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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, I'll cover Modern developments and see how some legends have affected Legacy.

What's the Modern with the Cards I'm Playing; Can't You Tell That Your 'Goyf's Too Large?

Without a Constructed Grand Prix this weekend, format name puns are what's available; if this isn't reason enough to petition Wizards of the Coast for a major event every weekend, I don't know what is. Here's what 4-0'd on Sunday and Monday (Bold = won the Daily):

Three Times:

  • Grixis Delver

Once:

  • White-Blue Control
  • White-Blue Merfolk
  • Blue-Red Twin
  • Jund
  • Abzan
  • Red-Green Devotion
  • Gifts Tron
  • Affinity
  • Skred Red

The three Grixis Delver decks were all from Monday's Daily, which is strangely lopsided. In any event, there are loads of interesting decks in the bunch. Starting with the popular kid:

When delve meets Delver, you get loads of cheap and powerful threats. Splashing black for Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Murderous Cut, and Terminate, everything is cheap to cast; it needs to be, given that there are only 11 mana sources in the maindeck (Blood Moon at least makes the fetch lands tap for red mana). Presumably, part of what makes this plan viable again is delve's maneuverability around Chalice of the Void; while previous delve plans for the archetype involved Treasure Cruise, a 4/5 is more useful at addressing Chalice of the Void than three random cards.

The one downside to a plan this focused on delve as a method of cheap threats is that the sideboard is surprisingly restricted for being a three-color deck. Vandalblast and Dragon's Claw are okay, but they look like concessions to the main deck's tightness. Sulfur Elemental and Izzet Staticaster join Electrolyze as an out to Lingering Souls; that seems like overkill, but I don't know the matchups, and Lingering Souls is the speed bump du format.

There's not a lot of variation in the 4-0 decks. Diem4x had a Sower of Temptation in the sideboard, which is quite defensible.

On the other side of blue is the newest version of an old standby:

One of control's advantages in a deep format is that the shell is almost always good; the only changes are based on metagame shifts. And with Delver of Secrets/Young Pyromancer returning and Tasigur, the Golden Fang being ubiquitous, now's as good a time as any for Supreme Verdict. Sun Titan lets the deck get away with as many creatures as it does, and most of the deck is set up to maximize Sun Titan's value. Rebuying Kitchen Finks, Wall of Omens, Detention Sphere, and Tectonic Edge regularly seems great, and the other targets are more than adequate in a long game. The split of counterspells seems easy to sculpt a sequence with while being a rough guessing game for opponents; that versatility also ups the value of Snapcaster Mage.

The sideboard is another collection of well-positioned cards. Damping Matrix can be brought in against several decks, and Surgical Extraction is one of the best at its job whenever that job is needed. As many decks live part of their existence in the graveyard, there are some good chances for Surgical Extraction to do work.

And now for a completely different sort of control:

This deck isn't too far off from what Caleb Durward worked on last year. He noted that "the deck is good against fair decks with multicolor manabases. Jund, UWR, Pod, and Burn all fit this category. It's weak to combo, Tron, and protection from red creatures." This was while Boros Reckoner was a key component in the deck - Boros Reckoner plus Skred is huge damage output. Now, there's more of an artifact theme, with Wurmcoil Engine, Batterskull, Solemn Simulacrum, and Pyrite Spellbomb joining the archetype's usual Relic of Progenitus and Mind Stone. The reason for playing these types of Tron-affiliated cards is the printing of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, that lovely combination of sweeper and finisher who prefers you play with colorless things.

This is the sort of red deck I enjoy - it maindecks Blood Moon, it plays Wurmcoil Engine, and has a bunch of sweepers and planeswalkers. I suspect several of you would enjoy playing this as well. I mean, who doesn't love a 20-ticket manabase?

One Spicy Metaball

There was a Modern Pro Tour Qualifer this week, and while some usual metagame suspects took the highest slots, this took 16th while looking like several decks thrown against the wall (Wall of Kelp, perhaps):

It's called Domain Zoo on some sites, but it doesn't have too many cards that are part of that archetype. Yes, there's the Steppe Lynx/Wild Nacatl/Lightning Bolt end, but Street Wraith is normally part of Living End, Death's Shadow is most seen in scavenge combo decks, and Become Immense and Mutagenic Growth are Infect staples. It's those last cards plus Temur Battle Rage that clued me into this deck's Infect-like plan: combine a few cards for huge damage output.

There's a strength and a related weakness to playing like Infect without being it. By winning the game through normal life totals, you synergize with opposing fetch lands, shock lands, and Thoughtseizes in the way Burn does. On the flipside, you're vulnerable to some of the sideboard cards against Burn, particularly Feed the Clan.

However, dodging most of the other sideboard hate seems great; how much does this deck care about Dragon's Claw? And speaking of Burn, Nourishing Shoal with Become Immense and Hooting Mandrills isn't as efficient as Feed the Clan against the red menace, but it has the massive upside of being free.

Free's also the name of the game with Pact of Negation in the sideboard. The deck can't make blue mana, but do you need it when you're comboing out for lethal? (Gitaxian Probe and to a lesser extent Mishra's Bauble are vital both for delve and checking the safety of the combo.) So if you want a combo deck with style points and massive confusion for a metagame-aware opponent, this is for you.

Glimpse of Legacy

Elves has been a respectable part of Legacy, if not quite a pillar, for years. If you haven't kept up with its progress, largely because there haven't been obviously broken Elves in a few years, take a look at this 3-1/fifth place from a recent Daily:

The basic plan of Elves has been constant since the printing of Craterhoof Behemoth - cast Glimpse of Nature, cast a bajillion Elves while drawing your deck, then swing with the Behemoth as a huge/huge plus a swarm of small greenlings. I bring this deck up for a few points:

  1. Elves sometimes plays 61 cards;
  2. If you weren't aware that Ruric Thar, the Unbowed was played in tournaments, here's your notice, as it does great work against Storm;
  3. Reclamation Sage is an Elf; and
  4. Tasigur, the Golden Fang isn't an Elf, he isn't green, and this deck can't tutor for him, but he's value enough to be in this high-synergy deck that cares almost entirely about Elves, green creatures, and tutoring. If you don't own some and you play any tournaments at all, pick some up now - like right-after-this-article now. Siege Rhino's price has fallen some - it's shown all its upside - but Tasigur's still being explored. Do not sleep on this card. (It's preferable to sleep on mattresses. I'm no doctor, but that's my medical understanding and this, that, and everything else.)
  5. Conclusion

    As various formats are getting used to the impact of Fate Reforged - which at this point is largely Tasigur, the Golden Fang - the metagame shifts around the impact apparently are allowing some tier two decks to have a moment in the 4-0 sun (or the 4-0 Sun Titan, as the case may be). That seems like a good place to be as Dragons of Tarkir shows up. The new Commands seem like they could breathe new life into some foundering archetypes. Remember that wedge mana was easier to work with than shard mana in Modern until Khans of Tarkir brought allied fetch lands into the format, making allied two-color decks relatively fertile creative space. The Commands are bound to help, and who knows what else will become a household card? I'm excited to find out.


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