Jonathan Pechon

*Two "Top 8" Grand Prix Finishes

*Top 32 at Pro Tour Osaka


 

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Jonathan Pechon's
Therapy Sessions

Itís Such a Strong Word

March 31, 2004  If we just watch the prices of rares around this time of year, we know what will be the decks to watch out for at Regionals. As Arcbound Ravager and Skullclamp continue to spiral out of control, we will also see how decks change more and more to focus what has become the menace for modern standard.

Donít believe me? Take a look at the results of tournaments from around the world, including events on Magic: Online and Apprentice tournaments. That word is out there, and itís a big, bad one. Itís getting around, and itís just not going to get any weaker between now and the big events come May 1. Itís what you every single person strives for, thinking that theyíre going to find the answer to Magicís stunning problem of the times.

Hate.

Letís take a look at a few of the decks that are running around in standard nowadays. Mono white control and U/W control are both decks that have seen better days in the past; now weíre seeing them coming back, but sporting multiple copies of Damping Matrix as a new toy in the main deck. The sideboards of these decks can also include things like Purge or Altarís Light just to provide additional gas against the heart of the field.

Mono-red control decks can run any number of powerful, disruptive cards in their decks in order to crush the artifacts that disrupt the field. However, this can simply range from Shatter to that plus the crushing beast that is Furnace Dragon. Even a deck as aggressive as Goblins will occasionally run some number of Shatter or Echoing Ruin in order to get the upper hand against the field.

Green decks have a whole slew of tools that have migrated to the main deck in order that they donít get overwhelmed by the speed of the cards in the field. Viridian Shaman and Zealot and Oxidize are all tools that have seen fit to migrate from the sideboards into main decks, while such bombs as Molder Slug still make it in from time to time.

Some of the heavy black decks that are starting to see play have begun sporting red in order that they can capitalize on this trend, splashing for Shatter as well as other sideboard options. Formerly, it was deemed necessary that these decks would have to splash blue in order to have access to Mind Bend due to the prevalence of white decks running Karma; that seems to have been negated mostly because of the neutering of the white decks by Affinity and the rest of the field.

Even the Affinity decks have gotten in on the action, with some running Oxidize or Shatter in the main deck. Itís becoming more common to basically see Affinity presideboarded againstÖitself? The results from the last Pro Tour have shown that this can work; the top four of the standard event I ran this last weekend sported two Affinity decks with artifact destruction main. Itís something that will most likely continue up through Regionals.

And blue decksÖuhhÖthe only real blue deck that seems to work any more runs Thoughtcast and maybe Mana Leak. Good work smashing blue in the face, Wizards.

With the field being cornered by Affinity and the various decks that run Skullclamp (mainly Goblins and Ravager), you can see that the field has adjusted itself accordingly in order to combat this trend by attempting to hate it out of existence through the use of highly focused cards that normally wouldnít appear in main decks simply due to the frequency with which you will encounter them. The power level of the trouble-cards is suitable enough that they have drawn an appropriate amount of fire; the fact that they are primarily artifacts has made it simple for everyone to focus their attention.

But is this the correct thing to do? From my perspective, the answer is a very dubious and tentative one: ďNo?Ē

Iíve watched people playtest decks with upwards of ten or more artifact-kill cards in their main decks, and yes, they certainly rail Affinity a pretty fair portion of the time. Itís like trying to play against a Mental Magic deck when every single card they have seems to be focused on smashing your deck one way or another.

And yetÖwhat do these decks do against other parts of the field? I mean, sure they kill the Skullclamps that Goblins will play against themÖbut what about all of those pesky goblins? The propensity to draw extremely large amounts of hate and then subsequently choking on it due to a lack of targets has shown itself to be a significant problem for many of these over-focused decks that really donít bother looking at versatile cards; they can only see the giant red beacon in front of them that says, ďWARNING: RAVAGERS AND SKULLCLAMPS APPROACHING.Ē

Itís not that I donít advocate fighting against the main deck in the environment; on the contrary, you definitely need to be able to offer some sort of game against them. However, I also feel you need to take into account the fact that destabilizing your deck in order to make that one matchup favorable is going to result in you having problems over the course of a long day

As usual, letís take a look at Regionals. Over the course of a long day (say nine rounds), you are liable to run into, say, four Affinity decks, maybe five. While thatís definitely a pretty significant percentage, thatís still only half your day; if you canít put up opposition against the other half of the field, then there is a more that strong possibility that you are going to be wasting your time at the second-worst tournament of the year.

Of course, there are going to be aberrations in this thought. Thereís going to be some dude that plays eight Affinity decks in a row; thatís okay, because while thatís happening, thereís some guy right next to him playing U/W who has had the most favorable matchups in the world for eight rounds and hasnít played against Affinity at all. You canít plan on being either of these people; you have to be prepared to be more flexible than that.

Personally, my favorite card to try to include for purposes of hate has become Electrostatic Bolt. While this probably wonít be completely dead in any other matchup with creatures, itís going to do a number on those Myr Enforcers and Frogmites that come down running on the other side of the board from you. It should also manage to tag its fair share of Ravagers and Disciples while itís at it. At the same time, it manages to take care of those Warchiefs and Piledrivers that happen on turns two-three.

Are there other similar answers to the Bolt available? Sure, if you look around hard enough, you can find other ways to try to get ahead in the game. However, more important is to make sure that you donít overcompensate in the first place; testing to find out how much hate is really necessary is a good way to make sure you donít get stuck watching two Savannah Lions and a Silver Knight beat your face in while you sit there with a Shatter and 3 Oxidize in your hand wondering who is playing this cruel joke on you (hint: itís not your opponent).

Be ready to face the field, and be ready to play your own game. If you focus on making sure that you are prepared, and making sure that you show some restraint in the case that testing shows a slight favor towards Affinity or whatever else you might discover, make sure you donít throw yourself overboard along with your idea of what is good in the environment.

-Jonathan Pechon
Sigmundí on IRC (EFNet)
Sigmund on Modo
PojoPechon@hotmail.com


 

 

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