Last weekend was an exciting one for Michigan Magic players. It feels a little strange, considering it was technically release weekend, but a ton of #WARMTG Standard was played and there are a lot of results to sift through.
If you were waiting for the first week of results to come in before hitching your wagon to a deck: now is the time! Also, this is the article for you, since I’ll be catching you up on the most critical pieces of information you’ll need to make informed metagame decisions now that the season is underway.
I also have a first look at the results and deck lists from the Michigan MCQ at RIW Hobbies that pulled 131 players. Between the Open, Classic, and MCQ, we have a fairly cohesive portrait of a dynamic format and metagame.
The Glorious Returns of “Old School” MCQs
The name may have changed from PTQ to MCQ, but the good times and excitement surrounding the return of these events is very, very real.
Before I even get to the results, I want to acknowledge how much I enjoyed the return of traditional winner-take-all PTQs, now called MCQs, in an LGS setting. I’ve always thought these events were a big part of the local fabric of the Magic community and never was that more clear than when they suddenly disappeared several years ago. The importance of these events in building the local gaming community cannot be understated.
I strongly disliked the PPTQ and RPTQ system. In fact, I loathed the system. It locked a significant chunk of the local player base out of events. At least one well known local pro lobbied to have his pro status revoked so that he could play local Magic on the weekends.
Magic at an LGS on a Saturday is part of the fabric of how people play and I’m delighted to have it back, hopefully for good this time.
With all of that being said, I was not allowed to play in this event because I’m already qualified for the upcoming MC. While I wasn’t allowed to play, I was able to participate alongside my pal Max McVety in the commentary booth. I learn a lot about a format from playing an event, but I believe I learn twice as much watching one. A good reminder to aspiring tournament players about the importance of watching and learning from event coverage.
If you needed further convincing that MCQs are a huge part of the local community:
— Brian DeMars (@BrianDeMars1) May 4, 2019
These events are a big deal to game stores and to the faithful fans who love to play Magic but can’t realistically travel long distances to play in events. It was wonderful to see 130+ players at the game store having an awesome time.
For me, one of the most exciting parts of the event was seeing Aaron Breider. He’s a Michigan PTQ legend from back in the day. He was basically a lock for Top 8 of every Limited PTQ because his Limited game was so ahead of its time. I hadn’t seen him in probably seven or eight years. These are the kinds of things that having a reasonable local tournament scene, such as an MCQ, brings to the table.
New Standard Narratives
I was at the LGS early in advance of coverage, but there wasn’t actually a ton for me to do other than hang out and chat with players. The big story I heard was a communal fear of Simic Nexus. That was pretty much the blanket impression I got from most of the players I spoke to.
Nexus of Fate combo decks gained a fantastic new tool in Tamiyo, Collector of Tales. Any time an established deck gains a fantastically synergistic planeswalker, it’s something to pay attention to, and Tamiyo fits this deck along multiple axis, both finding and rebuying key spells in important spots.
Across the spectrum of the three events it’s fair to say Nexus did not live up to the hype—at least not in week one. The deck missed Top 8 at the Standard Open and the Michigan MCQ, and only a lone Bant Nexus deck made Top 8 of the Classic.
The haters of the “great durdle combo” may be rejoicing at week’s end, but don’t count Nexus down or out just yet. Nexus was the deck to beat this week, and people were dedicated and prepared. As the metagame begins to shape up and people adjust I expect things to become less hostile.
|SCG Standard Open||RIW Hobbies MCQ||SCG Standard Classic|
|2. Red Deck Wins||2. Red Deck Wins||2. Bant Nexus|
|3. Red Deck Wins||4. Esper Control||3. Grixis Control|
|4. Esper Control||5. Esper Control||4. Esper Control|
|5. Selesnya Tokens||6. White Weenie||5. White Weenie|
|6. Bant Midrange||6. White Weenie||6. Dimir Control|
|7. Esper Control||7. White Weenie||7. Mardu Aggro|
|8. Bant Midrange||8. Esper Control||8. Naya Midrange|
Every tournament tells a story. It’s also significant that the first two columns, the Open and MCQ, took place Saturday whereas the Classic was held on Sunday (giving players an additional day of information to process and to make adjustments).
The overarching narrative of the Saturday decks was:
Metagamers wrote off red decks, and red decks punished this assumption hard.
Simic Nexus likely struggled week one because it had a bullseye on its head and people were lining up their shot before round one. People were perhaps overprepared for Nexus and underprepared for Red Deck Wins.
The RIW MCQ and SCG Open were both screenplays written in three acts:
Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (Simic is out there and it’s going to get us!!)
Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (We did eight rounds of Swiss coverage and all eight were won by either Esper Control or White Weenie!)
Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (Two red decks quietly sneak into Top 8 under the radar and assassinate the Jedi at the height of their power).
— Brian DeMars (@BrianDeMars1) May 4, 2019
Let’s get to those deck lists!
MCQ Deck Lists: RIW Hobbies, Livonia Michigan
This is likely the first place these will be posted. Here are the Top 8 deck lists from the MCQ:
Red Deck Wins
Nicolas Sobzak, 1st place
18 Mountain 4 Fanatical Firebrand 4 Ghitu Lavarunner 4 Runaway Steam-Kin 4 Viashino Pyromancer 4 Goblin Chainwhirler 4 Shock 4 Lightning Strike 2 Risk Factor 4 Skewer the Critics 4 Light Up the Stage 4 Wizard's Lightning Sideboard 4 Legion Warboss 2 Rekindling Phoenix 3 Experimental Frenzy 2 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator 4 Lava Coil
Red Deck Wins
Sean Dunn, 2nd place
18 Mountain 4 Fanatical Firebrand 4 Ghitu Lavarunner 4 Runaway Steam-Kin 4 Viashino Pyromancer 4 Goblin Chainwhirler 4 Shock 4 Lightning Strike 2 Risk Factor 4 Skewer the Critics 4 Light Up the Stage 4 Wizard's Lightning Sideboard 3 Experimental Frenzy 4 Legion Warboss 2 Rekindling Phoenix 1 Risk Factor 4 Lava Coil 1 Mountain
Harrison Fang, 3rd place
12 Plains 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Law-Rune Enforcer 4 Dauntless Bodyguard 4 Skymarcher Aspirant 4 Adanto Vanguard 4 Venerated Loxodon 4 Benalish Marshal 4 Snubhorn Sentry 4 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort 3 Conclave Tribunal 4 History of Benalia 2 Gideon Blackblade Sideboard 1 Demystify 3 Tocatli Honor Guard 1 Conclave Tribunal 2 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants 3 Baffling End 2 Dovin's Veto 1 Disdainful Stroke 2 Teferi, Time Raveler
Daniel Fournier, 4th place
1 Island 1 Swamp 4 Watery Grave 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Drowned Catacombs 4 Isolated Chapel 4 Glacial Fortress 1 Cry of the Carnarium 2 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin 4 Thought Erasure 2 Cast Down 2 Teferi, Time Raveler 1 Oath of Kaya 4 Absorb 2 Mortify 4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 2 Dovin's Veto 4 Chemister's Insight 3 Vraska's Contempt 3 Kaya's Wrath Sideboard 3 Duress 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 3 Thief of Sanity 3 Hostage Taker 1 Cry of the Carnarium 2 Vona, Butcher of Magan 1 Dovin's Veto
Brandon Anderson, 5th place
4 Glacial Fortress 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Godless Shrine 4 Watery Grave 3 Isolated Chapel 4 Drowned Catacomb 1 Blast Zone 1 Mobilized District 1 Swamp 4 Thought Erasure 3 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 3 Teferi, Time Raveler 3 Absorb 3 Mortify 2 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin 2 Moment of Craving 1 Cast Down 1 Oath of Kaya 3 Kaya's Wrath 3 Chemister's Insight 2 Vraska's Contempt 2 Dovin's Veto 2 Tyrant's Scorn 1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General Sideboard 2 Dovin's Veto 4 Thief of Sanity 1 Enter the God-Eternals 1 Oath of Kaya 1 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper 1 Despark 1 Nezahal, Primal Tide 1 Disdainful Stroke 1 Lyra Dawnbringer 2 The Elderspell
Raja Sulaiman, 6th place
1 Swamp 1 Island 4 Watery Grave 4 Drowned Catacomb 4 Godless Shrine 4 Isolated Chapel 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Glacial Fortress 1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General 4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 2 Chemister's Insight 2 Vraska's Contempt 3 Kaya's Wrath 1 Cry of the Carnarium 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 2 Mortify 1 Teferi, Time Raveler 4 Absorb 1 Negate 1 Tyrant's Scorn 1 Moment of Craving 2 Cast Down 4 Thought Erasure 2 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin 1 Enter the God-Eternals Sideboard 2 Duress 1 Disdainful Stroke 2 Dovin's Veto 1 Moment of Craving 1 Despark 1 Teferi, Time Raveler 4 Thief of Sanity 2 Hostage Taker 1 Enter the God-Eternals
Bryan Carey, 7th place
12 Plains 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Dauntless Bodyguard 4 Law-Rune Enforcer 4 Skymarcher Aspirant 4 Adanto Vanguard 4 Benalish Marshal 4 Venerated Loxodon 4 Snubhorn Sentry 4 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort 4 History of Benalia 4 Conclave Tribunal Sideboard 1 Demystify 2 Baffling End 2 Tithe Taker 3 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants 3 Tocatli Honor Guard 1 Disdainful Stroke 2 Dovin's Veto 1 Deputy of Detention
Noam Zimet, 8th place
12 Plains 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Law-Rune Enforcer 4 Venerated Loxodon 4 Skymarcher Aspirant 4 Dauntless Bodyguard 4 Snubhorn Sentry 4 Adanto Vanguard 4 Benalish Marshal 4 Conclave Tribunal 4 History of Benalia 4 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort Sideboard 3 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants 2 Teferi, Time Raveler 2 Dovin's Veto 2 Baffling End 1 Demystify 2 Tocatli Honor Guard 1 Tithe Taker 1 Disdainful Stroke
The event had a stacked field of 131 that was a real who’s who of midwest Magic players. Aside from the Top 8 notables, Joslyn Lambaria missed on tie-breakers by 2% points with her White Aggro deck. Kyle Boggemes (Esper Control), Tyler Hill (White Aggro), and Adam Hernandez (Simic Nexus) also put up strong showings but fell a loss short of Top 8.
Top 16, Adam Hernandez
6 Forest 6 Island 3 Memorial to Genius 4 Hinterland Harbor 4 Breeding Pool 2 Blast Zone 4 Opt 1 Blink of an Eye 1 Callous Dismissal 4 Growth Spiral 1 Negate 4 Root Snare 4 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin 4 Chemister's Insight 4 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales 4 Wilderness Reclamation 4 Nexus of Fate - Foil - Buy-a-Box Promo Sideboard 3 Arboreal Grazer 2 Kraul Harpooner 1 Murmuring Mystic 1 Spell Pierce 2 Negate 2 Crushing Canopy 2 God-Eternal Kefnet 2 Bond of Flourishing
I have an immense amount of respect for the work Adam Hernandez has been consistently putting in for local events as well as the content he’s been publishing. It’s always packed with great details and insights. He had a stellar Simic list that I’ve also decided to share (since the rest of the Top 8 field was basically three decks!).
Congratulations to Nick on an epic and well-played tournament! His semifinals match against Daniel Fournier was one of the craziest matches I’ve watched in a while with both players being put to the test with extremely difficult choices over and over again. Also, from the coverage side, I can say that Nick is a true champion for having the most legible handwritten deck list!
Overall, I was impressed by Esper Control in the commentary booth. While I do think the red decks were able to catch some opponents sleeping on dedicated answers to the fast, burn-centric strategy last weekend, I don’t expect people to continue to make that mistake this week.
There is some tension between card choices that dictate how one chooses to position their Esper build, which is a cool sub-game within the metagame. The issue is that Esper can’t hedge to beat all of the powerful decks at the same time, since it needs different tools for each type of matchup.
It needs Wraths for White Aggro, life gain to prolong the game against Red Deck, and combo stoppers like Paradoxical Outcome and Thief of Sanity against Nexus. In each matchup, something dramatically different is the most important and necessitates a different subset of cards. To further complicate that dynamic, the cards that are great against some decks are bad to the point of being an unplayable liability in other matchups!
Esper ends up in a spot where a large part of game 1 success is based on drawing the good cards in a matchup and dodging the bricks! But it is also true that because Esper has such depth on the sideboard bench that it is likely favored in almost every sideboard scenario.
During the Phantom Menace phase of the tournament, I got a chance to discuss the Esper v. Simic matchup with Kyle Boggemes (he played Esper). He said that he expected to lose most game 1s (unless he drew strongly from the good half of his deck, i.e., not creature removal), but felt like a strong favorite in the sideboard games, which made him confident about the matchup overall.
I watched quite a bit of the matchup this weekend between the Open, Classic, and MCQ, and it played out exactly as Kyle predicted. So, while Simic feels like it should be a bad matchup, it’s actually a close, or slightly favored, matchup overall.
Is It Open Season on Planeswalkers Yet?
One of the strongest impressions I gained from the weekend’s Magic events was a newfound respect for the new 3-mana planeswalkers.
These cards are both straight-up, high-impact, serious business. Both were key to Esper’s success against Simic and Control. Narset has also made a splash in Eternal already! Zach Allen hit the nail on the head when he said: “Narset is an instant Eternal staple.” I strongly agree with the assessment.
In Legacy it’s an effective way to shut down cheap cantrips.
In Vintage… You… Can… Do… Other… Things… With… It… Not to mention, it’s pretty great against Paradoxical Outcome!
But let’s get back to Standard:
A couple of cards worth considering as the War of the Spark planeswalkers continue to expand their influence in the format. First:
I was instantly sold on this card after watching Brandon Anderson unleash the beast in an Esper mirror. His opponent was ahead with multiple planeswalkers on the board and this card caught him back up for 2 mana. Not only did it catch him up but it also added loyalty to his Teferi, Time Raveler to draw extra cards! Now, imagine using this to spam a bunch of loyalty onto a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria to ultimate out of nowhere! He did that too…
The second card that I think is interesting but not seeing much play yet:
Another great option for dealing with planeswalkers, and for the bargain price of a single B mana. I wish the card was an instant so that it could pick off turn-5 Teferi before the two lands untap to represent Dovin’s Veto. It’s still decent simply because it’s so cheap.
Clearly, there’s a lot to consider as we move into the second week of the format. I predict people will adjust to Red Deck Wins. In fact, the Classic Top 8 implies, to me, that the players who had success did exactly that. I suggest that Esper is the default deck to beat, which means that anything with a solid Esper plan is well positioned. Also, don’t write off Nexus because it’ll be back. Just give it some time.
It was an awesome weekend full of Magic and I’ve got to say that I didn’t realize how much I missed the local PTQs until I found myself at one! It’s such a big win for players at the local level to again have access to these wonderful community building events.