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Worlds day 1 – Standard

December 20, 2010

So, it’s time for the first of several entries with reports from Worlds. Going with chronological order I’m leading off with day 1… which means Standard (I will get to Teams later on, don’t worry!).

Standard was probably the format I spent most time with leading up to Worlds. Standard looked already from the start to be a very wide format with lots of (more or less) viable decks. So my plan of attack of trying to grasping the format was just to play a lot with a bunch of different decks. I didn’t take any preliminary opinions on what was good or not, I just started out with playing a bunch of games with so many of the headlining archetypes that I had the time for.

King of the Hill

And that was pretty much what I did with Standard until I headed to Japan (which means give or take 1 week before the actual event). And that point I started to reflect on what I have learned and experienced playing Standard:

  • Valakut is probably the “best deck” in the format if you will, but it’s not that much better than the rest to render other stuff unplayable. The deck to beat for sure.
  • The decks whose main focus is Fauna Shaman/Vengevine wasn’t cutting it for me. I really tried, but those decks wasn’t fast enough for me against ramp decks nor didn’t pose enough threat against the control decks.
  • I predicted that the field at Worlds would be about 1/3rd Primeval Titan decks (mostly Valakut-based), 1/3rd Jace the Mind Sculptor-based control decks and 1/3rd with blended stuff, mostly aggro decks, like Vampires, Boros and Quest of the Holy Relic-decks.
  • UB Control was my fall back deck. It was the deck I felt most comfortable playing and has at least an okay match ups against anything I played against during testing.
  • Isn’t Spreading Seas pretty awesome against this field?

With this in mind I went over to Japan and started the final testing with the Swedish crew. I worked the mostly on UB and our National Champion Anders Melin wowed to join me in playing UB in the Standard portion. We tested Spreading Seas and I really liked it. Between Tectonic Edge (don’t play less than 4 kids!), Spreading Seas, some discard and counterspell and finally JtMS you could really lock out the ramp decks from doing what they want to do. Also, the same package is really amazing against the control decks of the format so I felt we had struck gold.

We did some venturing with Abyssal Persecutor, Mimic Vat and some other cards but nothing of that stuck and we returned to a very clean and straight forward version of UB control. This is the list I (and Anders) ended up playing in the Standard portion:

UB Control

// Lands
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Creeping Tar Pit
5 Island
4 Tectonic Edge
3 Swamp
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Verdant Catacombs

// Creatures
3 Grave Titan
4 Sea Gate Oracle

// Spells
4 Mana Leak
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Spreading Seas
2 Ratchet Bomb
2 Disfigure
3 Duress
4 Preordain
1 Jace Beleren
3 Doom Blade

// Sideboard
SB: 1 Ratchet Bomb
SB: 1 Disfigure
SB: 1 Jace Beleren
SB: 4 Vampire Nighthawk
SB: 2 Consume the Meek
SB: 2 Mindbreak Trap
SB: 2 Flashfreeze
SB: 2 Spell Pierce

The list we ended up playing looked very similar to the lists you find in the Top8. I think it’s correct to cut down a bit on the Sea Gate Oracles, 4 is a bit overkill.

Inquisition of Kozilek was a card that was fairly well played during the weeked that we didn’t really consider in our testing. I think it’s a pretty good card but I think we didn’t really considered it was because it is worse than Duress against both the ramp-decks (you can’t take Summoning Trap) and against the Jace-decks (you can’t take JtMS or any other of the big white planeswalkers UW are playing), two archetypes that we really wanted to beat. But then again, Standard is more than that and Inquisition of Kozilek edges out Duress against the aggro decks by miles.

Lastly I want to mention the Vampire Nighthawks in the sideboard, because they ended up being really awesome against aggro. It’s a nice card against Vampires and red aggro-decks, but it is against Quest-decks with Squadron Hawks, Glint Hawks and Kor Skyfishers they really shine. They just block forever and those decks have very little in the way of actually removing a Nighthawk from the board.

So, without any further ado let’s jump into the action!

Round 1: Chand, Vijay [AUT] w/ UW Control

Game 1 against other control decks in this format are pretty awkward since the control decks doesn’t have a lot of countermagic or stuff like that in the main (i.e. ways of stopping the opponent of doing what they want to do), which means that the pre-boarded games often ends with a sluggerfest with the player that have the most cards that matter than wins. This game was no exception.

We played lands forever until we had about 10 lands in play each, then he managed to stick an Elspeth Tirel. In the end I had to put too much resources into controling Elspeth Tirel so he simply used the planeswalkers as a trampoline to get ahead and I never managed to catch up.

Game 2 started out better, between the cheap disruption in form of Duress and Spell Pierce I forced down a JtMS which I rode to victory. Unfortunately game 1 had taken forever to play through so when I locked up game 2 we were already in the extra turns.

1-1, 0-0-1

Round 2: Wiriyaampon™, Kampanar [THA] w/ UB Control

Game 1 started out similar to the previous round, we played lands for a while until we both had about 8-ish in play. Then we both started to try force down our heavy hitters, which ended with me on top due to a Grave Titan than he couldn’t answer.

Game 2 I showed off how strong the manlands can be in this match up. In the early game a Creeping Tar Pit from my side hindered him to use JtMS as he wanted, leaving him with the ever so annoying decision of either brainstorming and letting Jace die to Creeping Tar Pit or just +2 to keep him alive but that play doesn’t gain you much traction.

So in the end he simply brainstormed and let JtMS go down. My draw this game was fairly flat but I soon enough had 2 Creeping Tar Pits running and just kept attacking. Thanks to a Duress from his side (Duress and Inquisition of Kozilek just breaks up the mirror so much) he stuck a Grave Titan. Without any real means of dealing with a resolved Grave Titan, I simply had to try to get him with my manlands, which I ended up doing. That game he took 18 dmg from Creeping Tar Pits as well as loosing a JtMS to them. Bonkers.

2-0, 1-0-1

Round 3: Calcano, Christian [USA] w/ Valakut

Game 1 is a blur, sorry. I know I won but nothing particularly remarkable happened (because then I would remember the game). My scorepad from the match indicates that I won with a Grave Titan but I can’t say more than that.

Game 2 started out in a normal fashion. He tries to accelerate his mana while I try to hinder his development. On turn 5 I Duress him, forcing him to respond with a Summoning Trap which I counter with a Mana Leak. I then get to see his hand that has a couple of lands and Overgrown Battlement, i.e. virtually nothing. I pass the turn (with a Flashfreeze left in my grip as my only nonland card), he draws, plays the Overgrown Battlement and passes with only 5 mana up. On my turn I rip a Grave Titan.

That left my with a judgement call which turned out to be game ending. At this point I can either slam down my Titan and try to go to town as quickly as possible or I can wait until I have 8 mana and can play Grave Titan with counterbackup. I tried to evaluate the downsides of just playing Grave Titan in this position. I had 2 Tectonic Edges, which means that I can probably fight through a top decked Primeval Titan even if I don’t rip removal of the top. If he does have Avenger of Zendikar on the other hand I probably loose. I reasoned that it’s more likely that he can come up with Primeval Titan (since I haven’t seen any Titans or Avengers from his side so far in this game) than Avenger of Zendikar since most Valakut list only runs 2-3 of the Zendikarian Avenger. He can also just draw blank off course, in case I’m going to town regardless.

So I slammed down my Titan and Calcano drew Avenger of Zendikar on his turn and thanks to a Evolving Wilds he got a bunch of 2/3 on the spot. With Ratchet Bomb in the board after sideboarding against ramp-decks I was cold and lost quickly.

The last game ended up much better for me. The early game went like textbook, Doom Blade on his Overgrown Battlement and then I Duress him on the following turn seeing Cultivate, Primeval Titan, Summoning Trap and lands. Since I’m on the play I can play JtMS on turn 4 and get to untap with him in play before he can reach 6 mana if I snag his Cultivate, which I did.

I play JtMS on turn 4, uses +2 ability on myself to ensure that I don’t loose him to a stray Lightning Bolt (very unlikely after board, I know) or if play something like Koth of the Hammer. Jace was far to important to me at that spot to be endangered for no real reason. On the following turn I brainstorm I draw into double Mindbreak Trap. Ding!

Between the 2 Mindbreak Traps and a Flashfreeze I drew a turn or so after I am able to stop all his relevant actions and could take it home with a Grave Titan.

2-1, 2-0-1

Round 4: Park™, Jun Young [KOR] w/ UB Control

Game 1 was really weird. He ends up sticking a Jace Beleren very early on and draws infinite cards of him. So I’m thinking that I’m miles after him, but it turns out that Jace didn’t serve him the good he was looking for. The game ended up really close since I managed to mize draw into all my Grave Titans so I give him a run for his money. He does manage to handles the pressure thanks to 2 Grave Titans of his own and a key Disfigure midcombat on one of my Grave Titans and wins.

Game 2 wasn’t as exciting. I get stucked on lands and missing lands drops is as you probably know really bad in the control mirror. While I can do approx. 1 things per turn he can do 1 to 2 things while also having them covered with countermagic. He sticks a Grave Titan which forces me to rawdog a Grave Titan into a bunch of untapped mana… and I failed horribly.

0-2. 2-1-1

Round 5: Melis™, Bas [NLD] w/ UB Control

This entire match felt like the opposite of the last match I played. This time I had all gas and hit my land drops while my poor opponent missed some lands drops and while I had Duress and real action Melis sat with Disfigures and Into the Roils. A quite lopsided match that I won without much difficulty.

2-0, 3-1-1

Round 6: Watanabe, Yuuya [JPN] w/ UB Control

Before my round I heard from Kenny Öberg that Watanabe was indeed playing UB but he had like his usual style some quirky cards in his maindeck, like Calcite Snappers and Spell Pierce. So I had some extra cards to have in mind for this match…

Game 1 started out like the usual mirror, mostly playing lands. This match was mostly decided by myself being on the wrong end of a judgement call by “walking” my Jace the Mind Sculptor into a Spell Pierce. After that I ran out of actions and when he forced down a Grave Titan I was cold.

My last game of the Standard portion ended sadly for my side. I went down to 5 cards on the play and was stuck on 4 mana forever and only got to 5 when the game was already almost over. He hit all his land drops and edged me out by 2:1 in land total which left him doing pretty much whatever he wanted to do.

0-2, 3-2-1

I was fairly happy with how the Standard portion went. Off course I wanted a couple of more wins for sure, but given the match ups and how I played a score of 3-2-1 was acceptable. As I said, I’m content with the list I played with the exception of cutting a Sea Gate Oracle for another discard spell. If I’m not totally wrong this format is pretty much dead until Mirrodin Besieged is released, but for those planning on playing FNM and/or whatnod I can recommend you playing UB Control. I don’t think it’s strictly better than UW, but against a field like we witnessed at Worlds (lots of control mirrors and Primeval Titan-decks) UB is certainly my pick.

For those trying to innovate UB Control, I can pin point the biggest problem that needs to be addressed in my book: Grave Titan. A resolved Grave Titan is so obnoxious to deal with and trumps 9 out of 10 times every other card in a the mirror. At least from the recent popular lists all solutions involves playing your own Titan, which is tricky to ensure. Ways I have thought about is either start to play Volition Reins again or go back to Trinket Mages so you can run Brittle Effigy(s), which is one of the few ways in UB to deal with a Grave Titan. Something to think about for the future.

Back to the event, the day wasn’t over yet though as I had 2 team rounds to play in before I could call it a day! But I’m saving the team portion to a separate post, I think I have written enough for one entry by now!

Until next time!

Park™, Jun Young [KOR]
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