Constructed Criticism – A Quest For Victory

The StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard Open Series Comes to Nashville!
Monday, October 26th – The StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Nashville is a little under two weeks away, and should provide a great testing opportunity for Worlds, not to mention a way to make some dough. After blowing through about $400 on my trip to Austin, I figured this could be a good way to recoup my losses.

The StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Nashville is a little under two weeks away, and should provide a great testing opportunity for Worlds, not to mention a way to make some dough. After blowing through about $400 on my trip to Austin, I figured this could be a good way to recoup my losses. Luckily, Zendikar was recently released on Magic Online, and I’ve been able to get a feel for the format. I missed the Philly $5K, and don’t know much about Standard other than the Top 16 decks that were posted on the website.

Jund is everywhere. This means two things: 1: Jund is a good deck. You should probably play it unless you break the format. 2: If you build a solid control deck that beats aggro, you have probably struck gold. With that in mind, I decided to try to build a control deck that could weather the storm that is Jund. The first thing you have to consider is how to effectively nullify Bituminous Blast. If you can’t beat that card, then you are probably doing something wrong. Bituminous Blast is one of the main reasons why Jund is better than other aggro decks in the format, and you should play creatures that do something for value before dying (something like Knight of the White Orchid), or a creature that doesn’t die to the spell (Baneslayer Angel). Woolly Thoctar and company are fine creatures, but if you can’t beat Bituminous Blast, then you are in for a long day.

As for the format as a whole, there are more decks than just Jund, but I wouldn’t be surprised to face off against various Jund decks in about half of my matches in Nashville. On MTGO, you can expect to play against Jund in about 30% or more of your tournament matches, so finding a way to effectively beat Jund is probably fruitful. Once you have found a way to do this, you can find other cards that help out in other matchups. To beat Jund, you only have to look at the results of one tournament… Pro Tour: Honolulu. Going into Pro Tour: Honolulu, Jund Cascade was “the deck,” as it took all Top 16 spots in a MTGO Championship one week before the Pro Tour of the same format. Jund went into the tournament with a very large target on its head, and the best of the best figured out how to beat it.

Enter Wall of Denial. This card is just insane. He blocks every relevant creature in the format. He has shroud. What else do you want? … Power, you say? Bah. There’s no pleasing you!

This creature is highly underrated in Standard and provides amazing defense while you set up your late-game. Combine his blocking prowess with Knight of the White Orchid, and you have a veritable tag-team on defense against the format’s best and brightest. They can also force your opponent to over-commit to the board and just lose to Day of Judgment or Martial Coup. Top the curve off with Baneslayer Angel and you’ve already built half of the deck. The question is, really, what to use to fill in the blanks?

Negate is a card that I now find maindeckable in the absence of solid counterspells. It wins the war against Cruel Ultimatum single-handedly, and gives you protection for your large investment creatures with little cost. You can also counter Blightning, which has obviously grown in popularity as of late. With these things in mind, I think running 2-4 Negate is a reasonable idea, and plan to do so.

To go just a bit further, you shouldn’t really limit yourself to two-color decks unless you absolutely have to. Esper Charm is an easy addition, since you have Arcane Sanctum and Marsh Flats to help develop your manabase. If Esper Charm is your only Black spell, then I could see just running nine sources of Black, with 1 Swamp, 4 Arcane Sanctum, and 4 Marsh Flats. Often, if Marsh Flats is in your opening hand, it will be a touch worse for you to search out the Swamp with it, since Knight of the White Orchid and Day of Judgment have WW in the casting cost, but you should have enough White sources that it shouldn’t hurt you too badly.

Your removal suite should definitely include Path to Exile, since it is the format’s premier way of dealing with Sprouting Thrinax and Putrid Leech, aside from playing some maindeck Celestial Purges (which probably isn’t a bad idea). Day of Judgment should be obvious, and I think we’ve gotten to the point where Martial Coup is a necessary evil. Its power level against Jund is pretty high, considering it blows up an entire Broodmate Dragon and provides some threats along the way. The only downside here is the cost, since it effectively costs seven mana to play. With your deck set up to be as defensive as possible, reaching seven mana shouldn’t be that difficult, but with Blightning around, I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing more than two of these in the maindeck.

Shroud is an amazing keyword at the moment, and not one to be taken lightly if you are on the receiving end. Sphinx of Jwar Isle is a huge monster that blocks Broodmate Dragon, as well as any other threat the aggressive decks might present, and blanks all of the format’s best removal (that isn’t a mass sweeper). What you get is worth so much more than six mana, and he compares pretty favorably (in my opinion) to Simic Sky Swallower. Do you remember that guy? Do you remember losing to him? Well, it will probably happen again in the very near future.

Presenting Blue-White Control:

The deck has some questionable card choices, but I think those can be explained fairly easily. The format lacks good card draw, and this deck lacks a lot of things to do on the second turn of the game. Ior Ruin Expedition helps you draw out of mana-gluts in the early-mid game, and can be triggered fairly easily with Marsh Flats, Knight of the White Orchid, as well as just bouncing lands and replaying them with Fieldmist Borderpost. I think it is a more efficient option for this deck than either Divination or Courier’s Capsule, and I honestly believe that the Expedition has a place in this deck.

Maindeck Celestial Purge should be a surprise to no one who has actually played more than a single tournament in this format. Nearly every deck has a target, and playing two shouldn’t be much of a sacrifice against the decks lacking said targets. Those decks are too few to count on one hand.

There will always be people at tournaments that play Burn decks. Even when the best burn consists of X/1 Trampling creatures like Elemental Appeal and Ball Lightning, people will shove Mountains into a deck and throw burn at your face. With this in mind, the deck lacks enough ways to handle those types of decks. The sideboard contains two cards that absolutely solve the problem if you draw them: Guardian Seraph and Sunspring Expedition. Gaining 8 life for W, as long as you draw it early enough (which is the only time where it matters), is effectively double counterspell or more against a Red deck. You can accelerate into it pretty fast, much the same way you accelerate your Ior Ruin Expeditions. Guardian Seraph is much the same as the Expedition, as it shuts down your opponent’s aggression in a snap. Their Hellspark Elementals and Goblins Guides turn into a joke, and you effectively gain twice as much life since the 3/4 body is very relevant on defense, and can soak two burn spells or an attack plus a burn spell. If you have Negate as backup, the game is probably over right then and there.

Most aggressive decks will have huge problems overcoming the defensive stance this deck entrenches into. Wall of Denial and Knight of the White Orchid are just amazing in most stages of the game, and neither are really bad topdecks later on. Ior Ruin Expedition may end up being worse than Divination or Courier’s Capsule, but it is an experiment that I think merits consideration. It fits the curve better than Divination, and is less mana intensive than Courier’s Capsule. These two things make it worth considering. Jace is another option, but the deck is not set up so that you can easily have UU on turn 3, and casting Jace any later usually ends in his immediate demise.

Luminarch Ascension is usually game over for control decks if you stick it on turn 2. Most of them can’t deal you damage consistently until turn 4+, and you will still have enough defensive cards for it to come online before they can apply consistent pressure. If you have Day of Judgment on backup, most slow decks will likely fold in just a few turns to the swarm of angels that await. Pair Luminarch Ascension with Negate and the miser Countersquall, and you should give fits to any deck relying on Pyromancer’s Ascension or Cruel Ultimatum to win.

The 4th Day of Judgment is in the sideboard to help deal with the Naya Cobra deck. Woolly Thoctar and friends can force you into situations where you need to Wrath in order to survive until you can draw Baneslayer Angel or Sphinx of Jwar Isle. Against most decks, I wouldn’t want more than three, hence the fourth standing on deck. There are plenty of matchups where you want the fourth Wrath, so I think it deserves a slot. The two Celestial Purge fill out the sideboard pretty well, giving you more answers to Jund’s threats, as well as Pyromancer’s Ascension or Plated Geopede.

The only thing I don’t understand about this deck is that it doesn’t seem to have any bad matchups. In the past, decks like this one have just folded to decks packing counterspells. This deck compares very well to Reveillark decks from last season, and there is no longer a Faerie deck to nullify it. This will be Baneslayer Angel’s day in the sun, since there aren’t really any counterspells to keep her off the table. While the removal that kills her is strong, you can defend her plenty of ways. Esper Charm doubles as a discard spell to empty their hand of removal in the mid-game. Additionally, if you can wait until turn 7 to cast her, Negate is amazing. This rings especially true when they have to use two Lightning Bolts or Bituminous Blast and Lightning Bolt to kill her.

I’ve been testing online with the deck a decent amount recently, and I am falling in love with it. It has its clunky mana draws on occasion, but that could be a fault of the manabase. I would like to hear any suggestions or opinions of the deck in the forum, because I think this deck could become a real contender. Any deck that gives Jund fits should be taken into consideration as a deck to play come the Nashville $5K, or even Worlds.

Thanks for reading.