New Rotations and Block Stucture, Khans, and Working Through Slumps

I spent last week moving and packing as I shift from summer housing to my dorm for the upcoming school year, but I am back and boy did I miss a big week.

First things first, the rotation and block schedules have been completely rewritten. Previously and currently each year saw one three set block and a core set this meant four new sets a year, one block with a unified theme and a core set with varying coherence. The new way sets will come out though is two blocks a year with two sets each or in other words two blocks internally coherent with two sets each. Rotation because of this will now go Block A, Block B, Block C, then when block D is printed, Block A rotates out making the new standard Blocks B, C, and D. The easiest way to give my thoughts on this is bullet points, so bullet points it will be:

  • Cards on average rotate quicker, cards from the first set of each block last a year and a half and cards from the smaller set are legal for a year and a quarter. Later block cards are legal for roughly the same amount of time, but cards from first sets are legal for an entire 6 months less. This is both good and bad, if you play standard on a tight budget this may be bad news your cards will be legal for less time on average, however standard will in theory be stale and solved for much less time each time as well. To give you an idea of first set cards that dominated or oppressed the format for their entire stint in standard:
    • [c]Thoughtseize[/c]
    • [c]Sphinx’s Revelation[/c]
    • [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c]
    • [c]Geist of Saint Traft[/c]
    • [c]Tempered Steel[/c]
    • [c]Lotus Cobra[/c]
    • [c]Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle[/c]
    • you get the idea.
  • This explains what will happen with Khans far quicker and better than I can
    en_schedule (Rosewater, Mark. Metamorphosis.
  • Two blocks means more flavorful sets a year.
  • No more core set drafting
  • Imagine life without having to have drafted Avacyn Restored.
  • Imagine that last one again
  • Nice ain’t it?
  • More aggressive reprinting of key words.
  • Standard will become less stale

A slight complaint though about this awesomeness: the timing. At Pro Tour M15 Wizards announced that Modern would not be a format at the upcoming year’s Pro Tours. This lead to a huge backlash from the community, particularly those who had invested time and money in Modern and now had to worry about the format not longer being supported. Wizards reacted swiftly and brought back the Modern pro tour and an additional Modern GP. While this was a great response and timely by Wizards, my grievance is the order of these announcements.

1. No more Modern pro tour

2. We are changing Standard

Why on earth would you announce these in this order? What if instead you announced at Pro Tour M15 that Standard was going to change and here is how and that is why we are having no Modern pro tours next year, as a send off to the old Standard format. This would have at least provided reason to a seemingly reasonless decision most likely mitigating at least some of the backlash of the community. It is PR mistakes like this that Wizards needs to learn how to deal with better and prevent going forward. We love Magic, but Wizards often proves itself to be aggressively incompetent with basic PR.

Khans of Tarkir Standard

Fetchlands are back. While this means a lot for MTG Finance, I know little to nothing about speculating on prices and the lot and will not do that. Instead let’s talk about what that means for the upcoming Standard format. Mana now looks like this:

  • Basics
  • Temples in all colors
  • Pain lands in enemy colors
  • Wedge Colored Trilands
  • Mana Confluence
  • Evolving Wilds
  • Sliver Hive

While some of these lands are obviously more important than others, I wish to pinpoint the two new ones and why they matter. Wedge tapped lands are surprisingly not that great for a lot of the decks we saw to do well at the block pro tour. The Sultai (formerly BUG) and Abzan (formerly Junk) decks were arguably along with Naya the top three decks of the format; one of those decks does not get a wedge and two seemingly may not want them. The question that must be asked of wedges is, “Is the third color > than scry 1?” Decks can only play so many tapped lands and 12 is a number that pushes that upper limit. Playing 16 is out of the question, so decks with three color decks like Sultai and Abzan cannot run 12 temples and 4 wedge tri-lands, so there is tension between the two. While I would not be surprised to see the tri-lands be very powerful, the mana in Standard is so good that tapped tri-lands might just not cut it even in three color decks.

Onslaught fetches mean that two color aggro decks are open to being played in any color combination. Pain lands and fetches are functionally very similar and have some minor differences between them in operation, however Enemy Pains + Ally Fetches mean that any two color combination has at minimum 8 untapped duals and up to 4 more reasonable duals in the Temples. Also, three color aggro is not out of the question with the combination of pain and fetch lands as well as wedge tri-lands.

Some possible aggro lists:
[d title=”BR Aggro Khans of Tarkir (Standard)”]
4 Tormented Hero
4 Gnarled Scarhide
4 Pain Seer
4 Spiteful Returned
4 Herald of Torment
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Firedrinker Satyr
2 Mogis’s Warhound
4 Stoke the Flames
2 Bile Blight
2 Boon of Erebos
8 Swamp
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Mountain
2 Temple of Malice
4 Mana Confluence

[d title=”RW Heroic Khans of Tarkir (Standard)”]
4 Mountain
4 Mana Confluence
3 Temple of Triumph
4 Plains
4 Battlefield Forge
2 Mogis’s Warhound
4 Akroan Crusader
4 Satyr Hoplite
4 Favored Hoplite
4 Phalanx Leader
4 Launch the Fleet
4 Gods Willing
4 Dragon Mantle
2 Coordinated Assault
2 Inferno Fist
2 Crowd’s Favor
2 Ephemeral Shields
3 Stoke the Flames

Thoughts on Slumps

My performance the past couple weeks has been less than stellar. My Standard record was something like 5-17, my Pauper record on the first inaugural weekend was 6-6, and my attempts at playing other formats to break out of it were lackluster. There were times when I was getting really frustrated. I could hear it in the videos I was recording and I did not want to publish them because of this. I was losing my calm. I was never angry, just really sad at times, as I said things like “Well most lists don’t run [c]Drown in Sorrow[/c] so I feel like we just have to play into it, opponent casts [c]Drown in Sorrow[/c]. Well, that’s game.”

I stepped back and took a break for a few days; focused on my schoolwork more and spent time playing some other games and moving. When I was bottoming out I saw that Modern’s third birthday was that coming Sunday. Modern is my happy place format. I know the format like the back of my hand and have had my most success playing it.

I looked through what my friends and I had for card pool and realized my normal deck Jund/Ajundi was not doable so I went to my next stand-by, UWR Control. We had all the cards and after thinking about what I expected I shifted some cards around and came to this list:

[d title=”UWR Control (Modern)”]
4 Arid Mesa
4 Celestial Colonnade
1 Celestial Flare
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
1 Plains
2 Steam Vents
3 Sulfur Falls
1 Mountain
3 Tectonic Edge
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn

4 Snapcaster Mage

4 Cryptic Command
2 Anger of the Gods
3 Electrolyze
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Mana Leak
3 Path to Exile
2 Remand
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Supreme Verdict
4 Think Twice

1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Detention Sphere
1 Disenchant
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Negate
2 Pithing Needle
2 Rest for the Weary
2 Spreading Seas
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Vandalblast
1 Wrath of God

The deck performed great and I ended up taking fourth place, losing to Burn in the top 4 because I missed the fact that [c]Rest for the Weary[/c] is target player. I could have EoT 2x Rest for the Wearyied my opponent who had a [c]Rain of Gore[/c] out for 16 damage, then untapped and Snapcastered one back for the win. However the win made me realize again after numerous tight games that I am a good Magic player, that good Magic players make mistakes and lose matches on occasion, that variance is a thing, and that when I am playing a deck that I like and think is well-positioned I can do well.

I chained this win to 3-1 and 4-0 five more Modern dailies that week, and with my confidence high I entered a sealed PTQ prelim where I got the worst pool of my life: 5x Dual land, 4x [c]Tormod’s Crypt[/c], and zero [c]Triplicate Spirits[/c]. I also entered an M15 Championship Qualifier which I 4-1ed, qualifying for the championship. In essence, I have found that you beat slumps and get out of them by taking breaks and going back to your roots. Play what you know and enjoy it, remember that Magic is a game that we play for fun, not for glory.

Play Magic and Have Fun!
-Zach Raph