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By: jamuraa, Marie Janssen
Mar 19 2008 12:05pm
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Well, it's another Wednesday and that means that it's time for another Standard Deviations. This week there still aren't any Premier Events for us to cover, and next week we will only have a couple of days to cover because the PEs start again on saturday. I am debating whether I will cover those first few events -- there will be about seven if the schedule is the same as normal -- or if I will produce another off article in order to fill the space and then analyze the metagame the week after that. If you have any preferences one way or the other, just comment.

This week I am going to do something that I haven't done before on Standard Deviations and that is play some games myself, and write about them. Sure, I've written about the random PE that I joined and played in in the intro or conclusion of the article before, but I've never really given they type of play-by-play that you normally see in other articles. This is because I usually find them to be pretty boring to read, and I don't want to subject my readers to things that are boring.

Testing a deck is not the easiest task in the world. Usually when I test a deck I like to test against a gauntlet of decks that I am most likely to come up against, and I like to play the deck a lot. No, more than that. Really - I usually want to play each matchup at least five times with any particular deck. Of course, most people won't want to sit around to let me test against them 5 gazillion times in order to satisfy my practicing need. So where do I go for matchups? Well there are really only three places you can go on Magic Online in order to test matchups. The best place to go is of course some clan mates. I'm lucky in that the clan that I am in generally has a bunch of different decks, as well as a couple rogues, and they are happy to play against me sometimes multiple times with the same deck. It's really the best simulation of what you would do to test in real life - that is, find a play group and ask them to test with you.

Of course, not everyone is in a clan, and sometimes the clan mates you would test with are just not around. Of course you want to test now, because after all, this is Magic Online and one of the basic advantages of using it instead of paper is that you can find a game at any time of the day or night. In these cases, there are two other options in order to test: the Tourney Practice casual playroom and the Eight man queues. I've covered the basics of the eight man queues in a previous article, so I won't go over it again here except to note that only one of these two options is free. Eight man queues cost 4 tickets each time you want to play a deck.

I have had a theory about these two testing grounds for a while now, and it's time to perform a pesudo-scientific experiment in order to support my theory. My theory is that the eight-man queues will produce not only better testing for your deck, but also might be able to do it for the same cost as the tournament practice if your deck is any good. So I set out to find a deck that I would want to test for a while. This is the deck that I settled on:

This deck apparently went undefeated in the first day at the most recent large Standard tournament, Grand Prix Shizuoka. After that though, the deck came up against Kenji Tsumura in round eleven and lost in a feature match. I think that it's undefeated-ness on day one makes it decent enough to test on Magic Online. Also, I had almost all the cards, only missing the Mutavaults and the Crushers. I begged, borrowed and bought the rest of the deck and took it to the Tourney Practice room for the first part of our experiment. My first goal was to play three matches with the deck. For the people who don't want to read recaps, you can skip to the second part of the experiment.

Tournament Practice Match 1 vs. Walk the Aeons Combo

This is one of the reasons that you don't particularly get good testing out of the tourney practice room. For people who don't know the deck already, here is a representative list:

This list is from the old meta game, but I updated it a bit from what I saw being played in the tourney practice room. I wouldn't expect to see it in a queue or in a Premier Event, because it dies horribly to any type of control at all. You do see it every once in a while in the earlier rounds but I have never seen Walk the Aeons make a top eight. The basic idea of the deck is to make insane amounts of mana, draw into the combo which is double Rites of Flourishing plus Crucible of Worlds plus Walk the Aeons. There are a number of other mini-combos like Crucible of Worlds plus Terramorphic Expanse, which lets you fetch a land every turn and thin out your deck.

Game 1 I mulligan a hand of two Countryside Crushers, two Mountains, two Shard Volley, and a Shock. I normally would keep this hand but I don't like to have so many Shard volleys in my opening hand, and I don't have a way to play the Crushers. After this night of playing, I would probably keep this hand, but I am fairly new to the deck at this point. The six that I end up with is three Mountains, a Rift Bolt, Marauders, and Incinerate. He does his thing, pretty much uninhibited by me other than me aiming some burn at his head every once in a while. He eventually uses the Primal Commands in his deck to gain some life back and fetch the Cloudthresher. After he casts the second Time Stretch, I concede. Sideboard: -4 Rift Bolt, +4 Cryoclasm, +3 Manabarbs, -2 Lash Out, -1 Shock

Game 2 goes pretty much the same way as game one, except that I get a Manabarbs out and start waiting. Unfortunately he starts casting things anyway off of his triple Wall of Roots. He also finds his sided Bottle Gnomes, which helps him beat me in the race to not die.

Tournament Practice Match 2 vs. Blue-Black Faeries

I assume this is the standard Faeries list, you can probably find it in the excellent article by Arnnaria today. I was happy to see this matchup because it is a good matchup for red decks. In the first game the opponent is mana screwed - he probably should have mulliganed. I win in short order by burning to the head. I don't make any changes for the next game. In game two I mulligan to a six card hand of two Lash Out, Ghitu Encampment, Rift Bolt, Shock, and Mountain. He is not mana screwed this time, but my spot removal plus drawing a Mutavault gets there along with a Sulfurous Blast which just wrecks faeries.

Tournament Practice Match 3 vs. Blue-Black Faeries

Two out of three matchups are Faeries? This bodes well if the rest of the field is like this for the eight man queues. The main reason that Faeries is a great matchup for this deck is the fact that you are running four of the excellent Sulfurous Blast which basically kill every faerie on the board except for Mistbind Clique, which can often be gotten with some more removal. The other main reason -- it's about the same in terms of pure win, is that they love to play Bitterblossom which is like hitting them for one each turn, and they don't have a choice. If they decide that they want to trot out two of these, they are a horrible player and you are going to win with the red deck.

Game one, I keep a hand of double Mountain, Ghitu Encampment, Shard Volley, Horizon Canopy, Rift Bolt, and Incinerate on the draw. My opponent has turn one Ancestral Vision. I draw a lucky turn one Mogg Fanatic and trot it out. Mogg gets in for one after my opponent plays Faerie Conclave and I drop the Encampment, and suspend the Rift Bolt. Bitterblossom hits the board. The bolt goes to the head, and my opponent is at 16 that quickly. Mogg gets his mad beats once more and I suspend another Rift Bolt that I drew. The blossom triggers, taking it's life and dropping a Rogue. I try to Lash Out the token but it meets with a Rune Snag. The unsuspending bolt goes to the head again, and I draw and play a Horizon Canopy, and activate the Encampment and swing with both of my guys. The Mogg gets blocked, and pings to the head after taking care of the token. The next turn brings a Pestermite in order to tap down the Ghitu after it is animated, and I throw the Incinerate to the head, bringing the opponent to three life. Next turn, two life. Last turn he tries to Cryptic Command his own Bitterblosssom but my Shard Volley meets his head while he is tapped down. This is my third game win in a row against Faeries.

Game two, I end up keeping a two Mountain, two Marauders, two Lash Out, and one Crusher. The other side starts with a Mutavault, and I start with a Mountain, drawing a Sulfurous Blast. Turn two Bitterblossom draws a smile from my face, but they can't see that across the aether. Next turns are Marauders, then Mutavault and another Marauders which gets met with a Flashfreeze. I draw a third marauders and play it out as well. On his turn he plays a Mistbind Clique and I Lash Out his generated token, forcing him to champion the Bitterblossom. I draw and play a Countryside Crusher - but he has a Spellstutter Sprite. I let the Sprite come into play and Lash Out it so that the effect fails. My crusher fails to flip a land, but I turn it sideways anyways. I then Sulfurous Blast in order to get rid of a animated Mutavault. The Vault dies, but my Crusher meets with a Peppersmoke and dies as well. The point is moot, because at this point the opponent is at one life and he dies to his own Bitterblossom in the next turn.


So ends the matches in the tournament practice room. At this point I'm feeling pretty good, because I have won two of three, and Faeries seems pretty prevalent. If the same holds true in the eight man queues, I will be able to not only break even, but make a profit on my testing. I head over to the queues and put up my four tickets. I get met with the bane of the queue waiters:

There are 9 players in the queue.
Starting tournament 1159052.
There is 1 player in the queue.

Well, at least they took the time to make the queue use good grammar. I wait another five minutes or so and the queue eventually fires.

Eight Mans: Match 1 vs. Red/Black Tokens

I haven't seen this deck before, and I don't expect it. When I see the Auntie's Hovel I expect more goblins, and I get my wish. In game one, I see mostly tokens including Marsh Flitter, Mogg War Marshal, and Mogg Fanatic, which all decide to be food for a Nantuko Husk. The board develops even further with a Bitterblossom, producing tokens for the Husk to eat. The game is close, but eventually my Countryside Crusher doesn't really match up to his large collection of chump blockers and a Fatal Frenzy. Game two is over pretty quickly with a Greater Gargadon suspended in turn one, and a Bitterblossom again producing tokens which bring the monster in early and it bowls me over.

At this point, I am not feeling too great about the deck, because I wasn't expecting that type of matchup at all. The deck is interesting however, and I got at least something out of it -- the skeleton of a new decklist:

Eight Mans: Match 2 vs. A better Mirror

I queue up again after losing the first four tix of the night, hoping to at least break even in the experiment. Soon the queue fires again, and I'm facing down a mirror match which is pretty apparent after the first couple of turns. The first game in this is a tossup, whoever ends up with more of the burn in hand. Game one is over almost before it has started and I have lost. In this matchup I bring in a full set of the Dragon's Claw, hoping to soften the blow of some of his burn, leaving the set of Sulfurous blast in the side. Game two is long and arduous -- we both get a couple (Dradon's Claw) out, making burn much less efficient than creatures in the long run. He has three out in the end, making it a moot point to aim the burn at his head. Luckily, I draw a Countryside Crusher before he does, and I end up with a 6/6 monster on the board bashing face. It's going to be a long haul however because he is at 54 from all of his burn he directed at me. He doesn't see answers coming or something though so he concedes. Game three is like a race again, and the better draws were on the other side of the table.

One thing that I found out when I was playing this match was that I really hate the mirror match with this deck. I also noted that the build was slightly different from the one that I am using, which isn't surprising. There is a lot of good burn out there. One piece that I am particularly fond of in his deck is the Browbeat, which feeds the hand or hits the head very efficiently. It also is easy to choose the wrong answer, I once gave him some more gas when I was actually hoping to just take the five damage. He also runs Needle Drop -- I'm not sure how useful this card is really - while it replaces itself, it only does one damage, and conditionally as well. I will have to try it out in more testing.


Well, being eight tickets down doesn't make it easy to continue with the same deck. I guess that my hypothesis could be true or false at this point -- if I had more tickets to throw into the pot on the queues, I might have tried a third match. I honestly didn't expect to lose both of my first round matches, but maybe it is for the best. The build of this deck isn't working out so well, so I should probably try to go back to the drawing board. So what's the conclusion of our little experiment? Personally I like to use both places to test my decks. I like to start in the tourney practice room just to get a feel for the deck, and then try it out against some players who are really trying to beat me with something on the line. Then again, I lost in the first round both times, so you can draw your own conclusions.

On a side note, I ended up playing a PTQ last weekend in Minneapolis mostly because it was less than thirty minutes away and it's been forever since I played in a paper tournament. The deck that I played is below, which is a tweak on a deck which won an earlier PTQ. I probably made the deck weaker, or possibly not. I needed some other cards like Sulfuric Vortex in order to counteract the Ravenous Baloths and Armadillo Cloaks which were out there. There was a lot of (Tallowwisp) aggro in the PTQ I was at. I ended up going 0-2-1, with the draw coming from time in the first round. While I'm not really pleased with the result, I'm also not all that surprised considering the limited card pool that I ended up with. At any rate, the online scene is more my cup of tea anyway. Next week we get our Premier Events back. Until then, good luck in the PEs!


by jamuraa at Mon, 03/24/2008 - 18:38
jamuraa's picture

I'm definitely up on the current PE metagame, as that is the normal subject of this article (look 3-4 weeks back) and the PE breakdown will be returning this week.

It has seen some success, but it also has been showing up in numbers.  The amount of top 8 spots are about par for the course when they have that many in the field at the start. 


Ashah's picture

If you have time you might want to check out some of the top 8 replays of standard events on MTGO.  I have seen what I suspect to be almost this exact decklist used, and its been in the top eight in atleast 2 of the recent standard PE events i have looked at.  The Meta appeared to be very faerie oriented, so that could explain why.  I also noticed that some faerie decks are allready sideboarding with this in mind.  Saw some Dragon's Claws come into play after sideboarding in one match.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 03/19/2008 - 17:50
Anonymous (Unregistered)'s picture

I see Walk the Aeons win alot but it might be because i never play controlish enough decks