- REVIEW OF THE WEEK
by Stephen MurrayFriday 30th October 2015
- Hello again friends, did you have a fun time at Gameday? I did! However, not only were there Gamedays worldwide, there was also a standard GP to check out.
Grand Prix Quebec City deck lists can be found here
This top 8 was dominated by Dark Jeskai, with 3 of the top 4 being very similar to the version featured in last weekend's top 8.
You have to look quite closely to find differences in the top 3, mostly it's just tweaks based on personal preference and predictions for the metagame. For example, 2nd place had a maindeck Duress and Jeskai Charm! 1st place kept the Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, where the other 2 cut him! These differences are relatively minor, but each choice will win or lose you the odd game here or there. For example, I'm sure the 2 Dispel in Daniel Lanthier's deck was almost identical to 2nd and 3rd's 1 Dispel, 1 Negate mix, but the extra mana saving would definitely make a difference in the pseudo-mirror matches. On the other hand, the Negate players probably had an easier time beating Gideon and decks with Ugin in them.
Similar to the maindecks, the sideboards are all fairly similar with common cards like Felidar Cub, Arashin Cleric, Radiant Flames, Virulent Plague and so on being present in each of them.
Virulent Plague being more common has to be a factor as to why there are less Gideons in this top 8 than expected, by the way. While opponents can play around Plague to a certain extent with Gideon Emblems, it seems very strong right now.
Omar Beldon's sideboard seems to be the most ambitious. Borrowing elements from the PT runner up, he goes for the plan of mostly blanking cheap enemy removal and boarding in Ugin, Mastery of the Unseen and more removal to take care of the long game, while also having Painful Truths to help hit the land drops required.
To me, the most interesting version of Dark Jeskai came from Edgar Magalhaes.
Dark Jeskai - Edgar Magalhaes [8th] MAIN DECK SIDEBOARD
It feels like this player attempted to make a kind of anti-Jeskai Jeskai deck. Knowing that these decks play lots of removal, Edgar attempts to brick as much of the enemy removal as possible. Pia and Kiran Nalaar in partcular is excellent against enemy removal as it's very rare to be able to clear everything off the table without expending multiple cards.
Of course, it's no good to be making 1/1 fliers if you can't get past enemy Mantis Riders. To this end, he played 2 Draconic Roar maindeck even with no Dragons to activate it just to be absolutely sure he can kill a Rider on turn 2/their turn 3 just as well as Lightning Strike used to.
I especially like Sorin, Solemn Visitor here since it combines so well with Chandra's parents and Hangarback Tokens.
While not a one-sided beating or anything, I'd recommend this version if you just want to make life difficult for the standard Dark Jeskai decks. Just try not to let Virulent Plague resolve too easily post board.
Moving on from there Dark Jeskai menace, we find Ulamog making his premier event debut.
Green Ramp - Jake Mondello [4th] MAIN DECK SIDEBOARD
4 Jaddi Offshoot
4 Hangarback Walker
3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
2 Dragonlord Atarka
4 Sylvan Scrying
4 Map the Wastes
4 Explosive Vegetation
3 Nissa's Pilgrimage
4 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
3 Hedron Archive
This deck is about as straightforward as you can get when it comes to ramping. 25 lands, 15 cards that get more lands, and 3 Hedron Archive give you an astronomical amount of mana in this deck, meaning this is exactly the kind of deck Sanctum of Ugin was designed for.
Jaddi Offshoot isn't too surprising when you consider the amount of land search in this deck and the mana curve of the deck. You can't play too many defensive cards in the 2-4 mana range because you want to be casting ramp spells every turn until you start the Ugin parade on turn 6 or so. An unanswered Offshoot will probably gain you at least 2 extra turns worth of life, and it combines well with Map the Wastes.
Map the Wastes is the most surprising card to me, as I expected Nissa's Pilgrimage to be superior while putting together basic versions of this. However, it combines well with Offshoot (take THAT, Fiery Impulse) and signing up Hangarback Walker for extra blocking duty.
This deck is primed to take advantage of the fact that most decks aren't really running counterspells right now outside of Dispel or the occasional Negate. Unless your opponent is fast out of the starting block, the spells in this deck come down, smash your opponent's board, and demand an answer right away. Most opponents will be able to answer the first couple threats, whether they are Atarka, Ulamog or Ugin without too much difficulty, but they should all be able to halt their advances. You put the onus on them to now rustle enough enough offence to kill you before you play any more.
- If this deck becomes popular, it has a really hard time beating Become Immense. Just watch out for Winds of Qal Sisma.
- If you are playing Jeskai, having Disdainful Stroke would be absolutely massive. While obviously less effective against Ulamog, countering an Ugin or Atarka should give your Mantis Riders the extra turns they need to finish your opponent off.
- If you are playing this deck, consider keeping your single Mountain in hand as much as possible in the mirror match. After a few turns of casting Ulamogs removing each other's Ulamogs and a land, you don't want to be locked out of casting Atarka.
- You can play a Hangarback for 1 off of a Hedron Archive! Just something to remember if your turns are full of things to cast.
4C Rally - Pascal Maynard [5th] MAIN DECK SIDEBOARD
4 Colour Rally looks about as fun to play against as Eggs was. Okay, maybe not that bad, but it certainly does have a lot of triggers going on.
This is definitely a deck that needs practice before you can play it optimally. You can play against the proverbial goldfish to figure out how it works, it will be largely the same as against a real life opponent. Just remember that you should keep a Sidisi's Faithful in hand as much as possible against Abzan, otherwise you cave in to Anafenza.
- Play fast. Playing this optimally is both hard and time consuming, since even when you're playing at an acceptable pace there are a million scrys, lifedraining effects, card drawing effects, looting and +2/+2 effects happening at any given time.
- Dispels are for countermagic on your Rally the Ancestors pretty much exclusively. You don't need them protecting a Jace or Grim Haruspex or whatever.
There isn't much to say about the Abzan deck that hasn't already been mentioned. The core of the deck is exactly the same, with slight tweaks to the removal. It's still good, but for this week it definitely lost ground to Jeskai. There was even only 1 Abzan deck in the top 16, implying the other decks are adapting well to it.
The final deck in this top 8 was Esper control, piloted by Reid Duke. It's no surprise that Reid keeps doing well when others seem to be struggling with this style of deck, since Reid could not only win with a ham sandwich, but he would also probably win with a sandwich with no filling whatsoever.
Esper Control - Reid Duke [7th] MAIN DECK SIDEBOARD
I find it very interesting that Reid manages to play the draw-go game in this format, considering the high quality of threats. There are so many diverse must-answer cards that require different cards to combat, that letting a single one through can be hard times. When this deck does tap out though, it's usually because an Ugin is on the way.
This deck will probably increase in popularity over time though, as long as people keep needing to warp their decks to account for the varieties of aggro, this deck will just get better and better and dismantling any deck that isn't an especially well-oiled machine.
- This is very much like a traditional control deck, but you need be be a bit more selective in your use of spells than in the past. Consider occasionally not casting Anticipate on turn 2 (assuming you're not digging for lands) until you have a better idea of exactly what cards you need mid-game.
- Many of the counterspells are situational, so while sometimes you might need to pass up some value say, casting Silumgar's Command simply returning a land and countering a non-creature spell, it's better to do that than leaving yourself unable to answer a Siege Rhino that a Clash of Wills would've been able to stop.
- While 'be patient' is definitely a good rule of thumb for this deck, sometimes you will need to take the initiative and try to kill your opponent asap. For example, against the Green Eldrazi deck, if you know your opening hand won't be able to stop them getting to 10 mana (too much removal, not enough counterspells) you might want to aggressively flip Jace to reach the Ultimate before the parade of Ulamogs begin.
- If you realise in game 2 that your opponent is overly afraid of Jace (say you Duress them and see 2 Fiery Impulse and a Silkwrap for example) it's very easy for this deck to sideboard some out. You don't really rely on it, and making your opponent take virtual mulligans with dead removal is always nice.
So that's that for this week. Jeskai has asserted itself as the number one enemy, but honestly I expect a disproportionate amount of Green Ramp decks in local stores. It doesn't need Gideons or Jaces or 12 fetchlands, and everyone secretly loves casting 10 drop Eldrazi. That means if you were planning to bring a mid-range brew to your event, you need to have a plan for Ulamog. That might mean it's time for Infinite Obliteration to shine! (assuming you can beat their Ugins too!)
Stephen Murray @JechtMurray Best Gaming Performance? Top 8 World Magic Cup in 2012 as part of Team Scotland, 2 Pro Tour top 50s and 3 time National Champion.Favourite Format? 2HG DraftFavourite Deck? Competitively, Living End. Casually, any deck with Armadillo Cloak and Savage Beating. Lifetime Pro Points: 62