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With Kyoto on the Horizon

February 8, 2009

The first Pro Tour of the year is as we speak only a few weeks away! Even thou’ I have myself failed to qualify for the event, I have spent some time testing and thinking about the regarding formats. Why? Firstly I have a buddy who is qualified, so I have been helping him trying out the formats. Secondly, because it’s fun! Standard and draft is two incredible fun formats and also well played (GP Barcelona is Standard and Nationals is both Standard and drafts) so it’s also sort of investment for the future. So today I’m going to talk about what I think about the PT formats from where I stand today.

Limited (ALA-ALA-CON Draft)

I haven’t got so incredible much time into this format yet (three IRL drafts and a couple more online) but I think I discovered a few things about the new draft environment. To me, the biggest discovery is that the multicolor control decks has gotten better as well as the more (mana)conservative aggro decks. As crazy as it sounds, it’s the truth. In addition to the domain-theme, that wants you to be as many colors as possible anyways, Conflux also brought a lot of good common mana fixing. Between Armilliary Sphere, Rupture Spire, the basic landcycling-cycle and Mana Cylix it’s fairly easy to make the mana work so you can play every good card you draft. Another thing to take in mind is that the Panorama-cycle from Shard of Alara has getten a bit better since those manafixers actually get you more basic landtypes in difference to Rupture Spire and Mana Cylix (or the tri-lands for that matter).

However, the manafixing do have a cost. And that is the fact that it takes time to assemble your manabase and therefore your losing tempo. And that is what the aggro decks in this environment feeds on. I have witnessed a couple of “good” domain type decks fall by the wayside of the power of the two color aggro decks in this format. Both GW and RB are very strong aggro archetypes that doesn’t require a lot of manafixing. GW decks with a couple of Squires and Nacatls along with some Knight of the Skyward Eves supported with some tempo oriented cards such as Excommunicate and Lapse of Certainty can really get you there. The RB aggro deck supports it’s beaters with some burn as reach. So, a word of caution. Don’t get fooled by the power of the all the multi-color goodies out there. You might be dead before you ever have a chance to cast them.

Standard

There a couple of things that are worth mentioning about the upcoming Standard format. First (and maybe most importantly), Faeries is not dead. Not by a long shot. True, Conflux provided a couple of “haters” against Faeries, but none of them are in my opinion “good enough” to remove Faeries from tier 1 status. Scattershot Archer is pretty nice, but it has it flaws. If your opponent happens not to have Bitterblossom in play (gasp!) it’s pretty poor and beyond turn 1 or 2 it just has “plz Spellstutter me!” written on it’s forehead. Volcanic Fallout is a bit better and can completely annihilate a typical Faerie-comeback in games. But like with the Archer, you can still loose game to Mistbind Clique even if you have multiple Volcanic Fallouts. Banefire is also another card that don’t outright say “use-me-to-bash-Faeries”, but it’s pretty good at doing it. With some early aggression, a Banefire for 5+ is often good enough to end games. Faeries should be loosing a bit of it’s dominance in the meta, but it’s still a deck you have to at least watch out for. In the end of the day, threats > answers.

Moving on, I have to put it out there. Windbrisk Heights is the best. I have been playing with the card (and the other 56 cards that go with it) very much the last couple of weeks, and I got to say, the decks that are playing with Windbrisk Heights is to me the best decks in the format right now. When I play those decks, I feel that I have at least a 50/50 game or better against whatever I play out there. However the questions is what version is the best? Is it the RW variant (Boat Brew)? Is it the BW variant? Or is it Kithkins? Personally, I think that Boat Brew is the worst of them (but no means unplayable). Boat Brew feels very clunky when I play it and it feels like it’s somewhere between Kithkins and BW. It might be just me, but I just don’t like it. But between Kithkins (occasionally with Ajani Vengeant) and BW I don’t have clue which one is better. I guess we will have better information about that in a few weeks. I will return to the Windbrisk Heights subject (hopefully later this week) and go in deeper into the archetype.

Further on, I want to say that my guesses is that whatever deck or sideboard plan that will prevail in Kyoto later this month, it will have a good matchup/plan against the different Windbrisk Heights decks. I don’t a have straight forward answer for what that would be, but if Faeries is on withdrawal in the meta game, there might be a window where 5cc control or even a old school Lark’ deck might be good again. Traditionally those decks have a decent to good matchup against aggro decks.

And finally, I wouldn’t be betting for a red deck making top8 in Kyoto (I guess maybe if the red guy goes X-0 in limited…). The red decks are generally terrible against the white decks and with Faeries on (presumable) withdrawal, it has lost its best matchup. And it is not to good against the decks that is good against the white decks either.

That was all for today. Until next time…

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