Okay. Let’s start with our 2018 World Magic Cup top 4 decklists:
4 《Sacred Foundry》
4 《Clifftop Retreat》
3 《Boros Guildgate》
-Land (25)- 4 《Adanto Vanguard》
4 《Tocatli Honor Guard》
4 《Resplendent Angel》
4 《Rekindling Phoenix》
3 《Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice》
4 《Lyra Dawnbringer》
4 《Steam Vents》
4 《Sulfur Falls》
-Land (20)- 4 《Enigma Drake》
4 《Crackling Drake》
4 《Arclight Phoenix》
4 《Crash Through》
3 《Warlord's Fury》
2 《Maximize Velocity》
4 《Chart a Course》
3 《Tormenting Voice》
1 《Entrancing Melody》
2 《Beacon Bolt》
1 《Fight with Fire》
4 《Overgrown Tomb》
4 《Woodland Cemetery》
2 《Memorial to Folly》
-Land (23)- 4 《Llanowar Elves》
4 《Wildgrowth Walker》
4 《Merfolk Branchwalker》
2 《Seekers' Squire》
4 《Jadelight Ranger》
2 《Midnight Reaper》
2 《Ravenous Chupacabra》
3 《Carnage Tyrant》
3 《Vraska's Contempt》
3 《Find // Finality》
1 《Vraska, Golgari Queen》
2 《Vivien Reid》
Some questions you must have:
Our Testing Process and the Answers for the Questions above
Andrea Mengucci laughed at me on every occasion I told him that team Hong Kong would be playing these decks. All of these decks are so bad in the Standard metagame. And I have no doubt about his knowledge in Standard.
However, the format we wil play in the World Magic Cup is Team Unified Standard rather than normal Standard. Teams are not allowed to play same card in different decks. At the Pro Tour, the format had five pillars; White-based aggro, Izzet Drakes, Golgari Midrange, Teferi Control, and Mono-Red, and each deck would be the optimal choice at different stages of the metagame.
Hall of Famer Frank Karsten wrote a fantastic article analyzing the possibility of the Unified Standard lineup. The default lineup of Unified Standard is White-based aggro, Izzet Drakes and Golgari Midrange as you get to play three top-tier decks without heavily overlapping each other.
Golgari Midrange is basically the must-play deck with its ability to adapt to any matchup. Whichever Blue deck you registered would be easiest to adjust as it has no overlap with Golgari at all. You can play Jeskai Control if 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 is what the team like and then go Mono-White.
The White deck is what I defined as the scapegoat, as it is simply bad at every matchup. It can’t beat Golgari or Control, and Drakes decks have developed a fine sideboard plan to beat White-based aggro after the Pro Tour. All our hope for the White deck was to win the mirror match. As the result, playing White-based aggro does not accomplish anything in the format.
Learning from a Master; Anti-Aggro Strategy
I once saw Stanislav Cifka, one of the masterminds in the game, playing four anti-aggro deck in a Conquest-format “Hearthstone” tournament where players have to win with each of their deck. He played a full set of anti-aggro decks to not let the aggro deck progress.
I developed a “small-brained” strategy based on Cifka’s tactic: Don’t let the White deck get a win, and we try to take one of the other matches. Meanwhile, we need to find a way to not completely sacrifice our own White player.
Boros Angels naturally filled in that role. The deck was designed to beat Golgari Midrange and Izzet Drakes at the early stage of the metagame, as the angels could easily dominate the aggro matchup with the help of 《Deafening Clarion》.
During our testing, we filtered all the result against control (which was getting popular in Magic Online) and it has a very promising record.
One problem we have to encounter is the overlap of 《Lava Coil》 in both Boros Angels and Izzet Drakes. It is a very important piece in the Izzet Drakes matchup for Boros Angels.
Tuning the Drakes Deck up
On the other hand, I was testing with Drakes where I found out the mirror match always depends on 《Niv-Mizzet, Parun》 rather than the drakes themselves most of the time. While 《Lava Coil》 is a good card to fight the early stage of the game, it does not do much when we get to the late stage of mirror match, the 《Niv-Mizzet》 war.
I wanted at least five cards to handle 《Niv-Mizzet》 in my 75. 《Fight with Fire》 is just good for me. It is also a good card to have against the curve of turn 2 《Wildgrowth Walker》 into turn 3 《Jadelight Ranger》. I compensated for the loss of 《Lava Coil》 with an extra copy of 《Beacon Bolt》 and 《Fight with Fire》 in my main deck. I also wanted my 《Beacon Bolt》 able to kill opposing drakes by turn 4, which is not easy to accomplish with a version relying on 2-mana cantrips.
I also found that turbo versions of the deck with 《Goblin Electromancer》 beat the White decks way better as racing 10+ power drakes is just not possible for them most of the time. The way for Izzet Drakes to lose to White-based aggro decks is their ability to go wide while the drakes are not big enough to finish the game in two attacks. This is the reason I played all the 1-cost Red cantrips and 《Maximize Velocity》 rather than 《Dive Down》 in the main deck. If I was playing normal Standard, there is a high chance that I would do the opposite instead.
The Metagame Shift
As a result of GP Shizuoka 2018, there was a resurgence of Selesnya Tokens and that enabled the possibility of playing Jeskai Control. Selesnya Tokens is a deck able to beat White mirror matches. 《March of the Multitudes》 into 《Flower // Flourish》 is a nice one-two punch to steal long games. If the Golgari player was not able to assemble the 《Carnage Tyrant》 into 《Find // Finality》 combo, it is certainly capable of losing to Selesnya Tokens.
While it is bad news to us that there could be more control in the field, Selesnya Tokens is actually quite an easy matchup for Boros Angels. We decided to stick to our plan and let the pairing/seating work.
We put Izzet Drakes in the middle as we felt there was a higher chance that the Blue deck would be in the middle in the captain’s hands. That strategy worked out pretty well as we beat all White and Green decks until the Semifinals. Although it sounds sad to lose in a key match, we can live with it as that is how Magic works. Sometimes you get the nut draw or pairing, and other times you are just on the wrong side of things.
For Team Sealed, we also applied a similar strategy expecting the captain to be seated in the middle piloting the Blue decks. Dimir is just unbeatable in the format unless it gets run over by a good Boros deck, while Izzet also just can’t beat Boros most of the time. We put Boros in the middle and Dimir at the side to prey on non-mirror matches. Our pool was above average, the seating plan worked out pretty well, and we were rewarded with an easy 3-0.
So that’s the story of Team Hong Kong in the last World Magic Cup. Sometimes we have to apply some unorthodox tactics going into a tournament. Team events are especially ripe for finding spots where we can apply such tactics. I hope you guys enjoy what Team Hong Kong did in the tournament on a macro-level instead of a micro-level.
Lee Shi Tian @leearson
P.S. on Shahar Shenhar’s extra card drawn against me
I would like to mention something about an incident in the Semifinals. I do not believe Shahar Shenhar cheated against me.
All the witch-hunting reminded me of what happened to me in the World Magic Cup in 2014 where I played an extra land. The team captain is always the one getting asked about their teammates’ opinions. It is extremely easy for players to make mistake with all the distractions. And the matchup is certainly not easy to play out.
Sometimes players just mess up and trying to sabotage their name this way is just disgraceful. He drew an extra card, the judge investigated and delivered their ruling on it. And that is the end of the matter. There is no reason to keep digging at it. We deserve a better world and it’s up to us to make it so.