Celebrating Combat with UR Gift in Standard

Matt Morash
April 12, 2018
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Hello guys, gals, and planeswalking pals! Welcome to my first article here at Flipside Gaming!

A little information about myself as a Magic player, I love combo decks. In Legacy, My favorite deck is ANT storm and, if I played (or cared) about Modern, I’d play gifts storm as I’ve followed Emma Handy and Caleb Sherer in my Twitch.TV Tenure. The more Magic I can play without my opponent, the happier I am.

As a competitive Standard player, I always pay attention to the shifting metagame at the top tables of Magic’s pro scene. With the team constructed GP in Kyoto two weeks ago and a standard GP Seattle this past weekend, Magic’s live coverage on Twitch has given Standard spikes like myself a lot of decks to test and a lot of sideboards to recalculate.

Standard is in a much healthier place since the refining of its energy mechanic and has given a lot of room for new and innovative decks to rise and prosper. Looking to get back into standard, I was looking at the different 5-0 MTGO lists to jump onto and came across this beauty:

UR Gift Bomat Courier Champion of Wits Combat celebrant Fanatical Firebrand Minister of Inquiries Walking Ballista Vizier of Many Faces Trophy Mage Aether Hub Ipnu Rivulet Spirebluff Canal Island Mountain God-Pharaoh's Gift Cathartic Reunion Gate to the Afterlife Vizier of Many Faces Fiery Cannonade Jace's Defeat Silent Gravestone Spell Pierce Whirling Virtuoso

5-0’ingt the morning after GP Kyoto, I thought there might be some merit to this deck despite not showing up in the top 4 the night before.

This deck plays out like aggro deck with early game powerhouses like Bomat and Fanatical Firebrand. The strength comes from the deck’s ability turn up the heat on a dime, chaining combat steps with Celebrant when you can no longer get any chip damage in.

The next weekend, inspired by Jody Keith playing in GP Seattle, who regularly illustrates his prowess on Lands amongst the top tables of SCG Legacy opens, I fired up MTGO to play in a competitive Standard League with the list I had found the weekend before.

 

My first three matches of this league were against Green Red Monsters/Dinosaurs  and my experience was soul-crushing. My pain can be summed up by one card, Struggle//Survive.

RG Monsters Earthshaker Khenra Glorybringer Jadelight Ranger Merfolk Branchwalker Pia Nalaar Rekindling Phoenix Resilient Khenra Rhonas The Indomitable Verdurous Gearhulk Forest Hashep Oasis Mountain Rootbound Crag Sheltered Thicket Struggle // Survive Magma Spray Abrade Atzocan Archer Carnage Tyrant Chandra's Defeat Chandra, Torch of Defiance Deathgorge Scavenger Magma Spray Struggle // Survive Thrashing Brontodon Vance's Blasting Cannons

Guided by the list that placed second in Kyoto, it isn’t hard to see why I had trouble against the mainboarded answers to my plan in Sprays, Abrades, and Struggles.  In addition to this removal package, my opponents’ decks varied but some lists had Thrashing Brontodons and some Deathgorge Scavengers in the main to give me further complications in executing my game plan. The heavy handed removal along with Rekindling Phoenix putting me on a fast clock with no real flyers to contest was nearly insurmountable. All things considered this deck is really fast so, with one nutty opening hand on the play and one game where my opponent mulled to three and five games ending with L’s in my corner, I started my league 1W/2L. 

My luck turned around in round four where I was able to squeak out another match, coming out on top of my opponent’s...sucky...deck.

 

WB Vampires Champion of Dusk Dusk Legion Zealot Legion Lieutenant Martyr of Dusk Field of Ruin Forsaken Sanctuary Ifnir Deadlands Concealed Courtyard Plains Shefet Dunes Swamp Ixalan's Binding Legion's Landing Call to the Feast Cast Out Fatal Push Queen's Commission Radiant Destiny Arguel's Blood Fast Doomfall Duress Fatal Push Fragmentize Lost Legacy Profane Procession Solemnity

 

Black White vampires is a really interesting deck building around the tribal synergies printed in the Ixalan block. Going wide with token generators and pumping your team while capitalizing off ascend with Radiant Destiny, Vampires can explode out of the gate really quick. The deck had a place in the format earlier in the season but the metagame has adjusted. My early game threats and quasi-removal in Ballista, Firebrand and Warkite Marauder were no match for my opponents X/1’s. This strength against my opponent’s unsubstantial answers in Duress and Ixalan’s Binding left me victorious with my match record evening out to 2W/2L.

Alright, this one is for all the marbles. RiseoftheDankRealms is going for the reverse sweep! Can he get there? Not if he game one, turn three plays a Champion of Wits into a main-boarded Moment of Craving.

UB Midrange Champion of Wits Dusk Legion Zealot Glint-Sleeve Siphoner Gonti, Lord of Luxury The Scarab God Torrential Gearhulk Walking Ballista Aether Hub Drowned Catacomb Fetid Pools Field of Ruin Island Swamp Commit // Memory Essence Scatter Fatal Push Liliana, Death's Majesty Supreme Will Vraska's Contempt Aethersphere Harvester Arguel's Blood Fast Doomfall Duress Glimmer of Genius Golden Demise Jace's Defeat Moment of Craving Negate River's Rebuke

Coming off its first place finish in GP Kyoto, Blue Black Midrange was in my mind everytime I queued up for a match but never a teched version like the one I faced in round five. After getting 3for1’d on my third turn, I played out the rest of the match for information as my opponent systematically picked my grave to pieces with his Scarab God using my Masters of Inquisition to mill my opponent. My opponent, evidently not a fan of Champion of Wits or Earthshaker Kenra, ran three Moment of Craving in addition to other insane answers to my game plan in Vraska’s Contempt and  Commit//Memory. My opponent’s answers and counter magic were enough to put me behind his or her Scarab God, I couldn’t find a Warkite Marauder in time, and I ended my league 2W/3L.

So what led me to losing three out of five of my matches and what Information can we draw from my findings?  Four out of five of my matches I was paired against two decks leaving me in the deep end of what I would consider unfavorable matchups. I say this for two reasons, both matchups excluding Black White Vampires had two defining aspects that were really hard to beat, good answers and removal against my gift strategy in addition to a clock my deck wasn’t prepared to deal with.

Gone are the days where you could freely play out of your graveyard in standard. Once, when Emerge and Delirium were everywhere in standard with the Shadows Over Innistrad Block, there weren’t many answers to deal with Standard graveyard shenanigans. Back in the day, Bant Company, considered the boogeyman of the format, ran Day's Undoing. But, over the next few blocks, Wizards learned from their mistake and caused a few more (@TheStandardBanlist). When Wizard introduced God-Pharaoh's Gift as legitimate strategy they also released reliable answers, Magma Spray and Abrade, in the same block. In my experiences playing every iteration of God-Pharaoh’s Gift, you can tell how well your deck is going to perform by how many Abrades Mardu Vehicles is running main.

You may have watched Seattle’s standard coverage and thought “Hey, if a fifteen year old can pilot this list to semi’s, surely it must be as good as Reid Duke said it was!” And to that point, I would tell any player trying to pick this deck up to take this ever-changing standard meta into account. Blue Red Gift in Standard fits the same role as Affinity does In Modern. God-Pharaoh’s Gift a very unique, if not broken, game strategy but all the hate cards that can be easily and are popularly teched against this strategy is, in the end, the decks downfall.

With every article I want to leave you with a brew based on my findings for the week and, for this week, I learned how well positioned playsets of Magma Spray and Abrades are against not only this Red Blue Gift list as well as the Black Red aggro list Gerry Thompson was running this past weekend. Regisaur Alpha is a pretty great card in combination with Anointed Procession so, explored how far this removal package can carry me in this new aggressive meta and I am undefeated in standard pick-up matches on MTGO against UR Gift, Grixis control, and Mastermind’s ramp.

Naya Dinosaurs Deathgorge Scavenger Regisaur Alpha Rekindling Phoenix Earthshaker Khenra Thrashing Brontodon Forest Inspiring Vantage Mountain Rootbound Crag Scavenger Grounds Sheltered Thicket Sunpetal Grove Abrade Anointed Procession Commune with Dinosaurs Magma Spray Chandra's Defeat Cast Out Crested Herdcaller Pia Nalaar God-Pharoah's Gift

I’d love hear your thoughts on my findings. Do you think Grayson’s list that placed second in Seattle is better to take on this meta? Am I just whining because my favorite game plan in standard is hated out so easily? Even if you just want to laugh at my losing record and put me down in the comments below, I entreat you to do so!

 

Until my next article, here’s the list I’m having fun with.

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