The Japan Metagame Diaries: Season’s Beatings

With the pre-release for Aether Revolt less than a month away, I figured now would be a good time to do one final update on Standard over here in Nagoya, Japan before we go into spoiler mode for the holidays. There have been a number of PPTQs and quite a few Standard Showdowns since my last article so there is an abundance of data for once to pour over. I’d like to start off with an update to my GW Delirium list.

 

Angels In The Outfield
75 cards, 15 sideboard
6 Forest
6 Plains
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Canopy Vista
2 Fortified Village
1 Swamp
1 Blighted Woodland


24 lands

4 Sylvan Advocate
4 Tireless Tracker
2 Gisela, the Broken Blade
2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
2 Sigarda, Heron’s Grace
2 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Bruna, the Fading Light


17 creatures

4 Grapple with the Past
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Traverse the Ulvenwald
2 Vessel of Nascency
2 Declaration in Stone
2 Blessed Alliance
2 Stasis Snare


19 other spells

Sideboard
1 Linvala, the Preserver
1 Archangel Avacyn
2 Skywhaler’s Shot
2 Immolating Glare
2 Nissa, Vital Force
3 Appetite for the Unnatural
2 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
2 Quarantine Field


15 sideboard cards

 

The biggest change I made to the deck was adding in Sylvan Advocate instead of Deathcap Cultivator. While the deathtouch was good, the deck struggled sometimes against GB Delirium due to Liliana. By adding the advocate I gave myself another threat against GB Delirium, and also a great blocker against a number of other aggressive decks like Vehicles. I also moved Avacyn to the sideboard and added another Sigarda to the mainboard. This was a nod to GB Delirium decks, but she also played a role against UR Burn and UW Flash. Her hexproof and ability to make humans saved me on more than one occasion.

I’ve also made a few updates to the sideboard for any of you that are interested in playing the deck.

RW/Mardu Vehicles – Being able to draw your removal early against vehicles is important, as well as playing them at instant speed. in those match ups I usually use this strategy:

  • +2 Immolating Glare, +3 Appetite for the Unnatural,  +2 Cataclysmic Gearhulk, +1 Linvala / – 4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, -2 Emrakul, the Promised End, -2 Vessel of Nascency

No changes here. Side in more removal, side out stuff that blocks poorly or is too slow.

GB Delirium – Gotta be in for the long game against them, as well as ways to take care of their threats like Emrakul. Besides Emrakul, Liliana is probably your next biggest threat in this match up.

  • + 2 Nissa, Vital Force, +1 Linvala, the Preserver, +2 Quarantine Field / -2 Alliance, -2 Vessel of Nascency, -1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Small change here. I dropped Vessel in mirror matches to make this more of a GW midrange deck that still hits early. I don’t lose that much delirium cause I’m bringing in 2 more Planeswalkers and Enchantments.

UW Flash – The amount of flyers you have in this deck or those able to block flyers (such as Ishkanah) will be a great resource in this match up, and having a large amount of cards that cost more than 4 mana are also good ways to get around Spell Queller.

  • +1 Linvala, +2 Immolating Glare, +2 Gearhulk / -2 Gideon, -2 Vessel, -1 Tracker

Again, no changes.

Aetherworks Marvel – their biggest asset is the namesake of the deck, Aetherworks Marvel. Get rid of that, and you can take over the game easily.

  • +2 Quarantine Field, +3 Appetite for the Unnatural / -1 Gideon, -2 Blessed Alliance, -2 Vessel

I decided to drop a Gideon cause I wanted more speed to punish those times they miss and don’t have an Ulamog or Emrakul on turn 4.

Dredge – no matter what you do, killing their threats will only delay the inevitable.

+2 Quarantine Field, +1 Linvala, +2 Gearhulk, +1 Archangel Avacyn / -2 Emrakul, -2 Vessel, -2 Gideon

I wanted to overload on removal for this match up, which is why I went with Avacyn and Gearhulk while dropping an extra Gideon and Emrakul. If you take over their turn and they have 10 zombies on the board, it’s not really going to help you. I’ve found this set up to be a lot better at keeping them in check.

BW Control/Midrange – play quick to get around their removal and hand disruption, watch out for board wipes.

+2 Quarantine Field, +1 Archangel Avacyn, +2 Nissa, Vital Force / – 2 Blessed Alliance, -2 Declaration in Stone, -1 Gideon

Thanks to Anguished Unmaking and Ruinous Path, it’s tough to rely on Gideon in this match up, even though they play him too. I basically want ways to get my threats back after they are killed and discarded and force them to run out of their removal. You need to play fast cause they decks will get you with Avacyn, Kalitas, Sorin, and Gisela if you wait too long.

Metagame Update

Sadly I haven’t been able to do any PPTQs over the last month or so due to prior family engagements, but I have done a large number of smaller events around town thanks in no small part to the Standard Showdown tournaments that were held for the last 4 weeks.

 

WEEK 1 RECORD 7-5-1: Overall Record 7-5-1

I started off strong with a 2-1 finish at a small late night FNM, beating GR Aetherworks and a GW Panharmonicon combo deck before losing to BW control. Gideon was key in both of my wins, but I struggled against my opponent’s Gideon and Gisesla and mana flooded hard while my threats were picked off one by one or discarded with removal.

I played a 2am Standard Showdown afterwards with 10 people, and went 2-1 at this event too. I beat Dredge and Esper control, but once again lost to BW Control. I slowed down my dredge opponent enough in round one to play an Emrakul one game, and in my next win I was able to play Gearhulk to wipe his board then cast a Bruna to get back Gisela and meld them. I lost to BW again due to not having enough threats on the board and playing too slowly which let him kill me slowly with removal. Against Esper, having card recursion from the graveyard thanks to Grapple with the Past made my opponent use up all of his counterspells quickly until I could play a game ender like Emrakul.

Later in the day at 1pm I played in a 21 person Showdown and had my best results yet, going 3-0-1 for 3rd place. I beat GW Delirium (my friend who is also using my deck), BW Eldrazi midrange, and GB Delirium before intentionally drawing against a Mardu Vechicles opponent so we could split the prizes. Gideon was key in these match ups as well.

At 7pm, I participated in one more Standard Showdown event, but my luck ran out as I went 0-3. I lost to BW Midrange, UR Thermo/Burn, and GR Aetherworks. As always, BW decks are difficult to beat due to their removal, but against UR Thermo Alchemist I simply took too much damage early on and didn’t take care of the Alchemists. A Turn 4 Ulamog kicked my ass against Aetherworks, and a triple Kozilek’s Return the next game wiped my board and made it easy for my opponent to win. The winner’s during this weekend were BW Midrange, Mardu Vehicles, and Jeskai control.

 

WEEK 2 RECORD 4-2: Overall Record 11-7-1

I was only able to do 2 tournaments on the weekend of the December 3rd, but went 2-1 at both events. The first event at 2 am had 14 players and I lost to a BR Dredge deck in round 1, but came back to win my next 2 rounds against GR Energy and Mardu Vehicles. Removal was key in both of these wins, and I was able to stabilize due to cards like Blessed Alliance, Gisela, and Linvala. Both were scary but if you play correctly against them (blocking early and killing threats on your turn) you can beat them. At a small 7 person Showdown at 1pm (there was a sealed PPTQ this day) I beat Mardu Vehicles in round 1 but lost to UR Burn again in round 2. My opponent simply drew better than me and played a lot faster. I faced a GB Panharmonicon deck in round 3 and beat that easily thanks to a melding a Brisela and stopping him from playing most of his cards. Mardu Vehicles and UR Burn were winners at these 2 tournaments.

 

WEEK 3 RECORD 8-7-1: Overall Record 19-14-2

 

I played a lot of MTG this weekend on 12/10 and 12/11. I started off at a small FNM 2-1. I was overwhelmed by Bant humans in round 1 due to Thalia’s Lieutenant, but bounced back with 2 wins against RW Vehiciles and BR Vampire Madness in the following rounds.

At the 2 am Standard Showdown a few hours later, 14 players showed up. My first round GB Delirium opponent played incredibly slow and I wasn’t able to tie up the match when we went to turns so I lost what was definitely a winnable match up. I beat RW Vehicles next to keep the dream alive, but lost a close game to UR Thermo burn in the final round to finish 1-2.

At the 1pm Standard Showdown at another store, we had another decent turnout of 15 players which meant we got in 4 rounds this weekend instead of 3. I beat UB Dredge round 1 and GB Delirium round 2, but lost to bad hands against BW midrange (again . . .), and to an insanely fast BR Artifact deck that played like Mardu Vehicles, but played only Smuggler’s Copter on top of rarely seen Lupine Prototypes and Scrapheap Scrounger to power their attack. I ended up 2-2.

At another small tournament that weekend, I played against a Bant Midrange deck and lost when I couldn’t find a way to finish off my opponent which allowed him to claw back into the game and stabilize before turning the tables on me with Tamiyo and Reflector Mages. Next I tied a UR Spells deck which was more focused on tempo and less on burn. It let me stick around longer to stabilize, which was all I needed. I faced BR Vampire madness again (a friend who I had faced at FNM 24 hours before), and beat it again as well thanks to my balanced removal and blocking. Not a great finish at 1-1-1.

Here’s a deck list very similar to what I played against that day:

 

The final tournament that weekend was a 17 person event at Big Magic on Sunday, and I did pretty well for myself there. These events are usually bigger, but another Limited PPTQ was going on which drew away a lot of the local players. I beat a GR Aetherworks deck in round 1 by taking over his turn and using his Chandra, Flamecaller’s ability to discard his 2 Emrakul’s and Aetherworks Marvel which he wasn’t able to recover from. I lost to GR Energy in my next match up when I took 32 damage on one turn. I had blockers and threw them in front of his attacker, but my mistake was playing the extra blocker to absorb 10 damage instead of keeping the extra mana open for a Stasis Snare I had in my hand. That deck is tricky as hell to beat. In round 3 I beat a similar but slower 4 color energy midrange deck. I finished in 8th place.

The winner’s during this weekend’s tournaments were BW Midrange, GB Delirium, BW Midrange, and UR Spells.

 

Week 4 Record 3-0: Overall Record 22-14-2

I was only able to do one tournament this last weekend because I was out with my wife and her family on Saturday, and while I went to a late night FNM only 4 people showed up so it’s not really worth talking about. I managed to hit up a small 9 person tournament in town which was small mostly because there were 2 more PPTQs going on outside of town (and far away) and a Legacy/Modern all day tournament going on not too far away. But hey, I went 3-0 and got some store credit which worked out well. I beat a GW Human aggro deck using Heron’s Grace Champion in round 1, a 4 Color Eldrazi Harmonicon Combo deck round 2, and a GB Delirium deck in round 3.

 

Thoughts on the Metagame going into Aether Revolt

 

While people in the USA are decrying a metagame full of GB Delirium, UW Flash, and Aetherworks Marvel decks, I think that the situation isn’t as bad as people think. There are still a lot of viable decks in the format but people simply aren’t trying. UR Spells/Burn has been putting up good numbers over here in Nagoya, and RW/Mardu Vehicles has been an absolute wrecking ball at PPTQs, taking down a large number of them this season. UW Flash hasn’t been seen much at all over the last month or so, and I don’t expect it will ever regain the large portion of the metagame it once held.

GB Delirium, Vehicles, and Aetherworks Marvel are going to continue to be strong and will only get stronger with new cards from the new set. The cards I’ll be keeping my eye on the most art Oath of Ajani, Tezzeret, Master of Metal, Ajani Unyielding, and Yahenni’s Expertise.

 

tezzeret-master-of-metal

Tezzeret is set to put control  back on the map. You can be sure UB Artifact control will be a thing, just as UB Metallurgic Summonings was. Summonings was already a troublesome deck if your opponent couldn’t deal with the enchantment, but now we have the Master of Metal on top of that, meaning that even if you can somehow stay alive from the onslaught of Construct tokens, a simply -3 could wreck you. That -8 is also incredibly nasty. I don’t think he’ll be a 4 of in standard, but I could see him as a 2-3 of. Grixis artifacts with Saheeli Rai seems like a distinct possibility as well.

 

ajani-unyielding

Ajani is a beast, and I don’t mean that because he’s a Lion. His +2 is going to be insane in midrange decks, and his -2 is powerful as well. Who cares if your opponent gets 13 life from an exiled Emrakul? If you can get Ajani up to 9 counters you can negate any life they would gain from that first activation. I see him being a potent combination with Nahiri in a Naya planeswalker deck along with Nissa and Gideon. Although Oath of Ajani will allow you to play him on turn 5, I don’t think we’ll see more than 2-3 of him in a deck.

 

yahennis-expertise

Ever since standard lost Languish, aggro decks have been able to punish slower decks at will. This has hurt control decks the most, but the addition of Yahenni’s Expertise to standard should shake things up again. Vehicle decks will be hurt the most, but Bant aggro decks with Access to Spell Queller should be better off. If I understand it correctly, what’s dangerous about this card is that even if you stop it with Queller, your opponent can cast something off it like an Essence Extraction or Ruinous Path which means your board still gets wiped while losing one of your best tempo cards.  Control will be back, but I think most likely this card will push more people to midrange decks such as Aetherworks or Delirium.

 

How does this affect my deck? Well, I think GW Delirium is still going to be in a good place in January. As long as no true graveyard hate gets printed, I should be fine continuing to play Gisela and Emrakul. My deck has shown that it can handle UW Flash, GB Delirium, and Vehicle strategies, and isn’t all that bad against Aetherworks Marvel either. I also will have Access to Consulate Crackdown which will shore up my defenses against a UB Tezzeret artifact control deck and vehicles. The sideboard will most definitely change though, and the removal package will be updated as the metagame changes, but the deck itself should stay largely intact. My 22-14-2 record could have easily been 28-10, and if BW midrange and UR Burn decks are hated out of metagame I’m confident that my win percentage will rise.

With a lot of people going on winter break soon, I expect there to be one last weekend of good standard before the holidays, and if you haven’t been playing recently I recommend you start brewing up next season’s decks and getting some testing in. You can start to proxy up and get the cards you need for Ajani Superfriends or Tezzert control, and be well prepared by the pre-release. I’ll be back next year with more standard information, but until then Season’s Beatings and be sure to check back before the new year for some more information on Frontier and the upcoming spoiler season!

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