One of the biggest things separating those wanting to get regular Top 8’s in Magic: The Gathering and those who actually do get there is situational awareness. This means taking a look at what people are playing, and devising ways to counter that. Inventing ways to perform admirably against what the majority will be doing, while still remaining strong enough to fight off the competition provided by anyone attempting to do the same thing.
We don’t need to go far for evidence of this. Before Grand Prix Toronto, people were running Esper Dragons like it was the only thing going. For the most part it worked — a vast majority of decks in Top 8 pretty much everywhere were Esper Dragons, but even then the Top 8 decks still outshone their competition by taking advantage of the Mirror matches their owners knew would occur. Making an Esper Dragon deck to do well against its own kind was difficult enough as it is, without completely gimping it against other decks.
Then Grand Prix Toronto rolls around, and not a single Esper Dragon deck makes the Top 8 despite being incredibly dominant on the field. What happened? Well, people played the Meta. In the Top 8 of Toronto, seven of them were green, and all of them were running Den Protector. This proved to be an incredibly versatile strategy to face down Esper Dragon decks, and several of those decks were also tweaked in such a way to be capable of showing down mirror matches.
Then on the weekend we had Grand Prix Paris. In just a week, the playing field had vastly changed. Where Esper Dragon was previously appearing in overwhelming numbers, Abzan decks were far and away the dominant decks on the field. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that the winner of Grand Prix Paris had a deck inherently designed to destroy other Abzan decks, while boasting the ability to keep Esper Dragon under control. The same happened in the Magic Online Championship Series, where a similar deck structure came away with the win.
What’s important to note about this block is how obvious the Meta and how the Meta changes have been. No other block in the last half decade has had as many radical changes to field as this has, with both the rise and fall of two completely dominant decks. If you are consistently ranking outside of the top 16, perhaps it’s time to change your thinking a little bit. Figure out what is going to be dominant, and from there what is required to not only take what is dominant down — but what you need to fight those who are thinking exactly the same thing.
You’ve several tools in your arsenal to deal with this. First is finding someone who is also quite competent to bounce your plans off, as this will allow you to get a significantly larger amount of ideas than just trying to solo it. Additionally, tools like Twitch, MTGO, Cockatrice and more are available for players to watch and learn. But if you really want that victory, you’ll have to put the man hours into finding a decklist that works, and practice against the decks that are placing high in big tournaments. That’s the only way you will truly see if your deck is capable of hitting the top spots in a Grand Prix.
As for me? I look forward to seeing a solid Collected Company deck come out of the woodworks at Shanghai.
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