Standard Letdown

This weekend marked the first of Wizards of the Coast’s new Standard Showdown initiative. Folks who missed the announcement can check out the details here.

For those too lazy to click the link above and who simultaneously also don’t know anything about what I’m talking about, the gist of it is as follows. To each store that registers, WotC has sent a box of 40 special Standard Showdown booster packs. These packs are filled with 2 rares from Standard legal sets (with a few exceptions) and a random foil card that may or may not be a Masterpiece. Stores are then required to run a Standard event on each Saturday for four consecutive weeks, with this past weekend being the first.

Magic-obsessed player that I am, I played in one of these tournaments, bringing a really fun deck which I’ll talk about a little later in the article. Before I get to that, I wanted to talk a little about my experience with the first Standard Showdown event—the pros, the cons—and how I think WotC might better implement these types of initiatives moving forward.

Sidenote: I talk about most/all of these points in the podcast I participate in, Scrubland Podcast. For those that want an audio version with some opinions of other players, feel free to check it out right here on MTGCardMarket a little later this week.

Pros

To their credit, I like the fact that Wizards is trying to expand their Magical offerings to different player bases. There’s certainly a subset of folks who really want to get their tournament fix, but for whatever reason don’t want to or can’t travel to the various high-level competitive events around the US (or World, I guess). Standard Showdown can occupy this space I think.

It’s also nice that, in my opinion, this event was aimed to breathe new life into an otherwise stale Standard format. Notwithstanding the fact that some players would take this event seriously and play established archetypes, I can’t help but imagine that the Standard Showdown idea was intended to provide an opportunity for folks to branch out and potentially play some non-dominating, fun archetypes.

Cons

Unfortunately, the cons from this past weekend outweigh the pros. I’ll temper my critiques by saying that, clearly, last Saturday’s event was the first of a four week event. Hopefully Wizards can take some of this constructive criticism to heart in order to better address the needs of its fan base in future installments of the Standard Showdown.

Requiring that the event be on a Saturday is a bad idea: Stores looking to participate in the event are required to hold the event on a Saturday. In theory, this seems like a good idea. After all, Friday Night Magic is successful for exactly this reason; players always know that Friday night will have some sort of Magic event available. With Standard Showdown always on a Saturday, players can likewise feel confident that they’ll always have a Standard event to play in on Saturdays should they so choose.

Unfortunately, this requirement really seems to negatively impact the event by diluting the potential player base in any location that has more than one LGS. Richmond, my stomping ground, has about half a dozen stores within reasonable driving distance. Normally, the local TOs do a really good job of communicating so as to not tread on each others’ feet.

That simply isn’t possible with this strict Saturday-only requirement. While I only played in one of these events, I was present for two—one Saturday morning, one evening. The numbers were low to say the least. I have to imagine that the low turnout was directly related to the fact that literally every other venue was simultaneously running events on the same day.

This problem would be minimized (or at least would have the potential to be mitigated) if store owners had the freedom to host these events on any day of the week that they choose. This way, store owners could work with each other to host events at varying times. This in turn would give players multiple options as to which they wanted to attend, potentially meaning that they could participate in more than one Standard Showdown if they wanted. This approach would also more than likely increase attendance at these tournaments since a local player base wouldn’t be fractured between stores.

Yes, this might prove impossible in some communities with less than accommodating TOs. In these cases though, Standard Showdown would just be back to square one, with multiple events held at the same time on Saturdays.

If Wizards wasn’t offering up some interesting prizes, I probably would’ve been fairly annoyed. Speaking of which…

The prizes weren’t exciting enough: I’ve gone to events in the past where the prizes were unique and sought after. Alternate art promos, playmats, and so on. I know many folks that eagerly seek these collectibles and play in events for the chance to win them.

With the Standard Showdown just doling out some slightly buffed up packs however, the support felt lackluster. Yes, there is the potential for Masterpieces. Most folks won’t get so lucky however, and plain old cards just don’t inspire folks in this day and age. This is particularly true when the rares included in the packs might be from sets that are quickly approaching the point when they’re rotating out.

Yes, I understand that these packs are somewhat special. I’m also not sure what to offer in their stead, especially considering Standard Showdown could be an on-going thing should it prove successful. Ultimately though, the prizes just felt underwhelming.

Hopefully, things pick up in future weeks. I don’t know how other communities fared, but if it was anything like Richmond’s last weekend, changes will need to be made for Standard Showdown to be an ongoing Wizards endeavor. With that said, let’s move on to…

What I played

I came into the event expecting most people to use this low-key tournament as one in which they could explore their pet decks or otherwise just have fun. I was sorely mistaken. While there were some casual decks, I saw plenty of typical Standard bullies, U/W Flash in particular.

Still, I played a fun deck! I even ended up doing reasonably, landing a 2-1-1 record (with an intentional draw in the last round) despite a frightening field of tuned lists. Here’s what I played:

Redharmonicon by Charles League

For those that aren’t aware, this is sadly not a homebrewed list. It’s a slightly modified version of SaffronOlive’s most recent creation. You can check out his card choice explanations and some videos of him piloting the deck here.

To rehash a little of SO’s breakdown, the deck operates by abusing Panharmonicon in a roundabout way. Rather than try and jam the deck full of value creatures with enters the battlefield abilities, this go around we’re looking to double the triggers caused by our various artifacts coming into play.

In some cases, these are what you’d expect. Prophetic Prisms draw us multiple cards; Cogworker’s Puzzleknot now has the nigh-unbeatable trigger of producing two 1/1 tokens instead of just one. How does an opponent come back from that value!?

The core of the deck, however, is not in cards that themselves have enters the battlefield triggers, but rather cards that trigger when an artifact enters play. The linchpin of this strategy is Reckless Fireweaver. With Panharmonicon and the 1/3 on the board, suddenly our Cogworker’s Puzzleknots are dealing 6 damage a piece: 2 from the Puzzleknot itself and 4 from the two 1/1 artifacts it creates. Add more of these combo pieces, and the numbers unsurprisingly double. Two Fireweavers or Panharmonicons means a single Cogworker’s Puzzleknow clocks our opponent for 12. Kaboom!

We get to find our pieces for this devastating barrage with another red “artifact ETB” creature: Quicksmith Genius. Panharmonicon doubles his rummage ability, so a single white Puzzleknot lets us look at 6 additional cards. That’s insane.

For those that know me, it’s not surprising why I jumped on this list. The Reckless Fireweaver / Puzzleknot duo is a one-two punch I fell in love with in the early days of Kaladesh limited. These two cards were probably two of the most common cards I drafted near the beginning of the set’s release and I was excited to play them in a constructed deck.

More importantly though, I love playing kooky combo decks—heck, I had to be talked down from playing a Panharmonicon deck at the Pro Tour—and this one is a solid 8 or 9 on the Charles League Kookiness Scale (CLKS). I would go so far as to say if a deck doesn’t have some convoluted combo in it, I’ll only play it begrudgingly.

Since the event was a really low-key one, I didn’t put too much effort into testing the deck beforehand. That didn’t stop me from making some slight tweaks to the list though. One of the first Kaladesh Standard decks that I experimented was the Aetherflux Reservoir combo that was all the rage at the start of the season. Since this list already shared a lot of cards for that deck, I simply swapped out the entire sideboard for the alternate combo in case, I don’t know, I wanted to 50 somebody. I also updated the manabase to accommodate the non-red cards in the sideboard, although for folks not looking to adopt my sideboard strategy this wouldn’t be necessary.

Overall the deck played out about as well as you’d expect. Round 1, I beat a UW player in game 1 with Reckless Fireweaver and then boarded into the Reservoir deck and won again. My loss came from a hyper aggro Vehicle deck. Nothing too special.

I probably would not play this deck in any sort of event with a high level of competition or a lot at stake, although I might take it for another spin in a “casual” setting like an FNM or another Standard Showdown.

If I were planning on playing it again, there are definitely some changes that I’d make. First and foremost, I’d move some of the sideboard cards into the maindeck. Paradoxical Outcome in particular was great all day, letting me rebuy Puzzleknots and Prisms while simultaneously drawing an absurd amount of cards. This change also opens up the sideboard for some actual sideboard slots, which definitely needs to be tweaked. The deck as it stands is rather slow and unsurprisingly fairly weak to aggro as a result. I’d want to adjust the list to better deal with beats early. Maybe Galvanic Bombardment? I have concerns that, at this point, we’d be better off just playing a straight Aetherflux Reservoid list though, so who knows.

Wrap Up

Anyway, that’s my weekend of Magic. Got an opinion on the Showdown you want to share? Comments on the list? Feel free to sound off below! Until next time.

Charles League

Charles League

Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Charles derives most of his magical prowess from his warlock-like beard. His proudest Magic achievement is being crowned the two-time Richmond Virginia Grand Melee winner, narrowly beating out the time he went undefeated in draft at Pro Tour Hawaii 2014. Charles accidentally became the Pentago US National Champion Runner Up in 2012.
Charles League

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Published:November 28, 2016

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