A Magical Huffalump Resides Here: [Magic] Thoughts on the SCG Open Louisville results

A Magical Huffalump Resides Here

My name is Ed, I am a programmer. Just another dude with another blog. I like MTG, Open Source (more towards FREE software). I like sports, and eventually I hope to do business and do good for the world in general. This blog is gonna be about Magic The Gathering. Decklists and snippets will be posted here. It may lead somewhere or nowhere, as with all things arcane, that was bloody obvious =)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

[Magic] Thoughts on the SCG Open Louisville results

Going into SCG Open Louisville post Pro Tour Oath, I was looking forward to responses from Team Oath!

Now, backing up a little, what in the world is Team Oath :P

It is my pet name for any deck that is not Eldrazi :p

And Eldrazi variants will be collectively referred to as Team Eldrazi :p

Just to qualify my stance:

I am pro - not banning Eldrazi Lands/cards at least until April

My reasons are here, here.

Eldrazi has thrown down the proverbial gauntlet, "IS THERE NO ONE ELSE?"
*imagine Achilles from the movie Troy thundering*

Luckily or at least to my gratification, the challenge was accepted and many a planeswalker took to SCG Open Louisville to take the fight to the Eldrazi.

Now many have looked at the stats and say the numbers show that Eldrazi is warping the format.

That is probably true. But warping is such a catch-all term.

Usually when a card is warping, much more time has passed for the cards to hit the meta and for the meta to respond.

Believe it or not. The scenario of Eldrazi invading Modern is unprecedented.


Two reasons:

1) Modern is a neutered format.

Again I mean no malice. But it is true that everything strong has been hacked down by bannings to maintained the viability of Midrange and a relatively low powered meta. Where permission and land destruction is weak. This presents some problems that I will mention later.

2) Eldrazi is a Tier 1 deck

Some will say Eldrazi is a Tier 0 deck, I don't even know what that means :p I assume whomever said that meant Eldrazi is over powered. But really it feels like that partly because deck archetypes in Modern have been neutered. Hence it is not so much that it is hyper strong (which it may well be but somehow I doubt, I do think it is very strong tho :) ) but that the decks in Modern are relatively weak or are tuned to a weak meta. My point is I think it is a strong deck.

Note it is not just a card. But a deck. A strong, Tier 1 deck. Invading Modern.

Think about it, what hope is there for the meta to respond in a timely manner as compared to when cards enter a meta. This is not the addition of a card that is the new build around toy. Where the existing meta only has to deal with an effect and probably a clunky shell to support the effect. Think in terms of the B/W Eldrazi Processor. The Processor effect is cute and relatively strong, but it is just a minor and rather weak effect and the exact composition is in still in flux.

The current Eldrazi deck has a core of eldrazi mimic, Thought-Knot Seer,Reality Smasher,Endless One, Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temples. There are some variants but the core is largely the same, mimics and endless one may be dropped if aggression is forfeit for some utility. There is probably some value in discussing the variations of Eldrazi. But what I want to focus on here is that the core that exploits the explosiveness made possible by the Oath Eldrazi is a force to be reckon with. It is a full fledged deck.

For a deck invading the meta, not a card or a few cards, but a Tier 1 deck invading the format. It is pretty naive to think that the meta will sort itself out in a week or two. Especially when the power level of the Modern meta has been artificially kept weak.  Which is why I think the result from SCG Open Louisville is actually quite alright and actually encouraging.

The meta was roughly 50% eldrazi and 50% non Eldrazi. This is encouraging because, it shows that at least half of the player base is willing to face the challenge and attempt to take down the Eldrazi overlords.

This is important. Aragon said in desperate moments (invoking my nerd-powers now), there is always hope. And that is what players are displaying here. Hope. When everyone believes the Eldrazi cannot be defeated, that is when we have given in to group think and are truly DEFEATED. That is why the doomsayers on Sally irk me. Not only have they given up, they expect others to give up and are encouraging a defeatist attitude. There seem to be hope brewing in various deck archetype threads however, so that is encouraging. Go Merfolk,! ;) as well as any other archetypes still working on taking down the big boys (I am pretty sure I saw a few).

(I was really hoping that Jeff on Kiki-Chord could go the distance, but oh well. Affinity is still Team Oath in my book :) )

Now what else is encouraging? Eldrazi took 50% of top 8 roughly that for top 64. That means somehow there is a balance between Eldrazi and non-Eldrazi decks, even though Eldrazi is supposed to be this undefeatable force no?

And ultimately, *phew* Affinity took down the tournament. This is important. It means the game is not over. It means there is hope ;) It means, Eldrazi may not necessarily be the best deck (at least not all the time). Also note, although the top 8 was 50 % eldrazi, the top 4 was 75% Eldrazi. So this Affinity deck is not a fluke. It took down Eldrazi baby :)

Again this is important.

The reason is that most players (myself included) are Average Joes. We look to the tournaments. Whomever wins is king (for a time :p). The metashare of Eldrazi looks bad now but it is due to a few factors:

1) Weakness of the meta
2) Eldrazi is a full fledge Tier 1 deck
3) Exploitation of the meta at PT Oath --> resulting in a HUGE uptake of Eldrazi by Spikes

As long as players belonging to Team Oath keep the faith and win tournaments. Can anyone honestly think the metashare will not revert to more normal levels?

Average Joe wants to win. Or at least if he wants to beat Eldrazi, he wants to know what can beat it.

SCG Open Louisville has shown one thing: Eldrazi can be beaten.

Doomsayers say the meta is infested with Eldrazi so its unbeatable or unhealthy or something.

I see it as : DESPITE the infestation of Eldrazi. A non-Eldrazi deck won. That says something. And top 8 had 4 non-Eldrazi.

If non-Eldrazi decks continue to win, I believe the meta share of Eldrazi will naturally dwindle as people realise you do not auto-win with Eldrazi (even though it is a very strong deck)

Now that we are done with the rah rah that Eldrazi did not win, it is prudent to note that it is not easy to beat Eldrazi. The fight tends to be tenuous and can go either way. So I think non-Eldrazi decks seem to have a 50/50 shot at best, I don't really see any non-eldrazi deck being heavily favoured. (the winning Affinity perhaps being the exception :))

Now the weakness of the meta in Modern, coupled with the relative strength of the Eldrazi deck poses problems at 3 layers when the meta tries to respond to the Eldrazi threat. I think this is why you are seeing such a large metashare by Eldrazi:

1) At the deck archetype level, there are no natural predators of Eldrazi. This might possibly be that the fast decks, the combo/prison/permission/control decks have been neutered or cut down.

2) At card/slot level, this is where sideboarding comes in. Where a deck is not a natural predator it can still bolster its chances via the sideboard or some recontruction of its decklist. This is where merfolk reduces the main deck Kiras or where Affinity uses grid + Bridge to address Eldrazi or Kiki using big game hunter. So at this layer its not so bad. And this is probably where most decks do their tweaking

3) The seemingly wide variety of Eldrazi. This is problematic because different variant present different threats be they herder based or heartless summoning, drowner based, displacer based or a focused beatdown. Now regards of their varients most pack some level of explosiveness with the main core. I feel that the most dangerous varient is the one that can most consistently nut-draw. The utility is cute but I think it durdles too much. The scary thing about Eldrazi is when it does its hulk smash in accelerated mode. That said I think Eldrazi is also evolving so you will see a few varients, however I think ultimately it will be an explosive focused deck versus one that is a little less aggressive but with some controlling elements

Layers 1) and 3) are somewhat problematic. 1) cannot be helped, whats banned is already banned. The only deck that seem naturally suited to battle Eldrazi is Merfolk and to some extend Affinity 3) will eventually solve itself as Eldrazi proponents try to streamline their builds either that or you see clear categories forming. Stark categories with very different angles of attack might be problematic. However I suspect it will be a streamlined version that will eventually be king since the main strength of the Eldrazi has been its explosive start. 2) is where we have seen innovation.Where Affinity recognises it is no longer the top aggro dog and takes up the control role with bridge and grid.

And this is the interesting bit. The meta really looks like it is discovering itself. Eldrazi decks are still experimenting. Team Oath is also finding ways to take down the big bad. Right now I feel the numbers are healthy in that at least 50% of the players are willing to take on the Eldrazi :D

If we view 1,2,3 as factors that affect how the meta can address the Eldrazi deck, then perhaps it is easier to understand why the meta might take a longer time to figure out ways to beat back Eldrazi. In a nutshell: No decks are naturally favoured against Eldrazi at the moment, we can only tweak at the card slot level (whether sideboard or main) to bolster the chance/strength of current deck archtypes, and yet there is the evolution of Eldrazi itself that is complicating the equation.

Thats all sounds rather doom and gloom but at least SCG Open Louisville has shown that it can be done.

Now in terms of deck construction, I do hope that players do not shy from using Eldrazi cards, for instance a red deck that can use Eldrazi Obligater efficiently, probably should :) I guess what I am trying to say is I hope no one is silly about the whole Eldrazi/non-Eldrazi thing, I mean any varient of Eldrazi that splashes white uses path to exile :p

Now it seems I am a little anti-Eldrazi, but I really am not, I like the concept of the Eldrazi deck alot, I like the power level too. But I also relish the thought of beating it. Thats what Magic is about no? (among other things :))

On the bannings, I am ambivalent. Playing with older cards, you tend to be more forgiving with power levels. So I would rather Modern have enough depth to contain the Eldrazi. However given the way the format is managed (i.e. largely by bannings). It is highly unlikely the Eldrazi deck will be allowed to keep its current power level :P And as I said previously, I don't honestly think Wizards wants Modern to be a powerful format even if balanced. So theres that.

Still I look forward to the coming months, where we have an oppressor to overcome :) Whether you choose to roll with the Eldrazi and gain store credit, that is fine and perfectly legit and wise; or you decide to heed the Call of the Gatewatch (lol I do love the amount of corn in the lore), which I think builds you  as a player. Just do whichever is fun. I love brewing and trying to overcome challenges. The the bigger the hunt, the bigger the satisfaction. I have friends gunning for store credit, so thats cool too. I also have friends who genuinely like Eldrazi (I myself have already confessed I like the deck :p).

I actually find the current meta interesting so long as people continue to battle the Eldrazi rather than just fold and play Eldrazi. And Eldrazi can be beaten, that much is true at least :)

Mostly importantly, as one of the commentators mentioned, have fun! Whether you are rampaging with Eldrazis, or holding the fort as Team Oath :)

We do not need to see the current meta as a problem, we can see it as a challenge to be overcome.

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