We're sitting at the top of a roller coaster right now. Over the last year, we've slowly ratcheted up the climb, gaining more and more tools for Standard. Now, at the release of M14, we start the furious descent towards a new Standard near the ground. Every tool possible is at our disposal; all archetypes currently available, including new archetypes and short-term swing decks, got big boosts or were birthed thanks to the set's strong role players and hole fillers. So lift up your hands or clutch your neighbor for dear life; we're in a free fall!
First, I want to address the heralded (or disgusted) return of Slivers. Everyone who's ever played casual Magic with a group of friends knows someone who put 30 or more of the little snake-like critters between some lands and called it a deck. Essence Sliver, Might Sliver, Shifting Sliver . . . each of them has admirers and abhorrers, but there's no denying they're a ripping good time.
When a new mechanic emerges in a core set (or most any set for that matter), the next question after "is this viable in Limited" is "is it viable in Constructed?" Slivers, being the token mechanic of the set, begs that same question, and I know that just about everyone with a brewing frame of mind has asked it.
As a bit of a warm-up, here's the Sliver list I've assembled.
- 3 Battle Sliver
- 4 Blur Sliver
- 2 Bonescythe Sliver
- 3 Galerider Sliver
- 4 Manaweft Sliver
- 3 Megantic Sliver
- 4 Predatory Sliver
- 3 Sentinel Sliver
- 4 Striking Sliver
- 3 Thorncaster Sliver
In my opinion, the most important factor to consider when building a Sliver deck is the count of each Sliver. The best Slivers are ones that provide cumulative effects, like Predatory Sliver and Thorncaster Sliver. If you have a pair out, each provides a cumulative effect for each copy, unlike cards like Galerider Sliver and Sentinel Sliver. I attempted to emphasize the most essential Slivers as full playsets; Striking Sliver is one of only two one-mana Slivers and thus is very important with staying on curve. Blur Sliver gives you an attack squad at a moment's notice. You'll notice that Bonescythe Sliver is the lowest. It's not that it's a poor card; it's just not as good if they have able blockers. In those situations, it's overkill.
33 creatures round out the creature base, and four copies total of two planeswalkers support them. Domri Rade has a greater than 50% chance of drawing another Sliver for a rainy day. Garruk, Caller of Beasts draws you all the Slivers or comes into play and drops something like a Megantic Sliver for free. Manaweft Sliver can get to him quick too.
Enjoy Slivers now because I can assure you of one thing—the moment Cavern of Souls rotates, Slivers will not be even remotely viable. Naya Aggro (basically what this is with different faces) has relied on tough mana bases and creature-based fixing (Avacyn's Pilgrim, Burning-Tree Emissary) to stay reliable. I'm not sure Manaweft Sliver and shocklands are enough alone to keep something that theoretically needs all five colors afloat.
The sideboard utilizes the reactionary fuse card of an aggro player's dreams. Ready // Willing gives you the freedom to either save your team from eminent destruction and/or utterly decimate their team (nine Slivers provide either first strike or noncombat damage). This can lead to some vicious blowouts, but I feel like a lot of times you won't need it, which is why it lives here. The rest of the sideboard is shady at best, but I knew I wanted Ready // Willing, so you can frankly ignore the other space fillers.
M14 heralds the first time in an aeon that I am admittedly excited about the potential of mono-white.
To honor the occasion, I've brought two decks today that play on white's themes in different ways. The first one is a bit brutish, but it's something a lot of people are talking about, so I want to bring you my version of Mono-White Humans. Humans have often employed other colors to capitalize on their effectiveness though. On that note, Xathrid Necromancer seems to be the real deal, so maybe we can shoehorn him in there.
- 4 Boros Elite
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Daring Skyjek
- 4 Doomed Traveler
- 3 Frontline Medic
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 4 Xathrid Necromancer
This deck needs very little explanation; it's a bit of a blunt instrument. Twelve one-drops, twelve two-drops, eleven three-drops, and four protective spells round out the group. I didn't want Godless Shrine because it seems silly to Shock oneself for what would most of the time just be a Plains. In such an aggressive metagame, we can't afford the pain.
The sideboard offers two creature options depending on the matchup. Imposing Sovereign is really nice for game 2 if you're going to be on the play. Curving out means your opponent will be hard pressed to block anything before it's too late and you can out tempo them in a hustle. Thalia is still pretty good if you're playing against a spell-heavy deck, and sometimes putting them off their draw spells turn after turn is enough to prevent a Supreme Verdict or Far // Away from dismantling the aggro plan.
What was originally Rootborn Defenses is now Sin Collector. It's proactive, takes care of the dreaded Supreme Verdict that Defenses was trying to avoid, and adds another Human to the field. The Fiendslayer Paladin will hold a nice protective spot on the top end to push through Jund, Golgari and Rakdos decks. Getting by Searing Spear, Abrupt Decay, Tragic Slip, and Putrefy is pretty handy.
This is an all-creature sideboard, probably the first I've ever done. Despite that, I would like to highlight one of the hidden role players in M14 that almost got this final slot and depending on the metagame could be a better option.
Pay No Heed is a really unique prevention spell. It's one of the oldest spells, if my memory serves, that utterly stops a source of damage without any catches. There's something else important to note; it doesn't target. This is great for two reasons.
First, it lets you choose what you prevent on resolution. If your opponent battles with two Predatory Slivers and you block with your Angelic Wall, let's say they cast a Giant Growth on the unblocked Sliver. You cast Pay No Heed intending to prevent its damage. Before your spell resolves, your opponent Shocks your Angelic Wall, allowing the blocked Predatory Sliver kill it in combat. No big deal. After the Shock resolves and your Pay No Heed is next up to resolve, you can pick which one you want to prevent damage from. So you can change your mind and prevent the blocked Sliver's damage instead. Pretty neat, right?
Well, ok, perhaps the second application is more relevant; it's a Holy Day against a hexproof creature. Your opponent suits up their 18/18 Geist of Saint Traft or Invisible Stalker with an Unflinching Courage? No problem; you can still prevent the damage for one white mana. No life gain, and you're still alive for the back swing. The utility and extremely low cost for this effect is really exciting. As an added bonus, it can even counter big burn spells like Blasphemous Act so that your team doesn't die and they can't thirteen you with their Boros Reckoner. Just something to keep in mind.
This deck has one purpose, and I'm thinking it does it with surprising efficiency and consistency. The pros probably have better versions, but this one's my take.
Now that we've gotten the "competitive" deck out of the way, let's look at a deck I've wanted to build since last year. M14 finally delivered the parts I ordered.
Here's the basis card.
I have a bit of a thing for cards that say "whenever a/an [offbeat creature type] enters the battlefield," so that may be to blame for this off-the-wall idea. Sacrificing color production for some wimpy life gain
is pretty lame used to be lame, but what about a bunch of Angels is lame? Let's get in there!
This nearly thematic deck pushes life gain as an additional way to defend against hyperaggro decks while it assembles impressive flying brawlers. We'll take a moment on this deck.
Every deck nowadays needs a one-drop, right? Cathedral Sanctifier, with its tidy and abusable ETB, does a fine job, keeping you from dipping low enough for burn to get you and providing a little 1/1 to trade if needed. Naturally, her companion Emancipation Angel gives you plenty of value, allowing you to recast her at your convenience while resolving a sturdy evasive 3/3. Note that the Angel can bounce itself to continually gain you life. Serra Avenger, also a cheap Angel, is surprisingly strong in combat too. A weaker but highly affordable Serra Angel, the Avenger is a fine haymaker whose paltry mana cost is a real boon for this top-heavy deck.
Angel of Jubilation, a favorite of mine, is easily cast in this mono-white deck, giving your team a healthy boost and disabling sacrifice outlets. Archangel of Thune is the package deal for this deck's Angel and life gain themes. Resolving her with a Seraph Sanctuary automatically pumps the team up right away, and every bit of life gain will bolster your team of heavenly messengers.
The spells are also carefully chosen. Scroll of Avacyn is a really nice do-nothing that can trigger all the life-gain effects you have while replacing itself. At one mana, it's also a reasonable target to bounce with your Emancipation Angel. Celestial Flare and Renounce the Guilds perform similar tasks; a two-mana instant removal spell in white is pretty reasonable unless you're fighting a swarm of people. Unlike Devour Flesh, your opponent will often swing with only their best creatures, increasing the potential power of this card. Renounce the Guilds hits nothing in my monocolored list, while it can often take out a Voice of Resurgence, Olivia Voldaren, Ral Zarek, Lotleth Troll, or Geist of Saint Traft.
Righteous Blow is this deck's Shock, culling an aggro deck's early threats. Chalice of Life and Angelic Accord are in here as testing pieces. Chalice made it into one of my more fun casual decks before Scars of Mirrodin rotated, and I think there's enough life gain in this deck that this can smack a control player down fairly quickly. Angelic Accord, which is powerful enough to have a whole budget deck crafted around it, was a last minute addition. Between lifelink damage and burst life gain, I should be able to produce an Angel about half the end steps I encounter. Who knows; it's worth a shot.
The sideboard is pretty different from Whitewash, as it should be. Rootborn Defenses appears, and Brave the Elements offers essential protection just like in the previous deck. Monocolored decks often have certain problem spells or permanents they're not equipped to deal with because of their color's limitations. Red can't handle enchantments, black can't handle artifacts, and green can't handle player-targeting spells. White, although flexible enough to handle any nonland permanent, has trouble with spells and instant effects. Nevermore helps to mitigate that threat; I picture calling something like Slaughter Games, Skullcrack, or Silklash Spider. I'm never sure what's best until I cast it; just picture the card you'd hate to see and call it.
Ratchet Bomb is great for brushing away tokens, two-drops, and problem nonland permanents, and the deck can hang in there long enough to get it to a fairly lofty counter count. Oblivion Ring is the go-to answer for any white deck, and the single Increasing Devotion allows you to assemble an army in an instant that can take advantage of the anthem effects the deck has to offer for those long grindy games against Jund Midrange and other non-sweeper control and midrange decks. Avacyn, Angel of Hope is in here just for that one moment you resolve her and bring the team in. She's pretty darn expensive with no ramp and should probably be something better like another Archangel of Thune or something, but Angels are all about going big, so Avacyn will gladly find a home in the board.
Thanks again for your submissions to last week's deckbuilding challenge, Trash to Treasure! I challenged you all to send in decklists built around bargain rares worth $0.99 or less or mythic rares worth $1.49 or less, encouraging positive synergy and creative construction. There were lots of great submissions, and I narrowed it down to four very solid choices and then slimmed down to two. Here's number one.
Woodoo by Peter Snoha
4 Blood Crypt
3 Clifftop Retreat
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
3 Sacred Foundry
2 Stensia Bloodhall
3 Rakdos Keyrune
1 Staff of Nin
4 Doom Blade
2 Tribute to Hunger
2 Victim of Night
2 Mizzium Mortars
4 Pillar of Flame
1 Assemble the Legion
1 Curse of Bloodletting
1 Curse of Death's Hold
3 Curse of Exhaustion
4 Curse of Misfortunes
1 Curse of the Pierced Heart
1 Curse of Thirst
3 Possibility Storm
2 Appetite for Brains
3 Rest in Peace
2 Rolling Temblor
2 Slaughter Games
2 Sphere of Safety
2 Wear // Tear
Peter's deck, built around the Possibility Storm / Curse of Exhaustion combo, cleverly works in a legitimate win condition in the form of other Curses. Lots of early removal can keep him alive long enough to resolve the combo, and then it's just a matter of time before he finds the cutting Curses to bring his opponent down. Nice work! I included the sideboard because it seemed to address the deck's problems while maintaining the enchantment theme (Rest in Peace and Sphere of Safety). Wear // Tear also lets you pick off any errant Witchbane Orbs that could monkey with your plans.
Secondly, we have a submission from Christian Baker.
Azor's Elocutors Combo by Christian Baker
4 Temple Garden
4 Breeding Pool
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Azor's Elocutors
4 Palisade Giant
4 Axebane Guardian
4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
4 Ring of Xathrid
3 Sphinx's Revelation
4 Think Twice
3 Detention Sphere
2 Temporal Mastery
For this slow and steady list, the plan is to resolve the Elocutors and a Ring of Xathrid to protect it turn after turn. A Ring on a Palisade Giant means your opponent isn't hitting you for anything ever. I like Temporal Mastery as a means of ramp and to add another counter to the Elocutors. This sweet and simple deck has a lot to offer from sturdy and resistant combo pieces. Although it's going a bit deep, maybe there's even room for Indestructibility for decks that solely rely on getting damage through.
For my contribution, I picked a new one from M14.
I had some local success with Homicidal Seclusion in a Junk build before Gatecrash came out, and I've been itching to get another try at this enchantment. Haunted Plate Mail, a creature only when you need it most, is very appealing, and it's even on curve. Activating for zero is also pretty great. A creatureless version that utilizes only animated creatures seems like an interesting place to start. I started with black, of course, and red seemed to not only provide the best Keyrune but also removal and control elements that work well together
Leave My Plate Alone by Matt Higgs
2 Sire of Insanity
4 Doom Blade
4 Sign in Blood
3 Rakdos Keyrune
3 Haunted Plate Mail
3 Homicidal Seclusion
3 Dead Weight
2 Devour Flesh
2 Rakdos's Return
2 Liliana of the Dark Realms
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Blood Crypt
1 Rakdos Guildgate
3 Lifebane Zombie
3 Olivia Voldaren
3 Rakdos Charm
Everything in this deck is designed to nullify every creature your opponent plays and then bash in with a single unimpeded monster. Very little in the deck needs explanation: kill stuff and push one lifelinking guy through each turn. I'd love to take this to an FNM actually. Nothing in the deck costs more than about ten dollars, and the pieces to add from M14 are fairly limited. That's why I added a sideboard; I think it has potential to see some good play, so I hope you'll try it or another deck discussed today this coming weekend.
For this week's deckbuilding challenge, I want us to highlight the noncreature aspect of Magic. It's no secret that creatures dominate Magic these days, but what if they were worse or less frequent? Creatures are the bread and butter of current Magic, but we shouldn't forget the other six card types. Let's build decks that follow these rules.
Lonely Cards Club
- Format: Standard
- You may have up to but no more than eight total creature spells in your deck. Noncreature spells and cards that can make creature tokens or become creatures themselves (such as Haunted Plate Mail, Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash Keyrunes, Mutavault, and Lingering Souls) may be used, but no more than a total of eight of these kinds of spells and lands may be used for a total of up to sixteen "creature-oriented spells."
- Creatures that also produce tokens, such as Talrand, Sky Summoner, count as a creature spell (they don't overlap with noncreature token producers in other words.)
- Instead, another card type should be chosen as the focus of your deck. You must have at least sixteen cards that belong to a noncreature card type of your choice: instant, sorcery, enchantment, artifact, planeswalker, or land.
- Artifact creatures count as creature spells but not as artifacts for the purposes of the noncreature spell count listed above; no other card type gets this overlap, so it seems unfair.
- Standard deckbuilding rules, no sideboard required.
- This submission will be due on Saturday, July 27th at 11:59 PM PDT. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Remember, I select two decks each week based on creativity, synergy, and application of the theme. The more detail you give me about your deck's plan, the more clearly I can see it and credit you for your hard work. Every card type has a card that cares about it in this format; which type will you choose?
Thanks for joining me for another round of fun Standard brews! I've still got a ton of decks to share with you, and I'm really excited for the next two months in Magic. If you had a rough time at FNM last Friday, don't worry. M14 Standard is still young, and more than ever this format is enormous. There are lots of viable strategies.
Next week, I'll bring you a couple monocolored lists I've been working on in an attempt to bring new life to an old outclassed strategy. Join me then, and until next time, don't forget to untap!
CaptainShapiro on Magic Online