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Analyzing the First OGW Standard Results

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Adam Koska
Adam Koska

About Adam Koska

Adam is an experienced player from the Czech Republic who has a number of high-profile finishes under his belt:

  • 14th at Pro Tour Portland 2014
  • 9th at Worlds 2009
  • 9th at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • 64 Lifetime Pro Points
  • Three times Czech Nationals Top 8

Analyzing the First OGW Standard Results

Hey everyone!

Last weekend, the first batch of major Standard tournaments took place and we have a lot of data to work with in order to see how Oath of the Gatewatch has impacted Standard. In my article today, I’m going to look at the numbers of cards from OGW played in these tournaments, analyzing how they change existing archetypes and what they mean for the future of Standard.

As I’ve already mentioned, there has been a lot of available data this time around. Both the SCG Open in Atlanta and one half of the Super Sunday Series Championship were Standard and there are plenty of decklists from each of those two tournaments. The numbers of cards I looked at come from the top 32 of the Atlanta SCG Open and from the best finishing SSSCH decks (8 points or better). Together, this accounts for 50 Standard decklists, which – even though this is an early stage of the format – should give us a pretty good picture of what’s going on in Standard right now.

This is what the figures look like. The numbers in brackets refer to cards in sideboards, what you see in front of the names of cards means the total number of all copies, what you can see after the names of cards shows how many copies each deck played.

38 (3) Reflector Mage 4 4 4 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 (3)

17 (12) Kozilek's Return 4 4 3 3 3 (4) (3) (2) (1) (1) (1)

11 (17) Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 (2) (2) (2) (1) (1) (1) (1) (1) (1) (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)

25 (2) Thought-Knot Seer  4 4 4 3 3 3 2 2 (1) (1)

1 (23) Flaying Tendrils 1 (3) (2) (2) (2) (2) (2) (2) (2) (2) (2) (1) (1)

21 (2) Goblin Dark-Dwellers 4 4 4 3 2 2 2 (2)

20      Sylvan Advocate 4 4 4 3 3 2

19 (1) World Breaker 4 4 4 4 3 (1)

19 (1) Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim 3 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 (1)

17      Matter Reshaper 4 4 3 3 3

13      Hissing Quagmire 3 3 3 2 2

12      Crumbling Vestige 4 3 2 2 1

12      Oath of Nissa 4 4 4

12       Wandering Fumarole 4 2 2 2 2

11       Grasp of Darkness 4 3 2 2

7 (3)    Chandra, Flamecaller 2 1 1 1 1 1 (2) (1)

8         Ruin in their Wake 4 4

8         Stormchaser Mage 4 4

7         Bearer of Silence 4 3

7          Wastes 4 2 1

6 (1)     Spatial Contortion 4 2 (1)

5          Sea Gate Wreckage 2 2 1

5          Kozilek, the Great Distortion 1 1 1 1 1

4          Reality Smasher 4

4           Reaver Drone 4

4           Expedite 2 2

4           Slip Through Space 4

3            Ruins of Oran-Rief 2 1

3             Jori En, Ruin Diver 3

3             Reckless Bushwhacker 3

(3)           Linvala, the Preserver (1) (1) (1)

2              Eldrazi Displacer 2

2             Mirrorpool 2

(2)           Unnatural Endurance (2)

(2)            Remorseless Punishment (2)

(2)           Natural State (2)

1              Needle Spires 1

1              Void Shatter 1

1              Warping Wail 1

I have to say that I was quite impressed by the numbers. Oath of the Gatewatch is a small set competing with other editions in the largest pool of cards that Standard gets before the rotation in April. It has to fight for space in decks with the powerful Khans cards, powered out by fetches and dual lands. And yet, thirty-nine individual cards appeared in one or more of the top finishing decklists and many are turning into what seems to be tournament staples.

The card that finished in first place in terms of popularity might be surprising to many, and I have to admit that it certainly was to me. Reflector Mage appeared in fourteen of the fifty analyzed decks, and in many of them in at least three copies. The simple explanation is the popularity of Four-color Rally in Standard right now, where bounce-effects play a very important role. Two of the best hate cards against this deck – Anafenza, the Foremost and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet – are creatures that need to be bounced when you want to go off. Reflector Mage not only does that, but even makes sure that you don’t have to worry about the opponent disrupting your combo next turn as well. This is, by the way, in part the reason why Hallowed Moonlight’s stock is rising – it’s a hate card that can’t be negated by Sidisi's Faithful or Reflector Mage.

However, Rally is not the only deck that can use Reflector Mage – the blue-white Man-o-War is not only great when you need to bounce the card that’s blocking your combo, but is also just a straight-up amazing tempo card. Some Abzan aggro decks splashed for it, which, I think, is a real testament to the card’s power.

The fact that Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim finished in ninth place can also be attributed to the high numbers of Rally. Before OGW, Nantuko Husk was the only card that could sacrifice multiple creatures a turn – a very valuable ability when you wanted to sac your creatures before they got exiled by the Rally trigger. Now that the deck has Ayli as well, not only doee s it havmore sacrifice outlets and is more consistent at killing the opponent with Zulaport Cutthroat triggers, but it’s also a lot more resilient to Infinite Obliteration naming „Husk“ – now you can still go off even after your trusty Zombie Insect is gone.

The biggest asset of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, who finished in third place (mostly due to its popularity as a sideboard card), is also fighting Rally. Twenty-one decks played one or more copies, which is an astonishing number, since it’s almost half of the fifty analyzed decks. Granted, many only played one copy (and some run one in the maindeck and one in the board, which skews the numbers as well), but still – Kalitas was a popular feature last weekend. I like how he’s both a silver bullet that hoses one particular deck and at the same time a completely reasonable card that can play the role of a control finisher. Certainly a Standard fixture, I would say.

There are several Eldrazis near the top of the list and this is certainly not a coincidence – there have actually been several different archetypes that use Thought-Knot Seer, Matter Reshaper and friends. First of all, it seems that ramp decks are getting more midrange – many successful lists ran less mana-acceleration and 8+ mana spells and instead focused more on Thought-Knot Seers and Matter Reshapers, sometimes even Sylvan Advocates in the maindeck. Also, a lot of lists play World Breaker as a 4-of as the cheapest Eldrazi that still triggers Sanctum of Ugin. This way, the list doesn’t have to include playsets of 10-drops, but instead can only run a couple as „tutor targets“ triggered by the Sanctum. Most Eldrazi lists still play Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger as the default 10-drop (usually two or three copies) and then one Kozilek, the Great Distortion for situations where the opponent doesn’t have anything worth exiling. Five out of the fifty analyzed decks played Kozilek, all of them only included a single copy.

Then there was another kind of Eldrazi deck – less all in on ramp and more focused on the synergy between colorless cards. The most successful of these decks was Barry Woerner’s monoblack Eldrazi list that finished 12th at the SCG Open in Atlanta. Here’s his list:

Mono-black Eldrazi by Barry Woerner

12th place at SCG Open Atlanta

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Having Caves of Koilos and Llanowar Wastes only as „Swamps that can tap for colorless“, that’s what I call committed to the cause. The list aims at maximizing the synergy between colorless cards and plays the best of the bunch, plus some removal, discard and Ghostfire Blades. What I also like about it is how many of its lands can give you a ton of value – there are twenty-four lands in the list, but eight of them can actually do something besides tapping for mana. Essentially, we have eight extra spells hidden between the lands. And that’s a lot of value, meaning the deck can keep up with decks that have access to card advantage through other, more traditional ways.

Next on the list is Flaying Tendrils, the most numerous sideboard card from all the OGW additions. Black had to wait for four long months since Drown in Sorrow left the format and now it has access to a three-mana sweeper again, which is a great deal of help against Atarka Red decks. No wonder that even many Abzan decks decided to play it, as it seems simply great for matchups where the opponent is likely to swarm the board with small creatures.

Goblin Dark-Dwellers is an interesting one. Its value really depends on the number and quality of cheap spells you have access to, but there seem to be decks in which this card excels – notably Mardu and Jeskai. Jeskai decks that have access to Dark-Dwellers started using more Jeskai Charms and even Exquisite Firecraft – this way, the deck becomes so burn-heavy that you can easily deal 12 damage over the course of several turns and with cheap threats to start the beats early, it seems like a more than reasonable way to victory. Mardu has a nice combo with Kolaghan's Command, recycling dead Dark-Dwellers and giving you another shot at casting something from your graveyard. After the first weekend, we can say that the most commonly used spells in combination with the Dark-Dwellers were probably Crackling Doom, Jeskai Charm, Exquisite Firecraft and Kolaghan's Command.

What are the most notable omissions? Which cards that looked promising didn’t show up in the numbers people expected them to? Nissa, Voice of Zendikar didn’t deliver at all, with zero copies among the fifty analyzed decks. I think that Nissa is a card that requires a completely different approach – a deck that would be bent around what Nissa does (making tokens and pumping them). Right now, there don’t seem to be many such decks in Standard, while other cards from OGW can be picked up more easily. I think that Nissa's potential is high, but it’s going to take some more time to figure out the best combination of cards around the green planeswalker. If such a shell is found, then perhaps it will also accommodate Oath of Gideon, another card that hasn’t found home just yet.

Linvala, the Preserver saw some marginal play, but by no means she turned out to be the ultimate trump against aggro and midrange decks. Six mana is just too much and even Gerry Thompson, who played her in the sideboard of his Jeskai Black deck, admitted that she probably didn’t deserve the slot.

Oath of Nissa saw a decent amount of play – three out of the fifty decks had a full playset of the „green Ponder“ – but perhaps not as high as some people expected, especially as Abzan still remains one of the best decks in the format. Part of the explanation is that the Abzan decks pack so many great cards now that it’s hard to even cut anything. However, I think that some lists would be better off with Oath of Nissa, especially in a world where whoever plays more Siege Rhinos or Gideons wins. Oath is likely the best tool Abzan has at the moment to increase the odds of drawing the key cards, and I would be surprised if this wasn’t eventually reflected in more Abzan decks adopting Oath of Nissa.

Overall, I think that Oath of Gatewatch is a set with substantially above-average card quality and one that’s going to change Standard quite a bit. Of course, we’ll have to wait a few more months for the next rotation, but even now, there’s plenty of new tools we can use and space for innovation.

That’s all from me for today. As always, thanks for reading and see you next time!

Adam

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