Revisiting the Hive

Way back in April, Alistar wrote an article explaining a concept known as the “hive mind.” Here is a link to the article. Essentially the hive mind is taking what you know about the current format and making slight adjustments to give yourself an edge over your competition. In Alistar’s article, he was talking about how he felt Inzektors would be a good choice for Dallas (the event immediately following the article). One reason he thought Inzektors would be a good choice was because of the popularity of both Hero decks and Dark World decks following Long Beach (the event preceding the article). He also claimed that the hive mind dictated that he run multiple copies of Forbidden Lance to counter the popularity of Skill Drain at the time. A couple of days later Alistar found himself piloting Inzektors to a Top 32 finish in Dallas.

Another example of the hive mind would be from last weekend’s YCS Indianapolis. Billy Brake recognized how popular Wind-Ups would be after their win in Toronto and acknowledged that people would likely be using Maxx “C” instead of Effect Veiler. Inzektors proved to be a perfect choice for a meta full of “C” and almost completely deprived of Veiler.

These are both effective examples of the hive mind. Attempting to give yourself an edge in a tournament as large as a YCS is a very fine line to walk. This line is going to be the subject of this week’s article.

Ten or eleven rounds is a long time for any inconsistencies in your deck to come out. This is why the hive mind can often prove to be much more ineffective than had you registered a much more standard deck list.

Bad Meta Calls

Let’s take this past YCS Toronto for instance. Going into the tournament I felt like Heroes were going to be the most played deck. This led to registering 0 hand traps in the main event due to the hive mind. I wanted an edge over my competitors and I felt any Maxx “C”s or Veilers I drew against the 3-4 Hero decks I was expecting to play would greatly reduce my chances of taking game 1. In actuality I played 0 Hero decks and 4 Wind-Up decks and ended up only winning 2 of my mirrors. I thought I had a fair judgment on the expected meta of the first YCS of the format, but unfortunately I was wrong and the hive mind actually ended up detracting from my performance in Toronto.

Fixing Things that Aren’t Actually Wrong

This isn’t exactly the same thing as the hive mind, but it’s similar and worth talking about. Your goal here is still to give yourself an edge over your competition. Let’s say for instance that you want to make your deck more consistent. You know that Wind-Ups have an issue with hands that contain something like Rat, Factory, Magician and no other Wind-Up support. In an effort to reduce the number of bad hands that you will get containing those cards you decide to cut Factory to two. Sure, you might get fewer hands containing those cards together, but you will also get that many less Rabbit, Factory hands and you will see that many fewer Factories in the mirror.

Another trend I am seeing online is people experimenting with cutting Rat to two arguing that you only need two for the combo, that it is searchable, and that you will get that many less bad openers. This is when people start to get too cute and mess with the core of a deck. Remember, the standard is in fact standard for a reason. Cutting Factory because Thunder King is being mained in 2s and 3s is an example of effectively using the hive mind. Cutting a Factory because you want to have fewer bad openers is trying to get cute and mess with what works.

Expecting Fast Changes in the Meta and Generalizations

I’ve addressed this in previous articles. The meta is not fast changing. People are slow to change their ways. An example of this would be after Wind-Ups won in Toronto, Compulsory Evacuation Device gained a steam as an increasingly popular choice among top players. In the weeks between I know several people who attempted to be one step ahead and include cards like Forbidden Lance in their Wind-Up decks. Well Compulsory might have actually been a great card and it might have given the players running it an advantage over the ones not running it, leading a lot of players who ran it to top, but you have to understand that a lot of players did not run Compulsory. The top cut doesn’t really represent what the masses played at any tournament. If 16 of Top 32 is Wind-Ups do you think 50% of the people that entered the tournament played Wind-Ups? No, 50% played unreal decks like Spellcasters or Dragons and were out by round 5. Even many of the players that did play Wind-Ups simply copied the top lists from Toronto ignoring the merit of cards like Compulsory. These are the people you are going to be playing against in the swiss rounds. Just because you knew that Compulsory was a great choice does not mean that the masses did and trying to run a card like Forbidden Lance to help counter it is just going to prove to be subpar over the course of a 10 round tournament because while you may play 1-2 people who had the same hive mind as you and played Compulsory, you’re going to be playing 8-9 that didn’t.

When the Hive Mind is Most Effective

The hive mind is going to be most effective in well-defined formats. For instance, last year at YCS Columbus Billy won the event with 3 Maxx “C” mained. While there had only been 1 YCS before this event, Plants had already won and were largely expected to be the most played deck. This allowed for Billy to use the hive mind to play 3 Maxx “C” in his deck and successfully give himself an edge over the competition and end up repeating his performance from Toronto.

Another example of this would be Jae Kim putting Oppression in Tele-DAD for the first time. By this point in the format the meta was extremely well defined and it would be completely normal to expect to play at least 7 rounds of Tele-DAD mirrors. Oppression absolutely destroyed the mirror match when they were not also playing the card, however Oppression was not nearly as strong against a deck like Lightsworn which had Lylas, Rykos, and Celestias to deal with the card. Had the format been more open and Lightsworn decks been more popular Oppression might not have been nearly as good of a choice as it proved to be.

When used effectively, the hive mind can definitely give you an edge over the competition; however there are a lot of ways to ineffectively use it that will probably hinder your performance. As I said before, there is a very fine line when it comes to beating the meta. You want to be effective in your choices, not cute. I hope this article provides you with some of the means to avoid negatively using the hive mind and that it allows you to make better use of the concept. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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