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Silvestri Says – Week One Results

Well now we have results and a clearer idea of the metagame. As it turns out, a whole lot of people remembered that [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] was a very good card, and partners in crime [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card] and [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] finally had their text become relevant again. Mono-red was present in force, and surprisingly, Boros decks were right there with them. Let’s take a look at the first week of results.

The Top 32 and Assorted Stats

1. Esper Control x8 (3 T8)
2. Gruul Midrange/Aggro x5 (1 T8)
3. Mono Red x4 (T8 & Winner)
3. Boros x4 (T8)
5. Naya x3
5. WU Control x3 (T8)
7. GW Aggro x2
8. BR Control x1
8. Junk Midrange x1
8. BWR Midrange x1

Remember that card availability and limited testing always have an influence on the first week of results. Since I talked so much about UW Control in the two weeks leading up to opening weekend, I’m happy with these numbers. I was a bit surprised by how much Esper was played, but I really shouldn’t be. The core of the two decks are the same, so in the end you’ll simply be weighing the secondary elements of each against the other and asking which you prefer.

If you went by the feature matches, you might assume the entire format was nothing but various [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] decks and mono-red. The Top 32 has quite a bit more diversity to it, and looking at deck lists you can tell there’s potential in some of the ones that didn’t quite make the single elimination rounds.

The top ten most played maindeck cards shouldn’t be a shock to anyone.
[card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card], [card]Detention Sphere[/card], and [card]Syncopate[/card] are the winners, thanks to the massive amount of UW and Esper floating around.

Speaking of Esper, if you played that color or a black deck, odds are you had at least 3 [card]Thoughtseize[/card], if not the full amount. A whopping 41 showed up in the Top 32.

As for the other colors, [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card], [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], and [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] led the pack by at least a playset. [card]Domri Rade[/card] and [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] were right on Jace’s heels in terms of popularity. Jace, AOT had 29 copies while Chandra and Domri both had 28.

People may have been thrilled when [card]Lightning Strike[/card] provided a reprint of [card]Searing Spear[/card], but [card]Shock[/card] stole the show as the 2nd most played burn spell behind [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card].

Someone nice enough (Cervantes3!) did some number crunching on the Standard tournament, and posted it on reddit:

Top 20 Cards

[card]Supreme Verdict[/card] X48
[card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] X45
[card]Glare Of Heresy[/card] X41 T
[card]Thoughtseize[/card] X41 T
[card]Boros Reckoner[/card] X40
[card]Elvish Mystic[/card] X36
[card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] X36 T
[card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] X36
[card]Detention Sphere[/card] X33
[card]Syncopate[/card] X30
[card]Jace, Architect Of Thought[/card] X29
[card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] X29
[card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] X28 T
[card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] X28
[card]Shock[/card] X28
[card]Domri Rade[/card] X28
[card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] X24
[card]Lightning Strike[/card] X24 T
[card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] X24
[card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] X24

As for decks themselves…

UW Control is Back!

Max Tietze, 2nd SCG Worcester

[deck]Main Deck
1 Aetherling
2 Ratchet Bomb
4 Detention Sphere
4 Azorius Charm
1 Celestial Flare
2 Dissolve
1 Essence Scatter
1 Quicken
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
2 Syncopate
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
3 Divination
4 Supreme Verdict
8 Island
8 Plains
4 Azorius Guildgate
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Mutavault
Sideboard:
2 Pithing Needle
2 Yoked Ox
1 Celestial Flare
2 Last Breath
3 Negate
2 Jace, Memory Adept
3 Glare of Heresy[/deck]

Michael Boland, T4 MTG Deals 1k

[deck]Main Deck
4 Azorius Charm
2 Celestial Flare
4 Detention Sphere
4 Supreme Verdict
2 Syncopate
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Quicken
1 Divination
1 Last Breath
2 Omenspeaker
1 Archangel of Thune
1 AEtherling
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Azorius Guildgate
9 Island
8 Plains
2 Mutavault
Sideboard
3 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Negate
2 Archangel of Thune
2 Gainsay
2 Blind Obedience
2 Glare of Heresy
1 Aetherling
1 Celestial Flare[/deck]

My Own Countermagic Build

[deck]Main Deck
4 Azorius Guildgate
2 Mutavault
4 Hallowed Fountain
9 Island
8 Plains
1 Aetherling
4 Azorius Charm
3 Celestial Flare
1 Last Breath
4 Detention Sphere
1 Dissolve
2 Syncopate
3 Essence Scatter
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Supreme Verdict
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Sideboard
3 Archangel of Thune
2 Blind Obedience
3 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Gainsay
1 Last Breath
2 Pithing Needle
2 Negate[/deck]

We also had a turbo [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] build that ended up a little too anti-aggro, but ran two [card]Azorius Cluestone[/card]s and three [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] maindeck. It demolished nearly every aggressive deck we threw at it, and Archangel wasn’t the worst in the UW control mirror, though it was pretty bad against Esper.

I shipped my UW list to compatriots JJ and Boland and both made a few tweaks to make Top 8 and Top 4 at the MTGDeals “3K, oh wait, not enough people. Cancel it, run it back. Free 1k!” Still, between them they lost only to the mirror and an RG Midrange build, so it was a pretty solid day.

Here’s what Boland had to say about the deck: “Would definitely play again, probably with +1 [card elspeth, sun’s champion]Elspeth[/card] main and +1 [card glare of heresy]Glare[/card] and an [card]Omenspeaker[/card] in the SB. Haters gonna hate, but I really liked [card]Omenspeaker[/card] in the aggro matchups, especially coupled with [card]Archangel of Thune[/card].

Also as far as the field, my matchups were the mirror (JJ), white aggro splashing red, UR aggro with [card]Young Pyromancer[/card]/[card]Master of Waves[/card]/[card thassa, god of the sea]Thassa[/card], GW small guys, GW slightly bigger guys, and an ID in the Swiss, then another mirror versus JJ, and eventual loss to RG [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]/[card domri rade]Domri[/card]/[card xenagos, the reveler]Xenagos[/card] in Top 4. [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] is still tough.”

On 4 Sphinx’s Revelation versus 3

[draft]Sphinx’s Revelation[/draft]

I get that people don’t want a dead card in their hand, but I will once again stress that [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] simply cannot be replaced by anything else. To me it’s the same as cutting corners on [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card] or [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]. You could certainly play less of them, but Revelation is one of the main reasons you play the deck in the first place.

UW vs. Esper

A huge part of the heads-up match between the decks comes down to proper threat analysis and hitting land drops. Part of that is why Esper is favored in the first place, scry lands simply do more in the control mirror than [card]Mutavault[/card]. Unless you have a clear road or no other options, you simply can’t risk your land drops eating a [card]Doom Blade[/card] or [card]Far // Away[/card] to pressure Jace.

A resolved and mana-fueled [card]Aetherling[/card] is worth a ton of cards. It can be beaten, however—there are other reasonable threats such as [card]Jace, Memory Adept[/card], [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card], and [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card]. Not to mention just racing ahead with multiple [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card].

It all comes down to how far ahead you can get on cards, life, and mana in the window before [card]Aetherling[/card] and countermagic end the game. If someone slams an [card]Aetherling[/card] and used all their resources to get it into play while the opposing player resolves a [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] for 5 or more, the game can easily swing back toward the non-[card]Aetherling[/card] player. Sometimes they’ll all be bricks and that’s the end of it—however planeswalkers, your own creature threat, and additional Revelations can flip the game in a hurry. Once you include sideboard cards, [card]Pithing Needle[/card] is another out to [card]Aetherling[/card], allowing it to be taken down pretty easily.

So, Esper is favored and I think anyone who has played the match or played UW for any amount of time would agree. It isn’t nearly as lopsided as people make it out to be, though. [card]Thoughtseize[/card] is a great card and the information it provides is invaluable when counters can often be expensive or narrow in actual use. It trades with your best threats at a 1-1 rate and is cheap enough that it’s unfeasible to fight counter wars over it. In the end both players are playing the same game of Magic; trying to resolve their threats until one player can’t deal, or simply steamrolling with an overabundance of mana and cards.

Why I still Prefer Straight UW

Max Tietze lost to mono-red in the finals of SCG Worchester on the back of mana problems. Esper has those way more often than UW, and even when it doesn’t, it isn’t guaranteed a mana selection that allows you to sequence your spells optimally to survive. I feel the same about Esper vs. red as I do about UW vs. Esper—red decks are favored and Esper can still win if red can’t keep the pressure on.

A lot of times you end up stuck on “Verdict or no?”, not taking pain from my lands, and just having the mana consistency to play cards like [card]Yoked Ox[/card], [card]Celestial Flare[/card], [card]Frostburn Weird[/card] or [card]Precinct Captain[/card] is nice. It also makes mulligans against aggressive decks that much easier by removing the awkward sequencing problems. Either you have lands and can cast your spells or you don’t—it’s pretty obvious how much risk you’ll be taking with a given hand.

The arguments basically come down to how good you think painless mana is, playing [card]Mutavault[/card], and being able to always (usually) cast your WW spells on time. Arguments for Esper universally include [card]Thoughtseize[/card], more (and better) spot removal options, and [card ashiok, nightmare weaver]Ashiok[card].

On Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

[draft]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver[/draft]

I think the main thing people have a hard time evaluating with Ashiok, is how good the card actually is, even in ideal scenarios. [card]Jace Beleren[/card], [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] and [card]Domri Rade[/card] are all amazing 3-drops, because you can immediately recoup a card if necessary. Lili and Domri also have abilities that aren’t draw a card, but the rough equivalent. Let’s take a look at what [card]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver[/card] actually does to impact the board.

Ashiok has an ability that resembles Domri’s (In that it adds loyalty and the ability may be worth a card or it may be worth zero), but also requires an extra turn to accomplish anything. That’s the key. Yes, it’s a 3-CMC planeswalker that goes up to five loyalty. This is literally all the card can do when it first enters play. Ashiok suffers from the same problems as [card]Ajani, Caller of the Pride[/card]—it has no immediate board impact, and isn’t able to replace itself immediately. Unlike Ajani, it can make a major board impact… Every two turns.

This also assumes it hits a relevant creature to put into play or it’s three turns! It’s a fine threat versus control, though overrated since any planeswalker that sits in play for five turns unabated should win the game. Of course, being three mana makes that statement a little loaded, since it can sneak in while people are setting up, and no longer will [card]Restoration Angel[/card] swoop in for the save.

As for other matches, Ashiok is solid against slower aggro like GW with little non-combat interaction. Against midrange, Ashiok can be backbreaking, but if you whiff on hitting a guy, the card is useless and they’ll either ignore it or kill you in the meantime. When battling red and extremely streamlined aggro Ashiok’s abilities are typically irrelevant or too slow to make an impact.

To summarize: Ashiok was underrated when it was spoiled, but now it’s getting way too much credit across the board. It’s a fine planeswalker that’ll see some play in UBx decks, and trying to build around it is ambitious at best.

Mono-Red

Congratulations to mono-red for sacking out a win. Kidding aside I think Owen Turtenwald’s deck is the gold standard moving forward, and I expect to see slightly slower decks popping up as well. Not Big Red, just back to 23-24 lands with [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] and [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card] for the anti-control slant. [card]Burning Earth[/card] is also a very reasonable call if half as many players decide to play Esper the next time around, and it still does plenty of work versus three-color midrange.

Just keep in mind that mono-red was likely the most popular archetype on the day. The finals was also a bit of a farce, as Max had color troubles throughout the finals. Not to take anything away from the red victory, just a reminder that there’s a slim margin between winning and losing even with a favorable matchup.

Red will likely remain a popular choice until decks are streamlined, and then we’ll see them forced to adapt yet again. The deck was a reasonable choice for months on end with far stronger anti-red threats running around, and I expect the same here. You can’t just ignore red and hope to get lucky against it.

As for the specific red decks, I’m not completely sold on [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card], though I’m open to seeing how it performs for the next few weeks. It just doesn’t strike me as having as much impact as Chandra or Hammer will, but maybe I’m underestimating the sheer damage output. Zac Hill already seems to be happy people found it out and Ari Lax took it for a given. So I may be in the minority, I’ll need to try Fanatic out.

For as long as mono-red is a major player though, [card]Shock[/card] is going to be just as relevant as [card]Lightning Strike[/card] and [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card], if not moreso. Other removal may be relevant, but none of it will cost a single mana. Something to keep in mind if you plan on playing an R/X deck in the future.

Everything Else

Gruul Midrange looks to be the real deal, and I’m unsurprised simply because it has access to so many sweet planeswalkers. [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card] and [card]Ember Swallower[/card] both impressed me greatly, and the format seems combat-oriented enough that having huge butts on the ground is respectable. If a creature can survive [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] and [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] fights, then you’re in a good spot.

The Boros decks all looked interesting. You’ll see a lot of scattershot choices across the builds and some really sweet tech alongside some questionable choices. Ross Merriam’s WW splash red take on it was my favorite small ball version, though I’m sad he can’t use [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] or [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] in his build.

On the flip side, Brian Swatkins and his Big Boros build looked sweet and the only non-UW deck I would’ve been interested in playing week one. I would highly recommend playing Hammer in the main deck and getting at least two, possibly three in your 75. Outside of that, there’s not a lot to nitpick here. I’d probably swap [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] and the remaining [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] for the quad-[card]Magma Jet[/card], since killing small creatures can easily be handled by [card]Shock[/card], [card]Frostburn Weird[/card], and [card]Anger of the Gods[/card]. Not much else after that.

Black decks that weren’t Esper came up lame this week, and it might be the same next week as well. A core black deck has the tools to succeed, but the question becomes what color can it be paired with to maximize those tools? If the answer is Esper, that’s a mighty disappointment since all it really utilizes it [card]Thoughtseize[/card], [card ashiok, nightmare weaver]Ashiok[/card], (Maybe) and a handful of spot removal options. BR and BWR both feel reasonable, but are lacking something…

Maybe it’ll just take figuring out the proper creature and draw base. I can tell you that as a UW player I’ll be thrilled if every deck keeps running 1-2 [card]Underworld Connections[/card] while maxing on four [card]Read the Bones[/card] instead. It only takes an active Jace or large Revelation to undo all that discard damage. Maybe straight BW is the answer since you maximize Obzedat, which is still a top 10 creature despite not having a major impact this weekend.

Looking ahead, I’d play UW, if only because I expect an immediate backlash against Esper decks. Even though I think Esper has a fine shot against red decks, I definitely don’t want to battle against versions utilizing [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card] and [card]Burning Earth[/card] in greater numbers. GR vs. Esper is also a close match and it wouldn’t take much to flip it in GR’s favor instead of the Verdict deck. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brad Nelson already felt GR was favored in the match.

If you want to battle with non-Islands the early favorites are GR midrange and mono-red. Boros is also a very reasonable deck is people are going this route. Poor GW got stomped this weekend, and unless you have a very good sideboard plan against [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] decks it’s a hard recommendation to make. It’s too bad, since [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] is one of my favorite threats, but there’s not a lot to be done with the aggro version of the deck. The answer may be looking into midrange builds and going from there.

Can’t wait for this set to be out on Magic Online so I can get battling!

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: [email protected]

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