The Mythic Invitational takes place exclusively on MTG Arena. The matches will be best-of-one. The format will be Duo Standard. What is Duo Standard? That's a great question. Each competitor chooses to bring two decks to the tournament (they can be the same or different). You play two games, one with each deck, against your opponent's two decks. If you're tied 1-1 after the first two games, you choose which deck you want to play for the third game.
That's the basic tournament structure. There are of course more details, but that should be enough of an idea for those who aren't aware of what the Mythic Invitational is all about. A lot of this is new. There was one way to prepare for this tournament, and that was playing best-of-one on MTG Arena. I did a lot of that, at one point making it up to the 4th ranked Mythic spot. I tried everything and more trying to figure out and make sense of the format.
Choosing a deck for best-of-one requires a very different approach compared to best-of-three. They really are two completely separate formats. Sideboards don't generally come into play unless you are playing with Mastermind's Acquisition. This means I had to throw out some decks I liked from playing best-of-three, and start completely fresh. In addition, because the Mythic Invitational takes place on MTG Arena it is important to take into account the hand smoothing algorithm that favors mono-colored aggressive decks.
With all that said, let's get into where my testing has led me, and what the best decks are for playing best-of-one Standard in my opinion. I will also be telling you the two decks I ended up selecting to play in the tournament. In my opinion there are three tier 1 decks. And then a number of options after that.
This is one of, if not the very top deck in best-of-one Standard. The deck floods the board with creatures very effectively, and with cards like Benalish Marshal and Unbreakable Formation it is easy to make your threats quite large. Unlike best-of-three where we are used to seeing W/U Aggro, the blue splash doesn't make sense here because the blue is mostly for sideboard cards.
Now I will be revealing the two decks I am playing. The first is Mono-Red Aggro. I really like having one of the mono-colored linear aggro decks as part of my duo lineup.
This is a pretty stock version of the archetype. Some versions play Risk Factor, but I prefer Experimental Frenzy. Experimental Frenzy is the type of card that can dig you out of difficult spots even when behind, and your opponent can still be at a high life total. After trying both 18- and 20-land variants I'm confident that 19 lands is the perfect number. The only other major decision is numbers on Fanatical Firebrand and Skewer the Critics. I made the controversial decision of shaving down to three Fanatical Firebrand to have a bit more burn in the Skewer the Critics.
I like pairing an aggro deck with a more controlling one because it is very tough to find decks that beat both aggro and control (if they even exist). My strategy is choosing two out of the top three decks in the format, and not being too weak to one particular deck the opponent can bring. This is what led me to Esper Control. There are a couple different ways to take the Esper color combination. The most classic and popular approach is the one I will be showing up with. Here is the list:
You will notice that I have posted a sideboard. That's right, this deck does include the card Mastermind's Acquisition. Mastermind's Acquisition is only a one-of as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is still the primary win condition. Still, being able to access another 15 cards is super valuable. There is a delicate mix of removal, countermagic and card draw here. The goal is to try to have enough good stuff in case you have to play a mirror match, but still have enough removal and lifegain to combat the aggro decks. This isn't easy to pull off.
One of the biggest pulls to playing Esper Control is the potential to strand bad removal spells in the opponent's hand. By not playing any creatures it means that if the opponent Opts to play a card like Lava Coil or Cast Down in their deck you are very happy. With that said many players are aware of this, and will try to configure their decks in the best possible way to try and beat Esper Control. I have seen players go to lengths such as playing cards like Sorceress Spyglass, Unmoored Ego, or Nezahal, Primal Tide in the maindeck.
I believe that the three decks I already mentioned are likely to be the most popular decks, but I want to talk about other strategies that definitely should show up as well.
Gruul Aggro is perhaps the top two-color aggressive deck in the format. The creatures are a bit bigger than the other aggro decks can present, and you can make the mana work in order to play Goblin Chainwhirler. Here is a list I have been playing of Gruul:
The deck has a fighting chance in pretty much any matchup you can end up playing against. There are also some versions that have planeswalkers as additional threats versus control, but I'm not sold that they are actually needed.
The other two-color aggressively slanted deck we should see some of is the go-wide Selesnya Tokens deck. This is a strategy that preys upon White Aggro because you have lifelinking threats, and can go over the top with cards like March of the Multitudes. Here is what Amy "The Amazonian" is playing:
This deck is a bit weak to sweeper effects like Cry of the Carnarium and Goblin Chainwhirler. However, if you are able to get a critical mass of creatures it starts to really thrive. This could be a great dark horse pick in a field full of white aggressive decks.
Alright, I'm also going to touch on some of the more controlling and midrange decks that might be a bit off some players' radar. The first is straight Golgari. Golgari is in my opinion a better choice in best-of-one play compared to Sultai. This may come as a shock to some players, but Hydroid Krasis isn't always going to be better than Carnage Tyrant. In fact, against Esper Control Carnage Tyrant is a realistic way to steal games. The countermagic in the sideboard are irrelevant here.
Some of the very top decks in best-of-three like Sultai Midrange and Mono-Blue Tempo won't see nearly as much play in this format. This is a combination of removing their sideboard, and how they match up against the top decks. Here is what I recommend for players who want to still make use of Find // Finality and an explore package in best-of-one:
This should look very similar to popular Golgari Midrange decks we saw from a few months ago before Ravnica Allegiance hit the shelves. Keep in mind it was the best deck in Standard for quite a while, before Hydroid Krasis showed up.
Speaking of Hydroid Krasis, if you are looking to play that card I actually recommend it in this base red deck! I first saw this deck in action on William Jensen's stream, and it has been dubbed "Kazuren." Kazuren is essentially a Goblin Chainwhirler midrange deck that splashes Hydroid Krasis for additional late-game power. Here is the deck:
While the deck does have a few dead cards like Lava Coil against Esper Control, it also plays some incredibly tough to answer permanents like Treasure Map and Karn, Scion of Urza. On paper the deck looked bad to me, but seeing it in action, I have been impressed. Also, Banefire to the face is a very real way of closing out games. This is an example of a deck that doesn't really exist in best-of-three (to my knowledge), but will very likely show up at the Invitational.
Another deck that is primarily a best-of-one archetype is the Dovin's Acuity, Mastermind's Acquisition deck. This deck wins exclusively by accessing its sideboard via Mastermind's Acquisition. There are two different ways to play Esper in this format and both are very viable. I have put a good amount of work into this strategy, and was quite close to submitting a version of it as one of my choices for the Invitational. Here it is:
This might be my favorite deck in the format from a gameplay perspective. You are able to spin your wheels a bunch from gaining life and drawing cards. Eventually you resolve one of your big threats like The Immortal Sun, The Mirari's Conjecture, or a Mastermind's Acquisition to access your sideboard and close the door on the opponent. This deck traditionally beats up on the aggressive decks, and has a tougher time against dedicated control.
The final deck I want to mention is Temur Reclamation. While Nexus of Fate is not legal in best-of-one, Wilderness Reclamation still is, and this might be the best way to beat up on these Esper decks:
Temur Reclamation could make a lot of sense as a pairing alongside a deck that's weaker to Esper Control, like Esper Acuity. I wouldn't be surprised to see some of that. The main vulnerability to the deck is getting run over by one of the hyper aggressive strategies.
This is one of the most important events in the history of Magic. It will set the stage for the Magic Pro League, and events on MTG Arena, it is all very exciting!
If you have not already, make sure to check out the new Esports website where you can learn more about what's going on. There will be 64 players total, a combination of professionals and content creators. I happened to draw what some are calling the "group of death" for my pool of 16 players I must square off against on Friday morning. Also, the coverage team is amazing. I'm really looking forward to watching and playing in this tournament!