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Ruel Ultimatum – Approaching the New Standard Format

Hi everyone!

This is my first article for ChannelFireball, and I will put my best into this column and hope that you will like it.

Let me introduce myself, I have been playing Magic: the Gathering for over 14 years, 11 at the Pro Tour level, and I was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year at the World Championships in Rome. With more than 50 Pro Tours, about 100 Grands Prix, 14 Nationals and 4 Invitationals, I guess I became quite a seasoned veteran; I will share my experience with you.

Scars of Mirrodin’s prereleases were held last week end all over the world, and those presented a great opportunity to discover Magic’s new set. Now, it is time to try and exploit the fresh cards and concepts in Constructed formats.

Today, I will focus on the bright new Standard, as a hint on which cards and decks rotated out, I suggest you to take a look at LSV’s article on the subject.

Please keep in mind that I had a very short time to build decks. My goal here will not be to post killer decklists, as such would need more work and the Standard field still needs to be created to adapt my decks to its metagame.

I decided to focus on 2 themes: Polymorph and Affinity, the first because it was really good before the rotation and I would like to see if it somehow survived it, and the second because it introduces many Scars of Mirrodin cards, and the new set’s artifact mechanism.

Mass Polymorph

The deck that I was playing at French Nationals is dead as the original Polymorph rotated out with M10. Still, M11 brought Mass Polymorph, so I wanted to give it a try.

First I needed to find token engines. Besides the obvious Khalni Garden and Awakening Zone, Elspeth Tirel was really attractive. I started building decks with it, but the manabase was too much of a problem. I still played a few games, to figure out that the white planeswalker was far from being as good as I expected. More, the deck was based on 1 card: Mass Polymorph, and without a lot of card drawing, I would just lose because I simply wouldn’t draw it, or just cast it too late.

The deck required mana acceleration, card drawing and tokens. With a lot of mana acceleration, the deck would be able to pay for the opponent’s Mana Leak against control, and to race to get the combo in place before getting killed by aggro.

The tokens would be used not only for the combo, but also to slow the opponent’s attack down and earn time to develop your board..

The deck usually plays Mass Polymorph on turn 5 for 2 creatures or on turn 6 for 3. I decided to run only 3 creatures that I would reshuffle into the deck either with Jace, the Mind Sculptor or See Beyond if I happened to draw them. I needed to always hit winning guys, and quickly understood that Platinum Emperion would be the perfect adding to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Iona, Shield of Emeria.

I wanted to see if Polymorph survived the rotation. Even if this deck does end up good, it looks more like a Tooth and Nail deck rather than the control one with a combo kill that I ran at my Nationals. With a 6 mana sorcery for the win plus the additional cost of exiling creatures, the essence of the deck had to evolve.

The main problem of the deck is that it has no way to interfere with the opponent’s game plan. It has no counterspell nor [card]Into the Roil [/card]nor Ratchet Bomb. Tuning the deck and adapting it for the format will come later once the metagame is settled. The Same goes for the sideboard, Venser’s Journal needs to be tested but the card itself is definitely interesting.

Two cards in Scars of Mirrodin are sick against his deck: Ratchet Bomb, since it kills all the tokens in response to Mass Polymorph, and Lux Cannon. If those two cards end up being played (odds are high), then the deck will need either artifact removal, Into the Roil, or Ratchet Bomb main deck.

In case you do not already know, with Platinum Emperion on the board you are not allowed to pay life, so you cannot sacrifice a fetchland for instance.

Affinity decks:

A lot of people, including myself, are happy that Jund is not in the format anymore. Everyone seems to forget that it was the same with Faeries the year before or Affinity just a few years ago. I could not write about Scars of Mirrodin Standard without focusing on artifact decks.

Of course, with 2 extensions to come, the deck has beautiful days ahead, and will only be complete by summer 2011.

As a Mono-Brown version would just be terrible, I had to decide on which color(s) to run:

-Black: Phylactery Lich and Painsmith are the only synergistic cards with artifacts … not so sexy. A black control deck with artifacts might be possible in the future, but black is the worst color to play in Standard nowadays with the lowest quality cards by far.

-Green: Carapace Forger and Ezuri’s Brigade are a bit sexier, but I do not think green really needs metalcraft to have big guys. The rare is sick though.

-Red: Kuldotha Phoenix and Galvanic Blast are super sexy, but as far as I looked, the synergy with the artifacts in a red deck is low as you would rather play efficient cards to reach your goal than trying to do cool stuff. Maybe a control deck will be possible in the future, or a multicolor one, but having a bicolor manabase that supports the Phoenix seems tough. Kuldotha Rebirth is cool; maybe the card will be played a bit.

-Blue: There has to be a deck featuring Trinket Mage + Voltaic Key + Everflowing Chalice + Lux Cannon, and maybe even Inexorable Tide. Grand Architect and Riddlesmith (which allows you to play 4 Mox Opal) definitely are excellent cards as well. The deck might be aggro, control or even combo.

-White: Glint Hawk and Tempered Steel might just be the two best cards in the set when it comes to play an affinity beatdown deck. Myrsmith is interesting as well but may be a bit slow. Some people also like the Quest for the Holy Relic/Argentum Armor “combo,” which is more funny than efficient.

White seems the best color when it comes to aggressiveness, synergy and efficiency, so I decided to test the beatdown decks.

I needed to review the Scars of Mirrodin aggro artifacts:

Etched Champion seems to be really bad to me. I might be wrong, but I would rather not play Gray Ogre in my decks, and if the format is artifact-hostile, it might just do nothing.

Chimeric Mass is way better than I expected. It provides artifacts in the early game to use with Mox Opal or play Glint Hawk, then, in the late game it is a big creature that cannot be killed by sorcery-speed removal spells such as Day of Judgment.

Darksteel Axe: Simply not as good as Trusty Machete.

Darksteel Juggernaut: too expensive, too bad.

Glint Hawk Idol: Almost playable.

Mox Opal: the nuts, too bad you can only play 3 as drawing 2 of the legendary artifact is just bad.

Origin Spellbomb: Ok in some decks I guess, but a 1/1 for 3 mana in a beatdown deck is terrible.

Rusted Relic: < Lodestone Golem

Sword of Body and Mind, Wurmcoil Engine, Precursor Golem: very good cards, but too expensive in the decks I built.

The first deck I built was this one:

UW Affinity

 

 

I decided to splash Trinket Mage, keeping in mind that a second color would be great in the sideboard. This deck was good, had great synergy, but definitely had a lack of aggressiveness. It was neither control nor aggro, but rather just simply doing some cool stuff. Any game I had either Steel Overseer early or Tempered Steel, the deck was great, but without those two, I would just accumulate an army of 1/1 Myr, 0/2 Ornithopters, and overall just weak guys.

The one good thing was that the deck was surprisingly not dying to [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] as much as a Mono-White version of the deck. The bad thing was that the deck was not fast enough.

Then, after a few failures, I decided to build the most aggressive and synergistic deck I could. I came up with this:

Boros Affinity

One card should surprise most of you: Hedron Scrabbler. I decided to go for a landfall ability deck, and that card just happened to be the best I found. Plated Geopede could have made it, but I needed artifact creatures to go along with Tempered Steel. 15 is not a lot, but giving +2+2 to just 2 creatures is already great. If you play a Chimeric Mass on turn one, with the enchantment it is a 2/2 whenever you activate it if you did not bounce it before with the white fliers.

Turn 1 Adventuring Gear + Ornithopter or Memnite is the nuts, and you can even activate your Mox Opal, cast a Glint Hawk, bounce the Mox back, replay the Mox, cast a Steppe Lynx and pass the turn. This is of course a rare situation, but there are so many of those that you actually have obscene draws. With this example, a fetchland on turn two and your opponent will already be at 10 while you having only played a single land.

Having fliers + Adventuring Gear puts your opponent on a fast clock where every topdeck is good, as both spells and lands will be winning.

I really like the deck and will definitely test it more in the future. In an unknown field, playing aggro is always a good choice.

I was amazed to discover that Affinity seems to be back for real. I just hope the two upcoming sets in the block will not turn it into a monster.

Bonus: Dredgevine

Guillaume Matignon gave me this decklist after we played a few games together:

[deck]3 Renegade Doppelganger
4 Necrotic Ooze
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Fauna Shaman
1 Joraga Treespeaker
4 Hedron Crab
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Enclave Cryptologist
1 Molten-Tail Masticore
4 Vengevine
3 Gigantomancer
4 Forest
2 Island
2 Swamp
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Drowned Catacomb
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Darkslick Shores[/deck]

The deck still needs a lot of work, but [card]Necrotic Ooze[/card] might be a very nice addition to the deck that definitely missed a little something before the rotation. Its ability to turn any crap creature into a 7/7 with [card]Gigatomancer[/card] seems as cool as it is efficient in the deck.

As a reminder, the goal of this article was to show interesting decks and mechanisms. The metagame will emerge soon and once it does, the decks will evolve , the best ones will stay, and doom others to exist elsewhere that at the bottom tables of a tournament or just a friendly casual game.

Quick hints Sealed deck

This was my prerelease deck. I made it reg/green and tried to base it around Furnace Celebration and artifact removal, as that used to be pretty efficient in the former Mirrodin Limited format.

 

People in Paris did not seem to understand 2 things about the format:

-Metalcraft is good, but adding 4/5 bad cards to your deck to have 13 artifacts does not make sense at all. Nothing guarantees that you will have 3 of those at the same time on the board. Unless you have a very good pool for that, there is no need to force yourself into playing artifacts that have no impact on the game.

-Infect seems more like a draft ability to me. I saw the whole day people winning games with 2 life and 9 poison counters. Mixing normal damages and infect damage helps your opponent a little too much in my opinion.
Props and flops of the tournament:
+ I killed a big creature equipped by Grafted Exoskeleton by casting Tel-Jilad Defiance on it.

Molten-Tail Masticore is probably more fun to play than to play against.

I won a game by sacrificing Wurmcoil Engine and its 2 tokens to a Ferrovore.

I went 5-2.

I lost to a 1/1 Myr equipped by Strata Scythe, then given flying by Flight Spellbomb (my opponent was not blue :/) and given double strike by Assault Strobe for 16 damage.

Thanks for reading, please post in the comments and I will answer ASAP!

Antoine Ruel

26 thoughts on “Ruel Ultimatum – Approaching the New Standard Format”

  1. Why the Treespeaker in the Dredgevine list? Is it just there for the random excel it would add?

  2. @jp ftw

    Yes, because Microsoft Office breaks open the mirror.

    (I guess he needed one more cobra?)

    Also, is SB Galvanic Blast worth splashing red? Yes, it’s only two mountains, but still…

  3. I’ve been playing Mass Poly since M11 was released, and it’s always been OK. I’ve done pretty well with it, but after the rotation it started to become worse and worse as I tested. I tried your list just now on MWS, and while I wasn’t a believer before, HOLY GODDAMN THAT LIST IS HOT!!!

    Albeit I only played 1 game so I don’t know, but that was the most explosive draw I’ve ever seen with MP, and it seemed like only an average draw for that build. My god that list is sick. Thanks a lot, Antoine!

    Just a minor qualm, though: Why did you pick Platinum Emperion over Stormtide Leviathan? It seems to me that the two do essentially the same thing, except one’s unblockable and the other dies to Shatter.

  4. Concerning your dredgevine.dec: I think you have to play 4 Molten-Tail Masticore as it is your best creature. 2 Gigantomancer are enough und the 1 Treespeaker seems pretty random. Gravedigger or Aether Adapt are a better substitute.

  5. Regarding Mass Polymorph, I’m curious: any consideration for Garruk (tokens + ramp), Stormtide Leviathan (stops attacks) and/or Terastodon (blows up planeswalkers/random stuff)?

    Thanks

  6. As a reader, I want to say: welcome to CFB! Thank you for writing this article, and I look forward to hopefully many more 🙂

  7. As an avid pre-rotation Dredgevine player (since long before the Nats decks made it popular), I need to say that Renegade Doppelganger is a carryover card from the old version that NEEDS TO GO. He is essentially a wasted spot in the new version. Is the turn where you cast him as your second creature bringing back all 4 GY Vengevines and swinging for 20 still good? Of course. But so much more often he is just a blank now.

    Vengevine was never what made Doppelganger so sick guys. The ability to swing for 10 with an unearthed Extractor Demon on turn 3 (or in the version I always played, swinging for 6 with an unearthed Sedraxis Specter and making them ditch 2 cards turn 3) is what made him so broken. If the idea is to keep this deck rolling by replacing the Extractor Demon/Sedraxis Specter win-condition shell with Necrotic Ooze, then the Renegade Doppelganger slot that was being abused by the Demon needs to be switched out to something that Ooze can abuse.

    I haven’t worked out a perfect list yet obviously, but so far I have had unreal success with turning those 4 Doppelgangers into 2 River Boa (just as castable as Doppelganger but gives Ooze the incredibly powerful and important G: Regenerate ability when in the GY), 1 Royal Assassin (also castable to bring back VV but downright sick when painted on the ooze), and 1 Pestilence Demon (Obviously not even close to castable but against the gross aggro decks out there nowadays, being able to drop ooze and then wipe the board clean of all X/2s or less is REALLY strong – this gets sided out against control for, at the moment anyway, Sphinx of Magosi)

  8. if you cast doppelganger as your second creature, he’s not the 4/3 haster you want. cast him first, then birds. profit.

  9. @fluffdasheep

    I played a very similar Mass Polymorph list pre-Scars. I played 2 Garruk main deck. Some games I just never found a Mass Polymorph because I was playing more permission and less card draw, and the Garruk/Spawn overrun was a nice plan B. Most games he played like Growth Spasm 5-6. I would just drop Garruk on turn 4 (sometimes 3) and make a token. The following turn I could Garruk-untap to Mass Polymorph for 2 if I needed to race. The beast token was also another answer to an opposing Jace.

    I initially had Terastodon in the SB with the plan of MPing into Terastodon, Stormtide Leviathan, and Iona against a Planeswalkers deck. But I ended up cutting it for Madrush Cyclops when I stopped seeing so many Gideons. With the loss of Madrush, Terastodon will be going back into the SB as an answer to Jace and whatever color Iona didn’t shut off.

    I would pick Platinum Emperion over Stormtide Leviathan initially. I’m not sure shatter will be flying around just yet, he dodges All is Dust, and he is another way to shut off burn to the head. Of course Leviathan is better against poison counters, so you might want to reconsider if you start to see some sort of Infect deck running around.

  10. In the maindeck I think I like Leviathan better, because he stops them attacking and threatens an additional 9 damage. Sure, Emperion means you won’t get burned out, but Iona shuts off any burn that isn’t Valakut anyway, and I’d rather stop them attacking. No attacks means no Primeval triggers unless they cast one, and it means they can’t overwhelm me with little aggro dudes. I’ll still keep Emperion in the sideboard, of course.

    Another MP question: how is Growth Spasm better than Garruk? As it is I can’t imagine a situation where I’d rather have the former (unless I have no access to GG). If I go turn 3 Growth Spasm, then what?

  11. Admittedly, I can’t imagine a situation where you MP into both Emperion and Iona that you would need to shut off a non-red color with Iona (unless someone was playing a RW build of some sort). But I can imagine situations where you are racing a mono-red deck and need to go off with less than 3 creatures on the board. Or you have to stop the Koth emblem. Also, All is Dust has been really quite prevalent around here before the rotation.

    Now that we’ve lost rampant growth, I feel more comfortable relying on a turn 3 Growth Spasm than a turn 4 Garruk. I’ve been hated out by my lands in this deck enough times to be a little skittish. Also, I like the fact that Growth Spasm shuffles for Jace, thus acting like extra See Beyonds.

    You make a valid point that there isn’t a necessarily a good on-curve turn 4 play after a Growth Spasm. And of course, I would rather play Awakening Zone on turn 3 over Growth Spasm. So perhaps a 3-3 split is warranted instead of a 4-2 split in favor of Growth Spasm.

  12. I had the poison sealed deck this weekend. It rolled everyone I played. If you get it then play it. You make so many of their cards worthless…such as indestructible, gaining life off the equipped white guy or the 2/2 flyer, punching through regeneration, etc. It was quite good.

    The imprint artifacts with poison guys is pretty ridiculous. Only lost one game.

    I’d like to see a Blue metalcraft combo deck. Trinket Mage and Grand Architect with card filtering like Riddlesmith just seems too perfect.

  13. I played the Polymorph deck a bit more. I ran into some trouble, and am thinking about dismantling it altogether:

    1) Vs. Ramp decks (Eldrazi Ramp and Valakut Titan), their ramp is about as good as ours, except their 6-drop is a lot better than ours. If they get a Titan before we get Iona out, we’re pretty much dead, since we have almost no way to deal with it.

    2) Vs. RDW, they’re just too fast. We can ramp out Iona on turn 5 or 6, but by that time we’re well within Bolt range.

    3) Vs. U/W, preboard they can leave counter mana up forever and ever, and the longer the game goes the more they can do while leaving counter mana up, and we have no answer to any of their threats. Postboard we can bring in Autumn’s Veil, but that slows down the deck even further, allowing them even more counter mana.

    It seems to me that this deck just loses to everything in the meta, unless I’m playing it wrong somehow (although I don’t think I’m making any glaring errors). What’s going wrong here? Any thoughts?

  14. Hi everyone,

    first, i’d like to thank you for the posts,
    then, about the deck comments:

    -Dredgevine: i never focused on how to build the deck, that s why i named it a bonus. Guillaume tried a few different things in it in order to see what ‘s worth it or not, testing has to start from something, and the decklist is not optimal yet.

    Mass Polymorph: i tried garruck for a few games, the card if definitely interesting, but did not survive the cut.
    About the creatures, it might just depend on how the format looks like, i like the empyrion guy a lot tho. I think that 3 creatures is the right amount and cannot imagine not playing both Iona and Emrackul.

    About the red splah in the artifact boros, as i oriented the deck arounf the landfall ability, i wanted to play a lot of fetchlands, the red lands do not hurt your manabase that much, the red card in the sideboard are just a bonus. The splah might be black as well, but seems less good.

    Venser’s Journal doesn t seem to be good in this sideboard, but still, i will keep an eye on it for other decks.

    Thanks for reading

  15. Welcome to ChannelFireball Mr Ruel!
    I liked all of the decks. I believe that the quest/argentum armor “combo” might be better than you give it credit for as if it happens early enough to blow up their first or second land…thats hard to recover from. I’m not so sure about the empyrion, but I guess its worth testing. Thanks for the good article I look forward to more.

  16. Hi in a totaly unraleted thing, but given your authority in magic i wanted to ask you, how do you deal with primeval titan playing blue white control?

  17. Did you try white, splash green?

    Beastmaster Ascension is a really good sub for Tempered Steel… just saying.

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  19. Hi Antoine,

    what do you think about my beatdown deck:

    I play on standard tourneys mtgo. Its a fast deck with a lot of small creatures + a lot of synergies inside. The deck itself will shine more if new standard is available on mtgo. (in moment its only zendikar block+M11).

    – all cards can be played with just 2 mana – even some need 3 to be real effective
    – beatdown power with many 1 drops, 1 mana removal, Zendikon haste
    – midgame power with quest demon
    – mid/lategame power with Kalastria Highborn/Viscera Seer + Bloodghast Combo

    Especially Viscera Seer is an often underrated creature. Its so good in this deck. Can trigger quest if needed, trigger highborn if needed, very strong in combo with Bloodghast,
    can sacrifice the creatures which are blocked by lifegaining stuff, save bloodghast from being exiled and always add scry 1 as bonus.

    I trained a lot with it in training room and on tourneys even its preatty bad against Junt.

    Against the green Ramp decks the keycard is in the sideboard: Demon of Death’s Gate.
    Imagine:
    Turn 1 Lactator
    Turn 2 Quest for the Gravelord + Pulse Tracke
    Turn 3 Gatekeeper or random other + Demon of Death’s Gate.

    You now have the 9/9 demon in air and the other 5/5 from quest on ground + you already did some damage with your creatures.

    The green/red ramp decks don’t have a good anser against this. Eldrazi Wrath sometimes.

    With new standard on mtgo i may switch to more creatures in the deck and maybe 3 or 4 demons maindeck depends on how much red is played online.

    4 Quest for the Gravelord
    4 Vampire Lacerator
    4 Kalastria Highborn
    4 Viscera Seer
    4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
    4 Vendetta
    4 Pulse Tracker
    4 Corrupted Zendikon
    4 Bloodghast
    4 Sign in Blood

    4 Verdant Catacombs
    4 Marsh Flats
    12 Swamp

    Sideboard
    4 Marsh Casualties
    2 Doom Blade
    3 Demon of Death’s Gate
    3 Duress
    3 Vampire Hexmage

  20. Hi Antoine. I read with great interest your article about Mass Polymorph, because I’m trying to build a decent one too. I’m really newbie as a deckbuilder, so I would like to know some comments of yours (and other guys too obviously!) about my list.
    // Lands
    8 [ZEN] Forest (4)
    1 [ZEN] Island (2)
    6 [ZEN] Mountain (7)
    4 [ZEN] Scalding Tarn
    4 [WWK] Khalni Garden
    1 [ZEN] Plains (4)

    // Creatures
    1 [ROE] Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
    1 [ROE] Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
    1 [ROE] Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

    // Spells
    1 [ZEN] Cobra Trap
    3 [WWK] Everflowing Chalice
    3 [ROE] Awakening Zone
    4 [M11] Mass Polymorph
    4 [ROE] Brood Birthing
    2 [SOM] Kuldotha Rebirth
    3 [M11] Crystal Ball
    4 [ROE] Growth Spasm
    3 [M11] Silence
    2 [SOM] Strider Harness
    2 [ZEN] Eternity Vessel
    2 [M10] Rampant Growth

    // Sideboard
    SB: 1 [M11] Silence
    SB: 4 [M11] Autumn’s Veil
    SB: 2 [ARB] Sphinx of the Steel Wind
    SB: 3 [M11] Fog
    SB: 3 [ROE] Naturalize
    SB: 2 [WWK] Tectonic Edge

    As you can see I completely gave up blue cards (excepted MP of course). I tried to focus on tokens generating, protecting combo with silence and accelerating big guys attack giving them haste with Strider Harness. Life protection you look for from Platinum Emperion, I should take it from Eternity Vessel. Crystal Ball is there for manipulating deck and I found it very effective. Obviously main risk is drawing creatures and I have no way to put them again into deck (it’s something I’m thinking about).
    Thank you for all your comments

  21. Sorry, obviously Rampant Growth rotated out. So what putting in? Cultivate? Or maybe Prophetic Prism?

  22. These decks seem really interesting and innovative and Ruel is obviously the man.

    On a side note: I’m really annoyed when a deck/archetype is named for a mechanic that isn’t actually there, for example “affinity.” What’s wrong with just calling it “artifact aggro.” I didn’t have as much of a problem with some of the comboish elf decks that used regal force. At least they have a similar feel of a deck that’s half way between aggro and combo. But the “affinity” decks people have been discussing remind me much more of goblins or some kind of aggro deck that had synergy in a more fair way. Sorry for that.

    About DredgeVine (a deck that should probably be called something like Fauna-Vine based on my previous rant) do most people consider it better or worse to have the Gigantomancer/Necrotic Ooze combo, or to have the unearthers from the old standard format?

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