Magic can be a brutal game. Even ignoring any of the meta requirements of the game, just being able to stay on top of thousands of moving pieces at once with the hope of showing up to any given tournament with the best deck is a challenge. If you were given six weeks of prep time for each and every event you play, much of the time you will still show up with a different list than the one you would choose to play if you could do it all over again.
And what if we cut that six weeks of prep time down to three days? Yea, it can be tough. That’s the position I have been in for the last few months. Between the Pro Tour and then having events or other reasons to travel every single weekend, time to focus on a specific deck has been difficult to find.
I have had a bit of the brew bug recently though, so that keeps me thinking about Standard and looking for new avenues to explore, and the few games of testing I fit in have been positive. At the time of writing this, I have not yet made a deck decision for Cincinnati. Currently, I have only narrowed down the decision to between three (and a half) different decks.
That is not exactly where you want to be, so close to the event. I have pushed the envelope further before though and should get to jam enough games in the meantime to play a good list, regardless of which I choose. For now, I wanted to lay out the various options I am considering and discuss why I would or would not play said deck for Grand Prix Cincinnati.
Dredge has begun to pick up in popularity recently, putting up good finishes in Online Premier and Daily Events as well as even finishing in the Top 16 of Grand Prix Buenos Aires. On some level, this worries me a little as the deck is fairly easy to attack, but I think it is still just far enough off the radar to be a safe choice for Grand Prix Cincinnati.
I have some videos that will be going up of this list, or at least lists very close to it (this is after much tweaking) in the very near future, so if you are interested in observing game play or learning about how the deck actually works, check those out.
The main deck should look familiar to anyone that has been following my work on this deck. I am currently testing one copy of Whip of Erebos in the main deck to help combat all of the Burn decks that have picked up in popularity. It really is a solid one-of in the deck, I just always viewed it as unnecessary to the core of the list, so it often got pushed to the sideboard. Now the metagame demands it.
I have gone a little heavy on the Mono-Blue hate in the sideboard due to that deck being one of the few issues for this list. You can certainly win, but they have a lot of cards that cause issues. Because Mistcutter Hydra and Golgari Charm both come in against control as well, it is much easier to justify that many cards against Mono-Blue Devotion. Compare this to Skylasher, which has very little value outside of the Mono-Blue match up, even if it has some added versatility against said deck.
Part of me wants to find more room for some life gain in the sideboard. I have been playing with Gift of Orzhova in my Mono-Black aggro deck to some success, but I just cannot find the room in this list. This is partially because my record against R/W Burn or similar decks is actually pretty decent. Deathrite Shaman and Whip both give you some game play and your deck can surprise them with a ton of damage very quickly as your life total gets in danger. They can certainly race you, but it is a pretty close race with Dredge having a slight edge.
I think this is a solid deck with quite a bit of wiggle room when it comes to matchups. Outside of Blue, no one deck really gives you problems and even when we are discussing Blue, we are talking about 70-30 range for game 1s with significant improvement post-board, so even that is not reason enough to ignore this deck. This might be the last tournament where this deck is well positioned—if anyone has a breakout performance with it, there is a chance Rest in Peace or Rakdos Charm see some sideboard play. So if you have been interested in this deck, now might be the best time to take’r for a spin.
While this is not a popular color combination right now, this deck has been getting decent results in my testing and has really robust sideboarded games.
Right off the bat, we are getting a big edge by not running any creatures. People will generally be using their removal on the guys you put into play via Ashiok and that is more than acceptable. Detention Sphere and Hero’s Downfall are both strong, but we can fight those with counter magic or hand disruption.
Our sweeper is a bit harder to cast for us than Supreme Verdict is for UW or Esper, so that is an important distinction In addition, because we have a mix of creature removal and then things like countermagic or discard in the main deck, our game 1s can be dramatic. If we draw a half-dozen removal spells against control, we will probably lose. We don’t have the luxury of Detention Sphere. On the other hand, if you draw your Thoughtseizes, ‘walkers, and some countermagic, you will likely roll over a control deck.
This higher variance is attempted to be balanced out by shifting into a hyper version of whatever our best deck is against the opponent. Against that control opponent, we get to bring in any or all of the following cards
There are seven obvious cuts to make, so perhaps we are even a little overboard at the moment, but you can see how the main deck with these additions would have very solid game against control.
On the other hand, against aggro, we get to take out the clunky counterspells and slower cards like Jace, Memory Adept, for any or all of the following cards:
Not quite as heavy as our control commitment, but it should aid the deck enough to sneak past most aggressive decks. We could even end up with an additional Doom Blade or Dark Betrayal to help even more once we rearrange the sideboard a bit.
This is easily the list I have the least time with, but it is a control option if you are looking for something different. Esper is certainly the safer choice if you just have to play control, but I think there is something here that can be exploited, even if I am not the one to do it.
Despite what you might think, Mono-Black competes quite well with the control decks. Not only do you have an aggressive curve that punishes any misstep they make, but you have access to tons of countermeasures for their big plays. Thoughtseize helps to protect against Supreme Verdict and Sphinx’s Revelation for example while bestow creatures fight removal in a completely different way.
You do need to avoid Blood Baron with this list as long as possible. Occasionally, you can race it if you have access to flying or just a lot of guys in play, but most of the time, if they get to untap with it, they will take over the game. Thoughtseize provides a main deck out though and Devour Flesh helps out of the side.
Gift of Orzhova is a very solid card right now and having access to three copies in the sideboard just improves so many matchups. Most aggressive decks cannot beat the card when it is successfully put on to a 3/3. Watch out for the Skullcracks out of R/W Burn of course! There is a chance that the sideboard wants a Gray Merchant or two to add more life gain for those matchups, but I currently haven’t found the room. Whip of Erebos tends to offer the most bang for your buck as a one-of, so perhaps that is the direction to go.
This deck actually has quite a bit of play against most decks in the field. If it is a bad choice, that is because it tends to have a lower-than-average power level across most of its cards, putting an emphasis on a good curve or a source of card advantage to keep you in games beyond your initial burst of damage.
I think that if I played a deck like this, I would be likely to make Day 2, even if that was at 7-2, but from there I am not sure. Aggressive decks have become more popular recently which means other decks are making adaptations that Mono-Black might not be prepared for. If the metagame stays exactly as it has online, then I would have no issue playing this exact 75.
I mentioned three and a half decks before because if I end up chickening out and not playing any of these, I think Mono-Black Control is still a reasonable deck to fall back on. Add your white if you want or add your red if you want, but the base for those black decks is still very strong. I am not testing that deck at all though, so if I do end up falling back on it… fingers crossed.
Hopefully I will have some amazing innovation in the midnight hour and one of these three decks will stand out amongst the rest. That said, I am comfortable with this pool to draw from.