The First Standard Results Are In!

Posted in Feature on March 21, 2007

By Frank Karsten

The Constructed Premier events started again last week after their break during the Planar Chaos release tournaments. Today I will go over what Planar Chaos has brought to the online Standard metagame. In the following table I have listed the 20 most popular Standard decks as seen in the Magic Online Premier Event last week. From Monday March 12 to Sunday March 18, that's a total of 10 Premier Events. The decks are ranked by popularity percentage, which is a measure of both Top 8 appearance frequency and performance in the playoffs (basically, a finalist gets 6 points whereas a quarterfinalist just gets 3 points, then from there we can calculate an overall percentage). You can click on a deck name to go to the corresponding post in my deck-o-pedia forum thread, where you can find a decklist and short explanation of each deck archetype. I started updating that thread again recently with the latest Planar Chaos decklists.

Deck namePopularity percentage
1. Dralnu du Louvre (traditional)■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■ (16%)
2. Dragonstorm■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■ (13%)
3. Dralnu du Louvre (with Pickles combo)■■■■■ ■■ (7%)
4. Mono Green Aggro■■■■■ ■ (6%)
5. U/W Urzatron■■■■■ (5%)
6. Angelfire■■■■■ (5%)
7. R/B Ignite the Warrens■■■■■ (5%)
8. U/G PickleTron■■■■■ (5%)
9. U/R/B Tron■■■■■ (4%)
10. Boros Deck Wins■■■ (3%)
11. R/W/B Arena Control■■■ (3%)
12. R/W Sliver Deck Wins■■■ (3%)
13. SnakeBlink■■■ (3%)
14. G/B/U Dredge/Reanimate■■ (2%)
15. Black Rack Discard■■ (2%)
16. Mono Blue Pickles■■ (2%)
17. R/B Gargadon■■ (2%)
18. W/B Control ■■ (2%)
19. R/G Aggro ■■ (2%)
20. U/G Scryb & Force ■ (1%)

Dralnu du Louvre still remains the dominant deck. Planar Chaos has done nothing to change that. In fact, it has only added value to Dralnu du Louvre. Damnation in particular is responsible for this, but Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Extirpate have also proven to be fine additions. Traditional Dralnu du Louvre is in first place and a version that also includes Vesuvan Shapeshifter and Brine Elemental is in third. I'll talk about that distinction later. Let's check out Planar Chaos fueled Dralnu du Louvre builds. First, a traditional one.

Dralnu du Louvre (traditional)

Download Arena Decklist

The base of this deck should be familiar for anyone who has played Standard in the last months. Twenty-five lands, around 15 counterspells, a couple Think Twice and Mystical Teachings (which you will happily play at the end of your opponent's turn in case he didn't play anything counter-worthy), a bunch of creature removal cards in case anything slips through the countermagic, and a few win conditions including frontrunner Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir.

The major update is the inclusion of Damnation, which replaces some of the Repeal and/or Sudden Death from the pre-Planar Chaos versions. I had expected Damnation to merely become a sideboard card as to keep the "draw-go" style of the deck – where every spell in the deck can be cast at instant speed – intact. But the online players disagreed, armed with the argument that Damnation is simply too strong not to play at least a pair maindeck, and you can't argue with the results.

The addition of Extirpate can also change how certain matchups are played out. For instance, you should never get greedy and Mystical Teachings for another Mystical Teachings in the mirror match anymore, because for one black mana you might not only lose the one in your graveyard, but the copy you just tutored for as well. Dragonstorm players should not carelessly allow a Bogardan Hellkite be countered, because that is a big risk nowadays. Dragonstorm isn't that powerful without dragons in your deck, after all.

The above version has a couple elements which are not shared by all Dralnu du Louvre versions, but which are interesting nonetheless. First of all, there actually is no Dralnu, Lich Lord maindeck! The namesake of the deck has been relegated to a sideboard slot. It's not as strange as it sounds. Dralnu, Lich Lord was never a truly essential part of the deck. The core of the deck is countermagic and card advantage. Dralnu, Lich Lord just happened to be the way the deck usually chose to seal a game when it was gaining control. Because it was an original unexpected win condition, the deck got named after it (and it was born in the '06 World Championships which was held at the Louvre in Paris). But Draining Whelk can fill the same game winner shoes just as well. I'm not going to change the deck name by the way, because Dralnu du Louvre has become a synonym for blue-black control. Dralnu is still Dralnu even without Dralnu. Eh, well, I hope you get what I mean... Furthermore, this version has Spell Burst and Persecute maindeck, which is mostly a matter of personal preferences. Perhaps islands wanted to prepare for the Dragonstorm or Mono Blue Pickles matchup. Spell Burst can counter morphs and Lotus Blooms for just one mana, and in the late game it can provide a "lock" in combination with Dreadship Reef. Rune Snag can't do that.

Now, on to the other Dralnu du Louvre version.

Dralnu du Louvre (with Pickles combo)

Download Arena Decklist

This deck bears some similarities to the Mono Blue Pickles deck (which I have denoted as U/b Pickles in the past because it had some black mana to flashback Mystical Teachings, but Mono Blue Pickles actually makes more sense as a name), since it includes the Vesuvan Shapeshifter plus Brine Elemental lockdown combo (a.k.a. Pickles). The above deck is still clearly a Dralnu du Louvre version and not a Mono Blue Pickles version, because it plays many black cards like Skeletal Vampire and Sudden Death, and it doesn't run extra morphs like Fathom Seer and Willbender. However, it is interesting to see that the Shifter lockdown can also act as the game plan of choice in Dralnu du Louvre. It nicely adds an extra dimension to the deck. Note that the combo pieces can be tutored up with Mystical Teachings once Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir is in play.

Vesuvan Shapeshifter
This cross-breed is not a completely new development and it doesn't have anything to do with Planar Chaos. I had just never presented sub-archetypes before, but with Dralnu du Louvre totaling 23% of the metagame this week, I figured that breaking that huge percentage up can provide valuable information on what versions and deviations from normal Dralnu are around. So now don't be surprised if a Dralnu du Louvre deck suddenly plays a morph against you.

How does one make room for the 2 Vesuvan Shapeshifter and 2 Brine Elemental, you may wonder? By cutting some countermagic, simple as that. The rest of this Pickle-Dralnu hybrid is very standard.

Okay, enough talk about Dralnu du Louvre for now. How about the other decks? Frankly, Planar Chaos has not done much to shake up the Tier 1 decks. Before, we saw that Dragonstorm, Mono Green Aggro, U/W Urzatron, and U/G Scryb&Force were always near the top of the Magic Online metagame standings. That pattern has remained intact, with the exception that U/G Scryb&Force has fallen back significantly. I don't really understand why, as Spectral Force should be strong as ever, but perhaps many Breeding Pool lovers are picking up the U/G PickleTron deck instead. It's definitely the more interesting roguish new decktype that has sprung up lately.

Now let's consider the two most popular decks without Rewind and Damnation, and check out how they look like after Planar Chaos.


Download Arena Decklist

The idea behind this deck is to play Dragonstorm with a storm count of four and search 4 Bogardan Hellkite out of your deck, dealing 20 damage to your opponent right away. Since the deck is focused around generating a high storm count for a nine-mana spell, it runs the important mana producers Rite of Flame, Seething Song, and Lotus Bloom. Telling Time, Sleight of Hand, and Remand dig for Dragonstorm or a ritual type card, whatever piece you are looking for. The game plan against control decks with countermagic is storage lands plus Gigadrowse, aiming to deprive them of counter mana for the crucial turn.

So what's new? Nothing at all. The maindeck of this Dragonstorm list is still identical to Makahito Mihara's World Championships winning list. sneakattackkid's Premier Event–winning list has some cute new stuff: Tormod's Crypt and Tickbind instead of the usual Repeal and Ignorant Bliss. But that's as far as Dragonstorm innovations go, and I even doubt whether sneakattackkid's deviations from Mihara's list are for the better. Dragonstorm is the best combo deck in Standard. It is as consistent as ever and there is no need to change anything. The only Planar Chaos card that I can see as worth considering is Sulfur Elemental. More on this 3/2 later.

Mono Green Aggro

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It's the same good old strategy as before. Put a Moldervine Cloak or Blanchwood Armor on a Scryb Ranger or Silhana Ledgewalker and start bashing. However, Planar Chaos has offered some new elements. Groundbreaker can deal the last points of damage handily; same goes for Timbermare in the sideboard. Harmonize is a surprise addition maindeck – usually fast beatdown decks don't run card draw – but it gives you some fuel for the late game. I have the feeling that the above version runs too many creature pump spells, and I'd rather cut some of them for extra creatures like Yavimaya Dryad, but apart from that it's green light for this deck.

I'll conclude my discussion of the Magic Online Standard metagame by showcasing a more innovative, off-the-radar archetype. We saw a bunch of interesting deck designs this week, including a G/B/U Dredge/Reanimate that exploited Magus of the Bazaar and a U/R/B Tron deck with Demonfire and Damnation. But a deck that caught my eye in particular was this one.

R/B Gargadon

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I like how this deck exploits Greater Gargadon and Nether Traitor in tandem. Imagine you have a Mogg War Marshal and a Nether Traitor in play, along with a suspended Gargadon. First, you sacrifice Nether Traitor to remove a counter, and then you sacrifice Mogg War Marshal to remove another counter. Nether Traitor pops up from the dead, and Mogg War Marshal gives you a fresh new token. If you keep on going like that, it won't be long until you will have a 9/7 monster in play.

Planar Chaos has brought an important card to the mix for this deck: Keldon Marauders. In a vacuum, it's 5 damage for two mana – unless your opponent blocks or kills it, but it's usually fine if he spends resources on that as well. But in this deck, Keldon Marauders also removes a counter from Greater Gargadon and brings back Nether Traitor from the graveyard when it is on its way out. Now that turns the card into an awesome deal. This deck may not be truly competitive yet, but it surely seems like a lot of fun to play.

The Impact of Grand Prix – Kyoto

GP Kyoto was held last weekend. I won't cover the tournament in depth; I'll leave that to others. But I'll just quickly go over the big Standard decks emerging from it and offer thoughts on how theyaffects the Online metagame. The Top 8 consisted of:

That's right, no Dralnu du Louvre, no Dragonstorm, no Mono Green Aggro. Now, we only have access to the Top 8 decklists and we don't know what the other people played. Perhaps the 9th through 32nd place finishers all ran Dralnu du Louvre. That is unlikely of course, but what I am trying to say is that you should not draw hasty conclusions from the sparse available results. The Japanese metagame is also traditionally vastly different from the metagame in the rest of the world, and the Japanese are known for their smart and innovative deck design. These results certainly don't invalidate Dralnu du Louvre. However, I expect and recommend that people to give the Top 8 decks a try and that will have a big impact on the online metagame. The only exception is Project X, since the infinite life combo takes too many clicks on Magic Online to work effectively. You'd run out of time before you land at a safe life total.

Important things to keep in mind when viewing these Grand Prix results are that there are mostly control decks. Assuming that many online players will try out these Grand Prix Top 8 decks, you should be heading into a control-heavy metagame. Keep that in mind when choosing your deck; the format may be slow so you need to have a plan for the late game, and defense against fast beatdown is a secondary consideration. Furthermore, you need to be able to guard yourself against land destruction. Boom/Bust and Detritivore are real threats, so cards like Sacred Ground and Life from the Loam may be good sideboard additions. Also, the Vesuvan Shapeshifter plus Brine Elemental lock seems to be popular. Repeal and Spell Burst are cost efficient answers, so keep those in mind. Your own Vesuvan Shapeshifter to leech the lock out of your opponent's Brine Elemental may also be an option.

Sulfur Elemental
Lastly, I want to warn the Boros players for Sulfur Elemental. The creature base of Boros is full of one-toughness creatures; traditional builds run Savannah Lions, Soltari Priest, and Icatian Javelineers. These creatures were already questionable because Dralnu du Louvre often runs 4 Desert, but now that Sulfur Elemental is showing up in most red decks, the white one-toughness creatures are not safe anymore. A possible solution may be to run an all-Sliver creature base instead. Some online players have done that with good results. Cautery Sliver, Sinew Sliver, and Bonesplitter Sliver can replace the white creatures. This way, you can still play fast red and white beats along with Lightning Helix, but you are not vulnerable to Sulfur Elemental and Desert. On a side note, if you have Sacred Mesa in your white control deck, be wary. Your army of Pegasus tokens might just die at split second speed.

With that, the Standard metagame is underway. Between a week of Magic Online tournaments and GP Kyoto, we have a lot of deck archetypes to try out. And don't forget your own creativity. In other news, did you see that we have IPA Qualifiers again? Read the announcement here. Good luck!

Magic Online III

One last announcement: As Magic Online III gets closer to release, check out the new Magic Online III launch page, complete with screenshots and a blog from Randy Buehler, Vice President of Wizards’ new Digital Gaming department.

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