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Twelve Best Cards of 2012

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Adam Koska
Adam Koska

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

Twelve Best Cards of 2012

Hello everybody and welcome! The year 2012 is almost over and before we enter the next season, with its numerous GPs, PTs and tons of new cards that will see print, I would like to use this opportunity to look back at the past twelve months and talk about what has happened. From my personal perspective, 2012 was a rather quiet year, Magic-wise. I haven’t played in any Pro Tour and because I couldn’t dedicate nearly as much time to Magic as I used to, I attended only a handful of GPs and some PTQs. Therefore, I’m not going to write about my own tournament successes and failures. Instead, I’m going to focus on what has happened from a broader perspective. For each month, I’m going to choose a single card that I feel was the most important card of the month. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a card that was the best or the most widely played, but rather a card that was, for some reason, important, at least in hindsight. Usually, these will be the cards that defined – or helped redefine, in some cases – Standard, but sometimes we’ll also come across cards that had a major impact on other formats, or were important for some other reason. I hope that you’ll bear with me, as I’ll be refreshing the memories of 2012, in an attempt to close them neatly in an imaginary box and get ready for the new year ahead.

January - Delver of Secrets

Although the first Standard GP of the year – GP Orlando – was won by Conley Woods with a rogue ramp deck, the format still remained defined by Delver and the blue-white deck relying on its namesake card. Three U/W Delver decks made it into the top8 of GP Orlando and the Innistrad card was clearly the most important card in Standard.

What did Delver mean for Standard? Was it good for the health of the format? Was the “random factor” an issue? The games with a turn-1 Delver that managed to flip right away were often a nightmare and the difference between a "good draw" and a "normal draw" was massive. Personally, I don’t think the card was too good – creatures that die to most removal rarely are – but it proved to be a bit oppressive and January was still the month when, if you weren’t playing Delver, you should have had a very good reason for not be doing so (and only few people actually did).

February – Primeval Titan

Delver still remained one of the cornerstones of Standard in February – Matt Costa won a Standard GP in Baltimore with it, and four Delvers were in the top8 of the Standard Pro Tour Hawaii. However, the card of the month is Primeval Titan. I’ve said that only few people had good reasons not to play Delver, and it turns out that the ChannelFireball guys were among these people, at least at Pro Tour Dark Ascension, which took place in the second week of February. The ChannelFireball team relied on a R/G Primeval Titan deck in the PT, with PV finishing second only to Brian Kibler, who won the final mirror match and took home the trophy.

So was Primeval Titan a permanent answer to Delver or only a temporary solution? PV himself said that the deck was ok, but actually didn’t have that great a matchup against Delver. The matchup was reasonable, but I have a feeling that the fact that these guys dominated the Pro Tour with the R/G Wolf Run Ramp has more to do with their skill than with the deck itself. The success of the deck also didn’t translate into the months after the PT, and Delver remained the no.1 deck. Usually, the Pro Tour affects the long-term metagame, but this time, people usually went back to playing a Delver deck without Drogskol Captains (Jon Finkel’s innovation) and the numbers of Wolf Run Ramp remained modest.

March – Lingering Souls

Dark Ascension was released in early February, and it contained a card called Lingering Souls – and people were expecting big things from it in Standard, especially after Jon Finkel played it in the Pro Tour in his Delver deck. But after the Pro Tour, it seemed not to bend the Standard (or any other) metagame too much, and the hype died down a bit. Then, in March, Lingering Souls started to show that it was the real deal. Tom Martell won a Legacy GP with a deck featuring Lingering Souls, people were starting to play the card more in Standard (Tom Valkereens posted a GP top4 with a B/W Lingering Souls deck in Lille) and slowly, many players were starting to get the feeling that Souls will be a problem in the Block Constructed PT that would take place in May. Then, out of the blue, in mid-March, Lingering Souls was banned in Block Constructed, showing just how bad for the Block metagame Wizards thought the card could be.

Delver was still strong in March– Yuuya won a Standard GP with it, in a top8 packed with U/W Delver. Antonino De Rosa won a Modern GP in Turin with a RUG Delver list.

April – Sword of War and Peace

Delver was still the public enemy no. 1 throughout this month. Four Standard SCG Opens took place in April and nearly half of the top8 slots of them were taken by Delver. This was especially true during the first part of the month, but later on, people seemed to have found some ways around the blue flying Nacatl. The latter two of the four SCG Open tournaments in April have been both won by R/G aggro. The award of the card of the month could very well go to Strangleroot Geist, but the card that was the most important is another one – Sword of War and Peace. The red-white Sword was an automatic inclusion in the R/G deck and also made some appearances in Delver, which is why – despite the four SCG Open trophies being hoisted by pilots of two completely different archetypes – Sword of War and Peace was present in all four of the winning decks. This fact was also reflected in the price of the card, which skyrocketed, sticking close to its all-time high in April, which was almost 50 dollars.

May – Entreat the Angels

I’m not sure if Entreat the Angels was the best card in May or even if the U/W Miracle control was the best deck of the Block Pro Tour Barcelona, but sometimes you just have to give points for style and Alexander Hayne certainly did win the Pro Tour with style. Miracle is a mechanic that leads to big, swingy turns. If you’re on the winning side of things, then all is well, but sometimes you’re on the receiving end of a timely miracle, like a certain Mr. LSV and Mr. Kibler have been in a video that became quite famous by now. May certainly was a month of miracles and a good story that went with them.

June – Cavern of Souls

Cavern of Souls saw print in May, and June was the month when players could finally feel the full impact of the card in Standard. I think that, in the end, Cavern did contribute quite a bit to the “rock-paper-scissors” state of the format, although with more characters than just three.

What were the numbers of Caverns in June? High, to say the least. In the Standard GP Manila, six of the top8 decks played Cavern – this was still when Delver was in its full force, with Yuuya winning the GP with Delver, but Cavern put other decks in a much better position against it and many Delver decks actually adopted the card themselves.

Cavern even made its way into Legacy (which usually stresses the power level of a card), when two decks played some copies of the card in the top8 of the Legacy GP in Atlanta in June.

July – Thragtusk

M13 was released in July. As of today, Thragtusk is usually considered the best card from the set, but you couldn’t really have guessed that by the results of tournaments in July. Three Standard SCG Opens took place in July – the first one was still mostly about Delver (three Delvers in the top8, including the winning deck), the second one was defined by Zombies making a big splash (1st and 3rd place, another one in 8th place) and it wasn’t until the last July SCG Open, when a Thragtusk deck won a Standard SCG Open tournament. It later became clear not only that Thragtusk is good against Zombies, but also that Cavern plus Thragtusk is quite reasonable against Delver. However, despite Thragtusk making its first successful steps on the tournament scene, having the beast as the obligatory 4-of – something that we’ve later become accustomed to seeing – still wasn’t the norm, and Caleb Durward, who won the July SCG Open no. 3, still only played one Tusk maindeck (and 0 in the board) in his Naya Pod list with four Caverns.

August – Far Wanderings

Only one GP took place in August and it was Limited, Standard remained quite stable and instead of grinding Magic, many players – including me – preferred to go on summer holidays. Sure, the World Magic Cup and Magic Players Championship were taking place in August and something important was probably going on there, Magic-wise, but sometimes you have to put your priorities right and disappear for a good, healthy vacation.  

September – Pack Rat

Two GPs took place in September, both M13 Limited, but M13 was a lame duck at this point of time, as all eyes were set on Return to Ravnica already. Our second trip to the city of guilds started at the end of September (at least if you were following spoilers, otherwise you had to wait until October 5th) and it certainly caused quite an upsurge of excitement. Has the set met the expectations? RtR Standard is quite good, as far as I can say, but for me personally, RtR limited is a bit of a disappointment. There’s a saying, that I believe holds a lot of truth, which says „the more archetypes you can play in a given format, the more fun this format is“. Return to Ravnica does offer some incentives to draft decks that have more than two colors, but it doesn’t go by any means as far as the original Ravnica went, and instead gives you only five basic color-combinations to choose from. The usual draft looks like this: you choose a guild in your first two to three picks and then wait for signals. Either you were lucky and your guild is open, in which case you stick to it and try to stay in two colors only, or your guild is not open and you switch, possibly splashing the cards that you got earlier in the draft. Of course this is a simplification, but I’ve found myself following this scenario a lot more than I would like to, and I have to say that it takes away a lot of the possibilities that you usually have in draft.

Another problem that RtR Limited has – albeit a rather smaller one compared to the general shortcomings of the format as a whole – is a card named Pack Rat. The card is so ridiculously powerful in Limited that it really does follow in the footsteps of Umezawa's Jitte in how unfair and unfun it is. Because of its sheer power in Limited, the award for the card of the month goes to this black rare critter.

October – Second Sunrise

The Modern PT Seattle took place in October and was dominated by Standa Cifka and his Eggs deck, which is why the award goes to one of the key cards of the deck, Second Sunrise. The mirror matches of this deck might not be the most enjoyable thing ever, especially if they go to time and the whole tournament has to wait for them, but you can’t deny the style in which Stanislav turned the Pro Tour into his personal one-man show (although Yuuya’s performance in the “supporting role” of this motion picture was also quite admirable).

November – Thundermaw Hellkite

Several months ago, Thundermaw Hellkite was just a nearly forgotten mythic from M13. And then, all of a sudden, people started to play it as an answer to Thragtusk (among other things). The R/B Zombies / burn deck became one of the most important decks in the format in November – if not THE most important one – and the price of Thundermaw Hellkite reacted accordingly. At the beginning of October, the average price for a Thundermaw Hellkite was somewhere around fifteen dollars. At the end of November, it became forty, which propelled the 5/5 hasty dragon right among the most expensive cards of Standard.

December – Unburial Rites

Reanimator had been a tier 1 Standard deck for some time, but the strategy received a major gust of fresh wind when Yuuji Okita won GP Nagoya with a new take on the Unburial Rites strategy – one that runs Chronic Flooding as the self-mill engine, Angel of Glory's Rise as the primary reanimation target and Izzet Staticaster + Nightshade Peddler as a utility anti-creature combo. Unburial Rites have been one of the defining strategies of Standard and the results show that the possibility of reanimating a huge fatty into play should not be underestimated – not after Martin Juza won GP Bochum with it in November and certainly not after Yuuji Okita won yet another GP with it in December.

That wraps it up for the past twelve months in Magic. I’m looking forward for the next twelve months and wish you all the best for 2013!

Thanks for reading and see you next time,

Adam Koska

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