“To Brew Or Not To Brew”, is that the Question? Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge by Graeme McIntyre

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Wisdom Fae Under The Bridge – The Impact of the Growth of Magic the Gathering for UK PTQ Grinders

“To Brew Or Not To Brew”, is that the Question? by Graeme McIntyre

 

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article concerning the Modern metgame, in which I stressed the importance of Jund as a definitive deck within it. Since then on a number of occasions I have spoken to various people about the decks they are considering for Modern, each time asking the same question “How is your Jund match up?”, and I’ve been met with a certain degree of frustration, because this question is pretty banal, and I keep saying the same thing without offering anything new or particularly insightful.

Bloodbraid ElfNot that my side of the argument is any less frustrating; I’ve no particular inclination to duke it out with Bloodbraid Elf and friends, especially when this is the default, meaning that most people are doing one of  four things: playing a deck that beats Jund, mistakenly plays a deck that they think beats Jund, playing a deck that loses to Jund but beats most of the other decks or playing Jund. That doesn’t leave much for Jund to be good against, except people who are wrong and people who are running a gambit.

This is hardly a new phenomenon, though. Trix, Counter Rebel, Fires, ‘Tog, Affinity, Fairies, Standard Jund, Caw-blade, delver and most recently Modern Jund all have one thing in common; that look of frustration when you ask someone “how is your match up?” against them. Modern is a *huge* format, full of great cards, with scope to build almost any sort of deck, and the opportunity to play old favourites in the tournament setting once more.

Brewing

The term annoys me a little, because it used to have a far more concise meaning. Now, as with many other Magic terms, I feel like it’s helpful to define it somewhat to avoid confusion. If you’re modifying an existing deck in a substantial way (such as adding an additional colour or transformational sideboard), attempting to breathe life into a deck that basically isn’t part of the format anymore buy making some changes (traditional Zoo) or building a deck from scratch (the original meaning of the term within the context of Magic), you’re brewing.

If you’re trying to shoe-horn cards you like into existing decks for no good reason, playing loads of elves because you really like Lord of the Rings, or trying to port a deck from standard in because you like it, you’re not brewing, you’re messing around. The key here is that you’re essentially just testing a hypothesis about the format (e.g. “could U/W control improve problem match ups if it had access to blood moon and pyroclasm?”, “is zoo viable now that deathrite shaman fills that 1cc gap wild nacatl left behind?” or “maybe I could cast cruel ultimatum on turn 5 pretty regularly in modern”), with an aim to dealing with certain parameters within the format.

Reaction

Timely ReinforcementsBrewing is generally a reactive process. The exception being the odd combo deck which somehow gets missed – most people have a better chance of finding a pot at the end of a rainbow than finding these decks. If you’re genuinely able to find a tier one combo deck no one else has, you’re probably a much better magic player than me. This and Cartesian philosophy aside, it’s reactive because questions require stimulus to react to.

Say you want to brew a gifts deck. You’ve got a finite amount of room, so do you need to play a main deck Ancient grudge? What about a Timely reinforcements? Engineered Explosives or Fire spout? When you choose the cards that go in the deck, you need to be able to do this in an informed way, because otherwise these sorts of questions are impossible; they’re all good cards, and in a given format you might or might not want to play them, but you need to know what decks are in the metagame and how they interact with each other before you can assess what you need, and how much of it you need, in your deck.  There are some exceptional individuals to whom this does not apply, but unless you’re sure you’re one of them, you need to do the less interesting stuff first.

Asking questions

As you test the format, trends will begin to emerge (most of the time this will correlate with what’s being said on the internet, but you’ll gain a better understanding playing the games yourself). For instance, in this format my testing has shown that Jund has a decent match up against most of the other decks, although it struggles to some of the combo decks, and that the combo decks naturally suffer to the relevant hate cards and have variable match ups against the other combo decks where, for the most part, the decks largely ignore each other game one.

This is problematic for a number of reasons. Jund is getting gunned for, isn’t great vs some of the combo decks, and the mirror is getting deeper and deeper, detracting from the deck’s ability to deal with the combo decks further. The combo decks spend their tournament playing Russian roulette with hate cards, and are basically playing snap against the other combo decks.  These decks make up a big proportion of the field.

So right now, the question to me seems to be “Can a deck be built that can go over the top of Jund while also either outpacing or interacting favourably with the combo decks?”.

This isn’t unlike an exam. No matter how good your paper on World War 2 is, you will not pass the physics exam by writing it.

Getting the right answers

legacy mtg pie chartThis is more tricky because it requires suppression of the subjective tendency to “root for your deck” while demanding that conclusions be drawn from what will likely be insufficient data. Your focus must be on the main decks in the format, and the question you have set yourself. So in modern, you should be playing a lot of games vs Jund, and a range of combo decks. It’s not much good to play against a bunch of decks that are on the periphery of the metagame, or even just “noteworthy contenders” (such as affinity, poison, u/w control, tron…) because that’s not the question; it’s the physics paper today, remember?

It’s probably reasonable enough that you ask people to play 10 games against the big decks, and if the deck shows some promise, make a few changes and keep going. Start with Jund, and see where you get. But if you have middling or poor results, maybe just call it a day – you probably have your answer. It is important to remember that you’re not just using your time, but your opponents too.

Splash Damage

relic of progenitusThis was a term Mike Flores went on about a fair bit about 10 years ago – I had a mage called Splashdamage in Wow and I hate the term almost as much as I hated the mage class (and Flores makes my blood boil, too!). That said, the concept has merit despite its cute name. The idea is that if decks b, c, and d all play a certain range of cards to beat deck a, then your deck e should probably not be susceptible to the same cards. For instance, Deathrite shaman gets played in Jund and Haunted Zoo and relic of progenitus is a common sideboard card, too. So perhaps Living end isn’t much of a deck right now.

Have a look through sideboards for multiple decks, and see if there is a common card used to attack a certain type of deck, or even a singular deck, which your deck might be vulnerable to. Also, the land in people’s deck (for example, tectonic edge, and mutavault). Will these cards be a problem for you? Can that be avoided? How big a problem? There is definitely a stage when this sort of thing is going to make it much more trouble than it’s worth to play a rogue deck.

That said, given you’re making changes, maybe you can build the deck to incorporate this sort of stuff?

What are you doing that’s worth it?

Whenever you play a deck, you pass up the opportunity to play another deck. Given the risk and effort involved in playing something of your own design, you need to be sure that what you’re doing has a substantial pay off because otherwise, why are you not just playing a deck preforming a similar role which is already more established?

I understand that some people really get a lot out of building their own decks and so on and that this creative element might even be the whole reason they play. That’s fine, but it comes with a risk of playing decks which are not close to optimal for the tournament (I should say, a greater risk; clearly there is always a degree of risk).

Some decks to think about since last time…

Pod, Scapeshift, Hellkite Jund and haunted zoo have been doing well recently, and you should try and get them build up and play some games with them over the holidays if you get a chance.

http://www.wizards.com/magic/Digital/MagicOnlineTourn.aspx?x=mtg/digital/magiconline/tourn/4737052

That top 8 doesn’t have a pod list, but Ari Lax’s list which placed 13th in GP Toronto seems like a good shout.

Also below are deck lists for the top 8 decks at the Chesham PTQ– hot off the press! This will give you a much greater insight into the UK metagame.

Chesham PTQ Gatecrash Dec 2012 Top 8 Decklists

Thomas Rickarby – Jund (Winner)

Main Deck
Lingering Souls2 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Thoughtseize
3 Liliana of the Veil
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lingering Souls
2 Terminate
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Dark Confidant
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Marsh Flats
4 Raging Ravine
1 Treetop Village
1 Stomping Ground
1 Blood Crypt
1 Overgrown TombDeathrite Shaman
1 Godless Shrine
1 Forest
1 Plains
1 Swamp

Sideboard
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Creeping Corrosion
2 Rule of Law
1 Olivia Voldaren
1 Batterskull
2 Slaughter Games
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Jund Charm
1 Rakdos Charm
2 Fulminator Mage

Ian Bennett – Pod (2nd)

Main Deck
3 Restoration Angel
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Phantasmal Image
4 Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker
4 Noble Hierarch
1 Zealous Conscripts
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Wall of Roots
1 Linvala, Keeper of Secrets
1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Spellskite
1 Murderous Redcap
2 Deciever Exarch
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Wall of Omens
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Arid Mesa
2 Gavony Township
1 Stomping Ground
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Temple Garden
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Steam Vents
1 Breeding Pool
1 Mountain
1 Forest
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Rugged Prairie
4 Birthing Pod
2 Garruk Wildspeaker

Sideboard
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Dispel
3 Sowing Salt
2 Aven Mindcensor
3 Path to Exile
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Creeping Corrosion

Sam Poyntz (3rd – 4th)

Main Deck
4 Goblin Guide
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Hellspark Elemental
3 Deathrite Shaman
1 Grim Lavamancer
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt
4 Bump in the Night
4 Searing Blaze
3 Flames of the Blood Hand
2 Shard Volley
4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Blood Crypt
2 Teetering Peaks
1 Stomping Ground
3 Mountain

Sideboard
3 Rakdos Charm
3 Volcanic Fallout
2 Slaughter Games
3 Rain of Gore
2 Dragon’s Claw
2 Ancient Grudge

Karim Al Takrouri (3rd – 4th)

Main Deck
2 Loxodon Smiter
3 Blood Moon
4 Boom/Bust
4 Bloodbraid Elf
3 Lightning Bolt
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Wooly Thoctar
4 Knight of the Reliquary
1 Elspeth, Knight Errant
1 Batterskull
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Forest
2 Plains
1 Mountain
1 Stomping Ground
2 Razorverge Thicket
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Temple Garden
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Marsh Flats
4 Arid Mesa

Sideboard
2 Spellskite
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Path to Exile
1 Torpor Orb
2 Celestial Purge
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Hero of Bladehold
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Combust

Neil Rigby (5th – 8th)

Main Deck
1 Godless Shrine
4 Raging Ravine
1 Forest
2 Swamp
1 Temple Garden
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Blood Crypt
1 Stomping Ground
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Marsh Flats
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Terminate
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Dismember
3 Liliana of the Veil
4 Lingering Souls
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Thoughtseize
4 Dark Confidant
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Deathrite Shaman

Sideboard
2 Slaughter Games
2 Shatterstorm
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Grim Lavamancer
1 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Rule of Law
1 Batterskull
2 Olivia Voldaren
2 Rakdos Charm
1 Jund Charm

Aaron Boyhan (5th – 8th)

Main Deck
4 Marsh Flats
4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Blood Crypt
1 Steam Vents
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Temple Garden
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Stomping Ground
1 Goodless Shrine
1 Breeding Pool
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lingering Souls
4 Tribal Flames
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Lightning Helix
3 Noble Hierarch
2 Path to Exile

Sideboard
3 Stony Silence
2 Slaughter Games
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Sowing Salt
2 Rule of Law
1 Pithing Needle
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Vendelion Clique

Louis Mackie (5th – 8th)

Main Deck
4 Scapeshift
4 Primeval Titan
2 Prismatic Omen
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Farseek
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Khalni-Heart Expedition
4 Remand
4 Izzet Charm
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
4 Stomping Ground
1 Steam Vents
1 Breeding Pool
3 Forest
1 Island
6 Mountain

Sideboard
2 Negate
2 Vexing Shusher
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Nature’s Claim
3 Pyroclasm
4 Obstinate Baloth

Marco Orsini-Jones (5th – 8th)

Main Deck
4 Treetop Village
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Twilight Mire
2 Marsh Flats
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Swamp
1 Forest
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
1 Blood Crypt
4 Dark Confidant
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Deathrite Shaman
3 Kitchen Finks
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Thoughtsieze
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Liliana of the Veil
2 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Victim of Night

Sideboard
2 Pyroclasm
3 Slaughter Games
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Olivia Voldaren
1 Jund Charm
1 Ultimate Price
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Batterskull
1 Abrupt Decay

Top8 decklists courtesy of Eddy Guinness, thanks Eddy!

small thumbs upThat’s that for this year, I might manage to get another article out before Liverpool. If not, see some of you there!

Thanks or reading, thanks for sharing,

Graeme

 

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Graeme McIntyre

I’ve been playing magic since the end of Rath Block, and I’ve been a tournament regular since Invasion Block. I started studying for a PhD in Sociology at University of Leicester in 2017. I was born In Scotland, but moved to Nottingham three years ago, seeking new oppertunities both academic and magical.

I play regularly with David Inglis, Alastair Rees and Neil Rigby.

I’ve been on 5 Pro Tours the 2016 English World Cup Team, and Scottish 2003 European Championship Team, but what I really bring to the table is experience. I’ve played 136 Pro Tour Qualifiers, 18 Grand Prixs, 11 National Championships, 13 World Magic Cup Qualifers, 51 Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers and more little tournaments than I can remember. More than anything else, my articles are intended to convey the lessons of this lived experience.

Likes – robust decks, be they control, midrange, beatdown or combo. Cryptic Commands, Kird Apes and Abzan Charms.

Dislikes – decks that draw hot and cold. Urza’s Tower, Life From the Loam and Taigam’s Scheming.