On Swedish Tectonic Stability

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Here in Sweden, our mountains are very old, low and eroded, home to various trolls and giants but altogether stable. It’s a very tectonically uninteresting part of the world. No earthquakes anywhere near, not ever.

And it turns out, the same applies to deckbuilding in the 93/94 format under Swedish rules. In the ongoing Winter Derby, an online tournament played over Skype and the second-largest Old School tournament ever with over 140 participants, I faced a gentleman from the United States who was playing URB Troll Disco. He had an Earthquake maindeck. After our match, I told him I didn’t think Earthquake was even a playable card in the Swedish format, whereas it’s an all-star maindeck card in the EC or Atlantic format. Why is that? Everybody knows that the inclusion of Fallen Empires helps aggro decks, be it white weenie or black aggro with the Orders, black with Hymn to Tourach, or goblins getting Goblin Grenade and becoming a real deck. And the EC format has its 4 Strip Mines to further cement an early aggro board advantage. Sure, an anti-aggro card like Earthquake should be less of a necessity under Swedish rules, but unplayable? Don’t you still face aggro sometimes?

You do, but the kind of aggro you’re likely to face isn’t affected by Earthquake very much at all. The thing is, the 1-toughness creatures most affected by Earthquake are all from FE or belong to a FE-based deck: Order of Leitbur, Order of the Ebon Hand, Icatian Javelineers, various Goblins (because of the presence of Goblin Grenade). What do we have in Swedish? Savannah Lion, and that’s it. White Knight and Black Knight are rarely played and very bad anyway, then things like Kird Ape which make Earthquake look quite bad.

So Earthquake goes from being a slam-dunk maindeck card to an almost unplayable sideboard card. What else? A friend played a WGR midrange deck to something like a 0-3 start. Why? It was full of good cards, using Lightning Bolt, Disenchant, Swords to Plowshares and Fireball, and probably some number of Earthquakes, to clear the way for Erhnam Djinn, Serra Angel and Shivan Dragon. What’s wrong with that? Well, this kind of deck really preys upon low-curve creature-based aggro. You have a ton of removal to stay even in the early game and then midrange threats to take over the midgame. When facing Atog, or UR burn, or god forbid The Deck or some combo deck, this just isn’t effective. The weenie aggro decks this sort of deck is meant to prey upon just isn’t there, rending the archetype almost unplayable.

The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t just consider which cards are available to you. You should consider what this means for the metagame as a whole and what decks you are likely to face. If everybody will play Hymn to Tourach and 4 Strip Mine because it’s a rare EC tournament in Europe and people will want to experience what’s new to them (seriously, at the EC Lighthouse tournament in Genoa, I faced something like 3 Hymn decks in 6 rounds), maybe a Land Tax deck is better than in usual EC. If you’re playing a spiky tournament in Sweden, you should know many of the old ringers like their The Deck and probably shouldn’t bring Troll Disco to beat all the random artifact decks. And please, don’t maindeck Earthquake this side of the pond. It’s just way too tectonically stable here.

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