Last weekend we had a fresh Standard Grand Prix to look at as well as the return of the Open Series. While both were smaller than we’ve come to expect, having both at once gives us plenty of decks to look through.
Seville Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
Abzan Aggro – 14
RW Aggro – 14
Jeskai Aggro / Tokens – 9
RG Aggro – 9
Green Devotion – 7
Mono-Red Aggro – 6
Sultai Control – 6
Sidisi-Whip – 6
Abzan Midrange – 5
UB Control – 4
Temur – 4
Esper Control – 1
Jeskai Ascendancy Combo – 1
Mardu Midrange – 1
Sultai Ramp – 1
Five-Color Soulflayer – 1
UW Heroic – 1
• Jeskai decks were divided by those who followed the traditional Jeskai Ascendancy-and-tokens route and those that used Mantis Rider and Dig Through Time. These were the two most noticeable differences as many of the other spells and creatures used were the same. Seeker of the Way far surpasses Soulfire Grand Master at this point and Goblin Rabblemaster crushed Monastery Mentor in number of copies played.
• Abzan Aggro decks universally used Rakshasa Deathdealer and averaged about 12 non-planeswalker spells. Typically it was 2-3 Thoughtseize and then the rest were pure removal spells. The only agreement was a minimum of three Hero’s Downfall, otherwise the lists were all over the place.
• As far as sweepers go, End Hostilities is a distant 2nd to Crux of Fate. This is nice to know. Since it puts it firmly in the Jeskai and Abzan sideboards and outside of UW Control, the odds of seeing it in game 1 are negligible. Meanwhile there were 42 instances of Crux of Fate in 14 different decks, almost all of which were heavy control. Finally, Anger of the Gods was most commonly a one- or two-of in WR and Jeskai. Three of the four Temur decks ran it as a control option.
• UB Control, Abzan Midrange, and Sultai Control are the only decks not looking to snowball. Everything else plays a proactive and aggressive role in every single matchup and tries to outrun the opposition. Outside of controlling strategies, only certain builds of Jeskai and Abzan Aggro even have the proper tools to try to combat the best starts from many decks. If you want to play a deck that interacts, especially on the draw, you should be looking at the Abzan or UBx shells first and foremost.
Houston Metagame Winners
In both cases there were notable pockets of UBx Control strategies, whether they stuck to straight Dimir or went with Sultai. Meanwhile everyone else wanted to run over the opponent before they had a chance to really develop. Right now the name of the game is to get ahead and then just run the opponent over before they ever get their feet set. People familiar with the WR mirror or WR vs. Jeskai match can attest to how powerful winning the die roll is.
Cards like Goblin Rabblemaster and Stoke the Flames are comically better on the play. Hordeling Outburst in particular is a trainwreck if that’s your turn-three play in this format and you need to spend another turn to support it. The flipside is when you get to Outburst and immediately convoke a Stoke the Flames, in which case you likely win on the spot. The key is that the removal usually doesn’t sync up well with what the opponent is trying to do. As a result, being on the play means that if they don’t have the properly-timed removal spell they eat a ton of damage.
This is why the UB Control decks keep sneaking out with GP wins despite usually performing terribly online and at many tournaments overall. It specifically disrupts many of the best decks in the format and lines up very well against common lines of play. Meanwhile when it gets dragged into a long game it still has the potential to lose despite being a traditional control strategy. Without a great way to replenish cards or pull way ahead, decks like Abzan and Whip can still pull out victories even while getting disrupted. On the flip side, WR has a much tougher time recovering, though Outpost Siege goes a long way and sometimes you can simply aim enough burn at UB’s head to win.
Right now the place to be is to run slightly more controlling cards than your opponent. For example, Wild Slash gets much better until everyone switches to Brimaz. Brimaz used to be easily answered by Chained to the Rocks, but now Abzan Advantage can wipe out Chained and pump a creature. This gives it a dual role like Valorous Stance where it can potentially save a creature from a burn spell or get one back down the road. It even takes down Courser of Kruphix on the cheap while giving you a tiny bit more value. People are altering their decks to be better against last week’s RW decks, which means it’s time to decide if you want to go even more controlling or simply change up your threats.
Deck of the Week
Juan Tauler Aguiló, 12 – 3 at Grand Prix Seville 2015
I’m a huge fan of Jeskai Tokens and I think this build is excellent. I played a very similar build at a PTQ last weekend and felt pretty good in every game where I got to play real Magic. The only swap I can make with certainty is to dump a Temple of Epiphany for another Flooded Strand. You really don’t want 10-11 tapped lands and you get to maximize your delve cards.
If people are leaning on Wild Slash and Brimaz, then Wild Slash loses some value itself and should likely stay a 2-or-3-of and Valorous Stance should be moved to the main. A singleton maindeck Abzan Advantage also isn’t the worse against the mirror and other RW decks. Outside of the usual, tokens are pretty hard for RW to effectively deal with and Ascendancy turns almost any board position into a scary one.