In my last article I touched upon what has happened in the world of Premodern, as well as the Swedish Nationals deck lists. Today, we’ll have a look at the Italian Nationals Top 8 deck lists, future events, the metagame, and finally, a brew I’m working on myself. Let’s dive in!
Stefano Mannella, 1st place
Antonio Ricci, 5th–8th
Again, U/W Standstill shows up in the Top 8, this time with two copies—one in the quarterfinals and one as the winner! Not having it among the tier 1 decks, and as one of two control strategies (with 4C Control) to beat, seems foolish. There’s not much more to say about the strategy that hasn’t already been said. But what is the best way to beat it? To make sure that the namesake card of the deck—Standstill—isn’t effective. You do that by having enough early pressure to make every Standstill in your opponent’s hand awkward, since they’re never ahead on the board. The other way is to have a more powerful land suite, similar to the Lands deck. That route requires a bit more specialized work.
Lorenzo Novaro, 2nd place
Some of the most powerful strategies in Magic involve constructing your deck around a symmetric card and making those symmetric disadvantages as small as possible (or to even turn them into upsides). It can be cards like Tangle Wire, Winter Orb, Chalice of the Void, Blood Moon, Smokestack, Zur’s Weirding, or many others. Stasis combines well with Forsaken City, which helps you pay for it in an almost indefinitely long game. Without it, you would need to hit a land drop every turn to keep Stasis, since once you tap a land to pay for it every turn, that land doesn’t untap again. A regular combo with Stasis is Kismet, which makes it so that your opponent will never get to untapped a card into play again, making it hard to… well, ever cast spells.
But this mono-blue version doesn’t run Kismet. Instead, a host of ”free” and regular counterspells are used to interact with what your opponent plays. Your opponent won’t get too many chances to resolve anything, given that once you use those lands to cast something, they will be “spent” and never untap again. Stasis also keeps all creatures tapped alongside everything else, meaning you don’t actually have to interact with much—only the effects that interact with your lock.
Finally, returning lands to your hand for an alternate cost actually becomes a superior to cast your spells. When you tap your lands to cast something they can’t be used again, but if you return them to your hand, then you get another use out of them. Once you’ve enabled a lock with countermagic backup, you only need a way to win the game, which you normally do by letting your opponent lose by decking the natural way, since you can shuffle your graveyard into your library. If your opponent has any way to counteract that, then you have Morphling to finish them off, which can untap itself to keep attacking.
Andrea Righetti, 3rd place
R/G Goblins is another alternative to the usual B/R Goblins deck. I personally prefer B/R Goblins, but if your metagame is clogged with more enchantments than usual, the green splash is much better at dealing with them than the black one. Dralnu’s Crusade is great at dealing with Circle of Protection: Red and Engineered Plague, but if you’re worried about, for example, Solitary Confinement, the green cards are more efficient than Anarchy. Additionally, green gives you more sideboard space, since Naturalize and Hull Breach deal with annoying artifacts and decks like Metalworker, as well as enchantments, meaning that you don’t need Shattering Pulse against one, and Anarchy or Dralnu’s Crusade against the other.
Enrico Michelucci, 4th place
Marco Isidori, 5th–8th place
Sligh, a clear tier 1 deck in the format, also ended up snagging two spots in the Top 8. But Sligh was the most played deck at ~17% of the metagame, while U/W Standstill was at 12.5%, and won the whole thing. What’s impressive is that every deck in the Top 8 had some cards for the Sligh matchup in their sideboard with it being a recognized strategy, but it still managed to put two copies in the Top 8, which speaks to the power level of the deck. There are tons of different cards that are specifically good against Sligh, whether it’s Chill, Warmth, Bottle Gnomes, etc. but the best options are Circle of Protection: Red and Hydroblast. We can see a large number of both in the winner’s sideboard, which I’m sure played a role in Stefano’s success.
The one spicy thing to mention about Marco’s deck list is his choice to include four Black Vise in his main deck, a card that was recently unbanned. Black Vise is especially great against blue control decks, and some can’t beat it. I’m sure that’s what Marco tried to metagame against quite heavily. Against other decks, it’s a lot weaker and makes your deck higher variance. Drawing it in your opener on the play can result in a lot of damage, most likely the most amount of damage possible for 1 mana, but drawing it when you’re trying to finish off your opponent or in the midgame can be a disaster. It’s an interesting take, but not something I’d personally choose, because it weakens Sligh’s greatest strength: consistency.
Marco Mazzei, 5th–8th place
Simone Lazzini, 5th8th place
Last, but certainly not least, is B/G Rock. B/G Rock, maybe the first famous midrange deck, tries to beat up on other creature decks with removal and large green creatures. To secure the transition to larger, more expensive creatures, the deck runs Pernicious Deed, which can be used as a Plague Wind against cheaper, smaller creatures. It also works well as an important catch-all towards all kinds of annoying permanents that are basically everywhere in the format. Discard spells also work well with larger creatures. With 6-8 discard spells, it’s not too hard to disassemble your opponent’s hand, and when you’ve accomplished that, it’s important that your threat is large enough to win fast, and that it can survive topdecked creatures or removal.
Living Wish is another strength of B/G Rock. It helps you find what you need against the opposing deck. Goblins on the other side? Get a Masticore. Need some life? How about Ravenous Baloth? Need to grind out your opponent? Get a Genesis. What many people forget is that Living Wish gets lands from your sideboard as well, meaning that I would want for both players to use a sideboard slot for that situation where you are missing land drops to have at least maybe a Wasteland in your sideboard to retrieve so that you can curve out well.
So what can we make out of this these two metagames? Combining both tournaments, these are all of the decks being played:
- 4-Color Control
- R/B Goblins
- Bargain Storm
- Burning Bargain
- Counter Rebels
- G/B Secret Force/The Rock
- U/R Trix
- Welder Stax
- The Rock
- U/G Madness
- Astral Slide
- Recurring Survival
- U/B Zombie (?)
- B/U/G Control
- W/W Land Tax
- Mono-Green Stompy
Blue control—both U/W Standstill and 4c Control—and red aggro—Goblins and Sligh—were the two most played archetypes in both tournaments, but other than that, the metagame is quite diverse. In other local tournaments, I’ve seen Psychatog, U/B Dreadnought, and Hypnotic Specter decks having great results. And we’ve barely scratched the surface, which makes me hopeful about the continuing possibilities in a wide open metagame. Additionally, Land Tax was unbanned between the two tournaments and despite being the absurd card it is, it doesn’t seem to have broken the format, which makes me believe that the format is quite resilient. You can read more about the unban here.
My current tier 1 would be:
- U/W Standstill
- 4C Control
- Bargain Storm
With that being said, Ithere’s still a lot of wiggle room and big metagame changes may occur. There are still tons of strategies to be found, cards to be abused, and known strategies that need a ton of tuning, that can all net their own place at tier 1 status. Speaking of cards yet to be fully explored…
My latest brew tries to abuse Squee, Goblin Nabob to its full potential. We’ve seen many strategies try to abuse the combo between Survival of the Fittest and Squee, Goblin Nabob before and while it is a powerful engine, it can only find you creatures and tends to lead to decks that are too slow. But if we try to abuse it with Compulsion, it doesn’t require specific card types and can be used as an engine in, say, a control deck!
Compulsion and Squee is a fantastic combo that buries most opponents in card advantage, even decks with Fact or Fiction. In early testing, I also included Accumulated Knowledge, which seemed like a fantastic addition to combine with cards already in the deck, like Careful Study, Intuition, and Forbid, which it is, but isn’t needed. You already draw THAT many cards. Playing Compulsion in your deck also gives you the freedom to play a higher number of reactive cards, since it helps you filter them away against decks where they are dead cards.
Besides Compulsion, Squee combines very well with Careful Study, Cephalid Coliseum to draw cards, and Forbid and Solitary Confinement to lock out the game. With a Squee, you basically never have to give up Solitary Confinement, and with a Compulsion added to the mix, it doesn’t take long before you find another Squee to start drawing cards while you have the game locked down. Remember that Solitary Confinement is game over against a number of decks in the format, namely red.
Last but definitely not least, Intuition is a workhorse in this deck, gluing it all together. Trust me—you haven’t lived if you haven’t searched for three Squee with Intuition. Once you’ve found a number of Squees, it will turn many of your cards into absurd versions of themselves. But it’s important for a reactive control deck to have cards that aren’t only synergistic, since you’re trying to respond to what your opponent is doing. Neither of these cards are, which is a sweet spot to be in. It becomes easy for the deck to play a fair game when the combo pieces are fine on their own, while having an unfair element to them. Intuition is also the reason why we see the numbers being slightly skewed, like three Solitary Confinement, three Forbid, three Hydroblast, etc.
So what are you waiting for? The format is cheap, easy to brew in, nostalgic, aesthetically pleasing, and tons of to play!
If you feel ready to play the format and are looking for a major tournament to play in, the European Championship is coming up, which is going to be the largest Premodern tournament yet!
Once the U.S. catches up, I’m sure that there will be larger championships for North Americans to play in as well. For the time being, if you have a play group and want to grow in size, I’d suggest that you talk to Premodernmagic.com to set up your own local Facebook group. There, you can organize tournaments and talk about your ideas, whether it be about decks, the format as a whole, or whatever else!