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Five Decks You'll Play This Weekend

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Welcome to Gathering Magic's weekly quintet of 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. This week is the World Magic Cup, which isn't made of the usual Constructed events, so I'll touch on each of the major formats in the meantime.

Standard: Scorning Black—for the Most Part

Foul-Tongue Invocation and Crackling Doom are great and all, but Mantis Rider's also sweet:

This deck does have black for Tasigur, the Golden Fang in the main deck and Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury in the sideboard, but the deck is primarily Jeskai. Mantis Rider's general usefulness allows this deck to go on an aggro-skies plan (Draconic Roar into Mantis Rider into Thunderbreak Regent) or a modified burn plan, but Silumgar's Scorn combines with the burn spells to create a tempo–control aspect if that matches up better with the opponent. The rise of Eldrazi ramp has raised Icefall Regent's profile; it's been waiting for a bomb-heavy metagame, and as hard as it is to target, adding Thunderbreak Regent's punishment for targeting a Dragon makes it even more miserable to deal with.

Given its composition, before bringing this to a Standard event (and it looks like a fun deck to bring), I'd want to make sure I knew my role in each of the major matchups. Using removal on the wrong turns or on the wrong threats could sink this deck quickly. A skilled pilot could make short work of the field with this, though, and for a deck with some heft to it, it looks refreshingly quick compared to Abzan slog fests.

Modern: 2-Mana Dragons?

While Dragon Hatchling is the only 2-mana Dragon in Modern labeled as such, there's a pretty good unlabeled Dragon at that cost that allows Standard finishers to be Modern's scourge. Going 5–0 in a league:

Nameless Inversion is a reasonable, if not premier, removal spell. The loss of creature types gives it upside against a few decks, and the +3/-3 avoids some annoying regeneration. But the main thing here is that it's a Dragon, which lets it be one of nine cards that can be revealed to make Silumgar's Scorn a hard Counterspell. Deprive has seen occasional play in Modern despite the sizable tempo loss; Silumgar's Scorn gives no tempo loss but asks you to restrict your win conditions. Fortunately, Dragonlord Ojutai is up to the task of primary finisher, and Dragonlord Silumgar is a threat Modern isn't used to; the chance to steal a Planeswalker gives it the edge into Modern playability. The rest of the deck is a normal Esper shell—it's good to see Esper Charm back after a few years in hiding—but while Esper hasn't been the most successful control shell lately, having a 2-mana Counterspell might give it the oomph that's mostly been associated with U/R control this year.

Legacy: Liliana Said Knock You Out

The moment Legacy gets greedy is the moment Pox can shine:

While the basics of a Pox deck—blow up lands, make opponents discard, and find a win condition someday—are intact, there are a few cards that caught my eye. Ob Nixilis Reignited has quietly been showing up in some older formats; every ability is certainly relevant, and should the game last long enough for his ultimate (in Pox, that's not unlikely), it makes digging for answers impossible—Brainstorm's a terrible proposition when it costs 6 life. Tomb of Urami is a two-of here; it's not a usual finisher, but a 5/5 flyer after the opponent's been stripped of removal is plenty good.

Last, and definitely not least, is Haunted Plate Mail, a card I've played extensively and loved in multiple Standard formats. In Legacy, its most important attribute besides being invulnerable to sorcery-speed creature removal is costing 4 mana, just outside Abrupt Decay's purview. This kind of thing is one of the biggest reasons I love Magic—although there are several expensive cards in this list, such as $30 common Sinkhole, the finishers are junk rares like Haunted Plate Mail and Tomb of Urami. Good card and format knowledge are as rewarded as they ever have been, and this list is a great example of those truths.

Vintage

This deck makes it appear I didn't paste into my Legacy section correctly:

Chalice of the Void is restricted in Vintage for its ability to show up on turn one with help from a Mox and shut out huge portions of the format. How about a turn-one Thalia, Guardian of Thraben? How about Ethersworn Canonist curbing Monastery Mentor? As pesky as those cards and others have been in Modern and Legacy, they affect Vintage as much if not more; there just hasn't been a list consistently good enough to maximize their potential in the oldest format. There isn't a lot of creature removal in Vintage—that's why Trygon Predator lives there and not in Modern—and a twenty-three-creature list with heavy disruption has a chance of winning without interruption.

The sideboard has some good non-stock calls. Illness in the Ranks is further hate against Monastery Mentor, while Aegis of the Gods kicks Storm in the teeth (Vintage Storm runs Tendrils of Agony and not Grapeshot, so it's weaker to creature disruption than you might be used to if you face Storm in, say, Modern). Has this been well-positioned the whole time and few people tried it, or was it lucky enough to place in a Daily once? If it's the former, Vintage could get exciting soon.

Pauper: The Debut of Leagues and the Return of a Tribe

It has Delver of Secrets, but that's not interesting. Its combo kill is definitely interesting:

The build-around here isn't Delver of Secrets, but Tireless Tribe, a Kiln Fiend–style fast kill if the parts come together. In this deck, the parts are a lot of cards in hand to give Tireless Tribe +0/+20 or so with free discard and then switch power and toughness with Inside Out to convert that easily-obtained +0/+20 into +20/+0. Squadron Hawk provides extra fuel, Shadow Rift provides cantrippy evasion, and Benevolent Bodyguard and Apostle's Blessing provide protection for the combo. While this combo isn't seen much—while it might seem better on the surface to play a better Delver deck or a build of Kiln Fiend and Nivix CyclopsTireless Tribe has a unique advantage: It has virtual protection from red while it sits on the battlefield thanks to how large it can become for free. That plus Delver of Secrets's consistent clock take the pressure off this deck to be all-in, allowing the game to progress at a speed other than frantic.

Conclusion

The Magic-viewing world will be tuned in to the World Magic Cup, with Battle for Zendikar Sealed and Team Unified Standard (so the field can "only" be one-third Siege Rhinos). If you fancy other environments until then, try these decks out. The rise of Pauper leagues should give a lot more data than we've had, so there's a great opportunity to try out ideas on the cheap. Whatever you do with Magic this weekend, I hope it's fun.


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