The past few weeks have been super busy for me, as I attended the Open Series in Cleveland followed by two Grand Prix in two different formats. You might think that I would want a break this weekend after all that traveling, but I'm actually disappointed that I won't be making the trip out to Dallas. As much as I would love to travel to Texas for the Open Series, instead I will be catching up on a few things at home and likely trying to attend the Super IQ at Ice Imports in Connecticut on Sunday. The Season Two race for the Players' Championship is extremely close, and I'm somewhat worried that I may go from an underdog to a long shot to win this season by skipping an Open Series event. Regardless, whoever wins Season Two will be well-deserving, as everyone has been putting in a lot of effort and leg work. Any one of them deserves to take it down.
That said, I think I have a great deck for the Open Series in Dallas, which I have been playing in my local Standard tournaments. This should come as no surprise to most of my readers, but I am back to playing Sultai again. This time, the Sultai deck I'm playing is not a control deck, but instead more of a midrange style deck that uses the megamorph shell utilized by some of the other Abzan decks. This is what I plan on playing for the foreseeable future at IQs, and it's also on my list of decks to consider if I am able to make the trip out to Columbus for the Season Two Invitational:
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
- 3 Den Protector
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 1 Stratus Dancer
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 2 Whisperwood Elemental
- 3 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Dragonlord Silumgar
- 2 Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
- 1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
You can likely tell from just looking at the decklist that the deck has a lot of synergy. Satyr Wayfinder is in the deck to smooth out draws, but it also provides a free pay-off when we mill a copy of Deathmist Raptor. Satyr Wayfinder also helps to fuel the delve cost on our maindeck copies of Murderous Cut, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, and Dig Through Time, while giving us additional targets for the un-morph of our Den Protectors.
Have I mentioned to you guys that I like Satyr Wayfinder?
It's amazing that a two-mana common that sometimes didn't see play in Limited can be such an effective maindeck card in Constructed. It really goes to show the power of synergy. The deck also has other combos and small interactions, while the numerous one and two copies of specific cards allow you to keep your opponents guessing. For the manabase I went with a split of fourteen lands that enter the battlefield untapped, and eight lands that don't. This split is to ensure that you are able to make your plays on time without slowing down too much.
The deck doesn't have any matchups that are insanely good, but it has the tools to hold its own against everything in the format. If you've been reading my articles for the past few months, you will know that this is something that I strive towards in my deck construction. I would much rather play a deck that has no bye matchups but gives me a chance as a player to win every matchup. Against Mono-Red Aggro, you have a ton of early plays that you can use to trade with their creatures in order to protect your life total. In the mid to lategame you have cards like Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Whisperwood Elemental that makes attacking more difficult for them.
The deck plays a lot of painlands, so you have to remember to sequence your lands efficiently in order to avoid some amount of damage. Between morphs and other spells, you also have a lot of use for colorless mana, and a single Urborg further helps to prevent unnecessary painland damage. Courser of Kruphix is also an effective tool for keeping your life total high in these types of matchups. After sideboard, you have three of the best weapons against Mono-Red:
Duress allows you to cheaply remove their token makers and burn spells without affecting your own curve, Drown in Sorrow is a complete nightmare for them as it is often able to wipe their entire board for only three mana, and Nylea's Disciple often gains between three and five life while also leaving a big body that can block all of their creatures. In addition to the immediate lifegain, they are also often forced to point one of their burn spells at it in order to be able to attack, saving you even more life. I don't think the matchup is heavily in your favor, but I'm not upset when I sit down across from it unlike how some control strategies in the format feel.
Another popular deck that you are likely to face is Abzan Aggro. I think that this is another matchup where this version of Sultai can hold its own. Self-Inflicted Wound is one of the best cards that you have access to after sideboard, so I'm playing three copies. Ashiok can also be a powerful card to sideboard in, but is at its best when you're on the play for tempo and curve reasons. The maindeck is also full of cards that make games difficult for them. Whisperwood Elemental, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, and Deathmist Raptor are all cards that are able to prevent most of their ground attacks. This great defense on the ground forces them to try to attack us through the air with Wingmate Roc or Sorin, Solemn Visitor, but those are easy to fight against. A string of late Siege Rhinos can be bad for you, but you can prevent this from being an out for them by taking measures early to preserve your life total. As long as you are able to trade effectively in the earlygame, your card advantage and synergy will help you to close out the game as it goes long.
After the first game, it can be tough to properly evaluate the merit of some of your cards since the Abzan builds can be so different. For example, against some builds of Abzan, Disdainful Stroke can be very effective, while it may only target Siege Rhino against other builds. My advice is to pay close attention to the metagame so that you have an idea of what most decks are running this week. In addition I would also pay close attention to what your opponent plays during the first game since the cards you see can help you to have a clearer image of what their deck construction is like. Andrew Boswell has long been a proponent of the Abzan Aggro strategy, and the deck choices that he makes and does well with often have a big impact on the metagame. Owen Turtenwald also won a week of the Standard Super League recently with Abzan Aggro, and of course, a big shout out to GerryT for taking down the MOCS with Abzan Aggro (Congrats man!) It's important to see what the top players are playing in these types of lists so that you have a better idea of what you may face in the near future.
Another huge deck in the Standard metagame is, of course, Esper Dragons. Between the maindeck and the sideboard we have a healthy amount of discard spells that are historically the best strategy against these types of control decks. Disdainful Stroke is at its best here, as it is live against a lot of their powerful lategame spells including their Dig Through Times. Ashiok is also quite good as a cheap threat that they must answer. Deathmist Raptor plays the role of an annoying threat for them to deal with since it is a recurring one that they can't really answer effectively. Dragonlord Ojutai can be powerful against you, but you have Murderous Cut and Hero's Downfall in your maindeck, which means that the Dragon will often be left on defense if they can't protect it with counterspells.
Against various other build of Abzan, Sultai should be a slight favorite against both Abzan Conrol or Abzan Megamorph. The threats that you have are very similar to your opponent, but you also have more ways to draw cards, which is a huge boon as the games tend to go long. My Sultai decklist is also intentionally full of one and two copies of cards so that you can present a wide variety of threats in these types of matchups and to make sideboarding easier. After sideboard, you have access to more copies of discard spells and counterspells that are great in these types of matchups. Elspeth is a threat that can be very good against you when it hits play, but answering it with Duress for a single mana or Disdainful Stroke for two is a huge swing for Sultai, especially when it doesn't really impact your own curve.
This past Tuesday, the Standard Super League was won by Josh Utter-Leyton playing Jeskai Aggro. For those of you who don't know, the Standard Super League is a tournament series that Randy Buehler is running and streaming on Twitch every Tuesday night. The tournament is a spinoff of his Vintage Super League. Eight of the best Constructed players, including a few of your favorite StarCityGames writers, compete against each other each week with their best new Standard brew. There have been some exciting new decks, including the Jeskai Aggro deck that Josh won with this week. I think that Sultai has solid matchup against this new deck as well. The only source of real card advantage that the Jeskai deck has is three copies of Dig Through Time, meaning that the Sultai deck actually has more. Mantis Rider is a cheap, efficient flier, but we have cheap removal spells that can answer it on time. Our creatures are able to hold the ground against his, and Utter-Leyton's build of Jeskai has no real way to stop Deathmist Raptor from continuing to come back. His deck is full of burn, however, so when playing against it you have to remember to conserve your life total, maybe even more so than against Mono-Red. I think that our superior card advantage engines and efficient answers make this a favorable matchup for the Sultai deck, but I can see tuning the sideboard if this deck gets popular.
I plan on playing Sultai Megamorph at the Super IQ this weekend as well as in upcoming weekday IQs. After that I will be switching my focus to Legacy in preparation for the Open Series in Worcester. In that format, I will likely also be playing a Sultai deck, but I am also paying attention to how the Legacy metagame is shaping up before then. The release of Tempest Remastered on Magic Online has greatly lowered the price of Wasteland, so I plan on looking through those decklists to see if there are any new or interesting developments on Magic Online that might transfer over to the Open Series. I doubt much will change, but it's always good to do as much research as you can to try to stay with the metagame.
Modern Masters 2015 is also coming out soon, so there will be a lot to try to soak in in the coming weeks. The Season Two Invitational at the beginning of June is also a split format with Standard and Modern, so there are a ton of new formats to try to balance at the same time. I will be reading a lot of articles from others in the coming weeks to see what great minds like Patrick Chapin, Shaheen Soorani, Tom Ross, and Brian Braun-Duin think about all of these formats. These guys are masters of control, midrange and aggro, so I will be reading everything they put out in an attempt to get a well-rounded understanding of the current status of these formats. I would also recommend that you use this information to help you decide on your next deck choice!