By Franco Macchia
Hello everyone, welcome to a new magic the gathering online strategy website. I know what you’re thinking, who am I? What the hell is Triple Crown Games? And why shouldn’t I just close this window and head over to Star City Games and get my information from professionals???
Well, no one is telling you not to do that, but I believe more information can’t ever hurt someone as long as it is informed and well presented. I will try to do you that service. I am not a known player unless you’ve visited our small establishment (Triple Crown Games), but I do keep up with the going ons of professional magic play when it involves the standard format. This article is meant to enlighten and add more information to your decision making when it comes to deck building and strategy for the Competitive Standard Constructed environment.
Today’s article will discuss mana bases in the standard, current meta game and discuss my new deck I believe can be and may already be competitive. Mana bases in today’s standard are very different from the last format; this is something that is very important to grasp before building your decks. In the previous format, you were restricted by the number of colors your deck could pull off. So a mana base of 18 blue, 18 black, and 12 white would have allowed you to play both Dissolve and Hero’s Downfall in the same deck and reasonably be able to play both on turn 3. This is no longer the case! If you build a deck, count your land color count and see 18 blue, 18 black and 16 white, you cannot reasonably cast Scatter to the Wind and Ruinous Path on turn three. The reason is that new mana bases are focused on basic lands. So a three color deck will look to have one of each color by turn three and only double of one color (two basic lands and a tango land). If you plan on playing a lot of cards with double color cost, play 2 color decks. If few or none of your cards are double color, then you can start stretching to 3 and 4 color decks. The differences in shard and wedge decks is also very important to pay attention to. Shards will play out much quicker than wedge mana bases, but wedge mana bases allow you to spread out to more colors by using tri-lands.
The meta-game right now is dominated by only a couple of decks:
Esper Control/Dragons, 4-5 color Abzan Control, and Mardu round out the rest of the meta in smaller numbers.
What you’ll notice in the first two decks is the use of small creatures to apply pressure (Hangarback, Warden, Mantis Rider) and a late game plan (Den Protector/Deathmist Raptor and Jace/Ojutai’s Command/Dig Through Time). Even the Atarka red agro deck has a late(r) game combo to win the game.
The deck I have been working on attempts to disrupt their game plan, while having a much stronger end game. Yep, a control deck. But bear with me, as this isn’t your typical control deck. Demonic Pact has been a card I have been interested in since it came out. I tried all of the shells, but none of them really made sense. The card is a control card in the truest sense, and putting it in mid-range decks just didn’t seem to fit. Sultai was where most people have ended up due to sultai charm’s usefulness in the previous format, but with sultai charm being a much worse card in the current format, and sultai not really offering much else we have to look elsewhere. Luckily I read a Patrick Chapin article that discussed the use of Helidar Cub with Ojutai’s Command. This combination made Esper the perfect choice going forward, but now how to build the deck around Pact…
First thing is to consider the mana base for Esper. As discussed above, double color costed cards are tough to play in Esper, and we have to play Pact, so double black is crucial. I’m OK with trying to hit turn 4 double black, but that was as far as I am willing to commit in order to keep the deck as consistent as possible. This removed the options of Scatter to the Wind and Ruinous Path (RP didn’t test well anyways). What I really wanted was a lot of flexible cards that could be used outside of dealing with your own pact.
Silumgar’s Command – Absolutely killer in the current meta game against all slow decks. This is your best way to deal with planeswalkers and can return your pacts. The card is gas.
Ojutai’s Command – Combined with Helidar Cub and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, this card gives you that recurring engine to recast your spells and repeatedly deal with your pacts. It’s also sometimes just a great mode of cryptic command, which you can’t complain about.
Utter End – This is basically the new formats hero’s downfall, only in this deck it also provides insurance if you need to remove your pact.
The other cards you have in the deck that deal with Pact are the previously mentioned Helidar Cub and Disperse. Disperse is a necessary evil in order to truly abuse Demonic Pact; but no it isn’t great when you don’t draw pact.
With the cards above defined, we only need to include some efficient removal (you know, to make sure we can actually survive until turn 5..).
Silkwrap – Extremely efficient and if used on Hangarback Walker can actually provide protection against Dromoka’s Command for your Demonic Pacts. This card has done nothing but impress in testing. And you probably have started to hear about it from pros.
Complete Disregard – You may also be hearing this card gaining some fans in the pro community. I wasn’t a believer until I went to FNM and sat across an Esper Dragons player wielding it. It really made the difference in our match because of its ability to exile Jace. Limiting the effects of my Ojutai’s commands. The card is good.
Murderous Cut – Not much to write about here, card was good before, and still is for all the same reasons.
All that’s left is some sweepers and more card advantage. Insert Dig Through Time and Planar Outburst. Planar Outburst is by far the best sweeper because it can also be a win condition. This deck sometimes needs to close the game out more quickly, and Planar Outburst can be a huge help. It’s also not completely dead against creatureless control decks.
I’ve also added one Fathom Feeder to be more ground blockage, card advantage, and combo with Ojutai’s Command. I only included one because I’m not sold on this card since it doesn’t stop flyers or Den Protector.
Here’s the main deck:
I’m still working on the sideboard, but I do know it will have some level of efficient removal (ultimate price) and efficient counterspells (Dispel, Negate, Disdainful Stroke). It will also have aggro hosers like Arashin Cleric. Most importantly though, I need to find an alternate win condition to side in when I need to speed games up and rely less on Pact. I’m leaning towards Monastery Mentor right now, since I do cast a lot of non-creature spells. But a planeswalker package (Ugin, Ob Nixilis) or Tasigur could also work.
The deck appears to be consistent, but I still haven’t tested against agro decks enough to prove that it can survive until turn 5 on a regular basis.
PS: I feel like a jackass for not noticing this until writing it down today, but Triple Crown Games has initials TCG… Trading Card Games. You’re clever Mike!