The Metagame Spiral

Get ready for Magic the Gathering Champs!

Naoki Shimizu (the creator of Solar Flare), fresh from his excellent performance at Japanese Nationals, made the Top 8 of the recent Lord of Magic Championship (a Standard tournament in Japan) with an innovative Blue/Green deck of his own design. Today’s article examines Naoki’s take on the best builds for current popular decks, and it takes a brief look at the current Japanese metagame. Oh, and there’s the decklist from his Top 8 performance too. The best writers, the best players, only at StarCityGames.com!

Hello! I’m glad to hear you enjoy my articles so far.

In this article, I would like to speculate on Time Spiral legal Standard decks first, looking both at what they gained and what they lost. After that, I would like to give a brief nod to the metagame of a big Time Spiral Standard tournament held recently in Japan: The Lord of Magic Championship.

Here we go!

Gruul Beats
What they lost: Flames of the Blood Hand
What they gained: Call of the Herd, Stormbind, Stonewood Invocation, Rift Bolt, Magus of Scroll, etc.

The loss of Flames of the Blood Hand is a big problem for Gruul. Before Time Spiral, if Gruul met a Loxodon Hierarch or Faith’s Fetters, they could prevent opponents from gaining life. But after Time Spiral, this is no longer an option, so Gruul becomes weaker against those cards and decks.

The good news is that there are no Umezawa’s Jittes from now on. Gruul often lost to Paladin En-Vec equipped with Jitte… that scenario is now a thing of the past. And the deck gains Call of the Herd, strong against Wrath of God.

Stormbind will help them deal final four or six damage. Stonewood Invocation is like an uncounterable five-point direct damage spell.

The strongest creature, Kird Ape, is still alive, so Gruul will never disappear… I think you must first think about your game versus Gruul when you build a new deck.

What they lost: Isamaru, Hound of Konda; Flames of the Blood Hand
What they gained: Almost the same cards as Gruul

The biggest problem for Zoo is the loss of Isamaru. This deck was played as a Sligh-like deck, and Isamaru was the best of all the one-mana creatures. Yes, you can play Magus of the Scroll, or even Icatian Javelineers, but they are much worse than the legendary hound.

In spite of this great loss, Zoo is a still good deck because they can play Lightning Helix and Loxodon Hierarch (in the sideboard). Helix is the best spell in this environment, and Loxodon Hierarch is lethal for Gruul. As I mentioned, you must think about beating Gruul first… therefore, Zoo is a nice choice.

What they lost: Isamaru, Hound of Konda; Umezawa’s Jitte; Hand of Honor; Eight-and-a-Half-Tails
What they gained: Icatian Javelineers, Soltari Priest, Magus of the Scroll, Serra Avenger, Knight of Holy Nimbus

Isamaru’s death is the biggest problem for Boros too. Icatian Javelineer can kill Llanowar Elves, Birds of Paradise, and Dark Confidant. It is not a bad creature… but it is not Isamaru.

Soltari Priest is the strongest two-mana creature after the rotation. His Protection from Red is good against most decks, except Solar Flare. I see many Izzet players unable cope with this funky priest.

Serra Avenger has a big weakness, but Boros needs some strong creatures like Zoo’s Watchwolf. Of course, Boros does not usually get to four mana or higher, so this Angel is a great edition for the deck. This creature is often summoned after Wrath of God or Wildfire… White Weenie is a very reasonable choice nowadays, isn’t it?

Selesnya (Ghazi-Glare)
What they lost: Yosei, the Morning Star; Kodama of the North Tree, Arashi, the Sky Asunder; Umezawa’s Jitte
What they gained: Saffi Eriksdotter, Thelonite Hermit, Yavimaya Dryad, Griffin Guide, Call of the Herd, Stonewood Invocation

Selesnya lost those three great creatures. The biggest loss is Yosei.

The Yosei plus Greater Good combo owned many control decks, but you can’t play them from now on. In addition to this, Selesnya lost Jitte, and became unable to cope with creatures with nice activated abilities (like Jaya Ballard).

Instead of those, Selesnya got these small creatures. Saffi is good with Loxodon Hierarch and Yavimaya Dryad, and it is, of course, good against Wrath and Wildfire.

Call of the Herd is the best with Glare of Subdual, and Selesnya Guildmage plus Thelonite Hermit, or Vitu-Ghazi plus Hermit, is very nice.

Selesnya became weaker against control decks, but you know it is awesome against Gruul, Zoo, Boros, and other aggro decks. There will be many players who love to play Selesnya. [Yup, I’m one of them! — Craig.]

In this list I don’t pick Watchwolf, because there are a lot of 3/3 creatures named Elephant token around these days. I think Saffi is a better two-drop in this deck.

What they lost: Umezawa’s Jitte; Isamaru, Hound of Konda; Hand of Honor; Hand of Cruelty; Tallowisp; Promise of Bunrei; Descendant of Kiyomaro
What they gained: Stupor, Soltari Priest, Dauthi Slayer, Bad Moon, Serra Avenger, The Rack

First of all, we can no longer Promise to win with four 1/1 spirits, or search out Enchant Creature Auras from our library. This deck seemed great because Umezawa’s Jitte helped stem the Dark Confidant’s life-loss drawback.

After the rotation, this deck must be prepared to kill its own Confidant. And because of the loss of Descendant of Kiyomaro, this deck becomes weaker against Gruul and Boros.

Ghost Council of Orzhova is still great after the rotation. This creature is the best four-mana creature in Standard, even though he will be killed by Sudden Death. [Best four-mana guy in Standard? A certain lifegaining pachyderm would like a word with you… – Craig.]

Of course, the pair of Timeshifted Shadow-creatures works best in Orzhov. If you choose Black creatures only, Bad Moon could be nice. The Rack is good with Orzhov’s hand-destruction spells like Castigate, Cry of Contrition, Screeching Grotesque, Stupor, etc.

There are many ways to build Orzhov beats (again). I think this guild is the most interesting to build, so let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

Feel free to play Mortifies. There are no Dragons to wreck us when they hit the graveyard!

Simic (Sea Stompy)
What they lost: Ninja of Deep Hours, Umezawa’s Jitte, Meloku the Clouded Mirror
What they gained: Psionic Blast, Stonewood Invocation, Call of the Herd, Scryb Ranger, Mystic Snake

This deck also seems nice, thanks to Jitte’s departure. Of course, they no longer has creature removal… oops, wait! Psionic Blast.

Psionic Blast is best in this kind of deck. It was often the case that Simic couldn’t kill their opponents when they sat on a few life points. Stonewood Invocation also solves this problem.

Mystic Snake is the best way to beat control decks like Solar Flare. I think as long as there are Solar Flare decks in the metagame, Simic can be best deck because they are very good in that matchup.

Scryb Ranger is good with Vinelasher Kudzu. When you have those two creatures, Kudzu can be much stronger than Watchwolf.

What they lost: Keiga, the Tide Star; Meloku the Clouded Mirror
What they gained: Bogardan Hellkite, Draining Whelk, Triskelavus, etc

I think this deck is the strongest control deck. They lost nice fatties, but that’s all. They still have Wildfire, Demonfire, and a lot of card drawing spells and counterspells.

Bogardan Hellkite’s flash ability is best for this deck. Before Time Spiral, they sometimes tapped out to cast a Keiga before they completed the Urzatron. However, this should now never occur. Of course, 6RR is not easy to get, but what if they’ve assembled an early ‘Tron? I’m afraid to face this deck powered in such a brutal fashion.

Draining Whelk is the second finisher. It is nice especially against control decks like Solar Flare. Izzet-Tron had a trouble when Solar Flare got a lot of mana, and Remand or Mana Leak became useless, but Whelk solves that problem. You know Cancel is not good for Izzet-Tron, but Whelk is nice because when they get UU they often have a lot of mana.

Blue Snow Control
What they lost: Sensei’s Diving Top, Jushi Apprentice, Meloku the Clouded Mirror
What they gained: Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir; Whisper of the Muse; Think Twice

The loss of Sensei’s Diving Top means the death of Counterbalance. You must not play Dark Confidant. But you still have Scrying Sheets, and snow cards, which are good against control decks. Phyrexian Ironfoot can stop Elephants, and if you play a lot of Blue mana Teferi is very cool.

Think Twice is a cool card drawing spell, especially in this kind of deck. Try it and feel its power.

There is a big problem with how to beat aggro decks, but when you solve it, this deck will become your best friend.

What they lost: Eye of Nowhere
What they gained: Avalanche Riders

What a boring deck this is… Yes, they lost Eye of Nowhere, and got nothing from TS. Avalanche Rider is a good card, but it can’t help Magnivore, and this kind of deck usually hates to pay his echo cost, so I think Demolish is better.

Someone says we still have Boomerang, and so this deck will never disappear… but I don’t think so. This deck was strong because they had eight copies of Boomerang. (There were lists playing just Eye of Nowhere, but I think those were not as strong.)

I give you sample list, but I don’t recommend you to play this deck.

And finally…

Solar Flare

For more information on updates for this deck, please see my last article, the Future of Solar Flare.

Now let’s take a brief look at the Japanese metagame…

I recently participated in a big Time Spiral Standard tournament, the Lord of Magic Championship in Japan. In this tournament, many respected Japanese rogue deckbuilders and decks made their names. For example, Ghazi-Glare was first played in this tournament last year.

I made the Top 8 playing my original Simic beatdown deck, Scrub and Force. Here is the list:

Many people have questioned why I didn’t play Solar Flare. My answer is simple: it couldn’t beat my new deck.

The Top 8 decks are listed here. The good news is that the winner was Takahiro Suzuki, and he was playing Solar Flare. I lost to Zoo in the quarterfinals.

Overall, my metagame speculation was right. There were a lot of Gruul and Boros beatdown decks. Solar Flare and Izzet-Tron were following these as the second-most popular choices. And there was a nice rogue deck that featured Dragonstorm. Akira Asahara played this deck and finished in second place. The deck is so good that you may see a lot of it in your Champs tournaments. Beware its power! If you would like to beat it, play Shadow of Doubt, Trickbind, Parallectric Feedback, etc.

Few players played Magnivore, and there were many different kinds of Solar Flare (as I thought there would be, in my last article). It is difficult to tell which deck is the best, but I would say Solar Flare is not necessarily best. Izzet-Tron got many good cards from Time Spiral, and so it’s harder to beat that deck with Solar Flare.

The Champs’ metagame should almost be the same as the Lord of Magic Championships. If you plan to take part in Champs, you should tune your deck to defeat aggro, and put many cards for beating control decks in your sideboard.

I hope this article will be some help for your tournaments!

Good luck,

Naoki Shimizu