tisdag 20 november 2018

Decks and rants from Fishliver Oil Cup Lanterna (and Eternal Weekend)

During the last month, we not only witnessed the largest EC-rules tournament this side of the ocean in a lighthouse in Genoa, we also saw the biggest EC-tournament ever at the yearly Eternal Weekend in the New World.

Around these parts, EC-rules gatherings are few and far between. Across the Sea though, they are the most common way to play 93/94 by a good margin. For those unfamiliar or in need of a refresher course, these are the main changes from the "Baseline B&R" which we commonly cover here:

* Fallen Empires is a legal set
* Maze of Ith and Recall are restricted
* Strip Mine, Mishra's Workshop and Shahrazade are unrestricted
* Nalathni Dragon and the two first book promo cards (Arena and Sewers of Estark) are legal
Spoiler alert: Not meta defining.
EC rules also reinstates Mana Burn as a game rule, which may make cards like Su-Chi slightly more dangerous to play. Additional changes from the full on "Swedish rules" also include a different reprint policy btw, but for all nintendo purposes that's irrelevant. Or whatever the saying is.

So let's check out some top decks from the latest EC-tournaments! We'll start with the top8 decks from the Lanterna Tournament, which was the original intent of this post. After I had gotten those lists, I figured we might take a gander at the top8 from Eternal Weekend as well to see if we can learn something from the progenitors of the rule set. Off to the races!

Fishliver Oil Lanterna Top8

Daniele Brunazzo's Arabian Aggro. 1st Place.
Smooth criminal Daniel Brunazzo took down the Lanterna tournament with his Arabian Aggro / Erhnam Burn'Em deck. I think there's few things for me to say which Daniel himself didn't explain better in his own tournament report, so check it out if you haven't!
Martin Berlin's Workshop Aggro. 2nd place.
Martin Berlin took to the Workshops for the evening; a strategy I feel might be a little underestimated when looking at tournaments across the ocean. Even with a single Workshop, three out of four Artifact Aggro decks placed in the top16 of last n00bcon, giving them one of the highest win rates of the gathering. Some deep brewing went into this list btw, check out Berlin's interview on All Tings Considered for the full story.
Patric Hiness's BRU Handelman. 3-4th place.
Here we find Patric Hinnes sporting our first Fallen Empires card; the dreaded Hymn to Tourach. In 95/96, Robert Hahn wrote one of the most influential pieces of early Magic theory: "Schools of Magic". In it, Hahn discussed different strategies to win at Magic; these days perhaps the Weissman school (i.e. "The Deck") is the most well known of them. The Handelman school was a fast and aggressive one, seeking to control the opponent's hand through cards like Hymn to Tourach and Hypnotic Specter while sporting effective spot removal to back up its end game with djinns and efreets. To quote Chris Zaborowski over at AmazingMtg: "The Handelman School is actually closely related to the Weissman School; both were essentially card denial decks, but where the Weissman School looked to prolong the game, the Handelman School looked to end it. Hahn himself summarized the School as "I'm going to come kill you with this thing right here unless you do something about it," which in many ways is the spiritual precursor to David Price's "there are no wrong questions, only wrong answers" theory to designing and playing aggressive decks."
Philipp Steinish's Deadguy/Handelman. 3-4th place.
Philipp Steinish rounds out the Top4 with a slightly different take on the Handelman strategy. This one is in fact closer to the 1995 designs, sporting white for more flexible removal, and having a mana base that gets supremely annoyed by Blood Moon. These two decks are good examples of strategies that moves up a tier with the unrestriction of Strip Mine and -most importantly- the full set of Hymn to Tourach to hinder the opponent's ability to play out their midgame.
Miguel Angel Diaz Gonzalez's The Deck. 5-8th place.
Miguel took his The Deck to the Top16 of the Saturday main tournament, the day after using this similar version to reach the EC Top8. The changes between the two rule sets are fairly subtle at glance; cutting Transmute Artifact, Mirror Universe, Sylvan Library, Tropical Island and Underground Sea from the Italian version; adding three Strip Mine, Lightning Bolt and Timetwister for EC. I obviously like the approach of playing four Strip Mines in The Deck (yes, even when you have Moat to handle opposing Factories), and cutting a few of the cards with a little more specific mana cost (like Sylvan) in favor of a card like Lightning Bolt to handle weenies seems like a very good choice. Still a total number of zero Factories in his list, which is impressive.
Francesco Delphino UWR Burn. 5-8th place.
So this is what Francesco's deck looked like the day before he cut all the Power cards and went on to win the 115 players main event. Other than the obvious power gracing the list, the changes are not only subtle. Apart from cutting a Factory, and adding a couple of extra Strip Mines (as is custom), Francesco played Serendib Efreets this day, prompting him to not use City in a Bottle. This is probably closer to what some people in Scandinavia refer to as Fantasy Zoo.
Svante Landgraf's Spice Rack. 5-8th place.
Svante Landgraf is a familiar name round these parts. Aside from top8'ing most of tournaments he shows up at, he runs the End of turn, Draw a card blog and is a frequent guest on the All Tings Considered podcast. He's also my nemesis. Svante is the one guy in the top8 to ruin the statistic by not running a full grip of Strip Mines here, but instead takes full stock on the other playset we've seen have the biggest impact on this top8: Hymn to Tourach. Spice Rack is a very cool deck, unlike anything I saw myself back in the days. Disrupt the opponent's hand, play The Rack, finish with Sedge Troll (or Atog) if needed. Check out this episode of All Tings Considered for more info about the deck.
Joep Meddens UB Handelman. 5-8th place.
Joep Meddens keeps racking up his resume with a top8 finish at the Lanterna tournament the day before we saw him grace the main event top16 with Erhnam Midrange. I am actually not sure if we could call this one Handelman. It doesn't play Juzam, and has a solid mana base, so maybe this is more UB Hand&Land Denial or something. Maybe somewhere between Handelman and O'Brien schools for those interested in nitpicking. Or perhaps just something fully different, like Joep School. Nice to see a couple of more cards from Fallen Empires represented regardless, with both the Order and the Initiates of the Ebon Hand showing up as as four-ofs.

So that's the Lanterna tournament for you! Seventy or so players. 3.125 average Strip Mines per deck and 2.375 average Factories, for those keeping count. Four of the decks uses the full set Hymns available, one take the opportunity to sleeve up a playset Workshops, and one deck make use of additional cards from Fallen Empires in Order of the Ebon Hand and Initiates of that very same hand. Some different tech that is harder to pull of using the more common Italian rules ("Baseline B&R"), in particular Handelman strategies and Spice Rack. But the major impact seems to be stemming from Strip Mine and Hymn to Tourach. The book promos glare in their absence.

Eternal Weekend 2018 Top8

Now let's take a look at what the more experienced players from across the ocean used one week later at the 181 player Eternal Weekend tournament. (If you want to see the full span of deck lists from Eternal Weekend, check out this post at Eternal Central.)
Sebastian Rauskold's MonoBlack. 1st place.
Aah, good ol' monoblack. Solid, streamlined list without any fuss nor unnecessary fanciness. Just Ritual into Hippies, Hymn, land destruction, Knights, and Juzam and Vampires to top of the curve after opponent's plan is disrupted. Robust pile. One kinda interesting thing is that Underworld Dreams is one of the MVPs for monoblack over here, while it doesn't seem to be that important a card in EC rules. Also no Lotus, which is always fun to see in a gathering of this size. Congrats Sebastian!
Jamie Parke's Atog Burn. 2nd place.
Full-Power Atog Burn is a beautiful pile and has proven to be one of the highest tier decks in the format. Piloted by a master like Jamie, it is no surprise to see this around the top of the final standings. Though I've heard from reputable sources that Jamie actually only have 18% of the credit for this runner up place, with most of the honors (around 48%) going to Will Magrann. Still I guess we're not that far from entering the 2020s, so Jamie should soon be able to pick up his 4th Pro Tour Top8 and get some well deserved spotlight for that. And hopefully another sweet rap.
Blake Burkholder's Temple of Sped. 3rd place.
Now this is kinda funny. I just realized that the LauterDeck that won last n00bcon is extremely close in style to what we know as Temple of Sped from EC rules. Basically the differences is that the LauterDeck plays a couple of more counters (Power Sink), an extra Serra Angel, all five moxen, and doesn't use red (but still have Psionic Blast for burn). Temple of Sped have a couple of pump-knights and splash red for more burn (and add some extra Strip Mines of course, but probably every single deck in the format would do that given the opportunity. Maybe sans Fork Recursion). So that's cool. This deck seems immensely well positioned regardless of rule set.
Dustin Clark's Troll Disco. 4th place.
Dammit Dustin. I know that this is a Troll list, but this is a horrible way to arrange the cards. Even using Japanese Disks to make it harder to read. Yeah, I get the joke, but I don't have the energy to feed the Troll here by spending the evening trying to decipher the full extent of this ;)
Arturo Garcia's UB. 5th place.
This deck on the other hand has enough sweet choices that I won't barely mention the glare nor the random layout. Not more than once at least. Miser's Juzam, Mahamothi, Serendib Djinn and Royal Assassin for the spice. As this post is supposed to be somewhat analytical of the top tier meta, I should probably try and figure out if this goes in the Handelman pile or Disaster pile? Monoblack splashing blue for Power and sideboard Energy Flux is generally a Disaster, but this one take more stock in hand disruption followed by must-answer treaths which is a trademark of Handelman. Guess I'll just call this UB.
Stephen Menendian's UR Burn. 6th place.
Smenen is a writer, podcaster, master wizard and general connoisseur of most formats hearkening from the other side of the millennium. I assume his resume precedes him at this point. Stephen has been perfecting UR Burn in EC rules for some time; this is the 4th time we see him in the Eternal Weekend Top8 in as many tries. There are some pretty cool choices here if we are used to wearing the "Swedish legal" glasses. Playing three sideboard Control Magic seems fully reasonable in a meta with so many decks running Trolls, Atogs or mostly black spells (without access to Disenchant), and the maindeck Scepters are also a rare sight this side of the ocean. Can we assume one of the glared out cards is an Earthquake?
Eliot Davidoff's Troll Disco. 7th place.
Our own @BetaSedgeTroll, Eliot Davidoff, doesn't disappoint with his namesake card. Spell Blast is a rarely used gem, and Hurkyl's Recall is fun enough with the Disk that I'm surprised we don't see the interaction more often. This deck is almost completely multi-format legal in all commonly used versions of oldschool btw; just cut a single Strip Mine and you'll be able to travel the world with these 75 without changing a card. Great pile by a great pilot.
Mark Le Pine's Troll Disco. 8th place.
Mark Le Pine rounds of the top8 with a slightly different take on Troll Disco, incorporating the infamous Hymns. And how rad is it to cut the fourth Disk for a maindeck Sol'Kanar the Swamp King? To cool for school, that's how cool. In fact just about the same level of cool as rocking a 62 card deck in the 1999 World Championship all the way to the finals, before eventually succumbing to Kai Budde. Mark casually adds this marvelous finish to a resume that already holds three pro tour top8s.

Rants

For those interested in the stats, we see 3.625 Strip Mines and 4.0 Factories per deck here, so slightly more than in the Italian tournament. Eliot was the guy to go against the grain and only play two Strips in his 75 rather than the full playset. The Strip Mine / Mishra's Factory discussion is a passionate one. I'll leave the Strip Mine discussion be for now, but take I'll take a sidebar to share my current stance on Mishra's Factory.

Mishra's Factory is meta defining enough to warrant a restriction. Disregarding the results above and looking at tournaments using the baseline B&R, we e.g. see 57/64 possible Factories in the main Fishliver Oil Top16. It is just an obvious inclusion to the point it seems weird not to have the playset instead of other wincons. We might recognize the concept; Brainstorm is too good in Legacy, Workshop is too good in Vintage, Factory is too good in 93/94. One often overlooked problem with restricting Factory however, is that land destruction would get worse. Today a lot of decks (in a meta with restricted Strip Mine) play the occasional Sinkhole or Stone Rain to take care of problematic non-basics. With a restricted Factory, these cards would be less likely to see play. That, in turn, would make Library of Alexandria slightly better, which could lead to more games decided by an early Library. The correct choice then, from a pure play/interaction point of view, would probably be to restrict Factory and ban LoA (and Mind Twist while we're at it). But banning cards is not something we like to do. So maybe we should just let Factory keep its reign. Or restrict it for a year and see what happens. Articulated opinions on this are very welcome, as always.

Damn, this is turning out a long and ranty post. I apologize. Lots of changes in the air at home; my focus is clearly not aligned. Here's a pic of a super sweet Chaos Orb I got a month ago:
Ok, meta analysis. Uh... Ok, so the Fallen Empires cards we see in the top8 here are - apart from the three Hymn decks - the black and white pump knights. So there's a lot of space left to explore. I kinda like the space of having Fallen Empires plus restricted Hymn in an old school format btw, like the first EudoGames rules from the US west coast did. Maybe not for permanent "Swedish rules", but I wouldn't mind trying it out again; it was six years since I last played tournament with FE legal and Hymn restricted. There are a lot of interesting options in FE if we dig a little. In fact, let's dig just two steps down from the top8 to Bryan Manolakos's glorious red midrange deck for some sick Orgg tech:
Bryan Manolakos's Orgg.dec. 10th place.
This is cool.

9 kommentarer:

  1. This was a great post. I love the School of Magic references (I believe I mentioned Handelman on ATC at one point, myself; we need to keep history alive), the jabs against poor deck orderings, and of course the kind words about me. :)

    On the Mishra's Factory debate, I firmly believe it should stay unrestricted. Yes, it is played too much, but it doesn't really reduce diversity in the format. One important thing is that it speeds up The Deck and other control decks (like prison), making sure most rounds don't go to time as heavily as might otherwise be the case. Another thing is that the card is quite skill-intensive. It's not trivial to decide how to sequence your land drops in an aggressive deck, when to forego playing a spell for attacking with a factory, how many to attack with, when to risk removal when using it as a blocker, when to pump, when to chump. It does create a lot of play, in a lot of different decks. It also allows people to play more mana, lessening the risk of mana shortage while at the same time mitigating mana flood. The card is too good, yes, but it's still good for the format.

    SvaraRadera
    Svar
    1. Thanks man! Yeah, I really see your points with Factory. I find myself going back and forth, but at the end of the day I'm no proponent for restricted Brainstorm in legacy, which may be a good anology here.

      Radera
  2. Wonderful rant Magnus. It is amusing to read that the American MtG way is still backwater. Glared, poorly laid out, and randomized piles of decks abound like muddy frontier hoof-tracked roads with son-of-a-bitch rocks in the wagon wheel ruts making your path to understanding all sorts of shitty. We're still shooting from the hip here...but maybe on purpose.

    I hope that Orb gets a fair share of flipping done to it, by the way. Master Tedin made sure the wait time was palpable. But, once done and seen time was irrelevant, well worth the wait. I remember getting the all done message and writing back with something like,"dude, Juzam is so badass that the Orb lava doesn't even phase him." He comes back nonplussed with,"it doesn't even phase his vest." Gangster.

    Cheers,

    M. Silenus

    SvaraRadera
    Svar
    1. Fantastic comment M :)

      I am stupidly stoked over the Orb btw, such a wonderful surprise! It will surely see its fair share of flips.

      Radera
  3. Just wondering what could have chomped the better part of his horn though - face first collision with a force of nature?

    SvaraRadera
  4. Agree on many of your suggestions: restricted factory + hymn, banned loa and twist, would love to see how it goes then.

    SvaraRadera
  5. I read from many who play EC rules that 4 Strip Mines is needed to keep Library of Alexandria under control. Now your blog suggests maybe we need 4 Mishra's Factory so that people play enough land destruction to keep Library of Alexandria under control.

    I can't help feeling that the biggest problem here is not Strip Mine or Mishra's Factory, but Library of Alexandria!

    Everyone I know hates it being played against them, and no-one I know enjoys playing it - each activation the Librarian gets more embarrassed and the victim gets angrier. Facing a Library of Alexandria is like slowly being squeezed to death by a python - you don't die straight away but death slowly becomes more certain with each passing turn. Not much fun.

    In a format played just for fun, in my opinion Library of Alexandria should be banned, opening up 1 slot in every deck for something more interesting and enjoyable.

    SvaraRadera
  6. My thoughts exactly - only towards mind twist instead of ye old library. In my opinion twist is the only candidate for a potential ban. Only reason people play twist is because everyone else plays it - banning it would open up a slot for something actually fun. I'm in two minds over the library because a) it's just too cool (as opposed to twist) and works only for oneself, b) doesn't directly flush or damage the opponent except mentally, and c) it often takes quite some working around to get activated when not in opening hand. All added good reasons for restriction but banning...? Tough call. I suppose you guys know best as you play all the time - does it really dominate as much as people make it out to be? It rarely seems to present itself in my opening hands..

    SvaraRadera
  7. Whether players see Mind Twist or LoA as the worst offender is usually dependent on their most common deck choices; e.g. Mind Twist is usually much worse for a beatdown deck and LoA is more annoying in the control matchup. Personally I find Mind Twist to be the worst offender, but that may be due to the fact that I rarely sleeve up Counterspells ;)

    I highly enjoy this discussion. One thing I personally do from time to time (in particular if I'm 1-1 in a match) is to offer my opponent a "gentleman's game" where we remove our twists and LoAs to decrease the variance of bad beats a little.

    SvaraRadera