There were three large Standard tournaments this past weekend: Grand Prix Bochum, Grand Prix Charleston, and StarCityGames Open: Seattle (SCGSEA). The first two I intend to cover in another article that’ll be here on ManaDeprived later this week. The latter is the subject of today’s article; I will review the top 16 decks at Seattle and what they mean to the Magic the Gathering Standard metagame.
First, let’s breakdown the most played archetypes in the top 16:
- 3 Reanimator (two four-color and one Junk)
- 2 UW Flash (Tempo)
- 2 GW Aggro (Humans)
- 2 Mono-Red Aggro
The tournament was won by Jacob Thiessen’s Bant Control deck. Jacob packed answers for aggressive foes, including the versatile Charms (two Azorius and two Selesnya), a pair each of Supreme Verdict and Terminus in the maindeck, four Detention Sphere, and a full four Jace, Architect of Thought. The game plan was to stabilize and control the game long enough to bury his opponent under a card advantage avalanche from one of three Sphinx’s Revelations and finish them off with Angel of Serenity, Thragtusk, or the opponent’s best win condition thanks to Jace’s ultimate.
SCGSEA saw three Reanimator lists in the top 16, two of which played four colors. Samuel Turner-Lynch’s tenth-place list omitted only red, opting to run Forbidden Alchemy, Mulch, and Tracker’s Instinct to set up his reanimation of an Angel of Serenity or Craterhoof Behemoth. John Wade, in seventh place, played red instead of blue and went with Grisly Salvage and Faithless Looting to load his graveyard. His creature package included not only the Angel and Behemoth, but also Huntmaster of the Fells. Toby Cain played a WBG Junk list and included three Lotleth Troll among his creatures to profitably discard his Unburial Rites and targets.
There were two Mono-Red decks in the top 16. Chris Morris-Lent went with a heavy creature base, playing thirty creatures and only six instants and sorceries. The usual team of Rakdos Cackler, Stromkirk Noble, and Ash Zealot anchors his early game, with three Thundermaw Hellkite and four Hellrider and Pyreheart Wolf to keep the pressure up and add reach later. John Shaffstall in fourteenth place went with a lighter mana footprint, playing Vexing Devil, Stonewright, Rakdos Shred-Freak, and only two Hellrider alongside fifteen burn spells. Alex Steinfield’s BR Aggro list in sixteenth place adds black for Falkenrath Aristocrat and Hellhole Flailer at the top of the curve, along with Knight of Infamy to bypass all of the white creatures in the current Standard metagame.
The UW Flash tempo deck had two entrants in the top 16. A third, similar list, Tyler Gardner’s fifth-place deck, adds black in order to play Lingering Souls, Vault of theArchangel, and a pair of Ultimate Price. The Lingering Souls, alongside a single Moorland Haunt, gives this deck plenty of spirits to swing a Runechanter’s Pike if needed. He also increases the threat count with a full four Geist of Saint Traft in the maindeck, which helps the deck get past control decks trying to grind out a win.
A pair of GW Aggro decks also made the top 16. These decks feature Silverblade Paladin, Sublime Archangel, and Wolfir Silverheart at the top of the curve. Casey Fleck’s eleventh-place deck included two Restoration Angel and two Sigarda, Host of Herons, while Rob Hunsaker, in thirteenth place, went with a heavier human build running four copies of Mayor of Avabruck.
The humanity didn’t stop there; Evan Rice made it to the finals with his UW Aggro/Humans list. I’m a fan of Azorius Aggro because of evasive beaters like Lyev Skyknight and War Falcon, threat amplifiers like Silverblade Paladin and Sublime Archangel, and four copies of Geist of Saint Traft. Two copies of Moorland Haunt are there to recycle perishable creatures, provide fliers on demand, and help fuel exalted attacks.
For a second week in a row we have a Zombies player in the top 16. Derek Boyko piloted his Golgari Zombies list to the top four and finished the day in third place. Derek maxed out Blood Artists and played three Bloodthrone Vampire and one Killing Wave as sacrifice outlets. He ran seven Golgari-colored zombies: four hasty Dreg Manglers and three resilient Lotleth Trolls.
Let’s take a look at the top 16 from a higher level view. Check out these graphs showing the strategies deployed and colors used in the top tables atSeattle:
If you compare these results to my analysis of SCG Open: Dallas last week, you can see thatSeattle had two more Aggro decks in the top 16 and two fewer Control decks. Midrange went up one and Tempo down one. The increase in aggression is due to the Mono-Red decks breaking through inSeattle. Mono-Red is a huge part of the MTG Online metagame, and it stands to reason that plenty of people are trying out this cheap, yet effective strategy. Additionally, Channel Fireball writer and Seattle local Travis Woo has been a big advocate of the deck during this Return to Ravnica Standard season, which may have led to more red in the SCGSEA mix.
Seattlehad three fewer decks playing white and two fewer playing blue, largely due to the lack of UWR decks this week compared to two copies at SCGDFW.
With the top 16 decks, strategies, and colors in mind, let’s get to the cards played. Unless otherwise noted, the number of copies of a card played in the top 16 of the tournament will be listed in parentheses after the card name.
Here are the most played creatures, segmented by maindeck and sideboard. The second graph shows the average number of copies played in the main and sideboard.
Thragtusk (26) has retaken the most played creature spot from Restoration Angel (25), but it’s still close, and the Angel has one more maindeck copy. Everybody’s favorite beast did increase six copies from last week due in part to more Reanimator lists in the top 16.
New to the list are Red Deck winners such as Stromkirk Noble (12) and Ash Zealot (12). Notably absent is Geist of Saint Traft (11), who saw the biggest drop in play for creatures compared to SCGDFW with -18 and went from being played in eight decks to just three. The reason for this fall is that zero UWR Tempo made the top 16, and the two UW Flash decks did not play Geist of Saint Traft, opting for cards like Seraph of Dawn (3) and Talrand, Sky Summoner (2), in their sideboards instead.
Let’s turn now to answers: how did the top 16 manage opposing threats? This section is separated into cards that remove threats from the battlefield and proactive answers that keep threats from reaching the battlefield in the first place (counters and discard primarily).
Here are the most played removal spells of the tournament:
SCGSEA saw a big reduction in the use of Azorius Charm (14), down eleven copies from SCGDFW due to the absence of UWR tempo decks in the top 16. Terminus (4) saw another big drop with eight fewer copies. The numbers in Dallas was higher than normal thanks to a couple of planeswalker-heavy decks making the top 16 and relying on Terminus for creature control.
A notable increase is Abrupt Decay (8), which now has a number of good targets like Runechanter’s Pike (6), Detention Sphere (12), Augur of Bolas (11), and any number of aggressive creatures. Its uncounterability makes it very good against UW decks.
Now let’s look at the most played proactive answers:
The SCGSEA top 16 played far fewer proactive spells than in recent weeks. Take a look at some of these drops in play from last week at Dallas to this week in Seattle:
- Syncopate (1): -13
- Negate (4): -7
- Dissipate (11): -6
- Duress (0): -6
- Slaughter Games (3): -4
- Essence Scatter (4): -4
A major factor is the dramatic increase in Cavern of Souls (29), +16 from SCGDFW, appearing in thirteen of the top 16 decks with an average of 2.6 copies maindeck and 1 sideboard. This likely contributed to the reduction in blue-based tempo and control decks. Another factor is the more aggressive strategies making the top 16 that seek to win quickly rather than worry what their opponent is doing. Those types of decks tend to not play proactive cards.
Heading into SCG Open: Seattle and the two Grand Prix this last weekend, the deck to beat seemed to be UW Flash, an Azorius tempo deck using a low mana curve and effective creatures and answers to get ahead and stay there. This is a familiar spot for Standard. Prior to rotation, a similar UW Tempo deck dominated Standard through the use of counterspells, efficient answers, and cheap and effective creatures wielding the best equipment mana could buy. UW Flash does not have the same level of dominance as Delver decks did, but it is well positioned against the midrange decks that took over the metagame about a month ago. The deck is doing well on Magic: the Gathering Online and in the SCG Open Series to date, so it made sense to metagame against it going into last weekend. Many of the decks joining UW Flash in the top 16 of SCGSEA have a strong matchup against it.
Selesnya (GW) aggro decks have some of the best options against UW Flash. Most of these decks play plenty of humans and can run two to four copies of Cavern of Souls (29) with little trouble, thereby making creature counterspells considerably worse. An excellent human in this matchup is Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (10), who makes all of UW Tempo’s counters, Azorius Charms (14), and other combat tricks more costly and, therefore, less efficient. Both Selesnya Aggro decks at SCGSEA ran three copies. They also each ran a full four copies of Loxodon Smiter (14), who is a big beat stick that blanks counterspells. Selesnya Charm (6) should be able to exile anything wielding a Runechanter’s Pike (6), providing GW some reasonable removal. The deck also has the ability to lay down early threats like Champion of the Parish (8) and Strangleroot Geist (4) and race.
UW Aggro decks, like the one Evan Rice piloted to the finals, has similar advantages against UW Tempo. Evan played four Cavern of Souls and four Thalia. He also played four copies of Geist of Saint Traft in the maindeck. UW Tempo decks are unable to handle a resolved Geist in the maindeck, other than by blocking him, and Evan’s deck has plenty of other threats to pick up where Geist leaves off. The deck also had three copies of Rest in Peace (11) in the sideboard that can shut down Snapcaster Mage (15) if needed.
Zombie decks are similarly well positioned and might have a chance at resurgence if UW Flash remains a force in Standard. Let’s look at Derek Bokyo’s third-place BG list as an example. This deck plays four copies of Cavern of Souls to battle through counters, and his curve tops out at four so he doesn’t have to resolve expensive spells to win. Derek also runs two copies of Ultimate Price (6), which kills Restoration Angel, and four Tragic Slips (4) to handle spirit tokens and other threats if morbid is triggered. BG has access to Abrupt Decay (8) to destroy a Pike or Augur of Bolas (11), and Deathrite Shaman turns Snapcaster Mage (15) targets into direct damage to your opponent and Moorland Haunt (7) targets into lifegain. The deck also races well with Rancor (11) attached to any number of undead creatures. UW Flash lacks red for burn and Azorius Charm (14) and Unsummon (6) are not particularly good against Geralf’s Messenger (4).
Let’s turn now to a strategy that was once the deck to beat: Jund Midrange. There was one Jund Midrange deck in the top 16 of SCGSEA. Counter magic and aggressive Human decks have eaten into its advantage, and Jund needs to adapt to remain powerful. The deck needs to get faster and more aggressive by leveraging the hasty duo of Strangleroot Geist (4) and Dreg Mangler (4). The deck Alex Bianchi discusses in his latest article seems like a good place to start.
I’d advocate adding Ultimate Price (6) to this list as instant speed removal to handle some specific threats. A Sublime Archangel (12) played during your opponent’s first main phase can lead to a decisive attack fueled by exalted if it isn’t dealt with quickly. Killing a paired Silverblade Paladin (12) or his soul bonded buddy prior to assigning blocks is a strong play that may allow you to profitably block and kill a second creature as well. Ultimate Price will also kill a Restoration Angel (25) that just picked up a Runechanter’s Pike (6) and is coming your way. There are enough good targets that I’d recommend playing three copies of Ultimate Price in Jund Midrange: one or two maindeck and the rest in the sideboard.
I’ve seen a number of Jund Midrange decks play Thundermaw Hellkite (4), and it’s a reasonable inclusion. Hellkite flies over the top of opposing Thragtusks (26), flies past Restoration Angel on its hasty first attack, and matches up well against her in subsequent combat steps.
StarCityGames Open: Seattle is in the books. I will tweet more information and observations about the tournament and metagame this week, so follow me on Twitter if you are interested in that. There is no Open Series tournament next week because of the US Thanksgiving holiday, so I’ll be back with info on SCG Open: Baltimore on December 3. Thanks for reading!
Nick Vigabool (@MrVigabool)