Seeing as I have just started prepping for Worlds, I actually have some knowledge about Standard. It was nice not having to slog through endless matches of
“Blightning you, go.”
and so forth. Sadly, that time has passed, and I now find myself required to play six to nine (hopefully nine) rounds of Standard at Worlds. If we had something awesome, I certainly wouldn’t be writing about it, but I figure talking about the beginnings of our testing is fine. Right now, we are mostly laying the groundwork, and so far haven’t broken it, even though wrapter has a pretty sick brew I’ll talk about later. For now, I’ll settle for discussing common pitfalls you might encounter when approaching this format.
1) The only “real” decks right now are Jund and Boros Bushwhacker.
This statement is somewhat true, but evaluating what effect it has on testing is difficult. One way to use this information is to figure that any deck you are considering needs to take these decks into consideration. That is very true, since they are definitely the most established decks at this point, and have both proven their worth. Going into a tournament without testing against either of these decks is a really bad idea, so any gauntlet has to have them both. Jund in particular is the biggest dog in the yard, so playing a deck with a bad Jund matchup (which is basically every non-Jund deck at this point) is not a great idea. I would be very surprised if Jund doesn’t end up being the deck we playtest against the most, and by a large margin at that.
Still, you don’t want to go overboard. There is a definite danger in assuming that these are the only decks you have to test against, just because they are the front-runners. Even if Jund + RW are a combined 40% of the field (and it’s rare for two decks to be so dominant), that still means that the majority if your matches will be against other decks. If all you can do is beat up on those decks, you will quickly find yourself losing to Cruel Ultimatum or Pyromancer Ascension (or both in the same deck!). While having a winnable matchup against Jund and RW is important, that can’t be your only focus. It is obvious that you can’t play some deck full of Celestial Purges, Devout Lightcasters, Ethersworn Canonists and other cards aimed to beat Jund, so only testing your pet deck against Jund until you beat it doesn’t make much sense either. The funny thing is that even a deck full of cards that “hate” Jund probably wouldn’t actually beat it anyway, but I’m using it for example’s sake.
2) There is no control deck.
Not entirely true, but close enough. Right now, there is no control deck that is remotely good enough. I haven’t been impressed with anything I’ve seen, although much of that is due to the newness of the format. As has been said before, Jund came into this format pre-tuned, and therefore was the best out of the starting blocks. It is obvious that Jund is actually good enough also, but the fact that it had so much tuning before the format even began is just another reason why it’s the best. Control doesn’t have that luxury, since most of its standbys got rotated out. Cryptic Command, Broken Ambitions, Plumeveil, Mulldrifter, Reflecting Pool, Vivid Creek; basically the whole 5-Color deck minus Cruel Ultimatum!
The result is that there isn’t an obvious replacement for 5-Color Control, and likely won’t be until people start unveiling tech at Worlds. There hasn’t been a pro-level event in this format yet, and while I don’t mean to imply that only pros can come up with good new decks, it is hard to argue that they don’t have both the biggest incentive to create them and the most experience doing so. Much like everyone else going to Worlds, I will be scouring results from the Nashville 5k next weekend, hoping that someone out there will break it and save us the trouble.
Blue-based control, with some combination of Sphinx of Jwar Isle, Cruel Ultimatum, Double Negative, Wall of Denial, random removal spells, Planeswalkers, Essence Scatter, Negate, Celestial Purge, Day of Judgment, is going to be a part of the metagame, but so far the exact look is up in the air. I don’t mean to parrot the esteemed Innovator, but Chapin is dead right when he says that Jar Jar Sphinx is the future, the nuts, and the stoneblade all rolled into one. I would be very surprised if there wasn’t a viable build centered around him and all the other sweet cards I just mentioned; the trick is finding it. Even if you don’t intend on playing such a deck, ignore it at your peril. There will be people playing decks like this, and if your “Jundcrusher Mono-Green” or whatever can’t deal with the traditional mix of counterspells, removal, untargetable finishers and Cruel Ultimatum, I warned you.
Hopefully that provides you with a decent place to start, since it is certainly where we began. We put together Jund and RW, then started brewing. I don’t even have a sick control list to keep hidden; we haven’t put together a good one yet! Vampires isn’t really a deck, but it goes in the gauntlet anyway. I have too much respect for Vampire Nighthawk to completely write him off, and Mind Sludge for five is still a solid play. Plus, it’s a Magic tournament; someone is going to be playing Vampires. Speaking of brewing, I did promise to talk about wrapter’s (Josh Utter-Leyton) sick brew. Bear in mind that this was just Day 1 of our testing”¦
As named by Steve Sadin:
The Deadliest Catch
Josh got the idea when he was looking at all the Ranger-able creatures in Standard. Ranger is such an awesome card that it is worth seeing every option, and I really mean every single option. How else do you come up with Ranger for Hedron Crab, anyway? After assembling the deck (from real cards, no less), sleeving it, and sitting down for some games, wrapter was forced to admit that this catch was on the rotten side. He even had triple Crab out against my Jund deck for like four turns unmolested, but still couldn’t quite kill me before I bashed him with Broodmate tokens and Putrid Leeches. Obviously the deck is terrible, but I thought it was funny enough to share, and it even outlines a useful lesson. Wrapter had a good approach; he looked at a powerful card, Ranger of Eos, and tried to figure out what could be done with it. Even if this deck sucks, the next one might not, and trying to build around powerful cards is a good method of breaking formats. Sure, Ranger of Eos might be at his best fetching Goblin Bushwhacker and Steppe Lynx, but you don’t come up with new decks by only testing old ones. Perhaps Scute Mob and Noble Hierarch are where its at; if you don’t brew you won’t know.
That’s all I have on Standard today, but I’m not quite done. I have gotten to play a fair bit of Vintage lately, mainly because I keep not making Day 2 at these tournaments. Vintage side events may not be why I went to Austin or Tampa, but I do love me some Vintage, and once I got knocked out of the PT/GP I went to battle. I won a Mox Ruby in Austin and a box of Zendikar in Tampa, and actually just split a Mox Ruby at a local event today. I used roughly the same list in each event, and I have been pretty happy with it:
A few brief notes:
I keep switching between Fact or Fiction and Gifts Ungiven. I would like to find room for both, but don’t really want to cut anything for another four-mana spell. FoF is better earlier in the game, and Gifts is better once you have more resources. I really am not sure which is best; I played FoF today and Gifts at the last two events.
Repeal is actually quite good. Web and I may have mocked the countless European lists with 4 Repeals (seriously, it was like every Blue deck overseas started with them), but the 2 Repeals have been sweet. I may side them out fairly often, but having additional outs to Null Rod, Chalice, Oath of Druids, or really anything is pretty nice. They also cycle on demand, and overall have earned their spot.
Three Dark Confidant may look odd, but you only want to see one per game. Drawing multiple Bobs is pretty loose, and so far three has been a solid number.
Darksteel Colossus over Inkwell Leviathan is something I have been happy with. Everyone is prepared for Inky at this point, whether it be with Rebuild or Diabolic Edict, so you might as well kill them in one fewer hit. Particularly if Vroman’s Oath deck becomes popular, I would much rather have the Iron Giant. I know there is only one Thirst, but Thirsting away DSC and still having the option to Tinker is nice too, although being able to pitch Inkwell to Force probably has more utility.
The sideboard has a few open slots, but I wouldn’t touch the Ingot Chewers, Red Blasts, or the first 6 Dredge cards. I like having 7 slots for Dredge, mostly because I have a lot of respect for the deck. This deck doesn’t want to sideboard much vs most non-Dredge decks anyway, so I figure it is better to have a very high-impact sideboard for that matchup, since that matchup is all about the board. Diabolic Edict is to help kill Iona, since they will name Blue against you. Edict also kills Inkwell, DSC, and even Dark Confidant in the mirror. I may even cut the Smother for a second Edict.
A tournament-winning Vintage list, a sick Standard list, and some format-breaking strategy? I don’t see what else I can do here, so that’s it for today!