Last week was a big week for Magic. From the initial outrage over the ban announcement on Monday, to the joy (and despair of some) of Wednesday’s update, and the demise of the late Felidar Guardian, the week led up to the clash between the old and the new in Atlanta. Would the reigning emperor Gideon, Ally of Zendikar remain on top of things? Could Rhonas the Indomitable‘s armies establish their dominance? Would Winding Constrictor return from exile? Or would Torrential Gearhulk‘s new tools prove control a viable strategy. Everything was geared up for an interesting clash at the SCG Open, and the world was ready for a brave new Standard. Everyone watched, and waited, for a change and release from out oppressors.
Aaaaand we kinda got that, but only kinda.
While the Top 32 consisted of a wide assortment of 11 different decks (14 if you differentiate between archetypes in the same color pair), the Top 8 had five Mardu decks, with another 6 in the Top 32. To give you a comparison, the second most was 5, which was B/G Delirium (and one Energy variant, too). While many distinct decks did put up results, this is very misleading for a variety of reasons.
First, the people playing this tournament had essentially two days to prepare. The Felidar Guardian ban definitely caught everyone by surprise, which made testing time from the previous two days mostly null and void. This caused many people to show up with a variety of decks which will surely fall off the radar by the time of the Pro Tour. This tournament was predicted to be a bit of a free-for-all, as the only tier one deck to survive the banning was Mardu. This would cause tons of people to show up with Mardu, and then about double that number to show up with decks that they thought (emphasis on thought) could beat the boogeyman. Thus, many of these decks made the Top 32 by sheer numbers, and not because they are tried and true strategies that can beat Mardu.
Secondly, the fact that the whole room brought either Mardu or decks that they thought could stand a chance against Mardu should have been enough to push out Mardu, right? Wrong. Mardu emerged victorious, and I can’t help but say I am not surprised, but am most definitely saddened. I did truly hope that different strategies that would beat Mardu could have emerged that weekend, and while it seems like this has happened, Mardu remains the best deck, and not by a particularly close margin.
To be fair, the limited amount of preparation time people had led to some decks that look good on the surface but may very well not be. It also shows that we cannot just assume that Mardu will reign forever. The people preparing for the Pro Tour right now will take this admittedly skewed data and will have more time to find out how to beat back the menace. While I do think many of the decks in the Top 32 are there by chance, there are definitely some decks that are worth a second look. Without further adieu, lets get into the lists.
B/G Delirium by Brennan DeCandio at SCG Atlanta – 5th
Let me just start off by saying, Brennan DeCandio is insane with B/G decks. With back-to-back Open wins with this deck, DeCandio decided that he would play the deck again in the first week of Amonkhet Standard. While he did not take home the trophy this time, I think it’s fair to say that another Top 8 is pretty incredible.
DeCandio’s mainboard has some great hits against Mardu, such as Manglehorn and Ishkanah, Grafwidow. With Traverse the Ulvenwald in his deck, the Spider mama and the Beast were never too far down in his deck to grab whenever they were needed. Never//Return is another impressive new card in DeCandio’s deck. Never looked pretty good on camera, but what really pushed the card over the top was the additional value that Return added against cards like Scrapheap Scrounger.
In one round, DeCandio’s Jeskai opponent was scrambling to find answers at two life, but the threat of Return caused him to expend too many resources, and die to a Hissing Quagmire. Overall, DeCandio’s deck looked very well suited to take on Vehicles, and had enough grindy elements to stand up to control decks. This is a deck I would not be surprised to see continue to put up results.
The second deck I want to talk about today is one that I’ve really enjoyed playing with:
Jeskai Control by Emma Handy at SCG Atlanta – 32nd
4 Torrential Gearhulk
Non-Creature Spells (29)
1 Cast Out
2 Essence Scatter
1 Forsake the Worldly
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Harnessed Lightning
2 Immolating Glare
2 Magma Spray
2 Pull from Tomorrow
3 Void Shatter
1 Sphinx of the Final Word
1 Cast Out
1 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Forsake the Worldly
2 Archangel Avacyn
1 Linvala, the Preserver
2 Nahiri, the Harbinger
2 Radiant Flames
Emma Handy posted on Twitter that she had never played a control deck in a Standard Open before, and I can’t help but say I am surprised, as a Top 32 is no easy feat. This deck is very well designed, and makes use of a ton of sweet new tech from Amonkhet.
Cast Out is a great answer to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, or basically anything else you need to answer outside of creature lands. Censor is also a very good answer to on-curve threats, and the threat of Censor is almost as good, as it will force your opponents to wait an entire turn before casting their important spells, and you can just cycle it once they have the extra mana, which is one of the weaknesses of one of Legacy’s premier counter spells, Daze.
Essence Scatter is a fantastic card against many decks, and can punish opponents who wait to cast their creatures a turn later for fear of Censor. Another great card that was on my radar is Forsake the Worldly, a Disenchant with cycling. This card is sweet because it kills Heart of Kiran or a variety of other artifacts when you need it to, and replaces itself when you don’t. Magma Spray is a card that I was anxious to see whether it would find a place or not, but it looked good in most situations. It hits most of the creatures in the Mardu deck, and does extra work against Scrapheap Scrounger, something that control definitely wants.
The last Amonkhet card in the list (barring Irrigated Farmland, which seemed to be great in some situations but lackluster in others) is Pull from Tomorrow. Pull from Tomorrow is actually just Sphinx’s Revelation… ok, ok I wouldn’t go that far, but the card is definitely very good. I think two is the correct number, as it doesn’t really interact favorably with Torrential Gearhulk, but is great when you are running out of gas. It’s also really great to cast when you’ve started to turn the corner, which definitely adds points in my book. Overall, this deck looked very well designed, and I hope to see more of it in the future.
As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you too have some hope for this new Standard format. Some of the decks this weekend were really sweet, and I hope they will stick with us (at least until Grand Prix Montreal, please) for a while. If you happen to be at Grand Prix Richmond, or any of the other Grand Prix around the world (good luck to my countrymen in Bologna), may you perform and draw well. See ya next time,
P.S. I had to include this utter humiliation because we cannot hide from out mistakes.
You got me.
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