Meme or Meta?

by Simon Nielsen on 18 February 2019, Monday

Simon Nielsen

Last week my article was primarily focused on Magic Arena. But for the competitively inclined player, Magic Online thankfully still lives on with high level best-of-three matches, lots of innovations and frequently published decklists.

As any good Standard addict, I scour these decklists multiple times a week when they are published and this leads me to see patterns of decks that recur, often championed by other people than those who first brought their sweet brew to the limelight.

It’s in these continuous 5-0 performances on Magic Online that format breaking decks are born, soon to be a defined part of tomorrow's metagame. And it’s also here we find lists that ultimately are just "meme decks", some that might generate good times at FNM but can’t stand the pressure of actual competition.

I dug out 5 lists that caught my eye, and I even played a couple matches with each of them before I judge them in our very first installment of:

Temur Reclamation

Normally you’d think that a deck with Wilderness Reclamation would also include Nexus of Fate. However, recent innovations suggest that you don’t even need to take all the turns in order to extract a significant advantage from the mana-generating abilities of Wilderness Reclamation.

One of these takes has seen a lot of online success already, most notably placing 3 players in the top 16 of a recent Magic Online MCQ, as well as a 5-0 finish almost every time the decklists become public.

Instead of Nexus of Fate, you still get to have the absurd synergy between Search for Azcanta and Wilderness Reclamation. This can easily lock up a game when you get to just counter all their spells.

And just try and envision how good Niv-Mizzet, Parun is when your deck is full of card draw and counterspells and your lands untap right after you’ve played your dragon.

Based on my games with this deck, I think the potential here is scarily powerful. When you get to stick an early Wilderness Reclamation and do your thing, you feel almost invincible. At that point you can easily take over the game with a wall of counterspells.

But I think the current versions lack something. I miss some more early interaction like a cheap sweeper or Shivan Fire. And it’s somewhat dubious to run 4 Quench in your control deck. That card is going to be useless within a small amount of time. Though so far it hasn’t been much of a problem, because the deck does close out games quickly enough and having an all-purpose answer to their early game is certainly nice.

I also have issues with the mana base. Frequently I wouldn’t have green for turn 2 Growth Spiral or be unable to cast Niv-Mizzet, Parun with 7-8 lands in play. Currently there is too much Blue mana anyway, so I would suggest you replace an Island and a Hinterland Harbor with two .

If we get the kinks worked out, my verdict on Temur Reclamation is:

META

Turbo Invent

This deck hasn’t had the repeated finishes that other decks on this list have, but I really wanted to highlight it because I think the deckbuilding here is simply genius.

Essentially this is another take on the Turbo Fog archetype. The goal for these decks is to have enough card draw to repeatedly draw copies of Nexus of Fate and chain extra turns together that way. Especially when they have lots of mana from Wilderness Reclamation. Usually they achieve this with engines like Search for Azcanta and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

In this case however, there’s only a single copy of Nexus of Fate!

Here we take advantage of Nexus’s ability to shuffle itself into the deck. That way we can always fetch it with Invert // Invent along with a Flood of Recollection or similar regrowth effect. As long as you have enough lands and a Wilderness Reclamation, you’ll be able to do this in one turn. Use Flood of Recollection to get back Invent for a guaranteed chain of extra turns.

At some point you’ll have enough lands that you can search up more Invents with your Invent and then get Vivid Revival to keep the chain going for even longer. Finally you’ll have assembled enough lands to go get Expansion // Explosion for the kill.

I simply think this line of thought is brilliant, and it is certainly an angle I hadn’t considered. The biggest problem here is that the combo is very mana intensive. You can start off with the “soft” loop where you get Root Snare, but that is still ten mana for the full loop and will run out quickly.

Essentially, this version needs to have Wilderness Reclamation every single game. This certainly adds some inconsistency and also makes the deck more vulnerable to enchantment hate.

Postboard, Murmuring Mystic can be a key alternate plan, but even if the opponent boards out their creature removal, cards like Mortify and Deputy of Detention can still disrupt you.

All in all, I don’t see the merit for this style of deck when regular Bant Turbo Fog builds have been refined to a point where they consistently keep chaining Nexus. Just take a look at the Turbo Fog list that won the recent Magic Online MCQ with 16 cantrips.

However cool this deck is, I don’t think it can be more than that, so my final verdict on Turbo Invent is:

MEME

Bant Tokens

Built by Volkswagen (also originator of the Red-Green Dinosaurs deck that saw some play last February), they managed to 5-0 a handful of times before Matt Tumavich played the deck to the top 4 of the Team Constructed Open in Baltimore with the help of his teammates.

And now I’m fully eyeing this deck that combines the base of manadorks into Hydroid Krasis with the shell of Selesnya Tokens.

The prime interaction here is how well Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants works with both Incubation Druid and History of Benalia, so it acts as a sort of glue between the two archetypes.

I must admit though that I am not very excited by Llanowar Elves here. Not only do you only have ten sources with which to cast it turn 1, your only 3-drop requires you to open on specifically Temple Garden to be able to be cast turn 2, and mana dorks are kind of embarrassing with convoke.

Once you’ve used your elf to tap for both Conclave Tribunal and March of the Multitudes you feel kind of silly that it even has the ability to tap for mana instead of being another 1-drop, like Legion's Landing. On the other hand, Hydroid Krasis really likes Llanowar Elves, even if they don’t get cast turn 1, so it’s quite the dilemma.

Another awkward thing is how Hydroid Krasis wants you to always use your Flower // Flourish to fetch up a land, whereas in regular Selesnya Tokens you would just hold it.

On the other hand, it is nice that if you flood out you know you have a bunch of powerful X-spells to draw to. Well, you have just as many manadorks to topdeck, but at least Incubation Druid is serviceable here. It’s also nice to have a token deck that isn’t weak to Goblin Chainwhirler.

I’m quite split, just like the deck, on my final verdict. With the caveat that things might need to change here, such as cutting out Llanowar Elves and focus on more 2- and 3-drops, such as perhaps Dovin, Grand Arbiter, I think Trostani Discordant and friends are still undervalued in Standard which makes this deck:

META

Mardu Aristocrats

aspiringspike's Mardu Aristocrats (Standard (Ravnica Allegiance) - Others)

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I posted a similar Mardu Aristocrats deck in my Hero of Precinct One article, but since then the list has evolved to be more aggressive with Fireblade Artist and Heroic Reinforcements.

I was looking forward to trying out this deck, but I must admit I was disappointed. To me, it looks good on paper, but once you are in the games you realize that the deck relies a lot on the survival of your important 2-drops and then doesn’t even give you a lot of payoff when you get there.

I think that Priest of the Forgotten Gods is actually just unplayable, though it might just be that you shouldn’t attempt to put it in a deck with Heroic Reinforcements.

Often the deck just felt underpowered, and had awkward interactions. For example Midnight Reaper doesn’t with tokens and 3 mana for Mortify is just a lot of mana to pay for a removal spell in an aggro deck.

My judgment of this deck is pretty clear. Mardu Aristocrats gets a:

MEME

Boros Visitation

I recognize Ruiner from when they worked to tune the White-Blue Auras deck I absolutely loved to play about a year ago. And now they’re at it again, this time throwing their love over Divine Visitation with multiple 5-0s and even somebody else also taking the list to a 5-0 finish in a league.

It’s clear to see what we’re trying to do here with so many token producers alongside Divine VisitationLegion Warboss is one of the best ones in this case, because it can make a token for no mana investment immediately after you played Visitation. It even has haste! Oh woes that you are then forced to attack with your 4/4 vigilance flyer.

It’s super neat that we don’t sacrifice much in card quality to make this happen. Besides the Visitation itself, all cards in this main deck have seen play before. Also, sometimes you just curve Adanto Vanguard into History of Benalia into Heroic Reinforcements and win like a regular white aggro deck, albeit one with a much bigger top end.

I also want you to notice the 3 Demystify in the sideboard. This overlooked Standard option is not only a blow-out against Conclave Tribunal in White mirrors; and it also stops Wilderness Reclamation, on a turn where they thought they were going to pass with all their mana untapped. Even if they don’t draw their Reclamation, Demystify can still disrupt their card advantage in Search for Azcanta or Guild Summit.

Cute sideboard tech aside, I don’t really think it’s worth it to build your deck around a five-mana enchantment that you for the most part need to untap with when you are venturing into a world of MortifySpell Pierce and Vivien Reid.

Plus, since this deck only runs seven payoff cards, you can easily lose after making a bunch of creatures that never really get to attack. However much it saddens me, I think I need to give Boros Visitation a:

MEME

This article was written by Simon Nielsen in a media collaboration with Snapcardster.com.







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