For the curious, part 2

Per Ian’s suggestion:
Click here for a larger version.
This chart shows the attendance for each Legacy Open divided by the attendance for each Standard Open that occurred during the same weekend. In other words, if Legacy and Standard attendance are trending together, the line should move horizontally. If one attendance trends more than another, it will skew up or down.
Click here for the other chart on this topic.

Pondering a less mystical world

The next Banned/Restricted (B/R) list announcement is coming up on the 20th, and the hot talk these days has been about what, if anything, will be done about CawBlade.
Certainly, the deck is dominant in a way that even Jund never quite managed, at least (and this is important to note) the “premier” level, and in the money events on MTGO. More to the point, as I touched on here, there is a significant difference between the fundamentally democratic nature of Jund and the limiting nature of CawBlade.
Or, in other words, Jund was relatively affordable, and CawBlade is a big stack of bills.
Joey Pasco made a really nice connection between our current impressions of CawBlade and the time of Jund dominance in the most recent episode of Yo! MTG Taps!. In essence, if you look at either archetype as being uniform, then yeah, it seems like Standard is especially static during their times of dominance. On the other hand, if you care to appreciate the many different choices made within each archetype, then there’s a lot to be interested in even if Standard features CawBlade or Jund as the prevalent, or even dominant, deck.
Joey also pretty much summed up the bullet point complaints about Jund and CawBlade:

  • Jund – “Requires no skill.”
  • CawBlade – “Requires too much skill.”

Which suggests to me that “skill” is a euphemism for money, since neither statement is true. CawBlade and Jund were both skill-testing decks in skill-testing environments. They just happened to test different skills. Jund was about resource management and attrition, and Jund design was about building in optimal cascade chains and trees while gaining an edge on opposing matchups. In contrast, CawBlade appears to be more about card advantage, control, and managing the point of inflection between control and closing the game – tempo, in other words.
Since many, many players could put together a Jund deck all the way down to the FNM level, and a reasonably constructed Jund deck would beat most homebrews, it became “braindead” and “unskilled.”
I’ll suggest that if CawBlade felt equally affordable, you’d hear the exact same thing. However, since the buy-in cost starts at four copies of Jace, CawBlade graduates into an elite tier in Standard decks, meaning that the stereotypical Mister Suitcase can buy the deck, fumble his plays a lot, and nonetheless crush at FNM.

What’s actually broken

None of this money talk is meant to suggest that Standard isn’t pretty skewed right now. The CawBlade frame is genuinely impressive. Consider the comparison between a power two-drop of yesteryear and CawBlade’s beater of choice.
Right. Dark Confidant let you trade in life for cards in a somewhat uncontrolled fashion. Generally, we could reasonably expect that more cards would mean more winning, and that we’d figure things out before the Confidant took us down.
On the other hand, Stoneforge Mystic just draws you that one first card

This week’s In Development – an infinite combo and a bonk on the head

In Development time has rolled around again, and I’m setting theory aside to give you an infinite combo stapled to an aggro deck stapled to another aggro deck — all in the same seventy-five cards!
Setting aside the bombast for a bit, this week’s Standard deck won’t save you from the specter of Stoneforge Mystics and their gear, but it will give you a chance to do silly infinite things with Phyrexian Metamorph while you’re swinging with Vengevines and hacking away with Swords (of War, Peace, Feast, and Famine in this case).
It’s been a while since we’ve had a good aggro-combo build in Standard, and it’s fun to play a deck that can attack on so many friends, especially as other decks in the format narrow down and become more focused.
So, check out the article, then comment, mail me, or hit me up on twitter and let me know what you think.

This week’s In Development – to Chancellor or not to Chancellor?

It’s in Development time again!
This week I’m directing my borderline over-intense focus on the question of whether Chancellor of the Tangle is any good at all, staring from the basic question of, “How often do I get one in my opening hand?”
Click here to read the article, and then let me know what you think. Will you be Tangling in Standard starting this weekend?

N-1 drops and the new Tempered Steel

Earlier this morning I mentioned in a passing comment on twitter that the new, post-New Phyrexia Tempered Steel list suddenly felt like a legitimate fast aggro deck to me. This prompted a bunch of you to ask, “Why? What’s the list?”
So I guess folks haven’t seen lists. That’s not really surprising, since the excitement over new archetypes — such as Twin combo builds — leads us to spend a lot more time writing actual articles about them, rather than focusing on an update to a deck that is, fundamentally, undercosted dudes.
Here’s the list I have in my playtest pool. It’s from a Magic League Standard Trial event, and was played to a third place finish by Epilogue.

60 Main deck:
16× Plains
Inkmoth Nexus
Hex Parasite
Porcelain Legionnaire
Vault Skirge
Steel Overseer
Signal Pest
Phyrexian Revoker
Tempered Steel
Glint Hawk Idol
Mox Opal
15 Sideboard:
Phyrexian Revoker
Torpor Orb
Kor Firewalker
Tumble Magnet
Journey to Nowhere
Leonin Relic-Warder

The notable updates from New Phyrexia include Hex Parasite, Porcelain Legionnaire, and Vault Skirge.
Vault Skirge gives you a flying, lifelink 1/1 for 1 mana (and 2 life, but that’s a gigantic “whatever” in this deck) that, conveniently, is immune to countering via Mental Misstep. Neat. And yes, that has come up in testing.
Hex Parasite is, of course, a nicely aggressive one drop. And while I’m not in love with it as a planeswalker solution, it does do something I hadn’t even considered prior to testing — it strips counters off of Pyromancer Ascension..which is actually pretty harsh for the Ascension/Twin lists.
Finally, Porcelain Legionnaire is simply a 3/1 first striker for 2 mana, which is excellent as well.
This is still very much not my style of deck, but it does, at least, generate the kind of game where on turn three you have multiple creatures and a Tempered Steel facing down the Caw-Blade player’s lone Stoneforge Mystic. And the poor dear hasn’t even been able to equip herself yet.
I suspect this deck will not exactly be a long-term performer, as it will force opponents to run more copies of Day of Judgment…and then once they do, it will be a lot harder to work with, and you’ll find you’d rather be packing a bunch of burn spells. But in the short term, it’s ridiculously aggressive, and far less prone to the kind of janky, stutter-step starts that the old Tempered Steel deck suffered from.