Last weekend saw the last two UK Mythic Championship Qualifier (MCQ) events come and go. May has been a very intense month of competitive War of the Spark (WAR) Standard, with five events within a sixteen day period amounting to 39 rounds of Magic. In this article, I’ll explain my deck and card choices from the weekend, discuss Top 8 decklists, and provide some key reflections from the events.
Both events were hosted by Axion Now, and I went down for the weekend in Stansted with Rob Catton, Matt Duggan, Alex Roebuck, and Luke Bradshaw.
Day one: Saturday
If you read my previous article looking at the MCQs that took place in Sheffield, it will be no surprise to you at all that I had decided to play the Command the Dreadhorde deck I had been excited about during the week leading up to the event. Unfortunately, my personal schedule for the week and lack of Wildcards on MTGArena meant that I didn’t have much opportunity to play the deck myself. Instead, I watched my friend Duncan Tang stream the deck a few times via his Twitch channel and did what I could to ensure I actually had the cards for the tournament. At this point, my head was telling me to just stick to what I knew and play White Aggro, but my heart really wanted to try out some new things and play with more of the new cards. In the end, this is the list I settled on for the MCQ.
The event was attended by 175 players, which meant 8 rounds of swiss play followed by a cut to Top 8. Here’s how the swiss rounds played out for me.
- Round 1 vs Mono Red Aggro – 0-2 LOSS 0-1
- Round 2 vs Bant Midrange – 2-1 WIN 1-1
- Round 3 vs Gruul Aggro -1-2 LOSS 1-2
At this point we were eliminated from Top 8 contention, so I signed up for a Standard side event. I actually forgot to drop from the main event before pairings went up for the next round which was a little embarrassing. I was just going to concede, but as the side event wasn’t going to start for an hour, I thought I’d play the match out with my opponent and concede if I won.
- Round 4 vs Izzet Phoenix – 1-2 LOSS 1-3
My opponent was Lukas Twist, a fellow Team Upheaval player, and I ended up losing the match anyway. We discussed the matchup afterwards and agreed that it’s quite bad for me, mainly because Crackling Drake is super effective.
In the side event I played a slightly different list, as I wanted to try out some more new cards. Here are the changes I made from the list above.
- -2 Paradise Druid, -1 Sunpetal Grove, -1 Oath of Kaya
- +3 Bond of Flourishing, +1 Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord.
Here’s how it went:
- Round 1 vs Simic Mass Manipulation – 1-2 LOSS 0-1
- Round 2 vs Golgari Land Destruction – 0-2 LOSS 0-2
- Round 3 vs Dimir Control – 2-0 WIN 1-2
- Round 4 vs Mono Red Aggro – 2-0 WIN 2-2
Here are the Top 8 decklists from the event. Congratulations to Aaron Burns-Lee for emerging victorious!
Reflections from day one
- The deck was very fun to play, and when it actually worked it created ‘unbeatable’ game states, which was really cool. If you’re looking to play this deck, I would recommend it – just beware of the following bullet points that cover some of its weaker aspects.
- I didn’t play the deck very well at times. There are so many static and triggered abilities to keep track of during the game which taxes your concentration. For example, I got a warning for resolving half of Wildgrowth Walker’s abilities when multiple explore creatures entered the battlefield with Command the Dreadhorde (remembered the lifegain, forgot some of the +1/+1 counters). I’m quite sure I missed at least one lifegain trigger from Interplanar Beacon against Gruul, which probably cost me the match, and there many other errors that went unpunished. My lack of experience probably also contributed to me ‘not playing to my outs’ as well as I could have with cards like Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and Bond of Flourishing.
- The deck feels very reliant on Wildgrowth Walker. Games in which I didn’t draw or put a copy into the Graveyard with Tamiyo’s ability felt much more difficult than when I did so. Unfortunately for me, this happened in most games I played.
- The deck was a known quantity going into this event, whereas it wasn’t so much the week before. Most of our opponents knew what the deck did and how to play against it, which probably wasn’t the case the weekend prior. In the intervening week there has been a lot of hype around it and it has received a bit of a spotlight.
- The manabase is very tricky, and probably the most difficult element of deck configuration. Beyond having enough green sources to cast our early spells, we need to have enough black sources to be able to cast Command the Dreadhorde on curve while also being able to cast Tamiyo and both Teferi’s. This was further compounded by the inclusion of Oath of Kaya, which cannot be cast via Interplanar Beacon.
- At least partially because of the above, I found mulliganning with the deck very difficult and probably didn’t execute this aspect of my game properly. I was averse to mulliganning any hands that had any ‘spells’ I could cast within the first three turns of the game and the colours to cast them on curve. This meant I kept a lot of hands that were perhaps a bit anemic and unfocused, putting me very much at the mercy of my own draw steps. As you may be able to tell from the results, this didn’t work out all that often! With more experience, this could have been avoided.
- 26 lands felt like too many. There were multiple games where I was ahead but my opponent turned things around while I sat there with only lands in hand frantically sacrificing lands to Vraska, Golgari Queen trying (and failing) to draw more gas (I even saw an unfortunate Top 8 competitor suffer a similar fate on Sunday). I drew the conclusion that the land count is that high to ensure that there are enough sources of coloured mana for all four colours and that cutting on lands works against this.
Day two: Sunday
For this event I felt I was off the Dreadhoarding as I found the manabase too stressful! I swapped decks with Luke and played the following Esper Planeswalkers decklist.
I haven’t played with this deck much, but I have played against it quite a few times. Again, my head was telling me to perhaps just play White Aggro, but my heart wanted to try out new things, plus, with Mono Red Aggro still being a popular choice and Simic Nexus being less popular, it felt like White might not be as well positioned as it once was.
The event was attended by 178 players, again meaning 8 rounds of swiss followed by a cut to Top 8. Here is how the swiss rounds played out.
- Round 1 vs Mono-Red Aggro – 1-2 LOSS 0-1
- Round 2 vs Selesnya Tokens – 2-1 WIN 1-1
- Round 3 vs Rakdos Aggro – 1-2 LOSS 1-2
Again, a disappointing result and a quick drop to another side event. I used the same deck and performed as follows:
- Round 1 vs Mono Red Aggro – 2-1 WIN 1-0
- Round 2 vs Esper Planeswalkers 2-1 WIN 2-0
- Round 3 vs Mono Red Aggro – 1-2 LOSS 2-1
- Round 4 vs Esper Hero 2-0 WIN 3-1
Finally, a positive win record! I won some shiny cards!
Here are the Top 8 decklists from the event. Congratulations to Sami Sekkoum for emerging victorious!
Reflections from day two
- With three copies of Oath of Kaya in the deck, you would think the Mono Red Aggro matchup would become ‘easy.’ This is true for game one, but I think that after sideboarding, the combination of small creatures, burn spells, and an increased concentration of Experimental Frenzy/Chandra, Fire Artisan/Rekindling Phoenix ends up outshining the Oath. I played Enter the God-Eternals in my sideboard, which was fine, but I really missed Lyra Dawnbringer.
- Despite beating Esper Hero, I’m not fully convinced that the walker deck is favoured in the matchup, especially after sideboarding. I had previously been of the opposite opinion, but after my games last weekend I am not so sure. Savvy opponents can play around any mass removal by using even minimal creatures that generate value to pressure you or your Planeswalkers, Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord can easily kill off Teferi, Time Raveler and any of our ‘downtick only’ Superfriends, and they otherwise play very similar disruption and top end.
- In my opinion, when the deck’s plan works, it actually generates quite unexciting games. This is because a lot of the cards are geared towards literally stopping opponents from doing things (Narset, Dovin, ‘baby’ Teferi, and Kasmina) while you try to nudge your position towards Liliana (or Ugin). Prior to WAR, Esper Control was using Absorb, Negate, and a larger suite of instant-speed removal to support a similar strategy, and one of the reasons I shied away from that deck is because I thought it would be boring to play. My intuition had been that proactively deploying Planeswalkers instead of holding up countermagic would make games more fun, but this ended up being far less true than I had hoped. While I wouldn’t fault anyone for playing this deck, I personally didn’t find it all that fun – certainly not compared to Dreadhorde or White Weenie.
My results weren’t particularly good this weekend, and there are a number of factors that contributed to this, predominantly my lack of preparedness (playing decks with which I had very little practice) and my making technical mistakes on both days. I don’t regret giving some of the new cards some air-time, but I’m guilty of not giving myself the absolute best chance to win either event on account of this.
This didn’t prevent me from having fun playing the game. I really like the current Standard environment and am actually a little disheartened that there are going to be little to no paper events at competitive rules enforcement level (REL) for this format. While I’m not averse to playing the format at lower REL events, it’s certainly a personal preference of mine to dedicate more time to competitive events
The only gripe I have about playing the format at competitive REL is that many cards have static abilities that are causing judges a lot of ire and are responsible for the issuing of a large number of penalties for illegal plays. This is mostly because players are forgetting about them, whether it’s accidentally drawing extra cards while Narset, Parter of Veils is in play, or responding to something with a spell despite there being a Teferi, Time Raveler on their opponent’s side of the field. I think this is partly because players are used to playing Planeswalkers only for their activated abilities, so it’s slightly harder to continually remember their static abilities. This can lead to an increased workload for the judges, causing tournaments to run slightly longer as a result, but hopefully this will become less of a problem as players get more familiar with the new cards.
Overall, I enjoyed the MCQ experience, particularly the ‘double-header’ aspect that some tournament organisers put on because they were able to run more than one event. For me, this enhanced the social aspect of playing paper Magic. I do think that having all the UK MCQ events concentrated into a small window of time put a lot of pressure on both players and tournament organisers, and I hope that future iterations of this qualification system allows events to be more spread out in time.
What did you think of MCQs? Do you prefer them to PPTQs and RPTQs? Let me know.
With all of the hype surrounding the arrival of Modern Horizons this summer, I will have to take a closer look at the cards being previewed. There are certainly some that have got me particularly excited, so watch this space!
You can find me on Facebook and Twitter @Chris54154 I’m also heading to Magic Fest Barcelona in the summer and will hopefully also be at Magic Fest Birmingham soon after! Feel free to hit me up with any of your thoughts.
Until next time, good luck and have fun!