Standard and World Magic Cup Qualifiers!

Posted in Perilous Research on August 21, 2014

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! Last week, we took a look at the PTQ-winning Modern decks from the last few weeks in an effort to secure a win at one of the final PTQs of the season. Now we'll be shifting focus to Standard in preparation for the World Magic Cup Qualifiers that will be taking place in the coming weeks. I'd like to specifically focus on a deck that recently caught my attention. There's been whispering about a new black-green deck with the potential to be format defining. Last weekend, this mystery black-green monstrosity inundated World Magic Cup Qualifier Top 8s around the world. What's this newfangled tier 1? Let's check it out!

When approaching a newer format, even when there's already been a Pro Tour, it's important to recognize what the most powerful cards in the format are. In today's Standard, Courser of Kruphix, Thoughtseize, Pack Rat, and Sphinx's Revelation seem like the cards that have the biggest effect on games for their respective casting costs. It's easy to play Thoughtseize and Pack Rat together, but it's nearly impossible to cast these cards alongside Sphinx's Revelation. The addition of Llanowar Wastes from Magic 2015 makes casting Courser of Kruphix a lot less of a chore, though. And, suddenly, there's a new line we can take, where we get to play with Courser of Kruphix, Pack Rat, and Thoughtseize at the same time.

This possibility was recognized by Japanese player Kazuaki Fujimura. Fujimura brought the deck to Pro Tour Magic 2015 and put up an impressive Constructed run. His drafts didn't work out as well and he didn't make Top 8, so his decklist risked fading into obscurity, which it did for the next two weeks. Then there was a quiet rumbling under the mountain and it was clear that a dragon had been awakened.

Nissa, Worldwaker is quickly working her way into the Standard canon as one of the defining cards of the format. Black midrange strategies have been playing white for Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Obzedat, Ghost Council in an attempt to upgrade their Gray Merchant of Asphodel into something that's better in more matchups. Nissa, Worldwaker is about the best upgrade one could ask for if we're looking for a worthwhile five-mana spell for the archetype. Nissa, Worldwaker is improved by the fact that black decks are very good at forcing opponents to tap their mana on specifically desired turns. For example, if we have access to five mana, we can cast Pack Rat and pass the turn with three mana open. We can simply make another Rat and go for the kill if the opponent doesn't interact with it, but in the situations where the opponent taps all his or her lands for Supreme Verdict, we can untap and take over the game with Nissa, Worldwaker.

The most important addition the deck gets by committing strongly to green cards is Courser of Kruphix. The card is exactly what the Black Devotion deck was looking for. The current format seems to be dominated by Rabble Red strategies, and Courser of Kruphix is the best possible creature against those decks. Additionally, as a Black Devotion deck, we can fill our sideboard with Pharika's Cure and Drown in Sorrow to further push that match up in our favor.

The rest of the deck is exactly what you would expect from a midrange black strategy. Slower cards like Underworld Connections have been cut, not that the deck has more velocity with mana acceleration and more complex threats like Nissa, Worldwaker. The deck still has access to four Duresses and four Thoughtseizes in post-boarded games, so there's really no way to attack it efficiently if we're looking to push our win percentage above 60% against it.

Let's take a look at Black-Green Midrange, Standard's newest top dog:

Pascal Maynard's Black-Green Midrange (2nd, World Magic Cup Qualifier, Canada)

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Since Pascal Maynard initially posted this decklist, I've been playing with it in Standard Eight-Player queues and having quite a bit of success.

Let's take a look at the most successful decks from recent Magic Online events in an effort to maximize this deck's chances of victory.

Darklilou's Burn (4–0, Magic Online Standard Daily)

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Burn is still one of the most successful decks in Standard. Matt Sperling showed the world the power of this deck by finishing in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Magic 2015 with the archetype. The deck pounds away at the opponent's life total without spending cards by using Mutavault and Chandra's Phoenix aggressively. All of the burn spells can either be used to control the board or to close a game quickly (and out of nowhere) by firing them off on a key turn. The recent success of burn leads us to want a fourth copy of Courser of Kruphix in our black-green main deck.

SPKG's All-in Soldiers (4–0, Magic Online Standard Daily)

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Another aggressive strategy, the red-white Launch the Fleets strategies have been doing very well on Magic Online over the last two weeks. We can expect this deck to pick up a bigger following in live events as the World Magic Cup Qualifier season continues, and it's important that we be well-equipped to deal with it. The fourth Courser of Kruphix will once again be a nice addition, but I'd also like to have access to another Bile Blight in the main.

Yuji's Rabble Red (4–0, Magic Online Standard Daily)

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Rabblemaster Red decks were the breakout strategy at Pro Tour Magic 2015. Tom Ross and Brad Nelson were the brains behind the deck that Team Revolution crushed the Constructed portion of Magic 2015 with. Again, this deck's success encourages us to play additional copies of Bile Blight and Courser of Kruphix in our black-green deck.

Caiovski's White-Black Midrange (4–0, Magic Online Standard Daily)

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White-Black Midrange is the deck to beat in Standard. ChannelFireball's The Pantheon used the deck to great success at Pro Tour Magic 2015, and it doesn't seem like the deck will be going anywhere. Against this strategy, we want our deck to be as aggressive as possible. Lifebane Zombie is very important on the turn before our opponent has access to mana for Blood Baron of Vizkopa. The deck has answers for everything, so it's important that we use our cards aggressively here. The opponent also has Lifebane Zombie, so it's usually correct to try to empty our hand of green creatures as quickly as possible before employing our own Lifebane Zombie to try to get the opposing Blood Baron of Vizkopa out of his or her hand.

With these big decks in mind, I'll be playing the following list of Black-Green Midrange in the coming week's Magic Online events. I strongly suggest giving this deck a try if you're looking to do well in a new Standard that's dominated by aggressive decks. The deck does very well against aggro and its pure card power level means that it's usually at least 50% to win against the midrange and control strategies of the format.

Black-Green Midrange by Jacob Van Lunen

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Be sure to find the World Magic Cup Qualifier event that's closest to you so you can plan to be a part of the action. Winning a World Magic Cup Qualifier earns you a spot at the most prestigious Magic event in the world. Next week, we'll check out the Magic Online Limited Championship and all its implications!

Knowledge is power!

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