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Silvestri Says – Standard Station

With Grand Prix Breaking Bad references and the sad events of the MODOpocalypse behind us, today we return to Standard. Losing a source of information as large and informative as Daily Events has left me a bit stunned, as it means the main place people will go for information are recent GP and SCG Open events. At least we’ll get Daily Events back by the end of the year.

While every major source of information has some amount of bias to it, what I liked about Magic Online was the simple volume of information. Still, there’s something to be said when the Top 8 of the most recent tournament has this many top players in it.

Recapping Albuquerque

Let’s start with the impressive of feat of the Top 8 representing all five colors of Magic. Our exact composition?

4 Mono-Black Devotion
3 Mono-Blue Devotion
1 Naya (RGW)

Fantastic.

In all seriousness, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the format for this Grand Prix has been largely explored. I know the Sam contingent has been on Mono-U for a while, and Todd Anderson played MBC at Louisville. It should also speak to the skill level required in Standard when the GP Top 8s are this stacked.

Let’s look at Owen Turtenwald’s winning deck:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Mutavault
19 Swamp
3 Temple of Deceit
4 Pack Rat
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Desecration Demon
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
2 Devour Flesh
1 Doom Blade
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Thoughtseize
2 Ultimate Price
4 Underworld Connections
Sideboard
3 Dark Betrayal
1 Doom Blade
3 Duress
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
3 Lifebane Zombie
3 Pharika’s Cure
1 Shrivel[/deck]

I spent some time blasting this deck, and not all that much has changed from the last time I covered the deck. It’s still the best [card]Thoughtseize[/card] shell and [card]Underworld Connections[/card] remains a cost-efficient engine that covers up the deck’s shortcomings in the late game. A complete embrace of [card]Pack Rat[/card] also has to make fair, slower aggro decks weep gently, as, when combined with the occasional [card]Doom Blade[/card] or [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card], it represents an embarrassingly powerful threat. With enough turns, [card]Pack Rat[/card] eventually becomes [card]Moat[/card], and shortly after becomes lethal damage.

This is also one of the few decks that Waves may have a bad matchup against. Its band of merry men, Merfolk, and Birdies don’t exactly represent substantial threats to MBC, and the few good threats can be dealt with via spot removal. They lack great answers to [card]Pack Rat[/card], and in a long game [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] beats out the small reach [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card] provides. Early [card]Pack Rat[/card] can also accomplish the [card]Moat[/card] impression, but [card]Master of Waves[/card] and overloaded [card]Cyclonic Rift[/card] both provide ways around it that other decks lack.

This is the Rock deck of the format until Born of the Gods, and whether you prefer MBC or the Golgari version, both are worthy of consideration when building or tweaking a non-black deck. I hope that people keep in mind the quality of player when considering playing this deck, because there’s a pretty significant difference in results between the top-end players and the average, as we saw in the MTGO stats. If you are a great player though, and looking at the results the Martell/Sperling/Rietzl/Owen contingent put up, it’s hard to say the deck is bad unless you expect infinite red decks.

The other deck that requires heavy consideration is one that has kept a substantially high winning percentage online and offline since the Pro Tour. Sam Pardee and Sam Black both made waves with it at the GP:

[deck]Main Deck
20 Island
4 Mutavault
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Cloudfin Raptor
4 Judge’s Familiar
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Tidebinder Mage
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Thassa, God of the Sea
4 Master of Waves
2 Bident of Thassa
1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Domestication
2 Rapid Hybridization
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
Sideboard
1 Bident of Thassa
1 Curse of the Swine
2 Cyclonic Rift
1 Dissolve
1 Domestication
4 Gainsay
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Negate
1 Rapid Hybridization[/deck]

There isn’t much new to say about this deck because it really hasn’t changed all that much since the Pro Tour. Brush up on your sequencing and practice the mirror, because there’s a lot of subtle ways to lose when either player doesn’t draw multiple bombs. I hope that in the future Sam Pardee does a mirror video with someone competent to showcase how to play it.

As for our last deck, it’s Naya—good luck to you if you pick Naya.

Moving on to the decks I favor moving forward:

Boros Aggro
Mono-U Devotion
UB Devotion

UB Devotion

I want to touch on UB Devotion briefly, which is mostly an offshoot of Mono-U Devotion. I think Shouta Yasooka’s control build should also be explored, but I have less experience with that deck and I think [card ashiok, nightmare weaver]Ashiok[/card] is hot garbage. Still, I feel remiss in excluding it for that purpose, as it seems very well positioned against the GP Top 16, but not so much the SCG Open results. My take on the deck isn’t particularly new or innovative, but I do like [card]Thoughtseize[/card] a lot more now than I did two weeks ago.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Judge’s Familiar
4 Tidebinder Mage
4 Frostburn Weird
3 Thassa, God of the Sea
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Master of Waves
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Domestication
4 Thoughtseize
2 Doom Blade
2 Devour Flesh
1 Cyclonic Rift
2 Mutavault
4 Temple of Silence
4 Watery Grave
1 Swamp
13 Island
Sideboard:
3 Duress
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Domestication
3 Gainsay
2 Cyclonic Rift
2 Dark Betrayal
2 Doom Blade[/deck]

Basically, I’m cutting the bad cards and keeping cards that actually do something. Right now the metagame is wide open, and I really dislike having so many do-nothings in the normal Mono-U matches. While I know this style hasn’t been popularized after the Pro Tour, I’ve been playing around with it after battling with Waves locally. My biggest issue with the normal iteration of the deck is that a lot of hands are borderline and need to break right to accomplish anything.

It does have some very strong cards and can position itself differently against various decks, something very few lists can currently do. The tradeoff is that this sort of versatility comes at the cost of having so many weak or situational cards to enable the small portion of the deck that overperforms. This is why I’m so big on trying the slow splash builds. In sacrificing some of those positional advantages, instead I just gain a higher floor.

Advantages:
Better mirror match.
Better sideboard options.
Hands are more coherent, and so mulligan decisions are easier.

Disadvantages:
Mana gets worse.
Certain formerly keepable hands get weaker due to lack of aggression.
[card]Thoughtseize[/card] has more tension against the curve of the deck than other [card]Thoughtseize[/card] builds.

Matchup-wise it comes down to what you want to do. You definitely lose some points against red aggro, but against Verdict decks, having access to [card]Thoughtseize[/card] makes up a lot of points in those matches. Lacking the aggressive consistency may also cost you against other midrange and over-the-top decks, and that combined with mana issues are the main sticking points. Having such a powerful tool for the mirror and Verdict decks really helps, though.

Sticking with Mono-U has its own set of advantages, most of them being that your mana was bad enough before you added a color to it, you sicko. Other advantages are that a lot of your loose keeps can come together thanks to added aggressive spells. You also have more room for threat density post-board and can make cleaner swaps in your sideboard packages.

You still get to roll most red builds, and almost no deck has a definitive advantage against you.

Boros

Why pick a deck like Boros?

As we all know, the some of the only archetypes that are resilient to [card]Thoughtseize[/card] are the ones that simply don’t care what cards get taken. Decks with cards that are all similar in value means that your hand won’t unravel because they hit a key card. The second type of archetype that [card]Thoughtseize[/card] is lacking against are those who want to make the game entirely around getting the opponent’s life total to 0. Boros can accomplish both of these goals.

I’ve been playing with James Fazzolari’s Boros list with a tweak or two and been pretty happy with it. I’ve also battled off and on with another tweaked list, but nothing notable. Mostly, I stole the tech of [card]Toil // Trouble[/card] from Owen Winnerwald’s article and heavy burn post-board.

You can also go with a more burn-heavy iteration of the Boros deck:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Young Pyromancer
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Chained to the Rocks
4 Shock
4 Lightning Strike
4 Boros Charm
1 Magma Jet
2 Flames of the Firebrand
3 Warleader’s Helix
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
4 Temple of Silence
4 Temple of Triumph
4 Sacred Foundry
10 Mountain
2 Mutavault
Sideboard:
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Toil and Trouble
3 Mizzium Mortars
2 Skullcrack
2 Assemble the Legion[/deck]

I like [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] because it not only gives some early interaction against removal light decks, but can be played later and value out 1-2 tokens against decks like Esper and MBC. It definitely comes up on the short-end against these decks, but it does at least do something after turn two, unlike [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card]. Of course, [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] is also very difficult to kill early on, being immune to [card]Doom Blade[/card] and [card]Ultimate Price[/card], making it a good way to deal 6 damage with your one-drop.

Not only does it let you take a more aggressive angle, but the amount of scry available really helps the lack of card advantage. One very burn happy iteration made the Top 16, in the hands of Joe Demestrio.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
3 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Anger of the Gods
4 Boros Charm
4 Chained to the Rocks
4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
2 Mizzium Mortars
4 Shock
3 Warleader’s Helix
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
10 Mountain
4 Sacred Foundry
1 Temple of Abandon
4 Temple of Silence
4 Temple of Triumph
Sideboard:
2 Assemble the Legion
4 Boros Reckoner
1 Mizzium Mortars
4 Skullcrack
4 Toil and Trouble[/deck]

At first glance, I’m a little confused by how divided the deck looks, having multiple creature-only removal spells, while only playing seven evasion creatures and focusing on burn. I feel like there should be some sort of cheap ground game if we’re going to bother sorting out blockers and sticking with maindeck [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] and [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card].

Perhaps with this much scry and this much burn, it’s a deck that may play out better than it looks on paper. What surprises me is how weak it looks to heavy discard backed by anything that can kill a [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]. [card]Assemble the Legion[/card] gives it a few more good ways to close out the game, but it seems like an attrition deck without the damage surplus to consistently kill people from 17-20 once [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] becomes a factor.

The deck just feels very confused and even Demestrio himself supposedly didn’t like the deck. Again, these are my first impressions and I don’t want to dissuade people from trying the deck out. I would just recommend a more focused shell before splintering off in such a fashion.

I think Boros has a strong shell and I’m just not sure if this particular route is the best. I’ll report back next week with some of my findings as I plan to battle some Boros during my holiday time this week.

Have a wonderful holiday!

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: [email protected]

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