Perhaps the outcome of this past weekend was due to being all over the place when it came to deck decisions for the PTQ.
Or perhaps it was just variance. Either way this past week was an unsuccessful attempt at yet another PTQ weekend. My options were to play in a paper PTQ or play in the Magic Online PTQ as well as the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) and it was a tough decision. It's not too often that paper PTQs end up near me but playing in two events compared to one felt like the clear decision. One of the downsides was that Magic Online is still in pre-M13 mode so it has been a bit of a disconnect as far as testing goes.
I spent all of last week reading articles tracking down decklists and trying to find a sweet spot in the metagame. However the majority of that was post-M13 testing because the paper PTQ was what I expected to play in. It was frustrating overall because as most of you know I'm not one that generally plays decks on the radar. To my own credit I think I was correct in not choosing a list like Naya Pod (which we'll get into later). Naya Pod didn't do very well online in the PTQ or offline in the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Las Vegas this past weekend. There wasn't a list that felt good—one that felt ahead of the curve or in a sweet spot in the rock-paper-scissors battle that's currently called Standard.
Decks I considered playing include Mono-Black Infect (MBI) Naya Pod Wolf Run Ramp (WRR) U/W Midrange and many other variants. Knowing myself well enough I opted against playing Delver as I just don't have enough experience playing with it; I only really know how to play against it.
After searching for what seemed like forever and considering a lot of the decks out there I ran into this idea late Thursday night from Magic Online. I started to test and tune it until I ended up with the following (reminder this is pre-M13):
- 4 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 2 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Primeval Titan
This list is surprisingly sweet and effective. What I underestimated was my matchup against green decks like G/R Aggro and Naya Pod. In fact the reason I played this was because it was supposed to be good against those decks but running into a few Hellriders ended my PTQ by round 5.
Before bringing it into the PTQ I played this all day long Friday against everything I could including in a Premier Event and a Daily Event. A bug in Magic Online booted me from the Premier but I had a 3-1 record in the Daily Event and was feeling really good about the deck. Without getting into too much detail I still felt the list lacked something and I ended up not being as confident as I could have been with something I'm more familiar with such as Zombies or G/R Aggro. Variance also hit me fairly hard in the form of many mulligans; however that could largely be due to the way the deck is built.
That PTQ ended up being dominated once again by Delver of Secrets.
Despite not doing very well I think I took more from away from this tournament than many other PTQs because I learned that running around scrambling in finding the "perfect deck" isn't very reasonable. There have been a few times where I've made or found a deck that would just roll through events online and I'd scream for the chance at a PTQ before people caught on. That was what I was searching for this week but it wasn't to be found.
My efforts would have been much more focused if I picked up a deck I enjoyed and trusted earlier. For me I think that should have been Zombies despite raving about G/R Aggro just a few weeks ago. Attacking with Strangleroot Geists is pretty awful right now because people have been playing a ton of Blade Splicers which isn't a card you want to be facing. At least Zombies has some more realistic ways to deal with Blade Splicer.
If the next week or two provides some amazing technology and you happen to stumble upon it make sure you find an event to play it in because those times don't come around too often!
This past weekend there was another StarCityGames.com Standard Open which B/R Zombies took down! It was pretty awesome to see Blood Artist taking down Delver. For reference here is the winning list:
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 3 Blood Artist
- 4 Diregraf Ghoul
- 3 Falkenrath Aristocrat
- 2 Fume Spitter
- 4 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Highborn Ghoul
I think Han has near the perfect mix and match of removal and reach in this deck. Brimstone Volley and Falkenrath Aristocrat can provide some large damage. And I think Highborn Ghoul is still a good call despite Gut Shot being a card. If Delver is paying two life to kill it it's not the worst thing in the world since Zombies is this year's Mono Red. So hats off to Han for his victory and bonus points for taking it down with Zombies.
It's interesting to see how few M13 cards Zombies has been using and I'm unsure if it's correct or not. Bloodthrone Vampire has been decent in testing as another reach spell which also doubles up well with Brimstone Volley.
Despite Zombies being a great choice of deck there are many decks that can thrive right now. In fact it's all of a sudden such a wide-open format that almost anything goes as long as you have a good game plan. Focused game plans can help you steal game 1s which should set you up for a match win if your sideboard is strong enough (similar to what Affinity did this past weekend at GP Columbus).
For a new idea check out this Elves variant that is based on a deck from John Cuvelier who placed in Top 16 of a 5K Standard event with it. I focused it down using his Genesis Wave and Fervor combo. Fervor is a card I think can really work well in Elves even if you aren't comboing off with it. Dropping an Elvish Archdruid with haste can help explode the board without giving your opponent a chance to answer it as easily.
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Copperhorn Scout
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Viridian Emissary
- 4 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
The idea is to explode the board hit six or more mana and slam a Genesis Wave; that's if you don't just Overrun them with Ezuri in the first place. Obviously there is a risk in running Elves because of Bonfire of the Damned but Elves can sneak under Day of Judgment fast enough a lot of the time (particularly this version). If you happen to hit Fervor off a Genesis Wave there are a lot of solid ways to win that battle.
Elves is a good choice against anything without board sweepers even Zombies despite having your early plays broken up fairly easily. You have a focused game plan and stick to it forcing your opponent to disrupt you. The sideboard here is just an idea and may or may not work but infective Elves can really throw your opponent off. Especially when you Overrun with a Triumph of the Hordes instead of doing regular damage.
But perhaps my favorite new idea is based on Sam Black's U/W Midrange shell this time splashing red for Bonfire of the Damned and Thundermaw Hellkite. This shell might be the best home I've seen for Thundermaw yet. Desperate Ravings seems like an odd choice over something like Thought Scour as there are some important cards in sculpting the right hand in this sort of strategy and Snapcaster Mage not being a four-of when you are playing with Pillar of Flames in addition to Ponder seems odd. I'm not sure all the numbers are correct but you can't go wrong using Blade Splicer and Restoration Angel right now.
- 4 Blade Splicer
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 2 Snapcaster Mage
- 1 Sun Titan
- 3 Thundermaw Hellkite
Between now and the next PTQ there are a multitude of decks to look at and digest. The metagame continues to change and evolve so whatever deck you choose make sure you aren't an underdog against too many cards or decks. Next week I hope to have come up with some solid ideas or tuned some decks to share but this week I wanted to share my experience and failures with you so perhaps you can make better decisions than me in the future.