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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, settling down from all the Modern Masters 2015 Edition action, we'll check in on Standard for the first time in a few weeks, with a peek at Modern—you know, for old-but-not-quite-as-old-as-Legacy times' sake. Plus, you get a conclusion with more references to KLF than any other Magic article ever. So if you like record-setting articles, this is where you want to be.

Here Be Fewer Dragons

Here's what 4–0'd at least twice in Standard Dailies this week (Bold = won a Daily):

    Red Aggro: 9 (2 wins)

    Green Devotion with Red: 8 (3 wins)

    Abzan Midrange: 5

    Mardu Dragons: 5

    Jeskai Tokens won a Daily in its only 4-0 appearance.

  • Red Aggro: 9 (2 wins)
  • Green Devotion with Red: 8 (3 wins)
  • Abzan Midrange: 5
  • Mardu Dragons: 5
  • Atarka Red: 3
  • Abzan Aggro: 2
  • Red-White Dragons: 2
  • Green-Black Constellation: 2
  • Esper Dragons: 2
  • Naya Dragons: 2
  • Jeskai Tokens won a Daily in its only 4-0 appearance.

This is in many ways far more consolidated—and red—than the metagame three weeks ago, with the look of a "solved" format. So, what's happening?

This is why you don't see many Esper Dragons at the top digital tables. Red decks have streamlined into one major camp and two minority camps. Atarka Red is still around, and there's a suicide red build with Eidolon of the Great Revel and few spells that don't offend it. But the dominant camp this week is the Goblin Heelcutter style, against which the opponent can't seem to keep a blocker—and the opponent’s creatyre probably can't block even if the burn doesn't kill it. Chandra, Pyromaster and Magmatic Chasm in the sideboard reinforce the theme as necessary. If you aren't prepared to kill loads of small creatures with something besides blockers, you are a good bet to lose when you face this. As I hate losing to mono-red, this deck frightens me.

With decks like this one keeping Esper Dragons down, big, clunky ramp has a chance to shine again. Saturday's Daily was won by a shining example of the archetype:

This deck rather obviously assumes it will have loads of mana at all times, with two Ugin, the Spirit Dragons in the main deck (not an auto-include in this archetype) and Harbinger of the Hunt in the sideboard. Harbinger of the Hunt is fantastic at clearing out random creatures, and it certainly is possible (although not likely) that this deck can make enough mana to clear even Dragonlord Ojutai off the board should the situation arise.

Although control isn't a big part of the current metagame, Whisperwood Elemental, Deathmist Raptor (returned by Rattleclaw Mystic here instead of Den Protector), and Genesis Hydra generate enough card advantage to keep pace pre-sideboarding. In the meantime, when all your spells are likely to resolve, why not resolve the biggest, baddest ones?

The best archetype without red is Abzan midrange:

Funnily enough, given that we've been talking about red decks, it's fitting that the main nonred deck is a spiritual successor to Jund, home of the best value creatures backed with disruption. With no particular synergies, it's hard to write much about this deck, but being the best Drown in Sorrow/Bile Blight deck is a big deal right now, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion remains a fantastic win condition.

One Spicy Metaball

I hadn't much noticed Den Protector and Heir of the Wilds are Warriors. Since Warriors have some tribal support right now, as Den Protector and Heir of the Wilds are already cards worth playing, putting them together is intuitive; yet, it hadn't been done much before this deck:

Blood-Chin Fanatic is the reason to play a lot of Warriors, and Bloodsoaked Champion, Merciless Executioner, and the aforementioned green cards are all fine on their own. The other side of the deck is an engine of Satyr Wayfinder, Nighthowler, and Tasigur, the Golden Fang; Nighthowler on Den Protector seems filthy given how easily this deck can fill its graveyard. Satyr Wayfinder is also an easy creature to exploit to Sidisi, Undead Vizier for whatever is needed at the time. Sidisi allows for silver bullets Whip of Erebos, Dictate of Erebos, Hornet Queen, and Reclamation Sage in the sideboard. And don't overlook Minister of Pain in the sideboard, which curves naturally from Satyr Wayfinder to undo several turns of red token-making.

This is the closest thing Standard has to a Rock deck right now, so of course I like it. But the key is that there are enough value cards to play well against aggro and control. This deck brings a fresh perspective to the metagame, so I hope finds a spot in the waning weeks before Magic Origins.

Modern's Other Citadel

Until recently, Modern's Citadels were all lands—Darksteel, Sandsteppe, and Seaside—and only Darksteel Citadel was part of the format. That might not be true for long:

This deck appears to have been fairly well thought through, so I want to highlight the most interesting choices:

Wild Nacatl
First, there's Wild Nacatl with only two Mountains (the only other point of the Mountains is the sideboard Engineered Explosives). Having the 2/2 for a single mana is good enough given its eventual upside in the long game, and nex7 isn't aiming to go all-in (and all-painful) on the mana base. Second, there's a play set of Fiendslayer Paladin, a near-complete shutdown of burn strategies.

Third, there's Selesnya Charm, a card I wouldn't normally think had the right modes for the current Modern metagame, but it certainly does enough disparate things that it's respectable. If it could give +2/+2 and trample to Mirran Crusader, it would be absurd. But never fear—Citadel Siege is here! Putting counters on Fiendslayer Paladin, Mirran Crusader, Thrun, the Last Troll, or the creature-lands grows out of hand quickly, and there are multiple archetypes in Modern wherein tapping an attacker every turn is relevant (it even stops Emrakul, the Aeons Torn).

The deck clearly has its roots in Hate Bears themes. Scavenging Ooze, Loxodon Smiter, and Leonin Arbiter/Ghost Quarter are all present in the main deck, and charter members Gaddock Teeg and Linvala, Keeper of Silence say hi from the sideboard. But the metagamed aspects are fresh, and the options on Selesnya Charm, Dromoka's Command, and Citadel Siege give the deck a little more versatility and less reliance on having the exact right hate cards for what you're facing. Plus, the deck's relatively inexpensive to put together if you're interested.

Conclusion

It's unclear whether the streamlining of Standard is the new reality of the next month or whether it's an extreme reaction to Esper Dragons. In either case, expect a lot of burnination until at least Magic Origins. With Lightning Strike, Draconic Roar, and Stoke the Flames so prevalent, there's never been a better time to break out Nyx-Fleece Ram, Archers' Parapet, and Dragon's Eye Savants. Okay, that might be extreme unless you're running Assault Formation.dec. But if you're not going to build a fire, you'll need to make it rain. There are both justified and ancient reasons to pick one side or the other, but at this stage of Standard, you probably need to pick one.

See you next week, when I'll be back with the heavyweight jam. Until then, please wait patiently. As lovely as it would be to write next week's article this week, I don't have a TARDIS—or the capabilities to doctor one.


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