Standard is coming to the end of an era. Thragtusk, Bonfire of the Damned, Thundermaw Hellkite, Invisible Stalker, Restoration Angel, and the rest of Innistrad block and M13 will be leaving in a few weeks once Theros is out.
I'm a bit bored of Standard right now to be honest. Legacy, however, is a different story.
The last two SCG Legacy Opens have had Painted Stone in the finals, and it even took home the trophy in one of them.
Blood Moon, baby!
Congratulations to Reuben Bresler for his finals appearance in Cincinnati. I played the same deck (although I hadn't even thought about using Chandra, Pyromaster and am sure I'll hear about it from her later), and I soaked up all the decks for him that aren't affected by Blood Moon. In fact, I sideboarded out Blood Moon in over 50% of my matches, and in the majority of those I kept a hand with turn 1 Blood Moon and jammed it, thinking I was safe, only to have my opponent's turn 1 be Island, go; Plains, Aether Vial; or land, remove a couple Spirit Guides (Elvish/Simian) and cascade past all the Progenituses and Emrakul, the Aeons Torns in the deck until a Hypergenesis was hit.
Last weekend was pretty rough, but it did give me some ideas.
The winning deck in the Legacy Open was Grixis Delver piloted by Eric Rill. Cheap/free spells combined with card drawing from said spells and Dark Confidant fuel Young Pyromancer, which along with Delver of Secrets are all "kill on sight" threats, and sometimes they just don't have all the removal.
Seeing just how well Dark Confidant and Young Pyromancer work together makes me wonder if Spell Snare is worth looking at again. My main concern with trying to utilize Spell Snare again is that Deathrite Shaman is such a huge part of the metagame and because of that a lot of decks are leaning on powerful three-drops like Liliana of the Veil, Geist of Saint Traft, and Shardless Agent to fuel their assault. With that being said, I think that being able to hit a Tarmogoyf or Baleful Strix is still pretty good, and against Deathrite Shaman decks we can overload our removal like we used to with Path to Exile alongside Swords to Plowshares. In addition to this, with Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon continuing to perform well in Legacy, basic lands seem like they could be a good thing.
Prior to Deathrite Shaman and Lingering Souls being printed, the Stoneblade decks were all straight U/W. I experienced quite a bit of success with U/W Stoneblade in the past, and I think right now could be a good time for a bit of a resurgence, at least until this whole Blood Moon thing blows over.
There are a few questions to ask before we start looking into a U/W shell, the first being which equipment we want to run. Batterskull is a no-brainer, but what about Umezawa's Jitte, Sword of Feast and Famine, and Sword of Body and Mind? In past iterations of the deck, I was very happy with Sword of Feast and Famine in the maindeck and Umezawa's Jitte in the sideboard.
It's possible that we want all three, but I feel like we're only going to have room for one of them. I want to play Geist of Saint Traft and Elspeth, Knight-Errant, which leads me to want Sword of Feast and Famine. The discard effect upon connection is awesome against combo and control decks, being able to attack through Tarmogoyf and Baleful Strix is pretty important, and being able to cast multiple spells a turn when we have Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Elspeth, Knight-Errant is awesome.
Next, we have to think about which colorless-producing nonbasic lands we want to play. Our options are Wasteland, Riptide Laboratory, Mutavault, Mishra's Factory, and Academy Ruins. Wasteland is a great way to combat cards like Creeping Tar Pit in addition to sometimes just "getting them" if they keep a light-land draw and you have enough lands to cast your spells. Riptide Laboratory is a card that I used to love playing since it allows you to bounce your Snapcaster Mage, Spellstutter Sprite, and Vendilion Clique, but I don't think that's where we want to be right now.
Mutavault and Mishra's Factory are both options to consider, and I think I'm leaning more towards Mishra's Factory since it can trade with a Nimble Mongoose even when our opponent has threshold. Academy Ruins is an interesting option that allows us to rebuy our Batterskull if it gets killed, which I think is a valid point right now. A lot of the time we get Thoughtseized after we fetch a Batterskull with Stoneforge Mystic and then we're stuck trying to kill them with only Elspeth, Knight-Errant or Geist of Saint Traft, but Academy Ruins turns Batterskull into an unstoppable force!
Let's take a look and see where we're at right now.
I think that something like this would cover all our bases. I still feel like Esper Deathblade might have a bit of an edge against us, but we do have Spell Snare for Stoneforge Mystic and Dark Confidant, which allows us to use our removal on Deathrite Shaman. We do have the edge against Blood Moon decks though—Spell Snare even counters Painter's Servant!
Geist of Saint Traft and Elspeth, Knight-Errant are both awesome at putting pressure on our opponents or their planeswalkers. Against other Jace decks Elspeth, Knight-Errant gives us a huge edge, and against combo decks both of these cards give us the "oomph" needed to kill them before they can kill us. As much as I love the possibility of a straight U/W Stoneblade deck again, I do have some concerns.
I fear that we might just be too slow against the U/W/R Delver and Grixis Delver decks. RUG Delver takes a bit to actually get into hard beatdown mode because of the threshold requirement on Nimble Mongoose, but the other Delver flavors are able to pressure us faster with Young Pyromancer and Geist of Saint Traft, the latter being extremely difficult for us to handle.
Deathrite Shaman is a card that has sped up the fundamental turn in Legacy by almost a whole turn, which makes me a bit concerned that we may be too slow against Deathrite Shaman decks. The hope here is that Elspeth, Knight-Errant is enough of a resilient threat that s will allow us to catapult ahead once we catch up by handling their early threats since she quickly invalidates Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
The residual effect that Deathrite Shaman has on the format is that combo decks have sped up a fair bit; a lot of them are even able to kill on turn 1 through a Force of Will. Fortunately, Spell Snare counters Animate Dead, Exhume, and Infernal Tutor—plus Show and Tell decks have been performing poorly.
Why Stay The Course?
Why do we even want to be just two colors? Not playing a third color strengthens our mana significantly, but is it really worth it? I feel like Esper Deathblade and Shardless BUG are very favorable matchups for the Painted Stone deck, which is what has been fueling its success these last two weeks. That being said, I don't think that the popularity of Painted Stone is going to go down; in fact, the only cost-prohibitive part of the deck is a Judge promo that is only $99.99, and since there aren't any dual lands in the deck, you've got to spend your money somewhere!
Running multiple basic lands also gives us some resilience to Wasteland, which is a big part of the game plan of Delver decks. Utilizing Stifle and Wasteland to play a "mana denial" game, Delver decks get to use their Dazes to maximum potential. By playing a lot of basic lands, we get to reduce the effectiveness of the Wasteland aspect, which in turn reduces the effectiveness of their Stifles and Dazes.
What Is Everyone Else Going To Do?
The last thing on my mind is wondering what everyone else is going to do now that Painted Stone is apparently here to stay. What is the best way to attack the deck? It does have a few weaknesses thankfully.
1. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Progenitus. Gerry Thompson played Hypergenesis last weekend, and I had the pleasure of being paired against him with my Painted Stone deck. Knowing that it's almost impossible for you to beat a deck is a pretty demoralizing feeling. In fact, the only hope that I had was to draw the game if it looked like I wasn't going to be able to do enough damage to win. Unfortunately, he had a Griselbrand in play and drew all of his Progenituses in the top fourteen cards of his deck, which led to my defeat.
2. Basic lands are very good against the Painted Stone deck. Taking away one of the primary means of attack that the deck has virtually neuters it. Decks that aren't affected by Blood Moon type cards or Phyrexian Revoker are very good against Painted Stone. The hope is that if they don't have a lot of nonbasics they are trying to use something like Aether Vial or Sneak Attack and Phyrexian Revoker impedes them enough for us to attack them down to zero (the exception being Omni-Tell, which is a terrible match-up for Painted Stone).
3. Artifact mana is very good against them. The U/B Tezzeret deck that Chris Andersen has had success with in the past utilizes Dimir Signets and Talisman of Dominance for its acceleration, which coincidentally doesn't care if all of its lands are Mountains most of the time.
I'm not sure if I'm going to attend SCG Open Series: Philadelphia this coming weekend, but I'm still going to be working on this list during the week to see if it has some potential.
I'm happy to see Chandra, Pyromaster getting some love in Legacy, and my Big Boros list/article was even spotlighted with LSV's Daily Decklist column over on the mothership this week, so at least someone is taking notice.
I'm going to definitely be streaming some Big Boros this week now that my cold is finally gone, so if you love Chandra as much as I do or just love burninating, feel free to stop by and hang out.
Before I sign off for this week, I want to touch on a Theros card that I think is awesome.
Sylvan Caryatid is awesome! Although it does get swept up in Supreme Verdict, I'm really looking forward to using it to accelerate into a planeswalker like Jace, Architect of Thought and then using the Caryatid to protect it. Losing Farseek is a pretty big blow, but we do still have Elvish Mystic and now have a two-drop accelerant with some resilience.
See you guys next week when we have even more awesome Theros spoilers to think about!