Various builds of Mardu have been my focus for the last week or so, as the deck has game against just about everything in the format. There are so many Mardu lists around, some more aggressive, some more controlling, some with dragons, some with planeswalkers, and there are even those that are based around token synergies. The version which I am talking about here is my own version, and is more of a midrange deck combining elements from many of the different Mardu shells. I just played a very similar list at the TCGplayer MaxPoint Championship, and here is what my current version looks like:

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Mardu is, at its core, a deck with a few difficult-to-answer threats and a ton of removal to back those threats up. Overall it feels like your average draw can normally get the job done, but there are naturally going to be times when your lands don't cooperate. Hopefully you will see what I mean after checking out the games.

Overall these matches went about according to my expectations. This is a deck that can prey on rogue strategies, as there is so much removal and discard it is difficult to beat Mardu with individually powerful cards. This is evident in the first match against the Black/Green Aristocrats deck where our opponent wasn't able to get much going, and we were able to finish the game before the opposing Evolutionary Leap mattered. The Black/Green Aristocrats deck isn't an archetype I would expect to face off against very often, but it is nice to know that we were able to win handily there.

Two of the matches were versus Abzan Aggro, though they were certainly two different versions. One had a different creature base, with hits like Avatar of the Resolute and Drana, Liberator of Malakir, and the other was more traditional, relying on lots of removal spells. The one that proved more problematic was actually the version playing Drana, Liberator of Malakir, though our draws were also very unimpressive in games one and three. Overall Abzan Aggro is a pretty good matchup, though oftentimes it comes down to which player can stick a raided Wingmate Roc or answer all of the major opposing threats.

Our threat base is hard to attack since we can go wide with cards like Pia and Kiran Nalaar to have enough tokens that one-for-one removal isn't good. However, there are times where the opponent boards out Wild Slash and Fiery Impulse, which means that there is no answer to Seeker of the Way. Besides the creatures, the planeswalkers are a huge headache to deal with as it has been proven just how great Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is. This is a card that many variations of Mardu aren't playing, but I do think that's a mistake. There are so many times where the opponent is expecting you to play a creature that can be answered with Ojutai's Command or Murderous Cut, but instead you land Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

Some of the cards are just singletons which may seem strange, but there is a reason behind the madness. Ob Nixilis Reignited is a five-drop that is also a planeswalker, and is slightly better than adding another copy of one of the other threats. As far as removal there are two removal spells that can take care of opposing planeswalkers, which are Utter End and Ruinous Path. Both have their moments, as Ruinous Path can be cast with awaken and it is nice to only cost three. On the other hand, Utter End being even more versatile, as well as being able to exile the targeted card, makes it important as well. In the end the split is one of each, which has been working out well so far.

Traditionally the good matchups for Mardu are actually other midrange and control decks, where additional discard and card drawing spells can be boarded in for some of the excess removal. The weaker matchups are decks that try to go way over the top, or use graveyard synergies. In the sideboard there are cards like Infinite Obliteration and Burn Away in an attempt to make those matchups a bit better. The matchups that can usually go either way are the aggressive ones, like Atarka Red and Red/Green Landfall. While we didn't play against either of those strategies, we did come up against Black/Red Aggro. That matchup felt pretty good as we didn't have to worry about the combo of Become Immense plus Temur Battle Rage.

After playing games on Magic Online, Mardu feels like one of the top decks in Standard at the moment. While it still hasn't received enough hype to be considered Tier 1, it certainly has the potential to get there. While there are definitely holes in the manabase, this just means having a tap land in your opening hand is pretty important. The manabase is something I have played around with and whichever way you choose there will be some issues, but this configuration seems like the best overall. Mardu is a deck that still seems to catch opponents by surprise, so make sure to watch out for it!

Thanks for reading,
Seth Manfield