When we last left Standard, Delver was on top, Wolf Run was a strong contender, Naya Pod had just taken its place in tier one, and Zombies were having some success but had not arrived at a generally agreed upon list. Since that time, tournaments have taken place, and M13 released live and online, but we yet to see a Grand Prix or Pro Tour featuring the new format—so most new lists you have seen are speculative.
That said, smaller tournaments, ranging in size from independent cash series, like TCGPlayer’s or StarCityGames’, down to Daily Events on Magic Online help us define trends and then expand that knowledge at a later time. Basically, I think it is hard to say that the metagame is established until a Premier level event, but the existent trends and lists are still important. That said, while the trends and numbers are important to crunch, I am not that guy! But I do enjoy combing through winning decklists to isolate some of the newest experiments.
Looking at existing archetypes such as Delver or Wolf Run is important as well as you get to investigate their newest inclusions, but for my personal taste, I like to find the radical departures. This does two things for me:
• I get to make educated guesses as to what I think will be popular in the coming months.
• I get to check out really neat and ingenious ideas that can be cultivated into a winning idea.
Together, these allow me to get a small jump on the metagame before we even know what it officially is.
So, how about we check out a few new lists that caught my eye? All of these put up a successful run, either undefeated in some online event, or making the Top 8 of a live event. We are not looking for the best deck is in the format, but we can certainly find some cool ideas, and some inspiration for our own.
UB Heartless Summoning
MTGO Standard Daily (4-0) – Week of 7/23/12
As you can see, these ideas do not have to be brand new to deserve consideration. Ever since Heartless Summoning was printed people have been thinking up uses for it. The most common version—usually the combo take on it—has even seen some success. But that success was not recent nor sustained, so when you see a list like this taking down a Daily Event, you have to ask yourself what changed.
Now, this list is pre-M13. Yes, the metagame will change with M13, but you can still use this information to your benefit. As I said, in this case, specific cards are not as important unless we see something extremely different. It is important to note the shift in the metagame that allowed this to do well. Sure, it could have been a fluke, but let’s assume that isn’t the case.
As far as exciting cards go, this looks mostly like the Heartless Summoning lists from 4-6 months ago. The few cool cards in the list are Frost Titan, Captain of the Mists, which was not printed yet, and Bloodgift Demon, who has been underplayed in every archetype. All of those cards are cool, but do they add the oomph that made this deck viable again?
The answer is most likely no, as most of those effects appear elsewhere, and they are not doing anything too broken. Powerful effects are one thing, but to attribute a potential resurrection of an archetype to them is a bit much. Shifts in the metagame are more likely the cause. Delver taking a step back from dominant deck to great deck has to help, as the aforementioned innovations do not match up well with traditional Delver. Mana Leak seems like a nightmare, as does Vapor Snag, and even Geist of Saint Traft poses problems.
However, the real catalyst is likely the increased popularity of various midrange green decks. This includes Birthing Pod decks (in all 500 varieties) as well as R/G Midrange, and possibly even Wolf-Run, although I can’t really guess at how that matchup goes. With those decks gaining in numbers, 4-mana Frost Titans, Massacre Wurms, and Wurmcoil Engines are just that much better. If the green decks stay strong, check out potential Heartless Summoning shells in the near future.
MTGO Standard Daily (4-0) – Week of 7/23/12
I featured a deck similar to this on Daily Decks over on the mothership, and the list really caught my eye. Mono-Black Control has long been one of the favorite archetypes of just about every level of player. This list was from a day or two after M13 dropped as well, so we even get to see the impact of some of the new cards.
So clearly, for Mono-Black Control, the obvious addition was Mutilate, and that quickly found a home here. The more surprising card from M13 is Trading Post. I didn’t think the card would be widely played, and would instead be a niche card for some decks, but multiple lists have already begun to make good use of it—so take that me from 6 weeks ago! The reason Mono-Black gets to make such good use of the card can all be attributed to those Ichor Wellsprings and Mycosynth Wellsprings.
The list ran those before, with Phyrexia’s Core to rid yourself of them. But now, with three additional ways to proc the ability on those, the Wellsprings look pretty good. Beyond that, Mono-Black is always in need of a draw engine, and since Phyrexian Arena is notably absent from Standard, Trading Post is filling in. Beyond that, Mono-Black is basically what you’d expect: Lots of removal and hand disruption, with a touch of life gain. Mutilate and Trading Post added a lot, but we saw this deck gain popularity before M13.
Much like before, I’d attribute that to the increase in creature-based strategies. The green decks once again get a mention here, but we can also mention decks like Boros Humans, Zombies, and Elves as some of the matchups that this deck just has its way with. This does seem to have a better Delver and Control matchup than Heartless Summoning, which is definitely a plus, but those matchups are still far from favorable.
Magic-League Standard Tournament – 7/28/12
As for the last list I decided to look at, we take a walk down infect lane. Infect has grown increasingly popular over the past few weeks, with just about every color combination represented by the sick ones. That said, most infect decks look more all-in and less tempo-based, or even like a poison control strategy. So, as soon as I saw a UB poison list, I had to check it out.
This list is not true control in any sense of the word, but the tempo from ten main deck counterspells, and four main deck hand disruption spells allows this deck to win long games—or simply set up for a quick kill once the cost is clear. There are not too many individual cards in this list that surprise me, including a complete lack of M13 additions.
This deck’s ability to play multiple roles is highly intriguing. It can easily open up on a Blighted Agent that followed a turn 1 Virulent Wound on some Elf or Bird. At this point, a few Mutagenic Growths or a Sword of Feast and Famine can spell a turn 4 or 5 win for Infect. However, should that plan be thwarted by a timely Whipflare or something, the deck can begin to grind out a game. A Phyrexian Crusader every few turns requires a big commitment of resources from the opponent, while you counter everything coming his way.
This varied attack route allows this version of infect to feel much more comfortable going into a matchup in the dark. While other infect strategies involving something like Wild Defiance are more explosive, they run into problematic matchups. This is an important lesson to learn, as with M13 still fresh, and no M13 premier-level events, knowing the metagame completely is difficult. By playing a deck that has a better shot in an unknown metagame, you allow yourself some wiggle room should your predictions be off.
We are not looking to paint a perfect picture of what the metagame looks like or anything, as we just don’t have the resources yet. But figuring out the color schemes and themes in our painting has immense value in and of itself. With some ideas highlighted by these deck lists, along with following trends, we are better able to transition into an established metagame with a higher comfort level.
Of course, these are just a few of the lists I found valuable, but to each his own. There are a lot of decklists and resources out there, and we are all going to be attracted to different things. With enough practice, this ends up evolving into an invaluable skill, even though it is far from infallible. But in the meantime, M13 is out online—so… 1 in the queue?