Amateur Championship Metagame Analysis

Posted in Event Coverage on December 16, 2015

By Wizards of the Coast

By David Price

At Origins, the big question on most Magic players' minds seems to be what decks to expect in the Amateur Championships. In order to try and find an answer to this question, I started out by asking the players if they were going to be competing in the tournament, what they were playing, and what they've been seeing in the side tournaments leading up to the event. Most Magic players were indeed playing in the Championships and the decks they said they were thinking of playing varied widely. As for the third question, here are some of the answers that I received:

"There's going to be a lot of green."

"This Standard tournament I just played in was, like, all Replenish."

"I saw tons of Rebel decks."

"Its all red out there."

Hrm. They can't all be right, can they?

Either the make-up of the various Standard tournaments was changing rapidly from side event to side event or these people were just having very different matchups and thus a very different view of the tournament. Since this line of questioning didn't seem to be getting me anywhere, I decided to start watching the Standard side events and recording what decks players were playing.

As I waited for the first round of a Standard side event to start, one Magic player walked up to me and told me that he had the answer and it was going to blow my mind. He told me that at Regionals, it was all Replenish and Bargain because all the *good* players were there, trying to get into Nationals. Since the pros couldn't play in the Amateur Championships, he told me that it was going to be all creature decks like Stompy and decks that just blew stuff up like Ponza. What does that make me, I thought? I loved to blow stuff up and beat my opponent in the head with Wild Dogs. Since he had this vision, he'd taken his Harmonic Convergences out of his sideboard for more creature control spells. Of course, the guy standing next to him encouraged him to do this as he registered his Replenish deck for the next event.

In the first Standard tournament that I watched, there were 20 players and they were playing 13 distinct decks. It ranged from fairly popular decktypes like Trinity Green and Control Black to more obscure decks like the G/B Deranged Hermit/Diabolic Servitude deck. This wasn't encouraging. In a few hours, I watched the start of another Standard tournament with 38 players in it and there were twenty distinct decks being played, including an old-school Contamination lock deck.

From what I can see, the field is wide open. There are a number of viable decktypes and what players decide to play will depend largely on what decks they run up against in their local playgroups and what their personal style is.

Here are what appear to be the big players:

Control Black

After Jon Finkel convincingly won the US National Championships with this deck, originally designed by Mike Flores, former editor of the Dojo, it has seen a lot of play. In the side tournaments, this deck has consistently been one of the most frequently played decks and I expect it to be very popular in the Amateur Championships, as well. With powerful cards like Vampiric Tutor and Yawgmoth's Will and a variety of cards that hose almost every conceivable deck type, you can't go too wrong with this deck. And after all, if its good enough for Jon Finkel...

Trinity Green

Despite its poor performance at US Nationals (failing to put any of its players in the top 8), this deck remains a crowd favorite. It is widely hyped on the internet and it did have some success at various National Championships in Europe. It is up there with Control Black as one of the most popular decks in Standard side events and the allure of devastating fast Plow Unders and Deranged Hermits will certainly make it a big factor in the Amateur Championships.

Replenish

This deck, like Trinity Green, surprised everyone at US Nationals by failing to make it into the top 8 after dominating many Regional Championships around the United States. While it doesn't appear to be as popular as either Control Black or Trinity Green, no one can deny the awesome power of Replenish, as well as the Parallax Wave and Parallax Tide that revived the deck after the release of Mercadian Masques. I expect this to be a favorite deck of some of the more internet-savvy competitors.

Rebels

With this recent top 8 of Elliot Fung at US Nationals, Rebels seems to be making a comeback. Part of the appeal of the deck is that there are many ways to design the deck while still including the Rebel engine. Fung's deck only used Ramosian Sergeants and the grizzly bear rebels (Steadfast Guard and Fresh Volunteers) to quickly beat down the opponent, while other Rebel decks include slower and more powerful Rebels like Lin Sivvi, Lightbringer, and Thermal Glider to make a more controlling Rebel deck. The flexibility of white, with Armageddon against control decks and combo decks, Parallax Wave against creature decks, Reverent Mantra against Wildfire and burn, Disenchant against artifact and enchantment based strategies, and a powerful Rebel engine at its core will certainly prove popular in Saturday's Amateur Championships.

Land Destruction Red

Also bolstered by a top 8 finish at US Nationals, Land Destruction Red is the last big player in the Amateur Championships. Land destruction is a very appealing strategy as it has the potential to beat anyone, if the opponent gets even a slightly poor land draw or the deck draws a lot of early Stone Rains, Pillages, and Avalanche Riders. Aside from this, the deck contains powerful creatures like Masticore and enough removal to keep the opponent's creatures off the board.

The fact is, however, even though there are a few popular decks that might be a bit more played than other deck archetypes, the field is wide open. There are two full sets of expansions allowed in Standard play (Urza's Block and Masques Block), as well as the main set, which means a huge selection of cards to build a deck from and the environment appears balanced enough that no single deck or group of decks is dominant. Aside from these five decks, there will be any number of other decks being played, ranging from Magpie Blue to Stompy to Angry Hermit to Bargain.

As for which deck ends up on top, we'll just have to wait and see.

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