Deconstructing Constructed – Non-Standard Approaches In Standard

The StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard open Comes to Philadelphia!
Tuesday, December 2nd – If you’re going to the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Philly this upcoming weekend and want to play a well-tested, powerful, and proven machine, go ahead and play Faeries. If you want to take a shot at the metagame from a crazy angle that, unfortunately, hasn’t been fully tested yet… you’ve come to the right place!

If you’re going to the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Philly this upcoming weekend and want to play a well-tested, powerful, and proven machine, go ahead and play Faeries. If you want to take a shot at the metagame from a crazy angle that, unfortunately, hasn’t been fully tested yet… you’ve come to the right place!

Each of the following decks I list has been specifically targeted to maul at least Faeries or Five-Color Control, while at least having valid sideboard plans against other decks.

This deck is effectively a cross between the States-winning list that ran no ‘real’ creatures and the Blightning Aggro decks running around in the current metagame. Instead of deciding to run zero real creatures and let them focus the spot removal on man-lands, I’ve modified the deck with an actual card-drawing engine. Sygg itself isn’t amazing by any stretch, but if it goes unchecked for more than a few turns, you’ll find it quite difficult to lose. Yeah, Sygg won’t live too long against most decks, but that’s not the point. The point is simply to get one or two draws off Sygg and force the opponent to spend mana dealing with it.

Unlike many Red aggro decks, your early game is the equivalent of mush. Unless you hit the turn 2 Bitterblossom, you have no relevant action to speak of. So throwing out Sygg to draw out a Bant Charm on turn 3 or a Wrath of God on turn 4 is ultimately giving you a chance to make up for the time you lost in the damage race. In exchange for this weak early game, you get reach from your lands, more burn, and Goblin Assault to help Bitterblossom against control. By running the full suite of eight token generators, you also have enough ways to make creatures that Grave Pact is a valid option and quite the beating against opposing creature decks.

You do have a weak game 1 against Kithkin and Elves, leaning heavily on Grave Pact due to the lack of a maindeck sweeper. Post-board sees you go up slightly as Forge-Tender doesn’t bug this version of Red as much as others, and you do get the set of Pyroclasm and the 4th Grave Pact to maim swarms. The key is not to fall too far behind on board while buying time for your token generators to warm up, or draw into Grave Pact while conserving burn for Ajani Goldmane or Elsepth. It becomes a balancing act, because either Planeswalker can gain the Kith player an insurmountable advantage after a few turns, so you really need to deal with them quickly. Against Elves, just kill Heritage Druid and Paragon on sight and you should be okay.

Against Faeries, although you generally have a winnable game 1, post-board you can use Knollspine Invocation down the line to trade extra copies of Sygg, Bitterblossom, Goblin Assault and what have you into more burn damage. Sometimes it ends up more effective channeling cards like Blightning through there so it becomes instant speed uncounterable damage. Certainly helps avoid Cryptic Command and Spellstutter Sprite blowouts on your stuff.

Five-Color Control has the usual array of life-gain and counters against aggressive decks, but 7-10 cards in there deck are dead or ineffectual from the start. If you resolve a token generator and just peck away with manlands, you can drain a decent amount of life without spending any real resources. If they hit a turn 3 Rhox War Monk and you can’t Javelin it, then life becomes miserable pretty quickly. On the other hand, if you hit a turn 2 Sygg, you can quickly go up on cards and let them waste an entire turn of mana dealing with him. Post-board, Torment and Manabarbs are both great, but aren’t so gamebreaking that you should keep any hand with them. Bitterblossom and Goblin Assault are still the best cards in the match and should be treated as such. Lucky for you, all of your killer cards are enchantments, so you can easily overload the set of Esper Charm they have.

Originally this was a thought experiment to see exactly how much crap you had to hurl at the Faeries deck before something would stick. What surprised me was just how brutal a resolved, well, anything was against Fae with this deck. There’s no good way to stop Fae from getting the great Bitterblossom draw and just crushing you game 1 if you don’t see an Oblivion Ring. However, you now have a plan against the average draw, which is just turn 2 Bitterblossom with a few random Faeries and a counter. Having eight guys with pro-Black (or Blue) is great, as they simply can’t be blocked or dealt with easily once they hit play. Now add Rise of the Hobgoblins into the mix, and suddenly you can have some very scary turns against the Fae player.

Say on turn 5 I have six mana in play. I attempt to resolve a Rise of the Hobgoblins, if the Fae player lets it through, then I make four guys, all of which can beat opposing Bitterblossom tokens in a fight. If they stop it, they risk either getting their current board position smeared by Thresher or Chameleon Colossus hitting play. Archon of Justice is solid in a number of matches, while being perfectly serviceable against Fae. If it dies, goodbye Clique, Sower, or Bitterblossom; if not, you have a 4/4 flying beater. Post-board, you have Wispmare available to narrow how many relevant draws they have against you before the heavy-hitter spells come online.

In other match-ups, boarded-in Condemn and Story Circle (or Runed Halo) will combine with the maindeck Wrath and huge guys to end most aggro decks without real issues. If you see a lot of Red or Blightning Aggro, then I suggest Feudkiller’s Verdict. On the other hand, Five-Color Control is a pretty rough match with no easy answer since they happen to be very good at killing your guys. The one weapon you do gain is Gaddock Teeg, which is reasonably solid, especially since they aren’t likely to keep the smaller sweepers in the deck. Which means as long a you don’t attack into a Condemn, Bant Charm is the only reasonable answer they have against him. If they do keep Pyroclasm or Firespout in, that’s fine, since anytime you don’t have Teeg in play those cards are quite dead.

I realize this type of deck isn’t supposed to work against Faeries for a variety of reasons, but so many of your threats are difficult to deal with once they hit play that you tend to win a lot of games where you fall behind on tempo. Alternatively, blow up Bitterblossom and watch most Fae hands fall apart because a lot of players use that card as a massive crutch in hand assessment. Ultimately, this is the most hand dependent of any of the decks listed, so I can understand why people wouldn’t want to play this type of set-up over eight rounds.

A major drawback to this sort of Mana Ramp deck is the lack of relevant flashy knock-out spells. Archon of Justice and Oversoul of Dusk aren’t killing the opponent or creating instant turnarounds the way Flameblast Dragon or Broodmate Dragon would. There are no Ultimatums to just blow out an opponent once you hit seven mana. No random one-drops plus Bloom Tender into Realm Razer god hands that pretty much nothing but Red aggro can beat. The upside is you have a maindeck way of dealing with Bitterblossom, and current strategies are a lot more friendly toward Ramp decks. Without any combo like Swans or cheap answers like Wren’s Run Vanquisher to trade with your large threats or Profane Command to get teams easily around your men, playing huge guys and doing nothing is valid in many matches.

Ah, my favorite deck of the bunch, if only because it’s named after Castle Crashers and I think of cute big-headed knights when I hear the name. Really though, this deck is not only very aggressive, but can actually deal far more damage than any non-Kithkin aggro deck can in turns 3-5. Not only that, but it also gets to run counters, and one of the best answers to the format in Bant Charm.

This list only features a few notable alterations to the average Bant Crasher list, but this deck hasn’t gotten much love publicity wise. The main difference in the maindeck is I run Groundling Pouncer over random pump or Mulldrifter. For one thing, I feel the more gold cards are better for Mimic abuse. The second reason is that it gives you 12 two-drops, all of which are great against Faeries, which is really what you want. This deck is one of the few with a reasonably good match against Fae and the Pouncer just adds to that beating. Getting a 3/4 flyer of your own can take down any man on the Fae side short of Mistbind Clique while being mostly Agony Warp proof.

Fathom Trawl is one of those cards I try to sneak in to my decks now and then, but this is one I feel really benefits. Five mana is definitely the upper end of want you want to see for the rest of the game, and it’s rare when the opponent will be able to counter it after you’ve exhausted your hand. If they can, odds are you’ll both be in topdeck mode or you already lost the game. Basically, the card is a better refuel than Mulldrifter, and I prefer having some way to regain cards after you hit the midgame.

Sideboard-wise, the biggest thing I’ve tried to do is seal up the Red match with the set of Forge-Tender and Ranger to fetch them up. Even if all you do is use them as one-mana counterspells, you’ll be coming out far ahead life-wise once it comes down to topdecking. You can also fetch up Feral Hydra, which threatens to take over the game when you lay it as a 4/4 or 5/5. Not only can Red not deal with it easily via burn, but if they don’t block, they risk letting you pump it up and them getting ganked damage-wise. The rest of the board is focused on helping out a bit more against Five-Color Control and Fae, although those slots (Guttural Response and Thresher) are hardly absolute. Gaddock Teeg, Kitchen Finks, and Flashfreeze are all reasonable additions to give additional help to your red match.

Hope this helped those of you who were looking for a non-Faeries deck, and best of luck to those playing at the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open this weekend.

Joshua Silvestri
Team Reflection
E-mail me at: JoshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom