2004 United States National Championship Feature

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The letter O!ne of the questions coming into the tournament was just how big a part of the metagame Ravager Affinity decks would be. U.S Nationals often has a lot of hate for the best deck(s) coming out of Regionals, and the best deck this time was clearly the one that won more than 50% of the slots. Therefore, choosing to run "the best deck" would place you in a precarious position, as current Affinity decks have little variation in their design, which would make them easy to plan for.

However, after the Regionals dust settled, the general consensus was that there were three major decks: Ravager, Goblins, and Elf and Nail - all of which run the now banned Skullclamp. Elf and Nail won German Nationals while Goblins took home Japanese Nationals, proving that either deck could win a major event. The question now became which players would be willing to continue playing with the raw power of Affinity or Goblins at the cost of having a large target aimed squarely at their head. The success of the other two archetypes actually eased some of the pressure on Affinity players, as suddenly the hate was not aimed exclusively at them, but more players choosing to play Elf and Nail would become a problem, since that deck has a very solid matchup against Mr. Ravager and friends. The chart below shows how many people showed up to US Nationals with each archetype.

Deck ArchetypeNumberPercentage
Affinity 6637.8
Goblins 3017.1
Elf and Nail 2011.4
Beasts 95.1
Big Red 95.1
Goblin Bidding 63.4
U/W March of the Machines63.4
U/W Control 63.4
Mono-White Control 52.8
Flores-style W/g Control52.8
G/W 42.3
Tooth and Nail -31.7
Astral Slide 21.1
R/G Control 1less than 1
B/G Cemetery 1less than 1
Mono-Black Aggro1less than 1
Combo Affinity1less than 1

Fully 66% of U.S. Nationals competitors chose to play one of the big three. Directly after those decks came three dedicated hate decks in Big Red, Beasts, and U/W March of the Machines. Next came the control decks and a sort of mesh deck that falls between Flores's W/g control variations and a kind of aggro G/W deck.

When I talked to the players about their deck choices, all of them were aware of the "target" idea, but many of them did not allow that to affect their decisions, or it pushed them into Elf and Nail. Those who ran Goblins or Affinity generally cited the wish to play with an aggressive, powerful deck as one of their reasons for running it, while noting a lack of a good alternate deck as another. The players who chose the control decks were generally people who wanted to play a deck that still felt powerful, but did not want to run any deck that was part of the big three.

There are still two more rounds to be completed in the Standard format at the time of this writing, and it will be interesting to see which archetypes come out on top.

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