The Pro Tour is in the books and Manadeprived’s very own Alex Hayne is the champ! A huge congrats to him and I’m sure he will tell you all about it himself in the form of a tournament report. I thought I’d give my first impressions of the block format post Pro Tour.
Coming in we expected there to be very little control. The issues with the format were that all of the threats attacked from a slightly different angle, and most of the answers only dealt with one kind of threat.
However so many of the cards were such powerful threats that there was inevitably going to be a lot of midrange going over the top of the aggro decks. Midrange was fine but the mana was so bad that only a few people came to the house planning to try three color decks and those that did were quickly convinced not to.
Our plan to combat that was to just go completely over the top and do insanely powerful things, thanks to the hottest new deck on the block (heh…) Hallelujah! A Hayne specialty, Hallelujah is the one control deck that stands a good chance of surviving the entire duration of this block format. However be warned, the deck is nearly impossible to play correctly, and small mistakes are punished much harsher than normal.
I ended up playing for the miracle, but my original plan for the PT was a deck Matt Mealing created early on in testing, which did a pretty good job of doing broken things without the consistency problems some of the other decks were having. I would still think it could be a good choice, but it has an iffy Naya matchup and we obviously didn’t test it against the Geist deck, so it probably needs some tweaks.
Here is the list he used:
Matt Mealing Special
At various points, Matt tried out GW, GWR and Wr for the best human build, but once we discovered how nuts Angel of Jubilation was, there was no way to add enough other colored sources to even splash something like Malcontents. He did end up running the “free” Slayers’ Stronghold splash, which were added once Restoration Angel was cut. Restoration Angel had us including Seraph Sanctuary, since it allowed an infinite life loop that you could occasionally mise, in conjunction with either two Angel of Restoration and a Fiend Hunter or two Fiend Hunter and an angel, blinking each other in and out of play until you have enough life to feel like a proper boss.
In addition, here are some notes from Matt, since I asked his opinion of how he would have done things differently looking back. The first thing he said was that the main deck should have used Vault of the Archangel over Slayers’ Stronghold, and Elite Inquisitor over Loyal Cathar (which really surprised me given the number of Bonfires around). He said:
“We found out too late that Naya was the big deck, and didn’t have
time to adjust the main deck to the suggested card, or come up with a
proper board plan. If I had tested about 10 games I would’ve figured
out there was no way for us to go over Naya, but we would of had to go
through them. And I would’ve prob come up with this for my board:”
“It also might be right to cut the black lands and play the life gain combo with the Angel land, Restoration Angel (cutting Angel of Jubilation), Fiend Hunter and four copies of Mentor of the Meek somewhere in the 75 hoping to combo the Naya match-up.”
“This is the fasted deck in the format, and I feel strongly it crushes everything but Naya with the build I played at the PT.”
I can’t say I like his adjusted board much, but the main is pretty tight so I can see why he considered a different angle of attack. Either way it’s not yet a recognized part of the metagame, so there is extra value in being one of the decks that people don’t have their sights set on beating.
For the next couple of weeks at least, here’s how I see things:
Miracle, Naya, Mono-White Humans
Mono Red, RUG, UG Self Mill, various 3 color midrange-control
Notice there is no tier 1, this is block and every deck sucks! The top two decks complete their game plan consistently enough to overcome the bad mana and I think those will be the decks to beat in the near future. The fact that there aren’t a ton of obvious ways to combat either of those strategies means brewers might have a tough time initially, but there is still tons of room for innovation. Interestingly, I believe Miracle has a good matchup against Reanimator, and a fairly good Geist matchup, so people might be tempted to give it a shot. I must admit that with average draws, Miracle can beat absolutely anything, but with a subpar draw the deck can sometimes just do nothing.
Overall, the format is very high variance. Between miracles, the poor mana and the diversity of threats to answers, many games are decided by events over which the players have very little control. Be aware coming in to any block tournament that your options are either trying to mitigate variance as much as possible, or go full pants-down and run like a god. This format is not going to be explored much beyond GP Anaheim, but even if you aren’t planning on attending, jumping in the block queues on MTGO can be pretty good value, especially for newer players who might not have many cards from Mirrodin and M12. If you are attending Anaheim this weekend, good luck to you, and feel free to let me know how you did, what you played or what miracle you ripped!