A Pinch of Spice: 4 Off-Meta Decks from the Weekend Tournaments

This week, A Pinch of Spice returns as we have some truly interesting decks to talk about from the weekend’s various tournaments. Although there were no major events the past weekend, there were still cash prizes on the line which means players going for the win are always going to bring their best. The Standard meta in particular has gotten a bit stale post-Strixhaven, and while the overall meta from the recent Standard tournaments looks largely the same, there were a handful of unique brews that showed up and performed well enough to deserve our attention.

Today, we’ll be taking a look at two decks each from Standard and Historic, and this time around they all performed quite well in their respective events. Three out of the four decks achieved Top 8 finishes, and the other still managed a very respectable 6-2 match record.

As always, a quick note that these decks are all built for best-of-three tournament play. If you’re looking to play any of them in best-of-one, you may find it beneficial to swap in cards from the sideboard or otherwise season to taste for the Bo1 meta. So without further ado:

Standard

Irencrag Feat (Throne of Eldraine) Art by Yongjae Choi
Irencrag Feat art by Yongjae Choi

Izzet Ramp 

Planeswalkers (4)
4
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Creatures (12)
4
Bonecrusher Giant
4
Brazen Borrower
4
Goldspan Dragon
Spells (16)
3
Jwari Disruption
1
Valakut Awakening
4
Mystical Dispute
4
Prismari Command
4
Irencrag Feat
Artifacts (2)
2
Mazemind Tome
Enchantments (4)
4
Shark Typhoon
Lands (22)
3
Fabled Passage
2
Field of Ruin
3
Island
6
Mountain
4
Riverglide Pathway
4
Temple of Epiphany
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Redcap Melee
3
Disdainful Stroke
2
Roiling Vortex
4
Phoenix of Ash
3
The Akroan War
1
Ox of Agonas

Our first deck, Izzet Ramp, comes to us from the Insight Esports Invitational Qualifier on Saturday. The deck was entered in the $1,000 tournament by Hoshino Tomoyuki, who managed to pilot it to a 5th place finish overall with a 3-1 match record. In the current Standard meta, most of the decks running the Izzet color pair fall into the Izzet Dragons archetype. But while this deck still runs four copies of Goldspan Dragon, the plan is quite different. This pile goes all in on racing to its big mana payoffs, namely Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Shark Typhoon. Decks that use Irencrag Feat to ramp into a very early Ugin have been around for a while, but it’s unusual to see one do so well in the tournament scene.

While Ugin doesn’t automatically win on cast, there are many decks that simply cannot deal with a resolved Ugin so early in the game, especially if the Ugin player is also beating them down with hasty dragons. In addition to Irencrag Feat, this deck also runs cards that can create treasure tokens for ramp, including the aforementioned Goldspan Dragon and also Prismari Command– a versatile modal spell which can function as card selection or removal if need be. With a resolved Prismari Command creating a treasure on turn 3 and an Irencrag Feat in hand, this deck is capable of casting Ugin as early as turn 4, a play which easily locks any fast aggro deck out of the game.

m21-170-unleash-fury
Unleash Fury art by Izzy

Mardu Fury 

Creatures (18)
2
Drannith Magistrate
3
Skyclave Shade
4
Bonecrusher Giant
2
Elite Spellbinder
4
Woe Strider
3
Goldspan Dragon
Spells (16)
3
Kazuul's Fury
2
Sejiri Shelter
4
Claim the Firstborn
4
Village Rites
3
Unleash Fury
Enchantments (6)
3
Showdown of the Skalds
3
The Akroan War
Lands (20)
4
Blightstep Pathway
4
Brightclimb Pathway
2
Mountain
4
Needleverge Pathway
4
Savai Triome
2
Swamp
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Flamescroll Celebrant
1
Cinderclasm
1
Drannith Magistrate
2
Heartless Act
2
Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
2
Arni Brokenbrow
2
Elspeth's Nightmare
2
Kaervek, the Spiteful
1
The Akroan War

The next deck also comes from the Insight Invitational IQ, this one piloted by samsoni1 to a 7th place finish with a record of 3-1. This deck is another oddball combo pile, appearing to be a combination of two other existing archetypes- Naya Fury and Rakdos/Mardu Sacrifice. Naya Fury is a deck that was fairly popular even in the competitive scene for a while after the release of Kaldheim, but it was based more around adventure creatures and often relied on Jaspera Sentinel for early ramp. The archetype focuses on casting one or more copies of Unleash Fury on an unblocked Goldspan Dragon to deal huge amounts of damage out of nowhere, potentially also using Kazuul's Fury as a finishing blow.

This version of the deck keeps the Goldspan Dragon and both Fury cards, but has done away with the adventure package and ramp in favor of a sacrifice package that includes 4 Woe Strider and 4 Claim the Firstborn. It seems like the deck mostly wants to run the Fury combo plan game 1 while using some steal and sac cards to control aggro. Then, during games 2 and 3, the deck is able to sideboard either fully into the sacrifice plan to wreck aggro decks, or go all in on the combo plan against slower, grindier decks. This is a really interesting pile, and I hope to see samsoni1 put up similar results with this deck or something similar in the Insight Tier 1 Invitational in July. It seems like a lot of fun to play, but it also seems like it relies heavily on sideboarding to enact its full plan. If you’re primarily a best-of-one player, it’s possible that you would be better served choosing one of the two archetypes to build around instead.

Historic

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Art by Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Art by Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss

Historic Mono White Aggro 

Creatures (31)
2
Reidane, God of the Worthy
3
Giant Killer
4
Selfless Savior
3
Adanto Vanguard
4
Luminarch Aspirant
4
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4
Archon of Emeria
3
Elite Spellbinder
4
Skyclave Apparition
Spells (3)
3
Declaration in Stone
Enchantments (3)
3
Legion's Landing
Lands (23)
4
Faceless Haven
19
Snow-Covered Plains
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Reidane, God of the Worthy
2
Fight as One
2
Grafdigger's Cage
1
Mana Tithe
1
Shadowspear
3
Baffling End
2
Tithe Taker
2
Dusk/Dawn
/

The TGS Anniversary Series Historic Tournament was the largest of the events that today’s decks are sourced from, and it is the source of both of our Historic decks this time around. This first list is from Francisco Alan Jones Barroso, and it’s the deck that took down the whole tournament with a 10-1 record. Standard players looking at this list will probably notice that it’s quite familiar- this Mono White Aggro list only has 13 cards in the maindeck that aren’t currently legal in Standard, but the combination of aggression and disruption has proven to be quite powerful in the Historic meta as well.

The Historic-only cards that do show up in the main of this list are extremely powerful additions to the deck: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a highly disruptive card that can severely slow down control decks that depend on noncreature spells, Adanto Vanguard is an aggressive threat that demands exile-based removal, and Declaration in Stone is a great way to keep other aggressive decks like Mono Black in check. Archon of Emeria is a card that doesn’t see much play in Standard because it doesn’t often line up well against the meta. In Historic however, it’s a potent answer to greedy Brainstorm decks, especially Izzet Phoenix which must cast multiple spells per turn to function properly.

Other than that, this deck plays out in a very similar way to White Aggro decks in Standard- stick some aggressive, difficult to answer threats and turn them sideways while also casting disruptive creatures that set the opponent back. Most control players have felt the pain of losing their desperately needed board wipe to Elite Spellbinder, and Barroso’s performance this weekend suggests that this strategy may be just as potent in Historic as it is in Standard where Mono White has been running rampant. For more information about this rising archetype, see our excellent deck guide by DoggertQBones.

Demonic Pact art by Manuel Castañón

Historic Esper Yorion 

Companion
1
Yorion, Sky Nomad
Planeswalkers (9)
3
Kaya, Orzhov Usurper
4
Narset, Parter of Veils
2
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Creatures (3)
3
Yorion, Sky Nomad
Spells (13)
4
Thoughtseize
4
Vanishing Verse
1
Commit/Memory
/
1
Day of Judgment
2
Extinction Event
1
Wrath of God
Enchantments (19)
4
Omen of the Sea
4
Trial of Ambition
3
Oath of Kaya
4
Demonic Pact
4
Doom Foretold
Lands (36)
2
Castle Ardenvale
1
Castle Vantress
4
Drowned Catacomb
2
Fetid Pools
4
Glacial Fortress
4
Godless Shrine
4
Hallowed Fountain
2
Indatha Triome
2
Irrigated Farmland
4
Isolated Chapel
1
Swamp
4
Watery Grave
2
Zagoth Triome
Cards (80)
Sideboard (15)
2
Baffling End
3
Dovin's Veto
3
Cry of the Carnarium
1
Yorion, Sky Nomad
4
Shark Typhoon
2
Nezahal, Primal Tide

Our final deck for today is a fun one for dirty Yorion players such as myself- Esper Yorion/Doom Foretold. This deck was brought to the TGS Anniversary by Tian Fa Mun, and although they weren’t able to reach the Top 8, they did manage a solid 6-2 record for a 13th place finish overall. Historic decks built around Doom Foretold have showed up in the format from time to time, but it’s unusual to see them perform so well in competitive tournaments.

Despite Tian Fa Mun’s list running four copies of Doom Foretold, Esper Yorion does seem like the proper name for the deck given that it is absolutely chock-full of cards that synergize with Yorion, Sky Nomad. In addition to running Yorion as companion, the 3 other copies are found in the main deck, and besides a handful of removal spells, every card in the main deck is a juicy target for a Yorion blink. The list includes a number of powerful planeswalkers with attractive minus abilities such as Kaya, Orzhov Usurper and Narset, Parter of Veils. Additionally, blinkable enchantments such as Oath of Kaya and Trial of Ambitions provide repeatable removal and value. This list also runs four copies of Demonic Pact purely for value with no intention of using Harmless Offering-style effects. Instead, Doom Foretold and Yorion are used as the primary outlets for getting rid of or resetting the Pact before it causes a loss, with Vanishing Verse serving as a less-optimal backup plan.

This is a deck that I’ll probably be giving a shot on Arena myself, as anyone who has read previous A Pinch of Spice articles featuring Yorion decks probably knows I have a soft spot for the Blinky Sky Noodle. The sideboard mostly includes tools for control matchups like Dovin's Veto and Shark Typhoon, as the maindeck seems pretty decent against aggro. There are a few extra cards to help out against the fast decks as well, specifically 3 Cry of the Carnarium and 2 Baffling End– a card which can also be blinked with Yorion if giving the opponent a 3/3 is better than letting them keep their on-board threat.

There are no Honorable Mentions this time around, as I felt that I covered pretty much all of the decks I wanted to this time around, and they all performed well to boot. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you in the next installment of A Pinch of Spice!

Paul

Dude from Vermont who likes to play Magic and Escape from Tarkov. Musician, writer, and gamer. Submit feedback or corrections to @Paul on the Discord.

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