Insider: GP San Diego & the Milling Monster

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It's cool to see a new archetype break out in Magic, and U/R Milling got a great deal of glory time this weekend. I'm of two minds; I like grinding decks, but I can't stand milling decks. I'm inclined to think that WOTC doesn't find being milled out a particularly fair way to die.

This week, we're looking at Majors' phenomenal U/R deck, along with the rest of the field, to get a sense of what Standard looks like now (and how you can profit). Here are the Top 8 decklists.

U/R Tutelage Is a Big Deal

The danger of a combo deck that does not utilize creatures or the attack step is that it blanks a great deal of modern Magic decks. Creatures have gotten so good that they are, shockingly, the basis of Magic again. People pack removal, obviously. A combination deck like Tutelage that does not have creatures to kill means that you've got to blast through a lot of junk before you see that Silumgar's Scorn.

On top of that, many decks may lack solid options to fight it. There were times when Majors would flip half of someone's library in a turn (and that's without janky Day's Undoing). If your plan is a great curve, can you beat four Anger of the Gods in the maindeck? Can you evade Roast and Whelming Wave? Can you beat a deck so confident in its mana curve that it runs four Radiant Fountain for the lifegain? What a monster of a deck.

On top of that, U/R Tutelage is very fresh. Aside from Whelming Wave and Anger, not much else of the deck rotates. It loses its Temples, but we've been promised enemy-colored lands from MaRo in Battle for Zendikar anyway.

Sideboard tech: Talent of the Telepath. Andrew Cuneo ran three on his sideboard. What a lethal card. Against a mirror match, it'll mill out seven cards from the opponent. On top of that, you can pretty much bank on casting two spells--juicy draw spells like Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time, all for free.

Cuneo did not Top 8, so this tech is largely under the radar right now. As people look for mirror breakers that evade things like Annul, this is a great pickup at $0.50. Get these in trade-ins for now, unless or until we see it pick up in play.

The issue post-rotation will be what replaces Anger of the Gods and Whelming Wave. Wizards is quite reliable about printing red board sweeps. I have to imagine that they've printed an anti-milling card in Battle for Zendikar. They tend to do this when there are cards they fear, printing things like Grafdigger's Cage or Glaring Spotlight (sometimes too late). Tutelage is aggressively costed enough for Constructed that I'm hoping someone decided to plan around it.

Actions: Keep an eye on Talent of the Telepath and the MTGO decks we see come out of this week's Dailies. This deck is real and it'll be a hard fight. Although Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver performed well in the semifinals, I don't like it as a target. It's only got a month left in Standard, after all.

This deck also showcases Jace, Vryn's Prodigy very well. There were those who felt like running four in a deck without other creatures was incorrect; I'd say this proves them wrong.

The Following Presupposes that Tutelage Is Beatable

While Majors made it to the finals, Andrew Cuneo fell out. People will be playing more Unravel the Aether, valuing their Dromoka's Commands more. If Tutelage can resist that and adapt to win (Majors claims his deck was misbuilt), then we're in for a rough month.

A Great Weekend for GWx

Dromoka's Command looks like an amazing card, once again. Corey Burkhart ran a full four maindeck in his hateful Abzan Aggro. I was also surprised to see Warden of the First Tree as a full set, too. Warden has been silently seeing a gentle price increase. Post-rotation, people will need a supplemental creature for their still-absurd Siege Rhinos. Warden is a fine choice.

While Corey went aggro, Paul Rietzl stayed with a controlling list. The only two Languish of the Top 8 sat in his maindeck. He packed monsters like Tasigur and Elspeth to synergize with his board sweeper. This is a deck we've seen for the past year, so it's not exactly new. It's interesting to note just how few Languish we see, even when Thopters looked like the breakout deck from last week.

Constellation had a good final run in Artur Villela's Abzan Constellation deck. The list won't survive rotation, so Doomwake away as many Thopters as you can over the next month. It'll be sad to see it go. Aside from a few spectacular performances, Constellation never became a major format player. It's unfortunate to see a mechanic like that be so close to Standard-playable and just not make it.

Loren Eakins dropped black entirely for his G/W Megamorph deck. Brian Kibler championed the deck last week, going 9-1 with it at the Pro Tour. It ended up being the second-most popular deck at the GP, but only one list managed to make it to the Top 8.

G/W is a notoriously underpowered color combo, this one getting to where it is on the basis of the Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor combination. Note that Eakins has two copies of Evolutionary Leap on the sideboard. Presumably, this is there to refuel in the face of a sweeper and kill off Deathmist Raptors that are about to come back due to a Den Protector flip.

U/R Thopters and Burn Are Nowhere

This would have been a bad week to pack either Thopters or Burn, as the metagame has rapidly shifted to beat these decks. Virulent Plague made some appearances. Ben Weitz's Jeskai deck packed the supremely hateful combination of Arashin Cleric with Ojutai's Command to rebuy it (and gain four more life).

I don't expect that either of these decks are dead, but they're just laying in wait. Unravel the Aether will see a lot more play, since it beats Ensoul Artifact and Sphinx's Tutelage handily. This is just not a good time to be leaning so hard on artifacts and enchantments. Burn, as always, is a deadly deck against the unprepared. We'll assuredly see more of it.

Quick Hits

A few things are still on my mind that don't necessitate whole paragraphs. Let's blast through 'em.

  • Esper Dragons can still mess you up. This may be the list that people grab to fight Tutelage, since it can pack a pile of Counterspells. Ojutai makes for a mean clock as well.
  • Dan Ward's B/G Dragons list looks fun, but it's about eight months too late into Standard to make me excited.
  • Ben Weitz's Jeskai deck is similarly really cool. It's a Soulfire Grand Master deck at its core. That card really favors you in the long game. I saw a few matches with it in play where once you hit about 7 mana the game was just packed up. Chaining back a Valorous Stance is unreal and that's on the lower end of the power curve.
  • Jace had a great showing this weekend.
  • Hangarback Walker was almost absent from Standard. I expected Abzan decks to pick it up, since it may be as close as we get to another Elspeth. Kibler also mentioned using Evolutionary Leap to eat several of them and make 23 Thopters to close out a game in extra turns.
  • Speaking of Kibler's Megamorph deck, it's where I assume a lot of people will shift to after Abzan's little monsters rotate. It makes good use of Nissa to both ramp into Warden's "ultimate" and create a steady stream of Languish-resistant attackers.

That's all! Far from a lame-duck Standard, this one is deep. It's also fleeting. I wish we could see a few more months of these cards playing together.

If something big happens this week, you'll read about it here next week. Until then,


2 thoughts on “Insider: GP San Diego & the Milling Monster

  1. My friend and I were discussing Tutelage at Game Day last Sunday. One realization he made was that Orbs of Warding completely shuts down Tutelage, as Tutelage has wording target opponent. Looking at the GP decklist, there is no artifact removal and only counters in the side.

  2. I’m playing the w/g hardened scales deck. When I face tutelage playing practice room online, they usually scoop the whole match after I play my first main-deck Dromoka’s command. If they’re sccooping… ever… it seems like the deck is too vulnerable.

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