Selecting a Weapon for the Standard Showdown

Posted in Ways to Play on November 23, 2016

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

As this is being written, we are in the middle of preparing to cover the World Magic Cup in Rotterdam. It is the last of a string of major events that seem to have come right on the heels of each other. There are still a smattering of Grand Prix between now and the events around Pro Tour Aether Revolt, but for the most part it is a welcome respite from a long year of covering Magic tournaments. Which means we can sit back and enjoy some of life's finer things.

Standard Showdown Approaches

Time to play in some Magic tournaments! Personally, I am very excited about the chance to play in Standard Showdowns in my local area and have the luxury of multiple stores to get out from behind the lens and back into tournament fighting shape. One of the local stores is The Geekery HQ in Queens, New York. The person who runs all the Magic events for them is a familiar face to long-time players in the New York area and he has cultivated a Magic scene at the store that is welcoming to both competitive and casual players alike.

Longtime Magic player Kevin An is running their first event on November 26 at 2 p.m. and will be hosting subsequent events each weekend for the next four weeks.

"Just bring a Standard deck and a good attitude," said Kevin An about what players need to know to get ready for the event. "I think Standard is the best it's been in years, and the Standard Showdown is a good way to highlight this."

Kevin An has always been one to play with a fun deck and try to make it competitive. He has been playing a Whirler Virtuoso deck when he gets to step out from behind the counter and play some Magic himself.

"Mardu Vehicles and Green-Black Delirium have been the best decks," he said of the store's most recent Standard metagame. "But I've been brewing that Jeskai Combo deck that I refuse to give up on. I've been working on it with some locals, and one of them is actually taking it to a local PPTQ this weekend."

Talking to Kevin got me thinking about what can seem like the daunting task of picking a Standard deck to play in in the Showdown. I talked with several of my coverage compatriots—and will obviously be checking out Constructed Resources with Marshall Sutcliffe and Hall of Famer Eric Froehlich for weekly details about the format—about how they approach deck selection, be it for a Grand Prix, a Pro Tour, or even the upcoming Standard Showdown.

I had the pleasure of working with Pro Tour San Diego Champion Simon Goertzen at Grand Prix Rotterdam, and shared space at the news desk with him when he was not in the booth during the World Magic Cup. If you are a no-nonsense, best-deck type of person, then Goertzen is the person you want to be listening to when it comes to choosing a deck. For him, it always comes down to how you fare in matchups against similar decks.

"I will not play a deck where I don't like the mirror match," he said flatly. "This is almost a logical consequence...if you want to play one of the best decks, it is also going to be one of the most popular decks in the format. That means you need to win the mirror. If you are only at 50% or even 53% in the mirror, then that is a good reason not to play it.

Changing as few three or four cards can wildly swing the matchup from a coin flip to something that tilts dramatically towards you. He credits this type of thinking, which led him remove an underwhelming card on the draw in the mirror match, Goblin Ruinblasters, from his sideboard, for his biggest tournament finish.

"Which is basically what I did 6 years ago to win the Pro Tour. I played the best deck in the format, Jund, and everyone knew it was the best deck in the format. People came to either play the mirror or to beat the mirror. The biggest edge you can gain is by building your deck to beat the mirror."

Pro Tour Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas will be playing in fewer tournaments this year than he has in more than a decade. LSV has joined the coverage team this year, but I can still see him itching—almost literally—to play whenever the pairings go up. I would not be at all surprised to hear that he wandered into a Denver-area store for a little Standard Showdown action.

"Standard is pretty varied right now, so I would just play the deck that I would have the most fun playing—which does not mean I am going to play a bad deck. Right now I have been enjoying playing the various Grixis Emerge decks with Prized Amalgams and Elder Deep-Fiends and ways to discard them," said the Pro Tour Hall of Famer.

If the emerge-based decks are not your speed...well, LSV has really been liking a deck that comes out of the gates much faster and is often attacking on turn one.

"One of the decks that has really surprised me right now is the Black-Red Aggro deck with Bomat Courier and Bloodhall Priest. It is like an aggro deck, but you always have all these ways to draw extra cards."

Gaby Spartz is fully immersed in Magic. When she is not streaming during the week, she is usually somewhere covering an event. When she is not covering an event, she can usually be found playing Magic in one form or another. Research is where it all begins for Spartz who relies on Magic Online to keep up with the most recent changes to the Standard format.

"I really like looking at the 5-0 decklists online. I think that is a really great indicator of what is doing really well in the metagame," said the popular streamer, who emphasized that there are enough decks out there so that you can find something that suits your style. "I look at the decks that I feel comfortable with. I never feel comfortable playing an all-in control deck with two win conditions. That is not something I would consider. Ultimately, one of the most important things is that you enjoy the deck you are playing.

When pushed for what deck she was leaning toward for the weekend, she laughed and admitted that Metalwork Colossus variants were something that always caught her eye.

Play-by-play announcer and sideline reporter Tim Willoughby has had his eye on a deck since he crossed paths with it while covering Grand Prix Warsaw. The Standard Showdown is just the type of event he has been waiting for to put it through its paces.

"I want to play something fun," said Willoughby, who describes his hunting process when it comes to sweet decks. "I am not necessarily looking for something at the top of the standings; I am looking for something just below the top of the field but has lots of sweet cards. If it has something like Whirler Virtuoso and Decoction Module? Then I am in!"

He recently wrote about the deck and how it works.

Pro Tour Hall of Famer Frank Karsten is the man we turn to for a breakdown of Constructed formats on the event coverage team and provided a quick checklist of the top viable decks heading into the Standard Showdown.

"There are a couple of contenders in the current Standard for the best deck, I believe. Black-Green Delirium, Mardu Vehicles, and Blue-White Flash are all quite good, but there are plenty of options available in Standard. Just pick whatever deck you enjoy, filled with the cards you like to play, and whatever play style you are best at. Feel free to show up with some kind of brew.

Karsten had one piece of advice if your local metagame is teeming with Black-Green Delirium.

"Show up with some kind of Aetherworks Marvel deck and Emrakul them into oblivion."

Whether you are crewing vehicles, making monster emerge suddenly onto the battlefield, or—hopefully—doing crazy Thopter tricks with a Whirler Virtuoso deck, I hope you will look up your local game shop and give the Standard Showdown a try.

Standard Showdown is four-week event celebrating all that is Standard, with local tournaments, cool prizes, and opportunities for bragging rights and brewing.

Looking for a Standard Showdown tournament near you? Use this locator to find your nearest store hosting one of these fun events.


Already been to an event and crushed it? Submit your name, decklist, record, store where you played, and any fun photos you have at or by filling out the form below.

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