Not Magical Hack — An Eye on Constructed

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Sean is taking a brief vacation from writing Magical Hack. We’ve got a few interesting submissions lined up for the next few weeks: a few old faces you’ll be glad to see stop in and say hello, and a few new faces you’ll be meeting for the first time. Today is one such new face – Ryan Paprocki. He takes a look at both Standard and Block Constructed, and raises a few questions about their various metagames.

[Note from Jones Beach, Long Island: So begins my glamorous vacation from writing Magical Hack. We’ve got a few interesting submissions lined up for the next few weeks: a few old faces you’ll be glad to see stop in and say hello, and a few new faces you’ll be meeting for the first time. Today is one such new face – Ryan Paprocki. I’ve still got one slot open if you are interested in getting a chance to climb in the Magical Hack suit and see what it’s like to get your face on the page… and what pressures it can have to provide insight week in and week out. Let’s just say I appreciate my stand-ins, and raise this daiquiri for all of ’em as I catch a much-needed break. – Sean McKeown, Google’s #1 Magical Hack]

Hey everyone! I’m taking over Magical Hack this week. Apparently, Sean McKeown is out having a strawberry daiquiri on a beach somewhere, or at least having a daiquiri in his cubicle while his boss isn’t looking…

The Post 10th Metagame

I did have an invite to U.S. Nationals, but I was unfortunately unable to go. Women… Am I right? (BS)

Let’s break down the new Standard Metagame!

Deck Percentage Share
Satanic Sligh
***** ***** ***** (15%)
***** **** (9%)
***** **** (9%)
***** *** (8%)
G/W/U Blink
***** *** (8%)
***** (5%)
Solar Flare
**** (4%)
Aggro Loam
**** (4%)
R/G/B Aggro
**** (4%)
Project X
*** (3%)
*** (3%)
B/G Rack
*** (3%)
Beach House
** (2%)
Korlash Control
** (2%)
W/B/U Blink
** (2%)
** (2%)
Mono-Black Aggro
** (2%)
Perilous Storm
* (1%)
* (1%)
Red Deck Wins
* (1%)
Mono-Blue Pickles
* (1%)
U/G Pickles
* (1%)
R/B/W Slivers
* (1%)
U/B Control
* (1%)
Random Decks
***** *** (8%)

This is a breakdown of all of the decks played at Great Britain’s M-Fest and U.S. Nationals, which we can expect to have the biggest impact on the metagame.

Aggro Decks of Note

Mountains are at the top, Dan Paskins would be proud. With Mogg Fanatic and Incinerate coming back from Tenth, combined with The Almighty Dark Confidant and very efficient burn spells, it looks like Satanic Sligh is definitely one of the decks to beat. However, it is weak to a deck like Gruul, because their creatures are much bigger (i.e. Tarmogoyf).

I think the key to beating this deck is Call of the Herds, Tarmogoyfs, and Mogg War Marshals. But what if you aren’t playing Gruul, or even those colors for that matter? Yes, White control decks still do have some problems with this deck, because although it’s favorable, it’s not by a whole lot. Even Angelfire is at the very most 65/35 in favor of the Angelfire player, assuming your not running Osyp’s version with 4 maindeck Firemane Angels, which makes the matchup better. Anyway, I highly recommend running Crovax, because it kills most of their men. It’s also impossible to handle, south of Sudden Death.

Hey look, another deck that gets hosed by Crovax. [Good luck getting to turn 6, and feel free to Shock yourself to bounce your guy… – Craig, amused.]

As you know, Craig Jones took the crown at Great British Nationals, smashing the hell out of Dredge in the finals. Loxodon Warhammer really made its mark here, going from unplayed to absolute bomb in the aggro mirror. It has a similar problem as the Jitte, being that if you spend your entire turn playing it and equipping it, you could find yourself getting Time Walked by your creature getting killed. So make sure you don’t use your entire turn, unless your opponent is tapped out.

Unlike Satantic Sligh, Gruul has a worse matchup against Angelfire and Aethermage’s Touch decks. I’m not sure much can change this, as it was never good against the color combination of R/W/U.

This deck is pretty self- explanatory. Blink your “187” creatures for card/tempo advantage. Planar Chaos and Future Sight really helped this deck with Edge of Autumn, Venser, and Aven Riftwatcher as extra Hierarchs. The deck was far too inconsistent to be a contender before, around the time after States last year.

I really think this deck will become very popular, because it only really loses to Combo decks (it has virtually no defense against them). It also has a slightly unfavorable matchup against Angelfire. Boarding more Willbenders could change this, as you can redirect Lightning Helix, Compulsive Researches, and Demonfires.

Control Decks of Note

At U.S. Nationals last year, there was a huge information cascade about Solar Flare. This year was no different. But unlike this year, literally half of the participants were playing Solar Flare. This year, a big word got out on this deck, and Aethermage’s Touch was by far the most popular deck, but it was not as dominant as Solar Flare was the year before.

As you probably already know, this list took 2nd at U.S. Nationals. Like its cousin Angelfire, it smashes aggressive decks pretty well. Against most decks, it is almost always the right play to bounce one of their lands instead of a creature. Grand Arbiter is also a beating.

Combo Decks of Note

Let me tell you something right off the bat; Pithing Needle does not hose this deck. All they need to do is get one Ancient Grudge, which will be very easy with Life from the Loam, and Pithing Needle becomes a dead card. People will keep winning with this deck as long as people keep thinking that. Yes, I’m sure many of you know this, but there are still ignorant people out there. However, what will work is an aggro deck running Pithing Needle.

“But Ryan… you just explained that Pithing Needle doesn’t work!”

Yes, young grasshopper. But let’s look back. Why doesn’t it work? Because they sideboard three Ancient Grudge. Only three Ancient Grudge? What makes them think they’re going to draw into one? Dredging for a while.

Ah… now I see. (Also, see Craig Jones’ Gruul sideboard. It uses 3 Needle).

They’re not going to have time against aggro to just randomly dredge Life from the Loam.

“But they’re only going to start randomly dredging for Ancient Grudge if they have a Seismic Assault.”

What makes you think they’re going to get an Assault right away?

Some Final Thoughts on the New Standard Metagame

I really like the Blink deck, because it is good against a fair amount of the format, though it is a complete dog to combo decks. If I were playing a tournament tomorrow, I guess I would pack the board with Dredge, Loam, and Project X hate.

It’s still undecided as to who is the best aggro deck. Gruul is particularly good against other aggro, while Satanic Sligh is better against control. You could also run R/G/B Beats, which is basically Satanic Sligh splashing Green for Tarmogoyf. This does make the deck a lot more powerful, but has a much less consistent manabase. However, if people really start working hard on making a better manabase, it could be a real powerhouse.

The best combo deck is also undecided. Dredge is really bad against Satanic Sligh, but can be extremely powerful in the hands of a master. On the other hand, AggroLoam is pretty good against aggro decks. Both of these decks don’t need to combo out to win, which makes them so dangerous.

The best control deck is — surprise — undecided. Aethermage’s Touch could have it, but so could Angelfire because of all the aggro. Then again, OmniChord could have it, as Chord of Calling for Arcanis is just hilarious (and ridiculous). Oh right… it also took first at U.S. Nationals.

It’s great that no top decks have been decided yet. The format is far from solved. Looks like we will have a fun Standard preceding Lorwyn.

Now I would like to talk about Block Constructed

The Top 5 Block Constructed decks are (in no particular order):

U/G Aggro
Mono-Blue Pickles
U/B Teachings
W/G Goyf
Poison Slivers

With the rise of the Poison Sliver deck, Mono-Red is easily in 6th. For those of you that are still unsure about what to play at an upcoming PTQ, I would highly recommend Mono-Blue Pickles. Why you ask? First, let’s get Pickles’s obvious good and bad matchups out of the way. It’s good against U/B Teachings, Poison Slivers, and slightly favorable against U/G. Its bad matchup is G/W Goyf, which was enough to keep it at bay for long enough.. That is until Osyp Drove the Sliver Kids to School. After the Poison Slivers deck appeared, Mono-Red started to rise again. Poison Slivers beat the holy hell out of G/W Goyf decks. G/W smashes Mono-Red. As Craig Jones mentioned a few weeks ago, we have ourselves a little triangle.

Except this a lot different from the regular Rock, Paper, Scissors a format will go through. What’s different about them? They aren’t the best three decks in the format. If the three decks are still popular enough, this will create a huge gap for one of the few decks that are outside the triangle, which I’ll talk about in a second. (Something like this happened to Solar Flare at Regionals earlier this year). Since everyone (with a brain) says Teachings beats U/G, I will agree even though I lack the testing. Right now, we have this:

Good Matchups Table, Favorably Speaking

Mono-Red Pickles G/W Goyf G/U Goyf U/B Teachings Poison Slivers
Mono-Red Mono-Red Mono-Red Mono-Red
Pickles 50/50 (Pickles) G/W Goyf
50/50 (G/U) G/W Goyf G/W Goyf U/G Goyf
Teachings G/U Goyf Teachings
Poison Slivers Poison Slivers

Decks at the top, favorable matchups underneath. Simple, really. It’s debatable whether Poison Slivers beats Teachings, as if they draw an early Damnation the game becomes very difficult. U/G is 50/50 game 1 against Pickles. However, U/G is becoming a very popular deck, as it and Pickles are tied for 1st in popularity on MTGO.

Now assuming that they all beat on each other equally, Mono-Red and G/W Goyf are biting the bullet here. Since Mono Red, G/W Goyf, and Poison Slivers are in the triangle, let’s take a look at the decks that are outside. Teachings, U/G, and Pickles. Now what good matchups does Teachings have? Every deck that isn’t Pickles or Poison Slivers, right? Next, U/G. U/G smashes Mono-Red and G/W Goyf. Pickles’s bad matchup is G/W. Now look at all the decks that beat G/W. There is still a triangle, but Pickles clearly is the best deck. This is because G/W is slowly being replaced by U/G. Also Teachings, U/G, Poison Slivers, and pretty much any deck with bounce, all smash G/W.

When selecting Pickles, your chances of winning the tournament grow as the rounds go on. It is especially important to win your early rounds. One could argue though that mirror matches do exist, but I am talking about probability.

This happened to Solar Flare at Regionals earlier this year. Dragonstorm, which got destroyed by Dralnu, found secret tech in Detritivore. Dralnu cannot beat Detritivore. Couple that with the popularity of Gruul. Dragonstorm smashes Gruul. So what deck is left standing? Dragonstorm. Therefore Dragonstorm was left in the later rounds, picking off the huge numbers of Gruul decks and the (nearly) non-existent Dralnu. Guess what smashes Dragonstorm? Good ol’ Solar Flare.

Solar Flare wasn’t popular online at all before the event, but Dragonstorm players weren’t necessarily siding in Detritivores against Dralnu. Solar Flare’s numbers were so low online due to the huge numbers of Dralnu. Gruul and Dragonstorm were also around in huge numbers, which is nice juicy prey for Solar Flare.

The same thing is happening to Pickles. Its only really bad matchup is G/W, and all that’s holding this Pickles back is a 50/50 against U/G. So I wouldn’t even consider playing any other deck. Look at the numbers. Pickles made it to the finals of the last 3 PTQs. Play it… unless, you have no confidence in yourself, or you think the deck is hard. In which case, you should play U/G instead. Here’s Kenji’s list:

The only thing I would even consider changing in Kenji’s list is perhaps adding Epochrasite to the ‘board. This little dude is amazing against the Tarmogoyf decks. Picture things like this: Player A attacks with a 3/4 Tarmogoyf. Player B blocks with Epochrasite (three counters on Epochrasite). Now it’s Player B’s turn (two counters on Epochrasite). Player B plays one of many bounce spells from his deck (Riftwing Cloudskate, or Snapback, or Venser on their turn). Player A’s Tarmogoyf gets bounced, and he replays it, and attacks with some other irrelevant 3/3s and/or 2/2s. Now Player B only has to deal with Tarmogoyf for one turn before he gets a 4/4 that doesn’t actually die. And don’t get me started if he draws two or more copies. Even if Mr. T is a 4/5, Epochrasite can easily double block and come back later (or block and ping with Desert), or it can sit there and hold off a bunch of 3/3s and 2/2s, for only two mana and a little patience!

Yes, I realize Riftsweeper is still a beating, so if you plan on boarding out your other suspends don’t use The Epoch Man. If you do use him, I’d probably take out Take Possession and one Chronicler, because every deck can trump Take Possession. Yes, even G/W and G/W/r can trump it, with Cloudchaser Kestrel and Dead/Gone respectively.

Still not convinced that Mono-Blue is the best? You want results? Okay then, Mr. Ilovemypetdeck. Let’s go over some results form recent PTQs.

Teachings was the best deck. It’s no longer the best deck. It is currently vying with Mono-Blue Pickles for the Best Deck crown. Here’s yet more information, for the skeptical, as to why.

Recent PTQs

July 7, Columbus, Ohio: Mono-Blue Pickles wins, beating Gabe Walls in the finals! Guess what Gabe was playing… Yup, Teachings. Smashed.

July 7, Minneapolis, Minnesota: A random U/W/G aggro deck beat Ben Rasmussen with Mono-Blue Pickles in the finals. Boo. Yet another Mono-Blue Pickles takes 7th in the same event.

July 7, New York, New York: Yet another player in the finals playing Mono-Blue Pickles, this time piloted by Josh Ravitz. Unfortunately, Josh scooped the match to Phil Napoli in the finals.

July 21, Edmonton, Alberta: The Pickles takes 3rd.

July 21, Lincoln, Nebraska: Mono-Blue Pickles takes 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 7th.

July 21, Vancouver, British Columbia: The Almighty Pickles takes 1st, smashing Teachings in the finals.

July 21, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Chris Masciloli takes 7th.

July 22, Colchester, England: Daniel Gardener wins with Mono-Blue Pickles.

Of the three recent PTQs that I didn’t list, Teachings won two.

Ever wonder why Richard Feldman never tried a U/B Teachings versus Mono-Blue Pickles walkthrough?

I am in no way trying to insult our various columnists who won with Teachings (especially fellow Wisconsinian Adrian), but I really think someone with balls needs to step up and say something about the fallacy that “Teachings beats everything.” And no, I’m not the new Cromulantkeith for Pickles… I’m just pointing some things out.

Thanks for reading!

Ryan Paprocki
Mr. Towel in the forums
[email protected]