Nationals Qualifier Mock Tourney

Hello multiverse! When KYT asked me to provide a guest post for the start up of his blog, I thought it would be a great way to help out a Twitter-buddy, as well as help his readers be a little more prepared for their upcoming tournaments. As I write this, the largest and closest tournament for most of us is the National Qualifier season. In the U.S, and I would assume in Canada as well, these take place on May 15th, and players will battle Standard in an attempt to qualify for Nationals. In addition, the NQ season occurs concurrently with the Amsterdam PTQ season. In Chicago, the first Amsterdam PTQ is taking place the week after the National Qualifier. Because the formats of these two tournaments are the same, we can combine our preparation for both.

The first thing I do when looking at a new format is proxy up some decks to make a gauntlet. By testing some of the more popular decks against each other, we can figure out how to take advantage of a metagame by playing a certain deck. On the downside, this can often take a while. Playing 20 matches for each pair of decks is not a very time efficient way to prepare, so this year, I decided to take things in an entirely different direction for NQs. Following Mike Flores’ attempted mock tournament, I decided to run one of my own. I made brackets with 16 open slots, and tried to partition slots according to perceived popularity of the decks. This is what I came up with:

4 Jund

4 Tap Out UW Control

3 Eldrazi Conscription Mythic

2 RDW

2 Raka Control

1 Polymorph

From here, I rolled some dice to decide where each of the decks would be placed, with only one caveat: no mirror matches allowed! Testing mirror matches can be useful if you are playing a deck that makes up 30-40% of the metagame, but in such a diverse field, it would just be a waste of time. Here are the results for the tournament, and what revelations it provided me when thinking about the metagame:

Round of 16:

UW defeats Jund 2-1

UW defeats Mythic 2-1

Raka defeats Mythic 2-1

UW defeats Jund 2-1

Polymorph defeats UW 2-0

Raka defeats Jund 2-1

Jund defeats RDW 2-1

Mythic defeats RDW 2-0

Round of 8:

UW defeats UW 2-1

Raka defeats UW 2-0

Polymorph defeats Raka 2-0

Mythic defeats Jund 2-0

Round of 4:

Mythic Defeats Polymorph 2-1

Raka defeats UW 2-1

Round of 2:

Raka defeats Mythic 2-1

One of the first things that becomes apparent is the near universal failure of Jund. Only a single copy of the deck won its first round match (due to a double mulligan to 4 from its RDW opponent during the two post-sideboard games), and the one that did lost to Mythic in the next round. While Jund may be able to beat random artifact combo decks like Time Sieve, and decks like Turbo Fog, this is merely a side-effect of it being the only deck to be able to utilize Maelstrom Pulse. While Jund remain a consistent deck choice, it has no great matchups, and now that is isn’t favored against UW and Mythic, it’s clear that Jund needs to move in a different direction to remain competitive. One avenue may be to try and use Vengevine, building off of a Lotus Cobra shell, and forgoing the previously used Trace of Abundance or Rampant Growth. Not only does Lotus Cobra provide you with one of the best mana accelerators in the format, but it is yet another guy to help and trigger Vengevine out of the graveyard. Finally, one of the most underrated values of Lotus Cobra is its two power. Unlike spell-based mana accel, Lotus Cobra is yet another threat that, while admittedly small, can help a Jund deck swing around Wall of Omens, and keep the pressure on a Control opponent to answer their current threats or die.

Another failing deck is RDW. With neither making it out of the first round, despite playing against supposedly good matchups (Mythic and Jund), it’s clear that the current RDW strategy is not working. My current thinking is to abandon Patrick Chapin’s plan of using very few Ball Lightning type creatures, instead focusing on men that will stay on the battlefield. By using Ball Lightning and Hell’s Thunder, RDW will be fast enough to start beating UW and Jund again, making it a legitimate contender. Until then, it is simply too slow to compete with Jund and UW’s powerful mid and late games.

Now for the good. Polymorph surprised me a great deal by massacring the control decks it played against. In the first round, it missed 3 land drops, and was still able to recover with See Beyond and Explore to bring out an Emrakul against UW, taking the game, and later the match. The list I tested with had maindeck Emrakuls instead of Ionas. This is tilted towards a better Jund matchup, as Iona is usually pretty bad against Jund’s removal in multiple colors. However, Polymorph can still have trouble with Jund, which is the only thing preventing it from dominating the Standard format. If I were to play Polymorph, my instinct would be to ease off the cantrips and go with a larger number of Planeswalkers to both better the UW matchup and help buy some time against Jund, maybe something like 3 each of Jace and Garruk. While playing the deck, I often felt like 4 each of Spreading Seas, Explore, and See Beyond were excessive, so that’s one path you could go down if you wanted to improved the deck.

Finally, I was very pleased with the performance of Raka. I myself will be playing the MichaelJ concoction at both the NQ and PTQ, as it seems like the best possible deck to play in Standard. With 7 mana disruption spells, the matchup against Jund is at 65% before sideboarding, and gets better after gaining more mana denial elements. If you decide to play it, I would suggest using Ben Stark’s list from the SCG 5k, as the extra planeswalkers help the deck crush UW even more. The only changes I liked were finding space for 3 Baneslayer and 1 Banefire in the sideboard.

That’s all for now, and I hope looking at the results of this mock tournament has helped you make up your mind about which deck to play this weekend, and in another future tournaments. I appreciate everyone taking time to read this article, and you should all go check out some of the other great content on KYT’s blog. For a website that really only launched this week, the quality of the content is absolutely fantastic. Once again, thanks for reading.

Noah Whinston

Noah Whinston is an avid player of Magic: the Gathering. In addition to playing he also produces Magic media for various websites, including an audio podcast on Blackborder.com, and weekly articles for TCGPlayer.com. Noah currently lives in Chicago, and you can find him most weeks playing FNM at Pastimes in Niles.