Worlds – The 5-0 Standard Decks

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The World Championships. The pinnacle of the Magic year. This year’s tournament kicked off with five rounds of Standard, and those with an eye on the post-Krakow metagame may be surprised by the makeup of the 5-0 decks at the end of Standard play. Today, I take you though the 5-0 decklists from Worlds, so those of us not qualified can do more than sit crying at our desks in an impotent display of Emo excess.

Day 1 of Worlds has ended. Eight rounds of intense Magical play. Five rounds of Standard to kick off, followed by a triple Lorwyn draft. Going into tomorrow, there’s one player sat proud on twenty-four points: Yoshitaka Nakano. Yup, he’s Japanese.

Leaving aside the strong draft finishers, we have eleven players on fifteen points (maximum) after Round 5. Eleven 5-0 decklists. On the Mothership, some kind soul has posted ten of those eleven “perfect” decklist. Today, I’m taking a look at those decks, and drawing some conclusions about the post-Worlds metagame.

First up, let’s see where we were before the tournament started…

The Pre-Worlds Standard Metagame

Going into Worlds, it seems that the metagame was Blue. Grand Prix: Krakow, the last big Standard event of note, brought us a Top 8 packed with Islands.

1 — Paul Cheon — U/W Control
2 — Amiel Tenenbaum — Mono-Blue Control
3 — Armin Birner — G/R Big Mana
4 — Olivier Ruel – Makeshift Command
5 — Robert Jacko — U/G Faeries
6 — David Besso — Mono-Blue Pickles
7 — Guillaume Wafo-Tapa — Mono-Blue Control
8 — Matej Zatlkaj — Makeshift Command

Of the eight decks that ran the gauntlet, seven made lands that tapped for Blue mana. The lone exception, Armin Birner’s G/R Big Mana in third place, made scads of huge men off insane-mana (powered by Garruk untapping Fertile Grounded lands). A nice strategy, of course, but the real winners in the tournament dipped their toes in the water.

Of the Blue decks, perhaps the most popular is Makeshift Command.

This deck has been discussed at length elsewhere, but here’s a quick recap for the uninitiated. With the Evoke monsters and Makeshift Command, the mage behind this strategy can create both card and board advantage, especially late-game when utilizing Grim Harvest. Phyrexian Ironfoot and Damnation holds off the aggro charge, Faerie Conclave provided uncounterable threats for the control matches, and Profane Command can either kill things, reanimate things, or Fireball people in the face. It’s fun, and it’s tricky, but it has no countermagic (other than a singleton Venser).

Wafo-Tapa’s deck, however, is nothing but permission.

Amiel Tenenbaum also took this deck to second. Counter this, counter that, counter the other, make Guile, counter everything else, win. That about sums up that strategy. According to Guillaume, this is one of the easiest Mono-Blue Control decks to pilot in living memory. I feel it’s rather like Dragonstorm, the combo deck for non-combo players. That deck asked “can I make nine mana?” This Blue deck asks “will that card kill me?”

The remaining Blue strategy is Pickles, piloted by the winner Paul Cheon (with White) and David Besso (purebred Blue)

The strategies at play here, while similar, have their differences. Neon Cheon supplemented an eight-card counter-suite with plenty of cards that actually affected the board. David, on the other hand, relied on a whopping sixteen counterspells to see him through, with more from the board if needed.

Leaving aside the U/G Faeries deck and the G/R Big Mana deck (don’t worry, I’ll get to THAT in time), it seems that the pre-Worlds meta was heavily controlling. Pros, on the whole, like to play Blue. How would the metagame shape up when Worlds began? Would the Island still rule all

The Worlds Metagame Breakdown

Red-Green Big Mana
Makeshift Mannequin
Green-Black Elves
Blue-Green Faeries
Mono-Blue Control
Blue-Black Faeries
Blue-Black Teachings
Skred Red
Mono Blue Pickles
Tarmo Rack
Blue-Red Beats / Burn
Aggro Red with Tarmogoyf
Momentary Blink
Blue-White Control
Red-Green Beats
Doran Control
Blue-Green Control
Red-Green-Black Beats


Sixty-four player running G/R Big Mana. That’s a surprise. Is the deck really that good?

Makeshift Mannequin decks take a healthy forty-three slots, and poor old Mono-Blue Control sits lower with twenty. But the big loser, in numbers at least, appears to be Pickles. Mono-Blue Pickles could only muster ten, and U/W Pickles…? Well, there’s six U/W Control decks, but they aren’t necessarily running the Spiney Briney combo. The U/G Faeries deck proved more popular, with twenty-eight aficionados.

Of course, these numbers are largely irrelevant now that the tournament has played out the Standard portion. The real interest lies in the 5-0 builds. The decks that proved successful in this maddening maelstrom of numbers.

Let’s break the ten deck we have down by archetype, and see what we can learn.

Green/Red Big Mana

Of the ten decks available to us, three ran the G/R Big Mana strategy. Let’s compare those decks with Armin’s build from GP: Krakow.

It’s easy to see the changes that were made. Two of the successful builds upped their removal counts to include a snow engine and the all-powerful Skred. While they lost the Fertile Grounds (and the interaction with Garruk), they picked up Mouth of Ronom, Scrying Sheets, and the brilliant Into The North. Hostility, it seems, has taken an early bath, but the multiple Cloudthreshers are still around to take down the meddling Faeries.

In an effort to combat the popular Blue control strategies going in, the numbers of Molten Disasters have risen, and Nikko’s build even includes multiple Quagnoths to give the Blue mages fits. Akroma, Angel of Fury also comes in from the board, offering power in the air that is immune to Blue or White shenanigans. Mwonvuli Acid-Moss is still in the sideboard, a practical card for the mirror. Indeed, by removing the Fertile Grounds in the Snow-centric builds, it stops the Acid-Moss making insane trades, even if they can still cut out the Scrying Sheets engine instead.

Personally, I like the Snow version, as it cuts down on one of the problems with decks such as these — drawing the wrong cards. In R/G Big Mana decks in formats past, sometimes you’d draw all mana acceleration when you needed monsters, or all monsters when you needed acceleration, etc. Harmonize has always helped, of course, but having your land-fetch spell capable of bringing both draw and removal to the yard is a wonderful thing. Plus, Skred. Mike Flores, that’s your cue.

This deck will obviously be a player in the post-Worlds metagame. Posting three decks in the 5-0 pile is a strong showing indeed, and as it’s the most-played archetype in the tournament, it’s obviously a strong pro-level choice. However, that huge sixty-four is a double-edged sword. The most popular archetype should have a high percentage of undefeated decks. Three is a goodly number, but still… food for thought.

Makeshift Command

Not much to say here… hardly any changes to Olivier Ruel GP build. Let’s run them down:

-1 Grim Harvest (taking it from sixty-one to sixty).

-1 Bottle Gnomes, +1 Jace Beleren (sideboard).

The deck proved strong enough at GP: Krakow, even if that was at the hands of a proven Player of the Year contender. Losing the Grim Harvest seems strange to me, given the state of the metagame going in. Yes, reducing the deck to the requisite sixty seems a fair move, but the singleton Harvest is a nice weapon against the then-successful Blue decks.

One deck undefeated out of forty-three players doesn’t seem like a fair return, but the deck is both powerful and insanely fun to play. It will definitely be a contender post-Worlds, but whether it has the tools to tweak itself to the metagame remains to be seen. The deck is powerful, but I believe its power lies in the tightness of its engine. Like affinity, tweaking too much could water it down to nothing more than a weak lemon drink.

Green/Black Elves

Two Green/Black Elves decks, popular at the SCG $1000 Open and States, posted 5-0 results. And the players! Twenty-four-point man Yoshitaka Nakano, and the inestimable Katsuhiro Mori. Obvious pedigree there.

Let’s look at a States-winning Green/Black Elves build — Josh Guibault, from Indiana.

The power of Profane Command is slowly filtering through… both decks here pack the full four of the faux-Fireball. Thoughseize also appears in strength maindeck, an obvious reaction to the proposed Blue-heavy metagame. We’ve lost some of the Elvish Lords — the Elvish Champions are gone, probably because they’re little more than overkill, and probably because the Forest-packed meta of pre-Krakow was supposedly a thing if the past. Of course, now that G/R Big Mana seems the most popular choice, maybe the Elvish Champions will make a return.

The Thornweald Archers have also hit the showers, replaced by a touch more removal and a few odd-looking singletons. I mean, is there no better option than Civic Wayfinder? And what the blue hell is Mirri the Cursed doing there? I’m not doubting their inclusion, of course — it’s freakin’ Mori — I’m just a little confused.

From the sideboard, Cloudthresher has established itself as the Faerie-f***er of choice. The sideboard also brings us much more removal, with Slaughter Pacts helping when you’re tapped out, and guys like Razormane Masticore and Nekrataal doing double duty by killing AND blocking.

Elves, with twenty-nine players, was a pretty popular choice at Worlds, and for good reason. With the proposed Blue metagame looming, a quick and aggressive synergistic deck could swarm around the Guiles, and dropping multiple threats a turn can overpower the countermagic. Indeed, with G/R Big Mana really shining through, and decks like U/G Faeries also running Forests, then G/B Elves with Elvish Champion could make a comeback.

I feel this could be rather like the Tormod’s Crypt / Dredge conundrum. People thing Dredge is powerful, so pack Tormod’s Crypt in the sideboard. Dredge takes a downturn as a result, so people drop the Crypts. Dredge returns, and we rinse and repeat. No Elvish Champion, therefore Forests come out to play. Back comes the Champion, so the Forests recede. The Champion retires, and it’s Groundhog Day.

Moving on…

The Rock

Good old dependable Rock.

In a sense, Rock is like White Weenie. Whenever new cards are released, someone will want to play it. Rooms filled with Remie-alikes, poring over the Green and Black cards, determined to revisit past glories. With Lorwyn, Green/Black has definite power.

The two builds above, both successful 5-0 decks, share a lot of common cards, but there are definite differences to be seen. One deck packs the oft-ignored Hypnotic Spectre, and Oona’s Prowler, while the other prefers Ohran Viper as its advantage engine of choice.

Here’s a States-winning Rock build — Kenneth Cordell’s deck, from Georgia.

I think the Rock is endlessly customizable. That’s its beauty. I know a guy who, until his recent retirement from Constructed Magic, played nothing but The Rock from season to season. Cards rotated out, and in, but there were more changes made in season that those forced by rotations. Let’s see if we can nail down a core for a Rock deck from the two 5-0 builds.

Some Garruk Wildspeaker
Some Tarmogoyf
Some Llanowar Elves
Some Shriekmaw
Some Profane Command
Some Thoughtseize
Some Troll Ascetic
Some Eyeblight’s Ending / Nameless Inversion

There ya go… now go build!

This deck may suffer if the Elf deck starts packing Champions. Especially if the removal is Eyeblight’s Ending . Man, that’d suck. And don’t forget, folks… Cloudthresher for the Faeries.

U/G Faeries

It seems that the U/G Faerie deck is better than the U/B Faerie deck. Sorry Josh.

The split of players between U/G and U/B at Worlds wasn’t a close one. We have twenty-eight running Green, and only sixteen running Black. That’s almost twice as many. As one U/G Faerie deck managed 5-0, statistics state that, if the U/B build was as powerful, half an U/B Faerie player would have went undefeated too.

Let’s compare the deck to the GP Top 8 build from Robert Jacko:

This deck seems to mirror the Makeshift Command deck, in that the creature base in both builds is completely untouched. Can we assume that this is the perfect Faeriefolk guy suite? Maybe. Again, the deck appears to be heavily reliant on a host of cards, unlike the Rock and its customizable goodness. If you run with the Faeries, you’re pretty much locked into your choices.

Of course, there are differences made in the sideboards. Thorn of Amethyst has made room for more counterpower in multiple Flashfreezes, and the all-purpose answer Pithing Needle rears its ugly head. As Mono-Blue Control does seem to be on the downswing, I applaud these choices, though setting on a fifteen without the Thorn before the tournament began would’ve taken bigger plums than I possess.

Faeries, be they U/G or U/B, do seem to be a strong force at the moment. However, I fear that the inevitable upswing of Green decks will lead to more and more Cloudthreshers seeing play from the sideboards, so at the very least the four Flashfreeze Faerie board package seems invaluable.


We round out the 5-0 decks with this spicy little number — Red/Blue Aggro, splashing for Tarmogoyf. Or Tar-OMG-oyf, as I like to call him.

About the nearest comparison I can make to this deck is Richard Feldman Izzet Deck Wins, and that’s sufficiently different that it prevents me bothering with listing Richard’s deck.

The Gargadon deck is strong in many areas. Greater Gargadon has always been the aggro-beater of choice in fellow aggressive decks, and cards like Keldon Marauders offer value against Control for the early damage they can cause. An early five damage, even if it fades away, gives this deck’s burn suite ample time to blaze through countermagic at suspended and instant speeds. Looter il-Kor helps with card quality, and the cheeky maindeck Threatens have a myriad of targets in the Worlds and pre-Words metagames. Tap out for Guile? Sure, bum you. Make a huge monster, G/R Big Mana? Sure, bum you too.

Even so, looking at the deck, I’m still thinking… Tarmogoyf? Yes, he IS the second coming, but are the mana hoops worth leaping through in a world where everyone knows that Goyf is Elvis? Is the hassle of adding Green acceptable in the face of Shriekmaws and Eyeblight’s Endings and Profane Commands and Terrors etc?

Hell, it’s Tarmogoyf. The answer is probably a big fat “yes.”

The singleton Fatal Frenzy is a nice touch, as are some of the sideboard options. Control has fits against Manabarbs, and Sulfur Elemental helps here too. As does Jace Beleren, there to help beat the cardmongers at their own game. Ancient Grudge, I presume, is there for Loxodon Warhammers. Any other juicy targets you can think of? The Rack, maybe?

With ten 5-0 deck leaked on the Mothership, of eleven 5-0 players, it seems that Standard has swung away from the Island. Of the ten lists we have, only three of them produce Blue mana. That is certainly a surprise to me, considering the wetness in Krakow. The key is, I feel, the power of the Forest. I’m sure that Garruk is the cod’s pods, but playing heavy Forests opens the metagame up to Elvish Champion. We may be in for a Standard that’s constantly in flux, waxing from Aggro-Control midrange decks, to pure aggression and Elvish beatdown, and back to powerful Blue Control strategies as the tournaments roll by.

Personally, I like it. As it stands, there seems room for not only innovation, but also canny metagame strategic planning. Positioning yourself may be as important, if not more, than deck design and power. We don’t have a clear deck to beat, which makes me giggle like a schoolgirl. After all, I think we were all a little tired of Dragonstorm at the end of its tenure.

What’s that?

Dragonstorm’s back?


Anyone got a Spinerock Knoll for trade?

Until next time…

Thanks for listening.

Craig Stevenson
Scouseboy on MTGO
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