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Let’s go to Vegas

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern, Standard

Well, I’m back! I have no real excuse for missing my article last week. The deadline just slipped by without me noticing. But don’t worry, I’ll have an article every Monday for the next few weeks at least. There will be a break for the SCG Vegas Invitational, but other than that it should be quite consistent.

Two articles ago, I went over the decks I was considering for Vegas. I’m happy to report that I have settled on my decks for each portion of the Invitational (Standard and Modern). In fact, I have a list of 150 cards I plan to register exactly as-is.

Wait, it’s almost a month until the tournament starts and I have all 150 cards locked in already? Pretty much. If either format shifts drastically, I might change the particulars up a bit, but other than that I will likely play these exact lists. There are a few reasons I can get away with this, the primary one being that both decks are extremely proactive.

Before I go into the particulars of each deck and why I think I can get away with determining my exact 75s three and a half weeks early, let me show you the lists.

As you can see, I did eventually settle on Abzan Aggro for Standard. I will probably play this deck in every major tournament until Khans and Fate Reforged rotate out of the format. This is because the deck is absurdly powerful and very difficult to attack directly. Removal and card advantage help, but I have Gideon, Deathdealer, and Shambling Vent main as well as discard, Painful Truths, and Tasigur out of the sideboard. For the decks trying to go under, removal plus Sorin makes that plan difficult. Any deck trying to grind me out with graveyard shenanigans has to contend with Anafenza and Abzan Charm. There are really no easy ways to plan to beat Abzan Aggro.

The reason I call this deck “The Real Abzan Aggro” is that I’m running Deathdealers. Any Abzan deck that wants to be called an Aggro deck has to run at least 10 early creatures (Den Protectors don’t count). The Abzan deck that won the Pro Tour was a midrange deck (albeit a very proactive one). I’ve addressed this nuance in a past article, so I won’t go into it any more right now.

The primary reason I think this deck doesn’t have to be altered tremendously to suit the metagame is that its answers are so universal. Murderous Cut kills any creature, from an attacking Ojutai to a Monastery Swiftspear to an opposing Siege Rhino. Abzan Charm exiles any creature big enough to be a problem, including Gideon, and draws cards or makes my creatures bigger when my opponent doesn’t have anything big. Dromoka’s Command lets my creatures fight anything and get bigger, and also answers any problematic enchantments or burn spells. The four-of creatures are basically locked in, and Gideon is the most powerful supplementary threat.

The only cards that are liable to change are the Self-Inflicted Wounds in the main and the third Transgress in the sideboard. As the format is currently, Wound breaks the mirror, GW Megamorph, and Esper Dragons matchups wide open, and has some utility against Jeskai, GR Landfall, and Eldrazi Ramp. However, if the format shifts away from those decks, then I will shift away from maindeck Wounds.

If decks like Esper Tokens and Four-Color Aristocrats start popping up in higher numbers, the last Transgress the Mind in the sideboard could become Hallowed Moonlight in order to combat them. However, the metagame isn’t currently focused enough on tokens or reanimation to warrant that, so the third Transgress is a hedge against random decks. It could also become another Duress or another Surge of Righteousness if the metagame becomes more aggressive. But for the most part, I’m planning to stick with this 75 for Standard.

Great matchups: GW Megamorph, Hangarback Abzan, Jeskai, Aristocrats
Good matchups: Jeskai Black, GR Landfall, Eldrazi Ramp, Esper Tokens
Questionable matchups: Atarka Red

As far as Modern is concerned, ending up on Amulet Bloom took me completely by surprise. When I have time to prepare for a format, I tend to avoid glass cannon type decks that are extremely linear and don’t have a tremendous amount of play to them, unless those decks are very powerful. Well, Amulet Bloom is very powerful, but it is also much less linear than it first appears and has an absolutely tremendous amount of play to it. First of all, it can kill on turn two with a good hand or even turn one with the perfect hand. Second of all, when your opponent is forced to spend a tremendous amount of resources stopping the combo, the Ravnica bounce lands actually serve as card advantage, especially when combined with a value land like Khalni Garden or Temple of Mystery.

Amulet Bloom also has a tremendous amount of redundancy and card selection. Summoner’s Pact can find a threat in Primeval Titan or a ramp spell in Azusa. Tolaria West can find Summoner’s Pact, bounce lands, value lands, or other Pacts to stay alive or guarantee a kill. Ancient Stirrings can find Tolaria West, lands, or even Amulet of Vigor. Additionally, the deck can win by either Primeval Titan or Hive Mind, making it hard for opponents to prepare for every eventuality.

Because of how consistent and redundant the deck needs to be, and its necessity to have the potential to be explosive, there are very few adjustments to make. You’ll notice that my list is a single card off from Tom Martell’s; this is not a coincidence. I started testing with his list and only had one issue with the deck: the Hornet Queen. Hornet Queen is in the sideboard for the Jund and Abzan matchups, and it’s a fine card, but I got stranded on five or six mana too often for my liking, so I swapped it for a Sigarda. Sigarda is great versus removal and Liliana of the Veil, and although she’s difficult to cast with WW, Cavern and careful sequencing help mitigate that.

I don’t want to go into matchups a whole lot for Modern, mostly because there are so many viable decks. I will say that I feel at least slightly favored against almost every deck except for Twin, against which I feel significantly unfavored. It’s not that the Twin matchup is unwinnable, because there are certainly draws that crush them and if the Twin player makes even one mistake, even a small one, you can steal the game, but the matchup as a whole is very difficult.

I’m actually very confident in my chances for this Invitational. While my Standard deck in Somerset was a bit further ahead of the field, the field as a whole was more powerful, and I was woefully under-prepared for Legacy. Going into Vegas, I’m prepared for both formats, I know what I’m up against, and I’m a slightly better player to boot. All I need is one more win than Somerset to cash, but I’m not settling for top 64. Plan on seeing me in the top 8.

Thanks for reading!

Casper Mulholland

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