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Rogue Report – First and M10

Yesterday was the M10 Prerelease, and while a new Sealed format is exciting, I couldn’t stop thinking about new Standard. I brought a stack of commons and some sharpies so that I could squeeze in some testing between rounds. Luckily, the Sealed deck I opened finished very quickly each round, so I had time to make a deck and get some games in. I proxied up a basic Kithkin deck to test against, because I know that’s a deck that I want to beat. So what should I build to fight the little white men?

Just One More Time

I was close to proxying up the Open the Vaults deck I posted last week, but it needed a break. Aside from being illegal (sorry about that one, I’ll miss you Chromatic Star), I was scared of Lightning Bolt. I built a new (legal) version of the deck, a little more like turbo fog with Angelsong, Pollen Lullaby, and Cryptic Command. I’d also like to apologize for not having Cryptic Command in the original version, as that card is insane in this deck. A cycling Fog is amazing, and it lets you go ultimate on Tezzeret without having to worry about blockers. Here’s my most recent list, though this isn’t what the article is really about, and the list still has its flaws:

Let’s Do The Time Warp Again, Foggy Edition

The deck was much more flexible by not having to rely on the fast combo draw to beat the aggro decks. The Kithkin matchup was a joke, because they have no answer to fog, fog, fog, fog, extra turns…kill you. They just stare at you and try to Harm’s Way their sadness onto their next round opponent. I threw down against Jund, and the most annoying card they have is Maelstrom Pulse. One pulse can be crippling if they hit two borderposts, but you can usually keep fogging if you have a Howling Mine in play, and eventually you’ll rebuild. The real problem is the second Pulse on your two Howling Mines, which is very hard to recover from. The games I would win I could stabilize over double Lightning Bolt range, so the burn was never a big issue. Testing against the red deck, however, it’s really hard to beat Flame Javelin and Lightning Bolt, and it’s rare that you have a fog up for their turn three Ball Lightning. The Howling Mine deck is traditionally very good against a specific metagame, and I don’t think that metagame exists right now. Too many Maelstrom Pulses and Lightning Bolts, but I’m going to keep my eye on it.

I’ve Got a Theory

Over the past couple of days, I have been tossing a few theories about Standard around my head. The first is that cascade is just the nuts. To take a page out of Zac Hill’s book, I’m asking myself what the most powerful thing I can do in Standard is, and the answer is pretty clearly cascade. The verdict is in–the mechanic is busted–so let’s use it. The other theory I had is that there is still no good answer to a Reveillark. Throughout testing, I constantly found myself thinking “if my opponent plays (or casts) a Reveillark here, I can’t win.”

I’ve also been toying around with the idea of a Terramorphic Expanse mana base. I’ve already been wanting to play Borderland Ranger to fuel expensive spells, so I thought Terramorphic Expanse could be the comes-into-the-battlefield-tapped land of choice. Basic lands also let you run some of the new dual lands from M10, and I like the sound of lands that come into play untapped later in the game. The resilience basics add against Anathemancer is the main perk, but time will tell if it’s consistent enough to be serious.

The first step was easy.

4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Bituminous Blast

These were easy includes, as they seem to be the best cascade spells available. It’s a shame that Bloodbraid Elf doesn’t have two power, which brings us to the next step. Which creatures are we going to bring back with Reveillark? We already have Borderland Ranger, so that’s a step in the right direction. I wanted this deck to have a juicy Jund center, and wouldn’t you know it, Putrid Leech has two power. The leech is by far the best two-drop available, and it just so happens to fit into our deck perfectly. Anathemancer is another sexy Jund creature that I can’t wait to Reveillark back, so it’s on the list. While we’re Reveillarking, I can’t think of a creature I’d rather bring back than Mulldrifter, so I added an Island and gave it a try.

4 Reveillark
4 Borderland Ranger
4 Putrid Leech
4 Anathemancer
4 Mulldrifter

While we’re playing red, why not throw out some Lightning Bolts? I’m not sure if they are better than Maelstrom Pulse, and I don’t know how often I’ll be cascading onto an empty board, so at least Lightning Bolt can go to the dome. What I really like about Lightning Bolt is how it interfaces with your lands. Now you get to play turn one and turn two ETB tapped land, and still cast a good spell on your second turn.

4 Lightning Bolt

Add some lands, a bit of spice, and this is what I ended up with after a few games:

In Theory

This is what I proxied up to play against Kithkin between rounds at the M10 Prerelease.

The Dust Clears

The first lesson we learned was that Lightning Bolt was very good. Being able to just kill their one drop was key. Bituminous Blast also proved to be insane, synching up a game that was close, or pulling you back up after falling behind. That’s what cascade does, and it’s amazing.

The problem I kept running into was Anathemancer. When I tested a bit with the deck on MWS before, Anathemancer was obviously really good against the control decks. Testing against Kithkin, however, any game where I drew two or more Anathemancers was very painful. Sometimes I could kill an Ajani, but even then it wasn’t that impressive. In some matchups, Anathemancer is the only card you want to draw, but against a deck like Kithkin, it means death. This zombie probably belongs in the sideboard.

Another card that wasn’t impressing me, believe it or not, was Mulldrifter. I don’t know what happened to my little buddy, but he just wasn’t getting it done. Sure, draw cards was still good, but it definitely wasn’t worth splashing an entire color for.

I added Wall of Reverence to the deck as a way to counteract my lack of Kitchen Finks. I knew I wanted my Reveillarks to be fully activated when they died, so that meant I couldn’t run excess creatures like Kitchen Finks that didn’t work with the Lark.

This is when I had to accept it: Reveillark wasn’t for this deck. One of the hardest things to do when building a deck is face the facts, and the fact is that Reveillark is underperforming. By adding Reveillark to the deck, you get a lot of value for one card. However, it also means I had to make some suboptimal choices for the other cards in my deck, and running other three drops over Kitchen Finks was one of those choices. Pretty soon, the extra value I gained from playing a card as busted as Reveillark was outweighed by the lost value from playing suboptimal creatures.

There was another problem: I wasn’t sticking to my guns. I had identified that cascade was the secret to the format, the most powerful thing you could be doing, but I didn’t follow through. Sure, I ran Bloodbraid Elf and Bituminous Blast, but then I stopped short. Enlisted Wurm is the card I should be playing instead of Reveillark. I get as much extra value out of it, if not more, and it loosens up the constraints on my deck.

The Next Big Thing

Wouldn’t you know it, that’s when I got distracted by something shiny. As I’m learning these lessons with my Reveillark deck, over walks James Dykes, looking to try his Standard deck out. He had mentioned his Boat Brew variant before, bus turn two Dragon Fodder was not what I expected. Goblin Chieftain followed, and I took six, completely surprised that the little lord had haste himself. Yikes.

Next in line was a Murdurous Redcap, hitting me in the face for three, then attacking. Nice goblin, I thought, dreading the Siege-Gang Commander that was sure to come, but luckily I had killed the Chieftain by then. What I didn’t expect was a Reveillark bringing his Siege-Gang and Chieftain back from the dead and cracking me in the face in the same turn. Good game. I asked James for his list, and this is what he sent to me:

Goblins on a Boat

Sure the deck needs work, but the idea is solid. (As James said himself, Springleaf Drum is “the shakiest card choice as a poor man’s Mind Stone.) Oh, how I wish Dragon Fodder could be a Mogg War Marshal, especially with Reveillark in the deck, but you can’t always have what you want. [But if you try sometimes, you get what you need. –Mick Jagger] The designer in me wants to stress the goblin theme to its breaking point, probably dipping into black for some Lorwyn goodies. Maybe it’s best to stick to the RW version, but Boat Brew died a long time ago for a reason. Goblin Chieftain is the real deal, but is he good enough to bring the archetype back? The fact that I’m excited about attacking with little creatures says something about the potential here. And to think I was about to give up on Reveillark.

The Final Countown

This last week, I’ve just been churning through decklists trying to find something to focus on for Nationals. What you see here are the decks that I’m going to try to explore over the next week, and hopefully I’ll emerge with something powerful for Nationals. Until then, I hope somebody finds a way to take extra turns.

Thanks for reading,

Jonathon Loucks
Loucksj at gmail

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