The Japan Metagame Diaries – Walking in the Shadows

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

The Sound of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel


It seems like not too long ago we were in Innistrad. Werewolves roamed the GR decks of standard, zombies crawled out of the dark, molten cliffs of RB decks, and angelic spirits flew alongside ghostly counterparts in BW decks. Come this weekend, these beasts and horrors will once again return and many will find a way to terrorize you, over and over again.

It’s been over a month and a half since the last time I talked about standard in my blog, and before I talk about what decks I think are going to take off and what I’ll be playing during the first few weeks, I want to quickly wrap up what happened at the end of OGW standard. For the most part, I want to showcase how the metagame shifted towards the end of KTK and FRF being tournament legal.

During the last month and a half, I used a variety of decks, testing out possible strategies for standard post rotation. I used GB Eldrazi ramp, colorless Eldrazi ramp, Naya Elementals, GR Eldrazi ramp, and BR Dragons/Flyers. I didn’t have any phenomenal finishes with any of the decks due to my low level of play, but by far the most fun were my Elemental and Colorless Eldrazi ramp decks. I look forward to tweaking them both in SOI standard and hopefully get them to the point where they can be competitive in tournaments.

At the end of February and early March, I took part in a few GPTs and PPTQs to test my mettle. During this time I ran into a lot of Bant Megamorph and Bant Company decks, as well as a large amount of Abzan based decks. There were quite a few 3 and 4 color decks represented during this time period, and aside from BR Dragons and GR Eldrazi, not many other archetypes were seen. Dark Jeskai won some tournaments, Mardu Green showed up at the top tables a week or so later, and the second week of March the metagame had shifted over to Bant company decks. At one 32 player PPTQ, the top 8 was comprised of 3 Bant decks, 2 Abzan, a GR ramp deck, Atarka Red, and Grixis dragons. Bant decks continued to show up in large numbers up until the SOI pre-release, but Abzan decks weren’t too far behind them.

By the time standard came to a standstill post Shadows of Innistrad pre-release, the metagame seemed to still be strongly favoring Bant, but there were also some new players on the field. BR Flyer decks and Grixis Control became more frequent sights at tournaments, and there also seemed to be more GR ramp decks popping up too. With Dark Jeskai, Abzan, Mardu, and a number of other decks that were focused around a single card such as Rally the Ancestors now unplayable, the current standard metagame is looking at one heck of a power vacuum. Which one will step up? Which decks can finally come out of the shadows?

There has been some talk on various websites about what decks people think will see definite improvement. One of the decks poised to break out in the coming weeks is GW aggro. There are multiple forms of the deck, one based around Humans that are buffered by new cards like Thalia’s Lieutenant, and others that hold more closely to the previous GW Hardened Scales deck.


GW Justice
Test deck
9 Forest
7 Plains
4 Fortified Village
4 Canopy Vista

24 lands

4 Endless One
4 Hangarback Walker
4 Avatar of the Resolute
4 Sylvan Advocate
3 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
3 Bygone Bishop
3 Tireless Tracker

24 creatures

4 Dromoka’s Command
3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
2 Declaration in Stone
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

11 other spells

2 Inspiring Call
3 Angelic Purge
2 Tenacity
2 Ulvenwald Mysteries
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Hallowed Moonlight
3 Silkwrap

15 sideboard cards


The deck’s plan is fill up the board with as many creatures as you can and then use Nissa or Gideon to power them all up and swing for lethal. Instead of the GW human build (which has really good synergy), I’ve opted for for evasion. Avatar of the Resolute has trample, Bygone Bishop has flying, and after Hangarback Walker dies you get a lot of flyinh tokens to buffer up with your effects. One of the problems these types of decks has is card draw, but I think that between Bygone Bishop, Tireless Tracker, and Inspiring Call in the SB, this deck should have no problem refilling its hand. You’ll be making tons of clues and can refill your hand at your leisure. Dromoka’s Command is going to be a very good card in the coming metagame due to its ability to take out creatures, stop burn spells, as well as get rid of pesky enchantments such as Silkwrap or Stasis Snare.

I see decks like this doing well against slower midrange builds such as ramp as well as more controlling decks such as BW. It should also do well against aggro decks because its creatures can trade with attackers well and also hit harder. The creatures in this deck are also a lot bigger than those in mono red builds so they should have no problem trading and taking the advantage. Bant Company or any deck with Reflector Mage is going to be a problem though, and white midrange decks using Archangel of the Tithes and Avacyn will also give this deck fits. Languish gets around Inspiring Call as well, but if you can get enough counters on your creatures you won’t have to worry about it.


Paint It Red
Test deck
21 Mountain

21 lands

4 Falkenrath Gorger
4 Lightning Berserker
4 Dragon Whisperer
4 Abbot of Keral Keep
3 Zurgo Bellstriker
3 Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh

22 creatures

4 Rush of Adrenaline
4 Titan’s Strength
4 Brute Strength
3 Exquisite Firecraft
2 Uncaged Fury

17 other spells

2 Magmatic Chasm
4 Thunderbreak Regent
2 Tears of Valakut
2 Scab-Clan Berserker
2 Act of Treason
3 Roast

15 sideboard cards


My budget, as well as my super aggro deck for SOI standard is mono red aggro. For the past year red aggro decks have been incredibly expensive thanks to the fetch lands from Khans of Tarkir, but now that they have rotated people can finally play a deck in standard that is under $100 again. UR Prowess will probably be much better due to the evasion and tempo it has, but playing with mono red lets you focus on some VERY big attacks. We’re talking turn 3 or 4 kills sometimes if your opponent doesn’t put something on the board. Just like Atarka red before it, you’ll want to play an aggressive hand with a good balance of creatures and spells and just hit your opponent as hard as you can.

Shadows Over Innistrad adds Rush of Adrenaline to the mix (+2/+1 and trample for 1 mana) which is a great supplement to the already impressive arsenal of Titan’s Strength and Brute Strength. The deck loses Temur Battle Rage which is a shame, but you can still finish games quickly with Uncaged Fury (+1/+1 and double strike) if your creature is unblocked. I had considered Sin Prodder in this deck, but I felt like more often than not it would be your opponent paying 1 or 2 life to throw a needed spell in the graveyard when you needed it most.

Instead, I focused more on a balanced attack between burn and beatdown. With a lot of trample effects you should have no idea pushing damage through, but just in case you have Dragon Whisperer that you can give flying to. I wanted to give the deck a little bit of reach so I added in Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh but I’m not sure this is the right choice. I definitely think you want to be playing 21 mana though, cause the deck doesn’t want to be drawing a lot of land. You want to have lots of creatures as well as ways to push damage though. I’m sure this deck will be able to steal a few wins here and there, but I expect it to run into some problems with removal heavy decks like BR or UR control. If you’re looking to get into standard again and just play with a cheap deck, it doesn’t get much cheaper than this. Most rares in the deck are currently going for $3 or less. Going into GR or UR will make it stronger, but this is a good start for red aggro decks.


Unmaking the Old Standard


BW Midrange
Original idea by Goto Yuusei
7 Plains
6 Swamp
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Shambling Vent

25 lands

4 Mindwrack Demon
3 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
3 Archangel Avacyn
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

12 creatures

4 Anguished Unmaking
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Silkwrap
3 Ruinous Path
3 Sorin, Grim Nemesis
3 Read the Bones
3 Secure the Wastes

23 other spells

2 Languish
2 To the Slaughter
2 Planar Outburst
2 Pick the Brain
2 Quarantine Field
3 Ultimate Price
2 Duress

15 sideboard cards


Before I talk about this deck, let me make a disclaimer: THIS IS NOT THE ORIGINAL LIST. I pieced it together from watching it being played, playing against it, and hearing people talk about it. I’d say it’s about 70-80% correct. The deck was built and piloted by local pro Goto Yuusei and it has been absolutely tearing up the tournaments around town since Shadows Over Innistrad went legal.



He went 12-0 over the weekend at 3 tournaments and one of his friends that borrowed the deck went 4-0 at another tournament as well. He says it’s still a work in progress and that there are strong/weak match ups, but he definitely seems to be on the right trail. I played against another player in town using his list and the deck did a great job of getting rid of problematic cards while putting big threats on the table. Mindwrack Demon was an utter beating, especially when played on turn 4. I lost to double demons one game becuase I simply had nothing to deal with them in my GR deck. The various card types also made Delirium activate rather easily assuring that the demon wouldn’t deal any damage to you. Anguished Unmaking was another key card I saw quite a lot of, and it was a pain to play around. Planeswalkers, creatures, enchantments . . . nothing was safe from it. There might have been some more creatures in this build but at the moment I can’t remember.


Pick the Brain

The most powerful card from my opponent’s sideboard was Pick the Brain. I ended up losing all of my Chandra, Flamecallers to it which was quite a blow. Being able to take out not only creatures like Ulamog but also Planeswalkers or other non-land cards is a big deal. In a deck that can easily get Delirium like this one, this card is incredibly powerful. It’s both Transgress the Mind and Infinite Obliteration all rolled into one. I can’t say much more about the deck other than it has answers to a lot of cards and can also hit really hard. I’ll be keeping an eye on this deck over the next week or so and I’ll be sure to update you with revisions to the deck when I see them.


Looking Forward


With a double PPTQ on Saturday and Sunday this weekend in Nagoya, I’ll be using this week to prepare and read up on the new archetypes in SOI standard, especially decks like mono white aggro, Bant Company, and BW midrange. I expect Declaration in Stone to be out in force this week and in the near future, so I’ll be trying to vary my threats in order to stay ahead of my opponent’s removal. I have a few ideas for this weekend and will be testing them out but I can’t say that I feel confident about this metagame just yet. It’s definitely going to take some getting used to. Be sure to check back with me next week when I go over the results of the Nagoya PPTQs and the top 8, as well as share some deck lists with you. Good luck to any of you playing in any of the 3 Grand Prix this next weekend, as well as SCG Columbus and hope you check back soon! Thanks for reading.