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This year seems to have imprinted flashback on me, as I seem to be coming full circle back to playing competitive Magic among a number of other events. Standard seems no different, as we see the format adapt and tweak to what the rogue deck-builders constructed the first few weeks—and guess what! Abzan is back!

Before I go too far into results or decklists, I want to say that I finished very marginally this weekend after starting 4–1 and have realized I still need a break between games of Magic if possible. I once was able to do ten to twelve hours straight, and I am sure I will return to that, but ideally, I won’t play a deck that goes to time often any time soon.

As I discussed last week, it is important to realize when breaking into competitive Magic that it is best usually to metagame a deck rather than brew, but something I should elaborate on is also to play to your strengths. Ideally, I would have been able to play Heroic this weekend, and though I may have done well given the matches I played, the room was not kind to the deck, so I am still not mad with my choice. I wish I had been on something a little more comfortable for the last Pro Tour Qualifier, but I did learn a number of lessons and certainly watched myself play what I considered great Magic through the first few rounds with a deck I had nowhere near enough testing or time with.

I am still searching for that deck that just fits my play style; until then, I may be back on Heroic given the recent surge of Abzan. This past weekend at the Grand Prix in Memphis, Abzan took the Top 8 by storm—and not just the midrange or aggro variants as we have seen in the past.

End Hostilities
While there is not a huge divide between this and the original Abzan Midrange we saw at the dawn of Khans of Tarkir, it certainly has gone through some evolution. This version focuses more on board control than board presence, as the original build did, which I guess constitutes it as a control deck—that or anything with a Wrath effect is suddenly control, but in reality, this deck is just Abzan good-stuff. Card advantage and haymakers in force, this coming back into favor brings us right back around, meaning decks that came after Abzan last season, such as Jeskai Tokens and Heroic, now have a chance to climb back into the format.

I do not see much of financial relevance here—even the silver bullets have no real positive potential unless this becomes the only deck in the format, and that is just not going to happen. This deck being a pillar is what keeps the format healthy because this deck does fair—powerful, but fair—things, and it does them well. There are always ways to go under or over this deck, but it will always be in the gauntlet as long as Siege Rhino is crashing through the red zone.

The only card I could see moving in on now would be Utter End. The reason I do not jump at this right away is that even with the select play it is seeing now, I believe it will not truly shine until Hero's Downfall leaves the format. This may be a good time to get in on them, however, as they are certainly at the floor, as is almost everything in Khans of Tarkir, and they do deal with the ever-increasing number of enchantments and Gods that Downfall cannot.

Beyond Abzan, we saw more Abzan—and then a sprinkle of R/W Aggro, which is nearly identical to the list posted last week. On a side note, this recent list sports a singleton Heliod's Pilgrim in the main that can only be Chained to the Rocks. I truly have distaste for this card after playing Heroic, but I feel that this is, at the very least, a much better home for it. Though I still question how necessary it is, I can see the desire for a fifth Chained to the Rocks.

The other deck I want to talk about, which has been relatively quiet of late, was the only other non-Abzan deck in the Top 8 and a deck I feel I may be able to get back on board with: Sultai Control.

Crux of Fate
This is almost identical to the list from when the season first started, with some major changes to the ’board, which I believe make the U/B Control matchup better, and that’s one of the reasons I laid the deck down. I may pull this shell out again and dust it off, but of course, with it claiming the top spot, people may be gunning for it as hard as they do for Abzan.

Crux of Fate is continuing to see play across a number of decks and can certainly hold the current value if not spike in the short term. Of course, with any new set, we are nearly at that point at which cards from this set will be bottoming out. I am still on the plan of holding off on buying anything currently, as we have a unique opportunity coming in a few months with the next set so shortly on the horizon.

Khans of Tarkir will no longer be drafted when Dragons of Tarkir releases, meaning all of these cards like Utter End, Rakshasa Deathdealer, and Dig Through Time—just to name a few—will finally have the chance to start climbing upward. With this being able to happen sooner, I would take this opportunity to move anything from Theros block I did not need earlier in the year than normal and turn it into Khans-block staples. This will ensure you still gain great value on everything from Theros, as you will be in well before the midsummer crash and will be ready for Standard next year.

I am still unconvinced that this format is even remotely done growing, and I expect to be writing about two new decks in the next two weeks, as has been the norm. In formats like this, I tend to find it best to pick a deck, grow comfortable with it, and just keep playing that; at some point, the metagame will probably be friendly to your choice, and you should have a great advantage both knowing your deck and being well positioned.

Master of the Feast
As I try to decide where to settle, my mind keeps drawing back toward Heroic, but with no recent results or a great list that I have seen, I remain unconvinced. I believe I will end up on Sultai Control for now, though I have also been brewing with a few cards lately, and I feel Master of the Feast has some potential if the metagame shifts back to U/B Control, Mono-Green, and R/W. Of course, it seems that by the time I get a brew down, the meta has already shifted, so I will save you from my rogue deck-building for this week.

I hope that with as unpredictable as the format has been, we continue to see this evolution and not just back to what we had last season—I believe there is some innovation to be done. It seems that every color combination has a number of ways it can play to its strengths, and each may be better positioned at any given time. I am trying to find a deck that can nearly transform to cover a plethora of matches after ’board, and though Abzan seems to be the closest, I do not feel that the individual components sway matches as heavily as some of the other clans.

Maybe someone out there has some secret tech he or she would like to share or some theory ideas on how to approach this cyclical format, but for now, I think the best bet is to remember what was beating many of these decks that are now cropping back up and just attempt to stay a week ahead of them!

Ryan Bushard


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