Welcome back for week two of my regional PTQ prep mini-series. If you missed last week's article, check it after you're done here. Just like the Ninja Turtles in their sewer home or Goku in the hyperbolic time chamber, I’m stepping up my training regimen for this event. One of the main aspects of training is observing the metagame shifts that occur week to week and delving into their implications. One important thing to remember is that there are a lot of decks out there and even the ones that don’t Top 8 a major tournament can influence meta evolution.
You certainly need to summon your Sword of Omens and use it to defeat your enemy, but which weapon you choose should change depending on what everyone else is bringing to battle. This past weekend, there were a whole slew of events but the most important was the Star City Invitational. Those deck lists will have great influence over players and what decks they bring to upcoming tournaments.
April 10-12 is Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, and we should see a lot of innovation from the pro teams for this event. Luckily that event will happen before the RPTQ so we will have time to dissect the decks that break out at that event. Grinders do a great job tuning their strategies for the independent circuits, but huge innovations typically develop from the Pro Tour meta.
In addition to changing what the metagame looks like, this upcoming Pro Tour could drastically alter the financial landscape of the format as well. Dragons of Tarkir is like a coiled spring, ready to shift in value at a moment’s notice.
Due to the low value of the majority of the cards in the set, there is tons of room for growth. So, if we see one of the low-end mythics break out in a tournament, we could see a huge surge in value overnight. This fact is more true of Dragons than any other set in recent memory. It may even spike harder than Theros did upon its introduction to the format.
We have already seen big gains from Surrak, the Hunt Caller, Thunderbreak Regent, Dragonlord Ojutai, and Deathmist Raptor, but we could still see another price jump on these cards or others depending on what happens in the next couple of weeks.
The biggest loser so far has to be Sarkhan Unbroken. With no home, his value continues to decrease. The question is not whether he is good, because obviously he is, but rather, what deck will play him. Until he has a home, he should continue to drop in value. The lower he goes, the more appealing he becomes as a buy target though.
With all the press that Icefall Regent has gotten lately, I’m surprised to still see him hovering around a dollar. If you can pick this mini-Frost Titan up cheaply, I would suggest doing so immediately. This is one of the safest investments that I can see in the set. Along with Thunderbreak Regent, this is the only other card that my shop sold out of upon release. We almost sold out of Zurgo Bellstriker and Surrak, the Hunt Caller as well, but we ended up with a couple copies left of each.
Enough about what the future may hold. Let’s focus on the events that transpired this weekend and how that will influence our meta.
The first deck up on my list is a deck I like to call Red Green Dragons. Why is this deck so important? Players loved their R/G Monsters decks and there were a lot of players loyal to the archetype. This deck is quite similar and should draw a big crowd quickly. Many players already have most of these cards and would only need to acquire some copies of Surrak, the Hunt Caller and Thunderbreak Regent in order to play this deck. So for around $50, players can update a previously weak deck to one of the best options in the metagame.
Not only is the deck easily accessible, it is a potent weapon that is ready to strike down any stumbling opponent. One of the main reasons this deck is better than its predecessors is Elvish Mystic. I know that Mystic has been legal for a while now, but it has never been as potent as in this deck.
Although, Goblin Rabblemaster and Boon Satyr have been legal alongside our Llanowar Elf replacement, no players have thought to put the three cards in a deck together. The main reason they are together now is so that Surrak, the Hunt Caller can trigger formidable the turn he comes into play. So, not only are you starting the game by curving your one mana accelerant into a three mana powerful play, but you can follow that up with strong creatures at every point along the curve.
Don’t overlook the fact that every threat in this deck can win the game on its own. I lost a game last weekend only to Rabblemaster. My opponent technically played other cards, but he didn’t need to. Rabblemaster may be a known quantity, but it is still as potent as they come.
Finally, most of these creatures generate damage on their initial turn in play. Rabblemaster makes a token, Stormbreath Dragon and Surrak have haste, and Thunderbreak Regent deals damage if your opponent tries to kill it. All of that incremental damage adds up. Once they’ve taken damage from all of your cards, there won’t be many life points left over to deal with.
Going forward, my biggest question is about planeswalkers. All these threats are amazing, but they can all still be killed by pinpoint removal or a sweeper. Are we at a point where Xenagos, the Reveler or Nissa Worldwaker should be main deck? Or are these threats better suited to start on the sideline and then sub into the game? If this is the deck for you, I would say answering this question should be at the top of your list of things to do.
Otherwise, the deck is tuned extremely well. Make sure to include this deck in your gauntlet for testing because you will be seeing a lot of it in upcoming events for certain.
Despite a high profile deck tech, I feel this deck is still somewhat under the radar at the moment. I have not seen anyone talking about this deck at all because it didn’t end up in the Top 8 of the event. The only reason I know Jeff made the Top 16 was because I was searching for this deck and happened upon the final standings of the event.
This U/R Dragons deck is another great example of a deck that players will likely jump on board with because the deck plays similarly to previous tempo decks. The goal here is not to totally control the game like U/B Control does right now, but rather to delay what your opponent is doing so that you can get to the later stages of the game with fewer of their threats on the board.
This deck supports super-efficient spells and some solid threats to back them up with. My main issue with this deck is that the matchup against other dedicated control decks will be a rough endeavor. Yes you have counterspells and card draw, but at the end of the day, you don’t have many threats for your control opponent to deal with. Unlike R/G Dragons above, you definitely don’t have a continuous stream of threats to overload your opponent’s removal.
Don’t hear this caution as a warning to stay away, but rather use it to prepare more thoroughly for the control matchups than you would with another deck. U/R does a great job, as you might imagine, at stalling the early turns of the game. That is something that no other deck does well in the meta right now. Jeff is always pushing the envelope and developing interesting ways to attack formats. This deck is no different so if it fits your play style, sleeve this up and tune it to your play style.
Here’s a deck that I’ve been working on that ended up similar in play style to that of U/R Dragons. I am playing a lot more colors than two and casting my green-white creature with no obvious green or white sources (Haven of the Spirit Dragon) is always an eye opener.
This deck falls prey to the same weakness as the U/R deck in that it is also quite weak to dedicated control strategies. Your game plan against them is basically cast Dragonlord Dromoka, or Dragonlord Ojutai, and protect it with Valerous Stance and Silumgar's Scorn. At the end of the day though, you don’t have many threats to lean back on.
Fighting against other decks is much better because they don’t have many ways to remove your gigantic dragons from the board. So basically you control the early game and then drop a threat that they cannot deal with.
Ultimately, I don’t think that this deck is good enough to cut it in the high-powered metagame, but it sure was a blast to play with. Getting to cast actual Counterspell felt dirty and definitely too good, so a strategy that can support it should definitely exist in the metagame.
What I learned from playing this deck is that Dragonlord Dromoka is insanely good. Not only did I have one opponent scoop when I played the card, but I won lots of games with it. While much different than Baneslayer Angel, Dromoka has a potency unlike any other threat I’ve seen. The difference is that this late game threat has a built in Grand Abolisher attached to it as well as not being able to be countered. This is a threat that should be seeing significantly more play than it is currently for how efficiently it can take over a game.
Lastly, Haven of the Spirit Dragon was amazing for me the entire tournament that I played with this deck. The ability to help you cast your dragons as well as regrow your late-game threats at instant speed and without using a spell was insane value. If you have dragons in your deck list, consider adding a couple of this land to help you overcome your control opponents.
Thanks to @cchichy on twitter for this supreme find. This deck is the next level of tempo in Standard. Innovating from Jeskai Aggro, Korey McDuffie has taken the highly anticipated Myth Realized and put it into action in Standard. I also think this is the perfect deck to jam some main deck Ojutai Exemplars rather than sticking them in the sideboard. I would much rather see a 2/2 split of Exemplars and Soulfire Grandmaster for example as a way to add some more potency to the deck. Rabblemaster should always be a consideration as well.
My worry with this deck is not when it’s ahead because once in front, this deck will push you to the ground and beat your face in until you have life left to give. From behind though, I don’t think it can catch up well. In addition, you don’t want the game to go long either. For this deck to win, it needs to find the sweet spot of winning in the midgame. That can be difficult to achieve.
The deck shows a lot of promise though and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the pros utilize this as a springboard for deck innovation for the Pro Tour. I love the additional threats in the sideboard as well so you can strengthen your threat density against control decks.
Is this the new face of Abzan? To be honest, I’m not sure, but I do know that there is a lot of room for innovation with your Siege Rhinos. It’s not that Abzan Aggro needs a face lift to succeed in the current meta, but it might need some spice to take some opponents by surprise.
The biggest question in my mind is if Surrak, the Hunt Caller should be included in this deck and my initial impression is yes. Wingmate Roc is still good against some decks, but it may be better suited from the sideboard. With all the 4/4 red dragons running around, two 3/4's do a reasonable job blocking, but are not that great at attacking. Adding Surrak in place of them would not only allow us to lower our curve but also to increase our clock considerably.
This version focuses on being an aggressive green-white deck and splashing the obviously powerful black cards. There are many versions of this deck to explore, but this one is at the top of my list. With this particular iteration, my top concern is whether or not to run Elvish Mystic. While it’s certainly powerful, I’m not sure it is necessary. Unlike the R/G deck above, we don’t have two good aggressive three-costs to be playing on turn two, so it’s possible that we want to remove them for other more powerful threats and or a couple other removal spells.
Testing is definitely needed in order to determine the course of action from this point, but Surrak, the Hunt Caller is definitely the type of card I am interested in investigating.
I'll be back next week with more updates on my RPTQ preperation as well as what's happening in the metagame that's shaping the format.
Until Next Time,
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