This weekend was a tale of two very different tournaments. Redbull Untapped London showcased a dominant performance by Bant Scapeshift among the eight finalists, with Lino Burgold taking the trophy and Javier Dominguez running through the lower bracket for a 3rd-place finish. The Magic Online MCQ told an entirely different story, where Vampires was more than a third of the winners' metagame. Here's the breakdown of the 27 decks that finished 6-2 or better in the Magic Online MCQ:
Bant Scapeshift still put up the second-best performance but was unable to put a single copy into the Top 8. The Top 8 consisted of W/R Feather, U/R Phoenix, two copies of Esper Hero, and four copies of Vampires.
Last week I said that Bant Scapeshift was the best deck in the format and the answer was to join them, not beat them. I was wrong. Bant Scapeshift was the best deck with the biggest target on it, and that presence shoved out all the interaction-focused decks to a much larger degree than I expected. Vampires was the deck best poised to exploit their absence, and had an advantage in the Bant Scapeshift matchup. The only two Esper Hero players in the Top 32 both made it to the Top 8, and I don't think that's a coincidence. The winners metagame was full of Vampires for them to prey on and Vampires had culled the Scapeshift decks from the top tables.
My mistake last week was in expecting that the top deck (Bant Scapeshift) and the runner up (Vampires) would both face a lot of hate and that an even field would favor Scapeshift strategies. Instead, players mostly elected to do one of two things. They either identified that Bant Scapeshift was favored in an even metagame and played it with a sideboard heavily slanted for the mirror, or they identified that Vampires could be built to attack Scapeshift and prey on the absence of cheap interaction. An even field was nowhere to be seen and Vampires was set up for success in this two-deck scenario.
While there aren't many Standard tournaments this week, the Pearl Division of the MPL is battling it out this week in a Vampires-heavy field. If you're looking to pick up Vampires I highly recommend watching this week's matches, especially the mirrors. For the rest of us, this week is a bit of a breather before the Mythic Championship Qualifier Weekend. For those wanting to get a head start on preparation, here's the current metagame breakdown:
I mentioned a two-deck format, and this is still where we stand. The first thing you should do with any testing for the Mythic Championship Qualifier Weekend is make sure the deck you've selected is capable of taking matches from these two decks. Many people thought that the answer here could be Esper Hero, but I've yet to see a build that impresses me against both. The reason these decks have cemented themselves so hard is that they push from opposite angles and push each others' predators out of the format. If you can break this code you will have a significant advantage.
Mono-Blue is a fan favorite, but it's simply too far behind against the top tier to really get anywhere. Having both a bad Scapeshift matchup and a bad Vampires matchup is just going to cost you too many rounds in a tournament. U/G Nexus is one of my personal favorites, but right now it's just catching too much splash damage from people targeting Scapeshift, and Vampires isn't a good matchup anymore with three Sanctum Seeker in most versions. Temur Elementals appeals to players' desire to play midrange decks, but accumulating small advantages isn't a winning strategy against Field of the Dead, and Temur lacks the tools to punish Vampires. Esper Control does check the box of beating up Vampires, but the matchup against Scapeshift strategies is abysmal. If Vampires continues to be a third of the field and drive away Scapeshift players, however, Esper Control becomes a strong choice, so keep your eye on this one.
I won't sugarcoat it. These decks won't get any respect because they haven't really earned it. Lately these decks have put up a few copies each in the Top 32, but no top finishes. Mono-Red and Esper Hero have (I think) the capacity to be built to take on both Bant Scapeshift and Vampires, but it's very difficult to balance your maindeck and sideboard. These decks need to be attacked from polar opposite ends of the spectrum, which is why they continue to reinforce each other's presence at the top of the metagame. Jund Dinosaurs was a breakout deck a few weeks ago, but Vampires is one of the few decks able to play mainboard removal because of their already good matchup against Bant Scapeshift. Bant Scapeshift also adopted maindeck Deputy of Detention, Time Wipe or both to fight against Vampires and the mirror. The top two decks are incidentally hating out Jund Dinosaurs, but there's only so wrong you can go with turn-four kills. I don't think Jund Dinosaurs will be the top of the metagame anytime soon, but I expect it to continue to put up results if the metagame stagnates without much interaction in the format.
I'm obviously going to work from successful lists from the past weekend and see what can be improved. Time Wipe in the main gives you a stronger game one chance against Vampires, though I would like a second Deputy of Detention in the main as well. The Vampires list is relatively stock, and I want a second copy of Vona, Butcher of Magan because she's so strong in the mirror.
Merfolk is the opposite of stock. It's been nonexistent for months, but Autumn Burchett brought it up when we were discussing potential decks that could have a good matchup against both Vampires and Bant Scapeshift. Merfolk has the capacity to outscale Vampires and can both threaten Scapeshift decks early and close with unblockable damage late. One of the things they mentioned was the deck's terrible matchup against Shifting Ceratops, but there frankly isn't a lot of that going around. It certainly isn't a top tier choice, but it is something I want to look into before locking in a deck for the MQW.
The last one may look familiar. This is the list I posted in last week's analysis, and continues to be strangely absent from tournaments. Sultai Scapeshift has a good matchup against Bant Scapeshift with access to Unmoored Ego, and Massacre Girl and Legion's End help significantly against Vampires. My list differs from previous lists by playing fewer expensive spells, but I wanted to be better positioned against aggressive decks since we had such an edge in the mirror. I streamed this list earlier in the week and the results were promising. If I had to submit a deck for the MQW right now without further testing this is the 75 I'd submit.
It wouldn't really be a Magic article if I didn't leave y'all with a sideboard guide, would it? Here are my current plans with Sultai Scapeshift:
We just want to slow them down and grind them out. Veil of Summer can stop Duress or Legion's End from ruining our day, but we don't want to overload on these in this matchup. When resolving Scapeshift try to gain enough life to survive if they have Sanctum Seeker or Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord in hand.
This sideboard is just maxed out on hate in this matchup. Pick your moment and when they tap out, Unmoored Ego them. Legion's End and Casualties of War allow you to fight through Hydroid Krasis and grind them out really smoothly.
It may seem odd to bring in Cast Down while taking out other removal, but their most important card here is Deputy of Detention. This is a grind fest of a matchup but Casualties of War is incredible here. Save it to kill planeswalkers unless you're going to die without casting it.
We keep in Massacre Girl because they will often not leave in any answers for it and Massacre Girl can neatly clean up the battlefield and pressure planeswalkers. If your opponent keeps in Hostage Taker I would take out two Massacre Girl and one Duress to bring in three Shifting Ceratops.
This matchup is very mulligan heavy. They're going to mulligan to a two-drop, and you basically need to mulligan to a removal spell. Legion's End isn't exciting against a lot of their deck but you just need to be able to answer their ramp creature. Once you slow them down and remove the potential haste from Otepec Huntmaster the matchup gets much easier to control. Fire off Casualties of War at will, taking them off red mana in particular if you can to deny them Flame Sweep.
This matchup is still one we need to drastically shift to answer, but with three Unmoored Ego we're in much better shape than Bant Scapeshift. Try to disassemble their hand and then resolve Unmoored Ego. Once you take out their infinite turns they play the fair game poorly and you can close out over time. Be aware of Biogenic Ooze in postboard games; savvy players will know that our plan is to attack them with Shifting Ceratops.
We don't really change what we're doing in postboard games. We want to deny them early damage so that their burn is insufficient to finish us off. We're much better than Bant versions at doing this, and Legion's End giving us information on their hand can make a huge difference in playing around burn spells.
We may not have Teferi, Time Raveler but this matchup is still pretty good. We have five two-mana removal spells to contest Curious Obsession and Massacre Girl is a powerful removal option that they can't counter with Spell Pierce or Siren Stormtamer. Shifting Ceratops is their worst nightmare, but that's no different from any other green deck.
Adam "yoman5" Hernandez is a streamer, brewer and competitive player with a keen sense for what makes a deck tick. He loves writing about changes in the Standard metagame and the art of deckbuilding.
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