Welcome to another edition of the Goblin Guide, where I take a look at what’s happened in tournament Magic over the last week and tell you exactly what you need to know going into the weekend’s events. We’ve got some big banlist updates switching things up in Standard, so there’s a lot to cover this time around. I’m going to hold off on talking about the effect a Wrenn and Six banning has had on Legacy, since I’ve been deadly focused on, well, every other format this week and I have no interest in feeding you, my beloved readers, inaccurate information. There are some big Modern events this weekend, including a Grand Prix in Columbus and a Face to Face Games Open+ in Calgary featuring a fancy Player’s Tour invite for the winner, so let’s start off there.
Modern has been facing down some big issues as of late, and by big issues, I mean Oko, Thief of Crowns and Urza, Lord High Artificer. These cards are routinely deployed early by means of Gilded Goose and its synergy with Mox Opal, and are able to immediately dominate the board as well as invalidate many opposing strategies. Oko is obviously an egregious card, and this Simic Urza shell is so powerful that people have been able to take the deck to absurd and foolish places while maintaining a reasonable win-rate.
At last weekend’s SCG Invitational, Team Lotus Box pushed the deck forward by going up to nine four-drops, adding three copies of Karn, the Great Creator to the deck. This tries to take further advantage of the fast mana and presumably add some power in the mirror, foregoing any of the middling attempts at Thopter Foundry combos that previous iterations of the deck had included. There are some problems here, however. First off, Karn is, let’s say not ideal against the field at large. Sure, maindeck access to Damping Sphere is neat, but a six-mana copy of the card isn’t going to actually help you against Amulet or Tron. Ensnaring Bridge is an Elk, and this deck doesn’t turbo mana quite effectively enough for the Lattice-lock to be particularly powerful.
Simic Urza, by Edgar Magalhaes – 10th place, SCG Invitational
Needless to say, I am not a fan of this approach, and prefer a version of the deck that adheres to a more reasonable curve and retains the infinite combo that made Whirza the powerful deck it is today. The Gilded Goose and Oko innovations remain excellent, giving you absurd midrange staying power against many of the decks in the field, but access to Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek is not something I would throw away in favour of clunky cards like Karn and Cryptic Command.
Furthermore, the combo is very powerful in the mirror, and while it might get shut off by Karn, the operative cards in the matchup (Oko and Urza) can make it difficult to keep a planeswalker on the board if you’re even slightly behind. I would recommend playing this absurd deck into any open metagame, and I strongly suggest playing a version similar to what I posted last week in order to maximize on raw power level instead of getting cute and clunky. You can cut the sideboard Ensnaring Bridge though, that card doesn’t do anything anymore. Play an Assassin’s Trophy or something else that can kill a Gurmag Angler.
Sultai Whirza, by Daniel Fournier – 17th place, F2F Games Toronto Open+
Let’s hop on over to Standard, where a nice big banlist update on Monday really shook things up. No longer are we relegated to heinous games ruled by an early Oko, Thief of Crowns — at least, in this format. Veil of Summer will no longer oppress the downtrodden blue and black reactive cards and Once Upon a Time’s absence will make sure that Edgewall Innkeeper decks don’t immediately rise to fill the void left by the death of Simic Food variants.
Those of us with PTQs to play in the new format this weekend were blessed by a midweek Twitch Rivals tournament, featuring a bunch of the top players in the world playing post-ban Standard for a big enough prize pool that even the most jaded of pros would be trying their hardest to win. Despite losing Once Upon a Time, Golgari Adventures took it down in the hands of Mike Sigrist, but the version of the archetype I’d like to highlight is Yuuki Ichikawa’s semifinals list, which I feel plays better to the deck’s strengths with a full set of Vivien, Arkbow Rangers. This deck is the perennial Standard favourite: Golgari Medium. Every card is mediocre, the card advantage synergies are marginal, and yet it always seems to eke out more wins than the competition. If you’re playing Standard this weekend, you could do a lot worse than n*tdeck this list.
Golgari Adventures, by Yuuki Ichikawa – 3rd place, Twitch Rivals
Another standout deck from the tournament, popular on ladder and in leagues as well, is the Jeskai Fires deck, specifically the Cavalier build. Like the majority of decks in this format, Fires relies significantly on its namesake card being in play to actually generate the advantage needed to win the game, but when it gets to go off, it sure does go off. Untapping with a creature and Fires often leads to absurd turns with a Cavalier of Fires drawing into a second creature and immediately attacking for lethal as soon as turn six – ridiculous for a control deck! That said, without a Fires of Invention in play, you’re playing the world’s clunkiest and most inefficient Jeskai control deck ever. As such, you have to take major steps in order to ensure that you always draw the four-mana enchantment. Javier Dominguez, notable winner of tournaments, took the approach of including Sphinx of Foresight in his deck, freeing up his mana in early turns to interact with the format’s aggressive decks instead of spending it on cantrips like Shimmer of Possibility. I like this approach on pure power level, and would recommend playing this build over the versions that contain a bunch of air.
Jeskai Fires, by Javier Dominguez – top 16, Twitch Rivals
Good luck on the battlefield!