FINDING THE THIRD DECK

Posted in 2014 WORLD MAGIC CUP on December 6, 2014

By Josh Bennett

On the subject of Unified Standard, the world's teams had reached a tentative consensus: you wanted one Courser of Kruphix / Sylvan Caryatid deck, and one Lightning Strike / Goblin Rabblemaster deck. Those constraints were fairly loose. For instance, the former could be Abzan Control, or Black-Green Constellation, or Sidisi Whip. The latter could be Rabble Red, or Mardu Midrange, or Yuuya Watanabe's Jeskai Tokens, or Red-Green Monsters. The remaining open question was what you wanted to do with your third deck.

These combinations of two cards were considered the pillars of the first two decks of your team. However, what led to finding a team's third Unified Standard deck?

Now, I say consensus, but there were a few teams who dared deviate from the formula. Malaysia was dominant on Day One playing neither Caryatid nor Courser. Their green deck of choice was Abzan Aggro, and while most builds will find room for the Courser (such as Uruguay, who still went Caryatid-less), Malaysia benched it in favor of pure aggression. Many countries decided to divide their Lightning Strikes between two decks, usually between a Red-White aggressive deck like Mardu or Jeskai Tokens, and a base-green deck like Red-Green Monsters and Temur. A few bold souls went so far as to leave Goblin Rabblemaster out entirely, preferring their red deck to go big.

The first place most teams looked was White-Blue Heroic. It wants none of the cards that other decks are interested in, so you don't have to make any sacrifices. However, it was also on everyone's radar. Another known quantity was Blue-Black Control, though its need for removal would influence the build of which Caryatid/Courser deck you could play. It did come out in strong numbers, with both Stanislav Cifka and Ivan Floch championing it. Team Hungary liked Blue-Black Control enough, but felt it could be fine-tuned for this event. The result was a deck with a full four Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. Captain Tamás Gleid explained. "We wanted something more proactive. We were expecting a field full of midrange decks and didn't like the way Blue-Black played against them. This way we can just resolve an early Ashiok and protect it. It also lets us play fewer lands, just twenty-six. You also have to remember that time is a real problem, and regular Blue-Black can take a long time to finish three games."

Team Slovenia also wanted a control deck in the third seat. I talked with Svarum Lskovsek and Nejc Juric about their decision to play White-Blue Control. "You probably want to talk to the Captain, Robin Dolar, he's the one who's playing it." I asked them about what decks they tried during testing. "We started out looking at Mono-Red and White-Blue Heroic, both very explosive decks but also very inconsistent. Thinking we'd see lots of midrange, they'd be ready for these decks. We didn't want to take the removal out of Sidisi Whip, so we went with White-Blue."

Team Mexico actually embraced the idea of playing a deck with high variance. Captain Marcelino Freeman explained the reasoning behind playing Temur Monsters. "The deck has some of the most powerful openings in the format. Turn two Savage Knuckleblade, or Elf, Mystic, turn-three Dragon. It is an inconsistent deck, however. It often loses to itself, just because of its mana, but its good draws can beat anyone. Also, it has Stubborn Denial which is very good against the decks we expected."

Lastly I talked to Nam Sung Wook, captain of Team South Korea, about their running Boss Sligh as their third deck. "Well we liked Mono-Red, but Rabblemaster, Hordeling Outburst, they're too slow. On turn three you want to play creature and spell, so the deck has lots of ones. Only eighteen land, so you don't draw many. Very aggressive. So, no Outburst, no Rabblemaster, now those can go in Mardu. Lightning Strike, too. "We played one in mono-red, just to confuse the opponents." He couldn't help but grin. "If we draw it, now they think it is only here."

It will be interesting to see which of these "Third Decks" makes the Top 8.