Exploiting the New Standard

Posted in Perilous Research on April 23, 2015

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

Welcome to Exploit Week here at Perilous Research, DailyMTG.com's exclusive Magic Online column! The exploit mechanic from Dragons of Tarkir makes for really exciting games of Limited while adding a new layer of strategic depth to a player's pick order when drafting. For example, a card like Sultai Emissary is just fine on its own, but it becomes extremely powerful when you can trade in the 1/1 body for a powerful effect and pick up a manifest creature for your trouble. In Standard Sidisi, Undead Vizier is the exploit effect of choice. The ability to trade something like Satyr Wayfinder or Sylvan Caryatid for any card in our deck makes Sidisi, Undead Vizier one of the most powerful five-drops available in the current Standard.

Today, we'll be taking a look at the most successful decks from Standard Magic Online Daily Events in an effort to better understand the current state of the format. Recently, we've seen Esper Control decks perform extraordinarily well in live events. However, that trend isn't seen in the Magic Online metagame. So, what's different about Magic Online? First, Red strategies tend to be more popular on Magic Online. Next, the Magic Online metagame ignores geographical bias of archetype choice. Finally, the frequency of events on Magic Online usually prevent any one archetype from taking over because players have the ability to change their deck and sideboard accordingly through multiple events happening every day.

A few of the most successful Standard decks on Magic Online from the last week take advantage of Sidisi, Undead Vizier; the premier Exploit card from Dragons of Tarkir. Let's take a look at how people are exploiting it:

Sidisi Whip

zappa_pm—Sidisi Whip—4–0 Standard Daily

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Sidisi, Undead Vizier finds a perfect home alongside Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Having some random zombies to sacrifice in a pinch to find game breaking cards like Dragonlord Silumgar, Den Protector, Deathmist Raptor, or Whip of Erebos is pretty nice. The best, most sought-after interaction for Sidisi, Undead Vizier is with Satyr Wayfinder, which effectively turns the whole ordeal into card advantage while searching for the perfect card for any situation. Whip of Erebos strategies with Thoughtseize in the main deck are well positioned against the Control decks and tend to go bigger than any of the aggressive or midrange strategies. The deck still has trouble with Red strategies, even after the inclusion of Bile Blight, but the general positioning of Whip of Erebos decks make the strategy a great choice for this week's Standard events.

Four-Color Whip

ti09—Four Color Whip—4–0 Standard Daily

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Dragonlord Atarka is the most exciting creature to return to the battlefield with Whip of Erebos. The ability to dish out 5 damage and crack for a 16-point life swing is pretty terrifying. This version of the deck goes very big, and presents threat after threat that the control strategies absolutely must deal with. Crux of Fate makes an appearance here as a great way to catch up against aggressive decks, a game breaking bomb against devotion strategies that won't be playing around it. And one of the only ways to remain at parity against an opponent that just tapped out for Dragonlord Ojutai. Again, we see Den Protector in the mix. The deck does a great job filling the graveyard and the Regrowth effect on Den Protector is often another Demonic Tutor on top of Sidisi, Undead Vizier.

Abzan Midrange

Zidfrid—Abzan Midrange—4–0 Standard Daily

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The last deck we'll be talking about that features Sidisi, Undead Vizier is Abzan Midrange. Here, the card is a lot less exciting than it might be in a Whip of Erebos strategy, but the card inclusion in a deck like this proves that it's quite powerful simply on its own as a way to trump Siege Rhino while also searching for the follow-up Elspeth, Sun's Champion or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Even the bigger Abzan decks are including Fleecemane Lion now as a concession to the importance of the second turn in this format. It's difficult to pressure control decks and to stay in a game against aggressive decks without a strong two-drop.

A lot of people are happy to exploit their lowliest creature for a silver bullet, but there are still many more ways to win in the current Standard format. Let's take a look at some of the other successful Standard strategies from this week's Magic Online events.

Pro Tour Red

Abu—Pro Tour Red—4–0 Standard Daily

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Martin Dang cemented his name in history with a Pro Tour Victory in Brussels two weeks ago. Dang's aggressive Red deck that splashed for Atarka's Command and one copy of Become Immense proved itself to be a real contender, and we're continuing to see the deck perform well on Magic Online. Red has a lot going for it right now: The deck performs well against control strategies and, as players start cutting inexpensive creatures and Bile Blights with the format's progression, it will repeatedly find itself well-positioned for sporadic weekends. The deck struggles with Bant Heroic decks, but the general strength of its random draws mean that it's always a nightmare to play against, especially when on the draw. We'll likely be seeing a lot more Red this weekend in the wake of Control's great success. This is one weekend where being prepared for Red will be of great importance.

Mastery Devotion

Ryancrabbs—Mastery Devotion—4–0 Standard Daily

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Green Devotion decks splashing for Mastery of the Unseen and Dromoka's Command have an obnoxiously non-interactive game plan that punishes midrange and aggressive strategies by gaining huge amounts of life while flipping up more mana creatures that continually allow the deck to produce and flip more bodies. Against Control decks, sticking an early copy of Mastery of the Unseen is often game over, especially in the first game. Previous iterations of control strategies lacked the ability to control a board involving Mastery of the Unseen, but the introduction of Dragonlord Ojutai gives those decks an effective way to race while clearing the opposing side of the board with Crux of Fate. Still, Mastery of the Unseen is likely still the best plan a devotion strategy could hope for against the control decks. We'll continue seeing this deck's success in the coming months and it wouldn't surprise me if this reestablished itself as a tier 1 strategy in the coming weeks.

Abzan Aggro

Xing—Abzan Aggro—4–0 Standard Daily

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Brad Nelson went 9-1 through the Standard rounds of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir with a similar version of Abzan Aggro. The deck sets itself up well for game one by maintaining its most aggressive form. After sideboarding, the deck almost always brings in trump cards like Elspeth, Sun's Champion to diversify its threat base and punish the opponent's sideboard plans. This deck plays the most efficient creatures, removal, and disruption; so it's never going anywhere. Abzan Aggro still appears to be the most consistently powerful option for those looking for a deck to play every week for the remainder of this Standard season.

Atarka Devotion

Zeroremenants—Atarka Devotion—4–0 Standard Daily

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Not two, not three, but four copies of Dragonlord Atarka are present in this ramp strategy. The most exciting card in the deck is definitely See the Unwritten, which should spell certain death for midrange opponents. Boon Satyr sets up See the Unwritten when the opponent taps out and allows the pilot to search up dangerous combinations like Dragonlord Atarka and Surrak, the Hunt Caller. The deck features a lot of cards that can win the game on their own, but the mana creatures and the general strategy of a ramp deck finds itself weak against board sweeping effects like Crux of Fate or End Hostilities.

Jeskai Dragons

thetruth718—Jeskai Dragons—4–0 Standard Daily

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If you're looking to beat up on ground-laden midrange strategies or one-for-one control decks, then Jeskai Dragons seems like a great choice for the current Standard. The deck punishes opponents in the air and quickly closes games while protecting threats with countermagic and incidentally punishing the opponent's life total with cards like Draconic Roar. Stubborn Denial is likely at its best here, where it stands alongside Dragons to counter opposing big spells in a pinch. It's also worth noting that one blue mana open is usually seen as nothing by opponents that might be more likely to tap out for a card like Dissolve instead of using a Silumgar's Scorn or Disdainful Stroke. This deck's success will largely hinge on the popularity of the green decks that it so handily demolishes.

Naya Mastery

Xiaowang—Naya Mastery—4–0 Standard Daily

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We've already spoken about the strength of Mastery of the Unseen in Devotion strategies as an effective weapon against Control and Midrange, as well as its ability to "close" games with life gain against red strategies. This version of the Mastery of the Unseen Devotion strategy also splashes red for access to Dragonlord Atarka and Xenagos, the Reveler to punish control opponents. The deck's numbers can change drastically from day to day. While the least consistent, this is the most resilient Devotion strategy available.

Standard continues to evolve as we gather more data about the format after Dragons of Tarkir's release. Sidisi, Undead Vizier has been instrumental in the rise of Whip of Erebos strategies that take full advantage of exploiting their weakest body to form powerful card combinations. In the coming weeks we'll continue to watch the evolution of Standard in the wake of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir and begin exploring the current state of Modern.

Knowledge is power!

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