Cycling in MPL League Weekend

Lee Shi Tian

Lee Shi Tian

Introduction

Hello everyone,

Today I would like to share about the deck with which I finished 8-3 in the MPL League Weekend: 4C Cycling. I believe most of you knew the deck has existed since Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths was released. But why did I revisit the deck and bring it to the league weekend?

The Deck is Simple

Pure+Simple

While I am not the one finishing with the most wins on the weekend, it is actually the first league weekend where I ended with a positive record. The biggest challenge to me during the season has been more about my body’s condition instead of deck choices. Starting play at midnight is extremely hard and my win rate past 3 a.m. has been below 30% during the season. I had been making poor plays and timed out multiple times.

When I played Dimir Rogues the previous weekend, the gameplay was complicated and there were way too many lines for me to choose; making the perfect decision at such late night against the top players in the world was definitely beyond my physical condition. Also whenever I finish the round late, I would start the new round in a very short time and did not have much room to rest. The situation just snowballed.

Cycling is a relatively simple deck for me. The hardest decisions for me to make would be should I mulligan and which threats should I deploy. Other times I simply cycle with all my mana left and get to 《Zenith Flare》.

What Has Changed Since Kaldheim?

First let me show you my decklist.

Click to Wide

Can you count out the number of new cards from Kaldheim?

Hengegate PathwayBlightstep Pathway

A full set of 《Hengegate Pathway》 and a 《Blightstep Pathway》. That’s it. Five cards. It might look very little, but the impact is huge.

Improbable Alliance

《Hengegate Pathway》 unlocked the mana requirement for one new threat: 《Improbable Alliance》.

With four 《Flourishing Fox》, we have to play at least ten turn 1 White sources to facilitate that. We used to have lots of 《Plains》 in the deck which made it difficult to consistently cast an Izzet card by turn 2 or turn 3. 《Hengegate Pathway》 acting as a split card for White and Blue sources has simply made the mana base possible.

4C Cycling has been facing the problem of opponents loading up lots of removals to answer your creature threats. 《Improbable Alliance》 provided the deck a new dimension of threats. It is resilient to spot removal. Now the deck is capable of starting with 《Flourishing Fox》 or 《Improbable Alliance》 and the difficulty for opponents to match their answers to our threats becomes much harder.

Shredded Sails

I maindecked two 《Shredded Sails》 against popular threats of 《Embercleave》, 《The Great Henge》, 《Maul of the Skyclaves》, 《Esika’s Chariot》 and 《Goldspan Dragon》. It sounds reasonable to me.

Game Plan

Flourishing FoxDrannith StingerValiant Rescuer
Improbable AllianceZenith Flare

As I said, this deck is easy to play. We do not need to cast lots of spells. The spells we would like to cast are 《Flourishing Fox》, 《Drannith Stinger》, 《Valiant Rescuer》, and 《Improbable Alliance》. With so many cycling cards, normally you will outnumber your opponent’s removals and be able to stick one or two threats. At that point you are generating value via cycling, dealing some damage here and there and you will be able to close the game with 《Zenith Flare》.

Sideboard Plan

The sideboard plan for the deck is relatively easy as well. Most of the time we just cut down some cycling cards and bring in impactful cards. I will try to restrict the number of non-cycling cards in the deck at no more than twelve so that the deck does not become too diluted as our payoffs still highly depend on the cycling mechanic to work.

Memory LeakFootfall CraterDrannith Healer

To decide which cycling cards to take out, I will look at which card is more likely to be actually cast. For example, I will cut 《Memory Leak》 against aggro and cut 《Footfall Crater》 or 《Drannith Healer》 against control.

Keeping One-Landers

One important key to playing this deck is the capability of keeping one-landers. With low land counts and high number of cheap cycling cards, it is often that we keep one-landers. I believe I did that over five times over the weekend. Obviously, there are times it worked out and times that it just failed.

Here are some examples from the league:

I was facing Shahar Shenhar’s Naya midrange. I am keeping this hand as I draw my “one of” sideboard card: 《Shatter the Sky》. I am able to develop a game plan based on this card. Meanwhile, I also have double 《Shredded Sails》 which means I am able to stop his card advantage source: 《The Great Henge》.

I ended up wiping this board after destroying his 《The Great Henge》 the turn before. My plan worked out perfectly.

This hand I kept against Gabriel Nassif’s Abzan control. I am keeping this hand for 《Improbable Alliance》. It is my best threat against his removal-heavy deck. At the end it was destroyed by 《Binding the Old Gods》 and my plan did not work out well.

Another hand against Nassif. I am keeping this hand for double 《Flourishing Fox》 on the play. It could finish the game in four turns with one extra land. Unfortunately this time I did not get the second land until it was too late and lost the match.

Mathematically, there is around 35% to hit land for each card you draw. So the chance of hitting a land drop is over 55% for every two cards you draw and over 70% for every three cards you draw.

The biggest lesson I want to share is that you must not be result oriented when you gamble on keeping a risky hand. This is especially true for this deck where it plays only nineteen lands along with twenty-seven 1-mana cycling cards. Such scenarios will happen a lot and we have to overcome the difficulty of making this type of decision. There is simply no way for you to know if the top 3-5 cards of your deck consist of some number of lands. Obviously you will feel bad or unlucky if your gamble didn’t get there. However, as long as you have a good reason to do so, please do not hesitate to keep a risky good hand.

Conclusion

So these are the things I would like to share. There are definitely lines of play that could be made differently and there is room for me to improve in the league, yet I am still happy about the way I picked the deck and played out through the weekend.

This season has been very challenging to me and I am still at the edge of the relegation zone with this above average finish. Life is always a path of learning and overcoming challenges and I am on the way of figuring out how to do just that. I hope my sharing can give you some insights. Thank you!

Lee Shi Tian (Twitter)

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Lee Shi Tian

Lee Shi Tian Lee Shi Tian is a super star from Hong Kong. He has 5 PT top 8s and 10 GP top 8s with 1 trophy and is well known as a Modern specialist. He is an outstanding player but also well known as a great community leader for Asia. Lee and his squad "Team Mint Card" made a lot of excellent results one after another at pro scene. His impressive results and contributions were rewarded and he was elected Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame 2018. Read more articles by Lee Shi Tian

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