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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 a major Constructed format, 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.

Nebraskan Fallout

Omaha's Top 8 showcased several Modern decks that hadn't been prominent for a while, including Amulet of Vigor combo, Through the Breach/Scapeshift, and Merfolk. How did they impact recent Dailies?

Here's what 4–0'd on Sunday and Monday. (Bold = won the Daily.)

Treasure Cruise
Four Each:

Two Each:

  • Merfolk

One Each:

Well, look at that—Delver of Secrets is Unexpectedly Absent. Do we have an (Insectile) Aberration on our hands? Let's Dig Through Time results.

The Popular Kids, Who in This Case Are Also the Winning Decks

Snapcaster Mage
Unthorned's winning list swapped a Snapcaster Mage for a second Pyroclasm and eschewed Repeal for two Izzet Charms, a Burst Lightning, and a fourth Lightning Bolt. The sideboards were different from each other as well as from Macob's Scapeshift list from last week—apart from several Obstinate Baloths, which are getting as much work done in today's Modern as they did against Blightning and Bloodbraid Elf in Standard. (Perhaps they are some sort of omen of ban-worthy cards warping formats.)

Neither list runs Through the Breach, reaching instead for Courser of Kruphix. The advantage of Courser in Scapeshift is that fills a Sun Droplet niche. Sun Droplet had its day in Standard as a way to buy time, and as Scapeshift is normally a tinge slower than most of Modern, that's vital.

Whether that change becomes a normal part of Scapeshift, I don't know, but it certainly worked for both Dailies. And with four undefeated decks over two days (including the majority of Monday's 4–0s), it's time to include this in your gauntlet. Delver may be the best Treasure Cruise deck in Modern, but Scapeshift is the best Dig Through Time deck; ignore both at your peril.

Xdaviddon's list cut Coralhelm Commander and Phantasmal Image for four Tidebinder Mages in the main deck, swapped two Spreading Seas for copies of Relic of Progenitus, and replaced Path to Exile with Dismember and Remand.

The two Merfolk decks that 4–0'd were the only Merfolk representation in the top fifty decks of the Dailies. Merfolk surprised the Omaha coverage team—they called its Top 8 a "misprint" at first—but it's legitimately good right now. The list isn't too different than its normal Tier 2ish self, but its specific construction gives it two major advantages:

Coralhelm Commander

  1. Good against Islands — Treasure Cruise is ubiquitous, bringing Islands with it. Why not make your win condition an army of creatures that's unblockable because your opponent plays Treasure Cruise and Islands? Landwalk also blanks Young Pyromancer's stream of ground blockers, which is a lot like catching King Hippo with his pants down.
  2. Good against burn — Last week, I discussed how you're either playing Lightning Bolt in Modern or figuring out how to deal with it. Siege Rhino is a popular answer, but Kira, Great Glass-Spinner is even blunter in its message, telling burn where it can't stick it. (Wootoo's sideboarded Mark of Asylum, a card I've never seen in Modern, adds to the theme.)

But on top of that, Merfolk is already reasonable against Lightning Bolt for having a million tribal lords. Bring all your creatures above 3 toughness, and what use is a Lightning Bolt? Aether Vial can respond to a Lightning Bolt by importing a lord and saving the team; Master of Waves already has protection from red; and Cursecatcher can counter a Lightning Bolt occasionally as well. No one of those breaks burn's back, but it slows it down, and that apparently is good enough.

Xdaviddon's sideboard was primarily Chalice of the Void, Swan Song, and HibernationTidebinder Mage plus Hibernation is nasty—but I like Wootoo's sideboard a little better. Aven Mindcensor and Eidolon of Rhetoric give extra dimensions, particularly off an Aether Vial. Aven Mindcensor is a great answer to Scapeshift's constant library-search, while Eidolon of Rhetoric is asymmetrical in this deck thanks to Aether Vial's ignoring the one-spell maximum.

If Scapeshift moves the metagame away from Delver, maybe Merfolk isn't as well-positioned, but against a Delver field, it's ready to rumble.

Two Spicy Metaballs

Since Scapeshift won both tournaments, we can go a little deeper into the Dailies for interesting items. One of the biggest impacts of Treasure Cruise is that hand disruption is less popular than normal, and while that's more clearly seen in the popularity of Scapeshift, it opens the door for any fragile combo you like. And for one player, a can't-lose card became a no-loss Daily:

Lightning Storm
If you haven't seen the deck before, the kill condition is Lightning Storm and a hand full of lands to charge it up. To find that kill condition, Angel's Grace prevents losing the game for the turn (with Phyrexian Unlife as backup), so Ad Nauseam's life-loss doesn't kill you as you put as much of your deck as you like into your hand. With fast mana like Pentad Prism and Simian Spirit Guide, it's possible to assemble it all by turn three. And it needs to assemble that quickly, as only the Pacts and Phyrexian Unlife interact with opponents.

With such dedication to the combo, the sideboard is weird by necessity, featuring pseudo-free spells like Leyline of Sanctity and the rarely-seen Patrician's Scorn. Laboratory Maniac gives an alternate win condition; I hope Luzkikon won at least one game in the Daily with it for bragging rights.

With the 4–0 decks pretty well explored, I'm sure we can find another spicy metaball in the 3–1s. While plenty of Delver decks hung out in the 3–1s, a rarely seen archetype held its own:

Heliod, God of the Sun
Theros block widened the possibilities for enchantment-focused decks, and Enduring Ideal is as enchantment-focused as it comes. It appears the primary kill condition here is Heliod, God of the Sun, fueled by Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and enchantments with white mana symbols. This makes a star out of Runed Halo, as it protects against whatever while adding two devotion to white. In a rules quirk, you are allowed to name the back half of transform cards with Runed Halo, so you can name Insectile Aberration and keep Delver of Secrets on the ground.

Porphyry Nodes was a card célèbre when Shaun McLaren won Pro Tour Born of the Gods with it in his sideboard; it's still as good against several decks. And if it isn't, Ghostly Prison, Suppression Field, and Ensnaring Bridge keep the opponent at bay. My favorite synergy in this deck is between Ensnaring Bridge and Bottled Cloister; you're drawing extra cards on your turn while having no cards on your opponent's turn, preventing all creatures with power greater than 0 from attacking. (Peace of Mind has similar synergies while gaining life.)

This seems to be an awful deck to face if you don't have a plan for it and a great deck to play in an unsuspecting field.

A Peek at Standard

This month's Magic Online Championship was Standard, and the Top 8 shows the continuing standoff between Goblin Rabblemaster and Siege Rhino. Sam Pardee (user name smdster) took sixth place, running seventy-four of the same seventy-five cards he Top 8'd Grand Prix Denver with. (He swapped a Magma Jet for Ashcloud Phoenix.) But the winning deck put Goblin Rabblemaster back in black:

Butcher of the Horde turns Goblin Rabblemaster's tokens into a buffet—what keyword is most useful right now? It's weird to call this deck midrange with few spells above even 4 mana, but it's not playing Hordeling Outburst and is playing Elspeth, Sun's Champion, so it clearly is looking for some late game. Elspeth also plays nicely with Butcher, as making three tokens can give it all three keywords if need be. (More importantly, she can give vigilance and lifelink on the attack with two tokens and lifelink on the block with the third token.)

The other draw to this deck is Crackling Doom. It can kill Sylvan Caryatids early and Siege Rhinos late; the only way the opponent can play around it is by playing multiple creatures of identical power and never going beyond them. Generally, the opponent has to keep playing creatures anyway, making Crackling Doom potent against most decks.

Conclusion

The Anti-Delver League, led by Scapeshift, is out in force this week. Delver is still more important to prepare for in a long tournament, but it appears that Scapeshift has to be put on the same radar—and that's a tough deck-building puzzle. If you manage to solve it, I am certain the world will want to know!


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