Meet the Pros: Andrea Mengucci

Hello Andrea and thank you for taking your time with me today! With the Pro Tour coming up, a lot of attention is on Standard. Looking at Standard from the outside these past few years has not been a pretty sight. What is the state of Standard right now in your opinion?

Standard is in a good place right now. It has quite few tier 1 decks, and they represent all the strategies of Magic:

  • Aggro: Mono Red
  • Midrange: Temur
  • Control: Blue/Black Control, Blue/White Approach
  • Combo: Gift

Those are all good decks that can be qualified as tier 1, so the format is definitely healthy. It isn’t Modern or Legacy where you have tons of different decks, but it has never been in the history of Standard. So I feel like this Standard is good and it is what it should always be.

A few months ago Wizards of the Coast announced Modern’s return to the Pro Tour in 2018. What was your first reaction to this?

I’m a little bit biased about the Modern Pro Tour because I hate Modern. It’s my least favorite format and I never play it – in fact last time I played it was World Magic Cup 2016. So I’m pretty sad about it and won’t test a lot of Constructed for the event, since the format is super stagnant and you can play any deck and go 10-0 or 0-10. But I can easily see Modern lovers standing up and shouting at me now, and I’ll be fine with that.

Everyone who follows you on social media and appreciates the great job you’re doing at ChannelFireball knows your passion for Legacy. Now all of a sudden you get to play your favorite format on the Pro Tour in 2018. Tell us why Legacy means so much to you.

I’m obviously very happy to show my Italian black bordered dual lands at the Pro Tour stage! But I don’t want this to be a thing that happens every Pro Tour or even once a year. The Pro Tour is good for innovations. You get an edge by inventing new decks in Standard and having a better strategy in Draft, but with stagnant formats like Modern and Legacy this goes away and that skill is less rewarded.

It seems like team tournaments will be a higher focus in competitive Magic moving forward. To me it is natural because you usually test as a group and root for your friends anyway. Do you feel the same way or would you rather play on your own all the time?

I really dislike where Grand Prix are going. I dislike that you have to be in a team of people to go to Grand Prix nowadays. What if you are good, but live in a environment where there are only bad players? You can just never spike.

For me Magic is an individual game, not soccer or basketball. It’s designed to be played 1 vs 1. It’s okay if sometimes you play 3 vs 3 because it’s more fun, but I feel like the 2018 Grand Prix schedule has way too many Team Grand Prix that punishes those who want to break through.

Lastly I want to hear about your personal expectations for the season. I know you’re representing Italy at the World Magic Cup. When we talk again at the end at the season, which accomplishments do you hope to tell me about?

I hope we’ll do well at Pro Tour Albuquerque, though it’ll be hard since Standard and Draft are already solved so variance will be huge once again and same for the World Magic Cup. I also have four Grand Prix coming up, so I hope to get my first top 8 in one of those, since it’s getting pretty late and I still haven’t achieved that goal in my Magic career.

To wrap up this interview, feel free to share your Twitter, thank your mom or give a shout out to sponsors. Thank you again for this interview!

Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Channel Fireball where I make two videos per week (Legacy and Vintage) and where I write one article per week (generic topic).

Also if you want to have daily tweets about Magic follow me on Twitter.

Vintage is Coming! Season 2.

Last time, I shared my thoughts about the restrictions of Monastery Mentor and Thorn of Amethyst and listed a few decks that I expect to break out as a result. Today I’ll address the unrestriction of Yawgmoth’s Bargain and list a few more decks you can expect to play, or consider playing your self, in the new environment!

Having played Vintage for 14 years, I have definitely resolved and faced my share of Yawgmoth’s Bargain. At a healthy life total, you can expect to win the game on the spot, especially since we now have Mox Opal to start your black mana chain should you already have made your land drop in addition to Mox Jet, Black Lotus and Lotus Petal, so this card obviously has potential. It does come with a few downsides.

You need Dark Ritual to power out Yawgmoth’s Bargain, and Dark Ritual gets hit by Mental Misstep – a card that will increase its impact on the format after MUD and Eldrazi got weakened and killed respectively by the restriction of Thorn of Amethyst. Furthermore, it could be very difficult to support Dark Ritual and Mox Opal in the same deck.

The second problem is the lifetotal aspect of it. In different formats, a strength of Storm decks has always been its ability to win the game the turn before you lose the game in the hands of opposing creatures. In Legacy and Modern you win with Past in Flames in these situations. I imagine this Storm deck will also feature tutors and Yawgmoth’s Will for a similar effect, but my gut feeling tells me that a diverse threat base of Mind’s Desire, Timetwister, Wheel of Fortune, Necropotence, singleton Yawgmoth’s Bargain and Dark Petition in addition to the restricted tutors is a better way to go than maxing out on Bargains.

The third issue is the straight up comparison to Paradoxical Outcome. It costs less mana, it doesn’t care about your life total, and it makes it easier for your deck to support Force of Will. It should be fairly obvious that Paradoxical Outcome-based decks are the new sheriff in town, and this could cause an uptick in Null Rod and Stony Silence. Should this happen, then relying on Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual could be the way to go in Storm decks, and multiple Yawgmoth’s Bargains could become interesting. For now, I’m sticking to Paradoxical Outcome as my engine. If I was a betting man, this card would be at the top of my list of cards that should be on Wizards’ radar.


More New/Old Decks

Oath of Druids is in a strange spot. The biggest perk of playing this strategy before was preying on MUD decks, which will go down in the metagame percentages without a doubt after Thorn of Amethyst was restricted. It was also quite ambitious to justify playing Oath as long as quadruple Monastery Mentor was allowed, but that has changed now. The power of getting to summon a turn two Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn can’t be ignored, so people will look into different controlling builds of Oath in the weeks to come. The deck can splash black for tutors and Abrupt Decay or red for Pyroblast and Ancient Grudge if the metagame calls for it – or both because of Forbidden Orchard. While the land will sometimes give your opponent a relevant clock when you don’t draw an Oath, Forbidden Orchard is also a rainbow land that enables playing four colors.
For those of you who would be interesting in combining the speed of Oath of Druids with the power of Paradoxical Outcome, check out this deck that piloted to a top 4 finish a few weeks ago in the Vintage Challenge.

This card has definately seen play these past few months, but only as a win condition in Paradoxical Outcome-fueled decks. I think we will see classic Grixis Control decks pop up with this little combo as a finisher next to TinkerBlightsteel Colossus. Getting to run all the good cards in Magic and splash Pyroblast and Dack Fayden should be every Magic player’s dream. Time Vault + Voltaic Key is a powerful win condition because it can trump any boardstate from your opponent. You can go different routes within the Grixis shard with Goblin Welder/Thirst for Knowledge package, a Thoughtcast/Tezzeret well-oiled machine or the more streamlined way of life with “just good, restricted cards“. Being able to either control a long game or steal a quick one is a very good attribute in Vintage, and I believe we will see the power of Time Vault soon enough. If Oath and Time Vault both become major players in the metagame, Abrupt Decay looks deliciously well positioned.

Another archetype that has been horribly underpowered compared to Mentor is Blue/Red Delver. You have all the restricted blue cards at your disposal, you have the ability to pressure your opponent starting from turn one, and your support color is the best sideboard color in the format. Because of your low curve, you can use Wasteland and Strip Mine in combination with Null Rod to level the playing field vs. the heavy hitters of the format that need more mana to function.

A threat base of Delver of Secrets, Harsh Mentor or Young Pyromancer depending on your style and Snapcaster Mages combined with Lightning Bolt can put the game out of reach quickly with little to no time for the opponent to recover. You also have a solid amount of stack control with 4 Force of Will, 4 Mental Misstep and a few more cheap counterspells like Spell Pierce, Flusterstorm or Pyroblast, so you’re well setup vs. the unfair strategies in the format.

Once the format gets under way and I have access to more data from the Magic Online Leagues, I will go in depth with different decks and let you know about it. Until then, follow me on Twitter or on my Twitch channel and watch me take on the format later this week!

Vintage is Coming!

This Monday the Vintage format was hit by two more restrictions following the dominance of Monastery Mentor-powered blue decks and Mishra’s Workshop-based aggressive prison decks for quite some time. While it simply can’t be argued that these two archetypes needed to be cooled down, I want to talk about my solution for it and what I think about Vintage moving forward with the introductions of Leagues on Magic Online and these restrictions in mind. Let’s go!

First things first. If you google search for “ecobaronen mtgo”, you will see that I have a lot of good finishes with various versions of Mentor decks in Vintage. I’m not mentioning this to show off, but simply to underline that I’m not biased in this statement:

Monastery Mentor was the best victory condition for blue decks – NOT close – and it made all other blue decks simply a worse choice and therefor killed diversity little by little. Wizards made the mistake of chopping off its arms (Gitaxian Probe and Gush) once, but now finally went for the head. For these reasons it had to go.

Later in the article I will touch on which decks and cards are suddently playable again as a reaction to this restriction.

Wizards’ own statistics showed that four Thorn of Amethyst were played in 40% of all top 8 decks in the Vintage Challenges over the last year, and of course action should be taken towards this deck.

The only problem I have with this is, while you managed to make MUD worse, you also managed to kill White Eldrazi for no reason at all.

Here’s my White Eldrazi deck I played this spring in a proxy tournament and went 7-2 on the day (4-2 in the main event finishing 9th, then 3-0’ing a side event):

White Eldrazi by Andreas Petersen

Creatures (25)
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Containment Priest
Phyrexian Revoker
Eldrazi Displacer
Thought-Knot Seer
Reality Smasher
Lodestone Golem

Spells (12)
Thorn of Amethyst
Chalice of the Void
Black Lotus
Mana Crypt
Mox Emerald
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Jet
Mox Sapphire
Lands (23)
Wasteland
Strip Mine
Cavern of Souls
Eldrazi Temple
Ancient Tomb
Plains
Karakas

In a creature-based deck like Eldrazi, Thorn of Amethyst and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben are your eight cards that disrupt your opponent and not your self. While MUD is also very creature heavy, as Wizards stated in their article, you have the difference in 4 Mishra’s Workshop and Foundry Inspector to get mana advantage. With a playset of this old land, Sphere of Resistance and Thorn of Amethyst are so close to the same power level in MUD, while they are completely different in the Eldrazi list and the difference between a top 5 deck and an unplayable one unfortunately. Because I love diversity not only in the blue decks, but also in the disrupting and taxing archetypes, I feel like restricting Thorn instead of Sphere was a mistake.

A Look Ahead

With new restrictions and Competitive Leagues coming to Magic Online, the future looks bright for Vintage. While I can’t provide thoroughly thought out deck lists before we have an established metagame, I can give my best predictions about what to expect and what you should look into in the format now.

BUG is back! I expect Black/Blue/Green decks with Deathrite Shaman and Leovold to become a serious player now. These colors give access to the restricted blue and black cards, a one mana planeswalker, Abrupt Decay for Time Vault and Oath of Druids and a very powerful hatebear in Leovold. Leovold stops Paradoxical Outcome and prevents your opponent from chaining draw spells and cantrips.

I like the fact that this deck can afford to play Null Rod because of Deathrite Shaman for acceleration and will expect it to run a singleton Crucible of Worlds or Ramunap Excavator, maybe with a small Green Sun’s Zenith package, to replay Wasteland or Strip Mine. BUG is a potent combination of card quality and disruption.

With a defined metagame, you can build your Blue/White Standstill deck and prey on a lot of decks at the same time. You want a lot of cheap answers in the form of Swords to Plowshares, Mental Misstep and one mana counterspells to make sure you can play your unrestricted Ancestral Recall on turn 2.

From there you are looking to snowball your advantage with Mana Drain and more of the same cheap interaction. If you’re lucky enough to be chaining Standstills, you’re doing it right! The deck will most likely play some Snapcaster Mages and Jace, the Mind Sculptor for flexibility and card advantage and finish the game off with Emrakul, the Promised End. Like the BUG deck, only the on-color Moxen will be included, so Stony Silence to combat Paradoxical Outcome and Time Vault is a main deck option. I will be testing Spell Queller out of the sideboard for when my opponent sideboards out their removal spells, so watch out!

It’s finally little brother’s time to shine! Like Neymar Jr. leaving to Paris to get some time in the spotlight instead of being in Messi’s shadows, Young Pyromancer is ready to take over after Mentor was sacked.

Being awarded free 1/1’s for playing Magic is still very powerful, and I expect Grixis and Jeskai versions (the latter can even play singleton Mentor) to pop up.
Black lets you play tutors and card draw like Night’s Whisper or Painful Truths, and white adds Swords to Plowshares, Monastery Mentor and better sideboard options. Young Pyromancer is a turn one play a higher percentage of the time than Mentor was, so be prepared to fight the war on the stack earlier.
With a Mox, a normal play pattern in blue mirrors will be turn two Young Pyromancer with Flusterstorm backup. I’m super excited that this style of deck is still viable in Vintage and not too good anymore.

Next time I’ll be writing about three more new (old) decks, the unrestriction of Yawgmoth’s Bargain and the state of combo in general. In the meantime follow me on Twitter and tune in to my Twitch Channel and look out for Vintage action in the future. As soon as the Leagues are in place, I will be spending a lot of time playing in them.

Thanks for reading!