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Author Topic: Pwn Your Opponent with Tentacles!--The ANT Primer  (Read 13496 times)
Gandalf_The_White_1
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« on: January 23, 2010, 03:15:39 PM »

Pwn Your Opponent with Tentacles!--The ANT Primer

So, I've been testing ANT for the past 6+ months and think that it is a strong deck right now.  It has been a while since there has been a thread, so I decided to post my list with explanations and matchup analysis.

The list:

32 Spells:

3 Tendrils of Agony

9 Bombs:
4 Ad Nauseam
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Necropotence
1 Tinker
1 Memory Jar
1 Timetwister

7 Disruption:
4 Duress
3 Thoughtseize

7 Set-up:
3 Dark Confidant
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Brainstorm
1 Ponder
1 Time Walk

4 Tutors:
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Demonic Consultation

2 Bounce:
1 Chain of Vapor
1 Hurky's Recall

28 Mana:

12 Lands:
4 Polluted Delta
2 Bloodstained Mire
3 Underground Sea
2 Swamp
1 Island

16 Accel:
4 Dark Ritual
3 Chrome Mox
2 Cabal Ritual
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Lotus Petal
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault

Sideboard:
4 Yixlid Jailor
4 Phyrexian Negator
3 Slaughter Pact
2 Hurkyl's Recall
1 Island
1 Swamp

First of all, why play ANT?  ANT is good because it is a combo deck that combines a fast kill with disruption and resiliency, resulting in a decent game against most decks in the current meta.  More specifically, I am concerned with the following decks (in about this order): Tezz/Drains, Oath, Dredge, Stax, Fish, Beats, TPS.  Combo generally slaughters random decks.
As an auxiliary reason, I find combo simply fun to play.  What could feel more satisfying than killing your opponent on turn 1, before they even get a chance to do anything?  If Stax players take sadistic glee in locking their opponents out of the game while slowly eating away their boards, ANT players take similar joy in going busted and exploding all over their opponents' faces.


Maindeck Card Analysis:

3 Tendrils of Agony:
I think that this is the ideal number for an ANT deck, combining with Demonic Tutor, Demonic Consultation, and Topdeck Tutors+Draw Spells to ensure that you usually have access to Tendrils in order to kill after resolving Ad Naus.  I think 4 is too many because you rarely want to see it until you have resolved, or can resolve, a powerful bomb, and it sucks to flip it off Ad Naus when it is not needed.

Tinker+Jar:
Eric Becker first (to my knowledge) suggested the inclusion of Tinker/Jar, and testing has proved it to be invaluable, for a number of reasons:
1: Tinker/Jar does insane things in this deck with all the fast mana.
2: Their inclusion improves the deck's threat density, reducing the amount of mulligans resulting from hands with no business.
3: Tinker/Jar is a method, besides Yawgmoth's Will, which allows you to combo out at low life.  
Ultimately, the power Tinker/Jar adds to the deck outweighs the drawback of adding another 5cc and 3cc spell.  I have won far more games off the back of Jar than I have lost from flipping it to Ad Nauseam (I still rarely lose after resolving Nauseam--in fact, I often flip Jar and nevertheless go on to win).
As a side note, Tinker-->Lotus to set up Will is also a strong play, so it has utility besides Jar.

Necropotence:
I see ANT builds without this card, so apparently its inclusion is questionable for some people.  Personally, I see no reason not to run this card--in fact, it's probably the most powerful bomb in the deck relative to its casting cost.  Land+Ritual+Necro is all that is needed to set up a win for next turn.  I realize it doesn't have great synergy with Ad Nauseam, but with all the Rituals and fast mana, 3 Tendrils, bounce spells, tutors, Yawg Will, and multiple other bombs like Tinker/Jar and Timetwister, Necro is insane in this deck.

Timetwister:
Although it is perhaps the most questionable of the bombs, I still think that this spell is worth running.  Once again, it's great with all of the fast mana and 3 Tendrils, and increasing your threat density is never a bad thing.

3 Thoughtseize:
Lots of testing has shown this to be better than Pact of Negation.  The lifeloss might seem bad, but it's definitely worth it.  I was running 4 for a while but cut 1 when I added Twister.  I would like to find space for the 4th Thoughtseize but the list is really tight.

3 Dark Confidant:
Dark Confidant is simply amazing in this deck.  In addition to the obvious benefit of drawing cards+attacking, and the synergy with the low curve and the Tendrils kill, Dark Confidant allows this deck to play the long game.  Instead of having to rely heavily on your opening hand and a couple top decks, and try to kill in the first 1-3 turns or simply lose, much of the time you can simply drop Confidant, Duress a couple times, and ride it to victory.  Dark Confidant is also a great card against Stax, because it feeds you cards to develop your mana and board, thus significantly improving one of the deck's hardest matchups.  Once again, I'd run 4 if I could find the space, but there isn't anything else I'm willing to cut.  3 has been working fine anyway, ensuring that I draw Confidant enough for it to be useful but don't end up with too many off Ad Nauseam.

1 Chain of Vapor+1 Hurkyl's Recall:
I have eschewed the 3-4x Chain plan common to other builds for several reasons:
1: I find that I rarely need to use bounce spells to build to lethal storm after Ad Nauseam.
2: Maindeck bounce is not very good in a number of matchups--for example, against control.  I hate drawing Chain/Hurkyl's against Tezz because they are usually useless.  I would prefer to maximize my chances of drawing business & disruption
3: I am generally comfortable with 2 bounce spells.  
4: Chain is a catch-all solution to problem creatures as well as artifacts, while Hurkyl's answers the most dangerous artifact threats in multiples, including the annoying Chalice at 1.  I like to have access to both maindeck through Demonic/Vamp/Mystical Tutor, even though the 1/1 split has less synergy with Consultation.

3 Chrome Mox:
I run 3 Chrome for pretty much the same reason I run 3 Tendrils--you rarely want to see one in your opening hand, and 2 in the opening hand is simply horrible.  3 Chrome, along with moxes+Lotus, is enough to ensure I reliably hit free coloured mana post Ad Naus.

2 Cabal Ritual:
I hate Cabal Ritual, because without Threshold it is pretty awful.  In order to actually use this to cast Ad Nauseam you usually need to combine it with a Dark Ritual or a Mana Crypt/Vault.  It is not very useful off Ad Nauseam because, excepting Lotus, you need to have 2 other accelerants in order to even cast it.  Nevertheless, it is a necessary evil for this deck.  2 seems to be the ideal number--I certainly wouldn't want to run any more.

0 Imperial Seal:
I tried running this card but I hated it for a number of reasons:
1: With only Brainstorm, Ponder, Ancestral, and Jar to draw cards, casting Imperial Seal usually requires you to pass the turn afterwards.  I hate this because it forces me to commit to a line of play for my next turn before I see what my opponent does on their turn.  If they do something unexpected, it can screw up my entire plan, especially if they are a good player and are able to determine what I tutored for.
2: If you have a Dark Confidant in play, tutoring for an Ad Nauseam will knock off 7 life, greatly reducing the number of possible cards you can draw.  For this reason, Imperial Seal is not a useful tutor for Ad Nauseam when you have a Confidant in play, which happens to be a great deal of the time.
3: Hands with more than 1 topdeck tutor are quite slow, and when I was playing all 3 I would frequently draw 2 in my opening hand, with the result that using both hurts my tempo, effectively double Time-Walking my opponent.  If I don't use two, 1 is simply dead.
4: With the deck as it is now, I would add the 4th Thoughtseize or Dark Confidant first--I think they are both better than Imperial Seal.

0 Pact of Negation:
When I first began testing this deck, like everyone else I started with 4x PON.  The additional first turn kills through FOW that PON provides are obviously quite spectacular.  The problem with PON, however, is that it severely limits your line of play.  PON is only useful when you have Ad Naus+Mana to cast it, or a lethal Will.  Outside of these two situations, it merely sits in your hand, incapable of disrupting your opponent or protecting your other spells.  It can also force you to go all-in on an Ad Naus if you hit the danger range without yet having the kill, instead of being able to Duress your opponent, pass, and set up Will or Jar for next turn.  Additionally, I boarded Pact out against every deck except Drains--it's not worth playing a card that's only really good in this one matchup, especially since the matchup is already in ANT's favour.

6 Fetches/3 Duals:  Running 4 Duals is unnecessary.  Barring a huge prevalence of Stifle, fetches are better because they act as both duals and basics.  Fetches are better against Wasteland and Wasteland is more common than Stifle.  In fact, 7 fetches/2 duals would probably work also, but I like being able to fetch the 3rd dual if necessary.

1 Island: This might seem questionable to some, since unlike TPS this deck is clearly predominantly Black.  I'll admit, drawing the Island in the opening hand CAN screw you.  I believe, however, that I have won a lot more games from being able to fetch a maindeck Island against Stax and Fish than I have lost from having to mulligan 1-Island hands.  Fetching the Island to cast Brainstorm/Ponder/Ancestral as set-up, without exposing yourself to wasteland, is often important.  Clearly there is a trade-off here but I think it is worth it.


Sideboard Card Analysis [note--if you are worried about Sadistic Sacrament you can easily cut something for a 4th Tendrils in the board]:

4 Yixlid Jailor:
This is the hate I have chosen for Dredge.  One could make a case for other cards, as well, such as Crypt/Relic/Planar void.  Leyline (as well as Trap) is bad because it's 4cc.  I prefer Jailor because it makes it so their deck doesn't function as long as it's in play, & doesn't affect me at all.

4 Phyrexian Negator:
These are VERY good against Stax post-board, especially if they don't expect them.  Even if they do, it means they need both permanent hate AND storm hate.  I have won a lot of games in testing against Stax just by beating them down while they sit there with Spheres and Chalices in play.  Negators+Confidant beats means they need Spheres+Wire+Stack ASAP, and it can be difficult for them to assemble this complete lock quickly enough.
The Negators have also been surprisingly good against control decks, as they put your opponent on a fast clock while providing a way for you to win through storm hate.

3 Slaughter Pact:
This is awesome against Fish and Beats decks.  They usually do not run Chalice, and it takes care of any one of their creatures that matters.

2 Hurkyl's Recall:
I used to run 3 but found that having 4 Hurkyl's post-board against Stax wasn't really necessary.  The hard part of this matchup is getting into a position where you even CAN cast Hurkyl's EOT and go off.  By the time you get to this point, usually you will have found one of the 3 or can tutor for 1.

1 Island+1 Swamp:
These are awesome against Stax, and decent against Fish, too.

0 Xantid Swarm:
I have omitted Xantid Swarm for several reasons.
1: The sideboard is quite tight, & it simply doesn't make sense to me to use up 4+ slots solely for the control match-up, when it is already favorable.
2: There is a good chance that Xantid Swarm will be invalidated by cards they bring in, such as Darkblast etc for our Confidants, or permanent-based combo hate such as Arcane Lab/Trinisphere.
3: There isn't very much that I want to side out in the control match-up.  Almost all of the maindeck, with exception of Chain and Hurkyl's, is quite strong against them.

0 Sadistic Sacrament:
I simply don't think this card is necessary.  If I were to run it I would want to run 3-4 to ensure that I see it consistently.  Tutoring for it is bad because tutor+BBB can just resolve Necro and win.  Once again, Tezz & Oath are not the most problematic match-ups, and the combo mirror is pretty rare around here.  There is also not much I would want to side out for it.

Matchup Analysis.  

I have broadly classified matchups as either Favorable, Slightly Favorable, Slightly Unfavorable, or Unfavorable.  I have also indicated whether my data come from tournament experience only (small sample size), or from moderate or heavy testing.  Obviously these are imperfect approximations based on my own experience, and will vary depending on the build of the deck.  As such, they are meant to be taken as general guidelines rather than hard-and-fast claims.

Sideboarding strategy will of course also vary, and is merely a guideline.

Meandeck Beats: Favorable [Tourney]
You only really care about 3 cards: Thoughtseize, Null Rod, and Gaddock Teeg.  Out of these 3, Null Rod is by far the most dangerous, because by shutting down your mana it prevents you from being able to do stuff.  Fortunately, Beatz only has discard to protect their Rods, so if you can Duress/Thoughtseize their Rod or tutor+bounce it, you should be able to go off pretty easily.  Teeg stops Ad Naus, Jar, and Tendrils, but does nothing to the rest of your stuff.  4 Thoughtseize is not enough discard to pose a serious threat.  I have not played this match outside of tournaments, but from the experience I've had with it, you can usually go off relatively easily through their minimal disruption and clock.  Post-board, you get Slaughter Pacts to well, slaughter them.

Sb: -4 Duress, -1 Chrome Mox. +3 Slaughter Pact, +2 Hurkyl's Recall.
[note: on the play you might want to keep in Duress instead of Hurkyl's, since you have Duress to deal with Rods.  In general, however, answers that deal with permanents on the board are more useful than discard because they can always take care of problem permanents]


Dredge: Favorable [Tourney]
Unlike most other decks, it is actually possible for ANT to race Dredge game 1.  Since many current builds don't run Unmask/Chalice, you can often rely on them having no turn 1 disruption, which generally means an easy T2 win if you are on the play with a decent hand.  If you are on the draw it might be tight, since their usual T2 goldfish means you really need the goods for T1.  Basically, both decks are capable of crazy fast draws, but ANT has the advantage IMO since it can go off T1 while Dredge can't.  Post-board, you cut useless chaff for 4x Jailor.  Your goldfish speed is unaffected, while they are forced to slow down their deck to try to deal with their hate.  If they don't deal with Jailor, they lose.  If you combo off, they lose.  They usually lose.

Sb: -3 Thoughtseize. -1 Necropotence (on Draw) +4 Jailor, +2 Hurkyl's (& minus 2 Duress, if Chalice)


5c Stax: Favorable [Heavily Tested]
I was in fact quite surprised by the outcome of this testing.  All the 5c Stax piolets will probably disagree with my classification of the match-up, but out of the 22 matches I tested and recorded with this configuration, ANT won 15 while 5c Stax won 7.  I think a great deal of ANT's strength in this matchup lies in the Confidants in combination with the Negator sb.  Post-board, Stax needs more than just a million Sphere+Chalice to win--they need to follow it up with Wire+Stack ASAP to avoid getting beaten down, while ANT retains the ability to Hurkyl's Recall and combo out.  Stax's best weapons are In The Eye of Chaos, to prevent bounce, and Tinker-->Titan, to kill lands and counteract ANT's beatdown plan.  Stax won A LOT of games with Tinker-->Titan.  Nevertheless, ANT has a clear advantage post-board with the extra basics and multiple avenues of attack, all of which must be answered quickly for the Stax player to avoid the loss.

Sb: -4 Duress, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Necropotence.  +4 Negator, +2 Hurkyl's, +1 Island, +1 Swamp


The Deck: Favorable [Tested]
The Deck doesn't have as strong control, combo, or draw elements as Tezz.  What it does have is mana denial.  Wasteland and Gorilla Shaman can be very annoying--the few games you lose to the Deck will probably be quite frustrating, as you sit with no hand and permanents getting beaten down by a mox monkey.  Most of the time, however, you should be able to combo them out fairly easily, since all they have to stop you is Force+Drain (or Pierce in some builds).  You also don't have to worry about them going Vault+Key out of nowhere like Tezz does.  Like Stax, the scariest thing they can do is Tinker-->Titan.  Post-board Negators come in to give them more stuff to worry about.  The strategy is to simply overwhelm them.

Sb: +2 Negators, -1 Chain, -1 Hurkyl's (feel free to keep Chain in if you think they are boarding Arcane Lab or whatever)


Tezz: Slightly Favorable [Heavily Tested]
The matchup is definitely on the side of Ad Naus, but not as much as I would like.  Tezz combines a strong array of permission elements (usually some number of Duress/Thoughtseize in addition to Force+Drain) with the ability to randomly win out of nowhere.  The matchup if very hand-dependant--ideally you want T1 Duress/Thoughtseize with T2 Ad Naus ftw, before they have time to set up.  Riding a Confidant can be risky, because of their combo and the fact that they have removal and Confidants of their own.  In general, whoever gets the stronger hands will win, but greater speed and brokenness give us an edge.

Sb: -1 Hurkyl's Recall, -1 Timetwister. +2 Negator


TPS: Slightly Favorable [Tourney]
They have Fow, which can be annoying, but we have 7 Duress and are faster, giving us the advantage in the combo mirror.

Sb: No change (nothing to board in).


Fish: Slightly Favorable [Tested]
I realize I am lumping a lot of different builds together here, but basically for all of them what you are worried about is Rod+Mana Denial+Fow, along with whatever clock and/or disruptive creatures they have.  Pre-board it is fairly even in my experience, but post-board is more favorable because we have more answers to their stuff.  If they have annoying dudes like Canonist, we bring in Slaughter Pacts, along with extra Hurks for their Rods.  We need to watch out for Daze, but can usually afford to take a bit of time to set up because their clock is not very fast.  Obviously watch out for Stifle on fetchlands, since cutting us off mana can be dangerous, and keep in mind that they can Stifle Jar.  Stifle on Tendrils is usually not an issue because if you go crazy and resolve Ad Naus or w/e it's easy to just Duress them to make sure the way is clear.  

Sb: -2 Duress, -3 Chrome Mox. +3 Slaughter Pact, +2 Hurkyls
[Chrome is not as useful because of their Rods, and not as necessary because we don't have to go off as quickly, so can usually afford to have at least 1 mana floating after resolving Ad Naus]


Oath: Slightly Favorable [Tourney]
I am lumping the Oath builds together too, though obviously Iona Oath is tougher because they usually win just through 1 activation.  Nevertheless, unless they assemble Vault+Key or cast Walk, they have to pass the turn after resolving Oath, whereas by comboing out we kill them instantly.  This match is pretty much like the Tezz matchup, but they have 4x Oath instead of Confidants.

Sb: No change.


Mono Red Rod Stax: Slightly Unfavorable [Tested]
Not a good matchup.  They have Chalice/Sphere/Rod to slows us down until they get Wire going or Bazaar+Welder to seal the deal.  Post-board is a bit better if they are unprepared for the Negators, but still tough because Bazaar lets them dig for the answers they need, and they abuse Welder like crazy.  Not many people actually play this though.

Sb: -4 Duress, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Necropotence.  +4 Negator, +2 Hurkyl's, +1 Island, +1 Swamp


B/R Stax: Unfavorable [Tested]
Pretty much like Mono Red Stax, but even worse because they have Confidant to deal with our Confidants, as well as drawing them into more locks & beating us down.

Sb: -4 Duress, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Necropotence.  +4 Negator, +2 Hurkyl's, +1 Island, +1 Swamp


9-Sphere: Unfavorable [Heavily Tested]
The worst of all the Stax matchups.  Spheres simply rape this deck.  Thankfully not many people play this.

Sb: -4 Duress, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Necropotence.  +4 Negator, +2 Hurkyl's, +1 Island, +1 Swamp

The above 3 Stax matchups are my least favorite to play, but they are by no means unwinnable, especially if you win the die role game 1, so if you lose game 2 (likely) you will be on the play again game 3.  Beating Stax on the play is quite doable either by going off turn 1, or developing a board with Confidant and/or other mana sources.  Beating Stax on the draw generally involves lucking out, since any decent draw they get will inevitably constrain your development.  If for whatever reason they are unable to hard lock you in time you can pull out a win by casting Hurkyl's and then going off.

Furthermore, although B/R seems to have been gaining popularity lately, the other 2 seem all but dead (at least around here), and the 3 most difficult Stax matchups make a small enough percentage of the meta that I am comfortable piloting Ad Nauseam in tournaments.


Random Deaths: Before picking this deck up, it is important to realize that sometimes you WILL die to Ad Nauseam and/or Confidant or Demonic Consultation.  This is unavoidable and is simply something you have to accept.  This may seem bad and could be argued as a reason to avoid the deck, but I don't think this is as big a deal as some people make it out to be.  Magic is about playing the percentages.  Ultimately, the only thing that matters in a tournament is what matches you win.  If you are a serious/competitive player, highest overall match win % against the expected field should be your goal going into every tournament, to maximize your chances of victory.  Every deck can crap out--it makes no difference whether you lose by mulling to 5 with Tezz or flipping all 3 Tendrils in the top 6 with ANT.  In the long run, the number of games, and thus matches, you win because of Ad Naus and Consult will far outweigh the small number of times you "should" have won but didn't.  


How to Section (this is rather basic--if you know how to play combo feel free to skip it):

Calculating Mana and Storm:
I usually count mana and storm separately before making any plays.  First I look at my board and hand and total up the number of mana.  Remember, for cards in hand Dark Ritual adds +2 Black, Mana Vault adds +2 colourless, (normal) Cabal Ritual adds +1 Black and filters 1 colourless to Black; Thresholded Cabal Ritual adds 3 Black and filters 1 colourless to Black, and Sol Ring adds 1 colourless.  Once you have the total mana, make sure that is enough to play all the spells you are planning to cast.  After counting mana throughout the chain of play, count the total storm; remember to count cards that you will tutor for.

Cabal Ritual:
Keep in mind that since Thresholded Cabal Rit makes 2 more mana than regular Cabal Rit, you can actually gain mana if you cast a 1 mana spell to achieve Threshold before casting Cabal Rit.  For example, if you have 6 cards in the graveyard, it is better to Duress your opponent before casting Cabal Ritual, even if s/he has an empty hand, since you will spend 1BB to get BBBBB instead of 1B for BBB.  Also remember to think of fetchlands in the hand/battlefield, and/or Black Lotus/Lotus Petal on the battlefield.  Whenever you have Cabal Ritual in your hand, you should do a survey of the gamestate to see if it's possible to achieve Threshold before casting it.

Duress/Thoughtseize:
These not only disrupt your opponent, but also give you valuable information about their hand and deck.  The large number of Duress effects is one of the main strengths of Ad Nauseam, so it is important to take full advantage of them.  Generally, if you are planning on casting Duress/Thoughtseize during your turn, it is best to cast it before doing ANYTHING else (aside from planning out your line of play, of course), including playing land, casting other mana sources, brainstorm, ponder, etc.  This is for 3 reasons:
1: it gives you more information to use in determining the best line of play.
2: it doesn't give your opponent a chance to counter any of the other spells you are going to cast
3: it gives your opponent less information in determining how to respond to your Duress (whether to counter it, cast Brainstorm or some other instant, etc)
The main exception to this guideline is when you want to play around Spell Pierce.  For example, if on your 2nd turn your opponent has U up while you have in play a Swamp, and topdeck Mox Sapphire while holding Delta and Duress, you can play your cards in the following order to ensure you have 2 mana up for each spell you play: Delta, Sapphire, Duress.

Ad Nauseam:
The deck's namesake, and the main reason to play this deck, since it allows you to draw a massive amount of cards for 3BB at instant speed. The average CMC for this deck is 85/60, ~1.42, which, although slightly higher than other ANT builds (+~0.15), allows you to draw an average of about 8 cards off Ad Naus before getting into danger range (<6), assuming you resolve Naus at 16-17 life.  This might not sound very impressive, but I rarely have problems winning when I resolve Ad Naus at around this life total, since the deck has a lot of fast mana, 3x Tendrils, a bunch of tutors, and other bombs.  
Generally you want to resolve this during your main phase, so that you can attempt to win on that turn, employing the storm you generated casting it--often no more than additional accelerants and a Tendrils/Tutor are required.  You can, of course, also use Ad Naus to fuel Will, Tinker/Jar, or Twister.  Even if you cannot win that turn, you will usually have drawn enough cards that you can Duress your opponent and pass, setting up the win for next turn.
Even though most of the time you will want to cast it during your main phase, the fact that Ad Naus is an instant can be quite useful.  For example, you can cast it at your opponent's EOT to bait out a counter, in order to untap and play another bomb.  You can also cast it in response to your opponent's spells; for example, if a control player taps out to cast an instant speed draw spell at the end of your turn, or tries to Duress you when you have sufficient mana up.  Against Stax, you can cast it during your upkeep in response to the trigger from Tangle Wire or Smokestack.  

Yawgmoth's Will:
To properly abuse Yawgmoth's Will, generally 2 things are required:
1: Re-usable fast mana.
2: "Business," which can be either Demonic Tutor/Consultation, Mystical/Vamp+Draw Spell, or some other bomb (Ad Naus, Necro, Tinker/Jar, Twister)
Alternatively, you could have Tendrils+ enough fast mana and/or bounce to get to 9 Storm.

In any case, before casting Will you should plan out exactly what you are going to do.  The order in which you plan does not necessarily matter, but this is the way I do it.  First, I count up my total mana BEFORE casting Yawgmoth's Will, as explained in Counting Mana/Storm.  I then subtract 2B to see how much I have floating after I cast Will.  Then I count whatever re-usable mana I have in my graveyard, and add it to determine the total mana I have post-Will (don't forget you can replay a fetchland or a land that was previously destroyed or discarded).  Once I have determined the amount of mana I would have, I count up the total number of spells I would end up casting to determine the storm.  This way I ensure that I have both sufficient mana and storm.

Example: My turn 3 on the draw.  Opponent (19 life) has in play Underground Sea, Island; in hand 4 cards; in graveyard he has Force of Will and Brainstorm, in Exile zone Sphinx of the Steel Wind.  On the battlefield I have untapped Underground Sea, Swamp, Mox Jet, Chrome Mox (Black).  My Graveyard has a Polluted Delta and a Necropotence.  In my hand I have Duress, Demonic Consultation, Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, and I topdeck Yawgmoth's Will (how fortunate!).  I count my mana on the battlefield BBBB, add BB (Ritual), B (Cabal Ritual), B(Consult-->Ritual), for 8 total mana (BBBBBBBB) that I have access to pre-Will.  Duress+Will costs 2BB, with would leave me with BBBB floating, after which I add BB (Ritual), BB (Ritual), B (Cabal Ritual), B(fetch) for a total of 10 Black mana post-Will, easily enough to cast Duress+Consult+Tendrils.  Now I count storm.  Duress (1), Ritual (2), Cabal Ritual (3), Demonic Consultation (4), Dark Ritual (5), Yawgmoth's Will (6), Dark Ritual (7), Dark Ritual (8), Cabal Ritual (9), Duress (10), Demonic Consultation (11), Tendrils of Agony (12) for 24 Life.  Having determined that I have sufficient resources to kill my opponent, I cast tap swamp to cast Duress.  If the coast is clear, I proceed with the determined line of play.  If not--say, for example, my opponent has 2 Drains in hand to go with his UU up, I need to think of another line of play--I can instead Consult for another Duress to take both Drains.  But now I need to re-calculate to make sure I still have enough mana and Storm.  Instead of 8 (BBBBBBBB) pre-will I have 7 (BBBBBBB), -BBBB2 (Duress, Consult, Duress, Will)=B floating after casting Will, +BBBB(Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Fetch)=BBBBB, just enough mana to cast Consult and Tendrils.  Do I still have enough storm?  Duress (1), Demonic Consultation (2), Duress (3), Dark Ritual (4), Cabal Ritual (5), Yawgmoth's Will (6), Dark Ritual (7), Cabal Ritual (8), Demonic Consultation (9), Tendrils (10) for 20.  So this line of play leaves me with exactly enough mana and storm to kill my opponent.  If the opponent Drains my Demonic Consultation, it results in the same storm count as if I had cast the 2nd Duress--I merely have B more mana.  Thus, I proceed with the 2nd line of play, and win the game.

Yawgmoth's Will doesn't always necessarily involve generating 9 storm+2BB+Tendrils.  For example, if I had had a 2nd Duress instead of Demonic Consultation, I could have Duressed twice, then cast Will to replay Necropotence, draw a bunch of cards, and go for the win next turn.  Sometimes Will can be used to generate the necessary mana to cast an Ad Nauseam from hand--or even just to replay Duress+Ancestral Recall.  Although Will is an important aspect of Ad Nauseam, it is not as important to Ad Nauseam as it is to other storm decks, so I don't hesitate to use it to gain incremental advantage like I might with TPS.  Likewise, this deck is often capable of ignoring graveyard hate such as Leyline of the Void or Tormod's crypt--another strength in the current meta, given the popularity of Dredge.

Memory Jar:
The main question with Jar is usually whether to crack it the turn you get it into play, or to pass the turn to untap mana before cracking it.  This is obviously heavily dependent on the circumstances, including the board and what deck you are playing against.  If I have at least 2-3 mana floating, I will usually crack it the same turn.  If I have 1 or less, with 2+ mana on the board to untap, and I am not worried about my opponent comboing out or dropping Rod/Needle, etc, I will usually pass the turn.
Also note that if you do pass the turn, it is best to maximize the amount of cards you have access to on the turn you Jar.  This means you should usually crack Jar during your opponent's end step, so you keep your Jar hand into your turn.  This way, if you draw Mystical/Vamp, you can cast them during your opponent's EOT, or (if you are tapped out) after you untap during your upkeep, so you can use them that turn.  If not, you will draw as normal and have 8 cards to work with.

Timetwister:
Like Jar, I usually prefer to have at least 2 mana floating when I resolve Twister, in order to be able to do stuff immediately with my new hand.  Keep in mind that using Twister is more risky than Jar, since your opponent gets to keep their new hand.  The risk is minimized, however, by the large number of Duress effects we run, since even if we cannot win after Twistering, we can usually at least Duress them before passing, to make sure they cannot do anything too broken on their turn.

Demonic Consultation:
Assuming at least ~45 cards in your deck, the chances of dying, or removing all 3 Tendrils, when consulting for a card with 3 or 4 copies in your deck, is quite low.  I'm too lazy to do the math on this, but I almost NEVER die to Consult for a 3 or 4-of, even when I cast double Consult when going off with Yawg Will.  I can only recall 1 instance when this happened, in months of testing.
Consulting for a 1-of, is, of course, much more risky.  I prefer not to do this--I will only go for the 1-of Consult if I think it is the best chance I have of winning the game.  Because of the risk, this usually means if I am in a desperate situation and see no other line of play I can pursue to try to win.  Even in this case, however, it's not a terrible play, because usually the card will not be in your top 6 or under all 3 Tendrils.
Remember to keep in mind the possibility of removing 1-ofs when determining the order of your plays.  For example, if you are going to cast Consult+Tinker-->Jar or Demonic-->Will in the same turn, make sure to cast Tinker or Demonic first, to make sure Consult does not remove Jar or Will.  This can also sometimes be relevant with fetchlands.

Mulliganing:
My rule for mulling is, for any 7 or 6-card hand, if I do not see myself winning the game with the hand, I ship it back (this is what I do with every deck).  At 5 or less, I try to judge whether I am more likely to win with the current hand than with a random hand of 1 less card, because I usually will not win with these hands anyway.

I find that many players tend to overestimate their chances of topdecking whatever cards they need to make their hand good, be it mana, business, draw, etc.  Unless you have Confidant or Ancestral, it is not good to rely on future draws for your hand to function, because you are almost always more likely NOT to topdeck what you need.

General situations in which to mulligan:

1: No business:
if you don't have Ad Naus, Tinker, Jar, Twister, Will+stuff to go with it, Dark Confidant, Ancestral Recall, or a tutor, you should probably mulligan.  The chances of ripping a threat off the top in the next 1-2 turns are rather low, and chances are that by the time you do actually draw something useful you will have fallen too far behind.

ex: Polluted Delta, Sol Ring, Dark Ritual, Duress, Underground Sea, Black Lotus, Chain of Vapor

2: Mana/Colour Screw:
if you don't have the right colour of mana required to cast the stuff you need to cast, you should probably mulligan.  As stated above, your chances of drawing the land/Lotus/mox you need off the top are too low to risk keeping the hand.

ex: Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Necropotence, Duress, Yawgmoth's Will, Dark Confidant, Mana Crypt

3: Paucity of mana: not having enough mana to cast your bombs

ex: Ad Nauseam, Ad Nauseam, Swamp, Cabal Ritual, Thoughtseize, Thoughtseize, Time Walk
The double Thoughtseize makes this hand tempting, but were we to keep this, in all likelihood we would not be casting Ad Naus for a while.  For example, let's calculate the average mana produced by a card in the deck. (ignoring non-mana cards like Chain and the Tutors, because I don't want to make this too complicated).  Adding up the total mana produced by all the 28 mana producing cards we get 38 (being generous & counting Sol Ring and Mana Vault as already in play).  So the average mana produced by a card in the deck is 38/60=~0.63.  So to get the 3 more mana we need for Ad Naus we expect to draw on average 4.8 cards!  This is, of course, ignoring possible tutors and draw spells we may topdeck and have mana to cast, so in reality it may take closer to, say, 4 draws (complete guess) for us to assemble the mana to cast Ad Naus.  In any case, this is unacceptable.  If it's going to be about 4 turns before we can resolve a business spell, this hand is likely to lose against other decent draws, despite the double Thoughtseize.


"FOW or no?" hands:
These hands result in some of the most difficult mulligan decisions for the deck.  There are several questions I usually consider when deciding whether or not to keep these hands:
1: Am I on the play or the draw?  If I'm on the draw, a "FOW or no" hand suddenly turns into a "Fow/Duress/Thoughseize/Spell Pierce/Chalice/Sphere/Null Rod or no?" hand, and my odds of winning decrease substantially.  For this reason, I do not like to keep fragile hands like this when playing second.
2: What is my opponent playing?  His deck might not even have FOW in it!  Hands like this (on the play) can result in easy wins against Dredge, Stax, and Beats.  If I don't know what my opponent is playing, however, I usually assume that their deck has FOW in it, since most decks do.
3: Do I think my opponent will have FOW?  This might seem a rather obvious question to ask, if not very helpful, since it is impossible to actually know.  Nevertheless, other pieces of information can give you hints as to the answer.  For example, if your opponent knows you are playing ANT (they scouted you, or it is games 2/3), whether or not they have FOW will influence their mulliganing decisions, making them more likely to have it than the simple ~40% chance of getting a  4-of in one's starting hand.  If you are good at reading tells, you can try to ascertain the answer from your opponent's body language when they look at their hand.  If they don't know what you are playing, you can gamble on them not having FOW, since most of their keepable starting hands will NOT have FOW; this play is, of course, risky, but also has the potential to result in easy wins.
4: If they do FOW my bomb, what are my chances of recovery?  Do I have additional mana to cast whatever business I might topdeck, or do I have to topdeck mana to cast other high-mana bombs?  How likely am I to topdeck what I need before I fall too far behind?
5: Am I likely to get a hand that gives me better chances of winning if I mulligan?  This is the ultimate question in the decision, of course, but I put it last because all the preceding questions are necessary to ask to determine one's chances of winning with the current hand.  Judging how likely one is to win with a random hand is difficult and requires a lot of experience with the deck--it also depends on one's current hand-size; I am much more likely to keep a "FOW or no?" hand of 6 than a hand of 7, because often the fragile but explosive hand of 6 will give me a better chance of winning than a random hand of 5.

Example hand: Ad Nauseam, Ad Nauseam, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Mana Vault


Previous Threads:
[I realize that my list is hardly original and would like to give credit to all the others who helped to develop this deck--I probably missed a few threads so feel free to link to any others]:
http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=36772.0
http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=37945.0
http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=36729.0
http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=37645.0
http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=36720.0

Have fun pwning your opponents with tentacles!
« Last Edit: January 24, 2010, 09:42:20 PM by Gandalf_The_White_1 » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2010, 02:26:24 AM »

Not to be a cynic but lodestone kills this deck.  Fast clocks turn off your engine and spheres turn off your whole deck.  Additionally, I expect lodestone to be heavily played after worldwakes release, much like thorn and lowyn.  

A great read; yet I think this deck is going to have to be shelved for at least a few months.  
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« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2010, 03:56:36 AM »

Not to be a cynic but lodestone kills this deck.  Fast clocks turn off your engine and spheres turn off your whole deck.  Additionally, I expect lodestone to be heavily played after worldwakes release, much like thorn and lowyn.  

A great read; yet I think this deck is going to have to be shelved for at least a few months.  
Lodestone could definitely pose a problem for ANT, but keep in mind that post-board it's vulnerable to Slaughter Pact in addition to other bounce.  Also, not affecting artifact mana is a significant draw back, because it allows you to develop your board so you can cast EOT Hurkyl's.  Testing will determine how big an issue this card will be.
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« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2010, 05:25:24 AM »

Why no time walk? It's a free land drop (Atleast in the sense that it untaps the mana spend to cast it, and replaces itself with the draw step), Time walk is also insane with necropotence .

I must admit i'm very sceptic of your results against the various decks...Does your testing include post-SB games?
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« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2010, 12:15:00 PM »

Why do you play 4 Ad Nauseum?

You need 1 to win, when you cast the 1, you don't want to flip any other Ad Nauseum. You have Dark Confidant as a setup card, which allows you to drop the count of Ad Nauseum's in your deck, as well as dropping the need for it, due to Confdiant attacking for 2 a turn.
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« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2010, 12:35:10 PM »

Why do you play 4 Ad Nauseum?

You need 1 to win, when you cast the 1, you don't want to flip any other Ad Nauseum. You have Dark Confidant as a setup card, which allows you to drop the count of Ad Nauseum's in your deck, as well as dropping the need for it, due to Confdiant attacking for 2 a turn.

I would never play this deck with less than 4 Ad Nauseam.  You want it every game as quickly as possible, and you rarely die once it resolves.

Gandalf I really appreciate this thread, nice resource especially with the sideboard suggestions.  Have you found paying 3 life for basically a Duress (flipped off a Bob or Ad Nauseam) to suck?
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« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2010, 02:05:18 PM »

Why no time walk? It's a free land drop (Atleast in the sense that it untaps the mana spend to cast it, and replaces itself with the draw step), Time walk is also insane with necropotence .

I must admit i'm very sceptic of your results against the various decks...Does your testing include post-SB games?
I do run Time Walk--it's formatted under the "set-up" category.

Match-up analysis is based on best 2/3 with sb, but as I said, I've tested some matches more than others.  For the ones I have listed as 'Heavily Tested,' I am quite confident of the results; for those listed as 'Tested,' I am reasonably sure.  Those results listed 'Tourney' should be taken with a grain of salt, since the sample size is so small.  Nevertheless, I have tried to characterize the matches to the best of my ability based on my experience.  I'm interested in hearing about anyone else's testing results.

Gandalf I really appreciate this thread, nice resource especially with the sideboard suggestions.  Have you found paying 3 life for basically a Duress (flipped off a Bob or Ad Nauseam) to suck?
The extra life loss can be annoying, but I definitely think Thoughtseize is worth it.  Testing has shown it to be A LOT better than Pact of Negation.  Also, sometimes the ability of Thoughtseize to take out creatures is actually relevant, like against Fish and Beats decks, making it more than just a 'bad Duress.'  If Lodestone sees a lot of play like Blue Lotus suggested, Thoughtseize will become even more relevant.
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« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2010, 06:45:48 PM »

Why no time walk? It's a free land drop (Atleast in the sense that it untaps the mana spend to cast it, and replaces itself with the draw step), Time walk is also insane with necropotence .

I must admit i'm very sceptic of your results against the various decks...Does your testing include post-SB games?
I do run Time Walk--it's formatted under the "set-up" category.

Match-up analysis is based on best 2/3 with sb, but as I said, I've tested some matches more than others.  For the ones I have listed as 'Heavily Tested,' I am quite confident of the results; for those listed as 'Tested,' I am reasonably sure.  Those results listed 'Tourney' should be taken with a grain of salt, since the sample size is so small.  Nevertheless, I have tried to characterize the matches to the best of my ability based on my experience.  I'm interested in hearing about anyone else's testing results.

Oh, sorry didn't see it! Smile
Then i'd say that your list looks nice...Still a bit sceptic about those test results. Are you playing against people equally skilled or better then you? That could explain why your results seems so "over the top" I'm just sceptic everytime people claim awesome results against almost everything.
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« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2010, 06:52:02 PM »

Have you considered cutting a Negator for a robot? You are already running Tinker, and it would definitely help you in some match ups such as Beats, Fish and Workshop aggro. Most of these decks run Null Rod so you could probably cut the Jar to minimize the extra CC.

And thanks for the nice post Smile
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« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2010, 07:10:28 PM »

Have you considered cutting a Negator for a robot? You are already running Tinker, and it would definitely help you in some match ups such as Beats, Fish and Workshop aggro. Most of these decks run Null Rod so you could probably cut the Jar to minimize the extra CC.
I tried running Pentavus for the Stax matchup, but I didn't find it that useful, and died to it several times from flipping it to Ad Naus.  I don't like to have anything in the deck above 5cc--this is why I don't run Bargain or Desire.  That said, the risk of actually flipping the robot is pretty minimal, so I'm not discounting it as a possible strategy; I just didn't like it when I tried it out, because I'd rather have creatures/cards that I can actually cast when I draw them.

Still a bit sceptic about those test results. Are you playing against people equally skilled or better then you? That could explain why your results seems so "over the top" I'm just sceptic everytime people claim awesome results against almost everything.
I have no control over my opponents' play skill in tournaments, so those data are somewhat questionable. 

The following matchups were played against partners experienced with their archetypes, whom I judge to have play skill approximately equal to my own:
The Deck, Fish, Mono R Stax, B/R Stax, 9-sphere

Most of the results in the Tezz and 5c Stax match-ups are based on double fisting--this was the only way I could achieve a large sample size.

I understand your skepticism regarding my results, but I honestly do believe ANT to have a slight advantage against most of the field right now--otherwise I wouldn't be playing it.  That said, I've been testing it almost exclusively for months, so this may have biased my perspective.
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« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2010, 08:19:58 PM »

Do you have some links to the tournaments youve been dominating with ANT? 

I also question your results because several people I know and myself have been trying out varied ANT lists and it ha always been fairly bad.  The deck seems really weak to getting duress, plus spell pierce being everywhere doesnt help.  Spell pierce is really a kick in the pants when your trying to resolve 5cc spells reliably. 

I see this deck somewhat like belcher.  If you draw well and get decks like goblins you can make it through the swiss of a 5-6 round event but its just too fragile to win an event. 

If a deck like this isnt winning events now when shops are showing up in relatively low numbers, I see it as being even worse when loadstone golem comes out because shops will be everywhere.  Even you say the 9sphere decks are unfavorable.
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« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2010, 09:20:05 PM »

Do you have some links to the tournaments youve been dominating with ANT?  

I also question your results because several people I know and myself have been trying out varied ANT lists and it ha always been fairly bad.  The deck seems really weak to getting duress, plus spell pierce being everywhere doesnt help.  Spell pierce is really a kick in the pants when your trying to resolve 5cc spells reliably.  

I see this deck somewhat like belcher.  If you draw well and get decks like goblins you can make it through the swiss of a 5-6 round event but its just too fragile to win an event.  

If a deck like this isnt winning events now when shops are showing up in relatively low numbers, I see it as being even worse when loadstone golem comes out because shops will be everywhere.  Even you say the 9sphere decks are unfavorable.
The last two medium-size tournaments I played in (~30 people) with this configuration, I went 3-1 but couldn't draw in and lost in round 5 (mulling to 5 both times in game 3), thus missing t8.  Also note that a "slight edge" against the field by no means guarantees a top 8, let alone a tournament win.  For example, even assuming a ridiculous 70% match wins against every deck, and automatic t8, the deck will only win 1st place 0.7*0.7*0.7=34.3% of the time.

Duress is probably the biggest concern.  My list tries to mitigate the effect of Duress by running the Dark Confidant along with the maximum number of bombs to increase threat density.

As for Spell Pierce, I was fairly worried about the card, but testing proved it to be less of a problem than I thought it would be.  I tested against a Tezz list with 4x Spell Pierce and it was fairly easy to play around, given the fact that you have Bobs and all the Duress effects.  Tezz lists with 4x Duress/Thoughtseize are scarier.  I did not test against Oath, but I assume that the same effectiveness of Spell Pierce versus Duress would hold true in this match-up.

This deck (at least, my version) is a lot more like Bob Tendrils on steroids than it is like Belcher.  You have the ability to combo out quickly, but it's not as much of an all or nothing turn 1/2 deck like Belcher is, because you run a stable mana base, disruption, and draw, as well as a combo package.  I'm just as comfortable spending the first couple turns setting up and winning on turns 3/4 as I am going off on turns 1/2.

As for why ANT isn't putting up many finishes, I think that's because not that many people are playing it.  The most recent metagame data I was able to find in the Tournament Results Forum show that very few ANT decks were played (however, note that full metagame data were not available for most tournaments):
http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=39710.0 : 48 people--0 ANT
http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=39512.0  : 29 people--0 ANT
http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=39517.0  : 17 people--0 ANT (although 4 archetypes missing)
http://www.planetmtg.de/articles/artikel.html?id=5214  : 125 people--2 ANT
« Last Edit: January 24, 2010, 11:13:15 PM by Gandalf_The_White_1 » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2010, 09:50:50 PM »

Im not just trying to be negative but if you cant make top8s consistently with this deck, what are your qualifications for writing the primer on it?  Are your tournament opponents more skilled players then your playtest group?  Or do you feel like you have inconsistencies in tournament play that keep you from being successful, such as bad draws or not side boarding correctly? 

I think some of your assertions need more evidence to back them up.  Its easier to believe a deck like oath has favorable match ups versus the field because we have tournament evidence to back it up, but without any finishes to your credit you may need to do more to convince people to play this deck then Vroman would have to to convince people to play his oath list.
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« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2010, 10:21:40 PM »

Im not just trying to be negative but if you cant make top8s consistently with this deck, what are your qualifications for writing the primer on it?  Are your tournament opponents more skilled players then your playtest group?  Or do you feel like you have inconsistencies in tournament play that keep you from being successful, such as bad draws or not side boarding correctly?  

I think some of your assertions need more evidence to back them up.  Its easier to believe a deck like oath has favorable match ups versus the field because we have tournament evidence to back it up, but without any finishes to your credit you may need to do more to convince people to play this deck then Vroman would have to to convince people to play his oath list.
60% Match wins (my recent tournament record) is not high enough to consistently make T8 in 5 rounds of Swiss.  T8ing in a medium-sized tournament requires luck in addition to good deck choice+play skill.

My qualifications come from testing this deck a lot.  I realize that most people want to see tournament results to convince them that a deck is viable, but my hope is that people will try testing this list for themselves and see that it is good.
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« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2010, 10:24:46 PM »

Quote from: dicemanx, as found in TMD Rules
In fact, a lot of posters get defensive and as a last resort decree - "test it, its good!". No. We're not going to test every idea that crosses the forums. We apply something known as a correlative approach - making a judgement based on similar established archetypes/strategies or on testing/match experience based on those decks. This approach is NOT perfect, but aims to use the wealth of experience provided by many TMD members to try to zero in on potential problems and issues that might need addressing. Could they be wrong? Absolutely. However, the intent behind posting your idea on the forum isnt (or at least shouldnt be) to establish who's right or wrong, and then bash it in their face when your idea attains some measure of success. The intent is to improve your deck, so that you can attain that success and in the process give others the opportunity of sharing in that success as a trade-off. And you know what - if it turns out that you are right, then its actually to your immense benefit, because you can exploit the difference of opinion where it counts - at a tournament!

That being said, this thread/primer is an impressive effort.
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« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2010, 05:34:38 AM »

The addition of lodestone golem makes your Negator sideboard plan not so hot anymore. How are you planning to deal with these guys post worldwake?
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« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2010, 05:49:56 AM »

Quote from: dicemanx, as found in TMD Rules
In fact, a lot of posters get defensive and as a last resort decree - "test it, its good!". No. We're not going to test every idea that crosses the forums. We apply something known as a correlative approach - making a judgement based on similar established archetypes/strategies or on testing/match experience based on those decks. This approach is NOT perfect, but aims to use the wealth of experience provided by many TMD members to try to zero in on potential problems and issues that might need addressing. Could they be wrong? Absolutely. However, the intent behind posting your idea on the forum isnt (or at least shouldnt be) to establish who's right or wrong, and then bash it in their face when your idea attains some measure of success. The intent is to improve your deck, so that you can attain that success and in the process give others the opportunity of sharing in that success as a trade-off. And you know what - if it turns out that you are right, then its actually to your immense benefit, because you can exploit the difference of opinion where it counts - at a tournament!

That being said, this thread/primer is an impressive effort.

Yes, thanks for this primer. I prefer having people writing primers on a deck, when they have a very good understanding of it, that "only when they won many tournaments with it" (we wouldn't have a lot of primer of this quality if we had to match this criteria to write).
For sure, not all of it has to be taken as granted but at least, it is a very good material for discussion, divergent opinion and progression of the whole community.

Back to the primer itself, I like the fact that in your list, you have confidant + so many bombs (regular ones + timetwister and tinker). According to me, that makes this deck a lot less dependant to nauseam and a more capable of sending bombs after bombs into the war wall.
But I dislike the very low number of bounces... I feel that this is the key to a lot of matchup, especially if you can combo with something else than nauseam. Storming through bouncing your own artifact would often be very useful.
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« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2010, 06:33:27 AM »

The addition of lodestone golem makes your Negator sideboard plan not so hot anymore. How are you planning to deal with these guys post worldwake?
This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I think that it's too early to tell.  We will have to wait and see how Workshop decks, and the rest of the meta, adapt to the new card pool.  If Lodestone becomes popular in Stax decks, and not only in Workshop Aggro (as some people have been predicting), or if Workshop Aggro becomes popular, I will probably abandon the aggro sb and test other strategies, perhaps splashing Green for Oxidize or White for Serenity, since with the Zendikar enemy fetchlands it's easier to add a 3rd colour to combat Stax without exposing the mana base to Wasteland.  But such significant developments would obviously affect other decks as well, and whatever changes they make, along with changes in the overall meta, will also have to be taken into consideration.
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« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2010, 12:00:10 PM »

I was going to avoid this thread entirely based on this quote
Quote
You only really care about 3 cards: Thoughtseize, Null Rod, and Gaddock Teeg.  Out of these 3, Null Rod is by far the most dangerous, because by shutting down your mana it prevents you from being able to do stuff.
, because obvious sauce is obvious, but I just cannot get a good reason as to why you think Necropotence is good in this deck?


The card does little in ANT, because you don't have protection once you pass the turn like TPS, you can't just reapply small pressure and then draw more cards effectively on your next turn like GWSx, and you revolve around Ad Naseum, which doesn't play well at all with Necroptence.

Just play the 4th Confidant.
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« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2010, 09:20:26 PM »

I've played this deck to both highs and lows, but would never touch it again. The risk of t1 killing does not outweigh the random losses. Also the bad matchups are a mile long--Stax, MUD, Dredge, most Fish.
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« Reply #20 on: January 25, 2010, 10:48:11 PM »

Hi there, I've been testing this deck, but I'm short a Time Walk at the moment. Would a 4th Confidant be a good switch into that slot?

As for Necro, M. Solymossy seems to make a good point. Most of my combo decks that ran Necro also ran FOW, so I was ready to pass and then just win next turn. It's hard to have an unprotected win fizzle out on you then you're left with no draw steps at all. I'm thinking if I should try a Top in this slot, since I'd be running 4 Confidants, to begin with.
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« Reply #21 on: January 26, 2010, 12:51:33 AM »

Hi there, I've been testing this deck, but I'm short a Time Walk at the moment. Would a 4th Confidant be a good switch into that slot?
Yes--I'd definitely run a 4th Confidant if I could find room for it, but there isn't anything I'm willing to cut.

I just cannot get a good reason as to why you think Necropotence is good in this deck?

The card does little in ANT, because you don't have protection once you pass the turn like TPS, you can't just reapply small pressure and then draw more cards effectively on your next turn like GWSx, and you revolve around Ad Naseum, which doesn't play well at all with Necroptence.

Just play the 4th Confidant.
When I resolve Necro, I usually use it aggressively, to draw around 13 cards.  Most of the time I have no problem setting up the win next turn.  If I can't assemble the win, usually I can cast acceleration, a couple Duresses, and a mini-Tendrils into more gas.

Playing Confidant involves passing the turn just as much as Necro does, but with the exception of the Stax match-up, I would almost always prefer to resolve Necro.
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« Reply #22 on: January 26, 2010, 07:42:06 AM »

@Gandalf_The_White_1,
I tend to stay away from these discussions, however as some have pointed out you've done a great job at trying to write all that stuff, I'm not going to comment on all the stuff you posted in the primer as everything has been said regarding it already by Yare.

As one of the original pioneers of ANT I've done a lot of work on the deck in the past, a lot of deck-builders make a crucial mistake imho. Building ANT is all about Math and nothing more. You have 2 clear goals when building this deck, namely;

Goal #1: Resolve Ad Nauseam ASAP (Have enough acceleration, protection)
Goal #2: If Ad Nauseam resolves it MUST equal a kill (flipping 12-15 cards when above or around 15 life)

If your deck design or converted mana cost doesn't let you complete the second goal your deck is build wrong, period. Let me walk through your list and give my personal view on some of the cards.

Quote
3 Tendrils of Agony
3 Tendrils has historically been proven correct, however I'd consider running an extra kill condition (Storm based or Tinker based) in your board since Sadistic Sacrament is a real threat. Depending on which you choose, the tinker route clearly indicates you're boarding out Ad Nauseam's and are trying to win in another way. (Flipping a Bot is just not good)

Quote
4 Ad Nauseam
Also, historically proven correct, running less then 4 is foolish, anybody advocating running less should ask them selves if they'd run 4x Bargain if they could. This Card Is BONKERS.

Quote
1 Yawgmoth's Will
Nice, but not really needed. It's not your main path to victory but not including it is just stupid.

Quote
1 Necropotence
See further in this post.

Quote
1 Tinker
Tinker only grabs Jar and does shit when hit with Ad Nauseam (well it costs you 3 life and 3 flips) It's good from the board if you include a Robot (like Sphinx) but it's not worthy of maindeck inclusion.

Quote
1 Memory Jar
It's a shitter.... It doesn't do anything but cost you 5 life when hit with Ad Nauseam (Run Bargain instead if you want some extra draw power), you can't reliably cast it and if you can you're better of casting Ad Nauseam instead.

Quote
1 Timetwister
Believe it or not but this card was harder for me to cut then necro, I do believe however that it should be included.

Quote
4 Duress
Needed. Period

Quote
3 Thoughtseize
The problem I have with Thoughtseize is that it's -3 life. You flip it with AN (-1) you play it (-2) effectively taking away 3 extra flips. I'd rather have something like Pact which costs me nothing when flipped or played, can be imprinted for U (as getting U for bounce is rather hard at times) and protects my combo / Tendrils from people having Mindbreak trap, Stifle, Force on top with Sensei's Top.

Quote
3 Dark Confidant
Good vs Stax, but sideboard material at best.

Quote
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Brainstorm
1 Ponder
....obv

Quote
1 Time Walk
Good if you include necro, good game 2 if you include Dark Confidant from the board. Not so hot maindeck but I guess it deserves a slot.

Quote
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Demonic Consultation
Move along, this is OBV

Quote
1 Chain of Vapor
This is just not enough, Chain of Vapor is the absolute MVP in any ANT list, it handles Spheres, Teeg, Null Rod and what not, it resets Chrome Moxen and enables storm, running less then 3 cannot be correct.

Quote
1 Hurky's Recall
It's better then rebuild in this case (average cmc) and 1 global bounce spell is indeed needed, I'd run more in the board though, depending on the plan (confidants, Tinker - Bot) I'd include a Rebuild in the SB to dodge Chalice.

Quote
Quote from: M.Solymossy on Yesterday at 07:00:10 PM
I just cannot get a good reason as to why you think Necropotence is good in this deck?

The card does little in ANT, because you don't have protection once you pass the turn like TPS, you can't just reapply small pressure and then draw more cards effectively on your next turn like GWSx, and you revolve around Ad Naseum, which doesn't play well at all with Necroptence.

Just play the 4th Confidant.
When I resolve Necro, I usually use it aggressively, to draw around 13 cards.  Most of the time I have no problem setting up the win next turn.  If I can't assemble the win, usually I can cast acceleration, a couple Duresses, and a mini-Tendrils into more gas.

Soly is right, Necro isn't good in this deck as I already advocated it's exclusion in my original primer (Linked in this thread and here) I still stand by the fact that it's just not good enough, your main gameplan is to resolve Ad Nauseam, every card you necro equals 1 less flip, this for me is unacceptable. Soly made the great point of saying this deck isn't like TPS or GWSx in that it can't easily use the turn you need after necro to win or to setup some more. You're willingly giving the opponent extra turns to find solutions. Your argument about playing a mini tendrils and going again is mute, as it's clearly better to win on the spot without necro (something a resolved Ad Nauseam should do every time)

The same reason why confidant isn't good in this deck, he equals -2 life (2 flips) when hit with Ad Nauseam and he doesn't do anything when you flip him (beyond getting pitched to Chrome Mox). Every turn you draw cards with him and lose life is less flips. If you want confidant in a storm deck you should just play GWSx. If I were to play this deck again (something I highly doubt as it's way to random for me) I'd play a list similar to the one Steffen van de Veen used to win the Dutch Vintage Championship and swap the Necro for Twister.

For reference, his list:

Ad Nauseam Tendrils
As suggested by S. van de Veen

1 Black Lotus
4 Chrome Mox
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
4 Ad Nauseam
3 Cabal Ritual
4 Dark Ritual
1 Demonic Consultation
1 Demonic Tutor
4 Duress
1 Necropotence
3 Tendrils of Agony
1 Thoughtseize
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Brainstorm
3 Chain of Vapor
1 Hurkyl's Recall
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Mystical Tutor
4 Pact of Negation
1 Ponder

Lands (12):
1 Bayou
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Island
4 Polluted Delta
2 Swamp
3 Underground Sea

SB:
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Extirpate
2 Hurkyl's Recall
1 Massacre
2 Tormod's Crypt
4 Xantid Swarm
2 Yixlid Jailer
1 Brainfreeze
« Last Edit: January 26, 2010, 07:46:22 AM by Marske » Logged

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« Reply #23 on: January 26, 2010, 02:41:23 PM »

Marske, when I played with Pact, I boarded it out against everything except control.  So, I am curious, if you would run 4x Pact in the maindeck, and Swarms in the sideboard, why not just maindeck the Swarms and save the sideboard space for tougher matchups, like Stax?

I think you summed up the differences between the lists well:
The only back-up plan you have is to rinse and repeat so it really is an all or nothing deck.
This is pretty much the problem I have been trying to address.  When I played with a list similar to the one you've suggested, I found that, despite drawing many cards, I couldn't always win on the turn I resolved Ad Naus (although the vast majority of the time, of course, I could), which posed a problem with Pact.  That list was also very dependent on the opening hand, since it relied almost entirely on having Ad Naus or a tutor for it (as a result, it was also weak against Duress).

So, I decided that as long as I won the game, it didn't matter whether or not I won on the same turn.  Consequently, I decided to cut Pact of Negation and instead run Thoughtseizes along with multiple avenues of victory.  The "main plan," as you point out, was somewhat weakened, because the deck is less streamlined.  But I think that the resultant list is more resilient.  It does not rely as much on the opening hand, and has a higher threat density and a stronger mid-game (turn 3-4), although at the cost of sacrificing protected turn 1 kills and more insane Ad Nauseams.  Simply put, I don't need to draw 12-15 cards if I can win by drawing 7-10.

I think that this may also help to address the problem you have with the deck being "too random."
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« Reply #24 on: January 26, 2010, 03:15:23 PM »

The only deck I'd want to board out pacts is Stax, for the rest of the matches (anything running Force of Will) I'd want it in the deck.

Quote
This is pretty much the problem I have been trying to address.  When I played with a list similar to the one you've suggested, I found that, despite drawing many cards, I couldn't always win on the turn I resolved Ad Naus (although the vast majority of the time, of course, I could), which posed a problem with Pact.  That list was also very dependent on the opening hand, since it relied almost entirely on having Ad Naus or a tutor for it (as a result, it was also weak against Duress).
The only problem you're trying to solve is the problem of a badly build list, if this is all you run into. I've constructed different ANT lists and all resulted in a high percentage of wins when Ad Nauseam resolved. Sure there is a X% chance that you flip 3 Ad Nauseam's in your first flip (depending on how many you've seen already etc) but it's rather small.

Quote
So, I decided that as long as I won the game, it didn't matter whether or not I won on the same turn.  Consequently, I decided to cut Pact of Negation and instead run Thoughtseizes along with multiple avenues of victory.  The "main plan," as you point out, was somewhat weakened, because the deck is less streamlined.  But I think that the resultant list is more resilient.  It does not rely as much on the opening hand, and has a higher threat density and a stronger mid-game (turn 3-4), although at the cost of sacrificing protected turn 1 kills and more insane Ad Nauseams.  Simply put, I don't need to draw 12-15 cards if I can win by drawing 7-10.
So why not go for a better mainplan game 1 and go for more resilience after boarding? It just doesn't make sense to me, unless Stax is 30% of your meta, having a good game 1 against Tezz, Dredge, Oath seems a lot better then having a "Stax proof" maindeck. In my experience only Stax is a real issue for this deck along with it being it's own nemesis.

Quote
I think that this may also help to address the problem you have with the deck being "too random."
I highly doubt adding stuff like Confidant (random flips) and Jar (random 7) would help in making this deck less random. At least with lists focussed on Ad Nauseam you know what you get (resolve AN = win and countered AN = Lose) The random factor for me is you don't know what you're gonna flip with either list, It's not like TPS which lets you sculpt your hand, which is my biggest problem. That being said, the decks very explosive to say the least.
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« Reply #25 on: January 26, 2010, 04:25:27 PM »

Quote from: dicemanx, as found in TMD Rules
In fact, a lot of posters get defensive and as a last resort decree - "test it, its good!". No. We're not going to test every idea that crosses the forums. We apply something known as a correlative approach - making a judgement based on similar established archetypes/strategies or on testing/match experience based on those decks. This approach is NOT perfect, but aims to use the wealth of experience provided by many TMD members to try to zero in on potential problems and issues that might need addressing. Could they be wrong? Absolutely. However, the intent behind posting your idea on the forum isnt (or at least shouldnt be) to establish who's right or wrong, and then bash it in their face when your idea attains some measure of success. The intent is to improve your deck, so that you can attain that success and in the process give others the opportunity of sharing in that success as a trade-off. And you know what - if it turns out that you are right, then its actually to your immense benefit, because you can exploit the difference of opinion where it counts - at a tournament!

That being said, this thread/primer is an impressive effort.
That's a misrepresentation.  ANT is known to be good and known to top 8.  Derek makes the much more relevant point that his match win % better describes the quality of his ANT build than frequency of top8/wins.  Using a noisy, infrequently sampled discrete measure (like who won an election) to infer the properties of the statistical distribution that gave rise to it (% of voters who always vote Green) is idiotic given access to the parameters of the distribution.  That said, a spreadsheet of his testing results by date and archetype would be nice.

If we rely on something as idiotic as tournament wins to infer match win % or some other measure of deck quality, we're forced to conclude that my winning a fairly long streak of Gush-era tournaments in St. Louis with UBr Doomsday implies a match win % in the 90+% range.  That would make it the most successful deck in the format's history and myself one of the format's foremost pilots.  Then given our ludicrous confidence in tourney wins as an indicator and other notable pilots' observation that Doomsday is ridiculously hard to play correctly, I can imply that the low number of observations (since I was the only one playing it) simply meant that the format's other solid pilots FAILED to have adequate playskill and couldn't reproduce my results in testing.   Since we devalue testing or (worse) chalk this up to lack of playskill and assume tournament results are paramount, we can't conclude that I had a lucky streak.
The last two medium-size tournaments I played in (~30 people) with this configuration, I went 3-1 but couldn't draw in and lost in round 5 (mulling to 5 both times in game 3), thus missing t8.  Also note that a "slight edge" against the field by no means guarantees a top 8, let alone a tournament win.  For example, even assuming a ridiculous 70% match wins against every deck, and automatic t8, the deck will only win 1st place 0.7*0.7*0.7=34.3% of the time.
This is definitely the correct way of looking at it.  I'll help with the math, assuming the ludicrous 70% against the field, we get this distribution after 5 rounds of swiss NOT accounting for the fact that your win % almost certainly goes down as you progress undefeated.

Probability Distribution
p[x=0] = 0.00241
p[x=1] = 0.02722
p[x=2] = 0.13167
p[x=3] = 0.30833
p[x=4] = 0.36317
p[x=5] = 0.1672
sum = 1
 
Reverse-Cumulative Distribution:
p[x>=0] = 1
p[x>=1] = 0.99759
p[x>=2] = 0.97037
p[x>=3] = 0.8387
p[x>=4] = 0.53037
p[x>=5] = 0.1672

So, a 53% chance of top6-ing.  P[top 8] = p[x>=4]+(2/10)p[x>=3] since 2/10 3-2s will top 8.  I'm ignoring tie-breakers and other stochastic processes and assuming that everyone always plays everything out.

For thoroughness's sake, here's a plot of odds of top8ing as a function of match wins odds.  To make sure I'm not messing up my math, I've just done this Monte Carlo playing 100,000 tournaments at each match win %.  Yes my work computer is fast Smile

Important features:
-10% odds for 37% against the field: terrible decks top8 disturbingly often
-25% chance of top8 given 50% against the field: 8/32 = .25 is what we expect for model validation purposes
-50% odds at 65% against the field: even an amazingly good deck/pilot pair only top8s half the time.
-93% odds at 90%: even with an unbelievable and impossible win %, you'll still miss top8 7% of the time.


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« Reply #26 on: January 26, 2010, 06:32:01 PM »

Unfortunately, play skill and deck choice factor way more than any amount of "luck" when it comes to winning games.

The only people who could acceptably walk into this thread and start posting charts and percentages would be Jon Finkel and Kai Budde.  For the rest of us, we must accept that we are merely mortal and humble ourselves.  We must acknowledge that we make mistakes.  Some of us will make less mistakes than others, but it doesn't matter if you think you're playing perfect because you are in all likelihood making a lot of mistakes. 

That being said, even assuming perfect play skill there is a lot to be said about "luck" when it comes to playing this deck.  While I am not here to discredit anyone or the deck, and I feel that ANT is a perfectly valid deck to win a tournament, I have felt that many times the ability to win with this deck is decided by factors beyond my control. 

Perhaps that is a strike against the deck.  There is a lot to be said about how playing the correct deck allows the player to get "lucky" and how the correct deck will still let the player win despite bad luck. 

In summary I will ask a simple question:

Is there a legitimate reason to choose this deck over a more stable deck knowing full well that you might just get "unlucky" and lose a match due to the deck being inconsistent or unstable?
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« Reply #27 on: January 26, 2010, 06:46:24 PM »

This isn't a rehash of the luck/skill debate.  Unless of course you want to argue that I'm the best player in the format, possibly tied with Vroman (who couldn't seem to lose with Iona Oath for a long stretch).

Match win % offers better evidence of deck quality than top8's because one is a stochastic approximation of the other.  This is fact and not up for debate.  The entropy (number of yes/no questions needed to determine its value) of match win% is >> the entropy of top8 placings since the number of available placings is starkly lower.  Entropy is well-studied in information theory.  Explaining entropy is painful, but a trivial knowledge of it quickly answers the question "Which carries more information content?  Match win% or top8 frequency?"


Since you brought up that asinine debate, there's a common "scheme" in actively managed mutual funds where a bank will create many funds nearly at random.  With a large number of funds, some will perform better than the market, some worse, and some much better even if just by random chance.  After a number of years, they take the best funds and market their performance as some sort of financial wellspring.   This is identical.  Given a large number of players, even given that all matches are a coin-toss, some players will appear to be coin-toss gods.   Is Kai Budde a better player than me?  Probably.  With type II decks, is his match win% against other pros > 60%?  Hell no.
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« Reply #28 on: January 27, 2010, 05:44:17 AM »

Quote
The only people who could acceptably walk into this thread and start posting charts and percentages would be Jon Finkel and Kai Budde.  For the rest of us, we must accept that we are merely mortal and humble ourselves.  We must acknowledge that we make mistakes.  Some of us will make less mistakes than others, but it doesn't matter if you think you're playing perfect because you are in all likelihood making a lot of mistakes.  
Or they are called Stephen Menendian Wink... the point you are making is very valid, I think everybody even Finkel and Budde make mistakes, just fewer then your average Joe. Magic, as a game, is impossible to play flawless for human beings. You've described precisely what I meant with "This decks to random". I don't accept the high percentage of "Luck" needed to perform well with this deck, I also hate how this deck is more "unlucky" then most decks. Then again, I don't believe "luck" as perceived by human beings is a factor in Magic at all.

But, that's worthy of an entire thread, so guys, lets keep these kind of semantic debates for that and refocus on the decklist presented.
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« Reply #29 on: January 27, 2010, 09:34:25 AM »

Or they are called Stephen Menendian Wink
Steve admitting being unable to pilot Doomsday correctly, I won tourneys with it repeatedly.  'Nuff said.

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Then again, I don't believe "luck" as perceived by human beings is a factor in Magic at all.
Vault-Key in your opening hand with lotus and FoW backup *twice* in a tournament is luck.  Unless of course you're saying that you stack your deck...  The number of mulligans you take should be Poisson random (since no matter how much skill you have no mana/all mana has some fixed frequency).  And the list goes on.  Stating that luck is completely unrepresented in tournament magic is nonsensical.

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But, that's worthy of an entire thread, so guys, lets keep these kind of semantic debates for that and refocus on the decklist presented.
It's not a semantic debate.  Derek was challenged on having match win% data instead of top8s.  I stepped in to clarify that match win% is the more informative measure.  For some reason, people keep trying to rehash the luck/skill debate instead of accepting that information theory can cut through the problem.


tl;dr: You can formally prove that match win% carries more information than top8 frequency.  This isn't luck v. skill.
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A link to the GitHub project where I store all of my Cockatrice decks.
Team TMD - If you feel that team secrecy is bad for Vintage put this in your signature
Any interest in putting together/maintaining a Github Git project that hosts proven decks of all major archetypes and documents their changes over time?
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