Last weekend, I attended both Mythic Championship Qualifier events held in Sheffield and hosted by Patriot Games. In this article, I’ll give a bit of a rundown of how the events went and how I’m currently choosing to navigate Standard. As the title suggests, new decks have been considered so we’ll take a closer look at a couple that fall into this category.
The speed at which the Standard metagame moves has historically been a puzzle. From Nexus of Fate to Red Aggro to Superfriends, there’s strong consideration to be given to the approach of ‘adapt or die’ in this new format. I’m becoming more and more aware of the benefits of branching out from White Aggro as we move forward in WAR standard.
A new hero emerges
A few weeks ago, I tried out the following deck on MTGArena:
After playing a number of matches with it against a variety of decks, it very much felt like the ‘Jund’ of the format, meaning it had solid to slightly unfavourable matchups across the board and that there weren’t many specific cards or strategies that completely shut it down, at least not after sideboarding. While it was good at crafting a solid game-plan and using its creatures and Planeswalkers to generate card advantage in basically every match-up, it very much felt like a deck that wanted to draw ‘exactly five lands’ and no more. In addition, every match felt like very hard work if both decks were firing on all cylinders, which suggested that in grindy matches (e.g. the mirror match) the less-experienced player often loses out.
Day One – Saturday
In the end, I wasn’t confident that I could pilot the Esper Hero deck well enough, particularly against the Planeswalker decks. At least with multiple one-drops I could apply some real pressure. This is the list we tweaked from last week’s episode in Liverpool:
Some notes on card choices:
- Shield Mare: The most common matchup we don’t want to face is Mono-Red Aggro, so we are trying out the horse to shore up our win rate against it. We’ve decided to cut Tocatli Honor Guard to make room. While the Honor Guard mitigates the damage Goblin Chainwhirler and Viashino Pyromancer can do, Venerated Loxodon remains one of the most powerful paths to victory (usually saving our board from Chainwhirler in the process). Shield Mare buffers our health total while also being an unblockable threat!
- Citywide Bust: This is our hedge card for battling Bant midrange, as we don’t have many slots for this matchup other than Baffling End for Wildgrowth Walker, and they won’t be too helpful when Shalai, Voice of Plenty and God-Eternal Oketra are on the board.
The event was attended by 161 players which meant 8 rounds of swiss play before a cut to the top 8. I travelled to the event with Alex Roebuck but met a number of the Leeds players at the event, including Rob Catton, Matt Duggan, Alfie Bennett, Callum Bousfield, and Krystian Mustafa. Here is how the swiss rounds played out for me:
- Mono White Aggro 1-2 LOSS – 0-1
- Simic Nexus 2-0 WIN – 1-1
- Esper Control 2-0 WIN – 2-1
- Mono Red Aggro 2-1 WIN – 3-1
- Dreadhorde Combo 1-2 LOSS – 3-2
- Esper Hero 2-0 WIN – 4-2
- Mono White Aggro 2-0 WIN – 5-2
- Dreadhorde Combo 0-2 LOSS – 5-3
A reasonable 5-3 unfortunately wasn’t good enough for Top 8. Matt made it in though!
Congratulations to Zer Shiuan Peng for emerging victorious! (Incidentally, I think he lost the finals last week in Liverpool – a nice turnaround for him!).
Reflections from the event
Here are some talking points from the event.
- Unless one person runs another over, White Aggro mirrors are quite challenging to navigate! There’s a lot to think about in terms of optimising attacks in stalled out boards and ensuring the best use of mana. In my first round, I was behind in game three and took a risk in convoking out a Venerated Loxodon to pump my board and make up for the fact I had drawn less copies of History of Benalia. Unfortunately, this did put me dead to a topdecked Glorious Anthem effect, which my opponent did indeed draw, playing a Benalish Marshal and swinging for the attack.
- I was impressed (and also destroyed) by the deck built around Command the Dreadhorde that emerged on the internet a few days before the tournament. I wasn’t entirely aware of how to play against it and probably only learnt what to do during the matches themselves, which obviously wasn’t very helpful. I resigned myself to the strategy of doing what I could to make sure I could exile Wildgrowth Walker to prevent my opponents from ‘comboing off’ while applying pressure to their life total rather than their Planeswalkers. Unfortunately, this was much easier said than done. Deploying Baffling End in time or sacrificing Gideon to remove the 1/3 elementals slows down our beat-down. This likely provides the Dreadhorde player more opportunity to play a generic ‘value’ game and win through that route. On a more positive note, I’m definitely intrigued by this exciting monstrosity of cardboard!
- I never drew Shield Mare or the Citywide Bust, so I can’t really say whether they performed well or not. Beating Mono Red without the Shield Mare lends some merit to the idea that it might not be a necessity.
After some dinner and drinks, I spent some time trying to work out how I could build my preferred version of the Esper Hero deck, hoping it would fare better during the next day’s event.
Day two – Sunday
Despite managing to obtain all the cards, I just didn’t think I would do any better with it and decided to take the ‘easy’ option and run back the white aggro deck with a couple of changes.
I decided that the Honor Guards would be good against the Command the Dreadhorde deck. It seems somewhat reliant on Wildgrowth Walker to use its namesake card, and the explore creatures to help them to hit land drops and improve their draw steps.
The event on Sunday was attended by 154 players, again meaning 8 rounds of swiss play before a cut to Top 8. I reunited with the same Leeds crowd as yesterday. Here is how the swiss rounds played out for me.
- Esper Hero 1-2 LOSS – 0-1
- GW Tokens 0-2 LOSS – 0-2
- Esper Superfriends 0-2 LOSS – 0-3
- Azorius Aggro 2-0 WIN – 1-3
- Esper Superfriends 2-0 WIN – 2-3
- Esper Superfriends 0-2 LOSS – 2-4
At 2-4, we dropped to get home a bit earlier. The event didn’t go well at all! I failed to draw the right mixture of lands and spells in most of our games. I did, however, manage to put a few control decks to shame by hitting my ninth land drop while they were ‘stuck on five lands’ (while casting haymakers and crushing us anyway). In the other games I was battered while holding a ‘full house’ of Benalish Marshal and History of Benalia in hand without drawing the single land I needed to cast them. Unfortunately, our deck isn’t great at setting up draw steps or playing from behind, so a lot of the time we have to accept that when ‘mana screw’ or ‘flooding’ prevents us from curving out, it’s essentially a death sentence.
Congratulations to Ian Firth for emerging victorious!
Bonus Section – Commanding the Dreadhorde
Instead of reflecting on how variance stifled our tournament, I’ve decided to talk a bit more about this Command the Dreadhorde deck that I’m quite excited about!
The deck is built around Command the Dreadhorde. Resolving this spell can create a potentially insurmountable board using both graveyards at the cost of a (presumably) significant number of life points.
The core of the deck is actually Wildgrowth Walker, Merfolk Branchwalker, and Jadelight Ranger, with the explore creatures allowing us to dig for Command and hit our land drops. If their setup is correct, by casting Command the Dreadhorde we can instantly replenish our life total, removing the one major drawback of the card.
Tamiyo, Collector of Tales leads the ‘Superfriends package.’ We can use her +1 to dig for Command the Dreadhorde so we can both find it more often AND fill our graveyard with valuable targets. Additionally, she can be returned with the Command and immediately -3 to Recover the Command back to our hand. This provides the deck significant resiliency allowing it to grind out value and bury the opponent in card advantage, large Wildgrowth Walkers, or both!
It might seem greedy to stretch the mana into a fourth colour for Teferi, Time Raveler, but it seems to be worth the cost – even from my limited experience playing with and against it. He shuts down any instant speed interaction on our turn and Repulses opposing threats to help keep the battlefield clear in the early game. If we return Teferi, Time Raveler alongside Wildgrowth Walker with Command the Dreadhorde, it guarantees that the elemental is not killed before any life is gained. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is more of a value card which gives us the ability to interact with enemy planeswalkers that cost four or more mana (outside of combat).
Lastly, Vraska, Golgari Queen shines as the popularity of three-mana planeswalkers rises. In addition, the +1 ability allows us to place key permanents in the graveyard before casting Command. Where we don’t have the luxury of this, having another outlet for flood insurance (in a 26 land deck) is useful.
Before I left the venue on Sunday, I had a bit of a chat with Duncan Tang, mostly concerning his thoughts on the deck. Duncan is a prominent figure in the Scottish Magic community, having played on the National Team. A good friend and strong Magic player, he also defeated me in the final round of Saturday’s event! He was kind enough to share his thoughts on the deck and the list above, which includes some changes from the list he played against me the day before.
He also mentioned he enjoyed playing the deck and would be streaming some MTGArena in the near future at https://www.twitch.tv/tpuefol. So if you are interested in playing the deck (as I am), I would recommend tuning in!
We’re onto the final weekend of MCQs, which will be held in Stansted. I’m also likely to play in the Axion Now Mega Modern event on the bank holiday Monday, despite me not being a huge fan of the current Modern format (however, I’m excited for the shake-up that Modern Horizons will hopefully bring). If you see me there, feel free to hit me up with any of your thoughts! You can find me on Facebook and Twitter @Chris54154.