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A Whole New World

Written by Austin Matthews on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

A Whole New World

Austin Matthews

Austin is a PPTQ/Open level grinder from Birmingham, AL. He’s got an Open top 8 under his belt and is looking to continue adding to his resume.

Hey, did you guys hear about Felidar Guardian getting banned?!

Oh, you’ve read 20 articles about it in the past week? I guess I won’t talk about it then.

…except I basically have to. At least a little bit.

Before Wednesday, I was looking forward to the Open in Atlanta, but mainly because I hadn’t been to a weekend-long Magic event since Grand Prix Pittsburgh. It was definitely not because of the format. Just like everyone else, I knew 4 Color Saheeli was the best deck in the format. Basically every article the week prior to the bannings was either talking about how busted (broken) the deck was and/or how it was going to get banned.

Once Monday rolled around and there were no bannings in Standard, I had to decide what deck to play in Atlanta. I knew I wasn’t going to play Mardu, which was the second best deck. I don’t have a good reason. I just didn’t want to be the person playing Scrapheap Scrounger, I guess.

I hate that card.

Anyways.

I had been toying around with a Blue-Red Control deck that got some new tools from Amonkhet, such as Magma Spray, Sweltering Suns, Essence Scatter, and Sphinx’s Revelation. …I mean Pull from Tomorrow. It had a pretty good matchup versus Saheeli thanks to Essence Scatter and Sweltering Suns. Magma Spray gave it some more game against Mardu, though it was still probably a dog in that matchup. Once I started testing out Commit // Memory I figured I at least had enough game against Gideon to have close games against Mardu.

Locked and loaded.

Then Wednesday happened.

I was eating delicious Smoky Mountain Fudge ice cream with my wife when I checked my phone and saw that one of my teammates posted in our Facebook group: “Holy **** guys they banned Cat we have to brew.” I dropped my phone on the table, yelled a couple of words that would’ve gotten soap shoved into my mouth when I was 10, and almost ran into my neighbor’s mailbox on the way home (almost).

You know that feeling you get when you realize you’ve basically wasted two days of your life? If you’re reading this, you probably do.
Was Blue Red still worth playing in an unknown metagame? Would I be able to get cards for another deck? Is Mardu the default best deck now? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Luckily, I was heading to Atlanta on Thursday to test with a teammate who lives there and has access to every standard card on Magic Online. Our team had started toying with the idea of a Green White Tokens deck based on the ones from a couple of seasons back. I was skeptical at first, because the deck was missing Hangarback Walker, Secure the Wastes, and Evolutionary Leap, which were all key pieces of the previous build. I also wasn’t sure I would be able to find everything I needed, which was 63 out of 75 cards in the deck (the deck played 12 basics).

I decided to stay locked with Blue Red for the reason of familiarity. I felt comfortable with the deck even though the format was unknown outside of Vehicles (and Delirium, which a lot of people were talking about), and I hoped that would give me an edge versus the clunkiness that week 1 of a new format is traditionally known to be.

Some of my other teammates were interested in Tokens but didn’t have the time to test, so I ended up building it on Magic Online to give them my results.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the deck at first. Cast Out was a great addition, but it, along with Stasis Snare and Heart of Kiran, made Oath of Nissa worse. After Thursday’s testing, I was off the deck, though a couple of my teammates locked it in as they knew they had access to everything they needed for it. Then Thursday’s Magic Online results were posted, and there were a couple of Green White lists that 5-0’d without Oath of Nissa. I was intrigued so tried it out myself on Friday.

Fast forward to 10 o’clock Friday night as I’m leaving my buddy’s apartment to drive 30 minutes away to Super Games to buy the cards I needed for Tokens. The deck was powerful and seemed to have the tools to beat Mardu and Delirium, which were likely going to be the most played decks.

I submitted this list Saturday morning:

I do think Tokens has potential moving forward, and these are the changes I would make if I were going to play the deck again next weekend (which I would if I had a tournament I was planning on going to): -2 Declaration in Stone, -1 land, -1 Tracker, -2 Angel of Sanctions, +4 Channeler Initiate, +1 Avacyn, +2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar, +1 Dissenter’s Deliverance. I basically want to speed up the draws, get rid of clunky removal, and hedge against Ishkanah, Grafwidow, because that card is back and more powerful than ever. The sideboard felt fine. Neither Blessed Alliance or Linvala, the Preserver came in very often, so there might be some better options there.

So, let’s talk about the new metagame. The day 2 breakdown is as follows:

Mardu Vehicles – 28
B/G Delirium – 14
U/R Control – 7
Jeskai Control – 6
G/W Tokens – 6
B/G Aggro – 5
Temur Aetherworks – 4
B/G Energy – 3
Sultai Delirium – 3
G/R Monsters – 3
B/R Eldrazi – 3
G/R Energy – 3
Bant Aetherworks – 3
Sultai Control – 3
U/R Emerge – 3
W/R Humans – 3
B/R Aggro – 2
Jund Delirium – 2
Jund Monsters – 2
+13 one-of decks

Unsurprisingly, Vehicles was the most popular deck by a pretty wide margin, with Delirium coming in at second with exactly half as many decks as Vehicles. These look to be the top two decks heading into the Pro Tour in a couple of weeks, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a top 8 littered with heaps of scrap and spiders everywhere.

I wasn’t sure how Aetherworks Marvel decks would perform since Manglehorn does a decent job at slowing them down, but I didn’t see as much of it in lists as I thought I would. Mike Segal’s 13th place list is the most intriguing version to me. Mike cares less about powering out Ulamogs on turn 4 and more about controlling the game until he gets to where he can start activating Marvel for value.

2 Dynavolt Tower
4 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot
4 Rogue Refiner
3 Anticipate
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Harnessed Lightning
2 Kozilek’s Return
3 Magma Spray
4 Aetherworks Marvel
3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 Attune with Aether
1 Nissa’s Renewal
5 Forest
2 Island
2 Mountain
4 Aether Hub
4 Botanical Sanctum
1 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
4 Spirebluff Canal

2 Torrential Gearhulk
2 Tireless Tracker
1 World Breaker
2 Dispel
2 Dissenter’s Deliverance
1 Kozilek’s Return
3 Negate
2 Baral’s Expertise

Another deck worth mentioning is the deck I almost played, which is URx Control, but I don’t think any of these decks could possibly be optimized yet. With Pull from Tomorrow being in the format, one of the pro teams is bound to find a solid control shell, especially since it would be easy to prey on the Delirium decks. It wouldn’t surprise me to see multiple Torrential Gearhulk decks in the top 8.

My biggest takeaway from this weekend is remembering just how powerful Ishkanah, Grafwidow really is. While armies of cats win the fight against armies of spiders, once the cats leave, the spiders take over. I don’t think there’s a matchup Ishkanah isn’t good in. Against Vehicles and other aggressive decks she puts multiple blockers in the way, while versus slower decks she creates multiple attackers they’re forced to deal with while providing a very real clock in her ability to drain.

We can all agree that the way Wizards went about banning Felidar Guardian was ridiculous and their reasoning behind the late ban was hard to believe, but we should be happy about the format we currently have. It looks to be pretty wide open, and this Pro Tour should be a deeelight.

Until next time,
Austin

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