Metagame Articles

  1. The Metagame
  2. How Chanpheng Won
  3. Against A Weak Metagame

Back to the Strategy Guide...

  1. The Metagame
  2. "Metagame". What images does that one word bring to mind? The best players, playing a game *outside* the game, perhaps? Not just what's happening, but what's *really* happening? The ability to make an incisive analysis of the field, and then going for the jugular?

    Well, here's some news. At the upper levels, there is no metagame. Oh, it's a fancy word which is often bandied about, but when you think about it (something which I shall later show is quite dangerous...), it's just a fancy name for guesswork. And I deliberately leave the word "educated" out as a possible adjective to "guesswork", for reasons which I'll discuss later.

    Let's set the scene with a classic example. The place is the US National Championships, and the year is 1995. A group of eight players had been created from the top finishers in the pool games, and were to play off for the title, and the right to represent the USA at the World Championships that year. The deck which a player used in the finals did not have to be the same as the deck used in the pool games. To be horribly broad, six of the eight players had used Black decks in the pool games, and two had not. Mark Justice elected to play his Finals deck with Lifeforce and Whirling Dervish standard in the main deck, and scored a resounding victory when, to all intents and purposes, no one else changed their deck. Justice was hailed as a "Master of the Metagame" in a number of articles at the time (both on the Net and in print), which is to the best of my knowledge the first published use of the term as it is used today.

    Unfortunately, this has created an impression about a "higher level" of the game which is out of all proportion to its significance. Certainly, there are some aspects involved in thinking about the environment within which ones plays, but there are quite low limits on how far such thought processes can be legitimately applied, before running into the wall of pure, blind luck. What I want to do here is set out a few of the precepts, concepts, and dangers involved in thinking about "the game outside the game".

    In World War II, there were thousands of spies employed on both sides of the conflict. A few hundred or less were what is known as a double agent: side A thought that Mr Spy worked for them, but he *really* worked for side B. Of course, if side A found out about Mr Spy's real employer, they generally became pretty pissed off. As a result, we know of less than ten cases of triple agents: either a double agent who "turned" to save his skin, or an elaborately planned dupe to plant a false double agent. [Aside: of course, the *really* successful agent's, we'll never know about...]. As you might well imagine, there are no recorded cases of deeper deception *by people* than this - although you might try to turn a few double agents, anyone prepared to change sides again just wasn't worth the risk.

    This introduces the idea of the extended bluff. We all know about the single bluff - I leave UU untapped. I am trying to give the impression that I have a Counterspell, in an effort to discourage you from taking some action. Essentially, I am trying to turn any card I might draw into a Counterspell by the very threat of such a possibility. If I don't have UU, then there's no bluff. If I have no mana, there's even less of a bluff. [Aside: Alliances changes this, but that's a detail :-) ] But what if you try and turn this bluff around on me? I have UU, you draw, smile, and cast a spell, looking enquiringly in my direction and without releasing the card, all ready to move it straight to the graveyard if I counter it. I am in a quandry - are you bluffing? Or are you just trying to make me *think* that you're bluffing?

    Now, go one step deeper. Is UU ever a bluff? What happens if a bluff is always called? What happens if you actually didn't think about all this, just went ahead in your cheerful way and cast the spell without thinking about the possibilities of a Counterspell? Where does that leave the poor UU player? :-) Bluffs only work against thinking opponents. Bluffs do not work against deep-thinking opponents. Double bluffs occasionally work against deep-thinking opponents, but generally fail on people who just think. Triple bluffs only get you shot :-) And the non-thinking player doesn't care at all....

    A similar example is the case of a Green player attacking with an Elvish Archer, while an untapped Serra Angel sits on the opposite side. Should the Angel block? Is there a Giant Growth waiting? Does it matter? Trying to figure out the reasoning of an opponent can be very, very tricky, especially if they are working to a plan of non-predictability. Which looks very similar to someone who doesn't have a bloody clue :-)

    So, the concept of a bluff is dependent on the opponent. The precept of a bluff, what you require to make it work, is a thinking opponent. The wise man does not become involved in a games of wits with an idiot, since he can only lose by frustration. "Your puny Jedi Mind Tricks will not work on me..." - is that because you think too much, or too little? :-) Any group of people is made up of individuals, and the behaviour of such a group is only tenuously linked to the behaviour of the individuals as far as MtG is concerned. To quote Henry Stern, another USA National Representative, when talking about his deck for the Worlds:

    Henry perhaps suffered from thinking too much. Does this mean that he doesn't understand the metagame? Or that he just guessed wrong? By the same reasoning, did Justice just get lucky, or did he know something? I don't think anyone can honestly credit a player with telepathy or precognition, which leaves the first option. As to *how* lucky he got...well, we'd have to ask him for his own thoughts at the time to get an idea of motivations, and the six Black players as to what they thought at the time. Did any of them consider changing? Did any of them go through the circuit of possibilities: if we all play Black, then anti-Black will win; if everyone else thinks the same way, then robust will win; if anyone else gets this far, then Black will win; oh, but then... :-)

    Often, such thinking can lead to such a roundabout of ideas, and you have to choose where to get off the ride. You can try and think what your average opponent will do, but you must always bear in mind that you play an individual, not a gestalt being.

    To take another example from game theory, consider the Mad Hatter's Party. You are in a room with a group of other people. You are wearing either a red hat or a green hat. You aren't allowed to look at your own hat, but can of course see everybody elses. You "win" by leaving the room, and announcing correctly the colour of your hat to the referee. You lose if you get the colour wrong. You get pretty bored if you're the last person sitting in the room :-)

    Generally, you have some knowledge about the distribution of colours. Let's take the simplest worthwhile example, where there are five players, and no more than three hats of each colour. When you sit down, you see before you two Red hats and two Green hats. What colour is your hat?

    Obviously, you can't work it out by yourself :-) However, the game can be solved by putting yourself into the position of one of the other players, and assuming they are intelligent. Take one of the Red-hat people you can see, for example. If your hat is Green, then he can see three Green and one Red hat, and should know immediately that his hat is Red (there can be no more than three Green hats, as stated above). Hence, if he gets up and leaves, then you know your hat is Green, and you can leave too. If your hat is Red, then he sees two Green hats and two Red hats, and is in your position. So if he doesn't get up, then your hat is Red, and you can leave.

    Easy, hey? However, what if he's a bit slow on the uptake? You, with a lightning-quick brain, work out the entire sequence above, and when neither of the Red-Hats gets up, you charge out of the room and say "Red!"...only to find that the two Red players were still working their way through it, and you're actually Green :-) Or, just as you get up to leave, the two Red players stand up. You look at each other, wondering who got up first (they've been trying the same trick, you see...). So you all sit down again. Etc, etc, etc....

    Now extend the game to more players and different hat distributions :-) How do you best solve the game? Walk out and take a 50-50 call....'coz you just can't trust the others to be as smart as you are :-/

    Of course, in something as simple as MtG, this sort of thing tends not to happen - you can beat the poor player without relying on such obscure concepts :-) But thinking about an opponent's motives can be very, very dangerous. I mean - did they make a mistake? Or do they have, to quote S.-O. Baldrick, "A cunning plan"? It's a step up on the two-untapped-U bluff, really, which is always best solved by calling the bluff. If you always call, then it isn't a bluff...sente :-) Do what you want to do (" what you want to be, yeahhhh", from some rather poor song). Trying to reason out an opponent's actions is based on a large number of quite variable parameters, and inherently dangerous. If you're that way inclined, you could try and reason out the probabilities of your opponent: 1) having a counter; 2) being able to cast that counter; 3) wanting to counter whatever you cast. Of course, if you base your decision on what your opponent has done before, be prepared for the occasional rude shock ("What?? You didn't do that last time?!!", "Oh yeah, I forgot to. I do that sometimes.").

    In fact, the interplay of deck interactions (the rock-scissors-paper analogy as a simple case) can be modelled surprisingly well by the Prisoner's Dilemma. In the Simple variation, you and an associate have to decide - independently - whether to cooperate (C) or fight (F). If you both cooperate, you each get 2 points. If you both fight, you each get 3 points. If just one of you fights, he gets 0 points and the other gets 5 points. The idea is to minimise your point score. If you take the simple, single-person view, then you should choose to fight, since you get a maximum of 3 points that way, and might reduce it to zero; whereas if you cooperate, you will get at least 2 points, and might get 5. But if the other person thinks the same way, then you'll always choose to fight, always get three points each, and lose to the pair who always cooperated :-)

    Why the hell would you choose to cooperate, given that I've proved that the best individual strategy is to fight? Because, like the iterations in MtG, you're playing another player who can think a few steps deep. In the Simple Prisoner's Dilemma, for example, although the "goldfish" strategy might be F, if you think your opponent (partner?!) is smart you might want to try C, since that will net less points to both of you. Of course, he might think one step deeper, and choose F hoping you'll choose C. In which case, you should choose F. But no, that's nasty - surely he'll play for... >slap< :-) Notice a recurring there here? And in particular, by taking all this time to consider options, are you *any* further advanced than a simple random choice would take you?

    The Extended Prisoner's Dilemma increases the number of people, and either looks at multi-player cooperation/fighting or, in the more MtG-applicable case, considers a sequence of matchups between individuals. To make it interesting, you might have 100 iterations of the Dilemma between each pair of players, to accumulate a score. You then move onto the next matchup. At the end of the experiment, you've played everyone 100 times and have a total score, where the lowest total score wins. The question is, is there a strategy for cooperating and fighting in each set of 100 iterations which is the "best" (lowest-scoring) strategy? For example, you might choose to "Always Cooperate", or "Always Fight", and see how you go against the rest of the field.

    More advanced strategies might be "Cooperate, then Tit-for-Tat" (where you always offer C first, then choose whatever your opponent chose on the last iteration), or "Look, I Want To Be Friends" (where you offer C twice before going TfT). Aggressive players might like "Fool Me Twice" (where you offer C twice, and if you haven't had a return C you choose F until he cooperates). There are more advanced strategies: the "You Trusted Me, Didn't You?", or "Fink" strategy, where you play some generally cooperative scheme like TfT, but make your 100th move F to grab a few bonus points against fellow TfT users, for example. Or the "Secret Handshake" version, where you follow a pattern of C's and F's which only certain other people know, so that you get collectively more points off the other strategies. Woe betide the "I Was Really A Journalist" strategy here, though, where a Secret Handshake player uses his inside knowledge to maximise his points off other Society members, at their expense, by altering his own pattern :-) Then, there's the random strategy. You use a random number generator to pick your tactic. It is surprisingly successful, *especially* in a pool of otherwise "intelligent" systems, because it's impossible to deal with in a meaningful manner.

    What happens at the end? Which system is the best? It all depends on the people involved. Computer simulations indicate that there is a stability plateau dependent on the exact point scoring for each of [CC, CF, FF] and the pool of strategies employed: if you happen to be the only always-F in a pool of always-C, you will win. If you happen to be the only always-C in a pool of always-F, you will lose :-) But if there are enough always-C's in the pool, they will win out over the nasty aggressives....and at the end, the Finks come out on top. Depressing, really, but strangely reminiscent of the real world.

    Anyone who has got this far either has too much time on their hands, or has read so much that they're hoping I'm going to say something deep and meaningful. Bad luck, people. Life isn't that easy.

    To go back to the initial "Justice" example, what would have happened if the others had changed? They all had the same opportunity, and could well have decided on a similar strategy. Or, of course, have gone one step deeper, and entered the merry-go-round :-) The correct choice can only be determined by hindsight: in this case, either the opposition didn't think about changing, went full circle, decided that no one would go for the anti-B option, decided they'd win anyway even if that happened...or any one of a number of options :-) Occam's Razor tells us that they probably just decided that what they had was good enough anyway. Similarly, Justice either thought through all the options, or didn't, but regardless he chose correctly. That time :-)

    And that brings us to another point which is at least vaguely related to the metagame concept: subjective (selective) memory. This is the bane of many a new player, frequently dominates supposedly objective reporting, and is the cause of many anecdotes and apocryphal stories (perhaps its only redeeming feature :-) ). Classic example is the first-turn Hypnotic Spectre. You know that it happens every other game where the opponent is playing with Hypnos and Rituals, don't you?. Well, it at least seems like it :-) In fact, the chances of it are only about 20% - one game in five. Of course, if you're the Black player, and you're up against a Red or White opponent, how often does the first turn Hypno get Bolted or Plowed? Every f**king time :-) Makes you wonder why you bother, doesn't it - you might as well be playing Birds of Paradise given the speed with which that early Hypno leaves the mortal coil. In a manner of speaking, of course.

    That's the selective memory effect - it is natural for us to remember the outstanding, odd, or otherwise *memorable* events, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill, standard, boring things. Like stars in the night, we remember the high points and wash out the low points. You really want to try and train yourself to look at the big picture - in MtG terms, how does your deck perform in the long term? That Necro/Land's Edge deck is great - it keeps on killing people second turn!! So why doesn't anyone (seriously) use it? Because those are the spectacular results - a lot of the time, the combo doesn't appear. It is important to be objective in both wins and losses, if you want to stand any chance of learning and adapting.

    A famous study on people outguessing themselves was presented by Paulos in "A Mathematician Reads the Newspapers". The player is presented with a red light and a green light, is told that the red light has a 70% chance of coming on, while the green light only has a 30% chance of illuminating. He is asked to guess each time what light will come on, and proceeds to get about 58% of his guess right. In essence, he guesses "Red" 70% of the time, and "Green" 30% of the time; his success rate is then (0.7)^2 + (0.3)^2 = 58%. If the player simply guessed "Red" every time, he's be right about 70% of the time :-) By trying to think too far in what is essentially a random environment, his performance suffers.

    The pack mentality: recently, there has been a lot of interest in the so-called "Necrodecks" (mono-Black, hand denial/card superiority, with Disks to reassert permanent superiority). Ignoring how the craze got started (which would be the subject of a quite interesting study, I imagine), reports at the peak of the craze contained stories of 80% of tournament entrants playing slight variations on this theme. At this point, it is very difficult to change people's attitudes on an individual basis. For example, let's say you have a deck which beats Necro 70% of the time. If everyone else is playing Necro, what is the chance that you win a 6-round elimination tournament (64 players)? (0.7)^6, or less than 12%. Anyone watching will only see you succeed one time in ten or so - or, more to the point, they will see Necro triumph over you 90% of the time! This can lead to funny stories, such as the person who defeated seven Necro decks in an event, only to lose to one in the final round, and promptly get told "See, Necro is superior!" :-)

    Note, though, that if your deck went just 50% against Necro (or the field in general), you'd only win a 6-round elimination event (0.5)^6 = 1.6% of the time. Your winning chances have increased by a factor of eight or so, but the huge numbers of (inferior) Necro decks dominate people's thinking. If you intend to play the metagame, in terms of guessing the field, be prepared to have other people play the same game. There are other amusing stories which relate to 80% of the field turning up to play with *anti*-Necro decks, fully expecting a huge Necro turnout. In that situation, you'd be better off playing an *anti*-antiNecro deck :-) But if everyone else thinks the same way... >slap< :-)

    You're better off, in many ways, just making a good, effective deck, and sideboarding to cover your perceived weaknesses (and everyone's got them). Guess about the field as much as you want, but it is someone who guesses correctly, good? Or just lucky? The fact is, there *is* a pool of unthinking players out there; but there are also a lot of people who are willing to put the same amount of effort in as you are, by reading this discussion. It's unlikely that a community will spontaneous change states from stability (say, 80% Necro) to incoherency (all sorts of crap) overnight, but you should always be prepared for interesting "flip-flops" (80% anti-Necro, for example).

    Just as Harry Seldon's psychohistory could not deal with the Mule, on the small scales involved in MtG it is dangerous to prepare for "the average opponent". You never play such a beast, if it even exists: your opponents are players - people - with their own sum of experiences, foibles, blind spots, preconceptions, and yes, even tricks. Remember - you're one, too. If you get nothing else from this article, just think about seeing yourself as others see you.

    David J. Low

  3. How Chanpheng Won
  4. > Justice lost 0-3 in the best of five match. Should he have
    > done better or was that to be expected?

    OK, here goes :-)

    Firstly, I'll note the standard WW test deck, which Tom's deck mildly resembles (in, like, it's a white weenie too :-) ).

    Knights, Orders, Orders, Lions, StP, Disenchant, Armageddon, Strips, Sleights, Tax, Balance, Vise, Orb Adarker Wastes, Sextants, Plains [Tune numbers to your personal taste - fours of everything legal, then usually down one for Geddon; full land count puts you over 60, so prune and maybe drop an Order/Sleight - Dave's school of deck tuning :-)]

    Side: this is a test, remember? :-) You might want to go for something snazzy, though, if you want to see how it fares against Necro :-)

    Standard variations include things like going for banding via Infantry or Pikemen, and varying the bauble component (these days) by adding Lodestones, which help in your recovery after Geddoning, as well as speeding up access to those handy little Restricted cards (ban the List!). History of basic variations I've seen on this deck - it's taken top 4 at a Regional, won the 95 Australian title, and a few other minor things afterwards :-)

    Basically, everyone serious about MtG testing and analysis has one of these, with maybe half a dozen cards different. They're solid, but open to hosing.

    Tom Chanpheng (World Champion)
    4 White Knight
    4 Order of the White Shield
    4 Order of Leitbur
    2 Serra Angel
    2 Phrexian Warbeast
    4 Savannah Lion
    4 Disenchant
    4 Swords to Plowshares
    1 Armageddon
    1 Balance
    1 Reprisal
    1 Reinforcements
    1 Zuran Orb
    1 Sleight of Mind
    1 Land Tax
    1 Loadstone Bauble
    4 Strip Mine
    4 Mishra's Factory
    15 Plains
    1 Kjeldoran Outpost

    [Editor's note: there's got to be some U in here somewhere :-)]

    * [Note there was no U in this deck, Chanpheng forgot to list 4 Adarkar Wastes in his deck listing and had to play with sleights, but no U mana! - Steve]

    4 Divine Offering
    2 Arenson's Aura
    1 Sleight of Mind
    1 Spirit Link,
    2 Serrated Arrows
    1 Energy Storm
    1 Kjeldjoran Outpost
    1 Reprisal
    1 Exile
    1 Black Vise 

    Essential variations between the "test" and Tom's: remove the Geddon anvil, leaving a token one behind. Hence, Mishra's and Serras become viable, as does the Outpost. Same for the Sleights. The rest is pretty much icing (oh, there's a sweeping generalisation!). The sideboard is interesting, when combined with the main deck: he can go up to seven targetted critter removals (eight if you include SL), and eight targetted artifact killers. Arenson's Aura confuses me somewhat :-) Unlikely to get the mana for the counter option, lack of targets for the first. But hell, he's World Champ and I'm not :-) Oh, and "Good white weenies don't need Crusades", long-time readers might remember me saying :-) This is an example. Crusades just slow you down.

    What's funny about this deck? It ignores everything the Americans talk about as being important :-) One-to-many card advantage (except the Outpost, which serves mainly as a Strip/LD target in today's environment, I would guess), over-mana concerns, etc... It's just brutally efficient, in a manner unto the Bentley Necro. Both Bentley's deck and Tom's are examples of what's played at home a lot - kill, kill, kill, and take any losses you get with a smile, then shuffle for the next game :-) Metagame back home's a real pain in the arse for that reason, BTW, although Nathan Russell was the first to take the "live, live, forget about killing them now, but live!" approach to it :-) The number of times he came back from life totals 1-26 down against me....anyway, that's beside the point :-)

    Yes, it's a gamble. But I think people realise that to win a tourney - especially one where the "chaff" factor will be lower than usual - *requires* you to be lucky to win. Being good isn't enough - variability will beat skill in small sample spaces.

    This is an interesting difference in thought, actually. Justice, for example, is a believer in gain through small amounts. IMHO, this is a mistake. Take his view on Necro at the US Nationals [Duelist Sideboard, V1#2, p.4]: in testing, he could find decks which beat Necro 60% of the time, and up to 80%, although there were tradeoffs against the rest of the field in between. But by trying to take a "best possible deck", his overall expected win percent decreased - sort of like Paulos' Red/Green light example. An alternative solution - one which is quite popular back home - is to guess the field, and take something which is likely to kill the field. If you happen to come across a nemesis, shrug :-) Some people have a "mental block", in Julian's words, from being able to do that somewhere like the Nationals or the Worlds :-)

    Embrace variance, and it will be your friend :-) [No, Patrick, you still can't have any of what I'm smoking....!]

    What that means, is that Justice is likely to continue placing highly, but is likely to lose in the finals of big events unless he goes the gambit :-) Take the 1995 US Nationals - by betting big (Dervishes and Lifeforce in the main deck), he won big. Magic's a pretty random game :-) What does Tom do against a first turn Gloom, or a Sligh variant? He grins, and looks forward to the next game (or, more likely, tournament!) :-) It is sad, but I think true, that when a grafter comes up against a bloke on a lucky streak, the bloke on the lucky streak will win :-) Hence, it's better to plan to be the lucky bloke *if you want to win*. If you want to place well, be a grafter :-)

    There's a quote from Queen/Highlander here which people might or might not agree with, but sums up a lot of philosophical differences - is it better to burn out than to fade away?

    Mark Justice (World Champion Finalist)
    2 Ishan's Shade
    4 Hypnotic Spectre
    3 Black Knight
    4 Hymn to Tourach
    4 Necropotence
    4 Dark Ritual
    3 Contagion
    3 Drain Life
    3 Nevinyrral's Disk
    2 Serrated Arrows
    1 Fireball
    1 Zuran Orb
    1 Ivory Tower
    4 Sulfurous Springs,
    1 City of Brass
    1 Lava Tubes
    2 Ebon Stronghold
    3 Mishra's Factory
    4 Strip Mine
    10 Swamp
    1 Contagion
    4 Dystopia
    3 Shatter
    2 Pyroblast
    2 Demonic Consultation,
    2 Infernal Darkness

    In analysing the relative performances of these two decks, consider a number of things:

    Critter ratio: Justice has 9 (5 prot-W) plus 3 Mishra's : Chanpheng has 20 (12 prot-B), 4 Mishra's, Outpost (+1S), and Reinforcements :-)

    Critter removal:

    Justice has 3 Drains/3(+1S) Contagion which cannot hit the prot-W's; 2 Arrows/1FB which can; 3 Disks which clear everything; and 4 Dystopia on the side.
    Chanpheng has 4 StP which can hit Spectres/Mishra, or Knights/Shade after Sleighting; and Reprisal (plus 2 Arrows, Reprisal, Exile, SL in the side).

    Artifact removal:

    Justice has 3 Shatters in the side, plus the Disks, although with few viable targets.
    Chanpheng has 4 Disenchant plus 4 DO in the side (versus Disks/Tower, sub-Arrows/Mishra/ZOrb).

    Other stuff:

    Hymns and Necro give Justice card advantage, Rituals give him speed.

    Pre-sideboard analysis:

    Justice disadvantaged, primarily due to a low critter count. He would need to outdraw his opponent about 3-1 for some time to gain equality, and that is unlikely to happen in the face of the onslaught. His Disks are unlikely to go off for significant advantage, his roads to victory are few. Lucky Hymns would help, but we all know how over-rated *they* are...and they only work for lucky bastards, not grafters :-).

    Post-sideboard analysis:

    Justice doesn't feel well thinking about it, in all likelihood :-) Disks are unlikely to go off, but you need them to try and reassert superiority, since you know that the Necro card-pull isn't going to help you in time. Dystopia is the big hope, but even that is flawed - if it comes out early, you can't sustain it; if it comes out late, you can't sustain it :-) An early Shade would win it, though, but it's a bit late to start planning for luck....


    3-0 might have been a tad lucky. I would have had money on 3-1 with a side bet on 3-0, and depending on how drunk I was, insurance on 3-2 (all at evens, of course). I'd have wanted odds of more than threes before thinking about taking Justice for the match, although I would have jumped at eights :-) The reason for the caution is the low life totals that one would expect Tom to win at - Knights passing each other like ships in the night, so to speak :-) Tom winning with a life total of about 6+/-2 would be a fair bet.

    Basically, White-Sleight-Knight walks through Necro, especially low-critter Necro. When Stern defeated Tam, then Justice defeated Rade, I think all watching/listening Aussies breathed a huge sigh of relief :-) 3-0/3-0 was a bit harsh on the American Necro's, but highlighted the problems with their approach to the game. Tom took the risk of an early exit to non-Necro, against the chance of likely victory against Necros, and the risk paid off. Would it do so next time? Probably not. But it doesn't have to, and *that* is the key to that way of thinking. It only has to win the World Championships once...some other lucky bastard can do it next time :-) But I'll bet on lucky bastards a long while before I'll bet on grafters, if we're talking finishing top in the short term.

    "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, 
    Know when to walk away, and know when to run".

    And if you don't know, guess :-)

    Conclusions? White weenie was unexpected, Tom got lucky :-) Good on him. While the Necro of Justice would likely do extremely well against other Necros or ErnieGeddon, and even TS, the sacrifices it makes to do so (less critters for Contagion, use Dystopia rather than Gloom, and play the Shatters, in essence) leave it open to the classic WW horde, and conceivably the sort of RG-weenie-blaster that's popular in Adelaide.

    Will we see a resurgence in WW? Well, to tell you the truth, it's been back in Oz for a month or so, especially the Melbourne scene from what I hear :-) Steve - has it spread to the hotbed of Necro in Oz, that den of all evil and perversion known as Sydney? As far as the American scene goes, I would imagine that there's likely to be some turbulence, before things settle back down again. Weenie decks - even Necro-weenie decks - need critters. Nine+Mishra's just isn't enough, against a balanced field. Key word: *balanced*. If the environment is unbalanced, anything goes (and usually does). But really, I think people will try it, and not like the fact that it can suffer quick exits. It's a deck to bet on finals with, probably not the sort of thing you'd want to try and win a Swiss event. Unless you reckon there's going to be a lot of 9-critter Necros :-) The most interesting thing might be that it forces people to consider it, which obviously tends to weaken a deck. The more threats you can ignore, the stronger you are; the more you have to worry about, the weaker you get. Unless you start ignoring threats, which can occasionally be the percentage play....

    When I used my version in 95, it was a gamble. Necro was just taking off back home around July 95, and I was praying not to meet anyone using it. As it was, I met a BW-Knight deck in the last Swiss round (we don't play no silly elim finals....) which served me my head, as expected. Nearly made it through seven or eight rounds without seeing one :-) For the Nationals, I reverted to my favourite RG, while Nathan Russell took the WW gamble and ended up with a ticket to the 95 Worlds (finishing =12th or so, I think; Glenn Shandley took =9th) :-) In the words of one of Oz's top players from QLD (Tom's home state), "If you feel like claiming that white sleight-knight is an SA invention, or that that lump of crap Nathan was running was in any way representative, feel free, as long as it's in jest, and I can claim to be the sole progenitor of ErnieGeddon". Well, it would be silly to claim invention of something that simple; given performances, it's a pretty good lump of crap; but I ain't going to name names as far as ErnieGeddon goes :-)


    David ("Second Place is for Frenchmen" :-) ).

  5. Against A Weak Metagame
  6. One of the most interesting aspects of Magic is building a deck for a metagame that doesn't match the one being analyzed by most of the current articles and reports. I have had the experience locally of watching one very skilled player grow frustrated with small tournaments at the local stores, because he couldn't (or, perhaps, wouldn't is a better choice) build decks that beat the decks people were actually playing rather than the decks he thought they should be playing. Thus, when Living Death was legal, he most often played Hatred black despite the fact that no one locally was playing Living Death. Instead, players were mostly playing enchantment heavy decks (either control decks like Humility or Stasis or Sneak Attack/Oath of Druids beatdown) while he was playing the one color that had no capacity to deal with either artifacts or enchantments. He won a lot of games, I admit, but he also lost games to players he didn't consider as good as him playing decks he considered trash, because he refused to build decks to the environment in which he was actually playing rather than the environment in which various Pro Tour players were playing and then discussing in articles.

    In short, if you have a month before the next tournament, I recommend building a deck specifically for the environment in which you expect to play and tuning it as well as you can with the help of the list. You may very well do better than if you went with a standard archetype, and you will certainly learn more. If the metagame seems weak and filled with untuned decks, I recommend choosing a deck that's very flexible and has a lot of options for the sideboard and which has a strong controllish element. One deck that's comparatively cheap to build and can be built in a lot of different ways depending on what you expect to face is WW. Many of WW's 'must have' critters and spells are commons or uncommons (see Longbow Archers, Mother of Runes, Disenchant, etc) and the deck has great sideboard options if you play Enlightened Tutor and the CMU style one of each enchantment you might need. Against random beatdown decks, first strike and protection from a color of your choice (Mother of Runes and Cho Manno's Blessing) deal with almost any color guaranteeing that if your opponent doesn't hammer you fast, you'll take over the game. Since untuned decks rarely show the speed of more refined, pure beatdown decks, you can confidently expect to beat a lot of basic creature decks with WW. And, as I said earlier, there is a lot of variety to WW since you can splash another color, go for a rebel summoning approach like the deck Chris Pikula played at the invitational, or try a more control approach with utility spells and tutors like the deck Alex C. posted on this list (Ghetto WW, I believe he called it). Regardless of what deck you play, I hope you have a lot of luck and even more fun.

    "Pala"Dan "En Vec"
    Team Proxy
    Because we're not real players...

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