Sunday, November 11, 2012

Draft Report - Nov 02, 2012

- Naka (WUB Control) 3-1, 7-3
- Jão (WB Aggro) 3-1, 6=2
- Kamila (UG Midrange) 3-1, 6-3
- André (UB Midrange) 2-1, 3-2
- Vitinho (UB Aggro-Milling) 1-4, 1-7
- Marcos (WG) 1-0, 2-1
- Mauro (BR Midrange) 0-3, 2-5
- Geraldo (WBR) 0-2, 0-4

As usual, the 3-person cycle on the top of the rankings shows up.

Some old theories claimed there was a rock-paper-scissors pattern between aggro, control and midrange. Aggro would develop too fast for control to keep up with, control would beat midrange due to being tuned to win attrition wars, while midrange would have a good matchup against aggro because the massive difference between the difference in card quality would quickly stanch a beatdown offensive, despite developing one or two turns later.

What we saw was exactly the opposite. Control won the match against aggro, which beat midrange, which completed the cycle by defeating control. These are the decklists and the counterpoints each one makes against the theory above.

WUB Control

5 Swamp
4 Plains
4 Island
Azorius Chancery
Celestial Colonnade
Jwar Isle Refuge
Esper Panorama

Sword of Body and Mind
Mimic Vat
Sphinx of Jwar Isle
Visara the Dreadful

Swords to Plowshares
Journey to Nowhere
Serrated Arrows
Devastation Tide

Raven's Crime
Gerrard's Verdict
Hymn to Tourach

Card Filtering
Demonic Tutor
Thirst for Knowledge
Careful Consideration

Animate Dead

Sphere of the Suns
Mother of Runes

Heavy in discard and efficient removal, this WUB control deck is built to abuse the graveyard and Mimic Vat. In one of the games I played with it, I was forced to Gerrard's Verdict myself to be able to reanimate Visara the Dreadful after a couple of mulligans, and still got close to winning. It has a couple of weaknesses though, the most obvious of them all being the lack of counterspells and mass removal.

The deck managed to stall the WB beatdown deck quickly using cheap removal. The discard part of the deck played awkwardly in this matchup and some of it was swapped out during sideboarding for more removal. Serrated Arrows, Swords to Plowshares and Shriekmaw were very efficient stopping small critters, even though the match was tough.

What the deck most missed, though, was fatal for its midrange matchup: mass removal. Devastation Tide can buy some time, but it sure is no Wrath of God. In the end, the lack of powerful card advantage mechanisms, which was atypical for a control deck, caused its loss to midrange.

WB Aggro

8 Plains
7 Swamp
Caves of Koilos

Diregraf Ghoul
Elite Vanguard
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Vampire Lacerator
Soltari Trooper
Child of Night
Benalish Cavalry
Blade Splicer
Phyrexian Rager
Emeria Angel

Tidehollow Sculler
Grand Abolisher
Goldmeadow Harrier
Hypnotic Specter

Mangara of Corondor

Creature Buffing
Flayer Husk
Dolmen Gate
Lightning Greaves
Loxodon Warhammer
Griffin Guide

Phyrexian Arena
Wrath of God

A very aggressive WB beatdown deck running 4 2-power 1-mana creatures capable of winning the game very quickly and consistently. About 2/3 of the deck was comprised of efficient creatures and the rest was mostly creature improvement and disruption to support the plan.

It used a handful of evasion creatures to get through the UG midrange's blockers. While it only had 4 cards with evasion, the pressure it exerted with the rest bought it time enough to kill with Soltari Trooper and Hypnotic Specter before the opponent had time to stabilize and turn the tide with their fatties.

On the other hand, the low cost/benefit of these evaders against a nearly creatureless deck and the inclusion of some slower cards in the deck like Wrath of God and Mangara of Corondor prevented it from being fast enough to overwhelm the WUB control deck, which had time enough to build up its defenses.

UG Midrange

7 Island
8 Forest
Halimar Depths
Flooded Grove
Simic Growth Chamber

Llanowar Elves
Joraga Treespeaker
Nest Invader
Mul Daya Channelers
Explosive Vegetation
Defense of the Heart

Scute Mob
Call of the Herd
Great Sable Stag
Wickerbough Elder
Master of the Wild Hunt
Meloku the Clouded Mirror
Steel Hellkite
Simic Sky Swallower

Memory Lapse

Pendrell Flux
Psionic Blast
Corrupted Conscience

Fact or Fiction
Oracle of Nectars

This UG deck has good ramping and lots of big beefy threats, and with several counterspells it is able to hold up an offensive position very well once it is ahead of its opponent. It can play aggressively against opponents that struggle to develop, as well as stall and grind out a faster adversary.

The pack of 4 top notch counterspells was invaluable against WUB control, which had its most important spells countered, being subsequently beaten by resilient creatures like Simic Sky Swallower.

Those counterspells, however, were too slow to stop the very aggressive WB deck, which already had a strong position on the table before the counters were active. The deck could still play blockers and stop the ground attacks, and it did, but ultimately lost to evaders.

Each of these three decks had some aspect that is not expected of their archetype (evaders in aggro, counterspells in midrange, lack of card advantage in control). Those aspects were crucial for the match results, suggesting that while the rock-paper-scissors theory may be true for decks very typical of an anchetype, those advantages and disadvantages may be mitigated by minor changes in the deck's build.


  1. You know, I've been thinking about the cube's metagame. I think that maybe our rock-paper-scissors situation isn't due to deck archetypes, but it happens because of playstyles, both in picking cards and playing. Here's my (not very thought through) hypothesis:

    I pretty much draft BREAD, and I lean heavily towards card advantage and board control. As far as I know, I'm the only one there that first picks Wrath of God, Phyrexian Arena or Draining Whelk. I'm also the only one there that actually is happy when a Phyrexian Rager (a guy that probably shouldn't be in this deck) shows up. Almost every card I'm happy to pick is an immediate two-for-one. I rate removal way higher than everyone else in your house, and usually end up with much more removal than I should. Also, I build my decks pretty old-school and, even when playing control-ish decks, I end up with something like 15 creatures, even if they're kinda sub-par.

    On the other hand, Kamila usually picks way more power than I do. Also, she's most of the time trying to develop board position, and isn't afraid of long, drawn out games. When I'm playing a game with somebody else and I look at her table, it always has twice the number of cards I have (and I have the impression that her games usually take much more time). The result is that, when I play her, independently of the decks we play, I play faster threats and/or negate hers, so I win most of the games.

    Now, you are always drafting stuff I can't really wrap my head around. You always have some synergy I'm not prepared to deal with (and you always draw it). Also, you often have very few creatures, so a third of my deck is always dead weight against you and I lose. But that also means that you sometimes are more susceptible to let her dominate the board with stronger permanents.

  2. You aren't the only one to first pick those cards, I would first pick any of them without a problem. And I believe Rager does have a home in that deck, even though, as you said, I'm rarely happy playing him.

    The analysis as a whole makes a lot of sense when it comes to us 3, that sounds quite like what usually happens. I just would like to point out I don't always play control. Checking the history of the last draft reports, I found that out of the last 9, I drafted control 4 times, aggro 4 times and combo once. So, playing few creatures is what renders your removal useless half of the time - on the other half, I think I just play more threats that you have answers to.

    I'm preparing a post (that may get split in seeeveral parts) about the archetypes I see in our cube, and that may shed some light on cube strategy. Or make it even more confusing, I'm not sure.