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Silvestri Says – San Diego Standard and Oakland Opportunities

 

Rather than writing out a full report about my Grand Prix: Oakland experience I’ll give an abbreviated mention of what happened there. I played UBW Faeries with 0 byes and went 5-3 (5-2-1 really, but I scooped rather than knocking Restore Balance guy out of contention). I made a crucial mistake in my match against Junk which might of cost me the match depending on his Dark Confidant flip and I lost to a Hive Mind player who was running incredibly hot (turn one Blood Moon is a beating).

Not a lot notable about my deck choice, Path to Exile was nuts all day and won me three matches that Smother would’ve lost me and I never drew the Perimeter Captain in my Zoo match. I ran a miser’s Dark Confidant, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Chrome Mox and was so impressed with them that I made plans to swap a bunch of my lousy cards like River of Tears, Meloku, Mistbind Clique and Ancestral Vision for far more of them.

Then I saw Thopter Faeries by Matej Zatlkaj, you can see the deck tech on his deck here. The only other changes I would make are the addition of another Muddle the Mixture, two Jace, the Mind Sculptor and a Yixlid Jailer to tutor up (Likely just from the board). I’d also consider the white splash, but his deck needs it a lot less than the normal Faeries builds. I fully endorse Thopter Faeries though and am glad to see people innovating normal archetypes into different versions so much this season.

To end this little section, I’d just like to point out that I did give fair warning to people about Elves and Living End. It does get a lot easier to justify your position though with the benefit of being able to go, ‘Scoreboard’. Sure it’s a weak argument in a number of cases, but when most of the complaints about decks come from people who have never played the decks then it’s a pretty easy way to weed people out. Congratulations to my buddy Matt Nass for winning the Grand Prix, I figured you’d start making an impact at a higher level soon, but not quite this quickly!

So I guess it would be a good call* to go over the weekend in Standard, much like everyone else will. I attended San Diego since it was only a 7 hour car ride to play side-events and birdle the Pro Tour. I’d like to congratulate Luis Scott-Vargas on another amazing performance and was one of the many disappointed to see the run end at 17-1. Probably the most daggered I’ve felt about a tournament which I didn’t actually play in. As for my personal performance this weekend, I only did two side-events and one 8-man queue.

*Or as Richard Kho likes to say, ‘A VE-HAR-Y GOOD DEAL!’

For the first I played Naya and was destroyed by Hedron Crab / Ranger.dec and my uncanny ability to draw Tectonic Edge every single game making my mulligans into adventures of miserable. I did like my opponent mulling and hitting T1 Crab, T2 Crab, T4 Ranger into Crabs; that was the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. I lost to a bad WU deck after once again having a ton of mana issues even after multiple mulligans.

The second side event I played in I used Chapin’s WU deck from the Deck Tech posted that night. I did better in this event, but lost to two Vampires players in back-to-back matches. In one match there was nothing I could do and I had something like 4 turns to draw a White source to end the game with Iona and couldn’t do it. Against my second Vampires player, who was significantly better, I made at least five mistakes, including three major ones and took a well-deserved loss. These games gave me a good idea of just how weak I was with traditional control decks that didn’t involve Spellstutter Sprite or Mana Drain. Since the matches I won were all control mirrors I could basically concede a game in each one to settle in and figure out exactly what to do for the next few. Against Vampires I didn’t have that type of luxury and it cost me.

I played the 8-man queue with WU and won it, but I didn’t learn too much except that the deck wins control mirrors without many issues. Having a way to deal with an opposing Luminarch Ascension would be nice, but that’s my only real complaint with the deck in any control mirror. My favorite moments are when opponents attempt to mana screw me with Goblin Ruinblaster, Tectonic Edge and Spreading Seas since the deck runs Chalice and so many lands to begin with. One well-timed Treasure Hunt or Chalice at 2 completely ruins any strategy they had to begin with.

For what it’s worth I like both decks; even though I prefer the one with Jace, the Mind Sculptor for obvious reasons. The WU Chapin deck honestly feels like it’s just miles better than any other control deck I’ve tried to date. It has a clear strategy and has by far the best ways of executing it with the high number of counters and full sets of everything critical. WU Control takes everything which I emphasized I liked about the Worldwake additions to Blue and just pushes it as far as the cards will allow for. Treasure Hunt isn’t just an impressive draw spell, but you get so much value from your mana base that it’s rather absurd. The only way it could get any more value from it would be running a Gargoyle Castle as a 27th land or something similar. My only real complaint was how often the single Iona felt completely dead, but that could simply be due to the kinds of matches I was constantly playing.

One interesting debate will be if the sideboard Baneslayer Angel plan just falls out of favor and people go back to maindecking them. If the majority of people aren’t going to play Jace for whatever reason, then you’ll be bringing them in against nearly every deck you play against. Almost nobody falls for the ruse of being creatureless and boarding out all their removal anymore unless you pull a game two no-board and then board them in game three. Baneslayer herself is also quite effective against the new breed of Naya deck with a small number of answers to her and the same goes with a number of other decks that popped up at the Pro Tour. In addition with Chalice you can play her with protection far earlier than you could pre-Worldwake, which can make a huge impact on her effectiveness against decks you can afford to tap out early against.

Boss Naya wasn’t exactly the clean break the American contingent was looking for, but it was a very powerful deck and far better than the iteration which Andre Coimbra used to win Worlds with. Stoneforge Mystic is such a versatile card that it finally made Behemoth Sledge a real player and took advantage of Basilisk Collar without being forced to run dead extra copies. If you play with the deck a bit you’ll quickly see that Naya is likely the most powerful deck in the format. That comes with a caveat though; this all assumes your mana actually functions properly. One constant issue I heard from the players who took the deck and ran it to 2-3 or 3-2 records was that the mana just wasn’t consistent enough for them. Either they would end up color screwed or they would hit the wrong sets of lands and be forced to not play anything over multiple early turns.

After trying the deck for a short while I can’t make a definitive conclusion one way or the other, but it definitely felt awkward at times. By far the most painful hands were the openers including either Sejiri Steppe or Tectonic Edge, both were awful early drops and really hurt any hand that was built around early drops unless you went Forest – Noble Hierarch / Birds of Paradise to start with. Speaking of the six one-mana drops, you’ll find they frequently hit play on turn two as a number of hands are simply incapable of producing Green mana on turn one. This isn’t necessarily an issue with a number of hands as the deck can easily win off a turn three Ranger of Eos or Bloodbraid Elf, but it negates the amount of aggressiveness the deck has in certain matches. You need to play it more like a control deck that can take the beatdown route rather than Naya decks of the past where being ultra-aggressive a valid strategy.

Before messing with the odd numbers featured in the deck, at least make an effort to try them out. The deck has only been available to the general public for a few days and I already see people making posts about how they want to cut Birds or the singleton Path to Exile or the Naya Charm some of the builds were running. Goblin Guide in the sideboard is also another card people don’t understand past the obvious fact that it can be fetched with Ranger of Eos. Goblin Guide makes any matches against planeswalkers a lot easier by allowing you to attack them immediately from a clear board which can be huge with WU Control packing [card]Day of Judgment[/card] and Jace to keep the battlefield from getting crowded.

Here’s the breakdown of archetypes with 21 points or more along with the breakdown of the upper echelon of decks at 8-2 or better.

24 Points or more
Jund: 5
WW: 3
WU Control: 2
Naya: 2
Vampires: 1
RDW: 1
Bant: 1

21 Points or more
Jund: 15
WW: 7
Naya: 5
Bant: 4
WU Control: 3
Vampires: 3
Junk: 3
RDW: 1
Open the Vaults: 1
Boros: 1

And the highest winning percentages of the Standard decks played this weekend?

UW Control: 76%
Naya: 63%
White Weenie: 54%
Junk: 54%
Jund: 53%

Not going to lie, seeing WW do that well was a bit of a kick to the teeth after smashing it on Magic Online about 50 different times unless they drew their prerequisite two Brave the Elements per game. I guess now the deck is a bit legit with the Stoneforge Mystic plan, though I’m very interested to hear exactly how the games against Jund and Boss Naya played out.

Over the weekend the topic of what the Power Nine of Standard would be came up on multiple occasions, most involving a lot of alcohol, but even after a couple of hours the topic seemed legitimate. Not completely in the context of how the originals were named, but just nine of the most important and powerful cards available in Standard. Think of it as a list to build strategies around if you haven’t already decided to Just Play Jund.

Here was the closest we came to a consensus list, with the top three being the most universal inclusions out of a dozen people who played at the Pro Tour (And some even made day two!).

 

These first three shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who’s actually tested post Worldwake Standard for more than a day or two. In essence you have your Black Lotus, Time Walk and Ancestral Recall of the group, cards that are special in their unparalleled efficiency and impact on the game when played early. I suspect nearly every single top deck to run one of these cards over the upcoming months, with the exception coming from mono-colored decks running

 

Tectonic Edge 

This card deserves its own little section; the first three were cards each person thought of and named pretty much as soon as I finished asking the question. The only other card on every single person’s list though was Tectonic Edge. It may not be the most powerful card on the list, or the one with the most impact or the most played. What it is though, is a mana source people can assume will have an impact on a number of matches throughout a given tournament.

This card basically says that decks like Grixis Control will have a hard time ever existing and the same goes for any deck relying on a big splashy effect, even if it can ramp into it. Edge may not be Wasteland but only in the sense that it isn’t as distorting as its Eternal counterpart. It still forces players to be very careful in midrange matches, adds strategic depth to a number of Control mirrors and poses an interesting deckbuilding challenge in both playing it and minimizing it.

 

Stoneforge Mystic comes with a toolbox, and Halimar Depths/Treasure Hunt is a package deal.

Not everyone agreed with each of these choices as being the most important, but each garnered enough respect from players to make the list. Knight of the Reliquary in particular got a heaping of compliments from players, with hall of famer Zvi Mowshowitz proclaiming it to be the best card in Standard. While I may disagree and I’m sure others do as well, the point remains that all these cards are played in the best decks in the format and have proven to be very capable Flagship or Staples in their respective decks.

Looking at the list and the top decks, it isn’t too hard to come away with why these cards are tops.

Jund: Bloodbraid Elf, Blightning
Naya: Bloodbraid Elf, Ranger of Eos, Knight of the Reliquary, Stoneforge Mystic, Baneslayer Angel and Tectonic Edge
WU Control: Jace the Mind Sculptor, Edge, Baneslayer Angel, Halimar Depths and Treasure Hunt
Junk: Knight of the Reliquary, Stoneforge Mystic, Baneslayer Angel and Tectonic Edge (In some)

Big thanks go out to the people I drove down with, Ryan Hart in particular for being awesome and my buddies from Tucson; Karl and Chris who I had a great time drinking and ****-cubing with. That in particular needs an article written about it so perhaps in the future during a slow week you might see more about it. I’ll just leave you with the mention that I sure did get to kill someone with Phantatog powered by Prosperity, while losing another to Unyaro Bees backed by Rocket Launcher.

For those interested in more Standard coverage, come back to Channelfireball this weekend for Live Updates from the CF 5k this weekend!

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

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