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Insider: Fringe Strategies at GP Indianapolis

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A little over 1,100 people showed up to do battle in Indianapolis this past weekend, vying for prizes in Standard. While our usual metagame has been defined by Abzan, (Dark) Jeskai, Atarka Red and G/W Megamorph, this Top 8 revealed a whole host of other interesting lists.

This is perhaps the most exciting Top 8 yet, even beating last week's ramp decks. It shows hope that there's an actual varied Standard, and ideally a few budget decks as well.

Hardened Scales Is Finally Showing Up

David Phelps packed a Bant Hardened Scales deck and took it all the way to the Top 8. People have been tinkering with this sort of deck forever, but David found a configuration that was able to compete on the highest levels.

David took advantage of easy mana fixing in a Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) world to add four Stubborn Denial to the maindeck. What a masterstroke; the deck routinely has a ferocious creature in play, and the majority of cards that bode ill for Hardened Scales are non-creatures--Planar Outburst, Ugin and Radiant Flames, to name a few.

One thing I discovered about this deck in testing is that Abzan Falconer feels a whole lot like Wonder in U/G Madness. I realize that reference is ancient history at this point, so I'll shorten it by saying that giving all of your creatures flying is an incredible ability.

Green absolutely needs to bust up board stalls and that's where the Falconer really helps out. Flying over with a 7/6 Avatar of the Resolute is about as incredible as it sounds.

Actions: There are still plenty of targets to buy up if you believe in the power of this deck. Avatar is $1.25 right now, which feels fair. Managorger Hydra, the essence of "kill this before it kills you," is $3.25. As an aside, running out Managorger with a Stubborn Denial in hand feels a lot like the old Miracle Grow decks (sigh, more ancient history).

Den Protector and Hangarback Walker are not cheap, but those cards have a lot of value outside of this deck as well.

Hardened Scales is down 20% from the beginning of this month, settling at $4. That's not an awful buy-in but I feel like $5 is about how much this card should cost.

Black/White Tokens Splashes Counterspells Flawlessly

Ray Perez Jr. came to the event toting a familiar archetype, B/W Tokens. This sort of deck relies on Glorious Anthem effects and token generators, paired with cheap black disruption. Ray did the same thing David did and splashed some counterspells on the sideboard.

It frankly looks like a slow and plodding deck, but with so little Atarka Red, that's not a big downside right now.

The idea is that you're making the best of Gideon. You can immediately turn him into an emblem to bump up things like soldier tokens and Shambling Vent. This deck also makes the most of Wingmate Roc, which has recently shown its power in fighting off both Mantis Rider and Siege Rhino.


This wasn't the only deck packing the counterspell plan, either. G/W Megamorph and the Hardened Scales deck mentioned above did the same thing. That's worth paying attention to. If you're looking for the best of the BFZ lands, Prairie Stream has a short-term edge for that reason.

Actions: Gideon is looking great, but you know to trade into him already. I like getting cards like Stubborn Denial as small buylist plays. Shambling Vent is also chugging along as a staple in the format. It'll take a lot from Oath of the Gatewatch to make me stop loving Vents.

Jace Was Somewhere Else Last Weekend

Dark Jeskai, that $800 deck in the room, that terror of Standard, put... zero copies in the Top 8. Zero! It has a great match against the metagame but struggles against both Eldrazi Ramp and Abzan. The total number of Jaces was a measly four copies in Patrick Chapin's Esper deck.


This means a couple of things. First, Jeskai can be beat handily. Second, Jace isn't the all-format star we might have thought of.

One of the undercurrents behind Jace's price is speculation that he'll be good in Modern. Well, he's not really showing up much in that format. From my own experience, I can say that Snapcaster compares favorably to Jace, accomplishing the same thing much faster.

If Jace has less of a role in Standard, he isn't likely to command a big price in Modern after he rotates either. More volatile prices make me think he's not as much of a "keep-and-hold" as he seemed just last month.

Actions: If you have Jace in your binder, keep an eye out for good things to trade him into. The BFZ duals will be in Standard past rotation, but they'll be gutted without the fetches to make five-color mana work.

Has Atarka Red Transformed?

The R/G Landfall deck sure looks like Atarka Red with a few changes.

It has that same Become Immense/Temur Battle Rage combination that will stomp an opponent out, for example. It's got a host of little weenies, but skips on Zurgo and Dragon Fodder for more landfall monsters and some long-game Den Protectors. While Brian Demars's deck was an Atarka's Command deck, this is a Temur Battle Rage deck.

While Landfall doesn't use Atarka's Command as well as the Demars list did, it still has plenty of power in the instant. I foresee this style of deck being powerful for a long time. The disappointing thing is that you need twelve fetchlands to make it work, which rips it far out of the realm of budget lists.

Actions: So much of this deck is already efficiently priced that it's hard to find good speculation targets here.

Quick Hits

  • While there was no ramp at the GP, we saw ramp at StarCity, so the deck still has life and potential.
  • Knight of the White Orchid looks great going forward. Craig Wescoe barely missed the Top 8 with a deck packing four, in addition to Ray's four in his Top 8 list.
  • I also feel great about Mastery of the Unseen as a smaller spec. It has a tremendous "go wide" ability for Abzan and green-white decks.
  • The metagame each week seems to seesaw between all Jace in the Top 8 and all Gideon in the Top 8.
  • On a brief Modern note, both the GP in Brazil and the SCG Modern Premier event had few Snapcaster Mages in the Top 8's. Brazil had four and SCG had none. That's scary for a banner Modern staple.

If it happens next week, you'll read about it here!

-Doug

One thought on “Insider: Fringe Strategies at GP Indianapolis

  1. I argue that the new red deck makes very good use of Atarka’s Command, specifically because a Landfall trigger is about as good as an Anthem in that deck, and it’s also some kind of mana ramp (with a bolt to the face tacked on for good measure)

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