Ahh, what's that smell? It smells like fresh spring flowers and Felidar Guardian no longer being Standard-legal. Other decks can finally thrive. Everyone loves that new format smell. And if I'm not mistaken, the SCG Open in Atlanta last weekend marked the first big event with Amonkhet legal and Felidar Guardian not around to ruin the fun. I bet it was a completely wide-open format full of awesome new decks. Anything can happen now that one deck doesn't exist to rule them all and in the darkness bind them. I can't wait to check out our sweet new metagame!
The Top 4 was three copies of Mardu Vehicles. There were two more in the Top 8. Is this the diversity you want? Instead of a two-deck format, it's a one-deck format? Is that what you want? Does this make you happy?
Oh wow, I didn't know. Well, hold on a second. This was just week one. If you remember, I mentioned a few weeks ago that week one tournaments are almost always won by existing powerful decks with a few slight tweaks, since other decks aren't tuned well enough to compete yet. Mardu's initial dominance doesn't mean it has to always be that way. Mardu was always going to win this tournament as the last remaining powerhouse from the previous format.
Are you mad? Have you looked at the deck? Are you aware of the cards in the Mardu Vehicles deck? Are you aware that it didn't just win, but comprised almost the entire Top 8 of the event? Stop burying your head in the sand and living in denial. You know as well as I do that Mardu is a busted deck and this is just the start.
I think busted is a strong word choice. It's good, definitely but I'm not sure we can definitely crown it king just yet. There's still…
There's still what? Still bulk Rares that need to be explored? Enjoy casting New Perspectives while this Heart of Kiran is giving your face its own new Reality TV makeover show? And this show truly is reality. There's nothing fake about Heart of Kiran. There's nothing scripted about the beatdown it delivers.
Well, yeah. Heart of Kiran is a really strong Mythic. I'm not disputing...
Keyword: Mythic. You nailed it. Mardu Vehicles has an edge on the rest of the format, and the reason is quite simple. Mythic Rare. Mardu Vehicles has a lot of those. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Archangel Avacyn. Heart of Kiran. Mardu Vehicles is the best aggro deck in the format. It's the best midrange deck in the format. It's the best grindy deck in the format. It has a transformational sideboard. It can do it all. It even beat Michael Jordan in a game of pickup basketball in 1996. Just look at this deck. LOOK AT IT. GAZE UPON THE 75 CARDS THAT COMPRISE IT AND BECOME REBORN BY ITS RAW DEVASTATING POWER.
I'm gazing upon it, but I find myself more disgusted than reborn. I'm not giving up yet. Let's brainstorm. How do we beat Mardu Vehicles? There must be something that can be done. I'm not ready to just roll over and die after only one week of the new format.
There is only one way to beat Mardu Vehicles, but it is not well-known. You have to match it in power level. You can't play a low-power synergy-oriented game plan and hope to beat it, because they will simply outmuscle you with the power level of their cards. You have to fight Mythics with Mythics. You have to do something equally as powerful to stand a chance.
So you're telling me there's a chance! If the key is to match it on power level and fight Mythics with Mythics, then we need to look at decks that play Mythics on par with the power level of Mardu. I've been looking all over the internet at decks and I think I found something that might fit the bill. Last weekend there was a Magic Online PTQ and it was won by an Aetherworks Marvel deck. Aetherworks Marvel is also a Mythic Rare with an extraordinarily high power level. Maybe this can compete.
Well, I mean, I bet Mardu can still do good things here. Like, Mardu is pretty sweet so it stands to reason that this deck is sour, and Mardu will still win because Mythics and stuff. I bet how it plays out is that Mardu gets out to an early…
Now it's my turn to interrupt. Aetherworks Marvel is just as powerful if not more powerful than any of the Mythics in Mardu. How does Mardu Vehicles beat Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger? It can come down on turn four and it can blow up two permanents, including lands. Mardu has no way to remove Ulamog in game one, and cards like Woodweaver's Puzzleknot can easily Time Walk the opponent while providing enough energy to create Thopters from Whirler Virtuoso or just activate Aetheworks Marvel again. Ulamog removes Mardu's clock, can't die, and is a Tina (two) Turner. The ol' two turn clock. Rock em, sock em, clock em Eldrazi.
Ok, sure. I'll concede that point. This Marvel deck looks like it can compete pretty well with Mardu Vehicles. I personally don't like Marvel too much because it's super high variance. For every game where you turn four Ulamog, there are also those games where you durdle around, do nothing, and die. You're right that on power level it can compete with Mardu. You know what? I'll even admit it is more powerful, but the difference between Marvel and Gideon is that Gideon does the same thing every time. You don't have to hope to get lucky for Gideon to make a Knight Ally Token, bash for five damage, or Glorious Anthem your team. Mardu may have less raw power, but it has more consistency. You're not generating six energy and paying four mana to Anticipate with Mardu Vehicles.
Well now, let's not get too crazy. Mardu is the classic bad aggro deck that tries to curve from one mana to five mana and does so with a really sketchy mana base. There's nothing consistent about that. If it wasn't for the absurd power level of the cards, Mardu would never hold together. You can't sell me on Mardu on the basis of its consistency. It may be more consistent than Marvel, but that doesn't mean that's where Mardu gets its wins from.
Oh I know. It's Mythics, baby. Mythics. Those sweet, sweet Mythic Rares. That reddish, purplish color peeking out at you from the set symbol, telling you that everything is going to be ok, that it doesn't matter what the game looks like, help is on the way. That beautiful Mythic glow whispering gently in your ear about how great things are now that it's around. Call them Christian, because they are about to Bale you out of this conundrum.
"I don't know how I can win this game? Is there any card that saves me? Regis, I'd like to phone a friend. Call me up a Mythic Rare. *ring* *ring* *ring* Hello, Archangel Avacyn? Your friend is on Who Wants to be a Mythicaire and called you. He needs you to flutter down and do your thing." Nothing feels quite as good as casting a Mythic. Sometimes when I'm alone I think about how great Mythic Rares are and how I want to…
Okay, okay. That's enough. I get the point. There has to be more than just Marvel that can hang with Mardu. There are other Mythic Rares out there that can match the power level of Mardu. I'm sure of it. What about Ishkanah, Grafwidow? Ishkanah is definitely powerful enough to hang with Mardu. It shuts down Heart of Kiran and Archangel Avacyn and the decks that play Ishkanah threaten to cast it over and over again with Grapple from the Past, Liliana the Last Hope, Liliana, Death's Majesty, and Traverse the Ulvenwald. Surely that's enough to hang with Mardu? I played some against it and it seemed good!
It can hang with Mardu, for sure. I'd be hesitant to say it definitely beats Mardu, though. It may have a good game one against the deck, but remember that Mardu has a transformational sideboard and can adapt to beat gameplans like this. Also remember that as good as Ishkanah and looping it may be, Gideon can still grind through it eventually, especially with help from other cards like Archangel Avacyn. For this deck to beat Mardu it has to be able to win game one and then manage to take a post-board game against Mardu's ability to choose whether or not they want to transition into something different.
So, do you think Mardu is favored after sideboard? How does this deck compete then?
The key is to sideboard against Mardu's sideboard. A classic mistake players make is to build their sideboards to beat the main deck gameplan of Mardu. A bunch of sideboard artifact hate and calling it a day isn't going to do jack feces against Mardu. What happens when they cut some of their artifacts and just grind you out with planeswalkers and you're stuck with this Natural Obsolescence looking like an Unnatural Obsolete-scence? Mardu doesn't go down easily, and you have to fight them on the right axis to even stand a chance. Even then, it's going to be hard. MARDU RULES! OTHER DECK PLAYERS ARE FOOLS!
So you're saying that players board in more cheap removal to beat cards like Toolcraft Exemplar and Heart of Kiran, and Mardu players can just side those cards out and smash them with Gideons and Nahiri and Sorin while they just look at a bunch of Magma Sprays and cry? Players sideboard against the game one configuration and instead of sideboarding against the sideboard. But what if players adapt and start sideboarding against Oaths and Planeswalkers and cut their cheap removal?
Well, that would be smart, but Mardu can also beat that by just maintaining their initial game plan of aggression. If the opponent sides in all these anti-sideboard sideboard cards, Mardu can just keep their explosively powerful initial configuration and just smash face that way. Toolcraft Exemplar into Heart of Kiran. Thanks for playing the game. That's the power of Mardu. Since it can do everything, it's really hard to adapt to it or stay ahead of it. You can win the guessing game, but it is always going to be exactly that: a guessing game. You can never beat Mardu on all axis. You have to pick and choose your battles and hope you win.
Well, what about these two decks?
Do Humans and Zombies have enough oomph to match Mardu? Can these tribal decks defeat the Mardu machine? Maybe these decks can match Mardu on raw power level and then it doesn't matter about the whole guessing game thing. If Mardu is less powerful, Mardu is the one that has to adapt, not the other deck.
I'm not seeing many Mythics in those decks…
Well the Zombie deck has Relentless Dead, so…
I said Mythics. Not "Mythics". You know. Actual Mythics. Not Grizzly Bear Mythics.
Alright, fine. Relentless Dead is a lower-power Mythic, but I think we're getting too hung up on whether decks have Mythics or not. Decks with just a bunch of Rares can still do good things.
Good things, sure. Good enough things? Maybe not. Remember what I said earlier? Synergy-driven decks can't compete with Mardu's raw power. They need to match the power. I don't think these decks can do that, but I'd love to be proven wrong. Contrary to popular belief I'm not in love with Mardu. I just loving winning and Mardu does that. A lot.
I don't know. These decks can do some powerful things. Exert and Always Watching is a great combo for Humans. Last time Zombies was great it was entirely on the back of Blood Artist and Wayward Servant does a solid Blood Artist impression. I wouldn't write them off.
I'd never do that. I'm just skeptical. I'm what you might call a realist. I can be optimistic about the future, but I also like to look at things from a realistic standpoint. I want things to be better, but I'm not going to let those desires blind me from the facts and truth. My desires for sweet tribal decks to overpower Mardu doesn't make that the reality. Glory-Bound Initiate doesn't get the glory he is due if he dies while waiting at the bus stop. Cause of death: A hit and run by an...Unlicensed...driver, if you know what I mean.
Yeah, I know what you mean. I get the joke.
And I think you know what I mean.
Yeah, I already told you I do.
I'm talking about how Glory-Bound Initiate will die to Unlicensed Disintegration.
Right, I figured...
I'm talking about blowing that creature up and also going to the face for an additional three points. What could be more exhilarating?
Many things. A great many things. Look, I think we had a good discussion here. Mardu is a great deck, and maybe it will dominate this format. But there are a lot of ways to beat Mardu as well. There are other Mythics that can compete in power level and cards like Ishkanah and Aetherworks Marvel are actively good against Mardu. I don't think all hope is lost. We may have an amazing format yet. I'm not ready to give up.
Good. I admire that about you. You're not as old and cynical as I am.
Wait. How old are you? Actually, who the heck are you and why are you sitting in my apartment? How did you get in? The door was locked. It's still locked. Are you a figment of my imagination? Have I gone insane? Are you my alter-ego? Are you the devil on my shoulder? The Mardu Guy on my shoulder? Just hit me with the truth please. If I'm schizophrenic or delusional or crazy, please let me know now. I need to know what I'm dealing with here.
I'm you from the future. I came back in time to tell you about how great Mardu is, you foolish stubborn idiot.
No way. That can't be true. Time travel hasn't been invented yet.
Of course it hasn't. It was invented in the future. Wow, past me is really dumb. Play Mardu Vehicles.
How far in the future are you from? You look really bad.
No way. That can't be true. You look like you haven't shaved in a year and like you've gained 50 pounds.
You really lost control of yourself. You should really consider avoiding Cookout for the next few weeks and eat some vegetables. Just a friendly tip.
Yeah, I'm going to do that. I really don't want to end up looking like myself. Wait a second! This means that time travel is invented in two weeks? The entire world is going to change. This is revolutionary. This is the greatest technological advance in human history. This is unbelievable. I can't believe it. I'm living in the greatest time in human history. I'm going to be a part of something amazing. Finally, science and magic mix!
Well, that was fun to watch. I was just kidding. Time travel doesn't exist and never will. Humanity is doomed. I'm a figment of your imagination. You're going crazy and need help that you'll never get.
What? No. That can't be true. There's hope for me. There's hope for humanity. There's hope for non-Mardu Vehicle decks in Standard.
Yeah...so...I was just kidding again. This is really fun. I'm not a figment of your imagination or you from the future. I'm a real-life person.
That's a relief.
Well, not exactly. I broke into your house to steal your collection. Don't worry, I'm not a complete jerk. I've leave you a copy of Mardu Vehicles.
Well that's reassuring…
It's for your own good. You'll thank me later. Now where is that stack of Foil Squires?
It's in the shrine in my bedroom…
Play Mardu Vehicles. And you should consider changing the locks on your windows.
Thanks, I guess.