It is a surprisingly difficult week to find a subject. For the sake of England, I can’t talk about specific decks or strategies for Standard, M13 Limited, Block or Modern. I could still write about them—but it would be unfair to you, my lovely readers, if I had to hold stuff back from you.
As my eternal format experience has not increased since last time I wrote about them (i.e. never for Vintage), I am left sharing my thoughts on the WMC.
I can talk about quite a bit regarding the WMC without getting down and dirty with decklists, as I can’t help but feel that the WMC is not yet structured to maximise its potential.
1. Standard Is Well Established
The WMC is poorly timed. Having it at GenCon is awesome and I am looking forward to experiencing the event for the first time. However, Standard post-M13 is old.
Pro Tours happen 1-2 weeks after a set release. This puts pressure on the competitors to explore the potentials of the new set for whatever Constructed format is being played and get a handle on draft.
This is exciting! You find a deck idea, but is it any good? Do you take the plunge or simply update something old? For draft, it rewards those who intrinsically get a feel for the set and can quickly evaluate cards.
With M13 over a month old in Standard, new decks have already surfaced, been tested and mostly dismissed. Elves popped up for a tournament or two, but hasn’t had any success after its second place at an SCG Open several weeks back. Wolf Run is back in blue form, and Delver added [card talrand, sky summoner]Talrand[/card] to some of its decks. People are trying to play Trading Post in control, but it isn’t working out at the moment—though you can play any color combination you like. Naya Pod is still about, but Bant Pod has grown in popularity and success. Just last week, Poison met with success at an SCG Open thanks to some new toys from M13. The current meta is very broad and it feels like any “new” decks have been discovered.
I can see an argument for having one Pro-level event a year in a slightly matured meta-game. It does encourage a slightly different approach. You can sense what decks are going to show up, and meta against them. There is even the opportunity to find that “good-for-one-tournament deck”. At least the current Standard format is diverse, which should lead to interesting deck choices (though Delver is still taking a big chunk of the meta).
M13 Standard has already given us decks that I don’t think have a long-term outlook in the format. Elves and Poison can both be beaten with good sideboard choices, but met with success in the unprepared meta. It’s like when Delver-Spirits was good for about one tournament in four when everyone had stopped boarding Corrosive Gale again. Maybe there is another deck to be discovered in this vein, or perhaps the meta is soft to Elves again. It would be great if we could find it.
Another factor that could prevent any breakout decks from appearing is that, unlike a Pro Tour (or old Worlds), there are no large teams looking to bust the format. I don’t know, maybe ChannelFireball are helping LSV and Kibler out with team America’s plan, but they are probably alone. With Standard quite so explored at this point in the season, I doubt there is an awesome deck to bust out as I’m sure someone would have already done it at a GP or an SCG Open. But, choosing the right deck for the meta will still be a strong factor. Still, I would like the timing of the WMC to be moved so that Standard wasn’t quite so stale.
I think this would make it more exciting for everyone at home as well.
2. Motivation to Test Block and Modern Is Low
This point is my biggest sadness over Worlds. In “old” Worlds, everyone on the team had to play Modern (or Extended) on Day 3, which was also one of the team decks. As such, motivation to test and find exciting new tech or the right deck for the meta was high. The same was not true of Legacy, which formed the other team deck—but Legacy is a pretty mature format, so I don’t think it would have been tested much, even if there was a Legacy portion to the event.
Now that only one member of your team will play Block and another Modern, it seems silly to dedicate a lot of time to testing them. If you don’t get Standard, M13 Draft, and M13 Team Sealed nailed, then you won’t have to play any Block or Modern at all. In which case you could end up wasting time that actually costs you the chance to get there.
Don’t get me wrong—I can see the value in being the only team in the Top 16 to have extensively tested Modern and Block, but I doubt anyone will have the luxury to do so.
I like that the WMC has a huge variety of formats, and I hope that I, and the rest of team England, get to savor that diversity. But I’m sure the tournament could be structured differently to take full advantage of this richness. As such, I’ve been toying with some ideas on how to make these other formats feel more integral to the event.
My favorite so far—on Day One, you divide the tournament into four sections: Block, Modern, Standard and Draft. These sections run two 4-round (or 3 for draft) tournaments. Each team member plays in two of the sections during the day, and in no section twice. For example:
Team Awesome Member 1 plays Block and Modern, Member 2 plays Draft and Standard, Member 3 plays Block and Standard, Member 4 plays Modern and Draft.
The teams get to decide who plays in which sections. I like this aspect particularly, as it allows the teams to fully make use of its members strengths (and weaknesses). The qualification tournaments were Standard this year, so you may have a member who is really weak at Draft. By this format, you can arrange it so that this does not affect the team’s chance of making the cut on Day One.
As all formats are played by the team, you will want to test them—which should hopefully produce a tournament with more exciting decks for everyone at home to enjoy, as well as really test the commitment and dedication of the teams involved.
The problem with this arrangement is that I can’t work out the method of cutting the team down to only three members, as two of them only play 7 rounds while the rest play 8. You don’t want to cut the Constructed portions down to only 3 rounds, and you don’t want Draft to become more or less desirable than any other section.
I definitely want to avoid letting the teams choose who doesn’t play on Day Two. While I’m happy to let them decide who plays what formats on Day One, you could end up with bullying or just bad feelings if the Day Two selection is left up to them.
Still, I’m not paid to iron out the problems.
I know Wizards are looking at the WMC and the qualifiers for the event. They have already said they rushed it out so that, although it wasn’t perfect, it could at least happen. I think everyone should agree this is better than not doing so but I look forward to seeing how they evolve this event.
Musing on the Metagame
Moving away from the WMC and its potential problems, I have been musing on the meta game. While it will be diverse, I like to tinker with the numbers I expect in my head—it gives me an idea of what to prepare for (useful for deck and sideboard decisions). I would love to tell you how testing is going, but you’ll have to settle for the contents of my brain on the meta.
I expect the biggest portion of the meta to still be Delver variants—probably about 35%. It’s not as dominant as it once was, but still strong and a popular choice among players. Whether the decks will have Talrand in or not is probably the biggest question. Talrand is the greatest point of contention among Delver decks at the moment, as you either go with Talrand (and more blue-based) or Restoration Angel (and Geist of Saint Traft). It’s a shame you can’t run both, but you don’t want to overload on 4-drops in an 18-land deck. I would have said expect more Angels, except that a Talrand build won the SCG Open this weekend which will be a big influence on deck choices.
It was also interesting to see a Poison deck place highly this weekend. Poison decks have become prevalent in the metagame of late, but one had yet to actually do well in a big tournament (or at least not that I saw). I suspect this is a “if you run good” deck or, as discussed earlier, a “good when no one expects it” deck. With only 12 creatures to get the job done, I am still skeptical of the deck. It does run plenty of ways to protect its few threats from troublesome spells. I personally won’t choose to play it, as people should be prepared—but I will make sure I can beat it. I expect some copies to show up in the WMC, but only a small number.
Naya Pod seems to be falling out of favor. It got relatively little from M13—not that it needed it—but as decks evolve, those that remain unchanged get left behind. That said, I still really like the deck. It plays some of the best creatures in Standard and gets so much value. I expect Naya to take second place in the meta at the WMC and I may well be playing a copy myself.
After Delver and Naya I expect the field to be a pretty mixed bunch. I already commented on Poison, but I would expect a fair helping of Zombies, Bant Pod, and Wolf Run Blue. Elves would be a very poor choice. I think it was a good surprise deck, but is easily defeated. Now that the jig is up, I expect Elves to perform poorly.
With Elves out of the picture, I do wonder about wielding mono-green again. It didn’t feel possible to beat Elves, as you can’t disrupt their game plan and they can goldfish well. I do like mono-green’s Delver and Naya matchup, which I expect to form about 50% of the meta between them. However, I haven’t played against the Talrand-based builds which could swing the match back in the favor of Delver. Let me expand on that point: against Delver the only concerns were early Delvers or multiple Angels, i.e. flier-based beatdown. With Talrand, if I don’t have an answer straight away, there will be an overwhelming number of fliers that will kill me. I will certainly put mono-green through the gauntlet to check.
For Zombies I expect an equal mix of red and blue, though, as I’m sure you gathered last week, I think blue is the stronger variant.
I honestly can’t get behind Wolf Run Blue, even though it won an SCG two weeks ago and put a number of players into the Top 32 this week as well. I don’t want to to play Frost Titan; Inferno Titan feels the bigger man. There are lots of 1- and 2-toughness creatures, and Naya and Zombies basically can’t get back up if one resolves early. Frost Titan was really good in a Wolf Run-dominated meta as Frost Titan beats all other Titans, but I’m not sure he’s that great against multiple [card blade splicer]Splicers[/card], their tokens, [card huntmaster of the fells]Huntmasters[/card] and Angels. I do like the inclusion of Temporal Mastery as Rampant Growths 9-12, and you do get enough lands to hard cast them later.
Out of interest, I’ve made up some numbers for the Standard meta at the WMC. I want to see how close I am, as I was pretty on the money at Hawaii. This is completely made up, so don’t go asking how I got the numbers:
For Modern and Block, I expect most people to reference the most recent GPs and the online metas to select their decks of choice. Block, for example, seems to have distilled into just one deck: GR aggro—with black for Falkenrath Aristocrat or white for Restoration Angel, or both. There are a few crazy people playing these incredible removal-heavy control decks that I think win with Snapcaster Mage beatdown, and a couple of aggro decks in other colors, but I don’t expect to see much variation in this portion of the event. For a format with such a narrow card pool that has already seen a PT, a GP, and is many, many months old, it seems an odd choice for the WMC. I would have preferred Legacy, but that has bigger issues with card availability, which I think WotC are keen to avoid these days.
I haven’t really played Modern since the PTQ season. However, it still sees a lot of play online and there was a GP in the US recently. Sadly the diversity of Modern seems to have narrowed since last time I enjoyed it. I expected a sea of GR Tron, but that seems to have been displaced by Delver (sigh) and multi-coloured Pod—similar to Standard actually, now I think about it. I’d like an excuse to play Aggro-Loam again, but at the moment we are focused on simply getting to the Top 16 before worrying about deck choices for Modern and Block.
Alright, I think that’s all I can say right now without divulging classified secrets. I am really excited about attending my first Gen Con and playing in my first team event—something I thought would never happen after the death of Worlds earlier this year. If you are going to be at Gen Con feel free to come say hi; I love chatting to people. See you next week where, hopefully, I will be able to report on how the WMC played out in practice and about Team England’s awesome success!