Magic – The Gathering Strategy – The Big Three in Standard – Plus Counter-Swans As a Viable Strategy

This weekend is the first major Magic: the Gathering event of the year in the form of Pro Tour – Kyoto, and a lot of new decks are already beginning to surface. There’s been numerous revisions to the four-color Noble Hierarch deck that it’s become quite unpredictable. There’s going to be many players opting for “safe choices” rather than innovation, and it’s not hard to tell why. Let’s look at three of the top decks in the format: Boat Brew, Cruel Control, and Faeries. And then after that, coffee cart Melbourne we’ll get to a brand-new archetype that’s been under the radar. That is, until now! What is it? I’ll give you a hint: It’s blue and red. And it took Top 4 in a high profile tournament in Japan. Excited already?

Let’s look at Tomaharu Saitou’s Boat Brew list from The Finals, a Japanese invitation-only year end tournament.

Boat Brew, shop-swimmingpool but Tomaharu Saitou (Winner)
Land – 22
4 Battlefield Forge
3 Plains
3 Mountain
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Rugged Prairie
4 Windbrisk Heights

Creature – 22
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Knight of the White Orchid
4 Mogg Fanatic
3 Ranger of Eos
3 Reveillark
4 Siege-Gang Commander

Spell – 16
4 Ajani Vengeant
4 Mind Stone
4 Path to Exile
4 Spectral Procession

Sideboard – 15
3 Ajani Goldmane
3 Banefire aslremodeling
2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
4 Stillmoon Cavalier
3 Wrath of God

Saitou’s Boat Brew list is quite simple. It runs the standard Fanatic/Figure/Ranger package, Knight of the White Orchid, Reveillark, and Siege-Gang Commander (which is a much better card now that Path to Exile is out in the wild). He opts for a full set of Spectral Procession here, optimalremodel something that’s “just like Bitterblossom” for this deck and also enables Windbrisk Heights. Ajani Vengeant is a tempo-killer and at 22 land the manabase is just right.

For the sideboard, we have anti-Control Banefire, anti-Red Burrenton Forge-Tender, Ajani Goldmanes, and anti-White/Black Stillmoon Cavaliers. The sideboard looks poised to beat everything. Hell, it doesn’t even have Volcanic Fallout and it beat Faeries. Boat Brew is so popular among the Japanese right now that the deck alone took four slots in the Top 8, animeloved including both finalist spots. It has outgrown Faeries in popularity in the Japanese metagame, something that I’ve found to be unrealistic but at the same time possible. Congratulations to Saitou for pulling another one through!

Now, let’s look at Cruel Control. We’re going to visit Chris Woltereck’s built from the recent SuperStars $5,000 Standard Open where he placed 7th.

Cruel Control, by Chris Woltereck (7th, StarCityGames $5,000 Open @ Richmond)
Land – 26
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Exotic Orchard
2 Flooded Grove
3 Island
2 Mystic Gate
4 Reflecting Pool
1 Sunken Ruins
2 Vivid Crag
4 Vivid Creek
1 Vivid Grove
2 Vivid Marsh
3 Vivid Meadow

Creature – 10
1 Broodmate Dragon
2 Cloudthresher
4 Muldrifter
3 Plumeveil

Spell – 24
1 Banefire
1 Broken Ambitions
2 Courier’s Capsule
2 Cruel Ultimatum
4 Cryptic Command
3 Esper Charm
1 Negate
1 Path to Exile
1 Remove Soul
2 Terror
3 Volcanic Fallout
3 Wrath of God

Sideboard – 15
1 Broodmate Dragon
2 Cloudthresher
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
3 Celestial Purge
1 Ignite Disorder
2 Negate
1 Wild Ricochet
1 Ajani Vengeant
1 Liliana Vess
1 Mind Shatter
1 Wrath Of God

First let’s look at the very toolbox-like maindeck. Instead of relying on a playset of certain counters that aren’t named Cryptic Command, Chris chose to bring in multiple answers that would give him the best matchup against every deck. Since Cruel Control technically has great matchups against every deck not named Faeries, this seems to be the optimal choice. Combine that with one Banefire and three Volcanic Fallout in the maindeck (not to mention the anti-Mistbind Clique card Path to Exile) you’ve got a deck that even has a great maindeck matchup against Faeries if you can prevent Bitterblossom from landing on turn two. If it does stick on turn two, you can still wipe their board with Fallout. Having Plumeveil here allows you to chump-block Faeries all day if necessary and scare their Mutavaults from activating for combat.

The sideboard is really neat. Celestial Purge wipes out Bitterblossom and Demigod of Revenge quite easily (same goes for Figure of Destiny) while the rest of the board is dedicated to improving either the Faeries matchup or making other already-great matchups even better. I like the miser’s Wild Richochet in here, it copies everything from Banefire, Cryptic Command, to even Cruel Ultimatum.

 

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