So I had the pleasure and pressure on me to find decks for two formats, for a tournament packed with 32 very good Magic players. While the Swiss rounds are evenly split between Standard and Historic, the Top 8 of the tournament is Standard, and with a quarter of the field getting into the Top 8, putting a bit more of the testing time into Standard seemed like a reasonable approach.
I had no specific team for this, so my testing was mostly me playing on the ladder, parts of which I streamed, and discussions on several Discord servers.
The last big tournament we had in Historic was the Mythic Invitational, where Goblins headlined by Muxus, Goblin Grandee was the most represented archetype but didn't have a stellar performance. That tournament was held before the release of Zendikar Rising, but Historic being a bigger format makes it more likely it's less impacted by the new cards.
There was no clear top dog of the format and very little in the way of high stakes tournaments. So with my limited testing time and it being split over two formats, I decided to try to find a good version of a good deck and just roll with it. A huge format makes it easy to miss something great, but that's true both for me and for the other competitors.
The following decks were on my radar as a possible choice, in no particular order: Omnath, Locus of Creation decks, Forsaken Monument decks, and Temur Twin — the new players powered by Zendikar cards — as well as Goblins, Jund Company, Jund Trail, Rakdos Arcanist, Sultai Midrange, Azorius Control, Red Burn, and Monoblack GPG.
I dismissed the three decks headlined by new cards (Temur Twin with the Sea Gate Stormcaller/Neoform/Dualcaster Mage combo, Omnath, and Monument) because I did not think I could find versions I would be happy with in time. Specifically Omnath and Temur Twin also seem fairly susceptible to certain things, those things being faster noninteractive decks like Goblins for Omnath and instant-speed interaction or Thoughtseize for Temur Twin.
I didn't want to try to tailor a deck like Sultai or Azorius Control to a tournament for which I did not really know what decks to expect from the other players. Burn and Monoblack GPG I dismissed because I don't think their power level holds up to the rest of the format. That left me with Goblins, Rakdos headlined by Dreadhorde Arcanist, and two versions of Jund, the one with Collected Company or the one with Trail of Crumbs. I dismissed Goblins next due to it's mediocre performance at the Mythic Invitational and because the new colorless deck effectively has seven copies of Grafdigger's Cage, which seems a bit much.
I then decided for Jund over Rakdos. While the Rakdos deck has very powerful spells and got even better with the natural inclusion of some of the new MDFCs like Agadeem's Awakening // Agadeem, the Undercrypt, it is fairly susceptible to graveyard hate and doesn't have the greatest mana. Finally, there was the choice between Jund Trail and Jund CoCo …
Jund Trail is a deck I am very familiar with, and I also believe it to be a slightly better version of Jund Company. So this was my final choice. It edges out the Company version in a few aspects, specifically post-sidebboarding: It doesn't have to worry about maintaining the correct number of potential hits for Collected Company and is less vulnerable to Grafdigger's Cage.
While being less explosive in general is a downside, I consider Jund Trail to be favored in the pseudo-mirror. I also like being able to run Thoughtseize main when I have little idea what other people might bring. Not least, I felt very comfortable to be on the deck, even without putting much extra time into it, because I played Standard versions of the archetype a lot when Cauldron Familiar was still legal.
|My Historic Deck for the Season Grand Finals: Jund Trail|
There are some some notable omissions and inclusions here. First, no Jegantha, the Wellspring. While it would be worthwhile to have access to Jegantha for game one, you oftentimes lose it post-board anyway, and you do gain a sideboard slot by not playing it.
Four Claim the Firstborn, four Thoughtseize, three Woe Strider, and two Phyrexian Tower — all main: I wanted to have a lean curve and also free up sideboard slots, which other people tend to use on the Claims and Thoughtseizes that aren't in their main deck. You never want to draw multiple Striders, which is my reason to only submit three. Phyrexian Tower is the best card in Historic, so I wanted to try more than one, and I have liked two so far, being able to ramp out Korvold, Fae-Cursed King or Bolas's Citadel while providing me with a hard-to-answer sacrifice outlet to complement my four Claim the Firstborn.
The only other specification this main deck has is the omission of Vraska, Golgari Queen. The card was lacking a bit in my testing and theorycrafting. It costs quite a bunch of mana for a sorcery-speed threat that isn't all that threatening.
The sideboard has some tailor-made answers for specific problems and Bolas's Citadel for control-ish matchups and against the potential Omnath decks. The only unusual card is the one Rankle, Master of Pranks, which also is for Omnath and control-ish matchups, while being useful against possible Forsaken Monument decks as well. A noteable omission from the sideboard is Witch's Vengeance, which I excluded because I believe it to be a bit too specific. It is only good against Goblins and not even great there, as it does not stop you from dying to their more potent draws.
Some of you may have noticed this, but Omnath is still out in full force even after the Uro ban, and I had to make a deck choice with that in mind. I tried a few things, but everything that excluded Omnath did not feel good enough.
I consider the Dimir Rogues deck straight-up unplayable as people can beat it simply by putting two to three escape cards into their sideboard and call it a day. I tried some Orzohv Humans with Drannith Magistrate, but even with the card looking like tailor-made hate for both Escape to the Wilds and the Adventure mechanic, it came up short. Blue-based mill strategies and Doom Foretold might be something worth exploring, but I dismissed them because I believe their matchup against the newly popped up Kroxa decks to be horrendous and the correct configuration a bit too tough to figure out.
Regarding aggressive decks, both Monored and Monogreen seem like plausible choices, but I think they are a bit underpowered compared to what Omnath is doing, and the repeatable 4 points of life do them no favor. I believe Gruul Adventures is just a weird culmination of both red and green aggressive strategies with slightly better nut draws but much worse mana for little gain.
The only non-Omnath strategy that I assumed to take up a relevant portion of the field was the new Kroxa deck. (See example below.) While having some decent cards, this one also runs mediocre cards like Mire Triton to enable the former. I did play a few matches against Gabriel Nassif on this deck, while piloting Omnath Adventures, and I watched a lot of people play the Rakdos deck on their streams, and it couldn't quite convince me.
|Standard Challenge, 1st place by _Batutinha_|
So I had settled on playing an Omnath deck. But which one should I bring? The first CFB Clash Qualifier resulted in this matchup matrix:
Well, this just took the decision out of my hands. I expected the pseudo- or actual mirror to be the most prevalent matchup of the tournament, and with Adventures doing this well, I figured I should just bring it. Though I do believe the pseudo-mirror between Four-Color Adventures and Four-Color Omnath to be closer than this matrix shows. Even then I think Adventures is better against both aggressive and controlling strategies, due to the cheap interaction and card advantage that Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft, Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp, Edgewall Innkeeper, and Lucky Clover bring to the table.
To be honest, one additional argument in favor of Adventures was that I'd be less likely to submit a bad version of it because most of the slots are set in stone anyway. Obviously it's nice that there are a bunch of directions into which one can take Four-Color Omnath, all of which can and will change the dynamics of given matchups, whether Ruin Crab, Terror of the Peaks, or the classic Felidar Retreat variants. Then again, this abundance of options only makes it more likely for me to whiff on the correct set-up.
So now you get to see my Omnath Adventures version:
|My Standard Deck for the Season Grand Finals: Omnath Adventures|
I tried some Lotus Cobra in the flex slots of the main deck but was not convinced by the card. It puts you too high on fragile creatures and sometimes is close to a blank piece of cardboard. I run the full four Fabled Passage in the main deck because I believe you want to have the best mana possible main and maximize the outs on early explosive Omnaths. Storing one Passage in the sideboard does not do any of that.
Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire is just not what you want in mirrors or pseudo-mirrors, so my list has none of them. Other than that, the only unusual main-deck inclusion is the one Negate, which may look somewhat weird, but it's both a tool to keep Lucky Clover off the board and to stop Escape to the Wilds and Genesis Ultimatum.
The sideboard has all the bread-and-butter targets for Fae of Wishes // Granted but also a couple of more interesting cards: the second Storm's Wrath is for Rogues, Monored, Monogreen, and Gruul; the two Embereth Shieldbreaker // Battle Display are for the actual mirror, for Temur Adventures, and can occasionally nag a Mazemind Tome; Soul-Guide Lantern is a tool against the rising star of Rakdos Kroxa. I run Kazuul's Fury // Kazuul's Cliffs over Fling because having access to a sideboard land matters in some spots, whereas the extra mana on your finishier matters seldom, especially as I do play one copy of Embercleave to finish off opponents that gained some life off of Omnath.
I'm looking forward to finding out whether my choices were good for the tournament or not. But even more than that, I'm looking forward to playing in what is this year's Worlds replacement. I hope you can figure out a nice copypasta for the Twitch chat. Tune in this Friday at 6 p.m. CEST to catch all the action live.
See you after the tournament!
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