Standard is in an interesting place. If you were in Toronto last week, you probably found yourself playing against GW Tokens round after round. I get it—the deck won the Pro Tour and it’s definitely one of the best decks in the format, if not the best one. But the mirror matches are quite random because there doesn’t seem to be a good way to get advantage unless you draw better and curve Nissa into Gideon on the play.
I expected the deck to be super popular and thought a lot about how to exploit it, but I didn’t have any time to play during the week before the GP so I ended up playing GW as well (thanks to Ondrez Strasky for an updated list). I went X-3-1, which isn’t bad, but playing mirror after mirror I felt like I missed an opportunity.
Every once in a while the metagame shifts in a way that there is one deck that almost everyone plays, and if you pick a deck that smashes it while not being too bad against the rest of the field, you have a very good chance at winning the tournament. While a deck like Jund is hard to have a great matchup against because of all the discard and versatile answers, you can certainly beat GW or Bant Company pretty easily.
I’m not sure if GP NY will look the same, but if you don’t want to play GW mirrors all weekend and don’t want to lose to it, I have some options for you.
Forget the RG Goggles deck team EUreka played at the PT. It was a well designed deck but it has a poor matchup against GW. By the time you start copying spells with Pyromancer’s Goggles, you will be getting beat down by a Gideon and an army of tokens. Even if you manage to kill all the tokens with Kozilek’s Return, it still won’t solve the planeswalkers left on board, so forget about that card too. World Breaker is also pretty poorly positioned against tokens, so move that to the sideboard. You need more high impact cards. If I were to play Ramp tomorrow, this is what I would play.
It ‘s time to go back to the original ramp deck. Instead of chaining card drawing spells like Magmatic Insight and Tormenting Voice, I want to focus on ramping as quickly as possible. The 8 mana-producing creatures help you cast turn 3 Explosive Vegetation or Hedron Archive, which are the most important ramp spells because they essentially ramp you from 4 to 7. And 7 mana means Dragonlord Atarka, who happens to be one of the best answers to tokens, planeswalkers, and little creatures from the 4c Rites deck, while also having a huge body that easily stops even a flipped Avacyn. Chandra with mana creatures doesn’t seem like a great combo, but it’s a concession to Humans and Rites, both of which are quite popular on MTGO. Ulamog is also great at cleaning up after you stabilize with Atarka and in general is the best thing you can do with a lot of mana.
There is only 1 Game Trail because you need a lot of basics for Nissa’s Pilgrimage and Explosive Vegetation, and the shadowlands are pretty bad anyway, especially when you need to draw an untapped land, which happens a lot if you are trying to cast 7- and 10-mana spells.
The usual problem with this kind of deck is consistency, because you need to draw the right mix of lands, ramp spells, and business. Oath of Nissa helps you with that and its also the reason why there are still 26 lands—you really want to be able to grab a creature or planeswalker with it. Hedron Archive also makes sure you don’t flood so easily. Another problem is that too many decks have access to Transgress the Mind right now, which is the best sideboard card against you. Other than that, Ramp is in a good spot if you are trying to beat creature decks.
Mono-Red and UR Eldrazi
Before the PT, we were considering the mono-red Eldrazi deck because it had a good matchup against Bant Company, which we expected to be the most popular deck. It looked something like this:
I didn’t like Hangarback at the beginning because of Reflector Mage and Eldrazi Displacer, but this is a good deck for it. Pia and Kiran Nalaar lets you sacrifice it at any time, providing both more creatures for Westvale Abbey or enough chumpblockers for Ormendahl on the opposite side of the board. Sacrificing the token before damage means they don’t gain any life, which lets you race their Ormendahl rather easily if it comes to that. In the creature matchups, Chandra on turn 5 or 6 is usually game over and most of your creatures should survive the damage because of their high toughness. Reality Smasher is a great card against GW because it smashes through all the tokens with trample and there is no Abzan Charm or Valorous Stance to easily kill it at instant speed.
I think a UR version may be even better though, because you get access to more evasion creatures and more sideboard options.
Blue offers you Eldrazi Skyspawner, which fits the deck perfectly because it gives you a creature with evasion and a Scion to ramp into turn-4 Smasher or turn-5 Drowner/Chandra. Whirler Rogue replaces Pia and Kiran Nalaar because being able to give your guys unblockable means you get to kill planeswalkers in one swing and that you don’t have to care about Avacyn ambushing you in combat. Without Pia, Hangarback gets much worse, but Dimensional Infiltrator is a fine replacement because flying is so good right now.
Spatial Contortion is fine but unexciting, and Roast isn’t what it used to be as right now you want your removal spell to be able to kill Avacyn. Fortunately, Outnumber kills pretty much anything and it’s such an unusual card that very few people ever play around it, which matters even more when your big trample guys get double-blocked.
I’m still not sure if Drowner is better than main-deck Chandra, but if you feel that it is, you should adjust the mana base accordingly. The one thing I don’t like about this deck is that it’s weak to Tragic Arrogance. Thought-Knot Seer and Negate should give you enough answers to it, but it’s certainly not ideal.
We built a lot of Dragon decks before the PT because we liked the core of the deck. We obviously started with Esper Dragons, but it quickly became apparent that Jace wasn’t going to flip on turn 3 or 4 anymore, and with Crux of Fate gone, that meant your own creatures were dying to Languish way too often. Next we tried Jeskai, using Eldrazi Skyspawner to ramp us into Ojutai, but as it is with other 3-color decks, the mana base wasn’t ideal. UR wasn’t very good either because without the black spot removal spells or Reflector Mage, must-kill creatures like Kalitas became too problematic. Silumgar’s Scorn also gets much worse if you are tapping out most of the time. Icefall Regent having 3 toughness was also crucial, because it often died to Avacyn flipping.
We were ready to give up, but we gave it one last try.
This one is my favorite out of all the Dragon decks and I considered playing it at the PT, but in the end I couldn’t pull the trigger and stuck with Bant Company. It can play both an aggressive and a control game and there is a lot of card advantage. Goblin Dark-Dwellers is secretly one of the best cards in Standard, but except for Grixis and Jund, it just hasn’t found a good home yet. Sin Prodder helps you fill the graveyard with cards to flashback and it’s a fine creature against decks without too much removal like Company and GW.
I like Dragonlord Kolaghan (go ahead and read what it actually does) a bit more than Chandra, but it’s important to have access to both in your 75. Abbot of Keral Keep can be played on turn 2 if you are on the play and can follow it up with Draconic Roar or other removal spells, but it’s also a good card to draw later. Hangarback Walker doesn’t fit here because you have no sacrifice outlet. The one Expedite looks pretty random, but it’s a decent card to reveal to Abbot and it’s great to flashback with Dwellers. After sideboard, you can transform into a control deck with discard spells, more Read the Bones, and Chandra.
Bottom line is, I think it’s important to be proactive because playing answers and removal won’t get you very far when other people are using planeswalkers to generate creatures and then sacrifice them to Evolutionary Leap to create even more value. Evasion is a good way to get around Nissa and Gideon, but make sure you don’t lose to Tragic Arrogance or Avacyn.
That’s all I have for today, good luck at the GP this weekend!