Magic: The Gathering Skirmish Decks
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5 Decks You Can't Miss This Week


It's here. This is the weekend where Magic history will be made. Thousands upon thousands of players have gathered in Las Vegas for the largest event on the books. Modern Masters 2015 Edition will be the story of this weekend, but next week will bring a return to the Constructed formats of your choice. Whether you're looking to cast giant bombs off of Frontier Siege in Standard, or a turn two Gifts Ungiven in Modern, or even Galerider Sliver in Legacy, we've got a little something for everyone this week. Let's get started!

One of the most hyped cards out of Fate Reforged was Frontier Siege. This card promised the ability to bury your opponent in a monstrous mana advantage, allowing you to curve Sylvan Caryatid into Frontier Siege into Hornet Queen. There were a few weeks where Big Green decks featuring Frontier Siege and some kind of Dig Through Time or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon top end were popular. Then we never saw Frontier Siege again. At least until nielsen333 started bringing it back:

Nielsen333 has merged two less popular archetypes into a something new and monstrously powerful. Frontier Siege allows you to use a Green devotion engine to cast cards that can win the game on the spot: Hornet Queen, Garruk, Apex Predator, and Ugin the Spirit Dragon. To that shell, neilsen333 has spliced on the Green-Black Constellation engine: Eidolon of Blossoms, Doomwake Giant, and Whip of Erebos.

What this does is give you two reasonable gameplans. You can cantrip through your deck with Eidolon of Blossoms, using your Brain Maggots and Thoughtseizes to keep your opponents off balance long enough to piece together your mana engine, after which you can bury them under Frontier Siege-fueled degeneracy.

What I like about this deck is that you've cut a lot of the expensive interaction. Hero's Downfall and the like are certainly powerful, but they are clunky and cost a lot of tempo. All of your interaction is cheap hand disruption or creatures that generate value. Beyond that, you're just trying to bury your opponent under powerful cards. This means that your gameplan is a lot more proactive, and capable of just going bigger than other midrangey decks. Instead of hoping to have the right answers to opposing gameplans, you can strip away their key pieces and then force them to answer your giant monsters.

My biggest concern about this deck is the prevalence of Dromoka's Command in Standard. It's bad enough getting your Courser of Kruphix eaten for value, but Doomwake Giant and Whip of Erebos are even bigger blowouts, and getting hit by an untimely Command can certainly lead to losses that a more typical Green-Black midrange deck could avoid. That said, the overwhelming power of Frontier Siege in control and midrange matches may be worth the risk against decks like Abzan Aggro.

We're all familiar with Jeskai Tokens - the Jeskai Ascendancy-fueled aggro deck featuring some of the most degenerate starts in Standard. The problem with that deck has always been its awkward mana. You have to play a lot more taplands than you'd really like to, and the linchpin of the deck, Jeskai Ascendancy, is a do-nothing three-drop that you have to untap with before you can start going broken. Merton has tried to solve some of these problems with an exciting budget take on the archetype that cuts Blue altogether:

The biggest difference between this deck and the Jeskai builds is the exclusion of Jeskai Ascendancy. This omission may seem counterintuitive, but it actually opens up a lot of play for the deck. Suddenly, you aren't obligated to give up your third turn to cast Jeskai Ascendancy. Instead, you can continue to apply pressure with Hordeling Outburst, Goblin Rabblemaster, and Monastery Mentor. Once you've built up a scary board, or your opponent has tapped out to answer one of your bigger threats, you can use Spear of Heliod, Great Teacher's Decree, and Hall of Triumph to Overrun your opponent out of nowhere.

What you're giving up in exchange for this aggressive potential is a more stable long game. You no longer have the looting effect of Jeskai Ascendancy backed by Treasure Cruise to power through sweepers and removal. Instead, you're more reliant on overwhelming your opponent early. That doesn't mean that you are completely without tools for a longer game though. Secure the Wastes and Outpost Siege[card] give you an incredible ability to fight long games, and even threaten lethal at instant speed once your opponent makes an ambitious attack.

Despite giving up Blue, this deck still has a lot of options and can threaten all manner of advantages at every stage in the game. You have less control over your draws, particularly as the games go longer, but your curve is more consistent and your ability to just kill your opponent is more ambiguous. Whether that is enough of an edge is yet to be determined, but this is certainly an exciting budget take on a powerful archetype that has fallen by the wayside.

Control in Modern is a strange beast. There are too many powerful, hyperaggressive strategies to realistically answer all of them unless you have access to either [card]Abrupt Decay or the combination of Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile. Unless, of course, you decide to play to the board instead of sitting back on answers. It seems strange to call that a control deck, but considering how much Lingering Souls and other token generators stifle decks like Affinity, it may not be inaccurate. This week, GLplum took this idea to its natural extreme, and built an incredible midrangey Esper Tokens deck for Modern:

This deck is built along the same lines as Monastery Mentor decks in every other format. Mentor backed by cheap interaction lets you control the board and threaten to end the game at a terrifying pace. In this case, we get the combination of Thoughtseize, Path to Exile, and Murderous Cut as efficient interaction, backed by Remand and Thought Scour as cyclers that help generate a board and dig towards Lingering Souls.

The staying power in this deck comes not only from the ability to flood the board backed by cheap interaction, but by the combination of Vault of the Archangel and Sorin, Solemn Visitor. How are fair decks supposed to beat a lifelinking hit by Monastery Mentor tokens? How are Affinity and Infect supposed to fight through all of your removal and tokens before you can lock the game up? How can Splinter Twin fight through all of your efficient removal and hand disruption while beating back your evasive token attacks?

The best part is that you have access to all of the best sideboard cards in the format because of the colors you are in. You already have a great game against combo, but you get answers to even up your matchup against all the fair decks. Instead of targeted removal and discard, you can board up on sweepers and Timely Reinforcements.

I don't know if this deck is fast or streamlined enough to keep up with the blistering pace of Modern, particularly decks like Tron and Amulet of Vigor, but you certainly have the necessary tools to put up a real fight, and Monastery Mentor does not give them much time to stumble.

It's no secret that Gifts Ungiven is my favorite card in Modern. It's also not especially good in this format, because most games are more or less decided before you can make a realistic attempt at resolving a four mana instant. At least until now. Last week, J65335D put up a 4-0 finish in a Daily event with a really interesting deck that is capable of casting Gifts as early as turn two. Let's take a look:

Some of these pieces should look very familiar. Gifts for a monster plus Unburial Rites to lock your opponent out or begin valuing them to death with Thragtusk. But what about Utopia Sprawl? Master Biomancer? What are these cards doing here?

The key to this deck is that it uses the combination of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl to turbo-charge the Gifts engine. Turn one Arbor Elf allows you to untap, put a Utopia Sprawl on your second land, and generate four mana off of it immediately to cast either Garruk Wildspeaker or Gifts Ungiven. From there, there's any number of things that you can do to go broken faster than your opponent.

But there are a lot of other cool things this deck can do using the fast mana from Utopia Sprawl. You can set up a hard lock for spell-based decks using Master Biomancer plus Glen Elendra Archmage. You can tutor up a Panglacial Wurm when you crack a fetchland. You can Gifts for something like Eternal Witness, Unburial Rites, Spike Feeder, and Archangel of Thune to begin grinding away at your opponent's ability to disrupt your combo.

The one downside to this deck is that you have to give up all of the disruption that is typical of Gifts Rock shells. No hand disruption, no spot removal, just powerful bombs and a ton of ramp effects. This gives you the ability to keep up with the rest of the format, but makes you highly dependent on drawing the right half of your deck against particular opponents. Of course, you can always just Gifts into the right cards, right?

It's been a long time since there hasn't been a top-tier Tribal deck in Legacy. For quite some time, Goblins and Merfolk were decks that defined the format. At other times Elves and even Wizards have risen to the top tables. However, it's been quite some time since Slivers were the Tribe on top. Asmo is looking to change that:

The most efficient interaction. The most efficient slivers. Galerider Sliver provides evasion at the bottom of the curve. Twelve Sliver lords give you an aggressive clock that can get out ahead of even the fastest combo decks. This is all backed by Crystalline Sliver, which can be Aether Vialed in in response to removal to counter Lightning Bolts and Swords to Plowshares.

The strength of this deck is it's ability to consistently present a fast, resilient, and evasive clock. That pressure forces opponents to be more proactive and to play into Force of Will and Daze. If you can curve out with Slivers for the first three turns and counter any Show and Tells or Terminuses, the Sliver Hive will be able to take your opponent down without too much trouble.

There are a few interesting things to note about this build of Slivers. The first is that this deck has zero copies of Cavern of Souls, opting instead for Mutavault plus Wasteland. It's also interesting to note that this is a tribal deck which has made room for Brainstorm, unlike other Merfolk takes on Merfolk. This is a deck with a lot of power and flexibility. Aether Vial gives you a way to commit to the board more safely, and to make combat a terrifying proposition for your opponent.

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