A Man’s Got To Know His Limitations: Deckbuilding In The New Standard

I have a dream. Well, I have several, actually, many of which involve some combination of Jeri Ryan, Gillian Anderson and Kathleen Turner (circa 1983). No, I’ve got a different, Magic-related, dream to share. But let’s start with early in my Magic tournament career. When I was just starting out, a typical pre-tournament Friday evening…

I have a dream. Well, I have several, actually, many of which involve some combination of Jeri Ryan, Gillian Anderson and Kathleen Turner (circa 1983). No, I’ve got a different, Magic-related, dream to share.
But let’s start with early in my Magic tournament career. When I was just starting out, a typical pre-tournament Friday evening would be my good friend (and evil Magic mastermind) Paul coming over to my apartment to playtest against me, since I had some great concept deck that I had come up with. He’d whip out his deck and proceed to beat me about the head and shoulders. Then he’d haul out a different deck and thump me like a redheaded stepchild some more. Then, if he was feeling especially mean, he’d play some mutant aberration, like his R/W Shahrazad deck, and beat my "finely tuned tournament deck," thoroughly and soundly while I was moaning like Dr. Smith from Lost In Space…"Oh, the pain, the shame…"

After this, I’d say, "Screw it, I’ll just play my R/G Erhnam/Kird Ape deck again."

This happened for the better part of a year, mind you.

Pardon the long-windedness, but the point I’m trying to make is this: Early on in my generally-less-than-illustrious Magic tournament career, I learned one thing:

I am not a very good deck builder.

Coming up with concepts is no problem. I’ve got scads of great ideas for decks. Then I build them and see the error of my ways. Like my Animate Land/Eradicate deck. Yeah, this deck will kill! It can go off on turn three! It’s incredible!

Yeah, incredibly stupid.

Recently, I thought I’d put together a pretty darn good R/G land destruction deck. Basically a Ponza deck with added green, I called it "Salsa!" I agonized over each choice, tuned the sideboard carefully, and when I finally got play it against another player…

Let’s just say you won’t be seeing "Salsa!" being played by anyone in a Standard environment anytime soon. When the local twelve-year-old scrub at the card store starts to embarrass you, then you know the deck ain’t too good.

(The ironic part of this tale is that "Salsa!" turned out to be about four cards away from the "Son of Hermit" deck that popped up at World’s and did quite well. I guess I’m ahead of my time.)

But, I’ve always wanted to be able to come up with a reasonably good concept for a deck, build it and publish it, then be able to read another tournament report beginning with, "I decided to play Dave Meddish new deck." Then I could die a (reasonably) happy man.

Which leads me to the two new Standard decks I’m playing around with for the upcoming States tournaments.


4x Raging Goblin
4x Kris Mage
4x Veteran Brawlers
4x Spur Grappler
3x Skizzik
4x Shock
4x Seal of Fire
4x Rhystic Lightning
3x Hammer of Bogardan
4x Tangle Wire
4x Rishadan Port
16x Mountain
1x Rath’s Edge
1x Dust Bowl

4x Boil
2x Cursed Totem
1x Rath’s Edge
3x Mogg Salvage
3x Earthquake
2x of something else I haven’t decided on yet

This is basically Jay Schneider’s Brawler-Sligh, sans Urza’s block, plus Invasion. The deck lost the eight 2/1’s for one red mana, which slows the deck down considerably. Of course, the new Standard is going to be much slower, so maybe the loss of that speed is not critical.

The Skizzik is a perfect replacement for Keldon Champion, but the one slot is a little barren. The best replacements for the Goblin Cadets and Patrol are Kris Mage and Raging Goblin. A hasty 1/1 and a red pinger. Good enough? Early testing says "maybe."

Cursed Totems are added to the sideboard and Rath’s Edge to the main deck to make sure we can take down what will be the bane of this deck: Crimson Acolyte. That guy will shut Sligh down in a real hurry.

Dark Ponza

4x Stone Rain
4x Pillage
4x Despoil
2x Tectonic Break
4x Shock
4x Seal of Fire
3x Hammer of Bogardan
4x Trench Wurm
3x Flowstone Overseer
2x Cave-In
2x Fire Diamond
1x Charcoal Diamond
4x Sulfurous Springs
4x Urborg Volcano
4x Rishadan Port
1x Rath’s Edge
8x Mountain
2x Swamp

2x Void
3x Perish
3x Boil
4x Addle
2x Cursed Totem
1x Tectonic Break

In case you’re wondering, yes, I do seem to have some sort of preoccupation with land destruction decks. Here you have the original base of Ponza, but splashing black for added land destruction, creature elimination and my new favorite creature – Trench Wurm.

My thinking is: we are looking at an environment that (hopefully) will be chock full of non-basics now (notably the "new" dual lands), and in that the the Dwarven Miner mechanic will be big. We’re talking Polar Kraken big here. And instead of being a fragile 1/ 2, you have a black 3/3, which is very hard to get rid of in the new Standard. Most black removal can’t touch him, and cheap red burn can’t take him out either. And at the worst, he’s a 3/3 for four mana – and believe me, Hill Giants (especially black ones) are nothing to scoff at in Standard these days.

They are the replacement for the Avalanche Riders. But what out there can fill the Masticore’s slot? The deck needs a good fatty to be able to bring the hammer down (pun definitely intended) and finish an opponent off.

I toyed with some black fat, including Delraich, but I ultimately settled on Flowstone Overseer, which is a more than suitable replacement. It’s a relatively cheap 4/4 for only 2RRR and (sort of) duplicates the Masticore’s ability but without that painful upkeep. And it kills regenerators like that annoying River Boa.

SIDE RANT: In my Invasion prerelease report, I called the red burn "spotty" at best. And why people are paying $12 for Urza’s Rage is beyond me. An uncounterable three damage for 2R isn’t that bad, but, criminy, who is ever going to pay that kicker cost? However, I’m starting to like Scorching Lava more and more. Two damage for 1R is respectable and nothing to scoff at. However, you add the kicker cost, and you get a little Incinerate and Disintegrate action all rolled up into one. For 1RR, I consider this to be a pretty decent deal. River Boas? No longer a problem. Nether Spirit? He’s gone too. Eliot Ness? I want him dead! I want his family – dead! I want his house – burned to the ground!

But back to the business at hand.

The sideboard has the usual hate for green (Perish, and Void ain’t bad either), the underrated Addle and Boil for the blue mage, and Totems for annoying Acolytes and regenerators.

I have high hopes for this deck. Unfortunately, I haven’t done a lot of testing due to the fact I’m burning the midnight oil beta testing my current project. Once that’s done, then I can camp at the game store for a while with my latest masterpieces.

Hopefully I won’t run into any Shahrazad decks.

Dave Meddish
[email protected]