Showdown Recap: Standard
Welcome to another Showdown Recap, where we take a look at what happened at Face to Face Games Toronto’s weekly Sunday Showdown, a series of 1k events feeding into the Ultimate Showdown 5k Invitational. Today, we’re covering the Game Day Standard Showdown on May 21st.
Parallel to this weekend’s Standard Grand Prix Montreal, we saw a surprisingly diverse metagame, unsurprisingly dominated by Aetherworks Marvel variants. While Gerry Thompson’s Zombies deck might have won the Pro Tour, Temur Aetherworks, as well as other variants, evolved in the past week to, on average, play the prerequisite amount of mass removal to turn the matchup from competitive into a wash. With that being the battlefield our players are fighting on, let’s take a look at how our top 8 decided to navigate it!
Known nice guy Benson Lau clocked in a quarterfinals finish with a deck that was considered one of the big winners coming out of the post-PT metagame, UR Control. With its chief nemesis, Mardu, all but out of the picture at the top tables of a tournament, this deck can refocus itself to play the amount of card advantage and counterspells necessary to beat Aetherworks Marvel, and the number of Sweltering Suns to crush Zombies. Benson chose to run the new, popular Hieroglyphic Illumination build of the deck, taking advantage of that card’s low cycling downside to gain access to a staggering amount of card advantage. As the format naturally slows down slightly, the chance of control being able to spend a turn gaining card advantage goes up significantly. Based on Benson’s quick exit out of the top 8, it might not quite be the right time for that.
Geoff Johnson brought a deck that takes great advantage of the lack of Mardu, the hyper-aggressive RG Energy. Featuring a ton of high-power, low-cost, frequently-hasted creatures to the fray, backed up by removal and burn, Geoff looks to punch through the Marvel players quickly, forcing them to do something unfair like turn 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to stay alive. A bunch of sideboarded Appetite for the Unnatural punishes them in a big way if they miss.
Former Pro Tour Competitor and Cube Specialist Ryan Sandrin is our last brave soul who didn’t try to turn 4 Ulamogs. Ryan decided to jam with Ken Yukuhiro’s BG Energy deck from the Pro Tour’s top 8. This deck is extremely aggressive, much like Geoff’s RG Energy, but has an effective backup plan of hand (and deck!) disruption. Ryan chose to continue to run Ken’s most ambitious deckbuilding decision, a full playset of Bone Picker, presumably a card that would lose a lot of power if his opponents were to be aware of its existence. You don’t want to pay 4 mana for a 3/2 flier in this Standard – that much mana gets you an Ulamog these days!
While the remaining five players were all playing Aetherworks Marvel variants, we did get to see some drastically different builds. John Blinov finished 7th with a Bant version, trying to gain edges in the mirror with a full set of maindeck Spell Quellers and a bunch of extremely castable World Breakers. This deck’s biggest issue is its inability to deal with permanents on board aside from the cast trigger on Ulamog as well as sideboard removal spells. Spell Queller is undeniably powerful, but it’s not much of a permanent answer in a format chock-full of Harnessed Lightnings.
Quinn Gregg also decided to take a more disruptive route, maintaining his streak of consistent top 8 Showdown finishes. The Sultai build of the deck features a powerful Delirium plan, with Traverse the Ulvenwald and Ishkanah, Grafwidow as well as Liliana, Death’s Majesty being an alternate path to getting Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in play. This deck’s weakness at the Pro Tour was its abominable Zombies matchup, which Quinn decided to solve with a ton of Yahenni’s Expertise in the sideboard. I’d like to see more Tireless Tracker and less Bounty of the Luxa, but I think this deck is sweet and powerful.
In a sign that the format has not yet caught up to its consensus best deck, however, 4 of the top 4 finishers in these playoffs were also the 3 players who brought variants of Temur Aetherworks Marvel. Chris Ha, Pasha Meshkati, and Nathan Dunham correctly bought in to the hype and used the combination of powerful 3-drop energy creatures, Chandra, Flamecaller, and either a Glimmer of Genius/Torrential Gearhulk plan or the more aggressive Servant of the Conduit line. All of these decks are great, and it’s not really conclusive which one is better. On average, I think the Servant builds are better in a metagame with a higher share of Zombies and Mardu, while the slower, more controlling Glimmer builds are slightly favoured in the mirror, taking a hit against the aggressive decks along the way.
Finally, we have ourselves the perennial villain of the Sunday Showdown series, my good friend, Chris Ha. At some point during this season, Chris, an employed and socialized adult, took it upon himself to topple Liam, a teenager, from the top of the Showdown standings. Chris braved unfamiliar formats and skipped brunch with his bourgeois entourage to earn points, but constantly found himself trailing the juvenile Standard master. One weekend a month or so ago, I convinced Chris to drive with me, much to his chagrin, to a PPTQ in Cambridge, for the innate desire to play at higher and higher levels flared within him, as it does to all Magic players at some point. Speaking of chagrin, I beat him in the semifinals and won the tournament (which turned out to be irrelevant thanks to my finish in Montreal the other day – got him!). Meanwhile, Liam crushed the Standard Showdown that Chris had skipped to chase the Pro Tour dream, and he started slipping quite far behind.
But Chris wouldn’t let a mere 16 year old defeat him, a grown man who owns real estate. He pushed his Showdown attendance into overdrive, winning a Prerelease and putting up Modern finish after Modern finish. It came down to the wire, with Liam only 4 points ahead going into this Game Day Showdown, and Chris had a trick up his sleeve: while Liam was off at Grand Prix Montreal, he had a wedding to attend on the Saturday, clearing his schedule for an easy Showdown win. Chris tested all week long with his friends, as though he was preparing for a Grand Prix rather than to show up someone half his age at a card game, and rolled up to the Showdown with a well tuned Temur Aetherworks Marvel deck and fire in his heart.
Liam, on the other hand, tore through the Grand Prix with his three Gideons at his side, eventually defeating Toronto local and podcaster Massimo Gordillo in a tight Mardu mirror match in round 14, then drawing into his first Grand Prix top 8 afterwards. With a flight to Kyoto, a qualification for the Pro Tour, and a cool 1500 USD on the side, Liam had a pretty stellar weekend.
Oh, and Chris won the Showdown, which is cool, I guess.
There are only two events left before the Ultimate Showdown! Check out your position in the standings and join us this weekend for a Modern Showdown and the next Saturday for the Last Chance Qualifier to that Sunday’s Regional Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour Hour of Devastation in Kyoto, Japan!
Chris Ha – Temur Aetherworks – 1st
Pasha Meshkati – Temur Aetherworks – 2nd
Ryan Sandrin – BG Energy – 3rd
Nathan Dunham – Temur Aetherworks – 4th
Quinn Gregg – Sultai Aetherworks – 5th
Geoff Johnson – RG Energy – 6th
John Blinov – Bant Aetherworks – 7th
Benson Lau – UR Control – 8th