The Most Exciting Decks from Worlds 2020

Innovations in Standard? Look no further than Archon of Sun’s Grace

PV won Worlds 2020 with Azorius Control

Was PV’s one of the most exciting lists of Worlds 2020?

Patrick in particular calls it well tuned.

Moving away from four copies of Dream Trawler to incorporate faster threats (or stabilization tools) like Archon of Sun’s Grace, PV’s winning list exploited a power enchantments sub-theme with cards like Banishing Light and Thirst for Meaning in addition to the ubiquitous Omen of the Sea and The Birth of Meletis.

Mike loved U/W coming into the tournament… But liked a different list.

Thoralf Severin added key innovations… Especially to the sideboard of Azorius Control

Spectral Sailor out of the sideboard!

In the market for “some kind of Commence the Endgame”?

Thinking you might try to grind with Chemister’s Insight after sideboarding?

Thoralf Severin did you one better with his addition of Spectral Sailor.

Dodging Dovin’s Veto and largely sneaking under other types of permission spells, Spectral Sailor can act like a portable Chemister’s Insight… But one that skirts the rules of Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler much better than some other card drawing options.

Speaking of powerful card draw, Severin also packed Emergency Powers!

One of the flashiest cards to see play a Worlds, Emergency Powers — at least when you have a Narset and they don’t — can have a spectacular impact on the the game.

A “Shock”-ing Number of Burn Spells at Worlds 2020

If I told you there would be four dedicated Mono-Red players in a field of sixteen; and you didn’t know much else about them…

How many Shocks do you imagine they would be packing between their decks?

Sixteen?

That would have been my guess!

The real answer?

Three… Between the four of them! One mage didn’t even pack main deck Bonecrusher Giant!

The aspiring fire gods of Worlds 2020 had a really specific thought process on Shock… Don’t be bad against Azorius Control and Jeskai Fires.

At the very least… They largely beat up Temur.

Was Jeskai Fires the Deck of Worlds 2020?

Play Robber of the Rich in your sideboard

The most pronounced sideboard card that Gabriel Nassif and Raphael Levy ran in their Jeskai Fires deck was of course Robber of the Rich. Quite simply, it can potentially single-handedly dominate Azorius Control.

But Robber was far from the only unique feature of their build! Check out this week’s podcast to find out all the reasons we think it might just have been the deck of Worlds 2020:

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The Best Decks in Pioneer

Thassa’s Oracle is played in many of the Best Decks in Pioneer

Dimir Inverter is One of the Best Decks in Pioneer

There is no surprise there!

If you can believe it, Inverter of Truth is the worst card in the Dimir Inverter seventy-five! Normally overpowered two-card combo decks at least do the metagame the courtesy of playing a ton of bad cards… But not in this case.

Dimir Inverter can do a passable job of playing a Control deck, though Patrick is quick to point out that a well-placed Unmoored Ego or Slaughter Games for the aforementioned Inverter can knock it down a peg.

But don’t be overconfident if you draw your sideboard cards! Dimir Inverter will often be bringing in multiple Pack Rats or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet as alternate ways to win.

More impressive than simply winning the Players Tour? Phoenix Champin Corey Burkhart had to rattle off thirteen straight wins to take the title after a slow start.

Lotus Breach is one of the Best Decks in Pioneer

Not to be outdone at Players Tour Phoenix, William “Baby Huey” Jensen put up the umpteenth amazing finish of his Hall of Fame career with Lotus Breach.

Huey is the first person to make Top 8 of a Pro Tour (or Players Tour) in four different decades… And he did it with the mighty Lotus Breach.

Can plausibly viable archetype Azorius Control ever beat Lotus Breach in Game One? Think about that before you next sleeve up an Absorb in Pioneer.

Patrick Explains Bonecrusher Giant to MichaelJ

So here’s the card Bonecrusher Giant:

Bonecrusher Giant

Or, I guess, here’s the “fun” version of Bonecrusher Giant:

“Fun!”

Michael apologizes for ever doubting the power of this card, which not only made Top 8 of Players Tour Phoenix… But helped to win Grand Prix Phoenix in a very different Red Deck.

Patrick compares this card to one that is a well-known MichaelJ favorite in that is simply ingenious. We won’t spoil it here because it’s super worth it and you should definitely check out this week’s podcast right now to find out more:

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The Elephant in the Room: Inverter of Truth in Pioneer

Inverter of Truth

Should we Make That Five Elephants in the Room?

The Top 8 of Players Tour Nagoya featured five — count ‘em five — Inverter of Truth decks! Four of them were of a more “traditional” bent (though they featured a ton of individualized choices), and one sweet hybrid brew.

How does the combo work?

It’s not actually a strict two-card combo, even though it often feels like it. If you have a small number of cards in your graveyard (say, conveniently, only two) you can cast Inverter of Truth. All of a sudden you have a call-it two-card library, and you’re one Thassa’s Oracle away from straight wining the game.

A Great Reason to Play Inverter of Truth? They’re Going to Ban Dig Through Time!

… Probably

Dig Through Time is pretty good at setting up Control decks (it’s a Staple in Pioneer Azorius for instance) but it’s great in this deck.

Basically it turns a small graveyard into a one-card graveyard pretty efficiently. And one card in graveyard is a great place to be if you’re trying to win with Inverter of Truth + Thassa’s Oracle.

Omen of the Sea is an interesting choice — not yet wholly Staple — in Dimir Inverter. It’s a source of devotion to blue (one pip). In tight games where your’e forced to tap out, that one pip might be really important. If you are relying on the UU on Thassa’s Oracle’s top-right, you might not-win if the opponent removes it with an instant speed removal spell like Lighting Strike. Having a single blue pip on the battlefield means that if Thassa’s Oracle goes away, you can still-win immediately (instead of not-winning).

(Of course if you have spare mana you can Opt or Censor your way to zero cards in your library, which will be good enough regardless of how much devotion to blue you have… Or had!)

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is a one card plan, man

All the Ashioks got played in Nagoya!

But Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver in particular is not only good against people who are fighting your combo, but great in the mirror.

Especially against other Dimir decks, Planeswalkers are more durable than other creature types.

Inverter of Truth in… Blue Beatdown?

Basically we’re looking at a Leyline of Anticipation deck (that might already have wanted Thassa’s Oracle) splashing double black for Inverter of Truth.

This deck is worse at setting up the combo, has only two copies of Wizard’s Retort to defend itself, but basically adds an instant win to an already viable strategy.

The Dimir “Devotion” deck splashes fourteen sweet Dimir dual lands to get there… And can even lean on Thassa’s Oracle to find double black.

This deck clearly wins the “style points” award for the Players Tour… Because it’s not even clear what is cooler between Gadwick + Nykthos… or instant speed Inverter of Truth!

Additional advantage: This version will probably still be legal after they ban Dig Through Time.

Also…

  • Orzhov Enchantments
  • Satyr Wayfinder’s big weekend
  • All the reasons combo beats up beatdown

Download the Elephant in the Room now!

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So Many Pioneer Deck Lists!

With not one but two Pro Players Tours on deck this week, MichaelJ and Patrick pore over a ton of the sweet new Pioneer deck lists enabled by Theros Beyond Death.

… And there sure are a lot of them!

With, and Against, Heliod, Sun Crowned

One half of an infinite combo in Pioneer

There is perhaps no more important addition to the pantheon of Pioneer deck lists than Heliod, Sun Crowned and Walking Ballista.

The basic combination is simple: With two or more +1/+1 counters on Walking Ballista, you can give it lifelink with Heliod, then remove a counter to shoot the opponent for one. They will take one, the lifelink will return one life to you, triggering Heliod… Who will in turn put a +1/+1 counter on the Walking Ballista. Two cards, infinite damage potential and infinite life!

But what is the best shell to play this powerful pair? In this episode we discuss…

  • Multiple White Weenie variants… Both a Devotion-based one, and a more “Soul Sisters” flavored take on life gain
  • Splashing green for Collected Company. If you’ve got Benalish Marshall, you can even Collected Company for a 0/0 Walking Ballista… That will live! Worst case, if you make it to your next turn, you can start putting +1/+1 counters on it the hard way.
  • A defensive enchantments style with Leyline of Sanctity to power out Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

How do you fight against this combo? We discuss…

  • Fragmentize – Which might be better against the artifacts of Izzet Ensoul, if not an instant for fighting Heliod
  • Erase – Equally one mana, but much better against the indestructible half of this dangerous duo
  • Deicide – Two mana… But strategically relevant in the new world

Pioneer Deck Lists with Chronic Flooding and Lotus Field

Thassa’s Oracle

If you can whittle your library down to nothing, a solo Thassa’s Oracle will win the game on the spot. With Underworld Breach, you can even Mill your Thassa’s Oracle and get it back for the win, later!

This combo is potentially quite fast… But also susceptible to many angles of defense. Learn all about them in this week’s episode!

Inverter of Truth for Thassa’s Oracle

One of the most exciting new strategies is a Dimir Control deck that wins with Inverter of Truth into Thassa’s Oracle.

Inverter of Truth is just a 6/6 for four mana… So it’s kind of already awesome. The fact that it can instantaneously give you a tiny library for the Merfolk Wizard setup creates tons of cross-strategy incentive. Dig Through Time can make your library even smaller, while setting up offense or defense.

This one’s an archetype to watch!

Plus all the Red Decks, Bring to Light, and sideboard strategies you’ve come to expect. What are you waiting for? Check out “So Many Pioneer Deck Lists!” immediately:

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The Return of Mono-Black Devotion

Gray Merchant of Asphodel creates a huge incentive to play Mono-Black Devotion

Starting with Mono-Black Devotion

There are a ton of great new decks (and new looks at old decks) thanks to Theros Beyond Death entering Standard…

But both Patrick and Michael think Mono-Black Devotion will be one of the most important breakout strategies.

Haven’t we seen this deck before? In the pretty recent past? Why Mono-Black Devotion now? Simple: Lots of the new additions actually reference the mechanic! Examples include:

  • The aforementioned Gray Merchant of Asphodel,
  • Drag to the Underworld, and
  • Tymaret, Chosen from Death

But despite missing some key words on its cardboard, Michael thinks that a different card is the one that makes this deck…

Nightmare Shepherd in Mono-Black Devotion

Nightmare Shepherd

This new Demon is one of the cards that really makes this deck hum. If you play a Gray Merchant of Asphodel with it on the battlefield, you can enjoy the intense combination of black mana symbols… But that’s not all. Sacrificing the five mana Zombie to a card like Woe Strider can set up another trigger.

Thanks to Nightmare Shepherd, it will be child’s play to take an opponent from half their life total to zilch in a single turn.

You can also exploit timing tricks, like sacrificing a Yarok’s Fenlurker or Burglar Rat during the opponent’s draw to keep them locked at no cards in hand (a pretty rare opportunity for instant speed discard).

Tons and tons of focus on Mono-Black Devotion this week… But that’s not all!

The Best of the Rest…

  • Where do Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven fit into this metagame?
  • How about Rakdos instead of Mono-Black? Do you get more from the second color… Or more from the literal Devotion to Black?
  • All the different ways folks have tried The Akroan War so far. What’s more exciting? Pairing it with Witch’s Oven… Or stealing creatures permanently with Thassa, Deep Dwelling?
  • “Time Wipe my Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths” … Also at instant speed
  • Which deck does Mike call “the king of mid-range”?
  • What seeming non-bo does Patrick point out is actually a combo?
  • WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Listen now!

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The Masterful Design of Dream Trawler

Dream Trawler is a wonderfully designed Magic: The Gathering card

Dream Trawler… Is Mike’s favorite card from Theros Beyond Death

Now that the whole set has been revealed, Mike has a slam dunk favorite card… And it’s this big sphinx!

  • Flying, Lifelink
  • Discard a card: Dream Trawler gains hexproof until end of turn. Tap it.

A large flyer with five toughness and lifelink is reminiscent of Baneslayer Angel. This card actually costs a little more (6 instead of 5 mana). But this one offers a little something extra: It doesn’t die to Doom Blade.

“Protect the Queen”

One of the most celebrated blue strategies of all time is “protect the queen”. Rather than using your permission to stop threats like a Draw-Go deck; or to force through your combo like Trix or High Tide… Protect the Queen seeks to use permission to defend a key creature.

Usually the creature — often a large flyer — will win the game in just a few swings. You don’t need enough permission to stop everything… Just enough to keep the creature alive for as long as it takes to win. Finite and finite.

There are two advantages for protecting this sphinx.

First, you can use any card to give Dream Trawler hexproof. You don’t need to draw into particular permission.

Secondly, and subtly, you can consistently attack. Because of its draw-aligned ability (and lifelink) Dream Trawler is better on offense than defense. The trick is, if the opponent lets you attack, your Dream Trawler will already be tapped. If they use removal mid-combat, you can discard without losing the damage.

Everything to Every One

Dream Trawler has a little something from all the great and iconic control finishers from over the years. Like evrything from Serra Angel on down, it’s a large flyer… Six mana instead of five, maybe, but similar.

While it doesn’t have vigilance, Dream Trawler’s lifelink allows it to play offense and defense simultaneously. Its hexproof makes protecting it easier.

But how about those other two lines?

  • Whenever you draw a card, Dream Trawler gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
  • Whenever Dream Trawler attacks, draw a card.

It’s got some power-buffing like Psychatog.

It draws cards when attacking like Ophidian.

But even more than its nostalgia; even more than its improvement on just dying to Doom Blade; Dream Trawler is an elegantly designed card. Come listen to Patrick’s breakdown on how this creature is a masterwork:

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There’s Lots to Love with Thassa, Deep-Dwelling

Meet Thassa, Deep-Dwelling from Theros Beyond Death:

Thassa, Deep-Dwelling

Let’s break down Thassa’s abilities…

Indestructible is great! Especially if you turn Thassa “on” with devotion to blue of five or greater, a 6/5 indestructible for four mana deserves a second look.

“3U: Tap another target creature” though…

Probably too much mana.

If you’re in for Thassa, you’re probably in for that exile ability.

Thassa, Deep-Dwelling as a “personal Howling Mine”

One of the most obvious ways to play Thassa, Deep-Dwelling is with a lot of 187 creatures. If you play any creatures with abilities that trigger when they enter the battlefield, Thassa represents an easy way to build card advantage over time.

It does what it does without any incremental mana requirements every turn.

If you just choose and play creatures that generate card advantage, this God will help you generate lots of card advantage! What about…

Thassa’s Oracle from Theros Beyond Death

Thassa’s Oracle is a perfect MichaelJ card! Highly reminiscent of his beloved Omenspeaker, Thassa’s Oracle is even more on-brand with Thassa’s devotion to blue theme. It’s a card that can help you to set up your early game and blocks effectively for its casting cost. And, of course… Sometimes it just wins the game!

Arcanist’s Owl from Throne of Eldraine

How about this Bird?

Arcanist’s Owl is a good “engine” card. Meaning, once it’s already on the battlefield, Thassa can profitably exile it for more and more card advantage. Not for nothing, but the Owl also increases your devotion to blue by four (despite being an artifact). Interestingly, because it is an artifact, it can be a good target for other deck manipulation. For example, Emry, Lurker of the Loch is an early game creature you might want to play. Emry is another nice setup spell, and a worthy exile target itself.

Both these cards make nice friends with Meteor Golem!

Meteor Golem

It’s not going to be easy to lose once you start “Blinking” Meteor Golems every turn.

Best of the Rest

  • Which Elder Giant is best… And why?
  • How do you counter the un-counter-able?
  • Rating Interventions
  • All the ways you might want to UNLEASH THE KRAKEN

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All the Ways to Play (and break!) Heliod, Sun-Crowned

Heliod, Sun-Crowned

Heliod, Sun-Crowned + Walking Ballista deals infinite damage (and gains infinite life!)

As if we didn’t get enough out of Walking Ballista…

This combination is great because it can be played in not only Modern (and larger formats) but Pioneer!

The simple procedure:

  • Play out Heliod, Sun-Crowned on three mana
  • Play Walking Ballista for four mana (possibly the next turn) for a “2/2” Walking Ballista (two +1/+1 counters)
  • On turn five you can use Heliod’s ability to give Walking Ballista lifelink, then remove a counter from the Ballista to get the party started! Remove a +1/+1 counter to deal a point of damage; lifelink means you’ll gain a point of life… Meaning you can put another +1/+1 counter on the Ballista.

This is awesome, of course; but you’ll have to be a little careful. For example you can’t go three-into-four cleanly. A 1/1 Walking Ballista will die before it can get the next counter.

That said, there are ways to be faster otherwise; for example…

Mortal’s Ardor

Mortal’s Ardor saves you a ton of mana. For instance you can play Heliod on turn three and then a 1/1 Walking Ballista on turn four. Follow up with a Mortal’s Ardor for only one more mana and you will also make the Ballista a 2/2.

With this three-card combination you don’t have to use 1W and Heliod to turn on the Ballista. Mortal’s Ardor fulfills both size and lifelink requirements… Heliod’s job in this case is “just” to pay off infinite +1/+1 counters.

“Holy Tooth and Nail, Batman!”

-Mike

If You’re Interested in Another Color… Can we Interest You in Green?

Collected Company is a potential option because Heliod, Sun-Crowned is a creature card whether it’s a creature on the battlefield.

From the perspective of Collective Company, Heliod is priced to move. Walking Ballista, however, is not. But…

Spike Feeder

At least in Modern, Collected Company into Heliod and Spike Feeder doesn’t even require any more mana. Just remove a +1/+1 counter from Spike Feeder to gain two life, and Heliod will pay it back. You don’t kill the opponent outright, but gaining infinite life will usually win the game.

Builds including these cards can also exploit cards like Archangel of Thune for redundancy.

“Soul Sisters” Can Break Heliod, Sun-Crowned in a Variety of Formats

There are no shortage of Soul Warden effects.

In Theros Beyond Death alone, we’ve got…

Daxos, Blessed by the Sun

If you’re on the Mono-White Beatdown train, you can just play Daxos and Walking Ballista in the same turn (which will trigger Daxos, and therefore Heliod, and therefore grow Walking Ballista) to again save mana.

The advantages of this build are many. Daxos and Heliod are highly synergistic coming from the whole “Devotion to White” angle. You probably have great fundamental expectation against decks like Mono-Red or Boros Burn. And a legitimate Plan B attack strategy.

While it lacks the infinite damage (and infinite life gain) of the Walking Ballista builds in Pioneer or Modern, a Standard deck can play these two cards together… With a great likelihood of actually turning Heliod into a monstrous 5/5 for three.

And lots, lots more…

Example:

What’s better, Birth of Meletis or Wall of Omens?

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How to Think About Klothys, God of Destiny

Klothys, God of Destiny
Klothys, God of Destiny is a little tricky

Is Klothys, God of Destiny Great at Attacking Graveyards?

… Kind of.

Mike starts his analysis this week talking about how this card might interact with the newly-revealed Elspeth; and the Escape mechanic in general.

Klothys, God of Destiny can only go after one card at a time, and the timing has to be right. This is not a “Tormod’s Crypt” sort of card, especially in larger formats.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t incredible.

“Put me down for five stars.”

-Patrick

Compare Klothys to Sulfuric Vortex…

Sulfuric Vortex sees regular play in Legacy.

Like Klothys, God of Destiny, Sulfuric Vortex costs three mana. But unlike Klothys, it can be destroyed. Moreover, both players take damage! Instead, here, the opponent loses two life while you gain two life!

Setting aside the life gain implications, that Drain Life-like ability — turn after turn — is an incredible deal for three mana. The trick to this card is that the “graveyard hate” aspect is not central to its general game play.

Setting Up Klothys, God of Destiny

Okay genius!

Doesn’t Klothys ask us to do something to get it online? Sulfuric Vortex can just sit in play, but Klothys actually has to gobble on non-land cards in some graveyard or other to get going.

What about just playing Magic?

Just play out your stuff. Play out a creature. The opponent will either kill it or your creature will get going. What about combat? Creatures killing one another put cards into one or both graveyards.

Or you can fuel it yourself! A Lava Spike deck might love this card. They burn the opponent and create fuel for Klothys.

Yet…

Klothys, God of Destiny is also great against Lava Spike decks! It is a persistent source of life gain. This is especially relevant where the opponent is putting cards into their own graveyard for Klothys to eat.

Corollary: Red Decks will be incentivized to play Grim Lavamancer more than ever (to exile cards from their own graveyards in response to Klothys doing it for you).

Oh, and sometimes Klothys, God of Destiny is a 4/5 indestructible creature

Seven devotion is a steep price, but you’ll get it online… sometimes.

Don’t look for Klothys to need to be a huge combat creature to contribute, though.

Plus! Grey Merchant of Asphodel and a handful of red and green fatties from Theros Beyond Death. Check it all out:

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First Look at Theros Beyond Death

Theros Beyond Death previews are already upon us!

Here come our thoughts about some of the most exciting spoilers to hit the Internet this week…

About that [-3] on Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis…

Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis is all about Escape

Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis is a curious Planeswalker. A Planeswalker with only “minus” abilities is not something we’re used to seeing… And Elspeth has three of them!

Patrick points out that — including the Escape — Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis actually has four abilities. This is where the [-3] comes in.

The [-3] allows you to put Elspeth into your graveyard any time you used the [-2] the previous turn. It’s not that gaining five life is so exciting… It’s that gaining five life without using any mana might be. This will bury Elspeth, allowing you to Escape her for 4WW. Depending on the disposition of your graveyard, you will be able to loop Elspeth casts over and over to produce tons of 1/1 tokens and grind down the opponent’s interaction.

Ahiok, Nightmare Muse is…

Can Ashiok compete at the five?

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse has some stiff competition. At a minimum, the five casting cost Planeswalker division includes Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God!

But that doesn’t invalidate Ashiok, Nightmare Muse entirely.

  • For one thing 2/3 Nightmare creature tokens are an interesting asset in a world where other people are trafficking in 2/2 creatures.
  • Ashiok can answer “anything” with his [-3] minus

“Probably better than Deathbellow War Cry.”

-Patrick

When do you want Athreos, Shroud-Veiled from Theros Beyond Death?

Athreos, Shroud-Veiled

Hot take: Athreos is pretty expensive relative to its impact on the board at the point it resolves. While indestructible, Athreos might not be able to block!

However!

In a grindy matchup, Athreos might be completely unbeatable. If you give this card enough time (in a matchup where creatures, combat, and removal matter)… It’s going to be tough to beat.

Check out our First Look at Theros Beyond Death now!

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