The Japan Metagame Diaries: Survival Games

I’m taking a break from posting my investment articles to talk about the current metagame in Nagoya, Japan, as well as to introduce to you my newest builds for standard. The first few weeks of standard here in Nagoya have been wild. During the last weekend of Septemberand the first weekend of Theros standard, UB control reigned supreme, with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and Nightveil Specter filling up the tables around town. Mono red also put up respectable numbers, but for the most part people stayed away from standard because they A) didn’t have the cards, or B) didn’t know what to play. I took a mono white weenie deck that was close to my mono white humans deck from the previous Innistrad block, and with it I dominated both my small FNM tournament at my local store as well as a bigger event in downtown Nagoya. I was 7-1 going into Sunday at the most competitive tournament in the city, but I was ill prepared for the number of UW, Esper, and UWR control decks. I also got my first taste of GW aggro with Fleecemane Lion and Voice of Resurgence. I felt like I needed to make some changes to my mono white deck before I could compete again, so I went back to the drawing board.

During the second week of Theros standard in Nagoya, black debuted as the dominant force in Japan. Mono black, BRW control, and Esper control put up good numbers, and the early adopters of BW midrange were also playing. I was better prepared for control and did much better against those types of decks, but I was ill prepared for Whip of Erebos and Desecration Demon. There was little I could do with my mono white weenie deck against these cards, so it was time to update.

Selesnya Raid
75 cards, 15 sideboard
Temple Garden
Forest
Plains


20 lands

Dryad Militant
Loxodon Smiter
Voice of Resurgence
Imposing Sovereign
Soldier of the Pantheon
Precinct Captain
Daring Skyjek


27 creatures

Pacifism
Spear of Heliod
Unflinching Courage
Selesnya Charm
Brave the Elements


13 other spells

Sideboard
Immortal Servitude
Unflinching Courage
Heliod, God of the Sun
Fiendslayer Paladin
Pithing Needle
Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Glare of Heresy


15 sideboard cards

Green White aggro is nothing new, but my build is extremely greedy. I basically took my white weenie deck and replaced a few cards with key Selesnya cards. So far, the results are nothing short of amazing. I’m still working out how to play with the new cards, but playing with Voice of Resurgence and Loxodon Smiter have caused my opponents many headaches so far. This deck is fast and wants to play fast. Midrange and control decks lose to this deck if they don’t have a response by turn 4. With 8 one drops, you can have up to 3 creatures on the battlefield by turn 2, and if you have a Brave the Elements in your hand your opponent is going to be close to 12 life by turn 3. Voice of Resurgence stifles control and decks heavy with removal, and Daring Skyjek gives you early evasion. I originally had a Boros Elite in his spot, but with all the removal I was seeing it was better to pay the extra mana for higher power and evasion.

Another card I’ve been really happy with is Precinct Captain. The reason is because against control heavy decks, they put extra creatures on the board that opponents don’t have removal for. When a deck has a limited amount of creatures, players can plan how much removal to have in their deck, but throwing out more soldiers every time he connects with an opponent puts your opponent in a difficult situation. Other GW decks are using Boon Satyr, but I opted for Loxodon Smiter for the simple reason that the white in his casting cost makes him unblockable with a well timed Brave the Elements. When your deck’s strategy is to push damage through any way you can, you need to have good synergy between your cards.

As for the spells, I went with 4 Selesnya Charms to help push damage through, but it also works well against gods and most importantly Desecration Demon. Black is going to be big for the next few weeks, so if you’re building a deck you need to have an answer for him. I originally had more anthem effects like Spear of Heliod, but due to cards like the Demon, I opted for Pacifism instead to help with evasion. This deck is fast, and its average casting cost is about 1.8 mana, so you need to have various ways to push damage through. Another card I added in thanks to my Selesnya colors was Unflinching Courage. Great against aggro, it also works well with an elemental token and forces your opponent to take care of your creature, even if you have a Voice of Resurgence in play.

For the sideboard, I went with Glare of Heresy to deal with cards like Obzedat, Ghost Council and and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, and Pithing Needles to deal with Polukranos, World Eater’s monstrous ability as well as other planeswalkers. Fiendslayer Paladin would come in against mono red and BR/BRW decks to get around Hero’s Downfall and Lightning Strike, and the other Courages would see play against other aggro decks as well. I’ve actually played them in midrange/ramp match ups and they really helped out. It forces your opponent to block with their mana creatures or take a lot of damage. As for the control match ups, I thought I’d try out Immortal Servitude instead of Rootborn Defenses. I found myself losing the game of attrition when I played Rootborn, since it saves a few creatures, but they still can’t do anything when faced with multiple Desecration Demons. Paying 5 mana can bring back a whopping 15 2-mana cost creatures from your graveyard, and I think that’s better than saving 2-3 creatures with Rootborn. Ajani, Caller of the Pride served me well before Hero’s Downfall became commonplace, but I think it still has a spot in the sideboard for decks that can’t deal with it or don’t have flyers to deal with a double striking Loxodon Smiter. Heliod, God of the Sun also is great against wrath effects like Supreme Verdict and the high concentration of white symbols will let him consistently attack on turn 5.

Boros’s Legions
75 cards, 15 sideboard
Plains
Mountain
Sacred Foundry


20 lands

Dryad Militant
Imposing Sovereign

Spear of Heliod
Lightning Strike
Magma Jet
Brave the Elements
Boros Charm


17 other spells

Sideboard
Fiendslayer Paladin
Wear // Tear
Chained to the Rocks
Glare of Heresy
4 Mizzium Mortars


15 sideboard cards

This was another build I was thinking of, but it’s untested. It uses a lot of the same cards except Boros Reckoner gets the 3 spot from Smiter and my friend Keith recommend Anax and Cymede as a way to blow out opponents by targeting them with Boros Charm. Red gives you more access to removal like Lightning Strike and Magma Jet which could really help early on in the game, but I also like having Boros Charm main. It gives your creatures protection from black removal and Supreme Verdict, but it also gives you reach later on if you can’t deal that last 4 damage before your opponent stabilizes his board. The sideboard also gives you access to Mizzium Mortars to deal with cards like Blood Baron of Vizkopa (another card my buddy Keith recommended), and Chained to the Rocks is a great way to get rid of unbeatable creatures like Gods, demons, and Hydras. It’s untested, but I think it would do well with a few more tweaks. 

Standard After Pro Tour Theros

Pro Tour Theros showed us all that it’s no problem being devoted to your favorite colors. Sam Black, Jeremy Dezani, Pierre Dagen, Kentarou Yamamoto, and Kamiel Cornelissen all piloted mono colored decks into the top 8 of the Pro Tour, and the results of their performances will be felt in standard for months to come. Thassa, God of the Sea, Polukranos, World Eater, and Master of the Waves are just a few of the cards you can expect to see a lot of come next weekend at your local store and at big events like Grand Prix, 5Ks, and Opens. I’m sure a few of you would have been content to play with all the other interesting decks that we just found out about the other week like BW control, BW midrange, and mono green, but after the Pro Tour standard will be chaos. It’s going to be hard to choose a deck from amongst the dozen or so options already available to us, so you’ll have to watch your local metagame and be ready for just about everything.

Before rotation I wrote an article about how the metagame had become nothing more than a game of rock, paper, scissors. Since then, a few other writers have also used this phrase, and they’re right. You’re going to find that some decks are going to beat a number of decks while losing to others, and their is no real way to prepare for it. My advice was to build a deck for all situations and to tweak it as needed.  Of course you can just build one deck and stick with it all the way until the next set comes out, but there is a chance you will run into trouble and go into slumps for weeks at a time when your deck is just out performed. I suggest building an aggro, midrange, and control deck. I’ve already showed you my aggro deck for Theros standard, but let me try to blow your mind with some new ideas that you might not have seen yet. 

UG Beast Caller
75 cards, 15 sideboard

Master Biomancer
Thassa, God of the Sea

Dissolve
Bow of Nylea
Garruk, Caller of Beasts
Bident of Thassa


7 other spells

Sideboard
Ratchet Bomb
Pithing Needle
Fade into Antiquity
Arbor Colossus
Bramblecrush
Jace, Memory Adept
Simic Charm


15 sideboard cards

We’ve saw Makito Mihara’s Colossul Gruul in action at Pro Tour Theros, and also the power of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in a mono green deck along with Garruk, Caller of Beasts, but I’m taking  the deck and totally turning it on its head to go in a different direction. There is amazing synergy in this deck between the two colors, and it can go absolutely crazy just like Mihara’s deck does with Polukranos, World Eater. 

The strategy of this deck is to draw tons of cards, make huge creatures, and then to upmp them up to insane levels of power with Nykthos, Shrine to Nix. It starts off with Elvish Mystic just like every other ramp strategy, but my 2 drops aren’t what most people would expect. I went with Gyre Sage for my second mana creature instead of Sylvan Caryatid or Voyaging Satyr for the potential power level of the Sage. Almost all of the creatures will evolve it on turn 3, so you can count on it to make mana for you the turn after it comes into play. I feel that Scavenging Ooze will become integral in defeating black decks using Whip of Erebos, and it will also become a formidable creature later on the game. I wasn’t sure about playing Omenspeaker at first, but it’s really grown on me. This deck thrives if you can control your draws, and Omenspeaker is a great way to get the mana or creature you need the following turn. It also evolves Gyre Sage early in the game.

Boon Satyr leads to some interesting combat tricks, but it especially works well with Nylea, God of the Hunt. This deck should have no problem turning Nylea into a god on turn 5, and nowhere will her innate ability to give all of your creatures trample be more relevant. A 2-2 split between Master Biomancer and Polukranos, World Eater will ensure that you have some very large threats on your board, and they can come into play as early as turn 3. Bident of Thassa works well with Nylea as well, since trample damage will equate to drawing a card. Speaking of drawing cards, Garruk, Caller of Beasts can put you ahead of your opponent and turn the tide of a game if you play him early enough. With 29 creatures in the deck, you’ll definitely hit a few each time you use his plus +1. With a little more testing, it might even be a good idea to throw in another Garruk and some more creatures in a future build. Prime Speaker Zegana is also a great card in this deck. She’ll draw you 4+ cards on average, and with her high power she’ll be effective with Nylea in play. 

The last few cards I’m using, Dissolve, Bow of Nylea, and Thassa, God of the Sea were my last additions, but I think they work well in this deck. When you play blue you should have some sort of counterspell, and I think Dissolve is a good choices since it lets you Scry for 1. As the deck and metagame develops, I might put more into the sideboard, but right now I feel right with just 3. Thassa isn’t just thrown in there because she’s the card of the week, I think her ability to make your creatures unblockable is incredibly relevant in this deck. It works well with the Bident, and her Scry ability is also useful. I don’t think the Bident and Omenspeakers will be enough to activate her creature form early, but when they do she’ll be a force. The main reason I have Bow of Nylea in this is another form of evasion. I have trample, I have an ability that makes my creatures unblockable, and with Nylea I give them all deathtouch. If you haven’t tried it out yet, make Polukranos go monstrous when attacking then snipe off every creature your opponent has with one damage each. It’s a much more effective way to “wrath” a board than having to save up 20 mana to do it. 

As for the sideboard, I have Ratchet Bomb for a variety of threats such as tokens, Fade into Antiquity for Gods and other enchantments, Arbor Colossus to deal with the threat of Desecration Demon and Stormbreath Dragon, Bramblecrush and Pithing Needle for Planeswalkers, Jace, Memory Adept for control match ups, and Simic Charm for decks with a lot of removal. I know the sideboard is a little weak at the moment, but until I do more testing, I’ll leave it up to your better judgement to replace what doesn’t work and to suggest other cards for this build. 

I know I promised one more deck, and I HAVE made a BR Purphoros/Young Pyromancer control deck, but if I kept talking this article would be too freaking long (it already is). I’ll have to leave it for another time. I think these 3 ideas should give you something to try out at your next FNM, and hopefully they are unique enough to confuse your opponents and to give you an advantage over them. If you feel confident enough in the deck, try them out at Theros Game Day next weekend. Either way, good luck and as always thanks for reading. 

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