Down And Dirty – States: Shaping Standard

The StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard open Comes to Philadelphia!
Wednesday, November 19th – The StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open is approaching fast, and we all need a head-start on the Standard metagame. The current format has been shaped by States, and today’s Down And Dirty sees Kyle investigate some of the stronger and more interesting archetypes on offer…

The 2008 States Top 8s are in, and there were a lot of Eye-Poppers alongside many of the Tried and True Veterans… and a lot of crappy decks that got pretty lucky. I got screwed on going to Grand Prix: Atlanta, so I can’t exactly go for a tournament report as I was expecting this week, but the States results makes for another good list article. I’m seriously considering the drive for the next StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open, and I’ve had my head wrapped around Standard non-stop for these past couple of months, so I’ve got a keen eye for the goodies right now.

Tried and True Veterans

These are the lists that are finely tuned and all have previous history in the Standard arena. Most have found small upgrades from Shards to add to their pre-existing block-oriented tactics.

Red was a huge player this weekend, taking down many titles and putting up more Top 8s than everything that isn’t a Kithkin.

Cheeks took down another State belt with this streamlined Mono-Red deck. Most Red decks only include two Ghitu Encampment, but Cheeks has a nice rounded deck of four-ofs to maintain consistency. Magma Spray has been popping up in Red decks as an extremely useful answer to Mulldrifter, Kitchen Finks, and for ambushing opposing Figure of Destinys looking to power up to Super Sayian Level 2.

There aren’t any Hell’s Thunder in the main deck, which is something all of the other Red decks are playing, and I’m not sure what match up you don’t want to see it in. When I was doing my States testing with Five-Color Control, Faeries, and all the various tribal decks, I hated finding an answer to Hell’s Thunder game 1, since its flashback utility would always ruin my plans. Still, maybe Cheeks was looking to dodge Runed Halo, but I doubt not seeing Hell’s Thunder game 1 is going to stop them from boarding more in, although having three definitely gives you a little more room if they have it nailed already.

I expect this Red deck to be the one everyone looks to play in the coming weeks, and here’s to Cheeks for winning back-to-back titles with Mono-Red decks. He won last year with Mono-Red Snow, if my memory serves me right, featuring a much less aggressive curve and Stuffy Doll chillin’ with a bunch of burn.

This is a really solid Kithkin list with the Ranger package incorporated in the main deck. Honestly though, Goldmeadow Harrier is missing from this list. One of the luxuries of adding Ranger to the Kithkin lists is that you can afford to trim down on your sometime-dead Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders. This makes room for Goldmeadow Harrier, who can do some serious work in creature matches as well as be a potent tool to stop Mannequined dudes from blocking your attackers.

Other than that minor complaint, Googs has the Kithkin list you should be playing. His sideboard is diverse enough to take on multiple lines of attack against a host of decks, but again, I’d really like to see the Ranger package enhanced a little.

Kithkin had a very solid weekend, coming in second for titles, just one or two behind Faeries. Kithkin has Faeries beat by a mile in total Top 8s. I don’t have an exact number, but virtually every Top 8 had several of the ill-proportioned hobbits in it.

This has been the real beast of States, taking down more titles than any other archetype. All of the results aren’t up as I’m writing this, but it’s claimed at least seven by my count. I really don’t feel like there’s much to say about this deck that hasn’t been said fifteen times already by myself or other esteemed colleagues.

I’ve always been amenable to the miser’s Loxodon Warhammer in Faeries, and I’m glad to see Meng following that somewhat rare trend and using it to take down a championship. I like his Faerie creature package more than some other winners too, with 3 Scion and no Sowers in sight, along with Vendilion Clique to provide some occasional offense.

This is a unique take on the fishy fellowship. It uses the Fish early game combined with Faeries that shine in the late game, like Oona and Glen Elendra to take over the Fae and Five-Color Control matches. Glen Elendra especially is rising in value with all those Planeswalker decks that will likely become more popular after their strong showing. The singleton Warhammer and Oona’s Grace are both excellent singletons that I really dig; however, the Mountain in the sideboard is completely ill-advised. I’ve no clue why that’s there.

Relic is a card that is growing in respectability and can put a serious damper in graveyard-centric decks when drawn in multiples. Most ‘yard decks like Mannequin, Kelpie, or Reveillark are resilient enough to deal with one Relic, but if you get two going there is almost no way to win.

There was also a handful of Cruel (and not Cruel) Five-Color Control decks present, but given there are so many variations and there weren’t any consistent winners, I don’t have a definitive list for that tier 1 deck.

Those are the five that made up the largest portion of the 2008 States metagame. I was expecting to see more Kelpie decks, but apparently none of them could break through the swiss.


These are the decks that stand out when you’re looking through the Top 8s. Some were well designed and deserving of their Top 8 berth, and some make you wanna smack your best friend’s grandmother. Either way, these guys finished higher than most of us did that weekend, and thus they deserve some attention.

This deck looks like a three-legged panda trying to climb a bamboo tree to get to the best bark at the top, but given its awkward mobility it can’t quite make it to the top without sliding down in another failed effort.

Stillmoon Cavalier is a Zombie, as is Tidehollow Sculler and Viscera Dragger. Tenth Edition features the previously Planeshift Playa Lord of the Undead, so it would only be a matter of time before we see silly zombies on the tournament scene. This deck is a little land light to be paired with Raven’s Crime/Stillmoon, and I’d rather have some Unmake in there over some Crib Swap/Nameless Inversion. Sure, you can bring them both back with Lord, but I’d rather just have the good card and not give them 1/1s.

I also think this deck would gain a lot if it squeezed Chameleon Colossus in here, since, after all, he is the best Zombie. It wouldn’t be too difficult… throw in some Twilight Mire, Vivid Lands, and Reflecting Pool, and you now have the option of a five-color Zombie deck. Now that sounds like a real competitor!

This one was quite the eye-popper; I thought it was Battle of the Wits at first glance, and I’m honestly still having a hard time evaluating what this deck is trying to do. There are a ton of cards that fill the roles as counters, card draw, Wrath effects, kill condition, and utility cards, which are the five parts to every control deck… but they’re clearly thrown about in no consistent manner.

This deck is awesome. I’m gonna play it at FNM this week. I’ll have a complete sideboarding guide in my next article.

I wonder if you could see Russia from the tournament site…

Those Alaskan boys sure know how to make fun decks. Not a single Faerie in the Top 8, most likely driven out by this Dauntless Dourbark deck. Glenn Goddard was doing a promotion around Mr. Bark, and I’m glad to see that Bark brought a Top 8. Battlewand Oak and Cream of the Crop show up to add some hotness to the slow growing trees. I’d really like to see some Loxodon Warhammer maindeck.

This is the kind of deck I can really get behind. A very nice take on a Burn deck, but Hell’s Thunder also seems like it should be included. I’m not sure what cards he’s trying to dodge by playing no dudes – Wrath, Shriekmaw, Firespout – but Thunder dodges all of them while only giving them value on their dead card if they’re playing Terror. Just something to consider if you’re looking to sleeve this deck up. Syphon Life is another techy addition, and he has 28 lands to compliment it.

This deck is clearly aimed for the Faeries / Five-Color Control match-up; however, I don’t feel like it has the punch to race good aggro decks, which is where Hell’s Thunder could provide a huge amount of offense. I’d probably just cut Shard Volley and the Worm Harvest to make room for three, see how I like ’em, then make changes accordingly.

I really like the design of this deck: a GW core looking to abuse Qasali and all the big GW beaters, along with some Planeswalkers to help in the battle. Doran makes an appearance, being cast off of Birds or Murmuring Bosk, which can be fetched with Safewright Quest (yuck!).

It still looks pretty neat… however, 17 lands is nowhere near close enough to run this deck efficiently. Even with Birds and Quest giving you 25 “virtual” lands, I’d still like at least twenty to assure myself of at least two real lands in my opener.

Themistoklis Panagiotaras… sounds like an ancient Dinosaur. I tried looking up the Panagiotaras surname meaning, but came up with nothing but a goose. Although I did find out that Sanchez means “sanctified.”

I’ve never played with any of the Planeswalker decks, but I can definitely appreciate the kind of board situations you can set up by slapping down several of them at once. Planeswalkers are really like Commands, except they stay in play. You have a variety of different options to capitalize from, along with a long decision tree attached to each move you make, giving this deck a really strong control feel to it despite its Naya nature.

One of the coolest interactions with Planeswalkers is most certainly Wrathing a board of troublesome critters away to protect them. The man-lands aid in this cause, and this might be the only deck ever where Forbidding Watchtower looks more attractive than Treetop Village.

Vexing Shusher in the sideboard is also much more impressive than you might initially think. Shusher hasn’t really taken off, despite its heralded arrival to the tournament scene earlier this year. The problem was there’s no real way to protect yourself against Wrath effects with Shusher on line. You could develop an insane uncounterable stream of creatures, but Shusher didn’t see much play since you’d often just walk right into the opponents’ game plan. In this deck, however, it’s much different. Here you have a host of non-creature permanents to develop your board, and very few creatures that aren’t resilient to Wrath effects, making Shusher a must-kill whenever he hops on the board. To be honest, there aren’t many counters being played right now beyond Cryptic Command and Sage’s Dousing. However, Shusher does provide a good solution to Glen Elendra as well.

Yup, no sideboard. Must be nice to live in this guy’s world.

This is another Planeswalker-centric deck, and looks a little different than the previous build. This one has no creatures and instead looks to jump to four mana on turn 3 via Rampant Growth, Fertile Ground, and Mind Stone. From there you drop Garruk, Elspeth, Wrath, or Ajani Vengeant to kick their face off. Naya Charm makes a premier supporter for this strategy, tapping down critters, killing a dude, or providing cement to the deck by acting as additional Wraths, Planeswalkers, or whatever else you want to get back from the yard.

After boarding you can bring in some Angels or Elementals to bring on the beats, add some permission to force the Planeswalkers through, or add a one-for-one removal package to take on little critters.

If I was going to play a Planeswalker deck it would definitely look something close to this. Hallowed Burial is very useful right now so I’d probably make bring that to 3 copies and cut a Wrath, and possibly find room for a 3rd Elspeth, but I’m not sure what cut makes sense. I also think I’d rather have Forbidding Watchtower in here over Treetop, but that’s just speculative and I’d have to actually play with the deck to find out which direction it should go.

We now have a solid metagame with lots of neat fringe decks that can triumph with good pilots at the helm. The Big 5 are Faeries, Kithkin, Merfolk, Five-Color Control variants, and Mono-Red variants. Not much has changed since Block, huh?

So what does that mean? Well, for one, I think a nicely tuned UWB Mannequin deck could really shine in this metagame. Maindeck Glen Elendra, Shriekmaw, Mulldrifter, with Esper Charm and Cryptic to back it up. Condemn, Finks, and Wrath maindeck to combat the Red decks. All of those cards just seem so good right now.

Perhaps spice it up with a Primal Command package, with some light Ajani Vengeant seasoning. I just want to play with all the good cards right now.

There was also a handful of Elementals lists that broke through last weekend, and thanks for the emails from my Elemental supporters are their success. I’ll get back to you guys sometime this week, I’ve been pretty busy immersing myself in the new NBA season. It’s a crucial time for a fantasy draft fanatic like myself, and managing 10+ teams can take a lot of time in the early stages.

Thanks for reading.


Top 5 Picks

1) Comrade Camenzind – Upper Left Trio
2) Death Takes Your Fiddle — Spiritualized
3) Mistakes – Immortal Technique
4) Seashell Tale — Bright Eyes
5) New York — Tah Dahs