On The Outside Looking In

How quickly just a week changes things. Jim Davis came to #SCGRegionals expecting a continuation of the #SCGRICH metagame only to find a new breed of aggressive decks stormed out of #PTOrigins to completely re-define the Standard format!

Well, that was unexpected.

Mono-Red and U/R Thopters came, saw, and conquered Pro Tour Magic Origins, and we are left with a much more aggressive Standard format than we have had in a long time. Both decks have fast, powerful, and aggressive cores, and with the finishing power of Shrapnel Blast and Exquisite Firecraft added to the mix, both decks are extremely unforgiving to anyone looking to durdle around.

This is very unfortunate for my U/B Thopter Spy Network deck, which already had a poor matchup against the more traditional Dragon Fodder/Goblin Rabblemaster-based red decks.

I played U/B Thopter Control at SCG Regionals last weekend, and in both my matches against Mono-Red I got completely ranched – and this is despite adding a few extra Pharika’s Cure to my sideboard and an extra Ultimate Price to my maindeck.

Playing against the new versions of the deck, which are maindecking four Eidolon of the Great Revel and four Searing Blood, makes it feel like you are playing a Standard deck against a Legacy deck. And that’s not even to speak of the new additions of the insane Abbot of Keral Keep and Exquisite Firecraft. The deck is extremely streamlined and consistent, with the ability to apply pressure early and burn you out late.

I also can’t really imagine U/B Thopter Control ever beating Mike Sigrist U/R Thopter deck either, especially with maindeck Stubborn Denials. Blue and black really have no solid answers for an Ensoul Artifact on a Darksteel Citadel or to a Thopter Spy Network out of the board if it sticks. I even played an Annul in my sideboard for Regionals, but I imagine that’s like trying to win a Nascar race by putting a spoiler on your Civic.

So the bad news is that it seems like U/B Thopter Control will be hitting the shelf unless the format shifts again.

The good news is that Magic Origins is still awesome, and there were a ton of awesome under-the-radar decks that did very well at the Pro Tour.

While the list looks very rough and unrefined, Luke Mulcahy’s Jund Delve deck looks freaking sweet.

The manabase looks horrendous, Flamewake Phoenix looks uncastable, the one-ofs are surprising, and who knows how good Reaper of the Wilds is… but despite all of these flaws this deck just looks stone cold awesome.

The deck takes the simple concepts of “Delve is broken” and “five-toughness creatures are great alongside Languish” to the extreme and then figures out how to best exploit them. Featuring the full twelve two-mana self-mill cards in Satyr Wayfinder, Commune with the Gods, and the new Gather the Pack, no deck is better at casting either Tasigur or Gurmag Angler faster. The deck also gets even more value out of its graveyard with Flamewake Phoenix and Bloodsoaked Champion out of the sideboard.

It’s doubtful that any deck is better at casting Languish either. The only creatures in the deck that die to Languish have either already done their job or are ready to come back for more, and the fact that the deck plays so many creatures makes it difficult for opponents to play around potential Languishes without risking falling behind on the board. Any turn-three large Delve creature into turn-four Languish start seems fantastic.

As-is, I am almost surprised to see a deck that looks so raw do well at the Pro Tour, but it certainly looks like there is something there. One must wonder if blue is not a better splash color, giving you access to much better mana and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy.

Andrew’s deck is another spicy one, as it makes use of both new cards and well-positioned old cards to form its core.

The “fair Grindstone,” Sphinx’s Tutelage will eventually win you the game with enough time… but with cards like Magmatic Insight, Tormenting Voice, and Treasure Cruise fueling it, those wins will come much quicker than it seems. All this discarding really helps to fuel one of the breakout cards from Magic Origins, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, which is put to excellent use in this very spell-heavy deck.

This also seems to be one of the few decks which can make use of maindeck Anger of the Gods, which is amazing against Mono-Red, Abzan Rally, and G/R Devotion while also being very reasonable elsewhere. Anger of the Gods, and to a lesser extent the underplayed Whelming Wave, provides the deck with plenty of time to get its engine going.

While Andrew only went 6-4 with the deck, it is very possible that was more so due to positioning than anything else. I can imagine formats where a deck like this would be awesome, and one where Mono-Red wins the Pro Tour over an aggressive deck featuring maindeck Stubborn Denial is not really one of them. However, if things get back to being all midrange all the time, something like this could be very potent.

While I’m not usually a fan of Brian Kibler “good stuff” green decks, it is very likely that Captain Hindsight would call his deck the best deck of the Pro Tour.

Captain Hindsight

It’s almost as if Brian had future knowledge of the Pro Tour results and was able to go back in time and build an exact deck that would be effective against the major (and previously unknown) decks of the field. The deck is pretty unexciting overall, but it looks to be a solid answer to the format. Its only big hole seems to be a major weakness to the card Languish but, as Brian correctly predicted, there were not a ton of Languishes going around.

I’m sure Brian will be writing about the deck later in the week, so I won’t step on his toes too much.

Oh look, Brian’s deck wasn’t the only G/W Aggro deck to do well! Ken Yukuhiro had the same ide…

Oh boy.


Ken’s deck is out of this world.

It’s almost like Ken was trying to build a deck with the least amount of “playable” cards possible. Only Hangarback Walker and Dromoka’s Command can really be considered format staples, and most of the cards in the deck are just reasonable Limited cards. Hell, most would go as far as calling Servant of the Scale unplayable in Limited!

Ken’s deck is an intriguing look at what is possible in Standard with non-Standard cards both old and new. These types of direct synergy decks don’t pop up very often anymore, but it’s always exciting when they do. It’s also exciting when they happen to do well at one of the largest events of the year.

It’s very possible Ken’s deck is nothing more than an FNM deck that happened to have a good day… Ken did only finish 6-4 in Standard. But it is always extremely important to keep an eye on decks like this, especially because the deck contains very few relevant cards that are rotating out. One or two sweet cards in Battle for Zendikar and this deck could be extremely relevant.

With the Open Series in Washington DC this weekend my focus turns to Legacy, but I’m excited to see the next step of Standard’s evolution with Grand Prix San Diego happening on the other coast. Will Mono-Red continue to dominate? Is Ensoul Artifact the real deal?

But that will be a Monday morning thing for me to see. Once Saturday dawns it’s all about Legacy and about taking down that trophy. Tune in to see what I bring to the table and just how far I can take it.