Since Paris, we have all suffered under the yoke of feathered oppression brought on by the Americans littering the top 16 with their birds and blades. There was a small minority of players who thought RUG could wrench the title of best deck in GP Dallas, but New Phyrexia cemented Caw-Blade as the dominant deck by a mile, and GP Singapore had results for Jace, the Mind Sculptor that were out of this world. Such data led to only one inescapable conclusion:
Hyperbolic, but is actually far closer to reality than one would think. Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic were so far ahead of every other card in Standard that just having them in your 75 each gave you a free 15% against any opponent, any matchup. Sometimes you would just get “the draw”—Preordain, Stoneforge Mystic, Dismember/activate, Jace—that no one could beat. That is a lot of game wins just for joining the event with Caw-Blade. Their bannings were well deserved, and I say good riddance.
Control decks are reeling from the loss of their linchpin, and there is little reason to innovate a solution in the time it takes for the new set to be released. M12 is sure to create one or two new archetypes (as M11 did with Fauna Shaman and Titans), and maybe there could be some new planeswalkers to replace our Lord and Savior Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Until that time though, creatures and Valakuts are the name of the game.
Nationals is coming up as the next major event for me, and jamming these decks with so little room for innovation would be a waste of time. This leaves me looking into the only archetype that had Jace, the Mind Sculptor that may have survived the bannings, Splinter Twin. Twinblade showed that just jamming seven cards into an existing shell was a recipe for success, so I'll try to do the same and see if I strike gold again.
In an aggressive metagame, a traditional RUG deck such as the one I used to Top 8 Grand Prix Dallas would be the best choice, as it has some of the best numbers against aggro decks. Its matchup against Valakut is quite terrible, but that's what the Splinter Twin combo is for. My child from Zendikar block has been gutted in the banning along with the rest of the Jace decks, but perhaps little Jace could patch the hole left by his absence.
- 1 Spellskite
- 4 Deceiver Exarch
- 2 Inferno Titan
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 1 Oracle of Mul Daya
- 2 Sea Gate Oracle
- 1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
Deck looks playable on paper, but in practice Jace Beleren just does not hold a torch to himself. Explore and Lotus Cobra need a reason to propel you to four mana on turn 3 but lack the bombs such acceleration requires. Oracle of Mul Daya might show more promise, so I won't totally dismiss a RUG shell, but I believe she is a big spender and doesn't have time to play foster mother for our orphaned seven cards. Looking elsewhere for our four-mana continuous card advantage fix leads us to another green card that has been in Jace's shadow since its release.
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Spellskite
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Deceiver Exarch
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Frost Titan
- 1 Inferno Titan
- 1 Kozilek's Predator
- 1 Llanowar Elves
- 2 Lotus Cobra
- 2 Sea Gate Oracle
- 1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
- 1 Sylvan Ranger
- 2 Vengevine
Twinblade remains near and dear to my heart, and working on this deck shows a lot of parallels. Splinter Twin remains plan B, with Fauna Shaman and Birthing Pod remaining in the forefront. Acidic Slime, Frost Titan, Sea Gate Oracle, Kozilek's Predator, Sphinx of Lost Truth, Phyrexian Metamorph, and Frost Titan having synergy with Splinter Twin outside the combo is something missing in most Twin decks. Your opponent letting your Fauna Shaman live is a sure sign the coast is clear to combo them out as well, as he is better than Spellskite at taking heat.
The Pod Twin deck shows a lot of promise but is not as resilient to hate as much as I would like with its lack of planeswalkers. The last archetype that may exist now due to the bannings is a U/R/W Control deck planning on an aggro/Valakut metagame. Maindeck Pyroclasm, Wall of Omens, and Gideon kill critters, while the strength of the Splinter Twin combo and Spreading Seas gives it an edge against Valakut.
Note the MANDATORY Pilgrim's Eye as the 61st card.
BONUS: Standard PTQ edition
After I got back from Japan, I had planned on doing a full spread on the Standard Twinblade deck Ari Lax, Brian DeMars, and I played at the StarCityGames.com Invitational. Our combined record was a pretty impressive 15-4-2 (15-2-2 against people not named Edgar Flores), a win percentage making it one of the best decks I have ever played. Admittedly there was a surprise factor that contributed to a lot of free wins, but there was also a fundamental reason why it did so well.
Ben wins the die roll and goes turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic, turn 3 Dismember my Stoneforge Mystic and bring in Batterskull, turn 4 bring in Sword of Feast and Famine, equip on the Batterskull token, and then... I crack Scalding Tarn for Mountain, tap Island, Glacial Fortress, and Mountain to cast Deceiver Exarch, tapping the Germ. Untap, Mountain, Splinter Twin.
This led to a Facebook message from Ben while I was in Japan.
Ben Wienburg: Would it be possible for me to get your guys UWr list from the invitational? I wanna ptq w/ it in columbus this weekend.
Me: (ships list)Ben Wienburg: TY. Played close to the list. Played 2 Emeria over the spellskite and sphinx and they were awesome. Won a ptq.
Glad I could be of service, Ben.
Twinblade has four separate game plans, each capable of winning on their own and so different that sideboard cards are ineffective.
Plan A: Stoneforge Mystic and Equipment
Plan C: Jace, the Mind Sculptor
What could you sideboard to hate out these win conditions?
Just comparing any of these cards to the list, you can see that they are effective only against two plans each. This sometimes means people over sideboard (giving you all the time in the world against a diluted deck) or sideboard improperly, giving you a huge advantage when you Gitaxian Probe them and see what you need to play around.
When I got back from Japan, I spent several days jamming the list on Magic Online... and I wasn't losing. Ever. Any matchup I felt favored, and the 3-4 Caw-Blade decks I played against every event were easily handled. After winning five straight events, I knew something would be banned, making all my work for naught. To not let my work go to waste, I'm posting it here. Old format technology worked out well last time, with the RUG list winning a Standard PTQ the last week it was legal. Let us see if we can make it a repeat performance with the swan song of the old format's best deck, Twinblade.
People picking this up at the last minute may need a sideboard guide, which I am happy to oblige.
You must get into the habit of sideboarding in fifteen cards, shuffling up, and then going through and removing fifteen cards. This advice carries over to every deck in every format in Magic, but it is particularly useful for Twinblade. You have the ability to modify the numbers on any of the four plans on the fly, and it is critical that your opponent does not know which ones you are on. Seeing Shatters or removal can drastically change your plans, so take these numbers as advice and not set in stone.
-2 Mana Leak, -1 Spell Pierce, -1 Deceiver Exarch, -1 Splinter Twin, -1 Arc Trail (if no Mirran Crusaders), -1 Island
+1 Dispel, +1 Crush, + 1 Divine Offering, + 2 Inferno Titan, +0-3 Twisted Image (in case of Spellskites)
The games will be hard fought, but you have the advantage in the matchup. Deceiver should be used to tap their lands and force through a fatty or Jace.
Your best matchup, the only cards hard to play around are Combust, which a Sword of Feast and Famine equip on Deceiver Exarch beats (six toughness), and Nature's Claim, which Deceiver Exarch stops by tapping lone Forests down or which Dispel/Mental Misstep counters. Dismembers stay in case they have Lotus Cobra or Oracle of Mul Daya.
-2 Dismember, -2 Gitaxian Probe, -1 Spell Pierce, -2 Mana Leak, -1 Splinter Twin, -1 Deceiver Exarch, -1 Sword of Feast and Famine
+3 Pyroclasm +1 Mortarpod +1 Divine Offering +2 Inferno Titan, +1 Crush, +2 Twisted Image
Feel free to change the sideboard; I have an unhealthy addiction to Twisted Image and Mortarpod that perhaps not everyone agrees with. Suture Priest, Soul's Attendant, Lotus Cobra, Vedalken Certarch, Phyrexian Revoker, and Birds of Paradise will all thank you for removing it though. It can also pair with Dismember to take down any of the six-mana x/6s people play.
No one can fight the tide forever.