This weekend Kyle Olson, Mike Hawthorne, Forrest Ryan and myself crammed into Forrest's Prius to trek down to the Open weekend in Kansas City. While Kyle posted the best results of any of us by top 32ing both events (edging out Forrest's "save 80 dollars and don't play" plan), I think the weekend was still pretty solid.
In terms of personal results I came up a little short. If you were watching coverage of round one then you got to see me brick a lot and lose to the Immortal Servitude deck in round one. Despite losing, I actually had fun playing the match and I was very jealous that my opponent got to play Elvish Visionary on camera.
I then proceeded to lose to Junk Reanimator in round two. This was a little disheartening considering how close game one was, but it's Magic and highlighting what can be taken away from the weekend is a lot more important to me than sharing the particulars of bad beats stories. Let's start off by taking a look at the list I registered and breaking down what's different from what I wrote last week:
All of the Dragons
The most important note on this deck is that I am now firmly in the four Thundermaw Hellkite camp. In testing against Naya I found that my early game was very good against them and having one card that is lack-luster didn't impact my matchup too badly. Alternatively, Thundermaw is spectacular to have against Junk Reanimator. When I was trying to Ash Zealot and Rancor I could cheese a good amount of quick wins, but I wasn't allowed a lot of play and could easily be colded by a single Angel of Serenity. Assuming that my Ghor-Clan Rampager deck was successful at dealing some early damage Hellkite can often be lights out even after your opponent starts casting their own haymakers.
On Mizzium Mortars
At first I was very excited about Mizzium Mortars, but I'm starting to see it as more of a sideboard card. It's awesome to overload it in certain matchups, but being able to dome your opponent almost always just matters more. You also generally need some kind of removal early in the matchups where you want to overload it, so in the maindeck it doesn't perform as well as I would like. I intend to keep somewhere between 2 and 4 on board for the matchups where it matters, but Searing Spear one-for-ones well enough against Naya Blitz while allowing us to more effectively race the bigger decks.
So, the most awesome part of the Minnesota Magic community is easily traveling with Forrest Ryan. He's great at booking cheap hotels, his car has excellent mileage, he's hilarious and he keeps a playset of every Standard card in an easily accessible binder. While I was looking through his things to put my deck together I stumbled across Selesnya Charm and the wheels started turning. The primary motivation for Ghor-Clan Rampager was breaking through Restoration Angel and Selesnya Charm plays that role similarly well with the creatures that I'm playing. It trades with a lot of what the aggressive decks are doing, it removes Angel of Serenity and it's one of the very few answers to Obzedat, Ghost Council. I don't see myself going to less than two and am considering a third or fourth.
Notes on Junk and Standard at Large
I said in the quick questions segment of coverage for this event that it's pretty clear that Junk is the best deck right now and I very much doubt that anybody heard that from me first. As one might expect from a best deck, Junk is currently very well-represented. The strength of the Junk deck is its ability to do something very degenerate very quickly (i.e. turn five you with Lingering Souls and Craterhoof Behemoth) or to play a slow game with cards that are very likely to be higher impact than those of its opponents.
Seeing as the deck is more consistent in the late game it has become accepted that Naya Blitz is Junk's worst matchup as it can steal games before Junk comes online. Meanwhile, Esper Control has been gaining popularity as a deck that cripples aggressive decks but one that is embarrassingly weak to Junk. These three decks make up our Rock-Paper-Scissors-esque metagame core. Sure, there are lots of other decks being played, UWR Flash, Prime Speaker Bant and Jund to name a few, but Blitz, Junk and Esper should be the first three decks in any guantlet. The other decks in my experience just do things somewhat similar to these decks and are worse at doing them.
If it can be accepted that this is our core Metagame then I would recommend that anybody looking to play the best Tier one deck to pick up Junk sweeing as Blitz is the least consistent of the three decks, and I would recommend anybody trying to break the status quo to take a look at something similar to my Domri list.
The haste threats along with Domri and Assemble the Legion post-board make Esper favorable and your large, efficient creatures combined with removals make Blitz a joke. I need to test the Junk matchup more before the coming Open in Milwaukee, but the ability to cheese Junk with Thundermaw, Ghor-Clan Rampager and Selesnya Charm has proven strong thus far.
Either way, you are basically guaranteed to play against Junk Reanimator in at last one round of a large tournament. You can maximize your odds in this matchup to accrue at least one free win or you can focus on beating everything else to stabilize your automatic loss.
It's strange to already have a pretty established best deck going into week one of Standard PTQ season, but with the frequency of large tournaments that are held these days I suppose that's just how it's going to be. Whatever you choose to battle with, don't let the knowledge available to you go to waste! Your week one opponents are going to be a lot tougher than they ever have been.
Thanks for reading.
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter