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Metagame Impressions of a Tired Reporter

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Sixty-nine is such a magic number (no pun intended). At the start of the weekend, 424 players came to Valencia ready to do battle against one another, as well as the elements, in an attempt to become the next Pro Tour champion. As I can only hope you know by now, this PT underwent a bit of a makeover. Those 424 players fought through ten rounds of Swiss play with the sole purpose of acquiring the requisite 21 match points to make the final rounds to be played on Sunday.

Well, Sunday's here, and we have our 69. I spent the better part of the morning wandering around checking out the action. As I weaved through the judges to get close to the tables (sometimes it's good to be in coverage), I noticed a trend forming. There were thirteen or fourteen deck archetypes floating around, and that wasn't counting the differences between, say, a five-color Zoo deck and a three-color one. That's a huge amount of variety for a field of 69. That means an average of five or so players per deck.

A couple of decks were noticeably above that average, some I expected at the beginning of the day, some I didn't begin to expect until about Round 5 yesterday. *gasp* Epic (better known as Enduring Ideal) put about a seventh of the field into Day 2. That's about what I expected considering the saturation it had in Day 1. The other major combo deck, Dredge, managed to put about the average number of players into the Top 69. However, I would be willing to bet that the percentage of Dredge decks that made Day 2 is higher than that of Ideal. Also filling in the combo ranks in Day 2 were the less well-represented TEPS (an ironic choice for this weekend if ever there was one), Aggro-Loam, and Cephalid Breakfast decks. Three Breakfast decks made Day 2, and I'm really interested to see the metagame breakdown to see how many entered the tournament.

Joining the combo decks in the second day were huge numbers of aggressive decks of all shapes and sizes. There were more Zoo decks, or derivatives thereof, than any other type of deck in Day 2. I'm kind of cheating here, I'll admit. There are so many different derivations of the basic red-green aggressive base that I just decided to group them together rather than nitpick. There was also an above-average number of Goblin decks. Red-black, red-green, or even just straight red—take your pick, they're all represented. Skirk Prospector, Goblin Warchief, Goblin Matron, and Goblin Ringleader are apparently easy to build a deck around. Lastly, until Mirrodin rotates out of Extended (slated for 2011), we can expect to see Affinity to show up in some capacity. It was a bit diminished here in Valencia, but a few decks did manage to make the cut.

The last block of decks is what surprises me. Over a third of the decks in the format were some form of control. Many pro players had dismissed most control decks since they were in general just less powerful than either the combo or aggro decks. On top of that, since control decks are generally composed of answers to questions, it is difficult to prepare for all the questions a wide-open format like this can ask. I assumed that we'd see some control decks, but they would be a small portion of the field.

Instead, I get an above average number of Tog decks, and a huge number of Rock decks. Sol Malka and Jeroen Remie would be proud. The Tog decks had a few different variations running about, though most were either simply black-blue or splashing green. The Rock decks were about evenly split between the simple green-black-white incarnation and the version that adds blue for Gifts Ungiven. In addition to these decks, a couple different Tron and Tooth and Nail (what is this, 2004?) decks managed to take their pilots this far. These "less powerful" decks managed to find their answers fairly well and put more players into the last three Swiss rounds than either the combo or aggro decks were able to manage.

Well that's it for both my physical and verbal ramblings. Three more rounds and we'll have a Top 8 ready to duke it out in the elimination rounds. It'll be interesting to see if this diversity persists. If we manage to get eight distinct decks in the Top 8, it'll just reinforce what I've been saying and hearing all weekend—this format is one of the most fun and wide-open of any Constructed format in recent memory. Good luck to all the players vying for their spot. I'll catch up with you later.

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