A Bite Out of Modern: Bare Minimum Decks

Hi all,

Last time in this series we took a look at Affinity by zbishop. This user took an oppressively tier 1 strategy and discovered that even stripped of [c]Mox Opal[/c], the robot swarm could function effectively and cash. It should be noted at this point, that for the same budget this player has assembled Burn, but I can’t really know without finding him on MTGO whether he sold his Affinity pieces to do so.

Be that as it may, if any of you bought into zbishop Affinity, or even more cheaply, Drinkard affinity with [c]Ensoul Artifact[/c] instead of [c]Steel Overseer[/c], then you can expect a high payout reward for your patience if and when [c]Mox Opal[/c] is reprinted in a future set (here’s to Modern Masters 2)! The price of the rares without reprints will go up to keep the Affinity price tag at roughly the same level even when [c]Mox Opal[/c] goes down.

Similarly, many users have taken out chunks of expense from archetypes only to discover that the decks could still cash in Daily and Premier events. Take a look with me at some bare minimum Modern builds of [c]Living End[/c] and [c]Ad Nauseum[/c].

Living End

At its core, Living End is a deck that wants to cycle creatures into a cascade spell, which casts [c]Living End[/c] and returns all the cycled creatures. The deck has such a smooth functionality where the draw engine also kills the opponent, and when graveyard hate comes in games two and three, the deck hardcasts [c]Deadshot Minotaur[/c] and [c]Monstrous Carabid[/c]. An additional element of the deck is a recurring [c]Fulminator Mage[/c] for disruption. While it can be satisfying to win the game with your opponent left without permanents (also thanks to [c]Shriekmaw[/c]), user W00llyCerna discovered on September 21 that the deck can win packs even without the 30 ticket rare.

[d title= “Woolly End (Modern)”]
Land
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
4 Copperline Gorge
3 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Mountain
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
2 Swamp

Creatures
4 Architects of Will
4 Avalanche Riders
4 Deadshot Minotaur
4 Monstrous Carabid
2 Shriekmaw
2 Simian Spriit Guide
4 Street Wraith
3 Valley Rannet

Other Spells
3 Beast Within
3 Demonic Dread
4 Living End
4 Violent Outburst

Sideboard
3 Anger of the Gods
3 Gnaw to the Bone
3 Ingot Chewer
3 Ricochet Trap
3 Slaughter Games
[/d]

Wow, for less than $40, I’m rather impressed. First of all, I wouldn’t change anything about the sideboard except perhaps try to include [c]Faerie Macabre[/c] as an [c]Arcbound Ravager[/c] on Affinity’s side of the table can really spoil your exile plans.

Now with the maindeck, the performance just shows how powerful [c]Living End[/c] is as a card. I feel like W00lly, while deserving of a lot of respect, shot himself in the foot with [c]Architects of Will[/c]. It is a great cycler, and it is very disruptive once you combo, but he is all-in on not getting his graveyard disrupted and has a weaker midrange plan than most decks. Additionally, he probably is playing 1 too many of [c]Living End[/c] itself. Finally, I can’t imagine the deck ever being optimal with less than 4 [c]Beast Within[/c]. If I were playing on the same budget (which, building Living End, I would be), then I would assemble this 75.

[d title= “Drinkard End (Modern)”]
Land
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Mountain
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
2 Swamp
1 Temple Garden

Creatures
4 Avalanche Riders
4 Deadshot Minotaur
1 Faerie Macabre
4 Jungle Weaver
4 Monstrous Carabid
2 Pale Recluse
2 Shriekmaw
4 Street Wraith
2 Valley Rannet

Other Spells
4 Beast Within
3 Demonic Dread
3 Living End
4 Violent Outburst

Sideboard
3 Anger of the Gods
1 Faerie Macabre
3 Gnaw to the Bone
3 Ingot Chewer
1 Living End
4 Slaughter Games
[/d]

The [c]Faerie Macabre[/c] may just be better as more [c]Shriekmaw[/c]. I get what the [c]Ricochet Trap[/c] does, and it’s a common sideboard card, but with the 4th [c]Living End[/c] and [c]Slaughter Games[/c], we should be able to shore up the same match-ups.

Don’t get me wrong; there is an argument for [c]Architects of Will[/c]; the one-mana cycling is very enticing. Nevertheless, we have to look at how the deck performs in a match and not just every individual card in a vacuum.

I love the [c]Gnaw to the Bone[/c] in the face of all the burn that’s out there.

Here we have an example of a deck that is in the opponent’s face on a budget. It’s not a rogue deck, and it’s not a hate deck, so it’s not cheaper because the strategy is suboptimal. Instead, it just has an element missing and can still perform. Again, if [c]Fulminator Mage[/c] sees Standard or Modern Masters 2 play, we’re definitely onto something.

Shamans

What’s this? I thought Shamans already was a budget deck! Well, it is, by many standards. After taking repeated beatings from it in Modern Silverblack, I did some research. Taxideos is an MTGO user who repeatedly got packs for playing Modern Shamans, even after the banning of [c]Deathrite Shaman[/c]. The lists he played averaged around 220 tickets, and Sadpanda91 correctly observed (September 4) that the mana-base could operate on a very tight budget. Here is his list clocking in at less than TWENTY tickets.

[d title=”Sad Shamans (Modern)”]
Land
4 Copperline Gorge
8 Forest
6 Mountain
4 Rootbound Crag

Creatures
4 Bosk Banneret
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
2 Burning-Tree Shaman
4 Elvish Visionary
3 Fauna Shaman
4 Flamekin Harbinger
4 Rage Forger
1 Skinshifter
4 Wolf-Skull Shaman

Spells
2 Lead the Stampede
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Magma Spray

Sideboard
4 Ancient Grudge
1 Essence Warden
1 Eyes of the Wisent
2 Goblin Ruinblaster
1 Reclamation Sage
4 Relic of Progenitus
1 Stigma Lasher
1 Sylvok Replica
[/d]

Wow, boys, give it up! A 30-creature aggro deck with a card advantage engine, some hate, a toolbox, how did he find the room for it all? Besides all that, when was the last time you saw [c]Burning-Tree Shaman[/c] outside of when the term “Gruul” was first invented? I love it against all the Pod and Twin!

I’m way out of my element here because I’ve never played this archetype; all I’ve worked with is the super cheap (yet still barely cheaper than this) mono-Red Shamans list highlighted by bava. Comparing his list with that of Taxideos, I miss [c]Birds of Paradise[/c] and [c]Eternal Witness[/c]. Also I think the [c]Essence Warden[/c] numbers could be bolstered in the sideboard for the burn match-up. But wow, he’s ready for so much in his side! There’s Affinity hate, Tron hate, Bogles hate, Living End and Storm hate, control hate, and burn hate! I guess all that’s left is Aggro, but maybe the reach of [c]Rage Forger[/c] prevents stalemates from getting you down.

Finally, I think the mana-base is perhaps a little too greedy. I want to provide more access to both colors and bolster our creature base and toolbox engine by dropping some basics, 1 [c]Flamekin Harbinger[/c] and [c]Skinshifter[/c] for [c]Karplusan Forest[/c], 1 [c]Essence Warden[/c] maindeck and 1 [c]Eternal Witness[/c].

Things are getting Zooey.

A big lesson to take from the Shamans deck is that Aggro puts some pressure on your opponent to make good mulligan decisions, smart land drops (particularly with shock-lands), and optimally-sequenced plays. If you are going to win on turn 4, playing [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] versus [c]Serum Visions[/c] matters. I’ve talked so much about Burn and how consistently it wins on turn 4 or sooner, but cheap aggro decks can do it too. What’s more, they can do it through [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c].

Green Red beats decks are under-represented in Modern. Players are attracted to Zoo, and for good reason, but the fact is that today’s aggro creatures look like the midrange creatures of yesteryear. For one or two mana, we have access to creatures ranging from 2/2 and a hateful ability to a 4/5 or larger. Here are two decks that take advantage of this fact and the reprinting of [c]Wooded Foothills[/c].

Leatherback Baloth – “Mono Green”

[c]Leatherback Baloth[/c] has gained some traction in recent times. Coupled with [c]Rancor[/c] and [c]Vines of Vastwood[/c], he has awarded many a player with a 3-1 and 4-0 finish for less than $60 over the past few months. He doesn’t have flash, but I’m going to try and give him some here:

[d title=”Green Devotion Aggro (Modern)”]
Land
12 Forest
4 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
4 Dryad Militant
4 Experiment One
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Leatherback Baloth
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Slaughterhorn
4 Strangleroot Geist
3 Wild Beastmaster

Other Spells
4 Aspect of Hydra
4 Rancor
4 Vines of Vastwood

Sideboard
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Choke
2 Creeping Corrosion
1 Nylea’s Disciple
2 Obstinate Baloth
2 Raking Canopy
2 Setessan Tactics
1 Thrun, The Last Troll
1 Tin-Street Hooligan[/d]

If you’ve followed up on the mono-green aggro lists, then you probably have seen many things like this. I just add in the [c]Wild Beastmaster[/c] for the occasional combo kill, red for the sideboard and the [c]Kalonian Tusker[/c] upgrade into [c]Flinthoof Boar[/c] (even if the green mana symbols aren’t equal). [c]Wild Beastmaster[/c] hasn’t seen play in a format together with [c]Vines of Vastwood[/c] or [c]Rancor[/c], and goodness, I think it should. For an online metagame, perhaps more life-gain is necessary, and you can feel free to bring in more [c]Nylea’s Disciple[/c] or moving around the [c]Ancient Grudge[/c] and [c]Creeping Corrosion[/c] count to include enchantment hate for [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c]. Finally, you may find it a good idea to remove some two-drops for [c]Elvish Mystic[/c] and the like, to soften the top of the curve.

Or One-Drops

Another consistent beater deck includes a lot of 1-drops that quickly attack for 2-6, even if they die that turn. It could be the Aggro Warrior Hearthstone player in me (forgive me), but I just really like this style of deck and think that it should be played more.

[d title=”R/G Zoo (Modern)”]
Land
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Forest
4 Mountain
4 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Experiment One
4 Flinthoof Boar
2 Ghor-Clan Rampager
3 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Goblin Guide
4 Hellspark Elemental
4 Kird Ape
3 Spark Elemental

Other Spells
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Rancor

Sideboard
1 Arc Trail
2 Choke
2 Destructive Revelry
3 Dragon’s Claw
1 Forked Bolt
2 Raking Canopy
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Tin-Street Hooligan[/d]

This deck is all about immediate board impact. We have 18 creatures with haste, 6 spells ([c]Lightning Bolt[/c] and [c]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/c]) that deal damage directly, 4 [c]Rancor[/c] that act as a 2/x creature with haste, and creatures that add to the damage dealt by [c]Experiment One[/c]. It is better to think of this as a burn deck instead of an aggressive combat-based creature deck. That way, you can see that it is in fact resilient despite its x/1 creatures. Your favorite play will quickly become a turn 1 [c]Experiment One[/c] followed by turn 2 [c]Burning-Tree Emissary[/c] into [c]Hellspark Elemental[/c]; repeat on turn 3 for 14 damage.

We’ve learned a lot about some aggro possibilities in Modern, and if you want to get there on a budget, there are plenty of examples to cite as aggro being a good idea. Just swing big, and don’t get paired against [c]Living End[/c].

-drinkard

Standard Tune-Ups: Mono Green Devotion

This week I went back to an old comfort zone for me, Mono Green Devotion. I did not start from someone else’s list nor did I actually change the deck much after jamming it through 5 dailies. The list I ended up with was this:

[d title=”Mono Green Devotion”]
Creatures:
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
2 Polukranos, World Eater
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
1 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Soul of New Phyrexia
1 Hornet Queen
3 Genesis Hydra
Spells
3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
2 Chord of Calling
Land
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
18 Forest

Sideboard:
1 Arbor Colossus
3 Nylea’s Disciple
2 Reclamation Sage
1 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Phytotitan
2 Peregrination
1 Hunter’s Prowess
[/d]

As I brought up last week, one should always ask, “Why play X deck?” The answer to the question cannot just be, “Well [c]Polukranos, World Eater[/c] is good.” In this case, Mono Green Devotion has a number of strengths:

  • *The most powerful deck in Standard: The deck plays out like a combo deck trying to draw 6+ cards a turn and making giant monsters all the way
  • *The deck has some of the most powerful top decks: In a field full of [c]Thoughtseize[/c]s you want the top of your deck to have powerful cards (however you also have many duds, mana dorks, land, etc.)
  • *Powerful card advantage engines versus control: [c]Eidolon of Blossoms[/c] and [c]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/c] both provide incredible amounts of card advantage allowing you to commit to the board while still continuing to draw cards
  • *[c]Soul of New Phyrexia[/c]: UW Planar Cleansing, Ivan Floch’s deck, cannot beat a resolved copy of this card if you can keep 5 mana up, 10 mana ideally.
  • *Deceptively solid sideboard cards: [c]Nylea’s Disciple[/c] gains a solid chunk of life versus burn, [c]Mistcutter Hydra[/c] stomps Mono Blue devotion, in addition to one-of bullets and a [c]Pereigrination[/c] plan versus Bx decks.

These are good answers to the questions of why, and should be what you are looking for when not playing a tier one deck.

WALKTHROUGH

The deck’s plan is deceptively simple.

Step One: Cast mana dorks. (Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid and Voyaging Satyr)

Step Two: Cast a card advantage generator using either normal mana or Nykthos mana (Courser of Kruphix, Eidolon of Blossoms, Garruk Caller of Beasts)
*A note on Courser, in general wait until you can actually play a land off of courser. In other words don’t play a land drop then cast Courser that defeats the purpose of generating advantage*

Step Three: Slam a threat. (Polukranos, Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt, Hornet Queen, Soul of New Phyrexia, or Large Genesis Hydras)

Step Four: Win.

However Magic is rarely that simple and the skill and fun of the deck is winning from situations which are not the easy four step game-plan.

Take for instance a situation which came up in a daily where I won on a mull to 5 and got 3 for 1ed on turn 4:

It is game two of the MGD (Mono Green Devotion) mirror. I am on the draw, and my 7 card hand was 2 Garruk, 2 Genesis Hydra, and 3 land. A hand obviously too slow to keep. My 6 card hand was 4 forests, Poly-K, and an Eidolon. The mirror is defined by speed and turn 4 poly-k isn’t going to cut it. My 5 card hand was forest, 2 Elvish Mysics, Garruk, and an Eidolon of Blossoms. I snap kept this hand and was happy with it considering it was a mull to five.

I will now go through the game log essentially:

Op-T1: Forest, Elvish Mystic

My-T1: Forest, Elvish Mystic (Draw step Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt)

Op-T2: Forest, Courser of Kruphix (Reveals a forest)

My-T2: Forest, Elvish Mystic x 2 (Draw step forest)

Op-T3: Forest, Voyaging Satyr, Attack for 2 (Reveals [c]Setessan Tactics[/c])

It is at this point I am clearly in trouble. I drew for the turn an Elvish Mystic. I resign myself to the three for one and think how best can I recover from this. I determine I need to hit my land drop and that if I play Eidolon he will fight it, effectively gaining me a land because a Mystic will live.

My-T3: Eidolon of Blossoms, Forest, Elvish Mystic

Op-T4: Draw Tactics, play forest off the drop reveal another land, cast tactics for 3, fight my Eidolon and two mystics.

My-T4: Draw Courser of Kruphix, Cast Courser, Reveal Nykthos, play Nykthos, cast caryatid.

Op-T5: Draw land reveal Genesis Hydra on top, cast two more satyrs

My-T5: Draw a land off the top reveal a Poly-K, cast Garruk, Hit 3 creatures.

I am going to stop here because after this Garruk draws about 10 cards and hit Genesis Hydra only hits another Courser. Now obviously I got a little lucky and my opponent unlucky, but it shows the importance of knowing what is important to your decks gameplan. MGD does not work without mana, period. Value developing your mana above all else in most games. Another note about Garruk, his minus three is a trap. Don’t do it. Unless it is the only way to survive the coming turn; the draw will be worth far more in the long run than cheating some mana here or there.

Sideboarding Guide:
UW Planar Control
-1 Sylvan Caryatid
-4 Burning Tree Emmissary
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
+4 Mistcutter Hydra
+1 Phytotitan
+1 Hunter’s Prowess

Explanation:
Burning-tree is just a 2/2 devotion bear that forces us into over committing to the board. We want a tad less mana so we Caryatid. We cut the Caryatid because UW lacks spot removal so Voyaging Satyr does the same thing while being able to attack and untap Nykthos, and keeping forests allows us to be more wrath resilient. Mistcutter’s are green fireballs that are uncounterable and can attack twice, Phytotitan provides constant pressure when they lack D-Sphere or Elspeth, and Hunter’s Prowess is a one time shot in the arm.

UW Dsphere-Control
-1 Sylvan Caryatid
-4 Burning Tree Emmissary
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
+4 Mistcutter
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Same as above except we optimize versus sphere by having the two sages.

Mono Black
+2 Peregrination
+1 Arbor Collosus
+1 Hunter’s Prowess
+1 Poly-K
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-2 Chord of Calling
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
-1 Forest

B/W Midrange
+2 Peregrination
+1 Arbor Collosus
+1 Hunter’s Prowess
+1 Poly-K
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-2 Chord of Calling
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
-1 Forest

Explanation:
Gerry T designed the Peregrination plan which basically hopes to be able to cast it and ramp to a fatty in one spell through the two lands and the scry. We cut Soul and Chord for being too clunky. Poly-K, Arbor Colossus and Hunter’s Prowess come in to increase threat density. We keep in Nylea’s Disciple vs Mono Black because of Grey Merchant and we leave in Nylea Goddess of the Hunt vs BW because of Elspeth’s tokens.

Rabblered
-3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
+3 Nylea’s Disciple
+1 Polukranos
+1 Reclemation Sage

Explanation:
We need a lower curve. Hence cutting big things and bringing in small things. We leave Hornet Queen because it was one of our few top end cards that can actually win the game.

Burn
-3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
-1 Hornet Queen
-1 Eidolon of Blossoms
+1 Arbor Colossus
+3 Nylea’s Disciple
+1 Polukranos
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Garruk, Soul, and Hornet Queen are too slow. Nylea’s Goddess of the Hunts abilities are irrelevant. Arbor Colossus and Poly-K are hard to kill and big, Nylea’s Disciple gains life, and Reclamation Sage hits [c]Satyr Firedancer[/c], [c]Eidolon of the Burning Revel[/c], [c]Chain to the Rocks[/c] and [c]Banishing Light[/c].

Mono Blue Devotion
-3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the hunt
-2 Voyaging Satyr
+4 Mistcutter Hydra
+1 Poly-K
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Garruk and Soul are too slow, Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt doesn’t do much, and Voyaging Satyr can’t trade with [c]Tidebinder Mage[/c] and gets tapped by Tidebinger. Mistcutter Hydra is pro their deck, Reclamation Sage hits [c]Domestication[/c], trades well, and hits [c]Bident of Thasa[/c].

Jund Walkers
-2 Chord of Calling
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
+1 Poly-K
+1 Hunter’s Prowess/Arbor Colossus
+1 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
We cut awkward cards like Disciple and Chord for more singly powerful cards like Poly-K, Hunter’s Prowess/Arbor Colossus and Reclamation Sage.

Mirror
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
+1 Poly-K
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Disciple does nothing relevant, Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt is also irrelevant, and Soul of New Phyrexia is irrelevant. We swap them for Poly-K and Reclamation Sage which interact with dorks and Courser/Eidolon respectively.

The deck still lacks consistency, but finally has reliable win conditions. The deck folds to itself more often than to its opponents deck, however with all this in mind if you want to win, look elsewhere. I try to avoid being one of those people who just say “Standard sucks, don’t play it,” but honestly when decks that aren’t UWx Control, Bx devotion, Jund Midrange, W/R/U aggro or Burn win or do well it is a fluke. Those four or five decks are absurdly powerful, consistent enough, and attack from so many different angles that anything that is not those decks will simply be annihilated by one, two or all of those decks. While it is great that these archetypes are distinct unique and separate there is very little room for tuning them due to Pro Tour M15 they have reached their refined point. The tuning is one or two cards and meta predictions. Due to this it is not economical right now for me to play Standard. While I know this is only the second week of the article, I need a break from Standard. You can hear it in my voice round after round as my excitement to play Magic decreases.

Standard is an oppressive environment that is just diverse enough to appear healthy, but you are often doing little more than rolling dice to see what your match up is. I may pick a deck that is very well positioned versus 75% of the field and play the 25% of the field I am terrible against. The terribleness though does not feel like Modern or other formats where you are at least playing Magic still but you simply get annihilated with very little interaction. You could play a sweet aggro deck but run in to UWx Control with 8+ wraths, or maybe you have a cool green-based blue well good luck versus 2/2s that kill one of your guys for 2/2 mana which curves into a 5/5 that makes their team unblockable ruining the point of running your own creatures. In essence I need a break from Standard. I have been grinding the format since GP Chicago in the early summer and the format has changed little since then. Occasionally I have had fun playing Standard, but this season and last is simply not worth my time and effort. Due to this until set rotation in Fall expect some awesome Modern, Pauper and other format decks from me! /end rant

For a hint of what is to come and because I am excited about the return of Pauper I will share a couple of the decks I have been working on.

[d title=”BG Deaddog”]
Creatures
4 Satyr Wayfinder
4 Grave Scrabbler
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Golgari Brownscale
2 Pit Keeper
2 Tilling Treefolk
1 Battlefield Scrounger
1 Krosan Tusker
4 Werebear
2 Crypt Rats
4 Tortured Existence
4 Commune with the Gods
1 Raven’s Crime
1 Gnaw to the Bone

Land
1 Haunted Fengraf
2 Evolving Wilds
3 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Tranquil Thicket
3 Barren Moor
5 Swamp
7 Forest
Sideboard
3 Spore Frog
3 Augur of Skulls
3 Festercreep
1 Battlefield Scrounger
2 Sylvok Replica
1 Brindle Boar
2 Gnaw to the Bone
[/d]

[d title=UB Teachings]
Creatures
2 Prescient Chimera
1 Trapjaw Kelpie

Spells
3 Mystical Teachings
4 Counterspell
1 Logic Knot
3 Exclude
1 Crypt Incursion
3 Diabolic Edict
1 Doom Blade
4 Accumulated Knowledge
2 Capsize
1 Repeal
2 Recoil
1 Wail of the Nim
2 Miscalculation
1 Agony Warp
1 Trapjaw Kelpie
2 Memory Lapse
1 Disrupt

Land
2 Lonely Sandbar
2 Barren Moor
5 Swamp
7 Island
4 Dimir Aqueduct
4 Dimir Guildgate

Sideboard
2 Wail of the Nim
1 Oona’s Grace
2 Think Twice
3 Dispel
3 Hydroblast
3 Curse of the Bloody Tome
1 Disrupt
[/d]

[d title=BUG Formerly Songs now Deaddog]
Creatures
4 Pit Keeper
2 Crypt Rats
4 Mulldrifter
1 Krosan Tusker
4 Street Wraith
4 Architects of Will
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Golgari Brownscale
1 Brindle Boar
1 Battlefield Scrounger

Spells
4 Strategic Planning
2 Gnaw to the Bone
4 Tortured Existence
4 Commune with the Gods
2 Careful Study

Land
4 Golgari Guildgate
4 Dimir Guildgate
4 Simic Guildgate
2 Swamp
3 Island
1 Forest

Sideboard
2 Gnaw to the Bone
1 Brindle Boar
2 Crypt Rats
4 Augur of Skulls
1 Battlefield Scrounger
3 Stealer of Secrets
2 Fume Spitter
[/d]

Play Magic and Have Fun.
-Zach Raph aka ZTRMAN

Threat Evaluation, Part Five: Plains, Go

Hi all,

This article is what would have been the last in the series if not for a few oversights. The point of the series has been to allow Modern players to identify their opponents’ decks based on the early plays they see. The articles have been divided out into basic land types, and they have been published in order of power level. Now that we’re down to the established lists that include Plains and no other basic lands, there are only precious few lists. Still, it is surprising that the historic worst color in Magic (note that [c]Mox Pearl[/c] is the cheapest to purchase) holds more lists than you would first guess.

Soul Sisters

The first and most common mono-white list is Soul Sisters, named after [c]Soul’s Attendant[/c] and [c]Soul Warden[/c]. The list has three lines of offense: the sisters themselves combined with [c]Ajani’s Pridemate[/c], [c]Serra Ascendant[/c] plus [/c]Martyr of Sands[/c], or [c]Honor of the Pure[/c] followed by [c]Spectral Procession[/c]. Unfortunately, some of the cards combine unfortunately into hands that put [c]Ajani’s Pridemate[/c] up with [c]Martyr of Sands[/c] and/or [c]Honor of the Pure[/c] without the other combinations, and things awkward.

Some variants have eliminated the variance (see what I did there?) by dropping the [c]Serra Ascendant[/c] and [c]Martyr of Sands[/c] package entirely. I suspect that the success of these lists is nearly a credit to the strength of white sideboarding cards and the prevalence of Burn, which should be a good matchup.

Tell-tale signs: All of the cards above are giveaways, but also if you see [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c] that is not followed by a source of black or green mana, it’s a good sign you’re up against Soul Sisters.

Death and Taxes

This is more of a Legacy thing, really, but since the cards are newly printed, there are those that play it in Modern. If you take a Green/White Hate-Bears list, remove the green and most of the one and two-casting cost creatures, you’ve got a start. Then you replace them with enter-the-battlefield effects like [c]Blade Splicer[/c], and you’ve got Death and Taxes.

Some players experimented a while with [c]Akroma, Angel of Fury[/c] and [c]Epochrasite[/c] for added blink benefits. Others have held on to the Legacy equipment package of Swords and [c]Mirran Crusader[/c] despite the loss of [c]Stoneforge Mystic[/c]. Essentially the strategy is the same: buy  just enough time for the beats to get there.

Tell-tale signs: Turn one [c]Plains[/c] into [c]Aether Vial[/c] that isn’t followed by a green mana source is a hint. The cards played here and not in hate-bears include [c]Judge’s Familiar[/c], [c]Mirran Crusader[/c], [c]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/c], and [c]Serra Avenger[/c], each with its own occasional omissions.

Martyr-Proc

These lists look vaguely familiar, but the deck stands alone without the pair of [c]Soul Warden[/c] effects from its sister deck. Instead, the player buys enough time with [c]Ghostly Prison[/c], [c]Wrath of God[/c], and [c]Martyr of Sands[/c] to trigger [c]Emeria, The Sky Ruin[/c], search [c]Serra Ascendant[/c] up with [c]Ranger of Eos[/c], and recur all the threats with [c]Proclamation of Rebirth[/c].

Tell-tale signs: This is the only list running [c]Weathered Wayfarer[/c] in Modern right now, and [c]Mistveil Plains[/c] is a solid tell as well. When you see any creature plus [c]Ghostly Prison[/c], then you know.

Mono-White Devotion

Speaking of maindeck [c]Ghostly Prison[/c], why stop there? Let’s throw in all of the powerful white enchantments that belong in sideboards: [c]Nevermore[/c], [c]Runed Halo[/c], [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c], [c]Poryphory Nodes[/c], and even [c]Sphere of Safety[/c]. All of these cripple the opponent until [c]Luminarch Ascension[/c] or [c]Sigil of the Empty Throne[/c] topple over them. Or, with all of those white mana symbols, activate a [c]Nykthos, Shrine to Nix[/c] and hardcast [c]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/c], you know, because you can.

A fascinating variant on this is a list that includes [c]Enduring Ideal[/c]. The epic spell puts [c]Form of the Dragon[/c], [c]Dovescape[/c], and [c]Phyrexian Unlife[/c] into the battlefield for a lock.

Tell-tale signs: They’ll let you know, early. If they don’t, you’re winning easily. Nevertheless, a pre-game [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c] is a sure bet. [c]Greater Auramancy[/c], [c]Suppression Field[/c], and even [c]Peace of Mind[/c] are likely to hit the table in the early turns, if not the horde of hateful enchantments I listed above.

Humans

For whatever reason, Magic went on a long time without this being a tribe. Here in Modern, it isn’t very powerful, but mono-white, Norin-less lists have tried to take full advantage of [c]Champion of the Parish[/c] with mild success in the occasional daily.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Soldier of the Pantheon[/c], [c]Precinct Captain[/c], you know, Standard-legal beaters. To be fair, the lists also includes [c]Student of Warfare[/c] and [c]Ranger of Eos[/c], but so do more-established lists.

Knights

These are the winners of the “Coolest Lord Without Making a Successful Deck” award: [c]Knight Exemplar[/c] contains the words “other Knight creatures” and, more importantly, “indestructible.” This is obviously going to be attractive to a number of Modern players coming from more casual environments.

Tell-tale signs: The two-drops say it all: [c]Leonin Skyhunter[/c], [c]Knight of Meadowgrain[/c], and [c]Knight of the White Orchid[/c] have little use in a deck except for the tribe.

Tempered Steel

I’ve mentioned Affinity before because typically its basic land is either [c]Island[/c] or [c]Mountain[/c] for [c]Master of Etherium[/c] and [c]Thoughtcast[/c] or more [c]Galvanic Blast[/c], respectively. It is worth mentioning both that some Affinity players run a full complement of [c]Tempered Steel[/c] and some budget players throw a bunch of [c]Memnite[/c] and [c]Ornithopter[/c] cards together with the enchantment.

Whiteout

What a series this has been for me to write. I’m thankful to Dan and Bava for letting me be a part of this site during this time, and I hope I’ve contributed something for everyone. Again, stay tuned for the things I’ve realized that I’ve missed, and these lists will all be edited into the five main articles for easier reference later. If you have noticed any brews missing, please post them in the comments section.

In the meantime, of course, here is where I left off with a SilverBlack Death and Taxes list. I originally thought it had solved the format, since all I knew to be concerned about was Tron and Red Deck Wins, but as more lists have developed, so has the incorrectness of my assumption. Still, it’s a blast to play. Few things are more satisfying than casting a [c]Fiend Hunter[/c], activating [c]Aether Vial[/c] to play [c]Flickerwisp[/c], exiling another creature, then targeting [c]Fiend Hunter[/c] with [c]Cloudshift[/c], and so on, and so forth. Who says SilverBlack doesn’t have a Wrath effect?

[d title=”Modern SilverBlack Death and Taxes”]

Land

4 Ghost Quarter

16 Plains

3 Tectonic Edge

Creatures

4 Aven Mindcensor

2 Dryad Militant

4 Epochrasite

4 Fiend Hunter

4 Flickerwisp

2 Judge’s Familiar

4 Kitchen Finks

2 Stonecloaker

Other Spells

4 Aether Vial

3 Cloudshift

4 Path to Exile

Sideboard

2 Burenton Forge-Tender

2 Dryad Militant

1 Eidolon of Rhetoric

2 Kor Firewalker

2 Marrow Shards

2 Oblivion Ring

1 Samurai of the Pale Curtain

1 Sunlance

2 Tempest of Light

[/d]

-drinkard

Threat Evaluation, Part Four: Forest, Go

After excluding arguably three of the most powerful colors in Magic, we aren’t left with more than a handful of decks. Still, some of these are near to my heart. I have won more packs in ticketed MTGO events with basic [c]Forest[/c] than any other land, period. First, there was Stompy in Pauper. Later, there was a beautiful, if very brief, period where the 2013 and 2014 core sets were legal together, and [c]Rancor[/c] and [c]Kalonian Tusker[/c] were available to a Standard Stompy player. Finally, there was my beloved Mono-Green Infect in Modern.

Forests really make the opponent prove your deck is bad because you are really good at applying early pressure. Not only that, but also the pressure is difficult to remove, whether it is because of Hexproof, instant-speed buffs, or /5 in the bottom right corner of the card. Let’s take a look at some of the mono-green lists available in Modern:

Greener Pastures

These lists are simple: drop Fangorn, and beat.

Mono-Green Infect

As I have already written about this and spreading it across formats, I’ll be brief: this can win on turns two and three when needed, or it can sit back on Exalted triggers and pump spells for protection and reach for the win on turns six through ten.

Tell-tale signs: Turn one [c]Inkmoth Nexus[/c] that isn’t followed by [c]Mox Opal[/c], [c]Springleaf Drum[/c] or [c]Signal Pest[/c] is a good sign. [c]Cathedral of War[/c] and [c]Sylvan Scrying[/c] are definite heads-up. Also, if your opponent drops Forest, Forest, and still does nothing, they’re most likely playing an [c]Ichorclaw Myr[/c] with backup.

Stompy

With creatures like [c]Leatherback Baloth[/c] and [c]Thrun, the Last Troll[/c], planeswalkers, and removal such as [c]Pit Fight[/c] and [c]Beast Within[/c], this isn’t your [c]Winter Orb[/c] Stompy list of the 90’s. Its only similarity to the Pauper lists is the name, also, as the curve and resiliency is much higher. In fact, it’s closer compared to Jund or Rock. Sergi has done a good write-up on this deck archetype on this page.

Tell-tale signs: Forest, [c]Experiment One[/c] is a common play, but this list shares that with other beat variants. If you keep seeing more Forests and cards like [c]Strangleroot Geist[/c] and [c]Kalonian Tusker[/c], you know this is your match.

Elves

It is difficult to search for decks based on price on mtgo-stats and mtggoldfish, so whenever I come across one that is low, I always bookmark it in my mind. The lowest that I have ever seen in Modern was a list that only cost $9.58 at the time that it placed 3-1 in a Daily. And its components were Elves. With only 38 creatures and 4 [c]Lead the Stampede[/c], I’m sure the pressure was on for his opponents. There are more lords in here than in Merfolk, and the [c]Aether Vial[/c] are replaced by mana-producing creatures, maximizing the synergy.

Obviously there are combo lists available as well, whether the combo be [c]Cloudstone Curio[/c] and [c]Elvish Visionary[/c] with [c]Nettle Sentinel[/c] and [c]Heritage Druid[/c], [c]Intruder Alarm[/c] with [c]Joraga Treespeaker[/c] and [c]Ant Queen[/c], or [c]Hive Mind[/c] and [c]Summoner’s Pact[/c], the options are quite open.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Wren’s Run Vanquisher[/c] and [c]Bramblewood Paragon[/c] are only seen here. Obviously [c]Nettle Sentinel[/c] and [c]Heritage Druid[/c] are strong hints.

Wielding The Green Dragon*

Here are lists that are predominantly green but do not have a basic land other than [c]Plains[/c] (as white is the last color to be covered) in their mana-bases.

*- Can we talk about how one WIELDS a dragon for a second? Imagine Samuel L. Jackson in the famous Pulp Fiction “What?!” scene with a green dragon in place of the gun. I can only imagine how wildly the artist’s mind ran with upon receipt of the card’s name.

Hexproof Auras/Bogles

Equally difficult to respect and not respect at the same time, the Bogles player typically forgoes all interaction with the opponent in favor of a [c]Slippery Bogle[/c] or [c]Gladecover Scout[/c] souped up with four to ten enchantments. Some lists at least have the decency to play [c]Suppression Field[/c] and [c]Path to Exile[/c] for interaction, and some realize there is often little point.

Tell-tale signs: The deck simply can’t function without a mulligan into a creature, so you should see [c]Slippery Bogle[/c], [c]Gladecover Scout[/c], and/or [c]Kor Spiritdancer[/c] within the first two turns.

Green Devotion

This list uses some of the old standbys seen in mono-green beats, but here they are taken advantage of for their mana costs. Once enough cards like [c]Wistful Selkie[/c] and [c]Burning-Tree Emissary[/c] are in place, the player generates enough mana to win with [c]Genesis Wave[/c], [c]Tooth and Nail[/c] for [c]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/c] and [c]Xenagos, God of Revels[/c], or [c]Eternal Witness[/c] and [c]Primal Command[/c] recursion, whichever. Take your pick, no big deal.

Tell-tale signs: This is the only list to play land Auras other than [c]Spreading Seas[/c].

Hate-Bears

How frequently this term is thrown around, yet no one can fully appreciate it until they’re on the wrong end of a 7/7 [c]Scavening Ooze[/c], [c]Leonin Arbiter[/c], and [c]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/c] with no lands in play.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Noble Hierarch[/c] turn one is rather typical in Modern. [c]Loxodon Smiter[/c] following it on turn two is slightly less so. The real giveaway is when they are combined with tempo elements such as [c]Aven Mindcensor[/c] or [c]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/c].

A variant on Hate-bears excludes all of the durdly enter-the-battlefield effects and “tax” cards (of Legacy and Modern Death and Taxes lists) for more cards like [c]Wilt-Leaf Liege[/c] and [c]Voice of Resurgence[/c]. Call it Care-Bears? Still, a [c]Kitchen Finks[/c] with the stats of [c]Juggernaut[/c] and a 4/3 1-drop in [c]Dryad Militant[/c] are quite severe.

Last March of the Ents

Hey, wait, that’s not a Magic card.

This concludes the look at lists heavy enough into Green to contain basic Forests but not containing Islands, Swamps, or Mountains. Next week we’ll look at the last few Modern lists: those that are heavy, heavy white and without any splashes. I’ll conclude the series in two weeks with the ones I’ve missed along the way.

In the meantime, enjoy the SilverBlack list I’ve run for all my league games into the Juggernaut stat of 5/3. How did he manage to make two references in here?

[d title=”Modern SilverBlack Stompy”]

Land

20 Forest

Creatures

2 Dryad Militant

4 Elvish Mystic

4 Experiment One

4 Kalonian Tusker

4 Leatherback Baloth

4 Strangleroot Geist

Other Spells

2 Beast Within

2 Giant Growth

3 Loxodon Warhammer

1 Pit Fight

4 Prey Upon

2 Triumph of Ferocity

4 Vines of Vastwood

Sideboard

2 Acidic Slime

1 Back To Nature

1 Deglamer

1 Pit Fight

2 Ranger’s Guile

1 Reknit

2 Tormod’s Crypt

1 Trophy Hunter

1 Unravel the Aether

3 Windstorm[/d]

This deck is obviously a port of the Modern “Stompy” list. I really think the similarity is closer to Rock; you won’t find a closer card to [c]Dark Confidant[/c] than [c]Triumph of Ferocity[/c]. I haven’t lost a game where it has triggered twice and drawn me a card. Maybe I haven’t where it’s triggered once and drawn me a card, but I’m trying to be conservative here.

You also haven’t lived until you equip a beater with [c]Loxodon Warhammer[/c], fight with it, then attack with it.

My match loss is to flyers. [c]Lingering Souls[/c] is quite a card in this format. Unfortunately, it is always accompanied by [c]Inquisition of Kozilek[/c], and often it travels with anthem effects. It’s quite a bear to defeat. You have access to [c]Scattershot Archer[/c] and the cards I already have in the sideboard. Maybe [c]Scryb Ranger[/c] belongs in the maindeck, and the archer in the side.

I hope this series is benefiting your Modern play. It is such a great thing, over time, to track your results and watch the meta shift once you’re knowledgeable of all the archetypes.

-drinkard

Life and Magic

Balance

I’d like to start out by apologizing for missing last week’s article. As many of you all know, life and Magic are two separate things. Occasionally one gets in the way of the other and visa-versa. That’s what has happened to me for the last few weeks. I work in robotics and it’s typically not a straining job physically. However, I somehow managed to hurt my back, and after a trip to the chiropractor I found out I have Scoliosis.

While this will most definitely affect my Magic traveling, it will be something I will be able to overcome and continue grinding as much as I can.

I will most definitely be attending the Grand Prix Orlando tournament in October. For those who haven’t seen any information on this, you should definitely check it out! It’s looking to be one of the best non-qualifier tournaments I have ever been to.

Balancing life and Magic can be extremely challenging, occasionally. The fact remains that unless Magic is your primary source of income, you have a regular full-time job and, for many, a family as well. Traveling takes its toll, and is costly as well. It’s something I struggle with every day.

Now moving on from that into a subject that’s much more interesting, Standard!

Garruk

Guess who’s back!

I’ve been jamming a ton of Black/Green devotion decks in Standard trying to find the optimal build. This is about as close to the best deck as I think Standard can have. Having [c]Abrupt Decay[/c], [c]Vraska the Unseen[/c], and [c]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/c] alongside [c]Thoughtseize[/c] and [c]Hero’s Downfall[/c] is insanely difficult for most any deck to fight through. Factor in this sweet new Planeswalker to the mix of already game-changing cards this deck has at its disposal is just going to be something that people will have to be fighting through for quite some time.

For those of us who hate the Black Devotion decks: I’m sorry to say the problem isn’t going away soon. On top of having a bomb Planeswalker to add to the deck, the deck gets a better mana-base with [c]Llanowar Wastes[/c].

[d=title Black Green Devotion]

Lands
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Temple of Malady
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Mutavault
8 Swamp

Creatures
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Pack Rat
4 Desecration Demon
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Lifebane Zombie

Planeswalkers
1 Vraska the Unseen
2 Garruk, Apex Predator

Spells
3 Abrupt Decay
4 Thoughtseize
3 Hero’s Downfall
4 Underworld Connections
2 Sign in Blood
[/d]

I won’t add a sideboard for now because I think that every sideboard should be up to the players to build. Copying deck-lists from articles is fine when you’re trying to play a certain deck. Unless you understand the full game plan in every match-up, and how exactly to board, you should build your sideboard yourself. Come up with your own boarding plan, and execute it.

There are Standard Opens every weekend, and it rapidly allows Standard to evolve week in and week out. I’m not sure what the top decks this weekend will be, but I do think that Garruk will be a powerhouse in whatever he’s played in. The card alone just has so many powerful abilities, and even more so, it’s in the perfect colors to be played right now.

Lets look at some of the choices for the deck, starting with the manabase:
4 [c]Llanowar Wastes[/c]
4 [c]Mutavault[/c]
1 [c]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/c]

I know having potentially 8 colorless lands can hurt, but the Wastes can make either color, and while the damage can hurt when you draw multiple copies, the [c]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/c] makes up for the life loss.

[c]Mutavault[/c] is obviously one of the more powerful cards in Standard, and combines greatly with [c]Pack Rat[/c] against midrange decks and [c]Thoughtseize[/c] against control decks.

The Urborg is there as an insurance policy for when you draw too many of your colorless lands. Making it perfect for the deck as a singleton.

Creature-wise you play the same as the average Black deck, but you have a couple of [c]Scavenging Ooze[/c] that can gain life and play perfectly with your discard and removal. On top of being a great threat, they also gain life to make up for the insane amounts of damage you’ll take from connections and lands.

You play the same average spell count with a couple of [c]Sign in Blood[/c]s. This acts as a great draw spell and the 2 cards for 1 can matter a lot when keeping a 2 land hand. I personally think this is one of the better black cards the deck gained from M15 and I’m happy that it’s in the deck once more.

So there you have it. What I think is the best deck for the time being in Standard and something that would be a great choice for this weekend.

I hope you have a great time slinging spells this weekend!

Cody
cburton8223 on MTGO

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.

You may have heard the saying that I am referencing in the title. It’s an old wive’s tale that goes like this: At the wedding she needs Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue. It bestows upon her good luck in the marriage. Well, hopefully talking about it will bestow a little good luck on me, as a Magic player I could certainly use it.

Today we’re going to talk about each item: old, new, borrowed, and blue, starting with …

Something Old

Liliana-VessFor those who don’t follow the spoilers nearly as much as I do, [c]Liliana Vess[/c] has been spoiled to be in Core Set 2015. It’s been a few years since Standard has seen this version of her, the last time was during the “Caw-Blade” era of Standard. I want to evaluate this Planeswalker in the new Standard format, as I feel like it will be certainly powerful. First let us take a look at what she can do:

For 5 mana, you get a Planeswalker that comes down with a starting loyalty of 5. That’s not too shabby since it allows only 2 more turns before you can ultimate, and you can use the ‘-2’ twice without her dying. The other thing I think is important in evaluating Planeswalker cards is what other cards at that mana cost are doing.

In Standard right now for 5 mana you have some pretty sweet choices, including: [c]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/c], [c]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/c], [c]Stormbreath Dragon[/c], [c]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/c], [c]Vraska, the Unseen[/c]. All of those are cards that are currently being played in Standard that cost 5 mana, and of those cards only 2 will survive the winds of rotation.

However, one of the cards that survives is [c]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/c]. He happens to reward you for playing black permanents, and doesn’t mind being played off curve. The black decks will be keeping their removal spells, [c]Thoughtseize[/c], and they will be gaining a sweet new Planeswalker. I’m definitely liking where this is going. If you love mono-black decks, you will too.

waste-notNow as for her +1 ability. It combos with the certainly powerful [c]Waste Not[/c]. You get to +1 your Planeswalker and get value out of it as well. On top of that [c]Waste Not[/c] is an enchantment so it adds devotion to black for your Gray Merchant. Along with [c]Thoughtseize[/c], Liliana helps give black mages a very strong discard package to consider.

Her ‘-2’ ability is a tutor of sorts, except you don’t get that card until the following turn. However, with the plethora of powerful black cards in Standard you should always have something to tutor for. Need to kill an opposing Planeswalker or creature? [c]Hero’s Downfall[/c] is the card you want. Need to gain some life? Gray Merchant seems like a sweet draw the following turn. It also allows you to play more 1-ofs in the deck, so that you can find them when you need them. It’s certainly a powerful ability and should prove to be very useful.

Her “ultimate” is something unique. It rewards you for killing creatures throughout the game, and man is it powerful. Against any mid-range deck you’re just going to win the game, and with any number of [c]Gray Merchant of Aspohdel[/c] in the graveyard, you’ll either jump way ahead or just win outright when they re-enter the battlefield.

Ultimately I think this Liliana will be very good in the current Standard and will find its place in a plethora of black-based decks.

Something New

[one_fourth]Red Avatar[/one_fourth]

[one_fourth]Blue Avatar[/one_fourth]

[one_fourth]Black Avatar[/one_fourth]

[one_fourth_last]Green Avatar[/one_fourth_last]

This cycle has a new set of cards called the Avatars. They’re Titan-like creatures that have abilities while in play or in the graveyard, allowing them to help you even in death. While I’m not sure how great all of them will be since Standard right now is more about devotion and less about synergy, I certainly hope they’ll end up being very good.

The Black Avatar is probably the worst, as returning 3 creatures to your hand isn’t very powerful. Especially considering all the good non-creature cards that black decks play these days.

The Blue Avatar is down there too, drawing cards for the number of color types among permanents you control hinders the whole “I play devotion to a color” process.

The Green and Red Avatar are actually pretty sweet; making 3/3 Beasts and dealing 3 damage respectively are actions that are almost always useful.

I wonder if there will be a deck brewed up that involves dumping them into the Graveyard for a one-turn thing. Hmmm …

Something Borrowed

Magic costs A LOT of money. I mean, playing competitively in Standard costs like thousands of dollars a year. If you can’t keep up with rotating formats every few years, and new cards being released, it makes it extremely hard to stay competitive. However, if you can find a great group of guys who have cards you don’t, and vice versa, you can easily swap cards for certain decks.

I know, it sounds completely crazy to think of loaning out thousands of dollars in cards. It happens more often than you might think, though, and is something I feel is necessary to stay competitive. Owning Magic cards is great, and I’m certainly not saying don’t buy cards every time a new set comes out. Do! Buy the cards you want! Then when a new deck comes up that you want to play and you’re missing 4 of a copy of the newest hot Mythic, hopefully you’ll be able to find someone NOT using them.

I also look at it like this. Instead of just going out and buying a new Standard deck, I borrow just about every card I play, including basic lands. At one time I had a great collection, however that’s no more. If I like the deck I’m playing, I’ll start picking up the cards for that deck. That way eventually I can own it. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it, would you?

Something Blue

I’d like to talk about blue for a bit. I know, there’s no middle ground on this color. You either loveit or you hate it. Since I fall into the love category though, it’s certainly okay for me to write about it. Where to begin is the toughest issue.

I started playing Magic a few weeks before Scars of Mirrodin came out. I gave my local game store owner $100 to build me a deck, and he built me a budget “Howling Burn” deck with a few sweet cards in it. I was instantly hooked on the game, but I knew that Red wasn’t where I wanted to be. When Scars of Mirrodin came out I played [c]Tempered Steel[/c] and the deck was sweet. I had a lot of fun playing it, but couldn’t help but think I wanted more from Magic. I would look back on the decks of Standard like Super Friends and find that they were blue-based control decks. That’s what I wanted to be playing.

Enter the Caw-Blade Era. Like blue as a color, there is no in-between. You either loved it or you hated it. I was once again on the loving side, but not at first. I had an awesome R/B [c]Mimic Vat[/c] deck that I used to crush Caw-Blade constantly, but eventually I succumbed to the power of the deck and shelled out money for my first ever playset of [c]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/c]. I didn’t like the traditional Blue-White build, nor the Esper, nor American color decks. Instead I chose Bant. At the time it seemed awkward, however [c]Garruk Wildspeaker[/c] combined quite nicely in the deck as a way to fight through [c]Mana Leak[/c], or as a way to make creatures who could carry swords. The deck led me to my first PTQ top 8 and I was hooked. Then Standard rotated into the Innistrad block, and along came blue tempo decks. [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] was the new go-to card in Standard and I picked up the deck quite quickly. It felt super powerful because you’d have that Delver turn 1, and flip a [c]Mana Leak[/c] turn 2 and they’d just be so far behind.

Now that you know how I got hooked, lets fast forward to today and we’ll leave the rest of that story for some other time. Today’s blue decks suck. That’s all there is to it. You can argue Esper control and Blue-White control put up results, but the bottom line is they suck. Standard hasn’t had a good control deck since before Theros when Esper control with 4 [c]Nephalia Drownyard[/c]s was a thing. While [c]Sphinx’s Revelation[/c] is a fine card, and so is most of the rest of the deck, it’s missing a huge piece of what it needs.

To start, control has been begging for [c]Mana Leak[/c] or a similar card for a long time now. There’s no reason Standard shouldn’t have a good 2cc counterspell. 3cc counterspells are durdly and slow, almost impossible to help at all on the draw and just don’t do enough. When I spend more than 2 mana on my counterspell I want to draw a card, or bounce something, or do SOMETHING besides just “counter a spell” and no, scrying doesn’t count.

Blue also needs a good mana efficient draw spell. Considering most lists play so many [c]Jace, Architect of Thought[/c]s simply because he’s the best option they have to draw cards is pathetic. There should be something in Standard that’s cheap and rewards you for the mana you spend. [c]Preordain[/c], [c]Ponder[/c], and [c]Serum Vision[/c] all only cost 1 mana and all say ‘draw a card’. Standard really needs something like that.

Next we need a wrath effect. Sure, currently we have [c]Supreme Verdict[/c], but I certainly hope they give us something when it rotates out because I do not want to be paying 7 mana for a wrath. That’s way too over-costed for any card really to be played in Standard.

Jace-Planeswalker-M15-216x302[1]Without the proper tools, post-rotation Blue control decks will most likely be dead in Standard. Ultimately we’ll have to see what cards get printed, but I wouldn’t put it past Wizards to kill off an archetype. However, they are printing a new Jace in Core 15. For those who haven’t seen the artwork, it looks sweet. Hopefully the card will be exactly what only one Jace before it was. Good.

It felt really nice to rant about the control decks in Standard, especially post-rotation. Let me know your thoughts and feelings on one of the only non-devotion strategies in Standard and how you think it’ll fare in a post-rotation world.

As always, happy spell-slinging!

Cody Burton
cburton8223 on MTGO