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Czech Mate – 2nd at #WCMQ2014, and Four Standard Decks

Hi!

I played the 1st World Magic Cup Qualifier last weekend. A little over 170 players showed up, which is a very high number for the Czech Republic. Since PTQs started awarding plane tickets to the winner we’ve had a few PTQs this size, but basically never had a non-GP tournament with more than 200 people. Everyone wanted to be a part of the national team and even some of the old-school players showed up, which was great. I still very much miss the old Nationals, which was a very prestigious 2-day event where the Top 3 finishers made the national team. Everyone from Jakub Slemr (the 1996 World Champion) to the newest players always showed up, sometimes even if they weren’t qualified, because they only needed to take one weekend off every year. The way it works now feels more like 3 PTQs where you can only afford to take 1 loss during the whole tournament, so it’s more random compared to a 2-day event with 12 or 14 rounds. Also, most people go home after getting their 2nd loss so there isn’t much time to catch up with old friends.

The format was the same as the PT and nothing really changed, except maybe that Mono-Blue got a little more popular. I brought 3 decks: UW Control, RW Burn, and GW Aggro, the deck I played at the PT. BW Devotion is also very good, but I don’t like the way it plays out and I hate the mirror matches, so I ruled that out early.

I think UW Control is a great choice for an event like this, where most of the players are less experienced, so you will get the most value out of cards like Supreme Verdict or Sphinx’s Revelation, but I ultimately decided against playing it because the rounds were only 50 minutes and I didn’t feel like I had enough experience with the deck. You need to be able to play it at blazing speed to not get draws and the faster you play the higher the chance that you will make mistakes. Also the mirror match is very difficult to play and I expected UW to be popular.

That was also the reason why I didn’t end up playing Burn. I think the deck is favored against pretty much everything, but for that you are basically sacrificing the UW matchup. Of course you can still win, but against a good player you will most likely lose. It turned out that UW wasn’t nearly as popular as I had thought. I don’t have the actual numbers but my guess is that UW/Esper made up less than 10% of the metagame.

This is what my version of UW Control would look like:

The 1 Aetherling in the main deck is basically my concession to the time limit because I know I’m not the fastest player. I cut one of the off-color Temples from Cifka’s version for a 2nd Guildgate because I like to be able to cast my spells. The rest is pretty much the usual, I like this version better than the one with Detention Spheres because Jund Planeswalkers are getting very popular and Black Devotion started splashing green for Abrupt Decay and Nissa, so I prefer having access to Planar Cleansing.

This is how I would play R/W Burn:

As I said before, I think this deck has a good matchup against everything except UW. Chandra’s Phoenix basically wins the game alone against all the black decks. I like playing Chained to the Rocks in the main deck, because every non-Revelation deck is playing creatures and it makes you much better game 1 against Mono-Blue and GW Aggro. With Chains in the deck you don’t need to play the full set of Shocks, which is arguably your worst card. I think 8 four-mana burn spells is too many and like the 3/3 split because of Blood Baron. The 4th Skullcrack also moved into the sideboard for the same reason, most people are on BW or BG instead of Mono-Black and those versions don’t play Gray Merchants.

Boros Reckoner in the sideboard is a great card for the mirror and decks like GW, Naya, or decks that bring in cards like Magma Spray and Mizzium Mortars against you. The 1 Assemble the Legion is for UW and Mono-Black. I don’t think you want more because in those matchups you need to be very aggressive with your Mutavaults and they often end up dying, so sometimes you won’t even be able to play Assemble because you won’t have 5 lands.

And this is what I ended up playing:

Yes, the same 75 I played at the PT. The deck is still good and I wouldn’t change a card, although in retrospect I don’t think it was a great choice for the tournament because other than the deck’s raw power there isn’t really a good way to outplay your opponent. One of the versions I saw recently played a couple copies of Call of the Conclave instead of one Fleecemane Lion and one Voice of Resurgence, and I believe the one-drops were split 4/3/3 as well. The alternatives are slightly worse but I could get behind that if your metagame is dominated by the Black Devotion decks with a lot of Bile Blights. Reclamation Sage is a card most people don’t have in their lists but it’s great against UW, RW Burn (Satyr Firedancer is an enchantment and they also bring in Chained to the Rocks), and sometimes BW if they have Nyx-Fleece Ram and Banishing Light. Don’t bring it in in the mirror though, it’s not worth it because the 2/1 body is completely irrelevant.

170+ people meant 8 rounds, so with 2 byes it looked like I would need 4-1 and a draw to Top 8. I beat UW Control and GW aggro before losing to Mono-Blue in round 5. I had a monstrous Fleecemane Lion suited up with Unflinching Courage in game 3 which made me feel like there was no way I could lose, but a timely Polymorphist’s Jest into overloaded Cyclonic Rift proved me wrong. After watching a judge ruling at GP Portland where it was ruled that an unblockable creature would still be unblockable after turning into a Frog I actually thought the same thing would happen with my Lion and he would still be indestructible, but apparently something about keywords and abilities says otherwise.

After that, I beat Mono-Black splashing green, another Mono-Blue, and a Naya aggro deck in the last round because my tiebreakers were bad and I couldn’t draw. That at least put me in the 1st seed, which meant I was on the play for the entire Top 8.

My quarterfinal matchup was a good one: Mono-Black splashing blue. A great matchup against all the black decks was basically the reason we chose to play GW at the PT, although Blood Baron and Banishing Lights instead of Underworld Connections certainly makes that matchup closer.

I won in two quick games and moved on to the semis against UW Control piloted by a good friend of mine and one of the old-school players. I won game one on the back of two monstrous Lions, and he never found a Supreme Verdict in game 2.

The last man standing in my way was Josef Vlach with Jund Monsters. This version of Jund is much harder for GW to beat because it has Stormbreath Dragons, but being on the play I can still produce too fast a draw and overrun him. That’s exactly what happened in game 1 and a part of me could already see myself on the team with Cifka. Unfortunately I had to take some mulligans in the next two games and missed too many early land drops. It looked like I might still win the third game if I ever draw a land, but he was able to overload Mizzium Mortars with me still on 2 lands and there was no coming back from that.

Normally a 2nd-place finish would be something to celebrate, but this kind of tournament has only 1 winner and I didn’t come for the 2 boxes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still glad the tournament went well for me, but I have now lost in the finals of 4 Grand Prix and 2 WMCQs, and I’m not sure which one feels worse. But, I’ll be battling with one of these 3 decks again next weekend and hopefully things will go at least as well as they did here.

If I had to make the choice now, I would probably play the Burn deck. Having 2 byes helps a ton—I like my odds needing to win 4 out of 5 to make the Top 8, and then I can hopefully dodge the UW matchup. If you have the time, devote it to mastering the UW deck and just play that, but definitely don’t play the deck without experience. GW is also a fine choice but if you expect too many Blood Barons, Stormbreath Dragons, and random sideboard cards like Glare of Heresy, then play the Burn deck and hope to keep getting paired against creature decks.

There is one more deck I wanted to mention. It’s a deck we almost ended up playing at the PT, but ultimately decided GW and RW had better percentage against the field we expected. It’s Mono-Black Aggro:

The deck has never had any spectacular results, but it crushes the control decks (or at least it did before we cut Thoughtseizes, from the main deck) and is somewhat under the radar. It started as a deck with 4 Thoughtseize, because how could you not play Thoughtseize in a mono-black deck, right? But, the more you play with it, the more you realize it doesn’t actually make sense in this metagame.

The format is getting faster with every tournament, and you need to be able to curve out and have the fastest draw possible before their more powerful cards can take over the game. Thoughtseize isn’t good because it creates a hole in your curve, it comes with a cost of not playing a creature on turn 1 or 2. So it basically does the exact opposite of what you want. It’s great against control decks with Supreme Verdict because that’s the most powerful card in the format against you and everything else in their deck does very little, but against all the other decks you will see a hand with cards that all do the same thing. Disrupting your curve to take a 7 out of their hand and leave them with four more 6.5s isn’t worth it.

Thoughtseize being bad in this deck actually hit me when playing the post-board games where it’s much more obvious, because you usually see a hand with 4 different removal spells and it doesn’t really matter which one you take if they can still use the other three on your next three creatures. By playing Thoughtseize instead of a creature, you give them the one-turn window where they don’t have to kill your guy, and the tempo of the game completely change. Now instead of them having to immediately answer your guys you are one turn behind and they have a threat in play. After losing a lot of post-board games that went like while I always wished I had a removal spell instead, I just made the change in the main deck.

The sideboard is somewhat transformational. You take out some cheap creatures that they bring answers for (cards like Golgari Charm, Magma Spray, Abrupt Decay, Last Breath) for Desecration Demons, or Lifebane Zombies against the green decks with Polukranos and Courser of Kruphix. The 3/1 Doom Blade/Downfall split is because Ultimate Price is really bad right now and you need to be able to kill Desecration Demon from the black decks while also having ways to kill Master of Waves, Frostburn Weird, Fleecemane Lion etc.

If your metagame is all control, then cut 1 Downfall, 2 Bile Blight and 1 Spiteful Returned for 4 Thoughtseize and just put more removal in the sideboard. If you expect a lot of Detention Spheres and Bile Blights you can change a few creatures to Thrill-Kill Assassin so that you have less 4-ofs.

I’ve seen versions with as little as 20 lands, but I think you want the 23 here because 12 of your cards have bestow and you very often actually want the 5th land on turn 5. Also you have 4 Mutavaults which makes you much less vulnerable to flooding. Mogis’s Marauder is great and wins you most of the games against creature decks, so definitely don’t change those to Lifebane Zombies.

It’s not a deck I would recommend for the WMCQs because the metagame just isn’t right for it at this moment, but if you are looking for a deck for something less serious like an FNM you can give it a try.

Thats all I have for today, see you next week!

Martin

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