I was excited to watch the Mythic Invitational. It’s was a one-of-a-kind experience, but it also feels like the first of many events in the new Magic era. Maybe not an entirely new era, but another path for Magic fans worldwide.

I love change in Magic. It means new things to explore, new aspects of the game to discuss, and players gather around to watch how it plays out. The Mythic Invitational and its unique format weren’t any different. But sitting down and thinking about how the matchups played out, it felt hard to grasp without having played the tournament itself. It’s similar to the way I think about Team Constructed formats. There’s more than one deck to cover different matchups, but I’m not really close enough to analyze them. Therefore, I got some expert data. And who better to ask than the Mythic Invitational competitors themselves, who most likely spent the most amount of time thinking about it!?

I interviewed the players I could get my hands on and asked them each 10 questions, some more in-depth than others. While not every answer will be in the article with detailed analysis, it will hopefully help me get a grasp of what the players think of the format, the decks, and help you learn a little bit more about them!

Jean-Emmanuel Depraz

Age: 24
Twitter Handle: @JEDepraz
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/jdepraz1
Twitch Channel Web Page: https://www.twitch.tv/jirock
Other Places to Find You: https://discord.gg/eMab3D

1. For those who may not know you that well, where do you see yourself in the Magic community and how did you start playing Magic?

I am definitely a newcomer to professional Magic, but not to the game or the competition. I have been traveling to PTQs since 2010 and have built strong ties to the French competitive scene since, including testing with Rémi Fortier and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa for my first Pro Tour, Magic 2015, in what was a truly enlightening experience. The three winners of WMC France.More recently, I’ve had a hell of a season that started off with a Standard GP win, really took off with a Top 8 at PT Rivals of Ixalan, and culminated in captaining Team France to victory at the (very) last World Magic Cup. Despite all that success, I still see myself pretty much the same way as a year ago: passionate about the game, trying to build up my community via streaming in French, and initiating new people to our advanced testing methods (sport and meditation included!). Now I am in the best position to do it.

2. If you got a new family member, a child or pet, and had to name it after a Magic character, what would it be?

Jaya.

Jaya Ballard, Task Mage

3. How do you think this chance to participate will change your career or situation within Magic? What if you won the entire event?

Whatever the result, it should give me some exposure. Obviously, winning it all would be a vindication for all these years I have devoted to Magic and would send, I believe, the incredibly positive message that with enough passion, you could be anything… but expectations are damaging and I try to not to give into them.

4. What platform(s) did you use to prepare for this event? Magic Online? Magic Arena? Paper/in real life? Did you test with any other players?

Alone on MTG Arena. Which isn’t optimal, but for now I am pretty isolated within the MPL, and my default mode is to do things by myself. That said, the format lends itself well to this type of preparation.

5. Did anything in particular surprise you about best-of-one? What’s the most common misconception about the format?

Esper was surprisingly good for an essentially reactive deck. I think the hand selection algorithm (currently associated with BO1) has a big impact, but people misunderstand it and draw the wrong consequences. For example, you could in theory get away with fewer lands, but the systematic, relentless curveouts make missing land drops more punishing, so it is kind of a wash. Secondly, selection mechanisms such as explore or the cantrips become worse—you don’t want to sacrifice board presence to an effect the selector already provides, so the most linear, straightforward decks get better as a result, but that can apply to both aggro, combo, and control! Linear doesn’t mean aggressive, it means “not flexible.” In this format, Esper happens to be good enough against Mono-Red that the weakening of midrange decks still leaves it in a good spot, and “survive until you resolve Teferi” as a linear plan works perfectly fine.

6. What’s the major difference between best-of-one and best-of-three regarding card choices in Constructed?

Versatile cards that will have a use in every matchup become better. You will prefer Lightning Strike to Lava Coil because it always finds a target. Thought Erasure and Conclave Tribunal are other good examples.

7. Does constructing the main deck become harder in contrast to Standard Constructed with sideboards? Why or why not?

For reactive decks, it does make it harder to pack a plan for every matchup or situation that might come up. Versatility is part of the answer here, but proactivity is what BO1 rewards the most. You don’t want to sit around and try to line up answers that could be wrong and won’t be corrected after game 1. That’s why Chemister’s Insight into Teferi works so well out of Esper and why Sultai tends to rely more on the Wildgrowth Walker combo plan and less on the Krasis grind. That, and the fact that it crushes aggressive decks, of course.

8. Does the opening hand algorithm change the power level of certain decks or type of cards?

I already touched on that, but it is a vast subject. The algorithm makes everything smoother and faster. You can’t afford to stumble, so your opening hands, although better on average, deserve a more critical eye. Regarding decks, it grants stability and thus benefits fragile builds the most—decks that rely on a critical mass like WW or Mono-Red that die to one too many lands drawn. Regarding cards, everything that doesn’t affect the board or relies on your opponent stumbling gets worse. Thought Erasure is an interesting case—a versatile, proactive answer, it is also tempo negative and often won’t be enough to disrupt the opponent’s curve. Chemister’s Insight suffers from a similar tension, which makes these cards about as good as in BO3 in the end, but for different reasons.

9. The Mythic Invitational has quite a unique format, with no other previous tournaments like it. Do you enjoy Duo Standard? Why or why not? If yes, would you like for it to be implemented elsewhere? 

Personally, I dislike BO1 for a lot of the traits I previously described. But this Duo Standard format allows for more games played, gives you a shot at recovering from a perfect curve out, and getting to pick your deck for game 3 has some interesting strategic implications. It prevents you from submitting the same deck (Esper!) twice because of a potential counter and pushes you toward some kind of balance where your archetypes cover the other’s weaknesses. I would still prefer sticking to good old BO3 Magic in the future, but if Arena’s BO1 comes to shape the new world, this format is a fine compromise.

10. What’s your two-deck lineup? If you had to give a short summary of why you chose those two decks, what would be the major reasons why? I am playing Esper Control with a pair of Mastermind’s Acquisitions and base-red Gruul, with Chainwhirler as opposed to Pelt Collector. They complement each other well, with Gruul crushing the aggressive decks and Esper preying on Wildgrowth Walker and Lyra Dawnbringer decks. I also like them individually for their resilience to disruption or counter-measures, unlike, say, WW or Mono-Red. You can easily build an anti-red deck, but with Gruul’s cards all being good on their own, the archetype will always stand a chance.

Bonus Question: Mastermind’s Acquisition in best-of-one. Hate it or love it?!

I love sideboarding and tutors. Only a Mastermind would think of blending those into one card (well, or someone who played with Wishes, I guess).

Lucas Esper Berthoud

Image of Lucas Esper Berthoud.Age: 33
Twitter: @bertuuuu
Twitch: twitch.tv/lucas_esper_berthoud
Years Playing Magic: 23

1. For those who may not know you that well, where do you see yourself in the Magic community and how did you start playing Magic?

I am an MPL member after a strong 2017-2018 season, preceded by winning a Pro Tour the season before. I don’t play Magic full-time and consider myself just a serious hobbyist, feeling grateful for the latest results. Some of the most fun I have is writing tournament reports on Reddit. I enjoy talking to people about competitive Magic.

2. If you got a new family member, a child or pet, and had to name it after a Magic character, what would it be?

I probably wouldn’t name a child or pet after a Magic character.

3. How do you think this chance to participate will change your career or situation within Magic? What if you won the entire event?

The money is nice, but it wouldn’t change much. I play Magic for the thrill of the competition. If it involves tough opponents and an interesting format, I’ll always be happy to play. That’s the upside of the MPL for me. The prize is a great, but in the end it’s just a bonus.

4. What platform(s) did you use to prepare for this event? Magic Online? Magic Arena? Paper/in real life? Did you test with any other players?

Magic Arena. I teamed with fellow Hareruya Latin players and some friends.

5. Did anything in particular surprise you about best-of-one? What’s the most common misconception about the format?

Not that many surprises, other than figuring out that most decks needed a sideboard in case you end up casting your opponent’s Mastermind’s Acquisition. Best-of-one is OK for casual play but it’s very far from being a viable competitive format. There isn’t a lot of depth to it. The games are too straightforward, too matchup dependent, and too reliant on winning the coin flip. A sideboard allows players to implement different plans on the play or draw, and leads to longer games trading resources, severely mitigating the effects of the coin flip.

6. What’s the major difference between best-of-one and best-of-three regarding card choices in Constructed?

In best-of-one you are incredibly punished for drawing a dead card, such as a slow spell against aggro or removal against control.

7. Does constructing the main deck become harder in contrast to Standard Constructed with sideboards? Why or why not?

Once you figure the rules of engagement for the format, deckbuilding is straightforward because you only have 60 fixed cards instead of the fluidity of accounting for various sideboard plans your opponents could bring. The main challenge we faced was the hand fixing algorithm, which is unknown to players and extremely frustrating. I couldn’t tell if we should play 18 or 22 lands in some of the decks because no one could do the math for it.

8. Does the opening hand algorithm change the power level of certain decks or type of cards?

Yes, completely. Aggro decks reach another level in power and are only kept in check by the fact that other decks are heavily anti-aggro to compensate. It feels like every deck will play its most busted hand every time.

9. The Mythic Invitational has quite a unique format, with no other previous tournaments like it. Do you enjoy Duo Standard? Why or why not? If yes, would you like for it to be implemented elsewhere? 

I strongly dislike this format. Sideboards are one Magic’s most unique and strongest features, creating interesting, diverse, and skill-intensive gameplay. It’s where most high-level play and preparation is focused. Magic as an esport should mean great players playing great games. So give them the tools to do that. Sideboards are essential. That said, having the Invitational be Duo Standard instead of straight best-of-one adds more layers to the format, but not enough. A lot of game 3 deck selection is going to be based on weighted probabilities.

I hope not to play best-of-one in a competitive setting again.

10. What’s your two-deck lineup? If you had to give a short summary of why you chose those two decks, what would be the major reasons why?

Esper and WW. Our team posted the highest win rates in ladder and internal testing with these two decks and they also happen to have different bad matchups, so you are not too exploitable in game .

Bonus Question: Mastermind’s Acquisition in best-of-one. Hate it or love it?!

Love it. Adds something fresh to the format.

What do you guys think? Is there a chance that “linear game play” makes games of Magic too defined and fast, or do you believe nuances of great play can still be found in best-of-one Arena matches? Jean-Emmanuel and Lucas have similar ideas about the event and the format, but definitely nuanced and somewhat different. Drop a comment below!