The Japan Metagame Diaries: Testing the Waters

Theros standard has just begun, and I have just gotten my first weekend in the books. I have brewed up 3 decks already, but I’ve only been using one of them at tournaments. The others I have been testing in between matches but the results have been very promising. Friday Night Magic for me was small but interesting. I got a first look at UB control’s deck, which I’m going to call UB Nightmare because Ashiok is incredibly powerful. Due to an odd number of people, I was handed a first round bye, but in game 2 I played against a GR midrange deck and the 3rd match I faced UB control. I went 3-0 for first place with my mono white aggro deck I like to call “White Out”

White Out
75 cards, 15 sideboard
21 Plains

21 lands

Precinct Captain
Boros Elite
Dryad Militant
Boros Reckoner
Frontline Medic
Imposing Sovereign
Soldier of the Pantheon
Banisher Priest

29 creatures

Path of Bravery
Brave the Elements
Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Spear of Heliod

10 other spells

Heliod, God of the Sun
Pithing Needle
Rootborn Defenses
Glare of Heresy
Gideon, Champion of Justice
Ratchet Bomb
Fiendslayer Paladin

15 sideboard cards

This deck was incredibly hard to for my opponents to beat. While the GR player was setting up their deck with Mana creatures in order to play Garruk on turn four, I was swinging in with Dryad Militants and Soldier of Pantheons. I had incredibly aggressive draws, and thanks to a timely Banisher Priest and Brave the Elements, my opponent was dead before anything more than 2 power hit the table. Against UB I also played aggressive, beating my opponent within 5 turns of game one, losing a close game 2, then going on the offensive again with a faster hand in game 3 for the win. Without a board wipe in UB control, they simply run out of removal spells. Even Jace, Architect of Thought couldn’t slow down my steam roll.

On Saturday I had a chance to play at a slightly higher level event near Nagoya station, where I saw quite a few midrange decks along with mono red. I went 3-1 for 3rd place, beating a GB midrange, GR midrange, and Mono Red deck. I would have beaten my second opponent who was using mono red with a splash of white (the winner of the tournament), but a few mulligans hurt me in the first game and I couldn’t keep up. Sunday put me up against some of the best players in the city at Big Magic near Sakae, and due to my unpreparedness against control (it was full of UW, GB, RW, and UB control decks), I went 1-3.  I’m still convinced that this deck has what it takes to dominate the metagame here after a 6-4 weekend.

The list you see above is the newest one that I revised as soon as I had the data from the control match ups this weekend. I want to thank my friends on FB, as well as Derek Madlem from MythicMTG for helping me to put the finishing touches on my deck before Friday. He really helped me out with some key card choices. The deck is pretty straight forward if you’re wondering how to play it.

If you haven’t noticed already, it plays only 21 lands. If you’ve played decks like UW or mono blue Delver, mono red, or any other hyper aggressive deck, then you know you really don’t want to be drawing land after you have what you need on the board. This deck tops out at 3 mana, which means you could be fine for most of the game with only 3 mana on the board. While this deck doesn’t have the speed of mono red or the removal, what it does have is constant pressure and many ways to push damage through. This deck takes mono white weenies to a whole new level.

In the one drop spot we have Soldier of the Pantheon, Dryad Militant, Boros Elite, and Brave the Elements. The Dryad is nothing special, just a 2/1 for one, but the Soldier of the Pantheon is a great addition to the mono white strategy. I’ve only just scratched the surface with it, but it’s tested very well against both control and aggro strategies. Its protection from multicolor protects it from Dreadbore and Azorius Charm, as well as making it unblockable in Selesnya match ups because all they run is Voice of Resurgence, Loxodon Smiter, and Fleecemane Lion. It’s also a great blocker against these creatures, and without trample they aren’t going to be pushing any damage through to you. Speaking of which, Brave the Elements has been performing extremely well. This deck is made to be fast, and when your opponent takes the first 8-10 points of damage on turns 2-3 because they don’t have a defense yet, it sets them up for a finishing blow as soon as turn 4 if they don’t have an answer when you give all your creatures protection from their blockers.

For the two spot, we have Imposing Sovereign and Precinct Captain. The Sovereign is a key part of your strategy to push damage through. If you can drop on turn 2, your opponent is going to get into trouble very quickly. It stops Advent of the Wurm, Elspeth tokens, you name it. The captain is another good two drop, letting you put constant pressure on your opponent without overextending. Against control he’s a beast. They’ll run out of removal before they can deal with all your tokens running around.

The three drop is where it gets a little crazy: Boros Reckoner, Frontline Medic, Path of Bravery, Spear of Heliod, Ajani, Caller of the Pride, and Banisher Priest. The enchantments are there to boost your small attackers into something a little more substantial, and the Spear serves as extra removal if you can keep your life up. The Frontline Medic puts a lot of pressure on your opponent if they don’t get rid of him, and he also is a great deterrent against Sphinx’s Revelation. Boros Reckoner is another nasty card your opponents don’t want to see. Blocking or being blocked by him is going to put them in a very hard situation. The Banisher Priest is a great way to clear blockers out of your path, and Ajani serves double duty. He can beef up your attackers, and also give evasion and double strike to your attacker. Late in the game, this could be an instant win.

After this weekend, the sideboard received the most attention. First off I added in Fiendslayer Paladins to side in against mono red and other removal heavy decks. I then added in Glare of Heresy after getting handled continuously by Elspeth and Trostani. There are plenty of white permanents in the metagame to be exiled, so I think it’s an absolutely necessary card. Ratchet Bomb is necessary against Token match-ups, and Pithing Needle is absolutely necessary against control. Stopping Ashiok or Jace, Architect of Thought early is incredibly important. Shutting them down will improve your chances of winning against control decks by 30%. Speaking of which, the remainder of the sideboard is devoted to fighting control. Heliod, God of the Sun is one tough mofo. He’s indestructible and puts tokens into play each turn if you want.  These abilities turn him into a mini planeswalker of sorts and his abilities make him incredibly difficult to kill. With all the white symbols floating around, he’s also bound to hit your opponent hard. Rootborn Defenses is a must against decks using destroy effects like Supreme Verdict, Anger of the Gods, or Gaze of Granite. The final card I decided to put in against control was Gideon. He gets big, he attacks for a lot, and if you can combo him with Ajani and a Brave the Elements, he can win the game in one attack.

How to play this deck

As with any aggro deck, you want to start fast and to hit hard. Keeping a hand that doesn’t start until turn 3 is a definite no no. You want to play a creature every turn or more if you can. The deck is all about pushing damage through and never letting up. Play a one drop, end turn, play a 2 drop or two 1 drops, attack, play a 3 drop or more enchantment and swing hard . . . you get the picture. It is possible to keep a 1 land hand if you have 3-4 one drops, otherwise it’s usually safe to keep a 2 mana hand as long as you have something you can cast on those first 3-4 turns. Save those Brave the Elements for the final blow if you can!

Izzet Time?

I’ve been wanting to make an Izzet deck for the longest time. The cards, however, always seemed to fall short in the past sets. It is true that a UR Delver deck full of tempo cards won the Magic Market Open here in Nagoya a few weeks ago, but for the most part the colors were missing from standard. Not anymore. I think it IS time for Izzet to shine.

Izzet Elementals
75 cards, 15 sideboard
Izzet Guildgate
Steam Vents

23 lands

Purphoros, God of the Forge
Young Pyromancer
Nivmagus Elemental

14 creatures

Izzet Charm
Hidden Strings
Lightning Strike
Steam Augury
Hammer of Purphoros

23 other spells

Mizzium Mortars
Mizzium Skin
Epic Experiment
Cyclonic Rift
Ratchet Bomb

15 sideboard cards

I’ve been testing this deck out over the last weak as well, and thanks again to Derek for helping me to put the last few pieces together, I think it’s finally ready for the big time. Izzet Elementals is a deck that can get out of hand REALLY quickly if your opponent isn’t careful. It plays a lot of burn, some tempo cards, and has the ability to hit your opponent from all sides at once. The main combo you’re looking to play here is Young Pyromancer, Guttersnipe, and Purphoros, God of the Forge. Young Pyromancer puts an elemental into play when a spell is played, which triggers 2 damage from Guttersnipe to target player, then when the elemental hits the battlefield Purphoros deals an additional 2 damage for the creature. If you hold back your spells and unleash a volley all at once, your opponent could be on death’s doorstep sooner than they liked. Let’s go over how it works.

One dropsNiv Magus Elemental, Quicken, Shock. These are all solid cards. Shock kills a mana creature on turn 1, Quicken draws you a card for 1 mana and sometimes lets you cast a sorcery, and Niv Magus Elemental is an all round good guy. You’re bound to come up against control decks, and when that spell of yours is about be countered, there’s no better place for it to go than onto the elemental’s dinner plate to make him a 3/4 (due to +2/+2 in counters). He also works well with one of the two drops, Hidden Strings. 

Two drops – Young Pyromancer, Hidden Strings, Izzet Charm, Lightning Strike. Young Pyromancer is an all-star in almost every deck he’s played in. In this deck his main combo is with Purphoros, God of the Forge, but being able to throw down a blocker at instant speed is a great combat trick. Your opponent is always going to have to play around his ability which means you have the upper hand. Izzet Charm used to be a 4 of, but I decided 2 was enough. Somtimes you want the card draw, sometimes you want the 2 damage or counter, but having 4 is a bit too much, especially with Shock and Lightning Strike in play. Lightning Strike is one of the best instants in this deck. I don’t think you really need to ask why a red spell that does 3 damage for two mana is in a UR Pyromancer deck.

Hidden Strings, however, might have a few of you puzzled. The card works in two ways. The first is obvious. It untaps or taps two permanents. This could tap their blockers to let you attack without being blocked (which then lets you untap/tap 2 permanents again), but it can also be used by Niv Magus Elemental to grow itself larger. You simply Cipher the spell, then instead of casting the copy when combat damage is done, you exile it to him for 2 counters. It’s incredibly effective and can make your 1/2 a turn three 3/4. 

Three drops – Hammer of Purphoros, Guttersnipe, Dissolve. Dissolve is a good counter, and in this deck I don’t think you want too many in your main board, which is why I only have 2. I’d mostly save it for your opponent’s bombs like their gods or planeswalkers. Guttersnipe is a part of the killer trifecta of Young Pyromancer and Purphoros. He can do a lot of damage by himself, as well as redirecting his damage to planeswalkers so you don’t have attack with him and expose him to death. The Hammer was a recent addition, and I ended up putting it in because I was having trouble activating Purphoros, God of the Forge’s creature form consistently, but it also puts a good amount of pressure on control decks because it creates a 3/3 golem each turn as long as you have the land to sacrifice to it. 

The last two cards are Purphoros, God of the Forge, and Steam Augury. I’ve already said it a number of times, but Purphoros is absolutely insane in this deck, especially if you can get him into play on turn 4 with a Young Pyromancer in play. You can set back and play defense for the rest of the game and just keep casting spell after spell until your opponent dies from enter the battlefield effects. The god should eventually turn into a creature, but if he doesn’t he still creates one hell of a board presence. Boosting up everybody’s power for 3 mana can make all the difference if you have an army of elemental tokens in play. Steam Augury is your main draw spell in this deck. I have yet to see any draw back to this spell. 4 mana draws you 2-3 cards, letting you split the cards you need into two groups. There are times when this card can really screw your opponent, and with Young Pyromancer, Guttersnipe, and Purphoros all working together, this card could exponentially increase damage against the other player. 

The sideboard is still under development since the deck needs a lot of testing, but I think I have most of my bases covered and some interesting ways of winning. It focuses on control decks at the moment for the most part. Negate and Counterflux let you push your spells through against control decks, while Mizzium Skin protects your God from exiling or your Pyromancers from obliteration. For swarm strategies, I have Mizzium Mortars to help you wipe the board, while Ratchet Bomb is in there against tokens and other cards I have no answers for. Cyclonic Rift acts as a boardwipe of sorts if you overload it, but otherwise it gets rid of permanents that could cause your deck problems such as planeswalkers and enchantments. My last addition to this deck was Epic Experiment, because it truly wouldn’t be an Izzet deck without some crazy overpower spell. I’d bring this in against control, and later on in the game I’d tap for as many mana as I can with a Guttersnipe (or Young Pyromancer+Hammer of Purphoros) in play and just watch my opponent’s life total whittle away to nothing. 

The more I play this the more I like it, and with some more fine tuning I think it compete with the big boys in the new Theros standard. 

Coming Up Next time

That’s all I have for today. I actually have 2 more decks I’m currently brewing and once I get a chance to try them out I’ll be posting about them on here. I urge you to try these two decks out and see how they feel on you. If you can improve them in any way I’d like to hear your suggestions, so please leave a comment below if you want. Until next time, good luck!