Bringing Back Standard

After a Block Pro Tour and a Limited Grand Prix, BBD is ready to revisit Standard! Check out his list of fresh new brews just in time for #SCGINDY!

Three weeks ago, I was playing Modern in GP Minneapolis, desperately trying to qualify for the Pro Tour in Atlanta the following week. Two weeks ago, my
crazy dream became a reality, and I was battling Block Constructed in Atlanta, Georgia for Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. I liked Atlanta so much that I
decided I would just run it back last week with a Sealed Grand Prix in the same city.

Ok, so I lied. Nobody likes Atlanta that much. I just wanted to play Magic.

I was happy to go 10-6 at the Pro Tour, finishing in the top 50. I had less than a week to prepare and ended up with my best Pro Tour finish, which was
more than I could have dreamed. It wasn’t quite as awesome as it could have been, since I lost both of the last two rounds, turning what could have been a
top 16 or top 25 into 44th instead. In the grand scheme of things, it was a positive, and I am extremely happy with how those two weeks panned out.

I feel like I have really found a new perspective on Magic. It’s easy to say that when you’re doing well, but I really feel like I’ve had a completely
different mindset and approach to recent tournaments, and it has really opened my eyes to how to properly approach the game. I feel like a veil has been
lifted off, and I can finally see how horribly wrong my approach to Magic was in the past. That’s a wholly different article though, and one I do intend on
writing at some point. I have to first compose those thoughts into something reasonably resembling coherent arguments. Much like pimpin’, it isn’t easy,
especially for myself.

Trying to run it back in Atlanta for the Sealed GP ended up being a mistake. Not only did Brad Nelson get the better of me in many ways last weekend
(lesson #1: Do not flip coins against Brad for anything), but I also got desecrated in the GP. It was a brutal lesson.

I had a weak sealed pool. I stepped it up by producing a bad build from the pool. Not to be outdone, I also played badly. Finally, I drew really badly in
the rounds I lost, which may or may not have been related to the fact that my deck was misbuilt. To ease my conscience, I’d like to opt for “may not,” but
I think we all know that I would just be deluding myself.

Regardless, I have spent the last three weeks playing formats that were not Standard. That is about to change. I may have traveled three consecutive
weekends in a row for some high level Magic, but if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there is No Rest for the Wicked, and it looks like my next


infinite weekends are also booked for some more traveling and battling.

Next stop: Indianapolis for the SCG Open. That means some of the crispest Legacy action this side of the Grand Canyon–which always excites me–but it also
means another thing…

A return to Standard. Have I missed playing Standard? Absolutely not, but despite that, I’m still excited to get back into the swing of things this
weekend. Looking at past tournament results, it seems like the format boogeymen are still terrorizing us. Mono Black? Monsters? Sphinx’s Revelation? Still
out there.

It also looks like Jund Monsters is still completely absurd and dominant. The last Standard event I played in Cincinnati, CVM and I both battled with
Monsters. I went X-2 and finished 10th, and he went X-2-1 and finished in the top 32. At that point in time, I felt like Monsters was just the best deck.
Since then, CVM won States and got second place in an Open with Monsters. Those are pretty insane results. CVM’s hips are lying sacks of ****, but his
results are truthful. Deck is gas. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If I wanted to win Indianapolis, I would just play the best build of Monsters I could. But winning is overrated! I just want to play something sweet and
see if I can’t crack into the top 8 with something completely different than the same-old same-old we keep seeing at the top. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Well, mostly, it’s just a curse. I get bored of doing the same thing to my own detriment.

So with that long, rambling, incoherent introduction out of the way, let’s take a look-see at some of the more fringe decks, cards, and synergies that I am
looking to exploit this weekend and in upcoming events.

I love engines. Vroom vroom. And no, this article didn’t turn into a weird car fetish piece. I meant engine cards in Magic. I love cards that provide
increasing value as the game goes on, allowing you to eventually win by grinding your opponent out. My only regret in Magic thus far is that I never played
a grindy burn deck during Innistrad Standard. I could have called the deck ” Bump and Grind” and could have retired from the game and lived a long, normal,
happy, and fruitful life. Instead, I’m still here grinding away, wondering what could have been.

I like cards like Unburial Rites. Cards like Birthing Pod. My favorite Magic card of all-time is Phyrexian Arena. I like slow and plodding card advantage.
I want to lock up a game on turn 6 and then not actually win until turn 15. That’s pure, honest Magic. Eidolon of Blossoms is the next evolution, and I for
one, want everything to do with it.

When I saw that deck had won States, I got giddy inside. I’ve also had a number of people message me about various Constellation decks featuring Sphere of
Safety on Facebook–generally G/B/W, otherwise known as Junk–and seeing this list was enough to put it over the edge for me.

The one thing I would like to change is to cut out the red entirely. I think this deck can easily function as pure G/W. Assemble the Legion is the only red
card in the maindeck, and the lone copy of Purphoros in the side isn’t enough to sell me on red. I’d rather just cut it all from the deck and play a much
more streamlined build.

I also just don’t think Assemble the Legion is a very good card. Even in matchups where it is supposed to be good, it doesn’t seem to perform. I play
Assemble against Mono-Black and then still lose to Lifebane Zombie and Gray Merchant, or a single Bile Blight lets Desecration Demon just kill me anyway.
I’m done trying to Assemble.

This deck might have too much air in it. There are a lot of “do nothings,” but there is also a lot of synergy. Mana Bloom provides a second source of
acceleration behind Sylvan Caryatid. Mana Bloom also provides a nice combo with both Eidolon of Blossoms, as well as Primeval Bounty. Being able to cast
and recast Mana Bloom each turn can net you a constant card and can trigger Primeval Bounty each turn.

Mana Bloom and Sylvan Caryatid also provide the option for sideboard “splashes.” One of the big weaknesses I see to a deck like this is a deck like G/R or
Jund Monsters. This deck relies on Sphere of Safety alone to not die to cards like Stormbreath Dragon, but if they are able to overload a Mizzium Mortars
to clear out a bunch of enchantments, they can just overpower through your Spheres.

Being able to play something like Ready/Willing can serve as a huge blowout against a card like Mizzium Mortars or a nice combat trick. It might be that
there are better answers out there, but it’s neat that you can splash interesting sideboard cards off of the eight sources of mana that Bloom and Caryatid

Another take on Eidolon of Blossoms is in a devotion deck.

This was another States deck that caught my eye. My immediate thought was how good Eidolon of Blossoms could be in a deck like this. Eidolon and Nykthos is
already a pretty sweet combo, and the deck already plays a ton of green enchantment creatures like Courser of Kruphix, Boon Satyr, and Nylea, God of the

I can’t say I’m sold on Prime Speaker Zegana. I think I would rather just cast Garruk most of the time since without something like Polukranos in play,
Prime Speaker ends up being a 3/3 that draws three cards. While not terrible, Garruk can be even better than that. I want to rely on both Eidolon of
Blossoms and Garruk to do the heavy lifting when it comes to card draw.

That also eases the mana requirements significantly since Prime Speaker is a huge stretch on the mana base. I’m thinking something like this:

I would also love to give Kruphix, God of Horizons a shot. Alongside Nykthos, Prophet of Kruphix, and cards like Voyaging Satyr, Kruphix promises to
generate an ungodly amount of mana. The main question then becomes, can you actually do anything with that mana?

Nylea and Polukranos can both serve as excellent mana sinks, but I feel like those two aren’t quite enough by themselves. I can see Mistcutter Hydra being
a nice one, but Mistcutter just gets chumped a lot. Hydra Broodmaster also feels like a sweet one, but I feel like Garruk might be better most of the time
at the same mana slot.

This version is probably a bit clunkier, and maybe a lot worse. You lack the engine of Boon Satyr and Eidolon of Blossoms, but you get a deck that goes a
lot bigger with Kruphix and Broodmaster. Both this version and the other version might want access to something like Burning-Tree Emissary to really
kick-start the engine and get Nykthos going. My fear with BTE is that it’s a big old blank while actually in play a lot of the time. It provides devotion
for Nykthos, but in games where your hand is getting actively pressured by Thoughtseize and Lifebane Zombie, you want to have a lot of gas to be able to
play through it and Burning-Tree just doesn’t cut it.

I have an affliction, and the only cure is more snakes.

Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a G/B Dredge kick. I did an MTGO video and a versus video with the deck. Unfortunately, I feel like
my version of the deck for both videos was pretty weak. Since recording the videos and listening to the feedback of people who are more experienced with
the deck as well as going off of my own experiences while playing it, I think I was pretty far off on my builds.

The one thing I don’t think I was off on, however, was Pharika. That card feels like the real deal. I like the threat of a big body as well as the ability
to grind out games with snakes.

I spent some time talking about this deck with Michael Segal, who has been playing it fairly regularly for months now. After that conversation, this is the
build that I’ve settled on.

There are a lot of changes from the last list. One is a move back to Lotleth Troll. The build I played in the VS. videos was heavily leaning on Herald of
Torment as a way to provide evasion. I think that was a mistake. One of the key things about this deck is being efficient with mana. Herald is just too
expensive to warrant four copies of the card. I think having a few in the deck is fine, mostly because you need some way to be able to attack through
Elspeth. Other than that, the card is unneeded.

Lotleth Troll is a lot more mana efficient, costing two instead of three or five, and Troll also lets you become even more efficient by dumping extraneous
creatures for value and making it easier to cast cards like Nemesis of Mortals.

I’ve also cut Sylvan Caryatid completely. I just have failed to be happy with that card at all and instead, I’ve moved to playing Deathrite Shaman. Shaman
can’t provide mana as consistently as Sylvan Caryatid, but I found that I was rarely that happy playing Caryatid on turn 2. I would much rather have
started to build up my board with cards like Satyr Wayfinder, Lotleth Troll, or a Commune with the Gods/Grisly Salvage. Elvish Mystic, on the other hand,
is the card I want to see most in every hand, and Deathrite Shaman can provide an Elvish Mystic impersonation in some instances.

The last change I made was to cut out Temple of Malady completely. Scrying isn’t that important in the deck since a lot of cards get seen anyway with
Commune with the Gods, Grisly Salvage, and Satyr Wayfinder. I found the land coming into play tapped was frequently messing up the curve.

The sideboard has the option to board into a slower deck with Sylvan Caryatid, another land, and more Shadowborn Demons. This is usually a strong plan
against decks with cards like Scavenging Ooze, where going all-in on your graveyard isn’t as effective. Against Monsters, you want to hit land drops, kill
their Oozes with Demons, and eventually just kill them with some 5/6 fliers or Nemesis of Mortals.

This version of the deck is a lot leaner and more aggressive and I anticipate that I will get better results from it.

This card is brutal. It’s pretty disgusting when your opponent can plop this guy down on turn 2 and you realize that you’re just actually dead to it. For
example, the above Dredge deck has serious issues with ever beating this card, as I fully experienced when playing in a Magic Online daily.

Right now, I think the best deck to take advantage of the card is Red Devotion. While the Boros Burn decks also play the card, I feel like that deck is too
much of a “known quantity” right now, which leads to people gunning to beat it. The Burn deck is best when it’s unexpected and people aren’t packing Bow of
Nylea, Nylea’s Disciple, Nyx-Fleece Rams, and all kinds of other cards to combat it.

Red Devotion, on the other hand, has essentially fallen by the wayside, but I think it could very well be good right now. I know players like Gerry
Thompson and Michael Jacob have been experimenting with versions splashing black over white, and I like that general idea. The thought behind it is that
Chained to the Rocks is much worse right now because of the presence of Abrupt Decay. People are also doing (not actually that) crazy things like
maindecking Keening Apparitions, which makes me want to stay away from Chained to the Rocks.

A black splash and a card like Dreadbore gives the deck the same capability to kill big baddies like Desecration Demon, but avoids the vulnerability to the
plethora of enchantment removal that everyone is packing.

Underworld Cerberus is another card that I’ve seen Gerry and Michael talk about, and it seems like a great fit. The way games work with Red Devotion is
that you are pretty much just always all-in. Each card in the deck builds off of each other to the point where the deck doesn’t function that well if you
slow-roll your threats. Cards like Supreme Verdict can easily be big blowouts for Red Devotion, but Underworld Cerberus lets you play into a Supreme
Verdict with a big beater that’s going to get you back all of your guys if it dies. Either they don’t have it and you win, or they do have it and you can
just immediately rebuild.

It’s also a 6/6 that is hard to block, and it doesn’t die to Doom Blade or Ultimate Price. This makes it an awesome threat against Mono-Black Devotion.

With so many black sideboard cards, the deck might want access to another source of black mana. A second Mana Confluence seems greedy with Eidolons, but
without Chained to the Rocks, the deck doesn’t actually need to meet a certain quota of actual Mountains. While slower, I could potentially see more copies
of Rakdos Guildgate if casting all the black spells post-board becomes problematic.

The last thing I’ve been dying to make work is the synergies with these three cards. Trostani and Advent together are quite the heartthrob couple. You make
one giant combat-trick Wurm, and then you populate it so many times that you end up with a big old bag of sickos at the end. You’ve gained a bunch of life,
and your opponent probably didn’t survive the pounding.

Ajani is the next step. Advent into Ajani is already so dirty that I can’t fathom how you could possibly get clean ever again after it. End of turn, you
plop in a good old country 5/5, and then you turn it into an 8/8 trampler the next turn. Now your opponent has to deal with this giant creature threatening
their life total, and they also have to find a way to kill your Ajani. Generally speaking, if they send in all of their creatures to finish off Ajani, then
they are just open for that 8/8 wurm to smack them in the face again. That’s already 16 points of damage, and it shouldn’t be that hard to find a way to
sneak in the last few after that. May I suggest a second copy of Advent of the Wurm?

I am thinking something along these lines:

The Boon Satyrs are there to provide another instant card to make things difficult for the control decks. Between Boon Satyr, Sundering Growth, Advent of
the Wurm, Selesnya Charm, Rootborn Defenses, and Voice of Resurgence, the key is to keep them off-tempo. The goal is to create a scenario where you can
safely stick a card like Ajani when they aren’t able to counter it, and then hope to ride said Ajani to victory.

Hopefully these decks have given you some food for thought. None of them are truly polished. I’m only just getting back into Standard, but they are decks
that I am excited to try out and see if they can’t be made into powerful tournament contenders. I see the same decks doing well over and over again. Is it
because those are the only decks that can do well, or is it because those are the only decks people are bothering to play? I think we can do better, but
only if we actually bother to try.