If you watched the Magic Online Championship, you probably saw that Winding Constrictor was nowhere to be found. If you attended a Regional PTQ, you probably saw the same—in fact, I almost strictly heard people say they won their RPTQ with either 4c Copycat or Mardu. The Top 8 in Montreal was eight Mardu.
What happened!? Didn’t people play black-green a few weeks ago because Mardu was the deck to beat?
First of all, there was some exaggeration. People who played B/G thought their matchup against Mardu was “great,” which was not true at all. Despite being favored, it was no more than slightly—about 55%. The first time B/G made a comeback was at GP Pittsburgh, a month ago, where most good players who played B/G also expected to play the mirror match, which skewed their lists to get an advantage there. But that only made the Mardu matchup even less favorable.
As people copied these lists and Mardu adapted, the following GP was then filled with these cards:
Grand Prix Utrecht saw people maindecking Chandra in Mardu and featured 3 players with the same sideboard plan of Oaths and planewalkers—it was an attempt to trump Black-Green’s game plan, which clearly worked.
Then 4c Copycat grew popular in the last two weeks thanks to the first weekend of RPTQs, of which it won a majority, and then the flood of Cats reached Magic Online, and then the Magic Online Championship.
That deck was deemed a favorite against Black-Green because of its raw card advantage, a combo to which the Snakes deck doesn’t have a ton of answers, and planeswalkers.
At this point, the deck has no good matchups, so why do I say that it’s not dead?
I still see deck lists with Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Gifted Aetherborn, and other ways to grind out the game. Black-Green is just behind the metagame with the majority of players sticking with lists that did well way back in Pittsburgh.
I thoroughly tested and wrote about the many variants of Snakes, and now it’s paying off, because now I can synthesize that research with new information to forge the following:
You shouldn’t try to grind out the game anymore—you won’t beat these Dynavolt Towers and Cats. Get under them!
When I first tested it, this kind of Longtusk Cub and Greenbelt Rampager list was better against control and Vehicles, but worse in the mirror. Now that the mirror is not so much of an issue anymore, it’s time to beat down again.
This list is better against control for a few reasons. Greenbelt Rampager lets you play multiple spells a turn and doesn’t die to Dynavolt Tower. Longtusk Cub taxes Harnessed Lightning early on, and they only have so many. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, similar to Cub, is a must-answer threat. Blossoming Defense was a beating whenever I played Temur Tower, and when I faced that card myself, it was often the reason I lost.
For similar reasons, being able to deploy more threats faster against Mardu means more blockers and more ways to pressure a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I have not felt more favored with any other deck in Standard than this one when facing Mardu. Then again, that says a lot about Mardu, because I’m barely touching 60% here, but I’ll take it.
Let me clear up some of the numbers for you.
A few weeks ago, I would’ve slapped you if you had told me you were playing fewer than 4 of these. But now that 4c Copycat is among the two most popular decks, you can’t afford it. Especially in this list without Evolving Wilds and Clues, it’s just not good in that matchup. I’m turning to Grasp of Darkness and Murder. I’d play 3 Grasps, but I’m hedging a little with the 1 Murder because it’s better against Torrential Gearhulk and the mirror.
I have a hard time evaluating how popular Temur Tower will be this weekend, but if it is popular, then only 2 Fatal Push makes even more sense.
I have mixed feelings about this card. My conclusion with Black-Green lists I had in the past was that it just isn’t good. But because your deck is more aggressively slanted, which makes good use of flying and can use the energy, I’m leaning toward wanting them.
They are also quite good against Mardu game 1 because they don’t have their transformational sideboard plan yet.
I could see Tireless Tracker taking the spot if I really can’t stand them anymore, but that might require adding a land to the deck.
I believe this was Brad Nelson technology at GP Pittsburgh. I’m not sure what it was for back then—possibly the mirror—but these days I bring it in against 4c Copycat. It’s a nice way to see if I should be playing around the combo and to snag a Felidar Guardian. Transgress the Mind does the same thing while being able to hit Baral’s Expertise and planeswalkers.
Next to Blossoming Defense, here’s the other card that a Temur Tower deck fears the most. I also happen to bring it in against Mardu when they go slower and more removal-heavy. It does die to Oath of Liliana, which is a shame, but with so many creatures in your deck it’s not uncommon to dodge it.
GP New Jersey
I wish I could tell you that this is the deck I’m going to play this weekend, but Temur Tower is an absolute blast for me to play, and it’ll be hard to say no to it…
I haven’t made my choice, though I’m comfortable against control and Mardu with the list I’ve provided. I’m still trying to figure out how the 4c Copycat matchup is. I assume it’s still not great, despite beating it a few times. We’ll see—if those winning results keep coming in, I might be Snaking again.