Good morning/evening! Glad you could come by again!
I had a completely different article typed up, and as of now, I'm only a few hours from my deadline. However, I didn't really like the feel of that article, as it felt that I was using my position as a writer to air my grievances against someone (even though I carefully worded it so it wouldn't seem that way) and that the article provided little substance at all. Suffice it to say, it had to do with lying to judges. If you read the end of this article, you'll see that I experienced both the lowest end of competitive Magic play (the lying) as well as the highest level of sportsmanship possible in Charlotte.
More on that later.
So I'm switching it up!
I've been brewing lately, as I always do, thinking about all the things I could do in Standard. This is based quite a bit off of my number crunching, realizing what cards/interactions are good at the moment and then going through Gatherer far too many times.
A lot of ideas evolved from other ideas, so you'll see some crossover between the lists, but I'll point out the cards/interactions that made me shift to a new decklist altogether. This is how brewing goes a lot of the time. You'll see interactions that catch your eye and explore that option; unfortunately for me, this usually pulls me from the original idea, and I never revisit it.
For once, I actually managed to brew some lists up before my mind shifted to the next idea. I'll kind of walk through my ideas as they evolved, but there's no real order, just a rough guide to how my deck ideas evolved from one to the next.
This is where I started with my ideas back when I realized damage-based removal wasn't where I wanted to be at. I knew I wanted to play some Abrupt Decays and, with Falkenrath Aristocrat and Boros Charm around, Mutilate over Supreme Verdict. The problem with losing Supreme Verdict wasn't specifically that card but that you also lose the ability to play Sphinx's Revelation. Honestly, that realization took a lot of wind out of the sails, but the ideas I had were seemingly sound. If I could figure out a way to balance the Swamp count with a singleton white source consistently, I might have explored this one further.
The basic idea was that Mutilate didn't need to give -4/-4 or greater when you played it; in fact, for early mass removal spells to be effective in Standard right now, you probably only need to catch X/3s or less. Bigger guys could be cleaned up by the spot removal suite black offers, and you could even skimp a bit on the Swamp count due to having Farseek and Liliana of the Dark Realms, a great removal spell and finisher in the deck (both with the second ability; I'd have no use for the third).
Also, I wanted to play at least three Curse of Death's Hold. I envisioned games getting to the point where I had multiple Curses in play against aggro decks and basically having them locked out, and with the ability to cast them even sooner with Farseek, this didn't seem totally terrible when combined with Mutilate to be able to finish off the bigger guys. This was all in theory. It seemed ok enough, but I had no way to gain card advantage or go through my deck.
I also had no win condition; that's when I thought up this combination that is about 20 turns too slow and vulnerable to the one removal spell they never had to use the entire game:
You'd presumably be playing Snapcaster Mage anyway, but it's needed for this amazing "combo." One Jarad's Orders gets all the pieces if you get a Ghoul (graveyard) and Snapcaster (hand) with the first then flash the Orders back for the other two pieces. In combination with the other Swamp-focused cards in the deck (mainly Liliana of the Dark Realms, but this also makes Farseek a live draw), you should start recouping quite a bit of card advantage.
Then someone pointed out that Griselbrand does this ten times better by himself, and I felt rather ridiculous. However, when researching cards for this deck, I found this card that I'd previously forgotten:
Here's where the fun begins. My initial ideas were for a midrange BUG deck that ran Ghostly Flicker as its Restoration Angel replacement that had combo potential. Obviously, I began looking up creatures with enters the battlefield triggers, but I also looked up artifacts and lands (spoiler alert: there aren't any good targets).
However, the fact that Archaeomancer exists in Standard let me plan for a late game where I've set up Archaeomancer, Ghostly Flicker, and any value creature I could think of to grind out my opponent. We'd obviously have to get there first, so I initially worked with the BUG shell from my first idea.
Here's the decklist I ended up with:
- 1 Archaeomancer
- 3 Augur of Bolas
- 2 Disciple of Bolas
- 1 Evil Twin
- 3 Snapcaster Mage
- 4 Thragtusk
- 1 Prime Speaker Zegana
A lot of this list should be self-evident, but I like the idea of combining Disciple of Bolas with Ghostly Flicker, creating a version of Sphinx's Revelation within BUG. Ditto for Prime Speaker Zegana. It was tough balancing the number of creatures (to take advantage of Ghostly Flicker) with the number of spells since I wanted to run Snapcaster Mage to be able to flash the Flicker back (and needed enough spells to warrant it, also giving me the opportunity to run Augur of Bolas). However, it could be correct to cut the Augurs and play some Garruk, Primal Hunters or even replace the Augurs with Elvish Visionary (even just combining Ghostly Flicker with Archaeomancer and Visionary late game gives you a great mana sink).
Thinking of this, I realized that maybe I shouldn't be worried about Augurs and Mutilates. Thus, the next evolution of my idea. This kind of branched into multiple directions: a three-color version and a four-color version.
Greed is my middle name!
Both of these use Flicker though. After playing Jund in the Win a Trip to Miami 10K side event in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago, I realized that the most powerful thing you could be doing right now is still either Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusk or Sphinx's Revelation. I enjoyed playing with the midrange deck quite a bit, and thinking back to it made me realize that Huntmaster is another great Flicker target.
So I ended up with this list. It's very similar to Naya in that it hopes to Blink Thragtusks and Huntmasters, but I think the end game is better due to the plethora of card drawing options and possible combo finish to help grind out advantages.
- 2 Arbor Elf
- 1 Archaeomancer
- 1 Clone
- 4 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 2 Master Biomancer
- 2 Snapcaster Mage
- 4 Thragtusk
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
- 2 Prime Speaker Zegana
This is yet another Thragtusk/Huntmaster midrange deck in the vein of Jund. The real question: is this just a worse Jund? You'll see that I adopted some components of Jund that I liked, including two Arbor Elf to play the role of Farseeks five and six. I have one Garruk, Primal Hunter as my Prime Speaker Zegana #3 that has the added bonus of being good by itself.
What did I lose switching from Jund to this? Murder, Abrupt Decay, Olivia Voldaren, Liliana of the Veil, and Rakdos's Return from the maindeck and Underworld Connections and Duress from the board (among other things—just trying to think of context for how the deck shifts in plan from Jund). Jund looks to grind their opponent out using removal and superior creatures. In this deck, we have removal and superior creatures, but instead of removal and discard, we focus on synergies and pulling ahead through the use of Ghostly Flicker and cards like Prime Speaker Zegana and Snapcaster Mage.
I think Jund might have a slightly more powerful plan, but I do believe this deck can generate more card advantage than Jund. Does that make it worth playing over Jund? I don't know, but I do plan on trying this one out, at least at FNM, to see how it goes.
Against other creature decks (the majority of the metagame right now), your plan is to clog up the board using your Thragtusks and Huntmasters. Master Biomancer makes your Thragtusks and Huntmasters bigger/better than theirs, though you don't want many copies clogging up your hand. Just as before, with the main removal spells still being Searing Spear and Abrupt Decay right now, Biomancer seems primed to shine.
Essentially, you'll want to sculpt a board state where you have multiple creatures that gain value from Ghostly Flicker and blow your opponent out with the namesake spell.
Think about it… Ghostly Flicker, in this deck, can read:
- Put a 2/2 Wolf and a 3/3 Beast onto the battlefield, gain seven life.
That's about as baseline as it gets in this deck; think about how ridiculous a spell that costs three mana would be if it did that! And it only gets better!
- Put a 3/3 or 2/2 onto the battlefield, one of your spells in the graveyard gains flashback, gain two/five life
- Put a 3/3 Beast onto the battlefield, gain five life, draw six cards.
- Gain control of target permanent until end of turn, return Ghostly Flicker (or another spell) to its owner's hand.
- Gain control of target permanent until end of turn, give Ghostly Flicker flashback (or return to hand) and then (recast Flicker that turn targeting Conscripts and whatever else) permanently steal that permanent.
Think about how ridiculous this gets with Biomancer on the battlefield!
- Put a 5/5 Beast onto the battlefield, gain five life, place two +1/+1 counters on Thragtusk, draw ten cards
Did I mention how since Flicker is an instant, you can also tack on "counter target removal spell" to that? How about "Untap your Thragtusk, put a Beast onto the battlefield, gain five life, ambush your opponent's attack?" Think about how ridiculous Restoration Angel is and then add the ability to abuse that by Blinking multiple creatures at once. Maybe "stop Boros Reckoner from killing your Huntmaster, gain two life, put a Wolf into play?"
There are fringe cases as well, with the Jund decks starting to run Acidic Slime, that you can Blink your Kessig Wolf Runs in response to a Slime. Post-board, if we go the Staff of Nin route against control decks and Jund decks, we can Blink them. Same with Pithing Needle if we ever need that.
It could also be as simple as flipping your Huntmaster back over when you topdeck Flicker as your only spell. Not amazing, but still fine. Plus, you'll probably flip the Huntmaster back the next turn due to lack of spells as well, so the three mana got you a 2/2, two life, killed a guy possibly, and did two damage to your opponent.
Yes, there are times when it's a dead card. However, with the way Standard is right now, board states get clogged up, and you need a way to pull ahead.
The cool thing about this is that you can also play Izzet Staticaster and Nightshade Peddler post-board. Another great use of Flicker is blinking Staticaster for two Visara the Dreadful activations in one turn.
The issue I have is Esper and Bant Control. They play two cards I'm scared of in Sphinx's Revelation and Supreme Verdict. You can play around Verdict to an extent, but you can't play cards like Boros Charm or Golgari Charm to stop it. Sphinx's Revelation is obviously bonkers, but you get to play blue mana, so you can stop it with Counterflux. It's not perfect, but it's something. I'd guess that this deck wouldn't be favored against control but that it wouldn't be a complete dog either. Post-board, we'd need ways to grind out our opponent, so I'd definitely want to bring in some Jace, Memory Adepts and Staff of Nins.
I thought to myself, why not include what I'm trying to replicate? Both cards only cost one white mana, and splashing that kind of mana requirement in a deck with Farseek is super easy. Why only copy Restoration Angel and Sphinx's Revelation when you can play them?
- 1 Archaeomancer
- 1 Clone
- 4 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 3 Restoration Angel
- 3 Snapcaster Mage
- 4 Thragtusk
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
- 1 Prime Speaker Zegana
I might need to kill my darlings here and cut the Flickers and Archaeomancer (probably the 'Mancer first) since the other stuff going on is possibly a bit more powerful. That said, if this deck can fit all that I'm cramming into it, you can take everything I said about Flicker in the RUG Flicker section and add "plus you get to play Restoration Angels for the same effect and your end game is Sphinx's Revelation." I still like Archaeomancer as Snapcaster Mage #4 since it allows you to continue using the spells versus exiling them. Wait, I get to play Sphinx's Revelation every turn until my opponent is dead?!
If you remember, about a month ago I talked about an Esper Delver deck. Well, I went out and played with the deck. I even recruited a buddy to play it with me. Collectively, we won…zero rounds. Granted, both of us had awkward draws, but that is also partially to blame on the deck construction.
I had ideas for how to improve the deck, but the 0-3 drop at FNM left me a bit on tilt, so I purposefully ignored the deck for weeks. However, I did like what was going on in it, and I'm also fairly certain a lot of my plays were incorrect, as there were a ton of variants on archetypes I'd never played against that night. Mostly, the spells that were causing me problems weren't creatures since I had Blind Obedience, Dimir Charm, and Orzhov Charm to take care of creatures (on top of having flying creatures); it was noncreature spells.
If only we had a way within Esper colors to stop noncreature spells…
In addition to adding the full playset of Negate to the maindeck, I'd add some lands as well. The deck felt like it was in every single round that night, but it was like Buzz Lightyear in that scene where he tries prove he can fly, starts out looking promising, and then falls short. Azorius Charm or Searing Spear always ended up getting me. The point of Delver/tempo decks is to put pressure on your opponent to act before they're ready so that they play into your cheap interaction, but when the answers they present are answers you can't interact with, Delver sucks.
So I added in more ways to interact with spells.
I might play it again at FNM to test these changes. Here's the current version of the deck:
Jund Fight Club
Since I'm sure your eyes are already sore from all these lists, I'm only going to talk about one other idea I came across for a casual FNM deck: Jund Fight Club. Obviously, we'd be running the fight cards (Prey Upon, Pit Fight, Domri Rade) in addition to Boros Reckoner, but we'd have Dread Slaver. Yeah, read that one over again. That makes our "fight" cards turn into Mind Control effects instead. Mind Control that costs one green mana? Why yes!
We could obviously append that plan with more creatures (Domri Rade likes it when we do) like the usual Huntmasters, Thragtusks, and Olivias. Also, keep in mind that fight works well with deathtouch, so Acidic Slime and Vampire Nighthawk definitely get included. It helps that both love getting pumped by Kessig Wolf Run.
That's about it for the week. I definitely am looking forward to some Flickering in the near future. If you've run any version of any of these decks, please let me know in the comments! I'd love to either share ideas or commiserate depending on your experience!
Until next time!
I told some friends that I would definitely include this in my next article, so here goes. In round 3 of the Standard Win a Trip to Miami 10K side event at GP Charlotte, I played against Cedric Phillips (I was on Jund, he was playing a four-color midrange deck that looked like Jund splashing white). In game 1, I had a flipped Huntmaster and Wolf token in addition to Liliana of the Veil to his empty board and two cards in hand. I ticked Liliana up, to which he discarded Loxodon Smiter. I then attacked with Ravager of the Fells and the Wolf (I had Kessig Wolf Run and life totals were getting low), which drew an Abrupt Decay on the Ravager. Since I was using a flipped Beast token as my Wolf token, it kind of blended into the table, and Cedric didn't notice it was attacking.
He went to reach for his deck, and I stopped him and pointed out the Wolf was still attacking. He semi-face palmed and said, "I didn't realize that was attacking too." He started agonizing over the decision (I assumed he wouldn't block at this point since I couldn't kill him with Wolf Run and he could crack back on Liliana to kill her because she would just Edict him the following turn anyway) and after a bit said, "I have to call a judge."
I started going back through the turn trying to figure out what I did wrong as the judge approached, worried I'd messed up somehow. When the judge got to the table, Cedric informed him of the situation and then said, "I saw the top card of my deck, and it's going to greatly influence my decision."
The usual judge stuff happened (warning, shuffle the deck…it was a land, for what it's worth), but the part I wanted to point out was that I had no idea he'd seen his card (thought I'd caught him fast enough reaching for his deck) and hadn't shown any inclination or indicated that I knew he'd seen the card. There was nothing other than a moral compass guiding Cedric when he called the judge, especially seeing as it didn't seem as if Cedric knew who I was (and that I wrote), meaning he didn't do it because he knew I'd write about it. This was a scenario where he called a judge when he didn't have to in a situation where he would benefit if he didn't call the judge and literally didn't have to if he didn't want to. I know he should have, but we all know that many competitive players wouldn't have called a judge there.
We are always quick to accuse competitive and professional players of being cheaters when we see them make a mistake on camera. I don't see this very often—where one specifically does the right thing for no reason other than an internal moral compass. I thanked Cedric after the match, which he lost; not only was he not petulant/on tilt, but he smiled, chuckled, and said, "Winning isn't that important."
I think he should be noted for doing the right thing. Thanks for being one of the good guys, Cedric. As a father, honesty and "the right thing" mean quite a bit to me, and it's good to see not all competitive players are cutthroat.
"Winning isn't that important…"