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Marvel Decks After GP Warsaw

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Hello everyone!

This past weekend, two Standard GPs took place and I happened to participate in one of them. My record was not stellar - I dropped halfway through day two at X-5 - and I'm sure there are people whose tournament reports are much more eagerly expected than mine (for example that of this site's very own Andreas Ganz, who top8ed a second GP in just a few months). Instead of a round-by-round report, I'd like to share my experience more in general and also voice my opinion on where the format is going next - I believe that despite the fact that the format looks stabilized, we might experience quite a few surprises in the coming weeks as far as Standard is concerned.

The GP

After PT Kaladesh, I was trying out several decks and eventually ended up picking U/W flash as the deck I liked the most. It was flexible, had some powerful cards in Gideon and Avacyn and what's more, thanks to countermagic and instant threats, it had a great matchup against combo and control decks. I played U/W flash in a couple of local tournaments, including a PPTQ where I finished second, which pretty much confirmed my decision to play the deck in Warsaw. I packed the deck with me, made the mistake of not bringing almost any other cards and on Thursday afternoon, our car set off on a 7-hour drive to the capital of Poland.

In the past, there were moments when I felt really confident with a deck before a tournament. Standard with Esper Dragons was an example of such a format - I knew I had quite a lot of practice with the deck and also felt it was well positioned in the metagame. This time, it was different. U/W flash seemed more "ok" than "amazing" and even though it did really well at the PT, propelling several players to a 9-1 record, and then placed six players into the top 8 of a GP, I didn't have the feeling that the deck would be overpowered - perhaps quite the contrary. There were many situations where the deck simply couldn't keep up. Facing a turn 2 Smuggler's Copter on the draw was tough. Beating a resolved Ishkanah was problematic as well. In addition, it seemed that Marvel decks, the best matchup of U/W flash, simply disappeared. A friend of mine played five MTGO Leagues the week before the GP and faced exactly zero Marvel decks. That's zero in twenty-five matches.

I began having even greater doubts after talking to some more friends of mine at the GP site on Friday. I tested more games against B/G delirium and found that I simply didn't have enough confidence in the U/W deck to play it at the GP main event. Fortunately, Honza Bro┼żek had a spare copy of B/G delirium that he was willing to lend. The deck was missing a few commons (some of which I managed to get on Saturday morning during my byes), but apart from that, it was complete. I registered a stock B/G delirium list and was looking forward to preying on a sea of U/W flash.

I did end up playing against a lot of U/W flash - five of my opponents were on that deck and I went 4-1 against them. However, I lost some really close games in other rounds and after a 6-3 record on day one only went 1-2 drop on day two. I didn't really face any unexpected lists or tech, mostly just stock versions of already known decks. But my lack of practice with G/B delirium certainly took its toll - especially mirror matches tend to be really tricky and I felt there was more I could have done on several occasions. Once I played in a wrong way into a board where only Emrakul could save the opponent, for example. Had I made different plays that were sub-optimal on that board but meant that Emrakul wouldn't hurt me as much, I might have been able to win the game and the match.

In general, I have a feeling that Standard is a really difficult format to play correctly right now and practice is even more important than usual. Smuggler's Copter, for example, while being a card with an incredible power level, is not just a creature that you play and then attack with it until the opponent dies - at least in some games it isn't. Sometimes you need to discard the right card on turn three, which turns out being important on turn six, sometimes you should play around removal and not attack into open mana, etc. What I also like about it is that it's a card that helps both when you're mana screwed and flooded. It certainly is powerful to the point of being broken, but at the same time, it does a lot to eliminate variance and is extremely rewarding when handled correctly. And that, in short, is true for the whole format at the moment. A lot of interaction means a lot of good games.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Versions:
Eldritch Moon (Foil)

The Post-GP Metagame

Even though the whole event was won by U/W flash, I think that this archetype was past its peak in Warsaw. Part of this is due to taking some heavy hits from cards that are dedicated to beating the U/W flash archetype - mostly Ishkanah, Grafwidow. The blue-white decks can adapt and try to contain this hate and in Warsaw, we could already see some successful attempts. Thalia, Heretic Cathar does a great job against Ishkanah, turning the situation from "I can't attack anymore" to "I get one free attack into a tapped out opponent". And while Emrakul might still be GG, Thalia makes sure that the opponent can't chump-attack your biggest creature into it, so it might not be the card that digs the opponent out of a situation where they are very far behind.

Another card whose stock is rising is Declaration in Stone - also more than a reasonable answer to the one-card spider army which, unlike Skywhaler's Shot, makes sure that Ishkanah doesn't get a rebuy with Grapple with the Past or Liliana. Although more universal than Thalia, Declaration in Stone does have some drawbacks, namely that it can't hit vehicles. However, against Ishkanah, it's still better than Stasis Snare, also because post-board, the B/G opponents are going to be ready with Natural State. Having Stasis Snare blown up and giving the opponent a fresh batch of spiders doesn't seem like a winning strategy

If you want to go even deeper in anti-Ishkanah cards (which seems like a good idea given how many G/B delirium decks there were in Warsaw), you can run main deck Spell Shrivel or even Revolutionary Rebuff, a card that also saw some play at the GP. Normally, the card would be dead in the lategame, but with Emrakul as the ultimate finisher, a lategame Rebuff might not even be that bad and in addition to that, you can sometimes pitch useless Rebuffs to Smuggler's Copter. Another thing that I really like about the Rebuff is how it acts as protection against an opposing Avacyn ambush, especially in situations where the opponent might be counting on it a bit too much. I'm still not sure if Revolutionary Rebuff belongs into the deck, but I wasn't very happy with Spell Shrivel, because the deck runs a lot of other 3-drops while being a bit light on 2-drops. Rebuff would fit the curve perfectly.

So much for updating some of the existing decks. But isn't there a better way how to fight a field which is 30% G/B Delirium and 30% U/W Flash? Marvel decks have been pushed out of the format by the influx of U/W, because the combo deck that relies on its key 4-mana combo piece is inherently weak to countermagic. Or is it? Two Czech guys made a deep run in day two of GP Warsaw with two completely different versions of Aetherworks Marvel. Tomas Langer, a former GP top 8 competitor and Czech national champion, went 10-5 with a Bant version and Jan Ksandr, a rising star of Czech Magic, went 11-2-2 with a Jund list that combined aspects of both delirium decks and Aetherworks Marvel decks. Here are their lists:

Bant Marvel by Tomas Langer

Aetherworks Marvel
Versions:
Kaladesh (Foil)

Despite using the same win condition, these two decks are very different animals. The one thing that they share, though, is that they try to find a way around all the countermagic which is waiting for Aetherworks Marvel. Tomas' bant version uses Elder Deep-Fiend for this purpose. with eight emerge enablers, you should often be able to play the Fiend on turn four or five and tap the opponent down completely. Even if they counter the Deep-Fiend, the ability still resolves, so you should be safe against any counterspells they might have had for the Marvel. Another thing is that this particular deck uses the Marvel in slightly different fashion than most other decks. This version only has two main deck Emrakuls, but apart from the Deep-Fiends, we can also find Descend upon the Sinful here. What this means is that against aggressive opponents, you'll usually want to spin the Marvel at the beginning of their combat after they activate their vehicles. This way, if you flip Elder Deep-Fiend, you will be able to tap down their attackers and if you flip Descend, all their creatures will be exiled including the freshly animated Smuggler's Copters or Fleetwheel Cruisers. Flipping an Eldrazi this way is obviously worse than doing it on your own turn, but honestly, if you reveal an Ulamog or Emrakul, you are likely going to win anyway.

Tomas' sideboard is packed with more ways how to fight through countermagic, mostly with Dispel. An unfortunate thing about this card is that it can't hit Spell Queller, so it's far from a "catch-all" answer, but with the countermagic we have right now, it's hard to contain everything if you want to pay less than three mana, so having Dispel against all non-Queller counterspells is still reasonable. World Breaker comes in mostly for opponents that are going to board in Lost Legacy.

Jan's version is very different, but also has a very sound plan against blue-white. Since Ishkanah is likely the best anti-U/W card, being able to buy you a lot of time, and at the same time, this deck doesn't have too many problems with achieving Delirium, thanks to Vessel of Nascency and cheap cards of all types, it only makes sense that the five-mana spider is welcome here. Flipping Ishkanah with a Marvel activation, while admittedly being a bit disappointing, is not all that bad, since the small spiders are likely going to die and can thus easily charge your energy count back to the point where you can spin the Marvel again.

Both of these lists seem quite promising to me. If G/B delirium preys on U/W flash, then the next evolutionary cycle should see a rise of decks that beat G/B, and Marvel is exceptionally good against green-black, which is why the Ishkanah decks mostly posted horrible records at the Pro Tour, where Temur Marvel was everywhere. U/W flash is definitely going to remain a part of the metagame, even with an unfavorable matchup against G/B, so I don't think Marvel is going to overtake the format or anything like that, but as long as the numbers of U/W die down a bit (which I think is going to happen) and the Marvel players can come up with a list that has a fighting chance against counterspells, I think that Marvel could be well positioned. We'll see at the next batch of Standard GPs, which is coming in just a few weeks.

That's it from me for today, thanks for reading and see you next time!

Adam

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
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