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Silvestri Says – Surveying Standard

 

This past weekend there were a pair of Standard 5ks going on both here in San Jose and in St. Louis and showcased the variety of the current Standard format. That seems like a rather nice thing to talk about, especially in contrast to all the M11 speculation / early reviews people seem to be pumping out. I know Mana Leak came back, that’s a good thing, not some horror of horrors. Plus Red Deck Wins did well this weekend and everyone loves red decks!

Congratulations to Philip Yam for winning the Channelfireball 5k with Mythic! To appease my boss, I now have to use the following terms to describe his victory. The 5k just got Yambushed and Phil Yammered the competition. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a quick look at his winning list:

Yam won with what could be considered a pretty standard Mythic deck, with the only real point of contention compared to other lists is Rhox War Monk maindeck over Dauntless Escort. With the increased amount of Red decks running around it made a far bigger impact than the Escort would’ve and seems like the correct choice for the immediate future. Otherwise the sideboard should be given a once over if you wanted to add something to the deck. For example, Negate seems a lot weaker when some of the best anti-Mythic cards are Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Cunning Sparkmage and opposing giant creatures. Deprive is probably with a split with Negate on that alone, but it also helps out against mana-denial like Spreading Seas which can color-screw this deck easily if the mana creatures die. Otherwise the deck is rock solid and should continue to be one of the best around until rotation in a few months.

Turboland is definitely the other contender for most powerful deck in Standard along with Mythic, boasting strong matches across the field with the exception of Red and Mythic. Right now if you wanted a good glass cannon deck for a field you feel you have the read on, this is the deck to be using. The sideboard is still a mess and up for debate, but the Mythic match has gotten a bit more reasonable with the combo of All is Dust and Roil Elemental together. You still can’t beat a super early Sovereigns of Lost Alara, but everything else they can throw out on turn four is pretty manageable.

Speaking of the sideboard, this is mine for the near future:

 

I’ve completely given up on the Red match, because the best you could hope for is an early Pelakka Wurm and as the Jeff Huang vs. LSV feature showed, that’s not a great plan. I’ve had a few people locally tell me the Red match isn’t that bad, but you’re never going to convince me. Especially not when most of the Red players are punting against you and not turn one Goblin Guiding you right out of the game. Sorry, I believe my own testing results over small sample sizes. Against Mythic, Cedric was correct and All is Dust does enough to justify itself. You can’t beat their nut draws with it, but you can crush anything that wasn’t outright killing you on turn four and in many games that’s enough. While I worry about Negate, the fact is most Mythic players are more concerned about killing you ASAP than holding open a spell that doesn’t actually stop the other half your relevant threats in the match.

Meanwhile good old Rock, er, I mean Jund, is still around and putting up solid numbers. There seems to be a favoring toward the spell-heavy version of the deck that was popular at GP:DC and Magic Online shortly after. The deck packs so much removal and has so many ways to gain an advantage from just playing it’s threats on the table that it has a reasonable match against just about everything in the field. However it’s no longer the overwhelming powerhouse it once was and Jund players have to work for their wins, especially after sideboard. Regardless of people’s dislike for the deck or Cascade, it would be foolish to write Jund off as falling below other decks in terms of consistency or power. It may not be the alpha dog anymore, but it’s firmly tier one and an excellent choice if you feel comfortable with how to play attrition Magic.

For deck positioning, RDW was the biggest winner coming out of this weekend. It has a good or even match against nearly everything people are playing right now and sideboard hate is at an all-time low in the format. UW and UWR being minimalized in the current metagame and Kor Firewalker being removed from many Mythic sideboards has been a huge boon to the deck. In addition, the removal of the ‘needed’ Devastating Summons and Goblin Bushwacker package has been a marked improvement over previous forms of Red. By dumping such a clunky package, the amount of mulligans has dropped and the gas in the deck has increased considerably by allowing the max on Unearth, quality burn and still having room for Kargan Dragonlords in the deck.

The Winning Red Decks

For reference, the two best performing Red decks on the weekend.

Joey Mispagel, 1st place SCG Open St. Louis

 

Ellis Edmunds, 2nd CF 5k

It seems almost eerie to me how close these decks are in composition and strategy. Really the biggest difference in the maindeck is Ellis is using Forked Bolt as his early mana-creature killer / mini-Earthquake effect and Joey is maindecking them instead. Sideboarding shows agreement on having the Dragon’s Claw option for the mirror and some Quenchable Fire around to punish non-Blue decks. After that it’s a question of priorities, would you rather have a solid attrition / late-game card in Siege-Gang Commander? Or do you prefer having astrong answer to Baneslayer Angel and large threats in Chandra Nalaar? Obsidian Fireheart is one of those ‘cute’ cards where I always have problems believing it’s a valid choice, but if it lives against Control for any amount of time then it becomes quite difficult for Red to lose.

Now if you had asked me a week ago what decks were worth playing in Standard tournaments, the list would’ve consisted of just four decks. Mythic, Jund, RDW and Turboland; with my opinion that Turboland and Mythic were the two most powerful decks With the results from this weekend I’d have to revise my opinion and leave off Turboland unless you have a really good read on the metagame. Having a non-existent game against Red and a weak Mythic match is not the way to win a tournament right now. However if Control decks and other midrange decks move in to start beating up Red again, then perhaps Turboland will swing back around the metagame cycle and start beasting on people again.

Until then though, you’ve got three strong choices for any given tournament. You’ve got Mythic which arguably doesn’t have any bad match against ‘stock builds’ of decks, as well as a ton of free wins with its nut draws. Jund which you could argue has no bad matches post-board, since it’s still a very strong deck and you can now sideboard in actual hoser cards against decks along with more versatile removal. Finally you’ve got Red Deck Wins which has nut draws in the same way that Mythic does and can attack the aforementioned deck very well by wiping out mana creatures early and killing him before he can recover. It also opens up the metagame for UW to make a return, since with proper metagaming it has reasonable matches against all three, assuming Turboland takes a backseat due to Mythic and Red.

As for any other choices, surprise decks have popped up and taken down tournaments seemingly every month since Rise came out. Even though it looks like we finally have an established pecking order and have seen multiple metagame shifts, it wouldn’t surprise me for one nice revision of a UW or Naya deck suddenly pop up and be the next deck to watch out for. I’m actually somewhat amazed at just how many shifts we’ve had through the PTQ season with M11 still set to come out.

Speaking of M11, I want to talk about two cards from it. Spoilers ahoy, but I’m pretty sure anyone reading this type of an article has already seen them. Still a little blank space to be on the safe side..

Dam dadi doo

dam didoodidam


I’m thrilled that they reprinted Mana Leak after a lot of people complained about Cancel, because it really was obnoxious having such ‘meh’ countermagic for blue decks. Blah blah, I’m obviously a blue lover and hate every other deck ever created. Get over your bias for a minute and realize that Magic has had its best metagames when blue as a color had strong options available to it along with every other color. Not having a counter like Remand or Rune Snag around meant that people didn’t have to fear early game countermagic or respect control’s ability to interact early outside of Path to Exile (which partially offset thanks to its drawback). Nobody is asking for Counterspell back, but Mana Leak is the epitome of a good counter that can be used early, isn’t narrow and worked into lines of play later in the game.

 

Combust Obstinate Baloth

 

Other than the one and the only, I wanted to mention Combust as a card that makes me worried and excited. Combust is essentially RDW’s best way to kill a Baneslayer Angel without resorting to something like Chandra Nalaar. It also doubles as a way to take out Rhox War Monk, Wall of Omens or any other obnoxious white creature around that isn’t Kor Firewalker. It worries me because it’s what Flame Slash really wanted to be in the red deck against Mythic and UW. Even more than that it can’t be stopped by Mana Leak or Negate, which I expect will rise in popularity. Just like Obstinate Baloth you could see it was made to fill a narrow role, but with the Baloth it could be used for general play, Combust, on the other hand, is just another weapon for an already loaded Red deck. It’s nice to see narrow cards getting some love, but sometimes I think they get a little too cutesy with their answers to certain ‘problems’ people perceive.

Past those, I like how M11 is shaping up. Some other authors are already blasting the set for not being exciting or sexy enough, but I’m pretty happy with what I see. M11 has plenty of cards with real potential to make impacts post-rotation and more importantly promote thought and strategy (More Sun Titan and Reassembling Skeleton, less Baneslayer Angel) over raw power. I’m happy with the current Standard format and the variety in decks, but I won’t be sad to see cascade and some of the most powerful creatures ever printed leaving the format for pastures where they balance out a bit better.

Next week a brief look at Legacy and the flaws of articles trying to make you a better Magic player.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

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