With Aether Revolt, we returned to the 5-7 week campaign model for league at Montreal’s Face to Face store. We wrapped up the one-day series of leagues with Kaladesh (won by Diego Santos) and C16 (won by Primo Capaldi), which-while popular-didn’t capture the epic scale and pathos that only league play can bring. Today, I’m going to discuss how this move worked out via my personal tournament report for Aether Revolt, and finish with a preview of the new Amonkhet league rules.
Aether Revolt League: A Tournament Report
As always, league began with opening 6 packs of the latest expansion and making a 60-card deck.
In my starting pool, I was delighted to find this:
Most of my other rares were fair to middling: [card]Oath of Ajani[/card], [card]Peacewalker Colossus[/card], and [card]Pia’s Revolution[/card]. However, I also had [card]Baral’s Expertise[/card], [card]Rishkar’s Expertise[/card], and [card]Greenwheel Liberator[/card] in the mix. Since both blue and green had low-curve creatures for Sword-wielding purposes, and blue had a [card]Trophy Mage[/card] to go find the masterpiece (effectively making a second copy of it), I went Simic for the initial build.
I swept the first three matches with ‘hard wins’, and the fourth with a ‘soft win’. An encouraging start.
Here’s a little vocabulary to help understand what I mean by these terms, which I use to keep track of my performance at tournaments (keeping in mind that ‘no significance’ matches can’t really happen in league, since with untimed rounds and self-arranged matches there are no ties or byes):
However, since I was winning all my matches, that meant I couldn’t add any new packs to my pool. Only players who lose matches may add a so-called ‘punishment pack’ of any Standard-legal set to their league pools for each loss (up to ten-then they are eliminated from the tournament on their 11th loss). Soon, I found myself outclassed and took two losses (one ‘hard’, one ‘soft’). On the upshot, I was able to open a [card]Saheeli’s Artistry[/card] and (less impressively) a [card]Sanctifier of Souls[/card]. It was time to rethink my build.
I couldn’t play anymore that week, even if I’d wanted to. Each league player is obliged to play at least 3 matches a week to stay in the tournament, but they can only play 3 matches over the minimum. Week 1 is therefore typically the busiest week, as people are excited to ‘bank’ extra matches (though they can still play each other player only once a week). As I was maxed out at 6 matches, I had to focus on redesigning my deck.
Staying in blue was a must, as [card]Baral’s Expertise[/card] had proven to be a game-winning bomb, and [card]Trophy Mage[/card] was the key to fetching my other win condition, the [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card]. The Sword had fantastic synergy with both Expertises: Baral’s filled my opponent’s hands and cleared blockers for huge attacks with extra damage triggers, and Rishkar’s filled my own hand for life gain shenanigans. But the green cards in my pool, though powerful, generally lacked interactivity.
Looking to black, I had a [card]Fatal Push[/card] and a [card]Vengeful Rebel[/card] in my pool which gave me greater flexibility in dealing with problem creatures, and two [card]Renegade Map[/card]s (plus [card]Baral’s Expertise[/card]) to trigger Revolt. [card]Cruel Finality[/card] and [card]Die Young[/card] helped round off the removal package. I was ready to engage the enemy in Week 2…
The new Dimir color combination worked out beautifully. In the game against Gabriel, I remember casting [card]Saheeli’s Artistry[/card] to copy both my [card]Bastion Inventor[/card] and the [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] that was equipping it. That match ended soon after. In my grudge match against Richard, the life gain provided by my [card]Gifted Aetherborn[/card] and Sword allowed me to survive a 20-point trample attack from his [card]Aetherwind Basker[/card] and still come back to win the game. The deck was running hot, so it didn’t need fixing before Week 3.
Amir (a former fellow Team Battlezone member and one-shot ‘Resolves’ YouTube show co-host; he can be seen in Yorke on Games #9) had basically become my personal punching bag for three weeks straight, and I could tell it was wearing on him. He worried that he wasn’t going to make the Top 8 for the Megadraft finals. This was the main prize of the league: a chance to chronologically draft one pack from each Standard legal set and make a huge 60-card draft deck, to compete for the remaining packs and the league trophy. While Amir had my sympathies, at least he got improve his deck: mine had to stay the same for yet another week.
Around this time, I was quietly informed that certain players had adopted the strategy of avoiding playing me, on account of my daunting win percentile and of course THE SWORD. I mention it here because this will begin to affect my (apparently questionable) decisions in Week 5 of play.
My week of reckoning had come. I finally lost a match to Amir, having forgotten that the protection from white granted by my [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] could have removed the [card]Caught in the Brights[/card] and [card]Revoke Privileges[/card] that were detaining my creatures in the deciding game. Richard had completely leap-frogged my deck in terms of quality, and I remember having absolutely no chance against him at all. (On the other side of the league, Tim-who I never had the chance to play-became the first player to get eliminated.)
It was time for me to open some more punishment packs, and add them to my league pool. I suspected that I had made an unwise choice of sets previously in KLD and EMN, so I worked out a little algorithm for figuring out which set I should be opening, given my current build. For each Standard-legal set, I went through the visual spoiler, and assigned a value of ‘1’ for each common I would like to open, a ‘0.3’ for each desired uncommon, and ‘0.1’ for each relevant rare (ignoring mythic rares and Masterpieces in the equation). Then, I took each set’s sum and divided it by the # of cards in that set, not including basic lands. This gave me a % of expected value for opening any given pack, which made the selection process a little less arbitrary. Given the importance for my deck in opening [card]Aether Poisoner[/card]s and additional [card]Aether Swooper[/card]s to help along my improvise theme, as well as the potential to luck into perhaps another [card]Fatal Push[/card], [card]Gifted Aetherborn[/card], or [card]Trophy Mage[/card], my expected value for opening up AER was a solid 10% [a desirability score of 18.4 out of 184 possible cards], so that’s where I headed next.
In my punishment packs, I luckily got to open some on-color (albeit low-impact) rares in [card]Merchant’s Dockhand[/card] and [card]Quicksmith Spy[/card], further cementing me in blue. I had also opened multiples of [card]Prey Upon[/card], which gave my green pool some interactivity, on top of the higher raw power level it already offered over black. In the face of these developments, for Week 5 I was compelled to move out of my previously successful Dimir build and back into a modified Simic configuration. I wasn’t sure it was the right move, but I felt my deck needed to evolve somehow.
Richard put up a decent fight, but in the end I bested him. To me this served as vindication of the choice to switch colors. At the conclusion of our match, he muttered a curse that has happily yet to take effect.
Johnny, on the other hand, had artifact hate lying in wait for me: [card]Natural Obsolescence[/card] buried my Sword in game 1, when I had my [card]Aether Swooper[/card] equipped and ready to make hay in my early turns. Shortly after, his [card]Lifecraft Cavalry[/card] arrived, proving to be too much for my army of 1/1 and 1/2 creatures to stave off; I died before I could cast my in-hand [card]Trophy Mage[/card] to go find the Sword again. Game 2 was a similar rout, with Johnny showcasing more of his deck’s degenerate +1/+1 counter theme this time. At least I opened up a [card]Scrap Trawler[/card] in the resultant punishment pack, which gave me a legitimate reason to put [card]Snare Thopter[/card] back in my deck (potential Sword recursion).
It was at this point I realized that I was buying into the perception that my deck was a one-trick pony: if I got the Sword to stick, I won; if I didn’t, I lost. The whole deck-perhaps the whole league, if reports were accurate-was getting warped around this one card. I decided to comb through my deck to make it more synergistic and less one-dimensional. So began the grand Azorius experiment.
Given my knowledge that certain players were avoiding playing me, I was compelled to play everyone I could in Week 5 with my poorly-tested new deck, just trying to bank as many matches as possible in as little time as possible. I had minimal regard for the outcome of those matches, as I thought it was better to take rapid losses than to risk elimination for inactivity in future weeks, when matches would be even harder to come by due to players being eliminated. I figured that my win percentile was good enough thus far to ensure me a Top 8 position, even if I stumbled a bit.
With this mindset, I went and lost three more matches in dismally rapid succession, opening [card]Fumigate[/card], [card]Confiscation Coup[/card], and a [card]Blooming Marsh[/card] in the process. I finally came to the realization that life on the Dimir side might not have been so bad after all. Azorius had given me nothing but bad beats.
My backsliding was rewarded by a close win against Amir. Both games I won were due to the one-two punch of [card]Aether Swooper[/card] equipped with Sword, which is exactly what the deck is built to do (and not much else). After the match, I took the winner’s privilege and graciously helped him redesign his deck. I insisted he maindeck his sideboarded [card]Aid from the Cowl[/card] to take better advantage of the heavy revolt theme (the key combo of his deck was a pair of [card]Renegade Map[/card]s being recurred by a pair of [card]Renegade Rallier[/card]s).
Later the same day, I faced Richard again. I felt confident, as he had been the only player I’d been able to beat with my relatively weaker Simic build the previous week. In game 1 I was forced to mulligan down to 4 cards, but still managed to give him a decent amount of resistance. I was much more confident going into game 2, however Richard curved out beautifully, ramping into two [card]Ridgescale Tusker[/card]s in turns 4 and 5, buffing his whole team far beyond my deck’s ability to deal with it. I opened a punishment pack filled with [card]Fatal Push[/card], an irrelevant [card]Release the Gremlins[/card], and… well…
Masterpiece #2!! I had opened 15 packs for this league, and got a statistically incredible 2 Masterpieces in my pool. This meant that my rate of opening masterpieces was 13% per pack, well over the average odds of 0.7%. With so many Masterpieces in my league deck, I was ready to petition UNESCO to have it declared a World Heritage Site. I trolled our Facebook league discussion thread by stating as much.
In a 60-card Limited deck, I had two Modern-format staples, five ways to get additional draws, one way to tutor a Masterpiece directly, one way to recur them from the graveyard, and one way to copy them on the battlefield. Assuming I didn’t draw one in my opening hand, every subsequent draw would yield a roughly 15% chance of getting one, or at least produce an intermediary step in delivering one to me. I was pumped to try this new build out.
I would never get the chance to do so. The week that I bookended my league experience by opening my second Masterpiece was the same week that the main tournament abruptly ended. Sufficient eliminations had taken place to cut to the Top 8 and the MegaDraft finals. (As it turned out, the tuning of Amir’s deck had gone too well, and he had taken out Richard later that evening; which ended things earlier than expected.)
Here’s what my own personal ‘health bar’ looked like at the end of the action:
In the MegaDraft finals-the BFZ-OGW-SOI-EMN-KLD-AER draft after the main tournament-I cobbled together a sloppy Orzhov mash-up featuring [card]Stone Haven Outfitter[/card], some equipment, and a weak vampire tribal theme. It flopped horribly. I lost my first round to Johnny Mariani with his Simic good stuff deck, who eventually won the whole tournament. It was like trying to beat back an avalanche with a dishrag. I was lucky to claw out 4th place overall.
Amonkhet League: Looking Ahead
The Aether Revolt league was a lot of fun-it was probably the most enjoyable league I’ve organized at Face to Face so far. And not just because of what I opened, but also because of the high level of friendly yet competitive play across the board, and how the final constitution of the Top 8 was impossible to predict until the very last moment of play. The weekly standings were a puzzle that we as a group tried to individually and collectively crack for the six weeks it took to play itself out.
Other players seemed to feel the same way, as in an online poll the vast majority voted to keep the ruleset exactly the same for Amonkhet league, with one small tweak: less harsh penalties for underplay. In the past, people who failed to make their minimum number of league matches were summarily eliminated: starting with Amonkhet league, underplay will be penalized with match losses up to the minimum number of matches the player ought to have played (we call this the ‘Johnny rule’, since the change was his suggestion).
The full ruleset can be found below. It should answer any questions new players might still have about the format. Hope you’ll join us for Amonkhet league, which launches at 10am on April 30th, 2017, at Face to Face Games Montreal!
1) Player registration. The start date for the Amonkhet league is 10am, Sunday, April 30th, 2017 at Face To Face Games Montreal. The registration fee is $30, which includes prizes and the price of the six packs of the starting card pool, payable at the store counter. No matches played before that date will count towards the final results. New players may join the league until May 10th, with the understanding that outstanding matches not resolved by 5pm Sunday, May 14th will count as losses.
2) Deck construction. Upon joining the league, players will open 6 boosters of Amonkhet to make their league card pool. Only cards in this pool, and basic lands, are legal for league play. There is no trading of league cards allowed for the duration of the league. Players will construct a 60-card deck from their league pool. The maximum number of copies of any card in a league deck is 4 (not including basic lands). Card pools will be registered on a checklist, which will then need to be checked and signed by another league player before being deposited at the league drop-off box at the counter of Face To Face Games (this should also include a player’s email address in order to receive essential league updates). If at any time a player is discovered to be using cards from outside their league pools in their league matches, they will be considered eliminated from the league and forfeit any prizes they would have earned.
3) Playing matches. Players are required to play at least 3 minimum best-of-three game matches per week, up to a maximum of 6-but never more than 3 in excess of the current minimum required number of matches for league players. This means that in Week 1, the maximum total number of permitted matches for any player is six; in Week 2, nine matches; Week 3, twelve matches, and so on. Players are not permitted to play against the same opponent more than once per week. Players who fail to reach the minimum number of matches per week will be penalized with match losses for any missing matches, starting at the end of Week 2. Players who exceed their maximum number of matches per week, or who play against the same opponent more than once in a week, will have those matches struck from their record, opened cards related to those matches deleted from their league card pool, and will be issued a warning. If a player’s overplaying behavior is not corrected after one warning that player will be considered eliminated from the league and forfeit any prizes they would have earned. Similarly, unsportsmanlike or other abusive play will not be tolerated in the course of playing league matches, and a player engaging in such behavior will either be issued a warning or be immediately eliminated, depending on the severity of the behavior.
4) Reporting matches. The winner must complete a match report slip (available at the Face to Face store counter), indicating the winning and losing players’ names, the date, the match result (e.g.: 2-1 / 2-0), and the cards contained in the pack opened by the loser, as witnessed by the winner. Match reports must be put in the league drop-off box at the store before the 5pm deadline on the Sunday of each week to count toward the current week’s minimum play requirement. The loser of each match must take a ‘punishment pack’: that is, the loser must open an unopened Standard-legal booster pack in the presence of the winner, and add the contents to their league card pool, which the winner records. Before the loser’s next match, they may use these new cards to improve their deck. The maximum number of punishment packs that can be added to any player’s league pool is 10. Records of all league match results for each week of play will be published via the Facebook group and/or email list, along with a list of remaining players, and those players’ win percentiles to date.
5) Player elimination. When a players loses their 11th match, they are eliminated from the tournament (a match report slip must still be filled in by the winner, indicating the loser’s elimination). Players who do not play their minimum number of matches will automatically take losses (without punishment packs) until they reach that minimum: these auto-losses will count towards a player’s total number of permissible match losses.
6) Optional formats. Optional formats, such as ‘Two-Headed Giant’ and ‘Best-of-Five Games’, are supported for regular league matches as well, if agreed upon by both players in advance and use only cards from the players’ league pools. Players must indicate on their match report slip if they decided to play an optional format.
7) Top eight. League winners are determined by elimination. When only eight players remain in the tournament, we will move to the league finals event (in the event of multiple players being eliminated during the same week resulting in less than 8 players remaining, tie-breakers will be decided first by [A] total # of games won, and then [B] total # of 2-0 records if necessary). The precise date of the finals is decided when a consensus is reached or, if this is impossible, a date is approved by a 75% [6/8 player] supermajority of the Top 8 (any other proposed in-tournament alteration to the ruleset may be approved by the same percentage of players). In the finals, the top eight players will retire their league decks and receive a free MegaDraft, drafting one 1 booster from each standard-legal set (alternately passing packs left, then right). No seeding will occur; seating and pairings will be randomized. Players will build a new 60-card deck from their MegaDraft pool and play three best-of-three Swiss rounds to determine their ultimate ranking in the tournament. Players unable to attend the finals can pick up their draft sets at the store counter at a later time; however they will be given auto-losses in their matches and will not be eligible for additional prizes or higher ranking.
8) Final prizes. The Amonkhet league sponsor, Face To Face Games Montreal, has offered a prize pool of 2x boosters for each participating player + 24 packs toward the final MegaDraft in the league finals. Most of these packs will go to providing the cards for the MegaDraft; the remainder will be distributed among the top eight players according to their final rankings [in a 6:4:2:2:1:1:1:1 ratio, or as close as possible].