Choosing a deck for this Pro Tour (Mythic Championship) has been interesting. I’ve been very busy with life duties, and therefore was not able to test as much as I would’ve liked. I had to narrow down my choices quite quickly.
As you saw in my recent article and video, I tested with red decks first. I spent a few days on them and ultimately decided they just weren’t good enough. Not having a great Sultai and Esper matchup turned me off, but that information at least would be helpful. If I trust myself that it is in fact not good enough, I can play a deck that has a bad red matchup and not be too worried that it’ll see a lot of play.
I wanted to familiarize myself with a few other decks that I either did not face enough to understand or decks I thought my opponents did not play optimally. So I started playing matches with Mono-Blue, Gates, Drakes, and Esper Midrange.
I immediately recognized the power of Mono-Blue, but I also knew it was too hard for me to master in the time frame I had left. I knew I wasn’t going to play it, but I also knew that I should play a deck that could beat it.
Gates was interesting. Figuring out if the awkward mana base was worth the powerful cards was challenging, but all in all I was convinced it had a terrible Mono-Blue matchup and therefore was not worth my time.
I played a few games with 12 Drakes, and having playing it in the past format I knew it was not going to be great against Sultai. You needed Arclight Phoenix. I took note of that and tried a version with four Goblin Electromancer, four Arclight Phoenix, and either Crackling Drake or Pteramander. I did not get that far because I found a deck I liked and stopped there, but it seems like I was onto something because that’s what Team ChannelFireball played to decent results.
Esper Midrange turned out okay. If it’s tuned well it can beat most decks, except Sultai Midrange. I don’t think you can go under them or over them no matter how you build your deck. I expected Sultai to be by far the most played deck.
It was now about six days before deck submission and I knew I wanted a deck that was favored against Sultai and Mono-Blue. Other decks that I thought would see lots of play included Esper, White Weenie, and Nexus. I wanted at least a plan against them.
I thought Drakes, Red, Gates, and Gruul would see play, but not enough that they would be a significant part of the metagame. If I can have incidental good matchups by tweaking my deck not to hurt important matchups, then good. Otherwise, I would not go out of my way to beat them.
This idea came together when I wanted to build a Wilderness Reclamation deck that would have a good Mono-Blue matchup. It’s fairly common that Reclamation decks have good Sultai matchups because they can’t kill quickly and can’t compete with the card advantage these decks generate. This often correlates with having a bad Mono-Blue matchup since your deck is full of expensive card advantage engines and that’s exactly what tempo decks prey on.
A great way to outpace cards like Spell Pierce and survive Curious Obsession is to play cheap interaction, like Shivan Fire, and turn your expensive card into creatures. What if you want to beat all counterspells, including Wizard’s Retort? Uncounterable will do.
Niv-Mizzet, Parun beats Mono-Blue on its own. They usually beat you down for 2-3 damage a turn, and as long as you keep Tempest Djinn in check with your own counterspells and Shivan Fire, you can get to 6 mana and Niv-Mizzet ends the game quickly since they have no way to interact with it.
My matchup against Mono-Blue is still challenging, but I believe that I am a slight favorite.
Pascal Maynard, 8-2 at Mythic Championship Cleveland
4 Breeding Pool 4 Hinterland Harbor 3 Rootbound Crag 4 Steam Vents 4 Stomping Ground 4 Sulfur Falls 2 Island 1 Mountain 2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun 4 Wilderness Reclamation 4 Chemister's Insight 4 Expansion/Explosion 2 Fiery Cannonade 4 Growth Spiral 4 Shivan Fire 4 Sinister Sabotage 2 Syncopate 2 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin 2 Opt Sideboard 2 Biogenic Ooze 2 Rekindling Phoenix 1 Gift of Paradise 3 Crushing Canopy 2 Fiery Cannonade 2 Negate 1 Niv-Mizzet, Parun 2 Entrancing Melody
My deck went through a few iterations before I submitted the above 75 cards. I did not have main deck Fiery Cannonades until I realized they might give me free wins against White Weenie, which is a pretty bad matchup. It’s also decent against Sultai, Mono-Blue, and Mono Red, especially since you can copy it with Expansion and essentially have access to instant speed Wrath of God.
No Nexus of Fate may seem weird in a Wilderness Reclamation deck, but I think Expansion // Explosion is better and requires fewer deck building concessions. It’s also a lot more versatile as it’s great in counter wars, great against Mono-Red when they play main phase burn spells for their Ghitu Lavarunners and Runaway Steam-Kins, great against Thought Erasure, etc. Basically, it can be used early and late game just as efficiently.
Two Opt is weird, but I didn’t want to mess with the land count to make sure my Growth Spirals always hit. I felt like 26 lands and four Opt would lead to too much flooding, but I also did not want to play zero because that would make my Niv-Mizzets and Search for Azcanta worse.
The sideboard has a few win condition alternatives to fight through sideboard hate like Crushing Canopy, Duress, Negates, and such, that come in from lots of different decks. This is something that may not get people as much now that they know, so you might have to adjust going forward.
If I had more sideboard slots I would play more Gift of Paradise as it’s one of the best things you can be doing against White Weenie and Mono-Red. I’m only playing one because it’s more important to make my other matchups rock solid. If Nexus, Esper, and Mono-Blue go on the decline, I would consider Thrashing Brontodon over some Crushing Canopy since you can bring it in against White Weenie and Mono-Red to block and to kill relevant enchantments.
These are approximate notes you should approach with an open mind. Decks adapt fast and every single deck in Standard has variations.
You’re highly favored pre-board, and post-board it’s kind of a dance between “do they keep removal or not” and “can you next level them with your creatures?” This plan has worked well for me but I fully expect people to know what’s up now and keep cards like Hostage Taker. If that’s the case, you may want to keep the fourth Shivan Fire, or not board in Rekindling Phoenix and keep the fourth Reclamation.
Out on the Draw
Out on the Play
Pre-board, it’s all about Niv-Mizzet, Parun and making sure you can survive until you cast it. Your usual Wilderness Reclamation plan is hard to achieve because it’s really hard to resolve through all their counterspells.
Post-board, you try to make your deck as least clunky possible. Syncopate is better on the draw since it gives you an extra answer to Tempest Djinn, but on the play you can cast Sinister Sabotage on time.
You should look out for Deep Freeze as it’s their only way of dealing with Niv-Mizzet. Remember that Crushing Canopy can kill it! If people expect you to board in Entrancing Melody and Rekindling Phoenix, they might bring in Exclusion Mage.
Out on the Play
Out on the Draw
In on the Play
In on the Draw
This is why on the draw I like to keep one Shivan Fire since Sinister Sabotage is a turn too late. Keep in mind that in this matchup you will copy a lot of their spells with Expansion, specifically their discard spells.
Out on the Play
Out on the Draw
This is one of your worst matchups game 1, and it’s not that much better post-board, but it is winnable.
Fiery Cannonade + Expansion is your best shot. It gets rid of Venerated Loxodon draws, it deals with protections they have, such as Tithe Taker, and even deals with Dauntless Bodyguard if you’re feeling greedy. Basically, you cast Fiery Cannonade and pass priority. If they sacrifice the Bodyguard, you respond by copying your Cannonade. It’s a bit risky, because if they just pass priority back you won’t be able to copy, so make sure it’s worth it.
Depending on the version, I believe you’re a slight favorite here. Niv-Mizzet goes a long way against versions that play Sinister Sabotage, since it essentially shuts down their plan of playing a control game. If you don’t draw it, you still have Expansion to win counter wars.
Out on the Play
Out on the Draw
This matchup is just atrocious, but I was fully aware of that when I even started testing this deck, and I did not mind because I didn’t expect it to see much play. It turns out I was right, because it was only 5% of the Mythic Championship metagame.
I still wanted a plan that would give me the best chances without hurting the other matchups.
Keep in mind that casting Expansion on their burn spells to kill their creatures is the number one key to winning the game. Otherwise, their creatures deal too much damage and you’ll die before you can kill them.
I hope this will help you get started playing the deck—it is absolutely a blast to play. It reminds me a lot of Blue Scapeshift in Modern where you’re a control deck, but actually kill your opponent fairly quickly if they try to maneuver around your control plan by making conservative plays.
If you play the deck on Arena, remember to go on “full control mode” when you cast Wilderness Reclamation. Otherwise, you won’t be able to float mana appropriately!