Worlds Week: Limited Focus

Posted in Limited Information on December 3, 2014

By Marshall Sutcliffe

Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited and never looked back. He hosts the Limited Resources podcast and does Grand Prix and Pro Tour video commentary.

Hello and welcome to Worlds Week here at Limited Information!

If you don't follow high-level competitive tournament Magic closely, it will come as a complete surprise to you that this week has two of the most important tournaments of the year for our game. The World Championship and the World Magic Cup. If you do follow such things, you'll be keenly aware that this is the best week for Magic tournaments of the whole year!

I thought we'd take a closer look at our portion of these tournaments, since we Limited enthusiasts will be paying special attention during the various Limited events going on throughout the week.

First, the World Championship. It's every competitive Magic player's dream to win the World Championship. When Patrick Chapin won the Pro Tour, he said that it was a stepping-stone to his ultimate goal: becoming World Champion.

Only one person can win it each year, and this year there are 24 professional players duking it out to see who will have the honor of replacing Shahar Shenhar as the next World Champion. Or maybe it will just be Shahar again.

Limited plays a major role in deciding who wins the World Championship. And oh boy did the organized play team at Wizards go crazy with this first format: Vintage Masters draft!

That's right, the players will be drafting Vintage Masters, live, on the air, with real cards. The organized play team is going to generate the boosters on Magic Online and then recreate them as live booster packs. The players will be split into three pods of eight, and they'll draft.

So what should we look out for in the opening draft of the event?

The astute players will have put in extra time drafting this format. And they'll know a few things, like that white is very good in this format. Battle Screech is borderline broken at common, which it is in this set. There are plenty of other token-making cards in red as well, along with a bunch of Goblin synergies.

Beating down with cheap white and red cards is a great strategy in this format.

Then there is the blue-green madness deck. It's very powerful when it comes together, but there isn't quite enough going around to fully support two drafters at the table, so players may be hesitant to move in.

The sleeper strategy is white-green Auras. It took a while for the players online to find this archetype, but once they did, it was easy to see how good it was. Dreampod Druid and friends are fantastic. Only the players who put in a bunch of drafts will be keen to this deck, and I'm curious to see who gets it. I'm also envious of whoever gets it, because this deck is good.

On Day Two of the event, the players will start their day drafting Khans of Tarkir. This is going to play out a bit differently from the Vintage Masters portion. Since everyone is likely to have played a lot of Khans draft recently, the focus won't be as strong on "who knows what." Everyone there should have a good grasp of what's going on in Khans by now.

No, the focus instead will be on solid Limited play, staying open in draft, and of course on what conclusions each player has arrived at with this set. Since the set has such a wide breadth of ways to attack it, it's often a personal preference question.

We saw the finals of GP Ottawa with Neal Oliver piloting a ridiculous value train of a deck featuring two Secret Plans and a ton of morphs versus eventual winner Seth Manfield playing an all-out token deck with two Trumpet Blast and a Rush of Battle.

The players who have put in the most time figuring out the niche cases and when to go for them may be at a big advantage over a field of players who only know the basic strategies.

The World Magic Cup is the premier team event of the year. It features teams from 72 countries. Each team fields three players per round, although the teams are comprised of four players total.

On the first day, the teams will be tackling Khans of Tarkir Team Sealed. This is the same format as GP Nashville earlier this year. Team Sealed is tricky. You get twelve booster packs from which to make three decks. After doing a few of these myself, I can tell you that the decks you end up with are very good. Like, as good or better than most draft decks.

The hard part comes in with the mana. You are staring at twelve rares, and piles of commons and uncommons, and you and your teammates have to figure out what goes where, and who plays which deck, plus sideboard slots, all in a relatively short period of time. It can get hectic, especially if you aren't that close with your teammates.

Normally, in a team GP, you are there with your friends or repeat GP teammates. But in the World Magic Cup, you are there with your country's national champion and the three people who won World Magic Cup Qualifiers. Depending on the physical size of the country you live in, you may live a long distance from your teammates. Some of them even meet for the first time at the tournament itself!

Practicing the actual build of these Team Sealed pools is going to give the teams that have done it a strong advantage.


Predatory Advantage | Art by Raymond Swanland]

The teams that advance to Day Two get to do it all over again. That's right, the first part of Day Two is Team Sealed yet again. As you can imagine, the teams are going to put in as much practice as possible before the event, as it represents such big chunk of the actual play there.

What I have found is that there is often a white-black build available, as well as a green-blue, and a five-color deck. Sometimes this breaks down differently, like red-white, blue-black, and four-color, for example. But usually there are one or two very solid two-color decks (maybe with a tiny splash), and kind of a mishmash of the rest.

Importance

You can't become the World Champion or a World Magic Cup Champion without being great at Limited. The days of the specialist have passed us by. Not that long ago, Pro Tours weren't mixed-format. They would be either Constructed or Limited, and certain players concentrated on one format or the other. Nowadays, you can't get away with that.

This whole week is going to be a veritable showcase of amazing, high-level Limited Magic. Like all high-level events, the World Championship will also be a learning opportunity for anyone looking to improve their game.

Watching some of the best Limited players on the planet play is a huge opportunity to see what they do, and how that may differ from what you would have done. For example, while watching the draft, I like to pause before a player makes a pick, decide what I would pick, and then see what the player does.

It's important to remember that just because a big name professional player does something, that doesn't necessarily make it correct, but it will be correct more often than not. Otherwise, they wouldn't be a big-name pro.

I certainly hope this whetted your appetite for what is sure to be a ridiculous tournament. I'll be there in Nice, France, with the coverage team bringing you coverage from the booth and newsdesk, and I hope you'll join us!

Until next week!

@Marshall_LR

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