Peebles Primers – Hollywood Numbers, and The Resurgence of ...

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Peebles Primers – Hollywood Numbers, and The Resurgence of Reveillark
by Benjamin Peebles-Mundy

It seems as though I can only talk about one deck. My roommates from CMU suggested that I talk about the new Reveillark decks to come out of Hollywood, Richard Feldman graciously avoided Reveillark in his summary, and GerryT asked me if I was going to write “My Reveillark: Part 37.”. While I wouldn’t dare to let any of these people down, my article today is going to crunch some Hollywood numbers and cover a couple of thoughts I have about big tournaments before I get down to talking about the Reveillark deck. The thing that I really look forward to from the Wizards event coverage is the data. I enjoy the match coverage, sure, but I mostly like to see the decklists, the metagame breakdowns, and all manner of things I can use as information to inform my future decisions. Luckily for me, then, Wizards recorded exactly how many people were playing which decks on all days of competition, and so we can see how the tournament unfolded across the weekend. We can see how any individual deck did as things progressed. Take Faeries. Going in to the Pro Tour, most people considered Faeries to be the deck in Standard. Back-to-back Faerie mirror finals in the Star City Open weekend basically cemented this fact. Still, only 101 out of the 371 players in the Pro Tour selected Faeries as their weapon of choice. By the beginning of Day 2, there were only 29 Faerie pilots left. And by the start of the Top 8, there was only one. The numbers behind those numbers are as follows. On Day 1, Faeries made up a little over 27% of the room. While about 35% of the room progressed to Day 2, just under 29% of the Faerie decks made the cut. On the second day, Faeries represented approximately 21% of the field. Of the Day 2 players, only 6% made the cut to the Top 8, but only 3.5% of the Faerie decks continued on. At every point where people were being eliminated, the Faerie deck was performing below average. Now let’s look at Reveillark. On Day 1, there were only eighteen people running Reveillark. On Day 2, eight of them remained, and two of them made the cut to the Top 8. In terms of percentages, the concentration of Reveillark players in the room rose from 4.9% to 6%, and then from there to

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Peebles Primers – Hollywood Numbers, and The Resurgence of ...

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25%. When 35% of the Day 1 players advanced, 44% of the Reveillark players did. When 6% of the Day 2 players advanced, 25% of the Reveillark players did. It would seem, then, that Reveillark was performing well above average. Of course, before the Pro Tour, there probably weren’t that many people who would agree that Reveillark was “better” than Faeries. Even as much as I love Reveillark, I had conceded that Faeries was the better deck. And yet, the numbers from the Pro Tour claim that Reveillark is much better than Faeries. How can this be? I think that the answer comes in three parts. First, the bigger the tournament, the less relevant your matchup against any one deck is. Second, the bigger the tournament, the less well-represented the “best” deck will be. Third, the bigger the tournament, the more losses you can absorb while still making it all the way to the end. There may well be other reasons for results like the ones we saw this weekend, but I think that these are the most important. The first of the three reasons is something that’s been bubbling in my head for a while now. It has been lamented by many that modern metagames seem to be so wide-open that you can’t just find a deck that beats the top contenders and run with it, because you may well show up to a tournament and play against many decks you’ve never given more than the slightest thought. The bigger the tournament, the more likely you are to see this phenomenon in action. I’m not sure I know exactly why it is that big tournaments tend to be more diverse, but it’s something that I’ve experienced a lot. Last year at Regionals, I played eight different decks across nine rounds of play, and I didn’t see the best deck until the last round. At the first Star City 5k I attended, I played against nine different decks across ten rounds of play. At the second 5k, I played against eight different decks over nine rounds. Among the last few PTQs I attended, there was only one where I played against the same deck more than twice in the tournament. Example after example, and I just can’t think of a big tournament I’ve been to recently where I only ran into three decks all day long. Let me make a case for Reveillark using this idea. There were tons of decks in Hollywood, from Faeries to Mana Ramp to Kithkin. It may be that the average match between a Reveillark deck and a Faerie deck will end in the Faerie’s favor, but the average match between Mana Ramp or Kithkin and Reveillark will tend to end up in Reveillark’s favor. As we add more and more decks to the metagame, Reveillark’s matchup against Faeries doesn’t get any better, but Reveillark’s matchup against the field may very well. For this event in particular, I believe a lot of people didn’t worry that they had such bad matchups against Reveillark because “Faeries will keep it in check.” Take a look at all of the Deck Techs that Wizards put up; everyone says they lose to Reveillark. If you agree that most of the non-Faerie decks in the room are going to lose to Reveillark, and if you can believe that there will be twenty decks you have

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Peebles Primers – Hollywood Numbers, and The Resurgence of ...

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to worry about, then doesn’t it make sense to pick the deck that can take down sixteen of the twenty, even if one of the decks you lose to is the most-represented deck? It does, so long as the most-represented deck doesn’t happen to make up something like forty percent of the room. That, of course, brings me to my second point. It may simply be an extension of what I just talked about, but it always seems that the best deck isn’t actually as big as everyone thinks it will be when you’re playing more than just three rounds. Sign in to a MTGO 8-man, and someone in the queue is going to have to knock the Faerie player(s) out of everyone’s way. Show up to an FNM, and you might be looking at five rounds of Faerie matchups. Even the second day of Star City’s Open weekend showcased a seven-round tournament with massive proportions of Faerie decks. But when you start to break one hundred entrants, you’ll find that more and more people want to play the deck that beats the best deck, and not the one that actually is the best deck. And if you beat those guys, then you’re sitting pretty. In addition to finding that many entrants want to beat the top dog, you’ll just get many more who want to do their own thing, and enough of them together represent a sizeable portion of the field. Of course, you are going to run into Faeries at some point. They do take up a quarter of the room, after all, so it’s bound to happen sooner or later. It happened to me in both 5k tournaments, though I only lost one of those matches. It happened to the two Reveillark players who made the Top 8 this weekend, and (we think) they didn’t walk out of those fights winners. Still, they might have dropped three matches to Faeries, but they could afford those losses because they simply weren’t losing to the other guys. When you’re looking for a consistently high finish in a large tournament, you can afford to give up four losses and still do extremely well. With all the theory of why Reveillark seemed to be able to thrive in Hollywood out of the way, I thought I’d get a little more real and take a look at what Choo and Mihara actually played against this weekend. In addition to the metagame breakdown that Wizards provided, we have the decklist of, supposedly, everyone who made Day 2. This, coupled with the pairings and results pages meant that I was able to see, for the most part, what the two Top 8 Reveillark players played against, and what they lost to. At this point, you would obviously expect the report to be that each player took a handful of losses to Faeries and managed to beat up on the rest of the field, but that’s not actually the case. Yong Han Choo managed to go 6-2 on Day One and 6-1-1 on Day Two. For him, the expected happened; his three losses were to Faerie decks. However, he was actually paired against Faeries four times, and managed to take down one of those matches, locking up his spot for Day 3. Other than Faeries, he played against, and beat, Red Deck Wins, Elves, Doran, Quick ‘n’ Toast, Mana Ramp, and so on. Nothing out of the ordinary yet. Makihito Mihara, though, might surprise you. We know what twelve of his opponents were playing, and we know that two of those twelve were playing Faeries. However, the two losses I was able to track down were to Elves

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Peebles Primers – Hollywood Numbers, and The Resurgence of ...

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and Doran; Mihara went 2-0 against Faeries. The loss that he took to Doran also seemed to be a fluke, as he managed to play against that deck at least five times, and won the other four matches. He also managed to beat up on Merfolk, Mana Ramp, and Elves, as well as a few decks that didn’t make the cut to Day 2. Their deck seems to crush the various Green, Red, and White decks, and can at least hold its own against the Faerie scourge, so I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about it at least a little. The two decks are not identical, but they are similar enough that I think it makes sense to paint them both with the same broad brush. Here are their decks:

Reveillark
A Standard deck, by Yong Han Choo 4th place at a Pro Tour tournament in Hollywood, California, United States on 2008-05-25
As reported at http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgevent/pthol08/top8decks Print this deck!

Maindeck: Artifacts 2 Mind Stone Creatures 2 Aven Riftwatcher 2 Body Double 2 Greater Gargadon 4 Mulldrifter 4 Reveillark 4 Sower Of Temptation Instants 2 Careful Consideration 2 Momentary Blink 2 Pact Of Negation 4 Rune Snag Legendary Creatures 2 Venser, Shaper Savant
Snow Artifacts 4 Coldsteel Heart Sorceries 2 Wrath Of God Basic Snow Lands 4 Snow-covered Island 1 Snow-covered Plains Lands 4 Battlefield Forge 2 Faerie Conclave 4 Mutavault 4 Mystic Gate 2 Reflecting Pool 2 Vivid Creek

Sideboard:
2 Aven Riftwatcher 2 Kitchen Finks 1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter 1 Wispmare 2 Teferi's Moat 2 Wheel Of Sun And Moon 3 Crovax, Ascendant Hero 2 Teferi, Mage Of Zhalfir Stats: Average mana: 2.30 Average creature mana cost: 5.00 Average creature power: 2.90 Average creature toughness: 2.60 Deck Composition: Artifacts: 3.28% Basic Snow Lands: 8.20% Creatures: 29.51% Instants: 16.39% Lands: 29.51% Legendary Creatures: 3.28% Snow Artifacts: 6.56% Sorceries: 3.28%

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Peebles Primers – Hollywood Numbers, and The Resurgence of ...

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Download this Download this deck Download this deck in in deck in Magic Workstation Magic Online Text Apprentice format! format! format!

Reveillark
A Standard deck, by Makihito Mihara 7th place at a Pro Tour tournament in Hollywood, California, United States on 2008-05-25
As reported at http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgevent/pthol08/top8decks Print this deck!

Maindeck: Artifacts 3 Mind Stone Creatures 3 Body Double 3 Bonded Fetch 3 Greater Gargadon 4 Mulldrifter 4 Reveillark 4 Sower Of Temptation Instants 2 Momentary Blink 2 Pact Of Negation 4 Rune Snag Legendary Creatures 2 Venser, Shaper Savant
Snow Artifacts 3 Coldsteel Heart Basic Snow Lands 5 Snow-covered Island Lands 1 Adarkar Wastes 4 Battlefield Forge 2 Faerie Conclave 4 Mutavault 4 Mystic Gate 1 Reflecting Pool 2 Vivid Creek

Sideboard:
2 Aven Riftwatcher 2 Kitchen Finks 1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter 1 Wispmare 2 Teferi's Moat 3 Crovax, Ascendant Hero 1 Teferi, Mage Of Zhalfir 1 Pyroclasm 2 Wrath Of God Stats: Average mana: 2.37 Average creature mana cost: 5.13 Average creature power: 2.73 Average creature toughness: 2.56 Deck Composition: Artifacts: 5.00% Basic Snow Lands: 8.33% Creatures: 35.00% Instants: 13.33% Lands: 30.00% Legendary Creatures: 3.33% Snow Artifacts: 5.00%

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Peebles Primers – Hollywood Numbers, and The Resurgence of ...

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Download this Download this deck Download this deck in in deck in Magic Workstation Magic Online Text Apprentice format! format! format!

The big innovation, of course, is Greater Gargadon. By using the Gargadon instead of Mirror Entity, you make your fourth combo piece that much more resilient; people are much more likely to have Terror or Cryptic Command than they are to have Pull From Eternity. In addition, the Mirror Entity combo could be disrupted by a bounce effect on Body Double in response to one of the many activations, but the Gargadon combo does not share that weakness. In exchange, you lose the ability to outright win with just a Mulldrifter (unless you have the mana to suspend a second Gargadon); with Mirror Entity you could draw your deck, use the end step to discard the missing pieces, and then re-combo on your opponent’s upkeep. However, the situation where you have only Mulldrifter and also do not have the extra mana to suspend another Gargadon seems rare enough that the only consideration is the stretch on the manabase. Both players addressed this strain with Coldsteel Hearts filling in for the more normal Mind Stones. However, it’s long been an opinion of mine that Reveillark wants more than four accelerators, and these players managed to squeeze some Mind Stones into their decks alongside the Hearts. I have also long been a proponent of Prismatic Lens over the other options due to the fact that it fixes multiple colors and comes into play untapped, but Coldsteel Heart makes colored mana without any work, and that’s important when your three-color deck is packing four Mutavaults. While the Lens might give you all three colors over the course of the game, you might find that the second Blue mana the Heart gives you on turn 3 is much more important. Mihara and Choo also left their Riftwing Cloudskates at home, which doesn’t surprise me; the Suspend might be good against Faeries, but if you’re looking to beat the other decks, then Cloudskate is often clunky and simply too slow. Instead of those, both players ran four Rune Snags and two Pact of Negations. Instead of playing more five-drops, they opted to reinforce their early defense and protect their combo. Both players also

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Peebles Primers – Hollywood Numbers, and The Resurgence of ...

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moved their Sowers out of the sideboard and into the maindeck in full numbers. If you’re going off, Sower of Temptation is actually better than Riftwing Cloudskate in terms of handling creatures; you get to steal and sacrifice them instead of simply bouncing them. Overall, the deck was not that different from what everyone expected. They made the jump to Greater Gargadon, which seems like a definite improvement. They cut the clunkiest cards and beefed up their defenses. And, as few people predicted, they ran wild over the field on their way to the top. If Mihara can beat Faeries multiple times on the way to a Pro Tour Top 8, I think it’s safe to say that Reveillark is a deck you’re going to need to worry about come Regionals. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM. Benjamin Peebles-Mundy ben at mundy dot net SlickPeebles on AIM

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