Cook’s Kitchen – Initial Return to Ravnica Analysis
Week one of Return to Ravnica is over.
For me this means studying the Cincinnati results intensely. Well, because I’ll be attending SCG: Providence this upcoming weekend. For some of the rest of you the results from Cincinnati may not mean as much, but either way, preparing for the new formats is important. Let’s skip the continuing introduction and just dive right into the details.
In Standard, Todd Anderson continues to win events, this time with UWr Control. Todd seems to be on quite the hot streak recently. To be honest, he probably would’ve won the event with any deck he’s been testing. When you’re running hot, it doesn’t really matter what anyone is doing against you. Right now, Todd is the best at post rotation Standard. I’m unsure if you’ve noticed or not, but no individual has prepared more for this format than him. Did you see all of the videos and content he provided weeks before the format was ready or shifted? Todd was ready and took it down with a deck that no one even saw coming. Most shockingly, it wasn’t Zombies.
UWr Control by Todd Anderson
Because of how well Todd did with this specific deck, I can expect plenty of it this coming weekend. Todd’s deck is playing four Jace, Architect of Thought – a card I didn’t expect to be all that powerful. Apparently I was wrong. While I still don’t believe that the card is as ridiculously good as some people make it out to be, it certainly isn’t as bad as I initially thought. It’s interesting that the only red cards in the deck are Pillar of Flame. That card is so good against Zombies that Todd splashed an entire color just for Pillar of Flame. Another deck I’m expecting to see plenty of is “Frites” or what Legacy players may call Reanimator.
Frites by Chris Weidinger
The deck that took second place at the event, it’s very powerful. It can play a turn four Griselbrand against you using Unburial Rites or it can just hard cast threats to avoid Graveyard hate. To be perfectly honest, I’m still not exactly sure what I’m going to be doing against this deck with my RUG list. I can’t think of any cards that would shore up the match-up besides Grafdigger’s Cage. The problem with Grafdiggers cage is that it shuts off Snapcaster Mage. I don’t want to do that because they can always hard cast their threats not to mention, it can’t be sideboarded in against Zombies because Snapcaster Mage targeting Pillar of Flame is very important. I’m pretty lost on this and haven’t figured it out.
Aside from the top two placing decks of the Standard portion there were a number of mid-range decks based around Green with Thragtusks, a handful of Zombie decks in the top 16, and some other aggressive decks such as R/B or G/W aggro. Although, I’m not worried about any of these, what I am worried about are the previous two decks and how I am going to beat them with RUG. Last week, I wrote about my deck for the new format. You can read about it here. Like I said above, clearly I was wrong about Jace, Architect of Thought. I played this deck in two weekly events and two things were very clear. The first being that Izzet Charm wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, while a fine card, it was a two mana Faithless Looting a majority of the time. That isn’t what this deck needed. The second thing that became apparent was that this deck was constantly a turn behind in some match-ups. I sat down with Paolo Cesari, a skilled friend of mine and worked out some of the kinks. We decided to cut Izzet Charm for Farseek.
Farseek’s inclusion was to get RUG back to speed with some of the decks it fell behind against. These decks were opposing midrange (Anything with mana creatures or their own Farseeks) or fast aggro decks. After some changing of the manabase, I arrived here:
RUG by Bryant Cook
This list isn’t perfect, the sideboard needs some work, but I’m happy with the main deck. I still need a way to reliably stop Frites. The UWr control match-up should be fine, but a card or two to help in either match-up wouldn’t be bad. I think this list is greatly improved from the one I wrote about last week. Farseek has been a huge improvement, being able to drop a turn three Garruk, Jace, or Huntmaster of the Fells before my opponent is game changing. Allowing a RUG deck to determine the game’s pace.
In the Legacy portion of last weekend, as you look over the top 8 deck lists you’ll notice a lack of Return to Ravnica. In fact, you’ll only notice a single sideboard slot for cards from Return to Ravnica. That sideboard slot wasn’t even Abrupt Decay! But instead a Supreme Verdict out of Esperblade. While Return to Ravnica has been tearing up standard, so far it’s had little impact on Legacy. I would’ve expected to see a couple of people at least in the top 16 attempting to play Abrupt Decay in some sort of BUG Variant. Not the case, although, in seventeenth place there was a fellow who ran something along these lines.
I’ll say this, I will certainly be playing at least two Return to Ravnica cards in my sideboard this upcoming weekend. Recently I’ve made some changes to my T.E.S. (Storm) sideboard.
It’s just foolish to not play Abrupt Decay in an already five color deck that has a tough time losing to counterbalance. The problem was trying to figure out what to cut from the sideboard. I knew Echoing Truth was probably going to be leaving, I just wasn’t sure of how many. I wrote my thoughts out and posted them on MTGtheSource, luckily, someone came back with a good idea. Cut Shattering Spree, an old favorite that I sometimes forget isn’t a must include. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t even consider cutting it. I was considering leaving an Echoing Truth in my sideboard so that the deck was able to deal with Leyline of Sanctity, but by cutting Shattering Spree this was no longer necessary. I could easily just swap the two Echoing Truths for two Abrupt Decay, and find an Artifact hate card that also deals with Enchantments tp replace the Shattering Spree.
The difference between these two cards is almost non-existent. Most of the time that a TES player would cast either one of these spells it’s most likely in an attempt to remove Leyline of Sanctity from the game. When this is happening, the mana generated to cast Burning Wish is probably off of a pair of Rite of Flames. In turn meaning that the colorless source used to cast Revoke Existence might as well be Red. White or Green mana is generated from either a five color source or artifact mana, either way, they’re the same. At this point you might as well play Hull breach and have the option of taking out another pesky permanent. These changes leave my storm sideboard looking like this:
Aside from me and the Return to Ravnica cards that I’ll be playing, there were some interesting decks in the Legacy top 8. The first thing that caught my eye was the deck Caleb piloted to a first place finish. Caleb’s deck was an evolution of the deck that Doug McKay broke onto the scenes about three months ago. A UB artifact control deck based around Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. While this deck is incredibly cool, it’s not the type of deck that I would expect to become tier one. The reasons being if it became popular it would be easy to hate out or remove from the metagame. The other really cool deck in the top 8 was a UG Enchantress variant that was more combo oriented than the GW Lock/Prison versions I’m used to playing against. This version of the deck piloted by Chris Anderson won by untapping a land with multiple “Growth” effects on it with Cloud of Faeries repeatedly. How? Well Cloud of Faeries will generate enough mana by untapping a land with these growth effects to play another Enchantment. With one of the additional mana floating, activate Words of Wind and repeat. It’s a refreshing look at an old archetype.
The rest of the decks in the top 8 were pretty standard. I’m kind of disappointed at the lack of effect Return to Ravnica had on Legacy compared to Standard. It may just take some time.
Well that’s all for this week, come back again next week! Until then, keep Storming!
Bryant Cook on MTGthesource