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The Season Two Invitational is nigh, and the two formats that will be played this weekend are in completely different places. Standard is still under the brutal rule of Attune with Aether and Hazoret the Fervent while Modern is as diverse as it's ever been, and you could reasonably consider twenty or so decks without anyone questioning your process.
However, at a high level event like an Invitational, I expect the metagames in each format to narrow, as the players in these events tend to be the ones that gravitate toward the most proven decks and no one is entering this event on a whim, playing for fun with a pet deck of theirs. It's going to be a sea of Temur and Red in Standard, and I expect to see an increased amount of Jeskai Control, Grixis Death's Shadow, Affinity, and the like in Modern.
But does anyone remember what happened at the Season One Invitational? Brian Coval took down the tournament with two decks that no one was expecting: Grixis Colossus in Standard and Death and Taxes in Modern.
- 1 Phyrexian Revoker
- 4 Blade Splicer
- 4 Flickerwisp
- 4 Leonin Arbiter
- 2 Mirran Crusader
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 1 Serra Avenger
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 1 Weathered Wayfarer
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Both metagames indeed coalesced around the top decks, and Brian was able to leverage that inbreeding to his advantage by bringing decks that were well-positioned against the top of the field, in large part due to how unprepared his opponents were for those matchups.
In a surprising display of justice for a good decision from the universe, Brian's semifinals and finals opponents were playing exactly the two decks that were most popular around that time: Grixis Death's Shadow and Eldrazi Tron. His fringe decks were underpowered for a more open field but rewarded him handsomely on that weekend.
With this weekend's field shaping up to be similarly inbred, perhaps even more so given the state of Standard, what are the potential decks that could replicate Brian's success this weekend? Here are two options for each format.
- 4 Electrostatic Pummeler
- 4 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 1 Rhonas the Indomitable
It's exactly what you were looking for to break the monotony of energy mirrors, right? Yes, this deck is still built around the powerful energy mechanic, but it's significantly different from its Temur brethren and it's different in a way that works to its advantage in a narrow metagame.
Temur Energy pilots have been spending months trying to find a way to gain a consistent edge in the mirror without sacrificing their matchup against Ramunap Red. To that end, they typically try to go bigger and out-midrange their opponent in a long game, sideboarding in a package of planeswalkers, sticky threats like Vizier of Many Faces, and potentially a black splash for haymakers from The Scarab God up to Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. The goal here is clear: win the long game, since it's very hard to gain an advantage early on when your opponent has all the same cards as you.
This is exactly the kind of gameplan Electrostatic Pummeler ignores. While your opponent's deck is built to go long and draw cards, this deck is built to set up a turn where you go over the top of all that nonsense and kill them. I did the math, and killing your opponent is worth infinity plus one cards.
The primary worry here is that you can fall victim to the portion of sideboards that is dedicated to fighting Ramunap Red, as typically anti-aggro plans include cheap removal that is quite good against creature combo. However, the most popular cheap removal spell in sideboards is Chandra's Defeat, which the U/G variant of Pummeler conveniently sidesteps. Your opponents will have about as much removal as you have defensive pump spells, and if you're going in on a giant Longtusk Cub or Bristling Hydra, their removal may not matter at all.
And best of all, since the deck is built around a powerful energy shell, it's not all-in on having a big combo turn. You can win with regular beatdowns backed up by a Cartouche of Knowledge quite easily. The threat of dying will lead many opponents to play too conservatively, making this backup plan even stronger, so if you're looking to play this deck, I strongly suggest practicing how to leverage that false tempo.
Against aggro decks you have a great sideboard of Cartouche of Ambition and Greenbelt Rampager, although the rise in popularity of Harsh Mentor certainly poses a problem. You're going to want to play aggressively in this matchup, since the deck isn't nearly as good at playing defensively as Temur Energy, but that's okay. It's not hard to set up kills around Turns 4 to 6, which is plenty fast enough to win games against Ramunap Red and the like.
My support for this deck comes in large part from how frustrated Brad was playing against it in our recent Versus video. Any time I can get a rise out of Bradley is an achievement to be remembered, and his frustration was due to how infuriating this deck can be to play against. It has tons of sweepers that can effectively clean up the good creatures in Temur Energy and it finds those sweepers easily because of the incredible velocity the deck achieves via cycling.