Hi all, as we fast approach the Mirrodin Besieged pre-release this weekend it is a perfect time to discuss what has just happened in Extended at the PTQs. mtgUK already has tournament reports from Cambridge…
and from London…
so I won’t clog things up with another one of those but rather go through my methods of picking decks to play in order to succeed – metagaming.
My search began with my analysis of the format from worlds…
which we knew was subject to change but was clearly the best place to start. As I said, I expected the format to be Faeries, 4-colour control, Wargate-Scapeshift and I allowed myself the acceptance of Jund because while I thought it was a bit too fair for Extended I realised that a lot of the people I expected to face at the PTQs would not. This isn’t just a vague notion, I could name people I expected to play Jund at the PTQs.
Defining my format as these 4 decks I set about finding a deck which had positive matchups against them while being a solid enough deck in itself that when I played something else my deck had a plan. This is quite important – in an imaginary format where all the best decks are burn spells, playing a life gain deck may help you fight it but you will lose to the decks who can mill you out without caring about your life if you haven’t got a real plan to win the game yourself.
One of my starting points was the Red-Green Revenge deck from Pro Tour: Amsterdam. Designed by the Malaysians it was an attempt to maximise [card]Vengevine[/card] and [card]Demigod of Revenge[/card] in an aggro deck. The idea behind this is that by being a fast and strong aggro deck you can roll over combo decks who are slower than you but you have enough inevitability that control decks can’t just cast [card]Day of Judgment[/card] and hope that it’s enough to stop you. I immediately came up with a “shell” for the deck of…
as good aggressive cards which could be built around. [card]Goblin Guide[/card] and [card]Figure of Destiny[/card] are both 2-power 1 mana creatures which would allow me to put an opponent under immediate pressure, [card]Fauna Shaman[/card] is amazing with the two recursive creatures and [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] helped to cast two creature spells in one turn to recur the [card]Vengevine[/card]s more reliably. The obvious holes here are a lack of 2 and 3 mana cost spells (or rather, something to do on turn 2 and 3) plus something else to do. Since [card]Demigod of Revenge[/card] has so many red mana symbols on I wanted to have zero lands in my deck which did not tap for red mana by themselves. Luckily I had already written an article on the lands available to us in Extended…
…and this threw up [card]Ancient Ziggurat[/card] as a card which could fuel an all-creature deck. Long story short I added black to fill up my curve and enable a few sideboard options, eventually ending up with the following deck:
4 [card]Goblin Guide[/card]
2 [card]Figure of Destiny[/card]
4 [card]Putrid Leech[/card]
4 [card]Fauna Shaman[/card]
2 [card]Kargan Dragonlord[/card]
4 [card]Great Sable Stag[/card]
4 [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card]
4 [card]Demigod of Revenge[/card]
4 [card]Ancient Ziggurat[/card]
2 [card]Savage Lands[/card]
4 [card]Raging Ravine[/card]
4 [card]Copperline Gorge[/card]
4 [card]Blackcleave Cliffs[/card]
1 [card]Lavaclaw Reaches[/card]
3 [card]Reflecting Pool[/card]
3 [card]Tunnel Ignus[/card]
2 [card]Vithian Renegades[/card]
2 [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]
1 [card]Kitchen Finks[/card]
I battled in Cambridge with this and beat Fae twice, Jund+Cryptic once and Naya once, losing to Red-Green Scapeshift, Tempered Steel and Naya once. I would probably play the deck again at that tournament as my Tempered Steel loss was to awful draws and it is a good matchup for me and I’d just hope to not play against Red-Green Scapeshift again as they can deal with Tunnel Ignus which the Wargate-Scapeshift (a much better Scapeshift deck in my opinion) could not.
Rather than complaining, the thing to do with another PTQ the next weekend is to take another look at the format and see what I can do about it. The format in the UK seemed to have evolved into Faeries, Jund and Naya. My Faeries matchup was superb, Jund about 50-50 and Naya also seemingly about 50-50 from the way the games played out. While this deck is therefore a decent choice for that meta, I decided that I could do better.
One thing we can do with Extended is look at the Standard formats where the decks we want to beat were legal and see what had a good shot against them. Faeries was known to beat basically everything but it did struggle with the RDW decks of the time. Jund was really solid but struggled with anything faster than it – RDW and Mythic. Naya could lose to Valakut-Titan decks but it also looked like if you killed the mana guys and the [card]Fauna Shaman[/card] then it can struggle for curving out and drawing well, allowing you time to out-race it with hard to block creatures. The obvious solution to this was to bite the bullet and play Red Deck Wins.
I’m not very familiar with Red decks, being a cold-hearted control player most of the time but I wanted to win the tournament, not obstinately play something I liked but wouldn’t give me as good a chance. I spent the week changing my deck almost hourly, sending my patient friend Andy Edwards lists on MSN whenever possible as there was a chance he was coming to the PTQ and needed a deck. With analysis of the Red decks from the top 8’s of the last week’s PTQs across the world and paying particular attention to those that made the finals I came up with the following:
4 [card]Figure of Destiny[/card]
4 [card]Goblin Guide[/card]
4 [card]Plated Geopede[/card]
4 [card]Hell’s Thunder[/card]
4 [card]Demigod of Revenge[/card]
3 [card]Burst Lightning[/card]
4 [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]
3 [card]Searing Blaze[/card]
4 [card]Flame Javelin[/card]
4 [card]Teetering Peaks[/card]
2 [card]Smoldering Spires[/card] (sic)
4 [card]Arid Mesa[/card]
4 [card]Scalding Tarn[/card]
where the sideboard [card]Arc Trail[/card] is mostly a concession to not knowing how to round things out but should probably be the fourth [card]Stigma Lasher[/card]. I beat Red-Green Scapeshift, Tempered Steel, UW Control, Jund and Faeries before IDs with Marco and Dan. I then lost to Dan in the quarter finals as his Baneslayer-fuelled UW control deck had a life gain plan which I struggled to deal with (although him top-decking a [card]Path to Exile[/card] for my Stigma Lasher probably won him the game) but the rest of the top 8 was decks I had a fighting chance again.
I feel as though I had 100% picked the correct deck for this tournament, through analysis of the metagame. Knowledge of the expected field through knowledge of the available decks, recent deck choices by expected opponents and what strategies were a good choice against that field led me to a series of decisions which put me on track to bringing the best deck I could to the tournament. This is metagaming in action and I hope the applied procedure I have described will bring you better fortune at your next event!