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Extended And Standard Metagame Updates

Wednesday, March 16 – Reid Duke discovers some Valakut tech, a new Extended Grixis Control list, and a Venser, the Sojourner U/W Control deck for Standard. Find out how to prepare for the SCG Open in Dallas/Fort Worth this weekend.

Again this week, I worked with data from Magic Online Daily Events. I only consider decks that achieved a 3-1 or a 4-0 record because my goal is to
provide a rough overview of the decks that are winning tournaments. The charts that follow don’t show the overall popularity or the overall win rate of
these decks. Instead, I use a measure that I call “success rating”: two points for a 4-0 record and one point for a 3-1 record.* “Success rating” can
be used as an approximation of how (relatively) likely it is to face a given deck in the late rounds of a tournament.


* This comes from a method used by Frank Karsten, which I found second-hand in this article.

Extended

Extended Bar

Extended Pie

The metagame breakdown is largely the same as last week. There’s a tiny bit more Bant and more winning decks that fit into the “Other” category. For
example:


I had the pleasure of losing to osmanozguney in this tournament. I happened to be playing Elf Combo, but I would’ve suffered the same fate had I been
using any creature-based strategy. This deck is filled with all the most efficient removal and discard spells from black and red with enough blue card
advantage to ensure a victory in the late game.

Traditionally, blue control decks struggle against Faeries. However, after watching people make good use of Vampire Nighthawk in Faeries mirrors for
the past few weeks, I have faith that this deck can put up a good fight. While it lacks the synergistic tribal package, it still has Nighthawk, discard
spells, and Cryptic Commands, which are the “best cards” played in Faeries in the raw sense.

Compared to Five-Color Control, you lose access to Esper Charm, Day of Judgment, and Great Sable Stag, but the smoother mana and abundance of efficient
removal makes up for it.

Bant won Sunday’s online PTQ in the talented hands of buuchan. Unfortunately, his list wasn’t available at the time of writing, but I watched him
through the Top 8 where he eventually defeated a U/W/r Stoneforge deck in the finals.

The red splash allows U/W to play Lightning Bolt and Cunning Sparkmage, which is appealing in a deck that already has four Stoneforge Mystics to grab
Basilisk Collar. Lately, it seems like whatever happens in Standard follows in Extended. Will Geth, Lord of the Vault make the transition next week?

I’m thrilled to see Bant take down another blue envelope (actually it was the equally coveted Vincent Price email). I have to admit that I had some
doubts. I never doubted the power of the deck but rather its ability to win a PTQ in the current metagame. When I won, I had the luxury of not having
to worry much about the mirror match. Recently, I’ve had lots of players coming to me asking for advice. Some are having trouble with Elves, some with
Scapeshift, and others with U/W. It’s a huge challenge to balance all of these matchups without losing ground in the mirror.

The trick for Bant players, moving forward, will be practice, practice, practice. No matter how you tweak and tune, you’ll still only have fifteen
sideboard slots, so you’ll have to learn to win some of those matchups the hard way. In particular, the control matchups and creature mirrors are more
about tight play than about throwing a lot of hate cards in the sideboard. On the other hand, even the best players can’t make a Noble Hierarch live
through a Searing Blaze. Use play skill to help you where it can, and let your sideboard pick up the slack where it can’t.

Standard

Standard Bar

Standard Pie

Since last week, Vampires has passed up Boros as the most popular aggro deck. Red Deck Wins has made a comeback in the wake of Patrick Sullivan
victory at the StarCityGames.com Edison Open. Caw-Blade, on the whole, has held steady, but it’s broken up into three fairly distinct builds. Then
there’s Valakut…

Sixteen percent of the metagame last week and twenty-seven percent this week! I don’t know exactly what happened, but the lesson is clear; the Valakut
deck is not going away until Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle rotates out of Standard.

Before Mirrodin Besieged, the biggest choice Valakut players had to make was whether to run three Avengers of Zendikar or four. Browsing through the
winning lists this week, I could see Valakut lists that were different by fifteen maindeck cards! Some played Green Sun’s Zenith; some played Summoning
Trap; some played both. Some played no removal; some played Slagstorm and Pyroclasm. Here’s a pretty classic decklist:


Classic in terms of the spells, that is. The creature suite is anything but. Lotus Cobra isn’t industry standard, but it’s not uncommon either.

Cyclops Gladiator? Before you laugh, make a list of all the creatures that it kills and compare that list to the creatures it doesn’t kill. He
massacres the landfall creatures that sit with one toughness during the opponent’s turn and does a number on the Lotus Cobras and Overgrown Battlements
that are so critical in Valakut mirrors. Moreover, it does all this while attacking for four per turn and without dying to Lightning Bolt. I don’t know
if the Cyclops is a crucial part of a modern Valakut deck, but triosk crushed his way to two 4-0 finishes this week, so he may be on to something.

The resurgence of Valakut makes Standard feel a little bit more like it did back in December. Even so, I didn’t think I’d be seeing non-Stoneforge U/W
Control again.


Jabs (aka Carlos Romao) is a former world champion and MOCS last boss. He’s also famous as a blue
control player. Venser, the Sojourner was a fringe card in old Standard, but now Jabs has taught him a new trick. +2 to destroy target permanent is a
perfectly fair ability for a planeswalker, so long as it costs something like 4UBBR. With Spine of Ish Sah (and Treasure Mage to find it), Venser can
do it. Imagine trying to kill a planeswalker whose loyalty is ticking up at double speed while you’re losing your best creature every turn and also
fighting through all the defensive cards a U/W Control deck can throw at you.

Standard is begging us to be creative. Fauna Shaman, Trinket Mage, Treasure Mage, Stoneforge Mystic, and Green Sun’s Zenith make little ideas do big
things. If you haven’t been searching Gatherer for new ways to use these cards, you should start! The lesson for this week is to keep an open mind to
obscure cards. A month ago, I didn’t expect Vampire Nighthawk to be a defining card in Extended. I can’t wait to find out all the things I’ve been
missing in Standard.