The Online Standard and Extended Metagames

Posted in Feature on December 13, 2006

By Frank Karsten

The online players have now had over a week to digest the results of the Magic World Championships and try out the new decks that were introduced in that tournament. What decks have come out on top since? Let's find out!

Boros Deck Wins and Wins and Wins in Standard

I added up all the Magic Online Standard events that have been held since the World Championships (for the record, that's events #862188 - #868242) and put the resulting metagame in the following table. 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 highlighted the big movers with blue (decks that are moving up in the ranks) or red (decks taking a plunge).

Deck namePopularityChange in popularity
from last week
1. Boros Deck Wins■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■ (19%)+7% (!!!)
2. Dragonstorm■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■ (13%)+2%
3. TriscuitTron■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■ (11%)+7% (!!!)
4. Izzetron■■■■■ ■■ (7%)-4%
5. MartyrTron■■■■■ ■ (6%)+4%
6. Angelfire■■■■■ (5%)0%
7. Mono Green Aggro■■■■ (4%)-2%
8. Panda Connection■■■ (3%)+2%
9. ArenaWrath decks■■■ (3%)+1%
10. Vore■■■ (3%)-1%
11. U/G Scryb&Force■■■ (3%)-3%
12. GhaziGlare■■■ (3%)0%
13. Blue Snow■■■ (3%)0%
14. Empty the Storm■■ (2%)0%
15. Dralnu du Louvre■■ (2%)+2%
16. Solar Flare■■ (2%)-4%
17. BlinkRiders■■ (2%)+2%
18. Soggy Pickles■ (1%)0%
19. Mono-Black Beats■ (1%)+1%
20. SnakeBlink■ (1%)0%

Boros Deck Wins holds the #1 position, with Dragonstorm and TriscuitTron not far behind. The most common Boros version is still the Brazilian one, but it's not the only one. Interesting deviations include maindeck Seal of Fire and Demonfire instead of the trademark Scorched Rusalka of the Brazilian version, or a flying package of Skyknight Legionnaire and/or Serra Avenger. A small percentage of the Boros players pack maindeck Wildfire Emissary or sideboard Stone Rain.

Dragonstorm and TriscuitTron took the 1st and 2nd place trophies at the World Championships, and hence it is no surprise that they are also very popular online. Most versions look like exact copies of Mihara's and Ogura's lists.

Moving down in the ranks, we come across other decks that abuse the Urza set: Izzetron and MartyrTron. Izzetron has changed a little bit since the last time I covered it; most recent versions include Spell Burst for the late game lockdown, as well as Think Twice, which is a great instant card drawer that can conveniently be played if your opponent plays nothing worth Remanding. MartyrTron is Gabriel Nassif's creation that you will likely have seen in Mike Flores's column last week.

In the current metagame, my deck of choice would be TriscuitTron, for it has a good matchup against Boros Deck Wins and Dragonstorm to the best of my knowledge as well as a fair chance against the rest of the field. Enough of the Tier 1 decks right now. Let's depart for interesting “rogue” decks that are posting reasonable and promising results.

Panda Connection

Download Arena Decklist

The deck was built by Norwegian Champion Øyvind Andersen. He also built the red-black Satanic Sligh deck, which dominated Standard a few months ago, so his creations are definitely something to watch. His latest deck, which he named Panda Connection, is basically a black-white aggro-disruption deck. He played it to a 5-0-1 finish at the World Championships, and a number of players have quickly picked it up for the online tournaments. It has a weenie mana curve starting at one and going up to four, with the normal things you'd expect from a black-white aggro deck, like Savannah Lions, Dark Confidant, Hypnotic Specter, and Ghost Council of Orzhova. The deck is rounded out with seven discard spells and seven removal spells. The key card in the deck is, strangely enough, Martyr of Sands. Lots of people might laugh at playing a maindeck 1/1 life-gainer in a beatdown deck, but it truly makes the deck tick, as getting out of burn range is imperative against Boros Deck Wins and Dragonstorm.

After board, Panda Connection can transform, becoming a controllish build. You do this against decks that try to win through attacking with creatures. This is a wide category, including decks like Boros Deck Wins, GhaziGlare and Solar Flare. You can board in 13-15 cards and hopefully catch your opponent off-guard with this unexpected switch of strategy. The sideboard contains Phyrexian Arena, Wrath of God, Persecute and Angel of Despair; basically all the good black-white control cards you would expect from a traditional control build. You can even pull off unusual plays like Wrath of God followed up with Savannah Lions after board with this deck. Against decks that do something more ‘broken,' like Dragonstorm and TriscuitTron, you have to be aggressive in order to win. So against those decks, Panda Connection doesn't transform.

The deck was built to specifically handle a metagame full of Izzetron, Vore, and Dragonstorm, and because of that the aggression is main and the control is in the board. You tend to annihilate most beatdown-oriented strategies after sideboard, so it's acceptable to sometimes have a bad matchup against those decks before sideboard. The deck has a weakness against utility creatures like Dark Confidant, Selesnya Guildmage, and (gasp) Dralnu, Lich Lord, since the removal suite doesn't actually kill creatures.

Empty the Storm

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This deck is a rogue variation on the storm theme. Just like the Dragonstorm deck, it plans to create a high storm count with Lotus Bloom, Rite of Flame, and Seething Song. But instead of Dragonstorm, it runs Empty the Warrens or Ignite Memories as finishers. I named it “Empty the Storm”, but if you can think of a better name then let me know! There are upsides and downsides to this strategy, and the easiest way to explain them for me is by comparing this combo deck to Dragonstorm combo.

Ignite Memories
First, this deck don't have to worry about getting nine mana. You can more easily “go off” with less mana on turn three, for example by unsuspending Rift Bolt in your upkeep, and then following it up with Mishra's Bauble, Seething Song, Chromatic Star, and an Empty the Warrens for 10 tokens. Furthermore, this deck can more easily abuse Infernal Tutor, which is inherently a very strong card for a combo deck. It has had some issues in Dragonstorm, since if you get stuck with a dragon in your hand, then you can almost never hit hellbent early. You are still able to double up on a card in your hand, but getting the true Diabolic Tutor effect can be problematic. Not for Empty the Storm! You don't run eight-mana dragons that clog up your hand; all your spells are relatively cheap, turning Infernal Tutor into a broken card.

Empty the Storm is resistant to specific Dragonstorm hate. It doesn't really care about Shadow of Doubt, and it can overwhelm Circle of Protection: Red with Goblin tokens. Furthermore, its combo is not a one-shot deal. Dragonstorm can lose to an opponent who gains some life and then destroys the dragons, as there are only 6 dragons in the deck, not more. Empty the Storm can just rebuild and combo again a few turns later. Further reasons to pick this deck are the rogue factor and the transformational sideboard into an aggressive red-black deck with Dark Confidant and Giant Solifuge if the situation calls for that. Against Trickbind, it's surely a thing to keep in mind.

Downsides of this deck include the fact that its combo is more susceptible to Wrath of God. Making 12 Goblins is not as good as dealing 20 damage with Bogardan Hellkites. And four Ignite Memory copies are not the guaranteed win that four Dragonstorm copies usually represent. Apart from that, I think this archetype will turn out to be a real contender if it is tuned to perfection.

Mind's Desire Takes Extended by Storm

The Extended tournaments have also been running frequently. If you are looking for a deck to play in one of the Magic Online Extended events or the upcoming Pro Tour Qualifiers, then look no further than this column! Your best option might even be to participate in Magic Online events in order to practice for the Pro Tour Qualifier season. You can get your metagame updates here, as I am planning to feature Extended weekly in the upcoming months. I also updated the deck-o-pedia with Extended decks, so you can now click on a deck name in the metagame table for more information. The table reports on all Extended Premier Events since the World Championships (#862245 - #868065; I got most of my data from Offkorn).

Deck namePopularityChange in popularity
from last week
1. Boros Deck Wins■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■ (17%)-2%
2. TEPS■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ (15%)+13% (!!!)
3. Blue/White Urzatron■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■ (12%)0%
4. Red/Green Beats■■■■■ ■■ (7%)-2%
5. Scepter-Chant■■■■■ ■ (6%)+6% (!!!)
6. Trinket-Angel■■■■■ ■ (6%)+1%
7. Gifts Rock■■■■■ ■ (6%)-3%
8. Dirty Kitty■■■■ (4%)+4%
9. Affinity■■■■ (4%)-2%
10. Deathcloud Aggro■■■■ (4%)+4%
11. Goblin Storm■■■ (3%)0%
12. Ichorid■■ (2%)0%
13. Blue/Black Psychatog■■ (2%)+2%
14. Dragonstorm■■ (2%)0%
15. Aggro Rock■■ (2%)0%
16. Flow Rock■■ (2%)0%
17. Tooth and Nail■■ (2%)-2%
18. Mono Green Aggro ■■ (2%)0%
19. CAL■■ (2%)+2%
20. Balanced Ideal■ (1%)+1%

An interesting change is that Aggro Loam, which was good for 6% last time, didn't make a single showing this week. Boros remains the most popular deck, pretty much evenly split between versions with a green splash for Kird Ape and straight up red-white version. Last week I posed the question “which deck can beat Boros?” Well, TEPS, TrinketAngel, and ScepterChant have proven they can beat Boros on Magic Online. Admittedly, this is based on a very small sample size of 2-4 available Top 8 replays, but I don't think that data is far off. TEPS in particular has skyrocketed in popularity last week.

TEPS

Download Arena Decklist

This combo deck works on mana "rituals" (Rite of Flame, Seething Song, Cabal Ritual, Chrome Mox, Channel the Suns, Lotus Bloom) and Mind's Desire (along with Burning Wish and Infernal Tutor to search for the storm card). The deck is theoretically capable of going off on turn one, but that only happens in your dreams. More realistic is to sit there and do nothing for a while, and then go off usually around turn three, when everything happens. You sacrifice your Invasion saclands for lots of mana, play some rituals, use Chromatic Star and Darkwater Egg to get at least two blue mana, and then play a big Mind's Desire. You hope to flip another Desire or a Sins of the Past (which can re-use the Desire already in your graveyard, which will be for an even higher storm count), and so on. Eventually the kill is Tendrils of Agony, or – if things don't go as well as planned – Burning Wish for Empty the Warrens. The name TEPS stands for The Extended Perfect Storm.

Mind's Desire
The Extended portion of the World Championships showcased two TEPS builds that went 5-1. Jelger Wiegersma's build included Sensei's Divining Top, Careful Study, more lands, and maindeck Duress, whereas Raphael Levy's version had Darkwater Egg, Lotus Bloom, and Infernal Tutor instead. I talked to various players (horsted and lunar4lyfe online, as well as Raphael and Jelger themselves) in order to find out what the best build is, but it seems that the jury is still out there. Some like Lotus Bloom, others hate it. Some like Sensei's Divining Top, others think it's too clunky. I personally believe that a deck close to Raphael's version is the best, so the deck you see above reflects that. Updates Raphael and I made to his deck from Worlds involve cutting Pyroclasm from the sideboard (didn't do anything according to Raphael) in favor of an extra Emtpy the Warrens and an extra Orim's Chant. You sideboard in Empty the Warrens against Pyrostatic Pillar and Meddling Mage, in order to have a “combo plan B” when those deadly cards hit play. You sideboard in Orim's Chant against opposing Stifle and Orim's Chant, which can screw up your math mid-combo. I added 2 Duress main (instead of Plunge into Darkness) in order to battle the hate that I expect now that the deck is out there.

If you want to try this deck, I recommend you first try goldfishing it a few times in solitaire games to get a feel for the deck. It can be quite hard to navigate the amount of mana and spells you need.

ScepterChant

Download Arena Decklist

This deck attempts to lock the opponent with the Isochron Scepter plus Orim's Chant combo, by copying this instant in every of your opponent's upkeeps and paying the kicker cost. This combo has been around for a long time now. A traditional weakness was its susceptibility to instants. A carefully planned Counterspell, Naturalize, or Lightning Helix when you're at three can still be quite problematic. To deal with those nuisances, a new element to this combo has recently been introduced by Masahiko Morita: Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. Teferi plus Scepter/Chant is the full lock. Thanks to Teferi, your opponent can only play spells at sorcery speed, which your opponent cannot do because of Scepter/Chant. Barring something bizarre like Blinkmoth Well against the Scepter or double Barbarian Ring against Teferi, it means game over.

Apart from the combo pieces, the deck still runs some countermagic (such as good old Counterspell) and disruption (such as Fire // Ice), both of which are excellent under an Isochron Scepter as well. Thirst for Knowledge and Fact or Fiction dig for the combo, and Cunning Wish gets Orim's Chant or Muddle the Mixture (which fetches Isochron Scepter). Basically, all the familiar elements.

TrinketAngel

Download Arena Decklist

Trinket Mage
This deck can best be classified as “aggro-control.” Including gems such as Meddling Mage and Fire // Ice, it runs the best available cards in blue, red, and white, and its game plan is a mixture of disruption and aggression.

Trinket Mage can get Pyrite Spellbomb, Tormod's Crypt, Engineered Explosives, Pithing Needle, any artifact land, or Sensei's Divining Top. The latter is an important target, being one half of a combo with Counterbalance. Counterbalance provides a permanent solution to problem cards like Life from the Loam, and it tends to contain decks with cheap spells in general. Against Boros Deck Wins, Silver Knight picks up Umezawa's Jitte to cruise to victory. Furthermore, Lightning Helix and Exalted Angel are pure gold against Boros. Is this the solution to the format? It might very well be.

That's enough deck technology for today. Starting next week magicthegathering.com goes on a short holiday, so you won't see new columns from me during the next two weeks. But I will certainly return in full force in 2007!

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