It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the world can move when people are motivated. In this case, I'm talking about Standard and the level of technology out there, especially on Magic Online. Since it's the season for Standard Regional PTQs, Grand Prix, and The SCG Tour®, Standard is very relevant right now. Plus, there wasn't a Standard Pro Tour held with Oath of the Gatewatch, so technology has been moving slowly until now.
Here's what I've learned.
Right now, Standard has a little bit for everyone, and those decks are also quite good. If you want to go over the top of people, G/R Eldrazi Ramp is where you want to be. If you want to play creature combo, there's a Rally the Ancestors deck with your name on it. If you want to play midrange, there are a plethora of Crackling Doom decks out there. If you want to go under people, you can try Bant Company, Atarka Red, or the new blue Eldrazi decks. For people that want to sidestep all that nonsense, you can try to fly over with R/B Dragons.
Overall, there's not a dominant strategy, even though Collected Company decks have been performing the best in general. Right now, there's a big movement toward Anafenza, the Foremost; Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet; Transgress the Mind; and things like Radiant Flames and Dispel. People are more prepared for Collected Company decks than ever before. Ideally, I'd find a strategy that's good against Collected Company and those midrange decks, but it's a tall order.
The real-life metagame seems to be much different from the online metagame as well. While the real-life metagame moves slowly, the online metagame seems to shift multiple times per week. First, it was Bant Company hammering people, then Jeskai Dragons, then Mono-Blue Eldrazi. Amidst all of this, there are the threats of various Mardu and Abzan decks.
Because any sort of strategy is viable, there is a natural churn to the format, which makes it difficult to pin down. What was well-positioned online may change within the hour. For that reason, I don't like the idea of trying to prey on a specific portion of the metagame. If you get your predictions wrong, they are very wrong. You need to be metagaming within a range.
So, what's good against the range right now? I think we should be looking at cards, not decks.
I basically want to play an archetype that plays like Fish. You get under them and use tempo tools such as Reflector Mage to cement your position and get ahead. Bant Company is basically the perfect deck for doing so, but I also worry because my record against Bant Company is quite good. To be fair, my Bant opponents have mostly been Brad Nelson, but I do appreciate getting a bye in each Daily Event I play.
The Blue Eldrazi deck fills a similar role, although I don't think mono-blue is the best option. Card quality is an issue, even if synergy is the main goal. The fact that the deck doesn't come from behind very well is another issue.
With Collected Company, you are basically only limited to some amount of green mana and whatever three-mana-or-fewer creatures you want to play with. Right now, we have more than a few options.
- 4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Snapping Gnarlid
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 4 Anafenza, the Foremost
- 3 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
I'm a tad surprised at the (near) lack of creature-lands in the manabase, but I did the same thing with my Abzan Blue deck, as Sylvan Advocate is certainly good enough to play on its own. It feels like this deck would love to have some creature-lands to activate on turn 5 or 6, but then again, it's probably more important to curve out in the first place. If that's the case, those Evolving Wilds look suspect.
Eldrazi Skyspawner looks pretty mopey without Wingmate Roc in the maindeck or some global pump, but it gets the job done. We could go down the Deathmist Raptor route, but there are a few reasons not to. First, this deck is kind of messing with its own graveyard with the four Murderous Cuts. Second, this deck doesn't have anything with a double-colored-mana cost, which makes sense because it's four colors. Think about how you tried to get Liliana, Heretical Healer into your Four-Color Rally deck and it wasn't worth the strain on your mana. Sure, you could just morph Deathmist Raptor, but that kind of defeats the purpose.
Finally, by going down that route, you're basically saying that you want to do a bunch of the same stuff as Bant Company, except you want to splash another color to upgrade your removal and have an additional card against Rally. That's not a very good reason, at least in my opinion. If you want to beat them down, play Snapping Gnarlid and Anafenza, the Foremost, but if you want tempo and a long game, play Bant Company.
If the format is all Bant Company, Eldrazi, or Nissa, Voice of Zendikar / Gideon, Ally of Zendikar decks, then Radiant Flames starts looking like an excellent maindeck card. Since these decks are all attempting to get on the battlefield as quickly as possible, Radiant Flames is a nice card to have access to, especially in the first game.
I could always play Jeskai Black, but it really depends on what the metagame is going to look like. It's nice that Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet isn't a necessity in the maindeck anymore. That gives me a little leeway to experiment with other things. It's still very good against Deathmist Raptor, though.
My recent Magic Online exploits saw me 5-0 an Oath of the Gatewatch Standard Championship Qualifier with this:
As Patrick Chapin noted, the format is becoming closer and closer to Chandra, Flamecaller vs. Collected Company. It might seem odd, as Collected Company (and other instant-speed threats) are quite good against Chandra, but it's not all that uncommon to let Collected Company happen and clean up the mess with Chandra.
The Monastery Mentors are in the sideboard for G/R Eldrazi Ramp, but I also bring them in against the new crop of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar decks. Dragonlord Silumgar is great against those decks too, but it's unclear whether it's better or worse than an additional Chandra, Flamecaller. Jeskai Black used to play Utter End to deal with problematic permanents back in the day, but I deemed it too clunky. Monastery Mentor deals with planeswalkers just as well.
Arashin Cleric should probably go, especially considering how the new Atarka Red decks are sideboarding these days.
I thought I may have been off Jeskai Black, but a quick 5-0 where my deck felt great may have roped me back in.
It attacks, it blocks, it's nice with Dromoka's Command, it powers up your two- or three-power creature-lands in the midgame. Overall, there's nothing to dislike there. Mardu Green has even started playing it.
I played a couple Daily Events with Kyle's list, but my final decklist ended up closer to this one:
Trust me when I say Sylvan Advocate is worth the splash.
If you're trying to hate out Rally, I still prefer Anafenza, the Foremost and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet despite Reflector Mage and Murderous Cut. With access to Transgress the Mind, it's not that difficult to ensure one of them sticks. Additionally, the combo with Radiant Flames is excellent, even if you don't get to fire it off until turn 6 or 7. It's too difficult to keep mana open for Hallowed Moonlight all the time.
Soulfire Grand Master ended up in my maindeck, but it wasn't something I was particularly happy with. As is the case with most midrange decks, I wanted access to more lifegain. I thought the format was going to move away from Fiery Impulse being good, but it's probably better than it's ever been right now.
Again, Chandra, Flamecaller makes an appearance at the top end, giving these decks another threat and potential battlefield wipe all in one.
In a format that's all about battlefield presence, you can certainly do worse than putting a Plant onto the battlefield each turn. At some point, especially with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar helping out, those Plants will become massive quickly.
I've played against a few of these "Gatewatch" decks, and they continue to impress. Oath of Gideon is no joke! The plan of anthems plus tokens is also very effective, at least against players without sweepers maindeck.
You're not seeing a lot of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar decks kicking butt right now, and that's because the card is very poor against flyers and aggression in general. However, when you have teammates like Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Oath of Gideon, it's much easier to protect. Most of the fliers don't come until later, and at that point you can make an emblem to pump up your battlefield.
Warden of the First Tree impressed me in these decks. Being able to get on the battlefield early distracts your opponents in a sort of false tempo way. You distract them with little beaters that ultimately don't fit into your gameplan, but while they're focusing on stabilizing, you're crafting a Secure the Wastes plus Gideon, Ally of Zendikar finish or getting to work on building a Plant army.
Of the non-Jeskai Black decks, these sorts of decks are among my frontrunners. Powerful, proactive, and resilient is exactly what I want!
Reality Smasher is kind of like the new Siege Rhino: just a fat monster with great stats, and if you draw two of them, it's probably a free game win. I don't just want it in an Eldrazi shell. Both Abzan and Mardu can take advantage of this colorless beater by playing some painlands and things like Crumbling Vestige or Unknown Shores.
Warden of the First Tree? Not big enough.
I'm skeptical of the maindeck Pulse of Murasas, as they seem too slow for what this deck wants to be doing. Eight creature-lands are pretty dope alongside Sylvan Advocate though. I suppose keeping that thing on the battlefield is important enough to play maindeck Pulse. And 27 land? I love it, although I have to assume there is room for another colorless land.
Note the maindeck Transgress the Minds in nearly each of these decks, by the way. I don't think I'll be playing G/R Eldrazi Ramp anytime soon.
We could also put some twists on an up-and-coming archetype.
- 4 Bearer of Silence
- 4 Dimensional Infiltrator
- 4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 3 Ruination Guide
- 3 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Vile Aggregate
BobJackson soundly defeated me in Round 5 of my video last week. It felt like he had a strictly better deck than I did. Whirler Rogue is great and all, but you can't argue with being able to upgrade your two- and three-drops.
Eldrazi Mimic and Ruination Guide didn't impress me at all, although the combination of the two can be nice. I'd love to move into red for Vile Aggregate and maybe Eldrazi Obligator or Herald of Kozilek. Based on BobJackson's list, the black splash seems relatively free. If you want to stay aggressive, I'd keep the Bearer of Silence splash. If you want to try something else, there's always Hedron Crawler.
This will be the second RPTQ I've played in, although it's only the first Constructed one. As that date has moved closer, it's been kind of nerve-wracking. One tournament for all the marbles? It could be the difference between making the jump from Silver to Gold this year.