Welcome to 2014! I hope everyone had a safe journey while transitioning between years and is ready for this one to be the best yet. Like many others, I made a New Year's resolution this past week that I'm going to do my best to keep. Instead of one of my go-to resolutions like eating better or quitting smoking, I took a deeper approach. This year I'm going to do my best to constantly better myself day in and day out.
Along with this constant and never-ending improvement (thanks for the idea Tony Robbins!), I'm going to be looking for validation solely from myself. I've found it far too easy to find validation from you guys and gals by simply tweeting when I feel unmotivated or down on myself. It's so easy to turn likes into self esteem and derail myself from what needs to be done.
I'm telling you this because I need to ask you wonderful people for some help. I want to not only personally be the best I can be but also professionally. This means working harder and being more active in tournaments as well as producing the best content I can. When you see something that can be improved upon, please let me know. Keep it constructive, and don't be afraid to let me know something if it could help improve your experience overall.
With that, let's talk about Standard!
I recently took a good month off from competitive Magic. I spent time with family, got a couple new hobbies, and watched every single episode of my favorite show Scrubs (not the college year season because let's be honest—that was horrifyingly terrible). I finally got back into Standard after Christmas. New decks had popped up since my leave, and I was excited to play with some of them. Especially the one with Cartel Aristocrat! Too bad it was the worst card in the deck.
- 1 Daring Skyjek
- 2 Desecration Demon
- 3 Imposing Sovereign
- 4 Lyev Skyknight
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 2 Vizkopa Guildmage
- 4 Xathrid Necromancer
- 3 Obzedat, Ghost Council
I loved playing this deck. One of the first changes I made was replacing the Cartel Aristocrats with Vizkopa Guildmages. I loved the interaction between Whip of Erebos, the Guildmage, and seven mana. Whenever you had this, your team was "unblockable" depending on how much protection the opponent had in play. I won plenty of games with this interaction and highly suggest you make these changes as well if you're planning on playing this deck.
Cartel Aristocrat just isn't what it used to be. The only creature in the deck I found myself wanting to sacrifice to protect the Aristocrat was Obzedat, Ghost Council just for the Whip of Erebos tricks. There isn't anything like Lingering Souls, Doomed Traveler, or Blood Artist in this format that justify playing it. The other problem is there really isn't a ton of blocking going on in this format, making the defensive capabilities almost useless.
I ended up giving up on this deck due to its mana inconsistencies. The deck also had very schizophrenic draws, which is something I almost always consider a red flag when practicing with a deck. I just never enjoyed how many bad hands this deck was capable of. Many of them were situational as well, and I was always relying on my opponent to be playing a specific archetype when I kept game 1 hands.
From there I drifted between known and rogue archetypes to no avail. My Magic Online rating dropped down into the 1600s for the first time since I made the account, and I was close to just calling it quits until the next set comes out. I was just frustrated that the format had no weaknesses to exploit.
The way I see Standard is that U/W/x Control, Mono-Black Devotion, and Mono-Blue Devotion make up the only tier 1 strategies. Every other deck in the format is decent but has a glaring weakness in one of these three matchups, making them "flawed' choices. The three top decks have enough tools to also be good against any of the three decks but usually have to choose to be well positioned against two and weak against the third. This just makes playing one of the three decks correct.
I know I'm just explaining how a metagame works, but usually there's a much larger window to attack it. Right now there just aren't many moves you can make before the event starts. If you follow my work at all, you know I tend to attack metagames, making this a very difficult pill to swallow.
I was planning on skipping SCG Open Series: Indianapolis this weekend due to not liking any Standard deck until I rekindled an old love. I found a deck that I not only think looks cool but surprisingly is also very good. Whoever designed this deck gets a ton of my respect because this is exactly what I was looking for. This is what I will be playing at the Standard Open this weekend!
- 3 Banisher Priest
- 4 Chronicler of Heroes
- 4 Experiment One
- 4 Gyre Sage
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 4 Boon Satyr
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
I know this just looks like another G/W Aggro deck that hasn't been good in the past, but there are a few interesting things going on in it. For starters, this deck has some high-quality card advantage built into Boon Satyr, Chronicler of Heroes, and Voice of Resurgence. These cards allow the deck to keep up the pressure even when games go long.
I never thought I would ever consider playing Chronicler of Heroes in a Constructed event, but the card fits this deck very well. It interacts nicely with evolve since both abilities trigger, allowing you to stack them. Even if your Gyre Sage hasn't evolved yet, you still draw a card if you stack the triggers correctly since Chronicler of Heroes checks for a counter upon resolution. Later in the game Polukranos, World Eater; Scavenging Ooze; and Ajani, Caller of the Pride all help get that extra card.
Right now in Standard there really isn't much flexibility when it comes to attacking and blocking. Most decks either attack when the coast is clear, find removal spells when it isn't, or just keep casting bigger and bigger spells until they've amassed the more powerful army. This becomes difficult when these decks are paired against a deck filled with Selesnya Charms, evolve creatures, and Boon Satyrs. This deck is equipped to present pressure and continue it over the course of an entire game. Just when the opponent spends a turn to try to stabilize the board, this deck fires off its finishing move in the form of Ajani, Caller of the Pride.
The biggest reason why this deck is so powerful is that it has game against all three of the most popular and powerful decks in the metagame. I didn't believe it until I started playing with the deck, but I seriously haven't seen a matchup that I'm scared of yet. It could very well be a small sample size or my ability to win with anything (we all know this isn't true), but I believe this deck is the best choice to be playing right now.
This matchup is one of the best. Mono-Black doesn't have to tools to consistently deal with everything you're playing and has an extremely tough time getting an overwhelming board presence. Obviously things can go wrong with mulligans and mana flood, but for the most part I'm excited to play this matchup.
It's even difficult for them to win a game all in with Pack Rat since Selesnya Charm, Banisher Priest, and Boon Satyr all have an amazing ability of keeping them in check. Not to mention they oftentimes are vulnerable to Voice of Resurgence no matter what cards are in their hand.
I'll often keep Banisher Priest in when I'm on the draw but board it out when on the play. The reason for this is that I want more answers to aggressive Pack Rat starts but never fear them when I make the first land drop.
Out on the play:
In on the play:
Out on the draw:
In on the draw:
You want to try to be as aggressive as possible in this matchup. Get on the board and continue to find ways to attack. The longer the game goes, the better chance the opponent will find a Master of Waves or Thassa, God of the Sea that you cannot answer. Getting Polukranos, World Eater is a major goal since it acts as Meddling Mage naming Master of Waves yet also presents a serious clock.
One of the best things about this matchup is every Mono-Blue opponent I've played against overvalued attacking in the air. Judge's Familiar does not deal that much damage, yet they continue to pluck away at my life total. This constant aggression has won me many games by simply bestowing Boon Satyr onto one of my creatures and then untapping just long enough to slam an Ajani, Caller of the Pride onto the table for the win.
This matchup gets much easier after sideboarding since over a third of our cards have protection from blue. This makes it much easier to stay aggressive and not get swarmed by little blue tokens.
Something I've been experimenting with is taking Voice of Resurgence out instead of Selesnya Charm. The main reason for this is if an opponent values Domestication or not. If you see them cast it in game 2 or know they have it, I'd strongly consider just abandoning the mythic in exchange for the most awkward Naturalize in the format.
Get it? Because it can kill Thassa, God of the Sea by exiling it as well as pump the Domesticated creature during their turn to get it back.
Sphinx's Revelation Control
The most important thing about these matchups is that you don't let them get too much action with Supreme Verdict. I know the most difficult thing about playing against these types of decks is the constant tension between playing around Supreme Verdict as well as not giving them enough time to set up a powerful Sphinx's Revelation. That is why this deck has so many flash creatures!
Make sure to get two or three creatures on the board to present pressure, but be sure they don't share a name. Detention Sphere is a huge beating for this deck and should always be avoided. Once you have some pressure, you need to hold the Selesnya Charms and Boon Satyrs in anticipation of Supreme Verdict. If they don't cast it, then play one of them to keep the pressure up. One of the easiest lines to victory in these situations is them being forced to sweep the board with a Voice of Resurgence in play, allowing you to suit it up with Boon Satyr and then Ajani, Caller of the Pride to deal a swift ten to twelve points of damage the following turn.
After sideboarding they'll have more ways to interact with Voice of Resurgence, but you'll have more ways to present instant-speed creatures. We have the better exchange in all of this.
The only really important thing to remember is how important the Detention Sphere is in play compared to the Elspeth, Sun's Champion that might be lurking in our opponent's hand. This card can be very good if we don't have a lethal Ajani, Caller of the Pride in our hand, so be wary of getting that Voice of Resurgence back if you still have more pressure but no way to get around the token-generating death machine.
I believe this is the toughest matchup for the deck. Not only do they play Soldier of Pantheon, which blocks half of our creatures, but they have strong creatures in the air, multiple ways to gain card advantage, and the trump card in Supreme Verdict. Their strength is a double-edged sword however and can sometimes just mulligan into oblivion or have very awkward draws. Just try to keep up on the board, trade whenever Xathrid Necromancer isn't on the board, and watch out for Obzedat, Ghost Council taking over the game.
Glare of Heresy helps out a ton in this matchup and is the sole reason for playing four of them. It's just too important in a matchup with so many unique ways to disrupt us.
I understand there are many more matchups out there that I should go over, but I haven't played them enough to fully understand them and don't want to give you misinformation. The only thing I have realized is that you should board Glare of Heresy in against R/W Devotion since they have Boros Reckoner and Chained to the Rocks. I also cut the Unflinching Courages from the sideboard due to every red deck in the format splashing white for Glare of Heresy and Chained to the Rocks. I suggest you cut them as well.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and hope to see many of you in Indianapolis. It's going to be a very busy weekend due to both the Colts and Pacers having home games this weekend, but I'm looking forward to it!