I got a message on Twitter the other day from long time reader Geoff Kraemer (otherwise known as Silly Goose). He told me that he was having a ton of success with the Mardu Superfriends deck that came out of the Pro Tour with a winning Standard record. While I happened to notice the deck as I entered it into the site, I probably didn't pay enough mind to it as I should have, considering how different it was from anything else that was showing up at the time.
His Tweet definitely forced me to give the deck a second look, and I'm glad I did. Take a look at the deck in question.
This is basically a Mardu Control deck with a lot of efficient threats and removal spells. The deck ended up with an 8-2 record in the Standard portion of Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar in the hands of Keita Kawasaki, which is just fantastic. The deck almost plays as a pseudo token deck with copies of Hangarback Walker, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Even Mardu Charm can make some tokens. It might not be the deck's main game plan, but if we're able to create an emblem from Gideon with any consistency, swarming with tokens isn't a bad idea.
Let's take a look at what the deck is capable of and see how it fares in the metagame.
Mardu Superfriends vs. Red Aggro
Mardu Superfriends vs. See the Unwritten
Mardu Superfriends vs. B/G Aristocrats
Mardu Superfriends vs. Jeskai Black
Well, if you hadn't heard, the verdict is in: Jeskai Black is pretty miserable to play against. The main problem with the deck is that, as our own Seth Manfield pointed out in his article yesterday, the deck feels like a Modern deck. You're constantly able to churn out two-for-one after two-for-one, meaning that unless you're playing a deck that can do the same (G/W Aggro or Megamorph tries to emulate this), you eventually get buried under the card advantage accrued by Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Dig Through Time, Crackling Doom, Kolaghan's Command, Dragonmaster Outcast, and more. The fact that Mantis Rider has haste means that, even if you do kill it, it probably got a hit in, making it a virtual two-for-one.
Anyway, this isn't an article about Jeskai Black; I just felt it was worth mentioning why the deck was such a menace, and why even a deck like this, that seems extremely well-positioned in the metagame otherwise, had a hard time against it.
Standard currently has a lot of difficult decks to play against, with a lot of different lines that are possible. I think each of the Aristocrats variants, as well as decks with Collected Company, are all pretty hard to deal with. They make things difficult since they have very strong aspects of unpredictability. This gets better with practice and a familiarity with the cards, but it's still hard to predict how many creatures Aristocrats is going to draw that are actually two creatures in one. You can definitely see my inexperience with the matchup in my game against B/G Aristocrats, but there's just so much math that you have to account for with each decision you make and they can still simply win out of nowhere by throwing off any math you're capable of determining. I'm not sure what the best foil for that deck is, but I'm not sure it's cards like End Hostilities or Radiant Flames.
Despite our two losses, the deck was still ridiculously fun to play compared to most of the other decks in Standard and we just barely lost against B/G Aristocrats; in fact I bet I could have done something differently. The two cards that I would be scared not to include in my decks right now with the ramp decks getting more and more popular are Utter End (for Ugin, the Spirit Dragon) and Crackling Doom (for Dragonlord Atarka and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger). Don't leave home without them.
One thing I feel like we might want against the Jeskai Black decks is access to some number of Mastery of the Unseen in the sideboard. This seems like it would also go well with Gideon's emblem, churning out 3/3 creatures for four mana every turn.
On my public Facebook page (be sure and check it out and give me a like) someone linked me to a sweet B/W Control list about a week ago. It reminded me a lot of this deck, but it had some pretty large differences. I've played some games with it, which I'll be uploading to YouTube at some point, and after doing so, I ended up making some significant changes with the help of Melissa DeTora. I'm pretty sure I'll be showing off the updated list next week (along with the original), so be sure and keep your eyes peeled for that.
I'll be back again on Monday with another sweet Modern brew so I'll see you guys then.
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