Thursday, March 4, 2010

Looking back on San Diego

On Friday, before leaving for San Diego, I made some predictions on the Top 8. Let's see how I did. Here are the Top 8 decklists.
  • Mono red will make one Top 8 appearance
Jeroen Kanis made Top 8 with 2 maindeck Quenchable Fire and 4 Unstable Footing in his sideboard. A lot of decks still have poor matchups against Mono-Red, particularly Jund. Considering Jund made up the majority of the field, no surprise, Mono-Red had a window of opportunity to do well at the Pro Tour. LSV stated during one of his video interviews that the Boss Naya matchup against Mono-Red was pretty poor as well (although he 3-0’ed against Jeroen Kanis in the quarterfinals.)

Some assumed cards like Kor Firewalker would prevent mono-red from doing well, but Firewalker is just one card that only fits in a few decks. So it’s not hard to imagine one mono-red deck managing to dodge most of the Firewalkers – or just deal with them using sideboard cards. It would be interesting to know exactly what his matchups were.

Although I would not personally run mono-red at that Pro Tour, nor would I recommend the deck to anyone, mono-red is one of those decks that definitely can put someone in the Top 8, given the right matchups and a skilled pilot. In order to keep the format healthy and honest, mono-red definitely needs to share a slice of the metagame pie.

  • At least one Jacerator will go better than X-2
This was a miss. Even a great player like Olivier Ruel couldn't go X-2 with Turbo Fog. Despite all the creature decks in the field like Mono-White, Vampires, and Midrange, it seems there were too many decks that beat it at the same time (Jund, for one). People were packing hate against the deck without even trying: Negate, Bant Charm, Qasali Pridemage, Maelstrom Pulse, and Oblivion Rings. The deck still does powerful things, but it may have drawn its last, staggering breaths with this Pro Tour. More often than not, it loses to its own mana problems. (Of all the decks to know too much about, this is one I’ve seen play out the most since I helped Edison PTQ winner, Dan Rein, test it for Pro Tour San Diego. But he ended up playing something else. So just trust me when I say it loses to A) Jund and B) its own mana problems.)
  • Jund will take up at least 3 Top 8 spots
Of course I would root for Jund in the Top 8. I like the deck. Maybe that makes me a bad person. But by now, Jund is so “unpopular” that I root for it, just to be in opposition to the crowd of haters. AND because I genuinely enjoy playing the deck and winning with it. (I’ll agree it’s dumb; I’ll agree it’s random; I won’t agree it takes no skill whatsoever.) None-the-less, 3 out of 8 slots is above the amount of representation Jund had in general (it made up 37.5% of the Top 8 while making up 27% of the total field). Obviously, draft affected the Top 8 appearances, too, so it’s impossible to say that the decks are what got them there. Looking at a broader picture, though, out of the top 74 decks listed in the Top Standard Decks section, 23 were Jund (so 31%). Out of the Top 50 decks, 18 of the decks were Jund (that’s a whopping 36%). Out of the Top 15 decks (players with 24 points or more), Jund made up exactly a third of the decks there.

Hmmm. Looks like what happened at Worlds happened again at the Pro Tour. The number of Jund decks in the field just aren’t reaching the same proportions as those making Day 2, or making Top 15. That means there probably “should” be more players wielding Jund, given how good it runs, but not that many people are willing to pick up the deck. It really says something odd about PT players when the third most popular archetype at the tournament was Vampires. Anyway, people pushed hard to find decks that beat Jund because they’d rather not play it. Also, the more people run Jund, the more mirror matches they face; and fighting a bunch of Jund mirrors isn’t a good time for anybody. So it’s probably good that more people didn’t run Jund.
  • Vampires will not make Top 8 
Vampires is not a bad deck by any means; it’s certainly a contender. However it’s one of those decks that doesn’t seem to have really good matchups against the rest of the field. It purportedly can kill RWU Control, but it still has a poor matchup against Jund. And I’m not really sure what other decks have bad matchups against Vampires. It seems to be one of those decks that can have decent matchups against every deck but fails to consistently beat particular decks.

Vampires made up 8% of the total field at the Pro Tour. And 5 Vampire decks made it to the Top 74, which is almost 7%. So almost on par given the number of Vampires decks in the field but certainly not what I would call a positive score. It didn’t make Top 8. And I wasn’t very surprised.
  • There will be 20+ manlands in Top 8 (although Ken Nagle's prediction of 30 is too high)
Between 20 and 30 manlands in the Top 8? That’s a pretty reasonable prediction actually, and not really surprising to anyone. Although some may have guessed less than 20. And Ken Nagle predicted 30, which is ridiculous.

The breakdown of manlands is: 3 in Boss Naya, 3 in Knightfall, 4 in Boggemes Jund, 6 in Gortzen Jund, 2 in Vaults Combo, 4 in Ikawa Jund, 4 in Mono-White, and 0 in Mono-Red. So 26 in total. I think this is slightly more than I was expecting, actually. But Gortzen managed to fit 6 of the manlands in his build; while Wescoe managed to fit 4 into his Mono-White deck. I had been testing with 2-3 Ravines in my Jund deck and didn’t really like the third one too much, but apparently I was missing out and really, the correct number of manlands is probably closer to 5.
  • This is a stretch but: one combo deck will make Top 8.
What constitutes a combo deck in today’s T2? Are there still “real” combo decks?
Does Open the Vaults count? What about Summoning Trap, Dredge, Valakut? In today’s T2, I think these are the “combo” decks in the format. These decks try to win through alternative, “unfair” ways using specific interactions. When you block these interactions from happening, these decks become severely crippled.

The combo deck in the Top 8 could have been anything in my opinion: Dredge, Valakut, Summoning Trap. I can’t really tell which of these are “better” than the others; they’re just all different. But it goes to show that there ARE some valid combo decks in T2. Even though combo isn’t the reigning champ. Open the Vaults is certainly one of these decks, and I’m glad it made Top 8.