Preparing to Beat B/G in Utrecht

I am not sure about the other competitors, but after I come home from the Pro Tour, I don’t feel like relaxing. I want to play more Magic. This is amplified if I fail to do well at the event, which is what happened in Dublin. So as soon as I got home on Monday, I turned on Magic Online and started grinding Standard. I have a Grand Prix in Utrecht in 2 weeks, and there was a monthly MOCS event last weekend.

The format felt far from solved. Mardu took everyone by the surprise at the Pro Tour to become one of the best performing decks of all time, but it’s still just an aggro deck and those are always beatable. After a 2-week testing period, you still have a bunch of ideas that you either haven’t tried or didn’t have enough time to tune before the PT. One of those brews was the U/R Zombies deck that Steve Rubin made waves with at GP Pittsburgh. Here is the list Steve played to a respectable 11-4 finish:

U/R Zombies

The goal of this deck is to get one of the Stitchwings and some number of Prized Amalgams into your graveyard using cards like Tormenting Voice, Cathartic Reunion, and Lightning Axe. Then you activate the ability of the Stitchwing, discard Prized Amalgam, trigger it, and end up with multiple creatures on the battlefield.

The deck also has the combo of Elder Deep-Fiend + Kozilek’s Return that once terrorized the Standard format. This deck is great at setting that up because you only pay 2-3 mana to get Stitchwings into play, but then you can emerge for quite a bit more. I’d argue that the glue that holds the deck together is Fevered Visions, which is a) an auto win vs. control if it resolves, and b) helps you refill your hand after you’ve discarded a bunch of cards. Another interesting card in the main deck is the Sanctum of Ugin, which triggers off of Elder Deep-Fiend and can help you chain a bunch of them together. When this deck works, you can get some degenerate draws that are hard for your opponent to interact with.

In the sideboard you have the package of Wretched Gryff + Filigree Familiar, which is quite good against decks where setting up Kozilek’s Return is of the upmost importance. Key to the City shines against control decks where Cathartic Reunion is sort of a liability, since getting it countered is very bad news. For those matchups you have the counterspells in your sideboard as well. Lastly you have extra removal in Lightning Axe, Fiery Temper, and Nahiri’s Wrath, which is for decks with planeswalkers.

This deck isn’t easy to play, so I’d recommend getting some practice in if you want to pick it up.

Tips and Tricks

• Be aware of the wording on Prized Amalgam. You usually activate Stitchwings on your opponent’s turn, but you have to do it either in their upkeep or 2nd main phase so you can attack with your reanimated Zombies on your turn.

• It’s better to activate Stitchwing in upkeep if you have both Elder Deep-Fiend and Kozilek’s Return in your graveyard so that you can sweep their board, tap their lands, and bring Prized Amalgam back at the end of the turn.

• The cleanup step is often your friend as you can discard cards basically for free. This sometimes happens if you have multiple Fevered Visions, but no other discard outlets. I’ve even won some games on the draw where I missed my land drop on turn 1, went to discard Stitchwing, and then exploded on turn 3.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this deck. It does a bunch of cool things and it’s hard to play with and against. It has a good matchup versus B/G, which is the most popular deck in Standard right now. It’s very weak to a flashed back Kozilek’s Return, this deck sets it up perfectly.

On the other hand, I dislike how inconsistent the deck is at times. Your draws without Prized Amalgam are much worse than the draws with it. I also wasn’t thrilled with the the Mardu matchup, I thought it would be great because you have bunch of removal, but their threats are very resilient (Scrounger and Heart) and Gideon is a nightmare to deal with. It depends on how well your draw lines up against theirs, but in the end I was not happy enough with this matchup and moved on to try different decks.

The next deck I tried is this list that I got from Petr Sochurek:

U/B Control

Petr was initially excited when he sent me this deck list, but knowing him for many years, that basically meant he played one League and went 4-1 or 3-2. Still, the deck looked promising, so I decided to give it a try. The core of Push, Disallow, Glimmer and Gearhulk is obviously great.

I want to briefly touch on the inclusion of 4 Anticipate as I saw some control lists playing fewer copies, which I think is straight-up wrong. Anticipate is so good at smoothing out your draws.

There was a lot to hate about this deck. For example, the mana base. It’s hard to go Grasp into Disallow with this deck, and the allied-color lands are much worse than the enemy-colored lands. The problem is that you can’t include Aether Hub, which could technically make your mana better, but it makes both Choked Estuary and Sunken Hollow much, much worse.

I also disliked the inclusion of Kalitas. Petr told me that the card was the reason he was playing the deck. I didn’t see it. I would always play it against aggro on turn 4, and they would instantly kill it and I would die. Even if it managed to stick, it wouldn’t be enough as B/G can create overpowered creatures that attack through it. Petr and Niels Noorlander both played this deck at the MOCS, but neither of them did very well.

Still, I was fond of Torrential Gearhulk, so I tried a different deck. My good friend and Gold Pro Thomas Hendriks went 6-2 at the MOCS with U/R Control, and was kind enough to ship me the updated list. I tested it thoroughly, and this is where I ended up:

U/R Control

Here the mana is much better because you can afford to play Aether Hub, which synergizes well with all the energy producing cards. I was pleasantly surprised by Aether Meltdown. It’s a clean answer to Heart of Kiran and Scrapheap Scrounger.

It can be a bit of a liability against B/G Energy as you really want to get Constrictor and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner off the table, but overall, I felt that the B/G matchup was decent for this deck. You can still lose if they get a high-toughness threat on the table, but you should be able to handle them otherwise. Game 1 they have a bunch of dead cards, which helps, and post-board you can get them with Thing in the Ice. I was a bit skeptical of Dynavolt Tower at first, but it over-performed for me and I never felt the need to play fewer copies.

I started with 3 Shocks, but added an extra mostly as another answer to B/G Energy, where you can cleanly kill Siphoner and sometimes even Longtusk Cub with it. Other than that, the rest of the main deck is self-explanatory. I really like Confirm Suspicions—you haven’t lived until you’ve flashed that back with Gearhulk.

As for the sideboard, I think it’s pretty good. Confiscation Coup over-performed for me as a sideboard card against G/B. I would definitely consider adding a 2nd copy. Dragonmaster Outcast was fantastic. It’s my favorite card against the 4c Saheeli decks. You play it and then they are forced to combo off into your open mana, which is quite hard against control decks with a bunch of disruption.

Overall this deck is my favorite out of the three. I still think I need to work on it a little bit, but it showed some promise. The only problem I have is how dependent it is on having either Glimmer or Gearhulk, as your main goal is to stall so you can get to one of these 2 cards. Maybe I should be playing more cards like that, but honestly I’m not sure what they could be. I will definitely work on this deck more before GP Utrecht.

When the MOCS came around I still wasn’t sure what to play, so I just listened to my CFB Ice teammates Ben Stark and Mike Sigrist. They both played in Pittsburgh, and both played versions of B/G with Scrapheap Scrounger. I got the list on Friday before the MOCS, played in 3 Leagues, and had decent results so I just ran with it. Here is the list I played. I believe Siggy and Ben had a couple different cards. I dropped with a very medium 4-3 record after getting a bit unlucky in some crucial moments.

G/B Midrange

I view B/G as the best deck in Standard. I can’t say right now which version is the best, but as long as you’re playing the core of 4 Fatal Push, 4 Winding Constrictor, and 4 Walking Ballista, you will win a bunch of games because the cards are stupidly strong. All the decks I listed were built with the goal of beating B/G. I think they’re quite good at it, but B/G can still have the nut draw, and if you stumble just a little you will lose. Winding Constrictor is a messed-up Magic card.

GP Utrecht is a week away and I still don’t know what I’ll be playing. Should I try to beat B/G or should I join them? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

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