Magic is a unique card game because there are so many formats that can be played. I recently bought the Power 9, so I am going to play more Vintage as well as continue with all of the pro level formats. I want to try a new style of article, one that talks about every deck I would play in the big formats if there was a tournament tomorrow. Standard is about to change due to the introduction of M11. Legacy has GP: Columbus coming up very soon. Vintage has power tournaments in the region, as well as Vintage worlds at GenCon in about a month. Extended should be on the minds of everyone who is qualified for Pro Tour: Amsterdam, as well as anyone who intends on qualifying.
Most of the time, writers like to focus on one format, but I would like to give a brief overview of the recent conclusions I have drawn as a whole.
Faeries is going to be the most powerful deck in Amsterdam, but a Punishing Fire variant will give it a run for its money.
Blue/White Control is the best positioned deck in Standard before and after the release of M11.
Time Vault is still the most powerful strategy in Vintage.
Was that too brief of an overview for four different formats?
I guess, since you guys pay to read this, I will elaborate further.
The new Extended seems like the most fun format right now, because I love Faeries. Since Mana Leak is back in M11, there is not much room to screw up your list either. I find myself leaning towards something very similar to what I played at Pro Tour: Hollywood two years ago.
This Faeries deck does not have much new tech, but it still has a nut draw of Ancestral Vision followed by Bitterblossom. That start can beat any deck, and will have a target on its head for the Pro Tour.
The difference between this deck and the old Standard version is the addition of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The Brainstorm ability is still the most powerful, but you can randomly lock out your opponent by continually returning Mistbind Clique to your hand. I was excited about this deck a few weeks ago, and I still am.
This is the deck that everyone will have as their default deck for the Pro Tour, so make sure you can beat it. The concept of the default deck is not explored very often, but it should be. Every format has a best deck, and the pros try to come up with something new. If they fail, it is common to see them playing the default deck of the format. We had Jund in the pre-Eldrazi Standard as the most recent example. If there is not a deck you are comfortable with, play what you know is the most powerful deck, since you play against it frequently. I never play a deck that is soft against this deck, since it is a good way to not win a tournament.
The sideboard has Damnation, so you can kill Great Sable Stag without adding a third color. Shadowmage Infiltrator has been played against me before in a Faeries mirror match, and it was very good. It either trades with a Faerie token every turn or draws an extra card. It also has three toughness, so it is good against a control deck that features Punishing Fire.
Speaking of Punishing Fire, combining it with Grove of the Burnwillows is also a very powerful strategy in this new Extended. There has been a URG Junk deck that has been dominating on Magic-League that looks very promising. It features the most powerful cards in Extended; it has won the first three tournaments, and got second place in the fourth tournament. Here is one of the versions.
Here is a control deck I can get behind, since it has many crowd favorites like Bloodbraid Elf and Cryptic Command. I also like the idea of cascading into Ancestral Vision. The sideboard makes it impossible to lose to the Faerie Menace. If this deck gets popular enough, Faeries may have to go and hide because this is pure spite. I want to play Faeries, but this deck may be competing for the best deck, too. Luckily I have some time before the Pro Tour to figure out which one is better.
I think it is important to focus on the Pro Tour format even if you are not yet qualified. The pros are busy testing the unknown format for numerous weeks, while you are doing something else. If the goal of playing a PTQ is to qualify and do well in a Pro Tour, give yourself every chance to do so. I made this mistake when I top 4ed a team LCQ for Pro Tour: Charleston back in 2006. My team ground in at three in the morning the day of the PT, and I still had to build three decks for the Block Constructed format I had never played before. My team made Day 2, but we did badly because we were unaware of what was good, and the decks we played were all essentially rough drafts. Although we qualified for the Pro Tour, we never had a shot of really doing well because none of us knew the format. This is the reason I am talking about a format that may not be relevant to you at this moment.
Legacy has many options for decks, but I really only consider a few of them. Top, Daze, Force, Swords, and Brainstorm are the best cards to play and give you a very powerful and consistent shell. My first Legacy tournament was over five years ago, and the only time I have been successful in the format is when I play at least three of those cards.
I began testing the Enlightened Tutor toolbox deck, but found it was too awkward against aggro decks. The manabase was also warped because it fit Back to Basics into the maindeck. It was a deck that I really wanted to work because it fits my play style, and that is very important, but it was too unfocused. It felt like a Vintage deck because of all the singletons, but was actually like a Rock deck because you can just draw the wrong half of the deck and lose to anything.
I am still favoring the U/G/X disruption decks with Wasteland, Daze, Force of Will, Brainstorm, and Tarmogoyf. You can randomly land screw your opponent with a bunch of Wastelands and Knights of the Reliquary. This makes for a great Daze deck since they are still good in the late game. I am not a fan of cards that are only good in a certain phase of the game, like Daze, unless the deck is built around it. This is why I think that Daze is one of the best cards in Legacy, but I don’t play it very often at the same time. The list I wrote about last week is still something I would consider.
I still think this deck is the real deal, and the deck gets a better long game with the removal of Stifle. Counterbalance can destroy some of the more unfair decks in the format, as well as give you a good shot against Zoo. Sensei’s Divining Top is also a great addition because of all the shuffle effects. Some matchups revolve around the big creatures resolving then having a Counterbalance to protect them. Terravore gets very large very fast, and will often get destroyed since there are not many targets for creature removal.
A possible change to this deck would be to add something to the maindeck that destroys Moat. In the current list, there are zero maindeck ways to beat it once resolved.
Cephalid Coliseum is a card that does not receive much attention, but I can assure you that it is awesome in this deck. I would rather have a card that cycles extra lands and pumps up Terravore rather than another Horizon Canopy. The manabase needed to change from the original because you could not just add three Counterbalance and call it a day. There were too many non-Blue lands, and Coliseum was a perfect replacement for one of the Canopies.
The Karakas could also be removed because Reanimator is not a Tier 1 deck anymore.
Remember to keep checking the Magic Online tournaments for new Legacy decklists. They are updated numerous times per week. Just remember to take the card choices with a grain of salt, because the decks are inbred for the MTGO environment.
Standard is about to change because the M11 prerelease is going to happen this coming weekend. The release tournaments will take place the following weekend. This may seem unimportant, but PTQs rarely occur during prerelease and release weekends. This means that the next weekend of PTQs will have M11. I hate it when a new set is about to be released because it seems that is when I get my favorite deck to a nearly perfect configuration. This is not a coincidence, since during lame duck formats people tend to innovate a lot less. I have been playing Blue/White Control in local tournaments recently, and only lost once in the last two events to Naya Allies. This is the best deck to play in FNM style events, because people tend to avoid Turboland, which is the only bad matchup.
I feel like I have been repeating myself a lot lately, because this is another deck I liked before Mana Leak was legal, and now I feel the deck has gotten even better. Mana Leak being in the format will change the way people build decks. We have not had a good counterspell in a while, so you cannot just jam every good planeswalker in your deck anymore. If you tap out for Gideon and it gets Mana Leaked, you will be feeling pretty bad. There will be more mana-efficient options that will be played instead of the format being a battle of who can play the more powerful and expensive spells.
Here is my take on U/W Control once M11 is in Standard. I realize I couldn’t actually play this list if the tournament was indeed tomorrow, but I’d stand by the strategy regardless.
I chose to remove the Everflowing Chalices from the deck because Mana Leak gives you even more plays on the second turn. I also removed more expensive spells from the deck, to make room for the Mana Leaks as well as the Condemns. 26 lands should be a sufficient amount of land sources now.
There are no creatures like Dark Confidant in the format (creatures that are still dangerous even if they do not attack), so switching some Path to Exiles for Condemns seemed like a good idea. Giving them basic lands is also more dangerous, since your Mana Leaks will be irrelevant sooner if you play too many of them. We have access to Jace, the Mind Sculptor to get rid of our dead Mana Leaks and shuffle them away with five fetch lands, so it is not a big deal if the game goes long.
This deck is less of a Tap Out deck and more of a traditional style control deck, because there is playable countermagic now. Spreading Seas still stays in the deck because you still get free wins against Jund by messing with their colors as well as dealing with pesky manlands. I removed an Oblivion Ring from the maindeck because there will be fewer planeswalkers in the format, due to Mana Leak. I compensated for this by adding a Jace Beleren to the maindeck as well, since it is easy to lose to an uncontested Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
With the addition of Mana Leak and Condemn, this deck will continue to be the best deck in Standard. Everyone is also aware that Mono Red is very good at beating Turboland, so its dominance will be kept in check.
I want to briefly talk about the Vintage deck I think has what it takes to win a tournament. There is going to be a Legacy and Vintage tournament at RIW Hobbies on July 17th and 18th, so I want to win some expensive cards. Here is what I plan on playing.
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Brainstorm
- 4 Mana Drain
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Time Vault
- 1 Merchant Scroll
- 1 Thirst for Knowledge
- 1 Tinker
- 1 Voltaic Key
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 3 Thoughtseize
- 3 Spell Pierce
I have not played Vintage in a while, but was not surprised to see Mana Drain control decks still winning. This list is based on a deck piloted by David Ochoa and Jeff Huang. They got first and third place with almost identical decks, so I figured it was worth investigating further. The addition to this deck is Trygon Predator, because Oath of Druids and MUD are popular at the moment. The Key/Vault decks are still popular as well, and Trygon is good against all of those. If it does not do anything in the matchup, you can remove it to Force of Will. Almost every deck plays Moxen or Null Rod, so there will be good artifacts and enchantments to destroy with this card.
I enjoy playing control decks, so even though I have been out of the format for a while, I can still have a good shot with this deck. It is always a good idea to play the most powerful cards in the format, and this deck definitely does that. If there are a lot of Stax decks in your area, play another Nature’s Claim in the sideboard.
There are usually not a lot of Dredge players in tournaments, but this deck does not have many cards to sideboard out in each matchup. This is why there are five graveyard hate cards in the sideboard. You can afford to dedicate many sideboard slots to certain matchups because that is the only way to win most of the time against them.
This format really speaks to the power of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It is featured as a singleton in many of the control decks in this format. I can see it staying as an 80-dollar card for quite some time.
I have gone over quite a few different formats and what deck I would play in each of them. Magic can be overwhelming sometimes because of all the tournaments that happen and all of the different decks that can be played. I can see doing another article like this in the future. Let me know in the forums what you thought about this piece.
Thanks for reading!