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By: lowman02, Kyle
Nov 28 2017 12:00pm
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Hey Folks,
 
In the Chainsaw Massacre Event 4.05, we saw a large return to aggressive strategies—some of this had to do with newer players joining the event, but I like to think some of it also reflects back to the success of White Aggro in event 4.04 and the undue ado of unbanning combo cards in the format. If we expect the meta-game to remain highly blue, then I think red and white based aggressive decks tend to be a safe bet.  Generally, more controlling strategies, which require far more investment and setup time in exchange for latent power, will fold to a fast clock backed up with minor disruption. 
 
I decided to bring 4 Color Blood to the tournament, a deck that player and Magic content provider Stsung has written at length about here: Stsung's 4 Color Blood Article. The deck is a 4 color, non-blue, midrange deck that has maximum flexibility (ie a solid 50% matchup against most other decks) through both a fast clock, the most efficient disruption in the game of Magic, and over the top value against aggressive decks. My decision to run 4 Color Blood was a good one, as it led to winning the Chainsaw Massacre 4.05.
 
 
In this article, I’ll cover the top decks of the tournament, as well as give a more detailed break-down of deck templating for my deck build, based upon expected meta. Sometimes you guess right regarding the meta of a given tournament—having made the right meta call, the matches I played during this event were rather straight forward, but that’s how it should tend to be when your expected metagame is actualized.
 

Chainsaw Massacre 4.05 Top Decks and Analysis:

In first place, we had 4 Color Blood:
4 Color Blood
by lowman02 - 115 Cards Total
Creature
1 Anafenza, the Foremost
1 Avacyn's Pilgrim
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Bloodbraid Elf
1 Dark Confidant
1 Deathrite Shaman
1 Doran, the Siege Tower
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Elvish Mystic
1 Eternal Witness
1 Falkenrath Aristocrat
1 Fleecemane Lion
1 Fyndhorn Elves
1 Grim Flayer
1 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Knight of the Reliquary
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Lotus Cobra
1 Loxodon Smiter
1 Noble Hierarch
1 Putrid Leech
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Queen Marchesa
1 Saskia the Unyielding
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Shriekmaw
1 Siege Rhino
1 Sylvan Advocate
1 Sylvan Caryatid
1 Tarmogoyf
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
1 Thragtusk
1 Tidehollow Sculler
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Voice of Resurgence
37 cards

Instant
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Dromoka's Command
1 Fatal Push
1 Kolaghan's Command
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Lightning Helix
1 Path to Exile
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Terminate
1 Zealous Persecution
10 cards

Sorcery
1 Arc Trail
1 Green Sun's Zenith
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Lingering Souls
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Thoughtseize
1 Vindicate
7 cards
Artifact
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 cards

Enchantment
1 Bitterblossom
1 Courser of Kruphix
2 cards

Planeswalker
1 Ajani Vengeant
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
7 cards
Land
1 Arid Mesa
1 Badlands
1 Bayou
1 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Blooming Marsh
1 Copperline Gorge
1 Flooded Strand
1 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hissing Quagmire
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Lavaclaw Reaches
1 Marsh Flats
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plateau
1 Polluted Delta
1 Raging Ravine
1 Razorverge Thicket
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Sandsteppe Citadel
1 Savannah
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Scrubland
1 Shambling Vent
1 Stirring Wildwood
1 Stomping Ground
1 Sunpetal Grove
1 Taiga
1 Temple Garden
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Wasteland
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Woodland Cemetery
36 cards
 


Sideboard
1 Blessed Alliance
1 Burrenton Forge-Tender
1 Choke
1 Collective Brutality
1 Containment Priest
1 Deathmark
1 Dread of Night
1 Duress
1 Forked Bolt
1 Golgari Charm
1 Lone Missionary
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Winter Orb
15 cards
There’s already been a decent bit said on 4 Color Blood Highlander in Stsung’s content linked above. This specific list is “hot-teched” main deck to punish both aggressive and controlling strategies, and its sideboard options further cement its solid matchups versus both archetypes. This build decision comes at a cost to the midrange mirror match because the deck does not stick to a pure value strategy. It has no “over-the-top” power and hedges against the expected aggressive and controlling strategies with low synergy, but high-power, individual threats and answers—it’s a good stuff deck. I went into the event knowing I could, to a high probability, crush aggressive and controlling decks, and would have to play my best to win in the mirror. 
 

After covering the other decks in the tournament, I’ll cover templating of the deck, which I personally think is very important when building a “good stuff” deck and making it as good as it can be in an expected meta-game. When you use this methodology, I think you’ll also find that the process informs a pilot’s theory of play with any given deck as well.

In second place, we had ML_Berlin with a low to the ground, White Aggro list, making a deep run with a fast clock backed by the best removal in the game, and, historically, the game’s most hateful cards (ref. Aven Mindcensor, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Containment Priest, etc).

White Weenie
by ML_Berlin - 115 Cards Total
Creature
1 Accorder Paladin
1 Aerial Responder
1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
1 Beloved Chaplain
1 Benevolent Bodyguard
1 Boros Reckoner
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
1 Bygone Bishop
1 Champion of the Parish
1 Consul's Lieutenant
1 Deftblade Elite
1 Doomed Traveler
1 Dryad Militant
1 Elite Inquisitor
1 Elite Vanguard
1 Expedition Envoy
1 Figure of Destiny
1 Gideon's Lawkeeper
1 Glory-Bound Initiate
1 Goldmeadow Harrier
1 Grand Abolisher
1 Hanweir Militia Captain
1 Imposing Sovereign
1 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
1 Knight of the Holy Nimbus
1 Knight of the White Orchid
1 Kor Skyfisher
1 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
1 Mardu Woe-Reaper
1 Mirran Crusader
1 Mother of Runes
1 Porcelain Legionnaire
1 Precinct Captain
1 Selfless Spirit
1 Serra Avenger
1 Sigiled Paladin
1 Signal Pest
1 Silverblade Paladin
1 Soldier of the Pantheon
1 Soltari Champion
1 Soltari Monk
1 Soltari Priest
1 Student of Warfare
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
1 Thalia's Lieutenant
1 Whipcorder
1 Whitemane Lion
48 cards

Instant
1 Brave the Elements
1 Celestial Flare
1 Harm's Way
1 Path to Exile
1 Rebuff the Wicked
1 Strength of Arms
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Test of Faith
1 Unmake
9 cards
Sorcery
1 Council's Judgment
1 Declaration in Stone
1 Spectral Procession
3 cards

Artifact
1 Basilisk Collar
1 Bonesplitter
1 Hall of Triumph
1 Oketra's Monument
1 Smuggler's Copter
5 cards
Enchantment
1 Always Watching
1 Crusade
1 Glorious Anthem
1 Gryff's Boon
1 Honor of the Pure
1 Journey to Nowhere
1 Spear of Heliod
1 Spirit of the Labyrinth
8 cards

Land
1 Karakas
26 Plains
27 cards
 

Sideboard
1 Absolute Grace
1 Absolute Law
1 Aura of Silence
1 Blessed Alliance
1 Disenchant
1 Fragmentize
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Hallow
1 Hallowed Moonlight
1 Kor Firewalker
1 Paladin En-Vec
1 Silver Knight
1 Stillmoon Cavalier
1 Sundering Growth
1 Warmth
15 cards
This deck has a very low CMC average, weighing in at a 1.96 average CMC. If this deck hits its land drops one through three, then it will tend to overrun its opposition. White Aggro was a great choice for this tournament, which was rife with RDW style decks.  I tend to think creature based aggressive decks will tend to overrun red decks that are more reliant on burn. When the RDW pilot starts zapping critters, which it often must in this matchup because White’s critters are just better for the cost, then you tend to be in a winning position. One interesting statistic about ML’s deck is that it only runs 27 lands, which I tend to think on a long enough time horizon would punish the build and its pilot for running too few. However, when it keeps on a two lander or draws into its second immediately, the virtual card advantage provided by running such a low curve of mono colored aggressive cards will tend to be explosive and overpowering. His build is currently running 49 of the most aggressive and efficiently costed white critters in the game of Magic and when it hits its marks—get out of the way. I think future iterations of this build want at least 31 lands; if he were to play fetch lands I think he could safely go to 33 or 34 and be happy.  Fetch lands are great in aggressive lists because after utilizing one you’ve essentially reduced two lands out of your deck, increasing your odds of drawing into “gas”, without the risk of not being able to cast your spells in the early game due to an overall higher starting land count. 
 

White Aggro Value?

 

This board position does a lot to display the advantages that White Aggro has vs. RDW in the 100 card format.  Based on the board position, we can see that ML has been able to use Kor Skyfisher, or as I affectionately call the card: White Gush, to make his "4th" land drop which is exceptional value in a mana lean deck.  Utilizing the Whitemane Lion to protect his Skyfisher as well as acquire a 2-1 against the opposing RDW pilot is the sort of incremental advantage that tends to give White Aggro a leg up in this match.

Unfortunately, MTGO broke horrifically while we were playing our un-boarded game 1 in the finals. I was significantly ahead in game 1 (he got stuck on one land), and, due to sideboard choices, I think I was highly favored in the match. However, ML conceded the match, while I was hurriedly trying to get MTGO to work again, so we didn’t play it out to fruition. As a side note, if you have yet to try 100 Card Singleton, Highlander, then I strongly recommend that your first build be a White Aggro list. It’s extremely inexpensive, ML put this deck together for under 30 tix, and this archetype is the best pure aggressive deck in the format from a results perspective. The deck also has a lot of play to it as well—but, sure, there’s times it also just steamrolls people too.

In third place, we had Team Beijo Grego’s AEFabricio, piloting an over-the-top Mono-Green Ramp deck.

Mono-Green Ramp
by AEFabricio - 115 Cards Total
Creature
1 Abzan Beastmaster
1 Acidic Slime
1 Arbor Elf
1 Avacyn's Pilgrim
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Boreal Druid
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Duskwatch Recruiter
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Elvish Mystic
1 Eternal Witness
1 Fauna Shaman
1 Fierce Empath
1 Fyndhorn Elves
1 Greenwarden of Murasa
1 Hornet Queen
1 Joraga Treespeaker
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Master of the Wild Hunt
1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Ohran Viper
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Oversoul of Dusk
1 Polukranos, World Eater
1 Priest of Titania
1 Primeval Titan
1 Prowling Serpopard
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Regal Force
1 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Thragtusk
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Titania, Protector of Argoth
1 Vizier of the Menagerie
1 Vorapede
1 Whisperwood Elemental
1 Wolfbriar Elemental
1 Woodfall Primus
1 Woodland Bellower
1 Wurmcoil Engine
43 cards

Instant
1 Beast Within
1 Chord of Calling
2 cards

Sorcery
1 Eldritch Evolution
1 Green Sun's Zenith
1 Harmonize
1 Natural Order
1 Nature's Lore
1 Nissa's Pilgrimage
1 Three Visits
7 cards
Artifact
1 Coercive Portal
1 Lifecrafter's Bestiary
2 cards

Enchantment
1 Courser of Kruphix
1 Sylvan Library
1 Utopia Sprawl
1 Wild Growth
4 cards

Planeswalker
1 Garruk Relentless
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
1 Nissa, Vital Force
4 cards
Land
1 Dark Depths
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Dust Bowl
18 Forest
1 Hashep Oasis
1 Homeward Path
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Mosswort Bridge
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Rogue's Passage
1 Sapseep Forest
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Thespian's Stage
1 Tranquil Thicket
1 Treetop Village
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Wasteland
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Yavimaya Hollow
37 cards
 


Sideboard
1 Choke
1 Cloudthresher
1 Hall of Gemstone
1 Krosan Grip
1 Pelakka Wurm
1 Primal Order
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Sun Droplet
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
1 Tormod's Crypt
1 Tornado Elemental
1 Tsunami
1 Vexing Shusher
15 cards
This deck is predicated upon the explosive power of Mono-Green to land one solid knock-out punch, threat. In this deck’s case, its pilot, under optimal conditions is looking to either ramp into play or cheat by Natural Order into play Primeval Titan or Craterhoof Behemoth to win the game. In support of this plan, it has numerous creature based tutor effects, ramp spells, and creatures to accomplish this goal. Its biggest weakness is that it requires setup time and is generally vulnerable to many forms of disruption during the early to midgame and runs very little disruption itself. Gameplay with this deck, I assume, is linear, enabling an apt opponent to clearly understand the pilot’s intended lines of play and intercept accordingly if able. While the deck does tend to go all in on one bomb creature, it has some midrange creatures like Polukranos, World Eater and Master of the Wild Hunt, but these sorts of cards provide no intrinsic value upon presentation and tend to be fodder for removal. The deck also struggles with big mana, dead end draws that can be exacerbated drastically with pointed discard spells. This may all seem like downside to this very potent deck, but when given freedom to roam, this Green Beast will bring all the fury of Mother Nature and summarily get you “HOOFED”.
 

Landing Haymaker Punches

The Green Deck doing what it does--not much to be said--except--right click two down, left click--Concede

I didn’t get an opportunity to play against this deck unfortunately, but it may have been one of the more challenging decks I would have had to face, due to having focused my deck to beat the ends of the archetype spectrum, while leaving myself vulnerable to other midrange builds. I’m likely fortunate that ML’s White Aggro list was able to handily out-tempo this ramp list, in the early game, forcing poor blocks with mana dorks before the deck could reach its potential.

 

In fourth place, we had another Team Beijo Grego member, player Socanelas on another 4 Color Blood deck.
4 Color Blood
Socanelas - 115 Cards Total
Creature
1 Anafenza, the Foremost
1 Avacyn's Pilgrim
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Bloodbraid Elf
1 Dark Confidant
1 Deathrite Shaman
1 Doran, the Siege Tower
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Elvish Mystic
1 Eternal Witness
1 Falkenrath Aristocrat
1 Fleecemane Lion
1 Fyndhorn Elves
1 Grim Flayer
1 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Knight of the Reliquary
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Lotus Cobra
1 Loxodon Smiter
1 Noble Hierarch
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Queen Marchesa
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Servant of the Conduit
1 Shriekmaw
1 Siege Rhino
1 Sylvan Caryatid
1 Tarmogoyf
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
1 Tidehollow Sculler
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Voice of Resurgence
34 cards

Instant
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Dromoka's Command
1 Fatal Push
1 Go for the Throat
1 Kolaghan's Command
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Lightning Helix
1 Path to Exile
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Terminate
10 cards

Sorcery
1 Arc Trail
1 Green Sun's Zenith
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Lingering Souls
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Vindicate
6 cards
Artifact
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
2 cards

Enchantment
1 Bitterblossom
1 Courser of Kruphix
2 cards

Planeswalker
1 Ajani Vengeant
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Garruk Relentless
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Nissa, Vital Force
9 cards
Land
1 Arid Mesa
1 Badlands
1 Bayou
1 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Blooming Marsh
1 Copperline Gorge
1 Flooded Strand
1 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hissing Quagmire
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Lavaclaw Reaches
1 Marsh Flats
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plateau
1 Polluted Delta
1 Raging Ravine
1 Razorverge Thicket
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Sandsteppe Citadel
1 Savannah
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Scrubland
1 Shambling Vent
1 Stirring Wildwood
1 Stomping Ground
1 Sunpetal Grove
1 Taiga
1 Temple Garden
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Wasteland
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Woodland Cemetery
36 cards
 


Sideboard
1 Blessed Alliance
1 Choke
1 Deathmark
1 Dragon's Claw
1 Dread of Night
1 Fire Covenant
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Golgari Charm
1 Kor Firewalker
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Red Elemental Blast
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Zealous Persecution
15 cards
I won’t discuss this deck list in-depth, as it’s close in design to my own, and was built off of a dated list that I put together in the last CSM season, but it has some marked differences in both the main deck and sideboard, which made it slightly weaker in this meta. It’s still a very good deck though, and piloted in the capable hands of Socanelas, it made it to the top 4 of the tournament.
 

Last of the X-1’s, but first in my heart, we had RDW piloted, of course, by Goblin_hero.  

 
by Goblin_hero - 115 Cards Total
Creature
1 Abbot of Keral Keep
1 Ash Zealot
1 Ashenmoor Gouger
1 Blistering Firecat
1 Boggart Ram-Gang
1 Boros Reckoner
1 Burning-Tree Emissary
1 Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
1 Chandra's Phoenix
1 Dwarven Blastminer
1 Dwarven Miner
1 Fanatic of Mogis
1 Figure of Destiny
1 Firedrinker Satyr
1 Foundry Street Denizen
1 Goblin Bushwhacker
1 Goblin Guide
1 Goblin Heelcutter
1 Grim Lavamancer
1 Hell's Thunder
1 Hellrider
1 Hellspark Elemental
1 Keldon Marauders
1 Kiln Fiend
1 Legion Loyalist
1 Lightning Berserker
1 Lightning Mauler
1 Monastery Swiftspear
1 Rakdos Cackler
1 Slith Firewalker
1 Stigma Lasher
1 Stormblood Berserker
1 Stromkirk Noble
1 Thermo-Alchemist
1 Young Pyromancer
1 Zurgo Bellstriker
36 cards

Instant
1 Brimstone Volley
1 Burst Lightning
1 Fireblast
1 Flame Javelin
1 Flames of the Blood Hand
1 Incinerate
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Lightning Strike
1 Magma Jet
1 Needle Drop
1 Price of Progress
1 Searing Blaze
1 Searing Blood
1 Searing Spear
1 Skullcrack
1 Staggershock
1 Thunderous Wrath
17 cards
Sorcery
1 Arc Lightning
1 Arc Trail
1 Chain Lightning
1 Firebolt
1 Forked Bolt
1 Lava Spike
1 Rift Bolt
1 Volcanic Hammer
8 cards

Artifact
1 Shrine of Burning Rage
1 cards
Enchantment
1 Curse of the Pierced Heart
1 Sulfuric Vortex
2 cards

Land
1 Barbarian Ring
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Ghitu Encampment
30 Mountain
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Teetering Peaks
36 cards
 

Sideboard
1 Anarchy
1 Blood Moon
1 Boil
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Dragon's Claw
1 Everlasting Torment
1 Faerie Macabre
1 Flashfires
1 Mindsparker
1 Pyroblast
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Smash to Smithereens
1 Tormod's Crypt
1 Viashino Heretic
1 Vulshok Refugee
15 cards
This variant of RDW has a slightly higher CMC average than you tend to see from most versions of RDW, weighing in at a 2.25 average CMC. What this deck gives up in efficiency, it makes up for in main deck tech cards like Dwarven Miner, Dwarven Blastminer, and Price of Progress.  It also packs some recursive non-combat damage creatures such as Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh and Thermo-Alchemist, which provide rare red based value with burn spells. These effects display a deliberate build decision to make this deck as good as it can be against three and four color midrange and control decks, which are working with a far more delicate mana situation and will tend to put large blockers in the way sooner rather than later. Namely, I think Goblin_hero templated their deck to beat decks like the one I was running, or Bant style midrange decks. Where these build decisions can come to hurt the RDW pilot; however, is when they face another mono-colored aggressive or midrange strategy. Goblin_Hero unfortunately felt his only pain of defeat under the heavy hoof of AEFabricio’s Mono-Green behemoth.
 

Below is a truncated video of my matches with commentary:


The Big Winners:

ML_Berlin won a 30 tix gift certificate

Deonmag won 8 tix (Door Prize, 2nd place deferred)

Bandit Keith won one Nahiri, The Harbinger as the Door Prize

Socanelas, AEFabricio, and Goblin_hero each won 2.7 tix

This ends the tournament closing report, what will follow is a discussion on templating and my approach to deck building in this format. I hope that by sharing, it provides players of this format with context on how I approach deckbuilding, which is truly what draws me to Highlander formats and is the art of this format.
 

100 Card Singleton Deck Templating:

Templating—what is it? I’ve bandied this term around a lot in this article and have mentioned it in numerous other musings and among other players of the format. But, I haven’t really taken the time to define it. Templating is the process by which, through determination of what you want to beat, one aligns the best cards against an opposing strategy or archetype to mitigate its ability to win, or enable your ability to win to a higher degree against it. I also mention “hot-tech”, which means essentially the same thing, but is generally pertinent to a specific opposing archetype that you’ve chosen to beat through deliberate, but not naturally intuitive, card selection.  
 

So, why does this matter? If you can understand or predict what a meta game will look like with perfect clarity, then you can afford to make some seemingly dicey card choices for any given archetype. A very extreme, but clear, example would be if I knew with certainty that I would be facing Legacy Dredge for five rounds in a league, and I had Death and Taxes available to me, then I would likely “hot-tech” some number of Containment Priests and Rest in Peace into my main deck before the tournament ever started because it would drastically increase my odds of winning the league, due to turning an overwhelmingly bad game 1 win percent into a complete rout in the opposite direction.

This, however, is an extreme example, and you’d likely never be able to know your meta with such exacting and singular precision. So, let’s narrow it down a bit and focus on one imperative:

1. I expect my metagame to be aggressive.
 
The next question I would ask is: What sort of aggressive decks do I expect?
 
“I think there will be mostly RDW (3-4) and maybe one or two White Aggro lists. I think overall the meta will be somewhere around 65% aggressive in the R/W color pie”

How do I beat these?

“Well, I could crush RDW if I run White Aggro, but I’d be about 50/50 or 55/45 vs White Aggro. I can’t realistically beat either with control or combo especially RDW on their best draws.”

What beats both decks with a high probability?

“Midrange”

What if someone else has the same idea and goes midrange as well?

“Well, the best midrange deck in the mirror is 4 Color Blood and it can crush aggressive strategies. If I tune it to a high degree, then I’ll beat aggressive decks almost every time, but I’ll lose some capability against the mirror and maybe a bit against control. I’ll have to play well to win the mirror, or against control. I’m not likely to face control though because if I understand the meta right, unless I get paired against control in round 1, the control player should get relegated by an aggressive deck and I should progress.”

What do I need to fear if I run 4 Color Blood?

“Blue Moon (Izzet) is really the only deck that I think can beat me on a statistically consistent basis outside of the midrange mirror, but it has a terrible matchup against RDW, so if anyone brings Izzet, then they’ll likely get crushed before I have to face them”

Okay, so 4 Color Blood it is then. What cards do you have to fear the most based on probability of presentation given an accurate meta assessment?

1. Price of Progress

2. Blood Moon

3. Magus of the Moon

4. Sulfuric Vortex

5. Worship

6. Ruination

7. Dwarven Blastminer

8. Dwarven Miner

9. Armageddon

10. Ravages of War

11. Thalia, Heretic Cathar

12. Dust Bowl

13. (General: Fast flood of the board with efficient, high power, low toughness, evasive creatures)

14. Shrine of Burning Rage

How should you build flexible, multifaceted deterrence to these expected game breaking threats against your chosen deck?

1.      Dromoka's Command: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 7; 8; 11
2.      Golgari Charm: 2; 4; 5; 7; 13
3.      Zealous Persecution: 7; 13
4.      Kolaghan's Command: 7; 8; 11; 13; 14
5.      (General: Mana Dorks): 1; 2; 3; 7; 8; 9; 10; 12
6.      Timely Reinforcements: 13
7.      Dread of Night: 13
8.     Collective Brutality: 1; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11
9.      (General: Discard): 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 14
10. Reclamation Sage: 2; 4; 5; 14
11. Forked Bolt: 3; 7; 8; 11; 13
12. Arc Trail: 3; 7; 8; 11; 13
13. Deathmark: 11; 13
14. Burrenton Forge-Tender: 1
15. Blessed Alliance: 13
16. Lone Missionary, Kitchen Finks, Obstinate Baloth, Siege Rhino, Thragtusk: 13

Based upon what I believe I must beat, I then order the most flexible of these options and array them based upon expected frequency of relevance in my main deck or sideboard. Certain high pay off cards like (Dromoka’s Command) will tend to always make the main deck when able to be cast due to the high flexibility of the card. Based upon this more casual assessment, I’ve also determined that I would have been better off in the meta that I expected having Collective Brutality in my main deck as opposed to it being a side board option. Also based on this assessment, I should have also run Forked Bolt main given my expectations of the meta because it’s quite a high pay off card for those things I fear from my expected opponents. Cards like Zealous Persecution and the life gaining threats of pile #15 have less flexibility, but I’m willing to overlook this because they also pursue my primary goal of winning through combat to a very high extent. The cards of lesser flexibility don’t mean that I shouldn’t play them, but they should likely be sideboard options for the deck because they’re mostly the best at what they do.

What are you not thinking of; What could surprise and crush you?

Winter Orb, Choke, Bitterblossom, Dark Confidant, the best, most efficient discard, and a whole slew of Planeswalkers should shore up any random control matchup I have to face. I’ve got a nice clock against control, and the Planeswalkers are decent top end after I stabilize the board against an aggressive opponent, so they’re flexible in either matchup.”

Containment Priest, Deathrite Shaman, Scavenging Ooze, and discard will have to be good enough to beat reanimator or other combo decks. I don’t expect to see this though.”

This is how I execute the introspective process of deck selection and templating. This process could go much deeper if we started assessing the mana base and each individual threat, but I’ll leave that exercise to you, my dear reader. I think you’ll find it’s also the beauty of the format, given its deep card pool. Even in victory, I did a few things wrong with the build—it could have been better—to shrug this off is to stop learning.

Magic player Bandit Keith and competitor in the Chainsaw Massacre 4.05 stated, following the tournament: I'm surprised how much sideboard matters in this format, because I always figure that out of 100 cards, people won't draw it. Boy, was I wrong. That Burrenton tore me a new one.”

Templating, Winning Games

Note: I'm at 22 life at this point in the game, with my opponent's only out likely being some combination of Blood Moon and Price of Progress, both of which I know they'd need to top deck, due to already having used 1 mana discard against them.  The Burrenton Forge-Tender gives me insurance against Price of Progress and works wonders to halt any attempt to race, forcing my opponent into the unenviable position of having to lose to beat down or make unfavorable trades.

The sideboard and the main deck can matter as little, or as much as you want them to.  Long ago, the Magic theory of “4-of” was made and over this game’s rich history there have been many effects printed that can accomplish similar or multifaceted end states for their caster. In accomplishing accurate determination of that which you can expect to face, and should want to beat, you can ensure consistent victory through redundant presentation of the most relevant effects—you just need to commit to it, and this always comes at a cost, but will most consistently present the threats and answers you desire given the meta.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to play that many great games of Magic during the tournament, and I don’t intend that in a conceited or rude way, my opponents are all fine players and played technically well during our matches—not to mention they’re all great folks. But my pairings, choice of deck, and templating for the meta was extremely accurate and due to my build decisions, most of my cards overwhelmed the opposition handily. In situations like this it’s easy to just think: “Well, deck’s great, everything’s great, chalk up another win for team: Me” and just call it a day. I think naturally when we win in magic or most other things in life, that’s human tendency. However, I think this tendency leads to diminishing returns. It would seem often there’s a lot to be learned in defeat.

But there’s more to be learned in victory.  We owe it to ourselves, the players of the game, to have the discipline to invest just as highly in learning while under the heady euphoria of victory. I’ve often heard players, professional or otherwise, state that they learn less in success, and to some extent that’s very true--our very nature as humans is to focus on weakness and failure, whether to exploit it in others (last, I checked our eyes are still in the front of our heads and tabloids still sell), or to deny, undergo personal catharsis, or bolster it affirmatively in ourselves to deflect or eventually defeat our opposition.

Most Magic players want to be better at the game; anything we put time or energy into, we deep-down want to know we’re getting better at it. This doesn’t mean we don’t also have fun while playing, but given every archetype of Magic player, whether you’re a Timmy, Johnny, or Spike, each type and all variations in between; we’re all vying to become better at something, we are all competing: to build the first brew that no one else has tried; to win games of Magic in our own way; or to win with the best tools available in a format, regardless of personal playstyle or preference. Each, in kind, should use introspection to continue betterment in pursuit of their game—whether in success or failure. It is doubly important that introspection happens when you are successful, as it’s often forgotten, and can lead to poor habits to a far higher extent than the generally more honest introspection we undergo in failure—victory or defeat—learn and grow strong.

I hope you all got something out of this week's 100 card installment, and if this is a format that interests you, then please join us one Saturday in the Chainsaw Massacre.  Take it easy everybody.