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The Cutting Room Floor: The February NELC – Exposed

“The Cutting Room Floor: The February NELC – Exposed”

If history has taught us anything it’s that we should learn from our past. This Saturday’s NELC is shaping up to be one of the greatest NELC events of all time, and for good reason: the meta right now is in a serious shift with hungry competitors making the monthly trek from all over for a shot at the title. This dynamic convergence of talent and unpredictability creates a dangerous set of circumstances for anyone wishing to compete in this event which is only weeks removed from the previous installation. Today I’d like to look into what you can expect from this epic event on Saturday and why it will mean more than just winning games of Magic.

Clearly if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. That is much easier said than done at Jupiter’s NELC events, to be simply honest. While there are certainly no moral victories in competitive Magic, one can at least take solace in knowing that being in a room with arguably some of the greatest players in the Northeastern United States is a truly distinct pleasure. I love attending these events on a regular basis quite honestly because of the cutthroat, yet friendly competition that exists at Jupiter. This Saturday is going to be an absolute whirlwind of tight play, powerful archetypes and the right to earn Jupiter’s biggest honor: NELC Champion.

Combo right now is storming the Legacy meta while RUG has seen a sharp decline in regular play. Oddball decks like Scape-Wish, Mono Red Sneak Attack, Turbo Eldrazi and Hypergenesis are performing better than expected. Is there a trend brewing? Absolutely, it’s called “rogue Magic” at its finest, and it’s becoming a serious factor when deciding a new champion. You see, right now something dangerously beautiful is happening within the hallowed architecture of the NELC series, and this is exactly it. We’re seeing a trend of pet decks and rogue specialists bringing their toys to this tournament series and completely outwitting and overmatching the typical Legacy frontrunners like Stone-Blade and RUG.

This is pushing those decks out the door and opening the way for some masterful lists on display for our viewing pleasure. It’s no fluke, and to be honest it inspires me in many ways as a player and deckbuilder. Previously I mentioned in my last article that I’ll be running a variant of Artificer’s Intuition at this Saturday’s event, and I hope to do well with it. Having played Manaless Dredge for so long, I think this will be an incredible breath of fresh air for me. The February NELC has some major implications on the future of this series in addition to opening the door for Gatecrash to spice things up a bit once the dust settles.

If you’re looking for a real challenge this weekend, you should really decide on attending this event. Remember we’re only several weeks removed from the January event, so let’s take a look at the decks that performed well and what we can expect this weekend.

Hypergenesis

Shardless AgentHaving played against this deck recently in the NELC, I can understand how it won. Few decks right now are capable of handling a ridiculous onslaught of attackers as powerful and dominating as the “unholy trio” of Griselbrand, Emrakul and Progenitus. I was sitting across from my opponent and trying to figure out what I was going to have to pull out of my butt to win, and I was just at a loss for words. In some metas, Hypergenesis can be beaten if prepared for, and I don’t believe the Jupiter crowd this Saturday will be prepared adequately to beat it.

In fact it’s quite possible that if it navigates its way close enough to edge out another Top Eight finish, no other deck likely in the Top Eight field can match forces with it once it cascades into some really messed up things. No excuses, friends: this is a warning to all midrange players looking to “Deathrite Shaman” their way to victory. People are learning and adjusting as we speak, and while the Junk-Rock decks that are clearly all over the place should be in full force at this event be prepared to have to contend with cards that enable free brokenness.

Esper-Blade

Stoneforge MysticApparently since this deck won the GP (even finding its way to being piloted by Jupiter regular-author Bryant Cook), people seem to be hot on this archetype. I don’t blame them, but something about this archetype in general just makes me laugh. You’ll always hear so many players overestimate their match-up against this deck and wind up losing to it. That doesn’t happen often with me because I respect it and know that in any given round of a tournament it can rear its ugly head.

On the flipside of Hypergenesis, Esper has the consistency and tools and if piloted strong enough could make its presence felt at this event. It has a solid overall game against a lot of the format’s decks, including Storm, which happens to be a frontrunner right now in a lot of metas across the nation. I don’t know if the variance within the NELC series and this upcoming event is enough for Esper to sustain repeated success, but it always has a good shot. Be prepared to deal with Jittes and Batterskulls this Saturday, because they are going to be everywhere.

Storm Combo

Lion's Eye DiamondFor some reason or another people just either just don’t prepare adequately or don’t bring enough firepower to deal with Storm combo. It’s not enough that players don’t know how to attack it, but in the hands of a good player the deck transcends itself into some sort of hybrid-mutation between “King Kong” and the monster from “Cloverfield.” One thing you can be sure of is that Storm combo’s resurgence in the current overall meta has made its presence felt in many different ways, especially at Jupiter Games.

I caution everyone attending this event to look at their sideboards, fan them out and assess whether or not the current configuration you have will be enough to sustain seven or eight rounds of Swiss and potentially three more rounds of Top Eight action. If you think yours is good enough, you had better prioritize this match-up right at the top because losing in the early rounds to Storm is bad enough as it is, but losing to Storm when you’re unprepared is unacceptable.

More often than not, Storm pilots wind up beating themselves on misplay. Unfortunately, that’s not going to really be the case this weekend with a good portion of skilled pilots at the ready to try for the championship. There were multiples in the Top Eight last month, and it is very likely we’ll see at least one in the Top Eight on February 2nd.

Turbo Eldrazi

CloudpostMost of you will laugh at this, but here’s a fact for you all to sink your teeth into: the incumbent of Turbo Eldrazi’s madness in NELC, regular Jeremiah Rudolph, has not only secured multiple huge Top Eights with his deck of choice but has amassed a legion of other pilots looking to ride the coattails of his success. I can tell you from first-hand experience that Jupiter Games is ripe for Turbo Eldrazi’s success based on the traditional meta of midrange and creature decks running rampant all over the place.

The deck has answers for everything and can in most instances afford to bide its time before dropping a disgustingly large creature into play that will either crush you and your permanents or rack up enough lands to power into a spaghetti monster and an extra turn to boot. If you don’t want to be the recipient of a thrashing like this, then your deck needs to be able to attack the mana configuration of this archetype and avoid making careless errors against it.

Remember: sometimes an error can cost you a turn or two. Against Turbo Eldrazi, there is no such thing as an extra turn, because that means more mana on their side and in turn, more beasts.

BUG

Abrupt DecayDynamically this is the hardest deck to prepare for, and for good reason: it’s so multifaceted that it’s hard to distinguish just what angle an opponent is taking with it. You could see an absolute barrage of Tarmogoyfs coming your way one minute and the next you’re watching them play fetches and passing the turn. That’s a scary deal, and honestly much like Turbo Eldrazi you need to be aggressive against this archetype by attacking its resources and depleting them of their resources.

BUG in the hands of a skilled pilot is a very difficult deck to beat. I anticipate this Saturday to have a good portion of BUG represented, but how well it will do is yet to be seen. If we’re working off precedent, I foresee BUG making an entry or two into the Top Eight if it can navigate its way through good match-ups with solid piloting. I just don’t expect it to rock the foundation of the event, so if you’re going to try and win this event don’t expect to dodge this deck in the later rounds, it will be likely be there in the end.

Jund

Bloodbraid ElfJund is just a deck that is hard to prepare for in any facet. Jupiter Games has a disturbing number of Jund-style decks in its NELC series as of late, and I foresee this trend to not only continue, but to explode. It’s a deck predicated on an array of creatures and spells that just decapitates an opponent in the early to mid-game. It also has a variety of answers post-board to many troublesome match-ups, so if you’re going to Jupiter this weekend for some action expect to deal with creatures and spells like the ones used in Jund.

I don’t know how well this deck will do, but if it shows up in numbers it has the potential to do extremely well. Even with average pilot play I can see a repeat performance by the deck heading to the elimination rounds. From there it’s anyone’s guess how it does, but be knowledgeable of its presence because it will be there in droves.

Keeping all of this information in mind is absolutely critical to success for this weekend, everybody. Predicting a meta like Jupiter is incredibly hard to do with all of the usual suspects represented. But if you want to break through and fly higher than all of the rest, you’re going to need to be on your A-game and with a deck you feel comfortable playing. Walking into one of these unprepared or even with the slightest bit of fatigue will cause you game errors and irreparable game losses. Starting your tournament off like that is not the ideal way to play, so just keep these things in mind.

The February NELC has a lot going for it. It’s one of those moments in the format’s history (especially locally) that will answer a lot of questions. Because when the clock strikes eleven and it’s time to party, be prepared for the battle of your competitive life. What will prevail? Will it be a new face and a new deck building a legacy for them, or will it be a familiar face with something traditional or new that will find its way to the title? No one knows for sure, but this event is going to be huge in so many different ways. Anyone who has ever been to an NELC can testify to that.

Only time will give us answers, but one thing is pretty much certain: the results of this Groundhog Day’s NELC aren’t likely to be a repeat of last month’s event!

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