Dark Excitement Comes Standard

Looking over the spoilers for the 19,275th time, I’m still finding cool interactions and fun things to be doing. Are they going to turn the StarCityGames.com Open Series on its head?

I’m psyched.

Super psyched.

No, probably more psyched than even that!

Seriously, with the new set comes new possibilities. How many of those ideas/possibilities are going to blossom into the Next Big Thing? Probably 0.001%, but what if I hit that one time in ten thousand!?

Looking over the spoilers for the 19,275th time this morning, I’m still finding cool interactions and fun things to be doing. Are they going to turn the StarCityGames.com Open Series on its head, shaking up the metagame and becoming a serious contender? I doubt it, as some of these ideas are pretty loopy, but some are closer in my opinion and could merit a second (or in some cases third) look.

Now, is the deck I played this past weekend in Richmond among these lists? I still don’t know, and it’s Friday already as I’m typing this out. There’s actually a good chance that one of these lists end up being what I play, though the exact list will probably change 50 times just on the morning of the Standard Open.

So let’s get started!

First up, we’re going to start at the top. Delver-based strategies have been running rampant in the last month or two in Standard, so obviously we need to look there first. What did the deck gain? What did it lose?

Well, what the Delver strategies gained was more identity confusion, honestly. There’s a Spirit lord. Evolving Wilds opens the door for extra colors, possibly. Thought Scour is an all-around good card. So where do we go from here?

I’m not going to post a Spirits list, as I don’t think the pieces exist for that deck to be consistent, yet. However, I do like the thought of the added ability to splash off of Evolving Wilds. I also like the thought of being able to sacrifice lands in a deck with Grim Lavamancer:

I really like Grim Lavamancer in a deck that can make full use of him. Between all of the cheap cantrips and Evolving Wilds, you should be able to activate him consistently by turn three.

Since we’re running both Snapcaster Mage and Grim Lavamancer, Thought Scour becomes an incredible value card in this deck. As so many others have pointed out, the synergy with Delver (in that you can check the top card of your deck with the Delver trigger, then Thought Scour yourself to get rid of any subpar cards) also works the other way: you can Thought Scour your opponent’s good card away after they reveal with Delver.

While some will question the necessity of adding a third color, I’d counter by saying this is essentially a blue deck splashing Grim Lavamancer, Arc Trail, and Geist of Saint Traft. Those aren’t exactly horrific and extreme color requirements. Evolving Wilds is the only reason I feel this is even possible. (Imagine if we still had Arid Mesa and Scalding Tarn!)

This is actually one of the decks I’m seriously considering for the StarCityGames.com Standard Open: Richmond.

What’s another deck I’m seriously looking at? A G/R build similar to the one championed by Brian Kibler before the release of Dark Ascension. When looking at possible lists, a card I really wanted in a deck with Kessig Wolf Runs was Dungrove Elder. When Dungrove Elder hits 7/7 or 8/8, it gets rather maddening to have him get chump blocked over and over.

However, with Kessig Wolf Run, you can just go over the top. However, how do you balance having KWR in a deck that wants as many Forests as possible??

We’re essentially running 19 Forests here with Evolving Wilds, which allows us to run just one Mountain and two Copperline Gorges without any issues. We’re running the red for both Kessig Wolf Run as well as the “fight” ability on the flipside of Daybreak Ranger. Otherwise we’re almost completely mono-green.

I agree with the thought that it’s time for Daybreak Ranger to shine. A turn-two Ranger makes it imprudent to flip a Delver (similar to how a turn-two Ratchet Bomb will do), but then again, waiting doesn’t really do much either, as you can’t profitably attack, and eventually the Ranger will flip and kill your puny Delver anyway.

I wouldn’t want to run this deck without the Swords of War and Peace or the Kessig Wolf Run, as having a big green beater that just gets chumped over and over again by tokens isn’t where you want to be at right now. However, the ability to grant trample or pro-white makes me curious as to how successful this deck could be.

Oh, and apparently Strangleroot Geist is good too.


Why all these serious decks? Why can’t we have a good, ol’ fashioned Zombie Apocalypse deck!?

Now, obviously this deck isn’t a real deck per se, just an attempt to explore some interactions. How would it work if we just milled ourselves a ton and cast Zombie Apocalypse? How about milling ourselves and casting a Skaab Ruinator? What about recurring Gravecrawler over and over and over with Grimgrin, Corpse-Born getting bigger each time (and the opponent losing one life each time with a Diregraf Captain out)?

Maybe we can just cast a couple of Zombies, then cast a Diregraf Captain and win?

If we wanted to play a more streamlined aggro version, we can obviously include Diregraf Ghoul and Geralf’s Messenger. I was looking to see if self-mill, play Zombie Apocalypse is worth trying (at least at an FNM level). I wanted to have fun, thought I’d share the fun!

Back to seriousness though, I suppose. *le sigh*

With all the tokens and flipped Delvers going around, Ratchet Bomb has been highly regarded going into the “new Standard.” Well, taking a look back at the decks I’ve already looked at, none have had Ratchet Bombs. So let’s get into some more controlling decks that could (and very well should) be running the ‘Bomb.


What other artifact are people hyped up about right now?

Grafdigger’s Cage!

Do I believe the hype is warranted? Not really. Honestly, while the card is nice to have out, in all reality, it doesn’t actually do anything by itself. It’s a lot like Surgical Extraction in that regard; sure, it can really hose the right deck/card, but otherwise it’s just card disadvantage unless you get lucky and hit a card in their hand as well.

However, I do believe it’s a card that has a decent effect. What all is Grafdigger’s Cage good against (that we can expect to see in a given tournament)?

Snapcaster Mage
Think Twice
Forbidden Alchemy
Desperate Ravings
Faithless Looting
Ancient Grudge
Ray of Revelation
Burning Vengeance
Secrets of the Dead
Devil’s Play
Strangleroot Geist
Geralf’s Messenger
Skaab Ruinator
Unburial Rites
Sun Titan (returning creatures)
Green Sun’s Zenith
Birthing Pod

And that’s not even including any corner cases involving random cards like any of the “Increasing” cards or Mikaeus, the Unhallowed. Just about every deck in Standard is going to have some of these cards.

So if Ratchet Bomb is good…

And Grafdigger’s Cage is decent…

Why are we not considering a Tezzeret deck with all of the above?

Is this the perfect list? Far from it. (I feel I need to put this disclaimer a lot…just want to make sure people don’t think I’ve got the next format buster when they’re mostly ideas.) However, I feel that if the format becomes such that Ratchet Bomb and Grafdigger’s Cage are both high-impact cards across almost all of the common matchups, this could be where you want to be.

Do I want to see any Titans with this list?

Not at all.

Once again, if the format becomes such that Wolf Run Ramp is a large part of the metagame, run as fast as you can from this deck. However, if the format becomes more focused on graveyard-abuse and token strategies, the fact that this deck is packed to the gills with ways to interact with those strategies makes me think this may be a good idea.

Tezzeret alone makes up for the inherent card disadvantage you get from casting a Grafdigger’s Cage. When you get a Tezzeret out, that Cage becomes rather beefy and starts attacking for five a turn. Tezzeret also helps you dig for one of your two high-impact artifacts as well.

The lone Jace is a concession to my thought that you are going to need an alternate win condition in this deck. It’s almost comical how devastating a topdecked Ancient Grudge is against this deck, even with Grafdigger’s Cage out. First, it takes out the Cage, then whatever else you have going on.

This is a list that I keep going back and forth on, whether I want to play it or not. Every time I think that we’re going to see a ton of tokens, I get excited; then I remember that people will generally play whatever they want at StarCityGames.com Standard Opens, regardless of what’s good, so playing a deck based on an expected metagame is probably just bad. It is very much on my radar for Richmond, though, and I may just bring this deck with me and scour the field, looking for how many Wolf Run decks are showing up.

For those of you who have followed my articles for any period of time (Hey, Ma!), you know I’ve been on U/B Control recently. Tezzeret sort of feeds my hunger for controlling you with blue and black spells, but what’s up with straight U/B Control now? Can you play non-Tezzeret U/B in this “new” format?

Apparently the guys on Magic League believe so…

U/B Control
1st Place at a Magic League Tournament
By: BM

This deck took down a Magic-League tournament, even beating Humans (with Thalia) in the finals. I’ll be honest; when I first considered what I’d play in the new Standard, I simply put away U/B Control under the premise that you “don’t show up with answers to the new questions; you pose the new questions yourself.” What do you put in your U/B Control deck when you don’t know what everyone else is showing up with?

So what did BM do? He added a ton of new cards from Dark Ascension, changed around some numbers…

Oh who am I kidding?

He traded out Virulent Wounds for Tragic Slips, which actually seems really good with all of the good things you have going on already. Did I think this was enough to make that deck playable in the new Standard? No, not really. I guess maybe I’m wrong? (I know, I know, this never happens.)

I’ll be honest; I was worried about all of the new token strategies. Humans isn’t a great matchup, and Thalia is a real card, but now that I think about it more, Tragic Slip solves a ton of problems. It can do a great “Doom Blade” impersonation against Thalia, taking her down so you can continue doing your thing while coming back later to take down a Hero of Bladehold (flash in Snapcaster, block a token, both die, flashback Tragic Slip to kill Hero).

Ratchet Bomb also gives us a great way to interact with opponents. Delver can’t flip; Lingering Souls no longer linger; Garruk gets rid of his Veil Curse… This card is going to be a major player in Standard. I suppose if my U/B Control list were to start with Ratchet Bomb, Tragic Slip, and Snapcaster Mage, along with the associated countermagic, that would actually be fine.

If I were to attempt to construct a U/B Control list for the new Standard, here’s where I’d begin:

This is where I’d start with building U/B Control. You’ll see the maindeck is packed with win cons. Seriously. Three Drownyards? We never had it so good!

This deck is slow. Extremely slow. You better hope you win all of your rounds 2-0. Seriously, any round that goes to a game three will have the third game almost always start with fewer than ten minutes remaining on the clock.

However, I’m okay with that. When I win with this deck, it usually is a 2-0 round. The problem I have is that I’m accounting for just about every deck with the exception of Wolf Run. I do believe this deck can beat that deck, but I also believe that it would take three games, and I would have to win two sideboarded games against that deck.

Liliana is really good against Wolf Run decks and control decks, but other than that, she isn’t really shining all that much. Sure, if you’re lucky you can hit a Geist of Saint Traft or an Invisible Stalker, but even then they’ll just recur that guy with Moorland Haunt and off your Liliana, essentially making your Liliana a 0-for-1. Against Wolf Run, you can drop Liliana early and start making your opponent decide between keeping the lands they need to cast their expensive cards and the expensive cards themselves. Usually, neither decision ends up being correct, which is really good for the control player. However, when you’re getting beaten down by four flying souls that have lingered around far too long, dropping a Liliana is just incredibly awkward.

So we’ve demoted her to sideboard duty. She’s still a great card but maybe not so much in the maindeck.

Oh, and the one-of Disperse? Well, this deck has a really hard time dealing with planeswalkers. Even that isn’t the main reason I want to include it.

With Curse of Death’s Hold out, one “anthem” effect will simply cancel out your “trump” card. In that situation, a Disperse will act as a two-mana, instant-speed Wrath of God against token decks. I like the added flexibility of a generic bounce spell, bouncing swords/tokens/planeswalkers at an opportune time.

Is this the deck for this weekend?

I already told you! I don’t know! Back off, ‘ma!

I like that my favorite deck is still playable, but I’ll admit there’s a part of me that just wants to attack with dudes. I hear Humans is going to be decent. People are insisting on running U/W because of Moorland Haunt and Geist of Saint Traft. While that’ll probably be the way to go, what about if we bastardize and combine both U/W Humans and B/W Tokens?

Let’s see. What did we lose vs. what did we gain? Are we just playing a worse version of U/W Humans?

Well, we lose Moorland Haunt (and the long-game reach associated with it). However, is that such a horrible thing? We already have staying power between Loyal Cathar and Doomed Traveler, and the addition of black gives us Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, which is the dictionary definition of late-game power. We also lose Geist of Saint Traft, but again, we gain Sorin plus Lingering Souls. We lose Moorland Haunt, but we gain Vault of the Archangel, which makes our creature-based attrition matches much better. Tokens mirror? Who cares if they have more anthem effects? We can just race them so they have to block, which isn’t profitable either way for them.

Nice Moorland Haunt, bro…

Can I post another wacky deck before I go this week?

No Michael, enough’s enough…

Too bad! Buah ha ha ha ha!

Curse of Exhaustion + Knowledge Pool = Hard Lock

This deck is silly. Somewhere online I saw a forum posting mentioning that the two cards together form a hard lock. I thought about it, and yep! It sure does.

[Full Explanation: A Cursed opponent can’t cast more than one spell per turn. Knowledge Pool exiles the first spell you try to cast from your hand (acting like a counterspell), and instead you may cast another card from Knowledge Pool’s “exiled” pile for free. However, if you’re Cursed, you can’t cast that second spell at all; so you’re stuck! You can still cast cards from the graveyard or other non-hand zones, however. –LL]

Now, the question is: is that hard lock worth playing a completely unplayable Commander card (Knowledge Pool) and a Curse that is far too slow to have any impact other than in control mirrors just to attain a late-game lock? Will that lock even matter?

Honestly, probably not. However, if you can keep the board clear, then drop the bomb on your opponent, you obviously win. Just something to think about, I suppose. (This definitely is not on my radar for this weekend, though I could see playing it at an FNM for the laughs.)

That’s all for this week. Hopefully Richmond will have cleared up some questions about the format and these decks can be better tuned for the upcoming StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Cincinnati! I’d love to see one of the wacky decks do well!

Until next time!

Michael Martin

Shoctologist on MTGO

@mikemartinlfs on Twitter