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Kuan’s Guide to the Post-Worlds Metagame (III)
Have you read the first two parts of my Guide yet? Why not check them out first? ( 1
Now, if you've read Parts I and II of my Guide then you'll know that the Post-Worlds metagame is dominated by three distinct deck archetypes that are positioned in a more or less Rock-Paper-Scissors configuration. On the one hand, we have the G/B Gilt-Leaf Palace
archetype which could in turn be split into three different decks: G/B Elves, G/B Rock and G/B/w Doran. Although these decks are very different from one another in form and function, we can however, make a broad generalization and say that these decks, due to the presence of 4x Thoughtseize
and some efficient green creatures, are favored against both control and combo decks. In fact, the prevalence of these G/B decks at worlds was precisely the reason why hardly anyone ran with Mono-Blue at that tournament. On the other hand, we have R/G Mana Ramp, which is basically the strongest mid-range option. As the deck packs an obscene number of powerful cards like Siege-Gang Commander
, the deck can easily out-attrition any non-permission deck that attempts to trade with it. This, of course, means that it is strong against the G/B decks but unfortunately, due to the fact that it lacks disruption, the deck has almost no chance against the third deck in our little triangle. The deck I am speaking of, of course, is the Mono-Red Dragonstorm
deck that caught everyone at Worlds by surprise. This was a deck that attacked the format from a completely unexpected direction and as such, Mono-Red Dragonstorm
has a lot of favourable matchups. In fact, it is probably ahead against every deck in the format except for the G/B Gilt-Leaf Palace
decks, as it does cop a bit of splash damage from some of their anti control cards like Thoughtseize
and *cough* Hypnotic Specter
Yes, I'm still bitter about that… DAMN YOU HYPPIE SPEC!
So how should we approach such a metagame? Well, there are a number of options available to you. The first one is simply to pick one of these tier one decks and play it. For example, if you predict that your local metagame will be filled with Mono Red Dragonstorm
since you think that a lot of the players will be excited by the crazy new combo deck, then by all means pick up a G/B deck to do battle. Both Uri Peleg's Doran deck and Katsuhiro Mori's Elves deck would be great choices here although I would personally alter Mori's board to make it more similar to Peleg's by including some more hateful cards like Riftsweeper
Choosing this first option, of course, is the default course of action as it is hardly ever wrong to play one of the best decks. Indeed, even though I clearly stated in my previous article that I do not think that Dragonstorm
would be a good deck to play in a prepared format, it is definitely hard to argue against playing the deck if you know for a fact that most of your opponents will be playing Red/Green Mana Ramp.
However, since I've never really been a fan of going with the default option, and since I have already discussed at length the strengths and weaknesses of each of these decks in Parts I and II of the guide, I will not be focusing on this approach in this article. Instead, I will be moving straight onto option two, which is that of taking an existing tier 1.5 or tier 2 deck and tweaking it to suite the metagame.
Cryptic Commands and Minor Adjustments
So what deck are we going to discuss and tweak?
Well, astute readers might have noticed a little gap in my analysis of the Post-Worlds format since I completely neglected to mention one of the Top8 decks in the first two parts of this guide. The reason for this, of course, is simply due to the fact that this deck, for whatever reason, isn't that popular in the MODO metagame at the moment. Perhaps the reason for this is because Mannequin is a known deck and so isn't quite as exciting as the other options but in any case, while the deck isn't exactly off the radar, it is definitely getting less attention than the Green/Black, Mana Ramp and Dragonstorm
decks. As such, it is a perfect example of a tier 1.5 deck and so will serve our purposes nicely.
Let's start our tinkering process by taking a look at Kotaro Otsuka's build. Indeed, it's a bit of a strange take on Mannequin with some seemingly odd card choices. As such, I have placed it next to Ruel's more or less stock version from Grand Prix Krakow so you can compare and contrast the two versions.
While the creature suite of the two decks are more or less the same, with the only difference being Otsuka's choice to cut the singleton Venser and to go down to 3 Ironfoots, there is a clear difference between the spells that each of the decks utilize. While Ruel's stock version runs two copies of Profane Command
to complement his Makeshift Mannequins, Otsuka has chosen to eschew this powerful spell to play the “other” command instead. At first, this might seem to be a strange decision since Profane Command
is actually a much better fit for the deck. The reanimation effect is obviously great with the deck's Overabundance
of come-into-play abilities while the -X/-X effect is also never bad. Furthermore, the Fireball
life loss effect is also often quite useful as it gives the deck a way to finish the game.
However, the one important thing that Otsuka has realized is that while Profane Command
is indeed a powerful spell, it is only “more of the same”. In other words, it is a card there merely compliments the deck's strategic strengths rather than a card that helps the deck overcome its weaknesses. One such weakness of the Mannequin deck is the fact that the deck relies completely on answering opposing threats after they have hit the board. And while the deck does have a good number of excellent removal options at its disposal, these options aren't really adequate when facing a threat that will have already done half its damage the second it comes into play.
This of course, is most applicable to the R/G Mana Ramp matchup as while Shriekmaw
is admittedly pretty good against cards like Bogardan Hellkite
, killing the Dragon or Elemental after they have already come into play does not exactly mitigate the damage already done by their respective 187 effects. Furthermore, spot removal isn't particularly great against a card like Siege-Gang Commander
and so, if the Mannequin player does not draw one of the Damnation
s in his deck, he will have a lot of trouble dealing with the goblin and his three friends.
This of course, is where the inclusion of Cryptic Command
comes in. By arming the deck with some light permission, U/B Mannequin will have a lot less trouble against the expensive spells and powerful effects available to R/G Mana Ramp since it will have the option of answering them while they are still on the stack. Having this option is, of course, vitally important in a format where R/G Mana Ramp is popular and indeed, as many of the U/B Mannequin experts claim, a Mannequin deck without permission cannot actually ever boast a favourable matchup against that deck. Furthermore, Cryptic Command
is also not a dead card against a G/B deck like Elves. This is mainly because the U/B Mannequin deck, even after it has established control, nevertheless remains vulnerable to the reach provided by the 4x Profane Command
s if it does not have the protection offered by permission. This need to protect against reach of course, also explains why Otsuka has chosen to play the highly anti-synergistic Loxodon Warhammer
in his list. Sometimes, a man's got to do what a man's got to do…
But wait! On top of all of this, Cryptic Command
is also a useful against Dragonstorm! Indeed, while it is highly unlikely that Otsuka actually knew about Dragonstorm's existence, his decklist is actually the beneficiary of a happy accident as his Cryptic Command
s also provide his deck with an additional 3 bounce effects that can be used on opposing chargelands and Spinerock Knolls.
The act of adding three additional four drops to one's deck of course also necessitates that Otsuka alters his mana base a little. This alteration comes in the form of cutting two lands for 3 Mind Stones, a nifty two mana accelerator that not only helps Otsuka hit four mana on turn 3 for Damnation
and Cryptic Command
but one that can also act as a cantrip since this version of the deck does not need to build up to a gigantic Profane Command
and so does not really mind trading mana sources for cards. Obviously, Otsuka has also made sure that he has only cut non-colour producing lands from his mana base like Urza's Factory
and Mouth of Ronom
to make way for the Mind Stones. Cryptic Command
does, after all, require triple Blue to cast.
However, even though Otsuka's inclusion of Cryptic Command
does indeed make the deck a lot better for the current metagame, further improvements can still be made. Just take a look at what Helmut Summersberger did with his U/B Mannequin list.
The big difference between Summersberger's list and the stock list of U/B Mannequin is that Summersberger's list has replaced the Epochrasite
s for more permission in the form of Rune Snag
. This is a rather curious alteration since Rune Snag
is actually a terrible Counterspell
compared to a card like Condescend
or even Mana Leak
. However, in spite of this, its inclusion does actually fix one of U/B Mannequin's annoying weaknesses: namely, the fact that it is vulnerable in the early game when facing an accelerated start from R/G Mana Ramp. Indeed, while Otsuka's inclusion of Cryptic Command
does help U/B Mannequin in the matchup against R/G Mana Ramp, Cryptic Command
does take a while to get online, and, by the time it does, the mana ramp deck may have already accelerated out something nasty, especially if it was on the play.
The best example of this is when R/G Mana Ramp has a turn two accelerator and so has access to four mana on turn three. If they are able to play an unhindered Garruk Wildspeaker
at this point, then U/B Mannequin is in a lot of trouble. However, if U/B Mannequin is able to Rune Snag
the Garruk at this point then they have basically regained all the tempo disadvantage that being on the draw entails. From that point onwards, the Mannequin player should easily be able to set up his various card advantage engines and eventually take the game with his armada of flying 2/2s.
However, although I like the inclusion of Rune Snag
, I am not a fan of Summersberger's decision to move Damnation
to the sideboard. By getting rid of the Epochrasites, Summersberger's list becomes a little more vulnerable to G/B Elves since, like all counterspells, Rune Snag
is great against Elves on the play but if you are on the draw it is very much below average. As such, I don't see the harm in having a Damnation
or two handy, even if the loss of Epochrasite
means losing the rather nice synergy between the board sweeper and the endlessly returning construct. Remember, tweaking a deck for a metagame is less about maximizing the deck's own internal synergies than it is about positioning the deck so that it interacts well with the other decks in the format.
This is the list of Mannequin that I would play if I were to take the deck to a major tournament. Basically it is Otsuka's list with the inclusion of Rune Snag
. I also went up to 9 total bounce effects to help my matchup against Dragonstorm
by including two copies of Venser, Shaper Savant
. To make room for this inclusion I have cut the singleton Loxodon Warhammer
since the addition of not only Cryptic Command
but also Rune Snag
should be enough to protect myself from random Profane Command
s to the head and have gone down to three Shadowmage Infiltrator
since the card isn't that good in a control light metagame (as my friend Jack Ding once pointed out… “casting a turn three Finkel against Elves is like not casting anything”)
The sideboard is based off Otsuka's since I, admittedly, do not really understand Summersberger's sideboard. The choices are pretty self-explanatory. Nameless Inversion
s and the extra Damnation
s are obviously great at killing Wren's Run Vanquishers, Hypnotic Specter
s and Finkels. I have cut the Persuasion
s and replaced them with Razormane Masticore
s since I think that the card is much better in the Elves matchup. I have also cut the Liliana Vesses from Otsuka sideboard since that card is at its best against slow permission-light board control decks like U/B Teachings and U/W Martyr, neither of which are very prominent in the current metagame. Instead I have replaced them with Trickbind
s for the Dragonstorm
And there we have it, a tweaked U/B Mannequin deck for the current metagame. But what if you're looking for something that's even more off the radar? Well, another option for approaching the Post-Worlds metagame is to approach the format from a totally different direction so as to take advantage of certain cards that would otherwise have a universal effect…
In the weeks leading up to worlds, apart from playing around with my build of U/R Dragonstorm
, the other deck that I would often play on MODO and in local tournaments was U/B Teachings. Although I tend to dislike control decks in general, I didn't mind Teachings all that much since I used to play it in Time Spiral Block (of course, since I'm me, my Teachings deck played the “combo” finish of Stuffy Doll
and Tendrils of Corruption). At the time, although the most popular deck was Mono U Guile
, various builds of G/B were gaining in popularity since those decks had good matchups against Mono-Blue. Although these G/B decks were more primitive versions of the G/B decks from worlds, they nevertheless ran quite similar cards: Wren's Run Vanquisher
, Garruk Wildspeaker
, and most importantly, Treetop Village
. The Village especially was giving me fits since it was able to dodge all my removal except for my Tendrils of Corruption
. This meant that if I couldn't get the Urborg-Teachings-Tendrils combination online fast enough, I would inevitably die to 3/3 Monkey beats. And so, somewhere along the line, I took the plunge and cut all the Shriekmaw
s from my deck for extra copies of both Slaughter Pact
AND Sudden Death
which ultimately improved my chances against the dreaded manland. The maindeck, as it were, looked like this…
Teachings Old Version
4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 River of Tears
2 Urza's Factory
4 Tolaria West
3 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Underground River
3 Slaughter Pact
1 Haunting Hymn
1 Tendrils of Corruption
2 Sudden Death
1 Pact of Negation
4 Careful Consideration
4 Mystical Teachings
4 Cryptic Command
4 Primatic Lens
3 Gaea's Blessing
3 Coalition Relic
When it was revealed on the Wizards coverage of Worlds that control master Guillaume Wafo-Tapa had chosen to run U/B Teachings for the tournament, I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know his list. How similar was it to mine? Did we come to the same conclusions as to how we should combat the Treetop village? Or did he come up with a much more elegant solution to the problem…
Of course he did… he's Guillaume Wafo-Tapa!
Here's the list that he ran for the standard portion of Worlds.
Now, although these two build of Teachings are reasonably similar, a quick glance is enough to show that Wafo-Tapa's build is much more suited to the Worlds and post-Worlds metagame. Firstly, Wafo-Tapa recognized that Mono-Blue wouldn't be a very popular deck and so decided not to run any copies of Sudden Death
main. Instead, what he did was run two copies of Pithing Needle
maindeck! Whereas I had to cram my deck full of rather clunky removal to deal with Treetop Village
, Wafo-Tapa was able to fix all of my problems with a simple one mana Artifact.
The reason why Wafo-Tapa's build is so clever is simply because Needle is very strong in the current metagame. Indeed, if you have gone through parts I and II of the guide, then you perhaps would have noticed that almost all of top tier decks rely on activated abilities: the G/B decks have Treetop Village
, Garruk Wildspeaker
and Liliana Vess
, the R/G Mana Ramp decks have Treetop Village
, Garruk Wildspeaker
and Siege-Gang Commander
while the Mono Red Dragonstorm
decks have Spinerock Knoll
, Fungal Reaches
and Molten Slagheap
. So does this mean that every deck should run maindeck Pithing Needle? Well, no. The problem with Needle is that its effect is universal, it affects all copies of the named card and so, if you happen to be playing a tier one deck that runs Planeswalkers and Treetop Villages, you will cop a lot of collateral damage from your own Pithing Needles. U/B Teachings, on the other hand, is a deck that is completely off the radar at the moment and so does not utilize the same activated abilities as the most popular decks. As such, a Teachings player can not only Needle at will but he can also, since his deck will have access to Careful Consideration
, at any time discard his copies of Pithing Needle
if his opponent does not happens to have any relevant targets.
However, there are a few things in Wafo-Tapa's deck that I do not agree with. Firstly, I am not a fan of Coalition Relic
. Although the card is understandably powerful, Teachings is a deck filled with 4 mana spells and so ideally it wants to accelerate to 4 mana as early as possible. This means that Coalition Relic
is inferior to Prismatic Lens
. Secondly, I do not think that the Dreadship Reef
s are the best idea right now. Admittedly, the card is completely awesome against any of the slow control decks, but such decks are not very prevalent at the moment and so I think that it would be better to play other lands in that slot instead. And finally, while there is nothing wrong with Wafo-Tapa's creature suite, I would rather play an extra Teferi to help turn off Spinerock Knoll
s and run Tombstalker
over Aeon Chronicler
. While this is a choice that is based more on personal preference than anything else (since Aeon Chronicler
is also a great choice), I do however think that Tombstalker
is one of the better creatures in the format right now. It is not only completely immune to a lot of the removal spells in the format like Shriekmaw
, Nameless Inversion
and Incienrate but the synergy between Terramorphic Expanse
, Careful Consideration
and Delve is undeniable. Often, the 5/5 flier will be summoned for the incredibly cheap price of two mana while at the same time shrinking the opponent's Tarmogoyf
s to more manageable sizes. What's not to love?
And so, if I were to run a U/B Teachings list at a major tournament, my deck would look something like this…
Apart from the changes discussed above, this decklist also runs a copy of Haunting Hymn
maindeck since that card is extremely devastating against the popular R/G Big Mana decks while I have also fiddled a bit with Wafo-Tapa's sideboard. I have kept the Draining Whelk
s since they are great against Mana Ramp and the Terror
s and the Inversions since they are great against Vanquishers and Goyfs. The Jace Beleren
s however, are basically only good against control which is basically non existent in the current metagame. As such, I replaced those cards with two copies of Trickbind
and one copy of Luminesce
to help with the Dragonstorm
However, if you trust Wafo-Tapa's build more than mine, that's also perfectly understandable. I mean, after all, he is Wafo-Tapa!
But what if you don't really want to game with boring old Teachings? What if you're after something more exciting, something more exotic to play? Well, there's one more option available to you… You can always play what I'm playing…
So why haven't I been playing the two lists I've posted above? Well, the answer is simple. Neither list has Bogardan Hellkite
, which is obviously the most awesomest card of all time and neither list is a combo deck…
So does this mean that I've been gaming with a combo deck that runs Bogardan Hellkite?
Strawberry Crisis isn't something that's wildly original. In fact, what we have here is basically what you get if you combine Andre Coimbre's GP Firenze deck with Chris Lachmann's R/G Big Mana (Snow) deck from Worlds. The plan of this deck is to accelerate into a Wild Pair
and then cast any creature that isn't Bogardan Hellkite
. Doing this will allow you to search your deck for one of the two copies of Grinning Ignus
(even if the creature you played was Wall of Roots
, since you can give it -0/-1 in response to the Wild Pair
trigger). From this point on, you get to search your deck for a creature for every red mana you spend. Usually, what happens first is that you get a bunch of Avalanche Riders
to explode all of their lands. Then, a good follow-up would be to go fetch a Primal Forcemage
and Wild Pair
out a bunch of Bogardan Hellkites. Or you can also get a bunch of Siege-Gang Commander
s if your opponent decides to ruin your fun and kill your Forcemage.
So why exactly have I been gaming with this deck? Well, quite simply, it is because the deck is a great choice for the current metagame and has earned me a little over 150 tix on the MODO 8man queues in just four days, splitting the finals of approximately 70% of all the queues played. But how can the deck be that good? Well, this is due to several reasons. Firstly, although the deck looks a lot like a R/G Big Mana deck on paper, it does not have any trouble dealing with Mono-Red Dragonstorm
at all. This is simply due to the fact that the deck runs a total of EIGHT! land destruction spells for their Spinerock Knoll
s and storage lands. These LD spells are often enough to slow the Dragonstorm
deck down and prevent them from going off temporarily. This should give you enough time to either set up your own combo and blow up all their permanents or, alternatively, kill them the old-fashioned way with a Siege-Gang Commander
or a Bogardan Hellkite
. These LD spells by themselves should be enough to win you most of your matches against Mono-Red Dragonstorm
but you've also got 4 Riftsweeper
s coming in from the board as well just in case. Secondly, the deck is great against R/G Mana Ramp. This is simply because you have all your sideboard cards in the maindeck! Whereas the average R/G list has to wait until game two to side in their 3-4 copies of Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
, you can immediately start blowing up their lands while they're stuck with useless cards like Skred
. Furthermore, as I have previously mentioned, R/G Big Mana traditionally has trouble against combo strategies and indeed, the have basically no way of stopping you from blowing them out with your Wild Pair
. Sure, accelerating into a fast Siege-Gang Commander
might seem pretty impressive, but when you compare that with playing a Radha, Heir of Keld and getting three Bogardan Hellkites, it's actually pretty pathetic. Thirdly, while it is true that the matchups against the Green/Black decks aren't as good as the other two matchups for Strawberry Crisis, you have to remember that R/G decks in general are traditionally very strong against the G/B ones. As such, you win a lot of your matches R/G Mana Ramp style by simply by playing a bunch of Siege-Gang Commander
s and Bogardan Hellkite
s and blowing them out. Indeed, after sideboarding, you transform into a much more normal looking R/G Mana Ramp deck as you side out the 8 Land Destructions spells and one of the Grinning Ignuses for 4x Sulfurous Blast
, 2x Molten Disaster
and 3x Skred
However, no deck is perfect and I must give you one important warning in advance. Although the deck smashes all three of the tier one decks in the metagame at the moment, it is very very very very very very very very very very bad against blue and I have lost a few games online to Turn 1 Island Suspend Ancestral Visions
. Luckily for us though, these decks aren't very popular at the moment so the format is pretty perfect for Strawberry Crisis. However, if the metagame does shift towards Islands in a week or two, then perhaps we'll have to start looking for a different deck.
But right now? Game with the deck! It wins and it's a blast to play so why not try it out?
Next Week, Extended!
Oh, by the way, a quick message for all the forum posters…