It Feels Good To Be A Green Mage

With a Standard format that has shifted wildly over the course of the past month, Brad Nelson reflects on where we’ve been in order to predict where the metagame is going next. Grand Prix London is calling his name, if only he picks the right deck for the event…

We have now seen a full month of Standard results ever since Magic Origins debuted. There have been some exciting breakouts since the Open Series in Chicago, but things have finally begun to simmer down a little. It might not look that way with each of the four winning decklists being so different from one another, but behind each of them is a strong and consistent trend. Green is the king of Standard.

Michael Majors winning Grand Prix San Diego with U/R Sphinx’s Tutelage might not seem to go along with my statement that green is the way to go, but the truth is that the green-based decks have the best tools for adapting to the metagame. They have the most power to force through their threats while having cheap reactive ways to punish anyone trying to do something else.

Standard is always in a constant state of ebb and flow. The tides may crash against the shore with decks like U/R Sphinx’s Tutelage, U/R Thopters, Mono-Red Aggro, or U/B Control, but when things settle down the best place to be is in the middle with something like Abzan Control. Right now we are seeing weeks of information pouring in with dozens of new decks. Picking one up and learning it is rather easy, but knowing how to win with it becomes difficult. That’s because the metagame is all over the place. We have no clear way to decipher what conclusions the vast majority will come up with or what they will play. It’s just a guessing game sometimes.

Sometimes it isn’t.

It’s easy to figure out the metgame for GP London, but the answer isn’t exactly what you want to hear. The metagame will be a combination of the last three weeks of results. Some people will try to get ahead of the format with decks showcasing Stormbreath Dragon while others will be playing stock versions of the cool deck they saw in coverage. Others will be tuning the decks they love to be able to beat the enchantments and artifacts floating around. It’s impossible to get a full grasp on the format when everyone has gone so wide.

I always tend to lean towards the green decks when the format is this vast. Early threats, cheap removal, and late-game bombs is my formula and it tends to work out better than the other option. The only issue is that there are currently many options to choose from in the green wheelhouse. So which are the best? Well, we start with this monster!

Siege Rhino is easily the safest choice right now. Abzan Control has always been a contender no matter what the format has looked like, but whenever it reigns supreme the format corrects itself to defeat it. Lately that answer was G/R Devotion. Dragonlord Atarka and friends smashed Abzan Control in the initial two Open Series events when Magic Origins first released. Going into the Pro Tour, everyone thought Abzan Control wasn’t that good because of G/R Devotion and that is how we got to such an aggressive Pro Tour.

Now things are a little different. G/R Devotion has dropped in numbers due to hate and aggression while decks like G/W Megamorph have skyrocketed. This makes Abzan Control, yet again, the top deck for the weekend.

My list is very similar to what Matt Sperling and Paul Rietzl played at Grand Prix San Diego this past weekend. You don’t have to get cute with this deck, just play the good cards and make sure the sideboard has answers to what you expect. For me, that is making room for the third Ultimate Price for Stormbreath Dragon and a Back to Nature for these Constellation decks popping up.

If Siege Rhino is your weapon of choice but control isn’t your flavor, do not fret. Tha Dizzler is here to save us all!

Brian has been working on a new take of Abzan Aggro. I’m not sold on how good this deck is yet, but only because I have not had time to try it. Maybe I should just sling whatever 75 he plays since it has worked out so well for me in the past. I just know the man knows his Abzan Aggro and for right now this is what he is doing.

Regardless of design, Abzan Aggro is back. This is mostly due to the fact that Abzan Control numbers have went down due to the power of Languish and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, but it also has a lot to do with the numbers of enchantments floating around. Dromoka’s Command is better than ever, but so is Thoughtseize. Abzan Aggro lets you play both while the other decks in the field force you to choose.

This deck is aggressive, punishes bad draws, and has the ability to keep up in the late-game. I’m not too scared to tell the masses that Abzan Aggro is back.

“Did somebody say Abzan is good?”

Yes Atarka, there are tasty Rhinos ready for the devouring.

No matter what happens to this format, G/R Devotion is a threat. It was at its worst around the time of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix San Diego, but it still performed as well as any other archetype. The deck is powerful, resilient, and punishing. You can never count this deck out.

G/R Devotion is also a deck that I think is primed for a comeback. Whenever Abzan Control wants to start taking back a format, G/R Devotion is in the bushes ready to pounce. It’s like that serpent thing in League of Legends. Right before one team kills it, someone from the other team jumps in for the finishing blow and reaps the benefits.

See, I know… things… about other games!

The only issue with G/R Devotion is finding the right build. For the time being, I think Shaman of Forgotten Ways is the best three-drop followed by Courser of Kruphix and then Deathmist Raptor follows both of those close behind. The only question in my mind is if Dromoka’s Command will actually see a ton of play this weekend at GP London, and this brings us back to the issue of metagaming. Who really knows what will happen at this GP? It’s going to be a wild roller-coaster of decks. It will become a giant slugfest of archetypes trying to take home first place. And there’s no fist more powerful than Dragonlord Atarka.

Next up on my list of decks to play this weekend is Bant Heroic.

It wouldn’t be Star City Games Premium if it didn’t have Heroes!

Bant Heroic is a deck that I have always had a hate-hate relationship with. Whenever I try to play with it, I lose. Whenever I try to play a deck that is bad against it, I fear it. No matter what, I hate this deck. Regardless of my bias, this deck has wheels right now. Todd Anderson worst finish in three events is second place with this deck. He took second at the Open Series in Richmond, won SCG Regionals, and then most recently won the Standard Premier IQ in Washington D.C. this past weekend.

While the rest of the VS crew was up in D.C., I was preparing for GP London and Worlds at home. I couldn’t justify playing Legacy when I have Worlds to prepare for. With all that free time, I took Bant Heroic for a spin and didn’t win a match. Not a single match! I gave up frustrated and decided the deck was bad, then I see Todd win yet another event with this deck. You see the disparity here, right?

I’ve now rationally come to the conclusion that Bant Heroic is passably good. It’s not format-defining, but it is a contender. It’s just difficult to pilot, which makes the deck’s results so varied. In fact, I don’t know if I could pilot it to a good finish if I knew it was the best deck in the format. It takes time and dedication, which Todd Anderson and Tom Ross have poured into it in spades. Say whatever you want about the deck, you don’t want to sit across either of them playing it. Trust me, because I lose to them every time.

The last deck to make my list is Kibler’s G/W Megamorph deck:

I had access to this deck going into the Pro Tour, but Dragonlord Atarka had already brainwashed me. Even though I finished 7-2 (I scooped the last round), I still think it was a mistake to not play his deck. Results-oriented thinking is the worst place to be in Magic, so no argument will prove I was correct in not listening to him. It’s sad since this was the first time I have worked with Kibler in four years and also the first time we didn’t play the same 75. It was obviously my bad because this deck was “the deck” for the Pro Tour.

I don’t know for how much longer that will hold true. It’s obvious that this deck is good, but it has some issues. This deck is a good choice when playing against the decks from the Pro Tour, but not if you face innovative people. Cards like Stormbreath Dragon, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion are all well-positioned against this deck, making them captivating choices for the next weekend. Like I said earlier, I have no idea what people will do this weekend but I do know these cards will be at the top of my list to expect a select few to be playing. G/W Megamorph has to be prepared for some hate due to being the new deck on the block.

I’ve spent all of today talking about green-based decks, so I should spend a little time explain which non-green decks will and won’t be well-positioned this weekend. Let’s start with what I wouldn’t play.


Even though this deck had great success at the Pro Tour doesn’t mean it will carry over to this month of events. Red never performs well when it has a target on its head and right now there is a little red dot smack dab between Monastery Swiftspear’s eyes. Simply put, the deck is poorly positioned right now. Dromoka’s Command is everywhere and the removal-based midrange decks know what removal is good now. Arashin Cleric and Pharika’s Cure numbers are up while Drown in Sorrow is down. Maybe that means a version of Boss Sligh could be good again, but that is for someone else to figure out. All I know is that red in its current configurations is not where you want to be.

U/R Thopters

This deck took Pro Tour Magic Origins by storm, but it had a surprisingly low win percentage for all the hype around the deck. It did horrible in San Diego, leaving me to believe it was a good called shot for the PT but that it will not amount to anything past that. Unravel the Aether, Reclamation Sage, and Banishing Light numbers are all up, which makes me fear playing this deck. It does have a surprisingly good matchup against the expected “counter” to the current metagame so I wouldn’t count this deck completely dead, but I don’t think it can survive until the hate dies down.

U/B Control

I love U/B Control, I love Adrian Sullivan, and I love Perilous Vault. What I don’t love is this deck’s win percentage. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver might be well-positioned against a fair amount of the field, but this deck just can’t win. Every time it won a GP it was an anomaly to the rest of the data from the events, and this deck was never played in small amounts. Even The Pantheon played the deck for a couple rounds in the PT, but no one did well with it. I wish U/B Control was better, but it just isn’t. Don’t you worry though, control fans, because post-rotation will be great for control. Dig Through Time, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, and all the rest of the Esper Dragons cards will still be around. There will be enough time for us to get sick of this deck!

Decks I Would Consider Playing This Weekend

Esper Dragons

I know this deck is similar to U/B Control, but it has actual win conditions. Dragonlord Ojutai is well-positioned right now and just needs competent pilots behind him to do well. Unfortunately I’m not one of those. I tried to test with this deck for this coming weekend and found that my ability to Dig Through Time always left me digging my own grave. I just don’t have the skills to look at seven cards, I guess.

Abzan Constellation

I understand this is a green deck, but it doesn’t function like the ones I was referring to at the beginning of the article. Maybe that’s the main reason I think this deck is good. Sure, some people will be packing Back to Nature, but probably not in numbers that will actually be threatening to this deck. The advantage to this deck is that people will still most likely respect U/R Thopters, which forces them to hedge with their artifact and enchantment removal. Some sickos out there might play two or three copies of Back to Nature, but I highly doubt it. People just don’t have that much room to dedicate to a single matchup. This isn’t last year were there were only three decks. Standard is currently right up there with Modern and Legacy as far as how many playable archetypes there are. Shoot for the stars, my friends!

U/R Sphinx’s Tutelage

Michael Majors is my new favorite player. He showed up to Grand Prix San Diego expecting to play Abzan, yet the person who had the deck for him didn’t bring it. Instead of scouring for cards to try and somehow still make that deck happen, he just picked up this deck instead since it looked sweet and proceeded to crush everyone with it! I have no clue if this deck has legs, but we will find out this weekend. Maybe it doesn’t and Majors is just that good at Magic (hint: he actually is), or maybe we will have a tournament dominated by milling people out. He beat many Dromoka’s Commands last weekend, and this deck is poised to do it against this weekend unless we bring the hate.

Standard is looking very healthy at the moment, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. I love the fact that so many cards and archetypes are viable which makes it fun to watch, play, and learn from. Maybe things will start to slow down and we will see a few decks take over the metagame, but it won’t be for a long period of time. Things will constantly shift until we take the battle to Zendikar.

But it’s not time to head to Zendikar just yet… first we head to London. And hopefully I’ll see you there!