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By: jamuraa, Marie Janssen
Jan 09 2008 1:57am
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It's January, and it's back to normal for the Magic Online standard premier events. Last week we got some happy big events with big payouts that drew big crowds. This week we have just the normal amount of tournaments with the 'normal' payouts of 2x. As an added kick in the shins, last week and weeks before the participants in a premier event got a promo land (last week was an Island), and this week you got nothing for participation at all. Hopefully we'll get something for participation again sometime soon - I think it makes it more desirable to join the tourneys if I'm at least not going away empty handed.

This week I'm going to delve into the mechanics of the actual premier event itself. While I focus solely on standard premier events, this information will hopefully be useful for almost all of the premier events online, even the sealed formats. That's because this week we start a short series on Swiss Math. Swiss math is the fine art of figuring out when you have lost a tournament, or when you are solidly within the top eight of a tournament. If you are going to be playing a lot of events, I suggest you get very familiar with Swiss Math, as it will be affecting you. I'm going to start at the beginning, because you need to start somewhere. Tournaments that are run on Magic Online are structured in a method called Swiss Draw. A pairing is how a tournament organizer decides who plays who in each round. Swiss pairing is designed so that players end up playing people who have done just as well or as badly as you have. Swiss tournaments are run in a number of rounds. In Magic Online, the number of rounds is determined by the number of players who are in a tournament. If there 32 players or less, there are five rounds, 33-64 there are six, and 65-128 there are seven. Most "normal" events won't go over 8 rounds, which covers tourneys above 129 but less than 226. The number of rounds will be important later.

At the beginning of a Swiss Draw tournament, each player is paired randomly against another player, and you play the first round. After that, the pairings are determined by points. If you win a match, you get three points. Drawing a match gets you one point, and losing nets you no points at all. In the rounds after the first round, players with the same amount of points are randomly paired against each other, but players never play each other more than once in a tournament. If there are an odd number of players, one player from a lower point group will play a player from a higher point group. This is called being "paired down" or "paired up" depending on whether you are the lower or higher point value. There are a ton of corner cases here - one example is if there are only two players at a particular point value, but they have already played each other, they get paired strangely, with one player pairing up and the other down, or both down if they are at the top.

So, how many points do you need in order to be in the top eight? Well it depends on the exact tourney, because the number of rounds varies as explained earlier. However, a good guideline is this: if you are undefeated, and there are only two rounds left, you can draw your remaining matches in the Swiss Draw and make it into the top eight. This is because the number of rounds is not random, it is chosen specifically so that if everyone played every match and there were no draws, there would be one undefeated champion at the end given that they are "full". This means that with two rounds left, there should be 4 players that are undefeated. This group of four players has at least three more points than any other player in the tournament. In two rounds, the most that anyone can gain is six points, by winning once. Because of how swiss math works out, there are between 12 and 20 players that are three points below. In order to surpass you if you draw out, they would need to win twice, gaining six points. If there are 12 players, that means 3 will be able to pass you, which is fine. If there are 16 players (the max for a 64 player tournament), 4 will be able to pass you. This is fine because you will still be in the top 8 - there will be four players with one more point than you and the four players that draw will be the next four players. This seems complicated, but I've included a diagram below which will hopefully make it clearer. The only time you need to worry is if you have more than 64 players. Even then it is usually okay to draw your last two rounds - but it comes down to how your tiebreakers sit. Tiebreakers are conveniently the subject of next week's column, so we'll stop here for this week.


Statistics for Standard PEs: 1/1/2008 to 1/8/2008

This week there were fifteen standard Premier Events (PEs) scheduled on Magic Online. Two of the events this week got wiped however, one due to an unexpected server crash, and the other due to the moving of the scheduled downtime to Tuesday morning. This leaves us with thirteen PEs worth of top 8, giving us 104 spots. We're back to the "normal" PE sizes this week, as the holiday events end and all the PEs return to 2x payouts. Standard Premier Events and got an average turnout of 47 players, up almost 9 players per 2x PE. This is probably because more people were playing 4x events last week. Ten of the thirteen events this week had split finals.

Winner - Split - Second - Semifinals - Quarterfinals

Colors Deck Name Placings Percentage
Elves! 16%
Big Mana 9%
Mannequin 7%
Pickles Blink 7%
Rock 7%
Doran Rock 5%
Knoll Storm 4%
Goblins 4%
Traumatized 3%
Faeries 3%
Faerie Stompy 3%
Merfolk 2%
/ Kithkin 2%
Tokens 1%
Guile 1%
Blink 1%
Mana Ramp 1%
Reanimator <1%
Control <1%
  Other 7%
  Inactivity 1%

Elves! continues to dominate the Meta this week, although it is losing its grip slightly. Big Mana regained some of it's position from two weeks ago, showing that it is still a force to be contended with. Rock and Doran Rock are still quite dominant, if they are combined, they would take second place in the rankings with 14%. An interesting development is that there is a kind of 'flattening' of the meta this week, as the top decks lost some ground, and the lower decks gianed ground across the board - the whole bottom half of the chart with the exception of a few gained a couple percentage points. The green-white Mana Ramp lost some spots this week.

The big gainer this week is Knoll Storm, which seems to be a kind of warden of the current meta - it was almost off of the map last week, and it gained almost all of it's spots back. The big loser this week is Reanimator. Just as it seemed to make a major splash in the meta during a big week last week, this week it lost almost every spot it had, possibly returning to Invisible Mass status.

This week's "other" category, we have seven decks. In this group there was a Green-Blue-Red deck which looked a lot like Rock but added some Red and Snow for removal, and also another variant, Big Mana with a black element for removal and Shriekmaw. Goyf Pickles also claimed a spot after being nonexistent in the meta for a while, and there was another Walk the Aeons combo deck in the top eights this week. We round out the Rogue decks this week with a mono-green aggro deck, and a mono-blue Pickles deck.

Mode of the Week: Pickles Blink

Pickles Blink  

3 Nimbus Maze
4 Adarkar Wastes
3 Calciform Pools
10 Island
5 Plains
4 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
3 Brine Elemental
2 Venser, Shaper Savant
2 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
3 Mulldrifter
Other Spells4 Ancestral Vision
3 Cryptic Command
4 Rune Snag
3 Wrath of God
3 Oblivion Ring
4 Momentary Blink

3 Rule of Law
3 Teferi's Moat
2 Pithing Needle
3 Return to Dust
2 Crib Swap
2 Beacon of Immortality
Brine Elemental

This week, the Brine Elemental takes center stage in our mode for a look at the newest trend in Pickles builds: Pickles Blink. This version of Pickles works similarly to other versions of Pickles. It's built as a basic blue-white control deck, controlling the board by either countering and bouncing with Cryptic Command, Rune Snag, and Venser, Shaper Savant, or wiping out creatures with Wrath of God and Oblivion Ring. It is doing this in order to buy time though, because all it's really doing is building up in order to cast the Pickles Lock, which consists of Brine Elemental and a Vesuvan Shapeshifter that you can flip over every turn - denying your opponents any untap phases for the rest of the game. Usually about the time you get the Pickles Lock solid, your opponent concedes, but if they don't, you can win by beating down with dual 5/4 elementals.

Pickles Blink adds a whole new dimension to the deck by adding the amazing Momentary Blink to the mix. This card works with so many of the other cards in the deck it's almost crazy. Blink works on the Elemental itself in order to get it in play face up for just 4 colorless and 1 white, which is a scant cheaper than it's normal flip cost. While it doesn't actually flip it for the effect, it's the cheapest way to get it into play face-up for copying by the Shifter. It also works as an avoidance engine: you can chump block with any creature and Blink them away from harm, even after damage if need be. You can also Blink the Shifter in order to copy a new creature, possibly abusing the comes-into-play effects. Last but not least, you can Blink the evoked Mulldrifter for a 2/2 flier that reads "Draw 4 cards as this comes into play", giving tremendous card advantage. Pickles has been around since the days that Vesuvan Shapeshifter and Brine Elemental were in standard together, and it will probably be around at least until they rotate out.

Outlier of the week: Guile / Sonic Boom

Sonic Boom  
4 Desert
17 Snow-Covered Island
2 Dreadship Reef
1 Tolaria West
1 Urza's Factory
2 Scrying Sheets
3 Guile
3 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
2 Venser, Shaper Savant
Other Spells
3 Pact of Negation
2 Think Twice
4 Ancestral Vision
4 Remove Soul
4 Rune Snag
4 Faerie Trickery
4 Cryptic Command
2 Draining Whelk
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
3 Razormane Masticore
3 Damnation
2 Mind Bend
2 Sower of Temptation
1 Jace Beleren

Sonic Boom, so named for it's main finisher Guile's signature attack in Street Fighter, is this week's Outlier. I know, I know, you're saying "Guile got second at a Grand Prix! How can it be an Outlier!". The answer is simple: the meta doesn't stand Sonic Boom right now, mostly because it is filled with spells that trump it. Anyway, on to the deck. Sonic Boom is an all-out control deck - it's main goal is to counter every single useful spell that you cast. It does this with an insane 23 counterspells in the main deck, some of which are Pact of Negation which can be cast when you don't even have any mana available. After you are just floundering, trying to topdeck something useful, Sonic Boom plays a Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir at the end of your turn, and then the next turn it plays Guile itself, usually with a counter to back it up. Guile is a crazy evader, getting around most blockers and beating down for 6, giving your opponent a 4 turn clock. It also works as a card advantage engine, giving you anything your opponent plays, if you want it.

That said, Sonic Boom has a big weakness in current standard and that is the fast aggro deck. With Elves! coming out on turn 2 with 3/3 deathtouch elves, it can be hard to get the wall of counterspells working without taking a bunch of damage. Big Mana has the uncounterable (Akroma, Angel of Rage) and Molten Disaster, which are the bane of existence for a mono-blue player. There also exists Eyes of the Wisent, which was the trump card for Sonic Boom the last time it made any inroad into the meta of standard. That being said, this deck or a similar one is sure to be in the meta for a lifetime - people have been playing mono-blue control for years, and they will play it in the future. Unfortunately, this week it is an Outlier, as it doesn't make it to many top 8 spots.

Well, it turned into a control deck special this week. I'm hoping that the next few articles will help everyone who plays in the premiere events, explaining some of the mystery which is behind when to drop because you are out of prizes, when to draw because you made it into the top eight, and how the heck everything actually works when you're playing in the tournaments. Next week we tackle the complicated mess that is tiebreakers, and when they matter. Until then, good luck in the PEs!


Wooo by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 01/11/2008 - 12:39
Anonymous (Unregistered)'s picture

I would like to see the list for the U/R/G Rock Variant. Is it any good? I agree with the above comment though, I do miss Karsten, but this takes the place.

Keep up the good work by krisinsane at Thu, 01/10/2008 - 15:51
krisinsane's picture

This site makes me miss Karsten's weekly report less and less. Its sooo nice to have somewhere to read about onlines standard meta. Thanks for doing this.

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