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Tribal Wars, Standard, GP–Strasbourg, and Future Sight Release events and Vanguard avatars!

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Overwhelm The letter W!elcome back to Online Tech! Today I have a lot of different topics in store for you. I will start by covering the online Tribal Wars 4x Premier Event. Then I will zoom in on Standard, show a new blue-red storm deck, and talk about the impact of Future Sight on Standard. I will also discuss my Grand Prix–Strasbourg experience shortly. And I'll finish by announcing the Future Sight release events on Magic Online and the associated new Vanguard avatars.

Tribal Wars 4x Open Premier Event

Tribal Wars is a casual Magic Online format that emphasizes creature combat: one-third of every deck must be of a single creature type. There are no sideboards. Tribal Wars–Standard uses the normal Standard card pool.

The last time I covered this format the metagame consisted of some red-based Human aggro decks with burn, some white-black mid-range Human decks, a couple Martyr of Sands / Proclamation of Rebirth decks, a couple Angel Control decks, and many others. Since then things have changed a bit, as Planar Chaos has been added to the mix. Planar Chaos doesn't offer many special new gems for the existing Tribal decks. An Angel deck might include Akroma, Angel of Fury and a Human deck may like Keldon Marauders, but those are not amazing improvements. However, there is a creature type that wasn't good enough before Planar Chaos, but it got a big boost with the new set: Slivers. Now that it gained access to Sinew Sliver, Cautery Sliver, and Necrotic Sliver, the deck has become the aggro deck to beat.

The Top 8 of the 4x Premier Event that was held last weekend consisted of three of these white-red-black Sliver decks. The Top 8 was rounded out with three red-based human burn decks (sporting creatures like Magus of the Scroll, various Guildmages, and Avalanche Riders), one white-black Human deck with the Proclamation of Rebirth plus Martyr of Sands combo, and one white-green-blue Elves deck.

After the dust settled, only two players were left (they eventually split the finals): a white-red-black Sliver deck and the white-green-blue Elves deck. These are their decklists:

Red, white, and black are probably the best colors to play Slivers with, because they offer Sinew Sliver and Sedge Sliver, which can turn tiny guys like Sidewinder Sliver into big threats. This kind of deck had been showing up in Block Constructed tournaments a while ago, and the transition to Tribal Wars is made without any sacrifices. Sliver decks don't really mind the minimum of 20 creatures of one type. In fact, they like to band together and help each other out!

Pumbles Mumbles played an assortment of direct damage cards to give it the typical Boros Deck Wins feeling. You play some quick guys to try to get your opponent on a low life total and finish the job with red burn. Castigate is the odd ball out here in the spell department, and Pumbles Mumbles admitted that it had underperformed all day. Dark Confidant or Rift Bolt—which fellow Top 8 competitor Maverick_PL had in his white-red-black Sliver deck—would probably be better. He also told me that the mana needs work, since with so many Ravnica dual lands you take too much damage. Furthermore, due to the popularity of Human burn decks, another Essence Sliver wouldn't hurt.

I think that by making these changes you will arrive at a well-tuned Sliver deck, and it might be the best deck around. However, it is beatable, and I think the following deck stands a good chance against it.

TheGodfather1's deck looks like an adaptation of Standard GhaziGlare, which builds on the synergy between Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree and Glare of Subdual. GhaziGlare already tends to run a lot of elves anyway. The Tribal version just has to add Tolsimir Wolfblood and splashes blue for Coiling Oracle in order to get up to the required 20 Elves count. It fared well because the Tribal metagame is fairly red. So many players run Human decks with burn and Sliver decks with burn. Decks with Loxodon Hierarch and Wrath of God have traditionally performed well against those kinds of decks, and the above list should be no different.

The Biweekly Standard Metagame Update

In the following table I have listed the 20 most popular Standard decks as seen in the Magic Online Premier Events in the last two weeks. Click on a deck to find a decklist and short explanation in my deck-o-pedia forum thread.

Deck name Popularity Change since last week
1. Dragonstorm ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■ (17%) -1%
2. Dralnu du Louvre ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■ (11%) -3%
3. R/G Aggro ■■■■■ ■■■■ (9%) -5% (!!!)
4. U/R Perilous Storm ■■■■■ ■■ (7%) +7% (!!!)
5. Mono Blue Pickles ■■■■■ ■ (6%) 3%
6. Izzetron ■■■■■ ■ (6%) -2%
7. Mono Black Rack Discard ■■■■■ (5%) 4%
8. G/B Dredge ■■■■ (4%) 0%
9. Angelfire ■■■■ (4%) 0%
10. Solar Flare ■■■■ (4%) -6% (!!!)
11. U/G PickleTron ■■■ (3%) 2%
12. Beach House update with red ■■ (2%) 2%
13. R/B Ignite the Warrens ■■ (2%) 2%
14. Mono Green Aggro ■■ (2%) -1%
15. W/B Arena Control ■■ (2%) 0%
16. W/B Rack Discard ■■ (2%) 2%
17. Panda Connection ■■ (2%) 0%
18. Satanic Sligh ■ (1%) 0%
19. White Weenie ■ (1%) 1%
20. Project X ■ (1%) 1%

Dragonstorm is still king, as it has been for a while now. It is simply the most efficient and most powerful combo deck around. Dralnu du Louvre is a close second, and for good reason. It can beat Dragonstorm with its Rewinds, Persecutes, and Shadow of Doubts. Dralnu du Louvre is actually very similar to the U/B/w Control deck that I consider to be the best deck in Time Spiral Block Constructed (later more on that). Analogously, I think that Dralnu du Louvre is also the best deck in Standard, at least potential-wise. A good version will probably have a plan against Detritivore; either by playing many basic lands (cut the Deserts; they're not that good anymore in this metagame) or by splashing white for Pull from Eternity. I expect that a fair number of Regionals will be won by Dralnu du Louvre decks in the hands of good players who have plenty of experience with the deck, and who can therefore play it well.

The latest new Standard tech (good for 7%) is blue-red and plays Seething Song, Lotus Bloom, Rite of Flame, Remand, and Sleight of Hand. However, it does not run Dragonstorm. Instead, it aims to win with a bazillion goblin tokens. This is a sample Premier Event–winning decklist of this new archetype.

UR Perilous Storm

We've seen Empty the Warrens / Ignite Memories storm decks before, but they used to be red-black. Instead of Dark Confidant and Infernal Tutor, we now have a new deck that has Hatching Plans and Perilous Research. Obviously a nice combo that will get you closer to the Rite of Flames you need for a high storm count. Perilous Research also works well with Chromatic Star (sacrifice it to draw a card). Hatching Plans also works well with Claws of Gix (as it gives you another sac outlet). It's a lot of nice little synergies. All of these cards have very low mana costs, so they can easily jack up the storm count, especially when a Locket of Yesterdays is in play.

Hatching Plans and Perilous ResearchThe above list runs just 16 lands, which seems a bit on the low side, and I have my doubts about the consistency of the deck. At some point you will get draws where you get infinite Hatching Plans without a way to sacrifice it, or you have to start sacrificing lands to Perilous Research. But I admit that if it works, you can get insanely big and fun turns, and you can easily make 10 Ignite Memories copies in one turn. The advantage of this deck over Dragonstorm is that it's better versus the hate; instead of having to go all-in on one big turn you can distribute your key cards over various turns. Turn-four Empty the Warrens for four, turn-five Ignite Memories for a couple, then turn six another Empty the Warrens is not an uncommon sight with the amount of card draw in this deck. I don't think the deck breaks the format by any means (yet...), but it is a fine choice if rogue decks are your thing.

What does Future Sight bring to Standard?

First off, let's look at probable additions to the current top tier decks. Dragonstorm might gain Street Wraith to make a 56 card deck (still probably not worth the life loss) and perhaps Pact of Negation for the sideboard against control decks. Dralnu du Louvre gains Pact of Negation and Slaughter Pact as possible one-of Teachings targets. Pact of Negation could make life harder for Dragonstorm players. Even after tapping out the opponent with Gigadrowse, you still have to expect a 0-mana counterspell on your Seething Song. Dralnu du Louvre can also run Tolaria West to tutor for these Pacts, as well as Urborg, Tomb of Yawghmoth to go with Tendrils of Corruption against aggro, or storage lands for the mirror match. However, the transmute cost slows you down, so testing will have to see whether Tolaria West is necessary. Red-Green Aggro gains Magus of the Moon, which might just be better than Blood Moon.

Pretty much all the lands have potential. For example, Graven Cairns could improve the mana of red-black decks, and even stuff like Zoetic Cavern can find a spot in a Red Deck Wins deck. A card that has gotten some debate is Aven Mindcensor, as a possible answer versus Dragonstorm. I don't like it that much, as it dies to Sulfur Elemental, and it is still very weak if they have Bogardan Hellkite in hand or find a Dragon in their top 4 cards (which will happen after 2-3 copies on average).

But I think the largest impact on the Standard format will be the resurgence of combo decks. Remember Project X? Now it gains Glittering Wish and Summoner's Pact to find the combo much more consistently. Furthermore, it gets a possible kill condition in Bitter Ordeal (which is pretty solid against Dragonstorm, even for two to three copies, as you remove their scarce win conditions). The deck is not often played online because it takes too many clicks to do the infinite combo. But don't make the mistake of discounting it. I think it's actually pretty good. It finished 2nd in GP–Kyoto a couple months ago, and it should get a boost with Future Sight cards.

Furthermore, we will see a new dredge incarnation with Bridge from Below and Narcomoeba. You can get turn-two kills with the perfect draw. Play Glimpse the Unthinkable on turn two, and mill four Narcomoeba, four Bridge from Below, one Flame-Kin Zealot, and one Dread Return. Sacrifice the Narcomoebas to flashback Dredge Return on Flame-Kin Zealot, triggering Bridge from Below, and attack with a lot of hasty creatures.

I'd start collecting those Leyline of the Voids, Tormod's Crypts, and Extirpates quickly, as they will come in handy soon enough. I'll try to play some Standard with Future Sight in the next two weeks, and maybe come up with a good deck and advice for my article the Wednesday before U.S. Regionals.

Musings on GP–Strasbourg

I played Block Constructed last weekend and ran U/B/w Control to a 13th place finish. I'm fairly sure that now makes me the highest player in the Player of the Year race without any Top 8 to his name this season. Perhaps I'll win the utterly useless and nonexistent consistency award.

After testing a little bit, I figured that U/B/w Control was simply the best deck. If played correctly, it can beat pretty much everything. Green decks never worked for me (I often mulliganned into awkward hands with like one land and four Wall of Roots, making me wonder whether I was actually mana-screwed or mana-flooded), R/B/u wasn't good in a field full of red and green decks, and White Weenie felt underpowered in the end as well. The U/B/w version I played was a mix of Wafo-Tapa's and Herberholz's deck, but I added a bunch of extra creatures in order to speed up the deck and to try and finish every round in the 50 minutes allowed. I ran maindeck Shadowmage Infiltrator, and in the sideboard I also had Plague Sliver, Vesuvan Shapeshifter, and Brine Elemental. I managed to finish all the rounds without a single draw, so that goal was achieved. If the metagame stays full of green and red decks, I think maindeck Shadowmage Infiltrator is not even that bad of a choice, even in Magic Online rounds where you have more time. Green decks have trouble answering it and against red decks it's an important 1/3 Wall to stave off the early beats. I would also certainly keep the Shapeshifters, as they are pretty good versus the U/G/r morph decks that popped up. Plague Slivers are not really necessary. In fact, extra Aeon Chroniclers might actually be better for the mirror match.

A random highlight of my deck was the Aven Riftwatchers in the sideboard to battle Red Deck Wins. Thanks to Gabriel Nassif for the suggestion; they were pretty good. The Ruel brothers even had Jedit's Dragoons to fulfill the same purpose. Hurrah for the embarrassing draft commons.

Another interesting story is Tomoharu Saito. He was lamenting his deck choice during the byes. He had switched from the R/g deck with Stormbind that he Top 8'd the Pro Tour with and instead ran Mono-Red in the Grand Prix because he liked Greater Gargadon. He felt he couldn't play both of them in one deck (that makes some sense, as they can feed on the same resource and therefore obstruct each other—if you draw a spare land in the late game, do you toss it to Stormbind or sacrifice it to Greater Gargadon?) and chose for Mono-Red with Gargadon. But during the byes he was losing all games we played and he said that he wished he had chosen R/g with Stormbind after all, mentioning that he had made the wrong deck choice all the time. Obviously, he won the Grand Prix. Such a master!

Magic Online Future Sight Release Events

Magus_of_the_Future On Tuesday, May 29 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific, Future Sight goes on sale in the Magic Online store. Future Sight becomes legal in all online Constructed formats the day it goes on sale, so all casual rooms and Constructed queues will use Future Sight starting that date. Constructed Premier events, however, will not run until Tuesday, June 12 and will use Future Sight starting on that date. Future Sight draft queues (TPF as well as FFF) begin on Tuesday, June 5, at 10:00 a.m. Future Sight Release events begin Thursday, May 31, and will last until Monday, June 11. Detailed information is posted here, but let me just quickly highlight the different kind of tournaments you can enter.

  • Release leagues. These special leagues have a duration of one week.
  • Premier Event 2x Sealed Deck flights. They will start every half hour. The 1st-place finisher will qualify for one of the Future Sight Release Event 2x Championships.
  • Premier Event 4x Sealed Deck flights. They will start every three hours. The Top 8 finishers will qualify for one of the Future Sight Release Event 4x Championships.
  • The 2x Championships and the 4x Championships. These are invitation only tournaments. You have to qualify by placing high enough in a 2x or 4x Sealed Deck flight. The Championships are held on the weekend of June 16-17. The winner of each Championships event gets a complete set of Magic Online Premium Future Sight cards.

Note that (apart from booster prize support) there is a Jhoira of the Ghitu participation avatar for everyone who enters in them and a Heartwood Storyteller for the Top 8 players in Premier Events and for the 5-0 records in leagues.

The New Vanguard Avatars

As I said, Future Sight offers two new Vanguard avatars. Let's take a look at their abilities, and while I'm at it, I'll try to build a Standard Vanguard deck that abuses those avatars. Note that the decks I will suggest are not yet well-tuned killer decks that I would recommend for a competitive tournament. I'm just having fun here and taking advantage of the avatar's abilities in an entertaining way. Furthermore, note that the abilities and bonuses and avatars had not been confirmed to be final yet, so there is a very small chance that they might change in between now and the release.

Jhoira of the Ghitu Avatar Participation Avatar: Jhoira of the Ghitu

Starting hand size = 8
Starting life total = 23
3 Mana, Discard a card: Copy three instant cards chosen at random. You may play one of the copies without paying its mana cost.
3 Mana, Discard a card: Copy three sorcery cards chosen at random. You may play one of the copies without paying its mana cost. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.

This avatar has a design similar to the popular Momir Vig avatar. You just get sorceries or instants instead of creatures. But there are more differences. First, you always pay three mana and you can get a spell with any mana cost, in contrast to Momir. So, the dream is to randomly hit a Storm Herd, Crush of Wurms, or similar big card on turn three. Furthermore, you can play the ability as many times per turn as you want. This opens up the possibility of a deck that can generate lots of mana and thereby activate the avatar's ability many times per turn. That's what the above deck that I made is trying to do. It just runs a ton of lands and mana acceleration, aiming to get up to a lot of mana quickly. Furthermore, it has Harmonize, Compulsive Research, and Aeon Chronicler (which also doubles as a win condition) to draw more card food to pitch to the avatar. These cards also dig deeper in your deck in order to complete the Urzatron and to find a Life from the Loam. The ultimate goal is to get the Urzatron in play (along with some more mana sources), along with a Life from the Loam. Then you just dredge back Life from the Loam every turn, play it to get back three lands, and then activate the avatar three times, hoping to get a good game winning spell at some point. A nice part of this deck is the Tolaria West, which can tutor for the missing Urza piece, or an Urza's Factory if you need a kill condition, or even an Ancestral Vision if you need more cards.

Jhoira of the Ghitu Avatar Prize Avatar: Heartwood Storyteller

Starting hand size = 7
Starting life total = 27
The first creature spell you play each turn costs 1 Mana less to play. The first noncreature spell each opponent plays each turn costs 1 Mana more to play.



Heartwood Storyteller Deck

This basically gives you a free Boreal Druid and a preemptive Stone Rain on turn one. I first tried to make an infinite loop combo deck, until I realized that it read "the first creature spell...", so I had to throw out that plan. So I just chose a red-green aggro land destruction deck in order to fairly leverage the abilities of the Vanguard avatar. The land destruction part (Stone Rain, Avalanche Riders, and Shivan Wumpus) fits very well with the part of the avatar that disrupts the opponent. Furthermore, most of these land destruction cards are creatures as well, so they just cost three mana. I opted to break the part of the avatar that speeds up your creatures by running lots of aggressive guys, as well as with a couple flash creatures. Notice that Heartwood Storyteller will reduce the cost of a creature on your own turn once and then it will do the same on your opponent's turn as well. So you can get pretty ridiculous starts with this deck. Imagine you go turn-one Wall of Roots, and in your opponent's turn remove a counter to play Scryb Ranger. Then on your second turn you run out Mountain and Shivan Wumpus. Not bad on turn two. And don't think that your opponent can come back by going turn-two Signet, turn-three Wrath of God!

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