What I would play at Worlds

Pierre Dagen

Pierre Dagen



Introduction

Hey readers! I am Pierre Dagen, a French kind-of-pro player and big time Magic enthusiast, and I will be writing for Hareruya from now on.

As you probably all know, this week there is the World Championship. This is the one tournament in which I never got to play so far, and as such, a tournament that I find particularly thrilling. So, I decided to let you know what I would play if I was lucky enough (read: good enough) to be there, both in Standard and Modern (for which I have a somewhat spicy deck to share).

Metagaming at Worlds

The World Championship is a fairly peculiar tournament. You know how the Pro Tour is the best players facing each other? Well, this is about the best 24 among those already great players getting to duke it out in Draft, Standard, and Modern. That means that A – it is pretty hard and B – metagaming takes on a whole new dimension.

See, when you think of attacking a metagame, you can figure out that about X% of the field will play a certain deck, and another Y% will play this one. If five or six people change their mind and you get it wrong, well, you will just end up being 0.1% off and you deck selection will still be fine. The sheer number of players at a given GP means that the variance from any reasonable expectation you have will be fairly small. But at Worlds, if a group of four individuals suddenly decide to play an unusual deck like Storm, then Storm just moved from being 1% of the metagame to actually being 17%! In other words, if you decided to ignore the match-up, you are extremely screwed.

Another element to take into account is that all 24 players are extremely well-known; you can read their articles online, watch them play on streams, check their accomplishments online. You have all the data you need to try and profile them. I will not give one of this year’s competitors as an example, but if someone like Craig Wescoe is playing, then you should probably include an aggressive weenie deck in your testing, no matter how insignificant it has been in the “real-life” metagame.

There are a ton of implications, and I think that it makes Worlds the perfect tournament to try and “level” the field, which makes for a very exciting guessing game, and also allows for some fringe decks to take the competition by Storm. For example, two years ago, Reid Duke was able to reach the finals piloting the infamous Boggles deck, mainly because his opponents were absolutely not ready for it. So, how does this apply to both Standard and Modern?

Standard

Standard is currently a fairly straightforward format: the top deck has been Bant Company, is Bant Company, and will remain Bant Company until that card rotates. It represents a whopping 37.80% of the online metagame, offers a lot of room to play well and adjust to the metagame (or should I say the mirror?).

As for match-ups, a good company player will never have a super tough time in any given match-up; he might be behind, but only slightly. So, yeah, in a nutshell, Bant CoCo is a great deck for great players. And all the competitors are, well, great players. I am sure you can do the math.

With this in mind, the easiest assumption is that Bant Company will be at least something like 33% (8 players) of the metagame. I would actually probably rate it closer to being half the field. And this brings me to two conclusions:

A – Bant company players will have to allocate a lot of resources to the mirror

B – No one will be crazy enough to show up with a deck that straight up loses to Bant Company

Those two conditions open up an interesting scenario; usually, you could think of most formats as a place where category A are “the best decks”, category B are “the decks that should do well against category A” and category C are “the decks that lose to category A but prey on category B”. Here, there is simply no room for category C, because Bant CoCo is category A by itself and is just too big to lose to. That means that you can make a decent case for playing a category B deck, because no one is there to prey on you (which means that you can skew your deck as much as you want to beat category A as long as you do not start losing against other decks from category B) and because all those slots that Bant CoCo will allocated to the mirror will not be available against you.

Which brings me too…


Pierre Dagen – Anti-CoCo Orzhov
(based on a 5-0 Competitive League decklist by ManuGodineau)

8 《Swamp》
6 《Plains》
4 《Caves of Koilos》
4 《Shambling Vent》
4 《Forsaken Sanctuary》

-Lands (26)-


-Creatures (0)-
4 《Grasp of Darkness》
2 《Ultimate Price》
2 《Hallowed Moonlight》
2 《Read the Bones》
2 《Ruinous Path》
2 《Anguished Unmaking》
3 《Languish》
2 《Planar Outburst》
4 《Oath of Liliana》
2 《Liliana, the Last Hope》
4 《Gideon, Ally of Zendikar》
1 《Ob Nixilis Reignited》
4 《Sorin, Grim Nemesis》

-Spells (34)-
3 《Transgress the Mind》
2 《Duress》
2 《Secure the Wastes》
2 《Read the Bones》
2 《Infinite Obliteration》
2 《Dark Petition》
1 《Call the Bloodline》
1 《Ob Nixilis Reignited》

-Sideboards (15)-
hareruya


LanguishOath of LilianaSorin, Grim Nemesis


If you take a regular Orzhov deck, the match-up against Company is only ok. Why? Because you have to devote some cards to other match-ups, to “cover all angles”. You cannot play main deck 《Hallowed Moonlight》, you do not want to overload on instant-speed removal because they are a liability in the mirror, you do not really want to play those 《Oath of Liliana》 that will just turn on your opponent’s 《Kozilek's Return》…well, I think this is a good tournament to make all those mistakes.

Your main deck is basically just there to beat Bant Company. Let us be realistic: you are still going to lose to it, sometimes, because the deck is just that good. But you can definitely hope to win game 1 almost every time, and still be slightly ahead post-board. You simply play all the right cards against them in your main deck, and that should go a long way. You get to establish a board presence while keeping their board relatively small with 《Oath of Liliana》 + Planeswalker, just so that they have to overextend into your 5 mass-removal spells. At that point, winning with your four 《Sorin, Grim Nemesis》 is supposed to be academic.

The sideboard is here to attack the other “category B” decks, that will probably beat you game 1, because they tend to be soft to planeswalkers and discard (because most of them try to ramp into 《Emrakul, the Promised End》 one way or another). The lone 《Call the Bloodline》 is a misers plan against Izzet Machinegun (you know, that 《Thermo-Alchemist》 deck), even though I would not expect it to see much play since all the pros have learned how to beat it at this point. And of course, there is not a single card to help against category C, something like Selesnya Tokens, simply because we rely on Bant Company to wipe them from the surface of the earth. It is a bet, but right now, I would call it a relatively safe bet – even for bigger tournaments.

Modern

Modern is a very different animal, and a format I enjoy a lot right now. I tested quite a bit for GP Lille, and the deck I would play at Worlds is a better version of what I did play there: 《Grim Flayer》Jund.

Grim Flayer


Before I go into the specifics, let me explain why I think 《Grim Flayer》 is a great tool in Jund. To me, Jund is a deck that will always have a good chance against creature-based decks, simply because it plays enough removal to stop them from curving out or assembling synergies, and because your own monsters will always win in one-to-one combat (I mean, 《Tarmogoyf》 is a tad bit stronger than 《Wall of Roots》 or 《Wild Nacatl》…). But whenever your removals are not efficient (against Scapeshift or Tron, for example), you are pushed into a corner when you need to rely solely on your discard and a pretty slow clock in 《Dark Confidant》, along with some super specific sideboard cards that you might not even run. In other terms, you give them a lot of time to do their thing, and the extra cards that 《Dark Confidant》 draws you are not very relevant because, well, most of them just do not help.

《Grim Flayer》 changes all that: not only does it make your clock significantly faster (one or two turns, which is absolutely huge), but it also digs instead of drawing. In other terms, you lose card advantage and gain card selection, which is so much better in match-ups where some of your card are much more impactful than others. Think of it that way: against Tron, would you rather draw three removals or one 《Crumble to Dust》? Even though 《Grim Flayer》 is clearly worse than good old Bob in the mirror, where every card counts, I would say that you should still favour him unlike your expected metagame is extremely midrange-centric.

Coming back to Worlds, it is almost impossible to predict what people will bring since the metagame is so diverse, but I would assume that 《Grim Flayer》 Jund is a good choice for a “blind” pick, since being more proactive gives it a good fighting chance against anything while having some very, very strong match-ups against fringe decks that could end up being big if a group of 3-4 players pick them. Infect, 《Death's Shadow》 Zoo, or Robots are three of those match-ups that I felt extremely comfortable facing in Lille, and that I would expect to beat a good 70 percent of the time (Affinity being a corner case, because my sideboard was heavily targeted at them). So, this is what I would bring to Worlds (or any Modern tournament, really) right now:


Pierre Dagen – Grim Flayer Jund
(based on a my own GP Lille decklist)

2 《Swamp》
1 《Forest》
2 《Overgrown Tomb》
1 《Blood Crypt》
1 《Godless Shrine》
1 《Stomping Ground》
4 《Bloodstained Mire》
4 《Verdant Catacombs》
1 《Windswept Heath》
4 《Blackcleave Cliffs》
3 《Raging Ravine》

-Lands (24)-

4 《Tarmogoyf》
4 《Grim Flayer》
2 《Scavenging Ooze》
1 《Dark Confidant》
1 《Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet》
1 《Shriekmaw》

-Creatures (13)-
4 《Lightning Bolt》
4 《Inquisition of Kozilek》
2 《Thoughtseize》
3 《Terminate》
1 《Abrupt Decay》
1 《Dreadbore》
2 《Lingering Souls》
1 《Kolaghan's Command》
1 《Maelstrom Pulse》
1 《Nihil Spellbomb》
3 《Liliana of the Veil》

-Spells (23)-
2 《Vampire Nighthawk》
1 《Duress》
1 《Thoughtseize》
1 《Ancient Grudge》
1 《Dreadbore》
1 《Rakdos Charm》
1 《Pulse of Murasa》
1 《Painful Truths》
1 《Crumble to Dust》
1 《Damnation》
1 《Engineered Explosives》
1 《Nihil Spellbomb》
1 《Grafdigger's Cage》
1 《Liliana, the Last Hope》

-Sideboards (15)-
hareruya


Lingering SoulsNihil SpellbombShriekmaw


The main deck is almost straightforward, with just a few tricks: we get to run two 《Lingering Souls》 with a single white source (and ten ways to draw it), mostly because they are super easy to get in your graveyard via 《Liliana of the Veil》 and 《Grim Flayer》, while improving your match-up against the mirror and Robots. Apart from that, the main deck 《Nihil Spellbomb》 is there as a delirium enabler that also lets you save a sideboard slot, and 《Shriekmaw》 is the easiest way to get a creature in your graveyard (most deck lists have 《Tarfire》 in that slot, but I think that card is just too weak). You are decently fast game 1, and usually get to play an interactive game while pressuring your opponent with your two drop, or just trade one for one until your superior cards take over if you play against a hyper-aggressive deck like Zoo.

The manabase is self-explanatory, just remember that in aggressive match-ups you will usually want to fetch 《Stomping Ground》, and then basic 《Swamp》 to protect your life total while being able to cast all your spells. Also, keep in mind that 《Forest》 will never cast 《Terminate》, no matter how hard you try.

The sideboard should raise more questions, and I will explain a few card choices and guidelines. Giving an actual sideboard guide would not make much sense, because you have to adapt to the specifics of your opponent’s list, but here are the general rules that should get you going.

《Vampire Nighthawk》 is a powerful bridge card: you will obviously side it against Burn, where it is a slightly worse version of 《Kitchen Finks》. But most importantly, the vampire is a powerful blocker against Robots and the up-and-coming Bant Eldrazi deck that I would expect to be popular at Worlds. This match-up is all about him running out of big eldrazi before you get out of answers, and 《Vampire Nighthawk》 is a very clean, cheap and proactive answer. Under some circumstances, it can also come in against Abzan if you want to board out your own 《Lightning Bolt》s (because they do not run 《Dark Confidant》, for example), but you still have to be careful about 《Liliana of the Veil》.

In the mirror, your absolute priority is to side out every single discard spell. 75% of the post-board games will come down to both you and your opponent being empty-handed, and drawing a discard spell is the fastest way to lose those games. I know, discard is still good in the first few turns, but it is just not worth it.

《Engineered Explosives》 might look unimpressive, but it is actually your best card against Boggles, Death’s Shadow, and (more surprisingly) Merfolks: killing one of their guy and getting rid of those pesky 《Spreading Seas》 in one swing is an absolute game changer.

You have kind of a paranoid game plan against Tron: on the one hand, you want to try and kill them fast with 《Grim Flayer》, discard spells and ideally 《Crumble to Dust》. But since there is a realistic chance that you will not be able to do that, you also want to side in 《Painful Truths》 and the second 《Dreadbore》. Now that they cannot play 《Eye of Ugin》 anymore, out-attritionning them by simply killing their big threats one after the other is an option that you should always be looking for when things go south.

– Dredge is close to unbeatable when you do not draw a sideboard card for it. No matter how good your hand looks, if it cannot attack his graveyard, you should mulligan it.

I quite like how the deck plays out and performs overall. Unlike traditional Jund, it is not too bad against Big Mana decks, and the Robots match-up is much better. On the other hand, the mana is a little worse and not playing 《Dark Confidant》 hurts a little against other fair decks. Also, Ad Nauseam is a very tough match-up with the current version since 《Leyline of Sanctity》 is such a beating, and that would probably be my biggest concern for Worlds.

So, do you think we’ll see any of those decks at worlds? What would YOU play? Did I get you at least a little excited about 《Grim Flayer》? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,

Pierre Dagen



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