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Woo Brews – Save the Whales in Standard

Whales have quietly gone extinct in Standard and I’m here to make some noise.

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Climate change is real and it’s happening right now. Whales thrive on the basic Island. But an influx of Khans trilands, Theros Temples, and M15 pain lands have caused a massive metagame decline of the basic Island.

If the Island goes, the whales go. And if the whales go, what’s next… the Merfolk? The Humans???

Life and land exists in a delicate food chain and it is important that we protect a species like the whale because the whales’ decline is a sign of more and more extreme changes that could soon happen in the environment.

Enter Scourge of Fleets.

Technically not a whale, but the closest living relative alive in Standard today. We need to protect this Kraken because if it goes there may be no large mammals left in our waters.

Scourge of Fleets thrive on Islands, yes, and is it a coincidence that many players have never heard of this card? I think not.

So the waters are declining, whales have gone extinct, and Krakens live in relative obscurity. I’m ready to act.

I’m determined to spread awareness, to reclaim the basic Island, to populate Scourge of Fleets with the hope that one day whales can make a return to Standard.

Theros Block Whale Control

Flashback to Grand Prix Manchester this past summer. It’s the one and only Theros Block Grand Prix, or “Grand Prix Courser Caryatid.” I’ve showed up to play with a black/white control deck.

We’re waiting at the player meeting for judges to take our deck lists and I swap lists with the player across from me.

I see on the sheet:

4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Dictate of Kruphix
4 Scourge of Fleets

Want to trade decks??

It was too late. I would not be playing Mono-Blue Whale Control at this tournament, but at least I made a deep run with my 27-land draw-first control deck.

Mono-Blue Whale Control may have been the solution for that tournament. In a sea of clunky green creature decks, Scourge of Fleets was an insane answer. Force the opponent to pick up their entire board and everyone has so many cards from Dictate that the opponent has to discard. Meanwhile the Whale player has buckets of mana off Nykthos and can use all the extra cards.

I saw players advance to Day 2, before falling short of the final 8. The deck list would go unpublished, and who cares really because that was the last big Theros Block tournament.

I care. Decks that are good in Block Constructed often become good in the following Standard format. Not a lot of people know that Whale Control was a good deck, or even a deck, but I do, and it’s time the world hears.

Standard Whale Control

Theros Block Whale control had a base plan of creating a bountiful world for both players with Dictate of Kruphix, but breaking tempo parity with Nykthos and Scourge of Fleets. I think this strategy could be effective in standard and there are a few key additions outside of Theros block.

Let’s first take a look at the list before breaking down the card choices.

Standard Whale Control

 

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The Core

This is our base game plan:

Anything else we play needs to contribute to this in some way.

Early Game Support

We’re looking for early-game defensive plays that add devotion. These are our best options:

Omenspeaker has proven itself as a solid early game blocker holding off 2/1s and minimizing Goblin Rabblemaster. Omenspeaker also has the important scry ability which minimizes the number of games we lose to mana screw.

Wall of Frost is a big-time addition from M15 that can really clog up a ground attack. This card can buy tons of time while adding some nice devotion.

Singing Bell Strike is not a combo with Scourge of Fleets, but it’s the best 2-mana removal spell we have available. It can potentially stop anything for only 2 mana and, again, it gives us that important devotion.

Expanded Core

Our expanded core includes Master of Waves and Hypnotic Siren.

Both of these cards provide us with important additional win conditions. If our opponent is drawing buckets of cards we can expect to have to fight through removal so it’s important we have extra ways to close the game.

Master of Waves is especially good in this format with so many red decks. The card plays a bit differently in this deck as there are many times we will want to wait to play 2 at the same time to protect the Elementals from removal.

Hypnotic Siren is an extremely flexible spell—Flying Men or Spirit Away. Mostly Spirit Away, as stealing a Siege Rhino the same time you Scourge the rest of their board is ridiculous.

Counters and Tricks

It wouldn’t be a mono-blue deck without plenty of instant-speed tricks to confuse and blow out the opponent.

I’ve stocked the deck with plenty of countermagic—important to protect our threats and counter lethal burn spells.

We also have Aetherspouts, which is a huge upgrade from (under)Whelming Wave. Opponents are going to have a hard time playing around this card, as we could be holding up mana for counterspells. It puts them in a position where they could lose their entire board or they could give us additional time to find our whale savior.

Sideboard

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The main feature of the sideboard is that it gives us additional options by curve. You can tell in the main deck that we are light on plays before 3 mana and that can be a problem against aggressive decks. So the sideboard has a good number of 2-mana spells to prevent us from falling behind to start.

Let’s look at some of the more exciting options:

I like to think of Hall of Triumph as protection for our Master of Waves. If the expectation is to play a long game against a deck with lots of spot removal, Hall of Triumph can be a total game-winner by helping the Elementals finish them off.

This seems to be our best life gain option and this one can gain a ton of life. There’s an argument for tuning a version with Dakra Mystic as an additional Dictate effect, with Staffs and even Hysterical Blindness. There’s room for a true turbo fog deck in Standard, but I’m all right with just 1 Staff.

Bident of Thassa forcing an attack is a big time combo with Aetherspouts. It’s slow, but there are clunky green decks that this combination can wreck.

Perilous Vault is a nice sweeper option for a mono-blue deck. Since it clears all of our devotion I’m not a fan of it in the board but against anything with Banishing Light this thing could be crazy.

Clever Impersonator is additional whatever we want. I definitely understand playing this card in the main deck. I’m keeping mine in the sideboard for matchups where we need more bombs to close.

Speaking of bombs, and speaking of big water mammals, here’s Pearl Lake Ancient. A fantastic finisher when we need additional options.

Whale Control Play Breakdown

We’ve discussed the main strategy of the deck which is basically to flood everyone on cards and make huge tempo plays to beat an opponent stuck with a full grip. This works pretty well against slow decks, creature decks, and especially slow creature decks.

But there are certain decks where Dictate of Kruphix can really get us killed—specifically decks stocked with tons of burn. You will find times where Dictate needs to come out of the deck and you need to adjust your play.

The deck can function without Dictate but remember we only have 12 “threats” in the main: Master of Waves, Scourge of Fleets, and Hypnotic Siren. If Master has protection from their deck, awesome, but if not then look to board in additional protection and threats.

This is the main tip I would give for sideboarding, as the rest is relatively straightforward by comparison.

Fetches to Thin the Deck?

The main weakness I’ve found with the deck is how frustrating it is to flood. I mean, when you lose a quick game to screw you feel like you never even got to play, but when you lose to flood it feels like you spent 30 minutes and still never even got to play.

We’re playing 24 lands which is not a lot to cast eight 7-drops. But if we draw 30 cards we’re expecting to draw 12 lands, which is way more than we can actually use.

Sometimes we draw 30 cards and it’s not 12 lands… it’s 16… and all of our threats are on the bottom. This feels really bad and it randomly happens sometimes.

I’m not sure of the best way to solve this problem. Unfortunately there’s no effect like Trade Routes to play with, so that’s something to keep an eye on in the coming sets.

The best option we have seems to be playing fetchlands to thin the deck. I’m usually not a huge fan of that but this deck could really take advantage of it. Beyond thematic and budget reasons for wanting to play 20 Islands, the life loss from fetchlands can be problematic in this deck that can get burned out. So it’s a toss-up.

If you have fetchlands, I think it’s pretty reasonable to play them here as it may cost you some games to burn, but will save you from egregious flood games. Overall it may be a net positive in reducing frustration.

Save the Whales in Standard

At the end of the day it’s really about saving the whales in Standard. If we do nothing and say nothing, nothing will happen. If we want to see a return of our water-dwelling brothers and sisters we have to act.

If you care, show it. Make your voice heard. Play with basic Islands. Play with Scourge of Fleets

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<3 the whales

<3 Travis

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