State of the Meta

(Everyone at HoTC has divided into our various player archetypes and writing strengths. We’ve each picked names for our weekly posts and well as a couple of non-scheduled posts.

Jess Stirba has Eternal Hope and Command of Etiquette where she’s discussing eternal formats and Commander respectively.

Matt Jones has Power and Toughness discussing creature based Aggro strategy in constructed, and Arting Around where he’ll write about the art of Magic: the Gathering and conduct artist interviews.

Li Xu will be working on articles based in Standard and Modern under the title Pondering

Rich Stein has What We Learned a round-up of the news each week in the MTG media world and as a bonus from time to time he and I will be discussing The MTG Economy in an as yet unnamed feature.

Hunter Slaton will covering Limited strategies.

Giaco Furino continues to bring the agony of defeat in The Scrub Report.

I’ll be starting a weekly feature that combines short tournament reports with my forcast and findings on the current Standard metagame called The State of the Meta and I’ll also have a variety article from time to time that covers a larger range of Magic relate topics from social aspects of gaming to game theory and design in a reoccurring piece called All the Things.

Feedback on the blog of the last two months has been outstanding and you can expect that we are working harder than ever to get you quality content/bathroom reading material. I thank you all for stopping by and don’t hesitate to say hi if you see us out at Twenty Sided Store or at a local PTQ, GP, or Pro Tour (in our dreams). Without further delay, here is my first pass at State of the Meta right in time for Grand Prix Atlantic City.)

Let’s not durdle around it, you either have to have a lot of perspective or be downright blind to the writing on the wall to play the same deck in two tournaments going 1-3 and then 0-3-1 and even think that you should be playing that deck at a Grand Prix. You have to really love that deck if you think it’s the deck to play. Call me crazy, but I’m gonna tell you flat out a few things about American Control.

1. American Control is a solid deck. Like Bant it needs some work (specifically in the board) if it hopes to do well at a Grand Prix.

2. If you play three very solid players and you learn something relavent each match, then your deck has a chance.

3. If you have spent eight weeks tweaking a deck only to throw it away for this week’s hot deck, because it suits the meta you’ve been playing against, and that’s the meta you expect to find at a larger event, you don’t deserve to take off work just to play games.

4. When I say you, I’m really talking directly to myself.

5. I’m playing American Control in three days, whether I like it or not.

Here’s the deck currently:

American Control

75 cards, 15 sideboard

1 Desolate Lighthouse
2 Cavern of Souls
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Steam Vents
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Hallowed Fountain
1 Plains

24 lands

2 Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
2 Snapcaster Mage

4 creatures

4 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Entreat the Angels
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Devil’s Play
2 Think Twice
3 Supreme Verdict
3 Terminus
1 Feeling of Dread
3 Azorius Charm
4 Dissipate
3 Detention Sphere
2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

32 other spells

1 Supreme Verdict
1 Elixir of Immortality
1 Negate
2 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Rest in Peace
1 Feeling of Dread
2 Angel of Serenity
2 Pithing Needle
1 Terminus
2 Dispel

15 sideboard cards

The big changes are the Pillar, one Azorius Charm, and the Izzet Charm are out, Feeling of Dread is in joining two Jace, Architect of Thought. With so much Bant, Jace in the main means I have more Jace to stop their Jace and then play my Jace after board. Jace never got bad, but for a few weeks he was expendable, now everyone’s sweet on mill Jace so he’s good again. Also, in the board you’ll note I added Angel of Serenity. She’s there just for control so I’ll have a threat that can bring back my Nivs/other Angels vs Control. I found I was wishing for more threats when I played control decks and now I can attack from several angles once again.

Tuesday nights are always a really great litmus test of the environment. I’m hearing great things about Midrange everywhere. All these Naya Decks that use a fourth color to play Sphinx’s Rev or Rakdos’s Return. For the most part Jund and Naya don’t scare me much. I can out play RDWs and I should be prepared vs Bant and I just have to hope that U/W Flash doesn’t get paired up against me in the early rounds. Let’s pray for Midrange.

Round 1 – Nick H. BANT CONTROL

Damnit! There goes the whole winning the Midrange lottery. Nick and I played a few games on Sunday. Just some practice games. I realized that I wanted to resolve three threats of different card types against this deck to win. If I could do that and stop two major threats he played, victory was almost assured.

Game one was a series of “DOYOUHAVEITS?”. Nick did. Though I gave him a run for his money, I eventually scooped and went to board. Snapcaster Mage tried to go all the way, but 12 damage meant nothing to Mill Boss Drownyard Nick.

-3 Azorious Charm, -2 Think Twice, -2 Terminus, -1 Supreme Verdict, -1 Entreat the Angels,

+2 Angel of Serenity, +2 Jace, Memory Adept, +2 Dispel, +2 Pithing Needle, +1 Elixir of Immortality

Game Two was wild.

I ultimated Tamiyo.

I cast a Pithing Needle after he dropped a Memory Adept. Knowing that he’d eventually kill my Needle. I got his Jace with my Snapcaster for 2 and then wrathed away my Snap plus his Beast token/ Restoration Angel with Terminus. And I shot Jace for 2 with my Devil’s Play. (Tusk died to Supreme a bit earlier). He killed my Needle.

The next turn I cast my Jace, Memory Adept. I targeted myself… Tamiyo let the mill ten become a DRAW ten. I found the Dissipate I was looking for. The next three turns I stopped his attempts to kill Jace and we thought about game 3. After some thought the intentional draw seemed like the best idea. More packs and less control mirror. I was proud of the way I scooped and finished the second game in a favorable position. Last week I’d have played the rest of the game out. Now it’s obvious that hopeless in game 1 means hopeful in game 2. Ghost Quarters for the board are a thought. As always, Nick played some intense well thought out magic. The dude switches decks every few weeks and seems to have little problem handling each style expertly.

Match 0-0-1 Games 1-1

Round 2 Dana – UW Flash

Ah, Shit! Here’s yet another person I didn’t wanna face and a deck I really didn’t wanna face. It’s the one midrange deck I fear, the control elements can disrupt me from my plan and Geist of Saint Traft is a boss. I famously drew against Dana the first week after rotation. Something tells me this time that won’t happen. The first game I luck out and after killing a host of threats she casts Geist. I Entreat for like a bajillion and then cast Jace, AoT the next turn. She moves to game 2.

I sideboard like a chump. I boarded the same way I did vs Nick but took out Think Twice instead of Terminus. Two Games and not enough land drops later Geist got me. I cursed my luck. It wasn’t luck, though, it was poor sideboarding. My curve was ruined and I have myself to blame for not even showing up to those games. Note to Self: YOU NEED CANTRIPS TO DRAW OUT OF BAD HANDS. Also Entreat is very good mid game vs this deck. They run a limited number of ways to deal with multiple tokens. There’s light D-sphere post board and I think a couple Verdicts. This match-up is not insurmountable.

Match 0-1-1 Games 2-3

Round 3 – Li Xu – UW FLASH

F&*^! The exact opposite of what I want to happen is happening.

Li takes this opportunity to trounce me with Geist in game 1 and run me over with multiple threats in game 2. The whole thing takes like ten minutes. This makes up for Sunday’s thrashing at the hands of my Merfolk Deck. Afterwards we look at my board choices. I went lighter and Li agreed with the choices.

+2 Jace, Memory Adpet, +2 Rest in Peace, +1 Supreme, +1 Terminus

-1 Entreat, -1 Devil’s Play, -1 Feeling of Dread, – 1 Sphinx’s Revelation, -1 Think Twice, -1 Azorius Charm

We de-sided and played a few more games I took a few and he took a few. I felt better knowing that the odd Entreat wins me games here. I don’t need it to win but when it resolves… YAWZA!

Match 0-2-1 Games 2-5

Round 4 Sonia – RDW

Great! Probably the only other Match-up I don’t wanna see. I chalk the night up to bad match-ups and stellar opponents. Sonia’s rocking a pretty killer RDW with Vexing Devil. What a beast that guy is! Over the course of three games she did 28 points of damage with Devil. Game 1 looked unwinnable I was on the draw and by my fourth turn I was without a Verdict and she had 2 Ash Zealots read to kill me. Detention Sphere took care of the Ash Zealots and I eventualy gained a little life. After a few turns I was able to stabilize and Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius took me home.

Game 2 Sonia nut drew. Turn one Stromkirk Noble 20. Turn two Ash Zealot 17. Turn 3 Ash Zealot/Stromkirk Noble 11. Turn four Hellrider -3. Couldn’t beat that if I tried. I had board wipe ready but that’s too hard to beat.

Game 3 I really punted, but Sonia played a fantastic series of plays and top decked like crazy to get past a very stacked game. I wiped the board and drew Niv-Mizzet. She had a Pyre Heart Wolf still. Zealous Conscripts Feeling of Dread to them and the Niv Misset she tried to steal. Meanwhile I’m at 4 life with one blocker. The smart thing to do would be to attack draw and Terminus to clear the board. I’ve got nothing to deal with her wolf (of which she just played another. Instead I Entreat the Angels for 2. Hoping she doesn’t top deck a Hellrider. Hope sinks like a stone, Hellrider hits the board. I can’t block her guys to stop lethal, so I extend the hand.

Final Match 0-3-1 Games 3-7

Looking at that, it’s quite terrible. It looks like something Giaco would be embarrassed to write an article about. But I wanna go with Rich’s style and see what I learned. When you lose don’t loose the lesson.

What did I learn?

1. I have to scoop faster vs Bant if I’m not winning the first game. Neither Nick or I are slow players, so going to time here is my fault. I could have played a third if I had the time. My board makes that match weigh in my favor.

2. Sideboarding poorly and greedily will loose you games. It can mess with the consistency of your deck. I rely on my draw spells to get me land early in the game. Both games 2-3 vs Dana I was land light and Geist punished me for it.

3. U/W Flash has me 60/40, at least. THAT DOESN’T mean I need to knee-jerk my sideboard to beat that deck. Li is excellent at the deck, Dana has a good grip on it, too. Not everyone that I play will be playing U/W Flash nor will they be playing it well.

4. RDW gets nut draws. That’s a fact of life. But playing loosely is what cost me game 3. I could have killed her Zealous Conscipts at the end of her turn instead of dealing her 3 damage. Then just sat back and picked off her guys as the game went on. I was out of burn range at 4 life, and had plenty of ways to get cards into my hands. Greedy play makes for easy losses.

Three things stuck with me though during the night:

1. Dana said she liked my list, it attacks from several angles and its hard to board against.

2. The post match games I played vs Li, I took 2-3 of the games.

3. And Li said to me that he thinks my deck is well positioned for Saturday.

Reports like this can make you falter on a deck choice before a big tournament. I need to think about the final build. This deck can win AC. It’s got the added factor of surprise, seeing as how no one has top 16’d with American Miracles since early Dec. The deck doesn’t have any specific weak points, yeah, aggro nut draws are gonna get it but you can’t be strong to every deck. I need to pick my battles post board. I want to have a strong game against Bant Control, I want to have ways around B/R and RDW and I want to have graveyard hate for U/W Flash and URW Flash. Mid-range doesn’t concern me much, and combo is laughable as long as I know what I’m up against.

Take a look at my sideboard and tell me what you think. Right now It’s:

1 Supreme Verdict
1 Elixir of Immortality
1 Negate
2 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Rest in Peace
1 Feeling of Dread
2 Angel of Serenity
2 Pithing Needle
1 Terminus
2 Dispel

I’m thinking -1 Negate -1 Terminus -1 Elixir +2 Pillar +1 Magmaquake.

Any ideas?

I feel like there’s gonna be a lot of Midrange at this thing, along with a ton of RDW and Bant. U/W Flash is new and I expect to see it played by pros and grinders. I think Reanimator is poor deck choice for this event but the Human version may see play so we’ll see what happens.

Thanks for reading, and remember if you’re gonna Durdle… do it quickly.

Zac Clark, Durdle Magus.

15 Responses to “State of the Meta”
  1. David McCoy says:

    I’m not much of a control player, but isn’t the minimum land count for control at least 25? Your curve is so high (20ish cards at 4cmc or greater, not counting miracle costs) in the maindeck it seems more land would be required. Especially with your minimal amount of card draw. It seems like most control decks these days pack 4 Think Twice no matter what.

    Take this with a grain of salt, but my gut reaction says more land and more draw, though perhaps your Charms work well enough.

    Also: Thragtusk? Haha.

    • Zac Clark says:

      One more land has been a thought for a bit. I’d rather the Az charms over the think twice. Gets me out of the fire a lot. Been toying with removing red altogether…

      • David McCoy says:

        Perhaps at least -1 Entreat and +1 land? I’m not convinced at the effectiveness of 4 Entreats, especially when you are solely looking to miracle it rather than end up with it in your opening hand.

      • Zac Clark says:

        That’s my gut feeling as well.

      • Tim says:

        Definitely agree with +1 land, -1 entreat.. as a control afficianado, I always want 25-27 lands in my standard decks (except that time I played Tezzeret control and had 8-10 mana rocks in my main).

        I also think red is very cuttable if you’re not playing cheap burn-removal, but then you’re basically just playing the Edgar Flores deck, and I’m pretty sure he’s the only person that manages to win with that pile. As it is right now, though, you’re basically playing red for Niv and Devil’s Play. Would Drogskol Reaver really be that much worse of a curve-topping beater than Niv, especially if you weigh the benefits of going to two colors?

  2. Fettoblaster says:

    Desperate Ravings >>> Think Twice!

  3. Glanz says:

    I would try 3 or 4 Geists in the board. Great for the control mirrors and Geisting the other Geists. See you in AC!

  4. Tim says:

    General comments:

    * 6 sweepers main (and 8 in the 75) seems a bit high, even for a guy like me. My current configuration is 3 Verdict/2 Terminus with 1 of each in the board.
    * I think you want more Think Twice, especially if you’re playing less than 26 land. While I cut them from my list, I run 4 Farseeks. You need to be able to make 2-land hands keepable.
    * Actually, you should really add at least one more land, regardless of whether or not you’re going to up the Think Twice count. Especially since one of them is colorless.
    * As I said earlier, and you also mentioned several times, consider cutting red. Hampering your manabase with a third color isn’t worth it if you’re just doing for 3 cards that are not mission critical in the sense that you can’t find a suitable replacement in your main colors. Niv can be changed to Drogskol Reaver. I think Reaver is the best replacement since it dodges Ultimate Price and is too big for Mortars.
    * But if you insist on red, consider some split of Dissipates and Counterflux. Having the Last Word when they’re trying to force a key spell through can be pretty huge.
    * Overall recommendations:
    Main: -12 red duals, -2 Niv, -1 Devil’s Play, -1 Entreat, -1 Terminus; +6 Islands, +5 Plains, +2 Guildgate, +2 Reaver, +1 Think Twice, 1 free slot (suggestions: Think Twice, Az Charm, Auger, d-sphere)
    SB: -1 Elixer, -2 Angel of Serenity; + 3 GoST (I would even consider cutting a Pithing Needle or RiP for 4)

    • Zac Clark says:

      Tim thanks for the look. After testing Li and I with help from
      Luis came up with this.

      I think I may board 4 Geist though. Just have to have them.

      Control 2.0
      75 cards, 15 sideboard
      2 Nephalia Drownyard
      3 Drowned Catacomb
      1 Isolated Chapel
      5 Island
      4 Glacial Fortress
      4 Hallowed Fountain
      6 Plains
      25 lands

      3 Augur of Bolas
      2 Drogskol Reaver
      2 Snapcaster Mage
      7 creatures

      2 Jace, Architect of Thought
      1 Negate
      3 Sphinx’s Revelation
      2 Think Twice
      3 Supreme Verdict
      2 Feeling of Dread
      2 Entreat the Angels
      2 Terminus
      3 Detention Sphere
      3 Azorius Charm
      3 Dissipate
      2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
      28 other spells

      1 Supreme Verdict
      2 Geist of Saint Traft
      1 Drogskol Reaver
      1 Terminus
      3 Jace, Memory Adept
      1 Negate
      2 Rest in Peace
      2 Pithing Needle
      2 Dispel
      15 sideboard cards

      • Tim says:

        Yeah, if you’re boarding into the Geist plan, you need 3-4. The whole allure to playing Geist is slamming him on turn 3 and watching as they’re completely helpless to it.

      • Tim says:

        What I meant by that, but might not have clearly stated, is that you want to draw him early.

      • Tim says:

        Also, you should tweak your manabase a little bit. You have 3:1 drowned catacombs to chapel ratio, but 10 lands with the plains type and 9 with island. It’s a minor detail. Since you’re using black mana strictly for drownyard, use more chapels, because the drownyard already requires a blue, and the UB lands won’t give U, because you need to tap it for B. I feel like this was poorly articulated, but trust me, 2/2 split.

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