It feels so refreshing to sign up for a MTGO Standard Daily Event and play against four different decks in each of the rounds. This won’t last forever,
but the first couple days are all about experimenting, and this is exactly what everyone on Magic Online is doing. I not only have a few decks that I
have been testing all day, but I called in some of Magic Online’s best grinders to help me out with the decks I didn’t get a chance to battle with.
I was within the first 100 people to be logged in after updates and instantly started playing in any Standard queue I could get my hands on. The first
deck I played was Valakut.
We all know that Valakut is strong and has a good chance to do well in this format. It is probably the best choice to play right now for the fact that
people are still tweaking and working on their decks. Even Valakut’s worst matchup, Splinter Twin, is still trying to figure out how to replace Jace,
the Mind Sculptor as well as deal with the new hate that is targeting it. Valakut is a strong choice.
This list does need work. I’ll never consider myself a proficient Valakut player since I have never played this deck in a serious tournament. The funny
thing is that the same thing always happens to me when I touch this deck. I play about ten matches and then have to set it down because I dislike the
variance that comes with the deck.
Mirror matches are very brutal, since there are ways to make the matchup go in your favor, but only slightly. Lotus Cobra is a good card for that, but
is very weak to the format at large right now. So the question is whether to play four cards in the maindeck that are only good in the mirror.
The other thing that bugs me about Valakut is that you can make all the correct choices and get them to counter something so you can Summoning Trap.
You look at the top seven cards and lose. This is typical in Magic, but variance has the most direct impact on the games. The spells are powerful, but
this is not the type of deck I want to spend countless hours working on, since other people will also find the best version in a few days anyway.
The next deck I worked on was Vampires. For some reason I thought this deck would be okay. It did fine during Caw-Blade’s last days and seems very good
against most of the red decks running around. Bloodghast is also a house against U/B Control, which I thought would be a very popular deck.
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
- 2 Vampire Hexmage
- 4 Vampire Lacerator
- 4 Kalastria Highborn
- 4 Pulse Tracker
- 4 Viscera Seer
Sadly Vampires is still just a Block deck trying to fight in a World of more sets. It is a fine deck, but many draws cannot beat the powerful things
people are doing. It was time to go in search for a deck that I wanted to play.
I did not want to play a control deck on the first day of new Standard. The reason for this is that it would be difficult to make sure the decks were
fine-tuned enough to deal with the format. Without knowing what other people would be playing, it was difficult to know which spells would be best. I
was in search for a proactive deck that could get the job done. I wanted my opponents to answer me and not the other way around.
I spent a couple hours looking over results from the Daily Events. One of the most interesting things I found out was that Splinter Twin decks were not
looking well positioned and putting up poor results.
The format is playing more spot removal, since it’s better with Caw-Blade out of the equation. Both creature decks and control decks can more easily
deal with the combo, since they now have space in their decks for spot removal and disruption, and these are effective against the Splinter Twin combo.
On top of that, Splinter Twin players are still trying to find out the correct builds. This could be the real reason the deck is underperforming, but I
feel players will have a difficult time finding the correct mix to be successful with the deck.
The grinders of Modo (Magic Online) were also hard at work, so I decided to talk to a few of them to see what they thought about the format. These
soldiers are at the front lines and secretly form the formats we love to play. I have on numerous times found tech and done well in big events that
these players discovered.
_Batutinha_ (Carlos Alexandre dos Santos Esteves) is one of Modo’s biggest grinders. He plays the game all day, every day. I don’t know his personal story all too well, but would not be shocked
if he is qualified for any upcoming Pro Tours.
I really love this decklist. Jace’s Ingenuity is a card that I have wanted to play with for a very long time but have not been able to pull the
trigger. It seems so well placed in a format of Control and Combo decks, since you’ll be holding up mana on their turn anyway. Gaining the ability to
play two spells they want to counter without getting an untap step can be very powerful.
Baneslayer Angel is also a card I would be afraid to play with, but Carlos says it best.
“Baneslayer Angel is very good against Mono Red, but not amazing against the rest of the field. Help in the Mono Red matchup is
something a deck like this needs though, so it becomes very important. If the format becomes more controlling, then Baneslayer will need to be replaced
with planeswalkers and Spell Pierce.”
The sideboard is also very prepared for both Aggro and Valakut, with Leyline of Sanctity. Leyline is very good against multiple decks right now and is
a very good reason to want to play U/W Control.
I was shocked to see Surgical Extraction in his deck. It seems very narrow, but I guess taking every Vengevine, Primeval Titan, Valakut, the Molten
Pinnacle, Jace Beleren, or Deceiver Exarch out of someone’s deck is a game changer. Maybe this card will see some play.
I think this decklist might not be well positioned for the other control decks right now. U/B seems like a tough matchup, and the other U/W control
decks seem to be more planeswalker-based.
The next player I talked to was Sandydogmtg (Brandon Burton). This kid is near and dear to my heart. Brandon has been playing Magic Online more than
anyone else on the planet for about the last four years. This is literally the only thing he does, but until recently he has not had great success with
the game other than winning pack after pack. He’s repeating my exact story from before PT Honolulu, and it will be a great day when he breaks out onto
the Pro Tour. Even better, it will be this year.
He recently took second in one of the Magic Online Championship Qualifiers. This would not be a story, but something happened, and the first-place
finisher would not win the qualification. Sandydogmtg got the first-place invite hand-me-down and will be competing in Worlds and the MOCS.
The world is about to meet yet another Modo Grinder.
- 4 Goblin Chieftain
- 4 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 4 Goblin Guide
- 4 Ember Hauler
- 2 Spikeshot Elder
- 3 Goblin Wardriver
Sandydogmtg has been playing Mono Red variants for years now and has a good idea what works and what doesn’t. He picked up the Blade for a while
but is back to running people over with hasty red guys.
I don’t know if the Goblin (creature) version of red is better than the burn-heavy one, but just by seeing what Sandydogmtg is playing gives me a
The sideboard looks a bit rough, but will come together once we see a few event results.
I don’t know much about Mono Red. I rarely play it, and I personally think it’s a poor choice, but that’s just my opinion. It will become a better
choice this summer for Nationals, but right now I’m not interested in playing it.
There is one deck I am interested in, and that is U/B Control. I worked on a list but decided to go with my original plan, which was to play
proactive strategies. I felt that the banning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor would hurt this deck’s chances of winning games when its biggest play had
been to control the early game with removal and hand disruption to set up a Jace.
That was until I saw a friend of mine, Mini_Gnarls, rack up the QP points piloting this deck. This guy is one hell of a go-getter. He is working
very hard trying to make it to the Pro Tour circuit. The only times he is logged off of Modo are either for sleep, downtime, or a Grand Prix or PTQ
where he has dreams of big timing it.
I played Mini_Gnarls in GP Denver this last year when we were both 9-2. Sadly I was out for blood as well, and I had to give him a loss.
I asked all three players for a decklist, a small amount of personal information, and why they were playing their respected decks. This is what he
“Hey my name is David Rolf (Mini_Gnarls) on Modo, and I’ve been playing U/B in Standard post-banning with some success. My brother and I
(Sir_Gnarls_Barkley) brewed the deck considering the format became quite different without Jace and Stoneforge. Here is the list:
The deck was built with the new top decks most likely being Valakut, RDW, Splinter Twin, and to a lesser extent control decks like the U/B mirror and
U/W control. The deck plays like your normal U/B control deck, filled with counters, discard, and threats. The game plan is generally to slowly grind
them out, maximizing your card advantage, although there is the possibility of racing if needed with Nighthawks and Tar Pits.
Although this strategy got worse with the banning of Jace TMS because you cannot refill your hand, making your 1-for-1s better, it is still viable
because other decks have been affected power-wise as well from the bannings. While losing Jace TMS obviously hurts our deck, Jace Beleren has proven
better than expected and the reason why we max out at four.
Nighthawks are a little odd, but the Modo metagame is saturated with Mono Red, and Nighthawks at worst take a Bolt for you and at best require them to
use two burn spells; or else you actually connect and start lifelinking. You can generally Inquisition or Duress Searing Blaze/Lightning Bolt
beforehand, making it even better. RDW must be kept in mind because of its cheap cost and the fact that Stoneforge + Batterskull isn’t holding it
The Splinter Twin deck is a good matchup because they cannot compete with your card advantage, and at this point a tuned list has not been proven
reliable enough to compete with the control decks. They have a hard enough time assembling the combo themselves, and once we start attacking their
hand, it becomes even harder. Although not great game 1, Valakut becomes very strong g2 and g3. We gain access to 4 Flashfreeze, Memoricides, and the
fourth Spreading Seas. The key to the matchup is keeping them off early ramp spells and containing their Valakuts with Tectonic Edge and Spreading
Seas. This is one of the better matchups the deck has.
I know this has been brief so here is a quick sideboard guide if you decide to play the deck:
(Memoricide has been too slow in testing, although it is possible it could be a viable option depending on how many cards you need to take out and
which version they are.)
Thanks for letting me share my list/thoughts on the new Standard with you guys. If you have any questions on what I’ve said here or particular
matchups, feel free to msg either of us on Modo. As a strictly Standard player, I’m very excited about the new format, as the bannings will
definitely bring some much needed life and diversity into the format. As the metagame evolves, the top decks may shift, but as for now, I recommend
playing this. ”
So don’t think I outsourced all of my work this week. I do have a great deck that I think is going to be a big threat in the format. I still like
to think of myself as a Modo grinder after all.
This deck is the real deal right now. The surprising thing about this version is how good this deck does against aggressive decks. Most of the
time, a mono-blue deck can’t beat a mono-red deck, but I’m crushing anything that attacks.
All of the credit goes to the lifelinking spells. Wurmcoil Engine and Batterskull are just insane. It is so much fun to drop these guys very early
and have the ability to rebuy the Batterskull better than with anything past Stoneforge Mystic.
Valakut isn’t even a bad matchup because of Mindslaver. Without this card, the matchup would be terrible, but you’ll be very surprised with how
many times resolving Primeval Titan is the worst thing they could do.
I have limited testing against control decks, so I don’t know if there needs to be more cards for the matchup. The best plan I have found so far is
when control is dealing with the initial spread of spells, the best strategy is to deal damage with Inkmoth Nexus when you can. This will make
proliferate its own win condition, which they have a tough time dealing with or racing.
I hate to say this, but Preordain might not be right for this deck. I am always happy with one in an opening hand, but drawing one in the midgame
is really bad. I just recently cut one for a Stoic Rebuttal, but that might be incorrect.
If I were going to play in any tournament this weekend, I would play Grand Architect. Mostly because it seems like the most fun and has the most
potential. After that the best choice would be some version of Valakut. This deck is back and better than ever. Be prepared to beat it if you want
any serious chance of winning a tournament.
I will see you guys next week!