TGIF (Tomorrow)

Posted in Perilous Research on November 28, 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
In the US this week we're celebrating a day of Thanksgiving. So that the DailyMTG staff can spend more time with their families (and eating), we're bringing you a repeat of last week's column.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!
—DailyMTG Team

Every Friday, tens of thousands of Magic players descend upon local gaming stores the world over for intense Standard action. Friday Night Magic, or FNM, is an opportunity to connect with other Magic players, improve upon your deck, and grow as a player through worthwhile brain exercise. Friday Night Magic gives us a chance to play in a low-stress tournament setting. I played FNM every week for many years of my life. The experiences I had at FNM helped me become a better player, while introducing me to some of my best friends. My favorite aspect of Constructed FNM is that it's often a different tournament for every player there; each player gets a unique experience of his or her choice: I like to play with crazy decks when I go to FNM; there's something really fun about infinite combos, making obnoxiously huge creatures, or playing Standard singleton control decks. Some players like to use FNM as a tool for improvement and practice when they're trying to better their results as competitive players. Still others use FNM to spend some quality gaming time with their friends. Each unique experience gives the player an opportunity to play Magic, and playing Magic is pretty much the best thing in the entire world.

Mind Bomb | Art by Mark Tedin

Today, we'll be discussing everything FNM: We'll be taking a look at some new and exciting decks you might want to test drive at this Friday's events. Then, we'll take a look at some of the more established decks in the format and talk about changes that have been experimented with successfully in the last few weeks. Finally, we'll talk about interesting cards that seem well-suited for the current format; we can ignite this creative spark and work on exciting new strategies.

Find an FNM Near You!

Let's start by looking at some of the newer decks that have been popping up recently. New strategies are always exciting at FNM. Small fields often allow new and/or unknown quantities to catch people off guard. New decks rise above stale local metagames and encourage the rest of the players to adapt, often resulting in a healthy shift in format focus that keeps things exciting for everyone from week to week. Most importantly, new decks are fun. It's like driving a new car or playing with a new toy. There's something magically thrilling about playing sanctioned Magic with an untested deck, especially in a live tournament.

    A Whole New World

Adrian Sullivan's Boros Midrange

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The first new deck we'll be looking at today is an aggressive Red strategy that splashes white for Boros Charm and a number of sideboard cards. Adrian Sullivan is known for making wacky decks that attack formats effectively, and a 1st-place finish in Columbus is a pretty good indicator that he found a gem. We've seen plenty of aggressive White Weenie decks splash red for Boros Charm, but the Red deck that splashes white seems like a new quantity that's sure to be very strong for this weekend's FNM. The deck is capable of blisteringly fast Red deck starts with eight one-mana/2-power creatures. The curve may hiccup a bit in places, but cards like Chandra's Phoenix let the deck apply constant pressure against decks that intend to stabilize against a Red strategy before they go on the offensive. The deck's late game is incredibly strong; it's easy to abuse an opponent's life total early on with this type of deck and Mutavault; Stormbreath Dragon; and Chandra, Pyromaster will let us stay ahead even when our opponent has found a perfect answer to our early/midgame aggression.

Frank Fields's Bant Control

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My favorite new strategy for this weekend's Standard FNMs is this Bant Control deck. The deck has a lot going for it. Supreme Verdict allows the deck to cripple Devotion opponents, who certainly won't be playing around the spell, after seeing things like Sylvan Caryatid or Loxodon Smiter. The deck's creatures allow it to go toe to toe with any of the other creature-based strategies in the early turns of the game. The other creature decks are left trying to bash with dudes in the mid- to late game while this deck upgrades its game plan to big Sphinx's Revelations, Ætherling, and Angel of Serenity—one of the most underrated cards in the current Standard format. I often steer clear of control decks in large live Standard events. I can take a little bit of time with some of my decisions and I don't want to draw matches in a tournament when I've devoted myself to doing well. When playing FNM, though, I'm all about the Sphinx's Revelations and countermagic. It's not a big deal to draw and players are more likely to concede when the game is 99.99% over than they would be in a higher-level event.

Luis Navas's Rakdos Aggro

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Rakdos Aggro winning Grand Prix Santiago is probably one of the most exciting things for bloodthirsty aggro players everywhere. The deck comes out swinging with very fast starts. Tormented Hero is not only a 2-power creature for one mana, but it also happens to combo nicely with Madcap Skills. It may seem like a small interaction, being that it's only 1 point of damage, but a single point of damage is a huge deal down the stretch when we're playing a deck like this. This deck is pretty easy to build, it's very powerful, and it's a lot of fun to play with cards like Xathrid Necromancer and Mogis's Marauder.

Dylon Jeffrey's Junk Midrange

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The new Junk Midrange strategies are similar to the deck I played at Pro Tour Theros. Blood Baron of Vizkopa has proven itself as a main-deck card and Loxodon Smiter has become much stronger with cards like Spike Jester and Kalonian Tusker running around. These decks are great for players looking to take their game to the next level. The correct line of play can be very difficult with a deck like this, but playing correctly will be graciously rewarded. Thank Heliod that people still want to play the best creatures/Planeswalkers alongside Thoughtseize.

Dennis Bogdanov's BW Devotion

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The White Devotion deck always seemed strong to me. We tested the deck prior to Pro Tour Theros with some success, but not many people have gone ahead and actually played the deck in a tournament. This version of the deck splashes black for a lot of powerful sideboard options. Its White-Weenie-esque draws will often win the game on their own, allowed the deck to sideboard into a midrange control deck against a deck that's been sideboarded into something designed to beat an aggressive strategy. Again, we see Angel of Serenity at work here. Angel of Serenity lost a lot of popularity in recent weeks, but players have quickly relearned of its power and it happens to be one of the best tools at tearing apart an opponent's devotion count.

    Tweaking Our Way to Victory!

There are many established decks in Standard that have been receiving facelifts over the last few weeks. Playing the same deck every week helps players learn all the interactions that can occur, it helps them become comfortable in a tournament setting over a number of events and matches, and it allows the players to experiment with bold card choices to make improvements that could only be discovered by true devotees of the archetype. Let's take a look at some new takes on some old hits in this Standard format.

Kinny Fain's Blue Devotion splashing Green

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Listen up, Blue Devotion players, because there's some new tech for your old standby. The Blue Devotion deck has already established itself as one of the most explosive strategies in Standard, but Kinny Fain decided to splash green for Master Biomancer out of the sideboard and Frilled Oculus in the main deck. Frilled Oculus may seem like a strange card to splash for, but it fills a lot of holes in the deck and it's actually a very good card in the current Standard format. Let's think about it: Frilled Oculus is a good way to use our mana when we're out of gas and it happens to be the only creature in the current Standard format that can effectively trade with Boros Reckoner.

Jody Keith's BG Devotion

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Here's a new and exciting take on the Black Devotion deck. Adding green to Black Devotion gives the deck access to Abrupt Decay, a huge piece of tech for mirror matches, where it can get Underworld Connections off the table, and an excellent tool against opposing Detention Spheres. It may seem strange, but if we Abrupt Decay a Detention Sphere with Underworld Connections removed, then we get to reattach it to a land. Golgari Charm gives the deck yet another angle at attacking the cards that are most important in the control and mirror matches. I think we should be following Jody's lead and splashing green in our Black Devotion decks this weekend, especially if our FNM has a lot of Black Devotion and Esper Control running around.

Ben Stark's Red Devotion Splashing Green

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Hall of Famer Ben Stark decided to attend a local Super IQ event last weekend playing a Red Devotion deck similar to the one ChannelFireball showed up with at the Pro Tour. This version of the deck splashes green to gain access to Domri Rade and Mistcutter Hydra. Mistcutter Hydra drastically improves this deck's sideboarding plan against a lot of the scarier matchups; reach is precisely what a Fanatic of Mogis deck is looking for. Domri Rade is also an incredible tool for any deck that gets to play with Boros Reckoner. The interaction between Domri Rade and Boros Reckoner allows us to get ahead both in terms of board presence and card advantage. I would play this version of Red Devotion if I expected a lot of Black Devotion and Green Devotion decks at my FNM.

Jared LaCombe's Red-White Devotion

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New takes on Red Devotion have been having a great deal of success lately. This version splashes white for Chained to the Rocks, one of the best sideboard cards against Polukranos, World Eater decks and Aurelia's Fury, which has the power to close a game out of nowhere in a deck that's built around Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. I would play this version of Red Devotion if I had been losing in past weeks to Blue Devotion strategies.

John Nader's Green-Blue Devotion

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Green Devotion decks usually splash red for Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler. We've seen versions of the deck splash blue in the past, but this deck has a particularly nice angle with the blue cards. Progenitor Mimic may seem a bit odd, but in this format the card is an absolute powerhouse. Copying opposing Master of Waves or Gray Merchant of Asphodel can lead to some absurd things if the opponent is caught without an appropriate card to deal with the Mimic. I would play this version of Green Devotion if I expected a lot of creature decks without a lot of reach.

    Food for Thought

Sometimes, we don't want to play a deck we've found somewhere at FNM, we want to build our own deck and test it against our local metagame. I'd like to talk about some of the best cards that remain under the radar. These are cards that would be great to build around for tomorrow's FNM or any of this weekend's tournaments.

The first card we'll be looking at is Underworld Cerberus. This mythic rare doggy monster is one of the best available tools against the Black Devotion decks. I often get emails from readers whose FNMs are dominated by a few players who always bring Black Devotion to the table. If this is the problem, then look no further than Underworld Cerberus. The card presents a fast clock, and when used in combination with aggressive creatures, especially cards like Lotleth Troll, Underworld Cerberus's death secures victory by passively drawing you a fistful of cards upon death.

Angel of Serenity has seen some success in recent weeks, but the card is still considered rogue by most players. I think this card has tremendous potential in this format, especially if your local metagame is dominated by slower devotion strategies.

The last card I'd like to talk about is Progenitor Mimic. We just discussed a deck that utilizes this powerful card, but I would love to build any number of devotion decks that splash for this card on one end or another. Think about playing this card in Blue Devotion. We can copy an opposing Gray Merchant of Asphodel and trigger our devotion from Nightveil Specters every turn; it actually seems like it's probably better than the second copy of Cyclonic Rift in most cases.

Friday Night Magic is, more than anything else, an opportunity to play some Magic. Building or tweaking decks for the tournament increases our commitment to the event and allows us to maximize our experience. Friday Night Magic events are held all over the world. You can use this link to find the Friday Night Magic event nearest to you. See you tomorrow!

Jacob Van LunenJacob Van Lunen
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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.

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