Down And Dirty – Innovate This! (Five More Decks for Standard)

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Thursday, April 3rd – Earlier this week, Patrick “The Innovator” Chapin brought us a fresh set of five decks for Standard. Today it’s the turn of Kyle Sanchez, and he doesn’t disappoint. He trawls through five more innovative decks for Standard, including a Mono-Green combo deck that deserves further investigation. Intrigued? Then read on!

Every time I actually sit down and write an article like this, I die a little inside. Soon there will be nothing left.

Soon the new day, breaks the dawn
But tonight you, will be so fun

Speaking of fun…

I have a strange obsession with Mana Tithe right now. There’s just something about countering an evoked Reveillark for one mana that makes my head spin. This Kithkin build is about as aggressive you can get, with plenty of Damnnation/Wrath protection in the form of Kinsbaile Borderguard, Mana Tithe, and the Mutavault plus Militia’s Pride “combo.” The Borderguard in particular was a focal point for this deck, and with twelve one-drops and eight two-drops you’ll almost always have a 3/3 Borderguard on turn 3, or a 5/5 or 6/6 on turn 4 if you have Mutavault out.

Cenn’s Tactician is a card I actually haven’t seen much of in the more traditional Kithkin builds, and I’m not sure why. He’s an awesome one-drop that can break through for some early damage, while pumping the big kid on the block after a stalemate happens. He also has the ability to pump the Borderguard to spawn more 1/1s when he meets the graveyard.

The spells in this deck are really impressive, considering its a mono-colored aggro deck. Force Spike is a perfect fit that acts like a virtual Time Walk – they have to wait a turn for any expensive spell they want to resolve. The best part is that, in the majority of the matchups, if they saw Mana Tithe game 1 you can safely board them out for more potent tactics and just rely on bluffing with a single Plains open every turn.

Sunlance is really awesome, but I didn’t have the balls to main deck four since knowing my luck I’d draw multiple copies against an opposing White deck. Otherwise it’s a lot like Mana Tithe, a one-mana spell that will almost always kill something that costs more mana than you invested. Oblivion Ring probably needs no introduction. It deals with a lot of the problem cards for this deck that conventional removal wouldn’t normally cover, like Teferi’s Moat, Bitterblossom, and Loxodon Warhammer.

I honestly didn’t even know that Cloudchaser Kestrel was legal until I did the three-mana search for White creatures on MTGO. I automatically reverted to Wispmare, but the Kestrel is equally appealing. Sure, you run the risk of having the Kestrel countered after a turn 2 Bitterblossom, but he is a much better attacker. I’m not sure if his White-changing ability has any relevance in this deck, or in the Standard format for that matter.

Reveillark is there to give you some late game action in matchups where they will be able to push the game longer. Just when they think you’re out of gas you drop a four-powered flier that they really don’t want to kill. He is also prime for any aggro matchups in which combat is going to be bloody.

I’m at odds with Militia’s Pride right now. I’m not sure if I really want it in the deck because on several occasions, mostly while in a losing position, it’s a dead draw that doesn’t add anything to the game. It’s one of those “win more” cards that eventually ends up pissing you off. I’m not sure what would fit in that slot… perhaps Mirror Entity. Who just so happens to be a Rebel.

Speaking of Rebels…

This is obviously a much more controlling Kithkin deck, with Amrou Scout providing a must-answer creature before he takes the game over. Another one of Wizards sinister plots, Amrou Scout sports the Kithkin creature type, which was something I remember sticking out when I first read many months ago.

One of the major reason to switch from the above version to this one is the G/B matchup. Amrou Scout is an invaluable tool at gaining card advantage against the G/B deck, giving you the option to outplay your opponent rather than pushing all-in and hoping for the best. Celestial Crusader may be a bit of a standout in this deck, but while I was testing the deck I felt like I wanted the option to either tutor for something, or play a relevant spell. Being that the Crusader is uncounterable, an instant, and pumps every other creature in the deck, it seemed elementary.

As for the Rebel slots, we have 2 Mirror Entity, 2 Bound in Silence, and three additional Amrou Scouts to tutor for after the first one is in play. The first copy of the deck I tested had four Entity, some Aven Riftwatchers, and an Amrou Seekers (the only other non-Changeling Rebel Kithkin). Eventually drawing Mirror Entities and non-Kithkin creatures got really annoying, so I took the deck to the Billy Moreno Barber Shop. He suggested that you don’t need a ton of Rebels to have a reasonable Rebel strategy. Which is undeniably true. Why have excess tutorable creatures? They are there to be tutored for, and hard-casting a Mirror Entity just feels awkward. Three mana for a 1/1? Pfft.

One of the biggest aspects of this deck is deciding when to go aggro, and when to lay back and play the card advantage game. You still have the turn 1 Goldmeadow Stalwart, turn 2 Wizened Cenn, turn 3 Kinsbaile Borderguard/Oblivion Ring draw, which will often win games without the engine. But the fact that you have some flexible cards that can go in either game strategy is what gives this deck a lot of range.

Another increasingly stupid trend I’ve noticed is how every other Kithkin deck plays with Surge of Thoughtweft. I don’t know who started it, but the card sucks, and completely the opposite of what you want to do in the Kithkin deck. Take a look at the best White spells available: Mana Tithe, Sunlance, Miltia’s Pride (vomit), and Oblivion Ring. All of them are in another league, often gaining huge amounts of tempo advantage. Now take a look at Surge of Thoughtweft. Sure, it replaces itself, and will almost always deal 2-4 damage for a measly two mana, but instead of playing a creature you have to play with an instant that doesn’t help unless you’re attacking with a bundle of creatures. The only time Surge is even worthwhile is when you can cast two on the same turn, to give a +2/+2 effect for 2WW. Fortify only costs one more mana, protects against big problem cards like Pyroclasm, Sulfurous Blast, and Molten Disaster, and does twice the damage. I still don’t want either in my deck, but you should at least play with the more efficient card.

Ballyrush Banneret is pretty interesting, but most of the time in weenie decks like these I’d rather just top my curve off at two or three instead of relying on a 2/1 for two to curve out.

Speaking of Bannerets….

This was my first rough draft of an aggro Wizard deck. Needless to say I didn’t even get around to making a sideboard, but theres a lesson here. While building the deck, I wanted to focus around the two-drop Wizards to gain an early advantage and ride it, along with all the other awesome Wizards, to an easy counter-based victory by reducing the cost of every card in my deck and making them all counterspells at the same time.

The problem here is that if you’re on the draw, the deck is simply too slow to put up a decent fight unless the opponent stumbles. They’d get a quick Vanquisher, Tarmogoyf, Garruck, or some random Goblins, and I’d have my back to the wall the entire game. So I took the deck back to MWS, played an ambitious Arbiter, and cut all the dirty two-drops.

Speaking of Arbiter…

Paul Cheon: “That’s my type of deck right there.”

Everyone was so quick to forget about Vedalken Aethermage. He sat in the shadows and waited until a Wizard-base worth playing became available. In the passing sets we’ve seen Sower of Temptation, Vendilion Clique, and the underestimated Arbiter of Knollridge, which puts this archetype over the top. So let’s take a look at what this deck does.

The Wizard Suite is where all the action is, with instant speed hits all the way up to the seven slot. Teferi needs little introduction, and he is the centerpiece and key to making this deck work. Making Sower, Arbiter, and Arcanis uncounterable and flashable is just absurd. He allows you to cheat the game, and in combination with Vedalken Aethermage you can cast any creature in the deck during the opponents end step, providing you have enough mana. Hard casting the Aethermage also isn’t completely out of the question, and I actually managed to save myself from an eight-point attack from Chameleon Colossus on his turn 4 when I only had three mana up. It’s hard to find a practical use other than that, but its still relevant enough to mention. He also gets bigger when Doran is in play!

I really wish I could play more Sower of Temptation, but I’d most likely have to cut a land, or possibly Pact of Negation. Vendilion Clique is one of the most powerful cards in the format right now, providing an answer to Dragonstorm, Treetop Village, and Reveillark while being a handy 3/1 flying beater. But after talking with LaPille on the subject, he assured me that 3 Clique and 3 Venser is much better than 4 Clique and 2 Venser. It looks a bit cleaner, and they are there to do the same thing, which is to make up for any early tempo loss from not drawing two-mana counters.

Arbiter of Knollridge is awesome. Given the lack of this deck’s early defense, you will usually end up stabilizing around 6-10 life, and Arbiter is the nail in the coffin that lets your opponent know he doesn’t have a shot at winning. He’s also a pretty decent beater, being a 5/5 Vigilance guy. I’m not sure if Arcanis needs to be in this deck. Every time I’ve activated him I’ve won the game, but I’m not sure that I needed him since he takes a fair amount of time to set up through Teferi, and he isn’t a strong enough main phase play to justify tapping out. Unless you have Pact backup, of course.

The core of the deck is a host of powerful Blue cards that are used to prolong the game until the Wizard engine overwhelms the opponent. The counterspell suite is pretty standard, with Negate being the standout. I wanted to have 10 answers to Bitterblossom in my deck, and between Rune Snag, Negate, and the increasingly valuable Desert, I don’t give a flying Pheldagriff about those 1/1 tokens. Pact of Negation hasn’t seen much play recently, but given the numerous situations where I’d like to tap out during their end step for a Clique, Teferi, Venser, Cryptic Command, or even just Wizard Cycling, I’d like to have the safety net.

The manabase is pretty basic, with Desert shining above all the rest. It’s been awhile since I played with Desert, and boy does it feel good. I can only imagine the look on my opponents face when a large portion of their weenie damage is invalidated by a single untapped land. Tolaria West gives the deck a little more deck manipulation to smooth out the draws. I’m hesitant to include three copies because of the already semi-risky mana. There are currently eight colorless sources, three of which produce Blue or White down the line, and I’d like to avoid double Tolaria West draws. There is a lot of color commitment in this deck, between needing double Blue on turn 3, and triple Blue on turns 4 and 5.

I tried out Voidmage Prodigy in here as a one-of, but things didn’t work out. Most of the time I’d end up sacking himself, in which case he was a seven mana counterspell.

I haven’t worked too much on the sideboard, but all the cards in there are needed at some point. Pithing Needle is excellent against the G/B Rock players who fill their decks with Treetop Villages, Garrucks, and Mutavaults. The singleton Magus of the Tabernacle was in the main deck, but I couldn’t reliably cast it on turn 4, after cycling a turn 3 Aethermage, so I just benched it. You don’t need to cast it on turn 4 for it to be good. They probably won’t have very many creatures out by then anyway, but it’s still a really handy card to have around since it locks down all of the tribal aggro decks that cheat on mana sources and try to use all their mana every turn. Flashfreeze is much too efficient to be excluded from any Blue sideboard, and the Disenchants are there for those stupid Bitterblossoms (and for anyone who plays Oath of Druids without me realizing it’s not in Standard).

Speaking of Druids…

At first glance this looks like an elf deck minus the really good elves and Profance Command, but its actually just a near Mono-Green combo deck, focused around stealing all your opponent’s bases through the Archdruid.


4 Llanowar Elves
4 Boreal Druid
4 Heritage Druid
4 Thoughtseize

If you’ll remember from my Merfolk section last week, I mentioned the exponential value of the one-drop Merfolk, and the same holds true here. All three cards do virtually the same thing – add mana – but they also have the ability to beat down thanks to Perfect and Champion, and are key tools in “comboing off,” which I’ll get to later. Heritage Druid in particular is one of the keys to this deck, enabling all your elves to make mana the turn they come into play. Llanowar Mentor used to hang out in the one-slot, making it previously sixteen one-drop creatures, but then I realized that he isn’t a Druid and only makes Druids, so he got cut for Harmonize and the twentieth land. Thoughtseize is another awesome card for this deck since it play very much like a combo deck, and Thoughtseize is the best protection you can get, while being cheap enough to cast while chaining through Druids.


Who needs ’em?


4 Elvish Harbinger
4 Imperious Perfect
4 Civic Wayfinder
1 Elvish Champion

Imperious Perfect may not be a Druid, but he adds a backup beatdown plan to the deck that can’t be ignored. Often your opponent will put you on a basic Elf deck, in which case he will put the priority to kill the Perfect over cards that are actually more necessary for the deck, like Heritage Druid or Gilt-Leaf Archdruid. Civic Wayfinder ensures that you keep a steady flow of mana coming, and helps provide a means to cast the splashed Black cards. Elvish Harbinger is the glue. He adds a considerable amount to both sides of the deck, searching for the Crusade creature of choice while also enabling a turn 3 Gilt-Leaf Archdruid fairly easily. If you have a one-drop mana producer in your hand along with an Elvish Harbringer, you’re all lined up for the nut draw. He also gives you a lot of reach in this deck to deal with troublesome situations, with a quaint little toolbox selection.

The Rest

4 Gilt-leaf Archdruid
2 Primal Command
3 Harmonize
1 Eyeblight’s Ending
1 Nameless Inversion

The Archdruid is pretty self-explanatory, but the goal of the deck is to get him out early, and chain through your entire library with a consistent stream of cheap Druids that can be tapped the turn they come into play (to produce more mana to play more Druids to produce more mana to play more Druids to produce more mana until you’re all tapped out and have to pass the turn and pray that he doesn’t have a Wrath). Well, once you get the Druid engine going you will usually draw into a Thoughtseize to protect yourself.

Primal Command and Harmonize are vying for the same slot, and I came to a 3-2 split. Primal Command needs to be in the deck to stop yourself losing to aggressive strategies while also serving as an out to cards like Teferi’s Moat. Eyeblight’s Ending and Nameless Inversion are the singleton removal spells to buy you some more time against threatening creatures that you can’t chump.

The game setup for this deck is pretty simple. You’re going to play a one-drop every game to advance to a three-drop. From there, depending on the three-drop, you can choose the aggressive plan or the combo plan, with Harbinger leaning towards the combo side and Perfect leaning towards the aggressive side, and Wayfinder being pretty neutral. If you have the Harbinger you will most likely fetch the Gilt-Leaf Archdruid, but you can also fetch Imperious Perfect/Elvish Champion to go back towards the aggro side.

After turn 4 you should have your game plan all laid out and ready to execute. The aggressive plan is pretty simple, but the combo plan can be more intricate than you’d think. Often it’s best to use a Harmonize or Primal Command before going for the combo, to try and find either a backup Archdruid or a Thoughtseize for protection. After he’s in play, nearly all your spells cantrip when you cast them, which enables you to sift through the top ten cards or so before finding a Thoughtseize and passing the turn. Then you just gain control of all their lands on your next turn. If they Wrath or something, you should have enough card advantage to comeback from it with another Archdruid, Harmonize, or Primal Command.

The best part is that all the one-drops don’t lose their value, like in most traditional acceleration decks. They become cantrips or sizable beaters, all the while powering out the heavier mana cards in the deck.


We the V.I.P.s
We do it B.I.G.
Ain’t no need to see I.D.
The entire scenery
Shrouded in mystery
Clouded with greenery.


Top 5 Picks

1) It Came From The Ground – Badly Drawn Boy
2) Brrrlak! – Zap Mama
3) Busterismology – The Coup
4) Smoke Rings – Sam Cooke
5) You Wouldn’t Like Me – Tegan and Sara

Keep away from the guy with the funny eye, keep away from the funny-eyed guy...