Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Standard Metagame Update

I apologize for a lack of updates. I'm currently in the stage of development where I would much rather just converse about Magic with people than write articles about it. If you'd like to converse with me, I'm always open for discussion on Twitter and AIM (eelitist). If you have a LOT to say to me, I have a contact form above for email contact. Which should be working by now.

The Standard picture for me is simultaneously clear and vague. The Big Picture is certainly very clear - there are four major archetypes to worry about.

Jund, UW/r, Mythic, NLB

UW, Mythic, and NLB occupy almost the same spectrum despite each deck using overall very different strategies. I like to think of Mythic as a faster version of NLB, and NLB as a faster version of UW. There are inaccuracies in these comparisons, but I am aware of them, so it helps me to think about the decks relative to one another. So, Mythic is faster than NLB, which is faster than UW. And as far as I can tell, Mythic is favored over NLB, which is favored over UW. And UW certainly beats Mythic when Mythic doesn't draw the tools necessary to overcome UW. (On the other hand, Mythic has a lot of tools to fight UW, and one can simply overload the deck with them and manage.)
But as Adrian Sullivan mentioned in a recent SCG Premium article, Rock-Paper-Scissors isn't really Rock-Paper-Scissors in Magic. You can make Scissors beat Rock a certain percentage of the time, but you may start losing to Paper because of your modifications to Scissors. 
And outside of those three decks lies Jund.

I remember a time when people were ready to mutiny because of the very existence of Jund and Cascade. And yet I was always happy to have it in the format. And now I am doubly happy because without it, this format would be a lot duller.

It would be nothing but planeswalker decks. Planeswalker decks galore that would gradually evolve closer and closer to midrange strategies in order to simultaneously be faster than other planeswalker decks while also being capable of grinding out matches longer by accumulating card advantage and board presence. (That's how I'm painting my nightmare scenario, anyway.)

The only thing keeping them honest would probably be mono-red, Vampires, and a few of the faster combo decks. And yet I'm pretty sure these decks would all be Tier 2's in comparison to the power of the planeswalker decks.

With Jund, there is a solid Tier 1 option if you don't want to be playing Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Elspeth, Knight-Errant.

My major concern is actually what happens when Jund no longer exists in the format - because without Jund, blue and white and green seem to be overall vastly superior to the other options in Standard. But I'm sure something will work itself out. I am not truly capable of predicting what a Jund-less metagame would look like. (We also get a new set when Jund rotates out, so basically I'm reduced to ~0 predicting power when it comes down to it.)

Anyway, my current view of Standard is in a happy place for me, and I'm satisfied with my level of Overall Understanding. What really needs to happen is the hammering out of the details, the small card-by-card analyses.

For instance, how do we actually beat NLB? 

My plan is to kill them before they do anything. Mythic should have the tempo advantage to pull that off, and our planeswalkers land first, nullifying theirs. Gideon is still very annoying, but I feel Elspeth beats up opposing planeswalkers most of the time, and Oblivion Rings or Negates come in to help the cause.

The other plan is to nullify their manadork-driven tempo advantage using cards like Oust or Lightning Bolt or Forked Bolt. At which point it appears they play a very fair game. One could also consider using Cunning Sparkmage (when combined with a well-directed Magma Spray, even Vengevine falls permanently down.) Once you're on a relatively level playing field, land a Siege-Gang Commander and start hosing down the opponent's board. (I'm pretty sure any of the 5-drops Jund plays these days are good.)
Correction: The tempo seems not to matter when you're a Jund player. I feel it -does- matter a lot when you're a UW/x player, but whether it's worthwhile to invest in the Ousts is still up in the air. I think creature-based card-advantage like Cunning Sparkmage, Master of the Wild Hunt, and Siege-Gang Commander might be what Jund is looking for in this matchup. Thoughts?
It is essential to identify whether you are the beatdown or not against NLB post-board. Misaligning this role-assignment is probably a huge part of why people keep losing to NLB. They just have nooo idea. I think a lot of NLB players have no idea, either. (Shrug.)

For Superfriends, it's possible they should just be running Lightning Bolts maindeck. For UW decks, I think Oust is a key card. It's not great, but it does what I want it to at a crucial point in the game, and that is on turn one or two. Once you're on a relatively level playing field, land a Baneslayer and protect her. Or play multiple Baneslayers. If that fails, run out a Martial Coup or an All Is Dust.

How does a green/white deck gain resiliency in their mana? One of the only ways Mythic loses is to cards like Forked Bolt or Earthquake or opening up to a pinpoint DOJ.

My idea is merely to replace Lotus Cobras post-board with some number of Trace of Abundance. As much as I love the Cobra, it does open you up to too many things. Bad things. And ultimately, Mythic just wants its mana more than the 2/1. By switching from creature-based mana to spell-based mana, you slow the deck down slightly but avert disaster. Particularly against mono-red.

It seems to also be a fine plan against Jund and DOJ-based control, where the shrouded manlands can do a ton of extra work for you as well. (They add Ruinblasters post-board, right? And they keep Spreading Seas? Well?)

It is not a bad idea to hold onto those extra Traces until you have a good opportunity to upgrade your manlands.

What are my other options? 

Well there are tons of other decks to play in this format. I can't really list them all. But if it were me, and I didn't remotely like any of the main 4 archetypes, I would try a green deck with Eldrazi Monument. It could play a secondary color and would probably have fair game against most of the field.

There's also Turboland. I think the Pros are honestly playing this deck for shits and giggles, but hey, it's a fun-as-hell deck, and it's going to attract a lot of people. It's getting a little over-hyped, but that's how it is! It can certainly do well if you know what you're doing.

And don't face a Mythic or mono-red player that knows what he or she is doing.

To put it one way, I would bring Turboland to a 5K or maybe even a GP but probably not to a PTQ or a Pro Tour.

For even more decks, try!