Written By - Hayden Dale
The third annual MTG ADEPT Representationals was an event I had been looking forward to since I managed to take down the 2017 Reps Title Trophy in Wellington. A perk of being the reigning champ is having the event hosted in your home town, and although I now live in Sydney, Christchurch is my home and getting to take a brief holiday to see friends and play magic is always exciting.
Although this year’s Reps was smaller than last, it was well run, with a great structure, awesome staff and the sweet prizes. Having a multi format event outside of Nationals is super exciting, we see these larger scale type events over in the US with the SCG tour, and I think MTG ADEPT is doing a great job of pushing NZ magic towards their own unique version (I promise I am in no way paid to say this, I just really believe more competitive/social magic events on a larger scale in NZ should be supported and fostered!).
While I could run you through a tournament report round by round, I would rather take a broader perspective and share with you all how I approach multi-format events. Specifically, I’ll cover what I think you can do if you a searching for success next year at Reps, or for the upcoming NZ nationals. Also, the standard meta game has shifted with PT Richmond just wrapping up while Modern is itself going through some movements as we see the return of Jeskai and the downtick of Hollow One and somewhat, Humans.
Forward Planning - Preparation
One of the most important steps, and really where you should begin when preparing for a multi-format event, is planning. Specifically what I mean by this is breaking down how you will spend your preparation time, putting in some rough deadlines or milestones you want to hit along the way, and understanding what you need to be doing in your testing to work toward your goal for the event (be it a top 8, winning it all or simply just putting up a personal result you can be proud of).
Who are you preparing with? This is probably the best place to start as it flows into your other decisions. Will you be testing for this event alone, with a friend, or do you have a team of more than 2 or 3? This is important because it can determine how you will be spending a lot of your time. For instance, if it is just you, the plan should probably be to dedicate a lot of your prep time to playing magic online (if possible), reading content on each format and playing some local events to get familiar with the format and your potential deck choices. If you have a friend, or multiple friends, you should be spending more time testing specific match ups, discussing the formats (draft picks etc.) and tweaking lists together as you get closer to the event. Once you have decided this, I recommend putting in place some loose targets. For instance, if you start prepping a month out, the first goal might be to have done a certain amount of drafts by the end of week 2, the second might be to have a deck locked in a week out (to allow for tuning and testing specific cards in your SB). These goals don’t have to be set in stone, but it means you will keep to a schedule and achieve the understanding/desired outcome in your preparation for each format, avoiding inadvertent focus on one format, like draft because it is clearly the most fun.
For me, planning for this year’s reps meant setting myself goals such as having at least a dozen drafts under my belt of Dominaria before the week of reps, including notes that I could collate. It also meant locking in decks for standard and modern a week out, with the standard testing being dedicated in the second to last week before Reps (this for me meant a bunch of Magic Online Leagues) and dedicated Modern testing three weeks out (again Magic Online Leagues). It also meant communicating with my small play group back in Christchurch via Skype, with a limited meeting to discuss the format the week of the event.
Testing for a multi-format event can be tough, especially if it is three formats instead of two. But there are a few key things you can do to ensure you are getting the most out of your testing. A lot of these points are relevant for single format events too.
Establish a gauntlet/shortlist. This is something people tend to throw around, but it is really important in constructed testing. If you are with a team or friend, this means building up the key decks you expect and want to test with. The best way to do this is start with the current top decks in the meta. For example standard right now, this is probably about 4-5 decks. The stock lists are a good place to start and get a good feel of how each deck plays out, its weak points, strengths and overall game plan. I can’t stress how vital it is to know not only what the decks you are considering playing do and how they play out, but also understanding what your opponents will be doing. Knowing what your opponents will be doing will improve your game plan and understanding of each match up. This testing doesn’t need to be extensive, but get a feel for the match ups, switch who plays what and importantly play sideboarded games here. Sideboarded games can change drastically from game one, as you or your opponents plan might be entirely different. In short, get a few games under your belt of each deck in your gauntlet, and make some number of them sideboarded.
For me, Reps was a fairly solo testing experience in constructed, however I still built out my gauntlet, 4 decks I considered the strongest in the format and was expecting at the event. I ran each of these through at least one Magic Online League, making sure I understood match ups, game plans and sideboarding.
Limited testing can be a bit more diverse, in my opinion the best way to test draft is jump on Magic Online and get in at least the intermediate leagues, preferably the single elim competitive once you have a better handle on the format. I like to supplement this with my own notes, I think keeping a track of how you do with each colour and colour pair, as well as notes on cards that performed or underperformed draft to draft helps a lot. If you have good notes it means you can start to form informed opinions about colours, the strength of commons, the depth of colours and how you should be approaching each draft. Lastly I recommend watching draft videos on Channelfireball, specifically watch Ben Stark and Reid Duke. While I don’t think you should take every opinion they have as gospel, I think it is a great way for you to evaluate or revaluate specific cards, strategies and pick orders.
Overall in testing you should try and balance your time across the formats, however take a few things into consideration here. Firstly, what weighting is there on the rounds, for instance Reps this year was only 3 rounds of draft, but 6 rounds of modern, 4 of standard plus top 8 standard. For me this meant I would spend the majority of my time on standard partly because of this weighting, but also because it was a new format with new cards and decks to learn. Modern I felt I had a fairly comprehensive grasp of because of testing for GP Sydney the month prior, so I dedicated the least amount of time for this, about 5 leagues of playing the deck I felt was strongest. Had I not done this testing for Modern, I would have gone back to step one and started with the gauntlet like I did in standard. Draft I spent the second biggest portion of time on because, again it is a new format and I needed to understand it, despite it only being 3 rounds of the event, I was targeting a minimum 2-1 record here.
Lastly for today I wanted to cover deck selection. While I think there are a number of important aspects to preparing for a multi format event I have covered two I see as most vital, and naturally deck selection is something all of us have to do, even if we haven’t enacted my previous two points.
Unless you are on a team that is going to dedicate extensive testing to a format, I recommend you probably play one of the decks you identified in your gauntlet. This means either one of the best decks in the format, or one you personally (or as a collective) identified as a strong option against a majority of the gauntlet. There are a few things I consider when making my final deck selection. Firstly, what is the best deck in the format? If the best deck is going to be the most represented you need to ask, “Do I have an option with a good match up vs. it, one that doesn’t just lose to the next 2-3 most popular decks?” If no, you should seriously just consider playing the best deck. However, I am a big proponent of playing a deck you enjoy, and if you don’t feel comfortable with the best deck, either because it isn’t fun or doesn’t fit your play style then move on. Is there another deck that has a slightly unfavourable match up with the best deck, but is favoured or has an even match up with a number of the other decks you expect? Well if you enjoy that deck and feel comfortable on it, play it! I am not advocating you play your brew because you feel comfortable and enjoy it, but I am advocating not always playing the best deck or even the deck you might consider the “correct” deck if you aren’t going to be happy round to round.
As an example I chose to play BW Benalia at Reps, I didn’t think it was the best deck at the time, that was probably RB. However I felt a lot more comfortable on BW and from my own testing thought it had a decent RB match up, despite what other people had been saying.
To sum up, there is so much that almost everyone can improve on in their testing for events, but multi-format events pose a different challenge due to the need to spread your attention. I hope I have shed a bit of light on ways you might be able to enhance your preparation for the next multi-format, or even single format event that you play. I am continually learning and adapting how I prepare for events, in an effort to achieve greater results. As for Reps 2018, it ended for me in the quarterfinals, but I was happy with my preparation and was rewarded with an x-0 finish in modern, 2-1 in draft and 2-1-1 in standard.
Hope this write-up can help some of you at some point in the future. Feel free to leave comments or ask any questions.