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Mike's Maestros Modifications


Ban Ob Nixilis!

Ob Nixilis should be banned!

Let's get on the Banned Wagon already?

I'm not yet certain if Ob Nixilis should go the way of poor Oko (but somehow not of fun-slaying Winota). I do know that folks seem to have a high opinion of him early, and as such he's already done more to warp the metagame than even that similarly heralded three-mana Planeswalker had - at least less than one week in.

If you want to keep grinding out Standard - or mayhap even need to, you know, so you know what you're talking about for CoolStuffInc articles and Barbarian Class podcasts - you really only have two choices:

  1. Beat 'Em
  2. Join 'Em

So far (about four days into the new format at the time of this writing) I've won Play-In Points with three different archetypes. All of them are deeply rooted in an Ob Nixilis-aware context, but I warn you: At this point all three are kind of crude. I have two Beat 'Ems for you today, and one - sad to admit - Join 'Em. But at least that last one feels absolutely filthy to pilot; if you're into that sort of thing.

Beat 'Em 1: The Bigger Villain

Assumption: Everyone hates Ob Nixilis. Ob Nixilis should be banned / or is at least now the boogeyman of the format.

Thesis: Baby, you don't even know what a villain looks like.

If I knew I were going to play against a lot of Ob Nixilis decks, this would be my consistent weapon of choice. I've pulled out a lot of tight ones, even when the opponent has one of those crazy draws with a double Ob Nixilis draw on turn three.

Izzet Mill was one of my go-to archetypes through a lot of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Standard season, because it absolutely feasted on mid-range Control types like Orzhov Tokens, and was one of the absolute best decks to play against Naya Runes. Terrible against less nuanced attack decks like White Weenie or the odd Mono-Red, but not just widely viable... Widely dominant.

With the month shifting from Neon Dynasty to Streets of New Capenna, there are two things that nudges the roguish metagamer toward Mill.

The first, of course, is the explosive popularity of Ob Nixilis, especially early. Mill was contextually the best thing you could do in a format where players were gaga for Planeswalkers du jour The Wandering Emperor and Kaito Shizuki... Ob Nixilis, the Adversary creates a metagame pull into just the right pocket for Ruin Crab. You're faster. They interact... But not in the right way.

Some of the Ob Nixilis people are Grixis, meaning they have access to Blue mana... But they don't do very Blue things with it. Instead, they're maniacs who Reinforce the three with Kaito Shizuki. Desperate for their third mana to enter the battlefield untapped, they are loath to play even a Jwari Disruption // Jwari Ruins. Meaning: Your stuff is likely to resolve if you hit your land drops.

The Meathook Massacre, so unbeatable for so many small creature decks, is kind of slow and boring against Mill's 1-drops. And while a large volume of creature removal will probably ensure a dead Crab or four... It is even more likely to clog the opponent's hand up with spells that don't have anything at all to say about Maddening Cacophony.

There is a subtle addition to the incentives, which is that casting costs across the board seem lower than they were just a week ago. Even "Grixis Control" types are leaning up! They need cheap creatures to play on turn one or turn two for Ob Nixilis to gobble and double. They're probably cutting things like the third Lolth, Spider Queen or whatever their equivalent to a Farewell was. These changes make Tasha's Uncontrollable Laughter a card or two better upon resolution. Anyone who's lost a tight Mill game knows how crucial this can be, especially when considering Galvanic Iteration or Dual Shot helpers.

I altered the list from The Five Stages of Izzet Mill only slightly in the move to the Streets of New Capenna. The weakest (but sometimes most exciting) two-of is Seize the Spoils in half of what was once Discover the Impossible's slot. The other half went to lands. Including four of these new beauties:

Maestros Theater

I found Maestros Theater to be a noticeable overperformer. In a deck with Ruin Crab, it is mostly an upgrade to Evolving Wilds. You never search for Swamp in this deck. And while Maestros Theater can't find either Plains or Forest... You don't play those! So, it's mostly one life point of upside.

I do say "mostly". There are some multi-turn sequences where you leave your Evolving Wilds in play; and there is the odd case where you don't want to shuffle away a known top card (most commonly behind Fading Hope in this deck, but that's not the only possibility). But as you might imagine if you read last week's article on breakpoints, one life point can make a large difference for a deck that is so superficially reliant on racing for its wins. In many matchups, a single point of life can demand a full card, or even a full turn. Which is huge for a deck that can nuke your library for forty-five cards in a single swing (but needs five land drops and a pair of crossed fingers to get to that point).

Doubling your effective number of Evolving Wilds is intended for the Ruin Crab tag team; and including them makes both Expressive Iteration and your multiple early Crab outlier draws better. They also make Frost Bite a bit better. One small wrinkle in this strategy's execution was that between Stormcarved Coast and Riverglide Pathway // Lavaglide Pathway, you might literally not have three Snow-Covered lands in play when you needed to cast Frost Bite. Maestros Theater improves your already surprisingly good defense a very little bit there as well.

Now you can't just take four lands out of your deck and add four lands that effectively always enter the battlefield tapped. So, I went up to twenty-six. This actually has two additional points of benefit. One of them is that Mill is an extraordinarily mana hungry deck. You literally need six for the kicker sometimes; and your best draws - the ones where Ruin Crab goes unmolested for five or more turns - need you to keep playing lands to keep paying off. And, of course extra land means you have less to worry about when it's time to discard to Seize the Spoils, even if there are only two.

Vulnerabilities: Extremely matchup dependent. If the matching algorithm hands you all White Weenie every round, you are not likely to have a successful Event. As good as this deck is at eking out squeakers against even great draws from Runes or Ob Nixilis, it can flame out famously in the face of aggro.

Beat 'Em 2: Hate Haterator

Me, personally?

I don't mind losing to Anvil. I kind of hate losing to Runes, but only because Runes is such a not-oppressive boogeyman. I always feel like I'm in the game and that razor-thin losses have me either second guessing myself or lamenting an opposing late topdeck. I can literally never complain about being out-Controlled by Black or Blue-Red; just quality wins from hard-working people who cast cards that cost five or more. I don't like losing to Esper but only because there is no reason for Esper to exist in anything like its current incarnations. Green? Your deck is old; but it was once good. Good game, I guess.

But I do hate losing to White Weenie.

I hate it because I feel like whenever I lose it was just because they drew 3-drop-X instead of 3-drop Y. They have no control over which one they drew, or in what numbers. It's random and unsatisfying. I can't even tell if they played well most of the time!

So, the obvious solution is... To get on board?

Not quite.

Here is my second archetype trophy winner (so far):

It's a White Weenie; but clearly with a large - and at 4/4 I do mean pretty large - change.

Yasharn, Implacable Earth

So, the initial skeleton of this deck is a pretty bland White Weenie. The interesting features include... A fourth Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (aka Thalia, Who Ruins Everything). In concert with my White Weenie brethren, I don't even have four copies of any of the 3-drops I play except for PVDDR; making it increasingly random when I win by drawing exactly Reidane or exactly Adeline when whichever one would be better than the other.

The more eye-catching delta is a whopping twenty-four lands, to accommodate a radical departure in mana base.

Twelve - count 'em twelve - Green-producing lands are here to accommodate three copies of a 4-drop. End. Well, vice-versa.

You really only need one Green source the entire game, most games; but you need to have actual basic Forests in your deck or you won't be able to exploit Yasharn. As with the Izzet Mill inclusion of Maestros Theater, I went a little heavier on land count in this one because I was adding some potentially tapped lands [here, Overgrown Farmland] to a deck that historically had so few.

So why jump through hoops for the Implacable Earth?

Simple: Ob Nixilis. Well, Ob Nixilis and the kinds of cards that surround him.

Playing a card like Yasharn is not a hard and immutable shield against the opponent's whole deck. You usually should think about it that it will take them a turn or two before they can get Casualty going; or draw up with Chef and Deadly Dispute.

But since White Weenie is so often on the initiative, a turn or two swinging with a giant 4/4 is a lot more meaningful than it might be in other shells.

The three cited changes all kind of work in harmony with each other.

Like Yasharn, Implacable Earth; the fourth Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is there to slow down Ob Nixilis. Even on the draw, you can take the opponent off of a third turn double Planeswalker by dropping Thalia.

But Thalia makes even your stuff more expensive, too! This is weirdly awkward. The 24th land helps, but Yasharn really helps. If you can resolve Yasharn (provided you remember to dig up your Forest and Plains) that implies you will have mana to cast The Wandering Emperor the next turn, even taxed under your own Guardian of Thraben.

Finally, drawing too much land is obviously the death knell for a fast and aggressive deck. While we play a 24th here, Yasharn simultaneously thins us out by two lands. If you stick him, you're actually ahead on thinning, relative to a more conventional twenty-three land White Weenie, but you also have a bigger beater than they probably do.

For now, I'd say this is my strong preference for an aggressive White creature deck in Standard. But that is assuming people aren't going back to casting Hullbreaker Horror. Because wow would you miss the Valorous Stance I chopped to make room for a random 4/4.

Join 'Em: Rakdos Sacrifice, and Sacrifice Again

Fully concede that mine is not the most tuned Rakdos Ob Nixilis deck you could be playing. But so far, this is the structure where I like him the best. I tried a lot of different "fodder" type cards to set up The Adversary, and in more controlling or fancier contexts than Anvil Sacrifice. Unlucky Witness is absolutely excellent. I never got my head around why you would want a Riveteers Requisitioner over a simple Shambling Ghast, though I burned through a lot of Gems figuring that out. So, I played one Shambling Ghast in this deck, where it's never been historically popular.

I will say, turn one body for Ob Nixilis + random source of artifacts for Oni-Cult Anvil later has felt adequately synergistic so far! Clearly, it's not as good as Voldaren Epicure in THIS deck, but I have appreciated just an extra early body to get paid by Kumano Faces Kakkazan // Etching of Kumano; or even the sweet one-two-five lottery winner with Deadly Dispute.

Not a WHOLE lot out of the ordinary in this one; just a very capable deck square within the overlap of "existing decks modified with Maestros in mind" and "Play-in Point winners, to date".

I will say that I've never gotten close to the [-7] on Ob Nixilis, but that I'm also not 100% sure on the proper play patterns for the early [+1] and [-2] options. Generally, you start out with one Planeswalker on three loyalty, and one on one. For me, the most common sequence is to use the [-2] on the Legendary Ob Nixilis one to make a Devil, and the [+1] on the token to get the life Drain benefit for having said Devil. This isn't always right. In a more aggressively minded race you might go mono-[+1]s; and in the event that you sacrifice a 3/1 Construct from Sokenzan Smelter or absolutely had to give up your Bloodtithe Harvester, there is a decent chance you start with double Devils. I think it's tough to know exactly how precisely to play this new card so early, in part because the opponent gets to choose how much damage they take, at least for a while. This is also part of why I like making a Devil: You gain life whether or not they lose two.

Beat 'Em.

Beat 'Em.

Join 'Em.



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