Feature: Testing Testing 1, 2, 3

Posted in Event Coverage on November 19, 2011

By Tim Willoughby

Going into the Modern portion of Worlds, there was some tension in the room. This had been the format where players seemed to be most keenly looking for deck tech. The reason was simple: this is the first high level Modern tournament since the banning of various cards following from Pro Tour Philadelphia, and with the inclusion of Innistrad. Would there be big waves made in the format? It certainly seemed possible.

As the third format of Worlds, Modern was apt to be the one that many teams did not test for quite as much. By Saturday there would already be many players out of the running to make prizes. Surely it doesn't make sense to spend lots of time getting ready for a format that might not matter, right?

Not according to Vincent Lemoine from Belgium. Having tested with Frank Karsten and Marijn Lybaert for the event, he was convinced that this was the format that warranted the bulk of his time. "The third day of Worlds is often tested less by some teams, but I think that is a mistake. People know less about Modern, and if we've tested it more, that is worth more than being ahead in another format."

Vincent Lemoine, like the other Belgium players he tested with, felt that Modern was the most important format to work on.


The third day of the tournament is the one Lemoine identified as being the best one to string together a run, based on having the right understanding of one's own deck, and the format. His choice for Saturday was only a small update on his Splinter Twin list from Philadelphia, but that change showed a good understanding of the format.

"We have Flame Slash maindeck now, as an answer to Spellskite. It can kill most of Zoo's creatures most of the time. We don't mind that it is a sorcery, we just want to make sure that we can actually kill the creatures we need to kill."

There was the potential that the testing group with Karsten would run a fun little gambit as a punishment for the worst performing player on the team. Whoever did the worst would have to run a highlander deck with four copies of Battle of Wits, four copies of Gifts Ungiven, and the rest of the cards nominated by different members of the team. It doesn't look like they pulled the trigger on that plan, as I haven't seen Battle of Wits being run by anyone, but perhaps it will get rolled out in the future.

Nationals team members were not able to have the same benefits of scouting the team's competition that others were. They had to bring their Modern decks to play on the very first day of the competition for teams. Some, like Ali Aintrazi, used the time to test out his planned Blue-White Tron deck. Others, like Richard Bland of the Great Britain team, simply played the same deck in both parts of the competition. Team GB had even teamed up with the Norwegian team to build decks, aiming to network their way to the best deck.

Networking is certainly a big part of getting to a great list. There's nothing like preparing as part of a team. ChannelFireball has been a team that has dominated in the last season or two of the Pro Tour, and their testing regime is just part of that. For Modern, their conclusion was that the format didn't seem to have any really big holes to exploit, and the way that they got there was frantic testing until the very last minute. With good access to deliveries of cards from the (comparatively) nearby ChannelFireball store, they were brewing last night, with a room packed with players playing on beds, tables, the floor, along with still more testing online or simply watching games, looking for better plays, or better cards.

For a deck designer like Gerry Thompson, Modern was a tough one to test. While he plays quite a bit of Standard in tournaments, Modern has not been something he's had as much real life practice with, and with a new job eating into his time, he had not played as much online as he might have in the past. That said, being on Patrick Chapin's mailing list is a good way to get a leg up. With the likes of Michael Jacob working with him as well, this think tank is always one to watch for new innovations. Chapin in particular seemed very happy with the deck he had for the final six Swiss rounds of Worlds, so perhaps all that thinking paid off.

Gerry Thompson's Modern experience is low. However, he's got a great list of contacts to network with on finding a good deck for the format.


Finally, we have Reid Duke. The MOCS competitor is currently leading in that tournament, but not performing so well in Worlds itself. "I'm using Worlds as a testing ground for the deck I'm going to play in the MOCS", the New Yorker mused at the start of the day. With a smile he pointed out that there are few places that testing is as effective as against some of the best players in the world. There not having been a great many events with Modern in its current guise meant that some of the normal spots to learn about the intricacies of a format weren't there yet. While it's unlikely that Reid will be getting feature matches in Worlds, if his last minute testing pans out, he could easily be featured on the Sunday finals of MOCS, following a good run tonight in the last four rounds there.

Then there's Reid Duke, who is using Modern at Worlds to prepare for the last four rounds of the Magic Online Championship!

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