Worlds XXVIII has concluded with Nathan Steuer walking out as our new World Champion. It was a weekend full of excitement, interesting plays, powerful top-decks, and celebration of Magic as a whole. Explorer was heavily featured at the event. Let’s take a look at what the Pros were up to in one of their first major forays into the format.
Meta coming in
Below is a full meta breakdown of what everyone brought to the event.
There were twelve unique decks registered out of 32 players which is a pretty reasonable spread for such a small event, and it speaks well on the diversity of the format at large. Sometimes for larger events like this there will be a sort of mis-labeling of archetypes that are on the whole quite similar, but for this event it seems as though the real diversification of the format shone through. Truly each deck is different and the meta is well represented. Nevertheless, half the field still consisted of just two decks – Abzan Greasefang and Rakdos Sacrifice.
Abzan Greasefang by Yuta Takahashi
Rakdos Sacrifice by David Inglis
Here we can clearly see that while Greasefang is indeed among the most popular and powerful decks, Sacrifice certainly remains relatively low on a lot of player’s radars. In a way, it seems like a niche choice for the tournament. However, it starts to make more sense when you look at the lone S Tier deck – Rakdos Midrange. As far as I’m concerned, those world-class players had expected their fellow competitors to bring the de facto best deck in Rakdos Midrange and Sacrifice was a great choice to combat it.
For a god-honest midrange deck, it’s very challenging to grind through recurring Cauldron Familiars. Normally, if you cannot grind better than the opposing deck, your strategy coming into the matchup should be to make the game as short as possible by applying as much pressure as you can as quickly as possible. The issue here however, is that Sacrifice can stem the early bleeding very easily thanks to the lifegain that Cauldron Familiar provides while also being able to block every turn. Even without the Cat, there are mechanisms to slow the game down. Unlucky Witness is another great example of a blocker that can easily be thrown under the bus. In those cases when midrange wants to kill blockers and push damage through, Village Rites and Deadly Dispute leave you up on mana in the face of such removal.
Greasefang was the other top deck of the weekend, chosen by -among others – the previous World Champion Yuta Takahashi. His build included two Liliana of the Veil in the main deck, five discard spells, and the full four Witherbloom Command. Post-board it could transition into a full-on midrange deck with so many interactive spells available. There were additional threats in the board as well – Liliana of the Veil, Briarbridge Tracker and the third Skysovereign, Consul Flagship.
One of the new kids on the block that was brought by a small collective of pro players was Temur Transmogrify.
Temur Transmogrify by Simon Nielsen
It’s a mix between a midrange and a combo deck. The primary plan is to cheat out Titan of Industry as soon as possible which in this shell’s case could happen as soon as turn three. It’s especially strong against Rakdos Midrange – the perceived best deck at the event. A 7/7 reach trampler, accompanied by a 4/4 Rhino is no joke. Additionally, there isn’t a lot of removal that can profitably tag those creatures. Damage-based removal won’t do anything and Fatal Push will only get rid of the token. This deck can also assume a more interactive role with access to seven removal spells and five counter spells. It can pick its spot to go off very carefully. Should the combo be not viable because the opponent keeps holding up interaction, you can march to victory by making land drops and eventually hardcasting the Titan.
Best performing decks
There was a single 6-0 player, two at 5-1, and nine at 4-2.
The lone undefeated Explorer player was Eli Kassis on Mono Blue Spirits.
Mono-Blue Spirits by Eli Kassis
Mono Blue Spirits
It was a great meta-call if your plan was not to attack Rakdos Midrange head on, but rather combat the other decks that wanted to beat Rakdos. It’s essentially Paper that wants to beat Rock in a Scissors meta. And beat them it did. Eli went 6-0 never dropping a match. The deck combines early pressure with evasion and interaction that’s tricky to play around. Ten pieces of counter magic are nigh-unbeatable for Greasefang which just has to keep slamming its namesake until it sticks. Though discard and Can’t Stay Away may help with that, Spirits will snowball heavily if given the time. Four Curious Obsession and a single Combat Research make up its suite of card draw effects that, if unattended, will provide a steady stream of fresh cards – which basically means more threats and interaction. Against Creativity, the same applies but cards like Spell Pierce and Mausoleum Wanderer are especially brutal. They are forced to play a fair game but they are typically not beating Spirits in a fair fight thanks to mono blue being so efficient in what it does.
The two 5-1 decks are Sacrifice in the hands of David Inglis and Greasefang of Yuta Takahashi, described above.
The decks that managed to pull off a 4-2 finish were Temur Transmogrify, Mono-Blue Spirits, Azorius Control, and Abzan Greasefang.
Interestingly, the lone 0-6 Explorer player was Jean-Emmanuel Depraz on Rakdos Midrange! Players were indeed ready and the choice of arguably the best deck was heavily punished. Mind you, this is a common characteristic of a very small field. In bigger, open tournaments such narrow meta calls might not be as effective.
Overall, I like the position of Explorer. The meta was diverse, players could make small tweaks to established decks to make them better, and the games were interesting. Going forward I fully expect players to move away a bit from Rakdos Midrange and more towards Sacrifice.