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5 Decks You'll Play This Weekend

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It's time for some World Magic Cup Qualifiers (WMCQs), and they're all Standard this weekend. So what is the field likely to be?

Feeling WMCQal

Here's what got published as 5-0 decks in Magic Online Standard leagues from May 30 to June 12:

Archetype Total
Bant Humans 23
R/W Humans 20
G/W Tokens 15
U/R Eldrazi 10
W/B Control 7
B/G Seasons Past 6
G/W Chandra Tokens 6
Mono-White Humans 5
Bant Company 4
U/R Flyers 4
B/G Aristocrats 3
Mardu Control 3
Sultai Midrange 3
Mono-White Eldrazi 3
The Rest 25

The top three decks continue to make up half the field: it's more than half if you lump variants in. What's interesting is the near-extinction of Cryptolith Rite decks. When huge chunks of the field have Dromoka's Command, and can go roughly as wide with better creatures, it's tough to assemble creature-based combos, I guess.


The near-complete switch in the metagame for Collected Company decks to go full Humans (sometimes with honorary Human Eldrazi Displacer) means they're playing a slightly faster game than they used to, lessening the chances the White Humans deck can go under the format. So, the Mono-White version has been ditched in favor of Reckless Bushwhacker and a couple more lands to support it. Some decks put them all in the sideboard; some add it and Abbot of Keral Keep in the main deck, but the point is it's there to mess with combat math. This has been one of Red's historic strengths when playing aggro and one of White's historic weaknesses. White aggro generally presents exactly what it's doing and lets you calculate your life total next turn to near-perfect accuracy; Red's never allowed that, so it makes sense to add Reckless Bushwhacker here. JohnnyHotSauce augments the idea of surprise pressure by stocking Magmatic Chasm in the sideboard. This isn't a normal card for the deck, but it does a lot of the same work as Reckless Bushwhacker in a format devoid of flyers (although it has some devoid flyers).

A short aside before going to the next deck: Developing linear strategies, including tribal ones, in the era of two-set blocks is going to take a while to calibrate. It used to be tribal incentives could be seeded among three sets, stopping Limited from getting too many of them in one set while providing enough for the mechanics to work in Standard. The Eldrazi have worked because they made so many ridiculous ones. Humans have worked because Humans show up on every plane. Other tribes haven't made much impact recently. How R&D solves this will make a big difference in how future Standards play out, especially without core sets to take the burden off putting everything necessary into a single block.


G/W Tokens is still mostly the same, although Raphael Levy's Grand Prix win with Chandra, Flamecaller and no Red sources has inspired experimentation around the margins — enough to where I listed Levy builds separately this week. Here's the one that's the most out there:


People disagree on whether the math of Oath of Nissa works out well — Levy gets into it here — but the point is that the card gives the opportunity to surprise. As Levy notes in the article, it only works because there are only a couple slots for the surprise; otherwise, it turns Oath of Nissa into a card opponents should get rid of through Dromoka's Command. As it stands, the battlefield usually has too many creatures to worry about a cantrip enchantment.

The question for most players is whether to play one or two copies of Chandra, Flamecaller, but this deck's split between Chandra and Sorin, Grim Nemesis. Against the current format, I think I'd prefer more Chandra every time, but if that changes in the next month, Sorin is an option. Eldritch Moon should give a couple more options as well. As with the Red splash in White Humans, creating unpredictability is an important edge, especially in a defined metagame, and putting Red and Black cards in a G/W deck certainly does that.

Definitely neither Green nor White is an old coldness made new hotness:


U/R Eldrazi was a deck briefly, but it was largely ignored. Then the Tomoharu Saito Flyers deck came out and demonstrated convincingly that Clash of Wills and Spell Shrivel could be the start of a successful deck list. Instead of going under the counterspell curve, cheap threats backed by counterspells, the Eldrazi list makes counterspells the beginning of the curve and ends with Eldrazi or Planeswalker threats. Mage-Ring Network is a big reason the deck can work, converting turns opponents don't cast spells into ramp. Having card draw and ramp on the same card in Hedron Archive is uniquely advantageous here too. Most of the rest is basic control principles, but it's got enough quirks in card choice to have a wider variety of plays than many recent control decks.

The optimal configuration isn't agreed upon right now. Prophet of Distortion is a sideboard choice in multiple lists, a card draw engine that takes advantage of opponents boarding out Fiery Impulses and similar cards. Reality Smasher takes advantage of a similar group of spells higher up the curve. Epiphany at the Drownyard is a popular choice; the rest is all over the place. There was even a Temur Eldrazi list that ran Corrupted Crossroads for mana fixing so it could play World Breaker. This deck's unlikely to gain much from Eldritch Moon, but its spell choices are open enough that it might be able to adapt to the metagame even as the deck's being further developed.

Of course, you could cast Eldrazi by ramping in normal colors as well:


Dmitriy Butakov's version is a little lower to the ground than the others and one of the rare decklists to runs Woodland Bellower. But finding Sylvan Advocate in the late game seems great for a color combination that sometimes has trouble speeding up the clock. With ramp, removal, and threats, it plays out like many B/G decks, except it trades the clunky/reliable stereotype for a bunch of one-ofs tied together by Dark Petition and Seasons Past. That requires a lot more playing finesse than most decks, but the upside is incredibly high. Especially in a fairly consolidated field with tuned, multiples-heavy lists, the singleton customization available to this archetype can make a difference.

One Spicy Metaball

It's weird to call a Top 8 variant spicy, but it's been nearly two months since Luis Salvatto used Pyromancer's Goggles for R/W things, and he was more about Eldrazi while this deck is more about controlling with burn and planeswalkers:


Using a Pyromancer's Goggles shell of burn led by Fall of the Titans, discard/draw led by Tormenting Voice, and Drownyard Temple to tie it together, this list eschews most creatures for more planeswalkers (mostly Nahiri, the Harbinger, whose discard hurts less with Drownyard Temple and Fiery Temper) and more burn. Copying Exquisite Firecraft isn't as flashy as copying a surged Fall of the Titans, but it's still eight total damage, and it doesn't need another spell to make it happen.

Mage-Ring Network is here as it is in several control decks; there aren't ramp targets like in other decks, but getting to Chandra, Flamecaller faster or having more mana for Fall of the Titans isn't a bad thing at all. The Network and the singleton Sea Gate Wreckage are good indicators that this deck expects to play a long game, even as the burn can get there reasonably quickly.

Conclusion

Despite the top tier of decks, there's enough going on underneath, particularly with newer decks still being optimized, that brewing momentum should get infused with Eldritch Moon previews at just the right time. As weird as it is for me to say this, it's also nice to see the return of Blue permission like Clash of Wills as a check on instants like Collected Company that have a longer resume of annoyance. The World Magic Cup Qualifiers might not have that many new decks, but it should produce enough interesting lists to tide us over into spoiler season.


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