Top Decks from Mythic Championship Cleveland

Cleveland Rocked: Mono-Blue Took Down Mythic Championship

It’s hard to argue that Mono-Blue Tempo wasn’t the top deck of the inaugural Mythic Championship. Autumn Burchett defeated all other mages with their nineteen land-one-Heral version… But there remains a lot of wiggle room in the archetype, even with the dust settled. Consider:

  • How many lands is right? 19 Islands? 20? … And should any of them match with any others?
  • How many copies of Entrancing Melody? Main deck or sideboard?
  • Ditto on Exclusion Mage. Or Jace, Cunning Castaway?

One thing’s for sure: Mike thinks Experimental Frenzy and friends is the right way to go in Standard moving forward… But his beloved Goblin Chainwhirler and friends did not back up its reputation against Mono-Blue in this Top 8 specifically. Patrick disagrees greatly, despite our duo’s mutual appreciation of the all-new Cindervines.

Arclight Phoenix Returned to the Top Tables at Mythic Championship Cleveland

“Greek Mythological Figure” Luis Scott-Vargas also returned to Top 8 play (since, you know, his last appearance at the last Pro Tour) as the Arclight Phoenix pilot.

Why might you play Arclight Phoenix instead of Drakes?

Why might you play the card basic Mountain at all?

Are there any Ravnica Allegiance cards to play in this deck?

These questions and more are answered!

The Best of the Rest

Mythic Championship Cleveland gave us some spicy options outside of the Top 8… And some all-new decks that you may not have seen before.

  • Into Control? Sure there was Esper in the Top 8, but that’s not the only Thought Erasure deck in the format. Check out Seth Manfield’s Dimir Surveil build… With zero main-deck copies of Sinister Sabotage!
  • Straight Beatdown more your game? There were multiple takes on Mardu with Judith, the Scourge Diva. Whether you’re into Mavren Fen and the Vampire squad or hastily dominating the Red Zone with Heroic Reinforcements, Standard has some corners still worth exploring.
  • Or our favorite… Hall of Famer Raph Levy was into Merfolk Trickster… Just not as into Merfolk Trickster as all those Planeswalkers in the Top 8. Raph only played two in his Simic Merfolk deck. Bask in the aura (and recoil from the fishy odor) of thirty marauding Merfolk! Theme is broken here only for four copies of Kraul Harpooner in the sideboard. Truly a spicy brew that both our hosts would gladly sleeve up.

All this and more:

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Kraul Harpooner – Evolutions and Synergies


Kraul Harpooner is one of the most underrated cards in Standard

Kraul Harpooner – Current Implementations

The Insect Warrior from Guilds of Ravnica has done most of its damage recently coming out of the sideboard. This past weekend at Grand Prix Memphis, it was featured in the sideboards of both Top 8 Sultai decks, as well as the aggressive Gruul deck.

Standard deck designers have been including it… Just not as the centerpiece.

Kraul Harpooner in Main-Deck Sultai

Patrick had the pretty novel idea of playing Kraul Harpooner in his main deck at the Mythic Championships. There are many benefits, including just mugging the dominant Mono-Blue deck on turn two.

Can you imagine an opponent passing with a Siren Stormtamer in play on turn one? Maybe a Healer’s Hawk? Because the 3/2 Harpooner can take one of those creatures out while both generating card advantage and establishing a threat on the board, the positional advantage generated on turn two can be absolutely devastating. Talk about getting a free win!

But the advantage of adding this guy to the main it isn’t just the ability to catch Mono-Blue or White Weenie unaware. Relative to the stock Sultai list, Harpooners are taking up creature removal slots (while remaining creature removal-ish). So you also get a turn two threat that you can use to attack against Esper or Wilderness Reclamation! The fact that Kraul Harpooner is a guy you can cast early instead of a Cast Down that you will never cast might make all the difference in a race.

This attitude towards initiative versus instant speed removal goes beyond just the 3/2 body. Patrick chose also to sideboard Thrashing Brontodon at Cleveland instead of Crushing Canopy. The Brontodon is a potential attacker (or blocker for Mono-Red)… At the point that you can or should cast Crushing Canopy, the dino might have put you 6-9 points ahead already… While still being capable of Reclamation removal

Kraul Harpooner and Friends

We spend this podcast talking about all the relevant decks of Standard, including the resurgent “one true color” according to Mike. In the green-splashing Red Deck, there is a novel synergy between Goblin Chainwhirler and the Harpooner. Both are Warriors.

Therefore you can open up on Mountain; play Unclaimed Territory on turn two (naming Warrior) to hit the Harpooner; then play a second Mountain for Goblin Chainwhirler on three without missing a beat!

The Gruul midrange deck is chock full of other Goblins, so this might be a slightly unusual use of Unclaimed Territory, but it’s important to note… Especially as Growth-Chamber Guardian is not just a Crab, not just an Elf… But a Warrior as well!

Check out all the new deck talk here:

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Play More Thief of Sanity

Thief of Sanity
Play more Thief of Sanity? Try playing four Thief of Sanity already!

Thief of Sanity in Jeskai?

Since Thief of Sanity is a Dimir (ergo black-blue) and Jeskai is a white-blue-red color combination… So you can’t actually play the Thief in Jeskai.

Mike briefly argues that it’s not necessarily the case that Esper is the superior control deck to Jeskai in Standard (regardless of what the Top 8s say). Patrick argues that the ability to play Thief of Sanity after sideboarding pushes black over the red three-color control version.

This three drop Specter is of course an awesome tool in Esper decks after sideboarding, offering a combination of persistent card advantage and ongoing disruption against any of the Wilderness Reclamation type powerhouse decks.

How About Thief of Sanity in Sultai?

This card can be played in the main deck or the sideboard. While we are not sure which is best… We do know that we would lean on playing more copies.

Argument For Main Deck: Llanowar Elves on turn one can potentially allow you to play your Specter on turn two!

Argument Against Main Deck: It’s awful against decks like Mono-Red and you might just lose if you draw two copies.

That said, this creature is much like the full promise of the Mono-Blue Aggro deck — currently the most successful deck in Standard — all bundled into one card. This is essentially one of Mono-Blue’s 1/1 evasion creatures that starts with Curious Obsession already in play.

It can keep you when you’re already winning. It can steal from decks that require particular spells to function. And especially coming out of the sideboard, it can help control decks put their victims on a clock.

Find out more places we think players should play more copies (and all the other current Standard trends) here:

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So Much Ravnica Allegiance Standard

Pteramander Adapts to Allegiance Standard

Pteramander

Alexander Hayne, the great Canadian Pro Tour Champion, put out a new Mono-Blue deck featuring Pteramander this week. Packing only 19 Islands, Hayne’s deck relies on a ton of super cheap threats, including 11 one casting cost evasion creatures.

Alongside Pteramander, Mist-Cloaked Herald and Siren Stormtamber make for many creatures to catalyze Chart a Course or Curious Obsession on turn two.

Overall, this strategy can keep the opponent on their toes; it’s got just enough permission to hold a lead — not indefinitely, but maybe long enough to get Tempest Djinn across the Red Zone once or twice…

Light Up the Stage Brings Back Experimental Frenzy

Light Up the Stage

After an off week, Mono-Red players suddenly remembered they are allowed to run Experimental Frenzy!

Part of the Red Deck’s bounce back came from the power of Light Up the Stage. This Ravnica Allegiance sorcery found homes immediately, but often at the cost of the more expensive Frenzy. Why? Light Up the Stage kind of does the same thing as Experimental Frenzy (draws cards). Turns out it doesn’t have to be either / or.

Casting Light Up the Stage with Experimental Frenzy in play gives you the option of casting an instant on top of your library before Light Up the Stage resolves.

This creates a bit of a tension in Mono-Red Land. Do you maximize your instants? That would mean playing Wizard’s Lightning… Possibly over Skewer the Critics. But is Skewer — Light Up the Stage’s Spectacle buddy — just too good not to play?

How about Fanatical Firebrand? Many mages have cited the little Pirate as the weakest card in Mono-Red. Maybe… But it’s also the best setup man for Spectacles in the deck. There is no easy cut for the format’s Red Deck.

Allegiance Standard Gives Hostage Taker a New Mission

Hostage Taker

Hostage Taker seems amazing in the format right now!”
-Patrick

Why?

Two words: Hydroid Krasis.

Yeah? Not only can you follow up by casting their Hydroid Krasis for a bunch if your Hostage Taker lives, even if it doesn’t, the opponent will get back a 0/0 Krasis.

Not bad.

Tons more Standard in this week’s podcast!

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Breaking Hydroid Krasis

Hydroid KrasisHydroid Krasis is the top Mythic Rare from Ravnica Allegiance

How Do I Make a Hydroid Krasis Deck?

The top deck from the first week of Ravnica Allegiance Standard was Sultai Midrange. The inheritor of the Golgari decks, Sultai Midrange uses Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger to turn creatures into extra cards. At the top end, instead of just playing another big Jadelight Ranger, Sultai (over Golgari) tops up on Hydroid Krasis: It’s bigger, it draws tons and tons of cards (instead of just one), and it gives you something to do with all that Explore land!

Hydroid Krasis is a powerful finisher in a Wilderness Reclamation deck. A blue mage can tap out for it main phase without fear: Draw some cards! Gain some life! Wildnerness Reclamation will untap your lands and you can play defensively on the opponents turn.

The hip new Gates builds are also playing the Jellyfish Hydra Beast. Because accelerators like Circuitous Route can give you the materiel to make X big… It’s just a big threat in Gates. The Krasis can compliment your Angels, or draw you into your relatively limited sweepers. Or kill a mage.

Hydroid Krasis has “cast” triggers

While it is effectively not-so-different from the 187 creatures of the Golgari deck, the Krasis differs meaningfully against blue opponents. Jadelight Ranger only Explores when the Jadelight Ranger actually resolves. Hydroid Krasis, on balance, draws cards and gains life when you cast the creature, not only if you resolve it.

This rarely matters if the opponent isn’t playing permission. But you’ll appreciate this nuance in the cases that he is!

Memorial to Folly is great with Hydroid Krasis

One of the long-game uses of Memorial to Folly is to re-buy this creature. In the older Golgari decks, you might draw the spell-like Memorial thanks to Jadelight Ranger… But late in the game you were probably also just re-buying the Jadelight Ranger.

The Krasis gives you the option to recover and play a much more powerful finisher. Long game flooded? Tap a ton of mana! Gain a ton of life! Use your creature slot to hit an extra land!

This week’s podcast also features the early struggles of Mono-Red, a cool new Bant Flash build, color conflicts in Grixis, and much more. Check it out!

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How to Kill a Carnage Tyrant

Carnage Tyrant
Carnage Tyrant is one of the most important threats in Standard

Carnage Tyrant is an important card, a pillar of the entire Standard metagame. When this format debuted, the big Dinosaur was largely a mirror threat, a long-term answer to an opposing Golgari deck. You would land it, play Find // Finality to clear any non-Dinosaur creatures from the battlefield, finish the game with Carnage Tyrant.

But today, a renaissance of Carnage Tyrant is largely driven by the success of Jeskai. You see, Carnage Tyrant is as much as a three-of (alongside three copies of Vivien Reid) in some versions. Reid is there to kill Niv-Mizzet, Parun without triggering it; the Tyrant is for the opponent’s face.

The Jeskai Trio Can Kill Carnage Tyrant

Carnage Tyrant is one of the best cards against Jeskai! The irony is… Jeskai has several cards that can deal with it. Cleansing Nova and Settle the Wreckage are both efficient answers to multiple creatures (depending on what they’re doing). But the big weapon is Star of Extinction! The Star can deal 20 damage to any number of theoretically hexproof creatures, and take all the Planeswalkers with both of them!

The Eldest Reborn Can Be Great Against Carnage Tyrant

The Eldest Reborn can theoretically help against Carnage Tyrant. If you’re a black deck of some type, you will have to take care of all its friends first. Cards like Ritual of Soot can help with that; then The Eldest Reborn can show hexproof where it’s at.

Subtly, if you’re a discard deck with Disinformation Campaign or Thought Erasure, The Eldest Reborn — even if it’s not hitting Carnage Tyrant on turn five — can nab one from the bin [even] later in the game.

Unmoored Ego Can Hangle a Carnage Tyrant (or four)

And if you really, really, need to take care of a 7/6 Dinosaur that you can’t counter, and you can’t target later… You might want to consider Unmoored Ego. Largely a Grixis card due to its color constraints, Unmoored Ego may offer some defense to other hard-to-answer cards, like Banefire.

This week on the Top Level Podcast, we discuss these details and many more. The MOCS was full effect, so there is further discussion of Boros Weenie, tons of Jeskai, and many other looks at Control as well as this Golgari-centric threat talk. Give it a listen:

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Niv-Mizzet, Parun in Jeskai Control

Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Playing Four Copies of Niv-Mizzet, Parun changes just about everything

Adrian Sullivan, one of the true godfathers of Magic strategy, took down Grand Prix Milwaukee last weekend. And in true Adrian style, he did so with a unique deck… This time, a “Jeskai Control” with four copies of Niv-Mizzet, Parun.

Playing four copies of that big threat (when most Jeskai play as few as zero main deck) changes the deck and its matchups at a fundamental level. Here are some of the meaningful ways how…

Dive Down becomes a plausible Magic: The Gathering card – Adrian played only seven creatures! Yet, two copies of Dive Down make sense… Relative to just a couple more Ionizes. Dive Down simply protects Niv-Mizzet when you’re on seven or more mana. You’re getting paid on multiple fronts, then hopefully untap with Niv-Mizzet in play.

Adrian’s deck plays a truly elegant mana base – Sullivan actually went down on lands relative to some other Jeskai decks… But it made more sense. There is not a single basic Plains. Why? Plains doesn’t cast Niv-Mizzet. Adrian still needed white for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or the odd Settle the Wreckage, but had the discipline to bias his mana base in favor of his unique creature decision.

Other Jeskai Decks quake in fear of main-deck Niv-Mizzet – Most of Adrian’s cards actually line up worse, card-for-card against other Jeskai decks. He can plausibly lose a lot of one-for-one battles. Unfortunately for the opponent, Adrian could win only one fight (say, over Niv-Mizzet, who can’t be countered) and with it, the game.

Adrian chose Treasure Map over Azor’s Gateway

We recently saw Elis Kassis play Azor’s Gateway to go alongside Expansion // Explosion and Banefire.

Adrian did something similar… He just played Treasure Map in that four-of slot. Treasure Map is less powerful for casting x-spells than Azor’s Gateway, but much more reliable. For Azor’s Gateway, you need to go to the well five times; not only that, but you have to hit five times. Conversely, Treasure Map will flip with three activations, every time.

The potential card advantage of Treasure Map lets it take up the Chemister’s Insight slot, but going much faster.

Big congrats to Adrian and his Jeskai deck.

Michael and Patrick take a nice long look at that deck, but also hit on the other main archetypes in Standard, including innovations for Golgari, Grixis, and Selesnya Tokens!

Check it all out now:

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The Three Styles of Boros Aggro

Boros
Boros Aggro took a whopping six of the Top 8 spots at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica.

Basic Mountain: Boros Aggro? Boros TOKENS!

PT Champion Jeremy Dezani showed us one of the new styles of Boros Aggro. Relative to the other decks in Top 8, this “redder” r-w deck had many points of differentiation when compared with the “whiter” or even mono-white builds.

Chief among this would be a missing Benalish Marshall. Benalish Marshall is very good… Unless you are playing lands that don’t tap for white.

Dezani played a whopping four basic Mountains!

These Mountains helped to support a couple of gold cards (two Boros Challengers, and two copies of Aurelia, Expmplar of Justice), but more importantly, four copies of Goblin Instigator.

Instigator is thematically appropriate for such a tokens-centric deck list. Jeremy played both Hunted Witness and Heroic Reinforcements; neither is an automatic four-of in Boros Aggro.

Mini-Soul Sisters: Ajani’s Pridemate in Boros Aggro

One of the most unique takes on Boros was played by Luis Scott-Vargas.

Luis and team “splashed” Ajani’s Pridemate into their White Weenie deck. This card starts off with a little bit of life gain with Healer’s Hawk. Adding Leonin Vanguard gives the Pridemate plenty of things use to grow Ajani’s Pridemate. The Pridement itslef can play a little bit of Tarmogoyf; it only costs two mana, but it can pack quite the punch. Given the limited spot removal of some of these white aggro decks, an Ajani’s Pridemate with too many +1/+1 counters is just going to kill you.

Rustwing Falcon: Trusty Rusty in Boros Aggro

One card you might have espied in the PT Guilds of Ravnica Top 8 is Rustwing Falcon.

“A 1/2 flyer for W?” you ask. “Why would you play this?”

There are two reasons:

  1. If you think people are going to play Healer’s Hawk — and all the Boros Aggro decks are playing between 2 and 4 copies — Rustwing Falcon rules the skies.
  2. Goblin Chainwhirler. The success of these White Weenie-type decks is largely predicated on people just not playing Mono-Red, and therefore being able to ignore its indiscriminate slaughter of x/1 creatures. Rustwing Falcon, with its two toughness, offers some incidental resistance to Goblin Chainwhirler.

The winning list, played by Andrew Elenbogen, went even lower: If 1/2 flyers make you scratch your head… What do you think about 0/3 dinosaurs?

Beyond Boros Aggro…

While there were six Boros decks in the Top 8, those slots were largely earned on Limited records. Consequently, Standard has lots more viable decks. And boy do we talk about them!

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Watch Out for Tocatli Honor Guard

Tocatli Honor Guard
Tocatli Honor Guard will be a main-deck four-of

Tocatli Honor Guard Just Got a Promotion

This card was previously largely a sideboard card; Patrick himself played it in his R/W Control deck as a foil for Energy triggers. Today, the Honor Guard is an amazing inclusion specifically to stifle the Golgari Midrange deck.

Golgari relies heavily on the 187 effects of its creatures. You cant — you actually can’t — remove a Tocatli Honor Guard from play with a Ravenous Chupacabra. Worse yet, Golgari will often he in a situation where it needs its Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger to hit lands.

With the Honor Guard in play?

If you started out manascrewed, you’re staying manascrewed.

Tocatli Honor Guard is Played in Boros and Selesnya

Both of the white aggro strategies played the Honor Guard at Grand Prix New Jersey.

For Boros, the Honor Guard took the spot of Knight of Grace. For Selesnya, playing this card means killing its own darlings. Simply, you don’t get to play your own Explore guys.

On the other hand, you really do beat up anyone relying on creature-based 187 engines. In addition, it is a 1/3 creature, and therefore, pretty good at blocking the Red Deck.

Don’t Sleep on Jeskai

Eli Kassis broke the Jeskai archetype wide open in New Jersey. Instead of Cracking Drake, Eli played Azor’s Gateway. Not only does this give him something to dow with his extra lands (especially given his enormous mana count) it flips consistently for Banefire and Expansion // Explosion. Azor’s Gateway into Sanctum of the Sun represents a meaningful different dimension for the control strategy. Banefire for, say 24 will be uncounterable.

Check it:

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Golgari Runs the Tables

Golgari

We’re just a couple of weeks into the new Standard and there is a clear current king: Golgari.

What makes Golgari so good?

The Standard b-g deck is basically a stack of two-for-ones. Most of them play Llanowar Elves, but believe it or not, some simply don’t!

Many of the Elves-less versions play as many as twelve two and three casting cost Explore creatures, meaning they have a very high likelihood of hitting their early land drops. They may sacrifice Llanowar Evles — one of the only cards consistently dominated by Goblin Chainwhirler — for the security and consistency of drawing all two-for-ones.

Explore two-for-ones like Merfolk Branchwalker are outstanding blockers, even when they trade. The b-g actually wants to put creatures into the graveyard for cards like the Findbroker or Find // Finality.

Basically: This strategy combines consistent early game draws and hitting land drops with a consistent flow of card advantage. In the absence of a blisteringly fast or over-the-top threat deck, that is a heck of a combo for Standard.

Golgari in Context

Standard b-g is an outstanding anti-beatdown deck. Not only do its early game creatures block and trade well, but you can gain access to cards like Wildgrowth Walker.

Not only does Wildgrowth Walker completely dominate cards like Viashino Pyromancer, it is just big enough to contain Knights from History of Benalia and many other small creatures. Of course, a deck with twelve Explore guys is going to make this card look fantastic. Turn two Wildgrowth Walker, turn three Jadelight Ranger?

That is, “give my Walker +2/+2, gain six, draw two cards… and still play a 2/1 creature”? Heck of a combo. Series of combos, even.

Sorry Red Deck: Meet Golgari

So Golgari draws extra cards every turn… Or kills your creature with its creature… Or gains size and life simultaneously… Can other decks compete on card advantage?

What about our darling from last week, Experimental Frenzy?

The problem is that on top of everything else, Golgari can remove almost any kind of permanent!

Vivian Reid can shoot enchantments like Experimental Frenzy and keep kicking. Moreover, Assassin’s Trophy is great at shooting at a big enchantment. On the other hand, Assassin’s Trophy is not good against Golgari generally… All of its guys are two-for-ones! How much card advantage do you want to give the opponent? As flexible as Assassin’s Trophy can be, it’s not at its best against Golgari.

Michael and Patrick give you the lowdown on how to approach this format-defining deck, whether you want to beat it… Or join it.

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