For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Tim Landale. I have been playing Magic for quite some time. I started off battling friends in my
neighborhood with very casual decks. After a year or two of battling in driveways, tree houses, and kitchen tables, I finally made the jump and went to
my first real tournament at Your Move Games. From the get-go, I was hooked. After a few years, I was a regular PTQ end boss and had a few reasonable
years playing on the Pro Tour. Then I discovered online poker and college and stopped putting in the time it takes to sustain oneself at that high
Fast forward to this year after the announcement of the still unbelievable tournament series that StarCityGames.com has started—I was ready to
hit as many as possible. Then I wrecked my knee playing basketball and was forced to ride the proverbial Magic bench that is Magic Online. It was a
long time before I played any serious games of Magic. Thankfully I got my knee surgery done, and everything seems to be going well. This meant that I
could finally start travelling again and battling in some high-level events. I jumped at the chance to fly to Orlando and stay with my good friends
Zach Efland and AJ Sacher.
Once I’d figured out my travel plans, I set about researching the new Standard. I spent several hours going over the set list card by card, trying to
figure out which ones deserved a home in current decks and which ones might create new decks. I scoured the results on Magic-League, read as many
articles as I could find, and talked with anyone who would discuss the new format.
Caw-Blade was clearly the best deck before New Phyrexia came out. My first inclination was to play a U/B/W Caw-Blade list similar to the lists played
by Alex Bertoncini, though I was not on top of Emeria Angel like he was. Batterskull clearly is insane against any deck that wants to race you. Forcing
them to kill your Stoneforge Mystic before you untap with it is a huge tempo loss for a deck that wants to play another guy on turn 2 or 3. The games
where they don’t kill your Mystic are not close anymore, as racing Batterskull is harder than racing a Baneslayer Angel because of how early it comes
Caw-Blade seemed like the easy answer as far as decks were concerned. However, I kept trying to find a home for the Splinter Twin/Deceiver Exarch
combo. As far as two-card combos go, this one is quite powerful. Passing on turn 3, your opponent is forced to respect that he might be facing the
combo on your turn 4. Does this mean he can’t play Jace? Just having the combo in your deck makes your opponents guess whether you have the combo. It
makes the game quite a bit harder for them.
The lists on Magic-League sporting it and Pyromancer Ascension seem really forced. Your Ascension combo does not want clunky, four-mana enchantments in
your deck or Spellskites. Some of the pieces like Preordain do overlap quite well, but overall, the deck is not very focused. You have too many cards
that do not work at all together.
I ended up brainstorming quite a few very bad lists. Shape Anew found its way into a few lists with the combo, but none of them really seemed to hold
much weight. Finally, I wondered why nobody had tried putting the combo into RUG. I had liked the deck before New Phyrexia was released, as you had a
slightly favorable Caw-Blade matchup. Fitting the combo into the deck was easier than I thought it would be. I already wanted to be playing more than
four Jaces in all of my blue decks, so having a 1/4 creature was actually quite helpful in protecting my planeswalker. Anyway, this is the list I
Just a few notes on the cards and their numbers:
1 Oracle of Mul Daya– This card was always so good in RUG, but it loses a lot of its thunder when you play it with more than four lands in play. The
second copy is also never good. I still like the idea of adding a second “Green Jace,” but I couldn’t find anything else to cut.
3 Lightning Bolt– I already explained my fear of aggro; however I think it’s a mistake to run these, as they’re just awful in almost any matchup where
they’re not playing creatures on turn 1, which is the vast majority of the metagame.
3 Splinter Twin– Unlike Deceiver Exarch, this card does very little on its own. Once, I was able to put it on a Inferno Titan, which allowed me to kill
a Consecrated Sphinx that otherwise would have destroyed me, but otherwise, it just sits in your hand until you combo off.
2 Explore– In traditional RUG, you need to cast a turn 2 ramp spell to start pushing towards your Titan and other boom-booms. By adding the combo and
adding Jace Beleren, the deck plans to go towards the late game a little more often, which makes ramping into your Inferno Titan less important.
Deceiver Exarch turned out to be much more than just a combo piece. Tapping down an Equipment-wearing Squadron Hawk is quite powerful. Casting it and
untapping one of my lands happened quite a few times to allow me to cast more spells when I just wanted a 1/4. I was really pleased with how well the
deck worked together, attacking from so many angles. I don’t think you will have the element of surprise anymore, but I did steal a few games because
people did not suspect the combo in RUG and tapped out or failed to play around it.
I managed to lose only a handful of games and really felt confident that I was playing one of the best decks in the room and one that nobody knew how
to play against. I eventually was stopped by Edgar Flores in the top 4 after some pretty unlucky occurrences prevented me from winning a fairly easy
matchup. Overall, I’d definitely play the deck again; I’m sure some changes should be made, but it’s really hard to say what they should be, given the
current unknown metagame.
With the StarCityGames.com Invitational looming, I still have another week or two to test some more. But if the event were tomorrow, I’d be very happy
to play this deck again, with a few changes. If I had to sleeve up a 75 for tomorrow, this would be it:
Most of the changes to the deck are just a nod to the shift in the format. Without anyone playing aggro decks, it was natural to cut a bunch of the
cards that were good in those matchups. Consecrated Sphinx is really good in this format. Unlike Inferno Titan, if you stick it for one turn, you’ll
have a very hard time losing. Too often, Caw-Blade is able to race Inferno Titan with a Squadron Hawk wearing a Sword of War and Peace. Cutting Mana
Leak was a bit harder. I really liked being able to set up a kill with Mana Leak backup, but it was not very good except for making you feel a little
better about going off.
Here is a quick sideboarding guide for the new list:
+3 Spell Pierce +1 Consecrated Sphinx
-2 Nature’s Claim -2 Preordain
You want to have Jace advantage in this matchup. Spell Pierce helps protect your combo and helps win the Jace war.
+4 Flashfreeze +3 Spell Pierce
-2 Nature’s Claim -4 Preordain -1 Inferno Titan
This matchup is all about racing. Both decks have very few cards that interact with each other game one. Casting Deceiver Exarch on their upkeep when
they have five lands in play delays a Primeval Titan for a turn, but other than that, you’re just racing them game one with your combo or an Inferno
Titan powered out early by Lotus Cobra. After sideboarding, you have four hard counters in Flashfreeze and three Spell Pierces to slow them down and
protect your combo. Watch out for Combust; it’s by far the hardest card to play around and can’t be countered.
Nature’s Claim is at a premium in this matchup. They have very few ways to stop your combo game one. After board, you have to watch out for various
hate cards like Celestial Purge, Into the Roil, and Spell Pierce.
+3 Spell Pierce +1 Nature’s Claim
The same principles that apply to the Caw-Blade matchup are true for the Darkblade matchup. The only problem is they have good removal spells like Go
for the Throat and plenty of discard. Sticking a Jace or Oracle of Mul Daya is very important. After board, your combo is very hard to set up safely so
it makes more sense to board it out. They still have to respect it, which is all you want it for anyway, since you generally cannot win with the combo.
+3 Spell Pierce +1 Nature’s Claim
-3 Splinter Twin -1 Explore
Splinter Twin U/R and U/R/B
You want to try and establish some sort of card-advantage engine, either a Jace or an Oracle of Mul Daya. Both players have to respect the other’s
combo, which means trying to find a Nature’s Claim or a Deceiver Exarch that can tap their Deceiver Exarch in response to the Splinter Twin.
+3 Spell Pierce
-2 Inferno Titan -1 Oracle of Mul Daya
A few different red decks are floating around. Some are sporting Assault Strobe; others are more focused on Goblins. Your sideboarding plan really
depends on their list. Nature’s Claim is good if they have Shrine of the Burning Rage or Immolating Souleater. Flashfreeze is good on the play,
especially against the Goblin-heavy version. Obstinate Baloth is good against all versions. Sideboarding really depends on what cards you see in game
Overall, the deck was really good, and I’m looking forward to playing it more in the future. One of my favorite things about this deck is how complex
it is to play. For anybody looking to just pick it up and battle without any practice, I think you won’t have very much success. Oracle of Mul Daya is
the hardest card to play with in Standard. I think the deck is a little worse now that the surprise element is gone. I can’t wait to begin testing to
play in the StarCityGames.com Invitational. This coming weekend however is Grand Prix Providence, so for now my thoughts are all on Legacy. Hopefully,
you’ll be reading a tournament report in the coming week or so.