It has been an exhausting week for me. First testing, then the WMC itself, and then some very late night magic. Now, I’m on a flight to Boston where I will be sightseeing for a couple of days before heading to Worcester for the GP.
I had a really fun time at Gen Con—I got to meet some new, awesome people, and catch up with some old friends. The drama of me and Gavin trying to find each other seemed to amuse Twitter, but we did manage to find each other in the end and we met up for breakfast the next day. If you don’t know Gavin Verhey he used to write articles and commentate for SCG before landing an internship at WotC to design Magic cards—what he’s always wanted to do.
He’s a good boy so I don’t know any secrets about Ravnica, but I do know he’s excited about it, so fingers crossed!
The bad bit about Gen Con was Team England finishing 33rd on Day One to miss making the cut on tie-breakers to Malaysia. We should have made it. Our team was strong, but Richard Bland and I both failed to pull our weight and finished 3-4. For my part, I couldn’t take a single match in draft which was shocking. 3-1 in Standard is fine, but I should atleast have gone 1-2 in draft. Ah well, sometimes it happens.
A New Love—RUG Ramp
The positive takeaway from the WMC was my deck choice for Standard. When I started practicing, I was intending to play Naya Pod, but I was really struggling to win games. As I mentioned last week, many decks seem to have adapted, while Naya has remained stagnant, and after talking it over with some of the test group I concluded that it wasn’t where I wanted to be right now.
I picked up a couple of other decks I had copies of for the gauntlet, and started fishing for something that felt right. I shuffled up RUG Ramp with little hope. I don’t really like Ramp decks. It always feels like there is little you can do to influence your fate—find a hand with ramp and a threat in it and see if that’s good enough. Yuck!
However the RUG version pleasantly surprised me. Ponder is so good in the deck—it finds you Ramp spells and Titans, and sets up miracles for maximum effect. The other card I fell in love with was Temporal Mastery. As someone who has never cast Time Walk (or similar) I think I have failed to fully appreciate the power of taking an extra turn.
There are so many situations where taking the extra turn won me the game. It’s a shame it is often the card you board out, but there is little room to make space for matchup-specific cards.
For those interested in the 75 I sleeved up for the WMC, it’s basically Reid Duke’s list that won the SCG a couple of weeks back with a few changes. I played the same list in the TCG $1k the next day, but I made some changes to the sideboard, which I will talk about below along with a sideboard guide.
My main regret about the list was not having enough sideboard cards for the mirror (which I didn’t expect). However, the deck was being piloted left, right, and center of where I sat, and I played the mirror three times out of four (and managed to win anyway).
One aspect of the WMC that wasn’t fully advertised to its competitors before hand was that decklists for the Standard portion were not required until after the draft. This was to allow you to choose your deck based on your standing at the time.
For example, you might need to 4-0 and so choose an unstable deck like Poison and hope to run good. Alternatively, if you simply need to go 2-2, maybe you want to pick a more stable list like Delver to secure your wins.
This is cool, but I don’t know if anyone got to implement it since I expect everyone, like me, only brought the deck to the venue that they were intending to play. Hopefully this will be better advertised next time.
Thoughts on the WMC
I have a few thoughts to add about the format of the WMC having now seen it in action, if only from the sidelines.
I failed to appreciate how important seeding of the teams on Day One was to Day Two. If you were top or second seed in your pod, then two wins was enough guarantee your progression to the next stage. This is nice for those teams, but seems rather hard on the other two.
I guess you should be rewarded for your good performances on Day One, but as that currently feels like a stand alone individual tournament, it is slightly odd to have such an impact on the rest of the tournament which is a team event.
I talked last week about how I expected all the Block decks to be the same—well they were. I think this is a genuine effect of Block being too small to support multiple major tournaments. The Block PT showed plenty of interesting variation, but as it got played online the field began to narrow. The Block GP was successful enough and saw different decks doing well, but by midway through M13 the meta had resolved into the one deck and that is what got played. Maybe it was just Innistrad block that had this problem. It is the first block to have multiple tournaments played using it, so it’s too early to be sure if Block will always stagnate in this way, but I think WotC needs to seriously review whether they want to have Block in the WMC again if it’s going to be this uninteresting.
Success in the TCG $1K
After not making Day Two of the WMC I was anxious to play RUG Ramp some more. The Standard season is basically done (no more PTQs or GPs back in Europe) and then Primeval Titan and Ponder are gone and so will my chance to cast Temporal Mastery (probably). I therefore decided to sign up for the TCG $1K event which ran on Friday, starting at 6pm—as did over 150 other people.
The tournament was 8 rounds with a cut to Top 8. The Top 8 started at 4am—I know this because I was in it. Seriously, going 0-2 drop may have been the winning move.
The deck still felt really sweet. I updated the sideboard to be more ready for the mirror after the WMC, which I then faced at least three times in the TCG event. Check out the guide below!
The deck is really popular at the moment, and is possibly seeing more play than Delver. There were definitely more copes of Ramp than Delver in the Top 8. For any remaining Standard tournaments, I imagine Delver will go back to four copies of Mana Leak to help combat this threat. Although, the one Delver opponent I faced held up Leak and I had a [card cavern of souls]Caverns[/card] to play (always good to play these late for extra value) so not sure if it’ll help them or not.
I have precisely three losses with the deck—one to the mirror and two to Naya. I have only played Naya twice so that’s not a good record. I don’t think it’s an honest reflection of the matchup. I definitely got unlucky in one of them and kept a speculative hand game three in the other, which did not get there. Hero of Bladehold is a very good card against Ramp (and Naya and Delver are both boarding it) so I was glad to have two copies of Combust in my board.
Sideboarding isn’t especially difficult with this deck, as there are many cards you just never cut—Primeval Titan, Solemn Simulacrum, Snapcaster Mage, Ponder, Rampant Growth, and Farseek. Temporal Mastery is often the cut against creature-heavy decks for more removal, and [card bonfire of the damned]Bonfire[/card] gets cut against creature-light decks such as control or the mirror (though I often leave in two as a large burn spell if they have dealt with the rest of my threats). For specifics in each matchup here is my guide:
I like to leave in two Bonfires in this match. Initially I was boarding out all copies, but I missed having a couple to either miracle for the kill or just to take down some opposing Titans. I was much happier with two left in.
Phantasmal Image is an odd one—initially I left it in on the logic of cloning Titans. While it is good at copying a Frost Titan as it can prevent its own death by tapping the original, it is a bad copy of Primeval Titan since the first land fetched is usually [card kessig wolf run]Wolf Run[/card], which just loves killing Images. In the end, I decided that the Images just weren’t working out and cut them for the space once I had more mirror cards.
Thragtusk as the final cut is hopefully completely logical to everyone. Lifegain and 5/3s are just not what you want in the mirror.
Meanwhile, [card tamiyo, the moon sage]Tamiyo[/card] comes in, who rather likes playing against decks with only a handful of creatures. She’s also especially good at tapping down lands when cast early. Karn has been a staple of Ramp mirrors since he was printed, and Beast Within is your answer to both of these cards.
I like the mirror but it’s very die-roll dependant, closely followed by who drew the ramp spells. Some things never change even if the colours do.
I’m always sad to board out Temporal Mastery, but it is often the cut. While it is a very flexible card you can often use to steal a win, it’s one of the few cards that aren’t necessary to the deck, so it often makes room for the hate cards in a given matchup.
Anyway, the hate for this matchup includes an additional Cavern of Souls. Delver often boards its extra copies of Mana Leak so we bring in the extra protection. In my earlier builds, I had both additional copies in the board, but went to just the one due to space.
I was running two Vines and just one Combust, but after some Hero of Bladehold action I decided to switch this around. Most of the time Vines are used to crush blue and white fliers which can also be combusted, however the flexibility to deal with equipment (or Inkmoth Nexus) means you want to keep at least one copy in the 75.
I decided I didn’t want to keep Phantasmal Image in after boarding, since they have too many spells which target, and the Whipflares provide enough additional answers to Geist of Saint Traft. Instead the additional slot is taken by a Thragtusk whose two abilities really annoy Delver players.
Against Naya Pod
There is an argument to bring in Thragtusk, but he doesn’t play especially well with Blade Splicer, so I’ve been sticking to just the two copies. Meanwhile, Phantasmal Image (who would probably be the cut for them) is good for buying time by pretending to be a Blade Splicer and has even fixed my mana for me by copying a Borderland Ranger.
Frost Titan does not play well against decks with multiple threats, so comes out here along with Temporal Mastery to make room for almost all the same cards that came in against Delver. The new addition is Blasphemous Act, which I have yet to draw in this matchup, but I’m sure will be as good as advertised at cleaning up the mess the opponent has made.
It’s a little awkward having Crushing Vines be the only answer for Birthing Pod, but the Ancient Grudge I originally had felt clunky in the deck. Clearing out their board then landing a Titan is normally good enough, and at least the Titans in this version are less painful than Inferno Titan when they get Conscripted.
This is the worst matchup for RUG ramp. The Poison deck can kill before you have played a creature, and may just ignore it if you have. Certainly in game one you have to rely on an early Bonfire of the Damned, and the awkwardness of the poison deck’s own draws to squeak out a win.
On the plus side, my new sideboard has a bunch of cards which accidentally help post-board. Tamiyo keeps their (often only one) threat locked down and Karn can exile problematic permanents. Whipflare, Crushing Vines, and Beast Within help to ensure we get to resolve our planeswalkers by dealing with early pressure.
Whipflare is super awkward as it only kills Glistener Elf, but I would rather board it in than not. Beast Within is one of the few early answers to Inkmoth Nexus, and the Beast token does not present much of a problem (for once).
Against Mono-Black Control
I like the matchup, as they have no counterspells and mostly just have to keep trading one-for-one with your threats. This makes Thragtusk an excellent card against them. They also have essentially no answers to planeswalkers and I love playing Karn. I’d bring in Tamiyo but she has nothing to tap and her emblem is nearly useless.
A pretty simple board plan here.
However, if you come up against the Pod variant you don’t want the Whipflares as they tend to go slightly bigger. They also have many clones which makes Frost Titan a bit of a liability. As such, I have taken to bringing in Karn instead of the big blue guy and leaving in two Masteries to mise.
If you have a chance to play this deck before it rotates I would highly recommend it. If I don’t make Day Two at Boston, you can be sure you’ll see me hitting the Standard side events with it. Speaking of which, if you are at Boston feel free to say hi! Thanks for reading and see you next week.