By Niels Viaene
The first edition of the Gentry Arena Monthly is in the books. The event was designed as a counterpart to the weekly leaderboard events. Where the Weeklies are 4 rounds and only give away points for the Leaderboard, the Monthly has a traditional swiss + top cut structure and even gives away prizes. For this event those prizes were sponsored by cardmarket and Outpost game center Ghent.
When the dust settled and players were in round 1, 27 people had shown up for the inaugural edition of the series. Many new names popped up, with some American players joining the fray again (like we saw on the leaderboard, they are the fastest growing group currently) and none other than Hall of Fame Magic player and analyst Frank Karsten. Frank was even so nice to share his screen for the entire duration of the event, giving the stream associated with the event a lot more value. And when I say ‘the entire duration of the event’, I mean it. Frank went all the way, winning the event after losing one round in the swiss and took home €25 in cardmarket coupons in this free event.
1 Lurrus of the Dream Den
4 Drannith Healer
4 Drannith Stinger
4 Flourishing Fox
4 Valiant Rescuer
1 Raugrin Triome
3 Footfall Crater
4 Frostveil Ambush
4 Go for Blood
4 Memory Leak
4 Startling Development
4 Zenith Flare
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Savai Triome
1 Raking Claws
3 Shredded Sails
4 Scorching Dragonfire
2 Cosmotronic Wave
3 Light of Hope
1 Lurrus of the Dream Den
Since he had no experience with the format and no time to prepare, Frank turned to his experience in standard to select a deck and quickly landed on Lurrus Cycling. After all, you only need to remove some rares from the mana base to make the deck standard legal.
Frank showed mastery with the deck not many people have seen in Gentry, finding kills in boardstates others would have scooped on by getting a Flourishing Fox through for lethal using Footfall Crater and Raking Claws as well as using Startling Development off Raugrin Triome to pick off pesky planeswalkers.
Peter is on a meteroic rise in Gentry. Hailing from the first international sister community in Sweden, he brought Dimir Control to the event. This deck is seen by a few people as ‘the deck’ to address the current metagame. His anti-cycling suit is less pronounced than we have seen from some other players which may be why he lost to Frank in the final.
That said, this is a very solid base to work off from, and if you are looking to attack the metagame from a different angle, this is definitely a great place to start from.
This Peter was the only undefeated player after 5 rounds of swiss. He also brought Lurrus as his deck of choice but it the Nightmare cat in a recursion / sacrifice jacket instead of cycling. The deck is generally known as a good fit for the metagame because it has a lot of game against Lurrus cycling decks. He is playing a slightly unusual package with Hateful Eidolon instead of relying on the usual cat/oven combo but is seemed to suit him pretty well.
Hailing from the Ghent area, the birthplace of Gentry, he was the last champion that fell in the top 8.
Ander Magallon Vazquez
This was the first Gentry event Ander played to our knowledge and he took it all the way to the penultimate round off the back of Lurrus cycling. He is playing the full set of Raking Claws which might have lead to him stealing a few games with a big fox. He is playing a single Wilt here, but I think he only did that to unlock another mana symbol on his deckbox in Arena as he is unable to make green mana.
Nothing screams ‘Gentry’ quite as much as blue red spells does. This archetype often catches people that underestimate it by surprise. Not this time around, as Joeri stranded in the first round of the top cut. In the meantime, the choice to go Ominous Seas over Imporbable Alliance seems to be unanimous but look to shifts in the metagame to see this switching back and forth.
The deck is pretty decent against top cat Lurrus cycling, with both sweepers, bounce and counterspells to answer anything the deck throws at it. That often degenerates to who can find the first card to break parity, often resulting in a finished game.
Simon De Grieve
Simon brought mono black Devotion to the fray, an archetype most people have given up on. Mostly seen as a beginner’s strategy, Simon showed the world just how good Tymaret, Chosen from Death can put pressure on Lurrus decks.
The deck does look like it may be optimised further, so I would not be surprised to see different version emerge. Blood for Bones seems like an amazing pairing with Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which I expect to see in the future.
Kristof van Holsbeeck
Our former Belgian champion is a fixture in the Gentry landscape in the meantime. He brought Azorius control to the tournament. In many ways it is a less potent version than the Dimir Control decks but it trades that for way more versatility and a stronger sideboard.
Those differences make the deck have a higher skill ceiling, but also makes them more punishing if you make mistakes with them.
Simon was the only player in the top 8 with a record of 3-2. He rode Gyruda gambles all the way to his position with top resistance. This deck is very different than the standard counterpart. It does not have the combo-like finishing power off playing Gyruda. For one, there is rarely a big follow-up to your Gyruda since you do not have additional copies, there is also only one Spark Double to hit. That makes this deck an even bigger gamble in Gentry than it is in Standard, you pretty much have to win off whatever you hit off your first spin of the wheel with Gyruda.
Its saving grace is that because it cannot focus on a combo finish is that it packs more control than the standard version of the deck, which can be quite surprising for people that are expecting other things from the deck. If only we did not have open decklists…
Technically, Simon Declerck did not make top 8, Ruben did, but he had to drop before the top 8 and made room for Simon. Ruben brought Lurrus Aristocrats to the tournament and also chose to focus on a package with Hateful Eidolon, making that version the only one good enough to take top 8 slots.
If we look at the complete metagame, we see the following:
6 Orzhov Aristocrats (Lurrus)
5 Boros Cycling (Lurrus)
3 Izzet Spells
3 Dimir Control
2 Mono-W Aggro
2 Mono-R Aggro (1 Obosh)
2 Bant Gyruda
1 Mono-B Devotion
1 Mono-W Control
1 Azorius Control
1 Superfriends Yorion
1 Selesnya Midrange
Let’s just address the elephant in the room, Lurrus was in 40% of the decks in this format and the cycling version had a 66% winrate. That winrate is skewed by the fact the winning player had the deck in a relatively small tournament, but still this is high. Izzet spells and Dimir Control are generally seen as deck that have a decent Lurrus match-up, and those made up the second biggest chunk in the metagame. These numbers are unhealthy, especially considering this is very early in the format’s adoption to the new cards coming in with Ikoria, and I feel like we have not felt the full impact of the nightmare cat.
Lurrus is not the only problem though, the cycling deck barely takes advantage of its Companion. It is also a deck that only loses a little mana base stability when compared to its standard counterpart. In short, it is probably too strong and especially its finishing power in Zenith Flare gives it a lot of wins that feel unfair and non-interactive.
Based on what I said above, I am considering 2 changes to Gentry. But before I pull the trigger, I want your feedback, so please read carefully and let me know either here, or on facebook, or on discord, how you feel.
Zenith Flare gets upshifted to Rare status
Much like we did with Gates Ablaze and Guild Summit, Zenith Flare breaks the ceiling in ways that feel far above what should be possible with a single card in the power setting of Gentry. It behaves a lot more like a rare in the impact it has than an uncommon in its capability to completely turn a game around from a seemingly impossible perspective. I feel like this is an obvious choice to make considering what we have seen in the past, and one that will likely need to be taken more in the future now that wizards of the coast has changed heir design philosophy to printing more ‘exciting’ cards at common and uncommon rarities.
Companion as a mechanic gets banned in Gentry
This is a far more controversial change to be introduced in Gentry, and one that will likely have a lot of adversity at the moment, so it needs more explanation.
Gentry has a few philosophies behind it that influence how this site is structured, how we discuss content, how it came to be and how, when and why we look at bans. Gentry came to be with the idea that it is for a new player that has a very limited collection. They get some draft leftover gifts from more experienced players to make a stable base but they get to play the favorites few rares they own as well. Those rares can then thrive in an environment in which they make big random impacts on the game.
Companions break that balance by being rares you always have access to without being surprising in any way. They are there from the start ad usually your deck is designed to optimize that one interaction. It reduces randomness. This is good from a competitive standpoint but is against what Gentry wants to achieve.
One could make a case that only Lurrus is currently problematic, and that only they need to be banned or not be a companion anymore. While this makes sense in a power level point of view, it still does not address the philosophic issue Gentry has with companions.
Another issue is that the restrictions the companions impose often force decks in a very particular direction, making decks look very similar and, frankly, boring. Yes, Lurrus has 2 decks, and Yorion can fit into two shells as well, but those 2 shells will look very alike.
Do note that if this change comes to Gentry, it may not be a permanent one. If Magic decides to make Companion an evergreen mechanic, meaning it returns over and over again in different sets, and there are enough options to allow for a diverse metagame with different balanced companions, then companions would be able to fill the role they were designed to fill. But that is not where we are currently.
The changes proposed above are not concluded yet. I will leave the community time until shortly after the next Gentry Weekly on Tuesday to give me extra feedback.
May your brews be creative,