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5 Decks You'll Play This Weekend: 6 Decks Edition

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Welcome to Gathering Magic's weekly quintet (and occasional sextet) of Magic Online you should be aware of this weekend, whether you're playing a major online event, going to a Grand Prix, or hitting 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. This week, with a Modern Grand Prix in Vancouver and a Standard Grand Prix in Memphis, I'll cover three decks for each format. Seems extra snazzy, yes? When life gives you snazz, make snazzade, as my mom never said.

Modern: Better than Avacyn Restored Sealed

I went to Grand Prix Vancouver in 2012 since I had a first-round bye and it was close enough to Seattle. That format was Avacyn Restored Sealed. I lost alternating rounds, usually by floating up to play a blue-green soulbond player, losing terribly, then floating down to play someone who was playing something beatable (i.e. not blue-green soulbond). This Grand Prix should have none of those problems, as the format's got several options.

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

Two Times:

U/R Splinter Twin

Gifts Ungiven

Abzan Midrange

Value Loam (same player both times)

Once:

TarmoTwin

Abzan Little Kid

Zoo

B/G Death Cloud (by Reid Duke)

Monoblue Tron

Infect

Jeskai Control w/Geist of Saint Traft (splashing black for Lingering Souls)

Some of that we saw highlighted at the Pro Tour, but a lot of it we didn't; in particular, neither Daily had an Amulet of Vigor list go even 3-1. What's going on?

The traditional Splinter Twin deck is as robust as ever; the only maindeck quirks are a single Peek to see if it's time to go for the combo, a Desolate Lighthouse for occasional looting, and a Stomping Ground with nothing green other than a sideboard Back to Nature. I assume Back to Nature is there for the Bogles deck, but it also could be useful in the mirror match, largely because it doesn't target (and therefore isn't able to be Spellskited. Spellskiteable? Don't know how to conjugate that one).

Mind Control isn't something we see in Modern much either, but it seems like a solid answer to Primeval Titan from the Amulet of Vigor decks. Without hard removal available for a 6/6, why not just take it and make them either Slaughter Pact their own Titan (good for you) or spend several more turns finding a creature capable of winning (also good for you)?

Carlos Gutierrez talked about this one a few days ago because Dmitriy Butakov 4-0'd a different Daily with this list. It's the same 75 here, and Carlos covered it well. The toughest part of Gifts Ungiven decks is that there can be so many singleton plans from deck to deck that defending against all of them is tough - like what Birthing Pod decks could be before Siege Rhino streamlined it at the end. Here, there's the Unburial Rites/Elesh Norn plan, the Knight of the Reliquary plan for further tutoring (Gavony Township, Ghost Quarter, and Treetop Village are all maindecked, while Bojuka Bog is in the sideboard), the Abzan Siege Rhino/Lingering Souls beatdown plan backed by Abrupt Decay, and even the Raven's Crime/Life from the Loam plan. Granted, having that many threads to weave together can be tough to play, but it's at least as tough to play against.

The other Gifts Ungiven list was Esper control, but even the monoblue Tron list was running the card. Be prepared for value packages and end-step tutors for Unburial Rites this weekend, and evaluate your sideboard cards fresh in light of the cards you saw in game one. Prepped sideboard notes won't likely go far against a Gifts deck for how many strains might show up.

When brewers like Caleb Durward are 4-0'ing, you take notice. And while Abzan is a very expected deck, some parts of Caleb's list aren't expected. Doran, the Siege Tower certainly isn't an automatic inclusion, but in a Birds of Paradise deck it's as good as ever, providing a turn-two 5/5 as backup Tarmogoyf/Siege Rhino beef while pumping both creatures and Birds itself. Meanwhile, Sword of Fire and Ice maindeck - like any other Sword, fun with Birds - provides a rough clock against the bevy of blue/red decks in the format.

And if you're not facing one of them, why not swap out for a Sword of Feast and Famine from the sideboard? You also can get a Thragtusk, Thrun, the Last Troll, or even Memoricide for various matchups. I wouldn't be surprised if this sort of Abzan build is the hit of Vancouver for that clan. Regardless of whether this, Little Kid, or a more stock Abzan list runs the show, be aware of the Treetop Village in this deck and the previous one. Apeland is back and it isn't messing around.

Chains of Memphistopheles

Maybe you don't live close to Vancouver. Maybe you want to experience Standard in, if not the heart of Dixie, then Dixie's left arm or something. Maybe you like terrible intersections where you're driving about 10 miles an hour on a major Interstate. Whatever your reason, Memphis will be Standard while Vancouver is Modern, so there's plenty to look at.

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

Three Times:

R/W Aggro

Two Times:

W/U Heroic

Abzan Control

Mardu Midrange

Once:

Abzan Aggro

Four-color Super Friends

U/B Control

R/G Devotion

R/G Beats

Temur Beats

Monored Blitz

First and second from Sunday's Daily went to W/U Heroic, so don't be surprised to see something like this:

Decks of this exact type are rarely positioned to be successful - while this is aggro-combo, it doesn't dump a bunch of creatures out. Instead, it goes the cantrip-heavy route associated with something like Turbo Xerox or a Kiln Fiend deck while sitting in between them in terms of protection and all-in strategy. W/U Heroic can diversify if it needs to because the creature base has just enough redundancy to hold it together. The first- and second-place lists shared Favored Hoplite, Hero of Iroas, and Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, but the decks differed on Battlewise Hoplite, Lagonna-Band Trailblazer, and Seeker of the Way. Most of what matters is putting counters on creatures, then getting cards quickly out of Ordeal of Thassa (unlike most Limited matches, where Ordeal of Thassa was a few turns away from drawing cards, this deck's creatures tend to have a few counters on pre-Ordeal). Cycling and scrying with Defiant Strike and Gods Willing is crucial to keeping the gas flowing.

The one thing this deck doesn't do well is kill opposing creatures; at least on Game Day at my store, Heir of the Wilds was a particular nuisance for the deck. Your mileage may vary, of course, but that's what I found to be effective without going out of my way deck-wise (I was on Temur Midrange).

While Sunday was about the heroics, Monday was about the heat:

While I term it an aggro deck, it's got some midrange leanings with Ashcloud Phoenix and Stormbreath Dragon; it certainly isn't Boros as traditionally thought of. The big things to watch out for in this list are Arc Lightning as a destroyer of many small things and the increasing prominence of Valorous Stance as a destroyer of one giant thing. Joining with burn and Chained to the Rocks, almost nothing is safe against red/white creature removal. The two Standard creatures best against white and red removal, respectively, might just be Stormbreath Dragon and Ashcloud Phoenix, which are in the deck. Perhaps that's why it's played so much right now - it's well-positioned against itself.

One Spicy Metaball

My last metaball involved a lot of planeswalkers and Satyr Wayfinder jammed into U/B control. This one's a bit more ponderous. I can't even do justice to explaining it other than that it's a Courser/Caryatid deck, it has six planeswalkers it can cast on turn three if it ramps, the planeswalker suite is so large that it's tough to know which planeswalkers to attack, and Dig Through Time is good. Oh, and 14 Sideboard cards isn't a typo - that's how the deck's listed. Even nutty decks can go somewhere if they have enough planeswalkers.

Conclusion

Both the Modern and Standard metagames are generally considered to be in good spots right now, so this weekend's Grand Prix should be entertaining to play and watch. You could go through all nine rounds of day one and face nine different decks, and it's not often that happens. For Standard, it's a pretty small metagame window before Dragons of Tarkir arrives, so if you like this period, play every event you can in it. Whatever you end up doing this weekend, go forth and have fun!


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