No Jersey? No Problem! Quick Hits

Get ready to play Standard this weekend at SCG Open Series: St. Louis by reading Mark Nestico’s thoughts about the current metagame and more!

I bet a lot of you were really excited to battle in New Jersey last weekend.

You probably had a sweet brew that was poised to win the whole thing, but then it happened.

Mother Nature.

It’s not like she cares about Magic. She strikes me as more of a Cards Against Humanity person given that she clearly has such a sick sense of humor.

Weather starting to finally let up? LOL NOPE.

The entire east coast was bludgeoned over the head with snow, and SCG Open Series: New Jersey was canceled.

My Facebook and Twitter decided to pull their best Vesuvius impression and erupt over the news. The sky was falling, SCG was too scared to travel, JFK’s assassination was a government job, and carefully planned weekends all over the country were dismissed by states of emergency. Just. Like. That.

Quick Hit #1: I Live In Florida. How Does It Taste?

Personally, sheltered by 73 degree weather with no humidity down in Florida, I was having a tough time myself. Upon traveling to Sarasota on Saturday, I wrongfully identified that it was shorts weather. At around seven in the evening it wasn’t, so I was stuck wandering around an Amish buffet without jeans and sans a sweater, only comforted by the delicious homemade chicken and dumplings that I was chowing down on. I could barely ride home with the windows down; I did, but it was under duress.

While you all were living out your fantasies of being downhill bobsledders or whatever it is you people do in the snow, which I assume involves Eskimo suits and hand warmers, I was blasting "Still Not A Player" by Big Punisher in Central Florida. Tough life, right?

It wasn’t all Pennsylvania Dutch feasts and cargo shorts, however, as I’m gearing up for SCG Open Series: Atlanta. In just under two weeks I’ll be slinging some Standard spells and—gasp if you will—even be playing more Legacy. What deck I have no idea, but I’m assuming it will play blue—basically anything I can do to make my opponent miserable. Hopefully a Sword will be involved being wielded by a Merfolk.

I am scum. Such scum.

But like always my eyes are turned to Standard because it’s my bread and butter. If I’m going to crack some skulls in Hotlanta, it’s going to be in that format.

Quick Hit #2: What Will I Battle With?

The first deck I’m entertaining is a very reliable standby in U/W Control, which may or may not have gotten better with the new set’s emergence. The jury is still out on that one.

You see, there are two camps of people who play U/W Control: those who believe in the transitional sideboard filled with Brimaz, King of Oreskos; Angel of Thune; and Soldier of the Pantheon and people who like a bevy of options with mirror match fare, planeswalkers, and means to deal with more creatures.

Either approach seems very valid, but I prefer the following kind of deck.

(As a side note, it’s terribly difficult to write while watching House of Cards. Season two has been riveting, don’t you agree? [Editor’s Note: No spoilers, please and thanks!])

This is a rough draft of the kind of U/W deck that I’d like to play going forward, but I think it’s a great place to start for testing purposes.

It’s entirely possible that Brimaz belongs in here somewhere, but I’m trying it without him for the time being. The matchup that I feel hurts the most to not have him in is Mono-Red Aggro since he is able to put the game away with ease if left unchecked and is always a two-for-one that can save you chunks of life if they are able to deal with him. With G/R Monsters on the rise, however, he seems very underwhelming. As much as I love him, this is not the right shell for him.

Archangel of Thune is a card that I can see continuing to get more expensive as the weeks progress. Mono-Blue Devotion hasn’t let up any steam, and I even heard that it won a 5K in Michigan. That’s two tournaments in two weeks that Master of Waves has crashed over, which means that it isn’t going anywhere.

This shell is very well equipped to deal with Mono-Blue Devotion, and going forward that’s going to mean a great deal. Despite getting very little from Born of the Gods, Mono-Blue is a deck that presents so much raw power that people are naturally going to be drawn to it. Archangel is beast mode against Mono-Blue, and if she sticks for a turn, it is very difficult for them to get back into the match. I like that.

The rest of the board is fairly self-explanatory in that it is loaded for multiple matchups. Revoke Existence is finally starting to see play, and I think as a one-of in the maindeck it’s going to catch a lot of opponents off guard. Even G/R Monsters plays Xenagos, God of Revels, and being able to wipe him off the board doesn’t seem so bad. It hits Thassa, God of the Sea; Underworld Connections; Detention Sphere, and more. Versatility is a good thing.

As per usual, I believe this deck is well positioned in that it doesn’t have any horrendous matchups and its good ones are extremely favorable. U/W Control is gaining a lot more traction, but we’ll get to why later.

If I don’t succumb to drunkenly sending Facebook messages to Brain Braun-Duin or Chris VanMeter, which I almost certainly will, I’ll be playing this U/W deck or at least some variant at #SCGATL. The last time I said I’d play U/W and ended up playing U/W/R instead, people got angry. I had to kiss a lot of babies that day to smooth the ruffled feathers, so I felt like it was necessary to errata there. You can be pissed if I’m playing G/R Monsters, but remember if I do send those drunken messages, it just kind of happens.

Quick Hit #3: The State Of Standard

We’re just a few weeks in, and things are starting to take a little bit of shape. The biggest setback no doubt is that SCG Open Series: New Jersey was canceled.

It’s amazing how just one missed Standard Open can keep things in a holding pattern, but there are little things out there to take serious note of.

While previously a tier 1.5 deck, G/R Monsters is certainly good enough to be at the top of the list of decks you should be preparing for. The only thing keeping it in check is the fact that Mono-Blue Devotion is a miserable matchup for it, but if there’s a dip in Mono-Blue, you’re going to see a lot more of this deck at the top tables. Plan accordingly.

Speaking of Mono-Blue Devotion, as we talked about a little bit earlier, this deck is seemingly still pulverizing the competition with almost zero Born of the Gods cards. In what world is this deck a bad option? The Super Sunday Series Championship saw zero copies of it, but that should be chalked up to a small field filled with different flavors of black decks and U/W Control builds that naturally prey on Mono-Blue Devotion. I don’t think we can put much stock in this hiccup.

Is this deck something I’d consider for a future event? Well, pardon the joke, but I’d be afraid to ride that wave. Eventually the format is going to catch up with it, and all the control decks swarming it coupled with B/W Midrange decks packing four Last Breaths in the main is going to make it very hard to keep winning tournaments. But you still have to prepare for it until it gets driven down, and who knows how long that will take.

Speaking of a juggernaut that has been a bit on the ropes lately, Mono-Black Devotion has seen a small decrease in play. Why? Maybe it’s because everyone wants to play with new cards, but #SCGNASH saw only two copies in the Top 20 decks, and it certainly didn’t win. It lost in the finals of the miscellaneous 5K, which is another Born of the Gods tournament that it failed to close. Owen Turtenwald won the Super Sunday Series Championship with it, but again it was a small sampling. And good lord he can’t lose with that deck anyway.

What’s the future for Pack Rat? Of course it’s looking good, but a lot of people are shying away from Drown in Sorrow, taking away a little bit of the new sheen the latest set has given it. It might be poorly positioned right now as my buddy Anthony Lowry has been toting, and he very well might be right unless you’re dead set on crushing Mono-Blue Devotion. Is this titan going to get back to winning tournaments? Or have people finally figured out how to beat it consistently? I look forward to cracking that nut.

Weeks ago I talked about R/W Devotion being underutilized, and online the deck has been experiencing a nice surge. It is ridiculously powerful, but it can’t play extremely well from behind. How lucky are you feeling? I have friends that play R/W Devotion exclusively and swear by it, and with people still trying to jam their new cards, it might just be best to beat them to death with Stormbreath Dragons and Fanatic of Mogis. Let them be cute while you be deadly.

Quick Hit #4: What Would You Like To See?

I’m known for a few things: biting wit and rugged good looks.

But about my writing . . .

Recently some pretty cool things have been happening at StarCityGames.com, which I’m sure many of you have been reading about. This means that a few doors have opened up and I have the opportunity to expand the kinds of content I bring to you on a week-to-week basis.

Pretty much what I do are strategy and community pieces, and that’s worked out pretty well. We’re going on a year, folks, and I couldn’t be happier to keep entertaining you but would love to mix it up.

These are the ideas that I have, so I’d dig some feedback:

1. Question & Answer videos! As much as I love trying to answer the ridiculous amount of comments you guys make, which I’m forever thankful for, I think videos giving more intricate responses, perhaps with some editing, might be a lot of fun. Perhaps picking ten or so questions from the comments and answering them in a more personal fashion.

2. Playtesting videos! Other people do these as well, but I’m hilarious.

3. You Pick The Decks! As someone who enjoys his FNMs, I think it’d be fun to start having a deck of the week, and since it’s a small tournament without tons at stake, I’d really enjoy having you guys pick a deck every week for me to play with and report on. Ideally I’d like to play something different every week.

If you have any suggestions of new things you’d like to see, let me know! I’m open to freshening things up.

That brings us, much like Boyz II Men said, to the end of the road . . . for this week at least.

I hope that while you were huddled up in front of a fire made up of your old VHS tapes that you had a little fun at least because laughter gets the body moving and movement generates heat. You have no idea how high my electric bill was this month due to having to keep the air conditioning on at all hours.

Sick brags.

I plan on hitting the old drawing board for tons of testing this week, especially with U/W Control, so I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes. We have a tournament to battle in, kiddies.

For now, though? Beach time.