Standard isn't solved yet and it doesn't look like it will be anytime soon.
Decks like Zombies Reanimator Control Midrange and Humans all seem just as powerful as each other. There's even some sweet stuff like Turbo Fog Omniscience and Epic Experiment lurking in the background waiting to strike.
Last weekend I played in Grand Prix Philadelphia. I don't often say this but my sealed pool was actually unplayable. Typically I can make something solid but it was basically impossible with this one. I had very few two- and three-drop creatures and two good cards in blue (Sphinx's Revelation and Mercurial Chemister) but the rest of my blue was pretty bad and all my fixing was non-blue. I quickly went 1-3 and dropped from the tournament.
Thankfully there was a SCG Super Invitational Qualifier on Sunday. I was set on playing Reanimator as that was the deck I'd been playing on Magic Online but due to Todd Anderson sleeping in getting the cards for it proved difficult. Instead I updated my Zombies deck and played that.
Throughout that tournament and my adventures on Magic Online in the last week I've learned several things about Standard.
I tried the last list I posted on Magic Online but it was kind of frustrating. Most one-land hands are keepable but not ones with Cavern of Souls. Additionally I wasn't playing against very many U/W/R Midrange decks which the Caverns would have shined against. In real life lots of people were playing U/W/R Midrange so I desperately wanted my Cavern of Souls back.
Dead Weight was also what its name implies. Unless I was playing against the mirror match -2/-2 didn't kill much. The creatures I was worried about were Restoration Angel Geist of Saint Traft Thragtusk Angel of Serenity and Olivia Voldaren none of which care about Dead Weight.
Crippling Blight is the all-star against some of those but not all. Ultimate Price kills the Angels but nothing else. Abrupt Decay is hard to cast and basically kills nothing of relevance. Do I have to play maindeck Appetite for Brains or what? Maybe a one-of Bone Splinters?
Edict effects wouldn't be the worst thing but the best things we have are Liliana of the Veil and Tribute to Hunger. Of those I guess I'd want Liliana since she has an impact on the board even after you kill something but I could see it going either way.
My sideboard has changed dramatically. Vampire Nighthawk was a card I wanted to try and I was impressed with the results. Most people can and should keep an opener against you based on the strength of double Pillar of Flame. Sidestepping that with Nighthawk is fantastic. Flying is also an underrated ability.
Rancor of course has still been fantastic as has Lotleth Troll. As my infatuation with Dead Weight has faded so has my opinion of burn spells. I still don't want them especially since there isn't one that can kill bigger creatures. Falkenrath Aristocrat is fine but it isn't worth double splashing for.
If I were to continue playing Zombies I would still play B/G. I doubt that will happen though. Zombies while incredibly efficient for what it does is ultimately a pile of non-interaction. I might pick it up for a tournament here or there but to me it isn't any fun to play.
Brad Nelson as he tends to do got attached to this deck pretty quickly. After a day of grinding win-a-boxes he no longer thought the deck was unbeatable. Sure Brazilian superstar Batutinha has continued to rack up 4-0s in Magic Online Daily Events with it but Brad couldn't repeat his success.
From my experience Jund is one of those decks that's alright versus most things but you need to draw the right part of your deck at the right time. For example against Zombies curving Farseek into Huntmaster of the Fells into Thragtusk might be enough (and sometimes isn't) but that type of curve isn't very effective against a U/W Control deck. There you want something like Farseek Rakdos Keyrune plus Duress into Slaughter Games.
In Above the Curve #1 Brad insisted Jund is favored against Reanimator but he changed his tune after last weekend. If Reanimator isn't a good matchup Zombies isn't a good matchup and control isn't a good matchup why are people playing Jund?
It's the type of deck that people like playing because it's got powerful efficient cards and you get to interact a lot. Jund rarely gets blown out in any game which makes its pilots feel like they have control over who wins and loses. From playing Reanimator I can tell you that it's frustrating to cast Mulch Grisly Salvage and then die after not casting anything relevant.
I like the look of this deck a lot. You've got removal some of the format's most powerful cards an engine and plenty of ways to go over the top. The downsides are taking too much damage from your lands and being a little slow. Still the nut draws are basically unbeatable.
Most people will shy away from this archetype as some don't like playing the deck with the target on its head. Graveyard hate isn't that prevalent and isn't all that good against Reanimator to begin with. They can still cast their Thragtusks and Angels so if you're using graveyard hate as a means to disrupt them you also need to be putting them on a clock.
Brad's plan of Rakdos's Return in combination with graveyard hate didn't seem to work out presumably because Deathrite Shaman isn't indestructible. This Reanimator deck isn't all-in on its graveyard€”it's a control deck too! You're going to have to interact with their board not just their graveyard.
Here's the list I'd recommend:
This list could still use some work. For example two Rolling Temblors probably isn't enough to handle a turn 3 Geist of Saint Traft consistently enough. Liliana isn't something I can see myself trying anytime soon as XY mana is much easier to get than XX. Despite that the mana base is still fine. Lands like Clifftop Retreat don't cast Grisly Salvage and therefore aren't playable. As it stands I have fifteen green sources (not counting Cavern of Souls); that's reliable enough to have a green source on turn 1.
I tried cutting the Lingering Souls which was a good move. They're unnecessary against almost everything and by moving away from white you get to solidify the mana base. However I ran into the one situation where I actually needed them: the Angel of Serenity mirrors. Post-board you can break up theirs with Purify the Grave but in game 1 no one can really do anything.
To solve that I added the Craterhoof Behemoth technology that's been in nearly everyone's decklist but that no one's really talked about. With Behemoth you can break the Angel wars by killing them. Olivia Voldaren might actually be better but I haven't tried that one yet. If nothing else it's probably your best answer to their Olivias.
Overall I like the deck but I feel like it needs something to put me ahead or at least keep me on parity in the early game hence all the removal. Farseek might be a necessity. Something like Explore would be fantastic. If nothing else I'll go back to trying the versions with Avacyn's Pilgrim and Arbor Elf. For the record I tried Deathrite Shaman and was unimpressed both as an accelerant and as graveyard hate.
This one is right in my wheelhouse and I should probably be playing it. Cavern of Souls isn't being played enough right now so you can actually play something like seven counterspells and not get punished. Syncopate is no Mana Leak but it's still a very good Magic card when lots of people are playing Thragtusk.
This list also caught my eye:
Archer a notable Japanese pro and renowned deckbuilder recently 4-0'd a Magic Online Daily Event with his take on U/W/R Midrange. This deck looks very very good. Of course I'm not a huge fan of playing Dissipate before maxing on Syncopate or Essence Scatter especially when you have Rewind but still. Rewind in particular is very exciting in this deck. Not only do you have Restoration Angel to reset but it's also amazing with Sphinx's Revelation.
With fewer people on Zombies a Pillar of Flame could potentially be cut. I also like Azorius Charm and dislike Izzet Charm. A couple Supreme Verdicts maindeck could be pretty nice. Also without Snapcaster Mage Rest in Peace is almost certainly better than Purify the Grave unless you're looking for the surprise factor.
Izzet Staticaster is another card that has seen little play but is probably an all-star. Not only does it clear out mana dorks and Spirit tokens but it allows your burn spells to trade up against Loxodon Smiters and the like. I've been a fan of cards like Vulshok Sorcerer and Cunning Sparkmage in the past and Staticaster is the third coming.
I'll try Archer's deck and the more traditional version to see which I like more. While Archer's list is innovative and powerful I can almost assure you that I'll end up with Geist in my maindeck.
It looks like control is here to stay. With Zombies not much seeing much play in real life at least from what I've seen we no longer have to splash Shock. Since that's the case we can branch out into other colors for things like Sorin Lord of Innistrad and Lingering Souls.
I like this list a lot. Of course I think it's a little weak to Zombies but you can't have everything. Sorin and Sphinx's Revelation are both underappreciated cards right now. Lingering Souls is fine right now but definitely not at its best. However with Sorin's emblem they can actually start doing some real damage and trading with relevant creatures.
Our U/W/R Control deck from Cincinnati desperately wanted some life gain and this deck has plenty. If I could go back and do it all over again I would certainly play something like this. I'm not 100% sure a deck like this is better than something like Archer's hybrid but who knows.
Nephalia Drownyard is pretty sick against a lot of different archetypes but one thing to keep in mind is Ghost Quarter. It's kind of mopey on the surface but once you realize it can kill Underworld Connections (or at least keep them from casting it) you start to respect it a little more. Drownyard is probably the better land for right now though.
This weekend I'm staying home and hopefully blocking for friends at the Roanoke PTQ. Ravnica Sealed has been tough for me online and at the Grand Prix but hopefully I can turn that around. In the meantime I'll be on Magic Online gearing up for the Modern Grand Prix in Chicago the Standard Grand Prix in Charleston and the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Baltimore.
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