The Moore Report - PPTQ Predictions
This weekend HobbyMaster will be hosting New Zealand’s first preliminary pro tour qualifier. The winner of this tournament, as well as going home with $1000 cash (!!!), will be invited to play in a regional pro tour qualifier. The closest one of these is in Melbourne this time around, which I assume is where the winner will go to compete for an invite to the pro tour. While not quite as exciting as the old system, the PPTQs are what we have to work with now, and HobbyMaster is doing their best to ensure that the winner has the means to get to the regional level so that New Zealand can continue to have a presence on the pro tour.
Today I want to talk about what to expect at this tournament, and what to do based on those expectations. So, first things first – I expect this tournament to be pretty big. It’s being held at HobbyMaster’s brand new store in Greenlane, which can seat over 100 players, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a person in each one of those seats playing some Magic: The Gathering. The prize for this tournament is awesome, standard is really fun right now and a lot of people are going to want to check out Auckland’s newest store. All of these things added together tell me that this event is going to be huge. If I’m right, this means that if you want to win this tournament you’re going to be in for a long day. You’ll want to bring some water, because keeping yourself hydrated is super important, and you might want to bring some snacks too. There is a petrol station just across the road, and it’s only a 10 minute walk to the McDonalds and Countdown on Green Lane, so all is not lost if you forget, but it always pays to be prepared. As far as deck choices go, this shouldn’t affect your decision too much. You might want to steer clear of control decks if you don’t think you’ll have the mental stamina to play 7 long rounds and a top 8 with one, but apart from that just be prepared to sling a lot of spells.
The most important aspect of this tournament is going to be what decks to expect. If you check out my last two articles, here and here, you’ll get a good feel for the decks that people are playing in standard right now. From playing in the last few HobbyMaster standard 500 tournaments, it’s clear that there isn’t one deck that is “the deck to beat”. In the last little while I’ve played against abzan midrange, abzan reanimator (ala GP Santiago), blue/white heroic, abzan aggro, esper control, mono-red aggro, jeskai tempo, blue/black control and green/red monsters, so there are definitely a lot of decks out there. Interestingly there isn’t very much temur aggro, which is a deck I think is very good (and have been playing for the last few weeks). While I don’t think there is one deck to beat, I do think that there is a higher concentration of abzan wedge decks than anything else. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean that much, since there are various strategies within that wedge and they’re not that similar. The moral of this story is that you should be prepared to play against anything, and be ready to kill/counterspell/fly over at least 1 Siege Rhino.
This means that because there isn’t really a deck to beat, there isn’t really a deck that beats the format either. At this stage, you should just play whatever deck you have the most experience with. You’ll do better knowing what you’re doing with a deck you’ve practiced with than you would by changing decks to get an edge on the metagame. However, if you’re tossing up what to play, I do have some decklists that I really like which I can recommend for the upcoming tournament. The first is temur aggro:
2 Reclamation Sage
This is the deck that I’ve been playing for the last few weeks, and I’ve been having a decent amount of success with it. The strategy in general is just very strong, and the deck has game against anything. The plan is simple: Ramp up with your mana creatures, deploy a threat, attack a whole bunch, stop your opponent from having fun with your counterspells then finish the game with a huge X spell. Simple, but usually quite effective. I like this list quite a bit, and I think the most important part aspect is having more counterspells in the maindeck than just the 2 Temur Charms. So often your opponent will be in a situation where they really need to resolve a big spell to catch up to you on the tempo you created by deploying mana creatures, and you’re able to hold your advantage with as little as 1 blue mana.
The only real trouble I’ve had piloting this deck is beating abzan midrange. The graveyard version isn’t too bad, because that deck relies a bit on synergy, so if you can disrupt that it usually gives you enough room to win games, and the aggro version suffers from the fact that your threats are better in general, but the midrange one has had me a bit stumped. The difficulty is that the match-up often comes down to a battle off the top, and that deck’s topdecks are a lot better than temur’s. You get to draw things like Boon Satyr and Crater's Claws, which are good, don’t get me wrong, but they really don’t compare to an Ajani, Mentor of Heroes or Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Additionally, they have card advantage in the aforementioned planeswalkers, as well as cards like Courser of Kruphix and Abzan Charm. Because of this, if you can’t assemble a quick win, they can grind you out of cards and put things out of reach. Additionally, the temur deck seems to have a lot of trouble with Thoughtseize. It’s not really that they get to make you discard a card. Most of the cards in the deck do similar things, so it’s not as though they’re destroying your game plan with it. It’s more that a lot of your cards need the surprise factor to be their most effective. If your opponent knows you have Stubborn Denial, or double Crater's Claws, they can play in a way that prevents you from getting the best value from them. This even gets a bit worse after sideboard, since you’re looking to counter their best spells with your additional counterspells and kill their green threats with Hunt the Hunter. It’s not clear that they keep Thoughtseize in after sideboard, but if they do it’s pretty bad for you. It’s possible that the sideboard needs to change a bit for this match-up. Stormbreath Dragon could do some solid work out of the ‘board, since it’s quite hard for abzan to kill, or maybe something like Treasure Cruise to gain back a bit of advantage in the mid-game could be what is required.
Apart from that, I feel pretty happy to play any match-up. The only other deck that I’m scared of is blue/white heroic, simply because I don’t have much experience with the match-up. It might be fine, if you land a key Reclamation Sage or simply win a race, but the nut draws out of that deck are very strong. Maybe Back to Nature is what I need instead of Reclamation Sage, but I like the sage a lot more in other match-ups.
If temur doesn’t float your boat, I would definitely recommend an abzan deck. I’ve spoken previously about how much I like the list that won GP Santiago, and that remains true. Here’s the list again, for reference:
This deck does a lot of things that I think are good in standard right now. Courser of Kruphix is one of the best sources of incremental card advantage available, and it does everything that this deck wants to do. Siege Rhino is Siege Rhino, and the rest of the deck has some great synergy. Hornet Queen provides a great mana-sink late in the game, while also being an excellent card to bring back into play with Whip of Erebos. I wouldn’t be surprised if Insect tokens with flying and deathtouch have a significant impact on this tournament. Whip of Erebos breaks stalemates wide open, and so does Soul of Theros. I’m not sold on Fleecemane Lion out of the sideboard though. The only match-ups that I can see it being good in are the faster creature match-ups, like mono-red or temur aggro. The trouble is, against temur the best you can hope for is that it trades for an Heir of the Wilds. Maybe that’s fine, but surely there are better options. Against red I just see it trading with one creature, or a Lightning Strike. Bile Blight seems a lot better in that slot to me, since if nothing else it has the upside of maybe getting two cards for the price of one.
Whatever you’re thinking of playing, remember to preregister here. It’ll save you time on the day, and you get $5 store credit added to your HobbyMaster account. There is no reason not to preregister, unless you don’t have a computer. If you don’t have a computer, how are you reading this? I wasn’t born yesterday, buddy…Uh, yeah, just preregister. If, for whatever reason you’re on the fence about coming along, remember that HobbyMaster will be giving away 50 limited edition playmats with awesome satyr art by the one and only master of pandas Richard PodgyPanda. Playing in events this weekend is your only chance to win one, so make sure you give yourself a shot. That does it from me for this week, so good luck to everyone playing this weekend. May your Courser of Kruphixs always reveal a land (after your draw step of course).