The Season Two Invitational is a mere week away. What makes this tournament so special is that it will be the first time that an Invitational will feature
the Modern format. Tons of excitement surrounds this event due to this fact, but let’s face a few more facts: I’m not the one to be talking to you about
Modern. Even though I have been testing the format, I don’t feel like the guru to be preaching about the complexities of Modern. Instead I say we stick to
my wheelhouse today and go over exactly what’s happening in Standard these days.
The Ebb and Flow of Standard
The story of Standard begins in Syracuse on a crisp spring evening. Chris VanMeter and his set of Stormbreath Dragons just dispatched a room full of
competitors and struck fear in the world’s eyes with his G/R Dragons deck. Most teams became scared of this deck and did their best to learn to beat it. I
personally thought the deck would be the most played deck at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, but the actual deck of the tournament ended up being Esper
Dragons. Esper Dragons had a wonderful showing at the Pro Tour, but then it absolutely demolished the following Grand Prix in Krakow. Since then it has
been all sunshine and rainbows for Dragonlord Ojutai. That was until Yuuki Ichikawa rolled up with his 76-card list of Abzan Megamorph.
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Siege Rhino
- 2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
- 4 Den Protector
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
What Yuuki did to shake up the format was amazing. This version of Abzan is an absolute nightmare for Esper Dragons. Sure, everyone that plays Abzan will
most likely say they have a good matchup against Esper Dragons, but this version is the nail in the coffin. I personally was jumping on the Esper Dragons
bandwagon around that time, but simply had to give up the deck due to how poor this matchup was.
The decline of Esper Dragons has allowed a resurgence of G/R based archetypes. Both G/R Devotion and G/R Dragons have found footing in this format once
again due to this and the fact that Abzan decks have been cannibalizing themselves for some time now. Abzan Charm numbers are at an all-time high, while
cards like Hero’s Downfall and Ultimate Price are used sparingly. These black-based removal spells will slowly go back to what they once were, but for now,
it is a great time to be playing green and red.
This might end up meaning that Esper Dragons is waiting another week or two to pounce, but right now it seems like a poor time to be casting Foul-Tongue
Invocation. Abzan decks will slowly stop cannibalizing themselves since all of the G/R decks want to come out and play, and we might see Yuuki’s prize
possession be so good that it invalidates itself.
Cyclical is a word I know I overuse, but it just works so perfectly for this Standard environment. Cards and strategies constantly gain and lose
positioning while the player base constantly tries to one-up itself. We have seen a plethora of different technologies gain favor in this format ever since Dragons of Tarkir has been in rotation, and it’s easy to say we aren’t even close to finished with it yet. That’s not the relevant part though.
You all came here today to find out what is correct to play in the here and now, and I don’t want to disappoint. Let’s start off today with the deck I
think is best positioned for this next weekend.
This deck might not have been well-positioned for much of this Standard format, but that is what makes it so good right now. Deathmist Raptor has caused
the format to become based around grinding each other out, and this deck exploits that with so many decks based around reactive elements. Much like G/W
Devotion in Miami, Devotion decks are at their best when everyone is concerned about being the best midrange deck.
Dragonlord Atarka is the perfect threat to ramp into since it will almost always cause the game to end at best, while being a two-for-one at worst. This
does not mean Dragonlord Atarka is the best seven-drop in the deck. Hornet Queen might be at its all-time high in the current metagame. A single Hornet
Queen can generate enough card advantage and board position to close out a game all by itself. Not only do the tokens block well, but six power worth of
flying can be enough to win a game gummed up with Deathmist Raptors and other ground-pounders. Hornet Queen doesn’t invalidate Dragonlord Atarka since
Hornet Queen cannot beat Mastery of the Unseen out of the Bant Aggro decks.
The only decks that are currently running Bile Blight are ones that the card is too slow anyway. The only reason why we don’t see more of this card is the
fact that this is the only deck that can reliably cast it without succumbing to Abzan Aggro. Decks that originally relied on Whip of Erebos to generate
bees are no longer viable now that Dromoka’s Command has proven it will have a long lasting impact on the format.
- 2 Hornet Queen
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 1 Arbor Colossus
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Genesis Hydra
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Whisperwood Elemental
- 3 Dragonlord Atarka
- 2 Deathmist Raptor
Kenneth McGlothlin is a local from the Roanoke area that can constantly be found going deep in any serious events in the area. You’ve probably never heard
of him, but this guy deserves some praise for his list. This 75 is perfect for the current metagame. It wasn’t surprising to me at all to see him with the
PPTQ/Super IQ this past weekend, even though I really wanted to see Andrew Shrout take it down with his take on G/W Megamorph.
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Fleecemane Lion
- 3 Boon Satyr
- 2 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 3 Watcher of the Roost
- 2 Seeker of the Way
- 1 Warden of the First Tree
- 4 Den Protector
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
Both of these decks attack Abzan variants, but in completely different ways. G/R Devotion tries to overpower it with cards like Dragonlord Atarka and
Whisperwood Elemental, while G/W Megamorph tries to out tempo it with a steady stream of aggressive creatures and Collected Company. While both decks have
a relatively good Abzan matchup, G/W suffers against G/R Devotion and G/R Dragons. The advantage to playing G/W Megamorph is that it has a relatively good
Esper Dragons matchup, while G/R Devotion does not. Again, Esper Dragons is lying low at the moment due to Yuuki’s Abzan Megamorph deck fueled by Satyr
Wayfinders. This alone invalidates the appeal of playing G/W Megamorph over G/R Devotion.
If Elvish Mystic isn’t your speed, the next best choice for the coming week might be for you. Abzan Aggro has been putting up the most consistent results
since the Pro Tour and was only really bad for a short period of time when the entire format had to attack it. The recent lists of Abzan Aggro have been a
little inbred to combat the high numbers of Deathmist Raptor, but things are changing. This is the list of Abzan Aggro I would play, and might end up
playing in the Season Two Invitational if I don’t find the perfect deck. It is easily my favorite fallback deck of all time since it might always be
correct to play anyway.
- 4 Fleecemane Lion
- 2 Herald of Torment
- 4 Anafenza, the Foremost
- 2 Wingmate Roc
- 4 Rakshasa Deathdealer
- 4 Siege Rhino
- 2 Warden of the First Tree
Ultimate Price is a maindeck card once again. Sure, it might be terrible against Esper Dragons and other Abzan Aggro decks, but it passes against all the
other versions of Abzan. In fact, I have been keeping in one or two after sideboard against some versions of Abzan Megamorph due to how good Deathmist
Raptor and Tasigur, the Golden Fang can be. This card is also just a necessity to defeat all of the Stormbreath Dragon decks running amuck.
The biggest piece of technology I am using is Herald of Torment. A few weeks back, an Abzan Aggro deck featuring four copies of this card ended up taking
second in the Magic Online Pro Tour Qualifier. I was instantly hooked and started falling in love with his list. The only issue is at the same time G/R
Devotion and G/R Dragons started to pick up in popularity. Even though the card is superb at helping fly over Abzan Megamorph and at killing Elspeth, Sun’s
Champion, the card is extremely lackluster against anything with Thunderbreak Reagent. Even so, the card is worth dedicating some slots to since it has the
ability to steal games you have no business winning.
The last thing to mention about this list is the Dromoka’s Command numbers. I still am playing one in the maindeck with the second copy in the sideboard,
but I believe that the card is not a necessity. That will change in the future, but for right now the card isn’t performing that well. It is still worth
having access to since everyone loves a two-for-one, but playing zero is defendable.
The last deck I would suggest for the weekend is Abzan Control. This deck is the most well-rounded of the Abzan family and gives you the ability to play a
relatively passive game while also having elements of beat down.
One of the biggest perks to playing Abzan Control is how well suited it is against other green decks. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is always good in a world of
green decks, and even Esper Dragons is playing Dragonlord Silumgar over the more youthful version that easily mopped up the token generating planeswalker.
It’s just a good time to be within Elspeth’s ranks.
I won’t go into much more detail about Abzan Control since it has been a major part of this format ever since that grinning beast of a Magic player Ari Lax
won Pro Tour Khans of Tarkrir. The only thing I will say is that one Wingmate Roc is the perfect number for this deck, and I would suggest giving it a
Now comes the saddest part of articles like this. With good comes bad, and I must warn those to not play the decks poorly positioned in the current format.
To kick things off we have Esper Dragons:
This is the last version of the deck I played with before finally giving it up. I don’t think it is the worst choice, but the format has become rather
hostile for the archetype. There are arguments to continue playing it due to G/R Devotion coming back, but the rest of the metagame is still gunning for
Dragonlord Ojutai. Even though I think Yuuki’s Abzan Megamorph deck is on the decline doesn’t mean it still won’t be played in high numbers. I just can’t
seem to justify playing Esper Dragons whenever Satyr Wayfinder is prevalent in the format. Playing this deck at the Season Two Invitational will be a risky
choice, but it’s difficult to argue with a control player. All I can say is good luck to you!
Next up on my list is in fact Yuuki’s deck. Abzan Megamorph was a great choice for Grand Prix Shanghai, but that was prior to G/R Devotion, G/R Monsters,
and Mardu Dragons. Now the format is much more hostile for the Abzan deck featuring Satyr Wayfinder and Deathmist Raptor. The deck is just too slow to
combat all the velocity driven archetypes. Standard is no longer driven by who can grind the hardest, which was why this deck gained popularity in the
first place. I would steer clear of this archetype and would highly recommend going back to Abzan Control for anyone who has to play Siege Rhino.
Last and certainly least on my list is Mardu Dragons. Sure, I was high on this deck last week, but that was seven days ago! Now things have changed, and
Elvish Mystic is gaining more popularity. Mardu has never enjoyed playing against Elvish Mystic strategies and especially not a version that is so top
heavy with ten Dragons. I was in love with this deck when it first appeared in the metagame, but the format is too diverse now for Mardu to be a thing.
Heed these words and put the deck down. It’s for your own good.
That’s all I have for this week. I personally will not be embarking on any journey to play Modern Masters 2015, but I hope everyone has a
wonderful weekend wherever you end up playing. I will see you next week with some more Standard advice on the eve of the Season Two Invitational!