Analyzing GP Memphis

So what’s new in Standard? One week went by and it seems like everything changed. I was very surprised when I saw the results from GP Memphis. I expected a lot of R/W, Jeskai, Abzan Aggro, and Mono-Green Nykthos. Instead, there were a whopping six control decks in the Top 8 and once again a U/B base deck, this time with a splash of green, won the whole thing.

Sultai Control – Jack Fogle

Jack was able to take advantage of the fact that the top tables were filled with Abzan Control. He has no creatures they can effectively kill and he has 2 Ugins to make sure he can always come out on top. Between all the discard, counters, and card advantage (even going as far as playing an additional Treasure Cruise to the usual 4 Dig Through Times) you are looking at a very good matchup against other control decks, especially the ones with a lot of creature removal like Bile Blight and End Hostilities.

The Rakshasa Deathdealers in the sideboard are surprising to me. I understand that your opponent will always take all their removal out (except for Hero’s Downfall, which still kills all your planeswalkers), but even then this is a deck where you want to be passing the turn with open mana most of the time so the idea of tapping out to pump my 2/2 doesn’t seem that appealing to me. I’m also skeptical of the matchup with R/W Aggro, but at least Sultai Charm makes sure you have an answer for Outpost Siege and if the game goes long enough, you can just mop up the entire board with Ugin.

It might look like green doesn’t really add much, but with 8 delve cards in the 75, Satyr Wayfinder might just be the most important card in the deck. Kiora is very strong against decks like U/W Heroic and Garruk, Apex Predator can kill other planeswalkers, which is huge.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Brad Nelson was also in the Top 8, this time with Abzan Control.

Abzan Control – Brad Nelson

When I was talking to Brad before the GP and he showed me this list, I didn’t think it was very well positioned. There were some things that I liked but I just couldn’t understand why people were cutting Sylvan Caryatids from their decks when the format seemed to be getting more and more aggressive. Making your deck slower and playing 4 copies of Abzan Charm seemed crazy to me, especially considering that it’s basically a dead card against R/W Aggro.

But once again Brad showed the world why he is such a Constructed master and piloted his deck to a Top 4 finish, where he lost to the eventual winner in an impossible matchup for him.

I would have easily bet even money on Brad making the Top 8 at the GP with a ham sandwich, but the fact that 4 more players with Abzan Control made the Top 8 was very surprising to me. Last week Abzan Control was nowhere to be seen in Seville and I thought there was a good reason for that: neither Jeskai nor R/W Aggro with a bunch of Outpost Sieges seemed like a good matchup for it. I guess the metagame changed that much in the past week, or it is just that different between the U.S. and Europe (or I’m just wrong).

Either way, Siege Rhino is still great and this deck will be very popular in the upcoming weeks, so make sure you can beat it. I really like that he’s playing 3 copies Elspeth, because it is still one of the best finishers in the format. Tasigur also proved to be a very strong addition, allowing him to create crucial card advantage if they can’t kill it. But the most innovative thing about Brad’s deck was the sideboard. After game 1 his opponents were taking out their Lightning Strikes and Bile Blights because they saw no good targets, preparing for a grindy game against cards like End Hostilities and Read the Bones. Brad took advantage of that and boarded into a more aggressive deck with Fleecemane Lions and Sorins. Perfect. The best part is, even if they know your entire sideboard, they still don’t know whether you are actually going to bring those cards in or not, so there is still a 50% chance they will have some useless cards in their deck for game 2 or 3.

R/W Aggro put two players in the Top 8 and I really like what Ben did with the deck.

R/W Aggro – Ben Stark

Ben significantly lowered the curve by playing the full 8 two-drops, 4 Wild Slashes, and moved the Stormbreath Dragons to the sideboard. The lower your curve, the more value you can expect to get out of your Outpost Sieges. You also make your deck a bit more explosive, which makes the second ability better as well.

Soulfire Grand Master is criminally underrated, most people are still just playing him as a 1-of, but in my opinion his ability is comparable to Tasigur’s, especially with 4 Stoke the Flames in your deck and a bunch of ways to make tokens. The only problem with Ben’s creatures is that they all die to Drown in Sorrow, which he tries to make up for by going bigger after sideboard with Sarkhans and Stormbreaths. If you are playing against a deck like U/B where you have to still keep all your creatures, just make sure you aren’t overextending into it and try to make them answer your threats one by one. Mastery of the Unseen seems like a great sideboard card against the slow control strategies, giving you even more enchantments that they usually don’t have very many answers for.

The one deck that really caught my eye was Tomoharu Saito’s innovative Mono-Black Humans.

Mono-Black Humans – Tomoharu Saito

This deck got weaker when Mutavault rotated out of Standard, but Saito noticed that all the black aggressive creatures share a creature type. There is no Human lord, but there is actually something better: a colorless Crusade on steroids. This deck is blazingly fast and I’m sure he caught many people off-guard with cards like Obelisk and Mogis’s Marauder. He is smartly taking advantage of everyone running 6-12 tapped lands, trying to kill them before they can play their more powerful spells.

Mardu Strike Leader also seems like a nice addition to the deck, allowing you to play around board sweepers with the dash ability which you will definitely appreciate in the post-board games, because Drown in Sorrow is probably the most played sideboard card.

I like that he isn’t playing Thoughtseize in the main deck—he knows that he needs to curve out with creatures as fast as possible and there is no reason to discard their removal spell when they have two more in hand. Instead of putting the pressure on them to have to answer your guys, Thoughtseize creates a hole in your curve which is exactly what they need to catch up.

As much as I like the deck, I see a couple problems: you absolutely need to draw between 3 and 5 lands every game, not more and not less. The loss of Mutavault makes this even more important, because if you flood out there is nothing you can do, and this deck isn’t very good at playing from behind. Mogis’s Marauder also used to be much better against the green decks, essentially making your guys unblockable, but now almost all the green decks have a Siege Rhino and Tasigur, which are both “immune” to fear. His sideboard is built with that in mind and he is able to bring Herald of Torment to fly over them and has more removal against problematic cards like Polukranos.

Lastly, I’d like to mention the ultimate brew. Anonino De Rosa apparently crushed one of the big Standard side events on Day 2 with this bad boy:

Waste Not – Antonino De Rosa

Yeah. I honestly have no idea what to think of this deck, but it looks like a lot of fun. Everyone knows by know that delve is a broken mechanic and Antonino is trying to take full advantage of that. Dark Deal not only works well with Waste Not, it also fills your graveyard and hopefully ruins their hand.

Going forward, I will probably stick to Jeskai. The deck will still be good no matter how the metagame evolves and you can tune your sideboard to beat anything. If you expect a lot of control, maybe it’s time for a couple Disdainful Strokes in the main deck. I would probably cut the Abzan Advantage and go with the full 4 Dig Through Times to help me better find my sideboard cards in the post-board games. Just don’t play any Jeskai Charms—between Rabblemaster, Siege Rhino, and Mantis Rider, there really aren’t very many creatures that you would want to Time Ebb and the other two modes aren’t very exciting unless you are playing tokens or focusing more on burn spells.

All right, that’s it for today, see you next week!

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