I quite like tapping lands for mana.
And I often enjoy spending mana to cast spells.
But you know what’s even better? Casting spells without tapping lands or spending mana. Casting spells FOR FREE!
Hey I’ll do you even one better than that.
How about flipping spells off the top of your deck and casting them right then? Pure joy.
I’ve never been the most patient waiting for games of Magic to develop to the point where I can cast my 6-drops. So I developed a preference for a certain kind of card.
Growing up, my favorite Magic “format” was basically big-rare-stack flip ’em. It’s exactly what it sounds like. You and 1+ opponent take turns taking shots from the deck. When one person wins they take the pot of cards and you begin again until the deck is gone.
This game has been called a lot of things by different people but one thing in common it’s been called is great. I highly recommend this format if you are like me and want action all the time.
But for everyone else there are tournament formats, and generally to adhere to these formats you are forced to play with things like lands and do things like cast 1-drops on turn one. Sometimes you don’t even get to 15 mana.
Fortunately the Magic Gods (R&D) have been kind over Magic’s history, printing big-rare-stack flip ’em type cards for people like you and me forced to adhere to tournament formats.
Cards like these include:
The idea of cards like these are you finally get to the point in the game where you can play big-rare-stack flip ’em, which is what you wanted to do all along but you got dragged to this tournament that has way different rules than big-rare-stack flip ’em.
Another card like this recently printed is Narset, Enlightened Master.
Whatever way you’re going with Narset you can’t go wrong, but if we want to win in Modern (and in the spirit of big-rare-stack flip ’em), the best way so far is the hyper Goryo’s Vengeance deck I wrote about a while back.
While this satisfied my free-cast urges in Modern we have Standard to attend to as well, so this week we’re diving into Standard Narset.
Unfortunately, in Standard you can’t attack with Narset on the first turn, and we might even have to wait until turn 6 to cast this which is annoyingly long but it seems like the way to go.
I mean, we could turbo her out with Generator Servants, but since Narset has the amazing hexproof ability she’s better as a standalone threat to finish the game. This way we can blank all of our opponent’s removal, and if we stabilize the board this becomes a fundamental winning strategy against the field.
Standard Narset Control
Basically I want to build a Narset deck that is all burn and card draw. That way we burn up our opponent’s creatures in the mid-game and power our way into Narset with card draw. Once Narset turns sideways we get to flip 4 and our deck is all burn and draw at this point.
This is a winning strategy in most game 1s as the board becomes stabilized while the opponent is stuck with 1 or more removal spells in hand. From here we have a deck that can fairly consistently get to attack with Narset and rarely lose once it does so. Seems like a dream.
Playing with Narset also gives us some nice white Jeskai options, and there are a lot. Jeskai has been totally stacked to the point that there are like 5+ distinctly different tournament-viable Jeskai decks. So we have the tools to work with.
Let’s get to the list and break it down.
Narset Control Card Breakdown
Magma Jet and Lightning Strike are our early game removal spells of choice. These kill most early threats with Magma Jet setting up our draws for the mid-game.
These also make fantastic flips off of Narset for either clearing the way of blockers or going to the face to end the game quickly.
Jeskai Charm and Banishing Light are our mid- game removal spells that can take down creatures or planeswalkers.
These cards are again fantastic flips off of Narset. Banishing Light isn’t guaranteed to do anything but if it’s doing nothing we’re in the clear to win. Jeskai Charm can gain us life or go to the face for the game-ender.
Tormenting Voice, Divination, and Dig Through Time is our main card draw engine.
Tormenting Voice doesn’t give us extra cards but it keeps things moving in the early game and can get rid of an extra land in the late game. It also gets 2 cards in the graveyard which is important to power our Dig Through Time.
Dig Through Time finds us whatever we need—more burn, more draw, or Narset to finish the game. This card is fantastic and while I only play 3 I wouldn’t fault you for playing the full 4.
Divination is a nice one to actually pull us ahead on cards when we have time to cast it. Three is a convenient cost—not so much and easy to play without wasting a full turn once we hit 5 or 6 mana.
Master the Way is both burn and draw and it’s amazing at what it does. It keeps things moving into Narset and as a flip off Narset it doesn’t feel much better.
We have access to 2 fantastic sweepers which can totally ruin a lot of decks. Anger of the Gods is crazy overpowered against any kind of weenie rush and with so much to do on 2 and 3 mana we can expect to live to cast End Hostilities against the decks where it’s amazing.
While these cards don’t combo with Narset, they don’t nombo as we don’t have to cast them. Unfortunately not every card in our deck will be a great Narset flip but these cards are really important anyway .
Our biggest weakness in the main deck is against decks with counterspells for Narset or big sorceries like Villainous Wealth. While I don’t want to play countermagic because they are poor flips off of Narset we need our own countermagic to be competitive against a diverse metagame.
I only have 1 Dissolve in the main but we have a good chance of finding it if we need it. If we really need more we have a lot of countermagic in the board to force through Narset or counter dangerous Villainous Wealths.
These are additional win conditions that play well with Narset. I want more than 3 or 4 Narset in my deck to actually kill them, but I want those cards to combo with Narset as well.
Hammer of Purphuros is easy to sneak down on the way to Narset and a hasty Narset is a happy Narset. The Golem tokens also give us tons of steam in the late game and that can be enough on its own.
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker seems better than Chandra in the main as a way to kill creatures and close out a game. We’ve seen how powerful this card can be coming down to kill the only creature on board and, again, it’s an amazing Narset flip.
And then there’s Narset, Enlightened Master. A sweet, beautiful Magic card. Although, I am only playing 3. As a turn 6+ hexproof legend that we rarely need more than 1 of, we don’t need to play 4.
With Dig Through Time we can find her and if you are really concerned I would recommend just playing a 4th Dig.
Finally, we have the mana base:
With nothing in our deck that costs 1 and plenty of sweepers to make up for lost time we are afforded the ability to play a lot of Temples.
Temples are fantastic in a deck like this as they minimize our chances of losing to bad luck. They help us hit the right mix of lands and spells in the early game to get to a point where we can play a longer game.
Most Standard players know this but many choose to not run them because they are up to other things. These players are missing out.
The weakest land in here is Battlefield Forge as we arguably don’t need it and control decks with limited life gain don’t want to bleed life very much.
Overall the lands are good and do what the deck needs them to do—tap them for mana to cast Narset at which point we’ve made it.
Narset Strengths and Weaknesses
Our natural Strength is against any deck playing lots of spot removal. Cards like Bile Blight, Banishing Light, and Hero’s Downfall are generally useless against us. And cards like Lightning Strike and Stoke the Flames are limited to inflexible burn spells.
So any deck composed of creatures and removal should be easy prey so long as we don’t have severe mana problems.
Our natural weakness is against decks filled with tons of counterspells and sweepers to kill Narset. Against decks like this we could struggle to ever finish the game. So we have to have a sideboard plan for how to punch through.
Our sideboard is meant to do a few things in particular. The first is to toughen up our plan against other control decks by playing plenty of countermagic with alternative threats like Pearl Lake Ancient or Chandra, Pyromaster.
Second we want to improve our cheap interaction options so that we can minimize games lost by stumbling on mana in the early game. Having extra things to do from 1-3 mana goes a long ways against fast decks that are unforgiving.
Negate and Dissolve counter the spells we are worried about. While Disdainful Stroke is a fantastic Magic card it is no good in a counter war and Swan Song or Gainsay would make superior alternatives.
Magma Spray and Erase give us some much needed 1-mana options to clear up early creature or enchantment threats. Magma Spraying a 1-drop or having Erase to stop a Jeskai Ascendancy or Ensoul Artifact will give us the time we need.
When sweepers are insane they’re totally insane and we want the max number available. While some games we are going to sideboard down to 0 there will be other games where the full 8 is what we want.
Since we know for a fact that there are certain decks that we want 4 Anger of the Gods and certain decks that we want 4 End Hostilities it makes since to have access to all of them.
Finally we have additional win conditions against decks where we want to go down on removal and up on fatty win-mores. Master the Way might seem a bit head scratching as a “win condition” but once you have 4 of these in your deck you’ll see how much damage this deck can do.
Chandra, Pyromaster is a reasonable option if you have one, but Pearl Lake Ancient is also awesome. Some decks will be able to remove Narset from our deck and Pearl Lake Ancient definitely works for closing the game out, especially when combined with permission.
Big-Rare-Stack Flip ‘Em
Overall Narset Control is a very competitive option for simulating big-rare-stack flip ’em in Standard, though technically the deck has quite a few cards that aren’t rare.
This is good news for budget players. The meat of the deck is really common and uncommon burn spells and draw spells. Throw in a workable mana base and a Narset on top of that and you’re set.
For those hoping to see more I do have a video set coming this week which went just about perfect for this deck. Mono-Blue in Standard has been a hit and this deck might be even stronger, although the play style is drastically different.
This deck is about flipping spells onto the table and casting them for free right then, and this deck is very good at doing that.