Week in Review – The 6 Pillars of the Format

This weekend brought us the results of yet another Standard Grand Prix. Until Magic Origins hits shelves, if you have any relevant Standard events left, you pretty much have all the information you could ever want. Not only are the top decks known at this point, every week showcases that slight tweaks are commonplace and older decks can come out of the woodwork to put up great results. Heck, we aren’t even necessarily done innovating as Collected Company decks keep picking up steam! Let’s check in on the GP results:

Grand Prix Paris Top 16

Abzan Aggro: 2 (Winner)
Abzan Control: 2
Abzan Morphs: 2
Esper Dragons: 2
Mono Red: 2
GR Devotion: 2
GW Company: 2
4c Company: 1
Mardu Dragons: 1

Well, if you played Siege Rhino, you were pretty happy with your choice regardless of the exact contents of your deck. Though Abzan was the most represented archetype, the archetype variation is remarkably consistent across the board. A fun looking 4-color Collected Company aggro deck and Mardu Dragons round out the Top 16. No Dragonlord Ojutais cracked the Top 8, while Den Protector‘s play saw a downswing after GP Toronto. Still, Maternal Witness had 19 copies in the Top 8 and further reinforced that you don’t need Deathmist Raptor for her to be great.

Abzan Aggro by Amand Dosimont, 1st at Grand Prix Paris 2015

One of the big changes was that the metagame circled back around—both Mono-Red and GR Devotion feel like stronger options again. Esper Dragons’ play is dropping and the focus from Abzan decks has turned insular, trying to out-tech each other in the mirrors and simply out-muscle other creature strategies. The old adage of go under or goway bigger holds up, as Genesis Hydra, Hornet Queen, and Dragonlord Atarka don’t care about piddly 2-drops.

Of course, Grand Prix Paris wasn’t the only Standard tournament this weekend. The MOCS featured a variety of decks as well. Gerry Thompson snuck into the Top 8 on tiebreakers and took down the MOCS with Abzan Aggro. For Abzan, nearly all the aggro varieties have embraced Wingmate Roc once again on the top end. Otherwise, the lists shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has been keeping up with Standard this season.

Abzan Aggro by Gerry Thompson, 1st at Standard MOCS

For the non-Abzan players, Collected Company decks have been seeing a huge spike over the past few weekends and we’re finally seeing some solid builds. Both of the Top 16 lists had a pair of Hidden Dragonslayer to give the deck some additional interaction against Siege Rhino and Dragons. This also pads the morph count nicely to rebuy Deathmist Raptor. Every list has also cut any creature over 3 mana. That makes sense—the numbers of hits in the deck is already quite low.

Take a look at Javier Dominguez’s creature base:

Of these, Elvish Mystic isn’t exactly what you want to hit, and face-up Den Protector or Hidden Dragonslayer aren’t exactly a big game. That leaves about 17 creatures you actually want to see. 23 if you want to be generous and only discount Elvish Mystic. The biggest issue with Collected Company is that it’s a great anti-sweeper card in a format where almost no sweepers see play. That’s not completely fair, since when I played the deck I did enjoy overwhelming opponents with sheer numbers, but as Lucas Siow has made a point of mentioning, Elspeth is legal in this format. Can this deck ever beat an Elspeth? God no.

Let’s take a look at a deck that really goes deep to take advantage of Collected Company with a variety of threats and colors:

4c Company by Yohan Dudognon, 11th at Grand Prix Paris 2015

Well the ambitious mana base didn’t stop him, nor did the small number of Collected Company hits. To be fair, at least Mantis Rider and Savage Knuckleblade scale well. But Seeker of the Way and Goblin Rabblemaster aren’t exactly scaring people on turn six or seven unless you’re both in topdeck mode. This deck looks wacky, but it wins for the same reasons Jeskai and Abzan do—the card quality is very high across the board. Yeah, you may not be getting the full mana discount on Stoke the Flames, but the card is very respectable at 3 mana. Ojutai’s Command buying back Fleecemane Lion is spicy and leaves a very small window for the opponent to kill it before it becomes monstrous. Like Abzan, many of the cards in this deck are just good.

It should be said that Collected Company looks really impressive post-board when trying to stomp red and other creature decks. Being able to slam a Hornet Nest into play at instant speed is evocative of Chord of Calling while hitting any creature and an Arashin Cleric is likely to stop mono-red in its tracks. I’m actually surprised we don’t see one or two Soulfire Grand Master in the sideboard considering the density of spells in the deck.

The mana isn’t actually as ambitious as it looked on coverage, but any time you have 11 tapped lands and 3 Mana Confluence things aren’t exactly peachy. That alone will probably turn people off the deck. But I like the concept. Collected Company plus spells and countermagic can work, it’s just a matter of stripping out the less essential cards and streamlining.

Based on the results over the past month, it looks like these are the pillars of the format until Magic Origins:

1) Silumgar’s Scorn/Dragonlord Ojutai
2) Den Protector/Deathmist Raptor
3) Fleecemane Lion/Collected Company
4) Red Creatures/Atarka’s Command
5) Mana Ramp/Dragonlord Atarka
6) Thoughtseize/Siege Rhino

So if you aren’t playing one of these, you need a good reason. Jeskai Ascendancy is one of the better ones, though Dromoka’s Command has knocked it down a peg. Abzan Control does have the benefit of Thoughtseize and Siege Rhino, but really Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is the key piece there. So Elspeth Control is always an option if you play Jeskai or even straight UW Control. In the end the number of plans you can work with is pretty large, so just pick the one that interests you the most and master your execution.

Good luck to those with PPTQs left!


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