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FFfreaky Friday – A Brave New World (of Standard)

I hope everyone had a great Prerelease. Playing Worldwake for the first time was a breath of fresh air. The new set is a great compliment to Zendikar in Limited. But, while there are many weeks to figure out what to do in Limited, Standard is still a mystery. Friday, February 5, is the first day we can play with the new cards in Constructed events, but a few weeks before anything gets posted from Pro Tour San Diego. Now is a great time to play something fun at the local shops before too many refined Spike decks take over.

Pyromancer Ascension decks got a bit of hype when Zendikar came out, but were too slow to be considered good enough. Worldwake brought just enough pieces to finish this deck and make it a contender. This may not be the strongest or fastest deck in the format, but it does have a combo, something not many other decks have.

Combo has been non-existent in Standard for some time now, so a good Ascension deck is a sight for sore eyes. This build is the closest I’ve found to being fast enough to compete with some of today’s more powerful decks.

The deck is based around Pyromancer Ascension. Every time you play a spell that is already in your graveyard, you put a counter on the enchantment. Once it has two counters on it you have your very own free Mirari.

Most spells in the deck are either mana accelerators or cantrips. This helps you rip through your deck faster to find an Ascension or more cards to get your double-ups started. Once you have the Ascension online, you get to take infinite turns with one Time Warp and two Naya Charms. You cast Naya Charm, returning both the Naya Charm and Time Warp back to your hand, and recast both. Take enough extra turns to build up your mana and cast a lethal Comet Storm.

The current Standard format is filled with creature decks, which gives this deck an advantage in the first game. Most decks will have a lot of dead removal in their main decks, like Path to Exile, Doom Blade, or Terminate. Maelstrom Pulse is the only maindeck removal spell to worry about because it can destroy your Ascension and leave you stranded with a lot of unimpressive spells.

Still, it’s easy to play around Maelstrom Pulse, given enough time. Once you hit seven mana, you can simply cast Ascension and Time Warp in the same turn, which allows you to untap without your opponent getting a chance to destroy the Ascension. Then, simply cast a two- or three-mana spell you have already played and Warp again. This is the easiest way to set up the infinite turns loop.

The problem is getting to the point that you obtain infinite turns. Many of the decks in the format have a lot of creatures that are ready to attack a deck without much removal. This is important because you are effectively on a clock the minute the game starts. Judging how much time you have to get everything set up is the difficult part.

Most of the spells in the deck are very cheap, and once you get to turn four and five you will be able to cast multiple spells a turn, helping you rip through your deck for spells you need. While doing this, if you get to the point that your opponent has lethal on the board, you can use Naya Charm as a Fog to protect yourself for another turn. Remember that an active Pyromancer Ascension does not allow you to change the mode of any Charm copies, so tapping their team and returning a spell is not an option.

Some of the card choices might be a bit awkward. Halimar Depths probably belongs in this deck more than any other deck out there. The problem is that this deck runs out of Islands very quickly because of Rampant Growth, Harrow, and Misty Rainforest. Running out of lands when you are really close to comboing is a bad feeling. There might be room for one more, but I have not found it yet. Please feel free to experiment with the number of copies of that card.

The one card I am in love with in this deck is Treasure Hunt. The best thing it does is gets you another spell. It will never be just another land in the late game. Explore is also a great inclusion, but it was under-performing, so I cut it to three when switching around a few numbers. You don’t want two and three copies of any of the cards in this deck because of how Ascension works, but you can’t win them all.

Mind Spring is really good in a lot of situations, but obviously wouldn’t look as good if there were four of them. While it wins a lot of games, and it is not castable sometimes because it is just to slow. Don’t be afraid to cast one for one or two cards when you have the mana. Sometimes I’ll cast the second one for no cards just to trigger my Ascension.

The sideboard is pretty rough, but I think it has everything you may need. The counters and additional Mind Springs are to help in the control matchups. Boarding up to four of them should help. They only have so many counters so if you ever resolve one it should be over. Counters should also help when you are trying to get an Ascension to stick.

The Banefire is to help beat people who think a Thought Hemorrhage will seal the deal. Fog is to beat all those dude decks by giving you an extra turn. Don’t be too quick with those Fogs, though. If they are not going to kill you or put you in burn range, I would save it for later. Their board is only going to grow larger, so be patient and only use them when you absolutely have to.

Most of my articles have not been based on fun combo decks, so I decided to take a look at what’s happening with Jund as well. This is my current Jund list:

This list may look a bit strange at first, but Bituminous Blast is losing a lot of value lately. It is a really good spell in the mirror, but with Grixis and UWR control decks growing stronger, sacrifices had to be made. Minimizing the dead cards in the main is a good way to be able to sneak a few more wins in the first games against control decks.

Great Sable Stage is going up in value because of this. Have you seen this new Jace? Before, he was a timid and weak planeswalker hiding behind his caster and loyalty counters. Now he is a badass that deals with creatures all by himself. Jace is a real problem that will have to be dealt with.

Lightning Bolt does do that job, but at a significant loss of tempo. Losing a card and a turn is exactly what a control deck needs to get back into the game and take it over. The Stags will win you games – only a handful of spells the control player uses can beat him. Once he has a counter from Oran-Rief he is almost unstoppable.

Blast is a strong enough card to take a few slots in the board, since it is such a great removal spell against a lot of the aggressive decks. Ruinblaster is great against control decks and other Jund match-ups, especially since a lot of people will be trying out there new shiny man-lands. Blowing up a land and a guy is a great feeling.

Some people like Rampant Growth, but now that there are control decks in the environment, you need the cheap 4/4 Leech for two mana more than you need to develop your mana base.

Next week I will be in the sunny state of California at the Grand Prix and Pro Tour. It will be great break from the Midwest hell known as North Dakota. I hope to see a bunch of you there!

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