MagicFest Online Week 1 Monday Qualifier Highlights and Metagame Breakdown
Monday Qualifier Metagame Breakdown
|Deck Archetype||# of Decks||% of Decks|
|Mono Red Aggro||92||16.2|
The top 10 decks of this tournament form about 85% of the contenders so let’s talk about each of those briefly, and then we’ll move onto some weirder, wackier, and sweeter showings for you brew-lovers out there! Compare to the breakdown from MagicFest Lyon earlier this month, and you’ll see less variation in decks and more people sticking to the solid choices, which makes sense as it’s later in the season and so the format is closer to being “solved” (but it’s still a little boring; be thankful that Ikoria is just around the corner!).
Mono Red comes back in full force this tournament, being the most popular deck despite having tapered off the best-of-three ladder a bit. With Standard having gotten greedier and greedier as of late, it seems a lot of people had the same classic idea: while they’re trying to outvalue each other, go under them! With main rival Rakdos Sac also having a big showing, we’ll see who wins this next battle in the ongoing campaign to find the best aggro deck!
It’s no surprise to see Jeskai Fires having a big showing, just as during the recent Mythic Invitational qualifier. With a decent aggro matchup and solid game against most of the field, expect to see them do well here, at least if Temur Rec & Simic Flash don’t bring them down too much!
Counterspell-heavy decks are classically good at preying on Jeskai Fires, so it’s not too surprising to see people try to attack the meta from that angle. I suspect Reclamation is still substantially better than Simic Flash, as Simic Flash has a horrendous aggro matchup.
Azorius Control has struggled ever since it became the lone wolf’s first victim (see the bulky Temur Adventures paragraph below!), playing second fiddle to the ramp decks lately, but it does have a better matchup than those decks against both Fires and Aggro so it’s re-emergence makes a lot of sense. Still, many of the decks in this tournament play a far better value game so it might have a rough time…
The other war of the rivals, between the two big Nissa/Uro decks of the format, is fairly even in terms of popularity with Bant beating Sultai out by a little bit, as has been the case throughout this month. For a breakdown of the advantages/disadvantages the two decks have over each other, see MTGAZone’s last Metagame Update!
Will the lone wolf, Temur Adventures, leap out the bushes fangs abare to steal another tournament? The deck has been a very solid choice (on the ladder too if you’re LittleBeep himself) with its combination of a solid anti-aggro plan in its big creatures and a savage value game which decks like Azorius Control really struggle with, but has been held back by being very hard to play, being very dependent on drawing Clover, and people not having much practice with it. Being really bad against the card Nissa doesn’t help; your only answers are through Fae of Wishes and they tend to be very awkward things like Domri’s Ambush and Mass Manipulation… (remember that Aether Gust on their draw step can buy you a turn also). The adoption of maindeck Enchantment/Artifact removal in a lot of decks could also be a problem for it, from Knight of Autumn in Bant, to Casualties of War in Sultai to maindeck Disenchant and Heliod’s Intervention in Fires.
Still, in the weeks since Dreamhack Anaheim, plenty of people have taken up Aaron’s mantle so it’s likely to be a very strong contender, especially since it really doesn’t care about counterspells and this tournament has lots of those. I have to say I’ll be rooting for it myself over the 9 other major decks; I’m a sucker for Escape to the Wilds…
The final deck is perhaps the coolest and most out there one! A Martin Juza innovation, Azorius Blink looks to use the combo of Agent of Treachery + Thassa, Deep-Dwelling to overwhelm the value decks by stealing their creatures, their planeswalkers, their hopes, and their dreams. It combines this with decent disruption for aggro in Alirios, Enraptured and Deputy of Detention, and the overwhelming power of Dream Trawler which can easily overwhelm decks without wraths or Hydroid Krases.
Overall, I’m really looking forward to seeing how all these battles of the Titans play out, and which decks emerge as top dog! You can find all the 6-0 and 5-1 decklists here. Enjoy!
Without further ado, it’s time for some spectacular innovations; here are some off-meta decks that are both unquestionably sweet and had really impressive finishes:
Warning: I don’t think the results of one tournament are enough to say a deck is conclusively good or bad, so I wouldn’t recommend making aggressive crafting decisions unless you’re certain one of these is what you want. This is purely a showcase of cool decks, not necessarily those which are about to singlehandedly tear the meta apart!
Well, let’s start things off by really cooking with gas! The decklist might say Sultai Ramp, but that’s only true in a technical sense… AliasV took down her qualifier with the old Quasiduplicate-Agent of Treachery combo, but with some Elemental friends and Command the Dreadhorde for added spice; a true amalgam of old faces left by the wayside from last year. I wasn’t expecting someone to pour a jug of nectarous nostalgia into today’s spicy brews, and am all the happier for it! Yarok + Agent of Treachery is a truly tremendous combo and as long as you’re playing against slow midrange decks that don’t have much removal, you’re doing great. That being said, I couldn’t really tell you how it beats aggro outside of the sideboard Massacre Girls and the couple of Yaroks (I have my doubts about Healer of the Glade really being up to the job…) but for such a work of art, I’ll happily throw the occasional rank away.
Mono Green Stompy is one of those decks that used to lurk the Bo1 ladder, seeking to catch unsuspecting Aggro players unaware and then crush them with its bigger aggro midrange plan, and with the high density of Mono Red this tournament, it managed to do just that! Cocosisste is here to show you that the horde of Beasts will still have their due and crunch many a Mono Red player today, using the value of the First Iroan Games and The Great Henge to stop yourself losing to sweepers, ever the bane of this sort of deck.
Phew! This looks like one of those Waste Not brews I’ve been messing with in Historic. Using a critical mass of discard to tear their hand apart and then Davriel & Kroxa to burn them down (and net some counters with Knight of the Ebon Legion in the process) is a very cool strategy, and this deck slots neatly into a basic Rakdos aggro shell. I’ll let it slip that I wasn’t expecting to see Vicious Rumors in Constructed today, more fool me!
An Interplanar Beacon afficionado myself, I used to jam all kinds of planeswalker fires builds just a few months ago; the beacon is just a really strong card, ticking away to provide you a ton of life over the course of the game. This deck eschews Fires of Invention in favour of being more of an Esper Control deck that splashes red only for Nicol Bolas, grinding through your opponents with plenty of discard and capitalising on that discard by slamming all manner of annoying planeswalkers. I suspect this strategy wouldn’t perform amazingly against aggro game one, but you can see that bolunzhang99 has dedicated two thirds of their sideboard to rectifying that problem. A tremendous showing from a deck that sneers at other people’s petty attempts at greed and demonstrates the expert approach!
What started out as a Mengucci brew makes its way to the qualifiers! Simic Adventures seeks to make its claim as the best Uro deck of the format, having plenty of ways to put the card directly in the graveyard, and to ensure you can recur it over and over until your opponents truly regret whatever they’ve done to incur this much Nature’s Wrath. Having Tamiyo to dig for Clovers gives you added consistency as compared to Temur Adventures, and with the combination of The Great Henge and Edgewall Innkeeper, you can claim your free Divination every time you play a creature. The deck is still very susceptible to artifact hate, which a lot of people are maindecking, and it is very draw reliant; you’ll feel like a God when you go Clover into Fertile Footsteps and like a peasant when you have the double Merfolk Secretkeeper into nothing game!
While this list might not be as much nutty fun as the others I’ve showed you, it certainly does have some interesting things going on. Back in the old days, this kind of Simic Flash build was much more common – you’d focus primarily on playing a strong pressure game with Wildborn Preserver and eschew distractions like Nissa and Hydroid Krasis. That build fell out of the meta, but it’s entirely possible that red mana was what it was missing; the combination of Bonecrusher Giant and Redcap Melee gives you much better game against aggro, Simic Flash’s greatest weakness, and Ionize rather than Sinister Sabotage perfectly complements your beatdowns. I do ponder whether that’s worth the density of taplands you end up having to play, since that hinders your aggression anyway, along with just having a pretty poor mana base for playing Frilled Mystic on turn 4, but it seems to have worked out well this tournament, and perhaps that’s the direction Simic Flash needs to go in! That being said, I do think it’s a bit odd to play Nissa with no mana sinks, not even Krases in the sideboard…
I’m going to level with you – I thought Kiora Bests the Sea God would see a lot more play (outside of being completely crushing in Draft) alongside Nissa than it has; the card is ludicrously powerful standalone, but I fear the Thassa-Agent of Treachery combo is outshining it somewhat, and that saddens me since I love my Sagas. So imagine my delight on seeing a deck care enough about the Enchantment aspect of the card to relinquish that boring combo for it! Archon of Sun’s Grace is a tremendous card against aggro and this deck puts it to maximum work, spitting out all manner of Pegasi and using Archon Conquers Death to ensure it doesn’t stay away for long. When Bant Ramp becomes Bant Ramp Control, you win just as much and get to have much more fun doing it, is the moral of this story.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned, as I’ll add a few extra decks to the list of innovations as new 6-0 and 5-1 decklists are uploaded here. We’ll be back tomorrow with results from the Tuesday Qualifiers!
Let’s await the Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths shakeup together! In the meantime, we have a lot of things on the agenda over the next few weeks, to help get us through everything going on in the world, from special events (Arena Sealed Cube, anyone?), daily tournaments via MagicFest Online, to the start of the spoiler season for the next set.
Also remember, you can always engage in our growing MTG Arena Zone community: