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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 decks 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 two Standard Grand Prix coming up, all five decks will be Standard to give a sense of the metagame beyond the obvious decks.

Sao Paulo. Very Toronto.

It would be great if there were a Grand Prix in Orlando this weekend, as Kansas City Royal and triples machine Paulo Orlando not only would make good name wordplay, but he also was born in Sao Paulo, the third Brazilian to play in MLB. Of course, it would work if he played for the Toronto Blue Jays. It seems the World Committee to Bend Real Life to My Pun Desires has been slacking. I will investigate after finishing this article.

Anyway, looking at seven Dailies and fifty-six 4–0 decks going back a week, here are the archetypes that showed up at least twice (bold = won a Daily):

  • Esper Dragons 10
  • Red Aggro 9
  • Abzan Aggro 6
  • Bant Megamorph 5
  • Abzan Midrange 4
  • Green Devotion 3
  • Red-Green Dragons 2
  • Temur Midrange 2
  • Green-White Aggro 2

Bant Heroic, Mardu Control, and Blue-Black Control each won a Daily in their only 4-0 appearance.

Just as quickly as Sidisi Whip had returned, a host of Dromoka's Command decks kicked it back out of the metagame. So what does Standard look like right now?

I don't know exactly how many Dragons are necessary to call the U/B control shell Dragons (or how many creatures of a type are necessary to call a deck tribal), but I like this version of the deck for having three Anticipates to go with four Silumgar's Scorns. It makes for a classic control feel of drawing cards when not needing to cast a counterspell. And why not bring back that feel when there's a 2-mana answer to threaten anyone with the gall to try resolving things? Delving for Dig Through Time even gives a bit of that Psychatog feel, and Dragonlord Ojutai is an Iridescent Angel that's good enough to play in tournaments. So if you want to play like it's 2001 but with Dragons, this is the deck for you.

The existence of permission control as a format pillar has only helped red decks gain a bigger foothold. Half of Sunday's Daily 4–0s were red decks: one red aggro, two red aggro with green, and one red devotion (with the techy Circle of Flame and Sprinting Warbrute in the sideboard). This version not only 4–0'd its matches, it 8–0'd its games. So yeah, it's pretty good:

The only differences between this deck and Martin Dang's Pro Tour–winning list are the second Lightning Berserker over Dang's Frenzied Goblin, an extra Destructive Revelry over the fourth Roast, and swapping in Searing Blood for Hall of Triumph. In a metagame with slightly less midrange, these swaps make sense enough. The pedigree and results are both there; it's efficient and capable of running over opponents' bad keeps. It isn't enough that your seventy-five can beat this deck; you need your opening seven to have some game.

As always, incidental life-gain in the main deck is worthwhile, and that's keeping Courser of Kruphix and Mastery of the Unseen around. And why not throw Dragonlord Ojutai in with them?

There's a split over whether to go with Dragonlord Ojutai or Disdainful Stroke in the main deck. Surrak, the Hunt Caller isn't an automatic inclusion either, and the sideboard's up for grabs. The life-gain engines, ramp, and Deathmist Raptor/Den Protector megamorphings are the main power of the deck, able to grind its way to victory against several archetypes. I chose this version for the sideboard choices; Hornet Nest, Negate, Encase in Ice, and Stratus Dancer are all nasty surprises if unanticipated. That's one of the advantages Bant Megamorph has going into this weekend: The colors have a wide choice of sideboard options, and the main deck is still pretty configurable. In the hands of a skilled player and metagamer, I would not be surprised whatsoever to see the deck Top 8 this weekend.

Staying on the green side, mono-green had a 4–0 deck I could discuss, but this 3–1, ninth-place version is Brad Nelson's, so it's more influential:

It's rare to build a deck around a pump spell—I suppose Legacy Infect is built around Invigorate—but Aspect of Hydra promises enough damage output on an unblocked attacker (or a trampling one like Avatar of the Resolute) that it's worth jamming random creatures like Swordwise Centaur in an effort to maximize it. Fortunately, all the dorks can fuel a big creature like Reverent Hunter or bring haste with Surrak, the Hunt Caller. It's a weird mix of going wide and going big, and the pump spells cost 1 mana and sometimes no mana, so it's hard to play around.

The full play set of Collected Company in the sideboard makes control a much easier matchup, Nylea's Disciple makes life peachy against red decks, and Ranger's Guile is the right kind of surprise against anyone with a load of spot removal. The deck hits the format at a weird angle, so if the weekend's Grand Prix aren't ready for it, look out.

One Spicy Metaball

I'm biased for playing a crude version of this archetype at FNMs recently, but I like where this is going:

Chandra, Pyromaster
The benefit of the archetype is being able to run cheaper sweepers and threats than blue control. Anger of the Gods deals with several of the things U/B has problems getting to, and Thunderbreak Regent, Stormbreath Dragon, and Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury can get the job done without finding a sixth land. While B/R can't draw cards the way U/B does, it does have Chandra, Pyromaster or Outpost Siege for card advantage (and activating Chandra's -7 for three Kolaghan's Commands is a fantastic surprise midgame play or even finisher). Thoughtseize and Duress are positioned excellently in this deck as well; they rarely need much help, of course, but they answer several things the deck otherwise couldn't answer.

The main issue I've had with the deck is difficulty beating heavy-green decks; sometimes, you're just hoping Crux of Fate shows up. But this archetype is pretty good taking on both aggro and control decks, and that's an excellent place to be right now.

(If you can't afford all the Dragons, Disowned Ancestor is surprisingly good. I play three in my FNM deck and have won games with them. Against U/B, I normally outlast it to a 2/6 and then swing with nothing else until the opponent deals with it; against red aggro, I play it turn one, outlast every turn it's safe, and brick-wall the rest of the time.)

Conclusion

Tier one is now pretty well established, but below that are several archetypes capable of a good run. The past week had several decks that only showed up once but won their Dailies, so there are a lot of options and decisions to make before the Grand Prix. What deck will you root for this weekend?


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