A Mono Red Primer for Kaladesh Remastered

This week I decided it was time to take a break from writing about Yorion. Although I managed to secure an invite to the SCG Kaldheim Qualifier #1, I was unfortunately knocked out after three losses, crushing my dreams of qualifying for the Kaldheim Championship with UW Control (for that weekend, at least). While I knew the Kaladesh Remastered set release was coming, I wasn’t thinking about Historic in any way shape or form. Then, StarCityGames announced this weekend’s Kaldheim qualifier weekend would be entirely Historic. I quickly skimmed the spoiler to refresh my memory. Although the go-to deck everyone is talking about seems to be a variation of Aetherworks Marvel, I couldn’t help thinking about what to do with my favorite gift-delivering friend…

The first thing to note about Mono Red in Historic is that the archetype retains a wide card pool, but more importantly contains the card pool of when it was the best deck in standard back three years ago. It retains the wizard package of Viashino Pyromancer, Ghitu Lavarunner, Soul Scar Mage, and Wizard’s Lightning, along with powerful cards like Goblin Chainwhirler. The deck has new additions to it that enhance it from its 2017 standard predecessor. Now we get to add Light up the Stage, Skewer the Critics, Bonecrusher Giant, and even Grim Lavamancer to the list, all cards that synergize well together. Bonecrusher is a nice modal card that triggers prowess and is an insane draw in the mirror (even better if your opponent isn’t playing Bonecrusher Giant for some odd reason). Goblin Chainwhirler triggers Spectacle. Now, Bomat Courier adds a nice one-drop and source of card advantage to push the deck into the long game, even in the face of cards like Uro. 

Now with Bomat Courier the Historic version looks something like this:

Download decklist!

There are a few cards you can change but overall I like how simple and streamlined this version of Mono Red is. The wizard package includes all the relevant cards, throw in the good spectacle cards, Bonecrusher Giant for good measure, add a few Bomat Couriers, and voila! You have a Mono Red deck raring to go. Before I go into the sideboard guide and talk more about the card choices, I think it’s also important to go over some other red lists and important cards in the format and why you should or shouldn’t play them in my opinion.

Along with Bomat Courier we get a few new additions to red aggressive strategies in Historic.

Chandra is another hallmark of Mono Reds of Standard past that is a nice addition to these strategies. Similar in a way to Experimental Frenzy, Chandra is a versatile planeswalker that allows you to ‘draw’ an extra card each turn, remove a creature, or eventually tick up and ultimate to provide a game-ending emblem. I think it’s hard to discern whether Chandra or Frenzy is better, and ultimately I think it comes down to the type of Red deck you’re piloting. Experimental Frenzy is nice in the Mono Red mentioned above since if you hit a clump of spells on top of your deck, you can usually cast multiple in one turn if their mana cost is one or two. Additionally, you can cast cards like Light up the Stage and hold priority to cast the instant speed burn spells on top of your deck before exiling the other two cards. Frenzy is also better with cards like Steamkin, allowing you to cast multiple in a turn when you hit a clump of cheap cards. I feel like Chandra is a little better when your deck is filled with cards like Glorybringer or Goblin Chainwhirlers, usually more expensive cards that pack a punch as opposed to multiple cheap cards. Chandra also provides you an extra two mana can make for some explosive turns when you play something like a Hazoret and an Abrade. 

I think this is one card people are going to overlook, although I’m not sure how much play it will realisticallys see. I played a few events with Mono Red in Pioneer right before the pandemic hit and Aethersphere Harvester was one of my go-to cards for the sideboard. Harvester is a decent attacker and blocker in the mirror, allowing you to also gain six life which is nothing to scoff at in a mirror match. With the rise of Aetherworks Marvel decks in Historic however, Red decks may be packing more copies of Arade, as well as Embereth Shieldbreaker, so Harvester might be more susceptible to removal. I do like that this card can block a Bonecrusher Giant, which is usually one of the biggest creatures in the mirror. Also in board stalls it can chip in for some extra damage as well. It may not be good enough to earn a sideboard slot but it’s something to keep in mind. 

This is another card that saw some standard play back in its day, usually in the Mono Red or R/B vehicles decks with Scrapheap Scrounger and Heart of Kiran. With Pia you can pump the thopter token, an Aethersphere Harvester, or a Bomat Courier (and sacrifice it for an unblocked attack). I think three mana in Historic is definitely a pretty big investment, and cards like Rampaging Ferocidon, Goblin Chainwhirler, and Anax will take this slot instead. Pia is definitely one to keep an eye on though in case Scrapheap Scrounger or Heart of Kiran aggressive decks become popular. 

This is another card that saw some standard play back in its day, usually in the Mono Red or R/B vehicles decks with Scrapheap Scrounger and Heart of Kiran. With Pia you can pump the thopter token, an Aethersphere Harvester, or a Bomat Courier (and sacrifice it for an unblocked attack). I think three mana in Historic is definitely a pretty big investment, and cards like Rampaging Ferocidon, Goblin Chainwhirler, and Anax will take this slot instead. Pia is definitely one to keep an eye on though in case Scrapheap Scrounger or Heart of Kiran aggressive decks become popular. 

Kari Zev’s Expertise is another red card that saw sideboard play in Aether Revolt Standard. I think in Historic this actually has some play, being able to steal a big creature against B/W Boggles or an Aetherworks Marvel’d Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Probably a one or two-of at most if it any at all. 

Kari Zev is another card that I think will see good amounts of play with Kaladesh Remastered. I don’t think Kari Zev fits into the list I mentioned above (maybe as a one of), but Kari Zev is the perfect match for Embercleave. With Bomat Courier (or any other one drop really), you can pump out an Embercleave on turn 3 with Kari Zev and Ragavan. Kari Zev will also fit in nicely with the non-burn decks playing copies of Castle Embereth over Ramunap Ruins. 

Take this list for example that I’ve seen versions of floating around Twitter: 

Download decklist!https://magic.facetofacegames.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Deck-Mono-Red-2.txt

You can also pump out multiple attackers for an early Embercleave with Burning Tree Emissary. I think this is still a good red deck but a worse Bomat Courier deck overall just because of how awkward it is to cast some of the cards in your hand. In the list I first mentioned you’re able to pump out spells pretty quickly since every card costs one or two mana, while in this version you might just get stuck with an awkward hand of Anax and Steamkins. Steamkin has the potential to go off but I think overall this list seems a little clunkier. I also feel in the mirror having access to Goblin Chainwhirler is a real decider. Also with the addition of Aetherworks Marvel into the format I feel like there will also be more artifact hate roaming around. You might get seriously blown out in the mirror by an Abrade if you Embercleave the wrong blocked creature. 

All in all I want to test this version of the deck too. This list might end up being better and faster versus Aetherworks Marvel strategies with an unchecked Embercleave. I think time will tell how the format settles. However if Red ends up being the best deck (or at least in the top 3) it’ll be vital to value your card choices accordingly. The addition of Chandra, Torch of Defiance into these strategies may prompt people to start adding Chandra’s Defeat into their red sideboards as well. 

Taking one last look at my original decklist I want to talk about a few more malleable parts of the deck. 

I could see Grim Lavamancer being a little too slow in the maindeck and better for the grindy Mono Red mirrors. I also think the amount of artifact hate will depend entirely on how well Aetherworks Marvel decks perform although Abrade seems like a safe sideboard card being able to tag Embercleaves or Aethersphere Harvesters in the mirror. Chainwhirlers and Ferocidons are great against Goblins the mirror as well as other random creature strategies. Going forward I’m most interested in seeing if the best version of this deck is the Embercleave or wizard version. It’ll also be worth keeping an eye on Scrapheap Scrounger/Heart of Kiran/Chandra versions, but that’s a story for another time. As always, thank you so much for reading and I hope to catch you next time. 

Which Mono Red cards from Kaladesh Remastered are you looking forward to playing with in Historic? Let me know!

Twitter: @Roman_Fusco

Email: RomanFusco95@gmail.com

Is Yorion the Worst Deck in Standard?

With the dust finally settled after the Omnath, Lucky Clover, and Escape to the Wilds ban, Standard now seems to be in a healthy spot. Multiple large tournaments have transpired since then including the October Zendikar Rising League Weekend and the Redbull Untapped Finals. Out of these events and others we now have some clear data about what decks are performing well in the current metagame. 

First, let’s take a look at the Win and Loss % from the October Zendikar Rising League Weekend, courtesy of MTG Data (@MTGData):

While Azorious Yorion was the most played deck of the weekend, it only boasted a 26.8 win% while Gruul Aggro finished with a 65%. Worthy of note, Gruul Aggro was Rei Sato’s weapon of choice bringing him to 11 match points and the highest standing player at the end of the weekend. Rakdos Midrange, piloted by four players including world champion Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa, came in at the second highest win% at 60.4%. Rogues trailed closely behind. 

There are a couple of interesting things to note about this data and how standard has evolved since the Omnath ban. The “big three” decks stand out at Yorion strategies, Gruul Aggro, and Rogues. Rogues beats on Yorion but loses to Gruul (and Rakdos). Gruul beats up on Rogues (and surprisingly beats up on UW control). Yorion sadly loses to everything. Although it’s important to keep in mind that this is one event, filled with highly professional players preparing for a specific metagame. I think for this specific tournament Yorion had a big target on its back as it was assumed to be the leading strategy post-Omnath ban. This led to its inevitable defeat by Rogues and the rising of R/B midrange and Gruul as the leading archetypes in the current standard. 

As a hardcore control player I’m always looking to adapt and improvise when the format becomes more inhospitable. While I recognize Yorion has faults, I do think that the right configuration can have a good matchup vs Gruul, Rakdos, and maybe even U/B Rogues. I also believe Yorion has a good matchup against some of the fringe decks of the format, including Temur Ramp and red-based Irencrag Feat Ugin decks. I also think R/B is winnable too, with the right card choices. 

This past weekend I played in the Angela Chandler memorial tournament on MTG Melee. This was a fantastically run event celebrating the life of L3 judge, Angela Chandler. I hadn’t tested extensively with U/B Rogues, nor was I a fan of playing Gruul, so after scouring Twitter for people doing well with U/W Yorion in the Arena Open, I decided to register this list:

My match history:

While 5-3 isn’t the most exciting record, I was pretty happy with how the deck performed overall, and I think going forward Yorion can be tuned to compete with some of the competitive decks in the metagame. While I lost a close match to Gruul in round one, I felt pretty confident in my other aggro matchups. My rogues match felt close too, although I got beat pretty bad in game three to an opening of Thieves’ Guild Enforcer, double Soaring Thought Thief with Mystical Dispute and Drown in the Loch backup for my turn four Shatter the Sky, which I was hoping would turn the game in my favor. The ramp matchups felt like a bye. I surprisingly lost to G/W Yorion, but my opponent was able to get a strong start both games with early Trail of Crumbs and indestructible Wicked Wolves before I could land a Dream Trawler to take over. Vivien, Monster’s Advocate is also another threat that can be annoying to deal with if not answered immediately. 

On Card Choices

Realm-Cloaked Giant: I wanted another wrath against various aggro decks I expected to face throughout the event. While this card is a blank against Bonecrusher Giant, it at least wipes away a board of Lovestruck or Questing Beats without letting your opponent draw a card for their troubles. I figured Gruul would be a large metagame percentage of the event with its strong performance in previous tournaments. 

Waker of Waves: I’m a strong proponent of this card in decks with access to Elspeth Conquers Death and blue mana. While it never is as great as Omen of the Sea, Waker is a great split card in a deck with not a lot of creatures to return with ECD. I also had multiple games where I cast Waker as an end-game threat or a way to slow down Gruul. IMPORTANT: If you play this deck on Arena make sure to put a stop in your upkeep. If you have an Elspeth Conquers Death on chapter two and you draw Waker, you can activate Waker in your draw step or with the ECD third chapter trigger on the stack to immediately bring it back to the battlefield. I almost lost a game against Gruul where I didn’t have anything in my graveyard and lost out on a turn seven 8/8.

Giant Killer: I’m also a huge fan of Giant Killer in the current metagame. Giant Killer is not only great against the aggro decks, but it can be a timely removal spell to chop down a large Shark Typhoon token that might be trying to block your Dream Trawler in combat. Giant Killer also deals with Kroxa and Ox of Agonas and can beat up on opposing Yorions. I had a pretty close game against Gruul against Evan Erwin where Giant Killer held back an Embercleaved Bonecrusher Giant to buy me enough time to deal with my opponent’s future threats. I would play more copies of this card in the future. 

Brazen Borrower: Brazen Borrower is another card I like to have against Embercleave decks. It also can do some fringe things vs Rogues like kill a Shark Typhoon token or block a Soaring Thought Thief. Borrower was actually really useful in my match against R/B Ugin, allowing me to bounce an unanswered Bonecrusher Giant on turn five and then Essence Scatter it away, then chip in for 12 points of damage. Borrower also took the spot of one of the many dead maindeck cards for that matchup. 

The rest of this deck is pretty stock. You can change some numbers on the cards and move around things between the maindeck and sideboard but otherwise I don’t think there’s a lot to mess with. I do think you can tune your deck to either include more counterspells maindeck or more cards like Omen of the Sun and a few more copies of Yorion. 

After this event there are a couple of main notes I’d make about going forward with this strategy. I definitely want more Giant Killers, probably a split of three somewhere in the 75. I also could see maindecking a copy of Ondu Inversion over a white land, there are a lot of matches where destroying all nonland permanents is more beneficial to you even though you want your Omen of the Seas to stick around for an eventual Yorion. G/W Yorion’s Trail of Crumbs and Viviens aren’t always the easiest to clean up. The Ugin decks have Ugin and Mazemind Tomes. Against the aggro decks it acts as another wrath as well, although getting to eight mana to cast a wrath against an aggro deck is not always in the cards. If Gruul also is on the rise after recent events I’m more inclined to play cards that play to the board (more Glass Caskets, Omens, Yorions) than fill my deck with Mystical Disputes, Neutralizes, and Negates. It’s hard to metagame because both Gruul and Rogues are such good decks, and your answers are a little strained. I think going forward I’d want some counterspells maindeck, since Neutralize is such a hammer against the various random decks of the format. I’d also keep a couple Mystical Disputes or Negates main, but I’d rather focus a little harder on perfecting my Gruul matchup first. 

After this past weekend’s tournaments MTG Data posted another metagame snapshot, and this time I was a little more relieved when looking at Yorion’s win%.

I’m actually really happy to see how evened out the metagame is from this snapshot. Most decks hover around 50% with some outliers, like Esper Doom Foretold, which displays the highest win% of all the decks listed, although the sample size is much smaller than that of Gruul and Rogues. I think looking at this data of Yorion’s matchups it’s interesting to note how Yorion has a good matchup against the random decks of the format, but struggles with Lurrus Rogues and slightly struggles with Gruul. If you plan to play Yorion in a future event I’d probably adjust my 75 to beat up on the creature and random decks while packing a lot of my sideboard hate for the Rogues matchup. If you think your tournament will have a lot of Rogues I’d do the opposite. It’s hard to have a read on what people will be playing and it honestly all comes down to what matchups you’ll be facing in the event. You never have complete clairvoyance, even if you bring the best metagamed deck to the table. That being said, if you’re going to play Yorion think of your strengths as a player and what matchups you want to prepare for most – that will influence your individual card choices and keep you the most prepared. 

As always, thanks again for reading. If you have any questions or comments feel free to reach me on Twitter or by my email. 

Twitter: @Roman_Fusco 

Email: RomanFusco95@gmail.com

Until next time!

Is Yorion the Best Deck in Standard?

I can now say with a straight face that Standard is fun again! While all of the relentless bannings have definitely made an impact, and the format isn’t perfect, the most recent data clearly shows that Standard is in a balanced and in a healthy spot. This past week I’ve gotten to play a ton of different decks while watching coverage of some small events here and there. Today I’m going to be talking about what decks stick out as this week’s best strategies and what cards are going up in value overall since Omnath and Lucky Clover’s departure from the format. 

Perhaps one of the strongest control and midrange build-around cards is Yorion, Sky Nomad. With the companion rule change a couple of months back, Yorion remains the ‘best’ companion to partner with, with Lurrus trailing swiftly behind, since the deck constriction clause of playing twenty extra cards isn’t a huge deal (and is in some case a bonus, I’m looking at you Teferi’s Tutelage) but the payoff being you have a three mana ‘clue’ that draws you a Yorion. What’s even more powerful about playing Yorion is that you can completely construct your deck around Yorion. Yorion synergizes incredibly well with cards like: Elspeth Conquers Death, Solemn Simulacrum, Charming Prince (to gain an infinite ‘enter the battlefield’ loop), and with the addition of Zendikar Rising…

This is a card that has exploded in popularity over the past week. I can’t scroll my Twitter feed for thirty seconds without seeing this ghost in a new standard decklist. But why is it so good?

Skyclave Apparition is a versatile card that can be good in a number of decks and different scenarios. Most decks I’ve seen pair this card with Glass Casket, allowing you to have a clean answer to a token that gets left behind. Apparition deals with a variety of diverse threats. You can stop an Anax on turn three before you Shatter the Sky. You can cleanly exile a Stonecoil Serpent without your opponent getting any value. You can also take care of some other good noncreature permanents such as Mazemind Tome and opposing Glass Caskets. With Yorion, you can easily pick off various threats while giving yourself time to deal with the inevitable tokens that come from Apparition leaving the battlefield. Apparition doesn’t match up great against some popular removal spells of the format, such as Bonecrusher Giant, but I really love that idea that this card can remove a threat, without triggering any dying effects, while also giving you some time to manage the board.

Both Yorion and Skyclave Apparition have found themselves in a variety of Selesnya, Bant, and UW decklists (some clocking in at 60 cards), which have popped up both on Twitter and more importantly in some competitive events this past weekend.

While there aren’t many competitive events happening right now, two large standard events took place this past weekend that gave us a look at what people have been playing in new standard: The CFB Pro Showdown and the Bash Bros Battles #2 tournament. 

The CFB Pro Showdown is a monthly event run by Channelfireball, where subscribers to Channelfireball’s articles get to play in a single elimination tournament, where the winner faces off against an endboss of CFB’s choice, in this week’s case, Luis Scott-Vargas. The CFB Pro Showdown had 274 players, and looking at the data of the event the most played strategy was Rakdos Midrange (10%), while the total number of Yorion decks of various flavors came in at roughly %. 

While the Top 16 had a variety of different decks, such as Abzan Midrange and Jeskai Control (link in titles) the two decklists I’d like to talk about here are from the finals: Magic Pro League member Ondrej Stratsky vs. Magic Rivals League member Luis Scott-Vargas. The finals was a Yorion showdown with Ondrej on a midrange GW Yorion build and LSV on a UW control Yorion build.

GW Yorion – Ondrej Stratsky

This list originates from Bryan Gotblieb’s late night Twitter standard ramblings, but honestly the deck is surprisingly strong and synergistic. The goal of this deck is just to get into a strong enough board position where you’re generating a ton of value through your engines such as the Charming Prince and Yorion loop or through your Trail of Crumbs. Kogla, the Titan Ape and Wicked Wolf act as your removal suite with Elspeth Conquers Death taking care of noncreature permanents. I think this deck is probably incredibly well-suited to take down the various aggro and midrange decks that have been popping up in Standard since the most recent banning, and it’s also tuned to have game vs. Rogues. While this deck prompted Ondrej to have an undefeated run up until the endboss, the final match of the tournament did reveal one glaring weakness of this deck…

Ondrej was defeated at the hands of LSV and his UW Yorion deck. While GW Yorion can generate a lot of value and board presence, ultimately Ondrej’s decklist had little to no answers outside of the one copy of Run Afoul and the two copies of Shatter the Sky. 

UW Yorion – Luis Scott-Vargas

LSV’s UW deck is also more inline with Stratsky’s deck than a traditional control deck stock with counterspells and planeswalkers. Instead, LSV has a variety of flicker targets, such as Mazemind Tome, both Omens, Birth of Meletis, Alirios, and Solemn Simulacrum. There’s also a Thassa hanging out to provide some more value in these midrange matchups. What’s great about this list is that it’s prepared for a meta of more midrange Yorion and creature decks. LSV goes over the top of these decks while packing maindeck wrath effects and Dream Trawler, which can be difficult for these non-counterspell heavy creature strategies to come back from. Luis also has access to a swath of cards suited for a control mirror with four Shark Typhoons, two Mystical Disputes, and extra Negates in the sideboard. I could definitely see this deck packing another Tralwer maindeck. I also really love playing a one-of copy of Sea Gate Restoration in these strategies. I think the cost of playing one copy isn’t that large and it can easily replace a Triome in this deck. I honestly love the idea of landing a Trawler and killing your opponent on the spot after triggering your Dream Trawler five or six times. I could also see this deck adapting into more of a control-based strategy, perhaps shaving on cards like the Alirios, Thassa, and Solemn Simulacrums for additional Dream Trawlers, Shatter the Sky, Mazemind Tomes, and potential counterspells. With all of these midrange Yorion decks running amuck there are bound to be decks that can take advantage of the cards they don’t have access to. 

Another event that took place this past weekend was the Bash Bros Battles #2, a tournament run by brothers and pro-players Brad Nelson and Corey Baumeister. With this event taking place the day after the CFB Pro Showdown and only 46 players, Yorion took up a much larger percentage of the metagame compared to the CFB Pro Showdown. Yorion decks came in at a whopping 36%. While that number certainly is high, keep in mind that there aren’t many tournaments happening and this event took place immediately after LSV took down the CFB Pro Showdown after Ondrej’s 9-0 run. 

While Yorion was almost a third of the field, surprisingly the finals pitted two titans of the game on non-Yorion decks against each other: Brad Nelson and SandyDogMTG. SandyDog is an avid red player, but made the ‘rogue’ decision to bring UB Rogues to the tournament while Brad decided that ramp isn’t in fact dead, bringing a Genesis Ultimatum Temur deck to the table. 

Temur Ramp – Brad Nelson 

I think this deck perfectly takes advantage of the midrange Yorion decks. With those decks packing little to no counterspells, Temur ramp is able to swiftly execute its plan of resolving a Genesis Ultimatum and getting a one-hit K.O., which Brad did many times during the event flipping over multiple copies of Terror of the Peaks. While this deck is nowhere near as busted as the Omnath ramp decks were, I think this deck is great in metagames like the current one, where there aren’t a lot of decks packing counterspells. Which makes it only fitting that SandyDog would take the title of champion in this event. 

UB Rogues – SandyDogMTG

This isn’t too different from Seth Manfield’s Grand Finals Top 8 deck, except SandyDog is leaning heavier on Ruin Crab and Merfolk Windrobber. While I initially thought Yorion might have the edge vs Rogues, SandyDog has proven that Rogues is still a top strategy. I think after the bannings the format was thrown into a bit of chaos and people clung to other strategies instead of improving upon the non-banned decks of the Grand Finals. It’s pretty telling that SandyDog identified Rogues to still be a consistent and powerful deck which led to his inevitable win. Funny enough, Brad Nelson even predicted early on in the event that he’d be facing off against SandyDog in the finals, with SandyDog defeating him. While Yorion was a major player in this event, in many different forms, it’s interesting to see Rogues and a newly adapted Ramp deck end up in the finals.

In conclusion, it’s still too early to see if Yorion will remain the best strategy in the format, but it is a formidable one indeed. While looking at two smaller events definitely isn’t enough data, they at least can show us how the format is starting to shape up. Yorion is a major metagame player but multiple strategies are highly competitive, such as Rogues, Temur Ramp, and various other aggro decks. SandyDog’s switch to UB Rogues this past weekend is a tell that Mono Red might not be in the best spot, but it at least shows that Yorion isn’t the end all be all. This coming weekend is the MTG Arena Open and I’m probably going to be sleeving up (figuratively) a Yorion strategy myself, but I’ll probably be leaning towards a UW control deck. 

As always, thanks for reading and let me know what you’re planning to play next weekend! Are you crushing with Yorion decks, or have you found the right tools to beat them? 

Twitter: @Roman_Fusco

Email: RomanFusco95@gmail.com

Omnath Ban Reaction

I woke up Monday morning eagerly awaiting the next ban and restricted announcement…

…and what a ban announcement it was. Honestly, for the first time in a while I’m optimistic about Standard. Back during spoiler season I pointed to Uro and Lucky Clover being toxic to the format, and I’m ecstatic that finally both are gone, along with Omnath. We can talk all day about WOTC’s approach to designing cards and the numerous amounts of bans that have taken place (and might continue to take place in other formats), but let’s focus on some new Standard decks instead. The one thing I want to give credit to WOTC for is that they’ve banned four cards in about a month’s time. It’s crazy to think about how many cards are banned in Standard at the moment, but at least the bans have been quick and without remorse. Wizards was committed to ban Omnath and Lucky Clover if the Uro ban wasn’t enough to make a dent. Now I’m more confident in a Standard where a vast variety of decks are viable. There are still cards in the format that are incredibly powerful, but I don’t think there remains a card as dominating as Uro, Clover, or Omnath. 

It’s no surprise that Omnath and Clover needed to go. This past weekend’s event, The Grand Finals featured a Standard metagame where 78% of decks included Omnath or Lucky Clover. The remaining decks were four Rakdos Midrange, three Gruul Adventures, and one U/B Rogues. Interestingly enough, two of the Gruul Adventures players, Emma Handy and Autumn Burchett both made Top 8, along with Seth Manfield on U/B Rogues making it in as well. All three players were incredibly prepared and played exceptionally well in the face of the Omnath menace to lock in their Top 8 finishes. First, let’s take a look at these decks and talk about how they might adapt to Omnath and Clover’s banning. 

Gruul Adventures – Emma Handy/Autumn Burchett

Decklist: http://deck.tk/3GlY14dX

Gruul Adventures has always been a strong player in the Standard field even since before Zendikar Rising was released. The deck packs powerful creatures and a mini-engine in the form of Edgewall Innkeeper. I think it’ll be interesting to see how this deck matches up against Winota decks in the new format. I actually don’t think many cards in this list need to change to adapt to the new meta. If anything Embereth Shieldbreaker can probably go, with the only big artifact to target being Embercleave. I love Chainweb Aracnir for the U/B Rogues matchup and Thundering Rebuke for Winota. Vivien and Great Henge also are great threats to bring in against any potential control decks that pop up. 

U/B Rogues – Seth Manfield 

Decklist: http://deck.tk/8Xgl7cFK

One thing that really impressed me while I watched Seth play this weekend was the utility of Lurrus as the deck’s companion. I remember watching a deck vs Omnath Adventures where the opponent had brought in Chainweb Aracnir as a hefty blocker, but Seth was able to continuously cast Thieves’ Guild Enforcers from his graveyard to “out-card” his opponent, even in the face of their sideboard “silver bullet” card. This deck definitely feels less like an aggro or mill Rogues deck and more like a control deck, with all of the removal, maindeck Mystical Disputes, and four copies of Into the Story. Depending on how the format settles I could see the counterspells making their way into the sideboard for more maindeck removal. I definitely think this deck will have a hard time keeping up with a resolved Winota trigger or a resolved Great Henge, however. 

U/B Rogues still seems incredibly powerful and consistent, but there’s one deck I have in mind if Rogues remains a major-player in the new format.

Enter Flourishing Fox. 

R/W Cycling has always been a pet deck of mine since its Ikoria release. I love playing Burn in Modern, it’s a deck that rewards patience and correct sequencing. R/W Cycling feels similar in a way, the sequencing being incredibly important based on how you utilize your cycling creatures and when to cast your Zenith Flares. In the face of Soaring Thought-Thiefs and Ruin Crabs, I can definitely see R/W as a major Standard player in the weeks to come. 

R/W Cycling 

Decklist: http://deck.tk/3W7n6CIE

This list is pretty stock, you usually don’t want to sideboard much to protect the integrity of your Zenith Flares, but Shredded Sails is a nice card vs Rogues and Embercleaves. Redcap Melee is another nice option vs Winota and potential Mono Red decks. I’m not sure how good Roiling Vortex might be, it’s an option vs potential control strategies. I could also see it being good against U/B mill decks that aren’t beating down as hard as U/B Rogues. There might be a better option out there, but I do want an alternate win condition if my opponent decides to sideboard four copies of Negate for my Zenith Flares. Valiant Rescuer and Drannith Stinger might be good enough on their own though. 

Next up, some other decks that were mildly popular during Omnath’s reign that could see a resurgence:

Grixis Control 

Decklist: http://deck.tk/1hb89sVd

This is a list that English streamer Crokeyz was playing a week or so ago. Kroxa is the big selling point for this deck, the only remaining titan in Standard. This is pretty standard control deck shenanigans, we have some early spot removal, counterspells, and some finishers in Shark Typhoon and Ashiok. Kroxa plays a really nice role in this deck of acting as both an early discard spell, which will be fantastic vs non-aggressive decks and as a late game threat. I probably don’t need to sell the power level of titans to you though. I think cards like Spikefield Hazard and the counterspells are less valuable now if the format shifts to more aggressive strategies. There are only six removal spells maindeck that interact with a Winota, three being Hagra Mauling (which you might need to play as a land in some scenarios) so I’d be interested in more Heartless Acts or maybe some Murderous Riders.

As for the sideboard I still really like Shredded Sails. Even though part of the reason to be playing this card revolved around destroying Lucky Clovers, Soaring Thought Thief and Embercleave will still be around. And who knows, maybe you’ll end up destroying a Glass Casket that stole your Kroxa!

Speaking of Glass Casket…

U/W Control (Yorion)

Decklist: http://deck.tk/3TuD65eg

One card that I think hasn’t it’s time to shine that was in the last decklist is Mazemind Tome. Tome reminds me in part of Treasure Map, and while it won’t flip into some Lotus Petals, Tome at least lets you gain some advantage for no extra mana in scrying and an eventual four life. With Yorion, however, you can set up turns where you can activate it and reset it with Yorion. I also really love Tome in combination with Jace, allowing you to safely use Jace’s 0 activation to draw an extra land or cheap spell. There are also other fringe benefits such as drawing a card in combat to pump a Dream Trawler, or getting an extra scry before you cycle or cast an Omen of the Sea.

 I think U/W control has both strengths and weaknesses coming into this new format. I really like having access to Shatter the Sky if we see a resurgence in aggro decks. Most aggro decks in this format revolve around playing usually one creature a turn, so you can get a 1-2 punch by casting a shatter on turn four and following it up with an Elspeth Conquers Death to remove a Winota, Questing Beast, or Torbran. Lastly, with 80 cards in your deck you won’t get milled out (hopefully) by Ruin Crab or Teferi’s Tutelage. 

The one thing I don’t particularly like about UW is that the spot removal is pretty poor. The only real way to remove a Winota to prevent the triggers from happening is to either counter it or Petty Theft it back to your opponent’s hand. Additionally, if U/B, Grixis, and U/B Rogues are all popular decks, U/W might struggle with opposing discard backed up by Mystical Dispute. I’m curious to see if Elspeth Conquers Death and Dream Trawler will be enough to beat Kroxa. 

Alright enough control decks, I get it. Let’s check out some more aggro decks.

Mono Red

Decklist: http://deck.tk/2Pj1954l

I basically just copy and pasted this from SandydogMTG’s twitter from a month ago (I made some changes, I promise!) but I think this is definitely a good starting point. I feel like there’s some for more copies of Phoenix of Ash and maybe Ox of Agonas. They might seem like weird to have in as a one or two of, but I like the versatility of having a spell to cast from the graveyard with Ruin Crabs and Thieves’ Guild Enforcers running amock. The Mazemind Tome was an idea I got from Mike Flores, back from when we used to pay Treasures Map galore in our Mono Red sideboards, coupled with Experimental Frenzy of course. I feel like Tome could be really valuable in the mirror where you’re bringing in a lot of removal spells already. Seems like a great way to not only catch up on cards, but gain some extra life as well. 

Lastly, I’ve talked about Winota all article so I’ll do her some service and put up a list. 

Boros Winota

Decklist: http://deck.tk/7cLx1jF2

This list actually comes from this past weekend’s Standard challenge. I really like Boros as opposed to Mardu just to have a better mana base. This list is everything I want to be doing with Winota: It has access to Bonecrusher Giant, Embercleave, Skyclave Apparition as a nice removal spell to Winota-in, and Archon of Emeria to constrict your opponents’ play after a big Winota attack. I think Drannit Magistrate and Embereth Shiieldbreaker can go from the sideboard, now that Lucky Clover is banned. I could see adding more Redcap Melees depending on how popular Winota and Mono Red are. Although I’m sure this deck doesn’t want to sideboard too many spells over creature cards. 

Standard seems to be in a fairly healthy spot now. There aren’t any glaring cards that seem format-warping. Winota and Embercleave definitely stand out as very powerful and format-defining, but I think there are enough diverse strategies that will even out the playing field. The essential design problem with recent Standard cards was that there were too many cards that “doubled” your mana. Cards like, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Fires of Invention, and Omnath are all examples of this. They’re cards that easily replace themselves and quickly snowball an advantage in your favor. The other side of this coin is that the removal spells are so lacking compared to threats. I’m a little worried about a card like Winota or Embercleave running away with the format, but I think things will be fine for the time being and I’m hopeful the next few Standard sets won’t have cards as problematic as Omnath. While Throne of Eldraine had multiple problem cards like Oko, Once Upon a Time, Fires of Invention, and Escape to the Wilds, at least Zendikar Rising only had Omnath. I’m hopeful that this Standard format and theStandard formats to come will be balanced. 

What are you excited to play in new Standard? Let me know! As always, thanks for reading. 

Email: Romanfusco95@gmail.com

Twitter: @Roman_fusco 

Top 8 Magic: Omnath’s Bodyman

🍎 iTunes: apple.co/Top8Magic

🎧 Anchor: anchor.fm/top8magic

With less than a week until the Grand Finals Brian David-Marshall and Magic: The Gathering Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz discuss the state of Standard post-Uro ban and pre-grand reveal of the 32 Standard decks the players will bring to the virtual tables. 

Topics include:

-Has the over/under on the number of Omnath’s changed? 

-Why aren’t people playing Arboreal Grazer in their Omnath lists? 

-Red Bull Qualifier decklist discussion. 

-What does the Walking Dead Secret Lair mean? 

-Has WotC lost our trust? 

-Has the Free to Play Arena business model hurt Magic? 

-Why are the NY Giants and the NFC East soooooo bad right now?

Your Hosts:

https://twitter.com/TheZvi

https://twitter.com/Top8Games

Uro Ban Announcement Reaction

I went to bed Sunday night hopeful the morning’s ban announcement would provide a new and exciting Standard format to play. “Maybe UW control will be playable again,” I thought to myself as I drifted off into a deep slumber. However, Monday’s ban announcement shattered any hope I had. 

Okay I’m only slightly joking. Uro was a dominating force in Standard ever since its printing and desperately needed to go. However, Uro was not a driving force in the Omnath ramp decks. Uro is a great tool however it’s easily replaced by a number of three mana ramp cards including, Dryad of the Illysian Grove, Scale the Heights, Roiling Regrowth, Beanstalk Giant, and Cultivate. Uro did provide resilience against the control decks of the format, however, such as Sultai, and provided nice lifegain alongside Omnath versus Mono Green and Mono Red aggro. However, I’m not sure if banning Uro makes a real dent in the Omnath ramp decks. While I highly suspect another ban and restricted announcement will arrive soon, the fact of the matter is that Uro is banned. So where does that leave Standard?

The Omnath Menace

We don’t need to pretend that Omnath is not one of the best, if not still the best deck of the Standard format. This past weekend’s SCG and MTGO events provided a bevy of Omnath lists, with Omnath clocking in a 55.12% of the SCG Qualifier #6 metagame, and 67.09% of the SCG Season Two Championship metagame. 

Decklist: https://mtgmelee.com/Decklist/View/54093

Tangram’s list is pretty stock, with a few removal spells aimed at taking out some of the problematic cards in the mirror. I actually like dividing up the interaction spells to include Spikefield Hazard, Mystical Dispute, and Thundering Rebuke as opposed to going all in on Negates and Disputes. Mazemind Tome is a card I’ve seen pop up in a variety of these lists and I think it’s a great way at attacking the control strategies post board. 

Losing access to Uro makes the lists with multiple copies of Terror of the Peaks a little worse, but I’m sure the Omnath decks will rely more heavily on Beanstalk Giant now, if they weren’t playing four copies already. 

Decklist: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mtgo-standings/standard-challenge-2020-09-28 (1st place list)

Looking at the Standard Challenge from this past weekend, SunofNothing’s winning decklist has a couple of cards that stand out to me from the “traditional” Omnath list. This list has a nice combo built into it for the mirror match: Ruin Crab and Glasspool Mimic. This version abandons the Kenrith, Terror of the Peaks, Ugin, or Felidar Retreat package for one tuned specifically for the mirror, focusing on casting a Genesis Ultimatum and milling the opponent out. Results speak for themselves and this seems like a great way of attacking the mirror since so much of the game is spent taking lands out of your deck, drawing cards, and flipping over cards from the top of your deck. I feel like a lot of games come down to the Omnath player having sometimes less than 20 cards in their library – which only equates to six or seven Ruin Crab triggers. What excites me the most about this decklist and particular build of the Omnath deck is that it only utilizes one Uro (which is easily replaceable) and with Uro now gone from the format you don’t have to worry about your Ruin Crab binning an opposing titan (unless they are of course playing Kroxa). 

Decklist: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mtgo-standings/standard-champ-qual-2020-09-28 (1st place deck)

Michael Bonde (Lampalot) took down the Standard Zendikar Rising Championship Qualifier this past weekend with another Omnath, and surprisingly Uro-less, deck. Temur Adventures with Omnath is not anything new, I spotted Emma Handy piloting a similar decklist for the VML tournament. In my Zendikar Rising spoiler article I talked about Uro and Lucky Clover being defining cards of the new Standard format, and while Uro may be out Lucky Clover is still dominating tournaments. This is a pretty stock list of Temur Adventures, that has trimmed some cards around the edges to make room for four Omnath. The Giant Killer is a pretty interesting choice, it’s a solid answer to opposing Omnaths and a way to also remove Beanstalk Giants (which is a nice flavor win as well). 

Now if you aren’t interested in joining the cult of Omnath, there are some other ways to attack the metagame that are benefited from Uro’s timely demise. 

Decklist: https://mtgmelee.com/Decklist/View/54090

Despite this also being an Uro deck, the shell of Corey’s deck is essentially just U/B. The green cards can easily be swapped out, although I do like the sideboard Gargaroths. Corey did lose to a mono-green aggro deck in the last round playing for top 16. Heartless Act did not look so hot against Yorvo, Garruk’s Harbinger, and Stonecoil Serpent. If there is a rise in aggressive decks following the Uro ban I could definitely see copies of Shadow’s Verdict making it into the maindeck of this list. 

Decklist: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mtgo-standings/standard-challenge-2020-09-28 (second place decklist)

Alfredo Torres’ Gruul Adventures is another great place to start after the Uro ban. This deck puts on a lot of pressure and has some easy ways to remove Cobra and Omnath in the form of Spikefield Hazard, Bonecrusher Giant, and Primal Might. I think a test of this deck will be how good it stacks up against new UB control decks, or potentially UW control decks. Edgewall Innkeeper is a nice way to have some resilience against these decks. 

Speaking of control decks…

It wouldn’t be a Roman Fusco standard article if I didn’t include a UW control list:

Not sure if this is even remotely good in the face of Omnath. It honestly might be a lot worse than UB since this list has less targeted removal. I do like having access to Shatter the Sky if we see a rise in Mono Green and Gruul Adventures. I also like having access to Dream Trawler as a way to close out games vs Temur Adventures. Overall, I’m not sure if this can compete with the new best decks of the format, but I’ll be giving it a go.

Overall the Uro ban was a much-needed change to Standard, but it doesn’t solve some of the underlying issues of the format. We’re still subject to not only Omnath ramp strategies, but other oppressive cards such as Lucky Clover and Embercleave. While I do think more bans will probably be needed, with Uro being gone it’ll be interesting to see how the Omnath decks adapt and if other decks will have their time to shine. 

What do you think about the Uro ban? Will it really have a major impact on the Standard metagame? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Twitter: @roman_fusco

Email: RomanFusco95@gmail.com