I wanted to write an addendum to my original post on my roadmap to the top 41 on MTGArena. It appeared to me that there were a lot of (very cool) things that I encountered on my journey to Mythic on MTGArena that I forgot to mention that it’s all but necessary for me to write a follow-up post on what I experienced.
The biggest thing that I forgot to mention is that, once you’ve neared the top, you find yourself on a lot of very prominent members of the community’s streams. The Asian Avenger was one person that I played against (1-1), as well as wunderkin Austin Collins (0-1) on his quest to Mythic status in what seemed like 24 hours. I faced off against Frank Karsten (1-0) and Wedge (1-1), the first person that ever introduced me to Jeskai Drakes. I never knew the 60 cards he was on, I just remember that he had Clarion and Drakes and that seemed to be good enough. Then there were 3 other bronze or better pro’s that I faced (3-1) throughout the journey. This of course is not to mention all the people that I wasn’t sure about who they were or the obvious (mtgcoverage) handles that might have been someone but I never was able to find out. But I saw myself getting streamed. I’d go back and watch once I saw that their Twitter handles indicated they were indeed streaming when I was playing them. There I was, incorrectly playing against Detection Tower on the Asian Avenger’s Stream, pretty cool, I thought.
I can’t really believe that I missed the elephant in the room on this one but one thing that I desperately forgot to mention is how to battle and win (easily) against the Boros aggro match-up, one that you will see heavily on your way to the top. The elephant in the room, and the card that every Mythic tier Boros deck seems to be playing is Venerated Loxodon. And it makes sense. With Chainwhirler being a card you see once every two games, token decks need a way to buff their tokens that can’t be taken out with a Lightning Strike. In order to counteract this, I’d suggest Shocking and Lightning Striking some of their early plays to potentially stall them casting a Loxodon by a play to or two, so that you can cast your Chainwhirler on a one toughness board. You’re reducing the value of your Chainwhirler, turning it from what would otherwise be a 3-1, 4-1, into what can be as little as a 2-1. But it’s better than a 1-1 which is what you get if you see the Loxodon. Plus, the advantage is psychological as well. If someone sees you Shocking their things they are inclined to believe that you don’t have the Chainwhirler and may dump their hand in a fashion that leaves them completely vulnerable. It doesn’t appear like a great value play, but it’s all upside when everything goes the way it’s supposed to.
Mono-blue is another match-up that I found could oftentimes be difficult for Mono-red, or any deck to really, to deal with. In the mono-blue match-up, they’re the aggressor and you use whatever is at your disposal to keep them off an unblock-able, Curious Obsession’d card. Every deck has these sorts of cards as you’ll find- a Winding Constrictor, bolt the Bird, must answer threat. In B/G, it’s Walker. In Red it’s Steam-Kin, and in Curious Obsession decks, it’s anything that’s pantsed up with a Curious Obsession.
Understanding your Steam-Kin mana is an important factor for discussion and there are no hard or fast rules as to when to use your mana and what spells are most important to cast with that mana. But do use the mana. It’s rare that you ever weren’t just chugging along and dumping your deck out of your hand. Not using your Steam-Kin mana would be like saving a Lotus Petal for a later turn. Since this is mono-red and you have nothing you’re ramping into, that proposition wouldn’t make much sense. This is a Frenzy deck and that means, in the spirit of the deck, you basically will be playing as out of control as possible. If there’s something completely broken that you can do that can end the game immediately, well then you should probably do it.
One thing that I wanted to touch on as well, that I’m sure any newer player, or someone just new to the Arena platform might not pick up on is the importance of utilizing your stops on your upkeep when you have an active Frenzy in play. You can play any instant speed spell that would be the card that you draw for your turn before you draw it. So when you see a Lightning Strike you can cast it and at least guarantee yourself a spell. Always do this! But always make sure to set the stop on your upkeep step before your turn starts because the game will pass right through this stage if you don’t.
If there’s any one thing that I can point to on the Arena platform that improved my game (I was not Mythic good when I started this journey) was my experiences playing in the Singleton league. I’ve always had an appreciation for Singleton players. They’re the old guard of Magic, they have the deepest understanding and the longest appreciation for the cards themselves. Had I not played those matches I don’t think I would’ve been able to play against the unknown decks that I would encounter. The ingeniousness of those decks would forever inform my opinions on deck theory. What would be bells going off, alarms in previous months, IT’S A HEALER’S HAWK, ended up just being moments for me to jog my brain and think about what this synergy most likely entailed. If you see a Resplendent Angel, just know that there is a Lyra coming. And if there’s not, then just know that someone is doing it wrong.
I think the most frustrating thing that I encountered playing, and one that I’m still not sure of, is whether or not its appropriate to kill an early Llanowar Elves or wait and kill it with a Chainwhirler in games that have forest as the first play. Against Golgari, it would seem appropriate to wait. They’re not a beat-down deck and you can survive their early push. But against mono-green, it’s basically a loss if they turn 2 a Steel-Leaf against you. Would love to know what everyone thinks on this one cause the jury is out for me.
There’s something to playing against the top tiers of the Arena leagues and seeing what some of the greatest Magic minds have to offer that has been an eye-opening experience for me. In some ways, you always feel like you’re peering into the future. Thought Erasure might not have found it’s home in the Standard environment yet, but that hasn’t stopped people from taking, and breaking it, on many occasions. I’ve been seeing the earliest incarnations of Gruul that might takeover (hope they print some stuff cause it doesn’t look good), as well as powerful Sultai (watch-out) and other three-color brews that are likely just a shock-land away from gaining enough consistency to really take off. I’ve seen interesting Black/White control variants that only had enchantments as their win-con. Even at the top tiers people have not stopped innovating or looking for the next big thing. Although we’re muddled in aggro decks now, the future certainly looks bright.
Speaking of the future, I think we are reaching a point in Magic that Mark Rosewater has often asked for, where decks are full of diversity (Enchantments, Creatures, Sorcery and Instant Speed removal) yet that’s not something that we’ve seen much of in the game, banning of Smuggler’s Copter or not. That’s seemed to change with Guilds of Ravnica as the decks that appear to be performing the best are the ones that have a mixture of creatures, removal, Planeswalkers, and enchantments. It was only back in PT Shadows over Innistrad where we were given a format where control was simply removal and Planeswalkers. Now that Crackles is ubiquitous and Search for Azcanta and Treasure Map are what you pick from if you’re a control deck, it seems that we’ve reached a point where deck diversity is at an all time high. The why this is happening is pretty simple to understand, these kinds of cards (Search, Frenzy, Treasure Map, Crackling Drake) are just too powerful to ignore. Control mages weren’t packing Planeswalkers because they liked the art, they were doing it because it was the most efficient form of card advantage around. But Crackling Drake is that same card advantage put on an x/4 body and that kind of proposition is just too hard to turn down.
We’ll see where things are to go from here. Red did just get some valuable ink (shock lands), but Teferi looks like he’ll be getting some gooey goodness too. I’d imagine Frenzy will get some love. But if I were a betting man, well, then I’d probably bet on Teferi. The Arena tides seem to be shifting again…
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