So . . . I've been busy . . . to say the least.
Last week I made the declaration that if you posted your Theros Standard decklists, I would do my best to personally respond to each and every one of them. By 1 AM, there were 89 entries. 3 AM brought a new 50. When I finally went to sleep, there were about 200 total, and that was around 6 AM. By the time I woke up, there were almost 400.
To say I was surprised would be a vast, horrifying understatement. That kind of response is usually reserved for something of far more importance, but I asked you guys to come out and come out you did. I spent as much time as humanly possible going through every list that was posted, and after about 150 responses, I felt like I had done as much talking as I could because eventually the lists started to bleed together and I didn't want to do anyone the disservice of a copy and paste job just because they posted something similar to another person.
The only part where I believe the comments failed was when I asked everyone to post their favorite decklists that were posted, but hell—I can't blame anyone for that because sifting through over 500 different opinions and decks just to find the one that you like the most is a ludicrous notion. You shouldn't have to do all that work.
Instead of just featuring one deck that everyone felt was awesome, I combed through the entire section and pulled from it a bunch of decks that I think are fantastic contenders going forward, and I'll talk about each of them to a degree in order to show you why they warrant consideration for your first Theros tournament.
Believe me . . . this took a while.
First up we have a buddy of mine, Nick Bonneville. Nick shipped me a pre-M14 list of Bant Control that I was able to do extremely well with online, racking up an absurd amount of tickets. I gave the deck to a friend at Grand Prix Miami, who almost took it to a day 2 with no byes, but the whole not sleeping thing for three days finally caught up with him after a 6-0 start.
Nick's offering is a U/W Control deck that reminds me very much of the Draw-Go builds of old. It focuses heavily on the redundancy of counterspells, card draw, and maintaining the board.
My only gripe with this deck is that I feel like the land base needs to be fixed. I'd probably cut two or three Plains for more Islands, but I understand Nick's desire to almost always have access to double white on turn 2 to allow him to cast Celestial Flare against red decks that have a huge glut of one-drops at their disposal, so it's entirely possible that his land count is fine for what he's trying to achieve.
Nick is a big lover of Detention Sphere, and as good as it was in the previous format, I think it really gets the chance to shine in a slower Standard format that is laden with planeswalkers. His spell suite is reactive enough to deal with most threats and luckily doesn't seem terribly susceptible to Thoughtseize since he has such a high concentration of powerful effects, thus making their choice essentially a pick your poison for the rest of the match.
I can safely say that this kind of deck is going to be a serious player in the coming weeks due to the fact that a lot of it ported from the previous Standard, meaning most of the cards are available. Add that to being consistent and powerful and you have a deck that you should certainly be adding to your gauntlet.
Next up we have an entry from Shawn David Robertson.
This is the kind of deck I can totally get behind! Before with U/B Control, you faced a serious issue if your opponent played a planeswalker, as you didn't have a Detention Sphere or Dreadbore to put the brakes on it. But now with the inclusion of MURDERBORE (aka Hero's Downfall), you have gained a very important tool to deal with cards like Domri Rade.
Shawn was wise to diversify his card draw because in testing it's easy to take four or six splash damage from Read the Bones, and in a deck like this that doesn't have a way to recoup life loss, sometimes it makes it easier for aggro players to play around your removal and end up killing you with well-timed burn coupled with a few creatures sneaking through. In that regard, I like cards like Opportunity and Divination.
His removal package is excellent for all the creature decks that are guaranteed to float around. Cards like Warped Physique jump in importance from where they used to rest in the format, and Far // Away becomes one of if not the best removal in the format.
As I said earlier, this is a great time for decks that are only two colors to really shine; mana bases for the most part are still being figured out, and almost never having to worry about those problems can give you a leg up on the competition.
You thought I was just going to do all control decks, didn't you? Get that chatter out of here. Coming up next is Ron Goldie's take on G/W. This deck is obviously something you've heard about at great length recently. When Craig Wescoe took down Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, G/W immediately made itself one of the most important decks going into Theros/Return to Ravnica Standard. Ron's list is clean, crisp, and versatile.
- 4 Archangel of Thune
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Fiendslayer Paladin
- 3 Fleecemane Lion
- 4 Loxodon Smiter
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 3 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Voice of Resurgence
- 2 Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
I like where Rob decided to go with this deck because for all intent and purposes it feels like a strict upgrade to the Block deck in almost every aspect. The creatures get a huge boost in Scavenging Ooze, Archangel of Thune, and Fiendslayer Paladin over things like Dryad Militant and Civic Saber. Not only are your creatures good enough to win the majority of battles with opposing monsters, but you still get to keep all the reach of cards like Advent of the Wurm against control decks.
Rob's board is full of all sorts of goodies for other creature decks. Banisher Priest is a great way to exile any potential roadblocks and can act as permanent removal in the mirror match. Unflinching Courage is of course brutal against the Boros and Mono-Red Aggro decks that are already emerging, and there are almost no ways around it. Celestial Flare is a piece of technology that I like a lot, though an opponent playing their own Voice of Resurgence blanks that entirely, but I'm sure against R/G Aggro it gives you a huge out, especially against bloodrushed creatures.
Ready // Willing was a card I asked about, figuring that Rootborn Defenses would be better, but Rob declared Ready is better against a broader amount of matchups, so I can't argue with that. A card that lets you attack with impunity and then untap all of your indestructible team for the blowout seems awesome.
Bow of Nylea is the card that interests me most in his board because against aggressive and midrange decks it seems ridiculous. Having a mana sink every turn is really powerful, and the passive deathtouch is going to be a huge headache for opponents. This card plays really, really well with Archangel of Thune, and luckily it fits right on curve. It's a pretty crazy beating once it starts rolling downhill.
Midrange deck? Midrange deck.
Roy Keck shared his version of R/W/B Midrange with us, and although it's pretty rough, I think it's a good place to start. Here's what he gave us:
There are some things I really dig about this deck and a few things I'd work on further. The spells he's playing are great, though I'd rework the numbers a bit. I'm a big fan of Warleader's Helix, and I'd want that in a greater number. No Obzedat, Ghost Council in the 75 might be a mistake, but with decks packing Selesnya Charm more regularly, the newly minted Hero's Downfall, and Far // Away becoming more prolific, maybe he's not the slam dunk that he was before.
Something that Roy noted was that Anger the Gods doesn't interact super favorably with cards like Sin Collector and Lifebane Zombie when you're also trying to play Whip of Erebos, but I think that's a concession that has to be made in light of how many fast aggro decks are out there. A card I would like to see in here is Chandra, Pyromaster. Aside from adding to your removal, she gives you a lot of reach against similar decks with her 0 ability, where card advantage is usually a deciding factor.
The board is exactly what you want to be doing against a ton of different decks, and it almost gives this deck the feel that you're playing with Jund: lots of great removal, hand disruption, and game-ending creatures. Slaughter Games shines against control as a way to never fall behind to a Sphinx's Revelation, which is a very important fact against that kind of deck.
I would probably want some amount of Assemble the Legion, Duress, and Underworld Connections because I think the only way you're losing to control or other midrange decks is by not having enough proactive cards or answers to theirs. A few tweaks could go a long way.
Where I'm At Going Forward
After looking at about 300 decklists, I have to say one of the most pleasant things was all the extremely constructive comments that everyone left. There was hardly a negative word across the entire thread, and tons of great feedback flowed. I couldn't have been more proud to be a part of it.
The big standouts to me as of now are most certainly U/W Control and G/R Aggro, and I really think that they give you the best chance to win going forward. When everyone is trying to discover the new hot deck, sometimes you can win by keeping it simple and straightforward.
The G/R deck piloted by Brian Braun-Duin in his most recent Versus video with CVM proved to be extremely potent and consistent, and my only big change would be adding Chandra to the main because every time he cast her she was tremendous. I do however still feel like I'd want Xenagos, the Reveler in there somewhere due to his potency against control and midrange decks. It almost feels like a Gruul Super Friends deck with dangerous creatures after board is the way to go. I was also really impressed with Ruric Thar, the Unbowed. Killing him seemed to be a nightmare; the only way to get him off the board is usually to deal six damage to yourself, and against a deck like Gruul, that hardly seems ideal. This is in the top three decks that I'm testing.
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Again, big thanks are in order for making last week's article my most successful, and overall it was an experiment that I was proud to be a part of. The way in which everyone conducted themselves was spectacular, so in the future I can't wait to do more articles in line with that one.
If anyone has any questions about these decks, or better yet suggested improvements, do what you did last week and share them with us! Fostering this amazing sense of community is making my job about ten times sweeter.
I'll be doing a lot of testing this week, and I look forward to sharing the results with you later.
Keep innovating. Keep making the process happen. You guys rock.
Catch ya on the flip-