Setting a New Standard

Posted in Perilous Research on February 14, 2013

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 back to Perilous Research,'s exclusive Magic Online column. This week, I'm going to be taking a look at some of the latest Magic Online Standard Daily Event results in an effort to effectively identify the new Standard metagame, now that Gatecrash has started to shake things up.

The best and brightest of Magic Online wasted no time updating their Standard lists for the new format. Cards like Blind Obedience and Boros Reckoner have quickly established themselves as staples of the Standard metagame. Other Gatecrash all-stars, like Gyre Sage, Ghor-Clan Rampager, and Domri Rade, are scrambling to find their place in one of the most diverse Standard environments ever.

Let's start by taking a look at the breakdown of undefeated decks.

Historically, Red decks have better-than-average results immediately following a new set's introduction to a Standard metagame. It's not that Red decks are necessarily more powerful than the other available archetypes, but the optimal build for an aggressive Red strategy will usually be more obvious than the correct configuration of a more complex archetype like Naya or Esper. The new Esper Control strategies performed well in the first Magic Online Standard Dailies with Gatecrash, proving that control strategies will likely have staying power, especially as the metagame becomes more defined. Meanwhile, a brutal Naya deck from across the Pacific has everyone talking. The only copy of Tomoharu Saito's latest brew to be played in a Daily as of this being written went undefeated in a decisive fashion.

Let's take a look at some decklists!

Crash_Fistfight's Mono-Red

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Mono-Red strategies were already enjoying a certain level of success in Standard before the release of Gatecrash. However, the deck recently got a huge power boost with the addition of the new set. Boros Reckoner has established itself as the best three-mana creature in Standard. Pre-Gatecrash Mono-Red strategies were forced to play with Pyreheart Wolf, a reasonable card that always seemed like it just made the cut. Now, the deck gets to upgrade its three-mana slot by leaps and bounds. Boros Reckoner trumps Thragtusk; it can freely attack in Restoration Angel mana, offering a trade; and against other decks with red it almost always represents a two-for-one. Boros Reckoner also encouraged Crash_Fistfight to include a few copies of Blasphemous Act in the sideboard for the creature matchups.

Boros ReckonerBlasphemous Act

Master_X's Esper Control

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Esper control decks gained a lot of ground in the war against hasty monsters with the introduction of Gatecrash. Blind Obedience is the perfect card to thwart the endless stream of Hellriders, Falkenrath Aristocrats, and Thundermaw Hellkites that seem to be on a marathon through the red zone these days. It was difficult to play control strategies pre-Gatecrash because sorcery-speed removal could only do so much against strategies that were constantly getting free damage out of their haste creatures. Blind Obedience solves the haste problem and also provides a permanent with extort, which is super valuable in the matchups where it matters. The rest of the deck looks similar to what you might expect from a pre-Gatecrash Esper Control deck. I'm sure we'll begin seeing some Obzedat, Ghost Council lists in the near future, but the limited card availability of the new set probably means we won't be seeing the new Ghost Council crashing Dailies until later in the week.

Blind ObedienceObzedat, Ghost Council

smh's Naya Humans

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Naya Humans was expected to be one of the better decks with the addition of Gatecrash. Burning-Tree Emissary lets the deck have some pretty absurd Champion of the Parish draws. For example, turn-one Champion of the Parish, turn-two Burning-Tree Emissary and Lightning Mauler, attack for 7. That's a turn-four kill through no attrition without even playing another spell! Boros Charm makes the Naya Human deck a lot more relevant also; the ability to effectively counter Supreme Verdict for two mana or close a game with aggressively costed reach is exactly what this strategy was looking for. Ghor-Clan Rampager makes his first Standard appearance here, usually functioning as an incredible pump spell that lets your small creatures freely attack into larger monsters. Frontline Medic takes advantage of the deck's ability to flood the board with creatures quickly. Experiment One and Boros Elite give the deck some much-needed power boosts in the one-mana slot, a place that was lacking in power prior to Gatecrash's release. I expect this deck to continue to do well as the format progresses. This is one of the best aggressive strategies available and it's going to be difficult for players to adapt to new decks while still having the defensive tools necessary to deal with the ruthless onslaught of inexpensive Humans.

Burning-Tree EmissaryBoros Charm

tkgon's Jund Midrange

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Jund Midrange didn't get much help from Gatecrash; cards like Domri Rade and Burning-Tree Emissary may be adopted for more aggressive, creature-heavy versions of the deck, but the Jund Midrange deck seems content to stick with its previous list. The deck has always performed well in creature-heavy environments, especially when there's a lot of red decks, so it's no surprise that the deck would be well-positioned in the new Standard format. Abrupt Decay is probably the best answer to Boros Reckoner for decks that don't play white and blue; I would expect Jund Midrange strategies to play more copies of Abrupt Decay in the coming weeks in an effort to battle all the Boros Reckoners. This deck has all the tools it needs to be a contender in the new metagame. The deck gained a lot from Gatecrash, not in the form of actual cards to play, but in the sense that Gatecrash will strongly encourage players to play the board-presence game. No deck loves a board-presence war like a deck that's all about spot removal, Planeswalkers, and card-advantageous creatures.

Abrupt DecayPillar of Flame

FFfreak's Saito Naya

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Former Player of the Year and Magic Online Championship Series winner Brad Nelson went undefeated in a Daily event using an innovative Naya deck designed by former Player of the Year Tomoharu Saito. There's a lot of star power behind this decklist and the deck has the necessary chops to back up the hype. I spoke to Brad a bit about the deck and he described the first game he played with it. Turn-two Gyre Sage; turn-three Burning-Tree Emissary, Flinthoof Boar, tap Gyre Sage, play a land, Loxodon Smiter. That's a lot of power on the table for turn three! The deck takes advantage of the Domri Rade/Boros Reckoner combo, wrecking Naya Humans in the process. The deck suffers in the Esper Control match, though. Brad said the matchup was incredibly difficult and suggests that you change the sideboard to be better equipped in those matchups. I'm working on a few Standard decks and this is definitely going to be something I want to test against in the coming weeks.

Gyre SageDomri Rade

BobbySapphire's Raka Tempo

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Raka Tempo strategies were enjoying a lot of success prior to Gatecrash's release. The deck, like many others, now gets to adopt Boros Reckoner, which also lets the deck upgrade its Supreme Verdicts into Blasphemous Acts. Moment of Heroism may seem a bit out of place, but that type of effect is well-positioned in the current Standard metagame and I don't think it's unreasonable as a one-of in a format that's often about dealing 3 to things and racing people. I'm interested to see this deck develop. The current list seems a bit schizophrenic—Giant Growth and Stroke of Genius aren't exactly a combo. However, the power is certainly here and the deck seems like it has the necessary tools to compete in the current Standard environment.

Moment of HeroismStroke of Genius

Lican009's Red splash Black

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Rakdos strategies took a huge hit with Gatecrash's release. The extremely powerful Jon Bolding-esque versions of Rakdos will likely sit on the sidelines as long as Blind Obedience is being played in players' main decks. This version of Rakdos is designed to be exceptionally powerful at forcing a racing game against Gruul, Mono-Red, and Naya Matchups, where it will likely perform slightly above average. The deck will suffer against Blind Obedience strategies, but there's always a chance control players won't draw their powerful enchantment and, in those situations, this deck will likely crush the control strategies as well.

I hope you enjoyed my first exploration of the new Standard metagame on Magic Online. The format will continue to evolve in the coming weeks and I'll be sure to keep my finger on its pulse for all my readers. A new set's release is a great time to get involved in Magic Online Constructed if you're not already. The decks are all relatively new and there's room for innovation. While you're at it, you should also check out the Open Beta for the new Magic Online Client. You can find more information about the new client here. The new client offers a smoother Magic Online experience. I'm sure the more user-friendly interface will be appreciated by a lot of my readers. Personally, I'm a big fan of the "attack with all my creatures" options in the right-click menu. It's not as relevant to me after the latest Pauper bannings, but I'm sure I'll be Empty the Warrens or Cloudstone Curioing out fifty Elves in the not-too-distant future.

Knowledge is Power!

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