Analyzing GP Hiroshima And SCG KC

The results from Kansas City and GP Hiroshima reveal some interesting new potential directions for the format. The Innovator helps you build your ideal gauntlet for SCG Open: Las Vegas where he’ll be commentating on SCGLive!

The good guys strike back…

…assuming we live in a world where decks with Sword of Feast and Famine can be considered the “good guys.”

The SCG Open in Kansas City and GP Hiroshima have continued the evolution of an absolutely fascinating Standard season. Despite the existence of a “best deck,” this format has already shaped up to be one of the deepest, most complex, and most interesting “small” Standard formats in years. Large standalones that begin a block often lead to somewhat shallow formats that resemble Block formats. It’s hard to tell if Innistrad is just that well developed, but it really does seem like a pretty amazing blend of power, build-around-me cards, role players, sideboard answers to oppressive strategies, and more. Even the “best deck,” Wolf Run Ramp, isn’t really oppressive. It involves far more play than Valakut ever did; anyone that wants to can interact with it, and it definitely can be beaten. Plus, it doesn’t counter all your spells or mana-lock you or kill you on turn four.

Week in and week out, we are seeing the top 16 of the SCG Opens populated by a diverse cross-section of all of the major players in the format. Maybe the format just seems especially interesting because of how unhealthy the Caw-Blade days were. Honestly, even the Splinter Twin and Valakut days that followed Caw-Blade were only healthy by comparison. Now, though, the closest thing we have to Splinter Twin is Angelic Destiny on a Mirran Crusader or Geist of Saint Traft. There is a lot more you can do and more time to play a real game of Magic.

Let’s take a look at the results from SCG Kansas City and where the format is going. Jacob Van Lunen and I are super pumped to do SCGLive commentary in Vegas this upcoming weekend, particularly with such a sweet diverse format. If you are attending, be sure to say “Hi.” If not, tune in and be a part of teaching Flores a lesson!

First off, let’s take a look at the top 16 breakdown from SCG Open: Kansas City:

SCG KC Top 16

Wolf Run Green 4
Wolf Run G/W 2
U/W Blade 2
Solar Flare 2
W/u Destiny 1
G/W Destiny 1
Mono-Black Infect 1
Tempered Steel 1
Mono Red 1
U/W Tokens 1

A nice diverse field, despite such strong numbers from the reigning top dog of the format, Wolf Run Green. Before breaking down the specific lists, it is worth pointing out that we have been seeing a trend this season of most strategies appearing in a number of color combinations. In some old formats, every time someone says U/W, you know what they are talking about. If they talked about Korlash, you knew what colors they played. This season is different, however.

Kessig Wolf Run?

Sword of Feast and Famine?

Angelic Destiny?

Shrine of Loyal Legions?

These are linchpins that drive some of the primary strategies in current Standard. What colors you play when you play these cards, however, is hardly set in stone. We are seeing an elevated level of customization that harkens back to the days of Ravnica or Shards of Alara.

What about GP Hiroshima?

GP Hiroshima Top 8

W/u Destiny 2
G/W Tokens 1
Solar Flare 1
Mono Red 1
U/W Blade 1
Tempered Steel 1
Bant Pod 1

Day 2 Metagame of GP Hiroshima

Wolf Run Green 22%
G/W Tokens 16%
W/u Destiny 15%
Mono Red 11%
Solar Flare 9%
U/x Control 9%
U/x Blade 8%
Mono-Black Infect 5%
Tempered Steel 2%

Now let’s add this data to the data from the past several weeks that was compiled in last Wednesday’s article . The “Old Meta%” figure was arrived at by averaging the day two metagame of GP Brisbane, the top 8 metagame of the at the time reported State Championship results, and the top 16 of SCG Baltimore. For the purposes of this chart, we are merging different colored versions of the same strategy. This means that Wolf Run Green, Wolf Run Ramp, and Wolf Run G/W are all listed as Wolf Run G/x, while “Wolf Run Red” is really just Mono Red. All Blade decks have been classified together, regardless of color. The same is true for Control, tokens, and Destiny. The “New Meta%” is not a reflection of what the overall metagame will be, but rather an indicator of what the top tables will look like, what you will have to beat in order to actually win the tournament. It also provides an excellent roadmap for what we should be preparing for, what’s popular lately, and what is going to be popular next week. These numbers were arrived at by averaging Old with KC with GP Hiroshima (with the Hiroshima data being 50% top 8, 50% day 2 metagame).


Old Meta%

SCG KC Top 16

GP Hiroshima

New Meta%

Wolf Run G/x





U/x Control





Solar Flare





Mono-Black Infect





U/x Blade





Mono Red










Tempered Steel





W/x Destiny






With nine major strategies, so far, I find it very interesting how many are heavily built around blue and/or white.

Blue-White Control
Blue-White Blade
Blue-White Tokens
Blue-White Tempered Steel
Blue-White Destiny
Solar Flare

What are the green decks?

Wolf Run Green
Wolf Run Ramp
Wolf Run Green-White
Green-White Tokens
Green-White Destiny

What are the black decks?

Mono-Black Infect
Blue-Black Control
Blue-Black Blade
Solar Flare

What are the red decks?

Mono Red (possibly with Wolf Run)
Wolf Run Ramp (possibly with any red cards)

What does this tell us? The depth of both blue and white is obvious with many ways to use both. Together or apart, aggro or control, these two colors can do so much. Green is actually quite deep as well, though primarily serving as the base for Wolf Run decks or as a support to white in aggressive decks. Black, it would seem, is primarily used as the base for Infect decks or as a support to blue in controlling decks. Red is kind of the odd man out and certainly the weakest color in the format by far. The base for Red Deck Wins or as a support to the third most popular variation of Wolf Run Green? There is a real hole in the metagame when it comes to red decks.

It’s also very interesting that the only major archetype that did not appear in the top 16 of SCG KC was that of U/x Control. Solar Flare and U/W Blade each put up solid numbers, but no “pure control.” Last week, the only U/B deck to top 16 was a U/B Blade list. The rise of Dungrove Elder and Mono-Black Infect has changed the landscape. Blue Control will surely make a comeback eventually, but it will require a new design. The format has changed.

Another interesting twist to this weekend’s results was despite six Wolf Run decks in the top 16, we saw U/W Blade, W/u Destiny, Mono-Black Infect, and Solar Flare manage to keep them all out of the top 4. On the other side of the planet, Wolf Run was the most popular day two deck at the GP, but completely missed the top 8. Wolf Run may be the “best deck,” but it is clear that the tools exist to beat it. Let’s run down the top four from SCG KC, first.

Up first, we have the champ:

Why is U/W Blade the hero and Wolf Run Green the enemy? The deck to beat is the deck to beat. Faeries? Jund? Valakut? Teachings? These decks aren’t the enemy because they are “cheesy.” They are just the “villains” menacing formats that we, as heroes, have to defeat in order to “free” the metagame from their oppression!

While U/W Blade is far from noon, Boyd does feature quite a number of elements that are far from industry standard. First of all, this is definitely an example of the creature-heavy style of U/W Blade. No one creature is surprising, but it is a little surprising to see of all of them. Hero of Bladehold and Snapcaster Mage are the most standard, so no surprise there. While many choose between Mirran Crusader and Blade Splicer, Boyd maxes out on both. Spellskite had dipped in popularity with the rotation of Splinter Twin, but is making a comeback due to its strengths against Kessig Wolf Run (which they can’t use as long as it is in play, and they never have Twisted Image), as well as fine synergy with Hero of Bladehold (protecting it) and Sword of Feast and Famine (carrying it). In addition, it is a very effective card in the world where Geistflame, Gut Shot, and Wring Flesh are all played.

A play I haven’t heard much mention of is the turn two Snapcaster. I can’t even tell you how many people I have watched just hold Snapcaster Mage in their hand as though it were a Mystic Snake, despite having no sorceries or instants in their hand. If you have no spells and are going to play a creature on three and a creature on four, maybe it is worth considering dropping the Snapcaster Mage on two (on their end step) and administering the beats. You don’t want to waste him, but sometimes this is the play, and it’s one many never even consider. This is especially true against aggressive decks that are attacking you with a one-drop (other than Stromkirk Noble, who can’t be blocked by humans). Boyd surely recognized this, and actually plays the full package of Gitaxian Probes to let him “build” a Silvergill Adept.

Boyd’s Snapcaster package is actually extremely minimalist. Aside from playsets of Gitaxian Probes and Mana Leaks, his only other maindeck options are a pair of Dismembers and a pair of Midnight Hauntings. The Dismembers need no explanation, but Midnight Haunting is definitely not widespread outside of some token decks. People have talked about using it in U/W Blade since it was spoiled, but it is bit underpowered. You wouldn’t play a 2/2 flier for three, so getting it over two bodies isn’t actually that much more raw power. Just compare it to Blade Splicer, a card of clearly higher power. That said, the ability to Snapcaster it back is kind of exciting. Five mana, four power, three bodies, two in the air, and for only one card. Not my favorite way to attack the format, but it is quite effective against removal.

The use of Moorland Haunt shouldn’t surprise us, but it is worth noting that Boyd’s decision to play so many creatures makes his Moorland Haunts better than in most U/W Blade lists. It is also worth noting that Boyd has no Ghost Quarters and doesn’t even max on Inkmoth Nexus. More importantly, he still plays 26 land, despite playing four Gitaxian Probes (suggesting he would play at least 27 without them). This is a man who isn’t skimping on mana, and with good reason. I see so many people playing U/W Blade decks with only 25 land and no more than two Probes. Boyd doesn’t even have Gideons or Elspeths or “Sixes!”

The most interesting feature of Boyd’s sideboard is the use of a full playset of Ratchet Bombs. They are obviously incredible against tokens, but they actually have a lot of great applications in the format right now, particularly against all the aggro decks.

With the recent decline of blue control, I recommend leaving U/B out of this week’s gauntlet and replacing it with Boyd’s U/W Blade list. We will probably be seeing a fair bit of Blade decks in the weeks to come.

Up next, the runner-up, John Schwandt with W/u Destiny:

The latest version of white-blue Destiny has adopted a few new card choices but has not really strayed all that far from the original list posted here . Doomed Traveler replacing Elite Vanguard may be a slight decrease in goldfish, but adds resilience against Liliana and Day of Judgment. The use of Accorder’s Paladin is interesting, as that more than makes up for the decrease in early pressure from no Elite Vanguards. Trimming so much Geist of Saint Traft seems a little strange to me, but not nearly as strange as cutting an Angelic Destiny. All I want to do with this deck is Angelic Destiny a three-drop.

I am a big fan of the use of four Moorland Haunts here, as that card is just unreal in Honor of the Pure decks. The lone Phyrexian Metamorph strikes me as a stylistic choice, but I would probably recommend using the third Geist of Saint Traft instead.

Finally, Dismembers have been replaced with more Oblivion Rings, a move I have also since adopted, though I personally still like a Dismember or two in the sideboard. Speaking of sideboarding, Silverchase Fox is a great new addition that helps win the mirror, fighting Oblivion Rings, Honor of the Pures, and Angelic Destinies.

W/u Destiny was one of the biggest movers at the GP, putting multiple people into the Top 8. The archetype is on the rise and is actually a little underrated anyway. Many players just haven’t tried it, but now it’s finally catching on. It is far from busted and can be beaten if you try, but right now the format is so preoccupied with Wolf Run, Solar Flare, and Blade decks, Destiny decks are still flying a little under the radar. It is worth noting that the other Destiny deck to top 16 SCG KC was actually G/W Destiny, though I lean towards W/u Destiny continuing to be the more popular variation.

W/u Destiny was one of the bigger movers at the GP, putting multiple people into the top 8.

Up next, we have fan favorite, Mono-Black Infect:

Lashwrithe continues to live up to the prophecy of making Mono-Black a real strategy again. With good matchups against Wolf Run and Doom Blade, Mono-Black Infect has been steadily climbing over the past few weeks. Finally, last week, it exploded in popularity and was the town of the community. With so many eyes on Infect, it could no longer skate by under the radar against opponents that were unprepared for it. The strategy is quite linear and can be fought if you dedicate some cards to improving your edge against it (like fewer Doom Blades, not being kold to a Phyrexian Crusader, Ancient Grudges, etc.). With the spotlight on it, Mono-Black Infect took a giant hit, particularly at the GP. The worse Wolf Run performs, the worse Mono-Black Infect does, it would seem.

Petersen’s build doesn’t have much in the way of spice, but it is worth noting the decrease in discard. With Wolf Run already being a good matchup, a number of Infect players have been trimming their discard package, making room for more Contagion Clasp, Virulent Wound, and Liliana type cards that can increase the effective amount of removal. Tezzeret’s Gambit, Virulent Wound, and Contagion Clasp also add up to a fair bit of reach, not to mention Petersen’s increased Skithiryx count to try to put people away in the games where you don’t draw Lashwrithe (aka the hard ones).

While Mono-Black Infect is likely to remain slightly more popular in the US than other places because of a greater quantity of Wolf Run players, it is actually reasonable to leave Infect out of the gauntlet this week, unless you are playing a Wolf Run strategy. While this top four would make a reasonable gauntlet (in addition to Wolf Run, of course), this is the deck that probably has to be dropped to make room for Juza’s GP winning list, which we’ll get to in a minute.

Now, we move on to Kibler and Gerry’s favorite, Solar FlareØŸ (There may not be a sarcasm font, but we do have the irony-point to denote sarcasm…)

Finally a top four with no Wolf Run players to ruin Solar Flare’s day. This has got to be where Solar Flare finally makes its move and wins something, right?

No sir!

Solar Flare keeps its season-long tradition of putting up solid numbers overall, but unable to walk away with the title. One of the best decks for top 8ing, but just about the worst for actually winning, Solar Flare just doesn’t match up well with the top of the field. Card quality it has in spades; it is just not what the format calls for, so much as it is one of the baseline things that the format calls on you to beat. Solar Flare also put a copy into the top 8 of GP Hiroshima, but as always, the strategy fell short.

David’s list doesn’t stray too far from the norm, but has a couple twists. Three Despises maindeck is actually quite clever, as it is sure to increase his percentage against Wolf Run a fair bit. In fact, he actually had to defeat a Wolf Run Green deck in the quarterfinals just to get to the top four! On top of this and the full set of Leaks, Flashfreezes and Dissipates in the sideboard and Ghost Quarters main show that David had done his homework and was serious about shoring up Solar Flare’s biggest weakness.

I also love the diversification of threats. Three Sun Titans, Two Phantasmal Images, a Wurmcoil, a Batterskull, and Elesh Norn (plus some Snapcasters) make for a better selection of angles to attack from than just relying on Sun Titan. I am not sure I love only one Day maindeck, but I guess you have to cut something to make room for the Despises, and at least there are two more in the board.  

I am generally not a fan of Solar Flare’s position in the current metagame. Its mana comes into play tapped a little too often (plus is color screwed slightly more than I want to be), and it seems to be notoriously bad at actually winning tournaments. All this said, I must admit David Thomas’s list does look well-tuned and Despise adds a novel enough element that I am going to have to give it another shot. Regardless of how often (or rarely) it takes the top spot, it is consistently one of the best performing decks in Swiss and a crucial test deck to have in the gauntlet.

While Wolf Run was shut out of the final four this past weekend, it remains the deck to beat. It may be the most popular strategy, but it is also the most successful both in terms of getting to the top eight (beats up on unprepared opponents) and actually winning (matches up well against many of the other top strategies). This is absolutely step one in the gauntlet, and I strongly advise playing a deck that you feel confident can defeat Wolf Run. The strategy is very beatable, but you have to be honest with yourself in your playtesting. If something isn’t working, you have to be willing to set it aside, no matter how much you like it. We have to figure out what is actually important in our matches against them. Each deck we play is going to fight them a different way, so it is not like there is a magic solution that solves the problem for everyone. Also, it is not a matter of a hate card or what have you. It is a matter of building your entire deck with Wolf Run in mind.

Here are the latest versions to top eight:

As you can see, not a lot of innovation, though Sword of Feast and Famine main is interesting, and the return of Garruk Relentless is noteworthy. He is an excellent tool against infect, especially when combined with Ancient Grudge. Also, in the pseudo-mirrors, the guy with more little Garruks has a little bit of edge (killing Birds/Elves, while preempting big Garruk). It is also worth noting that among the four Wolf Run Green lists to top 16, we see only a single copy of Wurmcoil Engine (though three out of four have some number of Batterskull). If you previously set aside an aggressive deck that couldn’t hang with Wolf Run, it might be worth revisiting it. No Viridian Emissaries and no Wurmcoils means the matchups are going to play out much differently.

More interesting, this week, is the emergence of Wolf Run G/W (though I would tend to think of it more as Wolf Run Naya, since Mountain and Ancient Grudge are strange cards for a G/W deck). I am not sure what the tiebreaker situation looked like, but Wolf Run G/W just barely missed the top 8, at 9th and 10th place. Let’s start with the 9th place finisher, Kevin Dulin:

Kevin’s list is very much in the same vein as the original Wolf Run Ramp deck, with Day of Judgment instead of Slagstorm (a far better card in the format, if you ask me). The only other maindeck white are a couple Gideons, the miser’s Elesh Norn, and the miser’s White Sun’s Zenith. Gideon is just a great card and can often be slid into any white deck. It is worth noting that Gideon + Garruk, Primal Hunter is absolutely adorable (assuming you like drawing six the way my gf likes pictures of puppies). Elesh Norn makes perfect sense, as it is one of the premier fatties in the format and can help us go “even bigger” against opponents. The White Sun’s Zenith is the most unusual of the white additions, though it is certainly a powerful instant-speed threat that provides a surprising way to convert Primeval Titan into a game-winning advantage besides just going for the Inkmoth kill. While we can’t afford to be all late game, the first one adds a fantastic new dimension that makes it much harder to play against you.

Mirran Crusader, Celestial Purge, and Timely Reinforcements out of the sideboard are just awesome and have me suspecting that this is just a better way to play Wolf Run Ramp than the outdated Slagstorm build. Whether it is better than Dungrove Elder is still to be determined, but I think it is pretty safe to consider this the primary alternative. White is just such a fantastic support or base color right now, and red is just so bad. Even if we agree that white spells work great with the Primeval Titan + Kessig Wolf Run strategy, there seems to be no consensus on what this means. For instance, the 10th place finisher’s Wolf Run G/W deck looks very different from the 9th place list. If anything, this list actually looks like a hybrid of the Dungrove style of Wolf Run and G/W tokens!

Mirran Crusader and Hero of Bladehold? Then, when you tap out to Day of Judgment, he Primeval Titans? Wow, very clever! If the previous build tries to go over the top of the mirror, this build is definitely looking to duck under and win by virtue of being faster. Mirran Crusader and Hero of Bladehold are both fantastic weapons against other Wolf Run decks and make this list look like it has the edge on paper against the Dungrove builds (though is probably at a disadvantage against the Day of Judgment/Gideon style of Wolf Run G/W).

Generally, it is recommended to try to put together a five deck gauntlet, if you have the time. What about if you don’t? After all, sometimes, we have slightly less testing time than we would like on a given week. If you only have time to test three matchups this week, they should be Wolf Run and whichever two matchups among the popular archetypes you have the least experience playing against. Sometimes, we have to make due with limited time, so gaining familiarity with the format as a whole is more important than just “practicing reps.” Wolf Run is so big and so popular, it needs to be a fixture; however if you have already tested against Solar Flare, U/W Blade, and Mono-Black Infect, it might be worth letting the other games go to W/u Destiny and Tokens. I also consider trying to get some games in against Wolf Run G/W if you have time (whichever build looks better against your deck).

The final deck I recommend for this week’s gauntlet is Martin Juza’s GP winning list:

G/W Tokens is back with a vengeance! Juza wins his third GP, this time with a G/W variant that takes advantage of Overrun, Geist-Honored Monk, and Mikaeus, in addition to the usual suspects to capitalize on his creature swarm, rather than Honor of the Pure or Intangible Virtue. With a focus on quality (like Mirran Crusader over Midnight Haunting), Juza’s list is consistent and powerful. As you can see, it is a blurry line that differentiates G/W Tokens from G/W Destiny from Wolf Run G/W. One thing is clear, Mirran Crusader and Hero of Bladehold supported by a G/W aggressive strategy is a formidable strategy that needs to be in every gauntlet. It has the speed to combat Wolf Run and the durability to hang with the blue decks. I’d hate to play against a red deck with this list, but that isn’t really that big of the metagame right now.

Standard has continued to evolve week-in and week-out, and every indication is that this is going to continue. The format is healthy and dynamic, providing a great reminder that a “best deck” doesn’t mean the format is unhealthy or that anything needs to be banned. This week seems to be the beginning of a changing of the guard. Wolf Run’s weaknesses have been revealed, and the format is moving beyond the strategy. It will continue to be a major player just as Valakut continued to be a major player after its prime, but there is no question the metagame is correcting itself.

There is still so much to explore in the format, I have a feeling the format we are seeing today is not what the format is going to look like one month from now, after the World Championships. What that new format will be is hard to tell, as the metagame takes a new twist and turn weekly. Just this past week, Birthing Pod returned to the top eight (Bant Pod) and white aggro seemed to take over the format. Where will things go next week?

So far, Innistrad has been absolutely awesome for both Draft and for Constructed. It impacts every format, but appears to break none of them. The cards are dripping with flavor and fun. Without a doubt, this set is an absolute home run both design and development-wise. As much as we have already uncovered, I have a feeling there is still so much just below the surface. Just as Angelic Destiny, Garruk, Primal Hunter, and Lashwrithe just needed a little time, I wonder what slightly under-the-radar cards in Innistrad are one or two sets away from greatness (with the printing of the right support).

Make sure to check out SCGLive covering the Open in Las Vegas this weekend! Jacob Van Lunen and I are totally excited to go back to Vegas and hope to see/hear from you, there. Tournaments in Vegas are always a dangerous proposition , but certainly a good time. See you then!

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”

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