Born of inspiration from Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, I present you with three relatively new Standard decks.
Are y'all excited for Aetherling's first real foray into Standard?
Yeah, me too!
Tapout Aetherling is going to be the new thing.
This was the first strategy I attached myself to during testing for the Pro Tour because almost nothing could beat a resolved Aetherling. You might as well try to put it into play as quickly as possible. While this deck isn't a ramp deck, the allure of an earlier Aetherling does lead to me play cards like Rakdos Keyrune.
The flip side to the Aetherling coin is Olivia Voldaren, a longtime dominator of midrange mirrors. If Aetherling isn't going to win you the game, chances are Olivia will. Far // Away and Pillar of Flame made me want to play Grixis, but the deeper I delve into the archetype, the more I realize that its success is going to hinge on the Olivia Voldaren / Aetherling tag team.
Right now, control wants edict effects to beat Geist of Saint Traft out of Bant Hexproof and Pillar of Flame to deal with Voice of Resurgence. Supreme Verdict is a fine answer to both, but I really like having specific answers when the threats are so powerful. You need a late game mop up like Sphinx's Revelation, but in this case your threats are good enough.
Without Sphinx's Revelation, I really wanted another card drawer. Jace, Architect of Thought is underplayed right now and is certainly a good option for blue decks not playing white. Any advantage they gain over having Sphinx's Revelation is easily mitigated by you having Cavern of Souls into Aetherling, not to mention the potential of Slaughter Games out of the sideboard.
Think Twice isn't what I'd consider a card drawer necessarily. It's mostly there to make sure you get to use all your mana every turn and make your land drops. Patrick Chapin insisted that Desperate Ravings is better, but I'm skeptical. I've been known to Rave from time to time, but it's not right this time. When your deck is spending the entire game building to a certain card, there is no reason to risk discarding it.
Yes, there will be games where you are flooded or screwed and Desperate Ravings would be much better than Think Twice, but most of the time Think Twice will be enough. I'm not completely without graveyard interaction, but the risk of Ravings is not worth it when it could disrupt your entire game plan. If there were a single Unburial Rites in the deck, I'd probably be on board, but that mana base wouldn't be pretty.
I will be attending the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Baltimore in two weeks, and Grixis appears to be my frontrunner in Standard. There are some things that need tuning, such as the amount of early removal. I would prefer some more one-drops, and Tragic Slip seems pretty bad in a deck that can't expect to trigger morbid. Perhaps I have to go back to Dead Weight.
The countermagic suite is also up for questioning. I like having Syncopate as an early counterspell, but as Patrick Chapin pointed out to me, having a hard counter is pretty nice when you want to be spending all your mana on Olivia Voldaren or Aetherling. There could be more or less countermagic depending on what you expect to play against. Right now, I'm expecting the need for little countermagic.
Vampire Nighthawk and Evil Twin are two other options, specifically ones that Todd Anderson used in a Versus video this week. They both look nice but might be deceiving. You see, I think control decks need a brick wall against aggro decks; otherwise, they are pressured to kill every single creature their opponent plays.
Well, let me be the first to tell you that when they have twenty lands and 40 creatures ala Naya Blitz, that is rarely going to happen. Grixis doesn't have access to Supreme Verdict! That plan is ambitious at best. Vampire Nighthawk would be the perfect wall, but I have Izzet Staticaster instead. The mana base is geared more toward Izzet than Dimir, but that's mostly a preference. Early Pillar of Flames and using Olivia three times on turn 6 is the difference between winning and losing, but we could still reverse it. Nothing is set in stone.
Augur of Bolas is a fine man, but he's not a viable option in a deck with several creatures, lands, Keyrunes, and planeswalkers. There might be a different Far // Away deck with Augur of Bolas and Snapcaster Mage, perhaps straight Dimir Control, but abusing those interactions isn't what this deck is about.
All in all, I like the Grixis deck, and initial results have been good. I'll keep you guys updated on my progress.
At the PT, I played a G/B/W Varolz deck. That card always looked powerful, and I was not disappointed. Before the PT, I was brewing Varolz decks in various formats, and I've finally gotten the chance to work on one in Standard.
- 2 Bloodthrone Vampire
- 2 Deathrite Shaman
- 4 Experiment One
- 2 Falkenrath Aristocrat
- 3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 3 Treacherous Pit-Dweller
- 4 Vexing Devil
- 4 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Obviously, this deck starts with Varolz, the Scar-Striped; where would that bring you next? You should be looking for cheap, efficient things to scavenge with. In Standard, the best is probably Vexing Devil. While not a great card since giving your opponent the best option isn't a good strategy, it fits well into this deck—and not just because it's a single red mana to put four +1/+1 counters on one of your guys.
Lotleth Troll has obvious synergy with Varolz, as does Experiment One. The often-overlooked ability on Varolz is the ability to sacrifice things, which Sam Black has shown to be powerful. So we have one sacrifice outlet, but where do we go from there?
I borrowed some old technology and dusted off my Treacherous Pit-Dwellers. When it dies, you can sacrifice it before they gain control of it. Deathrite Shaman can also exile it before undying resolves, so you have plenty of ways to remove the downside. Of course, there are games where you basically have to cast Treacherous Pit-Dweller and hope they have nothing, but we can't have everything. If nothing else, it's another powerful creature to scavenge.
The other card I wanted to use to take advantage of sacrifice outlets is Mark of Mutiny. That's the card you can use to defeat midrange decks that go over the top of you, such as G/B/W Reanimator. If you sandbag a Bloodthrone Vampire and a Mark of Mutiny, Angel of Serenity isn't as painful anymore. It's also a very good answer to Thragtusk and Olivia Voldaren.
Faithless Looting rounds out the deck. It's not flashy, but it puts big guys in your graveyard to scavenge, digs you out of mana screw or mana flood, and generally fixes your draws. I wouldn't advise running the card disadvantage of Faithless Looting in a normal deck, but this deck has enough graveyard interaction that it works well.
Skirsdag High Priest is another card that takes advantage of the deck's engine and is probably good enough to maindeck. It would help in the games where your draw consists of Experiment Ones and Bloodthrone Vampires, which is certainly a risk when you play a deck based off synergy and not raw power.
As more cards become legal in a format, decks start looking a lot better. There are fewer holes on curves, and most decks have answers to whatever ails them. In this case, Skirsdag High Priest has gotten a lot better since it's easier to curve out with it and trigger it. There are enough creature generators and sacrifice outlets that it being a two-drop that taps to make Demons isn't out of the ordinary.
There are a lot of ways to build decks around certain fringe cards, so you should be looking to take advantage of that. Admittedly, the G/W/B Aristocrats deck is better at using Varolz in combination with Skirsdag High Priest due to Doomed Traveler and Lingering Souls, but it's still a nice fit in Jund.
For the sideboard, I wanted ways to stop early beatdown. Strangleroot Geist would solve a lot of problems, but I've got to show some restraint with the mana base. Pillar of Flame, Golgari Charm, and possibly Skirsdag High Priest will have to do. Blood Artist out of the sideboard could help too.
Against control decks, I like Duress and another Falkenrath Aristocrat. You should be able to go toe to toe with their removal, but I'd be wary of their finishers. Outlasting them is a possibility, but be aware that the pacing of the game can quickly turn once they slam Aetherling.
Slaughter Games is another possibility, both for control and G/B/W Reanimator, but I don't think it's come to that quite yet. Sever the Bloodline is a reasonable answer to tokens, but Ghor-Clan Rampager and Lotleth Troll should provide the reach you'll need in stalled games. Garruk Relentless is a reasonable card too, but I wanted to keep the curve low.
The first thing we did in our Block Constructed Mono-Red Aggro decks was cut the Boros Reckoners and shave a land. Some people have had success with that type of strategy on Magic Online, but I don't think they've taken it far enough.
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Firefist Striker
- 4 Foundry Street Denizen
- 2 Gore-House Chainwalker
- 4 Legion Loyalist
- 4 Lightning Mauler
- 4 Rakdos Cackler
- 4 Rubblebelt Maaka
- 4 Stromkirk Noble
- 18 Mountain
Boros Reckoner is obviously a good card, but it doesn't work well with the rest of the deck. You can build Mono-Red a little more on the midrange side ala Tomoharu Saito, but in Standard right now your best bet is trying to kill them as soon as possible. Most decks won't be able to put up enough resistance against you game 1, and then you can rely on your sideboard to fix your issues.
From testing Block Constructed, I can safely say this archetype has legs in Standard. Our Block deck could beat most Standard decks. They key is finding the right mix of solid threats and ways to push them through. Maybe maindeck Volcanic Strength is what I'm looking for.
Searing Spear might not be the right card. Preferably, the spell in that slot would be one mana, but there is the occasional Vampire Nighthawk you need to kill. I want all my spells to be cheap. I want to do what Naya Blitz is doing but much, much better and much more consistently.
Toil // Trouble was mostly overlooked for the Pro Tour, as people thought Skullcrack was a better answer to Sphinx's Revelation. Without Sphinx's Revelation, Skullcrack was a glorified Lava Spike, whereas Toil could do some real damage on turn 3. However, there are other decks in the format, and just to cover my bases I'm running a mix of both.
Aside from that, I wanted more stuff to get through blockers and the Blasphemous Act / Boros Reckoner combo to beat up on midrange decks. Streamlining the deck with more Pyreheart Wolfs is probably the better decision though. Perhaps a Mark of Mutiny variant would be good also.
I dunno. I can pick up on where there's potential for abuse, such as the above red deck in game 1s, but figuring out how to attack people from a different angle post-board is difficult. I'll be working on it.
Hopefully, one of these decks will end up being good enough for me to take to the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Baltimore.
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