Posted in NEWS on March 23, 2014

By Corbin Hosler


5. Witchstalker

As powerful as the black-based decks were in Cincinnati, Top 8 competitor Jacob Maynard found a way around them: play cards that don't interact.

That was the basis of his Naya Auras deck, which utilized Hexproof creatures like Witchstalker to blank most of the opponent's removal spells. Slap an Unflinching Courage onto the Wolf and you've suddenly got a threat that not many decks can answer.

The deck provided a different angle to attack the format, and one that Maynard used to confound the control decks for most of the weekend.


4. Mogis's Marauder

Marauder is card that you can find easily in the leftovers of a draft, showing you how much players usually value it in their Constructed decks. It's by no means the flashiest card in the Mono-Black Aggro deck that Clyde Martin took to the semifinals of the tournament.

But it is one that the deck couldn't exist without.

The card allows the deck to function well into the late game rather than falling off like most aggro decks. Not only does it provide the deck unexpected explosiveness by giving itself and usually some of its friends haste after a Supreme Verdict, but it also provides a way to punch through otherwise-scary blockers like Archangel of Thune or Elspeth tokens by virtue of granting Intimidate.


3. Stormbreath Dragon

Stormbreath Dragon didn't Top 8. The only copies that found their way into the Top 16 did so in the sideboard of Jason Ascalon's White-Blue-Red Control deck rather than the Jund Monsters deck where it typically resides.

But that doesn't mean it didn't leave a mark on Cincinnati.

Esper Control was the deck of the tournament, putting the most pilots into Day 2 and two of them in Brad Nelson and eventual champion Kyle Boggemes into the finals.

The reason why so many players chose to battle with Esper? So they could handle Stormbreath. With Protection from white built in, the only way for the traditional White-Blue Control decks to handle the dragon is during their mainphase with either Supreme Verdict or Elspeth, Sun's Champion. That means Stormbreath is guaranteed to hit. Esper solves that problem by adding black removal spells specifically to deal with the hasty Dragon.

And don't be fooled by the final standings: Stormbreath was well-represented on Sunday. When a card is good enough to warp the format around it, you know it belongs in the top five.




2. Detention Sphere

Look. We all know how good Oblivion Ring is. Did anyone really expect that the newest twist on the classic effect could fall out of favor for long?

Detention Sphere dipped out of the metagame briefly, but it's made a striking comeback and featured heavily in several of the decks that made the elimination rounds, not to mention playing a key role in Kyle Boggemes' Top 8 run by taking care of pretty much whatever he needed it to, from creatures and gods to opposing Planeswalkers.

The other deck that makes great use of the enchantment is Uw Devotion, a new twist on the Mono-Blue Devotion deck that's been dominant since Pro Tour Theros. It not only eliminates problem permanents, it also helps contribute to the Devotion count needed for Thassa, God of the Sea and Ephara, God of the Polis. That's easily enough to push it to elite status in Standard.


1. Thoughtseize

These days it's easier to ask what deck isn't playing Thoughtseize. It does whatever you want it to do, and the ubiquitous sorcery defined nearly every match it was played in, which was pretty much every match played.

There's simply no mistaking the power of stripping an opponent's best threat before they even get a chance to cast it. And it gives you perfect knowledge of your opponent's hand. And it's flexible enough to handle creatures or removal spells. And with so many control decks floating around the room, it's not a bad draw even late.

Like I said, what doesn't it do?

It showed exactly why the format revolves around it in the final match of the tournament. When Kyle Boggemes cast it against Brad Nelson, it set off a flurry of counterspells and draw spells (along with a bevy of spells on the stack) before Boggemes eventually won that battle and emerged on top of Grand Prix Cincinnati thanks to it.