For some time I prepared for Pro Tours with one of the premier teams in all of Magic. We would regularly work all day, every day for two weeks leading up to the Pro Tour. With a team of 10 to 16 people, it is possible to develop a better-than-average version of each archetype. For PT Ixalan, I chose to prepare mostly on my own on Magic Online. I thought that my best chance to do well without a super team was to pick an archetype a few weeks before the Pro Tour and only play that deck, no matter which new decks emerged.
After the World Championships and Nationals across the world, it was clear to me that Temur Energy was the best deck. I like playing midrange decks like Temur Energy and have had most of my tournament successes playing similar decks, so it ended up being an easy choice for me. I respect Paulo Vitor’s deck selection ability after teaming with him for the last several Pro Tours. I started my testing process with Paulo’s exact list from Brazilian Nationals.
Believe it or not, I played twenty consecutive five-match Competitive Standard Leagues with the above deck list. My record is 66W-32L (I didn’t finish Leagues when ineligible for a prize). Satisfactory but not exemplary. One thing that makes me feel better about my record is that near the end of testing, my record improved. In my first five Leagues, I had a losing record. Temur, Standard, and Magic in general are complex and reward practice.
Here are my specific matchup records:
- Temur Mirror: 14-10 (58%)
- Mono-Red: 9-2 – (82%)
- Sultai Energy: 8-0 – (100%)
- U/W Approach: 3-5 – (38%)
- Mardu Vehicles: 5-3 – (63%)
- Mardu Tokens: 0-1 (0%)
- Esper Gift: 1-1 (50%)
- U/B Midrange: 2-1 (67%)
- R/B Control: 1-0 (100%)
- W/U/G/B Control: 1-1 (50%)
- Esper Control: 1-1 (50%)
- Jund Energy: 1-0 (100%)
- W/G Tokens: 1-0 (100%)
- W/U Monument: 3-0 (100%)
- R/B Aggro: 1-1 (50%)
- Naya Dinosaurs: 1-0 (100%)
- Grixis Gift: 1-1 (50%)
- 4-Color Gift: 1-0 (100%)
- Abzan Tokens: 3-1 (75%)
- Grixis Amulet: 1-0 (100%)
- Esper Tokens: 2-0 (100%)
- U/G Pummeler: 0-1 (0%)
- U/W Cycling: 1-0 (100%)
- Jeskai Gift: 0-1 (0%)
- U/B Control: 2-2 (50%)
Even though 100 or so matches may seem like a lot and do take a significant amount of time, that is not a large enough sample to draw a conclusion on many matchups. For the most popular matchups I gained a relevant sample (U/W, Temur, Sultai, Red, Mardu). The matchups that I played eight or more times gave me a decent idea of how the matchup looks.
The only major archetype that is unfavorable is U/W Approach. It is almost impossible to beat a deck with Fumigate and Settle the Wreckage with Paulo’s main deck. Cards that would help are planeswalkers, Vehicles, flash creatures, enchantments, and counterspells. Deck construction is one of the most beautiful parts of Magic, and the fact that you can beat any enemy if you really want to. But I do not want to play any main-deck cards to beat U/W Approach—that would hurt my chances significantly against my other opponents. I think that the best options for main-deck cards to improve the U/W matchup are Censor, Revolutionary Rebuff, Negate, and Supreme Will. The one Commit // Memory is awesome but cannot be played in multiples. This is not a skill testing matchup. Both players could play with their hands face up and the games would be the same. You need counterspells to win this matchup from the Temur side.
I found the Sultai Energy matchup positive, and I sideboard out all of my 2-drops because of Fatal Push. Obviously, this strategy is exploitable.
I am very happy with the Mono-Red matchup. I am confident that Confiscation Coup should be in your deck after sideboard. I added Fiery Cannonade to my sideboard specifically for aggressive token decks. It happened to be wonderful in this matchup as well. Mardu Vehicles is similar.
The Temur mirror is quite complex for a beginner. Once you have played the matchup several times you may be able to predict what your opponent will do each turn, which would help your decision process immensely. This matchup often turns into a topdeck war in which Confiscation Coup and Vizier of Many Faces are the best cards while Servant of the Conduit and Magma Spray are the worst. In each game the most important resource could be life total, board presence, or total cards. I have chosen to rely on my ability to win the mirror by brute force and adjust my main deck toward the control matchups where precise cards are needed.
After my extensive testing and some conversing with former Constructed master, Oliver Tiu, I played this deck list at the Pro Tour:
3 Forest, 4 Rootbound Crag, 1 Sheltered Thicket, 1 Island
Many players play 5 Forest because of Attune with Aether, but Attune isn’t Birds of Paradise, you can cast it on any turn in the midgame. I like that the dual lands produce red mana and that Sheltered Thicket can be cycled. When you play 30 mana sources, you’re thankful for a cycling land. 2 Islands would be ideal when your deck has Confiscation Coup and Vizier of Many Faces. These double blue-spells are sideboard cards, so you’re just less likely to draw them than you are Bristling Hydra and Glorybringer. If sideboards were 30 cards, I would include one additional Island.
2 Magma Spray, 4 Harness Lightning
2 Revolutionary Rebuff, 1 Commit // Memory
These cards increase your chances of beating U/W Approach game 1 from almost zero to above fifty percent (given that you draw them). I like them over Negate because they are still applicable against every deck in game 1. Be ready to take out Rebuff in games that could become topdeck wars. Essence Scatter is one of the best cards in the mirror but I found that there were too many dead cards game 1 against creatureless decks.
4 of each creature
I appreciate consistency. Energy cards are best in conjunction with each other.
In the sideboard, I chose to play many different cards as 1- and 2-ofs that are incredible but bad in multiples. You don’t want more than one legendary permanent. The same concept applies to Lifecrafter’s Bestiary. Even though Confiscation Coup is the best card in the mirror it is dangerous to play 3 or 4 because of Bristling Hydra. This is why I play Vizier of Many Faces. Fiery Cannonade is good against Red, Mardu, and Tokens. Fiery Cannonade is not good against Black-Red Aggro given their most likely sideboard plan—it would be good against them if they did not sideboard. Negate is the single best card against U/W Approach. The metagame is diverse and includes control decks that rely on The Scarab God. Against these decks, Negate is not particularly strong compared to Supreme Will/Confiscation Coup.
(Brief) Sideboard Guide
Against the fringe archetypes, the exact deck list of the opponent will be important during sideboarding. I will only provide advice that I am confident in.
Temur Energy is a perfect archetypal midrange deck. I am confident that it will remain one of the top decks in Standard for some time.