By now the Columbus Open results are old news, as three weeks is practically three years in metagame time, but with the fantastic GP New Jersey captivating everyone for a week, I think many people let the results from Columbus just slide past them. While I could bore you with specifics as to how I got another fantastic 9th place finish, I think it's more beneficial to everyone if I take a look at other aspects of the event
For those who were with me during my last article, I was advocating the benefits of G/B Constellation and debating how to use the Whip of Erebos engine. Unfortunately for the green mages out there, I couldn't pull the trigger on the G/B beast. While most people immediately turn their nose at the thought of an audible, especially the morning of, sometimes you just gotta Omaha to your heart's content. In this specific instance, I felt an audible was in order for two major reasons:
1) G/B Constellation's sideboard is insanely difficult to build. The issue is, if your opponents transform into a control deck a-la Mardu and invalidate your spot removal, they could also stay aggressive and ignore your smaller mana-fixing effects. It felt like every time I thought I could get an edge post-board against the midrange decks like Temur or Mardu, they would just switch up the role they wanted to play and suddenly I was behind.
2) Aggro was on the downswing. I'm a firm supporter of G/B Devotion or Constellation in any aggro-heavy metagame. You interact with them in the red zone with a steady stream of bodies and have the ability to generate such an insurmountable boardstate that any "fair" aggro decks typically get left in the dust. Sadly, most people seemed disinterested in normal aggro decks in favor of Jeskai Heroic Combo or U/W Heroic for the weekend, and both of those decks attack on a slightly different axis and are able to ignore the typical sideboard hate.
Fast forward (or perhaps rewind?) to the morning of the tournament, and I was convinced that I was unconvinced on my G/B decklist. I had about an hour before the event and started to let my mind wander into dragon land. Sadly nothing really stuck out on the dragon front, but I couldn't stop thinking about the way Mardu played in this current metagame. It contained a fistful of undercosted removal and resilient threats, it could dodge a deck stuffed with removal by transforming into a control deck, and it pressured at every chance it got.
I knew right away this deck had to bring Stormbreath Dragon to the table.
That's right folks, the wings are back in action.
Small changes here from Brad Nelson's article, but I think the impact is pretty significant. By adding the Dragons over the additional Sarkhans, we add an extra way to close games decisively. This means our mirrors and control matchups now start to become more about setting up a lethal dragon opposed to trying to grind out the control decks over the course of the match. While Stormbreath isn't the fanciest against U/B Control, it can still steal away some games if they do not have the Hero's Downfall at the ready.
The rest of the decklist is 100% what was being played before, but I kept spending my day wondering how we could angle Mardu to be even better in the mirror and control matchup. I'm confident Mardu will become more popular moving forward, and the only times I felt in control in the matchup was when I was able to present a steady stream of threats, with just enough removal to stay ahead. This meant cards like Ashcloud Phoenix might be positioned to battle alongside Strombreath Dragon to a pretty devastating effect. Let's start with something like this:
- 2 Ashcloud Phoenix
- 4 Butcher of the Horde
- 4 Goblin Rabblemaster
- 3 Seeker of the Way
- 3 Stormbreath Dragon
Let's take a look at the changes proposed:
I openly admit Crater's Claws is me fulfilling a deep-rooted desire to cast Fireball just one more time. The deck is somewhat light on ways to ensure ferocity early, but I really want Claws to take the role of finisher or spot removal for troublesome cards in the mirror, such as planeswalkers or Butcher of the Horde. This means we can afford to be a bit more ambitious with our four-power creature count.
The other changes to the deck, Stormbreath Dragon and Ashcloud Phoenix, are right in line with our proposed plan of winning the mirror by presenting more threats. While Phoenix is not overly impressive against part of the field, its resilience in the mirror is unparalleled. I think adding just a couple copies puts us firmly in the driver's seat in every midrange matchup and lets us take better advantage of the transformational sideboard.
The sideboard presented is considered the norm for Mardu at this point. You present an aggressive slanted deck in game 1 and trim the worst threats in a given matchup for the ability to play a more controlling role after sideboard. This allows you to invalidate the heavy removal suite some players will still bring while maintaining your ability to decisively close games. I am unsure if Phoenix is quite the answer we are looking for regarding the U/B Control matchup (which is miserable for those wondering), but adding more ways to attack feels like a positive direction to go if U/B Control rises in popularity.
I do think Mardu in some flavor is a great place to be right now given a metagame of midrange decks. If the format shifts to go a bit longer, Mardu in its current form drops off in power, but until that happens consistently, I will stick by my dragons, goblins, and demons.
Now for something completely different!
- 2 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Hornet Queen
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Doomwake Giant
- 3 Nyx Weaver
- 1 Pharika, God of Affliction
- 2 Purphoros, God of the Forge
What? Huh? But that with that? I mean, really?
Yes folks, sometimes we just gotta brew. I drew this one up after realizing Purphoros was getting no love in the current metagame. I have a soft spot for the big guy and have always wanted to win a game off of only Purphoros triggers. So while I'm sure this deck would be more consistent as a G/R shell, I could not say no to the thought of a massive Empty the Pits at end of turn to close out a game.
Being a bit more realistic, this deck actually has the G/B hip core and is hoping to take advantage of all the early game digging and accelerating in the lategame with the likes of Chord of Calling or Empty the Pits. I realized the G/B Constellation deck could run out of relevant spells to cast in the lategame, so instead of taking the incremental advantage offered by Eidolon of Blossoms and friends, I decided to put it all on black and summon up some massive zombie hordes. The deck still has some flexibility thanks to Chord of Calling, but many times you are just tutoring up another Hornet Queen to lock up the game. As a small side note, I am looking forward to getting a few more cards for a R/B Devotion shell so I can start lifelinking my Purphoros for maximum comedic effect.
Overall, this Standard format is starting to settle into some noticeable patterns. I hope the next few weeks don't throw me too many curve balls regarding Standard, but if they do, I hope my dragons are able to clean up the mess. If the dragons fall short we might have to start using Islands…
And nobody wants that.