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By: jamuraa, Marie Janssen
Jan 03 2008 1:57am
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It's a new year! Time for a new outlook, and possibly a new metagame, but probably not. The new year doesn't bring a whole lot of new for standard Magic, which gets another shot in the arm in a month or so with Morningtide. This week Magic Online had a special treat for us however in the form of special holiday Premier Events. We were treated to a set of "4x" events which drew big crowds because they had payouts to the top 64 players. With the events usually drawing less than 128 players, this means that about half of the entrants would get at least three packs of payout. I encourage anyone who plays at the competitive level to try them out, you get a lot of play for your tickets. Hopefully we will be gifted with another set of special events sometime soon.

There are a lot of different decks which are floating around out there in the meta at any given point in time. Along with the Top Tier, and the Invisible Masses, are a third type of deck which is generally called the Rogue. Rogue decks are unexpected and different. You usually don't hear them being talked about unless they are good, in which case it's usually interesting to take a look. Rogue decks are usually different than the rest of the field by a significant amount. One good example of a Rogue deck would be the Dragonstorm decks that got played at the Grand Prix side events that were spotted and snatched up for Worlds. Rogue decks may get a lot of publicity like Dragonstorm at worlds, or they may get puzzled looks because they are so different than the normal archetypes in the meta at the time. Sometimes they are considered Rogue because they are of a archtype which are simply not strong in the metagame at the moment even if it is a fairly standard archetype such as mono-red burn or mono-blue control. However, every Rogue deck has one thing going for them: the element of surprise. Nobody in the entire tournament will have sideboards which are set up specifically for the Rogue matchup, and people don't know which cards are the important cards. This puts control players off their game especially, as they can't possibly counter everything that the Rogue deck plays. However, Rogue decks are sometimes helped a little too much by this surprise element. When people start sideboarding against them, and the metagame takes them into account, many of the Rogue decks will not survive. In these analyses, most of the Rogue decks end up in the "other" category, and get talked about in the paragraphs after the big table. The Outlier of the week is usually also somewhat Rogue. As a watcher, I love to see the Rogue decks, because they are easily the most interesting - who wants to watch yet another Doran Rock vs. Elves! match when you can see a totally new deck strut it's stuff.

Statistics for Standard PEs: 12/19/2007 to 12/25/2007

This week there were fifteen standard Premier Events (PEs) on Magic Online. Unfortunately, one of the events was wiped due to a server crash, so there are only fourteen PEs worth of top 8 this week, giving us 112 spots to fill. This week saw a lot of standard play as the holiday events drew large crowds. There were three "4x" events which paid out to the top 64 players after 7 rounds of swiss. The average player count for these was 114 players, which makes for a very large field which still gets squished into top 8 at the end of swiss. All the other events were normal "2x" events and got an average turnout of 38 players. Eleven of the events this week had split finals. One event was completed early (in the semifinal round) by the server.

Winner - Split - Second - Semifinals - Quarterfinals

Colors Deck Name Placings Percentage
Elves! 17% (+4%)
Mannequin 9% (+2%)
Rock 8% (+2%)
Big Mana 7% (-12%)
Doran Rock 7% (-7%)
Reanimator 7% (+5%)
Pickles Blink 6% (+4%)
Mana Ramp 5% (+3%)
  Blink 3% (+2%)
Traumatized 2% (new)
Strawberry Crisis 2% (new)
Mono G Aggro 2% (new)
Goblins 2% (-2%)
Faeries 1% (+1%)
Faerie Stompy 1% (-3%)
Pickles <1% (+-0%)
Merfolk <1% (+1%)
Snow Control <1% (-1%)
Kithkin <1% (+-0%)
Knoll Storm <1% (-6%)
  Other 7% (+-0%)
  Inactive 1% (+1%)

This week saw the rise of a few new deck archtypes, or refinements of old ones:

  • Pickles Blink is our old friend the pickles lock with Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter, but this deck also abuses Mulldrifter for card draw and chump blocking, and uses Momentary Blink as card advantage and to reuse the comes-into-play abilities.
  • Traumatized is an interesting Reanimator variant, and it's also this week's Outlier.
  • Strawberry Crisis made a showing in the top 8 for the first time this week, and garnered three spots. The deck is combo with the Big Mana manabase, using Wild Pair and Primal Forcemage with Grinning Ignus to get a lot of (Bogardian Hellkite)s into play quickly. The deck was designed by Kuan-Kuan Tian and can be seen in his recent article.

The meta seemed like it was out to get me - I called the Reanimator decks Invisible Masses in the last article, and then they started showing up in every top 8 this week. They were only a glint in the eye of the meta when I wrote my article last week, but this week they held an impressive 8 spots. There were a lot more top 8 spots up for grabs than a normal week however. Elves! seems to be dominating the meta now, with almost a fifth of the decks using Imperious Perfect. It may be the case that some of the old green-black decks have decided that it's worth it to be able to cast Wren's Run Vanquisher on turn 2 and slided closer to the Elves. This week I combined the two decks of Big Mana and Snow Big Mana - they are very similar, and lost quite a lot of ground between them both. Rock and Doran Rock are similar in a way much like that, and may be combined into just Rock next week if they lose some ground, but they seem to be staying strong for another week. Green-white Mana Ramp, presented in last week's Deviations, also gained a few spots as it got noticed.

The big gainer this week is Reanimator, which hopped up from just two percent in last week's meta to almost seven percent this week, and gained a lot more spots. The big loser this week is Big Mana - it lost over ten percent from last week, which isn't a good sign.

This week's "other" category, where the Rogue decks are, we have eight decks. In this group there was a blue-green stompy deck which surprisingly didn't have faeries as it's main element, a Mannequin deck which had a burst of red for burn. Also included was a mono-blue control deck which exploited the "you can't lose" quality of Platinum Angel along with Academy Ruins for recursion if needed. Someone also played black-green elves with some blue for Mulldrifter and counterspells to the top eight, and there was a mono-black discard deck which used both Korlash, Heir to Blackblade and The Rack to slowly whittle away at the life of the opponent.

Mode of the Week: Reanimator

2 Faerie Conclave
4 River of Tears
6 Island
2 Secluded Glen
4 Swamp
4 Underground River
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
4 Bogardan Hellkite
4 Bonded Fetch
2 Merfolk Looter
4 Mulldrifter
4 Oona's Prowler
2 Shriekmaw
1 Tombstalker
4 Vexing Sphinx
Other Spells
4 Dread Return
4 Makeshift Mannequin
2 Body Double
3 Damnation
4 Pithing Needle
2 Shriekmaw
4 Thoughtseize

Dread Return

Reanimator has been around for a while in the meta. Alpha had Resurrection, which just recently got reprinted as part of the time-shifted cards in Time Spiral. The main idea of Reanimator decks is to somehow get really expensive creatures into the graveyard and then play a spell which gets them into play from there. This return to play is often called "cheating into play" because you generally get some of the most highly costed creatures for much less than their normal casting cost. The deck relies on three main things being around in standard - really expensive creatures which are candidates for reanimation, some way to discard cards from your hand in order to get the creatures into the graveyard, and spells which cost much less than those creatures that can get them into play from the graveyard. All three of these things have been in standard for a while now. Reanimator was also in the metagame for Time Spiral Block because many of the pieces shown here are also from Time Spiral, the most important of which is probably Dread Return. This reanimation spell is interesting because you can use it twice - you can cast it directly from your hand for 4 mana, or you can sacrifice three of your creatures in order to get one back. In the case of this deck, you would normally sacrifice some of the discard enablers such as Vexing Sphinx or Merfolk Looter in order to get back a fattie in the form of Akroma, Angel of Wrath or Bogardan Hellkite.

The discard enablers in this deck are actually quite good on their own. Vexing Sphinx, while it has quite an arduous cumulative upkeep after a couple of turns, is a beater in the air clocking in at 4/4. In addition to this flyer, the three power Oona's Prowler also can dish it out, while letting you dump any cards you like into the grave from your hand, at practically any time. The Merfolk Looter is also an enabler, but draws you a card from your deck as a bonus. Bonded Fetch is similar to the Looter but also can be used on the same turn as when you cast it. With the addition of Makeshift Mannequin, there are now eight spells which can be used to get your creatures back, and Mannequin is at instant speed, allowing you to bring a Bogardan Hellkite into play during the opponent's turn and kill creatures or send flames to the opponent's head and have the creature available for attack in the next turn. Makeshift Mannequin makes creatures fragile, but with the Hellkite's come-into-play ability it isn't that bad. I've been seeing this deck more and more in the top eights of the Premier Events this week - with pieces of this deck appearing in almost every set released, the Reanimator archetype will probably be at least a small part of the meta for a very long time.

Outlier of the week: Traumatized

Traumatized cwllc
4 River of Tears
1 Secluded Glen
3 Shelldock Isle
4 Island
4 Swamp
4 Underground River
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 Faerie Conclave
3 Oona's Prowler
2 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
4 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Haakon, Stromgald Scourge
2 Cairn Wanderer
1 Mistmeadow Skulk
3 Narcomoeba
2 Bonded Fetch
3 Merfolk Looter
Other Spells
2 Nameless Inversion
4 Dread Return
4 Traumatize
3 Mind Stone
4 Bridge from Below

Reanimation could be a theme for this week's Deviations, because the outlier of this week is also in the Reanimation area. I saw cwllc playing this deck in three of the events this week, piloting it to a top 8 performance each time. cwllc wasn't responding to messages, but I have reconstructed at least most of the deck from the replays, which was pretty simple considering how the deck works. Most of the time when you're casting Traumatize you're targetting your opponent, but there is that small amount of flexibility which lets you target any player. This deck aims the spell at it's own head, dumping half of the library into the graveyard. That's okay though, because a lot of the spells in the deck work fine from the graveyard. Let's start with the free 1/1 flier in the form of Narcomoeba which pops right back out of the graveyard if you catch it in the wholesale dumping of the cards. These free creatures feed into the main win condition of the deck, which is the flashback cost of Dread Return combined with one or more Bridge from Belows in the graveyard. Sacrificing your creatures to bring back a hellkite sends creatures to your grave, which then triggers the bridge from below to create some zombie tokens. Even if there is only one bridge in your graveyard, you can then flashback any other Dread Returns in your grave to get even more creatures. The obvious targets for reanimation are (Bogardian Hellkite) and Akroma, Angel of Wrath which are the fattest fatties which can be reanimated in standard today.

But that's not all, almost as a bonus you get to enable the engine provided by Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, which is easily played from the graveyard and lets the pilot of this deck start machine gunning Nameless Inversions all over the board to clear the way. If this wasn't enough, you can play Cairn Wanderer directly from the graveyard if Haakon is in play. This is where the singleton Mistmeadow Skulk finds it's purpose. There's nothing like casting a creature that has flying, protection from red, protection from black, trample, haste, lifelink, and protection from casting cost three or greater. It has to be the hardest creature to kill in standard today. If your opponent happens to be playing some Shriekmaws, it might even have fear to top it all off.

Even without the namesake card of this deck, there are plenty of ways to get cards into the graveyard. Merfolk Looter and Bonded Fetch replace cards that you discard, and the highly efficient flyer Oona's Prowler also lets you dump your hand into the grave for practically free. Speaking of free - there is one more oddity to this deck, which was the reason that it caught my eye in the first place. Within the manabase is Shelldock Isle, which was widely regarded as the weakest of the lands with the Hideaway mechanic for constructed because it seemed like it was so hard to trigger. In this deck however most of your library can sit in your graveyard and you could get a free spell from your Shelldock Isle. Main candidates for free-ness are any of the reanimation targets, Cairn Wanderer, or Dread Return.

This week keep a lookout for the Rogue decks which are sure to show up. I am slowly building my own collection of standard-playable cards up to start playing in the Premier Events more regularly. I don't know if getting closer to the swiss rounds will give me any more insight into the nature of the metagame, but it will be fun anyways. I don't know about you, buy my new years resolution is to play in more Premier Events. We're back to normal this week, but I'll be plugging away at the metagame just like always, with another Deviations next Wednesday. Until then, good luck in the PEs!


by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 01/11/2008 - 12:13
Anonymous (Unregistered)'s picture

Traumatized looks like hybryd of two decks from japanese finals - UB traumatize-reanimator (3rd place at finals) and UBW shapeshifter deck (4-1 on standart part of finals and second place on one of qualifiers). And by time it fits). Looks like traumatized and reanimator burst is a sort of finals impact.

by urzishra14 at Thu, 01/03/2008 - 18:56
urzishra14's picture

I like the rogue deck articles.. that Traumatize deck is pretty interesting.. and the reanimator deck I thought would take some hits when Ravnica left seemed to never really go away.. good article

good again by tangucho at Thu, 01/03/2008 - 11:20
tangucho's picture

nice article. i would love to read your comments on why those percentages are moving and how the "forces" of the metagame can pull it from way one to another. keep the good work on becoming the "must read" of wednesdays!

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dungdung's picture

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