With GP: Sendai and another SCG 5k event in the books, we’re looking at a few more tournaments to dissect for the next few weeks until M11 brings some new cards to the table. Until then though, we’ve got a pretty firm triangle of archetypes that can be broken down even further. Right now there seem to be about 8 notably different decks making top eights on MODO and in real life; not even counting the outliers like Turboland and such. Overall a pretty open and reasonable field if you feel like playing in one of the many PTQ’s or cash tournaments available compared to your options a scant few months ago.
So the basic strategic triangle is:
Jund – UW Control – Bant
And then expands out to all of it’s alternates. Though at the moment I’m sure the Bant decks in particular will have the greatest attention paid to them after the performances from this weekend.
Archetypes with over 50 representatives at Sendai:
UW Variations 80
Planeswalker Control 77
Mythic Conscription 72
Naya Variants 63
And trailing just behind was Eldrazi Green at 48.
Popularity-wise it’s the basic triangle from above, however taken a step further you’ll notice that Next Level Bant enjoyed a huge amount of success this weekend with only 13 entries. Not only did it win the Grand Prix, but it had three undefeated pilots day one! It’s rare when open formats like this one are broken in such a fashion, but at least for this GP, Next Level Bant clearly did so. As usual, alongside the top performer was a pair of Jund decks, while also being the most popular deck in the room.
While Jund had far more pilots than any single archetype, if you smush the decks with the same basic shells together you end up with the 200 Jund decks, 150 WUx Control decks and 180 GWx decks. The main difference being that Jund lists aren’t dissimilar enough to warrant further classification. However anyone could tell you there’s a notable difference in matchups and playstyle in regards to stock Jund, Vengevine Jund and other variants. Though only taking two of the top eight slots should be a gentle reminder that Jund is still a risky choice and that if you aren’t skilled with your deck, you aren’t getting anywhere. Yes even with the “brainless and luck-filled” Cascade deck.
As for Mythic Conscription, there’s no doubt that this deck is the most powerful one in the field. Anyone who’s played the deck for more than a few matches has seen the kind of nuts draws it hits about one in three games where it takes an overwhelming effort from the opponent for them to even stay in the game. The number of free wins you get with this deck reminds me of playing Dark Depths or Dredge in Extended where opponents keep hands that are generally good and practically guaranteed losses against Mythic. Of course this is also somewhat offset by the deck crapping out on itself more than other decks. I’ve read many a report from Mythic players about ‘almost getting there’ but in crucial matches would start a game down after mulliganing to oblivion. Other than the mulligan issue, other times the problem stems from having only one route open to a player at a given time. At heart, Mythic is still just throwing your cards on the table and asking the opponent to show what he’s got.
This brings us to the breakout of the weekend: Next Level Bant consisted of 1% of the field and had two representatives in the top eight and three undefeated players at the end of day 1. Frankly this is a ridiculous winning percentage for such a field and gives the deck quite an impressive resume. It also means any plans you had for the next two weeks need to be altered to take into account for this deck, because Bant players or people on the fence about Mythic will definitely be willing to give this a shot.
At the time of this writing, the top eight lists for GP: Sendai haven’t been posted, however we do have Brian Kibler’s deck from the undefeated day 1 lists.
At first glance some of the numbers may look odd or out of place, but all the core cards in the deck are 4-ofs and Sea Gate Oracle deserves every slot for the additional filtering it gives. The pair of Sphinx of Lost Truths in particular give the deck a valid refill option and the side-benefit of filtering away dead removal or lands in the late-game while allowing him to set-up the graveyard with Vengevines. Raising the Elspeth count also helps this deck more than most as it allows for a beater to get in there when not just throwing a pair of Vengevine at the problem. In this particular deck I like Elspeth more than Gideon simply because it gets more mileage out of chumpers / evasion vs. a 6/6 ground pounder. This version of the deck seems a bit more stable than the previous version from GP: DC and even then I think it could still benefit from one more land. If Mythic Bant’s failing was mulligans to oblivion though, this version goes a long way toward solving that in exchange for some of those free game wins.
Some people look at the deck and say it’s underpowered by comparison, but until people get serious about handling Vengevine and Jace in the same deck you’ll still end up with plenty of free wins. They may not be as flashy or as quick, but eventually this deck can just overpower opponents who can’t go toe to toe with you in the late game. The sideboard looks shaky as all hell in certain respects, but reading match coverage it seems like many of the 1-ofs pulled their weight. I would like to see Wall of Denial in here to help against Mono-Red which may be one of the only bad matches this deck has in the field.
Regardless if NLB is a clear break or not, right now more than anything else I would say deck familiarity is the most important thing to bring to a Standard tournament. You can do amazingly well with stock decks with the caveat that you have a valid sideboard plan for major matches and minimize your mistakes with the deck. Max Mccall and Gavin Verhey were having a slap fight about what would give PTQ-level players better results and in the end both of them said playing Magic. In this field for 99% of you that’s the case right now and you can see it in people’s results through the format. Tech helps, but consistency and tight play with your deck is going to carry the day through the majority of your matches right now.
As a couple of you e-mailed me from last week about my 30 Land deck and updated me when Ali Aintrazi played his UG version to a top eight finish at the SCG: Philly 5k this past weekend. For some odd reason I have decent success foreshadowing deck strategies succeeding at these things, this being the 4th time I can remember I had an article about some previously non-tournament deck showing up and taking names. As for his version of the deck, I like it a lot and solves many of the problems I had with supporting Eldrazi spells. His solution is reasonable and doesn’t lose much in the way of consistency by dropping the Edges entirely.
There are a few things I don’t get at all though and maybe they’ll become clear once I have a chance to really test the deck but baffle me at the moment. First off, while I love Ulamog, The Infinite Gyre and admit it has some valid uses, Emrakul, The Aeons Torn is overkill and a dead card pretty much all the time. The only match you’ll ever have time to build up that much mana is against Control or in games where a Mind Spring, Avenger of Zendikar or Ulamog would wrap the game up just the same. There’s possibly a 1-5% window where Emakrul is going to win you a game those cards won’t and it’ll be a burden the rest of the time with the hefty 15 mana cost.
Overgrown Battlement is another head-scratcher when you have access to Rampant Growth. Sure you may be able to block a creature every now and again with it, but having to tap it down to use it for mana during your own main-phase (since instants are lacking here) defeats the purpose. It still can’t stop Putrid Leech or Plated Geopede and while Wall of Omens couldn’t either, at least that gave you something even if all it did was chump block. Battlement can’t even activate if you want to block something and can’t color fix like Rampant Growth can.
While I still like my version with White over the straight UG Ramp build, since the 3rd color is pretty free and you gain manlands along with an answer to Putrid Leech. I might be overrating it though and could definitely see myself piloting a straight UG version, albeit one with a better sideboard than the one presented. Other than Fog and Flashfreeze, everything else was kind of iffy in regards to actual usefulness. Also while Ali mentioned being 50/50 against Jund, I think if they understand to mulligan into two-drops after sideboarding (or game one if they scouted) then you’ll be in rough shape. Then again with most of the remaining field being Control or Mythic decks, you’ve got pretty sweet game against the field.
That’s it for this week, next week I hope to talk about something near and dear to me, s**t cube! Depending on what happens, I should be attending the 5k in Seattle this upcoming weekend, hopefully see you northerners soon! On a final note, I’m bringing along my art stuff if anyone is interested in a print. Here’s a few examples: Juri and Hikari.
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom