Bant Megamorph And Mardu Dragons

Fresh off of a strong finish at #SCGATL, “The Boss” Tom Ross shares his thoughts on the current state of the Standard format, how he’d tune his Bant Megamorph deck for #SCGStates this weekend, and what else he’s considering as an option for the weekend.

Week Two of Battle for Zendikar Standard is behind us and SCG States and Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar is this weekend. #SCGATL showed us that the two biggest players are Jeskai Black and G/W Megamorph. I didn’t expect so many people to follow in the footsteps of Michael Majors and his G/W Megamorph deck, but sadly others also recognized what I feel is the best archetype in Standard right now. I didn’t think I’d be playing a G/W Megamorph variant myself going into the weekend, but somehow I happened upon it.

The car ride from Roanoke to Atlanta included myself, Todd Anderson and Andrew Shrout. Todd and I typically play the same deck for tournaments, but this time we were waffling over whether to play a new brew or to be lazy and roll with Abzan Aggro with blue like we did at #SCGINDY. Todd and I debated over the best build of Jeskai Black before coming to wildly different conclusions and card choices that we wanted to play. I liked Ojutai’s Command and Dragonmaster Outcast. He liked Seeker of the Way and Monastery Mentor.

Amidst our arguing, Shrout noticed a Facebook post from Chris Andersen about a sweet deck. It was Bant Megamorph, which seemed like a sweet version of the best deck that I felt would shore up some weak spots while keeping opponents guessing. Myself, Chrandersen and Shrout ended up playing close to the same 75. Shrout didn’t do so well, but did Top Eight the Modern Premier IQ with Storm, so not a shabby weekend for the car. Chris finished at a very respectable 36th. This is the build I played last weekend:

I opted for blue in response to the number of Jeskai Black decks I expected to be there, as Dispel and Stratus Dancer are both great against them. Their swingiest cards are Crackling Doom, Dig Through Time, and Ojutai’s Command; stopping them with a single mana or with a synergistic face-down creature is just huge. As an additional bonus, a 3/2 Stratus Dancer trades with Mantis Rider from time to time.

Lumbering Falls is another card I really wanted to play with. When I played Abzan Aggro with blue at #SCGINDY, I really wanted a mana-sink for the late-game or when I was flooding out. Lumbering Falls needs a window to come down where it’s not disrupting your curve. Going back and watching the coverage, in many of the games where players first land was a creature-land or tri-land the manabase felt compromised during the next few turns. I felt I received the most benefits with only two copies of Lumbering Falls.

These are the things that Lumbering Falls did for me over the weekend:

  • Attacked planeswalkers.
  • Activated and sacrificed itself to Crackling Doom mid-combat to push through damage.
  • Threatened to block while leaving up mana to unmorph and play spells.
  • Killed players.

The counterspells like Dispel and Stratus Dancer were great all weekend. Jeskai Black showed up in higher numbers than expected and I was more than pleased by its saturation. I played two games against Todd before the tournament and he smashed me with his Jeskai Black deck because of key Dispels on my Dromoka’s Commands, which left me wondering if my adjustments would be enough for the tournament. Turns out I was paired against Jeskai Black five times and went 10-0 in games against it. Either the two games of playtesting payed off or my counterspells were positioned exactly where I needed them to be.

Moving forward, this is the list I’m considering playing at SCG States this weekend:

Stratus Dancer was so good that I wanted more in the maindeck. In fact, I was bringing in the second in every matchup, so why not just play both? The sideboard was something that was mostly put together under broad expectations and my will to test out a little of this and a little of that and see how it went. Kiora, Master of the Depths never felt like it’d be good at any point in time, against any deck. While worth giving her a spin for one tournament, I won’t be adding her to my list in the future.

The Island in the previous sideboard was to increase the blue mana source count when sideboarding upwards to possibly eight blue cards plus Lumbering Falls activations. Now the deck is down to five total blue cards, which seems to me like few enough to manage off of twelve blue sources, especially since we don’t necessarily need to hit that blue mana on-curve, we just need to have it on the crucial standoff turn which tends to happen on turns five through eight.

The Arashin Clerics got cut for Lantern Scouts which are better to race Atarka Red or other hyper-aggressive decks you may face. The body on Arashin Cleric tends to get run over and that little bit of lifegain is less relevant when they can hit for sixteen at a time. The subtle synergy with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to make an additional 2/2 Ally to retrigger your Lantern Scout certainly drives the nail in the coffin for you, but just the first trigger from Lantern Scout should give you a high enough life buffer to maneuver your way to victory from there.

Notable Exclusions

Dragonlord Ojutai is undoubtedly a good card, but it just doesn’t fit here. The first problem is how good Wingmate Roc is and the other is how morph creatures like Den Protector and Stratus Dancer act as five-drops. Dragonlord Ojutai is best in a deck full of non-creature spells like Esper Dragons. When you see a land and two creatures that are outclassed on the board, Ojutai’s ability isn’t very profitable. You want to find answers with Ojutai’s trigger like counterspells or hard removal, and Bant Megamorph doesn’t have room for those kind of cards.

Disdainful Stroke has lost a lot of its punch since Siege Rhino and Dragonlord Ojutai have been showing up in fewer numbers. Disdainful Stroke was also key in stopping Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, which was an issue before. It misses everything but Ojutai’s Command and Dig Through Time out of Jeskai Black, both cards that Dispel already hit, making it inferior in that regard. Against G/W Megamorph, you’d think it’d be good against Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Wingmate Roc, but they can just cast a morph and still use all of their mana for a pretty productive turn without casting a 4+ mana spell.

Arashin Cleric was once a great card against the red decks. Without Firedrinker Satyr and Goblin Rabblemaster tokens and with lower numbers of Dragon Fodder, Hordeling Outburst, and Lightning Berserkers showing up, the 1/3 body doesn’t hold off as many things as it once did. Also, the red decks are more combo-oriented with Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage instead of trying to burn people out with direct damage after getting in some early beats. That fact is a function of the burn spells being so bad now that Lightning Strike and Stoke the Flames have rotated out. With Wild Slash and Exquisite Firecraft as the only solid options, a burn plan is no longer realistic.

Hidden Dragonslayer is weak for the same reasons that Valorous Stance is. Abzan with Anafenza, the Foremost and Siege Rhino are declining in numbers, and the matchup is good even without either card. It hits nothing in Jeskai Black and isn’t effective against G/W Megamorph as killing half of a Wingmate Roc or converting a big Hangarback Walker into Thopters won’t typically be a great use of your resources. Hidden Dragonslayer is passable as a two-drop against Atarka Red, but never great as it will never get in a favorable combat situation. Game one against Atarka Red the deck is capable of getting ahead with Wingmate Roc or getting a lifelink Warden of the First Tree, so getting out of range of burn spells happens. Once you can return a Dromoka’s Command with a Den Protector you should be in the clear as well. After sideboard, Lantern Scout and Surge of Righteousness are the best things you can be doing and you should be favored then on out if you draw them.

Mardu Dragons Is The New Jund

I played Cecil Washington in round seven of #SCGATL when we were both 6-0. He was playing Mardu Dragons and his archetype impressed me a lot. It seemed very Jund-like with its maindeck discard, efficient creature removal, and creatures that were good on their own but better with backup. Shambling Vent mimicked the potency of Raving Ravine as well. Cecil finished in 12th place and left with me a lasting impression that Mardu Dragons is a deck that not many people are looking at but which is powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with not only the top decks but the Standard field as a whole.

After working with the deck myself a little, this is the build I came to like and would be comfortable taking to SCG States myself:

I chose to take a more aggressive approach early with Seeker of the Way. Monastery Mentor is good, but it would usually come down after you’d already wanted to cast early spells like Draconic Roar and Duress, so the Mentors got cut because they didn’t really fit. 25 land also felt low and I wanted another, especially after upping the number of Shambling Vents to four. Silkwrap is all-around good right now, so a few of those found their way into the maindeck as well.

Mardu Dragons is great at attritioning your opponent out then forcing them to face Thunderbreak Regent against their threat that’s usually of lesser impact. The deck simplifies the games to a low resource base where cards like Shambling Vents really shine. It’s also a deck that plays maindeck discard in Duress, which opens up an advantage that isn’t really seen in Standard at the moment… getting information about your opponent’s hand so you can adjust your future plays accordingly. I know something for a fact: Mardu Dragons is the deck that has given me the most trouble over the past year. Its raw power and variety of removal spells makes it tough to play around their hand and it is even tougher to play around their potential topdecks. Mardu Dragons hasn’t been my style of deck in the previous season, but it seems to be enough in the right place at the right time now that I’m strongly considering it.


Both Bant Megamorph and Mardu Dragons are decks that I’m working on for SCG States this weekend. I’ll be playing in North Carolina this time around, so if you were thinking of showing up I don’t blame you for scattering out of fear. I also don’t blame you if you want to show up to say hi and shake my hand and hang out. Jeskai Black and G/W Megamorph are currently the top dogs to dethrone, and this weekend of SCG States and Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar will truly show if the format consists of only those two decks or if people have been holding back the big bullets in the chamber for an opportune moment.

Whatever you choose have fun and good luck this weekend!