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U.S. Nationals 1999 Reports
Preview: Duelist Team Challenge

- Alex Shvartsman

Over the last several years, this team tournament has become one of the most colorful attractions for Magic players at Origins and, quite possibly, paved the way for the sanctioned team formats.

The premise is simple - a group of five players divides the five belowmentioned formats among them. Each player goes on to compete in his or her own format, with the final match record of 3-2 or better needed for one team to defeat the other. A wide selection of formats offers plenty of variety and lets each team member contribute in the format where he feels strongest.

An additional attraction of this tournament is the opportunity to match your wits against Wizards of the Coast employees, who are allowed to play since the event is not sanctioned. Sideboard editor Monty Ashley and Organized Play manager Jeff Donais will be among WOTC bigshots playing this year. [Editor's Note: Jeff Donais had airline trouble, and arrived too late for the event]

Each format will offer something interesting this year. Here are some of the predictions, per format:

Classic

There are very few serious type 1 (Classic) tournaments out there, the most recent one being the Duelist Invitational in Barcelona earlier this year. Because of this lack of organized events, little "technology" has been developed since then. Combo decks can be expected to be the most popular strategy. Tolarian Academy, Time Spiral, Memory Jar have all escaped the ban. Although they are restricted in type one, it is fairly easy to design a deck around them that allows a player to win as early as turn 1-2. To combat this strategy some players may go with U/R control decks, full of artifact removal and countermagic. Perhaps the most effective will be Necropotence decks, featuring enough disruption to combat Academy decks and able to crush control strategies. Aggressive creature strategies are unlikely to do well at this time.

Extended

The merits of Yawgmoth's Bargain in type 2 remain to be proven.

In Extended, the ways to abuse this card are painfully obvious. A large amount of teams are expected to try out a Bargain deck or metagame heavily against it, perhaps playing maindeck Arcane Laboratory or Sphere of Resistance. Ultra-aggressive strategies that are a good way to keep Bargain in check in type 2 may fail to do so in Extended, where second turn kills are not only possible but likely with this deck.

Standard

The format is wide open. Some players will bring their best decks, while others may make the gambit of playing their second-best in order to protect "tech" designed for the Nationals. It is a fair assumption that the U.S.Open tournament held the night before will have a large impact upon the metagame of the type 2 bracket.

Rath Cycle Sealed

In my humble opinion, this format is pretty random. Unfair buyback spells and excessive amount of evasion creatures allows a less experienced player to pull off wins he normally would not achieve. If I were to compete in the Challenge, I'd suggest that the weakest player on the team is to play this format.

Urza Cycle Sealed

Players are used to Saga-Legacy sealed already. Although any combination of colors may be possible, green-black is usually the desired color scheme. Destiny may change that, balancing the colors a bit. Urza sealed is a lot more skilled based than its Mirage and Rath counterparts. It requires a solid player to build the deck correctly and offers plenty of opportunities for a stronger strategist to outplay his opponent.

The Rules

The new rules will also be a major factor in this event. A player who understands Sixth Edition rules well is automatically at an advantage against someone who isn't used to them yet. This is not to say that I expect players to rules-lawyer each other - they may simply miss out on a lot of opportunities and plays that weren't possible under the previous set of rules.

The Winners

It is impossible to predict the winner, especially since we do not have many team rosters available at this time. Since the event is held on Thursday, some Nationals competitors could take time off from last-minute playtesting to enter the challenge. I expect that the event will be won by a team of players familiar on the Pro Tour circuit. [Editor's Note: The event was, in fact, won by Team CMU]



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