Down And Dirty – Test Decks With Zendi Cards, Part 2

SCG 10K Philadelphia... the first major event featuring Zendikar!
Wednesday, October 7th – Zendikar is here, and Kyle has more standard decks for our consumption! Today, he tackles a selection of Red strategies, a funky artifact build, and a Five-Color Green Mana Ramp deck. With this weekend’s StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Philadelphia on the horizon, does Kyle have the key to the current Standard kingdom?

Yum. Nothing like the thick taste of mucus in the back of your throat to signal Autumn in all its glory. Between that, the construction workers causing a ruckus outside my window, the cop that nearly busted me last night, and the moist 98% humidity filling my pores every time I walk outside, I haven’t exactly been in too productive a mood. I’ve still got some techy Standard lists for you, but I had to cut my favorite one out of the article because it might be the real deal, and y’know, a brother’s gotta LCQ next week at Pro Tour: Austin!

I haven’t tested Extended at all, so hopefully when I do grind my way in I’ll be able to mooch a deck off someone. If anyone has broken the format, be sure to keep me in mind. I’m a good blind pilot, I do splits, and I’m down for mutual massages throughout the tournament to keep our backs limber and minds focused on the task at hand! I remember I was once involved in a nice three-person circle massage that had Adam Yurchick’s large hands, Joshy “Snorlax” Wyluduahnuka’s monstrous palms, and my firm mitts going at each other shoulders for several minutes. I had a dream about it last night, and woke up so fresh and relaxed. You should try dreaming of other Magic players some time…

Sooo new STANDARD! Woo-hoo! As I mentioned last week, I’ve been hitting Standard hard because that’s what I do. I’ve got lots of lists loaded on my computer, so here’s four more that you need to be aware of if you’re going to call yourself a Standard Stud, or if you’re looking to become a living legend at the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Philadelphia this coming weekend.

First and foremost…

This is the new Red enemy, and extremely potent given how many times “Haste” appears on these cards. LSV recently called Goblin Bushwhacker unplayable giving it the Chimney Imp award with a measly one-star rating! I not-so-humbly disagree, and dub him as one of the most explosive cards in Standard right now. For two mana, not only do you give your guys haste, add a body to the board, and give them all +1/+0, but… well, that’s actually all he does. It’s still pretty exciting when you lead into it with a Dragon Fodder or played Siege-Gang Commander the previous turn.

The real power behind this deck is that you have to kill all the early Goblins in the curve before things get out of hand, and they absorb too much Goblin Guide damage, lose ground to Warren Instigator, or have Goblin Chieftain run amuck. This makes Siege-Gang Commander a premium in here. It’s hard for them to use Day of Judgment correctly against you, since you can set up a Goblin Chieftain plus Warren Instigator turn, or Dragon Fodder plus Goblin Bushwhacker for six damage apiece, respectively.

This Red aggro deck has the same linear approach as all the other aggro decks right now, but the tribal theme is off the chart, and many times feels like I’m playing a combo deck. It has the best removal in Standard with the Lightning Brothers, as well giving you a lot of different early/late game options in terms of your reach, to burn them out with kicked Bursts or just trade efficiently for their early drops to clear the way for the green swarm of Goblins.

Goblin Ruinblaster is another great addition to this brew, buying you a turn before they play Baneslayer Angel as well as filling in the curve and being a great source for early beats. There’s a good portion of the time that I don’t even kick him, even when they are playing non-basics, because a two-power Haste guy that sticks around isn’t all that bad when we don’t have Kitchen Finks and Boggart Ram-Gang clogging the board anymore.

Teetering Peaks is also very efficient. Combined with Warren Instigator, or even a Goblin Guide on turn 2, it’s a great play to sneak two-four damage out of several lands in the deck, and it complements the cheap burn spells later on in the game. There’s a handful of times where I’d have Bushwhacker and Peaks as well, so I feel comfortable running him out on turn 1 if I know I’m gonna get three damage out of the little guy turn 2 or trade him for one of their dudes.

The sideboard is entirely aimed to combat Baneslayer Angel. The eight Threaten effects are great ways to negate the life swings, and a trend I’ve noticed in a fair amount of Angel decks is that they only have Angel with which to battle. They don’t have a good follow-up; their plan is the Angel and hope it gets there – which it usually does, especially against this deck – but they are still vulnerable to a swarm of goblins if I can offset the life gain with Threatens. LSV also wrote how Mark of Mutiny is worse than Act of Treason, but I can’t agree there either. Mark has been instrumental post-board, not only dealing an extra damage, but also pumping up one of my dudes with a +1/+1 counter (such as Warren Instigator) or beefing up a Chieftain out of Burst range.

Chandra is also there to combat Angel, meaning you’ve gotta board Siege-Gang out because it’s just too slow. Volcanic Fallout is there for the aggro mirrors, giving you an extremely profitable game plan of “Wrath their team, drop mine with Haste, and bash you.”

I posted this one on Twitter a few days ago, and have had nothing but great results in return, so be sure and have a plan for the Hasty Goblins that attack you a little differently than the slower Soldiers and Bloodsucker decks out there.

Volcanic Fallout and Jund Charm (*wink wink* they’re in my LCQ deck) are the best cards against this deck, and Jund Charm in particular is poised to take a well-tuned Jund deck to the next level seeing how everyone just Bolts n’ Bursts things without expecting pump spells. It also covers any Graveyard shenanigan decks running around.

This is another deck that is randomly explosive and awkward to play against. All these cards are just soooo bad. Duct tape and glue ’em together, and you’ve got a semi-competitive brew. I’ve only played about ten games with this deck to get a feel for what it’s like to be a bad Red player; I didn’t like it, but the deck is powerful and explosive nonetheless. I also found out that Zektar Shrine gives this deck a lot more reach than you might expect. It’s really more of a three-drop, since you want to play it on turn 3 and drop a land with Burst/Bolt mana up to clear out any First Strikers. There were several games where I even followed it up with fetchland into Elemental Appeal for a massive fourteen damage on turn 4.

I woke up shortly after and lost to a Baneslayer Angel the next round, and didn’t really have a good answer to it. It’s not like the Goblin deck, where you can actually race it with Threatens, so I had to go the “Chandra plus Seismic Strike” sideboard plan.

Ball Lightning honestly doesn’t feel too comfortable in here, and should probably be another land with a couple of Banefires and a random singleton “I Win” card, but I was just trying to emphasize how many of the same creature Red has at its disposal, earning it a Gold Star in consistency. Seriously, Hellspark Elemental, Hell’s Thunder, Ball Lighting, Zektar Shrine Expedition, Elemental Appeal… all the same damn card! We’ve had formats in the past that featured a couple of copies of these dudes before, but it just seems like excess right now. I see Ball Lightning as a card that goes up a little in value now that Lorwyn is gone. However, it also means I’m more likely to face down some Wall of Denials, and this deck stone loses to those 0/8 Shroud stoppers. This is just one of many reasons I’d never actually recommend this deck to anybody for a serious tournament. Stone cold to Baneslayer, Wall, Woolly Thoctar… the list goes on and on. Of course, if they don’t draw Wall then the games are blowouts, and I really like the versatility Volcanic Fallout gives this deck against the unsuspecting aggro variants.

Another incentive to play Red right now is that, much like in Extended formats past, the opponent is starting at less life. If they draw three of their 4-8 fetchlands, it’s a free Lightning Bolt, and this makes the Rojo decks that much closer to triumph.

I posted this one in the forums last week as a teaser, and since then this deck has been nothing but spectacular. The early cycling game plan is great to filter out your draws, find Day of Judgment, Tezzeret the Seeker, and Open the Vaults, as well as giving you something to do in the early game. I wanted to add Ponder to this deck, but Esper Charm is clearly better since it enables me to attack their hand and potential Enchantments shenanigans along with troublesome cards like Oblivion Ring.

The most attractive feature of this deck is how many cards you go through each game. I routinely end the game with 20-30 cards left in my library from using Courier’s Capsule, the Cycling creatures, Esper Charm, Sphinx, searching with Tezzeret, and starting the chain back over again with Open the Vaults.

This deck is really made possible by the horrendous countermagic Blue players have to battle with right now. Negate and Essence Scatter are great but extremely narrow, and not as versatile as we’ve been accustomed to sleeve up. For instance, Negate is awesome against me; however, Essence Scatter is clearly the better spell to have main deck given how many creatures populate the early stages of formats.

So in here I’ve got Path to Exile, Day of Judgment, and some singletons to give me an early game outside of cycling against the creature decks and I set up my Open the Vaults with a turn 4 Sphinx courtesy of being able to accelerate with Borderpost on turn 3 the majority of the time. Sphinx is awesome and one of my new pet cards. Drawing cards is awesome and all, but I want a body that can stick through Lightning Bolt to do some blocking, and Sphinx is the perfect answer. They either have to use a removal spell which I’m obviously fine with, or they have to swing helplessly into it and force a bad trade. Either way they spend their turn distracted by Sphinx while I Open the Vaults on them the next turn to get back a few three-power donks.

Not very exciting? Well, that’s just phase one. Let them deal with those guys, draw cards in the meantime, possibly set up a Tezzy for the 5/5 win with lots of Borderposts and other Artifact do-nothings like Thopter Foundry and Pithing Needle, then Open the Vaults again to draw a bunch more cards. It’s not so much that you win by casting Open the Vaults, it just sets you up extremely well, and the cycling aspect of this deck makes that route very consistent.

The cycling creatures are no slouches either. Setting up their deck is a valuable way to lock the game down, and since you will be casting Open the Vaults once every three turns or so past turn 6 they never get a card you don’t know about. If they choose to use their Fetchlands they’ll lose the best card they’re about to draw if you put it third from the top too! Glassdust Hulk is also a part of a combo with Thopter Foundry and Open the Vaults to sneak in a massive amount of damage in one turn if needed.

Then we have the Time Sieve aspect of the deck, which comes out of nowhere to set up a kill when they foolishly tapped out. It doesn’t function the same as the Time Sieve deck, but I’ve been able to take a couple of turns in a row to enable my three-powered beaters to get the job done. Not to mention it sets up the Tezzy -5 plan, since you’ll be able to cast it and Open in the same turn due to the mana advantage he provides paired with Borderposts.

The sideboard is also reasonably well tested. There are a whole crop of decks that lose to double Cumber Stone, and with Artifact hate not very prevalent I feel comfortable relying on them right now. Keep in mind that the card drawing in this deck helps find a pair of Cumber Stones fairly regularly. Obviously you don’t board that in against Maelstrom Pulse, but against Soldiers, Vamps, Goblins, All-in Red, and GW Tokens, it’s all but GG since you’ve got Day of Judgment and Path to Exile to take care of the really troublesome dudes while Cumber Stone invalidates their entire deck.

Negate is there entirely for Maelstrom Pulse, which is by far the best card against me. The Tezzeret kill plan is extremely hard to combat, and if they have a turn this is the best card they can play outside of Iona or something else stupid. Speaking of…

So we’ve got eight two-mana ramp spells along with Harrow. We’ve got eight Cascade spells that are aimed to only find more land. We’ve got the usual Day of Judgment. Oh, and we’ve got four Baneslayer and four Broodmate, the best creatures in Standard. Excellent… What else can we do with all that damn mana? Empyrial Archangel and Iona! Nice Angel end game!

This deck is about as basic as it gets, but it’s so damn powerful. If you haven’t had the pleasure to cast Iona yet, just throw this deck together and rock and roll. It feels every bit as good as you think it does, only better. It’s like waking up to a back rub and breakfast in bed!

The sideboard also features one of my favorite cards in the new set: Summoning Trap. I don’t think this has got the respect it deserves yet, and it can’t be underestimated. It might be one of the most powerful Green cards we’ve been able to play with for the past couple years in Standard, yet people don’t seem to be building around it. It could easily have an archetype of its one in the waiting, and there ain’t much better than getting a six-mana Instant-speed Baneslayer, Broodmate, Archangel, or Iona!

Here’s my checklist of what I want to be doing in Standard…

1) Have an answer/plan for Baneslayer Angel.
2) Have an answer/plan for quick linear aggro decks.
3) Have an answer/plan for big mana multicolor decks.
4) Play creatures that can survive Lightning Bolt/Burst Lightning if you want them to stick.
5) Lifegain rocks right now.
6) If playing creatures, have an answer/plan for Day of Judgment/Volcanic Fallout/Jund Charm.
7) Beware of Traps! Such as Harm’s Way, Mind Sludge, and playing decks with bad mana!

Thanks for reading…