and I’m not saying the Replenish isn’t it), people believe that it is Replenish. Because of that, Regionals is going to be a big, Parallax-related headache.

And, frankly, I’m not a big fan of Parallax-related headaches.

As further proof of the metagame, check out the results of StarCityCCG.com’s 1000$ tournament, held April 22. Let’s say the results were not encouraging. The top eight relied on three cards to win.

Yawgmoth’s Something or Other
Replenish
Phyrexian Negator

Oh yes, Urza’s Destiny rears its ugly head again!

For the very, very un-deductive, the top 8 was Bargain, Replenish and Suicide Black.

Number of Forests: 0
Number of Mountains: 0

In fact, I think that the ratio of Replenishes to Mountains in the tournament was close to 1:1. That’s bad.

The semi-final matches were two Replenish decks facing two Suicide Black decks. The finals was Replenish against Suicide Black.

Weird.

You know what it reminded me of? An obscure PTQ in Knoxville, Tennessee several years back. It was late in the first Extended season, and Fruity Pebbles was definitely the threat of the tournament. Everyone who was in the know was either playing it, or playing to beat it. The most successful anti-Pebbles strategy was Pox, because of the massive disruption and 4x Gloom sideboard. Pox, like Suicide Black, is best in fields that are lacking a significant red presence. Pebbles, like Replenish, was faster than the red kill, effectively eliminating the deck from the metagame. Red also had no disruption that bothered Pebbles, meaning that, if Pebbles got The Draw, it would not be stopped. So it was up to Pox, a deck that lived to reduce the hand, land and board situation to nothing. From there, it could topdeck better than most decks and/or live off the Cursed Scroll for the win. The Glooms were the real wrecking ball, though. Luck, luck, luck, the Pox deck was. Nothing but luck. An entire deck designed to rely on luck.

The semifinals pitted two Pox decks against two Pebbles decks. One of each won.

How? Why? Shouldn’t one of these decks have the favor in the matchup and just roll the other deck? Should they really split like that?

But it makes sense. It was engineered to make sense.

In a field dominated by one deck that is extremely powerful and frequently played, decks like Pox and Suicide Black make sense. When the metagame is through playing rock, paper, scissors, and rock wins, a smart player has two choices:

Play rock
Play hand grenade

Hand grenade is a deck that risks the entire game, based on a good chance to win it in the first few turns. Past turn five, it has little hope of pulling the game out, but before turn five, there is so much pressure applied that an opponent has no choice but to react or lose. Since these decks require an explosive start, they are almost always black (though there were Severe Old School blue versions). The mana from Dark Ritual is paramount. Without it, the wheels spin. You’re looking for first turn 5/5s, second or third turn Hatreds, second turn double Hymn to Tourach, first turn Gloom.

You’re putting all of your eggs in one basket, then throwing the basket at your opponent. There are two possible results:

You egg your opponent
You smile politely as the basket flies past, and your opponent bashes you in the head with rock

Of course, one of these results is desirable, one is not. And, you will NOT draw perfect hands every time. You will lose some. But, the theory extends past the individual game. Is the deck good enough to draw The Hand 66% of the time? Enough to win two out of every three games?

Do you feel lucky, punk?

You should. And, you shouldn’t.

Hand grenade shows up at the tournament unoptimistically. It doesn’t expect to win. It can’t win. Fate and Fortune are against it. So, how does it win? Probability. Like this.

Imagine yourself and nine of your friends lining up at the foul line of a basketball court. You all turn around. One by one, you chuck your bright orange basketballs through the air, hoping to hit the basket. All the odds are against you. You can’t see the basket. [If you’re like me] you stink at basketball. There’s gravity. Velocity. Physics. Geometry. Trigonometry. All of these things conspire against you. After all, if it was so easy to make a shot in basketball, it would really be a stupid sport. So, to do it backwards, without looking would daunt even the great Michael Jordan.

But, each one of you has eight chances. That’s eighty basketballs flying at the hoop.

One of you, maybe two of you, are going to make the shot.

So goes the theory behind hand grenade. You’re placing a huge burden on Lady Luck. If she splits, you’re out. But, one of you is going to luck out, get the right draws and Negatron your opponents into the ground all day long. Just one.

All of a sudden, the odds of you making top eight at the tournament go from 1/total attendance to 1/hand grenades. Those are MUCH better odds, don’t you think?

So. Do you feel lucky?

take care.

Omeed Dariani.
Omeed@starcitygames.com
Eic – www.starcitygames.com
Contributing Editor, Scrye Magazine

“The enlightenment was a reasonable time. Voltaire invented
electricity and also wrote a book called‘Candy.’ Gravity was
invented by Isaac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn,
when the apples are falling off the trees.

-Anonymous, quoted from Anguished English by Richard Lederer”

-Should have been the flavor text on Enlightened Tutor.

Side note: Buy that book!