Goblins vs. Gnomes has just been released and while the initial login issues were frustrating, everything seems to have been sorted out. So let’s talk about… Wait. What’s that? I can’t talk about Hearthstone? But have you seen the new cards? Have you heard the new cards? “Chugga chugga chugga” is going to be my new ringtone! Fine, Magic it is.
I guess the World Championships did just happen and Shahar ran it back, which was incredible to behold. The Top 4 were all excellent Magic players, three of which had great built-in storylines and the tournament itself was pretty fun to watch.
This week we’re moving back to Standard to talk about some of my favorite decks from Worlds. I love Yuuya decks and this gives me a great reason to play both of these sweet cards. For those of you sick of banning talk, yet continuing to read all my articles referencing bans, good news! I won’t be talking about Modern until next year.
In fact I’m taking a break for the rest of this year. This will be my 10th year of doing Magic articles and my 8th year of doing either a weekly or bi-weekly column. Never did I imagine this would be the equivalent of a part-time job when I started and yet here we are. Despite the *ahem* aggressive nature of some of the comments I receive, I do appreciate people taking time out of their day to read my articles. So thanks guys and gals for making this job just a bit more interesting!
All right, onto business, let’s start with Shahar’s winning Worlds deck list:
Nothing too ridiculous going on here, just a typical Sidisi Whip deck with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver ready to eat your soul. In all seriousness, Sidisi Whip may just be the end-game of the format as far as midrange strategies go. We’ve finally gotten to the point where we have a reasonable mix of acceleration, removal, giant threats, and answers to Hornet Queen. It makes sense that Whip of Erebos and Hornet Queen are the answers to midrange mirrors, but what’s the answer in the Whip mirror?
Well Ashiok helps answer the stalemate by stealing opposing Doomwake Giants and other giant creatures, as well as exiling potential material for Whip and Soul of Innistrad. It also means in a long stare-down that the opponent has to commit first or risk losing all of their non-battlefield resources. It’s still fine in normal green mirrors—watching Paul Cheon lose to Ashiok on stream while it was haumphing all his red and green monsters was hilarious.
This is the deck with the best midrange shell moving forward and you can tweak it in plenty of interesting ways. Caleb Durward enjoys a Cruise now and then to draw more cards and you can easily fit in one-ofs like Reclamation Sage and similar creatures to take advantage of your graveyard recursion. One of the best parts about this Standard format is that there’s no locked-in best build for this deck or many of the others that see play. There’s still room for tweaking and messing with the 75, not just a few sideboard swaps.
I’ve talked about fair Jeskai Ascendancy decks before, but based on the ubiquity of the combo I was beginning to think that was just the way to go. Good old Yuuya is just jamming along with a bunch of powerful draw and burn cards instead of fitting in Retraction Helix and Springleaf Drum. What I love about the deck is that it plays out in a similar fashion to the normal Boros deck in games where it doesn’t have Ascendancy, but can actually win a late-game against non-Whip decks with an overload of burn.
I can’t express how good Treasure Cruise is when you cast it for 4 or less. Concentrate isn’t that impressive, but there haven’t been any good draw options in this Standard so you’ll be begging for a draw three for 3U. When you have Ascendancy out though, then you can actively chain Ancestral Recall and cantrip into whatever you need to win. In fact one thing I don’t like is that the deck doesn’t have a great way to convert Ascendancy + Cruise into an immediate win. Typically you either have to set up multiple turns of burn or set up Hordeling Outburst/Raise the Alarm into killing the next turn, which is stone dead to Doomwake Giant.
I’ve only played about 15 matches with the deck so I can’t claim this is the best deck in Standard like JVL. I do think this is the best Ascendancy deck though, what you lose in the combo is made up for by the consistency of your curve and retaining a good noncreature way to end the game. While you’ll never have the impressive turn Ivan Jen had of winning from an empty board, you’ll have a lot of games where you just trade all your non-burn for burn and win two turns later.
There are two big tips I want to share with people new to the deck. First is that you definitely prefer any Ascendancy hand even with too many lands, and the rest of the time you really never want to see more than four lands until you start Cruising. With those two cards you want 25 or 26 lands in the deck, but when you don’t see them, you need to keep the curve close to the ground. Stoke is a one-mana spell most of the time in the deck and Jeskai Charm is much closer to a real four-drop.
When you keep hands you really want a 2-drop if possible, but if you don’t then going straight into Hordeling Outburst is fine. Don’t be the guy keeping mono-do-nothings into turn three Goblin Rabblemaster. That wasn’t good enough when Jeskai Tempo was a deck and it isn’t good enough now unless you mulliganed and just need to get lucky.
Second tip is that you really want to map out your sideboarding before each match and make sure you take the opponent’s board plan into account as well. I know a lot of people say they do this, but honestly the majority just stick to one plan. It also means your range of keepable hands changes significantly and your normal creatures get a pretty major downgrade. Seeking the Way for your small dorks when you plan on casting End Hostilities isn’t exactly a reliable plan. Adding a few Stormbreath Dragons or Ashcloud Phoenix to the board for some end-game alongside your sweepers isn’t the worst.
In fact, let’s run down some basic Standard tips.
- One-lander scry hands with Sylvan Caryatid are reasonable to keep. Most of the aggressive strategies have been pushed out of the format except for heroic decks. The heroic decks are also the ones that best take advantage of mulligans. You’re looking at 2-3 cards to hit land, cast Caryatid, and start rolling out. Even in games where you whiff on turn two, hitting a land on turn three is often good enough to put you in the game.
- Every time you mulligan you’re throwing away 10-15% of your win percentage by default. A lot of early-game cards have a surprising amount of use down the road thanks to prowess, Jeskai Ascendancy, Wingmate Roc and other fun interactions.
- Planeswalkers are pure gold against non-Hero’s Downfall decks. Ticking up loyalty to get out of Lightning Strike range is a huge game and Chandra and Ashiok are best at this, dodging Stoke as well.
- Going under in this format only works when the other guy isn’t prepared. Caryatid and Courser backed by sideboard hate knocks out a lot of the efficient aggro plans. Unless you plan on totally changing your deck strategy, keep this in mind before registering Heroic or Mono-Red.
- Graveyard hate is a real thing now and having a few cards aimed at keeping Whip decks in line is a good plan. People have been trying Burn Away in their GRx decks and while it’s expensive it takes out a Courser or Siege Rhino and wipes them out for good.
- People give each other way too much respect in this format, the cards are all pretty even in power level so getting blown out by one-for-one removal isn’t really that big a deal. It’s rare that you’ll get completely sideswiped and you can no longer win. If you play a deck with Hornet Queen or Duneblast, the odds of making a game-ending mistake by being overaggressive early are very low.
- Speaking of blowouts… Abzan Charm and Jeskai Charm plus abilities shouldn’t be blowing anyone out. And yet I would say one in every three games I draw one of the said Charms people walk into it with blatant disregard. With Abzan Charm it usually isn’t as bad because it’ll take a one-for-one trade. The biggest drawback of letting Abzan pump happen is that it makes Siege Rhino and Wingmate Roc go from great to unbeatable. Jeskai Charm on the other hand can easily wipe multiple cards and gain me enough life to swing a race.
- Satyr Wayfinder often makes sense as a 2-drop over Sylvan Caryatid against Mardu. Unless you absolutely need to hit a four-drop, playing Wayfinder first as protection makes Crackling Doom atrocious and still sets up a turn four Whip or Doomwake Giant.
- There is in fact a second main phase that allows you to play Goblin Rabblemaster post-combat.
Again, while many of these tips feel obvious, I run into enough players online that would likely consider themselves serious players that continue to make these errors. Sometimes it’s worth going over the simple things if you’ve been playing one particular deck for a while. It’s easy to get locked into autopilot and just make simple sequencing and “silly” errors because of it.
Nothing else during the Standard portion looked all that interesting, so I’ll be calling it a year at this point. Have a great holiday season and I’ll see you next year.