Open Finale Prep: Anticipating the Metagame

By Tom Vandevelde

With Kaladesh fast approaching, the current Gentry season is slowly coming to a close. That means it’s time for the Gentry Finals, this Saturday at Outpost Ghent. The Finals are a one-time competitive event with increased price support and full coverage (if you’re not playing, just kick back and tune in to www.twitch.tv/gentry_magic). The tournament offers newer players a chance to try their hand at the competitive stage, while also providing a bigger draw for the more competitive-minded players to give Gentry a shot. Whichever one of these two categories you most relate to, I would encourage you to participate, it’s a great format and a well-run tournament.

In preparation of these kinds of events, I always ask myself what the format’s metagame might look like. What decks are the format’s top dogs? Should I come prepared for a lot of low-to-the-ground aggression and pump spells? Or should my sideboard be packed with solutions to the control mirror? What important cards should I be aware of, and, if possible, play around? Understanding the answers to questions such as these will allow you to pick a suitable deck and enter the tournament ready for battle. In this article, I try to provide a brief overview of the decks I expect to show up in force on Saturday.

Note that the decklists provided here are but stock lists, none of which have been specifically tuned for the expected metagame.

  1. GB Aristocrats

Creatures (29)Image7119ZRUQ.jpg
4 Loam Dryad
4 Blisterpod
4 Duskwatch Recruiter (U)
4 Zulaport Cutthroat (U)
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Nantuko Husk
4 Catacomb Sifter (U)
1 Smothering Abomination (R)

Other (8)
4 Bone Splinters
1 Evolutionary Leap (R)
1 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar (R)
3 Ulvenwald Mysteries (U)
1 Collected Company (R)

Land (22)
4 Evolving Wilds
10 Forest
8 Swamp

Image3While the deck is currently seeing less play than it used to, I suspect that has more to do with people wanting to try out new cards than with the power-level of the deck, which I still consider top tier. The low mana-curve and good base-stats of its creatures make this deck extremely efficient, while also harnessing the pure power of Nantuko Husk and the late-game card-advantage engines that are Duskwatch Recruiter, Ulvenwald Mysteries and (in some lists) Vampiric Rites. Together, they make this a very well-rounded deck and one I expect to see copies of in the Top 8. The best card against them is Flaying Tendrils, but savvy players will know not to overextend, and RecruiterUlvenwald Mysteries will easily get them back into the game. Fliers are a another weakness. Be prepared for Duress, Naturalize/Caustic Caterpillar and Dead Weight from the sideboard.

 

  1. UR/UB Rise from the Tides

Creatures (0)

Other (35)
4 Lightning Axe (U)Image 1.jpg
4 Fiery Impulse
4 Fiery Temper
4 Tormenting Voice
4 Take Inventory
1 Send to Sleep
2 Clash of Wills (U)
4 Pieces of the Puzzle
4 Rise from the Tides (U)
1 Brain in a Jar (R)
1 Crush of Tentacles (R)
1 Kozilek’s Return (R)
1 Chandra Flamecaller (R)

Land (25)
4 Evolving Wilds
11 Island
10 Mountain

Image (6)
Watch out for alternate or hybrid versions that bring out Sphinx’s Tutelage as an additional way to win the game.

Filled to the brim with removal and carddraw, this deck aims to churn through its deck quickly, putting lots of instants and sorceries into the graveyard while killing the opponent’s creatures. These then provide fodder for a huge Rise from the Tides, allowing an army of Zombies to eat the opponent’s brains. While the UR version of the deck is more mana-efficient and speeds through the deck more quickly, I suspect the slower UB version is advantaged in the mirror because of cards like Flaying Tendrils and Duress. Both versions’ lack of creatures creates a lot of dead cards in hand (i.e. any removal) for most opposing decks, so make sure to have a sideboard strategy that mitigates this disadvantage. Also note that Negate is not the end-all, be-all in this match-up, as good players will usually wait until they get to Rise with Negate or Dispel back-up. If you are playing a Flaying Tendrils-deck yourself, however, you might still want to use your Negate, as it could create an opening for you to resolve your Flaying Tendrils afterwards. Be wary of cards like Negate, Dispel, Duress and possibly even transformative sideboards (with creatures!) after board.

  1. UW Midrange

Creatures (24)
4 Thraben InspectorImage (1)
4 Topan Freeblade
4 Reflector Mage (U)
4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
1 Stitched Mangler
1 Spell Queller
4 Whirler Rogue (U)
1 Dragonlord Ojutai (R)
1 Archangel Avacyn (R)

Other (12)
2 Essence Flux (U)
2 Spell Shrivel
2 Tenacity (U)
2 Stasis Snare (U)
2 Angelic Purge
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (R)

Land (24)
4 Evolving Wilds
10 Plains
10 Island

Image.jpgThis is a typical “Good Stuff” deck, built to abuse to power of Reflector Mage and Whirler Rogue, both of which I would rank among the best 5 cards in the format. With access to counterspells (Negate, Dispel) and enchantment removal post-board and even a catch-all in Angelic Purge, this is another well-rounded deck with few true weaknesses. Its exceptionally powerful rares (Avacyn, Ojutai, Gideon) are worth noting as well. When playing against this deck, be mindful of Essence Flux, a one-mana card that can cause huge blow-outs. Avoid playing one-creature-per-turn decks, as these get destroyed by Reflector Mage + Stitched Mangler. While sweepers like Flaying Tendrils are useless against the deck’s 2/3s, they do still clean up a board of Eldrazi Skyspawners and Whirler Rogues.

  1. UR Eldrazi

Creatures (27)
4 Hedron CrawlerImage2
4 Kozilek’s Sentinel
4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
4 Vile Aggregate (U)
3 Ruination Guide (U)
4 Whirler Rogue (U)
1 Pia and Kiran Nalaar (R)
1 Endbringer (R)
1 Elder Deep-Fiend (R)
1 Reality Smasher (R)

Other (8)
4 Outnumber
2 Devour in Flames (U)
2 Ongoing Investigation (U)

Land (25)
4 Holdout Settlement
4 Evolving Wilds
9 Island
8 Mountain

Image (15)Another long-time staple of the format, UR Eldrazi combines the powers of Whirler Rogue and Vile Aggregate with efficient cards like Eldrazi Skyspawner and Outnumber in a cocktail of deadly synergy and efficiency. Adding Ongoing Investigation has given the deck some more late-game potency against the control decks, resulting in another well-rounded deck I expect to do well. Again, like with the other blue decks, expect counterspells post-board, as well as cards like Boiling Earth or Savage Alliance.

 

  1. Delirium

I’m not posting a decklist here, since I expect all kinds of colours and shells of Delirium to show up, from creature-based aggro lists that abuse Moldgraf Scavenger and Gnarlwood Dryad to more controllish lists that top out with Emrakul, the Promised End. Most will be green-black-based, although green-blue or green-white are also options.

Conclusion

Apart from these five staples, there are plenty of other viable strategies, including (but not limited to) BW Planeswalker Control, BW Midrange (either with Allies, or enchantment-themed), green-based Ramp, BR Vampires, red-based Burn, and so on. I would expect most of these to show up in one capacity or another. And who knows, there might be some brews I’ve never even though of too! Preparing for all of these is tough, but be ready for the decks in this article, and you should improve your chances of hoisting the trophy on Saturday!

May you Blessed Alliance Emrakul,

Tom

Profile:

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Tom Vandevelde has been playing Magic since Tempest, and competitively since Time Spiral. Deckbuilding is his favorite part of the game, which has led to him taking an interest in less conventional formats like League Standard. Alongside his teammates on Team Wrecking Ball he is shooting for the Pro Tour, but you will just as often find him playing Pauper, Pack Wars or Mental Magic, or helping out newer players. You will often find Tom streaming on twitch.tv/wreckingballmtg, where you can actually challenge him to League Standard matches in between rounds! Be sure to come hang out and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

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