Lessons from the Magic Online Championship

Posted in Top Decks on April 3, 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

Last weekend, sixteen of the world's greatest Magic Online players descended upon San Francisco with hopes of being crowned the 2013 Magic Online Champion. When the dust settled, only Lars Dam, 2013 Magic Online Limited Champion, remained. Today, we'll be taking a look at the most successful decks from the Standard and Modern portions of the Magic Online Championship.


Let's start by taking a look at Standard. Last week, we asserted that Esper Control strategies had risen to power. As a result, we saw some interesting card choices in many players' decks at the Magic Online Championship. Is Esper still the deck to beat in Standard going forward? Let's take a look at the most successful decks from the Standard portion of the event.

Ashiok Black Devotion

Tamas Glied

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The most successful deck in the Standard portion of the Magic Online Championship was Tamas Glied's interesting take on Black Devotion. Glied didn't expect a lot of early aggression last weekend. Even the red- and green-based strategies are, in most cases, trying to go a lot bigger than they might have been in previous Standard formats. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver dominates when played on the third turn in a game where the opponent isn't planning on attacking until the third or fourth turn. We can look forward to Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver versions of Black Devotion enjoying success in the coming weeks.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Esper Control

Seth Manfield

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Esper Control was expected and was taken into account by most players at the Magic Online Championship, but that didn't stop Seth Manfield from putting up a very solid record with the deck. Manfield chose to run a lot of permission and disruption in his main deck to combat the rise of other control decks and ramping monster strategies.

Doom Blade

Azorius Control

Ondrej Strasky

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Esper Control may be powerful, but Ondrej Strasky essentially only had to part ways with Thoughtseize to make his control strategy more consistent than that of his opponents. The Azorius Control deck can make the game last seemingly forever with Elixir of Immortality and Sphinx's Revelation. Again, we see that Strasky has access to a lot of permission in his seventy-five to combat opposing control strategies.

Elixir of Immortality
Sphinx's Revelation

Sire Black Devotion

Lars Dam

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Eventual winner Lars Dam went 3–1 through the Swiss with a Black Devotion deck that splashed red for Sire of Insanity. Resolving Sire of Insanity with an Underworld Connections in play seems very strong. After sideboarding, Slaughter Games gives Dam the ability to strip his control opponents of all their Sphinx's Revelations.

Sire of Insanity
Underworld Connections

Blue Devotion

Cory Lack

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Cory Lack fearlessly sleeved up Blue Devotion into a field full of Supreme Verdicts. Many of the control decks have become inbred, playing lots of countermagic and main-deck Thoughtseizes. This means that their previously awesome Blue Devotion matchup isn't quite what it used to be. Ephara, God of the Polis and Detention Sphere have become staples of the archetype over the last few weeks.

Ephara, God of the Polis
Detention Sphere

Black Devotion and its ilk reestablished itself as the archetype to beat in Standard. The Control decks are biting at its heels and Red-Green Monsters/Jund Monsters are becoming less popular. Will this give fringe strategies like Naya Auras an opportunity to get back into the mix? We'll find out next week!


Modern's player base is growing fast and the massive card pool of the format means there will always be room for innovation. After Grand Prix Richmond, many had assumed that Melira, Sylvok Outcast/Birthing Pod combo strategies and aggressive Affinity decks were going to be somewhat dominant for a foreseeable future. Modern will never be that predictable. The format's capacity for evolution is so far-reaching that the format in its current state, if allowed, could exist in constant flux well beyond our lifetimes.

The Magic Online Championship saw a new strategy rise to power in Modern. Let's take a look at the top-performing decks in the Modern portion of the event:


Tamas Glied

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Bing Luke

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Jund is back and it performed better than any other Modern archetype at the Magic Online Championship! The deck uses a mix of powerful disruption in the form of Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek; removal; some of the best creatures in the format; and Chandra, Pyromaster. The versatility of the strategy means that it has no truly bad matchups. We'll surely be seeing more of this going forward and it behooves all aspiring Modern masters to familiarize themselves with the deck, even if they don't plan on playing it.

Inquisition of Kozilek
Chandra, Pyromaster

Melira Pod

Lars Dam

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Melira Pod had a lackluster showing at the Magic Online Championship, but one copy, piloted by Lars Dam, managed to go undefeated. Melira Pod is very strong and its ability to play both the combo and midrange angles makes it a difficult opponent for anyone. Players including Thoughtseize in their main deck performed poorly last weekend, while players who chose to go with more streamlined creature versions did well.

Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Birthing Pod

Red-White-Blue Kiki-Jiki Control

Paul Nemeth

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We don't need to put together an infinite combo with our Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker every time. The card does a pretty good job of winning the game by itself when combined with things like Snapcaster Mage and Wall of Omens. Restoration Angel is a pretty awesome card on its own, but it enables this deck to attack for infinite damage by repeatedly blinking the Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker that copied it. This deck gets to be a startlingly efficient control strategy that just happens to have an infinite combo in it. This has been experimented with before with some success, but I expect the archetype's following to grow in the coming months.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Restoration Angel

Jund is back and it's quickly proven itself to have the necessary tools to be a top-tier contender in the Modern format.

The Magic Online Championship is an opportunity for the game's best online players to have their shot at the game's highest level of competition. The players at the Magic Online Championship have, in most cases, played more Magic in the last year than just about any other sampling of Magic players. The results from these events shouldn't be taken lightly. Join these masters and millions of others on Magic Online and maybe you'll be next year's Magic Online Champion!

Congratulations to Lars Dam, our 2013 Magic Online Champion!

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