Trading Hooves

Find out what two decks 2010 Player of the Year Brad Nelson thinks are well positioned for Standard at SCG Open Series: Charlotte and SCG Classic Series: Pittsburgh.

StarCityGames.com traveled to Somerset, New Jersey last weekend to show off Magic’s newest set. Players came from all over to not only get the first taste of Dragon’s Maze Standard but to also hold hands with two of their best friends and do battle in Team Sealed. Only one team could win this event, and you couldn’t have scripted a better ending. Future Hall of Famer William Jensen sandwiched himself between Reid Duke and Owen Turtenwald and battled for over sixteen hours to finally walk away with the win. #Friendship indeed, Mr. Turtenwald, #friendship indeed.

This wasn’t the most exciting thing to come out of this event, however…

Control is dead!

Sphinx’s Revelation will soon be a bulk rare used only to sweeten Magic trades. I told you guys this was going to happen. Just because it took over four months to come true doesn’t mean my prediction wasn’t correct. All hail to the great and powerful Bard Narson!

Not a single Sphinx’s Revelation broke the Top 8 of the event. You know what did? Sire of Insanity, Voice of Resurgence, Ral Zarek, Unflinching Courage, and Sin Collector! Wizards finally figured out how to punish control decks. You only have play creatures that exile spells from their hand while you punish them for playing spells on your turn or destroying all the creatures in play until you eventually Mind Twist them every turn. That’s it!

The Magic Show set review comments were littered with people saying this set was disappointing and that it wouldn’t have much of an impact on Standard. All I have to say to those players is HAH! Dragon’s Maze might not have been filled with game changers, but it did have many cards that helped fix problems in almost every deck in Standard. That is exactly what a third set should be doing.

So now that the dust has settled and control is officially dead, we can now look at Standard in a whole new light—and no, Cedric, I won’t stop saying this! [Editor’s Note: My backspace key is not broken Brad…] Fine, control is probably not dead, but it is severely hurting right now. Many of the new cards seeing play today are amazing in their own right but also do double duty against control. This makes it very difficult to have a reactive game plan right now. Not only do all the decks hit hard and fast, but it is difficult to always have the correct answer since everything is lethal after a couple turns. It will take a while for control to get any footing, and that is the perfect time to exploit the metagame.

I spent the better half of last week working on Standard brews and almost published an article about the sweet W/B/G Aristocrats deck I was working on. I decided to wait until I got an idea of what the metagame looked like, and I am happy I did. The few of you that would have blindly taken my 75 into battle would have been slaughtered! I guess I will just have to patiently wait for my chance to play with Varolz, the Scar-Stripped. There is just way to much midrange right now for that card to have a chance to shine.

Those of you who ignore disclaimers should totally check out and play my sweet new decklist!

This deck is an amazing choice if midrange is not the most popular archetype. It beats up on control and aggro with the same spells, therefore making it a very powerful weapon when the time is right. The time just isn’t right now.

Standard will definitely get interesting moving forward. New brews are obviously out there, but they will be difficult to find right away with Tomoharu Saito qualified for the Pro Tour. Dragon’s Maze is also a support set that restricts the development of new archetypes. This makes it a good time to play something well positioned in the metagame. Patrick Chapin provided a great breakdown of the metagame earlier this week to use as a resource to figure it all out.

Both Jund and Reanimator are the clear front-runners from last week. Control didn’t do so hot, which means that next week will probably be a very aggro-midrange metagame. You guys know what that means? BOTH OF MY FAVORITE CARDS ARE WELL POSITIONED!

It has been so long since I got to play Trading Post and Craterhoof Behemoth, and finally there is a deck that not only supports both of them but is well positioned in Standard. I know my birthday is coming up, but this is just too much!

This deck is the real deal! Sure, it looks like just a pile of Magic cards, but it’s true power lies in how it can change game plans at any time. If your opponent finds a way to beat an Unburial Rites, we can simply Bioshift our Chronomaton counters onto a Gyre Sage and cast Craterhoof Behemoth. We also have the secondary win conditions of Trading Post, Blood Artist, and Blasphemous Act. I don’t know about you, but I sure do see this deck taking down an Open or two in the next couple months!

Maybe this deck is a bit farfetched. It might be the best thing Magic has seen in years, but it is probably too good to take to a tournament. We don’t want to make Wizards ban anything this summer. It makes Magic look bad. To help them out, there are two awesome decks that already exist that are very well positioned this weekend as well. There is no way I am biased about these deck selections:

Naya Blitz got a major upgrade from Dragon’s Maze in the form of Viashino Firstblade. This is the three-drop this deck has been looking for in almost every matchup. It triggers battalion the turn it enters the battlefield without the assistance of Lightning Mauler. This helps keep up the pressure early in the game, which makes throwing away guys more profitable. This is also a great follow up to Supreme Verdict since it is a guaranteed four damage. 

Viashino Firstblade also helps race the other aggressive decks in the format. Frontline Medic is too slow when both players are just racing since he is rarely more than a 3/3 for three.

I still want Frontline Medic to be available in the green Thragtusk matchups since they have such an amazing ability to shut you down in the early game. He’s really one of the only ways to win in the mid to late game.

One of the cards that I missed when designing this deck was Spare from Evil. Now, this card can change some matchups like G/B/W Reanimator. Not only does Spare from Evil allow you to sneak past every single creature but Avacyn’s Pilgrim, but it can be a counter to Angel of Serenity when they try to exile half of your team.

One of the best things Naya Blitz has going for it is that Bant Hexproof is also a good deck to be playing. This is good for two reasons. First, the matchup highly favors Naya Blitz since Bant Hexproof is a similar strategy that’s a full turn slower. The only card that can swing games in their favor is Unflinching Courage, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben can help slow that down. The other reason is that people are going to have to respect Bant Hexproof since it did so well last weekend. The only way to do that is to play removal spells that are both slower and have hexproof creatures in mind like Devouring Flesh. This benefits Naya Blitz because it allows it to sneak underneath players before they get their shields up.

G/B/W Reanimator is also doing something unique to the metagame—it is the midrange slayer since it has multiple copies of Acidic Slime maindeck. This means the other midrange decks are preparing to fight G/B/W Reanimator with more mana, artifact mana, Ground Seals, Sire of Insanity, and anything that can give them an edge in the midgame. Guess which cards Naya Blitz loves to play against round after round? Thanks Acidic Slime!

The other aggressive decks in the format are leaning on bigger spells like Thundermaw Hellkite to get the job done since Jund and G/B/W Reanimator are so good at clogging up the ground. As a result, decks have to play cards that are better against an aerial assault like Silklash Spider—another card Naya Blitz doesn’t care about.

As you can see, everything is just turning up Naya Blitz right now!

The only thing that could make Naya Blitz a bad deck choice is the other deck I think is very well positioned for this weekend. And that is my other baby!

The Aristocrats was designed to beat up on exactly what did well this past weekend. It has an amazing matchup against midrange decks but has always struggled against pure control strategies. Sideboarding made this better, but it was always a matchup you didn’t want to face. The deck hasn’t gotten many upgrades from the new set, but it didn’t need them. All this deck needs is positioning, and it has that right now.

One of the only scary aggressive matchups is G/R Aggro, like what Ross Merriam piloted at the SCG Invitational in Atlanta, but that deck is losing a ton of steam. This deck has also shifted away from Hellrider for Falkenrath Aristocrat, with Cedric using it to make Top 8 of SCG Standard Open: Seattle a few weeks ago. Thankfully, Falkenrath Aristocrat is a much easier card to deal with than Hellrider. Thanks Ceddy! [Editor’s Note: My pleasure, I think?]

The only scary matchup that is popular right now is Bant Hexproof, but it’s manageable if you stock up on more Duresses and a couple of edict effects in your sideboard. The problem is that there may not be enough room. If you’re certain you will play against more Bant Hexproof than pure control decks over the course of a tournament, you can shift a few cards around.

Again, both Naya Blitz and The Aristocrats are very well positioned right now because control decks are on the downswing. The more control is able to adjust to the metagame, the worse both of these decks will become. It’s important to keep a keen eye on where things are going because these control decks will figure out how to answer all these new spells soon enough.

Trading Hooves Challenge

Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze is right around the corner, and the pressure is on. I need at least a Top 16 finish to hit Gold for next year. I might be able to just Top 25 if I get one point at Grand Prix Portland, but I’m not really counting on that since the last time I played Modern was with Nivmagus Elemental—we all know how that worked out. All I know is that I’m putting my all into this event and will need some rest and relaxation once it is all over.

What I want you guys to do is to think of the sweetest way to build a deck with Trading Post and Craterhoof Behemoth. Leave your submissions in the comments so that others can help out. I will then stream with the best one for as long as it takes to win a match. It has been far too long since I did a Trainwreck Tuesday, and what better way to get back into it than with my two favorites. If the deck is sweet enough, I might even take it to a Friday Night Magic.

I will see you guys after the Pro Tour. Wish me luck!