“To be, or not to be” is the opening phrase spoken by Prince hamlet in the “nunnery scene”. Its this same question you should be asking yourself when approaching any competitive magic tournament. Do you want to take the blue pill? And ride the ebb and flow that is mainstream magic or explore the red pill and understand how to identify similarities and trends among popular decks.
What is meta?
Google defines meta as: “Denoting a change of position or condition”
Position or condition are the keywords here. Meta is the current magic the gathering climate, what cards are being played the most and in what decks. As of this writing, here are the top four decks being played based off competitive results.
So, the week leading up to the Pixels & Bricks store championship I knew a few things. I didn’t want to play mountains, nor did I want to play a blue variant control deck. When I say mountains, I’m referring to mono red, or a red black variant. These decks have performed very well in the grand prix and pro tour scene as of lately. So, this put my deck choices out of the current meta as you can see in the imagery above.
How do you build a deck that can compete against the popular decks? You look for patterns and similarities. I knew I had to play creatures to win games, as there is only one mainstream deck that uses a non-creature win condition. Breaking down the removal cards at the top of the meta yielded some interesting data. Let’s define removal:
- Castable spell
- Targets a creature
While this list isn’t inclusive of every removal spell, and some fringe cards such as unlicensed disintegration were left out. It still shows a pattern, removal is heavily placed in white, red, and black. I intentionally left out board wipes as it’s a card that needs to be played around or dealt with by counter magic. Goblin Chainwhirler isn’t defined in our removal data, but I also knew I wanted to avoid as many one power creatures as possible. This eliminated a go wide token strategy, as I didn’t want to give a Chainwhirler player significant value for casting it.
The card(s) I wanted to take advantage of were Knight of Malice and Knight of Grace. These cards are very nostalgic for me, it takes me back to when I started playing in 1994 when White Knight and Black Knight were rampant among the school yard games and we would frequently find them on tournament days.
Here’s the list I brought to the store championship
I felt good about my creature setup and had a draw engine with Karn. The true MVP of this deck is The Eldest Reborn. There is so much value if you can stall the game with removal, while getting in some small beats. The Eldest Reborn has many different play lines which I find interesting. By keeping their board clear of creatures, it acts as another copy of Vraska’s Contempt, with the added benefit that you can steal their planeswalker or creature. My sideboard had tools to play a longer game against control and some basic answers for enchantments. Combined the knights avoided 55.5% of the removal among the top meta decks which felt nice.
Lyra, History of Benalia, and my early low-cost removal gives me a fighting chance against the blazing speed of mono red, while Knight of Malice is a thorn in the side of white blue-based control decks. While I didn’t win the tournament (2nd), at the end of the day, I felt like I brought the right tools for the current meta and I hope this provides some insight to my preparation and planning for these types of events.