We Know Everything!?! – Testing for a Known Metagame

by Aryeh Wiznitzer

Pro Tour 25th Anniversary brought us a mix of surprises, with Vengevines and fogs dominating, and non-surprises, with Chainwhirlers and Hollow One/Humans leading the way in their respective formats. In fact, we’re entering a period or at least a few weeks where the metagames of all three major formats, Standard, Modern, and Legacy are all relatively known quantities. On the one hand, this is a good thing if you’re looking to pick up a deck and play a format you’re unfamiliar with – all the information is basically out there for you. As a brewer, or someone trying to attack the format with new ideas, however, this can be one of the most challenging times to gain an advantage over the field. If you’re like me, and you’re looking forward to playing this weekend at SCG Dallas, here are some tips to help as you fill out your decklists for that upcoming event.

1)Identify which established archetype is the best

In a known metagame, it’s extremely important to identify the “best” deck. If you’re looking to gain an advantage in the field, you need to identify the format’s dominant deck for two reasons. First, if the deck is that much better than the rest of the options, you should probably think about playing the deck yourself. If you believe the deck is both overrated and likely will be overplayed by many of your opponents, you need to think about how to slant your sideboard to beat it while not hurting your chances against other archetypes.

2) The power of One-Ofs

When most of the information about a format is known, you often do not want to make significant changes to an established deck. Sure, we all want to put our spin on a list, but it’s generally best to play a lot with an established deck before deciding to change anything significant about it. However, once you have determined what core pieces of an established deck cannot be changed, start to look at possibilities for high impact one-ofs that you can add to the deck’s maindeck or sideboard. Sometimes this card could be a narrow answer for a very specific card: for example, Lost Legacy naming Nexus of Fate. Other times, you might cut a very specific answer such as Chandra’s Defeat for a more flexible answer like Unlicensed Disintegration if you find that you’re already well set up for a mirror match but want more game against the rest of the field.

3) Sideboard guide FTW

For an unknown metagame, such as the first SCG Open or Pro Tour of a Standard season, it can be challenging to predict exactly what your opponents are sleeving up. In a known metagame, however, you have a pretty good idea of the archetypes you’re going to face in a given tournament. Therefore, it becomes significantly easier in these situations to create a detailed sideboard guide for you or your team. Though sideboard guides should always be used as a guideline rather than an absolute, they can be extremely useful in saving time during matches, and developing a guide can help you better understand how your deck works and what core pieces can be shaved or cut in specific situations.

Though dealing with an established metagame is certainly less fun than exploring a new format after a rotation or banning, there are still key competitive edges you can find to maximize your success in the tournaments on the schedule. Good luck to everyone attending SCG Dallas this weekend, and I hope to see you at the top tables!