Thopter/Depths continues to impress week after week. Rather than effectively rewrite my article from last week (although let's be honest, half of you would barely notice), I figure I'd go over some of the things I've learned from testing in the last week.
THE MIRROR PLAN
This is by far the greatest challenge right now, especially once you throw LSV's Meloku into the mix. Thopter/Depths (can someone far cleverer than me come up with a better name than this?) is a versatile deck, as it can shrug off narrow hate cards like Path to Exile. However, my list was already very close to being able to shut out my mirror opponents completely.
Think about it. There are Confidants, Hexmages (and the Hexmage/Depths combo, and I guess manually ticking down Dark Depths also works), and then Thopters to win with. After siding in Extirpates and Darkblast, and having access to a couple Repeals in my maindeck, I noticed that it became increasingly difficult for my opponent to actually win the game. I was very close to just being able to remove all their threats.
They were doing the same things to me, but eventually the singleton Meloku would hit, and that'd be game. The problem was that almost everyone else was adapting the Meloku as well. I needed to one up them, so I added two Sower of Temptation to my sideboard.
The Sowers worked out great, and even had added value as being a "removal" spell against decks like Zoo and Bant. However, I was still running into problems where they would assemble the Foundry combo and would be able to make some dudes before I was able to find an Extirpate. I could also lose to a quick 20/20, an unanswered Dark Confidant, or a top decked Meloku, but overall, I was winning the majority of my games in the mirror.
Granted, some opponents would bring in useless things like Tormod's Crypt, keep in nearly useless copies of Vampire Hexmage (and to some extent Dark Depths), and even do ridiculous things like side out a Dark Confidant!
I was more concerned with the Thopter thing, as Extirpate was far from a perfect answer. I added "4 Leyline of the Void" to the list of things I needed to test, which at least one person suggested in my forums last week.
Leylines were solid. I went 4-0 and 3-1 in two separate Daily Events on MTGO with this list:
I felt a lot safer from Blood Moon with a third Island, but I was starting to feel the effects of not always having a land I could cast Thoughtseize with on turn one. I have since cut a Tolaria West for a Swamp.
As I said, the Leylines were good. Most of my opponents literally couldn't remove them outside of the singleton Echoing Truth, which I would typically make them discard as soon as possible. If I could find a Darkblast, they were left with very few win conditions after siding out some pieces of the Depths combo. Sowers turned any random animals like Meloku against them.
Knowing that I'll never be attacked by a swarm of Thopters gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, so for that, I am thankful to Leyline. However, I'm not convinced that they are the best counter strategy at this point, but I certainly do like attacking people from different angles week in and out. I have since cut Leylines, but may play them again in the future. Only needing two [card]Extirpate[/card]s certainly cuts down on board space, but there really isn't a whole lot I want to play instead. The Chalice and the Tormod's Crypt have almost always been on the chopping block, so I could get space from those slots if I wanted it also.
The question is what do I play instead of those cards?
I think the best plan for the mirror at the moment is overall resource denial, cemented by the fact that you have the ability to remove all of their threats. They should be able to do the same, so the best way to overcome this is by being lightning quick and moving all in on a 20/20 as soon as possible and hoping they don't have it (although I don't recommend this plan), or simply by beating them at their own game.
Maybe I should be taking this point and expanding on it, like playing multiple Darkblasts so that it ups my chances of not losing to their Confidant. It would also make Thoughtseize less important in the mirror, as theirs can't effectively protect their engine and you don't need to Thoughtseize them on turn one nearly as badly as before.
Play more card drawing to recover from all the Thoughtseizes and Duresses. Play more, different threats. LSV one upped everyone with the Meloku, I one upped him with Sowers. I'm sure at some point, someone is going to one up me with Polymorph or Sphinx of Jwar Isle or something equally ridiculous.
Cards like Shadow of Doubt are cool and everything, and I myself can really appreciate a two for one. That type of card just doesn't help you win or stop you from losing though. You sideboard cards should be powerful and change the dynamics of a certain matchup in your favor rather than "just" be a two for one. Let's be honest here, this deck does some of the most unfair things in the format. You can do better than just two for one-ing them.
Moving on to the second biggest problem I've been having:
HOW TO BEAT INTELLIGENT ZOO PLAYERS
Zoo was an easy matchup three weeks ago. They had garbage like Baneslayer Angel and didn't have enough disruption. They didn't respect the DD deck, but that has since changed. The average Zoo deck you'll face now has Steppe Lynx (or maybe just a bunch of Kird Apes and Loam Lions once WW is released) and disruption ranging from Path to Exile, Ancient Grudge, Bant Charm, Meddling Mage, and even Damping Matrix.
Admittedly, that's a lot to overcome. One of the best ways I've found to beat Zoo is to kill all of their threats and outdraw them significantly, at which point you should have more threats than they have answers.
The second option is to ignore as much of their hate as possible and try to make their cards virtual mulligans. Borrowing some tech from the Bg Depths lists, I tried siding in a bunch of Rite of Consumptions. Sure, if they know what's coming they Meddling Mage the right card, add Ghost Quarters to their decks, or play a Damping Matrix. For the most part, Zoo players seem content keeping a hand with Path to Exile and Ancient Grudge and they probably should be.
My good friend and former roommate John Penick recently lost a heartbreaker in the finals of the Sunday morning MTGO PTQ, and he was packing trips (!) Rite of Consumption in the sideboard. While he only got to use it once, against a Dredge playing packing the full amount of Echoing Truths, he didn't seem to regret playing them in his sideboard.
For the inevitability plan against Zoo, I would look at boarding in 3-4 Deathmarks (although some of these will probably become Smothers), a Slaughter Pact, and possibly some number of [card]Exile into Darkness[/card]es. While I have an unhealthy love for Exile into Darkness, it actually seems great in this matchup. Some may accuse me of attempting to Make Fetch Happen, and that could certainly be the case, but for the next couple days I will have some Exiles in my sideboard, so look out!
WORLDWAKE IN STANDARD
I'm a little disappointed by Worldwake. The set seems to be full of role players and nothing that will drastically change anything. While adding a couple of new cards to your deck is cool and all, it's not really what I look for when a new set is released. I don't want to be subjected to the same ole week after week, which is why they should print new sets every few months in the first place.
That said, there are a few cool cards worth looking at.
Between Hada Freeblade, Join the Ranks, and Kor Firewalker, WW (White Weenie, not Worldwake) is probably a solid deck now. The synergy between Hada Freeblade and Ranger of Eos is certainly cute, and is certainly more impressive than fetching Steppe Lynxes on turn four.
Still, you are playing a Mono-White deck with little to no disruption (although you could go the Wb route like William Cavaglieri), and that will usually only get you so far. We're not talking Windbrisk Heights or even Spectral Procession power level here. You are probably going to have to play good, solid Magic, have an innovative and tweaked decklist, and get a little lucky to win a tournament with a deck like this.
If this is your type of thing, the tools are probably there for you to make it happen, so congratulations.
Mono-Green Eldrazi Monument decks get to level up a bit as well, so you can expect a slight resurgence from that deck as well. Whether or not it can stand up to the supposed Blue menace has yet to be seen, but I have a feeling that if the blue decks really wanted to beat the Eldrazi deck, they could.
Grixis has become a fan favorite lately, with even our own LSV hopping on the bandwagon. While I wasn't exactly pleased with Luis' deck when I played with it, I found success with a couple of unorthodox Grixis lists. Cards like Treasure Hunt, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Calcite Snapper give the deck more options, and much more depth that it previously had.
I expect the Blue decks to be able to adapt rather efficiently at this point, so what does that mean? Well, first of all, it means that Vampires is probably going to be here to stay. While our toothy friends surprisingly didn't get any upgrades from Worldwake, they are still one of the few decks that can play cards like Gatekeeper of Malakir and Mind Sludge (and I don't care what Cedric Phillips says, I like this card). Those are going to give Blue decks nightmares, while cards like Vampire Nighthawk and Tendrils of Corruption allow Vamps to accidentally beat up on Red decks as well.
So now what? In a format full of Blue, Vampires, and (obviously) Jund, what can you play to beat those strategies? Well, Boros and RDW seem poorly positioned in that metagame for one, so while you can expect to play against them, they probably won't do a whole lot of winning.
That opens up the door for a lot of fringe strategies to pop up and prey on this extremely slow, vulnerable metagame. I was never a huge Maelstrom Pulse fan, and it's basically at its worst right now. I wouldn't be surprised if Jund decks starting dropping Pulses, which makes all sorts of crazy Howling Mine decks look very attractive. Rest for the Weary is also a significant boost. The aforementioned John Penick was singing the praises of Angel's Mercy in Turbo Fog two months ago, so just imagine how much he likes this card!
Extended is more of the same for right now, while I suppose Standard is going to go through a few changes. The resurgence of Islands is going to shake things up for now, but I imagine that once things settle down it will turn right back into a Rock Paper Scissors metagame.
Worldwake, you suck.