Hey everyone! It’s Gerard “Gfabs” Fabiano here to tell you about the best and most fun deck in the current Standard metagame. It might not be the most innovative way to go about introducing a deck but I figured I'd stick with the basics. I’ll break down every card explain its role in the deck (even when it might seem obvious) and show you how to sideboard. At this point in the PTQ season you might not have time to test as extensively before each big tournament so I'm hoping to do most of the work for you.
Now let me go over the deck card for card and then get into matchups with sideboarding plans.
He serves as one of the main sources of damage in the deck (like a Blue Boggart Ram-Gang) and is perfect when coupled a lynchpin of the deck: Sygg. A turn 2 Sygg followed by a turn 3 Clique is one of the best draws you can get. He also serves as a card drawer at times since you can always just target yourself on turn 3. The deck is very dependent on mana so by targeting yourself with the Clique it will allow you to cycle past an unnecessary card and get you to something better (or to the extra land you may want). Clique also helps you against Great Sable Stag if you are on the play since you can make sure it won’t be coming down on turn 3. To be completely honest Stag isn’t even a problem; even if they are main-decking it you have a few ways to deal with it.
It is also very raceable given your draws since the deck can deal a large amount of damage to your opponent and gain lots of card advantage over a few turns. After sideboarding along with Clique you have Thoughtseize to take away their turn 3 Stag. Clique should almost never get boarded out as it is one of the most versatile cards you have.
Anathemancer is one of your best cards against three of the most popular decks: Cascade Faeries and Five-Color Control. Main-decking him gives you an advantage against all these decks as some of them simply cannot beat it. The best part is being able to play the game however you want against these decks. You can play the control game and win by unearthing the Anathemancer or go beatdown and have Anathemancer there to deal the final points of damage. This card does get sided out a lot against decks such as Merfolk Kithkin and Elves. In those matchups you don’t really care about dealing lots of damage. It’s more about taking control of the game then winning with basically anything.
Sygg River Cutthroat
Yes I am aware he is a legend and playing four might seem crazy but he helps you get to the “free wins” that happen in Magic. Turn 2 Sygg followed by Turn 3 Blightning is basically an Ancestral Recall and Lightning Bolt built into one. Another scenario could be turn 2 Sygg followed by turn 3 Fallout killing one or two of your opponent’s creatures and then having Sygg attack for the 3rd point allowing you to draw a card. I can go on about all these different scenarios but I won’t. However I will tell you its fine to run a turn 3 Lightning Bolt or Flame Javelin to your opponent’s face to get that free card at end of turn. This may seem obvious but don’t forget to draw with Sygg. Sometimes you may get excited because you just cast Cruel Ultimatum and the game is now looking good. I suggest you do whatever you can to remember to draw that card; maybe you can try sitting on your hands. This is a trick I sometimes use to make sure I slow down my pace of play so I don’t rush into things and forget. If I am actually sitting on my hands it takes a few more seconds and effort to actually do something so hopefully more time will be taken to make sure I make the right play. Another thing you can do is at the start of turn 1 just start announcing your "end step" so when you do have Sygg down the end step will be announced and hopefully you’ll remember to draw. Sygg is also a good early blocker to stop Mutavaults or some small Merfolk and Kithkin from coming in. Making them use their Harm’s Way to kill it is fine since it messes with the flow of their curve and they won’t have it for your Volcanic Fallout later on.
This is one of the most important cards in the deck since it’s often an “I win” card. Your plan in most matchups is to get to turn 7 and cast it. Sounds easy and it often is; just remember it’s okay to make “random” plays if it is part of your plan to get to seven mana. For example bounce a land and draw a card on your opponent’s turn with Command to give yourself more time to play Cruel Ultimatum. The big difference between Cruel Ultimatum here and Cruel Ultimatum in Five-Color Control is that you will almost always be able to cast it on turn 7 here whereas in Five-Color Control there are many enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands and sometimes a Flooded Groove or similar will mess up the mana. Against Red decks Cruel is 100% your game plan so make sure you do whatever you can to survive until turn 7. This may mean leaving a Clique back just in case they may have a Boggart Ram-Gang in their hand or on top of their library.
Of course remember this: don’t feel like you are making a bad play during the game when you do something unconventional. Play how you want. I know a lot of players get nervous when other people watch them play because they want to prove they know how to play but it is more important to win the game even if your play to the spectators may seem “wrong.”
This card is insane versus some decks and pretty bad versus others. Against Five-Color Control it’s the first card you take out. Even against Kithkin it can sometimes do nothing if they have Honor of the Pure or a Harm’s Way. However against Elves Merfolk or Faeries it is great. This deck has a lot of instants so feel free to bluff as much as you can but make sure you are bluffing in the right way. It is very tough for me to explain the “right way to bluff” in a single article but I will give an example.
1) A common bluff is the following: “Your turn. Okay during your upkeep... hmm... no during your draw step... hmm... okay never mind... you can draw.”
This is a clear indication that you are trying to bluff Vendilion Clique but in most cases you won’t have it unless you also have a Volcanic Fallout because if you did have Clique you would have probably played it... or simply not said anything at all. Again this might not make too much sense but I am trying to stress the need to be very subtle with your bluffs while making them noticeable. It's when you like a girl and you want her to know but you don’t want to tell her and you don’t want her to know that you are trying to let her know without saying anything.
If you ever see me at a PTQ GP or PT I’d be more than happy to give you some tips on bluffs because in a deck like this it's important to have your opponent always guessing what you have so they don’t know how to play against you.
This is a card I’ve wanted to play in a control deck for a while but it never really fit until now. The reason why it fits here is due to all the other burn the deck has and the fact that it’s so cheap that it complements your more expensive powerful cards really well. It is also the best answer to Great Sable Stag which Black/Blue decks have a problem facing. Bolt is another important bluff card because it will most likely stop players from playing how they desire since they know trying to go for a Mistbind Clique may be too dangerous or even an attack with Mutavault. Also if you are playing against someone who you consider pretty strong don’t always use your Bolt and walk into a Harm’s Way or Scion of Oona because you have to think that they wouldn’t make a given play knowing you may have a Lightning Bolt. Sometimes it's fine to take the damage from an attack then draw your card for the next turn. If it is a land don’t shuffle your hand and put it directly into play... this will show your opponent that there’s no way you have the Bolt because you would have used it last turn. At least that’s what they think... but you might have not used it because now you can have Cryptic Command backup or because you know that now they will make the play you want them to make and thus you’ll blow them out since they don’t put you on Bolt.
Also if your plan is to burn them out it’s often better to set up a turn where you deal a lot of damage to them since they won’t expect it. It’s almost like you’ve drafted a Tome Scour deck on MTGO and you draw a Tome Scour in your opening hand; you don’t want to cast turn 1 Tome Scour since they will have more information and play accordingly. You want to surprise them late game when they least expect it.
This one isn’t too tough to figure out; it is probably the best card in Standard. It's real easy to cast in the deck too. Aside from one filter land and a few basics all the lands really help cast it. The one difference here is that against some decks you always want to be doing something. So as I said earlier just bouncing and drawing on turn 4 is fine especially if they didn’t have a play. When this deck gets going you have a ton of card advantage so holding on to Cryptic Command to try to gain more is sometimes not worth it. Don’t ever feel like you are just “blowing away” your Command if you are using it to progress further along in the game enabling you to play your Cruel Ultimatum on time.
This was a new addition from my original list and it’s proved to be really good. Blast can be played during your opponent’s draw step if he only has 2 cards in his hand in the hope you hit a Blighting or before the attack step if you need to get to a Cryptic Command to tap down their team of guys. Sure sometimes you may hit a Clique or Sygg when you already have one or a Swerve after boarding but the odds of that are low. So just be aware of what you can and can’t hit before you play it. Blast serves as a good answer to Mistbind Clique or Broodmate Dragon guys which the controlling type decks will have and against beatdown decks it’s clearly a great card.
This is a solid card that serves as removal or burn. With the filter lands it is easy to cast.
Blighting is such a good card in so many ways. No one plays the Wilt-Leaf Liege anymore and if you run into the one person that does good beats. Blighting will win you games because so many players don't know how to play when they have limited resources; they will often discard the wrong cards. Blightning is also a good burn spell since it works perfectly with Sygg.
Liliana serves many purposes:
1) A fourth Cruel Ultimatum
2) More discard against control decks
3) A win condition by returning all creatures to the battlefield under your control
I feel she's the perfect card to have a one-of copy in the main deck.
To be honest this section isn’t going to be an exact formula on how to sideboard because it shouldn’t be. I always hear people saying “you board your Flashfreezes in against the Mono Red deck.” Yes that’s simple. Or “bring in Great Sable Stag against Faeries.” All good yet basic advice. However when you have a sideboard like mine where there are no cards that are 100% certain for a particular deck you must use your own judgment. Figure out the danger cards you saw in game 1 and figure out what you will be boarding in and what plan you are going for based on that information.
It is tricky here as there are many things to consider.
There are so many questions and I honestly don't want to tell you what to take out if it is not going to be correct because from my position behind my computer screen I won’t be able to tell what I saw in game 1. Clearly more spot removal in the form of the cheap Doom Blade will be good and Thoughtseize to take their Bitterblossom is strong. You will just have to rely on what you think and sideboard accordingly. When I am unsure what to take out I trim down and take one copy of five different cards. [Controversial... – Craig.]
I would remove something like this:
Mono Red Burn or Red with a Black Splash
2-4 Doom Blade (depending on their creature base)
1 Djinn of Wishes (since you are taking out the Anathemancers and you want enough win conditions once you take control of the game so they have less time to draw out of it. Also this is often a must kill for them since the potential card advantage could be too much; sometimes they will have to burn two cards to kill him)
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Thought Hemorrhage (if you think they may have Banefires or Anathemancers)
4 Volcanic Fallout
Elves Kithkin and Merfolk
Basically here it’s all the same: you want to bring in the 4 Doom Blades and bring in the Djinn of Wishes since the Anathemancers are getting cut. Infest is another card you want in and there is an argument for Thoughtseizes depending on what your opponent may have. Will Elves have Oversoul of Dusk? Will Merfolk leave in / have Mirrorweave? Honestly there is not an exact way to board as I mentioned before but just think about everything that happened in the previous game when you’re sideboarding. Another thought: if you think your Kithkin opponent will be packing 4 Burrenton Forge-Tenders and 4 Harm’s Way then take out your Volcanic Fallouts and just have Doom Blades and Infests. Additionally against any Four-Color Bloodbraid Elf 4 deck bring in Thoughtseizes.
I want you guys to play this deck this weekend at your PTQ as I am 100% sure there will be at least one Grixis Control pilot this weekend walking away with the invite to Austin. Let me know how you guys do with the best deck in the format. I will respond to any further questions in the forums.
Take it easy!