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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, while we wait for Battle for Zendikar to go digital, we'll look at Modern in the main and say farewell to a Vintage friend.

Modern? More like Mo Derp . . . 

Here's what 4–0'd in Dailies this week:

  • Living End: 2 (won 2)
  • Infect: 2
  • Affinity: 1
  • Amulet Bloom: 1
  • Gifts Rites: 1
  • Jeskai Control: 1
  • Blue-Red Twin: 1
  • Grixis Twin: 1
  • Jund Reanimator: 1
  • Scapeshift: 1

That's all over the map and not that helpful, but we can do something with it. User _blade_cn 4–0'd on consecutive days with this:

Wild Defiance is pro-infect, anti-burn, and anti-Spellskite (in that it gives a bonus before Spellskite redirects), and that combination's good enough to make it viable in the current metagame. The sideboard has more Wild Defiance goodness if necessary, as well as Twisted Image to deal with Spellskite, although it also can be a cantripping Giant Growth with Wild Defiance. Other than that and the four Spreading Seas, it's business as usual—but it's a reminder that even linear decks like Infect have options to adapt and thrive.

A new twist on this summer's hotness 4–0'd on Wednesday:

So this is in one part the Griselbrand/Goryo's Vengeance package that can draw huge portions of its deck for a combo-kill as early as turn two thanks to Griselbrand's package of life-gain and card-draw. There's been a Grixis version with Izzet Charm and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to augment the package, with Fury of the Horde as the desired draw to finish the game, and there's been a Jund Grishoalbrand version with Worldspine Wurm, Borborygmos Enraged, and Nourishing Shoal. This one adopts the Borborygmos Enraged part as a way to turn extra cards into damage, but it also uses Soul Spike—from the same pitch spell cycle as Fury of the Horde—as a mini-Griselbrand hit, a 4-damage pocket that helps refill the hand.

The primary innovation that makes these switches worthwhile is Necrotic Ooze, which for this deck's purposes is a 4-mana Griselbrand or Borborygmos Enraged, functioning as a weird Through the Breach as is used in the Grishoalbrand deck. It isn't out of the question Necrotic Ooze to show up on turn three, use a discarded Griselbrand's activated ability to set up a deadly turn four, and pitch lands with a discarded Borborygmos Enraged, letting any excess lands take out key creatures or part of an opponent's face. Tasigur, the Golden Fang gives another angle of attack, whether from quick delving or getting back combo pieces.

Is this the Necrotic Ooze deck everyone (by which I mean at least Bennie Smith and I) have been waiting for? I have no idea, but it's some fantastic design space in an archetype with surprisingly more variation than it might initially seem.

That Wednesday Daily was won by a deck based around the new hot card:

For a tutor at least, Gifts Ungiven decks sometimes have consistency issues getting to Gifts Ungiven through looting and possibly dying before doing anything. Enter Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, who can loot several times past the initial investment, whose +1 keeps his caster alive, and whose -3 combos with the rest of the deck. With all that synergy, particularly with synergy that shores up several archetype weaknesses, it's no wonder Jace is a four-of here. The rest is a mix of reanimator and Esper Control cards, with Darkblast a favorite of mine for the nastiness of the opponent's choice off a Gifts Ungiven. I also love the sideboarded Realm Razer to surprise Tron. Go ahead and use a gazillion cards to assemble your mana; I'll just cast Gifts Ungiven and waste your opening . . . 

One Spicy Metaball

This exact deck was piloted by the same player to several 3–1 finishes this week:

The thing that strikes me most about this combination of B/G core and blue core is how patient it all looks. It's not trying to stuff the graveyard for an early huge Tarmogoyf or the quickest possible Tasigur, the Golden Fang; they're obviously very good, but they're not the focus. Snapcaster Mage is here, but it isn't maximized the way it is with Lightning Bolt and Kolaghan's Command decks (though Abrupt Decay's a fun toy). And Liliana of the Veil's been kicked to the curb by Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, who has no explicit synergy with the deck. Instead, Damnation is trusted to keep things from getting too out of hand while the other spells play midrange control. As Tasigur has become a format pillar, the switch to Abzan brought Path to Exile to deal with creatures that large. Thragtusk is a foil to both burn and Path to Exile, and its Modern playability may be at its highest to date. As for Ashiok, it can get into high loyalty quickly, and the format's cheap creatures allow it to spit out creatures with ease.

I don't know where the deck goes from here, but the premises seem sound and exploring 3-mana Planeswalkers is always a good idea. This seems to be an easy pickup for anyone who likes midrange but who's been bored of the recent matchups.

Annoyed the Void

This week saw the banned and restricted announcement. And it brought more restrictions than bannings, sending Dig Through Time and Chalice of the Void to the singleton list in Vintage, the latter because a Chalice on 0 before the opponent has had a chance to cast Moxen isn't fully in the spirit of the format. As much as I love Chalice of the Void, the continuing popularity of the below deck meant too many games were decided by a uncharged cup:

To quote Luis-Scott Vargas, Stax's "whole existence is predicated on stopping either player from doing anything sweet" and is "best suited for those who like the entire game grinding to a halt." Thorn of Amethyst, Trinisphere, and Lodestone Golem are plenty annoying, but Chalice of the Void as a three-of or four-of gave the deck critical mass to do whatever it wanted—which was nothing. (Null Rod's flavor text has never been more relevant.) Will it adjust without issue, go down a tier, or stop being viable? I'm no Vintage master, but I've seen a load of this deck winning Dailies, so some variety is welcome.

Conclusion

Although the new banned and restricted announcement isn't implemented on Magic Online until after the October 7 downtime, that's plenty of time to plot in Eternal formats (Black Vise says hi). Meanwhile, Standard and Modern will have Battle for Zendikar soon. It's a transition period, sure, but there's plenty of interesting stuff to work on in that time.


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