Gatecrash Standard Options
by Gerry Thompson

I've got two decks I'm excited about for Gatecrash Standard.*

U/W/R Aggro

U/W/R Aggro
Featured by Gerry Thompson on 2013-02-03 ()
As written about in
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4 Restoration Angel
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Thundermaw Hellkite

1 Blind Obedience

2 Aurelia's Fury
4 Boros Charm
3 Searing Spear
4 Thought Scour
2 Unsummon

Legendary Creatures
4 Geist of Saint Traft

2 Mizzium Mortars
3 Pillar of Flame

Basic Lands
1 Island

1 Cavern of Souls
2 Clifftop Retreat
4 Glacial Fortress
3 Hallowed Fountain
2 Moorland Haunt
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls

2 Runechanter's Pike
4 Izzet Staticaster
1 Blind Obedience
2 Dispel
2 Negate
4 Skullcrack

Average mana: 1.32
Average creature mana cost: 3.29
Average creature power: 2.71
Average creature toughness: 2.71

Deck Composition:
Basic Lands: 1.67%
Creatures: 16.67%
Enchantments: 1.67%
Instants: 25.00%
Lands: 40.00%
Legendary Creatures: 6.67%
Sorceries: 8.33%

This used to be called U/W/R Midrange, but siding in Supreme Verdict is not something this deck is interested in doing. Now it's a Lava Spike deck, so let's race!

Obviously, Boros Charm goes a long way towards making the deck more aggressive, but Skullcrack out of the sideboard is also fantastic. Rather than playing some controlling cards, I just want everything to deal them damage.

I used to think Runechanter's Pike plus Moorland Haunt would be a great way to beat removal-heavy opponents, but that didn't work as well as I'd hoped. There isn't much that interacts with Geist of Saint Traft in game 1, but you can bet that you'll face plenty of Devour Fleshes, Supreme Verdicts, and maybe even Liliana of the Veils over the course of a tournament due to Bant Hexproof being a thing.

While most matchups left me wishing that Runechanter's Pike was an off-color cycler, I knew that I wanted them against decks like Esper Control and Jund. For now, they reside in the sideboard.

Two things I would like to try are lowering the mana curve with Boros Reckoner and Delver of Secrets. That's right—Delver might actually be playable again. Delver faded away for a few reasons, namely that there was more removal (such as Pillar of Flame and Supreme Verdict), no Ponder meant you had to play more land and had less control over when Delver would transform, and with Delver dying a lot and getting flooded more often, the deck couldn't keep up its tempo advantage.

The question then becomes, "Do we play a blue one-drop (that isn't necessarily castable on turn 1), hoping to transform it to deal some real damage, or do we play more lands and some heavy hitters that will almost always deal damage like Restoration Angel and Thundermaw Hellkite?"

At this point, I'm leaning toward the Angel/Hellkite build, but I certainly like casting Delver of Secrets. Another option is including Champion of the Parish alongside Delver of Secrets to have eight hard-hitting one-drops. Of course, this makes your late game go down the toilet since you'll have plenty of bad topdecks, but perhaps the early damage output can make up for it.

If I'm feeling frisky, I'll sleeve up this deck. If I'm my normal calm and collected self, I will likely stick with Esper Control.

Esper Control

Esper Control
Featured by Gerry Thompson on 2013-02-03 ()
As written about in
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3 Augur of Bolas
2 Snapcaster Mage

1 Blind Obedience
2 Detention Sphere

4 Azorius Charm
2 Dissipate
1 Dramatic Rescue
4 Sphinx's Revelation
4 Think Twice
2 Ultimate Price

1 Jace, Memory Adept

4 Supreme Verdict
3 Terminus

Basic Lands
3 Island
3 Plains

4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
3 Isolated Chapel
3 Nephalia Drownyard
1 Watery Grave

3 Rhox Faithmender
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Blind Obedience
1 Rest in Peace
3 Devour Flesh
2 Dispel
2 Negate
1 Psychic Spiral
1 Terminus

Average mana: 1.62
Average creature mana cost: 2.00
Average creature power: 1.40
Average creature toughness: 2.20

Deck Composition:
Basic Lands: 10.00%
Creatures: 8.33%
Enchantments: 5.00%
Instants: 28.33%
Lands: 35.00%
Planeswalkers: 1.67%
Sorceries: 11.67%

This is the deck I'm most excited about post-Gatecrash. While both the Geist deck and this one are in my wheelhouse, Esper is the one that I would expect to have the best results. It's very hateful toward creatures, which most decks have, and Nephalia Drownyard takes care of everything else.

The list has changed little in two weeks. Obzedat, Ghost Council, while obviously a fantastic Magic card, isn't one that I'm willing to play with at this point. There is no other tap-out threat like it in that it provides reach, gains you life, and is difficult to kill, but the prohibitive mana cost isn't worth it for Esper. Fine-tuning the mana base is difficult enough on its own without including a double black spell. While Obzedat would be nice to have against midrange and red aggro decks, I can live without him.

I saw some dude doing well with quad Dramatic Rescue on Magic Online and thought that was a little ambitious. Since then, multiple players have adopted the card, including Luis Scott-Vargas. While with multiple Snapcaster Mages in your deck, it can provide a nice life buffer in the late game, playing multiple Unsummon effects is still a little suspect. For now, I'm trying one, but I'm not sure that I'll keep it.

With creature decks playing beefier creatures such as Experiment One and Champion of the Parish over Diregraf Ghoul and Gravecrawler, the need for Augur of Bolas diminished. Instead, Snapcaster Mage and Ultimate Price (or, if you prefer, Dramatic Rescue) are a much better answers to early aggression. I could definitely see cutting more Augurs, as they don't exactly stand up against Flinthoof Boar and company.

Blind Obedience seems like a very Feeling of Dread-esque card in that you play it in your deck in order to reduce the amount of damage that haste creatures deal you. With those cards, you can safely Supreme Verdict or Terminus them without losing large chunks of your life total. In theory it sounds good, and Feeling of Dread was fine for me but not necessary.

I'm willing to give the enchantment a try because it will gain you five to ten life over the course of a game in addition to whatever damage is prevented from haste creatures, which I think makes it good enough.

My plan for mirror matches has shifted slightly, which led to me playing Detention Sphere over Oblivion Ring again. Instead of using Oblivion Ring on their Detention Spheres (that were on my Jace, Memory Adepts), I prefer to kill them with Psychic Spiral.

Spiral is already seeing widespread use on Magic Online as an answer for the mirror match, often as a two-of in the sideboard. With multiple Snapcasters, you only need one Psychic Spiral in your deck. Hopefully, you can bleed them out of counterspells and stockpile your own for the eventual counter battle.

With Spiral, the need to fight Nephalia Drownyard with things like Ghost Quarter is completely unnecessary. In fact, you might be able to utilize this plan in something like U/W/R Flash. Then again, Jace, Memory Adept was so awesome for me in Flash that I would probably play a mix.

Rest in Peace is again only a singleton in my sideboard. Reanimator is one of the decks that no one is talking about, so I don't feel like multiples are entirely necessary.

This deck has everything I want in the format, and I wouldn't hesitate to play it in a tournament tomorrow.

Other Options


I've seen new versions of the Hexproof deck, including Esper and Raka variants. While I can respect trying different angles, like Dutiful Thrull and Madcap Skills, I don't see any reason why those variants would be better than Bant.

During Grand Prix Atlantic City, I was at home watching the coverage. If Josh Utter-Leyton thinks a deck is good enough to play in a big tournament, he is probably correct. I built the Bant Hexproof deck and started battling.

With Gatecrash, the mana becomes better and Arbor Elf is likely playable if you want it. I'm guessing a non-zero number is correct because against Mono-Red Aggro, a turn 3 Geist of Saint Traft was not fast enough. Granted, Gift of Orzhova didn't exist yet, and everyone else was telling me to play Feeling of Dread or Nearheath Pilgrim instead of Moment of Heroism. Arbor Elf also makes their Devour Fleshes much worse.

I'd stick with Bant, find the best way to win races, and find a way to beat black and it's plethora of Edicts.


These decks are powerful, can curve well (especially now), and don't have any auto-lose matchups. That said, they are not my style, and I have yet to be impressed by them. They don't do anything particularly well, but they aren't very bad at anything either.

However, Standard is a format of trumps and retrumps, and these midrange decks have little to brick wall their opponents early or go over the top of someone in the late game.

I consider viable Standard strategies to be:

1) Attacking for large amounts of damage early and often (and then maybe burning the opponent out if necessary).

2) Killing everything then casting Sphinx's Revelation.

3) Casting Unburial Rites (or something absurd like Omniscience).

Midrange might do the first parts of #1 or #2, but not well. Their midgame strategy is to draw into and cast a steady stream of threats and hope that nobody can deal. If that play goes awry, hopefully their Kessig Wolf Run, Bonfire of the Damned, or Angel of Serenity is drawn at the right time, and even then that's no guarantee.

I hate midrange. That said, the midrange creatures are getting much better, and midrange improved a lot from Gatecrash.


Not many people are talking about what's going to happen to Zombies, and for good reason—there isn't much, if anything, for Zombies in Gatecrash. The one big thing that I'd like to note is that with the format becoming more aggressive, Geralf's Messenger isn't very good anymore.

If you want a resilient threat, Messenger is your go-to guy, but that isn't the case anymore. It looks like you're going to want something that gives you the option to block or at the very least is more impressive in creature matchups.

As I've said before, cutting Messenger from your deck alleviates some of the stress on your mana base and allows you to play things like Rootbound Crag (or Stomping Ground) in your Jund Aggro builds.

On a different note, there is an Orzhov build doing pretty well on Magic-League:

B/W Zombies
Featured by tabletPCpymp on 2013-02-03 ()
As written about in
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4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Geralf's Messenger
4 Gravecrawler
3 Pack Rat
4 Restoration Angel
3 Skirsdag High Priest

1 Oblivion Ring

4 Orzhov Charm
1 Tragic Slip

Legendary Creatures
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council

3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

4 Lingering Souls

Basic Lands
10 Swamp

1 Cavern of Souls
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Orzhov Guildgate
1 Vault of the Archangel

1 Blood Artist
4 Cathedral Sanctifier
3 Frontline Medic
1 War Priest of Thune
2 Oblivion Ring
4 Liliana of the Veil

Average mana: 1.54
Average creature mana cost: 2.42
Average creature power: 2.21
Average creature toughness: 2.17

Deck Composition:
Basic Lands: 16.39%
Creatures: 36.07%
Enchantments: 1.64%
Instants: 8.20%
Lands: 22.95%
Legendary Creatures: 3.28%
Planeswalkers: 4.92%
Sorceries: 6.56%


If you're going for the xMiMx/Ben Wienburg strategy, you should definitely look into Experiment One as your Champion of the Parishes five through eight. If you're Boros, cut your Cavern of Souls and play Boros Reckoner.

Spark Trooper might be something to consider in order to win races. Pair it with Silverblade Paladin and I don't see you losing.

If you're just looking for nut draws, consider something like this:

Naya Humans
Featured by Pegachris on 2013-02-03 ()
As written about in
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4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Experiment One
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
4 Lightning Mauler
4 Mayor of Avabruck
4 Silverblade Paladin

4 Rancor

4 Boros Charm
4 Skullcrack

4 Cavern of Souls
2 Clifftop Retreat
2 Rootbound Crag
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple Garden

4 Nearheath Pilgrim
2 Blind Obedience
2 Ray of Revelation
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Pillar of Flame

Average mana: 1.20
Average creature mana cost: 1.86
Average creature power: 1.57
Average creature toughness: 1.29

Deck Composition:
Creatures: 46.67%
Enchantments: 6.67%
Instants: 13.33%
Lands: 33.33%

This deck actually looks awesome aside from the Gore-House Chainwalkers. I guess Cavern of Souls is too much of a limited factor to play something like Call of the Conclave, but it's probably too miniscule a difference to even matter.

G/B Kibler

Again, Experiment One is likely going to be fantastic here. Other than that, it's not surprising that a Golgari deck isn't receiving much help from Gatecrash.

One thing I have seen that looks interesting is the use of Ranger's Guile with Increasing Savagery and Essence Harvest, each in large numbers. The Guiles protect your guys while Essence Harvest gives you some much-needed reach. Of course, it's a little higher variance, but everyone loves a good blowout.


I'm definitely looking forward to the results of this weekend's Standard Open in Atlanta. Gatecrash is likely one of those sets that appears to add some subtle changes but ends up drastically altering the landscape of Standard. Honestly, Standard has been pretty awesome as is, so I wouldn't mind if no one played a single Gatecrash card.

That won't happen though.


@G3RRYT on Twitter

*Although Brad Nelson's deck for SCG Standard Open: Atlanta is intriguing...

'What guild am I?' Leave me alone, I'm not done with my research.

*goes back to notebook*