Settle in and grab a drink, I want to dive deep into this metagame breakdown for Mythic Championship V. Let's start with the numbers and then break down the archetypes.
This is the clear "best deck" frontrunner for MCV. Bant Golos looks to consistently accelerate into an endgame revolving around Field of the Dead, and frankly that's good enough against most of the format.
The list I've highlighted here first is the most standard build of the deck going into decklist submission on October 9th. A split of Arboreal Grazer and Beanstalk Giant, maindeck Kenrith, the Returned King and Agent of Treachery, three board wipes, and 28 lands. Several teams brought lists with varying degrees of greed, with most maindeck differences coming from the numbers of Beanstalk Giant and Teferi, Time Raveler early in the curve and what endgame threats to play at the top of the curve. Kenrith, Hydroid Krasis, and Agent of Treachery are all cards that occupied those endgame slots as lage game threats and mana sinks.
Bant Golos's sideboard is full of mirror tech, countermagic, Veil of Summer and a few removal spells for the decks trying to lean hard on Questing Beast and other haste threats. What does this deck look like when built to target the mirror a bit harder since most players expected a very Golos-heavy metagame?
Jeremy Bowers put together a very solidly tuned list to fight mirrors. 29 lands and a full playset of Risen Reef means that this build will often be ahead on lands, and instead of leaning on Kenrith, the Returned King or Agent of Treachery the endgame plan is to Finale of Devastation for 10 or more and clear opposing Zombies with Deputy of Detention. This was a tech option seen previously in Golos Fires builds, but alongside Risen Reef it makes a lot of sense as both a consistency tool to dig up Golos and a way to win mirrors in game one.
Sideboard Oko, Thief of Crowns and Knight of Autumn help against the aggressive matchups to make up for the deck construction aimed at mirrors, though the inclusion of Ashiok, Dream Render and Deputy of Detention means that there's still plenty of cards for Golos matchups. I think Jeremy has a very solid list and would expect him to do very well.
Golos Fires is a variant of the Golos strategies that uses Fires of Invention to quickly deploy its cards in the midgame. Instead of leaning on Arboreal Grazer and five-mana board wipes, this deck plays Fae of Wishes and Deafening Clarion as early defensive cards.
Since Golos Fires wants to play Fires of Invention on four mana, the accompanying board wipe needs to cost four or less to pair with it. Fae of Wishes serves double duty as both an early defensive tool and a late-game tutor effect. The strength of this deck is in the midgame where it's capable of playing ten-plus mana worth of cards without using its lands, and using Kenrith and Golos as mana sinks to bury its opponent. Wish targets like Shared Summons and Planewide Celebration help this deck grind out value and cards like Chance for Glory or Finale of Devastation close out the game in very short order.
While this deck boasts a very solid matchup against other Golos decks, it does have an increased weakness to countermagic because it's much harder to wield Veil of Summer and countermagic when playing Fires of Invention.
Speaking of countermagic, the vast majority of Simic Food players submitted this build of Simic Food playing FOUR Disdainful Stroke in the main. Simic Food is a deck trying to accelerate into Oko, Thief of Crowns and Nissa, Who Shakes the World and has lately adopted Questing Beast in addition to Wicked Wolf to fill out the midgame.
This standard build is the quintessential midrange deck trying to ramp into efficient threat after efficient threat, and here the excess mana is being used to hold up Disdainful Stroke because the card is so powerful against Golos decks. This strategy will pay off pretty well with just under 43% of the field playing some variant of Golos, and Disdainful Stroke still has good targets against Adventures, Food and Gruul Aggro decks. The combination of Questing Beast, Nissa and Disdainful Stroke sounds powerful on paper, but I'm at least a little worried that outside of the play pattern of Nissa untapping Breeding Pool, the turn these key spells get cast is the turn Simic Food needs to hold up Disdainful Stroke against Golos. Waiting to cast spells to leave up Disdainful Stroke favors Golos as both players wait around and head later into the game.
Chris Kvartek and Mikel Diez both brought a more aggressive version of Simic Food leaning on Vivien, Arkbow Ranger and leaving the Disdainful Strokes in the board. I wanted to highlight Chris's version here because I think the angle of Maraleaf Pixie and Brazen Borrower is going to give a significant edge in these planeswalker-centric mirrors and provide damage against Golos after Field of the Dead is online. Flying over these boards, especially with the additional power from Vivien, means that it's much harder to protect a life total or a planeswalker and that Questing Beast is no longer the sole evasive attacker. I also like the exclusion of Hydroid Krasis here, committing to a more tempo-centric strategy and just fetching it up with Vivien if the game goes too long.
I think Chris will be rewarded well for this deck choice, and people should pay attention to him and his deckbuilding going forward. He crushed the MCQW and looks well positioned to crush MCV as well.
After almost a week of waiting, we finally know what the Czech house has been up to. The whole team submitted a very heavily anti-Golos Bant Food deck that's really more of a ramp deck.
Bant Food previously looked a lot more like Jessica Estephan's version, combining powerful planeswalkers with green's mid-game creature suite to overwhelm opponents with sheer card quality. Deputy of Detention and Questing Beast have been added to Bant Food as of late to pressure the Golos decks and close out games through Zombies without giving up too much power in other matchups, but the Czech build is very different. While the core of Gilded Goose, Oko, Nissa, and Hydroid Krasis remains, there are no additional threats in this deck. Instead, it leans heavily on Deputy of Detention and Agent of Treachery to take over the game against Golos decks.
While there are four Once Upon a Time to make sure they can find these key cards, I'm very worried that this build lacks the mid-game power or interaction to beat some of the other decks in the format. There are three Wicked Wolf and two Lovestruck Beast hanging out in the sideboard, but this is one of the strategies that I think will have a very hard time with the more aggressive decks in MCV.
Murderous Rider isn't a great card right now in most decks because you can't keep up with Golos or Hydroid Krasis in a late-game scenario, but this deck is aiming to snowball pressure and use Murderous Rider and Legion's End to clear the way and close the game in that window of time between the mid and late game. Questing Beast, Rankle, Master of Pranks, Vivien, and Nissa make up the top end of this deck, and it's no mistake that they all provide immediate damage. I'm still a little skeptical of Golgari's ability to go toe-to-toe with Golos, but the Vivien and the four sideboard planeswalkers make me feel a little better about the matchup there.
This is the more outright aggressive Adventure deck. Selesnya has almost 20 turn-one plays and leverages all of those one-drops and cards generated by Edgewall Innkeeper to play Venerated Loxodon very early and leverage Unbreakable Formation to push a lot of damage.
The biggest strength of these decks is completely overwhelming small sweepers and embarrassing Oko, but there aren't a lot of small sweepers and Oko isn't as big a focal point as Golos. Questing Beast may seem slightly out of place here, but it's simply the best aggressive threat against Golos so it goes in the deck to shore up that matchup. Unbreakable Formation, Gideon Blackblade and Questing Beast are how this deck can close the game through Realm-Cloaked Giant and Time Wipe, but it still needs to have them ready right then and the Golos decks are often wiping the board on turn three or four.
Still, the deck's matchups against not-Golos are actually quite good because so few decks are prepared for this amount of velocity. The one exception to this is Golgari Adventures which is often able to keep up early and has Massacre Girl or Find // Finality to break the board stalls.
Gruul Aggro holds true to traditional Gruul values: size, haste and trample. Curving out with large bodies and playing a full fifteen haste creatures, this deck is set up to demand board wipes and then attack immediately after them anyway. Collision // Colossus and Embercleave allow this deck to do large amounts of burst damage and leverage these haste threats before and after any board wipes its opponent can present.
The biggest downside to these decks is a truly worrying manabase and a lack of card advantage. Where the Adventure decks try to overwhelm opponents with volume, Gruul Aggro simply tries to play a large creature every turn until it runs out or the opponent is dead. Once Upon a Time helps with this issue, but the deck can still run out of steam or draw the wrong mix of lands and spells.
However, rather than split the sideboard and play card advantage out of the sideboard, players leaned harder into the deck's aggressive nature and packed cheap powerful tools to interact more efficiently postboard, and just ensure that they're able to close out the game. To that effect, Caleb Durward went even further and splashed black just for Rotting Regisaur and Legion's End, and Duress and Noxious Grasp in the sideboard.
While there are only three players on Mardu Knights, there are two builds. The first is the one I've highlighted here from Eric Froelich and Ben Stark, playing a full 16 one-drop Knights and eschewing Worthy Knight in favor of Inspiring Veteran and Blacklance Paragon. This tells me that they valued the anthem effect and getting on board early a lot more than generating 1/1s, which makes a lot of sense in a Golos-laden metagame. These players are trying to just play a one-drop on turn one and two on turn two, and following up with Midnight Reaper, Inspiring Veteran or Icon of Ancestry to leverage them into either more pressure or more cards to reapply pressure if the opponent is about to wipe the board.
The sideboard plays a full playset of Specter's Shriek, not caring about the discarded cards because the game shouldn't go as long without a board wipe, and unlike Duress or Drill Bit, Specter's Shriek is unconditional and will always be able to take their board wipe be it Time Wipe or Realm-Cloaked Giant.
Ken Yukuhiro had a much different build of Mardu Knights, playing only eight one-drops but a full playset of both Steelclaw Lance and Embercleave along with all four Rotting Regisaur main. This deck is clearly designed to attack board wipes from a different angle. Instead of trying to overwhelm and reload, this deck is just going to present one or two absolutely lethal creatures and demand that opponents answer them or lose.
Fervent Champion here is one of the better carriers after a board wipe because it costs zero mana to equip Javier with every piece of equipment on the board and get in for a big chunk of hasty damage. The sideboard also doesn't mess around, playing full playsets of Angrath's Rampage, Legion's End, Noxious Grasp, and I assume if he were allowed a 16 card sideboard there would be four Chance for Glory as well.
This deck is linear and focused and might be one of the most terrifying decks in MCV, not least because it comes as a complete surprise to absolutely everyone.
The aggro section wouldn't really be complete without Mono-Red, would it? Lee Shi Tian has leaned into a build based around Cavalcade of Calamity, but has kept things very clean, just playing the twelve best one-drops and avoiding clunky and situational cards.
Tibalt, Rakish Instigator is interesting as an alternative three-drop to Chandra's Spitfire. Tibalt is much less vulnerable to removal and addresses the issue of Hydroid Krasis and Kenrith, the Returned King often putting the opponent's life total out of reach. The sideboard is interesting, as often frenzy games are about grinding the opponent out, but in order to pull off that plan Lee will have to bring in eleven cards, essentially making this a transformational sideboard for attrition matchups where Cavalcade is weaker.
Janne Mikkonen was the only player to submit a Fires of Invention deck without Golos. This archetype is much more reliant on Fires of Invention to overwhelm the opponent with planeswalkers and close the game with Sarkhan, the Masterless, but it's also much more consistent at finding Fires. Shimmer of Possibility and Narset, Parter of Veils allow you to dig in the early turns to set up Fires of Invention, again paired with Deafening Clarion as a cheaper sweeper that can be cast the same turn as Fires of Invention.
This deck is pretty well equipped to fight against Golos decks because when both players are uninterrupted Jeskai Fires is able to use Narset twice to set up Fires of Invention and then quickly after use Kenrith and Sarkhan to close the game out. The wishboard for this deck has a lot of very similar targets, but one of the more powerful options in this deck is Command the Dreadhorde, allowing combo kills with Kenrith especially against opponents with large creatures or planeswalkers of their own.
I'm not sure how well positioned this deck is against all of the Questing Beasts in MCV, but Janne may be rewarded for targeting Golos strategies despite that weakness.
Last and maybe least is Rakdos Sacrifice. Aristocrats-style decks have always been popular, and this archetype has been refined over the last few weeks, but it has really struggled when Golos decks started adopting Kenrith, as any chip damage this deck can assemble is quickly erased once he hits the battlefield.
This deck is built around Cauldron Familiar, Witch's Oven, Priest of Forgotten Gods and Gutterbones as an engine to generate and sacrifice creatures, and uses Judith, the Scourge Diva, Mayhem Devil and Midnight Reaper to benefit from those sacrifices. The deck has also taken to playing a full playset of Claim the Firstborn to both race and function as one-mana removal because you can sacrifice the stolen creature before giving it back. While this deck is fairly resistant to board wipes and can generate a lot of damage left unchecked, I think that the power level of the deck is far too low and the rise of Kenrith is a stark problem for the deck. Time will tell if Miguel Da Cruz Simoes can prove me wrong, but I'm not currently a believer.
This article is already quite long but I do want to leave you, dear reader, with my predictions on how the tournament will go based on this meta analysis. Bant Golos is the most popular deck by a long shot and will likely succeed based on a combination of power and popularity, but I think it will suffer from being hard targeted so much. I think the most successful pilot will be Jeremy Bowers with his well-built mirror-targeted version that also has extra bodies early and a combo closer.
The Simic Food decks will succeed early but have a harder time against the other decks picking on Golos. Chris Kvartek I think has a lot of promise here, but I am worried if that deck can handle the Mardu Knights and Golgari Adventures decks. I think Golgari Adventures is likely to have a solid run, but only a few pilots in day two. The deck doesn't have the same consistency issues as Gruul, but it does have some ambitious mana requirements and lacks Once Upon a Time.
Golos Fires is the most powerful version of Golos but also the weakest to Disdainful Stroke, particularly on the draw. If Fires of Invention proves to be enough to push through that disruption I think Golos Fires players will have an incredible run in this field of Food and Golos decks. The real dark horse of the event is Mardu Knights, as both versions of the deck aren't something the field could have expected ahead of time and I've already heard rumblings that these decks are incredibly successful on Arena.
My top three decklists for this event are the Golos Fires build from Autumn Burchett and Aaron Barich, the Bant Golos list by Jeremy Bowers, and the Golgari Adventures build by Piotr Glogowski, Matias Alfredo Leveratto, Luis Salvatto and Raphael Levy. The player I think is best positioned though probably has to be Ben Stark, starting automatically in day two with Mardu Knights.
Adam "yoman5" Hernandez is a streamer, brewer and competitive player with a keen sense for what makes a deck tick. He writes about changes in the Standard metagame and the art of deckbuilding.
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