Makings of a Standard (A Guide to MYOS) - Part Two

Written by Eldariel on July 27, 2008

Making of a Standard Part Two – Metagame

Welcome back to Makings of a Standard! When I last left you, we had finished a quick look at what this mysterious MYOS actually is. We also took a quick peek at the deck construction process inherent to this format. If you missed the last part, go ahead and give it a quick read through here:

This time we’ll delve deeper into the world of MYOS decks in terms of both, metagame decks you can expect to see, and some homegrown creations for those of you to play, who prefer playing to deck building. Basically, the whole article is just a huge bunch of decks and comments on them, so enjoy!

MYOS Metagame

Well, seeing that this is Magic-League we are talking about, a large partition of the decks is of course completely random. You might end up seeing anything, but thanks to the Invitationals, the two MYOS Trials we’ve had and the fact that decks from minis are easily viewable, there is a metagame to speak of. The following list of decks is a list of things you will most probably see in any given tournament:

Chimera (Urza/Mercadian Masques/6th)
Main Deck Sideboard
2 High Market
2 Phyrexian Tower
2 Thran Quarry
4 City of Brass
4 Brushland
9 Forest
4 Academy Rector
3 Priest of Titania
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Ashnod's Altar
2 Enlightened Tutor
1 Heart of Ramos
3 Saproling Burst
4 Saproling Cluster
3 Duress
1 Blaze
4 Fecundity
1 Thran Quarry
1 Duress
1 Blaze
2 Absolute Law
1 Aura Fracture
1 Light of Day
1 Planar Void
1 Seal of Cleansing
2 Worship
4 Defense Grid

Set choices: It’s a former T2 deck, so not much has been reworked. Urza and Masques are needed for the engine cards and core set doesn’t offer much either way; 6th offers Enlightened Tutor, which is quite important for putting the combo together.

Tiago Chan’s Invitationals-deck is actually a real Standard-deck from the days of yore and since it won the only MYOS Trial ever held around here, it’s a common sight in any given MYOS mini. Basically, it’s a combo-deck that gets Ashnod’s Altar, Saproling Cluster and Fecundity in play, generates infinite mana (make a token, sac for 2, pay 1 to make another token, etc.) and kills you with Blaze to the face. Failing that, the deck can also simply go beatdown with Saproling Burst, which works nicely against just about everything, plopping out a bunch of big tokens and hitting the face.

The deck is very vulnerable to graveyard hate, as Fecundity cannot trigger with anything like Leyline of the Void in play rendering the combo useless, and a Needle on Saproling Cluster also stops the deck cold. The huge advantage the deck has is that most people don’t know how it works and thus don’t know how to combat it. If you just have enchantment/artifact removal or graveyard-hate (or god forbid, counters) available, you should have little trouble here. Just be aware of the deck; surprise-factor really brings it the most of its wins. To hurt the deck, you especially want to aim at Fecundity, which is their primary engine, and their colored mana supply, which is at a premium. Cards like Leyline of the Void, Samurai of the Pale Curtain and Disenchant-effects are all valuable

Wake (Odyssey/Onslaught/9th)
Main Deck Sideboard
3 Brushland
2 Flooded Strand
3 Forest
7 Island
4 Krosan Verge
4 Plains
4 Skycloud Expanse
3 Mirari's Wake
3 Moment's Peace
1 Circular Logic
4 Wrath of God
2 Vengeful Dreams
3 Renewed Faith
3 Compulsion
1 Mirari
4 Mana Leak
4 Deep Analysis
2 Decree of Justice
3 Cunning Wish
1 Moment's Peace
1 Circular Logic
1 Ray of Distortion
1 Wing Shards
1 Stifle
2 Ray of Revelation
3 Morningtide
1 Krosan Reclamation
1 Hunting Pack
2 Exalted Angel
1 Sphere of Law

Set choices: This is again an old T2 deck so it used the appropriate blocks to put the key cards together and chosen a core set with Mana Leak and painlands. Surprisingly uninteresting process overall.

A bunch of control-enthusiast pros played Wake at the Invitationals, to poor finishes. This is a former Standard-deck too, obviously control that tries to resolve Mirari’s Wake and abuse the extra mana it generates, while utilising the boost-effect with cycled Decree of Justice. Here on Magic-League, the deck has done rather well, taking second at the Trial and being a rather popular choice in minis. It’s your classic control-deck that’s built to destroy creature-decks, but having issues against most other things due to the low counter count. If Wake sticks, the deck explodes all over the map, making a bunch of tokens with Decree of Justice and just winning.

Given time, it’ll set up Mirari with Cunning Wish to with for Wish and any SB-card every turn, generating an infinite loop to get any card it wants every turn. It also plays enough lands to never be manascrewed. It’s a really solid deck overall against other aggro and control, but mostly sucks against combo-decks – the correct angle to attack it is through spells; this deck has little in terms of stack interaction outside Mana Leaks, so strategies that can destroy it through sorceries and instants tend to be able to trump it. Also, it’s worth noting that the players around the league aren’t usually good enough to really pilot the deck to its true potential. I wouldn’t suggest you play this as the deck has a blind spot against many major decks of the format (anything graveyard-based, most combo-decks and aggro with finishers), but make sure you know how to play against it.

Tooth (Mirrodin/Time Spiral/7th)
Main Deck Sideboard
4 City of Brass
2 Plains
5 Forest
1 Academy Ruins
2 Glimmervoid
4 Cloudpost
4 Vesuva
1 Brushland
1 Magma Giant
1 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Triskelion
3 Birds of Paradise
2 Duplicant
1 Darksteel Colossus
1 Platinum Angel
1 Sundering Titan
1 Razormane Masticore
1 Bringer of the White Dawn
3 Sunlance
3 Talisman of Impulse
1 Fireball
3 Talisman of Unity
3 Sylvan Scrying
3 Reap and Sow
4 Tooth and Nail
2 Mindslaver
2 Harmonize
3 Rule of Law
3 Tormod's Crypt
3 Wrath of God
3 Circle of Protection: Red
3 Disenchant

Set choices: This one should be obvious – Mirrodin has Cloudpost and Time Spiral has Vesuva. The rest is just putting together stuff to do with the mana (where Mirrodin and TSP both have good contributions) and choosing a base set that fits as many holes as possible. Kamigawa would be a solid option if going for Urzatron-build instead as Kamigawa has Boseiju, Who Shelters All along with Sakura-Tribe Elder, Sensei’s Divining Top and Kodama’s Reach. 7th is great for sideboarding with CoP: Red, Disenchant and Birds of Paradise for the main.

A HolieCows creation on Magic-League, this is the 3rd place deck from the Trial and the only Top 3 deck not from the Invitationals. This is classic Tooth and Nail with the exception that it uses the 8-Post basis instead of Urzatron. Thanks to Vesuvas, the deck is extremely consistent and combos out turn 3-4; unfortunately it lacks in means to tutor for Tooth, but it makes up for that with a set of different insane artifacts to vomit on the board with all the mana.

It’s a solid deck and nothing in the format can claim an extremely high win percentage for it; treat it as a combo-deck for all intents and purposes. The combo-pieces are the lands, if that’s what you want to attack, so LD is obviously solid against it, as is just plain fast goldfish. Let it work its groove though and life can be hard. Mindslaver Recursion, Duplicants, Darksteel, etc. are things you just don’t want to deal with. If you’re playing permission, you need to get a threat down fast, counter his big spells while letting mana resolve and kill him before Academy Recursion gets you.

Goblins (Onslaught/Urza’s Saga/10th)
Main Deck Sideboard
2 Shivan Gorge
2 Goblin Burrows
7 Mountain
4 Karplusan Forest
1 Forest
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Matron
1 Goblin Pyromancer
2 Skirk Prospector
2 Clickslither
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
2 Clickslither
4 Naturalize
4 Pithing Needle
2 Sparksmith
2 Incinerate

Set choices: This is easy. You get all the cards that make Goblins worth playing from Onslaught (Warchief, Piledriver, Incinerator, Siege-Gang Commander), some tools to speed the lot up from Urza (Lackey, Matron) and Mogg Fanatic from 10th. Since we’re talking about Goblins, all that matters are the Goblins. The other choice would be going with Invasion for Goblin Ringleader over Urza, and with 7th to retain Matron, but that costs two good 1-drops. For the record, Lorwyn Goblins just pale in comparison to Onslaught and don’t offer any of the bombtasticness of Warchief, Piledriver, Lackey, Matron or Ringleader, so Lorwyn offers relatively little.

This is my own list for Urza-block Goblins, which seems to be the more popular flavour of Goblins here. I personally prefer taking Invasion for Goblin Ringleader and I think it’s superior, but I guess people are attracted to the random wins Goblin Lackey generates, and it’s not a bad deck by any stretch of imagination. Since it doesn’t have Ringleader, the deck packs 4 SGCs and 2 Clickslithers for midgame power instead, and it’s definitely a power to reckon with throughout the game. The deck is able to start threatening you from turn 1 with Skirk Prospector or Goblin Lackey accelerating into Warchiefs and Siege-Gang Commanders early on, and in midgame with Slithers and Siege-Gang Commander.

The deck lacks a card advantage engine like Ringleader though so as long as you have sweepers, spot removal and preferably counters to stop the nasty comes-into-play abilities of Matron and Siege-Gang Commander, you should be fine. Also, big, fast, fat beats is the usual solution to Goblins and it works here too, even more so since they can’t burrow you under a stream of cards come midgame and Ringleader stream. Note that some Urza-Goblins run Bidding, some run Armageddon from 5th, sacrificing Mogg Fanatic giving them scary midgame Sorceries you don’t want resolving. Their mana tends to be poor though and most of them play too few lands, so you can generally count on them throwing one game away due to mana problems. Those factors make those builds easier to handle (also note that not all players splash green for Naturalize to deal with Plague like they should), but it pays to be prepared for the worst. So yea, big fast beats, recurring field control (with Lackey answers) or stronger engine than what they’ve got is what it takes to win here.

If considering the deck for playing, another option is to play Invasion and 7th over 10th and Urza, losing Fanatic, Shivan Gorge and Lackey, but gaining Ringleader. That boosts your midgame power immensely, but slows you down. It’s an interesting tradeoff; I personally go with Ringleader to overpower the decks in the format as opposed to outspeeding them, but I could see arguments both ways.

UW Fish (Kamigawa/Ice Age/8th)
Main Deck Sideboard
4 Adarkar Wastes
2 Boreal Shelf
8 Island
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge
2 Plains
3 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
3 Savannah Lions
4 Jotun Grunt
2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
4 Ninja of the Deep Hours
4 Counterbalance
4 Counterspell
4 Force of Will
3 Sensei's Divining Top
4 Swords to Plowshares
3 Umezawa's Jitte
4 Brainstorm
4 Descendant of Kiyomaro
3 Hokori, Dust Drinker
4 Pithing Needle
4 Hydroblast

Set choices: I presume it hasn’t been hard. Ice Age has all the good fishy control tools, while Kamigawa has the beaters, Jitte and Top to go with Counterbalance. The core set doesn’t contribute much either way, so I’m guessing they rolled 8th by random.

Stephen Menendian’s Invitationals-list was way more popular before the Trial, but after its lackluster performance, it has steadily been losing popularity. Make no mistake, the deck is as potent as it seems packing the best removal in the game, Countertop which has been known to dominate stronger formats, and Force of Will itself, no more or less. It also has Jitte to dominate creature combat. The deck is quite difficult to pilot and has quite a bunch of mana issues though so while it’s hard to pinpoint the deck’s weaknesses (outside ‘higher curve aggro’), it’s not that hard to beat really. It’s going to lose a lot because of mana issues and a lot more due to incompetent pilots (if players don’t know how to optimally utilize Brainstorm and Top, the deck suddenly can’t win).

When it works, it plays out like Vintage Fish though and it’s definitely a deck to be aware of as it’s basically the only deck capable of utilizing Counterbalance in this format. It’s even a deck I could suggest playing, although the lack of means to control graveyard is a problem. Samurai of the Pale Curtain should be on the SB at the very least. Smennen himself suggested Pale Curtain over Needle on the SB. The deck is not a format wrecker, but in capable hands ([i]know how to play your Brainstorms![/i]) it can boast quite solid match-ups across the board.

Rec Sur (Tempest/Urza/10th)
Main Deck Sideboard
2 Sulfurous Springs
1 Volrath's Stronghold
4 Llanowar Wastes
2 Karplusan Forest
2 Swamp
1 Mountain
10 Forest
1 Deranged Hermit
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Palinchron
4 Avalanche Riders
3 Yavimaya Elder
3 Llanowar Elves
1 Priest of Gix
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
2 Wall of Blossoms
2 Yavimaya Granger
1 Thrull Surgeon
1 Spike Feeder
2 Oath of Ghouls
4 Duress
4 Survival of the Fittest
4 Recurring Nightmare
1 Thrull Surgeon
2 Spike Feeder
1 Oath of Ghouls
3 Naturalize
4 Planar Void
3 Diabolic Edict
1 Viridian Shaman

Set choices: This again uses two sets that form an old Standard to avoid having to rework the deck. 10th does improve the deck upon its standard predecessors though, giving it Squee, Naturalize, enemy-color pains and Viridian Shaman among others.

Yet another Invitationals-list and yet another old Standard-deck, this is a combo-deck around two power enchantments, as the name suggest: Recurring Nightmare and Survival of the Fittest. Thanks to the removal of its errata, Palinchron allows you to produce infinite mana with Recurring Nightmare and Priest of Gix and that’s basically what the deck is built to do. Those cards fetch you all the mana you want, then you can just recur Avalanche Riders enough to kill opponent’s lands and eventually Spike Feeder enough to make all your guys Big/Big and swing in for the kill. The deck is powerful although it suffers a lot in the hands of Pithing Needle which so fittingly appears in 10th and Kamigawa, making it readily available for most players. This is really a combo-deck, so removing the combo-pieces (creatures and enchantments) is the key to containing it.

Anyways, you really don’t want them to have both, Survival and Recurring Nightmare going, and generally you should aim to shut down Nightmare given the choice, since it’s really hard to do anything about Nightmare once it gets going; you can’t Disenchant it at any point unless they make a mistake. This deck has been getting less popular of late, but it’s still played and it’s a very potent engine, just one with little room for error so in the hands of most Magic-League players, it’s not a very frightening pile. The few solid pilots will do ugly things with it though. Pithing Needle is a superb card for combating it.

Also note that Zerotlr on Magic-League built a Living Death/Rec Sur-build which seems to be pretty popular right now. Same factors apply, except of course, Survival is lethal much faster with Living Death and they’ve also got a sweeper. For reference, here’s the list:

Living Rec Sur (Tempest/Time Spiral/10th)
Main Deck Sideboard
2 Reflecting Pool
1 Volrath's Stronghold
8 Forest
1 Swamp
3 Gemstone Mine
4 Llanowar Wastes
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Island
1 Plains
1 Mountain
2 Spike Feeder
1 Spike Weaver
1 Thrull Surgeon
1 Tradewind Rider
2 Wall of Blossoms
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Nekrataal
1 Harmonic Sliver
3 Wall of Roots
1 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
3 Tarmogoyf
1 Augur of Skulls
1 Civic Wayfinder
1 Doomed Necromancer
4 Recurring Nightmare
4 Survival of the Fittest
3 Living Death
1 Spike Feeder
1 Harmonic Sliver
2 Augur of Skulls
2 Krosan Grip
1 Stingscourger
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1 Withered Wretch
1 Avalanche Riders
2 Tormod's Crypt
1 Akroma, Angel of Fury
1 Voidstone Gargoyle
1 Razormane Masticore

Set choices: This one uses Time Spiral for everyone’s beloved Tarmogoyf over nonsense choices, along with few potent reanimation targets for Living Death. Urza doesn’t really offer all that much, so the tradeoff is probably worth it.

Playing against it is much the same as playing against the Invitationals Rec Sur-list, but this build has a more robust aggro-plan in Tarmogoyfs and a game winning Sorcery in Living Death. I’d suggest to actually play that list rather than the Invitationals-list for all your Survival-needs since it’s somewhat easier to pilot, not winning with a complicated combo, but simple beatdown. The lack of combo can be a pain though if the deck doesn’t win quick enough. Still, provided that you don’t feel an expert in Rec Sur of the yore, this is going to win more.

Narcobridges (Ravnica/Time Spiral/7th)
Main Deck Sideboard
4 Breeding Pool
2 Forest
2 Island
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Swamp
4 Underground River
2 Watery Grave
3 Drowned Rusalka
2 Flame-Kin Zealot
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
1 Golgari Thug
4 Greenseeker
4 Magus of the Bazaar
4 Narcomoeba
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Bridge from Below
3 Dread Return
4 Glimpse the Unthinkable
4 Tolarian Winds
1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
3 Boomerang
3 Darkblast
4 Duress
2 Extirpate
1 Life from the Loam
1 Svogthos, the Restless Tomb

Set choices: Well, you obviously need Ravnica for Dredge and Time Spiral for Narco-stuff. 7th contributes more than other core sets with Tolarian Winds.

That’s right, Dredge exists in MYOS and it’s played in numbers. This is Shota Yasooka’s list from the Invitationals, but peoples’ mileage may vary; point is, a ton of dredge outlets, Bridges, Dread Returns and Narcomoebas. Some builds choose Odyssey over Time Spiral, which gives you a more conservative Ichorid-game, but Narcobridges seem to be the more popular variant at the present. You beat the deck same as ever; deal with the Bridges and hit their graveyard. Narcobridges 2-1d at the Invitationals, and Frank Karsten’s Ichorid 3-0d so the deck is definitely worthy of your respect and when you build a MYOS-deck, it’s worth dedicating 4 slots in the sideboard to beat graveyard-decks.

That may not be enough, but at least it gives you game. Both, Narcobridges and Ichorid are very fast (for the format) combo-like decks that you beat you to submission ASAP. The goldfish should be turn 3-4 for both, but disrupted obviously slower. There isn’t really much to say about the deck that hasn’t already been said; it’s solid, be aware of it and have a plan to beat it. You may also play it, but then you need to be prepared to face graveyard hate almost every round. Others will be smooth sailing though.

For comparison, here’s Frank Karsten’s Ichorid, giving up Time Spiral with Bridge, Narcomoeba and Dread Return for Odyssey with Ichorid, Deep Analysis, Cabal Therapy, Wonder, Cephalid Coliseum and Zombie Infestation.

Ichorid (Ravnica/Odyssey/7th)
Main Deck Sideboard
4 Cephalid Coliseum
3 Island
1 Riftstone Portal
6 Swamp
4 Underground River
4 Watery Grave
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
1 Golgari Thug
4 Ichorid
4 Psychatog
4 Putrid Imp
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Wonder
4 Cabal Therapy
3 Careful Study
3 Deep Analysis
3 Tolarian Winds
3 Zombie Infestation
1 Coffin Purge
1 Darkblast
3 Duress
3 Engineered Plague
3 Firemane Angel
3 Leyline of the Void
1 Ray of Revelation

Set choices: The reasonings are the same as before, but Karsten chooses the oldschool graveyard game of Odyssey over the modern Narcobridge version.

These two decks basically just differ with which graveyard block they strive to abuse. Personally I would feat Karsten’s deck more if only because Cabal Therapy can rip your answers before you have a chance to use them, and because this deck has more robust engine once things hit grave. Another strong reason to go with this is the fact that it has a better manabase (including one very potent utility land too), while Yasooka’s list seemed to have mana trouble when I tested it.

I think that about concludes the predictable part of the meta. To recap:
Chimera, Wake, Tooth, Goblins, UW Fish, Rec Sur, Narcobridges, Ichorid and various T2-decks such as Doran and Faeries (there’re MYOS versions of them, but I’m not listing them in Meta since they aren’t really that played. Instead of testing against all the mentioned decks though, it’s less trouble to simply make sure your deck can deal with the strategies those decks represent. With that in mind, here’s what you need to be prepared for:

-    Turn 3-4 winning combo based on permanents. Most combo-decks need permanents to win so not having the tools to control the stack isn’t as big a problem in MYOS as it is in e.g. Legacy. The decks are still relatively fast so you need means to deal with them.
-    Engine-decks that take over turn 3-4, such as Survival of the Fittest and Recurring Nightmare. You need means to deal with such engines or win faster.
-    Aggressive decks with turn 3-4 goldfish and 4-5 mana sorceries that end the game if they resolve. This would be Goblins, or perhaps White Weenie or similar.
-    Turn 5-6 aggro/control packing some board control, cheap threats and countermagic. You need to be prepared to win vs. Force of Will, Swords to Plowshares and Counterbalance/Sensei’s Divining Top.
-    Control-decks with light countermagic and varied answers seeking to grind the match to midgame and outdraw you there.
-    Turn 3-4 graveyard-based decks. You need a plan to deal with Bridge-based Narcobridges, and the more traditional Ichorid. You can try to stop their discard outlets and win before the plan of “draw 8, discard” kicks in, but more probably you’ll want to pack some heavy graveyard hate on the sideboard.

As should be apparent, the fundamental turn of the format is around 3-4; that’s when you want your groove to have kicked in. Also note that stack control is NOT necessary due to the fact that Storm-combo is really hard to build with this cardpool, especially with Urza-block neutered by tons of bannings. So a deck is fully capable of competing if it has:
-    Means of dealing with a number of permanents (fast) and graveyard
-    Average turn 4 goldfish, or faster.
-    Means of slowing the game down to midgame and dominating the present midgame decks of the format.
-    Means to beat down while disrupting the opponent, through mana disruption, discard, counters or whatever.

The fact that there’re so many ways of succeeding in MYOS means there’re tons of ways to build competitive decks. Next segment will cover a dozen more or less competitive decks you could play in MYOS (if you don’t feel like building one of your own), depending on what suits your fancy.

Part three will follow with a deck mishmash!

Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

by Eldariel on 2008-07-27 12:44 CET

Part two was originally both, the deck mishmash and the metagame listing. Unfortunately, that was twice longer than the site likes so I've split it in two. That also means there will be a fourth part, likely in a week once I get home. Enjoy!

by JohnRambo on 2008-07-27 13:06 CET

And how much lands not to be manscrewed?

by Eldariel on 2008-07-27 13:09 CET

To not be manscrewed, you need a LOT of mountains to run to. As far as manascrewed goes, playing a deck that can support 27 lands without worrying about floods goes a long way.

by Zerotlr on 2008-07-27 15:33 CET

Nice, now this article is officialy more complete than menedian's. I sorta dislike the way you destroy the m-l "pilots" thou, esp since is the target audience :p.

About survival, i chosed TSP mainly for Wall of roots and the toolbox critters/sb options and there was tarmo so..

I disagree about the neglecting of SB agaisnt Dragon Storm, is a powerfulk combo in MYOS and is hard to stop even with counters, it has won the latest minis with little opposition.

by Vimes on 2008-07-28 00:20 CET

The whole thing about bashing M-L players is a non-issue, since Everyone will read it and go: "Oh yah, he's talking about all those other players." xP

by Eldariel on 2008-08-02 01:42 CET

Zero: I'd rather think I'm giving M-L players sound advice; they simply aren't going to do as well with something like Combo Rec Sur as with something more straightforward like WW.

Also, Dragon Stompy was only played by yours truly before these articles. Now, of course this may have changed, but the exact changes are something I could not predict so the metagame just covered what you could expect to see BEFORE. Since metagame is an evolving entity, one always needs to adapt.

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