We Have A Metagame, Now Let’s Fight It!

Two-time Grand Prix winner Gerry Thompson talks about the decks he likes in Standard now that we have a metagame to go off of. See what you should consider playing at #SCGCLE!

Mono-Red Aggro, U/W (and Esper) Control, and G/R Aggro—these are the exciting new decks you were expecting to see after Theros, right?

Perhaps it was a case of wanting to play it safe the first week; after all, who knows what crazy ideas are going to show up. Playing it safe seems like a reasonable way to put up a decent finish without taking too many risks. Maybe people didn’t have access to certain cards. There’s also a chance that the midrange decks weren’t built correctly for the metagame that actually showed up. Some people even said that the first week of a format is always like this, but I respectfully disagree.

Of those, I think only the second one has merit, but even then I’m skeptical. I honestly think that those decks rose to prominence because they were built to be effective against an open metagame, either intentionally or not. Mono-Red and G/R don’t really care what you’re doing since they’re going to play efficient threats until you die. U/W and its cousins have broad answers like counterspells and Detention Spheres, so they don’t care what types of threats you’re playing either. They just hope to never run out of answers.

Either way, I don’t mind the format looking like this, as those archetypes are classic Magic. I look forward to every Mono-Red Aggro vs. U/W Control matchup on camera. Additionally, it should be easier to adapt various midrange decks to beat these decks going forward since they are about as linear as they come.

Here is my number one deck:

This time around I’m not working with a large team, so believe me when I say if the Pro Tour were tomorrow, I would play this in a heartbeat. I’m not sure how many people opted to play something similar at the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Worchester, but Jackie Lee finished in the Top 32 with something very similar.

As always, decks like this are infinitely customizable. If you foresee a problem, such as Blood Baron of Vizkopa or Hammer of Purphoros, you should be able to adapt your deck in order to fight it. Don’t take my list as gospel, especially since my expected metagame might be different than your local one. Feel free to tune or experiment and try new things.

For example, a fourth Anger of the Gods maindeck might be correct given how much Mono-Red Aggro there appeared to be. However, that’s one of the few removal spells that is almost always dead against pure control decks. Granted, there has been the occasional time where I’ve been able to Anger away a horde of Elspeth tokens in order to finish my opponent off with Desecration Demon, but those situations are few and far between.

Chandra, Pyromaster might be too good to shave given how effective it is against Mono-Red Aggro and U/W Control, but there was a smattering of other decks lurking in the Top 32 like G/R, Naya, and G/W that Chandra is not great against. Perhaps a Read the Bones is a better shave, but so far I haven’t been disappointed by drawing that card, even when playing against Mono-Red Aggro. You’d do well to remember that Mono-Red Aggro deals most of its damage with creatures and its capacity for reach is not incredibly high.

Lifebane Zombie got the axe because, believe it or not, it wasn’t performing very well against Mono-Red Aggro and U/W Control. That plus the necessity for maindeck Anger of the Gods led to them being relegated to sideboard duty. In their place, I have more fatties.

Other than that, the deck is still gas. I’m hearing a lot of chatter about these next few decks though.

This deck is cool, and I suspect you’ll be seeing similar versions at Pro Tour Theros in a couple weeks. It occupies the same space as the above B/R deck, as it has efficient creatures, good removal, and Thoughtseizes.

While maindeck Thoughtseize has been heavily debated, I’m fairly certain that it’s a fine maindeck card for problematic cards (such as Brave the Elements, planeswalkers, and Stormbreath Dragon) as long as you are capable of closing the game quickly. Having a way to efficiently gain life (like Centaur Healer or the sideboarded Unflinching Courage) means that Thoughtseize shouldn’t hurt you too badly even if you have to keep it in against an aggressive deck.

The creature suite and removal suite are both up for discussion, but Nicholas’ list looks mighty fine to me. He even made room for everybody’s favorite Blood Baron.

I really appreciate the fact that Nicholas was modest with his mana base. He might be a land shy compared to midrange decks of old, but there is a distinct lack of utility lands to compensate for being flooded.

As David noted in his Top 8 profile, being Naya allowed him to diversify his sideboard options with cards like Unflinching Courage and Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, both of which are backbreaking in their respective matchups.

I really like scry with Domri Rade, but I’m not sure if eight Temples with only 23 total lands is correct. It seems like that would make for a lot of really clunky starts.

A lot of people have been badmouthing Polukranos, World Eater, but I don’t get it. This isn’t Deadbridge Goliath; this is a card that at the very least can kill a Firefist Striker for a minimal investment. That alone should be worth the price.

I really like the Anger of the Gods in the sideboard of G/R, but Flames of the Firebrand looks pretty good against Mono-Red Aggro as well, plus it doesn’t mess with your Sylvan Caryatids.

I definitely like what’s going on here, although like always I question the use of Blood Baron of Vizkopa over Obzedat, Ghost Council. Obzedat has continued to overperform, whereas Blood Baron is very hit or miss. Even in the matchups where it’s a hit, Obzedat would likely be good also.

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention U/W Control. Maximum Tietze capped off a fantastic weekend with a finals finish in the Standard Open, defeating the other two well-known players in Top 8 in Christian Calcano and Owen Turtenwald. Once he got to the finals, he was on the receiving end of some poor mana draws, having only Islands in game 1 and Plains in game two. Granted, he could have mulliganed either game, but I felt like both of his hands were reasonable if not good keeps.

Many have asked why I’ve abandoned U/W/R as a strategy, and the answers are many. First of all, splashing a third color comes at a price, so it better be worth it if you’re playing blue-based control with a third color. Secondly, U/W has serviceable options for whatever the other colors are offering you.

Of course, Esper has a few advantages over U/W, namely its slight advantage in the mirror match. Still, that slight percentage gain might not be worth the trouble that your mana base gives you.

This is what I’d play:

I expect this list to fare much better than the one I played in this Versus video. For starters, we have Frostburn Weird instead of Precinct Captain, which allows us to focus more on blue mana instead of white, plus it’s not easily Shocked away. Frostburn Weird should prove to be more difficult to handle for Mono-Red Aggro decks.

The idea of a brick wall still appeals to me, though none of the players in Top 8 played a similar card. Honestly, that was surprising, especially considering how brutal some of Owen’s games looked. The fact that a single Precinct Captain or Frostburn Weird would have shut him down for at least a couple turns vindicated me.

With the previous list, I found myself getting bogged down by expensive spells like Divination and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Those cards are still valuable, but drawing multiple clunky cards is a quick way to lose a game. Instead, I have some cheaper spells, like Quicken and Last Breath.

That’s solid for a normal U/W list, but what if I want to cast Sphinx’s Revelation where X=100?

If I wanted to go big at the Pro Tour, I would play this deck. The only problem is that I don’t know how good it is yet. Eric Hawkins sent me the list last week, and I instantly fell in love and have been trying to help him tune it ever since.

While I said above that the third color better be worth it, in this case it seems like it is. With Chained to the Rocks and Detention Sphere, you get a lot of extra devotion almost for free. That combined with Precinct Captain, Boros Reckoner, and Spear of Heliod can make for some absurd Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx turns.

The new legend rule allows you to "Gaea’s Cradle" with your Nykthoses, potentially generating a ton of mana. In a Standard format that is mostly about playing fair, being the guy casting giant Sphinx’s Revelations on turn 5 is where I want to be.

The mana base could potentially get better, especially with something like Prophetic Prism, but it hasn’t been awful or anything. Only ten Mountains might be sketchy for Chained to the Rocks, but it’s not like you use it on turn 1 anyway. It’s also worth noting that once you draw a Mountain, you can use all your Chained to the Rocks on it at once, allowing you to come back from behind.

Of all the Gods, Heliod is probably the one that’s impressed me the most (although I have seen a number of Thassa / Master of Waves decks that look solid). Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] looks obviously good but hasn’t really found a home yet. Meanwhile, Heliod has been repeatedly pounding me out of a variety of decks.

For a nearly mono-white deck, I’m pretty happy where my matchup against Stormbreath Dragon is. Blind Obedience puts in a lot of work, either allowing you to race or buying some time for you to untap and Mizzium Mortars it. Supreme Verdict has been in and out of the deck, but it seems worthless when you’re trying to build your board yourself.

The matchup against aggressive decks should be pretty good since it has not only Precinct Captain and Boros Reckoner but also a plethora of removal. Yoked Ox and Archangel of Thune should be putting in some work too. I played with Hundred-Handed One for a while, but it never impressed me. However, if you are in the market for a discounted Thraben Purebloods, then E. Hundo is your man.

This Nykthos deck is the one that I’m working on the heaviest at the moment, as I’m pretty sure B/R is about the best it can be for now. If y’all want to help me out in the comments, that’d be great!

Also, I know I continually mention this without ever backing it up with a solid list or actual testing results, but Maze’s End / Turbo Fog is probably pretty good against the #SCGWOR Top 8. Ashiok is a scary card, but you should be able to sideboard against it with Pithing Needle / Dreadbore or an alternate win condition.

For this week, I’m expecting people to branch out a little bit. If you’re planning on playing B/R or the Nykthos deck, let me know! I’d love to follow your progress. Good luck!


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