o, apparently Jund is a thing.
With nearly one out of every six players slinging some powerful Red, Green and Black spells, it's not terribly surprising to see the midrange deck clogging the top of the standings. But when four out of the five undefeated players come to battle with Olivia Voldaren and Scavenging Ooze at their side, you know they've hit on something strong.
Of the 8-0 undefeated players—Travis Towns, Stephane Gerard, Melissa DeTora, Ahmad Dhanani and Ryan Zawalsky—only one of them managed to get there with a non-Jund archetype at their disposal. In this case, the new kid on the block Black-White Humans—and, in particular, new guy Xathrid Necromancer—proved it wasn't just a flash in the pan.
But there are a whole host of players nipping at their heels sporting a variety of archetypes. Sam Pardee, Jacob Wilson, and Canadian wunderkind Alexander Hayne are all at 7-1, and Matt Nass and Gaudenis Vidugiris are perched to strike just behind them. Every one of them has tasted high level success, and that experience could prove key as round 14 looms.
Tune in tomorrow as we recap all the highlights over the final six rounds and the Top 8 to crown the new master of Standard. Jund will almost certainly be in the mix, but with a format this diverse, everything else is anyone's guess.
Saturday, 10:25 a.m. – Grinder Decklists
by Event Coverage Staff
#1 Ryan Kinkwood - Junk Aristocrats
#4 Simon Leung - Big Gruul
#6 Noel Robin - Naya Beats
#7 Kyle Yakiwchuk - Red-Green Aggro
#8 Michael Schwarz - Blue-White-Red Control
#9 Chien Ho - Red-Green Aggro
#10 Jordan Cairns - Aggro Jund
#11 Liam Walker - Blue-White-Red Control
Saturday, 10:45 a.m. – A short guide to the decks to watch this weekend
by Blake Rasmussen
I've been playing Magic for 17 years, give or take a few months. That means I've been playing Magic longer than some of the audience has been alive. My time spent with Magic can almost vote. I have a sister who wasn't born until four years after I first picked up an Ice Age Starter.
And in all the time I've been playing, I've never seen a Standard format this diverse.
With tons of strong mana fixing, a wide variety of playable strategies, and a high-water mark for the size of the card pool now that Magic 2014 is legal, players can practically pick any strategy and have a reasonable chance to do well in any given tournament. Play your favorite cards, your favorite colors, your favorite style—virtually anything is possible.
But there are still a handful of decks that stand out among the crowd. Strategies that have been either helped or hindered by M14's week-old entrance into the format, strategies that are on the upswing, and strategies that are taking a nosedive.
To give you a leg-up on the weekend, we've compiled a short (ish) list of the decks you're most likely to see on display at Grand Prix Calgary, along with their strengths and weaknesses. While there have been some results showing the effect the latest core set has had on Standard, we should stress that the format is merely a week old, and some enterprising player out there might have broken the format with some new hotness. They might come with something unexpected to take the tournament by storm.
But, barring that, here's your handy reference to the decks expected to be played in droves this weekend, as well as a few archetypes that might make cameos along the way, all sorted by alphabetical order for your reading pleasure.
What it is: Auras stacked on White, Blue and Green creatures your opponent can't target, hopefully Geist of Saint Traft, but also including Invisible Stalker and a few M14 additions.
Key M14 additions: Gladecover Scout, Witchstalker
Strengths: Fast, hits hard, and its creatures can't typically be targeted by removal. Nearly everything passes the Doom Bade test. Best use of Geist of Saint Traft, which got better with the new Legend rule.
Weaknesses: Sweepers, Liliana of the Veil, sacrifice effects
What it is: A midrange Black, Red, and Green deck packing some of the most powerful cards in the format alongside the best removal. Olivia Voldaren, Farseek, Bonfire of the Damned, Huntmaster of the Fells, Thragtusk, Liliana of the Veil, and Garruk, Primal Hunter keep the power level way, way up. Considered by many to be the best deck in the format.
Key M14 additions: Scavenging Ooze, Doom Blade
Strengths: Game against virtually anything, Scavenging Ooze helped fix a bad Reanimator matchup, plays some of the most powerful individual cards in the format, tons of removal and the best creatures.
Weaknesses: Can get run over quickly by aggressively focused decks, Burning Earth, cheap countermagic
What it is: A synergistic Black, Green, White deck headlined by Cartel Aristocrats and Varolz, the Scar-Striped, plus fodder for sacrifice like Voice of Resurgence, Lingering Souls, Doomed Traveler, and Young Wolf. Skirsdag High Priest gives the deck explosive starts (and giant 5/5 Demons) virtually on command. Can also combo-kill with Blood Artist, enough tokens, and a sacrifice outlet. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and/or Garruk Relentless usually top the curve pre-board.
Key M14 additions: Nothing major, the Scavenging Ooze, Shadowborn Demon, Xathrid Necromancer, Lifebane Zombie and Archangel of Thune all could have a place for enterprising deckbuilders. Ratchet Bomb is a net negative.
Strengths: Resilient to sweepers, can make 5/5 Demons as early as turn three, flexible and complicated deck, Voice of Resurgence is the best Doomed Traveler ever, has the best
Weaknesses: Sometimes difficult mana requirements, Curse of Death's Hold, Izzet Staticaster, offers complicated lines of play, Doomed Traveler and Young Wolf never scared anyone on their own.
What it is: Former format boogeyman Junk Reanimator plays a string of value creatures—Thragtusk, Restoration Angel, Acidic Slime, Shadowborn Demon, Angel of Serenity—while filling off its graveyard and utilizing Unburial Rites. Often has a bunch of one-mana elves and Gavony Township. Has adapted to not rely as heavily on its graveyard.
Key M14 additions: Scavenging Ooze (in a bad way), Shadowborn Demon, Elvish Mystic
Strengths: Resilient, strong late game, adaptable, quick Unburial Rites and Angel of Serenity
Weaknesses: Vulnerable to faster decks, Scavenging Ooze has severely dampened the power of Unburial Rites, Jund matchup no longer as strong as it once was, Terminus
What it is: A collection of some of the most powerful, biggest, baddest creatures White, Green, and Red have to offer, including, but not limited to, Boros Reckoner, Loxodon Smiter, Ghor-Clan Rampager, Thundermaw Hellkite, Thragtusk, Voice of Resurgence, and Restoration Angel. The package gets tied together with a smattering of Bonfire of the Damned, a full serving of Farseek, and the card advantage machine that is Domri Rade.
Key M14 additions: Scavenging Ooze, Burning Earth
Strengths: Short Olivia Voldaren and a few Blue creatures, the best and most powerful creatures are all here. Domri Rade is one of the strongest cards in the format, and the deck can ramp easily between mana elves and Farseek.
Weaknesses: Somewhat vulnerable to sweepers and cheap removal. Some creatures are resilient, but many fail the Doom Blade test. Tight color requirements (see Reckoner, Boros).
What it is: The best Sphinx's Revelation deck. Cheap cantrips—Think Twice, Thought Scour—keep the mana rolling while cheap removal—Pillar of Flames, Searing Spear, Azorius Charm, Warleader's Helix—keep the pack clear. Snapcaster Mage, Augur of Bolas and Restoration Angel advance the board state and generate card advantage. Plays some number of counterspells.
Key M14 additions: Not many, though Encroaching Wastes and Mutavault see play, as does Celestial Flare
Strengths: Sphinx's Revelation, access to tons of lifegain, cheap and effective countermagic, strong against cheap creatures, flexible answers to most anything
Weaknesses: Thragtusk (less of a problem than it used to be) and other value creatures, needs to hit land drops to keep up, individual cards less powerful than some decks, relies heavily on Sphinx's Revelation, sketchy Jund matchup (though that has improved as well), no mana acceleration
What it is: The new kid on the block. A synergy-filled aggressive deck starring Champion of the Parish, Lingering Souls, Cartel Aristocrat, Xathrid Necromancer and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. Won last week's Star City Games Open in Richmond in the hands of AJ Sacher.
Key M14 additions: Xathrid Necromancer, Mutavault. Ratchet Bomb is a strong way to combat the deck's tokens.
Strengths: Tribal synergies, resilience to sweepers, creates tons of tokens, can combo-kill with Blood Artist.
Weaknesses: Creatures are small, vulnerable to Curse of Death's Hold, unanswered Olivia Voldaren, Rest in Peace, Blood Baron of Vizkopa
That's just a taste of what's viable in Standard these days. A number of less-played options make their presence known from time to time. Other decks to watch include:
Aggro Jund— A more aggressive style of Jund popularized by Brian Kibler and Cedric Phillips. Utilizes Flinthoof Boar and Falkenrath Aristocrats, less removal than Midrange Jund. Often employs Burning-Tree Emissary. Hits hard and fast.
The Aristocrats— This BWR deck is the forefather to Junk Aristocrats and is responsible for Tom Martell's Pro Tour victory (well, that and John Finkel's scarf. There are several variations, but all of them center around Cartel Aristocrats and Falkenrath Aristocrats, and look to set up Blasphemous Act and Boros Reckoner. Lingering Souls can come to.
Bant Control— Once one of the kings of the format, especially in the hands of Reid Duke, Bant's popularity as the best Sphinx's Revelation deck has waned as sweepers like Supreme Verdict and Terminus became worse in the format. Its lack of pinpoint, cheap removal puts it behind UWR Flash in the Revelation pecking order, even though Thragtusk and Ætherling are still two of the best creatures in Standard.
Esper Control— Another former top contender that has slowly become nearly irrelevant. Sphinx's Revelation isn't the trump it used to be, and Supreme Verdict isn't at its best right now. Still, Terminus is big game, and lots of people love this Blue, White, Black shard's mix of control, card draw, and slow, grindy win conditions. Ætherling means you can actually win in a timely fashion, so expect some to battle with it this weekend.
Grixis Control— Mostly propelled by the fevered dreams of Patrick Chapin, it's hard being a control deck without Sphinx's Revelation. Still, the deck can play Olivia Voldaren, which means something, and Dreadbore gives it better outs to Planeswalkers. Opportunity can play the role of a (usually worse) Sphinx's Revelation.
GR Aggro/Mono Red Aggro— Some people just want to watch the world burn. Mono Red decks got a lift in M14 with Burning Earth and Mutavault, while some still prefer to add in Green to really take advantage of Burning-Tree Emissary and Ghor-Clan Rampager.
Mono Black Something or other— Because someone will try. Maybe it'll be good this time.
Mono Green Elves— Thanks to Mutavault, Elvish Mystic and Garruk, Caller of Beasts, the Mono-Green Elvish Archdruid deck has made a small comeback. Usually looking to finish off opponents with Craterhoof Behemoth, the deck is fast and goes big quickly, but is pretty vulnerable to Bonfire of the Damned.
Mono White Humans— Like Mono Green Eves, Mono White Humans is a relatively new addition to the format from last weekend, where one copy made the Top 8 of SCG Richmond. Champion of the Parish and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben join newcomers Mutavault and Imposing Sovereign to hit hard, fast, and disruptively.
Naya Blitz— Has fallen in popularity since the printing of Voice of Resurgence put the breaks on and led to larger Naya decks, but this Human-based deck is still the fastest—if not exactly most consistent—deck in the format. Champion of the Parish into Burning-Tree Emissary (and Burning-Tree Emissary) and Lightning Mauler is still the most dangerous start in the format.
Prime Speaker Bant— A creature-heavy Green, White, Blue deck plays a game similar to Naya Midrange, but looks for card advantage out of Sphinx's Revelation and Prime Speaker Zegana. Naya is the far more popular GWx midrange deck at the moment.
WBR Midrange— A "good stuffs" White, Black and Red deck that plays a midrange game with cards such as Boros Reckoner, Mizzium Mortars, Obzedat, Ghost Council, and more. Plays similarly to Jund, which is typically regarded as more powerful.
Saturday, 12:35 a.m. – New cards on the block — M14 cards shaking up the format
by Blake Rasmussen
We're just one week into an M14-fueled Standard, and already the latest Core set has made its presence felt. New cards are reshaping old archetypes or creating entirely new ones, and a few old cards are even shaking things up after being reprinted.
With just a few notable results to go off of, players will be looking to take advantage of a new format full of new cards and new interactions, many of which have the potential to turn the format on its head. Before you dive into a weekend of M14 Standard, take a look at some of the cards that could—or already have—flipped the script on the format.
Anyone who played during Lorwyn Block knows just how good Shriekmaw was and just how format-defining it could be in the right hands. It's not hard to look at M14's baddest mythic and see Shriekmaw's much bigger, much angrier, much hungrier brother. Shadowborn Demon not only kills just about anything in the format on the way down (quick, can you name another Demon seeing play in Standard?), but it leaves behind a body that can end games in a hurry, despite its drawback.
Sort of like the opposite of a Baneslayer Angel, Shadowborn Demon has already started making waves in Reanimator decks as ways to nuke opposing creatures such as, well, such as their new worst enemy...
Having already made an impact on Legacy without ever having served time in Standard, Scavenging Ooze was in the awkward position of being a known quantity without anyone actually being sure just how good the Commander staple can be in a non-Eternal format.
The answer, it turns out, is very, very good.
The graveyard-munching Scavenging Ooze turns what was previously an awkward Reanimator matchup for Jund into a very winnable one, all while giving it an early drop that's good against aggressive strategies. Basically, Bear Ooze (on account of it being a 2/2 for 2 mana) is good in any format that has creatures and graveyards. So, basically any format ever. This card, more than any other before it, might actually be the one to push Junk Reanimator off its high (undead) horse.
And even then it still might not be the most impactful reprint in M14...
That honor very well could belong to the darling of tribal strategies the world over, Mutavault. This unassuming land serves as a very reliable man-land for any color that wants it. The fact that it has all creature types isn't always relevant in Standard these days—especially not compared to when Mutavault first ruled Standard alongside a bevy of Fairies, Elves and Kithkin tribal interactions—but the mere fact that it's a man land in a format devoid of them gives it immediate top billing.
It also does happen to have a few key tribal interactions that stand out. Elvish Archdruid is still in Standard, and Mutavault certainly benefits from being an elf, but the place you might see this changeling land the most this weekend is alongside another M14 new favorite...
White Black humans, and its best friend Xathrid Necromancer, were immediately put on the map last weekend when AJ Sacher won the Star City Games Richmond Open last weekend. A relatively straightforward port of the old Onslaught card Rotlung Reanimator, but with a more straightforward and useful creature type, Xathrid Necromancer's power was immediately apparent. And with so many Humans running around Standard—including Champion of the Parish, Cartel Aristocrat, and the townsfolk of Gather the Townsfolk—it's no wonder the newest necromancer has already made a splash.
But this particular Human didn't come alone in M14. He brought a very imposing friend along for the ride...
It's amazing how much better Blind Obedience gets when you put it on a 2/1 for just two mana and slap it with the creature type Human. Aggressive, disruptive, and with a relevant creature type, Imposing Sovereign is one of the best reasons to try and attack with little White creatures. Joshua Everly took that to the extreme when he Top 8ed the SCG Richmond Open with a Mono-White Humans build that ran four of a most imposing 2/1.
And the sovereign wasn't even the most hyped 2/1 coming out of M14...
That would be Red's 2/1 Young Pyromancer. Though no one has put the pieces together yet, the format is, well, young. A cheaper, more aggressive version of Talrand, Sky Summoner, players rightfully buzzed about the Elemental-creating two-drop. Young Pyromancer is one to watch for all weekend to see if some brave souls finally broke it.
But even if it does make the cut in Calgary, it has to contend with another two-drop reprinted in M14 set to ruin its fun...
A strong card in its first run through Standard during Scars of Mirrodin, Ratchet Bomb returns to a format dominated by all kinds of tokens—1/1 Spirit tokens, 3/3 Beast tokens, even 5/5 Wurm tokens—all of which Ratchet Bomb handles efficiently and effectively in one turn of its crank. It even charges up to kill one and two drops relatively quickly, making it very effective against the Lingering Souls and Doomed Traveler decks running rampant right now.
The fact that it's colorless means any number of decks can play it, no matter how few, or how many, colors they're running. Of course, given the next card on our list, players might want to start sticking to fewer and fewer colors...
The new Manabarbs is tailor-made to punish the greedy, nonbasic-heavy mana bases that have defined Standard since Return to Ravnica returned our shock lands to us. With three-color decks being the norm rather than the exception, Burning Earth is a fancy new way for aggressive decks to completely lock out control decks and midrange strategies. Thragtusks start to look less attractive when they cost you four or five life before they even hit the battlefield. And forget about anything that doesn't come with some bonus life attached...you're just racing toward the inevitable.
These cards won't be the only new additions to Standard that could define our Canadian experience this weekend. Archangel of Thune, Garruk, Caller of Beasts, Lifebane Zombie, Witchstalker, and Kalonia Hydra have all received a ton of press since being spoiled. Any one of them, or even something previously unimagined, could break out this weekend. We've only had a taste of the format so far, and this weekend is going to give us a heaping spoonful of new Standard. Buckle up, loosen your belt, and get ready for something new.
Round 4 Feature Match – Gaudenis Vidugiris vs. Iain Cassels
by Josh Bennett
Vidugiris's Green Machine Sends Jund Packing 2-0
It was a quick and brutal affair. Iain Cassels and his Jund deck seemed to be in a comfortable position early in game one, but a single threat from Gaudenis Vidugiris's nearly mono-green brew pulled out the rug from under him. In the second Cassels mulliganed to five and could never get his footing.
The trip down from Fort St. John in northern British Columbia had so far proved fruitful for Cassels. Working without byes he'd managed a 3-0 start to the day before encountering Sub-Boss Gaudenis Vidugiris, whose short-form resume reads "Two-Time Pro Tour Top 8'er, Three-Time Grand Prix Champion, Captain of Team Lithuania."
Game one was the more interesting of the two. Cassels was stocked on removal despite a mulligan, and seeing Temple Gardens, Arbor Elf and Elvish Archdruid from Vidugiris, decided to stifle Vidugiris's mana before it got out of hand. He spent Putrefy, Tragic Slip, and then Dreadbore on a second Archdruid to keep Vidugiris's board empty. Two Scavenging Ooze came down with plenty to feed on.
It looked like a good start, but when Vidugiris hit five mana he summoned Kalonian Hydra. The M14 superstar looked every bit as scary in person as it did in the previews. Cassels summoned Thragtusk to beef up his defenses and potentially keep it at bay, but Vidugiris went one better, soulbonding Wolfir Silverheart to the Hydra and smashing for twelve. Without an answer, Cassels was forced to scoop up his cards.
"Yeah I wasn't sure what to expect," said Cassels when I asked him about game one, "I was pretty sure he was mono-green, so I thought I'd take out his acceleration. Obviously, if I'd kept one of the removal..."
The second game started badly when Cassels went down to just five cards to start, and only got worse when Vidugiris played a pair of sideboarded Acidic Slimes to keep his mana pinned down. Cassels had Dreadbore for Wolfir Silverheart but nothing left to stop Garruk, Caller of Beasts. Two activations yielded four creatures for Vidugiris and a concession from Cassels.
Now I can't give you the full decklist (at least, not yet) but I did sit down with Vidugiris to discuss his deck. It's nearly mono-green, with white just for Gavony Township and a couple of Loxodon Smiters, and ramps all the way up to Craterhoof Behemoth.
"Between the Township and Garruk, you have a lot of safeguards against flooding out, one of the biggest concerns with a deck like this. The big threats are really good. I mean, you saw the Hydra there. You don't always get to untap with it, but when you do it hits so hard. Silverheart too, we had forgotten about it until a week or so ago."
The 'We' here is Vidugiris and Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz, operating out of their secret lair in New York. I asked him if the metagame this weekend was meeting his expectations.
"Yeah, for the most part. I mean, we expected a lot of Jund, and it looks like that's the case here. Then some representation of the known archetypes." He gestured here at Alexander Hayne sitting next to him, who was playing the popular Blue-White-Red Control deck. "I'd much rather play against that than say, an Esper control deck. Luckily I don't think many people will play that."
If you're looking for a way to take advantage of Garruk, Caller of Beasts, I'd recommend listening to Vidugiris and Mowshowitz. Try tinkering with this framework.
Round 5 Feature Match - Melissa DeTora vs Simon Lee
by Blake Rasmussen
Despite not knowing exactly what her opponent was doing for the first four turns, Melissa DeTora deftly piloted her Jund deck to a fairly quick 2-0 win over Simon Lee in the fifth round—despite never having played Jund in Standard before this weekend.
"It just has good matchups against everything," DeTora said of the Black, Red, Green deck that was proving to be one of the most popular on the weekend. "I didn't want to play aggro. I wanted to play control, but I didn't have the time to tune a list."
"Jund can pretty much beat everything."
It certainly handled Lee's Bant tokens deck. Packing powerful cards like Geist of Saint Traft, DeTora initially had him on Hexproof—also a popular choice this weekend—but had to reverse course when Lee flashed in an Advent of the Wurm on her endstep.
"I didn't really know what he was doing. It seemed like Hexproof, then I thought it might be Bant Flash and I figured he might have a bunch of counterspells," DeTora said.
Melissa DeTora's Jund deck had Round 5 locked down at every turn.
Instead, what Lee had been setting up was Rootborn Defenses—in response to Dreadbore—to start making Wurm tokens. The pair of 5/5s were able to stymie DeTora's attacks for a turn, but thanks to a start of Farseek into Huntmaster of the Fells and a Miracled Bonfire of the Damned, Lee was down to just five life before his tokens set up shop.
An attack and another Rootborn Defenses kept Lee alive, but left him at three life in the first game—just enough to lose to Rakdos' Return.
The second game didn't go much better for Lee, as he stumbled early on mana and once again fell behind quickly.
He started to claw his way back into the game, despite an Olivia Voldaren and Ravager of the Fells making their presence felt alongside Thragtusk, but a flurry of removal and some tight play from DeTora ended any hopes.
A bout of mana screw and a touch matchup dropped Simon Lee and his Bant Tokens deck to 4-1.
The situation was this. DeTora had six lands in play, including Kessig Wolf Run, to go with her three creatures. Lee, at five life, had a 3/3 Centaur token (with two damage on it from Ravager of the Fells) and a Loxodon Smiter. He also had four untapped mana, a Snapcaster Mage and access to both Simic and Selesnya Charms.
When DeTora attacked with her squad, there were several options for Lee. He chose to block Thragtusk with the Centaur and the Ravager with Loxodon Smiter.
DeTora, wary of Lee's open mana, first pinged the 3/3 with Olivia Voldaren, making her 4/4 and killing the 3/3. She also shot the Loxodon Smiter to make Olivia lethal at 5/5.
Here's where Lee might have made an error. He used Selesnya Charm on Thragtusk, which was already blocked and unable to gain trample, and bounced Olivia with Simic Charm. In response, DeTora Abrupt Decayed the Smiter, letting her Ravager trample over for four damage.
So Lee, with his board decimated, conceded, despite still being at one life.
"I had Tragic Slip and Abrupt Decay when I attacked," DeTora said by way of explaining her attack into four open mana. "No matter how he blocked, I had so many things that I could do, so I just had to make him have something. Then Huntmaster was still in play too."
"I was so far ahead that there wasn't much he could do."
Saturday, 5:00 p.m. – Left for dead—Josh McClain on Junk Reanimator
by Blake Rasmussen
The reports of Junk Reanimator's demise at the hands of Scavenging Ooze seem to have been greatly exaggerated.
While on one side of the continent, Junk Reanimator is making its presence felt at the Star City Games Invitational, here in Calgary, several of its strongest supporters have tweaked, pivoted, and adjusted the deck to prove that it still has the power to dominate the format.
One such Junk adherent is honorary Canadian and Team Mana Deprived member Josh McClain, and with good reason—he's fresh off a second-place finish at Grand Prix Miami with Junk Reanimator, losing to Reid Duke in the finals, no less.
Josh McClain isn't the only one sticking with Junk Reanimator this weekend, but not many people followed his lead.
McClain, an Iowan who has started to string together Pro Tour appearances in addition to his Grand Prix runner-up finish, was a bit...understated when discussing the newest threat to the Unburial Rites-based strategy.
"Scavenging Ooze, it's a little bit annoying," he said.
"Well, you couldn't even rely on reanimation against Jund before because of Ground Seal, but Scavenging Ooze is a way better Ground Seal," he said. "It's a Ground Seal that kills you."
But, McClain said, Junk Reanimator has long abandoned hard to cast creatures—such as Craterhoof Behemoth—in favor of castable value creatures like Acidic Slime and Thragtusk.
Still, McClain wasn't planning to play Junk Reanimator until mid-week when he started looking for a way to beat Scavenging Ooze and stumbled upon an article that referenced Shadowborn Demon—the same card making its presence felt on the East Coast at virtually the same time.
"Shadowborn Demon turned the match around against Scavenging Ooze Jund," McClain said. "And since Jund was doing pretty well, I added another Putrefy."
The increased removal wasn't just to combat Scavenging Ooze—McClain said Junk was casting its threats against Jund a significant portion of the time anyway—but also the best card in the matchup: Olivia Voldaren.
A Vampire that dies to a Demon.
McClain also took steps to better combat Jund on power level, moving Acidic Slimes to the sideboard and replacing them with Sigarda, Host of Herons, a card Jund decks struggle to deal with—if they even have a way.
The result is that more of McClain's threats are powerful in their own right, without needing other creatures (as Restoration Angel often does) or certain circumstances (like Acidic Slime) or the graveyard (like Unburial Rites), positioning him better against the Ooze that causes Reanimator decks to lose. He also tends to board out two copies of Unburial Rites in the face of Scavenging Ooze.
Generally, McClain likes the deck's position this week. He said people have started to underestimate it, which means fewer Rest in Peace or Purify the Grave to trip him up. Overall, McClain said there was less graveyard hate to worry about—outside, of course, Scavenging Ooze.
But the changes aren't without their drawbacks. The mirror gets worse when you don't have Acidic Slimes in the main, and Sigarda does virtually nothing against Naya Midrange, a matchup McClain actively wants to avoid (sorry, Josh...it's one of the most popular decks here this weekend).
He also said the UW Flash deck with multiple Syncopates and Dissipates is miserably bad. Hexproof is close, but acceptable.
So far, so good for McClain, as he's 2-0 since his three byes and only needs one more win to secure a berth in Day 2. And given how many Scavenging Oozes he's going to have to go through, we'll be sure to check in with him at the end of the tournament to see if the M14 standout has been more than just "a little annoying."
Saturday, 6:25 p.m. – The GP Calgary Day 1 metagame by the numbers
by Blake Rasmussen
Formats in the weeks after new sets are released are always interesting, especially for the analytical minded. Tons of data can be found by mining the tournaments for the first few weeks. What does well the first week may fall off later, and an unpopular deck can very quickly come to dominate the format.
With that in mind, we combed through every single decklist here in Grand Prix Calgary to bring you a full, complete picture of what people brought to game in what was, for many, their first outing into M14 Standard.
Well, almost full. You see, a lot of people come to Grand Prixs to have fun, goof around, or just to get a sweet promo (And the All is Dust is pretty sweet). With that in mind, I removed from this analysis a few decklists that either resembled sealed decks or looked like this one:
1 Pack Rat
218 Shadowborn Apostle
The name of that deck?
"I just came here for the promo."
That left us with 615 decklists. In the following chart, I only named the decks that had at least four copies, somewhat arbitrarily. But every deck that had four copies accounted for 523 of the decks (85 percent) and 33 varied archetypes. That seemed like more than enough for even the biggest stat heads out there. The remaining 15 percent are listed under "other."
If we counted every single archetype, we'd end up analyzing a whopping 92 decks with some distinct different. If that seems like a lot, it's because it is, and the lines get blurry the stranger the decks become. "Other" seems to encompass it pretty well, but of these other decks do well in the tournament, you best believe we'll be highlighting it.
Without further ado, here are the numbers:
Number of Decks by Deck Type
A few notes: "Caller" designates a deck with Garruk, Caller of Beasts and Craterhoof Behemoth. The Aristocrats refers to the Black, White, Red version with Boros Reckoner and Blasphemous Act. Junk Aristocrats would actually have 11 copies, but I split it into Humans and non-Humans versions, with Xathrid Necromancer being the main selling point of the Humans version (which is grouped with Others). Izzit Blitz is a Nivix Cyclops-based Blue-Red deck that plays, oddly enough, similar to the Pauper version of the deck.
Not surprisingly, Jund is easily the most played archetype, and the only one to make up more than 10 percent of the field. Gruul Aggro variants, Bant Hexproof , Naya Midrange, UWR Flash, and BW Humans follow close behind. None of this is particularly surprising, except maybe the number of Gruul decks in the field.
Interestingly, UWR would have better numbers, but it's fractured between the Geist of Saint Traft versions (which are otherwise relatively similar) and the control versions (which lean toward sorcery-speed sweepers, Planeswalkers, and Ætherling).
Junk Reanimator has also predictably fallen in numbers from its previous perch atop the format, barely topping 2 percent of the field. New kid on the block Mono Green Caller (for Garruk, Caller of Beasts) is picking up steam, and has one famous adherent in Gaudenis Vidugiris.
If we just look at the decks with at least 15 players playing them (again, somewhat arbitrarily), it looks like this:
These nine archetypes still make up about 45 percent of the metagame, with "everything else" still the majority of the format.
Even if Jund Midrange is the "best deck," it doesn't appear to be worth it to over-prepare for it right now. That may change if it makes up a disproportionate portion of Day 2 (we'll look at the Day 2 metagame tomorrow), but it looks like, on average, over an eight round Day 1, you still shouldn't face it more than 1-2 times, despite it being easily the most played deck.
It's also interesting to note the dearth of full-on aggressive decks in this list. Gruul Aggro is a traditional aggressive deck, but Bant Hexproof presents a different set of problems from a typical beatdown deck. And Naya Midrange can certainly deal damage quickly, but its focus is often the midgame and winning creature combat while Domri Rade keeps its hands full. Mono Red, including some lists with maindeck Burning Earth, did have 12 copies, as did Naya Blitz, but they're such small parts of the Calgary metagame that it might have been correct to ignore them entirely.
Of course, since this is Day 1, a number of these decks are bad lists or variations that were never meant for serious play. Some just won't be able to hold up to the rigors of tournament play. We'll examine the Day 2 metagame tomorrow to look at what decks improved their hold on the metagame, and which fell off.
Round 7 Feature Match – Alexander Hayne vs. Trent Douglas
by Josh Bennett
Bad Draws From Douglas Let Hayne Steamroll 2-0
The Most Important Fact
Alexander Hayne played Day 1 wearing a white Stetson.
Alexander Hayne looking good
Trent Douglas's black-green deck was ill-matched against Hayne's Blue-White-Red Control for game one, and he drew bricks instead of bombs. Things went further south in the second game where a four-spell, twelve-land draw performed about as well as you'd expect. Also seriously, look at Hayne's hat.
Douglas started with a turn-two Scavenging Ooze. Hayne had the Burn in hand to kill it on his turn. Douglas's draw was threat-light, giving him Doom Blade and Tragic Slip instead of pressure. Hayne could comfortably play draw-go. He had Counterflux for Thragtusk, then Warleader's Helix for a second Scavenging Ooze. Snapcaster Mage on Helix took care of Liliana of the Veil, and then it was Sphinx's Revelation time. It was also time for a concession from Douglas.
Game two also started with the threat and answer two-step. A turn-three Liliana of the Veil fell to Negate, and then Desecration Demon was Syncopated. Still, there was hope for Douglas. He had Duress and Underworld Connections to complete that classic gameplan: Tax their countermagic, then force through a hard-to-remove threat. He tapped one and Duressed.
Hayne turned over a hand featuring the Trace-Buster Buster, Snapcaster Mage, the "counterspell" that Duress can't hit. Instead, it took a useless Pillar of Flame. Douglas shrugged and played his Connections, forcing out the Snapcastered Negate. Unfortunately for him, that was the end of his non-land draws for the match. Over the next few turns, Hayne summoned some Restoration Angels and flew over for the win.
On Their Decks
Douglas had actually been working on a deck to make use of Mutilate and Corrupt for some time but couldn't quite get things to click. Looking at some decks online he came across a black-green build that he liked a lot. Joking with Hayne between games he said "When I saw it my reaction was 'Well that's... almost what we're doing, but way better.'" He's very satisfied with the way the deck plays, but admits it comes up short in control matchups, especially game one. "Our solution was to board in Primeval Bounty. You can outrace their damage just by playing lands. You don't need another creature to draw with Disciple of Bolas. It's like a better Deadbridge Chant. You don't have to worry about just hitting lands or being stopped by Scavenging Ooze."
Hayne has actually been playing an awful lot of Standard lately, helping Team Canada Captain Jon Stern get ready for Worlds Week in Amsterdam. It even gave him some foreknowledge of Douglas's deck. "I think it's going to be played a lot in Unified Constructed because its cards don't overlap with other decks. It's very powerful, especially against creature decks." As for his own choice of Blue-White-Red? "I went with this because it's really my style. I love Fish-type decks, and I also think it has great matchups agaisnt Jund and Bant Hexproof. It's a pretty standard build. I swapped in a Mutavault for an Encroaching Wastes and it has been amazing for me. Did 18 damage all by itself one game." I asked him about the matchup against Bant Hexproof. "It's pretty good. Between the counters, the Supreme Verdicts... also the deck has a lot of incidental life gain. I managed to outrace one by going Warleader's Helix, Snapcaster the Helix, gang-block with all my creatures (including the Mutavault!) and give them lifelink with Azorius Charm."
Round 8 Feature Match - Travis Towns vs. Brady Boychuk
by Blake Rasmussen
It's his first Grand Prix, but don't call Travis Towns a novice. Especially after he just finished a perfect, undefeated Day 1 with WB Humans.
The Canadian—who is already qualified for the Pro Tour in Dublin, thank you very much—piloted the relatively new archetype to 8-0 after downing friend and countryman Brady Boychuk's Gruul Aggro deck with one of the closest comebacks I've ever seen.
The players split the first two games in fairly overwhelming fashion. Towns used Cartel Aristocrats and Xathrid Necromancer to turn two Gather the Townsfolk into a veritable Army of the Damned, winning even through two Ghor-Clan Rampagers.
"Yeah, that Black card is for real," Boycheck said of the Necromancer.
But then Boychuk bit back hard in the second game to show why Gruul Aggro was the second most popular archetype this weekend. On the play, he curved perfectly: Arbor Elf into Flinthoof Boar (attack for three) into Hellrider (attack for 8) into Thundermaw Hellkite (approximately dead). The game took about as long as it took nearby Alexander Hayne to shuffle up and present his deck.
Travis Towns looked more than a little shell-shocked at how quickly he was run over in Game 2.
But then came the third game
Boychuk had another fast start. Arbor Elf led to Burning-Tree Emissary and an attacking Flinthoof Boar, all on the second turn. Towns tried to counter with Gather the Townsfolk into Xathrid Necromancer, but a Mizzium Mortars turned the Necromancer into one of its Zombie pals before it could spawn anymore. Boychuk even threw in a Bloodrushed Ghor-Clan Rampager on the attack for good measure.
At this point, Towns was already on just 8 life.
Towns, thinking, played Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and created an Emblem, leaving him with two 2/1s and a 3/2 for blockers against a 2/2, 1/1, and 3/3.
And, as it turned out, a Hellrider.
The entire team crashed in and put four Hellrider triggers on the stack. Boychuk redirected one of the triggers to Sorin. Towns fell to 5 before he even made any blocks.
When the dust settled, everything save the Boar died. It dropped Towns to two.
Towns untapped, drew Blood Artist, and readied himself with both Mutavault and Doom Blade available. When Boychuk cast no spells and simply attacked, Towns used the Doom Blade to start to crawl back in the game. It would leave him vulnerable to Thundermaw Hellkite, but it did start an important trend...his life total inched up to three.
Brady Boychuk could only watch as his opponent's life total started going the wrong way after being so close to zero.
A second Sorin created a lifelinking vampire. On Boychuk's next attack, Town blocked and, after Blood Artist triggers kept his life total heading north.
He was suddenly at a relatively healthy seven life. Then, after another round of combat, at 14.
Towns drew gas while Boychuk was on air and elves and nothing to cushion the fall. One more attack—and a third Sorin emblem—and the comeback was complete. Towns was 8-0 in his first Grand Prix—and the lone undefeated player not to be playing Jund.
Towns picked the BW Humans deck up in part, he said, because he liked Orzhov-flavored aggro decks. It doesn't help that it got a gift in M14.
"Xathrid Necromancer is pretty much one of the best cards in the deck, it's the reason the deck is around," he said.
He did, however, feel fortunate to survive this round. Though he thought the match was going to be in his favor, he found it was "dicier" than he had initially anticipated.
"If he had had another Ghor-Clan Rampager or a Searing Spear, I'm dead," he said after the match. "There were a lot of cards that could have killed me."
Instead, Towns' comeback has him sitting atop the standings and ready to take on Day 2 with a strong shot at a Top 8 in his first Grand Prix tournament ever.
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. – GP Calgary - A Photo Essay
by Josh Bennett
There's a lot more going on at a Grand Prix than the main event. Let's take a quick tour, shall we?
Side events are always awesome, but these lucky folks are in the midst of Modern Masters Sealed. With Modern Masters prizes. My jealousy ranks somewhere between envy and outright covetousness.
Some mages have all the luck. Tarmogoyf, PLUS two foil rares? C'mon.
Look at it, just sitting there. Taunting me.
Meanwhile, the folks from LoadingReadyRun film a segment featuring the one-and-only Kenji Egashira, known to most as "Numot the Nummy, streamer extraordinaire!"
Here, Tournament Organizer Jason Ness announces... things! Including charity tournaments and a silent auction to help with the ongoing Flood Relief effort. At the end of the day they'd managed to raise over a thousand dollars. Thanks to all those who participated!
Artist Lucas Graciano throws us a smile while he works on something for a fan.
Artist RK Post is not so easily distracted.
Here we see Artist Rob Alexander completing a triptych. He and the other artists have done a few thematic mats for fans, each taking a third of the playmat.
Lastly, one of the most accurate signs ever created.