Sunday, 11:45 a.m. - Inside The Contender Metagame With Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Posted in Event Coverage on September 18, 2011

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

As someone once said, their loss is our gain, and although a certain Brazilian superstar of the global game isn't in the running any more, he is sitting beside me, ready to get us all up to speed on the contender metagame. Forty two players are still alive as we head back to Standard, and Paulo's been crunching the numbers. Here they are:

Blue-black 9
Twin 8
Mono-red 7
Valakut 5
Caw-Blade 5
RUG Pod 2
Tempered Steel 1
RUG Twin 1
Bant Pod 1
Mono Green 1
Pyromancer Ascension 1

So Paulo, yesterday the big five were Twin, Caw-Blade, mono-Red, Blue-Black, and Valakut. That's still true. You chose Twin. Why?

It's not by a big margin, but I think it's the best deck. It's certainly a very powerful deck, and can win games out of nowhere.

Of the big five, which is the hardest to play 'correctly' if there is such a thing, or at least 'well'?

The Twin deck is very hard to play perfectly, but it's also very forgiving. If you make a mistake with the order for Ponder, you're probably not going to get punished for it. Whereas something like Caw-Blade or Blue-Black, you can't afford to make mistakes with those.

Why can't you make mistakes with the Control decks?

You need everything you have to deal with what they have. If you start wasting your resources, everything's going to fall apart. With Twin it doesn't matter what's happened before, because you're going to deal infinite damage. But with the Control decks, there's no one card that gets you to win from nowhere. You don't have that kind of power, so you have to make the best use out of all your cards.

Also, Twin is very focused. You're doing the same thing over and over, game after game. Valakut is like that too, whereas you have to react differently all the time with a Control deck.

Looking at the shape of the field coming down the stretch, what deck would you now want to be playing?

Still Twin. The metagame has more blue-black than I expected, which isn't great for Twin, but it's still not horrible, so I'd still rather play Twin than anything else.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Looking at the five decks specifically, what are some cards that are really likely to cause them headaches in the final rounds?

Blue-Black: Shrine of Burning Rage. Actually, any Shrine is awkward, like the blue one. Also Chandra's Phoenix.

Twin: Memoricide and Torpor Orb. If you can't counter Memoricide, you just die. With Torpor Orb, some people play Shatter, or Into the Roil. You can play some kind of different win condition, like a Wurmcoil Engine for example.

Mono-red: Kor Firewalker, Timely Reinforcements. There's nothing that flat-out beats mono-red. Somewhere you have answers to anything they have.

Valakut: The whole Twin deck! It's very hard to beat, because they're both non-interactive, and they do their thing much faster. Even when you do what you want to do, which is make a Primeval Titan, you still don't necessarily win, they can still combo you out the next turn. Flashfreeze is a card that most people will have against you, it's like Timely Reinforcements against mono-red. It's not the end, it's just a good card that people have against you.

Caw-Blade: Hero of Oxid Ridge is very bad for you, because it stops your Hawks and Timely Reinforcements from blocking, and it's a threat by itself, as 4/2 Haste. That's probably the big one. I think the problem with Caw-Blade is that it's overall not that powerful a deck. It doesn't straight out lose to individual cards, but you can lose to just seeing more land than your opponents. One of the reason lots of the best players like Control decks is that they don't straight-up lose to anything, so you always have a chance.

So, where next for you?

GP Santiago, and then GP San Diego and Worlds.

Do you think your chances of Player of the Year have gone by not making top 8 this weekend?

It's going to be pretty hard I think. I'm not going to say my chances are gone, because the position was really bad last year too, and I came really, really close. If someone in front of me does really well over the next two months, I can't beat them. Last year, I only had Brad to catch. Still, I won't say it's over...

And what are you up to away from Magic at the moment?

Still at college, studying International Relations. I skip a lot of time at college travelling to tournaments, so when I'm back here in Brazil I have to focus on my studies. I also play bridge - I play the equivalent of bridge FNM!

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