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What I Didn’t Play at the RPTQ: A Case Study in Lost Time

Written by Zach Cramer on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

What I Didn’t Play at the RPTQ: A Case Study in Lost Time

Zach Cramer

Zach is a Northeastern Magic grinder who specializes in eternal formats. When building decks, he has a strong preference to Blue cards, toolboxes and combo decks. With a recent RPTQ finish just short of an invitation, Zach hopes to take his skills to the next level and play on the Pro Tour.

Greetings all! Today, as of this writing, is Friday, which is two days before my RPTQ. At this point, I’ve locked in Izzet Drakes. The reason I did this has to do with a few things. Firstly, I believe that Drakes has a favorable matchup against Hydroid Krasis decks. Secondly, I think that Blue permission backed up with pressure is the best thing you can be doing right now and that’s why I like Drakes and Mono Blue. Finally, I believe that Shock is the mirror breaker in the Mono Blue “Mirror.” I’ll also add the addendum that I managed to win my PPTQ playing a very similar list to the one I’ve decided to register. Dance with the one that brung ya, etc etc. But, by the time you’re reading this, my RPTQ has ended and I am either looking up sweet locales in the London area, or I’m licking my wounds playing Kingdom Hearts III. Just kidding, both ways I’d be playing the decks that I wish I had time to have tested and I’ll be sharing some of those ideas with you today.

Before I break down the decks, I would like to state that testing for this RPTQ has reminded me a few things about tournament preparation. My style in Magic tournaments that I care about has always been to try and be the hardest worker in the room. People in my testing groups know that I can test for hours without stopping. I’m a machine. Especially when it comes to paper cards, I can play for 15 hours, break for food, and then get right back to it. In fact, during my testing, I was lucky enough to have two friends take turns in order to satiate my desire for long testing sessions. They would switch on and off as they got tired but I just kept going. I cannot begin to calculate how many hours I worked on this format and on these decks, but, even putting every waking hour I could manage into testing for this event, there are still unanswered questions and there are still things I wish I could do. Moreover, after trying literal hundreds of different strategies, I’ve settled on a list that put up very few results, and has changed very little from the last set. I believe this choice may not be the “correct” choice in a traditional sense, but, it is A correct choice for me. There’s a lot of discussion about “the right play” or turning Magic decisions into one absolute correct path, and I don’t buy it. If I was all-knowing, I would find the right line always, but, we all have biases and limitations and that means that it’s unlikely there’s “one true path” to take, more likely, there are several.

Enough of this philosophical pontificating though, let’s get to some decks! I spent a large portion of my time scouring over lists from MTGO results, paper tournaments (worldwide), and the Arena Decklists twitter account. I played many of these lists, but, what I’d like to talk about today are lists I haven’t seen:

This list is a spicy number. Obviously, you’re basically never beating Mono Red, but, the idea behind this list is you’re going to be putting a ton of lands into play and then recollecting 3 absurdly powerful permanents with Vivid Revival. This idea was based off of the Lotus Box Sultai Control list, but, it goes so far over the top. Once you can incorporate Vivid Revival, you can just keep bringing back so many potent spells. Moreover, the sleek addition of 9 Red Sources allows for Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and Bedevil to grant you another potent axis versus control decks and other planeswalker strategies. The sideboards that I configured featured a lot of weirdos, but, it was basically a 10 card transformational package against Mono Red and then several copies of Angrath and other multicolored bullets to solve the slower matchups. I didn’t test this deck much because it’s really greedy and shocks a ton. Until I know the metagame is free of the mono colored aggro decks, you’re losing a lot of game ones. It’s a great exercise to build a deck that beats up on the best deck in the format. It teaches you what is important. It’s also important to learn what the furthest end of the spectrum is, because it teaches you what can be most punishing for decks that move towards that end. From looking at this list and playing a few games, I learned that the BG mirror has become more about true card advantage and the engines that produce them. No longer does Tyrant control the game, it’s about Vivian and the Krasis-production engines. Moreover, I learned that in order to beat those recursion engines, it’s about being able to clock them quickly and in the air. Hellllooooooooo Drakes (and Hadana’s Climb hot tip)

Here’s another strategy that’s near and dear to my heart. I absolutely loved RB Aristocrats. The strategy is very much a bias of mine and the rares in Rakdos (Priest of Forgotten Gods, Rix Maadi Reveler, and Judith, the Scourge Diva) are all incredibly powerful. However, the supporting cast was pretty bleak. Dusk Legion Zealot is important for hitting your lands early, but, after that, you’ve still got about 4-6 cards that are just pretty terrible. I wanted to make sure the fail case on this deck was much lower so I did what everyone does, add a 3rd color so you can sure up your bad matchup in exchange for the Red matchup. This shell of powerful Rakdos rares with a sacrifice theme will get figured out. I just couldn’t do it myself. I look forward to Sam Black telling me all about it, but, for now, I have to work with what I know and I know the RB version couldn’t beat Nexus variants without a strong start and had plans that were very weak to Cry of the Carnarium which are glued to the sideboards of BGu and Esper Control.

This is another one of those decks that I couldn’t quite put together but was nagging me the whole time during testing. At the end of the invitational, there was a GW Tokens list that played Citywide Bust in its sideboard and I was very enamored with the idea of this wrath. I had been a fan of Slaughter the Strong as well and I wondered if there was a way for me to play small threats and take advantage of these cards. The new Dovin was the key to unlocking some of these ideas. Dovin loves decks that can go wide, in particular, he likes decks that can provide evasive threats. Being able to ultimate Dovin grants you the ability to often triple Demonic Tutor which is very potent if you can keep the card quality high in your lists. This list was aimed at clearing cluttered boards and giving as much power to artifact threats as possible. This list is pretty clunky and I’m still sorting out what matters most in the shell, but, there’s a lot to like within the decklist.

Before I leave you this week, I’d like to take an opportunity to thank some people. Firstly, I’d like to thank Legit MTG for offering me a home for my articles whenever I needed it. They have been kind and gracious and helped me develop my process for writing and testing. Secondly, I’d like to thank my support network of friends, family, testing partners, and teammates. I have all of you to thank for where I am. Finally, I’d like to thank those of you who have taken the time to read this article or any article that I’ve put out. I don’t write with reliable frequency, but, I try to put out a great product all the time and I hope I did right by all of you. Until next time.

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