A Jurassic World

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A Jurassic World

Is a Jurassic World an upcoming blockbuster starring Chris Pratt, or an apt description of the future of the Dragons of Tarkir format? In this article, I’m going to help you figure out how to beat the Den Protector decks that have quickly become the top strategies in standard.

 

Move over Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid (wait, don’t move that far, we might still need you), there are some new green cards in town!  The synergistic combination of Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor has taken standard by storm, giving green decks the ability to out-card advantage even their Esper control opponents!

How to Beat Den Protector Decks

One of the biggest contributing factors to the massive rise in prevalence of decks featuring, what I’m calling, “the Jurassic synergy” is the relative ease of supporting it.

It’s as simple as this: can you support two green symbols on turn three? Then Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector might be right for you.

It’s always a worry when cards attain such a ubiquitous status. It’s our job as Standard players to figure out how to defeat these strategies, and keep our format healthy.

Just a couple weeks ago, it seemed we’d never be free of the domination of Esper Dragons lists. Green midrange lists suffered the most from the dominion of the control decks. Getting underneath Silumgar’s Scorn was near impossible, and green midrange lists were forced to adopt a strategy of “resolve a Whisperwood Elemental , Nissa, Worldwaker, or a big Genesis Hydra bringing out one of those two… or lose.” And that task proved quite difficult.

It wasn’t long before people realized that the best way for green decks to beat these Esper Dragons lists are with the Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor generating a steady stream of card advantage. Esper decks as they were originally constructed just couldn’t keep up.

Now that the secrets out, how can we undermine this new Megamorph king of the hill?

Megamorph Manifestations

First, we need to take a look at a couple of the incarnations of these Megamorph strategies.

The first version to really start popping up was Bant Megamorph.

Bant Megamorph 

By Mark Jacobsen (Grand Prix Toronto)

4x Elvish Mystic
4x Den Protector
4x Fleecemane Lion
4x Deathmist Raptor
3x Sylvan Caryatid
3x Dragonlord Ojutai
2x Surrak, the Hunt Caller
1x Warden of the First Tree
3x Dromoka’s Command
2x Valorous Stance
1x Disdainful Stroke
2x Mastery of the Unseen

4x Forest
4x Windswept Heath
4x Temple of Plenty
4x Yavimaya Coast
3x Flooded Strand
2x Plains
2x Mana Confluence
1x Island

Sideboard

1x Dromoka’s Command
2x Valorous Stance
3x Disdainful Stroke
2x Negate
1x Plummet
1x Stratus Dance
2x Hornet Nest
2x Glare of Heresy
1x Arashin Cleric

When I first saw Bant Megamorph lists floating around, it struck me as a good-stuff type deck that could attack from multiple angles. Mastery of the Unseen was lauded at the beginning of the format as the best thing you could be playing against control. As Control decks established themselves as able to revert to fast clocks, this became less true. However, between Mastery of the Unseen and Den Protector, this deck has the ability to generate tons of card advantage in the late game, and will win most attrition battles for this very reason. Further, while both cards can generate a lot of card advantage on their own, the synergy between the two can often just “pop off.” When you manifest a Den Protector off of the top of your deck, flip it to return a card to hand as well as returning a Deathmist Raptor to the field, well, you’re going to feel fantastic.

The green-white core gives it the ability to generate aggressive starts through Fleecemane Lion, Warden of the First Tree, and Surrak the Hunt Caller. Splashing blue gives the deck access to valuable countermagic out of the sideboard (with a spicy mainboard Disdainful Stroke) as well as the evasive, hexproof-y behemoth that is Dragonlord Ojutai. It seems like a great place to be against Esper Dragons decks.

Then there’s the more straightforward GW strategies:

GW Megamorph

by Jonathan Berg (SCG Dallas)

4x Avatar of the Resolute
4x Den Protector
4x Deathmist Raptor
4x Elvish Mystic
4x Fleecemane Lion
2x Hidden Dragonslayer
1x Warden of the First Tree
2x Boon Satyr
2x Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4x Collected Company
3x Dromoka’s Command
3x Valorous Stance

8x Forest
4x Plains
1x Blossoming Sands
2x Mana Confluence
4x Temple of Plenty
4x Windswept Heath

Sideboard

2x Arashin Cleric
3x Hornet’s Nest
2x Mastery of the Unseen
2x Windstorm
2x Glare of Heresy
4x Hunt the Hunter

The GW builds forego mana complications to indulge in a richer core synergy. Collected Company demands that you run a high density of creatures, and cards like Hidden Dragonslayer push the Megamorph interaction with Deathmist Raptor even further, while also providing utility. One of my favorite things about Hidden Dragonslayer in this build is the fact that it satisfies the high body count demanded by Collected Company, while also acting as a situational kill spell, which Collected Company demands that the deck run relatively few of.

Abzan Megamorph

by Nathan Waxer (SCG Dallas)

4x Deathmist Raptor
4x Den Protector
1x Warden of the First Tree
4x Fleecemane Lion
1x Hidden Dragonslayer
4x Courser of Kruphix
3x Satyr Wayfinder
3x Siege Rhino
2x Whisperwood Elemental
1x Tasigur, the Golden Fang
1x Elspeth, Sun’s Chamion
2x Abzan Charm
2x Dromoka’s Command
1x Murderous Cut
1x Thoughtseize

3x Forest
1x Plains
1x Caves of Kolios
2x Llanowar Wastes
4x Sandsteppe Citadel
4x Temple of Malady
4x Temple of Silence
4x Windswept Heath
1x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Sideboard

1x Reclamation Sage
1x Soul of Innistrad
2x Mastery of the Unseen
1x Virulent Plague
1x Bile Blight
1x Sidisi, Undead Visitor
1x Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1x Sorin, Solemn Visitor
1x Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1x Crux of Fate
3x Drown in Sorrow
1x Self-Inflicted Wound

Woo! This list is a doozy! I could write for a whole article about what I like and don’t like about this list. I mean, three Siege Rhino? I’d love to discuss this particular build in the comments section. The coolest thing about this list is the way that it takes advantage of Sidisi, Undead Vizier (out of the SB) and Den Protector and Satyr Wayfinder, to be able to grind out access to the slew of one-ofs available.

This list is deceptive to a certain degree, because Abzan Megamorph as an archetype is actually pretty simple, your splashing black for access to Siege Rhino and Abzan Charm, the rest is up to you. As I talked about in my last article, Abzan decks generally tend to have tons of flex slots, since they are usually a collection of the best cards available, and without Collected Company, there is no greedy core synergy dominating this list. I like Waxer’s list because it shows the versatility available to the Abzan Megamorph, in that he had room to make quite a few unconventional decisions.

To conclude, Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor are great, but they’re only eight cards in the deck. There are a wide variety of options available, and the Jurassic Synergy leaves the other 52 cards up to you; there are no must-includes.

Targetted Hate Cards

 Since the Deathmist Raptor + Den Protector Synergy relies so heavily on the graveyard, one of the first places we can look is towards the graveyard hate available in the format.

Tormod’s Crypt is ultimately too narrow. While extremely powerful against decks that heavily rely on graveyard interaction, in most megamorph decks, its only the 8 cards of the Jurassic synergy that need graveyards. And once you crack the crypt, they’ll likely just refill the graveyard, or just draw into the other good cards in their deck. The only other matchup where I would even consider bringing this in post-sb is against Sidisi Whip decks. Even then, we run into the same problem. Often you’re wasting a card to trade for the extra value that your opponent’s cards can generate, instead of answering the base threat. In other words, it can prevent a two for one against certain decks, but doesn’t give you the one for one you need.

Another targeted hate card that I’ve seen tossed about is Stain the Mind. This kind of effect is very interesting, in that when it hits, and you get rid of something in their hand, it feels very powerful, but often it’s just a removal spell for a card in your opponents graveyard and that’s not where you want to be. I think this is better than Tormod’s Crypt, however, and wouldn’t be averse to the inclusion of one in sideboards. But I don’t think you want more than one copy due to the cards inherent limitations, and I wouldn’t run it in a deck without more than a couple creatures, because casting it turn five isn’t where you want to be.

Burn Away is a powerful anti-graveyard card for red decks, with the major caveat being that the five mana cost is prohibitively high, especially in red, as most of the time if you’re playing red and you have five lands on the field you’re losing that game. However, it can also answer Siege Rhino, and that’s always a plus

Unfortunately, this standard doesn’t have a Rest in Peace-like effect. If we had something like that, an enchantment that prevented any cards from going to the graveyard, then I think it’d be worth playing some number of them. So when it comes down to it, I’m not really into any of the available targeted hate cards, they’re either too narrow, or too costly. I wouldn’t recommend including any of these into your sideboards.

Coincidental Hate Cards

Due to the Megamorph decks’ ability to win the game even without their namesake synergy, I believe that Coincidental Hate cards are the best way to interrupt their stream of card advantage.

I call them coincidental because the cards I’m going to talk about here are at least marginally good without their hate-clauses. This enables them to be brought in against other matches that don’t feature graveyard-based synergies.

Anger of the Gods is the first that comes to mind and perhaps the best way to interrupt the Jurassic synergy. The exile clause helps it clear the field of all Den Protectors, and all but the flipped Deathmist Raptors, and to keep them gone permanently.

The biggest benefit to Anger of the Gods is that it’s also THE go-to sideboard card for red based decks against Atarka Red/RDW. If you find a sideboard card is a premier spell against two of the biggest decks in standard, with very different strategies, than it’s a very good sideboard card.

Silence the Believers and Utter End are also both interesting choices for decks that support those colors. Their high mana costs mean that they might get outclassed by a stronger standard format, but Silence the Believers can often function as a pseudo-boardwipe, and Utter End is the most versatile removal spell in standard, so their abilities to function outside their hate-purpose is what makes these cards so good.

Similarly, bringing Perilous Vault back into control decks will provide the much needed exile effect, if the above cards aren’t for you.

There are a few coincidental hate cards that I didn’t mention, because they’re important for explaining this next part…

Well-Positioned Decks

The Jurassic Synergy is by its very nature a little but clunky. Deathmist Raptor is reasonably aggressively costed, but Den Protector, takes a lot of mana investment to get the engine going.

In the end, hate cards just aren’t enough. The synergy is at its best in grindy matchups where it life feels relatively unthreatened. Therefore, the best decks for defeating the Megamorph archetype are decks that pair a high density of coincidental hate cards with an aggressive strategy.

One of the best positioned decks against Megamorph is Abzan Aggro. The reason for this is that Azban Aggro runs the highest density of coincidental hate cards, and features an aggressive, life-total threatening strategy.

Abzan Charm can finally assert itself as potentially the best card in the format. The exile clause on its removal mode is suddenly incredibly relevant for removing Deathmist Raptors and keeping them removed.

Pair this with Anafeza, Foremost’s ability to prevent Raptor recursion, while also being an incredibly aggressive early drop, and you have a recipe for success against Megamorph decks.

Atarka Red/RDW decks are in an interesting position against the Megamorph archetype. Their ability to threaten the life total more than any other deck in the format makes game one hugely in their favor. However, in games two and three, Den Protector’s megamorph ability becomes hyper-relevant as the Megamorph deck is suddenly able to recur game-breaking RDW-hate cards like Arashin Cleric or Hornet’s Nest. These cards are hard enough to deal with the first time around, they can become impossible to deal with once recurred.

Mardu Dragon’s decks are also in a good position. Their abilitiy to fly over anything the Megamorph decks put down with Thunderbreak Regents and Stormbreath Dragons, while also presenting fast, early clocks in the form of Seeker of the Way and Goblin Rabblemaster put them in a good position game one. Some number of Anger of the Gods out of the sideboard keeps them well positioned games two and three.

Another deck worth mentioning that is put into an oddly powerful position in a Megamorph dominated metagame is the BWx Warriors strategy that has been floating consistently around tier two.

Mardu Woe-Reaper is the perfect example of a powerful coincidental hate card against Abzan Megamorph. It hates on their Jurassic Synergy, while also being an aggressive 2-power one drop. The downside is that this strategy gets hit really hard by Anger of the Gods, which I expect to be present in increasing numbers in red sideboards.

What Should I Play Then?

Always Siege Rhino.

But, really.

I anticipate that Megamorph decks should dominate the meta for at least a couple more weeks. Maybe I’m wrong. But if I’m not, here’s what you should be playing.

Abzan Aggro: this is the clear choice for the next couple of weekends. Powerful against Esper Dragons and Megamorph Strategies, this deck has game against everything.

Mardu Dragons: Again, another deck with game against Megamorph and Esper Dragons. A slew of edict effects put this deck in the best position to be killing Dragonlord Ojutai. I’d recommend packing a full four Anger of the Gods in the sideboard.

Esper Dragons: This still might be the best deck in standard. Even if Megamorph is on the rise specifically to snipe these strategies, the color combo is not dead in the water to the Jurassic Synergy. Slight tweaks like the reintroduction of Perilous Vault, Silence the Believers, or Utter End can make all the difference.

Abzan Midrange: I think Abzan Aggro is going to come out as the most potent deck in this Megamorph dominated metagame, and in that case, we’re going to want to go one step higher and metagame against them. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is lights out for Abzan Aggro decks, and while Den Protector is able to evade her tokens, Elspeth is also one of the best cards against the rest of the 56 cards featured in the Megamorph decks. Don’t let Den Protector’s text fool you, Elspeth is a potent tool against Megamorph Decks. The inclusion of Fleecemane Lions mainboard make it so that the Midrange decks can still function on an aggressive axis.

The best part: you can even play your own Den Protectors!



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