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FFfreaky Friday – Who Needs Creatures?

 

I’ve had a very exciting week. My brother came into town last weekend and we’ve been testing nonstop for the Pro Tour (he’s qualified on rating). I would talk about Extended if there wasn’t a Standard tournament this weekend, but as is, most people want to hear about Standard since it’s a very new format. So let’s dive in!

Standard is a very different beast now that Lorwyn block is gone. The pressure to finish the game under the heat of efficient dudes backed up with counterspells and [card]Mutavault[/card]s is gone. After I figured that out, I wanted to see how dedicated I could get with a control strategy.

Every time I see a Standard format lose a block, people always seem to turn to Green/White/Black midrange concoctions. The only problem I see with that strategy in this format is that even though these colors have almost every tool to be very powerful, they are still missing one: they do not have the end-game sorcery. Identity Crisis comes close and is very powerful against many mid-range and control decks, but will not get anywhere against aggro builds like Profane Command did before.

I don’t have the deck list for this deck, but I think a good start is Tidehollow Sculler, Putrid Leech, Knight of the Reliquary, Path to Exile, Maelstrom Pulse, and [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card]. All of these cards are very powerful on their own and can close games with pure force.

Planeswalkers like Garruk could fill a good hole in this archetype. Garruk has always been really good against random control decks and I see a lot of those making a big splash. It isn’t a great card when dealing with rush decks.

Have you tested against Vampires yet? I don’t know if people were taking this deck seriously, but I know I wasn’t. I played against it this weekend a few times and only won on the back of my skill. Vampires really impressed me. It is very aggressive with many chances to gain card advantage. This deck could do really well in the next few weeks.

I was not playing when this card was originally in Standard, but Mind Sludge is real. It’s very real and will make you regret not having a plan for it. I know it made me want to cry a couple times. Mono Black is back and very angry that Blue decks stole its Bitterblossoms for so many years.

If you are going to be playing in a 5K or any tournaments, I would advise against any Red burn strategies. These decks are usually fine to play, but Wizards decided to print the best new-format creature ever. Baneslayer will fuel Standard for many weeks.

People don’t have to have a well-oiled deck to bash your face in with this angel. Make sure you have a plan on dealing with it all weekend long. Beating with fast Red creatures and burn spells is very difficult once they race you with an angel.

Also, Vampires will probably make up a big portion of the tournament and that means Tendrils of Corruption will be everywhere. It’s not a good week to be slinging burn.

Many people I have talked to have said one of these two words: “Naya” or “Esper.” These are the other hyped decks in the format. Esper control seems to have the most consistent mana base while being able to have powerful enough spells to deal with the metagame. Naya is just a pile of really strong guys backed up with Ranger of Eos and Bloodbraid Elf.

Both these decks will be very powerful and probably piloted by good players. I don’t have solid lists for either, but I also haven’t heard of much in the way of new tech or innovation either.

Plane as the Nose on Your Face

I’ve been working on something special. I have played with this for about a week now and logged over 20 matches with it. I also won a box tournament with it and had a blast doing so. Here is Planeswalker Control 2.0:

The big problem people are having in this format is trying to figure out how good creature decks are going to be. Will Vampires, Soldiers, Red Aggro, or Green Stompy rule the format?

Control decks will worry about creature decks and other control based strategies that win with Baneslayer, Sphinx, ect. This makes a non-creature-based strategy work very well.

The most powerful thing about this deck is how many dead cards every other deck has in game one. Every deck is too worried about other powerful creatures to have the tools to deal with multiple planeswalkers during the course of a single game.

Most games end when you attrition them out to the point of any planeswalker going ultimate, even Jace. Planeswalkers generate so much card advantage, they will win the game with their regular abilities given enough time. Cruel Ultimatum will also help seal the deal.

Post-sideboard, the deck has the ability to board in a few angels to get some very quick kills. Without seeing any dudes, opponents will not be able to afford to keep in any creature removal, making angels almost untouchable.

For those who have not played with or against a deck like this I think it’s an important time to go over every card:

Lilliana Vess

Vess has a very unique job to perform. This card is either a fog/tutor to get you the [card]Day of Judgment[/card] you need or more walkers/Ultimatum versus aggressive strategies. If you already have control of the game she will close games fast, either by making your opponent discard the last few cards in their hand before using her ultimate ability, or to dig for both Ultimatums.

 

Ajani Vengeant 

Ajani does a really good job at getting killed. This walker does not have a long life span and that’s fine. Kill a dude, gain some life, let them swing at it, save some life, and untap. This is really good and works well with Elspeth at keeping two of your opponent’s creatures at bay each turn.

 

Elspeth, Knight-Errant 

Elspeth is not as powerful as Garruk in this archetype, but it wins games just as easily. She has saved me from death many times by giving me some breathing room to catch up and take control. Making a small army of sacrificial soldiers is always good, especially when you’re ahead and attacking for four each turn.

Jace Beleren

Jace truly shines in this deck. Card advantage really doesn’t matter against many aggressive decks in game one. Keep ticking him up if you know your opponent doesn’t have a way to take him down without attacking. Most opponents will have lots of dead cards against you, so their odds on drawing useful spells are much worse anyways.

Jace will probably be the best planeswalker during these first few weeks. Decks will not be tuned to perfection and he can win games on his own. He is a card advantage machine in the awkward control mirrors – having four to your opponent’s three will be very beneficial.

All of these planeswalkers do something amazing. They force opponents into situations in which they will make mistakes. Attacking into planeswalkers constantly is frustrating and difficult. This deck will get many wins it shouldn’t because opponents attack the wrong targets.

The Rest of the Deck

Esper Charm, Path to Exile, and Day of Judgment are the best control-based spells right now. These are obvious in their inclusion.

Doom Blade, Terminate, and Purge are all one-of cards I’ve been very happy with. They all have situations they shine in and I haven’t been able to figure out which one is better until the meta tightens up a bit more.

Cruel Ultimatum is the nuts. I know I can’t bring a creature back with it, but it ends games you are behind in. It might not be needed, but in the testing I have done, it has pulled its weight enough to justify itself.

Traumatic Visions is a great spell for the last slot in the deck. I wanted a 27th land that could be a fixer but I found I didn’t need the high land count after the first few turns. I have won a few games with this card and it fits perfectly in this role.

Into the Roil is a card most people questioned when I told them about this list, but it has been a very good spell. Repeal and Repulse both had their day in the sun and this is arguably better then either. Kicked or non-kicked, this spell has pulled me out of unwinnable games because of its flexibility.

It also protects walkers for just two mana, which is nice. I have cast Lilliana, used its tutor effect, and then let them attack at her to bounce her back to my hand.

The mana base still needs a lot of work, but this is the most solid list I have worked with so far. I am not an expert on mana bases so feel free to experiment a bit if you decide to pick this deck up.

The Sideboard

This deck loses some of its thunder post-sideboard when opponents drop a few of their dead cards. Again, this is why I have angels in there to keep the surprises prevalent. Baneslayer Angel is really good when your opponents have no removal to take care of her.

Celestial Purge is a great answer for the Vampire deck. I don’t actually like casting Path against them because of the powerful Mind Sludge. In order to consistently beat the Vampire deck, you’ll need to beat the creature rush and set up Negate for the Mind Sludge around turn five.

Terminate is another removal spell to take care of Malakir Bloodwitch.

Identity Crisis is the “I win” card in control matchups. Setting up Identity Crisis is tough, but after attritioning them with a stream of walkers, you can draw out their counterspells and get the Crisis to resolve.

Negate is the stoneblade in multiple matchups. Use this as a defensive spell. If you don’t have to resolve the walker they are countering, don’t worry about it. Your opponent’s Cruel Ultimatums and Crises are much more important.

Pyroclasm is a good spell against aggressive strategies. I don’t know if it is needed, but I know some people have been talking about landfall agro and this will help stop the bleeding.

After sideboarding, the random Jund decks and other aggro decks have a much better time dealing with walkers. Many of the people I played over the past week came prepared with Pithing Needles and Pulses. I don’t know how to counter this approach except for getting the maximum value out of your mass removal.

Planeswalker Control is a very different type of control deck. You can play with a longer game plan because most decks don’t have as much end game power as they did last format. Like I said before, the mana base still needs work. It might need 27 lands, but I didn’t find much need for that so far.

Good luck to everyone playing in the 5K this weekend! Watch out for those Mind Sludges!

I got a lot of responses for my four-card question from last week. Next week I’m going to talk about what I thought was the most creative, competitive, fun.

Brad Nelson

FFfreaK on MTGO

[email protected]

35 thoughts on “FFfreaky Friday – Who Needs Creatures?”

  1. Liked the article. have you tried chandra nalaar over vess, i know the tutoring for game breaking cards is good but just seems like a t5 diabolic tutor for wrath+healing salve. everything else looks solid.

    P.S. needs more Luminarch Ascension.

  2. I absolutely love your deck. I’m dying to boot it up in mws and try it out. That sort of silly abuse of planeswalkers looks like loads of fun.

    I know you think little of red, however, I feel it would do pretty well against your deck. It feels like a strategy that can bypass your planeswalkers altogether would be a tough match up. If it doesn’t end up being played, which certainly is likely, then it’s all good and well. Otherwise I’d consider it wise to pay the matchup some attention.

    There is probably reason to get worried about hexmage too. That guy just loves him some planeswalkers for dinner.

  3. I’d like to agree about luminarch ascension. It makes it so much harder for the opponent to decide to go for your planeswalkers.

  4. “If you don't have to resolve the walker they are countering, don't worry about it.” – Wait a second, people are playing counters in this Standard? When the most talked-about counter in an environment costs 3UU and isn’t Force of Will, something’s up.

  5. Sorry to be a dick but there are at least 3 spelling errors in that decklist which is screwing up the autocarding.

    I like the list, but no love for counters? Has Mindbreak Trap not been performing to par?

  6. I don’t know, i kinda like the sound of Jace Balleren.

    This deck appears that it loses pretty badly to both time sieve and turbo fog (referencing chris jobin’s list here) not to mention has a pretty hard time with mono red.

    Great article nonetheless

  7. Seeing as your manabase is quite “colourful” and you’re planning on boarding in baneslayer if you think your opponent has boarded out all of his creature removal, would platinum angel be worth considering instead? Or is that just me being hopelessly optimistic?

  8. @ stealthbadger, i think platinum angel is much moore fragile and baneslayer if it’s in play is essentially the same thign fro 2 less mana with 1 more power/toughness.

    @brad sheppard, well its not necissarily turn 5 given that that is still stage 2 in development it is potentially sub optimal to play her just cos u can. and she is a repeatable source of vampiric tutors, and a psuedo scepter of fugue.

    @kenseiden we all knew into the roil was good. there are other cards that do the same thing for the same mana that are awesome.

    @mike, have u tested the deck? cos the compsoer of the article has so u should be quiet.

    @jabberwok, the hexmage issue is not huge, planeswalkers get a ‘free’ activation before your opponent can do anything because after it resolves because it is ur turn you may retain priority and use the planeswalkers ability at sorcery speed before ur opponent does anything.

    @jodoyodo, its a 4 mana counterspell, adn honestly who casts 3 spells a turn at a stage of the game where u care about not paying some mana for ur counters? that doesn’t happen in a combo neutered format liek standard even with cascade.

  9. @jordon: Well, yes, but either angel will die to your opponents removal if they still have it in, as they will be the only creatures in the deck…
    If your oppnent has no removal then baneslayer makes it very difficult for them to win the game, wheras plats makes it impossible. I still think baneslayer’s probably the right choice, as it comes down 2 turns earlier (assuming the colour’s ok), but I do think that big plats is worth considering.

  10. Brad, nice piece. I look forward to testing this particular deck out, as it’s the type I’ve been looking for. I’ve also got a few ideas of my own to bounce off you if I ever get a chance. Couple of the guys here in Minot are having serious problems trying to build anything, and we’d love a little help.

  11. I like the idea of the no-creature deck, but the mana base looks bad in my opinion. It’s going to be difficult to cast Cruel Ultimatum at 7 mana, since you don’t have any filter lands, and you want to fetch double W for Day of Judgement. Not bringing back a creature when you cast Cruel makes the matter even worse.

  12. @StealthBadger One thing that makes Platz worse I think is that any aggro deck with Lightning Burst will probably keep them in just for the damage, and it does nothing against Baneslayer while kiling Platz. I don’t know how prevalent Burst will be, but something to think about.

  13. @jordon: Why are you replying to everyone like you were Brad Nelson? It’s funny how Brad’s maindeck doesn’t have Identity Crisis, but you do.

  14. How is Jund not mentioned in the decks to be concerned about? The deck is completely unfair, is obviously viable by the fact that it was playable in Lorwyn Standard and Block losing a mana base that’s incredibly easy to port over via M10 lands + Verdant Catacombs, and carries the high MU percentages against every aggro deck presented in this article. Jund Cascade is real and if you don’t have a solid solution to it, good luck top 8ing at Philly this weekend.

  15. well heres my response to StealthBadger a lot of the control decks play lightning bolt/burst lightning/(and possible fallout over pyroclasm but probly not) and while that is removal they might take out its still good vs walkers so that will probly stay in there – true thell probly chuck it at the walkers at first but once they realise a baneslayer came down they might be able to burn down the plats/baneslayer so ill be a bit harder to kill bane slayer and baneslayer happens to be very good vs aggro strats also if its the right call to sb it in and theres the factor that baneslayer ends the game a turn faster
    thats my 2 cents
    -sry for my terrible spelling and gammer but thats just who i am 😀

  16. @ the first paragraph:

    Noooooo, we all want to hear about extended, no one cares about standard. Feel free to write an article on your extended decks instead 😛

  17. Agree about Jund, that’s what I’m playing atm. In fact that’s what i built in lorwyn because I decided it looked like the most competitive deck that would lose the least post rotation. Does anyone know a good place to go to talk about Jund deck lists and card choices? I’ve looked around and haven’t found any forums that actually seem decent.

  18. Here is a good Jund list I have been testing, you can add Garruks if you like but this is what I currently have sleeved up for PT austin lcq.

    4 Putrid Leech
    3 Great Sable stag (probably become 3 Garruk)
    4 Sprouting Thrinax
    4 Bloodbraid Elf
    3 Broodmate Dragon

    3 Maelstrom Pulse
    4 Blightning
    4 Lightning Bolt
    3 Terminate
    3 Bituminous Blast

    4 Dragonskull Summit
    3 Rootbound Crag
    4 Savage Lands
    4 Verdant Catacombs
    4 Swamp
    4 Forest
    2 Mountain

    You can Decide whether you want to Run Terminate/Burst Lightning. I believe Baneslayer will be everywhere in T2 so I belive its a good Choice. I also belive switching to garruk is the best choice for the Jund mirror and the various control decks that will pop up

  19. This deck is really solid, I’ve tested it a little bit already. The manabase works great, it is very nice to only have to play 12 CIPT…I mean ETBT lands instead of like 14. The only change I’d make is removing the doom blade and 1 into the roil for a couple of negates, as getting blightning’d can be pretty rough, and like a previous poster said jund aggro seems like it will be a popular deck. I chose those cards because with 4 path 1 terminate 1 purge you are pretty good on removal, and you usually don’t want/need into the roil until the late game anyway. I really like the idea of going creatureless in this format.

  20. Hey!

    Thanks for the deck. Just brought it to an FNM because it was the only one I had the cards for and went 3-0-1 to win. Played against Bant, Vampires, and Naya which I all won easily. The draw was to TimeSieveCombo. At 1-1 I was definitely going to win the third, but time ran out, which can happen easily in this matchup. The matchup actually played better for this deck than I expected it to.

    Regarding the doubts about Liliana I was surprised how well she plays in the deck. I would definitely not replace her with Chandra either, not just because of the power, but also because the deck cannot reliably deliver RR on turn five or six. The only card I’m not convinced of is the Traumatic Visions. A main deck Negate or Essence Scatter is probably better or if you really want that 27th land, go for it.

  21. glad someone picked up on the jund aggro, this deck is very strong atm, it has answers to most main deck stratagies and the mana base is solid, i would deffo reccoment testing against this befor going to ptq’s etc.

  22. The_Immortal_Djinn

    Nice write up, Brad. I’ve been fiddling with something very similar. Have you considered a one-of Magosi in the deck? It doesn’t hurt the mana too bad and it can be pretty insane with planewalkers.

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  24. Nice article. I’ve been playing a similar deck for a while at the FNM level and having some fun with it. It’s more G/R/W Planeswalker aggro, but just like you mentioned, if people didn’t have any answers to 15+ walkers, they were done. Too bad Guilder Bairn rotated out as that was a BLAST in that deck!

  25. Love the Traumatic Visions… I loved what I saw in that card from draft, and I further love the dirty feeling I get when I can get away with keeping a two-lander because of it. Having a choice is so much fun….

  26. @jordon I know you get one activation off. The hexmage when it attacks gets to kill one planeswalker and deal 2 damage to another or the player. That certainly matters.

  27. This deck is great! It performed 4-1 in FNM constructed tournament last night. The one loss was to a Time Sieve deck, which was lost due to a silly mistake…

    However, I want to make one addition to it. Instead of running 4 Ajani Vengeant it was run with 3 and 1 Obelisk of Alara. The Obelisk is a GREAT addition to this deck as it is so flexible. The Obelisk alone did a lot of difference against many decks. I really recommend main decking it. The other differen was a Cancel instead of Traumatic Visions, but that was only because a vision couldnt be found (junk card, heh 🙂 ).

  28. Why not include a Nicol Bolas in this deck? He seems to fit the color scheme, and his ability can trigger in 3 turns and is basically a high powered cruel ultimatum…

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