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New Standard at Twitch Rivals

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Earlier this week, I competed in my first ever online Magic Arena tournament, courtesy of the fine folks at Twitch - the #TwitchRivals event!

It was a total blast to be playing in the first post-Ban event for Standard, and I did what I could to prepare, knowing that the turnaround time for the event was going to be fast - the ban was on Monday and the event began the next day. What can you do? I asked around, played a little of this, a little of that.

And then you just go for it.

I was fairly sure that the big decks were still going to include Cauldron Familiar decks of many varieties, Jeskai Fires, and Golgari Adventures. I also had a bit of a feeling about Gruul Aggro being big too. I ended up being somewhat correct: Temur Reclamation and Rakdos Knights were also big players at the event.

In the end, I seriously considered three decks.

Red

The first deck that I started getting serious will probably be no surprise to anyone: it was Mono-Red Aggro. I tried a bunch of versions, but here was my final version:


First of all, this deck is just fun. It hits fast and hard, and has a shot against even its worst matchups. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is truly a cruel card, and the deck is capable of truly spectacular wins out of seemingly nowhere because of the card. Importantly, the deck also has an exciting ability to shift gears after boarding, to become much more controlling as well, which is exciting.

The question I get asked the most is "Why only two Light Up the Stage?" The slow reduction to only two copies came as a result of playing too many games where I either didn't find myself with the time to cast Light Up the Stage, or not getting a great payoff for it. This deck doesn't just run the kind of curve that a more traditional Red deck has - it has far more low impact 1-drops and far more expensive cards. As a result, Light Up the Stage is not at a premium in this deck.

One of the things that was making me nervous about this deck was that it was struggling a great deal against Gruul Aggro. Of course, I couldn't know what the metagame was going to be, but it was horrible dealing with Questing Beast, and I had started seeing enough other people playing Mono-Red, I was worried that things would shape up to simply be antagonistic to Mono-Red even without Oko, Thief of Crowns being a card in the metagame anymore.

I had started toying with a return to Chandra's Spitfire as well, but I ended up not jumping all the way in. As I see the metagame play out, I think that this may be the future of Mono-Red, but I haven't gone there yet. If I did, I'd probably make space by cutting into Bonecrusher Giant, Slaying Fire, and Robber of the Rich, and I might try to find room for a Legion Warboss or two.

Jund

When one of your best Magic friends sends you an impromptu message about a deck, it is usually worth listening to him.

So, in the middle of the evening before the big event, my Team Standard teammate sent me his newest sacrifice list, Jund Sacrifice. I put it through the ropes, and it was quite good. There was only one problem: it didn't have a single card put together for the sideboard yet.

"I'm winning a lot of Game 1s," I told him. "What's in your board?"

"I haven't gotten that far," he replied.

...

Damn.

Here is how far he'd gotten:


There weren't really 15 Islands in the sideboard, but there might as well have been. I'm a good brewer and deck analyst, but his deck was far enough afield from my experience and the format was completely brand new, so I didn't know what to do. If I were to have had another day, I could have put together a sideboard that might have been reasonably informed by the decks needs even if I were completely guessing about the metagame. The problem, of course, was that I had so few games in, I wasn't even sure what weaknesses to shore up, or how much the deck needed to do to solve those weakness.

Did the deck have an aggro problem or was it fine? This might determine whether or not to run Disfigure, and what to sideboard out in that case. I didn't even know enough to answer questions like that. My in-the-dark sideboard (4 Duress, 3 Noxious Grasp, 2 Assassin's Trophy, 2 Murderous Rider, 3 Rankle, Master of Pranks, 2 Questing Beast) was not only sixteen cards, but didn't include any plans for any particular matchups.

The games I played in Best of One made me think the deck would be an incredible choice if I could hone out those details in time. But I was running out of time, and I had another deck to think about.

Azorius Control

I'm always partial to someone who loves Mono-Red but is happy to sling Azorius Control.

My friend and compatriot Ronny Serio is exactly one of those people I'm partial to. Like Brian, Ronny is one of those people I've just worked with forever, and he had been talking about his new Azorius Control list that he'd been running, which focused on Midnight Clock as a primary card advantage engine.

Needless to say, I was intrigued.

After playing an earlier build that was focused around a large number of fast answers like Glass Casket, he had shifted the deck to being more Brazen Borrower in focus, which, amusingly was similar to the deck of another Red Mage/Azorious Mage I'm friends with, Roman Fusco. Ronny's deck was still new, but I liked the feel of it, and he and I talked out the final details at length.

Here is that deck:


This deck was also a joy to play. It felt incredibly powerful, though it was also still clearly an early build of the deck.

One of the more exciting things were the wishable cards in the board mixed with the Midnight Clock recycling them back into the deck. In the Twitch Rivals event, I beat at least one player by casting a Game 1 Devout Decree twice. Having access to both Time Wipe and Dovin's Veto in the board as targets felt powerful and more than a little bit unfair for their respective matchups.

The decision to become a Planar Cleansing deck was a difficult one, but one that ended up feeling quite solid by the end of the event. I'd had more than a few games fall to pieces because of the ill-timed removal of a Prison Realm, and I was not eager to have that happen again. It is easy enough to make this into a Prison Realm deck, if you prefer that.

In the event itself, I only performed 3-3. I split matches against Rakdos Knights, Golgari Adventures, beat a Azorius Control, and lost to Jeskai Fires. In all of those matches, I feel like I made a fair number of mistakes, had the misfortune of a Round 1 re-pairing pitting me up against Gabriel Nassif, and suffered a bit of fatigue from playing in a long event while ill. The deck felt much better than its even record, and Ronny tells me there were many plays that he felt he "never would have made".

Moving forward, the metagame is all the more set, which just makes this deck have an even brighter future, I think. The biggest shift I know I'm going to be making is in the mana to find room for Blast Zone, which one bright person on my stream suggested, and which has been testing great, albeit hurting the mana consistently.

The metagame has just started shaking out. Frankly, I like all three of the decks that I've talked about in today's article. Whether you prefer aggro, or midrange, or control, I think you could take any of these decks for a spin and you'd be in good shape.

I find myself in the exciting position to be brewing in several formats at once! It's a great time to be playing Magic!

- Adrian Sullivan

Follow me on Twitter! @AdrianLSullivan

Follow me and subscribe on Twitch! /AdrianLSullivan

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