Last week, I highlighted 3 decks that have the most potential in Standard: Marvel, G/B, and Jeskai Vehicles. Marvel was an obvious choice, but I’m glad I was right about the other two as well. G/B won a Grand Prix and lost the final in another, while Jeskai Vehicles was kind of the breakout deck of the weekend. It was also the deck I chose to play at the GP—but more on that later. Here’s the list I almost played:
This is the deck list my roommates Oliver Tiu, Noah Walker, and Shahar Shenhar played at the GP. Well, Shahar played a random Elder Deep-Fiend because he is a nice guy and wanted to give his opponents more of a chance to win.
This list tries to get the most out of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, which is decently positioned in the current format. What I’d like to highlight is the sideboard plan for the mirror. They chose to take out Marvels and Ulamogs, transforming into more of a Temur Energy deck. The goal of this is to go under your opponent, making their Glimmers and Negates worse. I’m not sure if this is a correct, as it’s quite easy for your opponent to adapt, although then you can play mind games with the way you sideboard. If you stumble, however, your opponent with Ulamogs still in his deck will eventually win the game. Still, it’s an interesting approach.
I talked to Oliver about which changes he would make, and he told me Glimmer overperformed, and so did Glorybringer. Glorybringer was indeed impressive from the couple games I’ve seen it played. Oliver lost his win-and-in for Top 8, so this version is definitely good.
I also quite like what Brad Nelson did to his Marvel deck. His deck list looks very impressive to me and I’ll give it a try. I’m still a fan of Servant, but if I had to play a version without it, his list would be my choice. I also find it funny that I mentioned last week that we tried Oblivion Sower, but we couldn’t figure out that Ulvenwald Hydra is a strictly better card. Oh well.
Back to the deck I played, Jeskai Vehicles. When I flew into Amsterdam on Wednesday, I had my mind set on playing Marvel. I spent the next 3 days locked in a hotel room playing MTGO non-stop. I started losing with Marvel, because people online had started adapting to it. I then got a message from Petr Sochurek claiming that he broke the format, which he does very often and doesn’t really mean anything.
Still, I wasn’t very satisfied with Marvel so I gave the deck a try, a Vehicles deck that Donald Smith Jr. had brewed up. I got in touch with Donald to talk about some potential changes, but didn’t really make any big adjustments. I was winning a reasonable amount, but I was making a bunch of little mistakes here and there. This came back to bite me later.
Up until 4 a.m. before the tournament, I was still debating between playing Vehicles or Marvel. In the end, I went with Vehicles for two reasons: First, the metagame on MTGO was shifting toward people playing the energy decks, which I didn’t view as a good matchup for Marvel. Second, Shahar was set on playing the deck I would lend him and he had a slight preference for Marvel.
I made a few slight tweaks from the list I posted last week.
I added an extra Needle Spires instead of the 4th cycle land. Both have a similar function, but I wanted a red-producing land. The other versions of the deck I’ve seen play only 2 cycle lands, which I think is a mistake, because those lands play a crucial role in post-board games when you bring in Fumigate. In those matchups, Fumigate is usually a deal-breaker, so you want to maximize the chances of drawing it.
Other than that, I put the 4th Gideon back into the main deck, which was probably the correct decision. I’m not really sure if there is room for innovation in the main deck. The version Simon and Donald played cut the Disintegration but I’ve been quite happy with those and would stick to 2 copies. Yes, your mana base gets worse but Disintegration has a huge upside.
As for the sideboard, I can see changing some cards. With the mirror match getting more popular, I’d suggest adding an extra copy of Release the Gremlins and playing Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. That’s likely the best card against our deck.
The Fumigate package also gets worse once it becomes common knowledge. While playing online, my opponents sometimes tried to play around the first one but almost never played around the second. Still, it’s hard for me to guess how the metagame will adapt, so for now I’d stick to Fumigate.
Archangel Avacyn overperformed for me, and I’d try to find space for a third copy. Another interesting question is about the number of planeswalkers post-board—Donald had 2 more planeswalkers than I did. They work really well with Fumigate, but overall I wasn’t that happy with them. Archangel Avacyn just seems better. I went with Chandra over Nahiri. While Chandra is a better card, Nahiri is easier to cast and has more loyalty, which means it can survive one attack and then you can Fumigate. Magma Spray was my anti-mirror-match card, and it was quite useful.
Pretty simple here. Cutting the energy cards is dangerous as your Aether Hub gets worse, but Harnessed and Harvester are just so bad. Petr told me he likes to keep Harnessed Lightning on the draw against the Servant version, but I don’t like that.
On the Play
On the Draw
I’m not completely sure about this, but I think that on the play you want to stay aggressive. You trim Motorists as they’re bad against Walking Ballista. On the play things change, and you want to bring in Fumigate. It’s still not as good as against decks like Zombies and R/G Energy, so 3 copies is enough. I used to side out all the Spell Quellers, but Petr convinced me that they’re quite good. They are a nombo with Fumigate, but important versus Ballista and to pressure planeswalkers. If you see the Harvester or Skysovereign that some versions play, feel free to bring in Release.
This matchup depends on play/draw a bit. Scrounger gets way worse on the draw while removal becomes better. Queller is pretty decent in the straight-up mirror where they have less removal, while being a liability once they have the full 4 Disintegrations.
Here Queller is just too bad with Fumigate. I’m not excited about bringing in Rebuke, but it can still counter Liliana’s Mastery at basically any point in the game and you can randomly get a creature with it in the early game. If that creature is Relentless Dead, it makes a big difference. Overall, this matchup is a bit better for this version than regular Mardu. In game 1 you have more flyers so you can just fly over, and having access to 4 Fumigates is a big deal post-board.
The sideboard plan is the same as versus Zombies.
I could see trying to be the aggressor on the play, but I think Fumigate might just be too good against them. I’m a bit worried that players will adapt by adding Heroic Intervention to their sideboards. So far I’ve never gotten blown out by that card, but every time I cast Fumigate I really hope they don’t have it. Anyway, if they start packing Intervention, keep in the aggro plan and just race them.
I haven’t played this enough to determine how good Queller is. I could easily see cutting more, but it shouldn’t matter as this is a pretty favorable matchup.
I felt confident going into this tournament, but in the end it all fell apart. I have to admit that I didn’t play my best Magic, which I think was mostly because of how tired I was the whole weekend. Flying in from Chile three days before the event just wasn’t enough time for me to adjust my sleeping schedule. For someone who travels as much I do, I really hope I get better at beating jet lag one day.
I made some truly embarrassing errors, like forgetting to play a 4th tapped land and then not being able to cast Gideon the turn after. In one game, I straight-up forgot to cast my Heart of Kiran on turn 6, missed 4 damage, and died with my opponent on 3 life. I also made some poor strategic decisions, which happens a lot when I play Vehicles. Maybe it’s just not my cup of tea?
Lastly, I misjudged the metagame. On MTGO, it adapted to Marvel’s dominance faster than the paper one. I definitely thought I would play against more of the Energy decks than I did (I played against zero). I also regret that I didn’t put enough work into the B/G deck. I just played it in a couple Leagues, wasn’t impressed, and went back to playing different things.
If I could do it all over again, I would probably play Marvel, mostly because I really enjoy playing the deck. Still, I think all 3 choices (Jeskai, B/G, Marvel) are valid for now. The Standard metagame changes quickly though, so it’s hard to say how fast the format will adapt to the new decks. The one thing I’m sure of is that Marvel will always be one of the top decks, as it’s just too good to hate out. As for Jeskai, I definitely think it’s going to get worse when people aim for it. Release the Gremlins and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship are quite good against it.
I went 6-3 on Day 1, punting against Marvel and losing to two B/G decks. Day 2 didn’t go much better, as I dropped after picking up two losses early in the day. This was likely the last GP I am playing this season, since I’m skipping Vegas and Kyoto as well.
I’m now at 36 points, which means I have to Top 8 the PT to reach Platinum. This season has been tough for me compared to the last two. Before, I would just do well at basically every tournament, but this year the luck finally ran out. I hate losing, but I like how much it motivates me, and I’m planning to put all my energy into doing well at the PT. I’ll be doing as much preparation ahead of time as I can, so I’ll be trying different Standard decks in the upcoming weeks, and writing about them.
I’m also testing a bit differently this time. I’ll be testing from home instead of flying to meet up with my teammates. I still plan to fly into Kyoto ahead of time to deal with the jet lag, but I won’t attend the GP, and I’ll skip about a week of testing to concentrate on playing as much MTGO as I can. I’ll still be in contact with my CFB Ice teammates and I know I’ll be working harder than ever to assure that we don’t blow it like we did at the last PT.
Wish me luck.