I’m writing this the day before we see new standard decks, thinking about the last few weeks of playing Standard online. When the bans were announced, the timing was changed to avoid “widespread confusion and a strange one week metagame” for Standard ( http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/news/january-9-2017-banned-and-restricted-announcement-2017-01-09). However, with the bans going into effect on Magic Online almost immediately we still get to see a strange metagame with three banned cards and no new cards coming in. While the number of players in leagues is significantly down, we are still seeing some fairly interesting results. There are some decks making a comeback, like Grixis Emerge and even Metalwork Colossus, but there is one card standing out as the one to beat. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is king of the castle.
Results are showing Gideon in a few different archetypes, covering nearly every two color combination but white/red, though even that may change once Heart of Kiran is available. The core is pretty standard. Thraben Inspector, Selfless Spirit, Archangel Avacyn, and the king himself. Throw in some Thalia, Heretic Cather for flavor, plus a spattering of whatever your second color has provided. We may even see more of Thalia in the upcoming meta, as she must be answered before a Saheeli Rai-powered cat explosion can finish a game. But for now I want to focus on what we can learn from the cards currently being played online.
People are still trying for the old reliable white/blue, although most have moved back to a spirit tribal version with Rattlechains and friends. We’ve also seen black for Ayli, Scrapheap Scrounger and Anguished Unmaking, the appeal being that you can virtually flip Avacyn at will. But the real returning champion is going green and emulating the tokens deck of last year. The deck lost some toys but there is still power there. Lambholt Pacifist is making a comeback and is just as annoying as it has ever been. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon can make a wall that is nearly impossible to attack through, buying time for Avacyn to come in and do her thing. In my games against Green White tokens I’ve even had a couple of Nissa ultimates go off, and in this standard one Sphinx’s Revelation is usually enough to end the game.
What’s the best way to combat this? I’ve chosen to go big, fast, and efficient with just enough tricks to react to whatever my opponent is doing. I’ve found the best way to do this is a three color energy deck, dropping the all-in combo for better card quality. Magic online player _Antoniou_ managed multiple 5-0’s in the same day with an identical 75. I took it for a spin and also put up a fast 5-0. And the videos can be found below.
I have tried other versions with Lathnu Hellion or Arlinn Kord, but they really couldn’t push through, and fell behind on board. Those versions had the island in the board for Negate. Replacing the hellion with Whirler Virtuoso has been fantastic and I find myself wanting one more into the main deck. Making a thopter and upgrading it to a 5/5 has closed out games for me and even just making two or three thopters to keep planeswalkers honest has been great. Blossoming Defense has been all over the place. It’s hard to protect threats in the early turns since you do tap out fairly regularly. I’ve tried Chandra, Torch of Defiance in the main and the board, and found that when boarded, I was bringing them in every game, so the main is definitely correct. Now I really want to focus on the sideboard, especially in regards to combatting Gideon.
The negates have been all-around powerhouses, though I haven’t been bringing them in against the green white variants, as I just want a board presence and can’t afford to hold up two mana. Harnessed Lightnings come in against every flavor of Gideon deck, along with the extra virtuosos and the Skysovereign. Counsul Flagship. However, the card that has impressed me the most has been Key to the City, and I will definitely play an increased number in the future. Key has caused some of my more frustrating limited experiences in Kaladesh, and now gets some time to shine in constructed. Cycling extra lands and providing some much needed push, especially against the tokens builds, Key has stolen games, and overall proven to be a strong choice. I don’t believe I’d want to play more than two, but I’ve been impressed and I’m willing to play at least that many. If I had to pick an underwhelming card, it has honestly been Tears of Valakut. I have yet to want it against Avacyn decks and feel like I could manage my way through the u/w deck on sheer power. I may be wrong. I may lose to it. But in my next round of testing I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself with zero copies in my board.
Gideon is the card to have a plan for, and I’m sure people will come up with other ways to attempt to dethrone him. Having an extra set of cards, including a sweeper that ignores selfless spirit, is definitely going to change things, but this is the life we get on Magic Online for another week. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the videos with this deck linked below. Check in later in the week for my reflections on the first weeks results and to see where we can go from here. You can also find me on Twitch at www.twitch.tv/smalltownmagic.
Mike learned to play Magic from a cousing at the age of 10 and has been hooked ever since. He’s put together a number of good runs at the GP level, an SCG Open top 8, as well as a couple of Pro Tours, finishing top 64 at Pro Tour: Magic Origins. He’s currently retired from actively traveling to play, choosing to focus more on Magic Online and the community aspect of things.