Perilous_Research

Three Heads, One Leash

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The letter W!elcome back to Perilous Research! Today, we'll be preparing ourselves for any and all Standard action going down this weekend. We'll be looking at the current Standard metagame in an effort to design a new and powerful Standard strategy for this weekend's tournament, whether it's a premier-level event like Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth or your local Friday Night Magic.

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The weekend before last, Owen Turtenwald made history by winning his second Grand Prix in as many weeks in Albuquerque. The Top 8 in Albuquerque was dominated by two distinct archetypes: mono-blue and mono-black decks have firmly established themselves as the decks to beat in the current Standard format.

Samuel Pardee's Mono-Blue Devotion
Standard – 2nd Place, Grand Prix Albuquerque


Owen Turtenwald's Mono-Black Devotion
Standard – Winner, Grand Prix Albuquerque


Going forward, we can expect control strategies to enjoy some level of success in the coming weeks. The latest versions of Esper tend to fare well against Mono-Black Devotion and Mono-Blue Devotion strategies are weak to most decks that include Supreme Verdict. The Esper Control deck plays a lot of cards that interact with the board and makes it difficult for an opponent to establish any sort of devotion presence. Let's take a look at William Jensen's Esper list from Grand Prix Louisville:

William Jensen's Esper Control
Standard – Top 8, Grand Prix Louisville


One of the more interesting strategies that's been popping up as of late is a version of the Esper Control deck that combines the most powerful elements of that strategy with the best cards from the Mono-Blue Devotion deck. This deck was first brought to my attention by Jonathon Job, a pilot of interesting decks that routinely do quite well. A lot of players are wary of playing with a lot of the less-than-stellar one-drops we see in Mono-Blue Devotion decks, and this version of the deck allows them to play more cards that are independently strong without having to sacrifice the closing power of Thassa, God of the Sea or Master of Waves. This deck's inconsistent mana can mean that it might not be the best choice for a large tournament like Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth, especially if we don't have any byes. However, if you're planning on entering an event with single-digit Swiss rounds then this is probably the strongest deck in a vacuum, considering the current state of the format.


Jacob Van Lunen's Esper (Blue) Devotion
Standard – Top 8, Grand Prix Louisville


These are established decks that we can expect to do well this weekend, but I'd like to brew up something new and exciting. The popularity of Mono-Black Devotion has been pushing me further and further toward the ever-fluffy and adorable Underworld Cerberus. Underworld Cerberus is one of the strongest available cards against decks like Esper Control and Black Devotion; these decks aim to grind us out of the game with one-for-one removal spells and big card advantage swings via Underworld Connections; Jace, Architect of Thought; or Sphinx's Revelation. Scooping up a pile of creatures from our graveyard usually puts these opponents in a pretty awkward spot. It's a shame we don't have access to a Flametongue Kavu or something like it, but the creatures we do have available are very strong and should give us a worthwhile deck to get started with. Underworld Cerberus should be easy to trade for even as a mythic rare. Grab some unplayed copies out of your friend's binder; everyone loves a good rescue dog.

If we're playing with Underworld Cerberus, then we should probably be packing a full play set of Scavenging Ooze. It's a good card as it is, but removing the contents of our opponent's graveyard will be very important if we plan on resolving our Underworld Cerberus. We'll probably be grateful for the large body and lifegain, too, especially in creature matchups that require a lot of combat interaction.


We want our deck to be packing a lot of creatures and one of the best ways to achieve this goal is to play a lot of mana producers that give us explosive starts. Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid may be a liability for many of the decks in Standard when facing off against Supreme Verdict, but a deck that's playing Underworld Cerberus will be able to recoup that loss easily by simply letting its best creature die. We'll be playing a lot of Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid in this deck.

Reaper of the Wilds is a very powerful card. It's not as strong as it was for Pro Tour Theros, when the Standard format's removal spells of choice were Mizzium Mortars and Doom Blade. Still, the card gives us a great body and plenty of relevant text for only four mana. I'm a big fan of this card and I'll be happy to play a good number of it if I'm going to try out this color combination.


Desecration Demon is still one of the best four-mana creatures in Standard. As it turns out, 6/6 fliers for four mana are extremely powerful, even if they do have a drawback. The drawback on Desecration Demon ends up helping us stack our library if we're ever in a situation where we want to be applying pressure with Desecration Demon while we hold down the fort with something like Reaper of the Wilds or another large ground body.

Dreg Mangler lets us charge at our opponent as early as the third turn. This deck really wants to apply pressure quickly. Getting the opponent to play defensively gives us an opportunity to stick a relevant Underworld Cerberus.


I'm going to have access to a lot of mana if I'm playing three colors and a lot of Elvish Mystics and Sylvan Caryatids. I can already dump my mana into Underworld Cerberus, but we'd like to have other big spells of relevance. Sire of Insanity and Polukranos, World Eater both seem like great cards to fill this role. Polukranos, World Eater is good enough that we may want to be playing additional copies, perhaps over some number of Desecration Demons or Reaper of the Wilds. Sire of Insanity is fine as a one-of in the main deck; it gives our deck a lot of very strong plays and it can be especially backbreaking when we're ahead on the board.

We'll need some removal spells if we want to stand a chance against Mono-Blue with a deck like this. A healthy mix of Dreadbore, Ultimate Price, and Abrupt Decay should do the job.


Here's what the final list looks like when we shove all these decks together.


We should be pretty happy to end up against Mono-Black with a deck like this. Underworld Cerberus makes the game incredibly difficult for decks that are leaning on a lot of removal spells. The deck should perform reasonably well against most opponents. We can further develop this deck in the coming weeks to evolve alongside the metagame.

Next week, we'll take a look at Standard as a whole. Be sure to find a convenient Friday Night Magic event near you if you haven't already. FNM is a great opportunity to meet people, trade, and step up your game to the next level. I'll be in Dallas this weekend; I look forward to hoping that Underworld Cerberus has its day in the sun in the not-too-distant future.




 
Jacob Van Lunen
Jacob Van Lunen
@JVLTMS
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Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published.

 
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