This has been a turbulent week for me! I can’t exactly talk about the intensity of the winds, but man, my head has been spinning from a number of things. On the Magical front, I’ve been busy brewing in preparation for Nationals, coming up here in nearly a week. Despite the newness of the format, it’s still been clearly defined by the writers, with easy to follow gains/losses of each deck to get a feel for exactly where the power is found.
The format looks to be reverting back to the Lorwyn staging area. Flocks of Faeries, a crap load of Kithkin-filled cribs, a bursting amount of Red burn decks, and the astute will throw together Five-Color Control with some Sable Stags and Runed Halos in the board to “outsmart” the Lorwyn lackeys. That’s not all that’s out there, but I’m hard pressed to find a more consistent grouping of decks that will show up in huge numbers. Perhaps Goblins or Elementals got a good enough boost, but those are usually Red based, and Red is one of the foremost enemies people are prepared to pounce on come M10 tournament time.
These are some noteworthy trends to keep in mind in regards to the power fluctuation ensuing post-rotation.
Green decks are compromised without pain lands.
White decks think they’re going to make a push, but we’ll just adjust and write them off as always.
Blue decks are still going to be the best, the format is just too basic and linear to suggest otherwise.
Red decks are what Red decks have always been, we’ll adjust like we do to White.
Black decks might be the sleepers.
Whenever Green/Red/White are being trumped by Blue, Black on paper always seems to have the creature removal/hand disruption to take on those decks. The problem is that all the other colors have evolved since their primitive color pie arrangement, and are centered around versatile spells with inherent card advantage (go figure!). Black is the only color that is lacking a legitimate form of card advantage.
White has Windbrisk Heights, Spectral Procession, Cloudgoat Ranger, Reveillark, Hallowed Burial, and Martial Coup. Red has Volcanic Fallout, Bloodbraid Elf, and Blightning, along with various recurring burn options like Anathemancer and Hellspark Elemental. Green has Regal Force, Bloodbraid Elf, and Garruk Wildspeaker. Blue is actually the weak link with only Jace Beleren and Mulldrifter to lead us to victory, although Cruel Ultimatum is probably in that list too.
Black has Infest… uhh, Sign in Blood, Mind Shatter, Blightning, and Liliana Vess. None of those are exciting in the least. Corrupt with a bunch of Swamps is neat, but with the fall of Zealous Persecution I’d estimate Stillmoon Cavalier will be spiking up in value and placement, and I wouldn’t want to be the Black schmuck fighting Stillmoon postboard round after round. Duress and Haunting Echoes are neat, but in this creature-packed format I don’t see those becoming very useful the first couple of weeks until Control decks put their stamp on Standard.
People keep whining about Blue being neutered (myself included), but Black is the real M10 victim. Last time I felt Black was this bad was back in Invasion-Odyssey Standard, and they printed Torment, an entire set dedicated to Black mages, to compensate. I’m not big on skulls, death, or Swamps, but Black does need a Torment-like intervention at this point. All the other colors have been evolving and getting more and more powerful, but ever since Damnation rotated out I haven’t felt the urge to sling Swamps around.
Standard is extremely linear and easy to counter at this point, which is the ideal environment for combo and control decks. I was mildly obsessed with breaking Time Warp this time last week, so I thought I’d share some of my more interesting lists.
Basically, you use Savor and Warp to enhance the Planeswalkers. There are a variety of “Time Walk” cards in this deck to protect the Planeswalkers. Sleep, Silence, and Primal Command are all functional Walks in their own right, and when combined with the other eight actual Time Walks this deck can string together some pretty sick combination turns.
Ajani Vengeant and Garruk are the kill conditions. Many times I’ll start “going off” around turn 5 or 6, land an Ajani + Savor/Walk, then take three or four turns in a row to be able to blow up all their lands out of nowhere. Jace and Font keep the gas coming, and with 30 lands finding the mana to play all the heavy-set spells shouldn’t be a problem.
I’m not sure if the mana is 100% correct, but with Fertile Ground and Rampant Growth I haven’t had any problems so far. It is essentially Bant based, splashing Red for Ajani, which leaves a ton of sideboard options available. Faeries was a huge obstacle for me, so Great Sable Stag plus Banefire are my routes to get the dubbya after sideboarding. I’ve considered Rhox War Monk/Kitchen Finks too, but I think I’d rather have Runed Halo as a catch all alongside Vendilion Clique for protect the combo and draw out counters.
Silence plays a crucial role in this deck, since often the success of the next turn relies on whether the Planeswalker just played will stick around. Ajani and Garruk can hang and have their own defenses, but are much better protected when you can Planeswalker + Silence them. Arbiter of Knollridge is the failsafe card; it’s very easy to get up to 7 mana before they reach 4-5, and with Primal Command you can buy a ton of time to build the mana to take a bunch of turns in a row when your life isn’t an issue.
Arbiter of Knollridge is a card that I feel has gone up tremendously in value with the M10 rules changes. Take it from me, I’m the reigning San Antonio/Austin/Houston/El Paso city champion, and I wouldn’t have gotten that pair of plaques without being able to Wizardcyle for Arbiter of Knollridge in my U/w control deck. The deck stopped performing for me after awhile because people would wise up and start mana burning themselves to neutralize my stabilizer.
No more mana burn = increasingly attractive Arbiter end games.
He really does change the way you can play a game of Magic, and leaning on him is not so different than leaning on Cruel Ultimatum. Y’know, except he’s the easier one to cast. Just sayin’…
This is an artificially infused Time Warp deck looking similar to the Fog deck from Regionals. I had a pair of Savor the Moment in here for the longest time, but the goal stopped being “take a ton of turns” to “setup a Tezzy kill in one turn.”
I honestly never got around to sideboard testing since this deck didn’t feel right. It was a lot clunkier than the UGW version, and I feel the Arbiters are forced in this deck; however, I really like Knight of the White Orchid. Usually I’d have Cryptic Command / Silence backup for the turn I go in for the attack, but with only 10 Artifacts in the deck I’d have to draw at least 24 cards from my deck to have a shot at attacking for twenty.
Simply put, this deck needs more artifacts, and I didn’t want to waste brain cells playtesting with this pile. But I hope it gives you a perspective of some of the other routes you can take.
I’ve tried Grixis-based Time Warp with Chandra and Liliana, GW versions splashing for Time Warp, straight U/G, and even an extremely awkwardly assembled five-color list with a Horde of Notions plan out of board. UGWr seems to have the best tools and cohesiveness needed to win.
This deck is a classic “no creatures, don’t care” decklists that have historically been great options since the opponent has no idea what kind of sideboard to expect. Surely they can’t take out all of their removal in fear of some Bant dudes, but leaving them in is just suicide.
For those that don’t know how the Fog deck works, it’s simple. Land a few Howling Mine effects, stop the opponent from dealing you damage with the numerous Fog effects, deck them with Jace, or play all the Howling Mine effects the turn before they would draw to deck them. It happens far more often than you’d initially imagine.
With these types of decks, you become extremely vulnerable to Red decks with lots of burn. You can hold off their creatures for as long as it takes to deck them, but when Burn is thrown in the mix you end up taking every single point of burn damage in their deck, which is where Runed Halo comes in to counter their only way to win. It’s also extremely handy opposite Mistbind Clique. “You can never have too many Halos on Clique,” as my grand pappy used to say.
Some of the Green sideboard creature options I explored were Kitchen Finks, Rhox War Monk, Lorescale Coatl (!), Baneslayer Angel, but I really started liking this deck because of Rampant Growth. Advancing the mana isn’t especially important in this deck, but it makes you quicker in the matchups against which the Fogs aren’t so relevant, so you can do more things with Negate/Cryptic backup. And I’m going to be playing Primal Command at Nationals, as it might be the best card in all of Standard.
The Fog deck is a real contender. I would expect more UW versions than there will be those including Green.
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 3 Sower of Temptation
- 3 Reveillark
- 3 Plumeveil
- 3 Knight of the White Orchid
- 3 Wall of Reverence
With the format so clearly defined, UW Control has historically been able to put the right White control elementals alongside Blue countermagic to be successful. I went through many UW Control decks before realizing that Reveillark is the best card you can slap on to frame, because it makes Mulldrifter a premium card drawing utility, which is rare in this format. The other decks relied solely on Jace.
There are a lot of three- and two-ofs in this deck, but it’s mostly because it takes a great deal of finesse to distribute the curve evenly, and this deck often draws enough cards to make it extremely consistent at what it does.
I’ve been trying to work on an Esper deck with cheap creatures like Tidehollow Sculler or Knight of the White Orchid to pair with Agony Warp and Harm’s Way. The goal is to be able to play a creature and a cheap spell to tempo them on their turn. The mana is a little dirty, but more importantly the Esper creatures all suck, so I wasn’t able to come up with anything too exciting on that front. However, it’s something I’ll re-evaluate when the Zendikar comes out.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 1 Burrenton Forge-Tender
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 4 Regal Force
- 4 Ranger of Eos
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 1 Vampire Aristocrat
At FNM last week, the other Kyle showed up with an Elf brew. He drew fifteen or so cards from Regal Force when I started watching. The then used another to draw twenty something, then used Primal Command to shuffle his graveyard back in while searching for an ominous Nantuko Husk. I didn’t fully understand its brilliance at the time, but after watching him go through his entire library multiple times, putting all of the opponent’s permanents on top, he found the singleton Garruk, set it to 4, passed the turn, and Overran him on the next turn.
Nantuko Husk enabled him to control his Regal Force, eventually creating infinite mana while have accessibility to his entire deck without fear of decking while recycling all his Regal Forces. He wasn’t running the single Banefire, but with infinite mana, and a single Manamorphose to cast the new Nantuko Husk (Vampire Aristocrat) and Banefire, I don’t see why waiting a turn for Garruk is better than killing them uncounterably and unpreventably (Are those words?! They are now!).
This is a clear upgrade to the Elves decks running around these days, as the Aristocrat provides another level with which to combo. This is a direction I’d expect a lot of Elves players to take because it takes away those moments when you’re thinking “damn, I’m done combo’ing… I hope he doesn’t have a Volcanic Fallout or something.”
This is another one of those decks that Magic Online stops you from playing. There are so many triggers, activated abilities, and spells cast, sacrificed, and shuffled in this deck that it’s just impossible to expect to be able to kill the opponent with only a 30-minute clock if there is any lag whatsoever.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not going to be caught dead with Kithkin, Faeries, Goblins, Burn, or Elves a week from now, so I hope some of these rogue fringe brews sparked some ideas for your own ways to adapt to M10 Standard.
Thanks for reading…