As many of you already know, I played in the February Kaldheim League Weekend a few days ago. I did pretty well, finishing with a 7-4 record and am currently tied for third place in the MPL standings. There’s a lot more than just my finish to unpack though, so today we’ll go over why I brought the deck I did, what decks surprised me over the weekend, and where I think the metagame is going leading into this weekend’s $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifier. Oh, and of course a sideboard guide that can be found at the end of today’s article!
Selecting Sultai Ramp (Yorion) for League Play
My entire testing team decided to play Sultai Ramp (Yorion). I wasn’t too high on the archetype initially, just like every content creator under the sun, but my teammate Stanislav Cifka really worked hard on fine-tuning the strategy. To help out, Seth Manfield and I tested his lists against many of the format’s top decks, and I guess you can say that’s where I fell in love with it. Cifka’s build just didn’t seem to have any terrible matchups.
After a few days of testing matchups and conversations we all settled on this list.
This list was designed with a heavy focus on Mono-Red Aggro❄, Mono-White Aggro❄, Gruul Adventures, and Sultai Ramp (Yorion). Personally I thought there wouldn’t be many mirrors to speak of, but the team disagreed. In the end, though, our team was the only one to bring Sultai Ramp, which was a little odd to me, but ultimately didn’t affect things too much. Had I know this, I would have most likely had one more Extinction Event over the Necromentia, and maybe a Disdainful Stroke in the sideboard over a Negate.
Besides that, we did a pretty great job predicting the metagame. We thought Mono-White Aggro❄ would be popular as an answer to Mono-Red Aggro❄, and thus many players would play Naya Fury to beat up on all the Mono-White Aggro❄. We did (and still do) think Mono-Red Aggro❄ was favored against Naya Fury so these three decks would most likely (in combination) take up a large percentage of the metagame.
Now you might be asking yourself, “If you thought these were the top decks, why play Sultai Ramp (Yorion)?” Popular opinion says Sultai Ramp is disadvantaged against all three of these decks, but we found our build to only be behind against Mono-White Aggro❄ and not by that much. We thought we were favored against Mono-Red Aggro❄ and very good against Naya Fury. It’s true that they can just win with Goldspan Dragon plus combo pieces, but that’s also really the only way they can win and they’re pressured to do it quickly before we get to seven mana.
Older designs of Sultai Ramp were not as good against these three decks, but Cifka’s isn’t like the older builds. He identified early on that you can take drastic measures to compete with the format’s aggression, and one of the best ways to do that was having Esika’s Chariot in the deck to slow aggressive decks down. Rarely will you use it to win the game, but sometimes you’ll close the door quickly by making copies of your 8/8 hexproof Kraken token!
Last week, there were a lot of content creators who said these sorts of sacrifices were needed for Sultai Ramp to compete with the aggressive decks, but it was often thrown out like an offhand comment. I got the vibe that the whole world thought Sultai Ramp was bad against aggro, and also thought you give up too much ground in the mirrors if you try to fix those issues. Kind of silly when you think about it, right? Well we assumed that if anyone else played Sultai Ramp, their deck would have to look similarly to ours and thus were not afraid of losing any arms races in the mirror.
Examining the Ever-Shifting Metagame
- 4 Lovestruck Beast
- 4 Edgewall Innkeeper
- 4 Bonecrusher Giant
- 4 Brazen Borrower
- 4 Kazandu Mammoth
- 4 Goldspan Dragon
- 1 Koma, Cosmos Serpent
I was really afraid of Temur Adventures (Obosh), as it’s the perfect trump for a strategy like Sultai Ramp. They have cheap threats that need to be answered, explosive tempo plays like Goldspan Dragon into Saw it Coming, and the ability to just take a bunch of extra turns to kill you. Really, it’s just a nightmare matchup overall. Luckily for me, only one opponent of mine played it and there were only five total pilots of the strategy.
Now what’s really interesting to me is that Temur Adventures was one of the top-performing decks, even though I thought its best matchup was underrepresented. The truth is that the deck actually put up a winning record against every known archetype going into the weekend. The only deck it suffered against was the Naya Adventures deck that Reid Duke, Huey Jensen, LSV, and co. brewed up.
Of course this is right about when we collectively start singing the “small sample size” song, but seriously, this archetype might just be great. I mean, it has the Adventure package, so what more can you ask for? I’ll for sure be working on it this week leading into the SCG Tour’s Road to the Strixhaven Championship this weekend.
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Lovestruck Beast
- 4 Giant Killer
- 4 Edgewall Innkeeper
- 4 Bonecrusher Giant
- 1 Tangled Florahedron
- 1 Yasharn, Implacable Earth
- 4 Kazandu Mammoth
- 1 Masked Vandal
Another deck we all now need to start learning more about is the newest take on Naya Adventures. The design of this deck is very smart. It seems like they semi-ignored the Sultai Ramp matchup so they could truly hammer the rest of the popular decks. I should point out that our team collectively went 1-3 against this deck this past weekend, but I’d stake my reputation on that being an anomaly.
This team correctly identified that the format drastically moved away from The Great Henge mirrors that last season seemed to be all about. That’s, of course, due to Sultai Ramp’s presence in the metagame. It’s also true that Gruul/Naya Adventure decks that became more Embercleave-focused to keep up with Sultai still didn’t put up great results against it, and yet greatly hurt their chances against the other aggressive decks in the process.
The sad truth is Gruul Adventures just isn’t what it used to be, and aggressive Naya Adventures decks are better-suited playing Goldspan Dragon over Embercleave. Given all this, it seems great to lean on an Adventures shell designed to “sit on top” of all the other aggressively leaning strategies with tons of card advantage, removal, and creatures to slowly attrition out any opponent.
Given that I think both of these decks are the new “best decks,” I’m really curious what the Temur Adventures and Naya Adventures matchup is like. I assume Naya Adventures is favored, and if that’s the case, we may see a mini “rock-paper-scissors” metagame emerge where Sultai preys on Naya, but loses to Temur. If Temur actually has a good matchup against Naya, we may see it push both Naya and Sultai out of the metagame.
- 4 Giant Killer
- 4 Alseid of Life's Bounty
- 2 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
- 4 Seasoned Hallowblade
- 4 Selfless Savior
- 4 Skyclave Apparition
- 4 Luminarch Aspirant
- 1 Halvar, God of Battle
- 2 Usher of the Fallen
- 3 Reidane, God of the Worthy
- 4 Robber of the Rich
- 4 Fervent Champion
- 4 Bonecrusher Giant
- 3 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
- 4 Rimrock Knight
- 4 Anax, Hardened in the Forge
- 4 Fireblade Charger
As for the mono-colored aggressive decks, I think they’re both going to be poor choices for the time being. The format’s nowhere near close to being solved, but one thing that seems to be evidently clear is that the Adventure package is too powerful to fail. Aggressive decks tend to struggle with this package and we’re getting to the point where there are fewer flavors of Baskin Robbins than there are unique Adventure decks.
Now, if you just have to play one of these two decks, please pick Mono-White Aggro❄. I think it’s just the better deck, and all evidence points towards this. I mean, wow did Mono-Red Aggro❄ get demolished in League play this past weekend. Still, I highly suggest staying away from both of these decks, and I’ll assume most of the content creators who played them this past weekend will say the same thing.
If others agree with everything I’m saying, including less Gruul Adventures as well, then we may see Jeskai/Four-Color Cycling numbers go up. I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about this deck, as it’s never interested me, but I will say it’s looked good against any deck that wasn’t trying to win the game as quickly as possible. Maybe it folds to targeted hate, I don’t know, but I’m making it part of this week’s homework so I can better answer that next week.
Brad’s TL;DR Power Rankings
So to tie this all together, here are my power rankings going into next weekend.
- Naya Adventures
- Temur Adventures (Obosh)
- Four-Color Cycling (Lurrus)
- Naya Fury
- Sultai Ramp (Yorion)
- Dimir Rogues (Lurrus)
- Mono-White Aggro❄
- Gruul Adventures
- Mono-Red Aggro❄
- Rakdos/Jund Sacrifice
Most of these decisions are based on the majority of players being scared to register the aggressive decks I have hovering at the bottom of the list. Dimir Rogues and Four-Color Cycling don’t like the aggressive matchups all that much, so they should do much better if the Adventures decks are pushing them out. It’s also possible that there’s not enough respect for Dimir Rogues this weekend, so that the deck is just primed to make a comeback.
I could see myself playing any of the top six decks on this list, but I can’t see a world where I play any of the bottom four this weekend.
Card Choices and Sideboard Guide
Finally we can talk solely about Sultai Ramp! The deck’s changed a lot since the last time we talked about it and all for the better. Something I got wrong a few weeks ago was just how much this deck needs to be a ramp deck. Obviously it was a ramp deck before in the sense that it played almost the same spells that accelerate you, but some of the other card choices just didn’t vibe with the ramp strategy.
We added a third copy of Alrund’s Epiphany because it just suited the ramp strategy of the deck. It acted like a ramp spell in a pinch, as you could find time to foretell it earlier in a game and then cast it when you have six mana to set up an Emergent Ultimatum the following turn. Alternatively, sometimes it’s really nice to have a copy in your hand the turn after you cast Emergent Ultimatum.
Cifka really taught me an important lesson about this deck and showcased just how great he is at deck construction. Duress is the best anti-counterspell card this deck could play, as it’s the only way you can push through an Emergent Ultimatum right when you get to seven mana. It’s also a much better card than Mystical Dispute in the late-game as one can actually interact with an opponent’s counterspell when both players have ample mana.
Play four copies of Duress. It’s fantastic.
Behold the Multiverse is another card that I love in this deck, but in smaller numbers. It’s just nice to have sometimes when you are digging for something big, as it lets you see a lot of cards at a time. I know a lot of players out there are toying with Mazemind Tome, but that’s a trap. It’s just slow and inefficient, two things you don’t want right now. Sure, the deck can be good against slower decks, but there really aren’t many of them out there at the moment.
One of the matchups I struggle with the most is Doom Foretold strategies. They have early interaction, card advantage, and a lot of ways to beat any Emergent Ultimatum pile that’s trying to put permanents on the battlefield. I would oftentimes just run out of gas and I found it absolutely infuriating! That’s where a third copy of Sea Gate Restoration and Alrund’s Epiphany come in. Sometimes you just need a critical mass of cards, lands, and turns to beat these strategies.
I found myself winning these matchups a whole lot more often when I drew four extra cards, then seven extra cards, and finally eighteen extra cards. I’d get as much mana on the battlefield as possible, throw some creatures onto the battlefield, and start taking turns. It’s not the cleanest way to win a game, but I promise you it’s a puzzle you’ll find enjoyable.
Like I said earlier, there’s not much I’d change if anything from this past weekend’s list. I mean, the only things I’d want to change are the anti-mirror cards which might now be needed if more people pick this deck up!
To close things out, here’s my sideboard guide. I wish you the best of luck this weekend!
VS Mono-Red Aggro❄, Mono-White Aggro❄, and Gruul Adventures
VS Sultai Ramp (Yorion)
VS Naya Fury
VS Dimir Rogues (Lurrus)
VS Esper / Four-Color Blink (Yorion)
VS Jeskai / Four-Color Cycling (Lurrus)
VS Temur Adventures (Obosh)
VS Rakdos / Jund Sacrifice