State of the Standard Metagame

Last week I covered the Top 8 decklists from Pro Tour Magic 2015,and they will remain among the top Standard decks until the format rotates late next month. You can check that article out here.

Last weekend's Grand Prix Utrecht featured Blue Devotion winning it all and putting another copy into the Top 8, likely a strong reaction to the results of the Pro Tour. One factor is the rise of BW Control, which, with worse mana than Monoblack and no Gray Merchant of Asphodel, is significantly worse in the Blue Devotion matchup. Rabble Red and similar aggressive Red decks were very successful at the Pro Tour, but poorly positioned against Blue Devotion and its aggressive one-drops, Frostburn Weird, Tidebinder Mage, and protection from red Master of Waves.

Blue is also strong against decks light on removal, like GW Aggro, which made an impact at the Pro Tour. Planeswalker decks can be a bit more challenging, but the speed and consistency of Blue cards match up well against the relatively slow planeswalker decks, not to mention Thassa, God of the Sea truly shines in the matchup. I have noticed that in the Magic Online Standard metagame, Floch's Azorius control deck, the one true predator of Blue Devotion, has recently increased in popularity, and paper metagames may follow suit.


Modern: Anything Goes Again

I am always keeping a close eye on the Modern format, which is particularly relevant now during the tail-end of a Modern PTQ season. It has been a while since I took a sampling of Magic Online decks and shared them, so today in the spirit of the "Anything Goes" articles I did in the past, found here and here, I am doing just that. The decks today are particularly spicy, and they come from a Modern format more evolved and more defined than it was in the immediate wake of the Deathrite Shaman banning. Make sure to check out all ten decks.

DECKID=1210524

This is a Summoning Trap deck that harkens back to the era when the combination with Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn was in Standard. Windbrisk Heights is an additional way to cheat the Eldrazi into play, and because it casts the spell, it triggers the take-an-extra-turn ability. This deck has been seen in Modern in the past, including the addition of Knight of the Reliquary as an aggressive threat, ramp spell, and utility toolbox. The rest of the deck is based around speeding up Summoning Trap, including Birds of Paradise and Avacyn's Pilgrim, while Nest Invader ramps and also gets two-thirds of the way towards activating Windbrisk Heights. Eternal Witness is relevant as a way to Recycle Summoning Trap if it doesn't hit the Eldrazi on the first try. Primeval Titan provides an additional big spell to dig for, and it conveniently finds Windbrisk Heights to keep the engine going.

DECKID=1210525

Summoning Trap for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn has really picked up in popularity, and here is another deck with the combination. Rather than using creatures to ramp into the six-mana spell, this deck uses land-ramping cards like Search for Tomorrow and Sakura-Tribe Elder. These play right into the second plan of this deck: Scapeshift! This deck very much resembles an old Standard Scapeshift deck, complete with a set of Primeval Titan and a pair of Inferno Titan. The best part? A set of Through the Breach provide additional synergy with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn while also occasionally providing a hasted Titan, along with two triggers, ahead of schedule. A set of Courser of Kruphix provides some value and helps the deck stay alive. This is the sort of Modern deck I like: it's a hybrid combo deck with enabling pieces that work together toward both combos. Even better, it has a ton redundancy in its combo pieces with two sets of instants for the Eldrazi and two big green spells that dig for the Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle combo. In a fair Modern format light on combo I expect this deck is an excellent choice.

DECKID=1210526

Another hybrid Scapeshift deck! This pairs the sorcery with a Splinter Twin-style combo, though in this case it's actually Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker with Restoration Angel. Both of those creatures can create considerable value with Omens" href="https://magic.tcgplayer.com/db/magic_single_card.asp?cn=Wall of Omens&ref=storehover">Wall of Omens, Eternal Witness and...Huntmaster of the Fells, which has already been explained as a powerful card in Scapeshift decks as a solution to problems in the metagame. Using the legend to make copies of Sakura-Tribe Elder is also fun, especially with a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in play. As this deck does not play blue, it turns to white for more control elements, particularly creature hate, including a set of Path to Exile, a pair of Lightning Helix, and a Fiery Justice. White provides powerful silver bullet hate cards from the sideboard, Rest in Peace, Stony Silence, and Silence.

DECKID=1210527

This Scapeshift deck does not contain an additional combo, but is hybridized with a Tarmogoyf-control deck to create something like a midrange green deck with a Scapeshift kill. Ostensibly this transition was made to combat the rise in BGx Rock, Jund, and Junk decks, which play a disruptive, reductionist, resource-denial strategy, powered by Liliana of the Veil, that makes it difficult for Scapeshift to assemble the necessary seven plus lands and Scapeshift before it dies to aggression. The most telling card is Huntmaster of the Fells, which gets around Abrupt Decay, trumps Liliana of the Veil, and is simply pure value. Todd Anderson recently won a PTQ by adding Huntmaster of the Fells to RUG Tarmo-Twin, and this Scapeshift deck can similarly benefit. Course of Kruphix is extremely good here because it plays into the Scapeshift strategy while being a very suitable creature in the midgame. It also creates considerably more value here than in Standard with a wealth of shuffle effects to control the top of the library. My favorite card here is Treetop Village, which gives this deck yet another threat, a way to win an attrition game, and a way to whittle the opponent down before a Scapeshift. It also provides some utility for a potential early-game Scapeshift.

DECKID=1210529

This green ramp deck is based around abusing Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. This deck was once a very strong foil to Deathrite Shaman-based Jund decks, but after the banning those decks fell from popularity. Now that BGx decks are back at the top of the metagame, this sort of green strategy is poised for a comeback. This deck does away with Genesis Wave, which can feel like overkill or a classic win-more card. This deck opts for Primal Command and Chord of Calling, both which provide utility and versatility. A splash for white provides one Restoration Angel, which can pair with things like Acidic Slime for value.

My absolute favorite part of this deck is the sideboard, which includes the Archangel of Thune + Spike Feeder infinite combo. This slight transformation gives this deck a powerful Backup Plan and is exactly what a deck like this needs against unfair opponents. This archetype may be a solid option going forward, and the idea of a combo sideboard is one I advocate. It's also a lesson that sideboarding into one of the many Modern combos is a legitimate option, and an option that many other decks in the format would be wise to consider.

DECKID=1210531

Cavaglieri made Top 8 of the World Championships in 2009 and is known as a strong deck builder, so I took note of this deck. This is a UR Pyromancer build tuned with a little bit of spice. Illusory Angel is an undercosted, evasive threat that combines well with the cheap spells of this deck, particularly Gitaxian Probe. Talrand, Sky Summoner is essentially a high-powered Young Pyromancer: it costs twice as much and creates tokens twice as large, with flying tacked on for the effort. It's a very natural fit into the deck and allows it to further push spell synergies with the addition of two Gut Shot. Cavaglieri's changes to the deck serve to make it considerably more powerful and capable of generating more board presence. Given that this archetype is high on interaction and speed but sometimes low on threats, these changes are welcome and I am eager to see if the movement towards a more proactive philosophy catches on with other players.

DECKID=1210533

Another decklist from Cavaglieri, this is a Modern tribal Humans build in the spirit of The Aristocrats decks from last year's Standard season. Compared to other tribal decks like Merfolk, this is more of a good-stuff deck than one filled with synergies, though it does take advantage of Champion of the Parish, Xathrid Necromancer, and Falkenrath Aristocrat. Modern provides a great number of Human options, including the card-advantage generating Dark Confidant and board-controlling Grim Lavamancer. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a solid creature with a relevant ability against most Modern decks, while Hero of Bladehold can win the game by itself. Gather the Townsfolk improves the creature count and has synergies with the tribal cards. The stand-out card to me here is Aether Vial, which is hugely powerful and provides the deck with a huge amount of free mana if played early. Supplementing the creature plan is a set of Path to Exile as powerful removal that is important against every realistic matchup in the format, and some Thoughtseize to provide powerful blanket disruption in a way that only Thoughtseize can.

DECKID=1210534

This deck is an evolved version of the 8 Rack deck, named for its set of The Rack and Shrieking Affliction, that has incorporated Magic 2015 card Waste Not. The enchantment is tailor-made for a dedicated discard deck, and this is that deck. Waste Not gives the discard deck a proactive play that gets on the board and has impact throughout the game. One of my biggest problems with decks like this is the lack of proactive plays and the fact that discard wanes in value so quickly, but Waste Not helps to mitigate risk of both factors.

DECKID=1210535

Nothing special to see here, just a run of the mill Affinity deck that has caught on to the power of Magic 2015 addition Ensoul Artifact….that's what I thought when I first saw it, until I noticed three copies of Military Intelligence. Compared to Thoughtcast, which provides a quick burst of cards, Military Intelligence provides a steady stream of them turn after turn. It plays well with the free creatures of this deck, along with the many one-drops and cheap manlands. I will keep watching to see if this catches on and is something I'd like to try myself, but it is hard to pass judgment on how good it really is based on one result.

DECKID=1210537

Cheating Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn into play is becoming a popular plan in Modern, as seen in the Summoning Trap decks, and here is another deck focused on doing just that. Polymorph for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is not a new strategy, and I recall playing it in extended nearly four years ago. It was never really a top-tier deck in Extended, but Polymorph is relatively more powerful in the Modern format. The version I briefly played had something of a shell resembling Faeries, packed with discard, counters, card selection, and even Bitterblossom to combine with Polymorph, not to mention Jace, the Mind Sculptor. This version is less focused on the combo but does a fine job of working as a control deck. It relies on a set of Mutavault to enable Polymorph, and in a pinch Creeping Tar Pit or Batterskull does the job. Tolaria West digs for Mutavault. This deck plays a seven card discard suite resembling that of Rock decks, along with two Mystical Teachings and small package of tutor targets. My biggest takeaway from this deck is that Polymorph is a very real Modern card and something to keep in mind going forward. It's also further proof that Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn is the single most powerful creature in the Modern format and something worth the effort. I expect people will continue to experiment with ways to abuse the Eldrazi.


Looking Ahead

The Modern PTQ season and recent Modern Grand Prix have increased popularity of the format and served to drive the metagame. The recent announcement of a Modern Pro Tour in 2015 has increase player confidence in the format, and I expect it only to grow in the coming year. Modern continues to evolve into its own unique format, and I will continue to pay close attention.

What do you think about these brews? What are some interesting decks you have seen? What are you having success with? What deck do you expect to have break-out success in the future? Share in the comments and I'll do my best to answer any questions!

-Adam Yurchick
Follow me @ www.twitter.com/adamyurchick