I honestly had low expectations for Orlando coming off of the heels of Indianapolis the previous week. The Midwest is known for tremendous turnouts, while Florida due to isolation occasionally struggles to post solid attendance. In terms of play skill, how do we follow up when a former Player of the Year rips off a SCG Standard Open win? In terms of narrative, how does it get any better than an innovative Jund Depths deck taking down the whole thing in Legacy? This is no slight to anywhere or anyone else, but Indianapolis set a really high bar that I didn’t think we could match in Orlando.
I was proven wrong. Though Orlando lacked a high-profile player taking down a tournament, the overall level of play was extremely high, commensurate to Florida’s reputation as one of the hotbeds of competitive Magic. Nothing as unexpected as Keenen Haas’ deck won a tournament, but Tyler Wilkerson’s insane run proved to be a compelling storyline of its own. And Orlando had a completely different Standard Top 8 than we saw in Indy, along with a different take on an established archetype winning the whole thing in Legacy.
The mixture of Owen Turtenwald’s run and the relative underperformance of Mono-Blue Devotion set the stage for the Standard metagame in Orlando. I anticipated a repeat, but I was again proven wrong. Mono-Blue flexed its muscles, with three copies in the Top 8, while B/W Midrange was the black deck to beat. We’ve seen Orzhov decks succeed before, most notably at Grand Prix Dallas-Fort-Worth, and they were in full force in Orlando. Brennen DeCandio made an impressive run, making it all the way to the finals before falling to Wilkerson’s relative stock Mono-Blue Devotion list.
This is essentially a black deck geared toward beating other black decks. The white splash enables Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Last Breath. Blood Baron has been well chronicled at this point; it’s essentially “Devour Flesh or bust” against opposing black decks while also doing serious damage against the various white aggressive decks that are still floating around. Last Breath is fairly innocuous but also does great work in the mirror, killing both Pack Rat and Nightveil Specter, which is critical since the other commonly played black removal spells (Ultimate Price, Pharika’s Cure) can only kill one or the other.
And Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is universally powerful and specifically good against a deck with Devour Flesh and Desecration Demon. I’ve been vocal in the past about text boxes not mattering much against black because of Thoughtseize and Heroes Downfall, but Brennen found a variety of cards with high impact against opposing black decks.
The cost of course is the mana, and I suspect this deck is a slightly worse version of Mono-Black Devotion in most nonblack matchups. Still, Last Breath does good work against Mono-Blue Devotion and many red decks, while Blood Baron and Elspeth are cards with a high raw power. If you want to play black with an edge in the mirror, it may be worth considering a deck similar to this going forward.
As I mentioned before, Tyler Wilkerson won the whole thing with a pretty stock Mono-Blue Devotion deck, but there were three copies in the elimination rounds, with Milton Figueroa playing a very different take on the deck.
- 4 Judge's Familiar
- 1 Frostburn Weird
- 4 Cloudfin Raptor
- 4 Nightveil Specter
- 4 Tidebinder Mage
- 4 Thassa, God of the Sea
- 4 Omenspeaker
- 4 Master of Waves
We’ve seen a random Omenspeaker in lists before as an additional two-cost creature, but Milton made a bold declaration, essentially cutting Frostburn Weirds to make room for a full playset. The move was much maligned by many during the weekend, but I think it’s worth exploring what the upsides are. After all, Milton finished quite well, and he’s a player with a robust TCG resume, both in Magic and in other games.
What are the spots where Weird is better? It has an additional point of toughness, so it matches up better against cards like Lightning Strike and Fleecemane Lion. It is a hybrid-mana creature, so you can’t kill it with Ultimate Price (though if someone uses Ultimate Price on your Omenspeaker you’re probably a pretty happy camper). Weird can go offensive, while Omenspeaker can’t fulfill that role. Weird is better at evolving Cloudfin Raptor and provides an extra blue mana symbol, which matters for Master of Waves and especially Thassa (as Weird paired with any other double blue card gets you to five blue mana symbols). These are all big deals and the reasons Weird has gone unquestioned in blue devotion lists.
So why Omenspeaker? Because scrying for two is incredibly powerful in a deck that has eight huge payoffs (Master and Thassa) and a bunch of setup. In matchups where your board isn’t being taxed (say, the mirror), the extra devotion is unlikely to make much difference. There are plenty of cards where Omenspeaker and Frostburn Weird line up the same (Mizzium Mortars, Supreme Verdict, Domestication, any large creature, etc.), and in those spots getting to scry for two instead of doing nothing is a big deal.
I don’t expect Milton’s version of the deck to really take off; the Weird list has such a pedigree that I think many players will scoff at the list and assume it’s an aberration. I would caution against that thinking. I believe Milton’s list has a pretty noticeable edge in the mirror (and likely some other places as well), and at the minimum it may be worth considering adding an Omenspeaker or two to your current Mono-Blue Devotion list.
Though Keenen Haas’ win didn’t usher in an era of Entomb/Loam/Squee decks, the metagame did look dramatically different from what we saw in Indianapolis. Combo, largely suppressed by Delver decks over the last few months, shook it off and posted four different decks in the Top 8, with Reanimator, Omni-Tell, Ad Nauseam Tendrils, and Elves all making it to the elimination rounds. In the end, Laurence Moo Young took down the event with a much different take on Delver.
This deck strikes me as a reaction to U/W/R Delver, which has been the Delver deck of choice since Owen Turtenwald took down Grand Prix Washington DC a little while back. For that tournament the mirror obviously didn’t matter much, but now that it’s prevalent it’s worth noting a couple of oddities. First, True-Name Nemesis is basically “Red Blast on the spot or bust” barring spots where you can race it. Also, once an Equipment resolves, you have to fight over every creature that enters play (only a single Wear // Tear in most lists can remove a Jitte or Sword). Again, this stuff didn’t matter much a month ago, but now the mirror is really prevalent and these issues can lead to some pretty random games.
Laurence shored up some of these issues by moving into green and black instead of white and red. In Abrupt Decay Laurence gets a clean answer to a variety of creatures and resolved Equipment, and Liliana of the Veil gives the deck a good answer to True-Name Nemesis. Laurence actually has a plethora of answers to True-Name Nemesis, with Golgari Charm in the sideboard alongside an additional Liliana (and black gives you access to other cards like Engineered Plague, Diabolic Edict, and so on if you’re feeling so inclined).
Another issue with the U/W/R Delver list is that it often presents a pretty slow clock. This matters a lot in the combo matchups, where the deck sometimes can’t close the game quickly enough if it doesn’t have a Delver on the first turn. Tarmogoyf replaces Stoneforge Mystic, giving the list a far faster uncontested kill, and Deathrite Shaman provides the deck with another cheap threat and a way to interact with an opposing graveyard, which Owen’s list can only really do with sideboarded Rest in Peace.
The only thing in this list that I’m not a fan of is Hymn to Tourach; the deck really isn’t an attrition deck, and the colored mana issues with this deck are a real thing. If I were to play this deck in a tournament, I would probably replace them with some mixture of Inquisitions and Thoughtseizes. Still, Hymn is quite powerful in the abstract, especially alongside cards like Wasteland and Liliana.
I don’t know if we’re going to see a real shift in the metagame after this win; deck costs prevent wholesale changes in the Legacy metagame, at least very quickly. With that said, this Delver list does provide some unique incentives that RUG and U/W/R builds of this deck do not.
In a few days we return to the Midwest, where Cedric Phillips and I will be covering the Open Series in Columbus, Ohio. Between its prime location, its early history as one of Magic’s important American cities (it played host to Nationals and Origins many moons ago), and the enormous Ohio State University within the city limits, I expect a turnout better than what we saw in Indianapolis. As we approach Born of the Gods, the Standard metagame is settled, but plenty of innovation within stock lists is still occurring. And Orlando marked the second week in a row where something out of the ordinary took down the Legacy Open. The first two weeks of 2014 on the Open Series have been compelling and unexpected, and I anticipate that trend continuing next week.