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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - October 7, 2014

Mono-Red Burn Modern by Michael Glanzer (1st at SCG Edison Modern Prem...

Champion’s Deck

Keldon Marauders

Mono-Red Burn Modern by Michael Glanzer

1st at SCG Edison Modern Premier IQ on Sep 28th 2014
Very elegant and simple in design Burn has a storied history in magic since the first Fireball and Lightning Bolt were sent to the opponents dome. Recently it has been growing in popularity in the Modern format. The game plan is very straightforward, just keep casting damage inflicting spells and attacking with your few creatures to reduce your opponent to zero life as quickly as possible.
As far as creatures in Red one of the best aggressive one drops ever is found in relatively innocuous Goblin Guide, but the wise Red mage learns to use his triggered reveal ability to provide himself with invaluable information which is not normally provided to him. It is complimented with Keldon Marauders which will get two points of damage direct then either get a smash in for another three or briefly wall off other aggressive attackers. Then we get to the ample assortment of Burn spells designed to char your opponent to crispy cinders. The all time classic is represented four times with three damage for one mana in perennial Lightning Bolt, with essentially clones from sorcery speed Lava Spike, suspended Rift Bolt and also Shard Volley at the cost of a land. Next we find a wealth more of direct damage costing two with three damage from Incinerate, two from Magma Jet but an invaluable Scry 2 tacked on it, and landfaller Searing Blaze which needs a creature to target but will blast both it and its controller for three points. We then find possibly the two key spells to the deck with Skullcrack and Flames of the Blood Hand which both help kill the opponent with decent bolts to the face but most importantly stop them from gaining life that turn which is the worst enemy of a Burn deck. For a bit of value added Keldon Megaliths is there to provide extra points of damage when you’ve run dry and find your hand has gone Hellbent.
Quite possibly the best way to crack into Modern with the cheapest possible initial investment, it’s certainly the best bang for your buck. As far as straight-up Aggro you’ll be better served with Affinity right now and Lightning Bolt has no better friend then Snapcaster Mage, but those are decks that you need to have the dollars to push into them in comparison. Definitely I would recommend starting with this deck if you’re looking to take the step into Modern until you’ve had a chance to see the other decks and decide where to bet your chips. It’s hard to argue with a proven winner so you aren’t selling yourself short on this one.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com

 

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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - September 29, 2014

Jeskai Tempo by Kevin Jones (1st at SCG Edison Standard Open on Sep 27...

Champion’s Deck

Mantis Rider - Jeskai Tempo

Jeskai Tempo by Kevin Jones

1st at SCG Edison Standard Open on Sep 27th 2014

As we bid a fond farewell to RTR/THS Standard and all its mono-colored shenanigans we see how quickly everything becomes new again with both decks sitting at the final table in the wedge colors. There was also in the final a Mardu Midrange deck which in and of itself is a beautiful work of art which simply did not draw well against an amazing draw of the Jeskai tempo deck. But for us today we are interested in this Red, White and Blue beast of a list which was able to battle through 13 rounds and stake its flag first at the summit of this opening weekend.

 

This deck is built around taking advantage of burn to take incremental advantage and close out games quickly and efficiently. To work towards that goal we find a trio of creatures that while not monsters are able to go long and chip away quickly at the opponents life total to make it easy to top deck a burn spell for the win. The first creature drops down turn two with a trio of Seeker of the Way which combo well with the burn through its Prowess to not only get pumped up but also gain lifelink to ensure survival against other Aggro decks. Next we find one of the defining cards of Aggro for the current meta with Goblin Rabblemaster which on an unchecked board will be able to quickly overwhelm the opponent with a horde of goblins beating face. Then we get to a new tool for these colors with Mantis Rider which as a tri-colored creature sports a very strong package as a three drop with Haste to beat face immediately upon arrival, Flying to leap over the walls of Courser of Kruphix, and even Vigilance which allows you to bring the assault with impunity. Supporting the troops there is a duo of Red planeswalkers starting with the all new powerhouse Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker which is basically taking the role of Stormbreath Dragon as another aggressive flyer for the deck but also doubles as decent removal taking out a slew of four toughness creatures. There is also a misers Chandra, Pyromaster which is able to grind precious life points while either blasting potential chumps or immobilizing big blockers, and could also add to the decks drawing power. Speaking of draw there are two cards with which to gain additional resources with Dig Through Time able to go deep to find you two spells which will hopefully finish your opponent  and Steam Augury that does rely upon the choice of your opponent but can easily be a bomb spell depending on what else you flip up with it. Magma Jet is also a pseudo-draw with its Scry 2 not only are you flinging fire but also setting up potential or even pushing useless cards to the bottom in advance of a Dig Through Time. Then we get to the package of straight-up burn spells with sets of Lightning Strike and Stoke the Flames to either flambe some pesky creature or just fling straight to the dome of your opponent to close out a quick victory. You also have the option to barbeque opponents with your Jeskai Charm, but also bounce giant creatures away or pump your team while gaining some incidental life points. Finally we wrap up with catchall answer Banishing Light which is the decks main answer to planeswalkers, enchantments, or artifacts but will also deal with problematic creatures as well.
Man oh man am I ever in love with Jeskai Tempo. It just looks so aggro just like my cup of tea, but still able to overcome traditional issues like draw and removal for bombs. Now I will admit that watching the deck win there was a definite element of variance which handed Jeskai an easier road to walk towards victory, but he took it all the way from beginning to end so there must be value in it. I would be very happy to sleeve up a deck like this and run with it, but with so many new styles and the Pro Tour coming up I’m going to happily observe for now. If you do decide to pick this up though I imagine you’ll have a blast burning up the competition.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - September 14, 2014

Rabble Red by Thomas Graves (1st at SCG St. Louis Standard Open on Sep...

Champion’s Deck

Goblin Rabblemaster - Rabble Red

Rabble Red by Thomas Graves

1st at SCG St. Louis Standard Open on Sep 6th 2014
Here we have the future of Standard Aggro as we prepare for the upcoming rotation. Now obviously there is going to be changes necessary as a huge portion of the deck will no longer be legal in a few weeks but Goblin Rabblemaster is likely where everything begins anew. It is just so aggressive and provides advantage to Red which has always craved cards like this to eke out small edges with which to hammer in the nails.
As with any Aggro deck we start with an tight and efficient curve. A quarter of the deck comes in one drop creatures boasting full sets of Legion Loyalist, Firedrinker Satyr and Rakdos Cackler, along with a trio of Foundry Street Denizen all capable of producing damage at a rate that exceeds their cost. Next at the two drop spot we find Burning-Tree Emissary which is capable of chaining out spells when he joins the fight with pairs of both Ash Zealot and Firefist Striker all of which are more beaters to help mash the opponent. Next we have newcomer and future superstar Goblin Rabblemaster who just continues to provide value to your board every turn, and this deck has incorporated some Convoke spells to thwart would be suicidal assaults. The final creature is Rubblebelt Maaka but it is most useful for its Bloodrush ability which turns it into a Giant Growth for your attackers. Speaking of Giant Growth there is a one of Titan’s Strength for pump and it has a useful Scry for added value since otherwise this deck is slave to the top of its library. For reach there are two burn spells with Lightning Strike to either clear blockers or finish him, and Stoke the Flames which is capable of tapping down your forced attackers once you get your Rabble token. Finally, we have a misers anthem with Hall of Triumph which is another Convoke if necessary but especially pumps the team to push the beats harder and faster.

 

While it is hard to say exactly how this deck will look in a few weeks it is a certainty that a Red Aggro deck is going to be around in the meta early. I would certainly be pulling together pieces getting ready if you like to beat face Aggro style. Especially important to note is with people going to brew hard with the wedge colors and mana going to slow down a lot of those decks we will undoubtedly be an overwhelming force while they work out the kinks. So definitely mise the meta early until you find that wedge you love.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - September 9, 2014

UR Storm Modern by Mark Donaldson (1st at SCG Washington DC Modern Pre...

Champion’s Deck

Pyromancer's Ascenscion - UR Storm Modern

UR Storm Modern by Mark Donaldson

1st at SCG Washington DC Modern Premier IQ on Aug 24th 2014

I fell for Modern Storm Combo way back when it was a build up with Seething Song into an Epic Experiment to just blow out your opponent from literal nowhere. Since then there have been some changes as Seething Song was banned and in order to remain competitive the deck morphed back into a Pyromancer Ascension deck reminiscent of the days of yore. I continued to follow my passion of the deck and still believe it to be a very solid choice, not to mention a deadly weapon in the hands of a competent pilot.

 

The game plan of the deck is solid and straightforward. Cast enough spells to build a high enough Storm count to burn out your opponent. In order to accomplish that the deck is composed of draw spells, mana makers, enablers and a win condition.  The most important aspect of the deck is the plethora of draw spells with fully twenty-three ways to cycle through cards, necessary when the only way to win is find one of two copies of your win con. The package starts with Gitaxian Probe which with a Phyrexian mana cost basically cycles free while providing information as it peeks into the opponents mitt. Then since one Blue cost Ponder and Preordain were banned for being just too good the next best floated to the surface with Sleight of Hand and Serum Visions to dig deep and find the cogs to the machine. There is also Thought Scour and Desperate Ravings which both synergize well with the Flashback providing ability from Past in Flames as they proactively stock the graveyard with targets to abuse. In order to keep the wheels turning once you start the combo going we use Reds rituals with Desperate Ritual and Pyretic Ritual both providing three Red mana on resolution, as well as Manamorphose which is able to filter excess Red into Blue mana to cast additional draw spells and is itself also a draw spell as well. There are very few non-land permanents in this deck but one which does a major amount of heavy lifting is Goblin Electromancer which reduces colorless costs of your instants and sorceries to make those mana producing push even further, but as it is a beacon of any creature removal your opponent plays it is often best to wait until you’re ready to go off before committing him to the board. The other non-land permanent we have is a very powerful enchantment Pyromancer Ascension that once active provides extra copies of your instant and sorcery spells to bring a devastating death to your opponent with vicious alacrity. Our last enabler piece is Past in Flames which is a boon for this deck in that it provides a means to build up a lethal storm count with access to fewer spells in hand by abusing the graveyard and flashing back previously used spells effectively doubling the amount of spells you can cast. This all builds towards our win condition Grapeshot which looks at the total amount of spells cast that turn or the Storm Count and makes additional copies of itself with each doing a point of damage to a target creature or player to blast out your opponent in one fell swoop.
This is a deck that has been around in Modern since the inception as it was a port from the old Extended. Despite several bans to reduce its effectiveness, namely from Ponder/Preordain and Seething Song which made the deck just a bit too efficient, it still finds a way to produce results. It may never be the top deck of the format but is a solid Combo option and will always be around as long as spells are printed to keep the Combo going off. If you like to kill your opponent out of nowhere then I definitely urge you to give this deck a twirl.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - September 8, 2014

Jund Monsters by Chris Van Meter (1st at SCG Somerset Standard Open on...

Champion’s Deck

Polukranos, World eater - Jund Monsters

Jund Monsters by Chris Van Meter

1st at SCG Somerset Standard Open on Aug 30th 2014
 
The Beard is Dead, Long Live the Beard.
So finally CVM has conquered that demon which has eluded him for so long. And not for lack of effort as it was so close to his clutches many times before but now is firmly in his grasp. He can finally fulfill his commitment to not shave off the beard until he wins an Open and that face not seen all year will be bald and bare again. This was also a testament that sticking to a archetype that you’ve not only developed into your comfort zone but also mastered and tweaked to perfection is a key to finding success.
The deck starts very simply by building it ramp through Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid to gain access to extra mana and deploy your big threats as early as possible. This leads us to the central focus of the deck which is built around the monsters with Polukranos, World Eater who also doubles as removal and the hasty flier Stormbreath Dragon who are a straight up beatdown plan to smash your opponents to pieces. For support we find the only Magic 2015 update with the uber popular Goblin Rabblemaster which has been making waves in Standard as an amazing source of card advantage by adding pressure to the board each and every turn, and when your opponent is unable to defend against the rabbling hordes then it gets ugly fast. Scavenging Ooze is there as a hedge against any type of reanimation or graveyard abuse and is able to grow rather monstrous while gaining incidental life points here and there. The last creature Ghor-Clan Rampager isn’t often used as such but more for the Bloodrush ability to not only pump up an attacker but also Trample damage through a chump blocker often clearing the path of an annoying roadblock in your way. And finally we have a couple of Mutavault in the manabase to skirt decks loaded on sorcery speed removal. We compliment this robust creature package with two planeswalkers Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler who both have great synergy with the high creature count. Finally, the deck has a splash of removal for those especially annoying obstacles with Dreadbore for pinpoint and Mizzium Mortars as the sweeper.

 

I’m happy to see CVM finally reach that pinnacle he had shackled to himself, not that he looked too much like a crazed ZZ Top hobo much. He has proven time and time again hoe power the Monsters deck is destroying competition in his wake. It is very likely that this deck will morph through the rotation to continue its dominance, quite likely as a RUG or Temur list. I’m excited to see what will emerge in just a few more weeks.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - August 27, 2014

UB Devotion Standard by Steve Rubin (1st Place at StarCityGames Washin...

Champion’s Deck

 

Notion Thief - UB Devotion Standard

UB Devotion Standard by Steve Rubin

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 8/23/2014
It almost feels like a broken record at this point but once again a Black-based Devotion deck has won again. Thankfully we are closing in on rotation for Standard which is going to finally shake this bogeyman that has been haunting the format for almost a year. By now it should be clear to anyone who has given even a modicum of interest into Standard how this deck works, but let’s give it the rundown.
One of the most fearsome opening plays is turn one Thoughtseize into turn two Pack Rat which quickly swarms to take over the game. Now while this is the ideal opening strategy it is not the only line of play. You alternately build up the curve from Nightveil Specter into Desecration Demon into Gray Merchant of Asphodel to create a powerful attack in the air with a potentially huge life swing from the Merchant devotion. There is also a duo of Lifebane Zombie in this build as extra damage to sneak through non-Black decks and incidentally grabs a creature but more importantly information. The trio of Underworld Connections serves not only as the card ‘draw’ advantage for the deck, you could say making useful Rats out of useless cards is also advantage, but also increases the devotion count for the Merchant as well. As is standard in these Black decks the removal suite is robust with this one comprised of a trio of Hero’s Downfall, a set of Devour Flesh and a pair of Bile Blight capable of answering a wide variety of threats. To round up the spells we have a singleton Duress to compliment the Thoughtseize arsenal and ensure access to perfect information. To increase the amount of attacking creatures we have a full compliment of Mutavault primarily for their favorable interaction with Pack Rat as it is also a Rat but also dodges sorcery speed removal from Control decks. The sole addition from M15 is a one-of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth which negates the colorless downside of Mutavault allowing it to produce Black mana. As for the Blue in the title it is merely a splash added to enable sideboard choices to come in and shore up some weaknesses.
As this Standard season is rapidly coming to a close it is apparent that this is not a deck to invest yourself into post-rotation. The majority of its moving parts will be cycling out and it is unlikely that we will find comparable replacement to maintain its viability. If you need a deck to battle at your WMCQ then obviously jump on this proven winner, but if not then wait for previews to start rolling out and get ready to brew anew.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - August 4, 2014

Mono-Blue Devotion by Collin Roundtree (1st at SCG Dallas Standard Ope...

Champion’s Deck

Master of Waves - mono-blue devotion

Mono-Blue Devotion by Collin Rountree

1st Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 8/2/2014
With what became an inevitable conclusion with a mirror match final Mono-Blue Devotion reared its ugly head again to take down the Open in Dallas this weekend. The deck was obviously well positioned against the field as four copies managed to eke into the top 8. The more telling story is that with nothing added from Magic 2015 it was clearly already at its pinnacle with this standard configuration having ravaged the meta since it appeared after the release of Theros.

 

Although this is a blue deck there is no real Control element and it is firmly entrenched in the Aggro camp. It uses a very efficient curve to clutter the board with threats building to a inevitable conclusion. We start up the curve with two one drop flyers in Cloudfin Raptor that is able to grow over the first few turns into a sizable machine and Judge’s Familiar who sits around unimposingly waiting for that moment your opponent forgets that he is there to ruin his casting of a non-creature spell. Next at two there is Frostburn Weird which pulls double duty as a great wall or efficient ground pounder and Tidebinder Mage which is integral to lockdown the large creatures from GR/Jund Monsters, both adding two Devotion to the count. The next creature we have is Nightveil Specter which can be very useful as a threat in the air and will very often be able to strip away useful cards that your opponent would like to draw after a Scry, while adding on its own a full three to your Devotion. All of this Devotion then comes into play first with the other three drop Thassa, God of the Sea to turn her on for attacking or blocking but having her Scry every turn goes miles in helping you close out the victory in a timely fashion. The last creature at four is also looking at the Devotion when Master of Waves enters the battlefield to see just how many friends it’s inviting to the party. As a mono-colored deck it is able to include a full set of Mutavault into the manabase to ensure even after sorcery speed sweepers there is still pressure against the enemies life total and as a bonus also receive the Masters pump. As additional devotion and as a pseudo-removal spell there is a pair of Domestication. As far as the other spells there is a trio of Rapid Hybridization to flip huge problems into manageable Frog Lizards and also a pair of Cyclonic Rift which can often just seal the game once you hit that seventh land you needed to end a stall by sweeping the other side of the board but can also just bounce back one pesky blocker preventing you from victory.

 

Mono-blue devotion has time and time again proven that it is a highly efficient weapon to ruin your opponents day. If you are looking for a deck to rock your WMCQ then this is definitely one that you should highly consider. And on the flip side, if you aren’t going to be playing this deck then be certain to get some reps against it as you’ll almost certainly be facing off against it in a non-zero amount of rounds.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - July 23, 2014

Mono-Black Devotion by Dan Jessup (1st at SCG Baltimore Standard Open ...

Mono-Black Devotion - Urborb, Tomb of Yagmoth

Mono-Black Devotion by Dan Jessup

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 7/19/2014
Once again a new set emerges and we find the usual suspect at the top of the heap. It’s been quite a while now that Pack Rat has been able to grind its way to victory. As the new meta tries to find itself again it looks like it was a good choice once more. Hopefully we will see something new emerge but we do have only a couple months until Pack Rat is gone from Standard, quite likely for good.
Mono-Black devotion is no stranger to the Champion’s Deck and as such hardly needs an explanation. It attacks on two axies  both of which are capable of decisive kills. The ideal opening for the deck comes from turn one Thoughtseize to strip away their answer into turn two Pack Rat which then proceeds to lay down the beats so fast that most opponents need to rely on top decks to stay alive. Alongside the Rat we find a full set of Mutavault which basically act as an anthem for the Pack to gnaw away at the enemies life points, and as a bonus often attack through as well. The other side of the coin has a trio of creatures sliding up the mana curve with Nightveil Specter first as a three drop which contributes all three as devotion and is able to build added value by stealing the opponents options away especially when the Scry and leave the card on top forgetting exactly what Specter will do. Next is huge beater Desecration Demon at four and while it is possible for the opponent to hold him off for a while it is an inevitable conclusion that unless they remove him from the board he will smash in for significant damage. The third creature in at the five drop slot is Gray Merchant of Asphodel that while on the surface not much more then a glorified wall has a very useful draining ability that can be a finishing blow, and as a bonus from Pack Rat its tokens as they are exact copies they add devotion as well. Talking about adding devotion we have Underworld Connections to help draw into more threats and answers along with M15 reprint Sign in Blood, which consequently acts as a Shock to the face to kill your opponent should they be at two life or less. The flipside has a full set of Thoughtseize to strip the opponent of his threats and answers while providing you with information to be sure to have a good defense ready. The remaining spells in the deck form the removal package with a set of  Hero’s Downfall, trio of  Bile Blight, pair of Devour Flesh and a singleton Ultimate Price sure to find answers to many of the problems you’ll find along the way. The other M15 addition to the deck is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth which pair with Mutavault is able to turn the inherent disadvantage from them in this Black mana hungry deck into a non-factor, but as it is legendary the solo copy is fine basically replacing a Swamp.
Now while I won’t argue that this deck is a strong choice as it has been consistently performing above the curve it is certainly not a deck to plan towards the future with. Unless you are planning to compete in FNMs during the summer or are heading to a WMCQ then I would keep away. Once we reach rotation in a couple of months with Khans of Tarkir a huge chunk of the meat from Mono-Black devotion is going to rotate out. But if you do plan on beating face all summer long then this deck is certainly one that will be consistent, but often time boring and repetitive. If you do take the plunge just understand what you’re getting into.
 
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com

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