Recapping the Standard MOCS—Battle of the Simons!

Posted in Magic Digital on February 18, 2016

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Last weekend, Magic Online's most dedicated players were pitted against one another in the Magic Online Championship Series. The Top 8 featured some of the game's greatest talents squaring off in matches of Standard. Standard has been shaken up by the release of Oath of the Gatewatch, and last weekend's MOCS was our latest opportunity to see the best players in the world take on the new format. Today, we'll be discussing what happened last weekend and analyzing the decks that are coming to define the new Standard metagame.

What is the MOCS?

The Magic: The Gathering Online Championship Series, also known as MOCS, is a series of events in which top players can earn invitations to the annual in-person Magic Online Championship and an upcoming Pro Tour.

Throughout the qualifying period, ending on the September 28, 2016, downtime, players earn Qualifier Points (QPs) by playing in events that award QPs as part of their prize structure. The series will contain twelve Monthly Events, each of which qualify top players for one of the four Playoff Events. These Playoff Events qualify top players for the Magic Online Championship, a Pro Tour, and the Pro Tour Challenge event at that Pro Tour.

Monthly and Playoff Events also award top players MOCS Leaderboard Points for the current quarter and for the year as a whole. Players of sufficient standing on the MOCS Leaderboard(s) will also qualify for Playoff Events later in the 2016 Magic Online Championship Series as well as the Magic Online Championship.

What happened in the tournament?

Last weekend featured a Standard MOCS Event wherein huge names like Yuuya Watanabe, Brad Nelson, Lee Shi Tian, and Marcio Carvalho all battled their way to the stop of the standings. After seven rounds of Swiss, the tournament was trimmed down to eight players piloting five different archetypes.

Kenji Egashira and Garth Avery put together a great series of recap videos of the event's Top 8:

The quarterfinals saw Simon Korzunov's (twop) Four-Color Rally deck take down Marcio Carvalho's (kbol_) traditional Jeskai deck in two games.

Former Player of the Year Yuuya Watanabe's (Beena) Four-Color Midrange deck forced Lee Shi Tian's (leearson) Bant Company strategy to three games, but Lee, with multiple Pro Tour Top 8s to his own name, overcame the modern-era great one to secure a spot in the semifinals.

Simon Nielsen's (TombSimon) Eldrazi deck struck some good luck as former Player of the Year Brad Nelson's (FFreak) Bant Company deck managed to whiff on at least half of its multiple copies of Collected Company in the first game. Nielsen's deck operated on all cylinders in the second game, and Nelson never stood a chance.

Tijs de Kler's (osiwm) Four-Color Rally deck managed to defeat Mykola Chepkyi's (chepa) Four-Color Midrange deck in three games. Rally the Ancestors has the ability to overcome a lot of card disadvantage, especially when the titular card comes off the top of the deck!

In the semifinals, Lee's (leearson) Bant Company deck eventually fell to Korzunov's (twop) Four-Color Rally deck in three games. Bant Company has more powerful creatures and post-sideboard ways to overcome Rally the Ancestors, but Zulaport Cutthroat gives the Four-Color Rally deck an edge in long and drawn-out games, which tend to be common in the matchup.

Nielsen's (TombSimon) Eldrazi deck continued to dominate opponents as he took care of de Kler's (osiwm) Four-Color Rally deck in just two games. The Eldrazi Ramp strategy is quickly proving itself to have enough sheer power to be a major contender in the new Standard.

The finals featured a battle of the two Simons. Simon Nielsen's Eldrazi Ramp deck had taken him all the way to the finals of the MOCS, where he got to play against Simon Korzunov's Four-Color Rally Deck. Nielsen had just won the very same matchup in two games the round before. Korzunov overcame the Eldrazi menace, though, and was able to take down the Championship in only two games!

Enough already! Where are the decks?

The MOCS is our most recent opportunity to see the newest and most powerful Standard strategies with Oath of the Gatewatch. The results of the MOCS may heavily dictate the direction the format will take from here. Let's take a look at each of the distinct archetypes that managed to make it to the elimination rounds in last weekend's event.

Four-Color Rally

Four-Color Rally aims to play efficient creatures and pressure the opponent before establishing dominance with Rally the Ancestors once the deck has effectively traded enough cards. The deck provides pilots with an intricate puzzle that involves pacing aggression, encouraging trades, and setting up big finishes. Reflector Mage makes the deck operate on an entirely different level than it could before. The combination of Reflector Mage and Collected Company is one of the most powerful interactions in the current Standard. The deck can be very difficult to race, and some matchups become more difficult when opponents are able to bring in cards like Dispel or Hallowed Moonlight to interact with noncreature spells.

Four-Color Rally may be difficult to pilot, but the deck rewards those who take the time to master it. Simon Korzunov was the eventual winner of the tournament, piloting his Four-Color Rally deck, and Tijs de Kler also broke into the Top 4 of the event playing the strategy.

Simon Korzunov's Four-Color Rally—Winner, MOCS Event

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Tijs de Kler's Four-Color Rally—3rd place, MOCS Event

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Eldrazi Ramp

Eldrazi Ramp strategies continue to look more and more varied with each passing week. Originally, the decks were trying to use cards such as Ruin in Their Wake alongside a bunch of Wastes. Simon Nielsen offers up a more progressive stance on the archetype wherein he relies mostly on creatures to ramp his mana. This build encourages opponents to use their turns tapping out for removal spells, but the high number of lands and snowballing nature of the deck's ramp mean that opponents will be having their resources demolished while staring down World Breaker's 5/7 reach body. A second-place finish in an event like the MOCS is sure to silence a lot of nonbelievers. Eldrazi are doing big things in a lot of formats.

Simon Nielsen's Eldrazi Ramp—2nd place, MOCS Event

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Bant Company

Bant Company, like Four-Color Rally, takes advantage of the powerful interaction between Reflector Mage and Collected Company while eschewing the Rally the Ancestors late game in favor of Deathmist Raptor and Dromoka's Command. The deck is very consistent and allows the pilot to manufacture a tempo strategy that's tough to contend with. It might seem as if the deck would be favored against Four-Color Rally because it has good ways to deal with Rally the Ancestors and Collected Company while playing better threats, but the presence of Zulaport Cutthroat tends to make longer games a nightmare for Bant Company. Still, Bant Company is one of the best positioned decks in the current Standard, and it managed to secure two star players—Lee Shi Tian and Brad Nelson—spots in last weekend's Top 8.

Lee Shi Tian's Bant Company—4th place, MOCS Event

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Brad Nelson's Bant Company—6th place, MOCS Event

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Four-Color Midrange (Blue Mardu)

Blue Mardu combines the most efficient answers and threats in today's Standard to win a lot of matches on sheer card quality. The deck plays main-deck Duress, which combines nicely with Monastery Mentor and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to protect big threats that are being deployed in the midgame against an opponent who (hopefully) doesn't have any remaining removal spells.

It's hard to argue with the power that this deck brings to the table, but what it has in brute force it lacks in the synergy that exists in Standard's other big archetypes. The most prudent Blue Mardu pilots are often able to systematically work their way through a game, interrupting key synergies from the opponent while playing individually powerful cards on their path to victory. The deck is firmly established as the control-leaning midrange strategy of choice in the new Standard.

Yuuya Watanabe's Four-Color Midrange—5th place, MOCS Event

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Mykola Chepkyi's Four-Color Midrange—7th place, MOCS Event

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Jeskai

Jeskai may not have a huge Standard presence, but Marcio Carvalho's version of the deck did manage to break its way into the Top 8 last weekend. This version of the deck is less tempo-oriented than a lot of the Jeskai decks we've seen in the past, but Mantis Rider continues to provide a fast, evasive clock that can be protected while it outpaces the opponent.

Marcio Carvalho's Jeskai—8th place, MOCS Event

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Bushwhacker Red

Well-known professional Josh Utter-Leyton (Wrapter) missed the Top 8 on tiebreakers with the format's latest aggressive red strategy. Reckless Bushwhacker combines very nicely with inexpensive creatures, and finishes the game very well when played alongside Dragon Fodder or Hordeling Outburst. The deck uses the cheapest removal available to clear the way for its wide take on aggression.

Josh Utter-Leyton's Bushwhacker Red—9th place, MOCS Event

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Standard continues to evolve in the wake of Oath of the Gatewatch's release. Powerful cards such as Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Reflector Mage, and a whole host of Eldrazi are shaking up Standard and birthing entirely new archetypes. The new Standard is challenging and thought-provoking. Magic Online offers up the very best way to get in the most practice with your Standard weapon of choice, while letting you play against the greatest players in the game. See you in next month's MOCS Event!

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