среда, 11 октября 2017 г.

The Suns didn't go down, or misconceptions in Ixalan Standard

Today I will talk Standard, the major events that just past and about my little practice with the format and the read throughs, since me and the team will go to Grand Prix Warsaw in a month.
I will walk you through the path I think next events will unfold and how currently try to Approach the format. So let us see what we may expect in next few weeks and what traps to avoid.   

About the Trifecta and Worlds

Here I mean Ramunap Red, Temur Energy and UB Control. Those were the decks that we saw at Worlds. Grixis Control and 4k Energy are just shades of the cores. Lack of diversity was something that made me watch the stream much less than usually, but I still watched it to see great piloting and know the enemy decks a bit better, i.e. what they are capable of, and why that and that tech card.  

About the Opens, Grand Prix and the Pro Tour

First Open of the season was super random, but got us some idea. It translated badly into Worlds Championship for a few obvious reasons I mentioned above. The upcoming Pro Tour will likely be a combination of the two, since next Opens are Modern, though with Modern AND Standard SCG Classics alongside them. So, Pro Tour Ixalan comes after two weekends of SCG Tour and GP Warsaw we are going to is the weekend after the Pro Tour. Which means that the GP will follow suit from the PT in techs, and the PT will likely be more of result of testing and reading. Because Classics will be unreliable and more like experimental ground, and Worlds give you a very limited perspective for the format, partly also due to how much time passed. Even MODO aka Magic Online events will be better source of data in that period before the PT.
But MODO at any time should be used in conjunction with other sources. Paper meta has its perks, and there is usually a sizable gap between  PTs and GPs. And don’t forget factors like people often playing what they have at GPs and smaller events, and then that some decks are only right during particular weeks, that is can range from amazing to terrible. I.e. don’t disregard some decks because they didn’t appear that frequently some week, at the same time think whether you can hunt 2-3 top decks with something unique. In other words don’t forget that things like targeting exist in this game too, and not only in, say, marketing.  

Now lets switch from theorizing about metagame shifts and give you some practical examples that I managed to get in this short time in this fresh new format. I will shortly describe my FNM and Standard Showdown matches, and then give you my deck tech/ mini-primer on UW and my thoughts based on what I had to read on the web thus far.


Obviously, I looked at the results of the first SCG Open with Ixalan and read all articles on my deck I could find or saw fit. But I like to adapt the deck for my taste and add elements that have proven to work for me, or send available decklists through my own filters. In general, for FNM and the Showdown I didn’t have optimal builds, even if I improved the deck quite a lot each time. So I managed to mess up numbers and failed to evaluate many cards before or after playing with them. After the short reports you will find my current version, which I would explain there in more detail for all card choices.

The weekend of the Open on a Sunday evening in a bar with friends I managed to squeeze in some games with the deck versus BG Midrange, for which I took some random 5-0 list from a Magic Online League. That day we had mainly German Highlander there, and it is part of our weekly Eternal formats League. The build had 8 sweepers and 2 Slash of Talons maindeck, otherwise it was pretty, well, Standard. Before FNM I cut Slashes, and added 4th Approach, and then before Showdown I’ve cut Hours of Revelation. Before LGS weekend in the bar in my sideboard I had 2 Kefnets, which always stayed there, MVPs, and 2 Drake Heavens, which I cut later, because even with 7 cycle lands, etc., this is not the deck for them.

In the every beginning after rotation I started off this list and changed few things immediately and, of course, many more tune ups later.

Round 1. 5K New Perspectives.

Game 1 I drew the wrong half of the deck, as I had no idea what I was up against. My opponent got back into Magic after a 10 year break and just bought his 75 off Ebay in one go. I tapped out on turn 6 to Revelation his lone Gift of Paradise in order to do something. On his turn he just played New Perspectives and won the same turn with Approach cast twice. At least one new Gift Aura, 4 Viziers, at least one Shallow Grave to get back all cyclers that turn, etc.

Game 2 and 3 opponent had clunky draws will little action, and I just boarded in all creatures and counterspells that were more than enough.    

Round 2. BG Rock/Midrange (Snakes and Dinos).

Game 1 was a freeby. Not much to say other then that BG or Sultai Energy can still take Game 1 with some fast draws, but not Midrange. Game 2 did feature some Duresses, but no Lost Legacy, which are in the deck in SB. The pressure he presented wasn’t enough. There might have been a countered Vraska too. ⅘’s didn’t draw extra cards, and I buried him in answers and few action options too.

Round 3. Monored.

Game 1 I am the underdog, no exception here. Game 2 I drew 3 Authorities in my opener. Game 3 I’m stuck on 3 lands. Post-sideboard games are usually favored. Added 4th Authority to the sideboard after that day.
Round 4. Grixis Control.

I don’t remember if it was 2 or 3 games, but what I do is that I got rekt by post-sideboard horde of Syphoners. They basically made sure that he never runs out of cards and I can never resolve anything of importance. Not only they charge up themselves from attacking, but Hub and Glimmers do add up too.

Round 1. Esper Approach.

First game I managed to squeeze in the combo. Second game was….interesting. Discard, Doomfall my Kefnet, Fumigate my Cats turn 5 (he forgot to side out one, aka singletons parade), then 2 Cats of his own in a row. Third game he didn’t keep up on lands.

Round 2. 4K Energy.

First game as I recall went in a….well standard fashion, i.e. no counterspells. Second game he did draw them to protect his board and tempo on time. Third game early Kefnet did his thing.

Round 3. Monored.

Same opponent as at the FNM. Again cannot keep up with his very good hand Game 1. Second game I had 5 lands at the end, but no second white source, and had everything in hand already.
Round 4. Temur Energy.  

Again favored Game 1. Second game early Kefnet goes the distance again. To be fair opponent’s draws both games were pretty bad.

On UW Control in general

Below you would find my thoughts on what I should or would have played now, but this is not the final build or a stock one.


25 lands seems enough, but you might want an extra one in the sideboard for blue matchups. But in general it is enough with all the cyclers and cantrips. Mill desert becomes less relevant for now, since you should not expect many mirrors. Moving on Field of Ruin is more important to nuke away their flipped Azkanta. Scavneger Grounds might also be more valuable. Against UB you can fizzle their Hulk or Scarabs, and then hinder plans from Tokens or Gift decks. Singleton Meanding River might also help to have less of the awkward mana problems. Without Ipnus, you can play Fetid Pools over cylcing deserts, as Pools give the option to cycle with just colorless lands and Plains.     


I started off with 4 Opts, and I respect it, but I cannot find space for 4. Maxing on certain cards compared to other less square lists makes me more comfortable. E.g. I want more than 2 Wills, all 4 Fumigates, all 4 Approaches, both Gideons maindeck, max of spell cyclers, etc. With decks like Ramunap Red and all flavors of Energy so prominent in the format, I feel like this is the right Approach.  


I don’t think I want more than 2 Searches in UW, but I can get 3 copies in UB, since the decks differs so much in game plan and execution. That is UB wants to grind. Gideons do everything in combo matchups, including the mirror, stifle Hazoret or big threats like Cubs. 4 Cast Outs are crucial against a super long list. From Gods and Searches, to Gifts and walkers.

The sideboard


The only thing I am not certain about - is the split between Spell Pierces and Negates, primarily for tempo. There is a chance that in UW just Negates is the way in order to cover all grounds, including mirror and UB, whereas Pierce is made against decks like ours for aggro and midrange.
As for the rest - I probably would change anything for quite some time. I can get 4 Cats, if you cut Kefnets, and add 4th Cat and 3rd Hulk. But Kefnets won me games and matches even before Ixalan and now too. And you do want 4 Authorities, since you absolutely need to draw at least one early versus monored, even if you basically only use this card in that matchup.

I boarded in counterspells only against control or combo. Against Temur it is too unproductive. I would rather be more proactive. All 7 creatures are boarded in quite often. But against monored you board in only Cats and Authorities.

LGS events

You definitely can see some oddities at small regular paper events, like on the example below. Nothing can be cast, everything is covered. I.e. larger meta considerations might not be of great use for your local battles, where there might be some rogue builds like this BW Approach.

Always take into account local trends, whether it is a GP or FNM, when using targeting with your deck, or when choosing your deck. Finnish Meta is often more controlling in every format, whereas Russian meta is more aggressive traditionally in Constructed. Grand Prix Warsaw will like have many locals participating. They likely will have their own trends. Which you can get a glimpse of by finding local MtG forums and checking decklists from local tournament coverage threads.   

I tend to think that FNMs and Showdowns still have value for the travelling player. You get to test some crazy ideas, or get used to the top tier deck you just assembled, and a lot of the time you do get to play against other top tier decks, or the mirror match.

Reading the Web and General Conclusions

After everything mentioned above I might have given you more hopes for Ixalan Standard. But there is more, and it is from online events.

First decklist is some random 5-0 I spotted from a League, and 3 others are from the latest MTGO PPTQ on 8.10..

Jund Midrange

3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
1 Nissa, Vital Force
2 Carnage Tyrant
4 Channeler Initiate
4 Glorybringer
2 Noxious Gearhulk
4 Doomfall
4 Abrade
2 Fatal Push
1 Lightning Strike
1 Unlicensed Disintegration
2 Vraska's Contempt
2 Vance's Blasting Cannons
3 Blooming Marsh
3 Canyon Slough
4 Dragonskull Summit
2 Forest
2 Mountain
1 Ramunap Ruins
4 Rootbound Crag
1 Scavenger Grounds
3 Sheltered Thicket
3 Swamp
2 Vraska, Relic Seeker

1 Carnage Tyrant
1 Noxious Gearhulk
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
1 Fatal Push
2 Bontu's Last Reckoning
2 Deathgorge Scavenger
2 Duress
4 Lost Legacy
1 Sweltering Suns

UB Tempo

2 Liliana, Death's Majesty
3 Champion of Wits
4 Gifted Aetherborn
2 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
4 Hostage Taker
3 Kitesail Freebooter
3 The Scarab God
2 Duress
4 Harsh Scrutiny
4 Fatal Push
4 Supreme Will
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Evolving Wilds
4 Fetid Pools
1 Field of Ruin
4 Island
11 Swamp

1 Field of Ruin
2 Duress
2 Arguel's Blood Fast
3 Contraband Kingpin
1 Doomfall
2 Lost Legacy
2 Negate
2 Vraska's Contempt

Abzan Tokens

4 Anointer Priest
2 Sacred Cat
4 Fumigate
4 Fatal Push
4 Renegade Map
4 Anointed Procession
4 Cast Out
4 Hidden Stockpile
4 Legion's Landing
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Evolving Wilds
1 Forest
2 Ifnir Deadlands
6 Plains
4 Shefet Dunes
2 Swamp
3 Vraska, Relic Seeker

2 Sacred Cat
2 Angel of Sanctions
2 Arguel's Blood Fast
4 Duress
3 Essence Extraction
2 Treasure Map

UW Monument

2 Angel of Invention
1 Aven Wind Guide
4 Aviary Mechanic
4 Cloudblazer
4 Fairgrounds Warden
3 Glory-Bound Initiate
3 Kinjalli's Sunwing
2 Oketra the True
1 Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun
2 Dusk // Dawn
4 Oketra's Monument
2 Cast Out
4 Legion's Landing
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Irrigated Farmland
4 Island
1 Meandering River
7 Plains
4 Shefet Dunes

1 Cast Out
1 Ipnu Rivulet
2 Jace's Defeat
2 Negate
3 Nimble Obstructionist
1 Skywhaler's Shot
2 Spell Pierce
3 Sunscourge Champion

Current Standard has a lot of format defining cards, like Bristling Hydra, and the Gods. Acknowledging those staples makes it easier to formulate filters, which will guide you in your building choices.  

  • How do you catch up with monored or slow it down?
  • What can you do about Gods, Dinos and Hydras?
  • How can you grind or stifle blue control decks?
  • Do you handle a big board state?

- Aarne Pyulze
Until the next cruise!
Stay reasonable and listen to your guts!

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