All the Amonkhet cards have been spoiled, and everyone is going crazy brewing and building decks, utilizing all the new cards and abilities. While this is great, and the hype-filled spoiler season creates is awesome, don’t let yourself get carried away into the hype.
Don’t Buy Into The Hype
Before deciding this would be my article for the week, I wanted to write about an Abzan Delirium deck that I had brewed featuring Liliana, Death’s Majesty, Ishkanah, Grafwidow, and Cast Out. However, after getting over my initial excitement to share the deck, I realized that it simply wasn’t good enough to beat the two current pillars of the format. Mardu Vehicles and 4-Color Copycat are undoubtedly busted and overpowered decks, and most of the decks that I have seen circulating are simply not good enough to beat them.
Many writers building decks currently put outs such as Manglehorn or Dissenter’s Deliverance in their mainboard, and assume that it will fix the problem that the two best decks pose. While these two cards are definitely powerful, and do indeed help out the matchups, none of the previewed cards are actually powerful enough to straight-up end the rule of Saheeli Rai and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
Keeping this in mind, how is it possible to design a winning formula for week one? Many people put their faith in homebrews which they believe have just enough edge in each matchup to overcome both. However, when looking at the bigger picture, this is nearly impossible. As has been discussed by people ad nauseam since Mardu Vehicles and 4-Color Copycat rose to the top, it is very hard to beat both, as they attack from completely different angles.
Copycat is a combo deck which isn’t stopped by combo hate cards, and can kill you with random value creatures and planeswalkers. Mardu Vehicles on the other hand is an aggro deck that is immune to sorceries, and is extremely hard to combat because of its powerful endgame. Grasp of Darkness, which people were claiming was great against both, has all but disappeared.
The bottom line with these mainboard hate cards is that Saheeli Rai really doesn’t care about your Manglehorn. Your opponent can carry out their game plan normally and simply sandbag a removal spell for your Manglehorn until they feel safe enough to combo. Dissenter’s Deliverance is great, until they just cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Censor is sweet, but not when they play their planeswalkers late game 2 or 3.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
To start off, let me say that I do not think these two decks are unbeatable. There is definitely a deck out there utilizing new Amonkhet cards that can do it. My main argument, however, is that spending time testing out all sorts of brews is not a productive or effective use of your time. The best thing to do is to pick up one of these decks, (I’ll go into which one I think is better later) and just jam games with it against what other people are bringing to the table. Attending a tournament with an objectively powerful deck that you are experienced with will lead to much better results than going to a tournament with a deck you discovered a few days ago and has not seen any play competitively yet.
My second point is that these decks will always win you matches, because they are tried and true strategies. Especially in week one, playing a deck that you know is good and powerful is very important, because you will undoubtedly come across opponents who built an innovative deck, and there will be plenty of times where they stumble and you’ll be happy that you’re playing something consistently powerful.
Which Deck Should You Play?
This depends heavily on the amount of practice you had with each deck last season, and how much you are able to test beforehand. Clearly, if you find that one deck that is beating the types of brews that people are high on more than the other, that is the deck to pick. In my opinion, Mardu Vehicles is the better deck week one, because it curves out better than any other deck in the format.
While getting to combo people on turn 4 with Saheeli Rai feels fantastic (trust me, it’s great), Mardu has an unparalleled start so much of the time. Playing a 3/2 for 1 mana into a Heart of Kiran is already insanity. People right now want to play with Glorybringer, a 5 drop 4/4 flyer with a kill spell attached. Seems pretty great right? Sweet, well while you’re over there getting ready for your 5 drop, I’ll be over here smashing your face with mine for 2 consecutive turns. Oh yeah, and I also cast a Thalia, Heretic Cathar and a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, so you’re just kind of dead…
Being able to run over new decks with consistency is something Vehicles is great at, and it is sure to be successful, unless someone truly comes up with a way to destroy the entire format, which seems impossible to do.
One deck that I think could have reasonable success is R/G Pummeler. I don’t think the deck is great by any margin, but it definitely punishes people who want to durdle around with their decks the first week. The deck is very vulnerable to removal, but it’s explosive and can run over people in a variety of ways, making it a solid choice for week 1 of any format. Warning, mind the Manglehorn.
Temur Aetherworks is another deck that I am pretty high on, as it also runs over unprepared opponents. The deck, piloted by Anssi Alkio in the Magic Online Championship, wins by smashing people with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger off of an Aetherworks Marvel. Marvel itself is a stupid card, and probably shouldn’t have been printed, and it is currently under the radar. Especially now, when people will be focused on the big two decks and their new brews, it could be a great choice to blindside your opponents with big monsters.
Both of these decks have the advantage of not being popular, allowing you to get some free wins against brews that people bring to fight against 4-Color and Mardu.
Alternatively, you could play a Rhonas the Indomitable deck, because that card seems fairly insane. It’s remarkably aggressive, allowing you to run people over. For more about the green god, check out this sweet article by Charlie Rinehart-Jones.
To finish this off, I want to mention that this article was in no way meant to undermine brewing, but rather to present some advice to ensure that you don’t fizzle for going too deep in the first week of tournaments. If you truly believe you have found a deck that breaks the format, (or Saheeli Rai gets banned, in which case just ignore the whole part where I talk about her and just play Mardu or a deck that beats it) by all means play it.
I have no doubt that some pros are going to play innovative decks to success in the early weeks of the format, but it is important to keep in mind the amount of testing these guys put in, which is not doable for most people. If you do not have time to test, play Mardu Vehicles. If you need more convincing, fellow Spellsnare writer Austin Mansell has been on the deck since the beginning of time, and has written some great articles about it on this site.
I hope this article helped you better figure out what deck or strategy you want to play in the early weeks of the format, and best of luck to anyone who is competing in the tournaments that will decide the shape of the format.
As always, thank you for reading, and check back next week with some more content, hopefully after I return victorious from the trials of the Prerelease!
Looking forward to the Prerelease and looking for tips on how to analyze the new cards and new mechanics? Read this article from Ben Pall where he focuses on how Amonkhet’s -1/-1 counters theme differs from the +1/+1 counters theme we’ve had in sets past.
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