Something AJ Sacher said recently really set me off. Now, for those of you who know AJ or read his wonderful stuff, you probably realize that his specific quote could probably be any combination of words he has ever uttered. Still, you will probably be surprised at how heated I was over this innocuous little statement.
To many of you, that may seem like part of a fairly common exchange in the Magic world. Sadly, you would be correct. Too many players today refuse to believe that literally everything is in their control. Deck A beats deck B, and deck B beats deck C, while deck C beats deck A, and that’s just how things are.
Actually, that’s very wrong, and also happens to be where I come in. I am not great at building decks from scratch, but I can innovate. Decks like DDT and Koros were pieced together from ideas that were floating around. All I did was take an existing archetype and change maybe 20 cards. Suddenly, both archetypes were viable again. Matchups that were previously thought to be poor were now favorable or better.
It wasn’t difficult.
No matter how you look at it, Dark Depths is going to be a Dark Depths deck, but whether or not you lose to Zoo is completely up to you. I’m pretty sure that you all realize you could build a UB deck from scratch to completely annihilate popular Zoo decks, so as an exercise, do that, and then splice as much of that as you can into your Dark Depths deck.
Rather than add a few extra removal spells to his Counterbalance deck, AJ chose to change 75 cards instead and pick up a deck that he had no experience with. He probably didn’t enjoy playing it, he wasn’t confident, and he had no idea whether his plays were correct or not. Unsurprisingly, he went 2-2 or something similar.
Now, why do we do that? Why instead of putting in a little effort do we completely uproot everything that we’ve worked on? Granted, some people are the exact opposite and will sit with their same archetype, but tweak it week in and week out. Look at Cedric Phillips and his never ending love affair with White Weenie. The man plays roughly the same deck every tournament yet few people can beat him. Does he have Harm’s Way this week? What’s his black splash for? Do I need to play this Wrath before he has Negate open?
You’ve all probably seen me do the same thing with Dark Depths in Extended. However, Standard is a different animal entirely. Aside from my brief stint with Koros, I’ve been playing a different deck is almost every 8 man, PE, or DE that I’ve played in. While some of that is because I’m searching for a deck that is good vs. the field, most of it is because I’m just having a lot of fun brewing.
Check out this beast:
A lot of you may have taken notice of Ben Wienburg’s second place finish at a recent 5K tournament.
My aforementioned black friend and I tried for about a week or so to bring back Spreading Seas, but for the most part, we failed miserably. The previous “best” matchup was now nigh unwinnable, despite them gaining close to nothing from Worldwake. The sad part of it all was that Jund decks were now being built better. After Simon’s win in San Diego, they all realized that basically the only way they lose with Jund is from being mana screwed. Flooding is rarely an issue, especially with all the manlands.
The way the games typically play out vs. Jund when Spread’Em is on the draw are like this:
Turn one: Both players play nothing.
Turn two: If they are lucky, they have a Rampant Growth or Explore. You are basically dead at this point, since even if you do manage to Spreading Seas them, they still probably get to cast Sprouting Thrinax or Bloodbraid Elf.
Turn three: If you’ve failed to Spreading Seas them on turn two, they now have free reign to cast whatever they want, and they’ve probably already cast one spell.
Turn four: You finally start doing stuff.
See what happens when you’re on the play:
Turn two: Spreading Seas them, assuming they didn’t simply play a Verdant Catacombs uncracked. If they held a Forest and have a Rampant Growth or Explore, even double Spreading Seas doesn’t stop them from casting something.
Turn seven: You probably ran out of Spreading Seas while they are still playing lands, since they have 30 mana sources. Eventually, they will be able to cast spells while you probably aren’t doing anything.
The moral of the story is Spreading Seas is a value card, not a locking mechanism. Traditional Spread ‘Em is dead. The Jund matchup is pretty bad, and UW control is no picnic either.
Using cascade to both find Spreading Seas and Treasure Hunt (into another cascade spell hopefully) is a much better way to “abuse” cascade. It’s a little difficult to truly understand how the games play out just by looking at the deck, but I assure you the deck plays out better than you might think.
Take a look at the tentative sideboard.
Vs UW Control, you board so that your two drops are 2 Luminarch Ascensions, 4 Treasure Hunts, and 2 Spreading Seas. Oracle of Mul Daya allows you to outland them. Either you kill them with manlands or you just get to play two threats in the same turn. You need to keep in the pair of Spreading Seas to deal with Celestial Colonnade, as it’s close to their only way to prevent your Luminarchs from getting active.
I did alright in a Daily Event and some 8 mans, while Michael Jacob made top four of a 7 round Premier Event. While the deck still needs some work, I think the Bant cascade shell is pretty good.
To further validate my attempted sideboard plan, I saw this list that 4-0ed a DE.
This deck looks pretty fun and I’ll definitely be playing it in the future.
For a brief stint, I thought that Anathemancer was the answer to the format. Jund and UW control were probably the most played decks and last year ‘Mancer was great against similar decks.
The deck was cute and the sideboard was amazing. However, Goblin Guide and Path to Exile were about as bad as I remember them being. Goblin Guide, especially, was bad with Blightning. However, that didn’t stop Worlds Top 8 competitor Ding Leong from winning the recent GP Kuala Lumpur with Goblin Guide and Blightning in his deck.
Deathmark and Malakir Bloodwitch give you a ton of game vs. Gwx decks. Slave of Bolas is a great answer to Sprouting Thrinax. Still, Anathemancer wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be. Jund decks are much quicker than they used to be, as nearly everyone has Putrid Leech. If they have any amount of early removal or dudes, it’s very difficult to get them into Anathemancer range. Also, it’s very unlikely that you get to 7 mana to unearth it.
As you could probably tell, I was trying to get Anathemancer to replace Goblin Ruinblaster in my Koros deck. Ruinblaster was definitely responsible for some of my wins vs. Jund, but they kind of have the same problem as Spreading Seas. If you don’t cast it early, it basically becomes a minor annoyance for Jund, and you need your sideboard cards to have a prominent effect on the game, especially against a deck as good as Jund.
However, Anathemancer typically had even less of an impact on the game. Unless you are packin a huge amount of burn, the three or so damage they do is pretty irrelevant. So, I decided to go back to Ruinblasters, but I needed to sprinkle in a little more LD to help them out.
I briefly mentioned an Ancient Ziggurat deck a long time ago and always kept it in the back of my mind. Back then, I was using Gatekeeper of Malakir and Sedraxis Specter to beat up on Grixis and UWR control decks. Times have changed, and now I needed to bust out the Great Sable Stags, with Bloodghasts to discard to Blightning and attack through Sprouting Thrinax tokens.
A few things became apparent. Birds of Paradise into any three drop gave me a huge head start against Jund. Sadly, that reduced my hand size a lot and I wouldn’t be able to stop a Blightning from getting my best two cards on turn four unless I significantly slowed down my threat deployment.
Ranger of Eos for Bushwhackers was pretty good. Jund will typically kill your Thrinax or Siege-Gang Commander, leaving you with a bunch of tokens and not much else. Bushwhackers gives you the little push you need.
Lotus Cobra instead of Birds would probably help you play around Blightning. It’s very rare that you are able to play t1 Birds, t2 three drop, and t3 four drop. Lotus Cobra into t3 four drop would be close to the same thing, and you will almost always have enough cards in hand to protect from Blightning. Cobra also makes your manabase a lot better, since by playing it instead of Birds you can change your mana base to include a few more taplands.
Also a deck that I felt was good right now was the BR Vampire list I gave Todd Anderson to play in one of the 5Ks. The theory behind it was that a lot of the Vampire creatures suck. Gatekeeper of Malakir and Malakir Bloodwitch are both insane, but Vampire Nighthawk is the next best creature, and basically embarrassing when facing a deck with Lightning Bolt. Still, Nighthawk made the cut, but I wasn’t a fan of it.
By cutting the crappy dudes like Vampire Hexmage you get to improve your removal selection significantly, you gain Blightning, and most importantly, you gain Earthquake. Quake is great against the rampant green decks, Boros, and even against Jund. They might think they’re crushing you with their Bloodbraid and Sprouting Thrinax or just a Siege-Gang, and without Earthquake, you might just be dead. Still, at least now you get a fighting chance.
I used to go about even against Jund by drawing first and using Grim Discovery and Bloodghast to offset their Blightnings. Sadly, as I said earlier, Jund decks are far more refined than they used to be. Nighthawk is also a joke against Jund, as it does close to nothing.
I started looking to add a third color, but while adding green for Sprouting Thrinax and Bloodbraid Elf would make a Jund deck, it was something that I tried. Sedraxis Specter and Jace, the Mindsculptor were another option, possibly with Spreading Seas and/or Flashfreeze in the sideboard.
Abyssal Persecutor was another card that suddenly seemed interesting, as long as you had a few ways to kill it of course. I was already running Terminate and Gatekeeper, and blue would give me Jace. Both Jace and Persecutor would also fill the otherwise void four drop slot as well. I know that Persecutor has been tried already, and basically deemed a giant turd by the entire population, but maybe everyone it was doing it poorly?
Anyway, all of these decks are viable in some degree. I haven’t been extremely impressed by any of them, but there’s still a ton of work to be done. Still, it seems like the format is not as dull as people make it out to be. A lot of the people that started brewing thanks to the new set have since figured out that none of their brews beat Jund. Those people are now stuck playing decks they know they can win with, but that won’t last long I’m sure.
Right now it’s a difficult time to be brewing, since your deck absolutely has to beat Jund, but I’m ok with that. I’m up for the challenge.