The Eleventh Hour

With time running short to choose a deck for Mythic Championship VII, Brad Nelson breaks down his top Standard options!

11/26/2019, 8:45pm PDT

I’m dating this article, because I want you to know exactly when I wrote it. As of right now (for me, not you) I have roughly 28 hours to submit my deck for Mythic Championship VII. Without getting into too much detail, this is a very important tournament for my life as a professional player. I’m currently in twelfth in the Magic Pro League (fifteenth if you account for Split winners), and only the Top 20 MPL members get re-upped after this event. That means I have to do everything in my power to not get jumped by six players in total that are behind me.

So yeah, this decision is important! The problem is I’m not really sold on any deck in particular. Like, I get the pros and cons of all of them, but that doesn’t mean there’s a clear winner. That’s due to metagaming, and the off-chance that enough people do X, Y, or Z that it makes any given decision good or bad. Overthinking potential metagames can cause decision paralysis, which is important to avoid, but at the same time there’s just not much to go off of right now besides what I think others will bring to the table.

This is the part of the process where I think up worst-case scenarios, like some large testing team breaks it wide open, which of course makes me look like a fool for not finding it. Always a possibility, but I can only work with what I know. This is what I know.

Veil of Summer

The removal of Veil of Summer has had serious ramifications for the format. Even more than I thought! Now that’s good, of course, but still worth mentioning. There are many decks trying to cast Casualties of War as quickly as possible to beat up heavily played permanents like Fires of Invention, Trail of Crumbs, and Witch’s Oven strategies. It also cleans up pesky planeswalkers, but there’s a whole lot less of them after the Oko ban.

Golgari-based Food strategies, Jeskai Fires, and Golgari Adventures feel like the best decks, but there’s a slew of decks I consider “distractions” that also might be viable in the format. I’ll get into those later, but seriously it’s shocking to me how impactful Throne of Eldraine has been in Standard. Even after two of its most powerful cards got banned, the set’s still delivering the format’s “best decks.” I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing, but it doesn’t really matter since it’s just a fact.

Let’s talk about those decks for a little bit.

Jeskai Fires

Last week I was convinced that this was the best deck in the format. My testing group spent a lot of time trying all the decks against each other, and Jeskai Fires was doing the best. Now, I’m really not sure. Its top draws are the best thing going on in Standard, but I’ve been struggling a lot with the deck’s consistency issues. Sometimes you just don’t draw Fires of Invention, and when that happens the threats feel like Limited cards. Of course that can still win some games, but decks are starting to get really good at beating those draws.

I know people who have been crushing with the deck, but I haven’t been, which has made my deck selection process for Mythic Championship VII extremely difficult, especially when I rarely lose at all when testing any decks on the ladder, but for whatever reason Jeskai Fires has my lowest win percentage. If I were winning more with it on the ladder then choosing it would be a slam-dunk decision. That said, I still might choose it, because why not?

Casualties of War

Well, that’s a pretty good reason, but more on that later. 

The interesting part of all of this is in the deckbuilding. It’d be foolish to play the same build of the deck that Zvi did in Twitch Rivals, which is why we’ve debated on many specific cards in the deck.

Deafening Clarion

This sweeper has been declining in value all week for a variety of reasons. For starters, aggressive decks aren’t really a part of the metagame. Also, a lot of the Food decks have been adding more and more Thrashing Brontodons to their maindecks, which Deafening Clarion can’t kill. Oh, and it’s horrible in the mirror!

I’m not certain on the “correct” number of this card, but I’m confident it’s not four.

Justice Strike

I’m a big fan of this removal spell. Not only does it kill the threats in the mirror, but Jund Food’s Korvold, Fae-Cursed Kings are actually extremely annoying. Seriously, have you ever untapped with that card? When I did for the first time, I dealt seventeen damage in one turn. It’s also pretty easy to make this card bigger than Jeskai Fires threats the turn you cast it, which makes it important to have some answers to it besides Teferi, Time Raveler.

Tithe Taker

This was a card I questioned when I first saw it in Sjow’s sideboard, but it made more sense the more I thought about it. When you really think about it, does a Jeskai Fires sideboard really need anti-Rakdos cards like Devout Decree? I know it’s good against those decks, but they aren’t highly played anymore due to, you know, being so bad.

Flash strategies have been popping up more and more, which makes this a decent sideboard option. Now don’t get me wrong, playing Tithe Taker is strictly a metagame call, as it’s about as narrow as a card like Devout Decree. You only really want to play it if you really expect to play against Flash decks like Simic Flash or Izzet Flash.

That gets us to my current list of the deck. Again, I’m unsure if I can actually submit this, as I really do fear a lot of Casualties of War in the Mythic Championship. That said, the deck is exceptionally powerful, which is why this decision is so difficult!

Jund Sacrifice

So there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to this archetype. There are many options, including whether or not it’s correct to just play Golgari. After all, Mayhem Devil isn’t that insane, but the one card that has impressed me is Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, which I already brought up earlier. Another valuable talking point is how I really just don’t like Thrashing Brontodon.

Thrashing Brontodon

Weird, right? I mean, I’ve said many times before how I’ve hated this card, but shouldn’t it be good right now? Maybe it is, but I’m being stubborn? It’s obvious that enchantments and artifacts are everywhere, but the thing I’ve found is that the time it takes to deploy and sacrifice the Dinosaur is often not worth it. Not every time, of course, but enough for me to question its value.

For example, sure, it kills Fires of Invention, but sometimes the tempo lost by them casting a second spell on that turn is enough to put you behind for the rest of the game. It’s also four mana to kill a Trail of Crumbs that has already gotten some value. Now, I don’t know if that’s enough to justify not playing the card, as almost everyone else has access to an entire playset. It’s just enough for me to believe that Jund is the better deck.

That’s right, zero copies in my current 75. I’m probably off my rocker, but whatever. I also have my Casualties of War in my sideboard, as I really just want to focus on my core engine in Game 1. I know things can bog down, likely allowing my opponents to gain advantages in the mirror with their copies of Casualties of War, but at the same time it’s not always backbreaking if you’ve pulled ahead on the battlefield, which can easily happen with the other cards you have.

Wicked Wolf

I’ve seen a ton of lists with this card in it, but it doesn’t make much sense to me. It is great at killing the three-drops in the Sacrifice mirrors, but outside of that I really only like it against the nonexistent aggressive decks. I guess it’s also good against Golgari Adventures, but that matchup has never felt bad in all of my testing, which never included the big bad Wolf. 

Epic Downfall

Brian Braun-Duin suggested this card, and gave this reasoning which I stand behind:

The reason for playing this card is accepting that you don’t beat the best Jeskai Fires draws. Hell, no one does. The inclusion of this spell is to rely on beating them in all the other games where they don’t just crush you with Turn 4 Fires of Invention. You’re also leaning heavily on your Korvolds, which can steal games pretty easily. It’s just felt like a losing battle to try to interact with Fires of Invention, so we stopped doing it.

That’s really all I have to say about Jund Sacrifice. It’s the deck I’ve played the least with, but have faith in the rest of the team fine-tuning it in the eleventh hour if we decide to pull that trigger.

Golgari Adventures

Now this is the deck that I assumed I’d fall in love with during testing, but I really didn’t. I mean, it’s a great deck, don’t get me wrong, but it just doesn’t feel great to me when playing it. I have spent more of my time on the non-Lucky Clover builds, which might be the reason, as this format is very powerful, grindy, and filled with a ton of go-over-the-top effects. Maybe the average build is just too small-ball?

Here’s my current take on the deck.

The only way I’ve found success with this strategy is being as aggressively slanted as possible in the maindeck. Vivien, Arkbow Ranger is a great tool to beating Food-based decks while also putting a ton of pressure on matchups like Jeskai Fires. When they don’t have their busted starts, it’s even difficult for them to beat the planeswalker plus a Questing Beast.

Duress has also not impressed me in the Jeskai Fires matchup. Sure, it can sometimes snag their most vital spell, but often it just misses to even take a spell. That’s why I’d much rather bring in Epic Downfall, which can beat up on any of their threats. It’s even nice clearing away a Bonecrusher Giant when you want to get in with a Questing Beast.

Like I said, I’m still not too happy with this deck. Maybe I should have explored more with Reid Duke version he’s been streaming with that has Lucky Clover, Beanstalk Giant, and four copies of Casualties of War, or even this wild Temur build floating around.

I really do love this deck for so many reasons, but at the top is the sideboard copy of Fling. Once you’ve ramped to your heart’s desire, you can cast a Beanstalk Giant and use Fae of Wishes plus Lucky Clover to go get both Fling and Expansion. Now that’s a lot of damage!

What’s also nice about this deck is how easy it is to use all of your cards off Escape to the Wilds thanks to them all being cheap or having Adventure. It makes it much easier to cast the card even on the turn you played your fifth land and get almost all of the value out of it.

I don’t know if I’ll register it, but in the eleventh hour I have to at least do my due diligence and try it out.

Besides these decks, there are a few brews the team has been cooking up, but as of right now I’m not that comfortable sharing them with you. Now, this information will not help my opponents with their deck decisions, but it could allow them some extra time to test against them if they wanted to put forth the effort. I know this sounds like some crazy paranoia, but this tournament is important, and I don’t want to lose any extra equity for myself or my teammates.

Anyway, that’s all I know for now. It’s 1:30 in the morning now, and I have to be up by 9am for a team meeting. We all plan to work hard on the last day, trying to use all the information possible to pick the correct deck and make sure it’s tuned. It’s been amazing working with Javier Dominguez, Seth Manfield, and Brian Braun-Duin for this event, and I’m incredibly lucky to have them. Especially since I was deathly ill last week, and barely had the energy to test.

The Testing Abyss

Before I go, I do want to talk about something that’s been on my mind for some time now. I spoke about this in the Bash Bros Podcast this week, but if you don’t listen to that wonderful podcast I’ll reiterate some things here.

Since Throne of Eldraine came out I’ve been in what I call “testing abyss.” From the day the set released on Arena I have been practicing for some tournament, whether Fandom Legends, my MPL Split, or one of the three Mythic Championships. It’s left me without much time to do anything else, and thus has left me feeling very defeated as a person. My dream at the beginning of the year was to prove myself within the MPL and stay for as long as possible, but now, looking back on the year, I can see that I never really stopped to smell the roses.

While I’m very happy there were eight major events this year, the way I prepared for them was similar to when there were only four. I isolated myself for two weeks for each one of them for testing, which clearly added up to too much of the year when you also account for the week the event takes to travel to, and the week to recuperate once home. A full 24 weeks not working on content, doing anything outside of Magic, and spending more time with my fiancee really took its toll.

I realized a change was needed a few weeks back, but given the schedule of events I really couldn’t make any real changes until they were all finished. I figured out that after this season I’ll be taking a step back from how hard I prepare for events and focus on things that are more enriching, like content, collaborations, and other projects I’ve been interested in for some time.

I can’t get too deep into my plans for 2020 as I haven’t really hashed them out, but I can say I’ve started to work on some things and have found it revitalizing. I made a fun video for Twitter last week all by myself on Adobe Premier, which was something I couldn’t have imagined doing a few months ago.

Whatever, I’m babbling and it’s late. I need to get some sleep and use my last day of registration to the best of my abilities. I’ll end today saying that, whatever happens at Mythic Championship VII, the MPL was a wildly good learning experience, and I’m so happy you’ve been here supporting me through all of it. I hope there’s more to come, but that’s up to me and whether I put up a good result or not!