About Adam Koska
Adam is an experienced player from the Czech Republic who has a number of high-profile finishes under his belt:
- 9th at Worlds 2009
- 9th at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
- 45 Lifetime Pro Points
- Top 32 GP Vienna 2008
- Top 64 GP Krakow 2007
- Three times Czech Nationals Top 8
Recent Shifts In Standard And A Bonus Interview
Hey everybody and welcome!
Several Standard GPs have taken place over the last two weekends and today,
we’re going to have a look at what’s new in the most popular format, what new
trends have these tournaments brought and how has Standard evolved recently.
And to give you also someone else’s perspective, the second part of the article
contains an interview with Tomáš Vaněk, fresh off a third place finish at GP
Bochum, a Standard tournament with over 1700 players that took place on the
weekend of 17th-18th November.
So, what’s new? The biggest
change in the Standard metagame right now seems to be the surge of Zombies’
popularity. R/B Zombie-based aggro decks won the last two Standard GPs on US
soil, with GP San Antonio having three R/B Zombie lists in the top 8, and the
deck has put two more players into the top 8 of GP Bochum. Zombies have been
preying on the shift of focus towards Bant control decks. Last week, Sphinx's Revelation was probably the most important card of the format. This week,
Zombies have taken advantage of the fact that many people tried to increase
their defenses against control decks and countermagic and took Standard by
storm. If you’re going to play Standard in the coming weeks, I strongly
encourage you to be prepared for Zombies.
Zombies proved to be one of
the defining decks of the format and part of the reason why they succeeded was
that they adapted to the old hate. If you take a look at the current lists,
you’ll notice that most of the successful Zombie lists have dropped some of the
small creatures like Rakdos Cackler and Bloodthrone Vampire and instead went
for a more midrange approach of having cards like Hellrider or Thundermaw Hellkite. I think that this move makes sense in the light of what answers
people play. Control lists have good anti-creature tools these days, but if you
present too many serious threats, the control lists will run out of answers
eventually. The key right now is to make sure that every single threat you play
matters and you should have as many cards as possible that can kill the
opponent on their own. Another common sight in the Zombies list is Knight of Infamy and that’s more of a metagame call than anything else. Some of the most
widely played cards in the format are Azorius Charm, Restoration Angel and
white weenie humans in general. Knight of Infamy is awesome against all of
these, while at the same time playing the all-important role of being a
two-drop, which has traditionally been the weak spot in the Zombies curve.
Zombies is not the only
aggro deck in the current metagame that’s trying to overload the opponents with
threats which have to be dealt with. The G/W deck has also experienced quite an
upsurge of popularity and together with Zombies, these two beatdown decks have
made up almost one third of day two metagame in San Antonio. The key here is
the same – it doesn’t matter if your opponent draws a few extra cards with Sphinx's Revelation or two-for-ones you with a Thragtusk, as long as you can
have cards that just kill them on their own if not dealt with quickly. The
combination of Sublime Archangel, Silverblade Paladin and Rancor can cause such
dramatic life-point swings that the five-life gain from Thragtusk will seem
almost insignificant. Also, cards like Mayor of Avabruck, Precinct Captain and Gavony Township can create an army out of nowhere, which is, again, a very
important feat when your board gets swept by Supreme Verdicts every other turn.
So how do control decks
fare in this new environment? First, countermagic is not really a good way to
fight this metagame anymore, partly due to the high number of Cavern of Souls.
It’s still very good against control and if you’re playing blue, you should definitely
make room for some Dispels and Negates in the sideboard to stop opposing Sphinx's Revelations and force through your own. But Essence Scatter has massively
underperformed in the most recent tournaments and U/W flash decks should have a
plan against aggro that doesn’t rely on countermagic.
Where is Reanimator
positioned in this metagame? While this deck has been probably the best choice
at GP Auckland a few weeks ago and the „Hoof“ version has been possibly the
best deck choice in Bochum, the deck’s not that well positioned anymore, due to
several reasons. First, aggro decks have adapted and are now easily capable of
dealing many more than 20 points of damage in a single game, so Centaur Healer
and Thragtusk are not backbreaking against them anymore. And second, even
control decks have adopted new tools to beat reanimator. While two weeks ago,
killing your control opponent with a Cavern-powered Craterhoof Behemoth
couldn’t be easier, because neither Supreme Verdict nor Azorius Charm could
deal with the hasty Beast and the massive damage it would deal, now the bant
decks are actually playing some answers. The best one – and at the same time
probably the most inconspicuous one – is Alchemist's Refuge. Because of this
land, you can be prepared for Craterhoof Behemoth and cast your Supreme Verdict
on their „big“ turn. Also, Refuge gives you an edge in the control mirror,
making sure that you never have to tap out on your turn.
Interview with Tomáš
GP Bochum took place last
weekend and the Czech Republic had two participants in the elimination rounds.
Martin Jůza, who ended up winning the whole thing, is a mainstay on the GP
circuit and seems to be especially invincible in Bochum, where he won for the
second time in a row. Armed with probably the best deck for that particular
weekend, he seemed to win the 1700+ players tournament almost with ease. The
second Czech player in the top 8 – Tomáš Vaněk – is a name that perhaps most
people reading the coverage didn’t recognize. However, Tomáš is a very solid player
and is regarded as a „constructed specialist“ in Prague, winning a Standard
WMCQ and posting a second place finish in a PTQ in the past year or so. He’s
also a good friend of mine, so I asked him if he could find some time in his
busy schedule for a short interview for Blackborder.com. This is the deck that
Tomáš played in Bochum:
3rd place at GP Bochum
|Converted Mana Cost|
Hello and once again,
congratulations on your third-place finish at GP Bochum! You are very well
known in the Czech Republic for being a constructed specialist, who regards
limited as a „necessary evil“. Why do you prefer constructed and – more
importantly – what are the most important skills for a constructed player?
I regard constructed more
as a „safe choice“. I’m a very risk-averse person and in my opinion, there is
much more variability going on in limited – during the draft, the deck
construction and also in the game itself. To put it simply, more things out of
your control can go horribly wrong. I feel that in constructed, the result of
the match depends more on the abilities of each player and on the respective
draw that you get. Because of this, in constructed, I feel that I can predict
the outcome of the match a lot better and therefore lower the risk of a loss,
particularly a loss to a player you normally shouldn’t lose to. Of course I
expect to lose even in constructed, but these losses don’t upset me so much,
because I can see them coming.
Also, I quite enjoy
repeating the same in-game processes of a deck I get used to.
As for important skills in
constructed, I don’t think that they differ all that much from the skills you
need in limited. Only that perhaps creativity is not needed that much and
precision and good technical play will bring better results.
What do you think about the current Standard format? What are the most
important decks and how are Zombies positioned in the metagame? What are the
good and bad matchups of the deck?
I think that the power
level of cards in Standard is really high, perhaps even too high. Cards are so
powerful that if you don’t have an answer even for one particular card, it can
cost you the game. If a creature like Geist of Saint Traft, Thundermaw Hellkite, Falkenrath Aristocrat or Olivia Voldaren slips through, it can easily
kill you in a very short time. Because of this, being reactive is a losing
strategy and that’s why I decided to run Zombies in Bochum.
The important decks are:
G/W aggro, Zombies aggro, U/W control, Bant control, U/W/R midrange, Jund
midrange and U/W midrange. With Zombies, it really depends on the build. When
built correctly, they are always tier 1.
I’ve heard you saying
that you were not very happy with the deck. Why was that? What would you change
about the deck if you had to play the tournament all over again?
It’s not easy to complain
about a deck that just helped you to a top4 finish at a Grand Prix, but truth
to be told, my deck really wasn’t good. I had six maindeck Threaten effects and
I sided them out in about eighty percent of the matches I played (I got paired
against a lot of U/W decks). The manabase is somewhat shaky, you get clunky
draws sometimes, don’t have access to powerful cards like Thragtusk, Supreme Verdict or planeswalkers... As long as the deck was firing on all cylinders, it
was good, but a single hiccup meant that everything fell into pieces. If I
could pick a different deck, I would have played Martin Juza’s reanimator.
Hands down the best deck for the tournament.
With your finish in
Bochum, you qualified for PT Gatecrash in Montreal. How are you planning to
prepare? Is there any special method that you use when preparing for a major
I think that the most
important part of preparing for a tournament is to understand the format very
well and play as many different decks as possible before the event. If you have
enough time before an event, try to test the format and then play new decks,
presumably something like Orzhov or W/R/B in Montreal, and if you don’t have
too much time, play a deck like Zombies or G/W (Gruul or Boros in Montreal). Special
method: play a ton of games.
You racked up five pro
points in Bochum, which – together with some points you already had in the
season and also the minimum of three from Montreal – means that you have a good
shot at making the Silver pro level. Does this mean something to you? Do you
think you can level up and reach Gold or eventually even Platinum?
I would like to use this
space to briefly express my opinion on the current pro level system. If
everything goes well, I’m going to reach the Silver level. If I’m really lucky,
maybe even Gold. But it’s entirely possible that I finish the season with
something like 20-25 points and I remain on Silver, which means I get absolutely
nothing. I do think that Wizards should change the current pro level system. The
Silver level is almost embarrassing for anybody who reaches it. It’s not easy
to reach 20 points and what you get as a reward are two byes and access to one
MTGO PTQ? I really miss the bonus of having one invite to a PT, like the old
level 3 used to give you. I hope that Wizards make some adjustments in the
„lower“ part of the levels system, either by introducing one additional level
or by adjusting the system as a whole.
Any message you would
like to send to the readers of Blackborder.com?
Testing is overrated.
Thanks for your time and
good luck in Montreal!
That wraps it up for today.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!