There’s been a subtle change in direction in how to build Mardu. While I did very poorly at the PT, I’d like to share my mardu list and my thoughts behind it. I am done with this format until Hour of Devastation, but maybe someone else can build from the things I learned.
Based on magic online and my overall impressions of every deck strenght in the format, I estimated a metagame with Marvel and Mardu as the best and most played decks, with Zombies and UR Control as the next most popular options (this ended up close enough to the PT meta, where zombies tied with Marvel and Mardu). We figured Marvel would scare the BG players and other non-sense combo decks.
Trying to build the best Mardu for that meta led to this:
The main conclusions were to play 12 1-drops, 22 lands (with 2 Cultivator’s Caravan), and only 6 removal spells in the maindeck, with a full transformational sideboard with a heavy sweeper package. From what I’ve seen from the floor of the PT yesterday, it looked like other teams independently reached similar conclusions, which is reassuring.
This version is a little different from the more midrangey versions that were popular on SCG Open and Magic Online. Inventor’s Apprentice didn’t show up in any of those lists, but I didn’t understand why. Let me explain.
Basically, I didn’t see the need to play Walking Ballista and Archangel Avacyn in a world without Saheeli. To make those cards work against a larger field you’d need to play a high land count and a lot of removal. This would be OK if you only expected to play against BG and the mirror, but it really screws you over against combo and control.
In other words, if the expected metagame contained Marvel and UR control, you simply couldn’t afford to be midrange pre-board. Inventor’s Apprentice, on the other hand, complemented the optimal game plan against them for game 1 of being aggressive.
Another surprising pro argument for Inventor’s Apprentice was that I figured out that the best way to beat zombies game 1 is also to be extremely agressive. You can race them, but you can’t beat a long game against an active Cryptbreaket and Diregraf Colossus. Ideally you put them on blocking early enough and they won’t be able to build the critical mass of sinergy. This doesn’t make game 1 favored, is just the best way to play it to give you higher odds.
Post-board, the sweepers are good enough incentive to make to playing a controling role against zombies, specially on the draw. And you do need the sweepers to make the “slow” plan work, as just planeswalkers and spot removal won’t do it. If anything my largest regret was not playing 4 Fumigate in the sideboard.
Lastly, this leaves the question if Inventor’s Apprentice makes you unfavored in the mirror against the bigger versions, but after extensive playtesting I thought that wasn’t case. The game 1’s were very even, and game 2 you could become a very similar deck, so it was a wash. In the past, I’d learned that Inventor’s Apprentice wasn’t a great card post-board when the opponent brought a lot of Release the Gremlins and other removal. However, they had always been fine for game 1, and that conclusion held even againt someone that had 8-9 spot removals, a couple of ballistas and a couple of 5 mana creatures. A lot of pre-board games are decided by getting on the board early and hard – this means the opponent won’t be in a good spot to play his Gideon, and you can force good trades. The games you win this way make up the difference from the games you’d lose against a bigger versions because of the impacto f their slower cards in the late game.
For sideboarding in the mirror and against zombies, you can switch around on being very agressive on the play (including keeping inventor’s apprentice in the deck, and overall sideboarding minimally) to going full-on midrange on the draw, bringing in additional lands, planeswalkers and removal. For the PT, I’d settled on going big even on the play, but I was willing to change depending on what cards I saw and how my particular opponent played the games.
Sideboarding against Zombies and the mirror includes taking out all the non-thraben 1-drops, a couple of Scrapheap Scroungers, 1 veteran motorist and 1 pia to add lands, removal, planeswalker and then either release the gremlins (mirror) or mass removal (zombies)(alternatively, you can keep all 1-drops and sideboard 2 cut/ribbons, or 2 release the gremlins, for 1 veteran motorist and 1 pia naalar – keep this on the mind when on the play)
Against Marvel, I was taking out 2 Fatal Push and 2 Unlicensed Desintegration for 2 Transgress the Mind and 2 Release the Gremlins.
Going forward, I’d like to try a side board with 4 Fumigates and 2 Chandra Flamecaller (instead of Sorin) to really hammer the zombies matchup.
Thanks for reading!