среда, 24 января 2018 г.

MtG. Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan and Modern Metagame in general.

Some pragmatic players might say that Modern is not a format, and there is no metagame there.
I tend to disagree and agree to a certain extent.

There is a metagame, but it is so wide and complex, that King of the Hill is a very unstable position.
The metagame shifts all the time within the field, depending what gets played most at a certain time.
And yes, in general, it is pointless to predict the field and matchups for your own deck,
because overall one can face both terrible and excellent matchups.
Hence, one cannot really tune or hedge against everything and has to compromise.
However, it is much easier to calculate your deck choice for an event like a Pro Tour.
I’m not saying it is easy, but easier. Historically people tend to play certain decks there, unless there is some sudden tycoon
(Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch and Eldrazi menace).

My aims here are to make you think and somehow ease the deck choice thinking process for you.
I do think that Pro Tour meta can be somewhat read, but any given Grand Prix meta, or rather top32,
that is very unlikely to accomplish for anyone, except for some really rough estimations.
I by no means pretend to know it all, and exactly mark my opinions,
and this is also why I tried to add as much statistics as I could within one article.

But now, let’s discuss what types of decks were typical for Pro Tours and what seem to be the guidelines in choosing the deck:

  • The deck can challenge tier1 or the expected PT decks (Grixis Shadow, UW Control, Lantern Control, Tron and Valakut decks)
  • Decks to Beat atm from my view - Jeskai/UW Control, Big Mana decks, Grixis Shadow, Humans, Affinity, Burn, Dredge, GW/Bant Company, Eldrazi Tron
  • Has free wins, and also has decent amount of good matchups overall (Storm, Griselhoalbrand, Amulet Titan)
  • No big pluses, no big minuses (Abzan, Jund)
  • Best experience and a ton of practice plus comfort (Hatebears, Boggles)
  • Solid aggro, punishing bad opposing draws (Affinity, Burn, Dredge)
  • Resilience and flexibility, with chance for great impact (Vizier Company, 5C Humans)
  • Is it worth playing fair game in the unfair format (Ponza, Devotion, GW Company),
  • in other words this is about the thought process of where one wants to be in the field

SCG Dallas Open: Modern Classic side event - Top16 (in that order, from 1 to 16)

Burn, Affinity, Infect, GR Tron, Grixis Shadow, Jeskai Control, Affinity, U/R Gifts Storm, Jeskai Control, Burn, Humans, Jeskai Control, U/W Control, Burn.   

Nothing really crazy here, except for maybe Infect. Infect is a good meta deck. It suffers mainly from decks with discard spells and Chalices.
While the latter is only a real problem gain, and they have to have it fast, discard spells are much tougher to overcome.

All the decks here will be at the PT, but I just grew to hate playing Storm. It is such an emotional roller coaster.
You either leave them no chance, or get totally destroyed yourself.

SCG Classic - Columbus - Top16

Affinity, Green Tron, Blue Moon, Burn, UW Control, Affinity, Grixis Shadow, Jeskai Control, Burn,
Zoo (seriously quite old school Naya Zoo), Grixis Shadow, Lantern Control, Mardu, Merfolks, Affinity, Bant Company.  

This sort of speaks to me as Control and Anti-Control Top16. With Lantern being anti-control and Merfolks somewhere in the middle.  

StarCityGames.com Modern Open - Columbus - Top32

Jeskai Control, Jeskai Control, Storm, Grixis Shadow, GW Company, Blue Moon, Humans, Skred Red, Burn, Jeskai Tempo, Humans,
Jeskai Control, Grixis Shadow, Grixis Shadow, UW Control, Monogreen Devotion, Grixis Shadow, Humans, Bant Company, Jund, 5C Aggro,
BG Mid, Dredge, Blue Moon, Grixis Shadow, GW Company, Elves, Eldrazi Tron, UW Control.  

Same location, bigger event. More “rogue-ish” decks slicing in to the top on the back on a big diverse field,
but they all pretty much same traits as for the Classic event. There are same two camps more or less in terms of strategies, though this time aims are reversed.
That is aggro and anti-aggro is a bigger trait, than control and anti-control.  

Grand Prix Santa Clara 2018 - Team Trios - Top8

Dredge, UW Control, Mardu, BG Shadow, Lantern Control, Affinity, Eldrazi Tron, Affinity.

First of all it was Team Trios. That adds some limitations. Even though it was Standard-Modern-Legacy, and not just Modern-Modern-Modern.
The cards didn’t overlap really, yet team event structure means among things that not everything depends on one deck,
and some risks in terms of matchups are worth taking.
Regardless, deck selection process apart from personal preferences (well, team events often do tend to allure many not very active players),
I assume was like at the PT to some extent. I mean people likely thought of the “best” decks and gunned mainly against those.
I like Dredge, but it is in my view a metagame call, just like Lantern Control. I don’t particularly fancy both in a more diverse field.  

Meanwhile, the online picture (mtggoldfish.com):

I quite like all of these decks, with the exception of maybe GR Ponza.
Titan Shift could be a very good PT pick, if you happen to dodge most unfair decks.
Similar thing with Dredge. Very powerful deck, can still win through hate, but again, dicy in that regard.
In terms of risks, I think Affinity has minimal downside in that aspect. Probably best “busted” deck, when it comes to digging out of troubles.

Here we enter the zone of very sweet potent decks that are quite meta dependant.
If I would want to bring a spicy yet competitive deck to rock the house, I will select something from this pool, or from the next group below.
Basically this and next picture is full of decks that can perform either amazingly, or totally badly.
Or if you feel like you tend to be the “lucky strike” person, you can take Jund Griselhoalbrand (Reanimator), for instance.

WURG here is just Blue Zoo. With corresponding pluses and minuses. I.e. good store play or long-term deck, but never spectacular.
WUBRG is the Collected Company cousin of the Aether Vial Humans build, which is more popular right now, and better vs blue decks,
but CoCo variant is better versus midrange decks. WUB is Esper Living End. Kind of a middle ground between Jund and Monoblue builds.
Cannot say more here. But respect the strategy.  

W for Monowhite Death and Taxes. Easy deck for newcomers and not that pricy. Typical Weenie that can bring saltage.
BRG is essentially BR Hollow One with Vengevine, which are not meant to be cast.
I’d say I favor the addition. UBRG is apparently just another take on Dredge.

Yes, Boggles should be good right about now. More on that later in the article.

Difference between Gw and Gwb Elves is very small, but impactful.
Gw can go off with Devoted Druid plus Vizier of Remedies.
Gwb closes out with a full set of Shaman of the Pack.
I like both packages and myself would try to fit in bits of both.
I do like the deck right now a fair bit as a choice for premium events, since among other features it can protect from mass removals and has combos built-in.

URG refers to Temur Bring to Light Scapeshift Control with one Damnation.
The deck can still perform over long-run, but I think its time has passed. RG version is just better rounded up overall.

UW Spirits is just a cheap way to enter the format, especially if you happen to still have all the cards from the past Standard.

Merfolks have always been somehow a “secret” sleep-in in Modern.
Everybody knows about it, but tend to forget from time to time, and then get punished.
It’s like with Dredge in Legacy. Similar thing goes for Skred Red, but the deck itself is way less flexible and hunts more specific victims.  

From here on out we are looking at very niche decks with few exceptions.
And at a few distinct flavors of more common builds.

I actually quite like the non-Skred version of Monored Stompy.
I don’t see any appealing flaws on paper.

There are a few Grixis Control lists out there.
The deck is sort of dead right now, but can be just a sleeper. Bans do drop sometimes.
The lists look more like about pet cards or comfort zone, than anything real.  

And then we a bunch of various aggro decks, which are also partially about pet cards and comfort zone or wallet/collection zone.
I think that as long as you know the format, the staples, and have clear ideas, you can brew some playable concoctions.  

It is quite sad to see such decks like some DnT flavor, Infect, Bant Eldrazi and Grixis Delver this low.
I have a feeling they might grab a bigger cut at some other periods.
Those four are some of the most underestimated decks in the format in my mind.
For instance, Grixis Delver can win some games and matches, which its Shadow counterpart might really struggle with,
but Shadow builds are just much more powerful overall.

Ironworks is a sweet deck, but it never pretended to rise to any prominent level.  

Comparing last big paper events and online metagame:

Let’s start easy. By simply accumulating Top8-Top32 frequences on paper,
and see how it compares to the most popular decks online.

Paper: Top32 appearances in the events mentioned (4 events)

Humans plus other Company decks (GW and Bant) - 8
Affinity - 7
Grixis Shadow - 7
Burn - 6
Jeskai Control - 5
UW Control - 5
Blue Moon - 3
Dredge -3
Green Tron - 2
Eldrazi Tron - 2
Storm - 2
Mardu - 2

Online: Top10 most common decks

Jeskai Control, Affinity, Grixis Shadow, Humans, Burn, Green Tron, Eldrazi Tron, UW Control, Mardu, Storm.


Actually very close. With little exceptions. And with factors like matchups and pairings and pilots we get a very near picture.
I.e. paper forecasts can be to a certain degree be based on current online situation.  

We are soft of reaching a wheel here. Company decks, Affinity and Burn lose to fast combos more often than not, but kick blue decks.
Blue decks keep combos in check. Midrange keeps blue decks. Big Mana decks (Tron, Valakut) keep midranges and some blue decks sometimes.

Part of me wants to say that decks like Abzan Vizier or Elves Company should be good in a vacuum,
because there are essentially combo decks, that can just beatdown and can often try to grind.

But then, the realization of the cycle kicks in. Before the events we covered, we saw a cycle of Big Mana decks on top.
Now our statistics show resurgence of Blue Control decks as an answer to that.
At the same time, we see more aggressive Company decks, Humans, Affinity and Burn which aim to go underneath all of that.
Thus, we are somewhere at the end of that cycle.  

I think Pro Tour might end up being full of the last three decks and the like.
For example, BR Hollow One, which is not as risky or dicy like Dredge or Living End.
In which case, Abzan Midrange with a solid amount of hate in the sideboard, should be a fine safe compromise.
Lifegain (Prinos, Timely, Scooze), disruption, grindy, grave hate, solid beatsticks, white sideboard cards.           

Top5 Modern Trends (not necessarily in this order)

  1. Pro Tour metagame will not be that diverse and will feature a lot of safe decks
  2. It is still worth it to play decks that give free wins (Storm, Griselhoalbrand)
  3. Grand Prix meta is way more diverse and can feature pretty much anything
  4. It is impossible to prepare for everything and have The best deck
  5. Breaking the wheel, timely positioning or Rogue mastering (e.g. GW Boggles Auras at this period)

Here I would like to take a moment to specify. There are decks that were good, are good, or will be good, depending on the cycle of the wheel.
There are Pro Tour decks, Grand Prix decks, decks that should be on top according to the data, and decks that I will pick for myself.  

My pick for Pro Tour - Abzan Midrange, UW Control or Mardu Pyromancer Midrange.

Decks I play in Modern - Eldrazi Tron, UR Storm, UG Infect, Vizier Company, UW Spirits.

Decks I like most among my own - Infect, UR Storm.

Decks I have played in Modern - every side of the spectrum, including decks that are nearly extinct now. Nearly half of the format.

Decks I would want to play - Elves, Amulet Combo, BR Hollow One, Dredge, Monoblue Living End, Monoblue Turns, Monogreen Devotion.

That’s it, folks!
Hope you enjoyed this overview and made some decisions more clear for yourself!

- Aarne Pyulze
Until the next cruise!
Stay reasonable and listen to your guts!
OthalaBor in Hearthstone, EternalTCG and Faeria
Ekvilor or BoatBrew at other game accounts
@BoatBrew on channels and media
website-cupboard: boatbrew.com

понедельник, 22 января 2018 г.

Rivals of Ixalan Standard. Post-Bans Special Format Analysis plus Week 0-1

Rivals of Ixalan Standard
Post-Bans Special Format Analysis and Week 0-1
View of an active realist

Image result for rivals of ixalan spoilers

They left us. It was needed. They deserved it. Format's health is restored.


Today we first going to look at old decklists, then we will check new cards for new and old decks, then we will walk through new decklists from online data.

By the time this article will go live, we will already have stats from SCG Open in Dallas.
But the main event is Team Constructed, hence we want Classics data too.

This is how 4C Energy looked like, even though just Temur was even more common.

Without Attune many starting hands become unkeepable, you cannot really go more than 3 colors, etc. And 2-drops become less attractive, but people still try.

Without Refiners it is much harder to transition from early game into midgame,
and harder to bail out removals and counterspells.

Green as a whole becomes unnecessary, but players still try barely untouched builds,
because apart from the new merfolk Ranger, there are really no replacements,
and even Ranger is not quite the thing.

As a consequence, Grixis Midrange is sprouting out. More on that deck later.
But that Grixis is not really so much about Energy anymore, and is not that much about beatdown.


Without Ruins and the Dino control matchups and all white matchups in general become barely winnable.

Perhaps, that part of the meta wouldn't be that common. Monored or Rw can still be a good deck versus other aggro and midranges.

The deck hasn't gained much, or rather I should say I doesn't really need a whole lot. With crippled Monored, which was the biggest problem, the archtype should be one of the pillars of the format.

The deck is just that strong, and Scarabs will still trouble Gift decks for instance. Some edits or tunes can be moving Hulks into SB to have much safer Game 1s, and perhaps slicing in 1-2 Essence Scatters maindeck. That's pretty much it.

Flavors of Gift decks should be a pretty big deal now. They got much less opposition. I do want to see Gift and Control builds with the new monsters, but right I suppose there just isn't space, and it is not certain that they will improve the decks. Baffling End will eventually be in many strategies, but currently it doesn't touch Vehicles, nor the Gods, nor the "gifts".

Nobody is taking Orders, but...but...well, It doesn't protect from Fumigate and opponents might respect it and cast removals at the beginning of combat. The more I think about, more of a myth it becomes. Best dinosaur in my view in the set unlikely will ever see play. It's not beefy enough, but it gives really good value. Pirates are pirates. Most of the playable ones are very obvious. Vampiric Elvish Visionary in my mind is too slow for Weenie builds. The deck can refuel in much better ways. In Gift or Tokens decks that's a whole different story, because those are actually value-based decks.

Red did get a lot of new toys. Phoenix Midranges will soon frustrate masses of people. It is just such a fantastic curve out with the Dragon. As for aggros, not such a huge fan of Daredevils maindeck. Although, burn spells and Pushes are still crazy in aggro mirrors. I suppose it is a lot more about timing. And, of course versus control you will try to catch draw spells or counterspells maybe. More on the Path later, whilst Summoner is likely to drop in midrange, than aggro, or some weird Mardu Tokens, let's say. But the card is strong.

The deck builds itself. It does have few flex slots, and in that department most lists I saw do not inspire me. The deck is good, but we are yet to see, if good will be enough to become great eventually after some tuning and optimizing. It is still early, but I would say that the archtype will never be spectacular. It will just become a safe pick, Jund Midrange of Standard, the sweat factory. With no insane pluses, but no real minuses either. 

Control decks didn't receive much, but they didn't need much either. So far only the Chest and the Tutor didn't find a home, and not all of the planeswalkers. UB and Esper variants apparently just cannot sacrifice tempo right now for value or flexibility. I think once the meta stabilizes at least a bit we could see more of fun cards.

Something tells me that pretty much every deck will feature some Disenchant type of cards. All Mardu decks already sport couple Fragmentize in the sideboard, but decks like BW Vamps will need some 3 or 4 drops to combat Gift and such, since they are lighter on interaction and don't fly that much, etc. Elenda, in my opinion, should be much better in tokens, than in actual Vampires deck. In Tokens she will be utilized properly. 

Pummeler decks are pretty much dead after the bans. No need for green anymore. People might try some UR builds with Enigma Drakes, but I don't those version will go further than FNM level.

Doggy is in every second black deck that is not hyper aggresive. Grixis Control is back, but yet has no space for the Form, or people are just yet too vary to experiment. Vehicles are back for now in numbers, and so are few other red aggro decks. Which is expected. But that means Abrades are there. Not even mentioning all Naturalizes and white removals. This means funky decks are better to stay home and not come to store play. Although, while Reservoir is about a focused deck, there can be some Panharmonicon Midrange with Doggies and such, that will not rely on the artifact so much, or just use Refurbish. But then why not to just play some Gift deck...

BGx Constrictor was bound to be a thing at least at this early stage. The core of the deck is so strong, that I think it is there to stay. Above you just see few sweet options that can align with the core in some diverse build, especially if it includes that black-green transform Aura. But those likely aren't for competitive safe builds.

I really want all color combinations of Pirates to be at least remotely playable. It is good for the game, players' base, the format. I really want someone to break Release to the Wind. It is a spicy one. And we are yet to see a viable build of RG Ramp, which should, in theory, stomp other slower decks. I don't think RG Dinos and RG Monsters will get very far. But I wouldn't be surprised either, if they will pop up here and there. 

Top 10 New Trends or Conclusions

1. New Kings: Approach, Cycling, Gift, Tokens, and Vehicles.

2. Tribal decks will try. Especially Merfolks, but Vampires can also challenge control decks via CA, discard and drains.  

3. Grixis can be a thing. And so can other midrange decks (incl. Snakes and Co, BGx)

4. UGx Pummeler will become a fringe deck.

5. Temur Energy and Monored will not die completely, but will become tier2.

As long as Monored will dodge white decks, it should still be very playable. Unlike Temur.

6. Red removal spells will retain value, since the meta will still be creature heavy.

7. Sultai Energy will die, but get reborn as a more Midrange deck hunting all the tribals.

8. BG/BW Transform Enchantment based decks

9.You tell me, could be a few new things. Angrath Combo Control.
Grixis Puzzleknots Energy Improvise Colossus Fling...Storm the Vault, Marionette, Revel in Riches  

10. Less Abrades might help fringe FNM non-Gift decks like Reservoir, Panharmonicon, Colossus.

Let’s have a look at Week 0 into Week 1 from online. Based on how mtggoldfish.com compiles it.

The cuts have already changed since I screened the meta. But I will have a conclusion on the lists featured right before Dallas Open.
You can just check exact decklists from the website.

Below after the graphs I would just focus on what’s new compared to what we saw before bans.

I.e. I will note only new tweaks of old decks, and go just a bit deeper on new archtypes.

Card choices that is.

Grixis Midrange - new Temur energy. Just a pile of all the best cards in these colors. More grindy than Temur used to be, but still rather Midrange and not Control compared to past 4C builds.

Esper Approach - Same list as at the last Grand Prix. It’s ok, but there can be some customization.

Hulks don’t have to be in the maindeck, but then how to fit them in SB among all things.

Couple Essence Scatters will smoothen the maindeck, or at least the new Enchantment for 1W.

Should be the default Control deck of the new format, unless someone will come up with superb Grixis list,

which will be better than the deck above, which is actually Midrange.  

UB Control - Nothing crazy, nothing really changed. Except that the sideboard can be tuned up for any field or matchup. UB has enough tools for anything right now actually.  

UG Merfolks - Jadelight Ranger and Jade Bearer are some creatures I do not favor in the deck,

and then my vision as for spells maindeck would be some kind of 2-2-2 split of Spell Pierce, Unsummon, and Blossoming Defense.

Then, I prefer the unblockable blue  1-drop as the second set for the curve, but it will be tough on mana.

And, perhaps Tempest Caller, Herald of Secret Streams or Seafloor Oracle could have some presence maindeck.

UW Control - Basically your stock UW Cycling. Impeccable Timing is the only news in the sideboard, outside of the enchantment for 1W.

Monoblack Aggro - Nothing new, literally. Same deck as we have seen before.

Abzan Tokens - Nothing new really so far, except that Lost Legacy will be more important now,

since Drake Havens and Approaches will be more present.

UB Tempo or Midrange - is basically what we saw at the Brazilian Nationals plus the new Shriekmaw-Doggy.

Solid, but with that type of a core you can better things. Like shift to Esper Gift. It is not a bias.

I just think that the deck is less powerful, than certain alternatives. But it looks more consistent.

UW Tokens - It is more like UW Cats, or UW Mummies (Embalm/Eternalize).

The deck was quite fine before the bans, but now I think there are better alternatives.

Anyways the deck has tools against each side of the meta spectrum.

BW Vampires - Typical Weenie deck. Timely Duress or Lost Legacy could save you,

but the deck looks boring to me and likely will feed Approach and UB decks.

UW Approach - Circulating lists right now are very basic.

There isn’t much space for new tools, and not that much is actually needed now that Monored lost its major tools to fight slow decks.

UW Gift - Seems like players are yet vary to add new big monsters. I can’t blame them.

Be it Esper or UW build, the space is tight, and those big butts do not guarantee a better deck.  

BG Snek - Merfolk Branchwalker, Jadelight Ranger, and Chupacabra seem like natural fits to the deck.

Rw Aggro - While Path of Mettle sort of acts as Ramunap Ruins replacement, it can be countered and it takes a spell slot in the deck.

But the card together with few other new ones still makes it the best aggro deck on the block as long as it dodges white decks.

In creature matchups the deck is certainly live, and also midrange ones, but controls will be a big issue.  

Esper Gift - Black Elvish Visionary and Chupacabra both are very strong pickups.

With crippled Monored and Temur, other aggro decks will not be that crazy, so I favor Esper over UW Gift.  

Jeskai Gift - Red gives the deck more explosiveness, and a few cool sideboard tools.

But if the format after a while would be more about Midranges and Controls, then Esper would probably be better.

Then disruption and Scarabs would be more important.

Temur Energy - Rangers will not solve all the problems for sure. And former Temur pilots probably already started to build proper backups.

Mardu VehiclesGood stock builds. Nothing stands out all that much. Except that Dusk/Dawns have been swapped for Settle the Wreckage. That is probably due to many Gift and Tokens decks, in addition to the fact that it is a one sided sweeper and Scarabs and Hazorets are still there.

RG Dinos - Lists I saw are quite solid, but don’t excite me much either. The deck will feast on some aggros and some midranges, but that’s about it.

I don’t there will be developments that can really propel the deck up in the format. And I’d much rather want to see some ramp deck instead.  

In addition to the above decks, there are also various Phoenix Midrange variants and flavors of red aggro. The field is open for now.

But very few of the decks will make a real difference. Nevertheless, more diversity and variety is ensured.  

I expect various aggros to keep on challenging other styles, some of them are bound to stay there, based on the sheer variety of those.

As for slower decks, Scarabs, Mardu and Combos will lead to more Exile effects and importance of Lost Legacy and Scavenging Grounds.

P.S. On Dallas Open. Looking at both the Open and the Classics. What stands out is Mardu Vehicles and few other aggro decks. Here are a few points to remember. It is just a good solid deck. People had the cards and the decks already. It was fine before and now much better. It is easier to take such a linear deck Week 1, because fine-tuning a Midrange or Control takes a lot more time and more stats.


- Aarne Pyulze
Until the next cruise!
Stay reasonable and listen to your guts!
OthalaBor in Hearthstone, EternalTCG and Faeria
Ekvilor or BoatBrew at other game accounts
@BoatBrew on channels and media
website-cupboard: boatbrew.com