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Persistent Technology from the World Championships


Even More Uro into Nissa

For my money, the biggest technological leap of the recent World Championships occurred in Chris Kvartek's take on Temur Reclamation:

Kvartek largely streamlined the archetype into a Simic deck splashing for Expansion // Explosion; cutting Storm's Wrath for Nissa, Who Shakes the World.

If you start (as I do) from the premise that Azorius Control is the best strategy in Standard - and let's all be honest, it is the strategy that just won the World Championships - Kvartek's move is an important one from the perspective of metagame disruption.

Azorius decks can largely ignore what is going on on the other side of the table because Teferi, Time Raveler does such a good job by itself of containing Wilderness Reclamation without explicitly doing anything about it. Simply tick your Planeswalkers up (or just don't tick Narset down) and you can keep them on the battlefield to bedevil a Temur player...

... Unless they are packing Nissa, Who Shakes the World instead of a medium-inefficient Red sweeper.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath costs three, lets you draw and accelerate immediately, so sets up Nissa on the five the next turn quite intuitively.

Despite this lovely concert of synergistic bombs, Kvartek's Weapon of Choice did not fare well against the Red Decks at Worlds and packs relatively little meaningful resistance even after sideboarding. Scorching Dragonfire and Aether Gust being merely fair one-for-ones. But that doesn't mean the tech itself isn't widely applicable.

This strategy really leans into the synergy. It's not just Uro on the three into Nissa at the five... Uro itself can hit the battlefield early thanks to three Arboreal Grazers!

Arboreal Grazer must be near its best in this deck, which packs - wait for it - twenty-nine lands main deck! I do think there is some optimization opportunity here... Like, I think if you want to go this route you might want the full four Arboreal Grazers; and with both so many lands and the desire to Escape Uro you might want more than a single Fabled Passage... But petromartinez got a lot right.

Instead of getting its butt kicked by Red Decks, this one swapping White for Red ramps into fast Dream Trawlers... Yet still respects Red Decks with nearly the full count of Devout Decrees and Aether Gusts after sideboarding.

The ability to slam Teferi, Time Raveler on turn two (and back it up with Elspeth Conquers Death) gives this Bant Ramp game against Azorius... And maybe even an edge in getting its permanents out more quickly.

I think this Standard Challenge win may just be the beginning. Look for Bant to entrench itself as a legitimate player in this Standard metagame.

Shocking Absences

If you had told me ahead of Worlds that there would be four Red Decks in the tournament; then asked me to guess how many copies of Shock would be present... Like any veteran of the MTGA Best-of-One ladder match, I would have said sixteen.

Fewer than sixteen? Why even play the Red Deck?

But to the surprise of thousands of viewers at home, the Worlds players glued together a whopping three Shocks between them. This deck-building decision seems to have stuck. From the same Standard challenge:

These aspiring Fire Gods finished second and third behind petromartinez and the new big, bad, Bant. They played essentially the same main deck, with slightly different sideboards.

We see here a strategy that plays more than 50% creatures; in order to get bodies to exploit Torbran, Thane of Red Fell or set up an Embercleave discount.

The deck is suprisingly card advantageous. Not only is Light up the Stage a legitimate source of card drawing, but Anax, Hardened in the Forge; Bonecrusher Giant; and especially Robber of the Rich do the same from the creature half.

The thinking? Shock isn't very good against Azorius Control (or, I suppose, Jeskai Fires). It's so bad these Mountains mages would rather lose its flexibility in the mirror - against Runaway Steam-Kin or Robber of the Rich - than potentially draw it against a Hallowed Fountain.

While this might be the norm currently, I think that you'll want to take the deck lists with a grain of salt before you stop playing around Shock entirely. For one thing, anecdotal experience tells me it has not gone extinct in MTGA Best-of-One. This actually makes a lot of sense. You play a lot more Game 1s against [other] Mono-Red decks than you do in seventy-five card formats, so access to Shock is less damning than it might have been at Worlds.

The Return of High Variance Magic?

We just looked at a couple of deck lists with Robber of the Rich.

I can't think of a card more inherently lopsided on the skill-variance matrix than Robber of the Rich. And keep in mind I just cashed a Grand Prix with four copies in my Pioneer main.

Let's talk about skill and variance for a second.

Magic players tend to abhor formats that are too low in variance. If the more prepared player wins 95% of the time... Most people tend to hate those formats. They like skill, but not too much skill. And they need a decent amount of variance to keep it interesting.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, let's run through some other games.

NBA basketball is extremely high in skill and extremely low in variance. The more talented, better coached, team can lose individual games... But very rarely loses playoff series outside of something like injury.

Flipping a coin is no skill and is smack dab in the middle of variance. There is no way to keep the game fair while gaining an edge; and, at least theoretically, you just win half the time (and lose half the time).

Standard under Caw-Blade was, like NBA basketball, high skill and low variance. The genius of Magic is that anyone can win; and manascrew is the great equalizer. No one likes when they are manascrewed... But we all love the feeling of playing out of manascrew. More importantly, any kid can take down the G.O.A.T. if Fortuna frowns on him... Which almost never happens in a game like chess, which has nowhere near Magic's variance.

Standard today is not as skill-intensive as Caw-Blade Standard... But it still rewards preparation. At least prior to Worlds and the innovations of Kvartek and the Frenchies, it was largely also low variance (and, I think, largely remains so).

Playing Robber of the Rich in your main deck increases the variance of Standard. Almost everyone prefers to go first, but going first with Robber of the Rich in your deck is doubly compelling. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that going second with Robber of the Rich in your deck exacerbates the bad luck of losing the coin flip. Robber of the Rich is often a boring 2/2 haste creature if you're on the draw, never stealing an extra card the whole game because the opponent cannily stays one lower than you.

But Robber of the Rich on the play?

Not only is card advantage available it can be shocking how compelling those extra cards are. The first time you attack into an Azorius Control deck and flip Teferi, Time Raveler you'll know what I mean.

So playing Robber of the Rich in your main is an active roll of the dice. Sometimes you hit, Hit, HIT and you just keep flipping lands. That's variance, too.

But there is another implementation of Robber of the Rich, and it's ingenious.

Snowwind adopted two vital details from the Frenchies' Jeskai Fires deck at Worlds.

The first, in the main deck, is the removal - entirely - of Cavalier of Gales. Cavalier of Gales was a longtime Staple of the Jeskai Fires archetype... But one that has terrible liabilities in the wrong matchup.

Narset, Parter of Veils

If an opposing Azorius deck simply has Narset in play, you will not typically want to cast Cavalier of Gales! Just not playing it means you will get less lucky less often.

The cooler and more important innovation is adding Robber of the Rich to the sideboard.

When a big spell, generally controllish, deck runs Robber of the Rich it's almost always at least a semi-transformation. The Jeskai player will bank on the fact that the opponent has less defensive firepower for small creatures, so you can get in more damage and hopefully draw more cards successfully.

But beyond that, you can choose to have Robber of the Rich in your deck primarily in games where you're going first! You might not be able to control flipping lands, but you can control the card's other primary gating factor.

Hitting with Robber of the Rich is usually pretty good. Even if all you do is flip over an Omen of the Sea, you're getting access to extra cards. But it really shines in this context. Like what is a Red Deck really going to do with some of the powerhouse cards in Azorius? Draw a card? Jeskai though? You can use their tools - Teferis or permission - to resolve your big stuff. And besides which? Attack for two.

Under many circumstances, Robber of the Rich drives variance; in Jeskai's sideboard, though? I think the opposite is largely true.



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