Top 8 Tech: SCG Richmond Open (5/19)

The SCG Richmond Open was the first Standard event at which WAR was legal and the decklists did not disappoint. As expected, Planeswalkers were everywhere and Mono-Red surged. Yesterday’s article pulled together the data on the Top 32 decklists. Today we are taking a closer look at the Top 8 decklists and the new technology they featured in their winning runs.  All decklists are available here.

Bant Midrange: Oketra, Vivien, and Teferi
Despite this deck being a rare choice, and not a known quantity pre-WAR, Briksza and Firer clearly made a great pick. They ended up among the Top 8 with their maindecks being identical apart from being one land different and their sideboards being one spell off. WAR was an embarrassment of riches for them bringing God-Eternal Oketra, Threeferi, and new Vivien. Oketra is ruthlessly efficient and in a deck that is almost 50% creatures she will likely be spawning a 4/4 vigilance Zombie every turn. Vivien makes these creatures especially frustrating as they can come down for surprise blocks. Her -2 will find at least one creature 86.9% of the time; the only misses are additional lands and planeswalkers. I am a bit surprised that they chose to run three copies of the Threeferi though as the +1 is virtually useless in this deck. The static ability is useful in many matchups but you will likely only get one use out of the -3. Perhaps that is enough. Out of the board they picked up Dovin’s Veto and Time Wipe. Veto is just brutal against the control decks and Time Wipe trashes opposing creature decks. These additions have given them more game against almost the entire field.

Esper Control: Dovin’s Veto and Tyrant’s Scorn
This was the top archetype pre-WAR so I am not surprised to see it here. I am caught off guard by how little it has been updated though. We may have many new planeswalkers in these colors but none of them support a control deck as well Teferi, Hero of Dominaria does. Allen’s list supplemented him with Narsets and a Liliana. I prefer Magalhaes’ choice to add two copies of Threeferi instead. Outside of that, their lists vary in their removal suites as is typical for control decks. Where they agree is the addition of Dovin’s Veto and Tyrant’s Scorn. Similar to the Bant Midrange entry we see two cards that cover entirely different matchups but do so extremely well. Veto is the ultimate “Nope” against control decks while also being effective against Nexus decks. Tyrant’s Scorn is an ideal removal spell as it will destroy most of the commonly played creatures in the format. Anything that it cannot answer it can at least set back; perhaps running them straight into an Absorb. The sideboards are a bit all over the place but they both utilized a number of Threeferi to shore up the control mirror.

Selesnya Tokens: Gideon Blackblade
This archetype had mostly fallen off in recent months so was surprised to see it among the Top 8. In fact, Kiihne was the only player on it among the Top 32. Honestly, I am not sure what has changed. There were no new token-focused spells in WAR and the metagame is not vastly different. The only new maindeck card is Gideon and honestly I am not in love with it. It is definitely a quality addition as an indestructible 4/4 for three mana. His +1, whichever ability you choose, is best with a large creature while this deck is focused on generating a large number of small creatures. Out of the board they have gained Prison Realm and Return to Nature, which are solid cards but not especially unique effects. I believe that this Top 8 run had more to do with metagame conditions, the raw power of the archetype, and the pilot’s tight play; not the new cards from WAR.

Mono-Red Aggro: Tibalt, Rakish Instigator and Chandra, Fire Artisan
Finally we come to the deck that comprised more than 25% of the Top 32 metagame while taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. So which new cards propelled them? Well that depends on who you ask. They were all in agreement that the sideboard wants two copies of Tibalt. However, Mullen and Gaieski pretty much left it at that. Their mainboards were very typical for the archetype. For card advantage, they went with Risk Factor and Experimental Frenzy respectively. The true innovation came from the eventual trophy-winner, Will Pulliam. For his card advantage engine he chose the full playset of Chandra, Fire Artisan. She is a simple but effective planeswalker, a four drop with four starting loyalty. Her +1 is the impulsive draw we have come to love in recent years and her -7 would best be described an “impulsive hand”. I am a bit bothered that the cards are only playable that turn; even Light Up the Stage gives you an additional turn. All of this is remedied by here static ability though. Every loyalty counter removed from her, in any way, is converted into damage toward a player or Planeswalker. So attacking or burning her is a perilous task and her -7 is also a Fireball for seven. I could be wrong but I think this pretty lady will settle the debate for Mono-Red players on the optimal card advantage slot.

Wrap-Up
It appears that WAR Standard is, for the most part, Ravnica Allegiance with each deck adding a couple Planeswalkers. Personally, I enjoy that quite a bit. How does your deck deal with the influx of Planeswalkers? Are there any new cards that you think are being overlooked? We would love to talk it over in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We are currently polling for a Modern Horizons wish list so join up and submit your pics. We will be back tomorrow with an 8 Whack deck guide. Until then my friends.

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