How’d y’all like that sweet article and updated list for 4-Color Copycat I posted last Wednesday? Pretty great list, huh?

Wait, are you telling me that like 7 hours later Wizards of the Coast made a surprise announcement banning Felidar Guardian and all my hard work, thoughts, and hopes were dashed? Yes, the two deck format that was Amonkhet Standard lived but a brief short 2 day life, and the cat was (rightfully) put back in the bag. Amonkhet Standard has re-invented itself now as a….. one deck format?

As much as late 2016 Austin might be reveling in all this Mardu Vehicles success, I’m not so sure we’ll see it last. Yes the deck will most likely continue to be a solid quantity in the format, but come the Pro Tour, I doubt we’ll see it reign supreme. You might be thinking that the deck put up great results at this first Open and that’s a sign of things to come, but let’s put that into some context.

First off, don’t forget we’ve fallen into similar routines and thought the best deck has been found week 1 only to be proved wrong once the Pro Tour rolls around. It happened with Bant Company leading up to Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, it happened with R/W Vehicles leading up to Pro Tour Kaladesh, and it’s happened countless other times before.

A ton of people were testing 4-Color and had it primed to go for this Amonkhet Standard Open. Then it got surprise banned late Wednesday and all their testing from the past 2 and a half days was now invalidated. With limited time to figure out a newly opened format, what did most players do? Pick up the one known quantity. Mardu was the easiest deck to pick with such short notice. This fact, coupled with the fact that proactive decks always do well week 1 of a new Standard format, made for a great showing for Mardu. The deck is still good and full of powerful cards for sure, but there’s plenty of new tools to keep Mardu in check, not to mention the fact that entire strategies that were kept in check by Copycat are now free to rear their heads once more.

The best thing Mardu has going for it is the fact that no one knows how to play against it post-sideboard. The widely adopted full-on midrange strategy post-board somehow bewitches any and all opponents. Load up on cheap removal to answer Toolcraft Exemplar and Heart of Kiran and you just get crushed by Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Sorin, Grim Nemesis. Same goes for trying to overloading on cheap artifact removal. Dump critters on the board to pressure their ‘walkers and then you find yourself dying to Fumigate. And if you do go to game 3, the strategy might be completely different now. Maybe it’s back to beat down when they are back on the play. Trying to grind the deck out is tough when they have recursive threats like Scrapheap Scrounger and reach in Unlicensed Disintegration and the brand new (and very impressive) Cut//Ribbons. You can’t just board in 3 Manglehorn and suddenly expect to win.

 

So how do you make sure you don’t get outmaneuvered? The first step is in avoiding the common problem a lot of players have when it comes to sideboarding. The level 0 game plan when it comes to building a board has always been, “oh I need 2 cards for this matchup, 3 for that one, 3 for that one, couple of artifact hate cards, and some anti-control cards. That’s 15! Guess I’m all done!” This is an overly simplistic idea that doesn’t come close to taking advantage of what your sideboard really offers you. In any given matchup, you should be thinking about your overall plan. How am I winning this game? How am I losing this game? Sometimes those answers change within in a turn so it’s important to stay fluid and focused on what’s going on. Once we have a game plan, it’s all about using our cards and mana as a means to fulfill that plan. It’s not just about casting your cards as soon as you draw them or whenever it is most convenient. It’s about working towards that plan.

Your board should be an extension of your deck and operate as a cohesive unit, not just a pile of 60 cards and then a second smaller pile of 15 cards. How does what you have in your board, and what you bring in for any given match up, progress your game plan?

 

Overloading on narrow answers sets yourself up for a whole lot of cards to be stranded in your hand, when your opponent deftly outmaneuvers you. Amonkhet’s return of cycling should be a huge boon to helping craft fluid and flexible game plans. Answers like Dissenter’s Deliverance don’t rot in your hand when you have the option to cycle them. Scarab Feast and Cast Out are similar in this vein.

Riccardo touched on this yesterday, but it really does appear to be that Brennan DeCandio literally only owns black and green Standard cards. He showed up with a whole bunch of them this weekend and he showed off his Delirium expertise once more, securing another Open top 8 with the archetype. He might have lost to Mardu in the quarterfinals, but you know he didn’t make it all the way to the top 8 with out beating the Vehicles menace a few times.

 

Cheap removal to answer Heart of Kiran coupled with Ishkanah, Grafwidow to provide plenty of blockers, makes for a winning strategy. With new tools like Never//Return to keep Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Scrapheap Scrounger in check, the deck has ample tools for the Mardu matchup. Tapping out for haymakers no longer resigns one to death by infinite kitties, so get ready for the return of big midrange decks. But as I’ve mentioned earlier, you can’t just except to answer their threats and grind them out with spider. Cut//Ribbons gives the deck a looming threat of burning you out, so you can’t just durdle forever.

As new archetypes emerge and have the time to be properly tuned, I have no doubt we’ll see plenty of viable decks take home trophies.

I’ve been jamming leagues on MODO ever since the cat was banned and I’ve also been having some success with Delirium strategies thus far. I’ve been constantly tuning and tweaking numbers so I don’t have anything concrete to share with you all yet though. Hopefully I’ll nail some stuff down and secure a few league trophies so I can give you a solid 75 and a guide next week!

Playing in one of the Grand Prix this weekend or the Pro Tour? This article from Ben Pall will give you some very valuable drafting practice.

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