Welcome back! It’s been a while, and it took me a bit to get back in the writing swing of things while I am on the road. I am currently in Minnesota, with the esteemed Riki Hayashi, preparing for the StarCityGames.com Open Weekend in Minneapolis. Since the last article, there has been a titanic shift in the metagame caused by the arrival of Magic: 2011. The Titans have made a dent, but the biggest player seems to be Fauna Shaman, which has spawned two very different builds — Naya and Bant. Both versions abuse Vengevine, and it is likely that you will see the Survival Elf across the table from you soon. Pyromancer’s Ascension was another very popular deck in Denver, but it didn’t live up to the hype as it posted some of the worst results on the day.
Some of the most impressive results came from some unexpected places. Naya Allies, Super Friends, and Open the Vaults were known decks before M11, but they never saw the type of results that they posted in Denver. It may be the small sample size, but time will tell whether these decks will be able to hold up over the next few months, or month for Open the Vaults. This new rotation opened up the door for the pairing of Warden and Attendant into the Soul Sisters deck that turns Ajani’s Pridemate from a bad Kavu Predator into a house. Although this deck’s lifespan ends on October 1st, I predict that it will be the toast of FNMs for the next month. Expect to play against it in serious events as well, as the results it posted at U.S. Nationals and in Denver were solid enough that it cannot be dismissed.
U/W Control — 10.78% of the Field — Won 49.70% of Matches
Example: Adam Prosak, 22nd
U/W builds took a definite turn for control with the printing of Mana Leak, but Adam’s build takes it even farther, passing up Gideons and Elspeths for more counterspells. For the most populous deck in the field, a top finish of 22nd is disappointing. What is more disappointing is that shifting to a Control build seems to have given up some of the headway that U/W had made against Jund which, while no longer its dominant self, is still a major presence. To pile on, U/W Control was also one of the only decks to lose its match-up with Pyromancer’s Ascension, and it looks like new kid on the block Fauna Naya is making some bones by beating up on U/W as well. It will be interesting to see if the bright and shiny new instants of M11 remain the current tech, or if the old U/W Tap Out builds start to creep back into the metagame.
Jund — 9.29% of the Field — Won 52.58% of Matches
Example: Zac Cole, 5th
Stop me if you have heard this one: Jund could be played by a 12 year old. Yeah it was, and he outplayed many competitors who we more than twice his age. Zac cut his way through the field to the only 8-1 record of the event, finishing in first place after Swiss and leaving a lot of new fans in his wake. Congratulations Zac!
In other Jund news, the builds that I saw from Denver were all over the map, but there were no distinct sub-archetypes. Just know that it is possible to see just about every good Black, Red, or Green card in a Jund build, although the core remains the same — Bloodbraid Elf, Sprouting Thrinax, Putrid Leech, Blightning, and Maelstrom Pulse.
Valakut Ramp — 7.43% of the Field — Won 54.37% of Matches
Example: Matthew Duggan, 10th
Once a fairly regional deck that would spike in popularity whenever we went to Texas, Valakut Ramp got a huge shot in the arm with Primeval Titan and Cultivate out of M11. The deck already had Harrow, Khalni Heart Expedition, Explore, and Rampant Growth so it was now able to turn the ramp up to 11. With multiple routes to explosive plays like a turn 4 Primeval Titan, the deck can explode for a ton of damage and is a blast to play. Valakut Ramp has solid match-ups across the board and could address Soul Sisters with a couple of board slots, or even a main deck Comet Storm to utilize all of the extra mana that you are able to generate.
Pyromancer’s Ascension — 7.06% of the Field — Won 39.60% of Matches
Example: Richard Chambers, 53rd
Not sure that this is working, guys. Ironically, the deck had good match-ups against tournament staples U/W Control and Red Deck Wins, but it was just abysmal against the rest of the field. I expect this deck to keep showing up because there is a category of player that simply looks for the best combo deck and plays that regardless of whether it is a good fit for the metagame or not. May I humbly suggest Fauna Naya? If that doesn’t fit your definition of combo, then Open the Vaults or even Runeflare Trap presented better performances than Pyromancer’s Ascension in Denver.
Under the Radar:
Magic: 2011 gave us some interesting cards, but one of them screamed “build around me” … Destructive Force. Some predicted that this would become one of the defining cards in the metagame. It hasn’t happened yet, but let’s look at Todd Brewick’s 23rd place list from Denver, and think about if it may still become a player.
Todd managed a 2-0 record against U/W Control before intentionally drawing into the money in round 9. Although Destructive Force ended up sub .500 on the day, it is still very much a deck in flux. There were R/U/G versions in addition to Todd’s Naya build, so it is fairly clear that no consensus has been reached about the best way to utilize this massively powerful card. Keep an eye on Destructive Force because it will have a break out event.
I hope to see everyone in Minneapolis this weekend for the StarCityGames.com Open Weekend, and don’t forget that the StarCityGames.com Open Weekend in Baltimore will be your last chance to sleeve up M10 cards in a Standard deck on September 18th and 19th. Due to my being on the road this week, there will be no TMI for the Denver Legacy Open, and instead it will be rolled in with the Minneapolis Legacy Open to give us more results to draw from. Look forward to that next week and even more Standard!