It's 3:30am on Friday I've just seen Iron Man: 2 and I'm wide awake. I've got a triple cheeseburger from Waffle House in my stomach and a lot on my mind so let’s get to it. It’s currently my birthday. I'm 24 and don't really know what I'm going to do with my life. I'm going to try to start back school in the fall but I'm also looking forward to a lot of the tournaments coming up. Grand Prix: DC is coming soon and will be followed immediately afterward by Pro Tour: San Juan. I don't want to be unprepared and luckily Magic Online is going to start release events for Rise of the Eldrazi before either tournament starts so I'll be able to get in some valuable playtesting.
First of all Legacy IS fun. I know I said some harsh things last week and made some premature generalizations about the format that are not 100% true but I still stand by a lot of what I said. I'm not sure exactly how to say this but the Legacy community as a whole is very protective of its format and there is nothing wrong with that. I'll admit I get caught up in what people say about me because I'm a very emotional person. I try to not let things get to me but I just can't fade what a lot of people said last week. My emotions are the reason I go on tilt so badly when I'm losing. Also I know I can be a touch on the arrogant side from time to time and it shows in my writing on occasion. Losing hurts a lot and doing as poorly as I did last week it should be no surprise that I really beat myself up. Last week was disappointing on so many levels and I was as brutally honest as I could be but in doing so it didn't come off the way I wanted it to with a lot of readers. I didn't lie and say I had played a ton of Legacy nor did I honestly think I would win either tournament due to my failure to thoroughly prepare. My failures were not what I was trying to impress upon you because while important they were not something I specifically wanted to talk about. It is very difficult to express what I felt when playing in the Legacy tournament because the experience was something that I never want to feel again: boredom. Not every game in Legacy leads to this experience but there are decks that are more likely to cause games where there is little or no interaction causing games to be short and boring for those on the receiving end. While these decks might be considered good my real goal is to dissuade you from playing the decks that have a difficult time interacting (i.e. Goblins). Sure there are some interesting things going on and certain matchups are pretty fun but to me Magic is all about interaction. Limited formats are usually a blast because so many cards are interacting that you don't normally get to play with. Interaction is what makes Magic an interesting game (see EDH) otherwise we'd all just play Solitaire.
This week I want to start fresh. I want to make amends with the Legacy community and just let you know that I will stay away from the format (as far as writing is concerned) until I learn a lot more about it. While I think I do have a mild grasp on it I don't think I'm seasoned or respected enough to make such bold claims like I did last week. Hopefully we can use last week's article as a reflection piece on how not to approach a new format or topic of discussion and move forward. With such limited experience I know I'm not the most qualified to tell you "how it is" in a format as broad as Legacy. Sure there are some general truths that most people know about Legacy but it goes much deeper than I gave it credit for though there are some important things we all need to learn. I also made some pretty terrible statements about Vintage but that is mostly due to my ignorance of the format and "stream of consciousness" style of writing. When I get on a tangent it is very hard for me to get off it.
With all of that out of the way we can really get started on Standard. Grand Prix: DC is just around the corner and there are a lot of things to discuss. First of all Jund is still a big contender in the metagame despite what some people might say/think. It did get second at the StarCityGames.com Atlanta Standard Open and if built differently it could have a much better chance against the new Super Friends (Planeswalker) deck. While people have foretold the coming of Jund's demise before I don't think this is anything different. Sure Super Friends might have a decent matchup against Jund but few people (if any) can beat Jund's absurd nut draws. Sometimes you just get cascaded out no matter what position you are sitting in. The Jund players are all infamous for this because it tends to happen more often than people are willing to admit. Your average Jund player can make multiple critical mistakes and still be in the game because of their deck's strength. I don't want to take away from anyone who plays Jund because I know that plenty of great players will choose Jund specifically because it is just that good.
With that said Super Friends seems primed to be best deck for Standard. So what does that mean to you? For one thing if you are planning on playing it yourself it means plenty of hours of playtesting. The deck is not the easiest to play since Planeswalkers by nature give you many choices each turn. "Getting aggressive" with Gideon Jura might be one of the more difficult things to figure out since he occasionally reaches across the table to smack an opponent or opposing Planeswalker. Gideon is a great new weapon for all forms of White decks since he can act as both a finisher and a big protective brother to your other Planeswalkers. Unless your opponent has at least 8 power in play Gideon is probably sticking around a bit longer to kill your opponent. Suffice it to say that Gideon is the new Baneslayer Angel and has much less of a drawback. Being a creature in a format full of this much removal is a huge liability and Gideon even goes so far as to have synergy with your Wrath effects making him a pretty ridiculous threat post-Wrath. A 6/6 for five mana is nothing to scoff at and having multiple other incredible abilities makes Gideon the only real contender with Baneslayer Angel for that slot in any white control deck. At the moment I think that Gideon wins. Here is my current list for "Super Friends."
Now you may notice that I did not change much to the deck but that is mostly because I think the deck was pretty ludicrous in the first place. Second the things I did change I thought were very crucial. For one the metagame is going to shift a little which may make certain cards better than others. Day of Judgment will probably be necessary in order to survive the early game against Allies and Red. Having the third Day of Judgment instead of the second Martial Coup will come in handy more often than you would think since I doubt you will win many games off the back of making a ton of 1/1's. While I do know the explosive potential that Martial Coup can have I don't think it really deserves a ton of slots in a deck without mana acceleration. It was much better in the other versions of UW where you had Knight of the White Orchid Borderposts and Everflowing Chalices. In this version you play fair when casting your spells but mostly because your spells are generally much higher in quality.
The other change I made was adding a fourth Jace the Mind Sculptor over the third Elspeth Knight-Errant. I don't think this version of UW gives Elspeth full value since her Angelic Blessing ability is not nearly as useful in this deck as it would be when combined with a dork like Knight of the White Orchid which means most of the time she is just going to be making blockers to protect her and her brethren. While this isn't terrible I think having more Jace is better since Jace is just ridiculous in almost every matchup. Hopefully Jund will become less popular making Jace even better in the format than he was before. While Jace is awesome he does not flourish in a format full of Blightning. But when the mirror is prevalent and people are playing Polymorph and the like Jace becomes absolutely ridiculous. I think adding the fourth gives you a much higher chance to draw it as well as the ability to win the Jace war.
As for the rest of the field you have a few things to worry about when you're playing Super Friends. For one Polymorph is actually a pretty bad matchup if you don't prepare yourself accordingly. Ben Stark opted to cut his Meddling Mages from the sideboard where Laskin had them. I actually think that you'll want more since people will figure out pretty quickly just how good this deck is and play strategies that attack it in a different direction. First of all if you don't resolve a Jace the Mind Sculptor you're probably going to lose. If you are the second person to resolve a Jace then you are going to be much further behind than you want to be. It might be worth it to take this a step further and begin running more copies of Jace Beleren in the sideboard in order to help preemptively kill their Jace along with drawing you a card in the process. Jace Beleren is no slouch but he does pale in comparison to his new self. However there are some matchups where casting him a turn early could be huge.
I still like the Negate plan in the board but also recognize how bad Negate can be in some matchups so I don't want any maindeck. In the last few weeks on Magic Online where people were winning PTQs with UW Tap Out they started to maindeck a few Negates to help fight the mirror. However Negate is pretty awful against decks like Jund and Allies which are probably two of the more popular archetypes (at least on Magic Online). It is also really bad against Mythic since most of those lists only play a few Planeswalkers and now the 2 Eldrazi Conscription (which are rarely hard-cast). Having Negate and Flashfreeze against Red decks helps a lot too since their new big and bad spell is Devastating Summons. If you get caught with your pants down after a Wrath effect you could be in a world of hurt. I would think that most versions of the Bushwhacker Summons decks are going to start splashing black for Goblin Outlander and other goodies since White control decks are becoming more and more prevalent. If not then all you really have to do to beat them is not tap out. If you tap out against them with nothing on board you can expect to be dead shortly after. They will sandbag the Bushwhacker and Summons combo until you are at your most vulnerable point and put you away. If you can take a calculated risk and their nut draw doesn't kill you then you should be okay to cast your Day of Judgment to kill their Plated Geopedes and Goblin Guides. Wall of Omens should play a vital role in keeping your life total high enough to survive an all-in Bushwhacker attack so do your best to keep him in play. Gideon also plays well against them since all of their hasted creatures must attack Gideon if you +2 him even if they weren't in play during the last turn.
One of the best parts about this deck is that you are better in any of the UW matchups than they are because you are running more of the cards that matter most: Planeswalkers. Neither deck has a great answer other than Oblivion Ring to the opposing Planeswalkers and cards like Gideon and Ajani Vengeant go a long way in fighting opposing control strategies. Ajani Vengeant can be particularly devastating seeing as he can lock down manlands one of their primary colors or even Armageddon them if he isn't dealt with pronto. However I expect there to be fewer and fewer versions of the UW Tap Out deck since they are pretty similar and the Red splash gives you access to one of the format's best weapons. Ajani Vengeant isn't particularly amazing by himself but each Planeswalker just becomes more and more bananas when teamed up with one another. I don't think I have ever lost a game where my opponent had to decide which Planeswalker he wanted to attack but this deck forces that decision often which means lots of good things for you.
One of the most important matchups is going to be the mirror. If order to fight the mirror you have to know a few things. First of all Jace is the best card for the mirror hands down. He gains you card advantage which is something the Super Friends deck really lacks when fighting control mirrors. Your usual draws containing Wall of Omens and Spreading Seas are much worse in the control mirrors than against other decks because they aren't generating as much of an advantage as they usually do. Siding out Wall of Omens is recommended though Spreading Seas has the ability to shut them off their singleton Red mana source or turn off their Celestial Colonnades. Cards like Everflowing Chalice would be much better in these matchups but I am not one for sideboarding mana sources and I can't even begin to figure out where you would put them if you wanted them maindeck. You curve well enough and I'm not sure they are entirely necessary without Mind Spring and more than the single Martial Coup.
If I had to play a Standard tournament tomorrow this is hands down what I would play. Stark and Laskin both came into Atlanta with a good sense of the format and how to attack it and the results they put up where phenomenal. They "outmidranged" Jund which is incredibly hard to do seeing as Jund has been the king of midrange for quite some time. Their Planeswalker deck generates so much advantage in such a short period of time that it is very hard to get back into the game once you have fallen behind. Sure most decks have either Oblivion Ring or Maelstrom Pulse to off one of your threats but you have plenty of Walkers ready to run it back. It is difficult to explain just how much having multiple Planeswalkers in play amplifies each one of their powers because that incremental advantage starts to multiply when you are using one of their abilities per turn building towards your Phase 3 endgame. Most of those are won by Gideon Jura but Celestial Colonnade helps as does Elspeth and Jace. You don't have a shortage of win conditions though calling Ajani Vengeant a "win condition" is a little loose. That was one of my early thoughts when playing with the deck since on paper it doesn't look like you actually have that many cards that win the game but when you can set up a board position with multiple Planeswalkers it is not hard to get one of them to Ultimate status which should end the game rather quickly.
After battling some against Polymorph I can safely say that they have an incredibly difficult time beating Meddling Mage. He's an early beater to attack their Jace and pretty much wrecks their entire gameplan due to their lack of removal. This could be the only time in Standard where Meddling Mage ends up being a good sideboard card but that is mostly due to the fact that this is the first time in a while there has been a valid combo deck in Standard. Meddling Mage is in a prime position to fight the decks that give control a bit of trouble. However having four copies of Path to Exile Jace as well as backup Negates and Meddling Mages in the sideboard the matchup shouldn't be too entirely difficult. The games can go long and you will often give them a lot of time to set up but you have a lot of gas in your deck and can potentially keep them off of their combo long enough to Ultimate either Jace or Ajani Vengeant. The Negates and Meddling Mages are just so ridiculous in this matchup since Negate is actually a hard counter if they are playing Emrakul (since he can't be countered anyways) and Meddling Mage doesn't even need protection.
One thing about the newer versions of Red decks is that they have a bit of staying power and aren't really relying on creatures that just die at the end of turn. Cards like Hell's Thunder and Hellspark Elemental have fallen completely out of favor thanks to the explosive power of Devastating Summons and Goblin Bushwhacker. These newer versions are more susceptible to Day of Judgment but are pretty absurd if they nut draw you. This exchange of power at different points in the game can be beneficial if you know how to make use of it. Plated Geopede is still a beating but your wall can stall long enough to prevent 5 damage letting you buy time enough to cast Gideon or Day of Judgment to sweep the board. Unfortunately tapping out can be incredibly dangerous so do so only if you are otherwise dead or need to actively take risks to win the game. Gideon Jura can be a great fog machine and even locks out their Bushwhacker combo which is nice. They will probably not even bother trying to kill your Planeswalkers unless they have to so keep in mind that they are always trying to dome you when possible because burn thrown at Planeswalkers is always beneficial to you. Use your life total wisely.
Path to Exile really shines in this matchup and especially so against the newer versions playing Kargan Dragonlord. If this trend of Mono Red continues (vs. Black-Red) then you should be in okay shape. With Black it can become a little harder when they play Blightning or Goblin Outlander since both of those cards put you under real pressure. Additionally Spreading Seas is pretty poor in this matchup so you should be siding those out when possible for cards like Celestial Purge and Flashfreeze. I would really like to fit some Kor Firewalkers into the sideboard but Wall of Denial plays the damage prevention game a little better due to most versions of Red playing either sided Doom Blades Deathmarks or Unstable Footings. Wall of Denial puts up all sorts of defense and when combined with Wall of Omens can make for some unhappy Red mages. Red will probably be one of your more difficult matchups but stick to the gameplan and you should be okay. Unfortunately most decks in Standard have their nut draw that is nigh unbeatable so don't get yourself down if you keep dying the turn after you cast Day of Judgment. It doesn't happen as often as it seems.
I'll be testing this on MTGO for the coming weeks before the Grand Prix and hopefully I'll be able to post some results with it. The deck is really good and I would recommend this to any control player since it just wins over and over with plenty of "still had all these Gideons" draws. If you aren't planning on playing with this deck then you definitely need to test against it. Finding out the weaknesses in the deck might end up being a challenge but we'll see very soon if people are able to adapt to the Super Friends tearing up the metagame. At least Jund will have to do something different in order to win which might make the format a little healthier for us all. And after all isn't that all we really wanted with the new set? I know I'm glad that Bloodbraid Elf isn't the most powerful card in Standard anymore. Thanks Gideon! You're my new Super Hero.
Thanks for reading.
strong sad on MTGO