Adam Prosak broke Standard.
He seems to think his day in the sun is gone. You're far more likely to see him commentating or cubing at events rather than actually playing but why Adam? You're so smart! You still have so much to teach us...
It all started here:
To be fair I'm sure it started in a place way uglier than this but this was the "finished" product Adam presented us with two weeks ago.
From there two copies made Top 8 of the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in St. Louis one of which was piloted Adam. Next it outright won the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Dallas. Three other U/W variants were in the Top 8 but the "Flash" deck took it down. In the meantime it's been killing it on Magic Online.
Why is U/W so good?
1) Counterspells: Right now counterspells are very good. They're not Mana Leak quality but then again the format is underpowered and decks aren't as fast as they were last season. Something like Syncopate would be awful in Delver as everyone would be out-landing you with or without acceleration. However in this format catching their four- five- or six-drop for two mana isn't unheard of.
Of course a rise in Cavern of Souls could change that but it isn't likely. Very few of the creature types overlap so you need to build your deck in such a way that you can beat a resolved Thragtusk or two. Overall not that big of a deal.
2) Velocity: Use cantrips to keep the land drops coming and to find what you need. This leads to a full graveyard that you can take advantage of with Snapcaster Mage Moorland Haunt and Runechanter's Pike. I've tried decks with 26 land and no Thought Scour and they functioned much worse than decks with 24 land and four Thought Scour.
3) Restoration Angel / Snapcaster Mage: Obviously these cards work well together and make it so you can hold open countermagic and deploy threats if they choose to not cast anything. The real analogue is comparing them to Mistbind Clique and Cryptic Command.
Back in the day if you cast a spell against Faeries with four open mana you would likely get hit with the Dismiss mode on Cryptic Command. If you attacked they would ambush you with Mistbind Clique making you unable to play spells.
These days it's more of the same. If you attack you probably lose a guy to Restoration Angel. If you cast a spell they probably get you with Snapcaster Mage. If you pass the turn Angel comes down anyway. God forbid they have Rewind into Restoration Angel...
4) Tempo: U/W isn't very good at creating tempo on its own. There does come a point in the midgame where it can switch from a control role and kill opponents in two or three turns though. Knowing when to switch roles is important from the U/W perspective. Also knowing when U/W is about to switch roles is important when you're playing against it.
Since Adam's article and Top 8 finish I've been playing his deck online to great success. This is where I'm at right now:
Only three?! For a while I only had three Augur of Bolas as well. This deck is capable of grinding out true control decks with Augur / Restoration Angel shenanigans and Augur is the single most valuable card you can play against Mono-Red Aggro which is rather big on Magic Online.
Snapcaster Mage on the other hand isn't something you want to see too many of. Loading your deck up with creatures makes each individual creature you draw worse because you'll have less spells to play with.
Don't listen to Sam Black—Dissipate isn't strictly better than Syncopate. He thinks that Revelation is all that matters in Standard but I have a feeling that's based on some inbred testing. There are decks like Mono-Red Aggro Zombies and even G/W that will roll over your mono-three-drop deck.
Instead I want a mix. I could even see cutting the Dissipates for another Rewind and another Syncopate. There's a large amount of Reanimator running around so I want to have the best shot at beating them game 1.
Dissipate is much better when you're forcing your own spells through but Syncopate is better at defending yourself from large spells. In this deck I want to defend until I have a window to resolve my spell.
In the end you can play whatever mix of counterspells you think is correct. I don't want to fall behind because I lost the die roll and can't counter something on turn 2 but being able to counter things late matters as well.
It makes your mana worse but it's fantastic in the mirror matches. While resolving Snapcaster Mage every single time isn't a big deal (since if it mattered they could just counter whatever it is you're flashing back) resolving Restoration Angel every time is.
In mirror matches you get to blank a lot of their cards. It's what I used in Delver last season to gain an edge in the mirror and not much has changed.
Sorry buddy you're just not good anymore. Everyone has blockers and without Delver of Secrets you don't provide enough of a clock on your own. Playing Geist (or Delver) in these U/W decks is like playing a Lava Axe. Sure sometimes it might get 'em but it's not what you're looking for.
Of course a Geist-based deck could exist especially alongside Delver but there's a reason those decks don't exist right now. They just aren't very good in this slower metagame. Cards like Supreme Verdict and Cavern into Thragtusk are very difficult to beat.
I've had people sideboard this card in against me so why am I playing it? Against Reanimator Purify the Grave does a decent amount of things. You can counter an Unburial Rites and find it with Augur of Bolas so it seems like the perfect card for the deck.
Those decks are going to beat you even if you have Purify though. You need something that actually packs a punch and takes away their engine. On top of that most Reanimator lists are playing Deathrite Shaman which not only clock you but make your Pikes and Snapcasters not very good anyway.
Side those cards out and side in Rest in Peace and your life will be much easier against them.
Most people sideboard Geists in this slot as they think the main purpose is to kill opposing Geists denying your opponent the potential for free wins. My decision to play Clone goes much deeper than that.
Against Reanimator something might slip through the cracks. At that point Clone catches you right back up whether it's an Angel of Serenity or Thragtusk. If you've resolved a Rest in Peace there's not much they can do if you have Clone to back it up.
This is usually the card that allows you to switch gears. It's possible to drop two Angels and clock them fast enough that they can't clock you back especially if you have an Azorius Charm in there somewhere but Pike makes it so much easier.
If I were playing U/W/R I'd want one Devil's Play instead of two Pikes though.
This is the other Pike-type card in the deck. Sometimes you have to blow it for two cards but that just gives you the resources you need to cast another one or survive until you can Snapcaster it. Once you've depleted their resources with cheap countermagic and Azorius Charms this is the best way to pull ahead. It also gives you some much-needed life gain in certain matchups.
These along with Thought Scour and Azorius Charm allow you to make enough land drops to cast a not-embarrassing Sphinx's Revelation. My initial reaction was to cut them but I've since rectified that mistake. A third wouldn't be out of the question but adding the fourth probably is. I don't want to draw two per game as I'm typically spending the early turns doing something else.
This card is incredibly frustrating to play against. Locking out their draw step means they can't peel a burn spell to kill you. In multiples or with Snapcaster Mage decks like Mono-Red Aggro won't get to draw a new card for several turns while you're setting up for a big Sphinx's Revelation.
Using it to give lifelink is another great way to win races. In some matchups you cycle them and then side them out which might make them seem bad. They're basically Terror with cycling and life gain attached though. You could play less than four but I probably wouldn't believe your reasoning is grounded in reality.
From Prosak's list I added a 24th land. I wanted to try a Guildgate to see how bad it is but I haven't wanted to cut it yet. With Cavern of Souls casting things like Supreme Verdict in a timely fashion can be difficult at times which is why I wanted another dual land.
If you're playing a land-light version I could see how the Guildgate might mess up your draws. In my deck it fills spots on the curve and does exactly what I want it to do. I could see cutting it before Grand Prix Charleston but I probably won't.
One of Prosak's biggest innovations previously was cutting Lord of the Unreal from his "Illusions" deck. In place of those he played Midnight Haunting. While a less powerful card overall Adam used them to turn his Illusions deck into more of a "draw-go" deck like he did a couple weeks ago. That plan allowed him to make Top 8 of an Invitational beating me twice along the way.
I figured Haunting would be great here. It's another card that can put on some pressure if they chose to not play anything into your open mana and it's great with Runechanter's Pike and Snapcaster Mage. It just was underwhelming though. I held on for as long as I could but after it did basically nothing for the millionth time I had to let go.
I like this one a lot. You use your Unsummons to save your own creatures at least 33% of the time so clearly Saving Grasp is useful. On the other hand against Mono-Red Aggro you need every Unsummon for their creatures.
Against decks like Jund having a Saving Grasp is pretty nice. Typically you're countering their threats and beating them down with Augur and Snapcaster. Eventually they have to aim a Searing Spear at one of them and Saving Grasp puts them in a deep hole. It also counters both halves of Sever the Bloodline.
It might be more "cute" than anything and I'm not sure if I can justify playing it at the Grand Prix.
This one seemed good in theory but played out poorly in practice. It seemed like an Augur that could find another Augur or a way for me to keep the engine flowing mid game. Instead it was difficult finding a good time to cast it and it definitely sucked against sweepers.
Against aggro decks you want to either side in cheap removal or a big roadblock like Vampire Nighthawk. Both Seraph and Fettergeist are solid and both die to Thunderbolt. Seraph's life gain (and the fact that Cavern is actually fixing your mana) is what led me to try it but Fettergeist is likely better.
There's a large hole in the three-drop spot whereas the four-drop spot is occupied. You'll be siding in Supreme Verdict against aggressive decks so there's no point in siding in another four-drop as well.
Cast Fettergeist on turn 3 make them overextend then blow them out with a Verdict on turn 5 or 6.
This is the other option for fighting aggressive decks. Pacifism and Sensory Deprivation are options but you can't find them with Augur of Bolas. Each of them is weak to Restoration Angel so I'm sticking with mostly Fettergeists right now. The one Blow is in my sideboard to have something on curve and because I want to see how it performs.
With counterspells being so rampant I wouldn't recommend playing Thundermaw Hellkite unless you want to Cavern of Souls some Dragons. Then again what exactly does U/W do against an uncounterable Dragon?
This is my current list:
I might like this list better because I feel it covers more angles. It could be that moving in a more controlling direction is flat-out wrong also. Obviously the shell is adopted from my U/W list but I also drew on a lot of inspiration from Archer's list.
- Pillar of Flame Searing Spear and Izzet Staticaster provide hard removal against creature decks.
- Not much need for Runechanter's Pike making Augur of Bolas hit spell more often.
- Weaker mana base that's more painful and not able to play as many utility lands.
- General cards like Unsummon and Azorius Charm are less powerful than something like Searing Spear but are dead less often.
Hopefully this week I'll find out which one is definitely better.
This is a tough one. I would build the deck differently than everyone else but maybe I'm just wrong. Splashing for Rampant Growth in a deck that doesn't necessarily even want Rampant Growth seems bad either way.
This is my list:
This deck was mostly terrible but I believe its issues could be solved. While I still maintain that Farseek is mostly wrong Thragtusk also doesn't fit into the U/W counter-heavy shell. You almost never want to tap out since it's so much easier to play on their turn. Thragtusk / Cavern is a beating in the mirror though so I don't know.
Angel of Serenity was another trump for the mirror but that might be better as a sideboard option. A lot of decks are too fast and I was siding it out more than I wanted for a maindeck card.
- Thragtusk! Centaur Healer after board.
- Cackling Counterpart is actually good in this deck.
- Winning felt easier. Ended most games at a high life total and a huge advantage where nothing they could draw would save them.
- Weaker mana base.
- Average casting cost of spells is much higher. Relying on high impact five-drops to catch you back up is fine but I've been happy with low impact two-drops in this format. Maybe I don't need/want Thragtusk.
- More controlling so not as able to shift roles when necessary.
- Centaur Healer while good made the Augurs fairly weak. Maybe that's a fine tradeoff though.
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