The Innistrad: Crimson Vow Set Championship is coming up this weekend, so let’s take a look at the format and what kind of decks we can expect to see.
The event takes place online and will be broadcasted on www.twitch.tv/magic from December 3 to December 5 with the following schedule:
- Day 1: Friday, December 3, 2021 – 9:00 a.m. PST / 17:00 UTC / 02:00 Saturday December 4 JST
- Day 2: Saturday, December 4, 2021 – 9:00 a.m. PST / 17:00 UTC / 02:00 Sunday December 5 JST
- Top 8: Sunday, December 5, 2021 – 9:00 a.m. PST / 17:00 UTC / 02:00 Monday December 6 JST
The event will be 15 rounds of Swiss, with seven rounds of Traditional Historic Constructed and eight rounds of Traditional Standard Constructed, followed by a double-elimination Top 8 playoff with Traditional Historic Constructed.
- Day One: 7 Swiss Rounds
- Rounds 1-3: Historic Constructed
- Rounds 4-7: Standard Constructed
Players that reach four (4) or more wins return for Day Two.
- Day Two: 8 Swiss Rounds
- Round 8-11: Historic Constructed
- Rounds 12-15: Standard Constructed
- Day Three: Top8
You can find more information about the tournament like the prize payout and other rules here.
In Standard, I expect Izzet decks to be the most popular and I wouldn’t be surprised if they made up 40 to 50 percent of the metagame. Not only does Izzet get to play the best cards in the format (Alrund’s Epiphany, Goldspan Dragon, Memory Deluge, etc), it also gets to play the best double faced land cards in the form of Jwari Disruption, Spikefield Hazard and Shatterskull Smashing. This means that it’s very rare that you actually get mana screwed or flooded, because more than a third of your land cards can be used as very relevant spells. Especially Spikefield Hazard, which now kills Ascendant Packleader and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, has been overperforming lately, so don’t be surprised to see four copies in most Izzet decks.
Izzet Turns with maybe a couple copies of Hullbreaker Horrors or Lier, Disciple of the Drowned as the only creatures has an upper hand against Izzet Dragons thanks to the additional card draw spells, mana advantage from Treasures and Galvanic Iteration. Lately, we’ve seen a lot of these decks also splash black for Go Blank after sideboard, which is great in the these Turns mirrors, especially combined with Galvanic Iteration.
On the other hand, this means that you are giving up an edge against the creature decks because the card draw spells usually come at the cost of cutting removal spells like Dragon’s Fire. This means Izzet Dragons could be a better choice if you expect to see a decent amount of creature decks like Mono-White and Mono-Green, where having Smoldering Egg to do some blocking early and Goldspan Dragon is huge.
White Aggro is a fine choice, with Thalia, Adeline, Resplendent Cathar and Valorous Stance being your best cards against Izzet. A lot of the games are very close and very often come down to who wins the die roll. Izzet definitely has the tools to beat white if it respects it enough though, with cards like Spikefield Hazard and Cinderclasm doing a ton of work.
Mono-Green seemed very poorly positioned before the tournament, because you’re unfavored against Dragons and other kinds of Izzet decks with enough Fading Hopes and removal spell, but lately the Izzet players have been tuning their decks to be as good in the mirror as possible, some even going as far as playing cards like Test of Talents in the main, which are very weak against Green. We saw players like Brad Nelson tweet out that they are actually playing Green for this reason, hoping to punish those players who chose focus on the Izzet mirror and mostly disrespect green.
My only problem with this plan is that Mono-Green just plays too many weak cards at the moment. The deck was good very early on in the new Standard, because it pretty much builds itself, but as the time goes on, more sets get added to the format and other decks get polished and tuned for the metagame, it becomes much less appealing to play weak cards like Ranger Class.
In my opinion, the biggest issue green has is an unplayable sideboard, where Snakeskin Veil seems like the only really impactful card. But the problem is that since the sideboard is so one-dimensional and the options are incredibly limited, everyone expects all these Veils or Inscriptions of Abundance and already knows how to play around these tricks.
Lastly, Black Control decks have been fairly popular on the ladder recently, even posting some good win rates, but I don’t expect this deck to make a big splash at the highest stage of the competition. It seems good against creature decks thanks to all the sweepers, but it also has a horrible matchup against anything with the card Alrund’s Epiphany. I just cannot imagine submitting cards like Eyetwitch, Shambling Ghast, Hunt for Specimens and Deadly Dispute for when you can be playing great DFC options and cards like Goldspan Dragon, Memory Deluge and Epiphany instead.
So to sum it up, I expect the decks to perform the best in the following order:
- Izzet/Grixis Turns
- Izzet Dragons
- Mono-White Aggro
- Mono-Green Aggro
- Mono-Black/Orzhov Control
Historic is a lot different. I don’t really feel like there is a clear cut best deck at the moment and it’s starting to feel a lot like Modern, where there are about 20 different decks that can win a big tournament on any given day.
- Jund/Golgari Sacrifice
- Jeskai Control
- Izzet Phoenix
- Rakdos Arcanist
- Heliod Company
- Jeskai Creativity
Something like this would be my Tier 1 list of decks that I can easily see winning the tournament. If you take a closer look, there are a lot of creature decks, which is why I also included the Jeskai Creativity deck, which is usually good against those if you tune the build correctly.
If I had to guess, then for the same reason I would probably expect some kind of sacrifice deck to be the most popular. Humans, Heliod Company and Phoenix has been the most popular on ladder and smaller level tournaments lately, which means that the combination of Mayhem Devil, Witch’s Oven and Cauldron Familiar looks very appealing.
Jeskai, or any kind of control really, is the hardest to build, because the metagame is a bit all over the place and it’s hard to tune the deck properly. You don’t know whether you want a full playset of Dovin’s Vetos or a bunch of sweepers instead. But if you get it right, you’ll usually get rewarded with a good finish.
Unholy Heat and Dragon’s Rage Channeler changed the format. Delirium is now an important part of the game and a lot of decks are built with it in mind. This means that if you’re looking for flexible graveyard hate cards, then cards like Soul-Guide Lantern are a lot more appealing than Grafdigger’s Cage because they both add to your delirium count and actually get rid of your opponent’s graveyard instead of just stopping cards coming out of it.
Even the Jeskai decks usually want to play Unholy Heat and care about their own graveyard thanks to Mizzix’s Mastery, Magma Opus and Torrential Gearhulk, so there seem to be a lot less Rest in Peace and Grafdigger’s Cage in the format. This in turn means that decks like Rakdos Arcanist could have a great weekend, before everyone starts respecting the graveyard decks enough again.
There are other decks like Dimir Control, Goblins, Mono-Red Delirium, Five-Color Niv or even Merfolk that could do well if things line up perfectly, but I wouldn’t put them in the top tier at the moment.
Right now, I’d say that the most important thing in Historic is to pick one deck early and make sure you are 100 percent proficient and experienced with it. The edges and margins between the top decks are very marginal, so making sure you know how to play and sideboard with your deck in every matchup is much better than switching decks every day and hoping to find the holy grail.
I’ll see you next week with the post-set championship Historic Power Rankings!