I played almost no standard last week, and I had no time to read or watch any material about it either, so I was as unprepared as one can be. Standard did not conceptually change much since the last round of bans. It is Growth Spiral everywhere, with Temur Reclamation leading the way and Bant Ramp not that far behind. Still, small things change. People are bored by the best decks and like to try other options, and these options seem to shift and change quite a lot since M21. Initially, sacrifice decks (Jund and Rakdos) were popular T2 choices, followed by a wave of mono-colored aggro decks (first green, followed by black and recently white).
I am not a great fan of the Growth Spiral decks, so I looked into the Channel Fireball deck vault and figured out Mono-Green Aggro sounds fun. Casting big beasts and turning them sideways should not be that hard. I managed to play only one game with it before the tournament, though.
Deck 4 Barkhide Troll 2 Gemrazer 4 Lovestruck Beast 4 Pelt Collector 4 Questing Beast 2 Ram Through 1 Ranger's Guile 4 Scavenging Ooze 4 Stonecoil Serpent 2 The Great Henge 3 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger 2 Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig 4 Castle Garenbrig 19 Forest 1 Mobilized District Sideboard 2 Gemrazer 2 Heroic Intervention 4 Oakhame Adversary 2 Ram Through 4 Shifting Ceratops 1 The Great Henge
G1 was a surprising Temur Clover (adventures) played by a streamer Matías Arvigo. I lost the first game because of a stupid mistake where I did not take time to properly evaluate plays when I had lethal. I had a Vivien and three creatures. The opponent had three life and an empty board. I knew he wished Unsummon and Redcap Melee from the sideboard, and he had precisely two mana open to cast them. I managed to not win that game by putting Vivien’s +1/+1 counters on incorrect creatures. I kept a risky, greedy hand in the second game and was punished by it. Opponent placed a Clover in T2, and I did not have the third land to cast that Gemrazer.
G2 was a Bant Ramp piloted by Tomonori Hirami, a Hareruya Hope. I was quite close in both games, but Nissa and Uro always clogged the board enough, and I could not get the lethal through. I felt utterly destroyed by ECD, Teferi, and Aether Gust. I did quite a lot of damage, but it was always offset by Uro and Krasis. I guess better decks are just better?
I played a mirror in G3. Opponent curved Elf → Ooze → Lovestruck Giant → Great Henge in the first game, hard to beat that. I got mana screwed in the second game, never got the fourth land.
Is keeping playing worth it?
Apparently, many people only play to get to day two and drop after a second or third loss. I still feel I gain experience playing (semi-)competitive games in later rounds, so I continued. I was not taking notes, though! One thing to observe during a long tournament is fatigue. I really noticed how less motivated, less alert, and overall more tired I am during the day. I guess that is also a reason why to keep playing, even if you end up playing weird decks and not that challenging opponents.
Like I mentioned, I was not taking notes in the rest of the tournament. I beat Red Aggro in the G4, and it felt very straightforward. Green dudes are just bigger and on the board soon enough to stop the aggressive red creatures. You just need to respect the Embercleave. I lost the next two games against an Abzan Aggro (I do not remember the details of that deck, unfortunately) and Bant Ramp. Then, I won the last two games, both against Azorius Control.
The experience playing was nice. The online system for running the game is pretty polished, although it apparently has some backend issues. The tournament felt more competitive than any other Magic tournament I have ever played. Especially the first rounds were ruthless without any slack: optimal decks, right decisions, apparently experienced players. The opponent quality dropped noticeably in the later rounds. After this tournament, I am pretty sure I need to prepare properly next time: I cannot merely show up and play, and expect any good results.