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Five Decks You'll Play This Weekend

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Welcome to Gathering Magic's weekly quintet 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 activity gets you ahead of the competition. This week, with no forthcoming Constructed Grand Prix, I'll dig into Standard and peek into Vintage.

Standa-red

Are you the kind of person that likes to melt stuff and dislikes stuff that doesn't melt? Then this might be the metagame for you, as red shows up in spades (or I guess diamonds and hearts) nowadays.

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

Four Times:

White-Red Aggro

Three Times:

Mono-Red Aggro

Twice:

Jeskai

Abzan Control

Blue-Black Control

Once:

Green Devotion (has Temur Ascendancy as its only nongreen mana symbols in the 75)

Abzan Aggro

Black-Red Aggro

So yeah...how do you prefer to melt stuff?

This deck hasn't changed much from recent versions; the biggest changes are the resurgence of Brimaz, King of Oreskoa in several builds and the general increase in Outpost Siege as a must-answer card advantage source. Although I'm playing Temur rather than White-Red, I get excited any time I stick an Outpost Siege against control, as I can keep pace with their extra cards for free, and it's no different in this deck.

Mastery of the Unseen is a new player in the sideboard, part of the same plan to outgrind control decks. It guarantees a stream of creatures as long as you have a library, and that's good enough against a deck that normally takes its own sweet time to do anything. For what it's worth, the creatures are colorless, so Ugin, the Spirit Dragon doesn't have a great way to stop them (he can exile the Mastery, but if the Mastery's done enough, it that might not matter).

So White-Red's fighting successfully to stay in the metagame by bringing better game against control. Why not just be the control deck sometimes?

When Jeskai was a bigger force early in Khans of Tarkir Standard, it looked a lot like this—it could take several roles in game one while having even more options post-board. One of the general advantages of burn spells for removal is that they're suited for both proactive and reactive strategies, and combined with modal spells like Valorous Stance and Outpost Siege, Jeskai is well-suited to switch strategies on a dime. Cutting the cute Monastery Mentor to slam Stormbreath Dragon, there's plenty of synergy available but not required in this deck, which is always great as a deckbuilder.

But that can be finicky. Why figure out who's the beatdown when it could just be you all the time?

You know you're in a red-heavy metagame when Peak Eruption's a real sideboard card. And you know you're staring at an aggro deck when Goblin Rabblemaster is, despite ten Goblins and four Hordeling Outbursts, apparently too slow. Instead, dash masters Mardu Scout and Goblin Heelcutter join a bunch of one-drops to go all-in. Dash has a natural synergy with enters-the-battlefield effects, which helps the otherwise-lowly Foundry Street Denizen rarely be a 1/1. The deck is nothing but pressure, and in a world of scry lands and tri-lands, consistent early pressure is sometimes enough.

One Spicy Metaball

Tomoharu Saito made Swampy waves at Grand Prix Memphis by making day two with monoblack Humans pumped by Obelisk of Urd. This isn't quite so all-in - it somehow slows down slightly by adding red - but it's quick nonetheless.

Clearly a swarm deck by running Kolaghan. the Storm's Fury over Stormbreath Dragon, leverages all the quick card advantages available in black-red right now. Hordeling Outburst, Goblin Rabblemaster, Bloodsoaked Champion, Mardu Strike Leader, and Bile Blight all provide a bit more than one-for-one, and with some other hard hitters like Battle Brawler (3/2 first strike for 1b is a fantastic rate) and Brutal Hordechief, games can finish quickly. Tymaret, the Murder King functions as a sort-of Mortarpod, cleaning up games by lobbing creatures over a board stall, while Merciless Executioner comes close to being a 3/1 Cruel Edict here.

I'm curious what matches Sultai Emissary comes in for. Maybe this deck's synergies are such that having a souped-up Doomed Traveler is good enough. If so, that sounds fun to me.

Vintage Threads

So the closest thing Wizards of the Coast has to a quasi-governmental entity, the Vintage Super League, is back for a second season, with ten giants of the game (including four Hall of Famers and two active players with good Hall cases) battling each other with primarily Vintage brews. Their work hasn't spilled over into 4-0'ing a Magic Online Daily yet—the VSL is a narrow metagame, after all. With apologies to Magic Online user Diophan, who's run Monastery Mentor as nearly the only creature in a Dack Fayden control list and won consecutive Dailies, I have to give it up to Randy Buehler and Chris Pikula for running a blue deck with a traditionally red win condition:

Not to be confused with the blue of my favorite Belcher, this deck centers around cards Aaron Forsythe and Tom LaPille have labeled skeletons in R&D's closet. Instead of the usual Goblin Charbelcher kill of fast mana and double damage from your only land being a Taiga, here the single land is Tolarian Academy, which is fueled by over half the deck (including Candelabra of Tawnos and Voltaic Key for all the manas). At some point among the Preordains, Diminishing Returns, Timetwister, Ancestral Recall, Ponder, and Windfall, the Belcher-er will find the namesake card and have enough mana to activate it in short order. Pact of Negation and Force of Will say no to opposing shenanigans in order to go off safely. And Tezzeret the Seeker glues everything together by tutoring for Charbelcher or anything else while providing more mana by untapping artifacts.

So by the willingness to move off the Mountain that Goblin Charbelcher was designed to reveal, the combo kill gets to move away from Elvish Spirit Guide and such like into a traditional (and much more reliable) Vintage Mox-led mana base. It's quite the conceptual leap, but it makes loads of sense once you see the list. It seems more interesting to watch than regular Charbelcher, at least.

Conclusion

Whether you're into turn one red things or turn one combo kills with pseudo-red things, there's plenty of great Magic to watch and play this week. For my part, I'll be hitting Modern FNM with my spiciest brew in ages, an Izzet-based reanimator deck (yes, this is possible), and hopefully I'll get to build and test Merieke Ri Berit Tiny Leaders (because Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek is a thing). Whether you're up to Standard, Vintage, or something else Magical, I hope it's loads of fun.


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