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Fighting the Metagame


Hello, everyone! Mythic Championship VI took place this past weekend, and much to everyone's surprise, a Simic Food deck won. On a serious note, I would like to congratulate Ondrej Strasky on his victory. With six of the top eight decks being Food decks, does the main contributor of Food tokens need to be banned in order to create a more healthy and diverse Standard format? We'll find out next Monday when the next Banned and Restricted announcement takes place. In the meantime, you can either join those players in playing your own Food deck, or you can go the opposite route and focus on non-Food strategies. This week, I have a few more decks that shun Food tokens and the Planeswalker that is most notorious for creating them, and focus on other routes to victory. Let's get started.

Rakdos Knights

The first deck I have for you this week is a Rakdos deck that utilizes a handful of Knights alongside other powerful Red and Black creatures to quickly reduce your opponent's life total to zero. Let's take a look at the deck:

Stormfist Crusader
This deck features some of the finest Knights that Red and Black have to offer. We've all seen just how impactful Fervent Champion, Knight of the Ebon Legion, and Murderous Rider have been. Fervent Champion is an early play that can really snowball out of control if you manage to get multiple copies of it into play. Knight of the Ebon Legion starts off relatively harmless, but once the damage starts flowing, it can grow into quite a threat. If you activate its ability, Knight of the Ebon Legion can take down a threat of any size thanks to it gaining deathtouch, so there are times you'll want to keep it back for defense. Murderous Rider usually starts off by being played as the adventure, Swift End. With this, you can destroy any creature or planeswalker for a measly two points of your own life. You can gain that life back easily thanks to the lifelink that Murderous Rider provides.

There is one additional Knight in this deck. Stormfist Crusader hasn't seen a ton of play thanks to its mana requirements, but in a deck like this, it can be quite powerful. Its ability to allow each player to draw a card at the cost of one point of life during each of your upkeep phases makes it a card you'd like to see in the late game as a way to keep drawing additional cards, but it's not something you want to have too many of in play. If your plans have gone the way you hope, you might be able to finish off an opponent due to them taking the point of damage during your upkeep.

One combination I'd like to talk about in this deck is the interaction between Dreadhorde Butcher and Fling. Dreadhorde Butcher gains a +1/+1 counter whenever it deals combat damage to a player or a planeswalker. Since it also has haste, it's likely that you'll be able to gain a +1/+1 counter the turn it's played, since your opponent might not be holding back a creature to block it. As the game plays out, if you're able to lower your opponent's life total enough, you can attack with Dreadhorde Butcher, then cast Fling on it once combat damage has been dealt. You'll double the damage output of Dreadhorde Butcher by doing this. But that's not all. Dreadhorde Butcher has another ability on it that allows it to deal damage equal to its power to any target when it dies. If you deal that damage to your opponent, you've more than tripled the damage output of your Dreadhorde Butcher.

Esper Dance

The next deck I have for you can be quite puzzling the first time you see it. Let's take a look at the deck:

Doom Foretold
The goal of this deck is to stay alive long enough to be able to cast Dance of the Manse and immediately gain an army of 4/4 creatures from out of nowhere. To do this, you'll need to be able to stay alive long enough to get enough mana needed to cast Dance of the Manse. As you can see, there are many cards in this deck that specifically deal with your opponent's threats. Oath of Kaya can deal three points of damage to any target while also providing you three additional life points. Kaya's Wrath wipes the battlefield clean. Doom Foretold forces your opponent to destroy their own precious nonland, nontoken permanents. Despark offers a clean way to exile any permanent that has a converted mana cost of at least four.

Both planeswalkers in this deck also help you maintain a battlefield that will not be lethal to you. Teferi, Time Raveler can use his -3 loyalty ability to return a dangerous creature to your opponent's hand. This can buy you an extra turn as long as that creature doesn't have haste. You can also use this ability to return Oath of Kaya to your own hand, allowing you the ability to play it again, gaining additional life and potentially destroying another creature your opponent controls. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper's +1 loyalty ability allows you the possibility to gain an additional two points of life each turn, provided that you can exile a creature from any players' graveyard. You might also be able to use her -5 loyalty ability to gain additional life, while also dealing damage to your opponent.

Removing your opponent's threats is only part of the equation, though. The other part is getting the mana needed to cast Dance of the Manse so that X equals six or more. To do this, you have a couple of artifacts at your disposal that you can use. Both Golden Egg and Guild Globe can be sacrificed to provide you mana. Doing so, though, requires you to spend the same amount of mana to activate them, so it's a zero-sum game. The reason to use them when casting Dance of the Manse is that they are artifacts. You'll be able to return them to the battlefield as 4/4 creatures (in addition to drawing additional cards when they enter the battlefield again). This makes sure you have a decent amount of artifacts and non-Aura enchantments for Dance of the Manse to target.

Izzet Flash

The final deck I have for you this week is a draw-go deck. Let's take a look at it:

Gadwick, the Wizened
Lately decks featuring flash have been Simic colors. This deck is looking to change that. By using a selection of counterspells and spells that cause direct damage, you're able to control the game while still bringing your opponent's life total down.

This deck does have a couple of spells that you'll need to cast on your own turn. Bonecrusher Giant will usually be cast from exile after you've used the damage from Stomp to destroy an opponent's creature. Getting this Giant into play can be a very important step in getting the victory. Not only are you able to begin attacking for four points of damage each turn with it, but thanks to the ability it has that deals two points of damage to any player that targets it with a spell, it'll be a threat that's tough to remove from the battlefield. Gadwick, the Wizened is another creature you'll need to cast on your own turn, but doing so is very important in allowing you to draw additional cards. Those additional cards will often be counterspells or "burn" spells, so you might want to save a little mana when you cast Gadwick, the Wizened to use on these additional cards.

One final thing I want to touch upon with this deck is remembering to use the ability to scry with Castle Vantress. Recently on Magic Arena, I've been playing a deck that has a few copies of Castle Vantress in it. Often, I'll find myself with zero cards in hand and a ton of lands on the board, including Castle Vantress. Many times, I have lost games that I might have won if I had remembered to scry each turn with Castle Vantress. Don't be like me. Remember to use it whenever you can.

Wrapping Up

Will Oko, Thief of Crowns be banned next Monday? While I'm hopeful, I'm not holding my breath that Wizards of the Coast will ban one of the marquee cards from their latest release. I have a feeling that some other cards might be banned instead (Gilded Goose, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, or Once Upon a Time). Whatever happens, hopefully Standard can get back to a better place and a wider variety of decks will be played at big events.

What do you think of these decks? Do you have any suggestions for improvements? Let me know by leaving a comment below or email me directly at mikelikesmtg@gmail.com. Also, feel free to share this article with your friends anywhere on social media. And be sure to join me here again next week as I continue my search for innovative decks in Standard. I'll see you then!

- Mike Likes

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