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5 Decks You'll Play This Weekend

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Welcome to the newest of Gathering Magic's bundled quintets: five decks from Magic Online you should be aware of this weekend, whether you're playing a major online event, going to a Grand Prix, or hitting a Friday Night Magic. In an era of big data, Magic Online provides some of the biggest data, so even a quick-and-dirty snapshot of recent Dailies gets you ahead of the competition.

Every week, I'll follow roughly the same template. For the next major Constructed event, I'll cover four decks. Two will cover the most popular winning decks of the format, a third will cover a deck with the highest winning percentage, and a fourth will be one Spicy Metaball, with some innovation or another that draws me to it. The fifth deck will be from a different format, a peek at how "the others" are doing.

Omaha: The Most Modern City of 2015

Much in the same way the movies released this weekend will be the best movies of the year, so Omaha is the first and therefore best Modern exposure of 2015. So what are this week's Dailies saying will show up?

Let's start with what 4–0'd on Sunday and Monday:

Scapeshift
Two Each (bold = won a Daily):

One Each:

  • Scapeshift
  • Auras
  • Ensoul Ravager
  • U/R/W Revel Burn
  • Tarmo-Twin

Several of these archetypes were the only instances of their decks over both Dailies. Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin, Delver of Secrets, and Eidolon of the Great Revel all showed up in over 10% of the combined field, but the winners were their archetypes' only entries into the tournaments, and of the 53 4–0 or 3–1 decks, Gifts Ungiven and Amulet of Vigor showed up only in the two 4–0 decks mentioned above.

The Popular Kids

Let's start with Delver:

Delver of Secrets
Here, you see the usual suspects: the Peach Garden Oath of cheap creatures in Delver of Secrets, Monastery Swiftspear (Monetary Swiftspear if foil!), and Young Pyromancer. (Based on hair alone, Pyromancer equals Reid Duke.) Backed up with burn, cheap counterspells, and a load of fetch lands (nine out of eighteen lands) largely to fuel Treasure Cruise, Delver comes out the gates as fast as it ever has. Vapor Snag is a clear signal that you're looking at an aggro–tempo deck.

One of the benefits to a deck of this type is that sideboard options for many decks are often instants and sorceries anyway, so you're not losing any consistency by bringing in snipers like Smash to Smithereens and Hibernation. Even Blood Moon and Torpor Orb trigger prowess, so they're not completely out of synergy with the deck plan.

Doogieh's 4–0 Delver list had a Watery Grave in the main deck to enable Thoughtseize, Darkblast, and Slaughter Pact in the sideboard. It also ran two Deprives in the starting sixty and a third in the sideboard. As rough as Delver was to face already, it might be rougher when it adopts a 2-mana hard counterspell. So be careful of the slight variations among instants and sorceries—there are plenty of gotcha moments around this archetype's periphery.

Unsurprisingly, Delver of Secrets and Treasure Cruise are popular cards right now. They don't hold a candle to Lightning Bolt, which was in 32 of the 53 decks in my sample. You know who has creatures that stand up to Lightning Bolt?

Siege Rhino
In many ways, Siege Rhino is the anti-Bolt; it heals a Lightning Bolt to your face, and it has the biggest toughness encountered regularly in Modern. Granted, it also Bolts your opponent—my analogy isn't perfect. But my point is that the format is so well defined by Lightning Bolt right now that Birthing Pod's wealth of persisters, 4/5s, and life-gain are the best positioned to make Bolt as close to a dead card as it ever could be. And if Pod lives long enough, the infinite life-gain and creature pump of Archangel of Thune and Spike Feeder can undo an entire game of Delver's pecking and burning.

Of note in this list is the chance at a second Orzhov Pontiff post-board—something highly recommended in a format full of x/1s—and Lingering Souls, a way to go wide in a deck that doesn't normally excel at that.

Birthing Pod is well known for its customizable sideboard—Pdavich_24's 4–0 deck had Choke, personal favorite Entomber Exarch, and even Eidolon of Rhetoric available—so it's hard to know what you'll face in the second and third games.

The Winning Deck

But what about the lone wolf of Scapeshift? Not only did it 4–0 (8–1 in games), the opponent's match win percentage was 75—it was well positioned to beat winners. So what does it have going for it?

Dig Through Time
Scapeshift benefited massively from Dig Through Time, enabling the deck to perform less as a race to its combo and more as a control deck with a combo kill, similar to how decks with Splinter Twin and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker decks have evolved. The instant package holds several U/R decks together; play Modern a couple times, and you know it well. Where green helps out, apart from providing Scapeshift of course, is being able to go over the top in other ways. Farseek, Search for Tomorrow, and Sakura-Tribe Elder enable Cryptic Command to come out earlier, and as graveyard fodder that fetch lands, they serve as a virtual 2 mana each toward Dig Through Time. With the right draw (crack fetch lands on the first two turns, suspend Search for Tomorrow on turn one, and cast Farseek on turn two), Dig Through Time is castable on turn three, and at that point, you're in great shape.

Several of the sideboard choices leverage Scapeshift having more mana than most decks. Krosan Grip, Gigadrowse, Engineered Explosives, and Obstinate Baloth (when hard-cast at least) are the sort of luxuries you gain when you excel at mana production.

One Spicy Metaball

As Birthing Pod players know and love, deck shells that let you find your sideboard cards easily always have a chance at being a good metagame choice. In a world of one-drops, the Gifts Ungiven-Unburial Rites package has fallen a little behind, but this deck has enough game:

Gifts Ungiven
For being three-color control, black doesn't show up too much; this is more a two-point-four-color deck, which allows the full set of Tectonic Edge to work out. Seven counterspells is fewer than I would have expected, and with three Spell Snares, there's a metagame component in the mix, but that's made up for with a heavier reliance on the Gifts engine (and Wall of Omens) than some previous decks. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Iona, Shield of Emeria have been Gifts/Unburial Rites buddies for years; Sun Titan shows up every now and again when Wall of Omens and Tectonic Edge are involved.

But Resolute Archangel? Or Stormtide Leviathan in the sideboard? The Archangel in particular seems perfectly positioned right now. Eidolon of the Great Revel is in vogue even as it burns its controller about as much as the opponent, and what better way to thumb your nose at it than to play a bunch of 4-mana spells, go back to 20 life, and leave your opponent unable to cast anything without dying?

A Peek at Standard

Standard has gone the way Grand Prix Denver influenced it, with more Fleecemane Lions in the top Daily decks than Whip of Erebos and with Goblin Rabblemasters and Hordeling Outbursts trying to go wide before Abzan can get going. This Daily-winning deck falls into the latter category with some intriguing choices:

Hordeling Outburst
It has all the mana-fixing to be a full Jeskai deck, but Treasure Cruise is the only nonred spell in the starting sixty. All that fixing is for the sideboard, full of answer cards normally outside red's grasp. You can go all of Game 1 not knowing what the blue mana is for and then go to Game 2 and be blown out by Disdainful Stroke or Negate. Importantly, all the deck's mana-producing lands are capable of red, so the only opportunity cost by splashing two colors for Treasure Cruise and the sideboard is that some lands enter the battlefield tapped and some are painful. But Temple of Epiphany's scry compensates, especially in an aggressive red deck; that scry is valuable enough that Magma Jet’s a four-of and Fated Conflagration's a two-of.

I don't like losing to red decks as it is, but red decks with a variety of answers? That seems doubly rough. With how good the mana is in Standard right now, there's no reason this can't be a solid approach moving forward—focus on Rabblemaster/Outburst, scry a bunch, cast Treasure Cruise, and sideboard in the answer du jour.

Conclusion

If you're going to Omaha, be sure you have a plan for Lightning Bolt, whether casting it or not dying to it. If you're playing Standard, have a plan for Goblin Rabblemaster and Hordeling Outburst. And in either format, Rhinos are the scariest members of a siege, no matter how hard Auriok Siege Sled tries.


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