Some of you (in fact, probably MOST) do not know who I am. When you are all at your FNM draft pod and casually talking about the previous weekend’s SCG Open series event or debating Brian Kibler’s latest article on his newest brew, I’ll wager the name “JSP” doesn’t come up. I tried it last week at a draft, and it didn’t work.
Drafter #1: “I can’t wait to play Wolf-Run next weekend at Provincials.”
Drafter #2: “Really? I just read Reid Duke’s article about Mono Red and it looked pretty good.”
Me: “How about JSP’s latest Facebook entry? What an eye opener!”
Drafter #1: “Who in the blue hell is JSP?”
Drafter #2: “You mean, like KYT of Mana Deprived?”
So, yah. Not quite there yet. Maybe one day, I will be. But I’ll have to start at the beginning and work up from there, trying to give you, the good reader, value and insight from a mediocre (at best) player’s standpoint. Now, while I do understand the trepidation you may have about reading an admittedly “B” player’s words and actually getting value from them, the thing that I have learned since I’ve started writing is this: mediocre players know just enough to be dangerous to both themselves and their opponents. They have no concept of hedging a bet, or playing it safe, and they typically have one tool in their toolbox: a hammer. They use this tool to fix any problem they may come across, like changing a lightbulb, or opening a jar, or even painting a room. This tool usually gets the job done, although not efficiently. Once in a while though, they come across a 2×4 that has a nail sticking out of it, and when that happens, it’s PAYDAY!
Construction comparison aside, I do endeavor to be the hammer to your nail at some point.
That sounded a lot better in my head than it did on paper… but let’s move along.
After my embarrassing attempt to insert myself (literally) into the conversation at that table, it was apparent to me that since the rotation of Standard into Innistrad, that things may have already started to settle down in the Standard metagame, despite the things most of us read saying it’s still very much up in the air. Most of the things we read either have “Mono-Red”, “Wolf-Run”, or “Solar Flare” in their titles, so I was fully prepared to be looking at either one of these three decks should I wish to try my hand at playing in the Provincial Championships which took place this past weekend. Sadly, I did not attend, mostly because I was away on business last week with my real life job, so my mind was not on Magic at all, and if I returned home only to bid farewell to my wife and drive to Toronto or Montreal for the weekend, I would have taken the whole thing down (OBV), but would most likely return to “Divorce City, Population: Me”, so I left it in the hands of greater men to lead the charge. One such man, Jonathan Bentley (A Canadian Magic Tour: Ottawa Standard Champion), will be writing (or may have already written) an article on his top 8 finish in Toronto, so I won’t steal his thunder here, but rather encourage you to check it out for yourself.
One of the problems of the Standard metagame is that while it does change often, it can also get stale very quickly (see: CAW-BLADE), and some of the decks I’d seen lately seemed to be making appearances in top 8’s in previous weeks already, so I expected to see the same. Innovation in today’s Standard environment is really hard to come by.
Enter Dan Lanthier, who took 3rd place at Canadian Nationals this year and will be making an appearance at Worlds as part of the Canadian National Team. While most of you have never heard of JSP before, if you mentioned Dan’s name around the table in Toronto, Montreal, or Ottawa, you’d fit right in to the conversation. Dan loves playing decks like Caw-Blade, not because it is an “easy win” or “it’s just the best deck”, but because decks like that reward good play, which puts him in the realm of a player that is constantly thinking about his deck of choice and how many different ways he can actually play it. Take a look at Dan’s list he played in Toronto at Provincials this past weekend to a 3rd place finish:
UB Control by Dan Lanthier
Yes, that is a 34/26 split of cards and land. This deck is a UB shell with a hint of Solar Flare tools, mixed with all kinds of awesome, and that’s what it’s all about! The best part about this list? He threw it together at midnight. This guy’s got more tools in his toolbox than my hammer for sure, and constructing a deck that is aimed at Wolf Run as well as fast Red Decks the night before was definitely the right call. Dan started off the tournament 6-0 and then drew the next two rounds into top 8. He faced 2 Red decks, 2 Wolf Run decks, 1 Burning Vengeance deck and a UW Hexproof deck in the Swiss. He’d been mentoring me in the ways of Solar Flare, which I thought would have been his weapon of choice, but people are starting to understand what it takes to beat that deck and they are just too slow and clumsy to adapt over a long period of time. Dan believes that this deck can play many roles (much like Caw-blade) in that it can be aggressive, or play the control role. While some of these card slots seem awkward, each one filled a specific purpose. UB could be a huge player in the standard format for a while, and while this list might not be the direction the strategy wants to go in, it’s certainly a very good start.
The thing with innovation though, is that you need to understand when it is needed. I know I said above that we need to be more innovative, and we do have people that fill that niche. Did you check out Travis Hall’s article last week on POD strategies? Shameless plug, but that guy’s got some serious insight that needs to be spread around.
Some players like to stick with what works, and while this next deck has been spoken about as one that survived (mostly) the horrors of rotation, I haven’t seen it show up much since then, until now. Check out Stephane Bisson’s Tempered Steel he took to a Top 8 finish in Montreal this past weekend:
Tempered Steel by Stephane Bisson
Stephane is a player that likes to take a deck that works well, and plays it FOREVER until it either dies completely, or simply rotates out. I was first introduced to Stephane during the days of Jund’s rise, and rise, and rise… Every FNM, Game Day, or Standard event he and I were at, I was playing a flavor of the week, and Stephane was playing Jund. The guy just gets a hold of a strategy that works, and doesn’t let go. In a time where rotation was key, he made the call to stay with a staple, and it paid off. I’m not sure I’d make any recommendations on this decklist, as it’s pretty good as is. The rest of the top 8 saw a return to form with the first place Red Deck, but there’s a few decklists you should look at for inspiration. I know I saw a couple Blightsteel Colossus in one of them! All the same, Congratulations to Stephane on his finish.
You’ll notice throughout my impending illustrious career as a writer that I tend to talk mostly about the scene in Ottawa. I do not know the ins and outs of the Montreal, Toronto, or even the Iqaluit MTG scene, but I hear their release parties give out Arctic Char instead of packs for top 8 appearances! WHAT A DEAL! Seriously though, there are a lot of really positive things happening in the community these days. In the past couple of months, I’ve seen more and more new players at our local stores here in Ottawa, and that breeds more and more events! We now have 5 choices for players to attend FNM’s at, as opposed to 3 just this past summer, and at least 1 just across the bridge in Gatineau, Quebec. Ottawa is teeming with activity with Standard, Legacy, Draft, Commander, and even Modern events that fire weekly, and we seem to meet new players at every one of them. There’s been a lot of interest in running another major tournament like we did for the CMT: Ottawa, all we need is a good sponsor and we can start planning (Now taking donations). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not tooting our own horn here. (well, not JUST tooting our own horn anyways) I’d love to not only know how other cities are doing with their events, but WHAT they are doing to keep interest high and their own communities involved. Ideas that work need to be cultivated and turned into a sustainable, repeatable process so that all our communities can benefit, and thus make the Canadian presence not only known in the global community, but felt as well.
Lofty vision JSP.
Really, though…..is it?
Boner play of the week: An oldie but a goodie. My opponent swings at me bringing me to near death, I top deck a Gideon Jura, swing back with the team, bringing him to 3 life and leaving nothing back to block, WINDMILL SLAM the Gideon…..and then promptly pass the turn with an emphatic “GO AHEAD!”
Did I ACTIVATE Gideon’s Lure?