The Continuing Saga Of Mardu Guy

Mark Nestico has taken up the title. #SCGINVI will probably have an inexplicably iffy Mardu deck in the top 8, and Mark Nestico is ready to embrace that reality. See his analysis on the unsung archetype here!

So I figured it out.

Gerry Thompson is Dick Grayson. Hear me out. Probably Batman, but almost certainly Robin.

A few months ago he presented us with the tale of “Mardu Guy”, a heroic story of a man who just wanted to be the person who inexplicably Top 8s a huge event like, say a Pro Tour, with Mardu for no other reason than because it is Mardu.

You see, Dick Grayson is a very complex character in the Batman Universe. Many casual comic fans remember Burt Ward in an extremely skimpy Robin costume ala the Batman television program of the late 1960’s with “POWS” and “BAMS” that emanated from his fists whenever he’d sock a villain right in the mush. He is far more complex than that. You see, Dick Grayson represents the best parts of Batman. When Bruce Wayne takes off the cowl, he still refers to himself in his mind as “Batman.” The Dark Knight isn’t as much a calling for him as it is the sole purpose for which he exists. He’s obsessed to the point that it has ruined every relationship and, if you follow the Beyond arc, caused him to settle into a life of absolute isolation far into his 80’s. In other words, Batman represents the grinders out there who live for Magic and are unable to see the forest through the trees.

Robin, however, understands that in order to be the best hero he possibly can be, he can’t immerse himself into the lifestyle like Bruce does. Dick wants to love and have a life. He wants to be his own man. Eventually he moves to Bludhaven and becomes Nightwing, creating his own legacy while still being one of the most potent superheroes in the DC universe. Dick becomes loved and respected for his compassion and humanity, but also his skills and ingenuity.

See? I figured this all out by myself!

Then there’s Mardu Guy. I like to think of Mardu Guy as The Red Hood and myself as Jason Todd. Whereas Gerry has gone on to forge an insane legacy that will no doubt get him into the Hall of Fame someday in the way Dick Grayson did, I am like Jason Todd in that I feel like the Joker beat me to death with a crowbar, but then I was resurrected. Unable to be the man I once was, I decided to wear The Red Hood (Mardu Guy) and make everyone else’s life either miserable or just end it.

Whereas Gerry is a force for good and he told you his Mardu deck was a “steaming pile,” I will tell you that the one I’m about to give you today is a thing of beauty and, if I wasn’t starting a new job this week, is 100% what I would play in the Standard portion of the #SCGINVI in Las Vegas. Some men just want to watch the world something something.

A few weeks ago we talked about a Mardu Planeswalker deck that I won a PPTQ with. Picking the deck up on a whim, I was impressed with its overall efficiency, power, and oppressiveness. The deck does three things really, really well:

1- Oppresses your opponent with hand disruption.

2- Kills creatures.

3- Sticks a planeswalker and rides it to victory.

Before pressing on, here’s the current list:

So what changes have I made?

First off, I’ve been playing this deck a lot over the last few weeks. In local tournaments I’ve been able to cut down just about everything I’ve faced just out of sheer efficiency and stability. That’s a word that doesn’t get used enough. Stability.

Deck stability is an often-overlooked principle. Very volatile decks are often defined as “greedy” or “high risk/high reward.” They allow you to do above-average things in regards to power in exchange for stability.

Mardu Planeswalkers in my testing is the rare occurrence of a deck that is able to do very powerful things while being more reliable than most decks in Standard. There is almost no wrong “half” of the deck, because the pieces are moving and give you stability against most decks. Your removal is often dual-purposed and multi-faceted. Fiery Conclusion might seem like a concession to faster decks like Atarka Red, and of course it helps, but it’s more for hitting the Jaces in Jeskai Black, Esper Dragons, or Four-Color Rally. Duress is fantastic against almost every single deck in the format right now, so cutting the initial Despises and replacing them with Duress felt very natural. You have so many ways of killing creatures that you will rarely take one with your Despise in game 1 and not have a way to remove it even if you hadn’t, so Duress is more fluid and gives you the chance to take Dig through Times, Abzan Charms, Ugins, and so much more.

What supplements this is the presence of your planeswalkers. All of them provide two-for-one value and set up scenarios that cause your opponents massive headaches. I upped the number of Sorin because he’s proved to be great against just about everything out there in the field and Abzan Aggro is almost completely incapable of beating his emblem. With that matchup being so prevalent, I found myself more and more wanting a way to make it even better for Mardu. This also helps with the addition of a second Painful Truths to the maindeck. While it might seem terribly greedy, the only games I was losing to Jeskai Black were the ones where we both traded immense amounts of resources and they eventually drew a Dig through Time and I bricked. Minimizing that hole seemed very important, and since Painful Truths had played extremely well as a one-of in the main as well as in the sideboard, I decided to go with both. Based on my results online I would say the change is correct against any non-Atarka Red matchup.

I made multiple changes to the sideboard, and so far, I’m really, really pleased with them.

Infinite Obliteration comes in against decks like Esper Dragons, Eldrazi Ramp, and Four-Color Rally.

Sidebar: Tell me what you think the best target with Infinite Obliteration is against Four-Color Rally! I’ve been naming Zulaport Cutthroat to great success, but some friends swear I should be naming Nantuko Husk. I want your opinions and reasoning below.

Speaking of Four-Color Rally, Hallowed Moonlight has been great against their Collected Company and Rally the Ancestors. I don’t want more than one against them, because one is usually all you ever need. Combined with your discard like Transgress the Mind and Duress, you can do a pretty good job of suppressing their combo and pressuring them with a Gideon.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon was a card I’ve been wanting to add for a few weeks, and I finally worked up the nerve to do it. I was worried how it would interact with my other planeswalkers, but there are so many scenarios where you can just win the game on the spot because of it landing that the reward feels like it outweighs the risk. Besides, the last couple of times I’ve cast it I’ve done so with Hangarback Walker and a few Thopters on the battlefield, and it felt like cheating against Abzan Aggro.

The second Ob Nixilis Reignited was because of how great the one in the deck has been. Against control decks or other midrange grind-fests I didn’t like Sarkhan very much, but I wanted something for that slot in the curve. So far I’ve been impressed.

The beauty of Mardu Planeswalkers is how interchangeable a lot of the slots are when it comes to sideboarding, which makes the deck incredibly potent in games 2 and 3. A lot of your removal spells that would be bad against Esper Dragons can come out for more hand disruption. The sheer number of cheap disruption spells play very well with Soulfire Grand Master, who can let you start rebuying Duress or Despise as early as turn 5.

With so many powerful tools it boggles my mind that this deck isn’t more played than it is. Is being Mardu Guy a curse?

At this point I’m just tired. I’m tired of running. Tired of fighting. Tired of trying to explain to people why Mardu Planeswalkers is actually one of the best decks in the format that no one is playing.

But where I have failed, you will succeed.

I’m ready to pass the cowl on to the next Mardu Guy.

Will you be the hero Magic deserves or the one that it needs?

Good luck in Vegas.