A few weeks ago I talked about the natural ebb and flow of Standard with its rotation schedule which basically starts from a slightly gibbous half-moon up to a full moon and back down to a gibbous half-moon again waxing.
One of the things that puts a kink in this imagination of Standard is the constantly split nature of the format. And it is split because of one thing—one huge thing.
It's not just this of course but sometimes it just boils down to is that the release schedules for Magic Online and paper Magic/real life Magic (or whatever you prefer to call it) are out of sync. Here we are in the midst of a PTQ season and we have two major different paths to the Pro Tour. In the realm of Magic Online we are still in essence "living in the past." M13 is not yet available and the metagame has largely been well defined explored and gone over with a fine toothcomb by the Magic Hive Mind full of its MODO-grinders continually at work to find the best weapons available have been at that formatfor a long time now.
Meanwhile simultaneously we have a fairly fresh format M13 Standard which is still being explored even now. But the way that it is being explored is simply…different. There isn't a way to really grind it like we see in Magic Online. And yet there is a whetstone of sorts in the form of the SCG Open Series which while not MODO (Magic Online Digital Objects; for you young whippersnappers you might call it M.O.L.) still serves as a kind of area to truly temper decks albeit not as relentlessly as you see online.
These PTQ formats running in parallel truly do get to inform each other but that is largely because of one simple truth: until Return to Ravnica gets printed paper and digital Magic are only the smallest dash away from each other. Paper Magic is in the true "full moon" stage whereas digital Magic is just one step behind on this not quite at the full moon stage. If we were just one step further along in the cycle the two would be wildly wildly different but that is not the case right now.
I know that Sam Black for example largely played the exact same thing at the SCG Open Series in St. Louis that he'd been playing in Standard before the rotation. As he saw it not enough had changed for him to do more than change one or two cards in his deck to respond to the metagame. And as for new cards: zero.
Here is his deck:
What changed? One more Day of Judgment. Impressive use of M13 right? Well what would he really want from M13? Sometimes there just aren't cards that fit your needs in a new set. What is Sam's deck looking for from the new set? If we stretch even maybe we could say the following:
But I wouldn't recommend any of it honestly. Kudos to Sam for keeping it as was.
So what does an "old-style" online event look like right now?
Here are the results from this weekend with 203 people:
And how did this Top 8 even play out?
Delver over Delver Architect over Delver Delver over G/R Aggro and Delver over Naya Pod.
Other than Architect managing to pull off that win in the first round of the Top 8 (it was vanquished in the Top 4) it was all Delver all the time.
This is interesting to me in a lot of ways. The biggest of which is the sheer utter dominance of Delver-variants still. In the SCG circuit after the rotation we've seen an incredible amount of variety. We were seeing a lot of different decks. But it wasn't so long ago that it felt like the format was largely "done." Yes we were seeing Esper taking down Delver on the SCG circuit but one thing that I think is worth noting is that SCG events are in my opinion much easier than PTQs.
Here is the winning Delver list from the online PTQ. Remember it is pre-M13:
There isn't really anything too wild about this list to my mind other than zero Mana Leaks. This is a Delver deck that has decided it really quite simply wants to be able to attack and it will rely on your fear of Leak to get some work done slowing you down with Vapor Snag and Gut Shot hopefully taking the role of tempo-advantage for the deck.
It is a Pike list so it has a fair number of cantrips but amazingly despite being a Pike list (even with only two) it only runs two Thought Scour and three Probe (for a total of nine cantrips). Nine cantrips isn't what we usually associate with Pike decks but laddy's deck doesn't truly feel like a dedicated Pike list but rather a partial Pike list; maybe this is arbitrary but I feel like three Pikes is what you need to make the line of being a fully "dedicated" list.
I think the thing that really marks laddy's list more than Pike or Leak is the Phyrexian mana cards four Gut Shot and three Mutagenic Growth as well as the inclusion on top of four Geist of Saint Traft of a single Blade Splicer. All of this to me says that laddy really wanted to beat green decks. Even no Mana Leak seems like it fits this goal. Right now this seems like a pretty good call for the most part.
Perhaps then this is the way we should expect to see Delver decks move: further away from an aggro-control role and more into and aggro one. The danger of course of this move is that it makes you more vulnerable to controlling lists. But do they really exist in the "past" online or in the now?
This weekend at a 177-player PTQ in Madison WI the following Top 8 (my thanks to Misty Mountain Games of Madison and its manager Ben Rislove for this information):
1st – Mono-Green Infect
2nd – Naya Pod
3rd – Mono-Green Infect
4th – Delver
5th – B/R Zombies
6th – G/R Aggro
7th – Naya Pod
8th – Blue Wolf Run
2 Naya Pod
2 Mono-Green Infect
1 G/R Aggro
1 B/R Zombies
1 Blue Wolf Run (notably Brian Kowal)
Mono-Green Infect put not only two people into the Top 8 (one of them contributing to my failed PTQ attempt defeating me in round 4) but it was the number one player at the end of the Swiss.
While I don't have access to the new lists verbatim so-to-speak I watched them up until I left and I can tell you that I only saw the following new cards:
The Delver list didn't have Talrand so literally those two cards were it.
And unsurprising to many I'm sure it won:
To win this deck first beat Zombies then Mono-green Infect before finally defeating Naya Pod in the finals. For the most part this deck is incredibly straightforward actively going with a Yuuya-style (twelve cantrips Geist Restoration Angel and Pike) but giving itself a slight nod to Sword of War and Peace still.
What makes this decklist and this Top 8 so worth noticing?
177 players is a really large PTQ. Further Madison PTQs are quite strong by comparison with many events though to be fair the Madison events are much better known for the strength of the competition in Limited rather than Constructed.
But this deck shows that M13 really hasn't changed the world. Usually that is the case particular at "full moon" but it really is worth noting that you don't have to do much with whatever deck you used to be playing as opposed to what you're playing now.
Of course there is one big new thing:
While I don't have the lists for the two Mono-Green Infect lists I'm pretty sure I can do a rough guess. Do note this is based on what I saw not what was actually in the deck so I could be wildly off:
While it may be depressing to some that Delver won "before" and is winning now "anew" it still seems to me that Standard is something to be excited about. I'm certainly seeing far more variety in the new Standard than I was before both in the SCG Open Series and in real-world PTQs. Unless Mono-Green Infect really delivers a KO punch to the metagame I think this variety is going to continue as well. And even if it does I think the meta can react to it.
I for one am still trying to make Mono Red work. I may have to wait til Return to Ravnica though…
Until next week