New Year’s Deck Extravaganza

Posted in Feature on January 3, 2007

By Frank Karsten

Happy 2007! Magicthegathering.com went on a short holiday break the last two weeks, but the online tournaments went on regardless. So today I will try to play catch-up and cover the new decks and metagame swings of the last three weeks of December. In order to start the new year with a bang, I have put a ton of decklists in today's column!

Standard: Mystical Teachings Is the Next Big Thing

I have compiled the Magic Online Standard Premier Events Top 8 results of the last three weeks in a nice table. The first column is the deck name. You can click on a name to view a decklist and short explanation of the deck in my deck-o-pedia forum thread. The second column shows the popularity percentage of three weeks ago, the third column shows the popularity percentage of two weeks ago, and the fourth column shows the popularity percentage of last week. Because people who collect decklists – thanks Josh! – are also entitled to a Christmas break and because events disappear from the cache rather rapidly, I only had access to about half of the events of week 51, so that data will not be completely representative, although it should be close to accurate. The last column shows the average weighted popularity over the three weeks, giving only half a week's weight to the results of week 51 because of the missing data. The decks are ranked in order of that average popularity.

DeckWeek 50Week 51Week 52Average Popularity
1. Boros Deck Wins14%20%11%■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■ (14%)
2. TriscuitTron 8%0%14%■■■■■ ■■■■ (9%)
3. U/G Scryb & Force5%6%13%■■■■■ ■■■■ (9%)
4. U/B Pickles2%14%11%■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)
5. Dragonstorm4%13%9%■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)
6. Dralnu du Louvre14%7%2%■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)
7. Panda Connection7%7%2%■■■■■ (5%)
8. Mono Green Aggro3%4%5%■■■■ (4%)
9. Izzetron5%0%5%■■■■ (4%)
10. Black Rack Discard 3%5%2%■■■ (3%)
11. Solar Flare2%3%3%■■■ (3%)
12. Angelfire2%4%2%■■■ (3%)
13. R/G Aggro1%3%4%■■ (2%)
14. U/W CounterMesa1%2%2%■■ (2%)
15. W/B Rack Discard3%2%0%■■ (2%)
16. KarstenBotBabyKiller 0%0%4%■■ (2%)
17. W/B Control2%0%1%■ (1%)
18. Zoo2%0%1%■ (1%)
19. U/B Snow0%0%3%■ (1%)
20. MartyrTron3%0%0%■ (1%)

That's a lot of information, so let me try to summarize what has been going on. As I predicted a few weeks ago, the Standard events are largely populated with Boros Deck Wins, Dragonstorm, and TriscuitTron. Boros Deck Wins is the best aggro deck. Almost everyone plays Paulo Vitor Dama Da Rosa's World Championships Top 8 deck version (available with the other Worlds Top 8 decks here), or a version that is very close to it. Dragonstorm is the best combo deck. Almost everyone plays lists that are very close to Makahito Mihara's World Championships winning deck. TriscuitTron is the best control deck. With access to loads of Urzatron mana, blue control cards, and Wrath of God, it should fare well against Boros Deck Wins and Dragonstorm. Most versions look similar to Katsuhiro Mori's World Championships Top 8 deck. However, Yasher_Huyasher's version that splashes Demonfire and acoimbra's version with the Vesuvan Shapeshifter/Brine Elemental combo in the sideboard are nice innovative refreshments.

But we've also had a couple “newcomers” to the Standard playground lately. One thing is for sure: Dimir decks are making quite an impact.

Dralnu du Louvre

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This deck was introduced by Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, who posted a 5-1 record with it in the Standard portion of the World Championships. It took a while for the online players to catch up, maybe because they didn't know that Rewind should be in the deck at first. You just have to know that there was a typo in Wafo-Tapa's decklist; the list there shows no Rewind, whereas I am sure he included it in his – I was paired against him.

Dralnu, Lich Lord
The deck is a typical “draw-go” style deck, which almost never plays a spell at sorcery speed. The deck is full of countermagic, so if your opponent plays something threatening, you should be able to stop it. If you happen to have mana open at the end of your opponent's turn, you can cast Mystical Teachings or Think Twice. Mystical Teachings can even fetch another Mystical Teachings, which ensures that you never run out of gas. Eventually you play Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, flashback Mystical Teachings to get Dralnu, Lich Lord (which has flash thanks to Teferi and can therefore be fetched) and re-use all the Rewinds you have in your graveyard. The kill card is the lone Skeletal Vampire. In case a creature has slipped under your countermagic, you can either Repeal it or tutor for a Last Gasp. The sideboard holds Persecute against Dragonstorm, and Bottle Gnomes against Boros Deck Wins, amongst other cards.

Saikyo a.k.a. oOPraiz a.k.a. The Great White Hope a.k.a. Jesse Hawkins (multiple identity crisis … happens to the best of us) tweaked Wafo-Tapa's original list somewhat, tuning the counterbase and updating the one-ofs, for instance. In week 50 Dralnu du Louvre was extremely popular, basically out of nowhere. But starting in week 51, its dominance started to end. It appeared to get replaced with a deck that takes the Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir / Mystical Teachings engine into a different direction…

U/B Pickles

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Perhaps you remember the original Soggy Pickles deck. The goal of a Pickles deck – and I blame the deck's creator Brian David-Marshall for coming up with such a stupid name – is to deprive your opponent of untap steps with Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter. The original Soggy Pickles version played white for Court Hussar, as well as Temporal Isolation and Grand Arbiter out of the sideboard. But the deck didn't actually need the white.

The above deck is the result of someone (Stuart Wright first, rumor has it) making the connection between a Soggy Pickles deck and the Mystical Teachings / Teferi engine. The list you see is made by mikeman29 and fob (Luis Scott-Vargas). Playing Mystical Teachings allows you to go down to 1 Brine Elemental. It is a weak card in every stage of the game except when you can combo-win, which makes it the perfect tutor target. In fact, the current build is much less of a Brine Elemental combo deck. Rather, it is a blue-black control deck that counters some stuff then draws two extra cards a turn with Vesuvan Shapeshifter plus Fathom Seer (the defining combo of the deck now, perhaps), and fetching a Brine Elemental for the kill is a mere afterthought. So maybe I should start calling it U/B Morph or U/B Shifter instead. Any suggestions? In the sideboard we find Bottle Gnomes, which works wonders against Boros Deck Wins, and a wide array of tutorable one-ofs.

To me, this deck is the most interesting to come out of the last couple weeks. The original Soggy Pickles deck was fun and innovative, but not good enough to be competitive. I think that with the addition of Mystical Teachings and Teferi, the deck got the punch it needed. If I had to pick a deck for a Standard tournament right now, I would definitely give U/B Pickles a try. Then again…maybe the Dralnu deck is a good choice as well, as Saikyo told me he was beating Boros Deck Wins and U/B Pickles with it. And in case you like beatdown decks, Boros should be your safe deck choice.

Moving on…

U/G Scryb&Force

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Not technically a newcomer, this deck deserves a special mention because it has skyrocketed in popularity in the last week, and you have to keep out an eye for those trends. I can only assume the reason for this to be its good matchup against the blue-black control decks.

This aggressive tempo-oriented blue-green deck abuses the synergy between Scryb Ranger and Spectral Force, which offers the possibility of attacking with an 8/8 trampler every turn. Apart from that, the deck hopes to get the turn-one Llanowar Elves, turn-two Call of the Herd opening and can punch through with Stonewood Invocation or Psionic Blast. Other versions typically play Ohran Vipers and fewer lands.

Mono Black Discard / The Rack

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This relatively new rogue archetype has been on the rise, so perhaps it is worth a look. It builds on the obvious synergy between Stupor / Cry of Contrition / Smallpox – an awful lot of discard – and The Rack. Backed up with the black weenies, it can get fast draws with hand disruption and The Rack to finish it. There are also variations on the theme around that splash white for Flagstones of Trokair (mostly for its synergy with Smallpox) and Jotun Grunt.

Trinket Angel Takes Extended

I have compiled the Magic Online Extended Premier Events Top 8 results of the last three weeks in a table, in the same format as the Standard metagame table. Thanks go out to Offkorn.

DeckWeek 50Week 51Week 52Average Popularity
1. Trinket Angel 18%10%13%■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■ (13%)
2. Affinity 11%9%12%■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■ (11%)
3. TEPS Desire 8%11%8%■■■■■ ■■■■ (9%)
4. Blue/White Urzatron10%2%11%■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)
5. Gifts Rock6%11%5%■■■■■ ■■ (7%)
6. Boros Deck Wins7%5%9%■■■■■ ■■ (7%)
7. Goblin Storm3%10%1%■■■■■ ■ (6%)
8. Tooth and Nail6%5%2%■■■■■ (5%)
9. Scepter/Chant3%2%8%■■■■ (4%)
10. Flow Rock4%5%4%■■■■ (4%)
11. Blue/White Cloudpost6%3%4%■■■■ (4%)
12. Aggro Loam1%3%8%■■■■ (4%)
13. Ichorid1%4%4%■■■ (3%)
14. CAL0%7%1%■■■ (3%)
15. Flow Deck Wins0%3%4%■■■ (3%)
16. Dirty Kitty6%0%0%■■ (2%)
17. Red/Green Aggro3%2%0%■■ (2%)
18. Omelette aux Lotus0%2%0%■ (1%)
19. Blue/Black Psychatog0%2%0%■ (1%)
20. Balanced Ideal0%2%0%■ (1%)

Trinket Angel has emerged as the most popular and best performing deck of the month December. Most versions look very similar to Gabriel Nassif's original World Championships list, with little innovations. Affinity has also risen to the top ranks and appears to perform as consistently as ever. TEPS Desire has also become a mainstay, but hate cards like Stifle prevent it from dominating. Still, the deck's capability for turn two or turn three kills shouldn't be underestimated.

Blue-White Urzatron also remains one of the top decks. Lately an interesting variation on Blue-White Tron has emerged, which uses Cloudpost and Vesuva instead of the Urza lands as their mana engine. The Cloudpost and Urza versions include mostly the same spells; the only real difference is the mana base. Which is better? Well, let's compare the two. An advantage the Cloudpost version holds over the Urza version is that it produces more mana with the same amount of lands. Two Cloudposts yield more mana than two Urza pieces. The difference between two mana and four mana is huge. Three Cloudposts also provide more mana than three Urza pieces, and so on.

Furthermore, the Cloudpost version only plays eight colorless lands (4 Cloudpost, 4 Vesuva), as opposed to twelve in the Tron version, which provides more room for blue or white producing lands, decreasing the chance of color screw. The major disadvantage of the Cloudpost version is that your lands come in play tapped. Where the Tron version can go Island, Urza's Mine, Remand on turn two, the Cloudpost version mocks you as you put down your comes-in-play tapped land. The Cloudpost configuration also falls apart when you don't draw a Cloudpost. Imagine you sit there with just Hallowed Fountains and Vesuvas (which come in play tapped even when you're not copying Cloudpost) in your hand. Not good. So, now that I have listed the advantages and disadvantages, which configuration do I recommend? I honestly don't know. It's really close in my opinion. I'm leaning towards the Cloudpost version because it is innovative and refreshing, but I'm not sure.

The Boros Deck Wins menace appears to be contained. There are still plenty of Savannah Lions and Grim Lavamancers around, but the overwhelming number of Trinket Angel decks keeps Boros in check. With Lightning Helix, Umezawa's Jitte, Silver Knight, and Exalted Angel in its arsenal, Trinket Angel has a great matchup against Boros. Furthermore, other popular decks like TEPS Desire, ScepterChant, and GiftsRock also tend to beat Boros more often than not.

Empty the Warrens remains strong in combination with Rite of Flame, Goblin Warchief, and the usual goblin suspects. Interestingly, many players have ditched the Dirty Kitty variant, which splashed green for Fecundity, for the more straightforward mono-red Goblin Storm version.

“If I had to play in an Extended tournament tomorrow, I would probably choose TEPS Desire.”

If I had to play in an Extended tournament tomorrow, I would probably choose TEPS Desire, because it should be able to beat Trinket Angel (the #1 deck) consistently. Yeah, they have Meddling Mage and Stifle. But I have played TEPS Desire a lot lately and I dare to say that with enough practice and the right sideboard cards (Empty the Warrens and anti-Stifle measures), you should win against Trinket Angel. TEPS should also fare well against the rest of the field. Okay, maybe not against Scepter/Chant, but you can't win everything.

Now, I'll feature a couple decklists. For today, I chose the two most popular decks that I hadn't covered in a while: Affinity and GiftsRock. Furthermore, I will show the two decks that have experienced a steady popularity growth in the last couple weeks, as that is an indication that it might be the next big thing: Aggro Loam and Ichorid.

Affinity

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I don't think this deck needs an introduction, as the synergy between Arcbound Ravager, Frogmite, and artifact lands has been around since Mirrodin Block. The above version is the way I would build an Affinity deck now. It based on Winx Club's list, but tuned to my own preferences. I wouldn't play Fire // Ice, Somber Hoverguard, painlands, or many of the non-artifact cards that I often see. I like to play at least 48 artifacts in an Affinity deck, in order to maximize my Arcbound Ravagers and Cranial Platings. This is one of the most important things to keep in mind when building an Affinity deck, in my opinion: always play enough artifacts. Don't forget it. The sideboard can change a lot and should be viewed as flexible. For example, if you expect no TEPS Desire and a lot of Goblins, you should include Engineered Plague over Stifle.

The arch-nemesis of this deck is Kataki, War's Wage, although Affinity has Pyrite Spellbomb and Darkblast out of the sideboard to kill it. Affinity should beat TEPS Desire in a match (based on a fast clock and sideboard hate), and should also win against Blue-White Tron and Trinket Angel, because, well, it's Affinity! It is as consistent and powerful as ever. If you read this and currently don't have Kataki in your sideboard, you'd better put it back in, since Affinity is on the rise online. Or just play the following deck to beat Affinity with Pernicious Deed.

Gifts Rock

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This deck plays typical Rock cards, such as Birds of Paradise, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Eternal Witness, Cabal Therapy, and of course Pernicious Deed. Gifts Rock adds Gifts Ungiven to the green-black mix, which is essentially a double Demonic Tutor as you can easily toss in Eternal Witness and Living Wish (which can get Witness) in the mix to ensure you get the cards you want. Typical Gifts setups also include Genesis and Cabal Therapy, aiming to start Genesis recursion.

Niv Shmuely, a.k.a trunks123, based his list on Luis Scott-Vargas's. Niv has made a lot of minor tweaks to the deck and has put up great results with it. Harmonic Sliver in the sideboard as a wishable Naturalize, maindeck Global Ruin and Engineered Explosives – it's the little things that make a deck good. He changes the list sometimes according to the metagame, but no more then 1-2 cards in the sideboard.

Aggro Loam

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I have featured this deck before, but that has been so long ago that I figured showing a more recent Aggro Loam list would be nice, especially now that the deck is rising in popularity. Aggro Loam still abuses the amazing synergy between Life from the Loam and cycling lands. The deck runs 3 Life from the Loam and 3 Burning Wish to get access to the deck-defining sorcery. Aggro Loam also has an aggro element with Terravore and friends. The fast creatures can deal a lot of damage quickly, at which point the Seismic Assault can finish it. The best matchups are Rock variants and Boros Deck Wins, and the worst matchup is Scepter/Chant, as the deck has no out to Orim's Chant imprinted on Isochron Scepter before board.

I have also seen versions with Wall of Roots, Vinelasher Kudzu, and Devastating Dreams maindeck instead of Werebear, Wild Mongrel, and Firebolt. According to the_bestdude, who gave me the above list, that version is not as good versus combo decks and control decks, although it may be good in a metagame full of aggro decks. He found Devastating Dreams risky and situational – better suited as a Burning Wish target.

Ichorid

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Ichorid
This deck attempts to break the dredge mechanic with Ichorid (and, to a lesser extent, Psychatog). The plan is to get a dredge card (preferably Golgari Grave-Troll) in the graveyard via Putrid Imp or Zombie Infestation. Then you never draw a card again. Dredge, dredge, dredge, and get as many Ichorids and black creatures into your graveyard as possible. Every upkeep you return the Ichorids in play, smash, and after combat sacrifice them to flashback Cabal Therapy for good measure. The onslaught of 3/1s (plus Psychatogs, Zombie tokens, and assorted other creatures) should overwhelm the opponent in short order.

Ichorid was the best deck in Extended about a year ago, but it had faded out of existence when people started playing graveyard hate like Morningtide, Leyline of the Void, or – more recently – Tormod's Crypt. This is an obvious weakness in the deck's strategy, but lately people have been cutting back on graveyard hate because Ichorid wasn't that popular. And even if people play graveyard hate now, it is usually Tormod's Crypt, for which this deck has 4 Pithing Needle at the ready after board. That's why Ichorid has resurfaced lately.

The above list is courtesy of Ryo Ogura, who went 6-0 in the Extended portion of the World Championships with it, and rhoaen has put up multiple Premier Events with it since. So my parting word of advice is to put some graveyard hate in the sideboard of your Extended deck, unless you want Ichorid to catch you with your pants down.

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