Earlier this week all 68 decklists came out for the upcoming MTG Arena Mythic Championship that starts today, Friday, October 18th. To the surprise of nobody, Bant Golos is the most played deck, making up slightly more than ⅓ of the field. When you add in the non-Bant Golos strategies, Golos decks come to 43% of the total field.
Simic Midrange (named Simic Food) is the only other deck in the field that makes up over 10% of the field at 16%. However, when you combine together all the similar base-Simic decks that focus around Oko and Nissa, it ends up being a full 28% of the field.
Roughly 70% of the field is either playing a Golos strategy or an Oko strategy. Some wise magicians even paired the two cards together in the same strategy. Truly a next level play.
Of the remaining decks, only six aren't playing green, making the event incredibly green-dominated. I guess it makes a lot of sense when you consider that they printed an Ancient Stirrings-level card in Throne of Eldraine that costs zero mana to play. The consistency that Once Upon a Time provides cannot be overstated. That card is integral to the success of Golos decks, preventing innumerable mulligans and finding exactly the right threats later in a game. It is also important in non-Golos decks, finding early accelerants or powerful late plays like Questing Beast or Hydroid Krasis to hopefully finish things off.
Sometimes the best way to fight fire is with fire, and maybe the only way to reasonably compete with Golos's consistency and power (based around Once Upon a Time) is to harness the power of the card yourself.
I'm going to go through every archetype in the tournament and explain how well or poorly positioned I believe the deck to be for the field and my prediction of how well it will ultimately perform.
The metagame breakdown lists it as 23, but Kenji Egashira is effectively playing the same deck, but with Deafening Clarion: a small adjustment that I don't think makes it different enough to classify it as a new archetype.
This is the most played deck in the tournament. It was the deck with the most fanfare going into the tournament. I think it will also be one of the best performing decks after the tournament.
People love to think that they beat the best deck. I love when they're wrong.
I imagine that some people who came prepared to beat Bant Golos will succeed at it, but I figure that the majority of the field is going to walk away, losing a few times to Bant Golos, and think to themselves: "I must have just gotten unlucky" because "surely I do have a good matchup against Golos."
One common flaw when attempting to beat the best deck is to find one version of the best deck, test extensively against that version until you've swung the matchup in your favor, and then believe you have bested the menace.
Ah, but that plan is flawed. For you see, the best deck also gets to evolve, and learn how to beat the strategies or cards that attempt to prey upon it. So while you may believe you beat Bant Golos, the truth is that maybe you beat last week's Bant Golos, but this week's version will be a problem.
I believe that Golos possesses the tools to compete with any current deck that claims to beat Golos. Whether a build of Golos contains those tools in their 75 or not is one thing, but the truth is that the tools do exist within the format. There may yet be a deck that breaks this mold, or requires too much of a sacrifice for Golos to skew to beat it, but currently it does not exist.
Or maybe Bant Golos just gets banned next week. Who knows.
At any rate, I think that this deck is going to disappoint a lot of people at the Mythic Championship who think they beat it and who will learn that, in fact, they do not.
Verdict: This deck will win over 50% of its matches, be prevalent in the day two metagame, and overall do very strongly in the event. It may not have the highest win percentage in the field—I could easily see a well-crafted or well-metagamed deck with only a few pilots take that title on sheer sample size alone—but Golos will thrive.
A lot of the local Oko'lls in my testing squad decided to fire up the classic Simic "Food" strategy. Sadly, I think this deck might become an all-you-can-eat buffet for the rest of the field.
Simic Food preys heavily upon aggressive strategies, predominantly ones like Mono-Red, Mono-Black or Rakdos Aggro. Oko, Thief of Crowns and Wicked Wolf are just too strong against those decks.
However, Simic has traditionally struggled against decks like Bant Golos and also against some of the adventure decks that can match pace in card advantage and grind through it.
The addition of maindeck Disdainful Stroke is a nod to the prevalence of Golos and will provide Simic with numerous nut draws that can easily defeat a Bant Golos opponent, but from my testing I have found that Bant Golos is still favored, even despite Disdainful Stroke.
The hope in playing a deck like Simic is that you can win your slightly unfavorable Bant Golos matchups enough times and then crush the rest of the field. With Golos coming in at such a massive percentage of the field, and with some of those other decks being things like Golgari Adventure that are strong vs. Simic (or even aggressive decks with numerous copies of Embercleave), I think a lot of that edge is gone.
I will say that I believe Simic will do very well against Golos Fires, as Fires of Invention as a strategy is not well-suited to beating cheap countermagic. Disdainful Stroke should be a real problem there.
Verdict: This deck will underperform. A few pilots will go deep on sheer numbers and because it is still a powerful proactive strategy with cheap interaction, but ultimately it isn't well-positioned for the event.
This is a great list of Golgari Adventure. Stock Golgari Adventure is fairly unfavored against Bant Golos, being neither fast enough to get under it or powerful enough to grind through it.
This version has a ton of ways to push through against Bant Golos. Vivien, Arkbow Ranger in particular is pretty fantastic against it. Vivien plus Questing Beast provides the all-powerful combat ability combination of deathtouch and trample, which allows you to deal one damage to each blocking creature (enough to kill them) and then deal the rest to the player. Questing Beast is basically unblockable with this online. Vivien's -3 is also essentially "Destroy target creature" in this deck in combination with Foulmire Knight and Questing Beast, which will both automatically kill anything using deathtouch.
The sideboard also contains a lot of potent threats against Golos, with difficult-to-beat planeswalkers like Ashiok, Dream Render and Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage plus an additional Legion's End to Sweep Away Zombie tokens.
All-in-all this looks like a well-crafted deck to combat Golos and it has the advantage that Golgari Adventure is also a pretty strong strategy against the rest of the field. While that aspect of the deck may now be diluted some, I still believe this deck is favored in most creature matchups.
This looks like the best deck in the field to me.
Verdict: I expect this deck to perform well. With only six pilots, it's a long shot to say it will win the tournament, but I suspect it will have a very strong win rate and generally overperform.
I lumped these two decks together because they are basically the same deck, with just slightly different approaches.
Start firing up crow on the grill because I might have to eat it. I don't think this deck is particularly strong. At least I don't believe it is good against Golos. I don't really like having to bet against the Czech squad, who have come up with a ton of powerhouses in recent Standard, including Kethis Combo which dominated the tail end of last Standard season. They are a true force to be reckoned with.
Still, bet against them I will. I think trying to go toe-to-toe with Golos in a game that will inevitably go long is a losing proposition. This deck has some nut-draw potential, like games where you curve Arboreal Grazer into Oko, Thief of Crowns, or games where you curve into a turn three Nissa, but in games where that does not happen, the deck looks fairly anemic. Eventually, Golos' game plan of Agent of Treachery and Teferi, Time Raveler paired with Field of the Dead's relentless swarm will eventually put down even the most hearty of grindy plans.
I don't know how the deck fares against the other strategies in this event, but I think having a sub-50% Golos matchup is a huge flaw in this event, and I do think Golos is favored against this deck. Prove me wrong.
Verdict: I'm betting against some true masterminds here, but I don't think this is the deck for the tournament. Underperformer.
I'll be brutally honest, here. I don't think this is a good deck. Powerful? Yes. Awesome as hell? Yes. Exploitable? Also, yes. Consistent? Sadly, no.
I'm playing Bant Golos, a deck with a much simpler mana base than Golos Fires, and I'm playing 30 lands and four Once Upon a Time to fix my mana. I'm playing three Arboreal Grazer and four Growth Spiral so that I curve out quick enough to compete with the speed of the format. Yes, I am an outlier. Still, I think 28 lands is ludicrous even with four Once Upon a Time in your deck.
This deck plays 28 lands, no Once Upon a Time, no Arboreal Grazer. It's trying to cast both Growth Spiral and Deafening Clarion within the first few turns and doesn't play the fixer of all problems, Once Upon a Time, to make sure it can actually happen.
I've played a lot with this deck, and I wanted to believe, but time and time again I just got turned off by the consistency issues the deck has. I also got turned off by how easy it can be for an opponent to exploit the drawback of Fires of Invention. These Simic Food decks with four maindeck copies of Disdainful Stroke are watering at the mouth in anticipation of their opponent tapping out for Fires of Invention. They are sitting forward in their chair at the thought of Golos Fires trying to set up Fae of Wishes into Time Wipe to survive, only to get their time in this tournament wiped out by a Stroke of Disdainful deckbuilding.
Golos Fires can't play reactive cards due to Fires of Invention's drawback. So cards like Veil of Summer that can punish people for relying on Disdainful Stroke just do not work here. Cards like Agent of Treachery to steal Fires of Invention can also be backbreaking, as it renders Fae of Wishes fairly ineffective and can provide explosiveness to the opposing player.
Another flaw is that not being able to play cards on your opponent's turn offers a strategic edge to the opponent who knows that they will be able to do whatever they want with no interference. For example, a Gruul opponent may be hesitant to go all-in on a play because a Bant Golos opponent could cast Time Wipe off a Teferi, Time Raveler's +1 or they might be holding up an instant-speed Growth Spiral for surprise instant-speed Zombies. Against this deck, they know they are free to just go for whatever they want, because there is no recourse.
Verdict: Incredibly powerful deck, but also inconsistent and exploitable. Over the course of a long event, these flaws will rear up and the deck will not succeed.
Everyone I talk to and respect thinks this deck is bad. I don't. I actually have been impressed with Gruul Aggro when I play Bant Golos. This is the deck I am most afraid of with Golos, because I think it has the raw speed plus enough over-the-top cards to really punch through. Questing Beast, Skarrgan Hellkite and Embercleave are all incredibly potent ways to finish a game against Bant Golos.
I question the value of this strategy against the other decks in the format. It seems like the Simic and Bant decks should prey on this strategy fairly effectively with the same Wicked Wolf and Oko plays that have typically been a real problem for decks like this.
One problem with Gruul is that it has bad mana and is forced to play Once Upon a Time to fix its curve. This adds a lot of variance to the deck. Once Upon a Time is excellent to start the game off with, and contributes to a ton of great curves and easy wins. However, drawing Once Upon a Time later in the game can sometimes be a liability as you have to waste half a turn or more just to cast it.
Verdict: I think Gruul will do well because I legitimately believe it is favored against Bant Golos, something I am not sure that other decks can accurately say. A lot of great players that I respect do not believe this deck is good, so chances are I'm wrong, but like any true Magic player, I'm sticking by my opinion!
Even ignoring questions of whether the mana functions, or how much drawing an enters-the-battlefield tapped land in Fabled Passage early in the game hurts, I still am skeptical about this deck.
I don't think this kind of all-in aggressive approach has proven its merit against Golos decks over the past few weeks. Golos generally gets to sweepers or an online Field of the Dead way too fast for these decks to close out the game, and this deck has exactly four cards that can go over the top of Golos in three Embercleave and one Legion's End.
To me, that seems too low to make this an effective plan to attack Bant Golos. I also don't think this deck is favored against strategies like Simic Food or Bant Ramp/Food, because of how insane cards like Wicked Wolf are against it.
Verdict: I think this deck will underperform at this event. I don't think it has a lot of good matchups.
This deck is kind of a gasser, and Christian Hauck is well on his way to establishing himself as a paragon of white creature strategies, after playing a good bit of white aggro in the last few formats.
Sadly, being a gasser is not enough to get the job done, I fear. This deck simply isn't favored against Golos, although the games are often won or lost on razor-thin margins, so I don't think it will perform well.
I imagine this deck does fairly well against other creature strategies, where it grinds out lots of card advantage with Edgewall Innkeeper and has the tools to go both wide and big. Yet, it is incredibly vulnerable to Time Wipe, Realm-Cloaked Giant and Planar Cleansing, which makes it struggle to beat Golos. Overplaying to the board sets you up to be swept away and underplaying to the board sets you up to just get beat naturally with Field of the Dead.
Verdict: I think a subpar matchup against Bant Golos will spell doom for this strategy.
Janne (Savjz) is the only player bringing Jeskai Fires to MCV.
I actually really like his build, and he was crushing on the ladder with this deck. I believe Sarkhan the Masterless is one of the (if not the), best cards in the format against Golos decks. It represents an incredibly fast and evasive clock that is immune to board sweepers. I like that with Fae of Wishes, Janne effectively has seven copies of Sarkhan.
That said, I still believe that Golos is favored against this deck. I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but believe me, if WotC moved up the date for the next banned and restricted announcement by an entire month, it's probably for a reason. That reason is probably that Golos is ****ed-up good. So yes, the deck that might have to get banned in Standard is probably favored against a lot of decks.
As much as I want to say that all non-Golos decks in this event "broke" how to beat Golos I simply do not believe that to be true.
I think Golos punishes Fires of Invention's drawbacks. It punishes dead or too slow cards in hand when Fires hasn't been drawn. It punishes Fires by bouncing it with Teferi, Time Raveler or stealing it with Agent of Treachery. It punishes Fires by being able to play without any fear of interaction.
Golos also punishes Fires, the deck, by matching it on power level. Fires of Invention plus sick cards cast for free is a massive advantage that most decks fold to because they can't compete with the power being presented. Golos can actually just grind through it in a lot of games, which is both messed up and impressive.
Verdict: I think this deck struggles against Golos and so will not succeed in the event.
They call this deck Jund Midrange, but it's pretty much the same deck that they called Gruul Aggro elsewhere, so I don't really know what to say about that. I'm calling it Jund Aggro.
And yeah, this really is just dressed-up Gruul Aggro. It's Gruul Aggro that has splashed for Rotting Regisaur, Legion's End and black's superior sideboard options.
I don't know if the mana inconsistency and reduction in speed that Fabled Passage brings to some hands is worth the massive power boost the extra color provides. Either way, Rotting Regisaur plus Collision // Colossus or Embercleave is a massive beating. Getting Noxious Grasp to fight back against some of the Simic or Gruul decks also seems like big game.
Verdict: I don't know whether this is better or worse than Gruul, so I'm just going to lump it in with Gruul and say that I think the deck will perform fairly well.
I don't think Mono-Red is particularly good in this format. Golos beats it when the Golos player has prepared for it with Devout Decree backed up by powerful cards like Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves or Oko, Thief of Crowns.
I think the Simic decks also beat it with Oko and Wicked Wolf. I don't know how the other decks perform against it, but being weak against #1 and #2 is already a problem.
Verdict: I don't think Mono-Red gets the job done.
Much like Mono-Red Cavalcade, I think a prepared Golos opponent with Devout Decree plus backup in the form of Tolsimir or Oko is favored here. I also think that Simic Food is likewise a favorite against these kinds of black aggro grindy strategies.
Also, like with Mono-Red, I'm genuinely unclear how this deck holds up vs. the rest of the format, but a bad matchup against the big two is probably a death knell.
Verdict: I don't see this deck dominating the event.
Oh I'm playing Bant Golos. Long live the king. Or short live it, I guess. We'll see what they do with that Banned and Restricted announcement.
Verdict: I'm 0-4 in matches at these big MTG Arena tournaments so far this year. What do I need to do to get a win around these parts!?
Brian Braun-Duin is a professional Magic player, member of the 2019 Magic Pro League and recurring special guest on the Bash Bros Podcast.
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