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Flash is Dead. Long Live Flash.

Written by Tim Bachmann on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Flash is Dead.  Long Live Flash.

Tim Bachmann

Hailing from northeast Pennsylvania, Tim has been playing since Mirrodin, and has been playing competitively since Dragons of Tarkir. With aspirations of playing on the Pro Tour, Tim plays in as many PPTQs and GPs as he can.

Sometimes, a deck comes along that you just fall in love with.  The cards are great, the strategy is great, everything lines up with exactly the kind of Magic you like to play.  This was true for the last year or so with me and Bant Company.  Even when it wasn’t considered the best deck, either being outshone by 4 color Rally, or G/W Tokens, the deck was just a blast to play.  I had a lot of medium success with the deck and its various iterations; top-eighting numerous PPTQs and IQs, making finals appearances in a couple of PPTQs, but never really sealing the deal.

Alas times have changed…and Reflector Mage and Spell Queller are as good as ever!  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two-three weeks, you know that U/W Flash was the best performing Standard deck at the Pro Tour.  So much so that the following weekend showed that in GP Kuala Lumpur, as an astounding six of the eight decks in the top eight were the U/W deck.  We did see though that the deck could be beat, as only one copy made it into the G/B Delirium infused top eight of GP Providence that same weekend.

Now we move into this past weekend, with Grand Prix in Warsaw, Poland, and Santiago, Chile.  The White Blue Flash deck was certainly the deck to beat, and had an Affinity sized target on its back.  This showed as well, as across the two Grand Prix, there was only one copy of the White Blue Flash deck in either top eight.

BUT YOU CAN’T KEEP ‘EM DOWN!  #DeanScream.  Both of the W/U Flash lists would become the eventual tournament winners, slogging through myriads of G/B Delirium lists in the top eight.  In fact, across both top eights, G/B Delirium, a deck seemingly known to prey on W/U Flash, made up a total of ten slots.

Before the top eights played out though, I had a deep conversation with my Magical confidant.  Readers of my column know him as Joe.  Now, if I’m a controlly “Tempo-esque” player, because that’s typically the type of Magic I like to play, Joe is certainly a Gruul Dragonmage.  You give Joe a few 5 cmc Dragons, perhaps they even have additional abilities like Protection from White or even something from eons past like Monstrosity, and Joe will win you an IQ.

You see, Joe likes certain types of decks, like a lot of Magic players do.  But he also is able to concede when a certain strategy is not fit for a metagame, even if it takes him a minute to come around.  Week 2, Joe was on G/R Energy, and I talked him down off that ledge (even though I admit that the deck is probably better than I give it credit for).  So Joe moved to vehicles (which also had a top eight this past weekend).  But with the advent of U/W, he moved over to that deck, and is now riding what the people in my playgroups call the Tim Bachmann rollercoaster.  This is the ride that you get a free ticket for when you buy season passes to formats like Modern.

Sometimes the deck or style that you enjoy playing isn’t as competitive as you’d like it to be, but you still have to play the format because you both love Magic and want to win some event.  So what do you do?  You talk like a mad man, a scatter brain, with no direction, and you’re really high on a certain deck you have close to no attachment to, until you’re handed your first match loss to some tier three deck that you could not have in a million years expected to play against, and all of a sudden the deck you had been crushing on for weeks is the worst deck and you want to snap sell it, and move onto some other mediocre deck.  The architect of this roller coaster, is of course its namesake, me.

I explained to Joe that if he like the U/W deck, just stick with it.  It had just a huge target on its head with all the delirium running around, and this is the sign of a healthy metagame.  Healthy metagames like this churn, and I explained that next weekend everyone would be playing Aetherworks Marvel decks to beat the G/B Delirium decks, and then we’re back to U/W, and so it goes.

But then I just woke up this morning and got super giddy because I saw that U/W won both of the Grand Prix.  It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited about a deck.  I really don’t know how to express the feeling, but when a deck that you love beats hate to win, you just want to express your love and shout it from the rooftops.  I explained this to Joe, who is an Affinity aficionado in Modern, and he has been for as long as I knew Modern was a format, and he understood what I was saying instantly.

I’m still not sure which deck Joe will land on, but I know for sure, that I’ll be playing Gideon, Avacyn, Reflector Mages, and Spell Quellers until the next rotation most likely.

So the eventual winner of GP Warsaw was Gabrielius Kaklauskus with this list:

So there are a few innovations that the W/U community has been moving toward, and Gabrielius’ list is a good amalgamation of those changes.  First, from the Pro Tour lists, you’ll notice that the Rattlechains have been replaced with Thalia, Heretic Cathar.  Since blue based control decks are on the decline lately, Rattlechains loses stock, as it’s poor at defense, and can’t really attack through an Ishkanah, Grafwidow or Smuggler’s Copter.  Thalia, on the other hand, is great against most creatures in the current format.  She’s strong against threats with Flash since those flash creatures can no longer block, and she’s strong against Ishkanah, because both the Grafwidow and her tokens come into play tapped, allowing the U/W deck to attack past the spiders for an additional turn.

Next is the move to Spell Shrivel from the other counterspells.  In the past we’ve seen maybe more Negates, Ceremonious Rejection, even Void Shatter.  The U/W decks have narrowed down that Void Shatter would be ideal, but you’re playing a mostly white deck, so hitting the double blue on Void Shatter is difficult.  Therefore, Spell Shrivel is the counterspell of choice to stop a turn 5 Delirium Ishkanah.  Exiling is a big deal, so we can’t just run Scatter to the Winds either, even though that’d be difficult in the same way Void Shatter is to pull off.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Immolating Glare, since there are so many Indestructible effects in Standard, as well as Immolating Glare requiring Smuggler’s Copter to attack and get a trigger before being able to kill it, but I do like it slightly over Declaration in Stone for the general metagamer, as Declaration in Stone is actually dead against Vehicles.

Anyway, these are all good changes that I will be looking to play this weekend as I start my final PPTQ run of the year.  I’ve been playing more Magic Online, so I believe I have a better chance at winning an event in this final season of the year than I previously did.  Hopefully we can get there.

Until next time!

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