The Japan Metagame Diaries: Back to the Grind

Another week, another change in the metagame. GP Melbourne is rapidly approaching, and by the time March rolls around, the standard metagame will have begun to settle. We’ll finally be able to see which cards from Born of the Gods made the biggest impact, as well as which archetypes were the losers and winners. There are a few things I’ve learned in February that I’d like to share you. Hopefully this information will help you to choose a deck for the new metagame. 

  1. Mono blue devotion isn’t as dead as people thought. It’s still putting up good numbers, and splashing white for Ephara, God of the Polis has helped it to further speed up its draws and to add some resiliency against control. Don’t sell those Thassa, God of the Seas or Master of Waves just yet!
  2. White aggro decks really seem to be the winners from BNG’s new cards. Brimaz, King of Oreskos has especially helped to make the archetype stronger. Orzhov aggro is even better now, and UW aggro/Esper aggro aren’t doing bad either. Selesnya aggro still seems to be lacking though. 
  3. Red devotion was another archetype that was supposed to take a big hit thanks to Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow, but both cards haven’t really been doing as well as black players would have liked. Most players have been changing their playing style so as to not put out more than 1 type of any creature if they can help it, and Red devotion continues to put up good numbers. Bile Blight is merely an update on Pharika’s Cure from Theros standard, with the added bonus of sometimes killing 2-3 other creatures. 
  4. Scry lands are better than any type of card draw in aggro decks. I’ve started to notice that jamming an extra 2-3 Scry lands in my GW aggro or RW burn deck has really helped. If you can keep your average mana costs low, it’s definitely worth trying out. Drawing scry lands later in the game are much better than drawing a basic land, and it helps prevent mana flooding situations as well. Consider running off color scrys in the future if you’re playing aggro. 

There are lots of other small things, but I won’t cover them today. 


The Japan Metagame: BNG week 3

The metagame has been hard to pin these last few weeks. Black devotion and BW midrange have had very good showings, but recently there seems to be a shift back to GR monsters and W/x aggro decks. This past weekend I went 1-3 at a 31 person tournament (won by R/w devotion), and I went 3-2 at a 37 person tournament the following day (won by GR monsters and followed up by BW midrange). Going into GP Melbourne, I believe there will be a lot of people playing GR monsters, BW midrange, as well as Orzhov aggro. I expect mono black to be out in large numbers too, but I think the deck is going to have problems with aggro’s speed. There was a Grand Prix trial last weekend in Nagoya, and the top 8 was full of mono black and black control decks. Tokyo seems to have a good mix of aggro decks winning daily events at Hareruya’s tournament center, but black decks overall have done better in Japan lately. 

If you’re looking to beat the metagame over here in Asia, make sure you can take out black. I personally think it’s time to switch back over to Red devotion strategies. I’ve been working on a new build that I think you will all like. I haven’t thought of a name for it yet, but let’s call it “Brimstone Devotion”.

 Brimstone Devotion
75 cards, 15 sideboard
2 Rakdos Guildgate
10 Mountain
4 Blood Crypt
4 Temple of Malice
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

24 lands2 Purphoros, God of the Forge
4 Ash Zealot
3 Stormbreath Dragon
3 Fanatic of Mogis
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Burning-Tree Emissary

24 creatures

3 Hero’s Downfall2 Dreadbore
2 Rakdos’s Return
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
3 Mizzium Mortars

12 other spellsSideboard
3 Chandra’s Phoenix
3 Anger of the Gods
3 Duress
2 Hammer of Purphoros
2 Slaughter Games
2 Underworld Cerberus

15 sideboard cards

Quite a few people have started to play Red devotion, and the deck has been putting up good numbers. The mirror match is still pretty much luck based though depending on who gets the better draws, beating blue relies on drawing a board wipe, and  control can still be a problem. I’ve decided to try and improve those match ups by splashing black into the deck instead of white. Sure white lets us take care of enchantments, use cards like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, and Assemble the Legions, but black is much better all around for a number of reasons. Let’s take a look at the control match up for starters.

Control has always been a toss up for R/w. If you can get the gas and deal enough damage to put your opponent in Fanatic of Mogis range, you can win that first game, but you’re usually stuck with a number of dead cards (namely Mizzium Mortars and Chained to the Rocks). R/b devotion has no bad cards against control. Dreadbore, Hero’s Downfall, and Rakdos’s Return are all great against this match up in game 1. Once you go to the sideboard, 3 Duress, 2 Underworld Cerberus, 2 Hammer of Purphoros, and 2 Slaughter Games just make it tougher for your opponent (I’d probably drop the 4 Boros Reckoners, 3 Mizzium Mortars, and maybe the Dreadbore’s for that match up). You could even put in Chandra’s Phoenix if you want to. What I really like about the match up against control is the Underworld Cerberus. Without Detention Spheres to take him out, your opponent will have no other choice but to kill it with Supreme Verdict. Once they do, you’ll be able to get all our cards back in your hand and play Burning-Tree Emissary into BTE, into BTE, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx into Fanatic of Mogis or Stormbreath Dragon for a world of hurt. 

Okay, so control seems better, what about mono blue? Before, we really had to worry about Master of Waves taking the game away from us, especially if we didn’t draw a Mizzium Mortars to wipe their board before turn 6 or a Chained to the Rocks. While we do lose the ability to get rid of Thassa, God of the Sea, we gain the ability to drastically reduce their devotion to blue with the added removal. Anger of the Gods comes in during the sideboard (-2 Rakdos’s Return, -1 Purphoros, God of the Forge?), and it makes short work of pretty much everything in their deck. If this match up is too difficult, it might be worth going up to 4 Anger of the Gods and dropping a Chandra’s Phoenix. 

The last problem Red devotion had was with the mirror match. Players usually run cards like Glare of Heresy, Anger of the Gods, and Peak Eruption from their sideboard when they play another red devotion player. The Glare hits both Boros Reckoners and Chained to the Rocks, Peak Eruption hits a Chained to the Rocks, and Anger is all about reducing their opponent’s devotion. Black has the advantage in this match up for 2 reasons. First off, you can actually kill their Stormbreath Dragon at instant speed the turn it comes into play with Hero’s Downfall. R/w players need a Mizzium Mortars or they are screwed. Secondly, Rakdos’s Return gives you definite card advantage while also dealing damage to them. It’s quite possible to hit them for 4-5 cards on turn 4, stopping any combo they might be trying to set off the next turn.  

I believe that R/b devotion is the next logical step in the progression of the deck, and that it will fare better overall against a wide variety of decks in the metagame. My only problem is with the Chandra’s Phoenix’s in the sideboard. They don’t seem to belong there. But what else should I put in there? Do I add in another Anger of the Gods, Rakdos’s Return, and Duress? Or are they fine where they are? If you can help me fill those last 3 spots, I’d be grateful. 

Out with the Old, in With the New

I was rather disappointed with my GW Hexproof Aura’s deck. It did really well against black, which is what I had bet on, but it was horrible against control. I thought it would be more resilient thanks to cards like Fleecemane Lion, Voice of Resurgence, and various bestow creatures, but the deck really does need a Rootborn Defenses type of effect. I ended up adding in Ready//Willing and some more WB scry lands, but I think the deck is a lost cause at the moment. If the metagame ever shifts to a lot of aggro, burn, and black, I’d expect it to do well, but as the metagame stands right now, I think it would be good to shelve it. For those of you wanting an updated version of the deck, check it out below. 

75 cards, 15 sideboard
2 Temple of Silence
3 Plains
4 Temple of Plenty
8 Forest
4 Temple Garden
1 Selesnya Guildgate

22 lands

4 Witchstalker
4 Boon Satyr
4 Hero of Iroas
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Gladecover Scout
2 Eidolon of Countless Battles
4 Fleecemane Lion

26 creatures

4 Ethereal Armor
4 Selesnya Charm
4 Unflinching Courage

12 other spells

2 Fiendslayer Paladin
3 Ready // Willing
2 Pithing Needle
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Revoke Existence
4 Mistcutter Hydra

15 sideboard cards

The added Scry lands should help with smoothing out your draws later in the game, but another reason for adding them was to activate Ready/Willing every once in a while. You still get the Rootborn Defenses effect, but every once in a while you’ll get deathtouch and life link as well, which isn’t a bad trade off. This is about as far as I can take the deck right now, and it’s definitely a decent deck, but I think it can’t really show it’s potential until UW and Esper control see less play. Keep it in mind though! 

I don’t want to let all of those GW cards go to waste though, so I took it upon myself to brew a GW midrange deck that hopefully is a bit stronger against both the metagame and control match ups. What I came up with was Conclave’s Revenge. 

Conclave’s Revenge
75 cards, 15 sideboard
3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
9 Forest
5 Plains
4 Temple Garden
4 Temple of Plenty

25 lands

2 Arbor Colossus
3 Courser of Kruphix
3 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Fleecemane Lion
4 Voice of Resurgence

24 creatures

2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Advent of the Wurm
1 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
4 Selesnya Charm

11 other spells

1 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
2 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
1 Primeval Bounty
2 Glare of Heresy
3 Mistcutter Hydra
2 Rootborn Defenses
2 Pithing Needle
2 Revoke Existence

15 sideboard cards

Part ramp, part Devotion deck, this deck can get out some fairly strong creatures rather quickly. The best cards in Selesnya colors right now are Courser of Kruphix, Voice of Resurgence, Polukranos, World Eater, Advent of the Wurm, and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. This deck looks to accelerate into a turn 2 Courser or Loxodon Smiter, then from there on out build into devotion so that you can cast a Polukranos and activate his monstrous around turn 4 or 5 to wipe your opponent’s board. While I know that Garruk, Caller of Beasts won’t be hitting too many creatures in the main board, it still offers card draw of sorts which is badly needed in GW colors. By dropping card like Sylvan Caryatid from the list, the deck can focus on putting more threats on the table through Garruk’s ability.

Post sideboard when you side in Mistcutter Hydra for control battles, he gets a little better. I also like Selesnya Charm in this metagame, since it can be devastating against GR monsters when they use Ghor-Clan Rampager, as well as taking care of Obzedat, Ghost Council and Desecration Demon in BW midrange and black strategies. Pumping Elspeth to 7 counters will be key in winning board stalemates, but she’ll be able to survive quite a lot thanks to all her soldiers protecting her. Primeval Bounty is another card that I think can be ramped into rather quickly against control, and it does a lot. It will put pressure on your opponent by supplying more tokens, as well as rebuffing the ones you already have in play so you don’t overextend in order to put necessary pressure. I’d say it’s probably good against black devotion as well. Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice on the other hand, is a good card to have when going up against burn or other aggro decks. 

Bringing Sexy Back

Now is still a good time to brew and test out decks. Cards haven’t gone up too much yet since we haven’t had any big standard events, so get in some games before the metagame changes in March. I have some just for fun decks I’d like to share with you next time, as well as an update on my first outing into the world of Modern. I also have a guest writer contributing an article next week sometime about MTG Financials, and I’ll have some information about PTQs coming up in March for anybody thinking of taking part. I hope you get a chance to try out my new decks over the next few days. I have a good feeling about both of the new ones I worked on, and think you could catch a lot of people off guard if you put them together. Let me know how things work out. Thanks again for reading.