Chasing Victory – Zendikar Standard, Rants Included

Would anyone like to set the line on the number of people that asked me why I didn’t write an article last week?

Here’s a hint: No matter what it was, take the under.



Zendikar Standard? Sure, I guess that’s what I’ll talk about this week. I just did three 2v2 drafts, which I guess qualifies me to talk about Limited, but we didn’t play out any of the games. I did draft Blue 100% of the time, and all of my decks looked pretty awesome, but there were definitely some green spiders that made me a little nervous.

Still, I definitely don’t feel like I’m an expert by any means. Each limited format has its own little quirks that you get used to once you play the format a bit, and this one doesn’t seem like it’s any different. For now, I’ll refrain from talking about it, but you can guarantee at some point I will write an article on sealed deck, as I consider myself an expert in that format.

While I haven’t played a game of Zendikar Standard, I do spend a lot of my spare time brewing decks and trolling forums, so at least I have a good idea of what’s out there, and what’s going on. I’m nothing short of appalled at how little discussion there is of a Chapin style, PT Hawaii-era 5cc control deck.

I know that the majority of people didn’t play Shards block constructed, and for good reason, but Chapin wrote some articles, and I wrote some articles. Maybe Luis wrote an article, I don’t remember. Either way, we all wrote articles on a “dead” format because we knew it was going to be relevant.

This deck is legit! We knew it was legit, and then they went and printed Baneslayer Angel.

My deadline is generally Monday, but it’s Tuesday at 6 AM and I’m finally getting around to writing this article while reading some other sites, and obviously Chapin, rat bastard that he is, wrote about the same stuff I was going to. I don’t know if it’s the whole “great minds” thing (although clearly his mind is bigger than mine, before any of you decide to share your two cents), or if it’s just because he’s always just one step ahead of me (and everyone else in general), but he pre-emotively stole whatever thunder I could have possibly had.

This would be the time for the observant reader to point out that maybe I should have written this article a week ago, rather than take time off, and that reader would be correct.

Here’s Patrick’s list, for reference:

Cascade Control



The list I made was a little different, but here it is:

Cascade Lifelink

I’m still a fan of my creature base from the Dallas 5K, but I could definitely see going with a less creature oriented approach. There are a few reasons for this.

Have you SEEN Isamaru, Hound of Konda? Do you remember when that was by far the biggest creature you could play on turn one? It was a LEGEND! Now every single color has a 1cc 2 power guy. This is ushering in a new, yet old school era of Magic where decks like monor, monob, and monow are viable, rather than which crappy 5c deck will you play against? 5c Merfolk, 5c Faeries, 5cc, 5c Tokens, 5c Lark, or 5cc “good stuff” creatures with Doran and Rhox War Monk?

There are going to be different decks, with different strategies, and the slight difference in cards choices, and whether or not you have that week’s tech, is going to help determine whether you win or lose. Who drew Vivid Creek + Reflecting Pool? CONGRATULATIONS, you can cast your spells!

This upcoming Standard format looks great. To me, this is Magic. This is how I remember it, and how I always will. I truly feel badly for those who started in Lorwyn block, or those who have never experienced Extended during Kai’s era.

Shards and Shadowmoor/Lorwyn were both fairly miserable draft formats. Instead of the majority of games being based on skill, those limited formats were basically about who got the closest to their nut draws.

Kithkin horde plus removal plus Wizened Cenn was probably game over. Faeries and Merfolk were even more unfair.

Turn two Smokebraider, turn four Vigor? Yeah ok. Intimidator Initiate, Mudbrawler Cohort, Boggart Ram-Gang? Come on man, at least let me win a game. Oh, you still had all those Jaws of Stones? That’s nice.

Forest, Plains, Mountain, Wooly Thoctar? And I’m mana screwed? Yeah, this is fun.

But I digress.

My point is that creatures are going to be everywhere. Whether it’s because of Goblin Guide or Baneslayer Angel, your creatures will not be long for this world. I can definitely see a creature-light or creature-less control deck being better positioned than my above list, at least eventually. Also, that means that Cruel Ultimatum may no longer be necessary. Yay!

Also, because of all the creatures in the format, I want to play a literal ton of creature removal, and those removal spells take up valuable slots. In theory, Rhox War Monk, Bloodbraid Elf, and Baneslayer all double as removal at times, and even card advantage and virtual card advantage. However, when every deck has FTKs and six spot removal spells, those cards start to become less good. Groundbreaking, I know right!

If it gets to the point where I need six Terrors and eight Wraths to beat aggro decks, then so be it. I am not attached to those creatures by any means. However, Baneslayer was still the nut high last season, and that might not change anytime soon. Rhox War Monk is like Baneslayer-lite, and did you see those Jund Charms? They just aren’t for Pyroclasm-ing.

The cascade cards are stupid good and do wonders when you’re at a tempo disadvantage. They are what allow you to play things like Rupture Spire and still be competitive. Day of Judgment doesn’t hurt either.

Naturally, I would run the same Blightning plan in the sideboard, but Pat went so far as to play his maindeck. I’m not as confident that those are going to be good in this metagame, at least not in the beginning.

Likewise, I wouldn’t play Traumatic Visions unless I knew there would be a lot of mirrors. I think you gain a lot just by playing an extra land anyway, and Traumatic Visions is almost always a land against aggro decks, since you almost never have time to cast it. It’s also a poor fixer because it actually ruins your mana base. Forest and Plains in your Cruel Ultimatum deck? I mean, I have the Plains, but that’s only because I’d rather have more fetchlands than the alternatives, and my current list has a lot of White cards, especially double White.

Day of Judgment does play a little awkwardly with your creatures at times, but generally, you try to use War Monk or Baneslayer to force them to over-commit. Sometimes this doesn’t work out, and you end up breaking even on the exchange, or even lose a card, but it’s probably worse than losing.

I’ve definitely had that sort of problem in Limited where I have some sort of Wrath effect, and I don’t want to telegraph it by not playing anything, but at the same time I don’t want to just not play my two drop. After all, what if they just have nothing and that Grizzly Bear gets in for eight damage? Sometimes you think that you’re money, and you’re going to be able to run the “I Still Had All These Wrath of Gods” at the end of the game, only for them to play their dragon, and you look stupid when you have to pull the trigger on your sweeper.

However, those moments don’t happen often, especially in Constructed, especially against weenie decks. There is generally nothing they can do that that is going to outclass you, so your games always end up textbook style. I Bolt your first guy, play a War Monk, force you to play out three guys, gain three life by suiciding my guy into yours, and then even end up a card after Wrathing.

Worst case scenario they have what, Malakir Bloodwitch? Just Bituminous Blast that guy and move on.

Kathari Remnant works “well” with Day of Judgment, at least in Magical Christmas Land. This format should end up being relatively fast, or I’m just very afraid of Vampire Lacerators and Goblin Guides. Remnant on turn four isn’t even close to the stopper that Bloodbraid Elf is. I am more than fine with trading Bloodbraid on turn four, whereas having to keep open a black every turn for Remnant doesn’t seem very appealing to me.

Depending on how you want to build your deck, UB is easier on your manabase than RG, but I think that everyone is overestimating how devastating a blow losing the Vivid lands was. 5c worked in block, and while Exotic Orchard, the deck’s primary fixer, has been neutered, the non-basics are there. You can make it happen.

I know some of you guys don’t like 28 lands, but I’m fine with 28/61, as long as there isn’t some insane card that you absolutely need to draw to win. Also, take into account your sideboard when building above 60. I know the States that I played 66 cards (and made t8 before conceding to my friend, ding!), I didn’t even bother to notice that it would be much harder to draw Bottle Gnomes vs. RG with my giant deck.

All of the cards in this deck are either card drawing or pseudo-removal though, so who cares? Play 68 and 4 Cruel Ultimatums if you want.

Chapin’s “Jwar Jwar” Sphinx (that HAD to be on purpose) is cute, but there’s an Edict on a stick that’s legal! It seems like a cruel joke, all around. Tapping out for that guy against any non-Black deck, non-White deck, and non-seven-mana-Edict deck does seem pretty sweet though.

A win condition that doesn’t suffer splash damage from their Doom Blades is definitely something I can get behind. If I could just play a dragon and have that be game every time, I would probably do that, but until that’s the case and my win conditions always live, I will probably focus on going creature-less.

Honestly, the differences in Chapin’s and my lists are all semantics. Play whatever you think will be good. If you know there will be some token decks, play some [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card]s, but personally, I don’t want to cascade into that garbage, so they can sit in my binder.

This article is running a little short, so I’ll give you a rundown on Extended.

Faeries: You suck, especially if you’re not playing Tarmogoyf.

Zoo: You suck, unless you’re playing Black.

Hypergenesis: If you have Vendilion Clique and Riftwing Cloudskate, you’re where you need to be, but you still suck. If you have Magister Sphinx in your deck, don’t even bother signing up for the tournament.

Tron: HA! Are you kidding me? YOU SUCK!

Dredge: You got some sweet new toys, but you still suck. The Extended versions I’m seeing might be able to top eight a Standard FNM.

Affinity: You still suck.

Burn: Do me a solid and compare Spark Elemental to Wild Nacatl.

Elves: You are much better than people think you are, but you still probably suck.

Random combos like Thopter Foundry, Dark Depths, and Scapeshift: You have room to innovate, and people probably won’t know what’s in your deck, but you’re still probably going to suck.

Doran/Rock/Death Cloud: 1/3 of you is almost playable, and that’s only because you resemble a Zoo deck. Cut your Birds of Paradise for Wild Nacatl and then you might be onto something.


PS: Does anyone have a deck for PT Austin that they want to sell me?

53 thoughts on “Chasing Victory – Zendikar Standard, Rants Included”

  1. omg !!!!!!!!!! gerryt i love it !!!! but if you forgot one ….. if you copy another writers article ……. you suck lol

  2. Sick rant. I would gladly pay for articles like this. Angry writing makes for a good read.

    Totally agree on extended. Every deck is just a varying degree of disappointment. I was thinking about playing dredge until I realized that it might be 70/30 against any given opponent, but it’s really only about 40/60 against it’s self. Not that I don’t love mulling to 5 every game.

  3. Still looking for a list for Austin I see, lol. What is the going rate these days?

    As far as the 5c Cascade deck goes I just got done testing it against horrible opponents on the always entertaining MWS. I had to make a sideboard from scratch and I ended up putting the Rhox War Monks in the side without having seen your list (as it seemed the only logical answer to RDW). I stand by my opinion that they still should be relegated to the board, as they are strictly only great against the retarded red decks and Jund (but Stag gets around him as well).

    Barney gets hosed by all sorts of removal against the vampires. Nothing like turning your 3/4 lifelinker into a 1/2 courtesy of that once dead card, aka Disfigure, that was in there hand. Moreover, because we’re light on creatures we’ll oftne end up having to run him out there on T3 to let us stabilize, only to get greeted by the Gatekeeper (that is of course unless you’re playing an inept player then you just let them drop their hand and Judge them accordingly).

    Mind Sludge isn’t that great against 5c Cascade. I wipe your board t4, you untap and sludge my hand away, so what? You’re not running a Cruel or a Bloodbraid Elf. Vampires.dec simply can’t top deck race 5c Cascade, unless they have trip Bloodghast in the yard and are top decking infinite lands, or have a ready to go 5/5 Zombie token in play. I’m sure Mind Sludge will see play, but the Control decks in the new format are Cascade card advantage based and can’t just play a land and say go, they have to act. If they are playing spells on the opponent’s turn they’re generally Bolts. The only deck that Sludge seems good against right now is the Vampire Mirror, Mono black control deck, or that silly Turbo-Fog deck. Basically anything that doesn’t have a cascade card.

    Again the red deck is a troublesome match-up, but as long as you keep your head about you with your Bolts and/or Disfigures it is very easy to kill any of their guys outside of Hell Thunder and Hellspark Elemental (taking 6 for 2RR is better than taking 6 for RRR). Just have to be careful that you don’t dip below the 12 mark as they can come out of nowhere. Also you can’t sit on your spells b/c you just make their Burst Lightnings that much better. Rhox War Monk wins games for you in this match-up, and possibly even running him alongside Wall of Reverence could make that match-up virtually a bye. I think Wall of Denial should get more respect, as it blocks the Sligh deck all day long, is pesky to remove outside a Gatekeeper (which Vampires are so slow when compared to the other cascade decks that they’re easily managed). Great Sable gets around him but so what he soaks up Bolts like no tomorrow.

    I think 5c Cascade should be a mainstay in the meta. I haven’t been able to test traditional 5c but I have a few people swearing by it, and if that is any indication then why wouldn’t a deck that runs the two best cards in the format be the best consensus deck?

    Great article GerryT, The more 5c is talked about the better. Just because one person talks about it doesn’t mean a reaffirmation of greatness isn’t needed.

  4. Didn’t notice you were running Baneslayer in that 75, nice. I’m not sure if I like Jwar Isle as much as the Slayer. Sure, the sphinx has shroud and can let you peak to make your cascades better but Baneslayer unchecked = good game, and who cares if the first dies barring a Path to Exile it will be back on the field in no time thanks to Cruel. Any deck running Baneslayer Angel, Lightning Bolt, Esper Charm, Bloodbraid Elf, Cruel Ultimatum, and Day of Judgment equals something that I want sleeved up permanently.

  5. Play Mono-White Control! It automatically wins against aggro and combo (im looking at you Zoo and Hypergen) and it now has a pretty good
    game against faeries with the rotation ogf Riptide Lab and Emeria coming in. I tell you, it’s awesome!

  6. If I had any money left in my pocket I would pay for this.

    I honestly lolled. Little house on the prairie swear to god.

  7. Just want to say, this is probably one of the best articles I’ve ever read from you. Crazy that it’s just a huge rant.

    …Oh, and Elves is sick stuff. The people playing it suck but the deck doesn’t.

  8. “This upcoming Standard format looks great. To me, this is Magic. This is how I remember it, and how I always will. I truly feel badly for those who started in Lorwyn block, or those who have never experienced Extended during Kai's era.”

    Well fucking said. Goodbye Lorwyn, back to real Magic without Cruel and Cloudthresher in the same deck.

  9. I’d sell you something original Gerry, but all my lists begin with the same 4 cards. :/

    You know what they are.

  10. Just wanted to say I really enjoyed this article. I’ve only played against a single 5cc deck on MWS and it’s shocked me that nobody else has been playing it as the deck is sickeningly good.

    @wescoe: Rod of Ruin?

  11. hey Gerry –

    Great article. Just one question: what would a prospective sb look like if you were to take this to Philly this weekend?

  12. Seems slightly ironic that you start by grumbling about all the 5c stuff in old standard, then present a 5c list for new standard? Anyway, neat stuff, ‘though i can’t get behind sphinx of jwar isle.

  13. dude lorwyn and timespiral ahve taught us that we can do whatever the hell we want if we’re willing have half a deck of mana sources.

    I think from now on there will always be an awkward 5cc tap out flores style “blue” deck floating around, im gonna sleeve up chapin’s list for a tournament on saturday and see how it runs.

  14. I really like Extended now, because it reflects the Standard when I started to play MTG. In my opinion, the Trons (UW, UR, UG and variations) will break the format.

  15. A buddy of mine who’ll be playing in Austin has a pretty solid list that I haven’t seen anyone here or elsewhere write about, I’ll see if he’s willing to share his sekret tek and send you a message on FB when I get home.

  16. Nice article, man. This site is quickly becoming my first MTG stop in the mornings.

    Our local shop gave away a box of FTV:Exiled the day after rotation, so we did a solid amount of New-Standardâ„¢ testing. The 5CC decks were so ill, often going down to 2 or 3 life against an exhausted aggro deck only to pull off a huge blowout. It’s funny what Baneslayer and repeated Cruels can do. We found Pyroclasm main to be a lot more effective than Pulse, but then we were working on the (correct) assumption that rough decks people would be rocking were Vampires, Soldiers, Goblins, and other chump-aggro strategies. Running Magosi was a cute trick, too, because the deck had enough removal and reset to skip a turn, then kill in the next two pretty easily.

    I’d like to add another deck to your Extended-You-Suck list: Reliquary Loam. I thought KoR stood a chance in the Great Rotation of 2009 to really shine, and I’ve been nothing but disappointed in her.

    Good luck in Austin. Hope you find a list that works.

  17. Anathemancer is still in the format. Curious whether it will see play or not.

    Any thoughts on the sideboard?

  18. Emeria the Sky Ruin is too good to ignore. Rangering into Martyr/Scute seems strong, plus you get wraths. Its an extremely hard deck to build properly, but whomever does it will obv have the best deck in the format.

  19. No this deck is not good but man is it fun. If you can’t find anything you want to play just sleeve up this and have a good time, it’s just a PT, who cares about winning =P

    4 Greater Gargadon
    4 Dragon Fodder
    4 Raise the alarm
    4 Mogg war marshal
    4 Spectral procession
    4 Promise of bunrei
    4 Hissing iguanar

    4 Leyline of the meek
    4 Glorious anthem
    1 Glory of warfare

    4 Chrome mox
    4 Windbrisk heights
    4 Sacred foundry
    4 RW Fetchland
    3 Rugged prarie
    1 Mountain
    2 plains
    1 Kher Keep

    4 Pithing Needle

    Just avoid Explosives all day, and have fun not interacting with your opponents as you try to gold fish them on turn 3.

    Best of luck finding a real deck, this was a fun article.

  20. it’s as if Hunter S. Thompson decided to come back from the dead and write a mescaline fueled magic rant. It really reminded me of his articles that predicted the senate outcomes in the 80s. If you did that on purpose then you are a genius.

  21. I honestly think the R/W Ascension, creatureless deck is going to do very very well. Give it a look.

  22. dowjonzechemical

    hmmm…you’re short on options for Austin that don’t “suck”. No really, your rant on 1.x is extremely helpful.

  23. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  24. StealthBadger: My point was that anyone could be 5c if they wanted, whereas now you really have to bastardize your manabase to make it work. GL playing a 5c Vampire deck for example.

    As far as sideboard cards, you probably can’t go wrong with a couple Celestial Purge at the moment. Obviously you need 4 Blightnings for the mirrors, and then something else so that you can side out all of your dead cards. Jace or Ajani Vengeant are probably solid options. Wall of Reverence for red decks? Who knows what to even expect at this point?

    Sean: I’m not nearly that smart, just angry. 🙂

    To everyone with the Extended ideas, thanks! Does anyone have a GOOD Martyr build?

  25. Really, what’s so damn different between the Shardlands and Exotic Orchard and the Vivids – Pool that nobody can think about a 4 or 5 color deck now?
    It was completely possible in Alara block and while it won’t feature Cloudthresher and Cruel, having a Rhox War Monk next to a Bituminous blast is still rather depressing.

    Call me when Blood Moon, Wasteland and friends make a comeback. It’s still more of the same multicolor absurdity that everybody fell in love with since Ravnica.

  26. Gifts-Balance with the Martyr transformative SB- you will breeze by any non-arcbound-ravager based decks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an anti-zoo affinity build tear through the Zoo-built-against-hypergenesis metagame, though.

  27. There is a good martyr list. It still loses to my top deck. And hypergenesis… and so much more. How does one go about speaking of seriously tested extended decks for Austin? I’m not Q’ed but I wanted to play the format so I made a gauntlet and found a clear best option, IMO. Beating hypergenesis and zoo very solidly while having game against Fae seems fine, with access to sideboard that shores up more questionable ravager, dredge, and burn matchups.

  28. Yeah, I’m not so sure why you didn’t like the Vivid Creek/ Pool standard, but you are now advocating a deck (and is likely one of the best decks) that will run RRBBBUU alongside WW, and UGW alongside RB. It’s not AS absurd as the thresher/ Cruel combo, but it’s mainly just because you don’t have any absurd mana cost cards worth playing.

    Also, I get the feeling that this standard is going to be just as dumb as the last. Zendikar isn’t really a powerful set. Honestly, why would you not be playing either Cruel Ultimatum or Bloodbraid Elf, and more then likely both.

  29. Hey Gerry if you ever get bored of 5cc, try out Crypt Combo:

    4 Crypt of Agadeem
    4 Marsh Flats
    3 Terramorphic Expanse
    6 Swamp
    6 Plains

    4 Architects of Will
    4 Monstrous Carabid
    4 Fleshbag Marauder
    4 Viscera Dragger
    3 Igneous Pouncer

    4 Consume Spirit
    4 Day of Judgment
    4 Path to Exile
    3 Martial Coup
    1 Necromancer’s Covenant
    2 Grim Discovery

  30. FatManInALittleCoat

    I actually do have 3 serious ext decks, I’ll see you in austin, still deciding which of the 3 i’ll play

  31. If Martyr loses to those decks then its obviously not a good build. There are no decent builds online from what i’ve seen. If YOU can’t build a good version then don’t worry about it.

  32. @ Bo: If something loses 25% of the meta, it’s a bad build? This is the worst argument I’ve ever heard, if you don’t even think about the other 75%. 75% percent is a greater win percentage than every (might be 1-2 exceptions) magic player ever.

    It just so happens that this build doesn’t win all the other 75%, but to make a comment with only 1/4 the necessary knowledge and claim it to be fact seems absurd. Good doesn’t mean it’s unbeatable, just that it’s… good.

  33. The problem I have with any 5cc list is that there really isn’t a point to play them when either grixis or esper control will do fine just statically in their respective shards. Here’s a list on the spot for esper control. No this particular list isn’t tested but it’s close to what has been. There isn’t a fabulous reason to play to hinder yourself just to play Cruel Ultimatum along side DoJ.

    4 baneslayer
    4 DoJ
    4 negate
    4 path to exile
    4 esper charm
    2 mind shatter
    3 doomblade
    4 sign in blood
    2 elspeth
    2 sorin markov
    2 wretched banquet

    4 arcane sanctum
    4 sejiri refuge
    2 magosi, the waterveil
    3 glacial fortress
    4 drowned catacombs
    1 island
    4 swamp
    3 plains

  34. It should be a crime to not run Knight of the Reliquary and 12 fetches in the “new” standard. It seems like W/G/x is the way to go.
    For reference:
    4x Noble Hierarch
    4x River Boa
    4x Knight of the Reliquary
    4x Rhox War Monk
    2x Jenara, Asura of War
    4x Baneslayer Angel
    3x Sphinx of Jwar Isle

    3x Bant Charm
    3x Negate
    4x Path to Exile

    3x Plains
    3x Island
    3x Forest
    4x Verdant Catacombs
    4x Misty Rainforest
    2x Scalding Tarn
    2x Marsh Flat
    2x Glacial Fortress
    2x Sunpetal Grove

  35. You appear to have no lack of of deck offers. I would like to give you one more, however.

    It is something I have put a lot of thought and time into and a possibility you should be aware of even should you choose not to play it.

    Send me an email. I don’t think you will regret it 😉

  36. elves are better than people give them credit for, and do not suck in fact. I believe they are better than they were pre-rotation. I have taken them to five straight tournaments and got top 2 in every one. I think you will be surprised.

  37. Pasteur – I have yet to see a Zoo-focused Affinity build beat a Zoo build that expects any sort of Affinity presence.

  38. Hey GT! Here is the Martyr list I’ve been testing.

    25 Land
    12 Plains
    4 Marsh Flats
    4 Godless Shrine
    3 Fetid Heath
    1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
    1 Gargoyle Castle

    9 Creatures
    4 Martyr of Sands
    3 Baneslayer Angel
    2 Crovax, Ascendant Hero

    26 Other Spells
    4 Path to Exile
    4 Runed Halo
    4 Wrath of God
    3 Oblivion Ring
    3 Phyrexian Arena
    2 Austere Command
    2 Proclamation of Rebirth
    2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
    2 Sacred Mesa

    15 Sideoboard
    4 Silence
    4 Thoughtseize
    3 Disenchant
    1 Oblivion Ring
    1 Day of Judgment
    1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
    1 Sacred Mesa

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