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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 the Miami Grand Prix this weekend, I'll cover Standard and peek at Legacy.

"Where Am I?" "Miami."

Last week's article was a burn notice of sorts, as Standard had all manner of aggressive red decks in it. So this week, the big butts and removal spells have returned. I don't know where the pendulum will swing this weekend, but I know better than to assume it's swung decisively for burn or for butts. And if someone can figure out how to beat both, then they'll be in great shape.

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

Four Times:

Abzan Control

Three Times:

Abzan Aggro

Twice:

Mardu Midrange

Red-White Aggro

Once:

Jeskai

Blue-Black Control

Black-Red Aggro

Red-Green Devotion

Red-Green Midrange

A lot of those decks are well-defined. How do you break through all of them?

If you like the grindy style of control, this deck's for you. The creature suite is streamlined to maximize advantage, varied and versatile removal spells can keep you alive for days, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon are incredibly hard to beat. Although this deck won't draw its ideal answer for each threat, all the answers are in there. Four sideboard cards are just extras from the maindeck, and most of the other slots are slightly different answer cards. And if you haven't beaten this deck by the time the top end comes to play, then you might as well go to the next game.

The Abzan aggro deck has a large section of cards in common with Abzan control, and red/white and Jeskai decks are well-known. Is adding black the answer?

Corey Baumeister's list is not too far off from the part of red/white that Jeskai likes to use. But Butcher of the Horde, Crackling Doom, and Thoughtseize tend to be good at any point in the game unconditionally, which might be the edge to beat the more-established decks. Soulfire Grand Master hasn't been seen much in Mardu, but the usual recurrence spells are still good here, and repeatable, lifelinking Crackling Doom seems fantastic against everything.

The sideboard allows for more of a control build, although Wingmate Roc allows the deck to look a lot more like the regular red/white deck if need be. Since there are already four Outpost Sieges in the maindeck, there's enough card advantage to keep up with any flavor of control deck. I like what this deck's capable of, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a great helping of it in this weekend's top tables.

And now for my favorite well-positioned card that's been hoping for a good home:

Xenagos, the Freshmaker has had a mercurial time in Standard, in part because not every deck wants the +1 ability. But making Satyrs every turn is a good deal against aggro and control, and devotion decks are normally set up to where they want that burst of mana for, among other things, Genesis Hydra, Polukranos, World Eater, Crater's Claws, and Shaman of the Great Hunt's activated ability. Shamanic Revelation is an intriguing one-of, as the lifegain is highly relevant in a world of burn and Siege Rhinos; along with Courser of Kruphix and the sideboard Nylea's Disciple, there's enough overlap to stabilize against the fastest decks while you build to something huge.

Oh, yeah - and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon's hanging out in the sideboard. You never know when he's going to show up.

One Spicy Metaball

You've seen a lot of these decks before - even Green Devotion's a reasonably-known archetype that, if we're grading by ethnic restaurants, is more American spicy than authentic spicy. So I dug down into some 3-1 lists and found this beauty:

So this is an Ensoul Artifact deck first and foremost, with Darksteel Citadel, Ornithopter, and Springleaf Drum providing quick metallic beats. Illusory Angel is a natural partner with Ornithopter. Those cards have been in decks together since Magic 2015 came out; there's no surprise in that cluster.

What's surprising - and what the major innovation is here - is that, with the printing of Frost Walker, the deck shell is almost certain to provide a creature with at least four power. So why not play the best ferocious cards in blue? Force Away, Stubborn Denial, and Icy Blast are all great tempo cards. Stubborn Denial protects the otherwise fragile combos, while Icy Blast is one of the best cards not to see much love recently. (I've been playing it recently in Temur Midrange, and with ferocious it nearly wins the game on the spot.)

But it's more than a weird tempo-combo deck - it's a weird tempo-combo deck with multiple combos! Battlefield Thaumaturge is every kind of silly here, as it makes Icy Blasting your opponent's board cost a single blue mana and casting Hour of Need to upgrade your board into Sphinxes much cheaper. Force Away and Hour of Need are tricksy with Vortex Elemental, as its first activated ability doesn't require Vortex Elemental to be on the battlefield when it resolves; while the opponent shuffles away a top threat, you're ready to do it again next turn or swing with a 4/4 flyer.

It looks like Dakra Mystic is a straight swap for Vortex Elemental against control. I don't know whether Monastery Siege is there as a mini-Outpost Siege draw engine or if it's to protect combos (maybe it's used both ways?), but it's a sweet inclusion nonetheless. This deck is super-cheap to build, so if you want to go off the trail a bit until Dragons of Tarkir enters Standard, I'd recommend it.

And Today's Food Is Chicken Griffin

I don't know if Legacy player K_F_Chicken only likes to play decks with food in them, but this 4-0 deck is a tasty bucket:

If you haven't seen this deck before, or if you don't remember your Avacyn Restored junk mythics, the point is to resolve a Food Chain, exile Misthollow Griffin to Food Chain (which makes 3UU to spend only on creature spells), use 2UU of it to cast Misthollow Griffin, and so on until you generate enough colorless mana to cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. In the meantime, Misthollow Griffin can be sent to exile via Manipulate Fate as a sort-of tutor or as a pitch to Force of Will/Misdirection - indeed, a lot of the deck's awesomeness is Force of Will having no drawback.

The rest of the deck is a relatively normal collection of Sultai control cards - Tasigur, the Golden Fang wouldn't be out of place. Abrupt Decay is still quality removal, and the sideboard deals with several different archetypes.

Conclusion

Several decks slowed down slightly to go over the top, and it worked...for this week. Will that carry over to Grand Prix Miami? Making the right decisions on whether to slow down or speed up, both in deck construction and determining deck role mid-game, should go a long way to declaring a winner this weekend. I'm excited to see how it goes, and I hope something unexpected solves the format (to be fair, I always hope this).

What are you rooting for this weekend?


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