I use a few different metrics when looking at the Top 32 metagame. The first is just Raw Volume. The second is Win+, which takes the sum of all wins at X-2 or better in the Swiss and assigns a score; Win+ is helpful in measuring a deck’s Swiss round performance. K-Wins takes all of a deck’s wins and subtracts its losses, Top 8 inclusive; this helps to give a measure of overall performance. The final is one I call True Volume, which takes the average of all three volumes (Actual, Win+, K-Win). This number helps to provide the most robust image of a deck’s performance in the metagame.
There were three challenge level Pauper events on Magic Online this past weekend. There are a lot of threads to tie together from the tournaments so I am going to do my best to break down the highlights.
The Red Decks
I think we have to start at the most glaring thing about the last weekend, and that is the relatively poor performance of the various red decks. These builds tend all feature Monastery Swiftspear, Experimental Synthesizer, Reckless Impulse, and Wrenn’s Resolve. These decks have largely defined the metagame since March of the Machine hit the scene. Combined these archetypes had a cumulative three wins above at X-2 or above across the three events with no Top 8s.
A few things seem to have happened. First, there is not a consensus on the best build of red for the current metagame. Some decks continue to run Kuldotha Rebirth while others have shifted off of metalcraft in favor of Kessig Flamebreather and Thermo-Alchemist. This weekend also saw the return of Dwarven Forge-Chanter to the fold in the archetype listed above as Red Prowess. Each of these builds is vulnerable to different interaction which means that reading the metagame to determine which red deck is ascendant will be a valuable skill moving forward. For the record, I think Kuldotha Red is best next week given how many copies of Chainer’s Edict were running around last weekend.
Both Bogles and Dimir Terror had great weekends and these are two decks that are traditionally good against red. The ability to present a large creature that can pick up lifelink can make life difficult for Lighting Bolt decks. These decks are powerful options that hold up well against red and have the ability to “just win” on the back of their difficult to answer threats.
The Heirs to Gary
Another thread from the weekend was the relatively strong performance of black based midrange. Both Black Gardens and Orzhov Ephemerate had respectable performances. These decks thrive on matching up their removal to the perceived metagame and lean heavily on Chainer’s Edict – a card that can do quite well against Bogles and Dimir Terror. Edict is also much better against the non-Kuldotha rebirth versions of red which just so happened to be the more popular red archetype in the winner’s metagame from last weekend. Both Black Gardens and Orzhov Ephemerate have access to life gain which help their prospects against the more assertive decks in the metagame. Still both can struggle against a strong Faeries draw or decks with powerful recursive Ephemerate engines in the vein of Azorius Familiars or Flicker Tron.
The Sky is Blue
The two best decks on the weekend were Faeries and Dimir Terror. The ability to just say no with Counterspell remains powerful. Faeries put a cap on its fantastic first four weeks with another four trips to the Top 8 with a win for good measure. Dimir Terror had the same number of Top 8s but no win in the same number of Top 32 finishes, but it picked up two additional Swiss wins along the way. Both of these decks ended up with over 12% of the True Volume (only Bogles did better with almost 14% thanks to an 11-0 run in the Showcase).
These decks represent two different approaches to Counterspell strategies. Faeries wants to stick and early threat and protect their advantage while Dimir Terror wants to slow the game down until it can stick a 5/5 and ride that to victory. I believe that moving forward these are the best executions of Counterspell given the current metagame considerations with Faeries having an edge next week in the face of removal. That being said it is not difficult for Dimir Terror to add more fodder in the form of Augur of Bolas, Fallaji Archaeologist, or even Rotten Reunion.
So what does this mean for next weekend? I think the Kudoltha Rebirth versions of red will be the best choice in that regard and give the various black midrange deck some fits unless they can adjust their composition without giving up too much against the rest of the metagame. Faeries will continue to be well positioned but could take a hit if people move back to Suffocating Fumes and Electrickery. Bogles probably won’t have as strong of a showing as people will absolutely try to catch Chainer’s Edict lightning in a bottle. With all of this in mind I would want to be packing Sacred Cat and Basilisk Gate. Whether that’s an established CawGate or Naya Gates build, or one of the up-and-coming variants remains, a resilient threat that has the ability to both gain a chunk of life and end the game is exactly what I want in my deck these days.
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