First off, let's all give a big congratulations to Patrick Chapin for his long-overdue win at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx last weekend. I haven't found myself rooting for and being genuinely happy for a winner of the finals of a Pro Tour in a long time. He brought the right deck to the tournament and played at the necessary world-class level to earn the trophy. And to think, his mentality the whole time was a basic "one-step at a time" approach to his real goal of earning an invite to the World Championships to complete the childhood dream that's been so elusive in the past. Such composure under pressure only comes with experience and dedication to the game.
The StarCityGames.com State Championships held across the country are behind us and gave us a host of decklists, some of which were tried-and-true archetypes and others quite innovative takes on attacking a format of known best decks. A few have caught my eye, some of which simply adjusted and tweaked with the introduction of Journey into Nyx, while others are way off the radar. I've noted a few that I believe fit my playstyle and I would enjoy giving a spin around the block a few times.
This week I'd like to talk about some sweet aggro (mostly) decks that won their respective States and a Mono-White deck I have in mind. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from articles that I write that include a comprehensive sideboarding guide, so I'll start with the initial decklist before making changes to what I feel is the optimal build going forward. In the end you'll have a chance to vote for which deck you'd like to see talked about in more depth in a future article.
- 4 Akroan Crusader
- 1 Ash Zealot
- 4 Firedrinker Satyr
- 4 Foundry Street Denizen
- 4 Legion Loyalist
- 4 Rakdos Cackler
- 3 Rubblebelt Maaka
- 3 Eidolon of the Great Revel
- 17 Mountain
A take on Boss Sligh, this deck is great at going under control-heavy metagames full of Mono-Black Devotion and U/W Control. The strategy can be counteracted with enough hate cards, but as the format stands, Mono-Red packing a ton of one-drops is such an extremely hyper-aggressive deck, yet only a blip on the radar, that people don't have room in their sideboards to fight it properly. The fact that other small creature strategies like White Weenie are less popular nowadays allows Boss Sligh to avoid the splash damage of people sideboarding to beat those strategies as well.
I like how the deck jams the full amount of Legion Loyalists along with an additional three Rubblebelt Maaka to go along with the four copies of Titan's Strength. Rubblebelt Maaka plays well with Eidolon of the Great Revel when bloodrushed to provide the effect of a spell while dodging the Eidolon's trigger. Even when you aren't facing down Elspeth or Pack Rat tokens to make Legion Loyalist's non-token clause relevant, you're making blocking nearly impossible for your opponent with first strike and trample (it's basically an Akroma's Memorial).
To make room for the Rubblebelt Maakas and Eidolon of the Great Revels, there are no Lightning Strikes in the maindeck and the Ash Zealots have also been reduced to just one. Overall, I like the switches, as it's less important to remove blockers when you make blocking so difficult in the first place and it's OK to shave down on Ash Zealot when it's fairly redundant in the deck. That said, I still like putting a Dragon Mantle on an Ash Zealot to sometimes make a creature a threat that's impossible to block or attack into.
I've been liking Blinding Flare more and more in Draft and have been considering it in this deck as a replacement for Seismic Stomp. Its drawback is that it's worse against Sylvan Caryatid and other untargetable creatures, while its upside is that it's better versus a single blocker and when you want to trigger Akroan Crusader(s). The maindeck Seismic Stomps seem like a metagame call as they can be rather low-impact in some matchups.
- 4 Cloudfin Raptor
- 4 Frostburn Weird
- 3 Judge's Familiar
- 4 Master of Waves
- 3 Nightveil Specter
- 4 Tidebinder Mage
- 3 Crystalline Nautilus
- 4 Thassa, God of the Sea
I'm rather curious to try this one out to find out why Crystalline Nautilus is good. I imagine it's because there's not much removal outside of Magma Spray for only one mana and that there aren't many permanents that can target Crystalline Nautilus for free, like an efficient tapper or a Kessig Wolf-run type card. It's doing a Phyrexian Negator impression to get an under-costed creature when decks aren't particularly designed with it in mind.
There aren't any Hall of Triumph or Hypnotic Sirens in the maindeck, but Jesse Williams was obviously aware of them, since they appear in the sideboard. Also in the sideboard we see a Claustrophobia, a card that I've been liking in Mono-Blue Devotion since day one. While clearly not good against creatures like Pack Rat and Courser of Kruphix, it's great against targets that you don't want to kill outright like Chandra's Phoenix, a bestowed creature, Master of the Feast, or Herald of Torment.
- 2 Banisher Priest
- 4 Daring Skyjek
- 4 Dryad Militant
- 2 Imposing Sovereign
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 4 Xathrid Necromancer
- 1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 1 Athreos, God of Passage
I like how this deck takes advantage of some powerful black spells that white doesn't have access to. Xathrid Necromancer adds the most value to the main deck and is one of the important cards when fighting against Supreme Verdict and Desecration Demon. Thoughtseize is one of the best (if not the best) spells in Standard and the ability to disrupt their game while presenting reasonable pressure is a recipe for success. Orzhov Charm is a nice multi-modal spell that often functions as a two-casting-cost Soldier of the Pantheon with flash.
It's good to see Atheros, God of Passage taking down a tournament. Clearly a powerful card, it's taken awhile for it to find a good home. I like how Atheros often functions to rebuy your creatures, which in turn lets you replay them and keep Atheros active as a real creature. As with all punisher mechanics, you need to make the alternative unpleasant, so an aggressive shell is mandatory.
I've become Keening Apparition's biggest fan as of late and would like to see Atheros and her do great things together. Cartel Aristocrat is another human that's been wanting to find its way into the build for a while now and I wouldn't mind trying one or two of her.
- 2 Archangel of Thune
- 2 Manaweft Sliver
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 3 Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
- 3 Purphoros, God of the Forge
I was messaged this decklist earlier in the week to give it a try and have been looking forward to a chance to do so. Brad Nelson also sings its praises in his article yesterday. The deck certainly looks exciting, and the fact that Joshua Watts has been crushing Texas events for about two months now with the deck cements it as a force to be reckoned with.
This deck is about as threat-dense as one can possibly imagine. Nearly everything must be answered, is difficult to interact with favorably, and can threaten to take over the game on its own. Many decks can't handle Purphoros, God of the Forge alongside any token maker. Joshua's deck attacks on an axis that Standard isn't used to.
I was watching Cedric's stream Wednesday night and saw a version featuring Chained to the Rocks, Scion of Vitu-Ghazi, and Elvish Mystic over Manaweft Sliver. I like the direction that that version was going as I feel like Manaweft Sliver is a tad too inefficient and that Assemble the Legion is too slow. You have no shortage of powerful threats against control and tokens for food for Desecration Demon.
Four copies of Deicide seems like too many and that there should be some number of Wear // Tear in there at least. Anger of the Gods seems decent but in an awkward spot, as it removes your entire board as well unless there's a perfectly opportunity. Still, I wouldn't be too hasty to make too many sideboard changes without playing the deck first as I don't honestly know what fifteen cards I'd want given that it's a style of deck that I haven't seen much of.
- 4 Archangel of Thune
- 3 Boros Reckoner
- 3 Fiendslayer Paladin
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 4 Nyx-Fleece Ram
- 3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 2 Heliod, God of the Sun
Inspired by the W/U version that utilized Ephara and Dictate of Heliod to complement the tokens produced by Brimaz, King of Oreskos; Precinct Captain; and Elspeth, Sun's Champion, this "Brave Sheep" plays a traditional game of small white creatures backed up with Glorious Anthems, with added potency against creature decks and burn decks.
Here we're jamming lifegain until it's good. The goal is the keep far out of range of any creature deck until you land an Archangel of Thune and trigger it in the same turn. This is accomplished through Path of Bravery or the lifelink from Fiendslayer Paladin. Of course, things escalate quickly with Nyx-Fleece Rams to trigger the Archangels multiple times in a turn.
It dodges some of the inconsistencies of the W/U version, namely not needing to play any lands that enter the battlefield tapped. Temples are certainly sweet, and it's certainly possible that one or two could fit, but it's frustrating to be waiting on that fifth or sixth mana and being unable to cast Archangel of Thune or Elspeth, Sun's Champion when you need to. With Heliod, God of the Sun being a useful dump for late-game mana, drawing lands is less of a liability.
I already miss not running Keening Apparition in the maindeck but wanted to stay focused on the theme of the deck at first to see if the strategy is strong enough to muscle its way past the top decks in Standard. Only time and playtesting will tell.
Sometimes matchups don't play out how you would expect them to on paper. The last time I played a lifegain deck was US Nationals in 2010 with what would later be named Soul Sisters. That Standard format had its Mono-Red variant, which I very incorrectly assumed was a walk-in-the-park easy matchup. I found out that their burn disables my cards like Serra Ascendant and Survival Cache from ever coming online and I'd just lose with my embarassing 1/1s. Equally unexpectedly, control decks couldn't interact with my life total at all and I would end up with an uncontested 6/6 flying lifelink creature for the low cost of a single white mana.
With all that said, which deck would you like to see more of for next week?