Beating Mythic

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First, I want to say thank you to everyone that commented on my last article. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and thanks in part to that feedback, I was offered a weekly column here at Quiet Speculation, which I accepted. Thanks to everyone that read or commented on my last article, and to everyone that will do so on this article or any of my future writing.

Now, a bit about me. I have been playing Magic on and off since about Ice Age, which came out when I was around five years old. I learned to read so that I wouldn’t have to play by memorizing the card pictures to their abilities anymore, which was becoming a problem as more sets were released. I would play now and then with friends at the kitchen table, but none of us had any real idea what we were doing, and I dropped it after a few years. I came back to Magic and started trying to compete seriously when Onslaught was the newest thing. My first taste of real success was later that year, when I got tenth at States after being cheated (really) out of the top eight. After putting up with Affinity for a while, I decided it was no longer worth it after I got crushed at regionals with Tooth and Nail when the format was Affinity block and Champions of Kamigawa, so I quit again. I came back once more about a year later when Kamigawa block was finished as well as Ravnica, and Coldsnap was about to come out, and I’ve been going strong ever since then. Since I came back most recently, I have four or fiveish (I forget) PTQ top eights, and I won The 2010s in Montana.

My column will generally follow the current Pro Tour Qualifier schedule, with occasional digressions. I don’t have an exact plan for articles; I would rather leave that up to you, the readers. If you prefer one type of article to another, or if you would like to hear more about any topic, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll be happy to accommodate.

I’ve recently been playtesting with this list, which made top four at a recent PTQ in Roanoke, Virginia in the hands of Sean McKeown:

It doesn’t look much like a the old standard Mythic, but I see many of the changes as logical upgrades, with the changed cards serving similar purposes to the deck. First, this build has Vendilion Clique instead of Dauntless Escort — both are good at protecting your team from a Wrath effect, but the Flash has been quite helpful to me. Next, this list entirely cuts Planeswalkers, favoring instead two Cryptic Commands and the three Chameleon Colossus. Most standard Mythic lists had Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Elspeth, Knight Errant — I see the Commands and Colossi as filling a similar purpose. The Jaces were there to help give the deck more game after a Day of Judgment and to help push through a creature war, while a Cryptic Command can simply counter a DoJ, and its tap ability allows you to alpha strike with impunity. The Elspeths also allowed you to gain an edge in the creature war, or to have a more durable threat against control. The Colossi make sure that a creature match never stays stalled for long, and the protection from Black is often game ending. The last change, and one I am still undecided about, it the move from Mana Leaks to Thoughtseizes.

While I’ve been playtesting, I’ve been thinking about the possible ways that this deck can be beaten. When playing, I am constantly asking myself how I can lose — what the opponent needs to draw, how they can attack, etc. When you know what needs to happen for you to lose, you can figure out how to play around it as best you can. While I’ve been playtesting and thinking about what they need to have to win, I’ve come up with the main ways Mythic loses.

1. It never gets off the ground: Mythic is in many ways similar to Mono Green Eldrazi in Standard. They both trade a bit of consistency, by running a large number of mana producers that don’t do much in the late game, for the ability to quickly ramp into expensive, game-ending threats. While I would consider Mythic far more reliable and consistent than MGE, they share a weakness to early disruption of their mana producers. If you stop Mythic from accelerating, it becomes a much clunkier deck. The Sovereigns combo can still get you, even if it comes out later in the game, but it’s much less scary on turn six than turn three. Lotus Cobra is of course the main offender here, as it leads to the most broken draws, especially with a Knight of the Reliquary.

To take advantage of this, you have to be able to kill a Lotus Cobra early, or remove it from their hand with discard before it hits play. As a Green creature with only one toughness and no protection, as well as being only two mana to play, the Cobra can be taken care of by every removal spell ever printed, as well as Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek. The important thing is that you are aware of Cobra’s ability to run away with a game and have a plan to stop it. If the Cobra is gone, Mythic slows down considerably and is much more of a Doran-speed deck. It doesn’t give you infinite time, but you don’t have to worry about being dead on turn three.

2. Significant early pressure: Killing a Cobra or the other mana producers is all well and good, but if you aren’t moving your own game plan forward in the meantime it isn’t going to do you any good, as Mythic will eventually be able to just play out its threats the old-fashioned way. Mythic usually doesn’t want to trade creatures in the early game, as it wants to build up to a Sovereigns kill. An early couple of beaters can beat a Mythic player down to a low life total before they can really set up, allowing you to finish them off even if they hit a Sovereigns. Mythic also has relatively few creatures with power, so swarm strategies are reasonable. While this build of Mythic has Cryptic Commands to help fight such strategies, most builds do not. An early Putrid Leech, Plated Geopede, or Wolf-Skull Shaman can be bad news for the Mythic player. To follow up on your pressure, you need to make sure you don’t die to a Sovereigns, as rumor has it one of those can catch up in a race pretty quickly.

3. Card Advantage: The Mythic deck trades late game staying power for early explosiveness. While many builds can last late in the game with Planeswalkers (Jace TMS and Elspeth v1 being the most commonly played ones) it is still an uphill battle. Most builds have very few ways to draw cards or otherwise gain card advantage, so if you have a way to survive their early rush and last until the late game with more cards in hand than them, you will be in a good place. A good Control deck can protect itself from a Sovereigns kill with a well timed targeted kill spell, and of course playing a board sweeper or two will leave them far ahead. Mythic’s threats are all quite significant by themselves, so it is hard to catch more than one at a time, but any board sweeper will buy you time to drop a Jace and begin restocking your hand. For this kind of strategy, you need to have a reliable way to draw cards or otherwise create card advantage, as well as have multiple removal spells to ensure you survive long enough for your card advantage to begin taking over the game.

4. Race: Mythic’s god draw is a turn one Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch, turn two Lotus Cobra, fetchland, Knight of the Reliquary, and turn three fetchland, Sovereigns of Lost Alara, attack. That’s a turn four GG, which makes it one of the fastest decks in current Extended — in a vacuum, at least. With even a single piece of disruption, however, it slows down significantly. If you counter or kill the Cobra, then they won’t have the Knight until turn three, which means they would need another one drop accelerator to have a turn four Sovereigns. Even if they do have a second Birds or Hierarch and a turn four Sovereigns, that would leave them without an attacker, so they aren’t going to be attacking for the first time until turn five. When a single piece of disruption can slow their clock down that much, that opens the window for a faster combo. Most Valakut-centered decks, for example, can combo off turn five or six fairly consistently. Whether Wargate or one of the more aggressive builds, a little disruption can buy you enough time to combo off yourself. While the Valakut decks are the most prominent combo decks at the moment, any Splinter Twin deck would be able to race as well if they proved viable. (Am I missing an Extended Combo deck? I feel like I’m about to make an idiot of myself here by not mentioning one. I’m sure you’ll let me know in the comments.)

I think that Mythic is an extremely powerful deck and an excellent contender for the current Extended season, but it does have several weaknesses that can be exploited if you are aware of them and play around them. If you can stop them from pulling ahead with their mana and exploding into the mid/late game before you, put them under pressure from the beginning, survive their initial rush and bury them in card advantage, or beat them to the punch by slowing them down just a little, you can have them beat. It’s a deck that can do quite a few unfair and unexpected things, so I would recommend playtesting against it, even if you don’t have the time to playtest against everything. Once you have some familiarity playing against it, you can figure out which weakness you want to exploit, depending on your deck and its strengths.

Good luck!

Brook Gardner-Durbin

@BGardnerDurbin on twitter

6 thoughts on “Beating Mythic

    1. You are correct, the Sovereigns should come out on turn three after Cobra and Knight on turn two, which is a turn four GG. I skipped over turn three, saying that the Sovereigns would come out on turn 4 when I meant 3. Thanks for the catch!

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