Double Or Nothing: What Do We Lose?

Every time a new set shows up, we get a slew of”the new Standard” articles, telling us how a whole host of new decks based around unlikely card combos will be wrecking Standard in a months time. If a deck has been eating up tournaments for a year, and it’s left intact by a rotation, why should it stop winning? Jim looks at the current top decks to see who comes out unscathed.

Articles and articles of set reviews? I guess it must be time for a new set, and each time we get a slew of”the new Standard” articles, telling us how a whole host of new decks based around unlikely card combos will be wrecking Standard in a months time.

At this time of year, I’m well known for sticking to what works well. If a deck has been eating up tournaments for a year, and it’s left intact by a rotation, why should it stop winning? The only real reason is if a brand-new deck comes along that everyone decides to play and that is much better.

What do you think the chances of that happening in the first tournament of November? What will be the first tourney most people will be attending? States. Do you really think that everyone there will show up with a new deck?

I don’t, either.

Sure, lots of people are already working hard on their States tech. New decks, new card ideas for old decks, new strategies and new secrets – none of which they’ll tell the rest of us, if they really are that good. Who can blame them? They do the work, after all; why should we get the glory? So, the best that most of us can do, if we want to do well, is look at today’s decks and see if we can divine tomorrow’s versions of them.

I’m currently working on Extended: We have a gauntlet of decks built up and we’re just getting used to playing them all before we start looking at adding newer cards and trying newer ideas for older decks. That means I really don’t have much time to work on Standard the way I’d like right now, so I’ve tried to spend it working out which decks in Standard might still be good post November by looking at what the most popular decks will lose, and what – if anything – Onslaught brings them.


Well, if we’re going to start anywhere we might as well start with the top dog.

Whether it’s U/B with no Familiars, U/B with Familiars, U/B/R with Burning Wish and Flametongue Kavu or even U/B/G with Pernicious Deed, Psychatog has been sending players into the losing brackets since this time last year. It’s not so rare for a deck to be dominant for such a long time – look at Fires – but it’s rare enough that the deck should be respected.

Time and time again writers have told us of the impending death of Tog. Innocent Blood was supposed to kill it… It didn’t. U/G Madness was supposed to be ‘too fast’ for Tog to cope… it coped just fine. Now, however, Tog is about to suffer its greatest setback so far:

Tog is losing Fact or Fiction.

Fact or Fiction doesn’t just draw you a card or two; it lets you pick the best card from the top five in your library. It gives Tog an extra six points of damage (three discarded from your hand and the five cards, and the Fact or Fiction, removed from the game) and it does it all as an instant – allowing you to make best use of unused mana in your opponent’s end step. Fact or Fiction may be the best card drawing card ever, and Tog has used it to the full.

I can’t count the number of games playing Tog that I would have lost without Fact or Fiction. I’ve certainly watched enough games at tournaments to know that there are plenty of DCI ranking points owed to that card.

That isn’t all Tog loses. Nightscape Familiar waves a cheery goodbye… But Tog decks had lots of success before Familiar became that popular, and they might be able to do so again. The more recent addition of Red and Green mana to Tog decks comes under threat with the loss of Shivan Reef and Llanowar Wastes. Both served to smooth mana problems. Red mana will be the easiest to get hold of, with Sulphurous Springs still available… But why would we want to play Red? Flametongue Kavu is bowing out – a very powerful argument for Red mana – as is Fire/Ice. Is Burning Wish really that important on it’s own? Only time will tell.

Repulse too is a spell that many Tog players have been using with great effect for some time. Bouncing a creature, often almost Time Walking your opponent, and you get to draw a card? Gimme some of that! But Aether Burst has served its time in Tog decks, and so losing Repulse might not be crippling.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning Salt Marsh. Salt Marsh performed a critical job in Tog: Giving you the right colours of mana. Most Tog decks needed Blue and Black mana early on, and underground River couldn’t do it on it’s own. Darkwater Catacombs might help, as might the new search land Polluted Delta.

All in all, Tog seems to lose a lot of spells – but there are plenty that could help it to put itself back together. Deep Analysis is pretty good, and players are already looking at Read the Runes and commenting how well it would work with Tog (it certainly serves well as a finisher, and it’s a very good card for increasing the overall quality of your hand). It may have lost a lot, but as long as out graveyard-eating friend (or foe) remains, people will find a way to make him win.

Tog, once again, is dead. Long Live Tog.

U/G Madness

Looking at my U/G Madness deck from last month, I only played four cards in my main deck that rotate out in November: Yavimaya Coasts. The Coasts are important, but the deck did well enough in OBC to show us that they’re not the be all and end all of the deck. We also have Grand Coliseum coming in to help out along with City of Brass. The deck needs Green and Blue mana early on, and so the City may have to come in to help out, as the Coliseum comes into play tapped.

Other than that, the deck only really takes a hit in the sideboard with the loss of Unnatural Selection taking care of Squirrels and Birds for us, as well as helping out the mirror match.

That said, the deck looks like one of the strongest post November, and it’ll be popular too – as most people will already a good deck list they can copy and it doesn’t need that many rare cards to build it.

What does Onslaught bring us? Well, Read the Runes is making waves: Discarding a few cards after drawing some more sounds useful in a deck with eight to twelve cards you want to in your graveyard and at least eight that you want to discard. Why not try it out? Unless something changes, I’ll probably be playing this deck in November myself.

Miss America

Miss America is going to need major surgery to survive in any form at all – and it probably won’t be recognisable. Goodbye Lightning Angel, Flametongue, Fact or Fiction, Fire/Ice, Urza’s Rage. Goodbye all the land that made it work (Shivan Reef, Coastal Tower, Battlefield Forge).

What we’re left with are the very uninspiring bones of a vanilla U/W control deck.”Mobilization!” I hear you cry – we’ll come to that when I get to Trenches…

Hunting Grounds

The majority of the successful Hunting Grounds deck survives, but it loses three important cards: Fact or Fiction, Mystic Snake and Repulse. The deck is a reasonable control deck if Hunting Grounds never even makes it into play – but what makes it really good is what happens when Hunting Grounds does make an appearance, and you have Mystic Snakes and Repulses in your hand. As we know, the Snake becomes an uncounterable Counterspell, something many players – especially control players – really hate. Repulse lets you bounce it back to your hand and draw a card before playing for free again! You can also put other creatures from your hand straight into play, Phantom Nishoba being a favourite, but free counterspells have always been much more powerful than that.

The loss of the Snake will hurt the deck, but I think that it could well survive with the advent of the new Wizards. I can put a Wizard from my hand into play, instead of a Snake, and then pay UU to counter your spell and you can’t stop me; that sounds pretty good. The only drawback is that, unlike Snakes, the Wizards can’t be cast as an Instant. Even so, keep your eyes peeled. There are too many tricks and good things you can do with this deck for it to be ignored. Someone, somewhere will be working on the deck – I know that PhatBeats will be…


More than any deck based around Invasion block cards, Tings dies a horrible death on November 1st in Standard. As if losing Obliterate wasn’t enough (even if it is only until next summer when it comes back in 8th edition), Tings loses nearly all of its land! Some people, including myself, have tried to get Balancing Act to work in different decks – G/W with Anurid Brushhoppers, Sylvan Safekeeper, and Thaumatog is one such idea – but without the mana acceleration of the sac-lands and the Obliterates uncounterable nature, the deck just isn’t good enough.

Tings never really took off big time, possibly because it always seemed like a deck that if you knew about it, you were ready for it. While it remained a minority, it did pull off some good results, though – and some players will mourn its loss I’m sure.

Mono Black Control (MBC)

Acknowledged as one of the two best decks in OBC, MBC combines the raw power of cards like Mind Sludge and Mutilate with the consistency provided by Tainted Pact and Diabolic Tutor.

In November, none of this changes.

Not a thing.

Previous Standard versions have relied on Corrupt and Soul Burn for the kill; Corrupt stays, but we lose Soul burn. Many versions also played Planar Portal to go and get whatever card they needed when they needed it, along with Legacy Weapon to kill cards that Black normally has a problem with.

Even with the loss of these cards, MBC will remain strong. The core of the OBC deck is as infallible as any deck can be – and with the inclusion of Duress and Corrupt, the deck is a real powerhouse. There are plenty of cards that can shut the deck down – COP: Black for one – but you can deck your opponent using Haunting Echoes, and you could always play with Marble Diamonds to give you access to White mana and Disenchant, as many players did at Worlds this year.

Black gains a lot of good-looking cards in Onslaught. Blackmail seems like a card that needs to be tried out, but I have my reservations; too much discard and you’re not hurting your opponent, and you’re not going to play Blackmail over Duress are you? Death Match looks like an interesting sideboard card, as we’re playing no critters at all normally – and if we’re playing with Faceless Butchers we can use the Death Match to make sure the Butchered creature never comes back (by stacking Death Match’s triggered ability and Faceless Butchers CIP effect in the right order – we should probably check with Sheldon)!

If you’re not ready for MBC in November, you’ve made a big mistake. The number of rare cards in the deck is very high, but I’d be surprised if you go to a tournament and no one is playing it. And I mean really surprised.


Trenches loses all of its ways to win: Trenches and Urza’s Rage, as well as its often-used transformational sideboard. It also looses the bulk of the land it needed to produce three colours reliably as well as Fire/Ice and Absorb so – on the face of it – things aren’t looking good.

Until, that is, you see Mobilization in Onslaught.



Enchantment Rare

Attacking doesn’t cause Soldiers to tap.

2W: Put a 1/1 white Soldier creature token into play.

One of the drawbacks to Trenches was that, for a control deck, you used your land in a very irresponsible fashion: You got rid of it! Mobilization doesn’t need us to do that – and unlike Kjeldoran Outpost, we can still make more than one Soldier at a time. Even so, without good instant-speed card drawing like Fact or Fiction, and lots of good counter spells (Absorb would have been perfect), the deck is going to have to rely on the old”Wrath. Wrath again. What have you got left?” strategy.

Unfortunately, that has proved a little too slow in today’s environment and so the deck will need something more.

Deep Analysis and Concentrate may be able to help out with extra cards; Vengeful Dreams might be a stop-gap before you can Wrath with counter backup, and Aether Burst could well give you the time you need to drop Mobilization to get a few blockers on the table. Complicate may well find a home in this deck, as it’s never really a dead card. Mana Leak and Miscalculate were some good, after all…

I wouldn’t write a U/W control deck off just yet, as the popularity of Trenches and Counter-Post will be sure to have plenty of players, especially the old timers who loved making”dudes” each turn, will be trying to make this work. Even so – U/G Madness is very fast and Tog has been described as one of the best control decks of all time. Control decks are generally beaten by better ones, and so the Mobo decks (as they’re coming to be called) will need to be really good.

Squirrel Opposition

At first glance, U/G Squirrel Opposition is unchanged. Some versions played with Mystic Snake, but it’s always been thought of as an expensive counter to use in the deck and won’t really be missed. Yavimaya Coasts helped out the deck – but like U/G Madness, we can use City of Brass and Grand Coliseum to help us get over that loss.

On the other hand we do lose almost all reasons to play red at all. Fire/Ice vanished, as does Flametongue Kavu and the Shivan Reefs that made it possible whilst still having Green and Blue mana available for us to play with.

The deck survives admirably and gains a few cards, like Complicate and Voidmage Prodigy, which if built properly, could give this deck a real edge – as one of the things that is always a problem in Opposition decks is fitting enough creatures and counter spells into the deck. It might also be a good choice for a deck to try out Hystrodon, our new, green trampling, Thieving Magpie.

U/W Quiet Speculation

Another deck with its roots firmly in Odyssey Block, the only real differences between this Standard deck and its Block brothers are the inclusion of Adarkar Wastes to help with the mana flow, and Meddling Mage. A 2/2 Wizard that causes all but the most varied decks problems, I’m convinced that any success this deck has had so far in Standard can, to some extent, be blamed on this Invitational card. Take away the Wizard and the deck becomes very much a Block deck with all the same problems that Tomi Walamies deck has: If you know about it, you’re ready for it.

Previously it’s been able to beat U/G Madness handily but, U/G Madness now has Naturalise and Instant speed Enchantment removal can be good – or so I’ve heard.

Onslaught doesn’t just give other decks a helping hand. You may find True Believer slipping into some sideboards to help out against some decks, and Weathered Wayfarer might be just the card this deck is looking for to improve the quality of its draws enough to compete at the top-flight.

As with any block rotation, players tend to look at Block decks for their inspiration – and so don’t be surprised if you end up playing against this baby in November.

Of course, that isn’t all the decks.

B/G Beats loses some real power with the loss of Spiritmonger and Pernicious Deed, but I’m sure people will still try to make it work.

W/B loses Vindicate, Gerrard’s Verdict and Death Grip… And you have to wonder why with that lot gone along with Spectral Lynx, you’d not just play MBC and try to work with a more stable mana base and Cabal Coffers.

Domain finally dies, although it never really got going in Standard apart from a brief fling as a combo deck.

Finally, G/R Beats. The deck loses Flametongue Kavu – a key loss – but keeps the majority of its creature base, losing only Yavimaya Barbarian and Blurred Mongoose. Mind you, with U/G Madness so strong you have to wonder how, especially with the loss of Flametongue, G/R will kill flying 6/6 Wurms. But it’ll be out there. People will play it. They always do.

They should be playing U/G, but that’s not the point.

I hope this article gives you some food for thought. You should be able to construct a gauntlet for the new Standard; in fact, I’ll be doing just that during October when I manage to tear myself away from Extended. I’ll keep you up to date with how it goes.

Cheers, Jim.

Team PhatBeats,

Team Diaspora &

Level 2 DCI judge.