Hello everyone, it’s Petr again and as usual I am going to talk about Standard today.
I feel like the confusing days that followed the bannings are slowly over and the format is getting pretty much solved, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing interesting to be talked about.
I think that the current Standard is divided in 3 parts: decks that abuse 《The Scarab God》, Mono Red + the others.
I don’t know if I am the only one, but the environment is very strange and unusual and I am not sure, if I ever expected something similar.
《The Scarab God》 is an extremely powerful card and I think that normally we would just see everyone trying to go over the top of each other and Standard would be about who can come with a 《The Scarab God》 deck that is prepared the best for the “mirrors”. While this is obviously happening to a certain extent, players can’t realistically go too far, because if you do you just get overrun by a Mono Red player. This creates a very interesting tension – you are forced to play enough cheap interaction, which isn’t really what you want in the grindy matchups.
Now, you might think that this has a couple of easy solutions – for example you could play a 《Scarab》 deck, that is extremely well prepared to fight the other slow decks and then board in your entire sideaboard to try to win the post board games against Red. Problem with this is that people are allowed to bring anything in a tournament and there will still be a significant amount of people playing different decks that thrive on those who overmetagamed themselves and aren’t prepared to fight your strategy.
4 《Scattered Groves》
4 《Sunpetal Grove》
1 《Tranquil Expanse》
4 《Hashep Oasis》
4 《Shefet Dunes》
-Land (25)- 1 《Sacred Cat》
4 《Adorned Pouncer》
4 《Merfolk Branchwalker》
4 《Jadelight Ranger》
4 《Appeal // Authority》
4 《Sram's Expertise》
3 《Legion's Landing》
4 《Aethersphere Harvester》
3 《Skysovereign, Consul Flagship》
This is a deck that won the last MODO PTQ and it’s a perfect example of a deck that I am talking about; it plays a bunch of threats that require a specific answer or rather a specific setup from 《The Scarab God》 deck to be beaten and that was clearly not the case.
Do I think this deck will dominate or become a huge player? No. Once the reactive decks come prepared and are able to keep up with you, the deck will once again come short – trading 1 for 1 with a 《God》/《Gearhulk》 follow up is way too powerful.
I think that you have already correctly guessed that I believe that if you don’t play 《The Scarab God》 right now, you are doing a mistake. Once you establish that, the question that needs to be asked is what version (deck) is the best home for it.
I’ve heard many opinions, but it mostly comes down to UB Midrange and Grixis Energy – yeah obviously, there will be tournaments where something like UB Control runs the tables, but I don’t think that control is enough advantaged in the other slow matchups to make up for the Red matchup. Going into a tournament with a deck choice that is based only on the fact that you have a favorable matchup against the most popular deck is usually just a flawed strategy. It’s important to understand that the only thing that matters is your overall win rate against the field.
I am going to make an extreme example to make this clear – would you rather enter a tournament with a deck that is 55% but has a horrible matchup against a significant player in the field or with a deck that is 52% against everything, but has one slightly unfavorable matchup in control?
I think that it would be foolish to not even mention Red. Don’t get me wrong I think the deck is very good and if you haven’t practiced with the 《God》 deck, this might be the best deck choice for you, but I would advise against it if you are seriously invested in Standard. The strength of the deck is that it’s very stable and does almost the same thing every game and if your opponents are even slightly underprepared or make a misstep you can gain an easy victory, but I think that a master with a 《The Scarab God》 deck in his hands will have a higher win rate – those decks are just more powerful.
UB or Grixis
OK, so it comes down to UB Midrange and Grixis. I am not going to lie, I am actually not 100% sure which one is better – both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I am leaning towards the Grixis side. The decks are very similar and I think that the main argument for straight UB is a better mana base. I understand that there are enough good blue and black cards in Standard right now and you don’t need to add additional color to make your deck good, but I disagree in the entire concept.
First of all – the manabase in Grixis isn’t even that much worse, because you get an access to 《Aether Hub》. Yeah you are forced to play more taplands, but I am actually in love with 8 Cycling lands – they are just so incredibly good.
What they do is that, you can play more lands in your deck to prevent mana screw, but you can replace them later to not get flooded. I know that all of this sounds super obvious, but your win percentage will greatly thank you for all these extra games of Magic you get to play.
Once you realize that the mana isn’t really a big issue, Grixis emerges as a clear winner – I really like all the red cards, but I will admit that they are sort of replaceable in the first game. What the splash actually does is that it makes your deck way better in the post board games – not necessary because of red sideaboard cards, but the red cards main deck solve a lot of holes, that are other decks trying to fill with sideaboard cards, which you don’t have to do.
Grixis Energy -About Flexible Spots-
This is my current list of Grixis Energy:
4 《Canyon Slough》
4 《Fetid Pools》
4 《Aether Hub》
4 《Dragonskull Summit》
4 《Drowned Catacomb》
3 《Spirebluff Canal》
-Land (27)- 4 《Glint-Sleeve Siphoner》
4 《Whirler Virtuoso》
3 《The Scarab God》
2 《Torrential Gearhulk》
4 《Harnessed Lightning》
4 《Vraska's Contempt》
2 《Glimmer of Genius》
3 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》
There has been many articles about Grixis already, so I am just going to go over the flexible spots.
3 《Magma Spray》, 1 《Abrade》
It is possible that you still want to play 4 《Spray》, but I really like to have an access to a copy of 《Abrade》 – there are artifact in the metagame and having it in your deck can make a huge difference – especially with so much card draws and 《Gearhulk》 in your deck.
There is a rumor going on that you are absolutely wrong for not playing 4 《God》. While I think that playing 4 《God》 is certainly fine, I would advise against it – there are only so many expensive cards you can play and I like 2nd 《Gearhulk》 a lot more – there are many situation where you are behind on the board and playing 《God》 could be very dangerous in a face of a removal spell, not mentioning the fact that it’s legendary – yes I understand that it often doesn’t matter – if they don’t kill it you just untap with it and win, but that is not always the case – a lot of your removal spells exile, so 《God》 is often a glorified 《Colossapede》 early in the game and having excess copies in your game could be game-losing. The fact that there is an 《Ixalan's Binding》 in the format is just another bonus.
2 《Glimmer of Genius》 in the board
I have been toying around with many cards to get ahead in the slow matchups, but after an extensive testing I came to a conclusion that 《Glimmer》 is just the best one – it just makes your entire deck so much better and the only reason, why there aren’t more in the main is Mono Red. I tried cards like 《Search for Azcanta》 or 《Treasure Map》 that seemed better than 《Glimmer》 in theory, but it has happened to me too many times that I am hellbent and I draw one of those thinking how incredible would 《Glimmer》 be now.
This is an experiment that Brad Nelson told me about when we were discussing the list and I must say that it makes a ton of sense. Having access to a sweeper is smart and I think that this is by far the best option – there are tons of Haste creatures in the format and being able to 2 for 1 your opponent without taking any damage is very nice + it’s flashbackable with 《Gearhulk》. There has been an uprise of 《Pia Nalaar》 lately too, so it’s nice to be able to cleanly answer it.
I don’t really know if there is anything to say – if your goal is to go over top; 《Nicol》 is your man. I didn’t play with it enough to be sure – there are lot of 《Vraska's Contempt》 + let’s be real it is very expensive and a cheaper option like 《Angrath, the Flame-Chained》 or 《Liliana, Death's Majesty》 might just end up being better, but I think it deserves a shot.
Oh one more thing,
Don’t Play 《Gonti, Lord of Luxury》
It’s just worse than the other 4 mana options. The only thing going for it is that it’s a grindy card that is also a body against red, whereas 《Glimmer》 is just awful, but I just don’t think it does enough.
Thanks for reading,