Posted in NEWS on December 8, 2013

In Magic: the Gathering, things are constantly in flux, as decks vie for the top slot week in and week out. In order to keep on top of this ever-shifting metagame, it can be useful to take things one week at a time. Last week’s Grand Prix Vienna set the stage for Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth this week, giving us the most up-to-date vision of the metagame yet, and one that harkens back to the days of Pro Tour Theros.

Mono-blue Devotion has never strayed far from the top of the format, and, after taking a back seat to Mono-black Devotion for a few weeks, it has yet again emerged on top of a massive Grand Prix field. Three Mono-blue decks made Top 8 in Vienna, including decks piloted by Pro Tour Jeremy Dezani and eventual Grand Prix winner Marcin Staciwa. Four more Mono-blue decks populated the Top 16, giving devoted followers of Thassa, God of the Sea, just under half of the top slots in the tournament.

Coming in just behind that were variants on Blue/White Control, either straight Blue/White or Esper. While not as initially impressive as the Devotion decks, these Sphinx’s Revelation-based decks have been gaining popularity steadily throughout the season. Three Esper decks and one Blue/White deck made the Top 16 in Vienna, including finalist Robin Dollar’s Esper Control deck. As long as Devotion strategies are a major force in standard, Supreme Verdict will be a powerful card, giving these control strategies a place for the foreseeable future. One of the most interesting things to watch in this deck is how the removal suite changes for the Esper deck. Doom Blade, Far//Away, Devour Flesh, and Ultimate Price (my favorite) all play important, yet different, roles in Standard right now. The threats these decks are going to be facing are quite varied, so it can be difficult to find the perfect mix for any given tournament. Watch the suites that are winning and what they had to play against to figure out what the best mix for you is.

One surprising thing from Vienna was the drop off in Mono-black Devotion. Since the Pro Tour, Mono-black has done nothing but concentrate its power, culminating with the impressive showing of the Roanoke crew at Grand Prix Louisville. Brad Nelson, Todd Anderson, and winner Brian Braun-Duin were running roughly the same 75 cards, and all put up a tremendous showing on the weekend. Anderson did himself one better, making the semifinals of Grand Prix Albequerque with Mono-black, the same archetype that Owen Turtenwald used to win the event. Andreas Ganz made Top 16 with a deck similar to traditional Mono-black Devotion, yet lacking some of the key cards. Beyond him, there was no Mono-black presence at the top of Vienna.

One of the reasons for this decline is likely found in the other decks in the Top 8. Two Mono-red Devotion decks made Top 8, and with incredibly aggressive builds nonetheless. These aggressive red decks are the bane of Mono-black decks, so fields filled with them are particularly weak spots for the deck to flourish. The Mono-red decks also have a reasonable amount of game against the Mono-blue and Esper decks, essential right now if they’re going to thrive. They tend to be weaker in mindrange-dominated formats, which were prevalent at the Pro Tour, but much less so in the time since. Mono-red has seemed to be a fringe competitor at best during the early weeks of the format, but it has certainly come on strong in the last weeks and will be a force to be reckoned with in this and future events.

The last decks to mention are some of the other would-be top players in the format: Mono-green Devotion and the myriad of Mono-white strategies, although these names are a bit of a misnomer. The first, including both Makihito Mihara’s Colossal Gruul deck and the variants splashing for cards like Cyclonic Rift, looked poised to make a big splash following the Pro Tour, but the numbers never materialized the way that they were expected to. The Mono-white decks have put up better numbers over the past few weeks, but they have always seemed to fall short of breaking through for that top finish. Vienna proved that these strategies are certainly still viable and relevant, with Mono-white making Top 8 and Mono-green finishing just outside in 10th place. I believe that both decks are very well-positioned to make a run at things this weekend, so we’ll be keeping an eye on them as this event unfolds.