Last week I laid out a bunch of aggro and midrange decks to test against for the new Standard format. This week I'll be rounding out the gauntlet with combo and control as well as reanalyzing the old lists in light of the completed spoiler.
Updates From Last Week
I actually like the idea of Deathrite Shaman over the Rakdos Cacklers in the B/G Zombies list if only because it wins the mirror match by shutting off undying on Geralf's Messenger. As for Golgari Charm the main B/G card spoiled in the past week I would wait on it. It might deserve sideboard space but that all depends on where the metagame goes.
The Zombies list that wants Rakdos Cackler probably looks more like this:
- 4 Diregraf Ghoul
- 4 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 3 Knight of Infamy
- 4 Rakdos Cackler
- 4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
0 Cavern of Souls: What counterspells are actually targeting your creatures in this format? If people play Essence Scatter a couple copies can make their way in but Cavern doesn't cast Rakdos-Shred Freak and Geralf's Messenger on curve.
0 Falkenrath Aristocrat 21 lands: I just want to be aggressive and draw more spells.
Only four three-drop burn spells: I've been playing a similar list in current Standard and think this might even be too many. Three mana is a lot and your deck aspires to be fluid and functional even with only two lands in play.
The sideboard has a bit of interesting technology. The more I've thought about it the more I like Appetite for Brains over Duress. Duress hits all of the spot removal but Appetite for Brains hits Thragtusk. Given that Thragtusk is probably the scariest card for the deck to play against I would rather have the card that deals with it. Other problem cards that Appetite hits: Restoration Angel Slayer of the Wicked and Armada Wurm. Duress is better if your opponent is playing Intangible Virtue so keep that in mind.
Cremate is a bit of a reaction to the printing of Rest in Peace. That card is so good against graveyard decks that it will force them to adapt to win games without access to their graveyard. In those scenarios you will want to be able to cycle your hate card if you need to play a fair game. I wouldn't to completely rely on the card but with Rakdos Charm you still have access to full graveyard hate. Cremate also balances nicely with Rakdos Charm giving you a cheaper answer that is still castable if you don't draw one of your eight red sources.
On the subject of only having eight red sources this is exactly why the Mono Red deck I built last week isn't splashing. With the Zombies deck all of your red spells are things you want to be casting late. If you don't draw a red source early your Searing Spear is still reach on turn 6. In the red deck what black spells fill the same role? You are mostly gaining spot removal which you want to cast early to press a tempo advantage. If you miss your black mana your removal likely won't hit in time to have a real impact. Unless you need some black card for your sideboard I don't think it is worth it to try and splash.
The one card spoiled since my last article that will have a huge impact is Armada Wurm. Broodmate Dragon was always a huge trump in midrange matchups and Armada Wurm will likely have a similar effect. Flying is a bit better than trample at breaking stalls but there are now a ton of ways to turn two 5/5s into a lot more. I think Brian Kibler's article from last week was spot on about Trostani Selesnya's Voice. Between that card and Restoration Angel Armada Wurm will slam through any cluttered board and this list seems like it may be a better version of the Junk Value deck I was building.
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 2 Armada Wurm
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 3 Borderland Ranger
- 4 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 3 Thragtusk
- 3 Wolfir Silverheart
- 3 Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
That said I feel like the deck may want a couple Disciple of Bolas. I like how it translates your oversized creatures into a more permanent advantage and I also like how it helps you transition from your mid game to your end game by turning something like a Centaur token that starts getting outclassed into three cards. Extra cards also means extra mana important when you want to cast Armada Wurms or activate Trostani and Gavony Township in the same turn. It's even another good target for Restoration Angel! Black also gives access to Lingering Souls and Vault of the Archangel (as always) and is easy to splash in your deck already featuring Borderland Ranger. You probably don't even need the full eight duals to make the mana work out.
Now on to the new decks.
This card slipped under the radar for a while but it is definitely more of a Beleren or Mind Sculptor than a Memory Adept. It draws a ton of cards makes extra copies of itself very live and beats Lingering Souls heads up.
The alternate list of this plays four Lingering Souls over one Terminus and the three removal enchantments. This gives you zero good targets for Abrupt Decay and has Lingering Souls take over the anti-planeswalker role but I would rather start with the more reliable mana base and go from there.
Notes on numbers and inclusions:
2 Azorius Keyrune: I originally had zero mana artifacts to dodge Abrupt Decay but A) Abrupt Decay is actually pretty bad right now and B) you already have Detention Sphere as a target for the spell. Keyrune is another way to actually win games an important thing in a world with Slaughter Games.
1 Thought Scour: Azorius Charm fills in the miracle enabling cantrip slot quite nicely while also doubling as early removal. Even with only two live modes that card seems awesome here. I still have one Thought Scour to make Tamiyo's ultimate actually lethal on its own but it's a long shot.
4 Jace Architect of Thought 1 Jace Memory Adept 2 Tamiyo the Moon Sage: I originally had 3 Tamiyo in the list but I decided that I wanted to A) have more Jaces to kill their Jace and B) have more straight up win conditions in my deck to prepare for Slaughter Games post-board. I learned my lesson about that one back when it was Cruel Ultimatum versus Thought Hemorrhage; I'm not learning it again when it's Entreat the Angels versus Slaughter Games. Diversify your win conditions people! See also the sideboard Lone Revenant.
Martial Law: This card was considered but ultimately rejected. Creatures aren't really the issue for this deck but I think this card is going to be awesome in some deck with Wraths. It makes them overextend into your sweepers—how cool is that? You probably want it in some midrange deck that happens to play a board sweeper for value like a Bant deck with Supreme Verdict and Thragtusk.
This next deck is mostly just an excuse to cast Nicol Bolas Planeswalker.
This is a very rough draft heavily focused on beating Zombies. It is almost completely cold to creatures with hexproof and is actually cold to Sigarda Host of Herons. Hence the three Evil Twins as your only outs post-board. Geist of Saint Traft is also a disaster. You have a lot of tools against most other threats but I would likely stay away from this deck until the Geist issue is solved. Not only do I expect Delver-ish decks to still be amazing but I also expect a lot of control decks to sideboard the card as a mirror breaker and an answer to opposing Geists. There are a lot of answers that exist but I don't like most of them as they aren't good against the rest of the field (see: Rolling Temblor).
There are a lot of other options that are worth considering for this deck. Play around with the numbers and something good should pop out.
The only card I've seen a lot that I don't like is Cyclonic Rift. The combo of it plus Rakdos's Return is cute but as a removal spell it isn't very good. Even with Snapcaster Mage I don't know if it does enough to deserve inclusion. At most I would only want one or two.
This next deck is also mostly just an excuse to cast Nicol Bolas Planeswalker. Props to AJ Sacher for the idea (circa PT Kyoto 2009).
- 3 Garruk Relentless
- 4 Jace, Architect of Thought
- 1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
- 2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
- 2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
- 1 Vraska the Unseen
Yeah let's get real wild here. Bant splash Grixis! I just wanted to play 100% of the good cards and worry about mana later. The deck wants some of the early red spells like Pillar of Flame but I honestly don't think you can afford to play them with the color requirements the deck already has. Hopefully a wall of Lingering Souls Thragtusks and planeswalkers is enough to stop Zombies. If not changes can be made.
Four Farseek may be too many. There are 31 mana sources in the deck. Chromatic Lantern fixes for your more expensive color heavy spells while Farseek competes with Transguild Promenade for space on the curve. That said curving into turn 3 Jace or Garruk is quite strong and my current belief is that is one of the most important things your deck can do.
Hinterland Harbor is awesome in this deck. It casts all your best cards and comes into play untapped off of all your duals. I almost want a third but what land are you actually going to cut for it?
Oblivion Ring made the cut over Detention Sphere because one of the permanents I'm most concerned about is Detention Sphere on my planeswalker. The same is true with Abrupt Decay as the creature kill spell of choice. I am slightly concerned about Olivia Voldaren but that's what the four Supreme Verdicts are presumably doing in those matchups.
Vraska was the last addition to the maindeck. The card likely isn't that good but I wanted a trump in planeswalker mirrors. It could easily become some cheaper interactive spell if the deck proves to be too slow.
The sideboard probably wants Witchbane Orb as it protects your planeswalkers from burn spells but I think Duress and Slaughter Games are both stronger in control mirrors. Early black for Duress might be a bit ambitious though you have a decent window to cast it in before you start casting threats. Geist of Saint Traft may also be overkill; if anything that slot will change. The plan of play all the planeswalkers is probably good enough to win control mirrors on the threat side—you just need to balance your answers appropriately.
This is probably my favorite of the decks I've listed in this article. If I don't start off just playing Geist of Saint Traft this will probably be my deck of choice.
I assume this deck is really light on Zombies hate. I'm leaning on just ending up at five and jamming a million Thragtusks and Curses at them. I'm probably willing to straight up board in Grafdigger's Cage there as the hard part is going to be dealing with their guys that don't die to Mutilate. Also the reason for Cages over Tormod's Crypt is that you can presumably beat Splinterfrights and Jarads with Olivia and all of your removal but Unburial Rites not so much.
The cards in this deck are all quite good and it actually has all the pieces it needs. Card draw planeswalkers answers to planeswalkers actual finishers life gain and the kind of absurd trump that Curse of Death's Hold represents. The only concern is that Dreadbore could be hard to cast early on but if B/R Zombies can get away with eight sources for their spells you can get away with seven lands and three Lilianas to Tutor with.
The Vraskas were added to answer opposing Witchbane Orbs which shut down most of your big control trumps games 2 and 3. The deck also might be a little light on green sources. I can see cutting a spell for a Golgari Keyrune adding a green source without cutting a Swamp.
Yes there is a ton of graveyard hate. Good thing these decks can all win without using their graveyard.
It's worth nothing that Slaughter Games is very good against Unburial Rites as are Purify the Grave and Cremate. Nonpermanent hate exists but it will likely be rare until Rites is solidly the deck to beat.
- 3 Angel of Glory's Rise
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Borderland Ranger
- 1 Cathedral Sanctifier
- 2 Falkenrath Aristocrat
- 3 Fiend Hunter
- 4 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 1 Griselbrand
I've opted for the full combo as a way to break midrange stalls. Angel of Glory's Rise alone is often enough bury someone in card advantage but the Fiend Hunter + Angel of Glory's Rise + Falkenrath Aristocrat loop makes sure they die even if they have activated Trostani to make multiple Wurms.
Also exile all Zombies. Good luck!
It's worth nothing that this deck can combo out through Selesnya Charm. While Falkenrath Aristocrat will end with more than five power all of the various triggers can occur with Aristocrat activations on the stack. Assuming you have a Huntmaster of the Fells Cathedral Sanctifiers or second Fiend Hunter you can still go infinite in life or creature exiles. That should be more than enough to win even without your infinite power flier (which for the record can be sacrificed to itself and end up in the graveyard).
I'm very excited about Jarad's Orders. There's the obvious part where it sets up the combo but the added bonus of letting you play a toolbox deck is not to be underestimated. I don't think I've come close to fully exploring the potential of that card here. I only have a couple Tutor options in the board and would love to have more copies of that card in the deck.
On the subject of mana there might not be enough red sources. That's quite a few games down the road to figure out.
Out of the board you have an assortment of great Tutor targets. Armada Wurm is your monster threat Sigarda never dies Acidic Slime kills hate cards and random permanents and Zealous Conscripts always has blowout potential. Slayer of the Wicked is more Zombies hate that comically comes back off Angel and Restoration Angel helps you play real games through a Grafdigger's Cage or something similar.
Abrupt Decay was taken from Brad's sideboard but it answers all the hate permanents. Tormod's Crypt Grafdigger's Cage and Rest in Peace all die to it as do a number of other cards in the games where they don't draw their answer.
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Angel of Serenity
- 2 Arbor Elf
- 2 Armada Wurm
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 1 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 2 Lotleth Troll
- 3 Restoration Angel
- 3 Thragtusk
- 1 Griselbrand
It is possible you want Deathrite Shaman over Arbor Elf but I'm not sure there is quite enough mill for it to deserve the slot. I also want to fit Borderland Ranger in the deck somewhere but that's a lot of low impact spells early on.
Armada Wurm is the baseline fatty of choice to Reanimate but you have all the options with Jarad's Orders. Angel of Serenity is a sweeper Griselbrand is a generic threat and I liked the look of Craterhoof Behemoth from Gerry and Brad's video a couple weeks ago. None of these is more than a sometimes option but when we can Tutor for anything we want everything will work out.
The sideboard is just shifting your deck away from the graveyard in the face of hate. Grisly Salvage is still a passable Impulse and Jarad's Orders is a nice Tutor but you can cut Mulch and most of the Unburial Rites package for normal threats.
The Innistrad Block Constructed list of this deck fell off the map with the third set but Return to Ravnica gives it a more to work with.
- 2 Armored Skaab
- 3 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 1 Borderland Ranger
- 2 Deadbridge Goliath
- 3 Deranged Assistant
- 3 Dreg Mangler
- 3 Korozda Guildmage
- 2 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Splinterfright
- 2 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 2 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
I've opted for a Golgari base in order to play games through hate post-board. All of the scavenge creatures are perfectly serviceable when facing down a Tormod's Crypt as is Lotleth Troll. I think you still need the blue mana to get the ball rolling early on with Deranged Assistant and Armored Skaab. There should be enough sources with Mulch and Grisly Salvage to help but if it turns out you don't need those cards it could easily be cut.
Despite the blue I don't know if you want Tracker's Instincts. You are forced to grab a creature off of it which often means you don't put any in your graveyard. Grisly Salvage can nab a land solving this issue. You may want to find room for a couple of that card but the eight Mulch style effects should be enough. One of my concerns is that more spells makes it harder to bin creatures and Gnaw to the Bone is a powerful enough effect that I want access to it over a couple more "dredge" cards.
Jarad Golgari Lich Lord and Korozda Guildmage help you break stalls which was one of the bigger issues with the deck in Block. If your opponent could kill Splinterfright and make walls of blockers it was hard to break through. Between intimidate and Flings blockers should be a non-issue. Jarad also serves the important role of being a relevant spell to flip off of Splinterfright triggers and other mills. There aren't a lot of Swamps in the deck but finding enough to bring it back and cast it should be easy going long.
Ulvenwald Tracker is a bit of tech from Commander writer Sean McKeown. The old lists of this deck played Prey Upon in the sideboard as an unconditional kill spell with your giant creatures and Tracker upgrades from Terminate to Visara.
The sideboard is focused on playing post-board games against hate. The most interesting card is Golgari Charm which kills Rest in Peace and counters Supreme Verdict. You are still not the best against Terminus but you can't beat everything. That one at least costs six.
I have no list here but I've done some testing with the deck. The general idea is to use Infernal Plunge and Battle Hymn with Krenko's Command and Goblin Rally to Ritual into a Past in Flames which in turn leads to a lethal Burn at the Stake. Goblin Electromancer was a huge boon to the deck compared to last year as was Snapcaster Mage to flashback Battle Hymn or make more Goblins.
The lists I've seen in articles feel about a card or two off from being good. I think Reforge the Soul is necessary to actually lethal someone as the eleven or so cards you normally have access to aren't close to enough and there needs to be more cheap tokens or a better win condition than Burn at the Stake. It's possible that moving away from pure combo to something with Krenko Mob Boss might help but it also might just need a set or two more to get to playable status.
These lists should be a solid gauntlet to test new deck ideas against. You have:
Threat-Based Aggro (ala traditional White Weenie)
Midrange Value Decks
Junk / G/W
You definitely don't have to beat everything to succeed but these decks will cover most of what you can expect going into the new format. If I had to pick a few focus beating on B/G Zombies both midrange decks and U/W Miracles.
The diversity of this format makes me extremely excited to play Standard for the next few months. The sheer number of decks that were viable was a major reason people loved the last Ravnica block and the follow up does not look like it will disappoint.
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Myguildis House Dimir. It's all about information. I want it and they shouldn't have it. Thoughtseize Vendillion Clique and Gitaxian Probe are some of my favorite cards. Even when I'm playing aggro it's all about knowing how far I need to go before my reach kicks in and forces them to guess.