World Magic Cup Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Top Decks on November 17, 2016

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

The World Magic Cup is approaching quickly, and it's a unique tournament. It's made up of two formats, Team Sealed and Unified Modern, and that leads to some very interesting preparation and has a big impact on what decks we will see during the Modern portion.

For more information about the tournament structure and format, take a look at the fact sheet.

First, let's take a look at what the formats entail:

Kaladesh Team Sealed

The teams are given twelve packs of Kaladesh and need to make three decks out of them. The main difference between what you will see during the Sealed rounds and what you'd see in an individual Sealed pool is that the average deck quality will be much higher. Splitting twelve packs among three decks means you have a lot more to work with than the normal six packs each player gets, which may sound counterintuitive at first—it's only four packs per person. The reason Team Sealed is much better is that you don't leave anything good in your sideboard. Taking the best of six packs is not as good as dividing up twelve packs into three different color pairs and better using the total power of the pool. You get twelve packs of white cards for your white deck, and twelve packs of green cards for your green deck, and so forth.

As for what kinds of decks you can expect, the most common archetype will be a three-plus-color green deck. Because there are five colors and three people, one of the colors will need to be split, unless somebody plays monocolor. That leads to two two-color pairs, like white-red and black-blue, with green plus gold cards being a good way to use the rest of the cards. Gold cards are also powerful enough that teams will want to play them all, so putting those cards in the Prophetic Prism–Attune with Aether deck helps ensure that they get to.

All I know is that teams should hope to open as many Prisms as possible, as it's the card that most increases their chances of getting to play every other good card they open.

Team Unified Modern

Team Unified Modern follows all the rules of normal Modern, with one important exception:

Except for cards with the basic supertype or cards with text that specifies otherwise, no two decks on a team may contain the same card, based on its English card title. (For example, if one player is using Naturalize in a Team Constructed tournament, no other player on that team may use Naturalize in his or her deck.)

What does that mean for which decks show up?

 

Mana Bases

The biggest price to pay when looking for cards that don't overlap is in the mana base. Modern decks are often constructed with a mana base of fetch lands (Polluted Delta, Windswept Heath) and shock lands (Breeding Pool, Stomping Ground). Usually they are heavy on fetch lands with one or two of the appropriate shock land, and that's not a plan that you can reliably use when trying to make three decks without any overlaps.

Therefore, decks that do not rely on fetch/shock mana bases become more appealing. These are decks like:

Tron

Download Arena Decklist

Tron has one of the least demanding mana bases you can find, and pairs that with a set of cards that few other decks are competing with. If Path to Exile is needed elsewhere, the red splash can be used instead.

Elves

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Elves competes with Eldrazi for Cavern of Souls, but past that its mana base is pure. It also doesn't take many actual card slots other decks want, with Collected Company being the only possible point of contention.

Skred Red

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This deck just won Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth and is exceedingly sweet. I wouldn't expect to see a ton of it at the World Magic Cup, but I did feel like mentioning it. Plus, how can you not like a mana base of 20 Snow-Covered Mountains?

In addition to these decks, I'd also expect to see an uptick in Merfolk, Eldrazi, and Hatebears, as they can easily take up a slot on the team without compromising any other choices.

Linear Decks

Another aspect of deck building to focus on is which decks use a very specific set of cards. These highly linear decks do not overlap much with other decks, which makes them appealing cornerstones for the Unified format. Some of these decks do have shock land mana bases, which limits what they can be combined with, but decks like Bant Eldrazi can be built with that in mind.

Linear decks that want a narrow set of cards are decks like the following:

Affinity

Download Arena Decklist

This looks to be one of the more popular choices at the World Magic Cup. Affinity doesn't have a demanding mana base, and none of the cards it plays save Inkmoth Nexus compete with almost any other Modern deck. You can't have optimal versions of Infect and Affinity on the same team, but past that, this is a safe inclusion.

Infect

Download Arena Decklist

The Inkmoth Nexus conflict aside, this also takes up some slots with Breeding Pool and green fetch lands. Still, Infect is a powerful linear deck that utilizes plenty of cards no other deck wants, which makes it a good choice. It's also one of the best decks in the format, period, and that makes it worth prioritizing. Part of the skill in Unified Constructed isn't just finding three decks that don't overlap—it's finding the three best decks that don't overlap.

Dredge

Download Arena Decklist

Dredge is another powerful linear deck that makes use of spells no other decks want. It does use Wooded Foothills and Stomping Ground, but that's workable, and you get a highly consistent deck if you make this fit.

The Rest

Decks that don't fit into either category are certainly worth considering, though "greedy" decks like Jund, Abzan, Grixis, and any three-plus-color midrange deck are hard to manage. Taking a wide swath of lands and specific cards makes them appear less often, which means that teams don't need to prepare for them as much.

Take the following Jund deck for example:

Jund

Download Arena Decklist

It uses a ton of points on mana base and critical cards like Tarmogoyf, Lightning Bolt, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Thoughtseize while requiring three colors' worth of good spells. It's not to say that nobody will play Jund or Abzan, but there will be fewer than in a normal tournament.

Sideboards

Another important aspect to consider is sideboarding. Almost all the decks I've talked about so far are powerful linear decks, and those are the decks where sideboard cards are the most needed. Because there are only so many sideboard options to go around, I suspect some teams will have dedicated anti-Affinity and anti-Dredge sideboards in a few of the seats, with other decks having nothing against them. Ancient Grudge, Stony Silence, Grafdigger's Cage, Blood Moon, Rest in Peace and other such cards are important to split up tactically.

Running the Numbers

The coverage team's very own Frank Karsten took a very detailed two-part look at what you can expect in terms of deck composition (Part 1 and Part 2). He offers percentages of each trio—which goes very deep—and talks about why each trio makes sense.

A Snapshot of What to Expect:

  • More non–shock land decks (Tron, Affinity, Merfolk)
  • More linear decks (Affinity, Dredge, Infect, Burn)
  • Fewer three-color midrange decks (Jund, Abzan)
  • More fringe decks (Tron, Merfolk, Ad Nauseam, Elves)
  • A very interesting tournament

I'll see you all next week from the booth, where we are bringing you all the action live from the World Magic Cup!

LSV

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