Circular Logic and Staying Ahead of the Curve

This week I want to talk a little bit about the cyclical nature of the Standard metagame and a few things that I think can help players succeed. Being a good deckbuilder and finding the best deck in a format is no longer good enough. “What is the best deck?” isn’t even the right question anymore.  It’s all about what I call the “metagame wheel.”  To explain the metagame wheel, let’s look at the top 8 of the last couple weeks of results.

PT Aether Revolt Top 8 via MTGTop8.com

As you can see, it was Mardu Vehicles everywhere. (Remember, only 10 rounds of constructed at the PT so top 8 results can’t always be taken at face value.) 15 out of the top 25 records in constructed were Mardu.  An astute player would have identified that Mardu Vehicles was slightly disadvantaged against GB Aggro.  So let’s see if my prediction last week was correct:

GP Pittsburgh Top 8 via MTGTop8.com

And voilà, a huge showing of GB Aggro strategies.  Now we have an opportunity to explore our options ahead of of SCG Baltimore. Now, the first line of thinking is to play a deck that can beat GB Aggro, but there’s going to be a ton of savvy players like yourself that have also come to this conclusion. We want to next level the field and play a deck that beats both GB and the decks that are aiming to take down GB.  This is similar to what Pros do before a Pro Tour to “out-metagame” the field.

To start, let’s make a list of the decks that (I think) are favorable or even against GB Aggro:

  • GB Delirium (Ishkanah + removal)
  • Aetherworks Marvel (dedicated Ulamog builds)
  • 4 Color Copycat (Saheeli midrange)
  • Ux Control (Jeskai Copycat, UB Control, Jeskai Control, or UR Control)

Let’s take this a step further and try to make some base assumptions about each matchup:

  • GB Delirium VS Marvel – Marvel here is hugely favored.  Worth noting that Marvel has plenty of other predators in the metagame.
  • GB Delirium VS 4 Color Copycat – Close, but 4 Color Copycat seems like it has the inevitability here.
  • GB Delirium VS Ux Control – Generally this is the type of matchup Torrential Gearhulk is looking for.
  • Marvel VS 4 Color Copycat – I think Marvel is favored here, but not by too much.  Both are turn 4 decks but Marvel is much more consistent. It’s worth noting that these two often overlap.  4 Color Copycat builds trying to beat GB will likely incorporate some number of Aetherworks Marvel.
  • Marvel VS Ux Control – This matchup is very much in Torrential Gearhulk’s favor.  Marvel struggles with even a single counterspell.  Throwing in Gearhulks and card draw gives Marvel no hope.
  • 4 Color Copycat VS Ux Control – This matchup is pretty much dead even.

Using this, we can argue we likely don’t want to play slower midrange like GB Delirium this weekend. We also can shy away from Aetherworks Marvel because of fears of Torrential Gearhulks.  This leaves us with Ux Control and 4 Color Copycat.  These lend themselves to two different types of players and I could see it going either way this weekend.  Both are fine choices.

The remaining consideration is the rest of the field.  Vehicles made such a splash at the PT and is such a good deck that it would be foolish to count it out.  Of 4 Color Copycat and Ux Control, 4CC is better suited to beat Vehicles though neither is very good against that particular deck…which brings us back to the idea of a metagame “wheel”.

In a “solved” format you can predict the metagame more accurately by understanding what the good and bad matchups are for each tier one deck.  Things get messy once you consider tier 2 and 3 decks, but this Standard in particular has an extremely defined metagame.  The “top 3” in my metagame  wheel make up almost 80 percent of the current metagame so you can say with fairly high confidence that if last week Copycat did well, next week you should play Vehicles.

Just remember, nothing is ever this perfect and simple, but hopefully the idea of a metagame wheel has helped you pick the deck for your next tournament.

Switching gears, I’d like to present a deck that I’ve been working on in Standard to fight the GB and Torrential Gearhulk decks of the world, Bant Blink:

Bant Blink – Nick Peternell

Creatures (27)

Spells (8)

Lands (25)

Tentative Sideboard (15):

There’s an old Modern deck called Naya Ghostway that this is roughly based off of you can find here.  The idea with these decks is to get on the board with ETB creatures and then apply what I’ll call a “force multiplier” effect.  In our case we have Eerie Interlude to blink our whole board at once and rebuy every ETB effect, sometimes 2 or 3 times if Torrential Gearhulk gets involved. Each iteration of this nets cards, removal, and life.  Very quickly we reach a point where we are at both card advantage and board advantage.

After playing a couple rounds with the deck I was immediately reminded of a standard powerhouse of not so long ago: Rally the Ancestors.  It felt like once I had stuck a couple creatures the game was over no matter what my opponent did.  If they killed my creatures I would Renegade Rallier them back.  If they tried for a sweeper I would dodge with Interlude.  If they tried to swing at me I would blink my harpooner mid combat and blow their board out.  It’s a good thing Reflector Mage is banned because this just wouldn’t be fair.

Almost every card in the deck is reasonable by itself.  Even Felidar Guardian, the Combo Cat™, is decent just as a value play.  We can turn it into an Feline Visionary or a Flametongue Catvu by blinking Rogue Refiner and Deadeye Harpooner respectively. It’s sort of a bad Restoration Angel, which leaves a lot of room to be a great card.  We can take the build-your-own Restoration Angel idea even further with Essence Flux and Torrential Gearhulk to blink something and get the same effect.  Often we’ll use the Felidar Guardian to blink a Renegade Rallier and get back an Evolving Wilds and actually ramp out the Torrential Gearhulk.  There are a ton of cool interactions that aren’t immediately obvious with this list.

This deck struggles with cheap creatures backed up by removal.  It is probably rather soft to vehicles and not that great against the fastest builds of GB Aggro.  On paper it’s matchups against slower GB and control are much better.  The best thing about a deck like this is it’s flexibility.  In some ways it’s similar to Bant Company of past seasons and can be customized as such. If a matchup requires more beef we can throw in some Verdurous Gearhulk.  If we need more removal we could play Declaration in Stone.  If we need to lower the curve then Thraben Inspector and Sylvan Advocate are viable options.

 

Nick Peternell

Nick has been playing Magic since the 2013 Core Set was released, and grinding since Return to Ravnica. He’s played on the Pro Tour and has multiple high finishes at both the Star City Tour and Grand Prix levels. He’s a brewer at heart and excels most in the beginning and middle stages of a format. Finding weaknesses in the metagame and exploiting underplayed cards is just another day in the office for him.

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