Down And Dirty – The Best Deck in Standard?

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Tuesday, December 30th – Kyle Sanchez, never one to mince his words, believes he has found the best deck in Standard. No, it’s not Faeries. No, it’s not White-Black Control, or Red/White Junk. It builds on a popular strategy, and Kyle believes it beats almost everything he throws against it. He brings us the decklist and sideboard plans for the major matchups in the format. Intrigued? Then read on!

I’ve been a bad boy this holiday season. I swore to myself I’d put in the work during Christmas to build all the big Extended decks to practice for Grand Prix: LA, but instead I find myself getting lost in the Standard heat at FNM each week. Standard is much too fun for me right now, because I finally found a deck that bests every deck I’ve tested against.

A few weeks ago I was sleeved up a foil Japanese copy of Dirv’s wicked Top 8 Reveillark deck from the recent StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open…

My first impression was that this deck was just the best. It has the best card draw plan: Mulldrifter plus Reveillark. The best discard spells: Thoughtseize plus Tidehollow Sculler plus Esper Charm. The best Firespout effect: Wrath of God. The best Blue permission spell: Cryptic Command. The best reanimation package: Makeshift Mannequin plus Reveillark. The best land destruction: Fulminator Mage plus Mannequin/Reveillark. Even the best Control Magic effect, Sower of Temptation, is on the squad.

It’s just the best…

The core of the deck is super solid. However, whenever I lose more than one round at an FNM tournament, I start to question the deck I’m playing, and when I sat there with two losses in three rounds, along with a handful of negative playtesting results from the pre-FNM testing session, I looked a little deeper into why I was losing.

1) If I didn’t draw Mulldrifter, I never really felt like the deck was performing up to speed.
2) Wraths were often stranded in my hand as dead excess garbage.
3) Fulminator Mage never really gets there in this deck. There are several ways to reanimate him, but if that was the point I’d rather play the Elemental deck that has eight Fulminators (Harbinger), and a million ways to get him back between Reveillark, Horde of Notions, Makeshift Mannequin, Torrent of Souls, and the facilitating Flamekin. There’s just not much reason in having both discard and land destruction tactics in this particular deck, and I was having trouble finishing games with Fulminators and Wraths stuck in my hand as do-nothings.

Those are my primary concerns, which led to this list.

The changes I made:
+3 Jace Beleren, +3 Stillmoon Cavalier, +1 Thoughtseize, +1 Profane Command
-4 Fulminator Mage, -3 Wrath of God, -1 Esper Charm

Stillmoon Cavalier was Dirv’s best sideboard card, and it quickly became clear that this deck was better suited to play the ground game than relying on clunky Wraths main deck that slow the deck’s aggressive draws. With the premier hand disruption of Thoughtseize and Tidehollow Sculler, I found myself wanting an extra threat to get damage in there, rather than blowing up their lands.

After Cavalier made the cut, Jace Beleren was the next to get recruited because of the deck’s newly-found defensive linebacker Stillson Moon. The ten-card discard suite lines up perfectly with Jace’s +2 ability, since you’ll effectively be drawing six cards every three turns, ensuring a discard spell to negate their draw.

I went through a period where I tried four Makeshift Mannequin in this deck, which was soon changed to three Mannequin and one Profane Command for a bit of random utility that fit with my Liliana Vess sideboard plan opposite the slow control decks like Mana Ramp and Five-Color Control. I eventually ended up with two Mannequin, and the Profane Command gives the deck a well rounded sixth reanimation spell, while also filling in on the lightened removal slot since God’s departure to Sideboard City.

The sideboard is really dedicated to the aggressive decks with which this deck has tactical issues. Burn strategies are a tough cookie, with Stillmoon and Jace often being garbage, Thoughtseize being a life liability, and Tidehollow turning into a road bump.

The game play of this deck is extremely potent in the current Standard metagame. Thoughtseize and Tidehollow Sculler are the early disruptive plays that are great starts to battle almost any deck, since you’ll immediately know their game plan and how to play around it while also crippling mulliganed opponents. There are a lot of dangerous starts in Standard that Thoughtseize and Tidehollow shut down, such as Bitterblossom, Spectral Procession, and Ranger of Eos, and their role is to provide a universal removal spell while acquiring information.

Turn 3 is where you decide what type of game you’re gonna play. You can sit back and draw cards with Jace, Mulldrifter, and Esper Charm, or you can start a defense or offense with Kitchen Finks and Stillson Moon. The three-drops is where all the action is, which makes turns 6 and 7 important since you can start dropping two spells a turn while keeping up the card draw engine or Cryptic Command up.

Sower is an excellent way to combat aggro decks once Tidehollow and Thoughtseize clear the way, to steal their Chameleon Colossus, Knight of Meadowgrain, or Figure of Destiny. There’s been a handful of games where I’ve stolen an opposing Figure then upgraded it to Avatar status to steal the win.

Reveillark and Cryptic Command are the power cards and backbone in this deck of all stars. Both give you a unique kind of protection that works in combination with the deck’s spontaneous aggressive route.

Getting the mana going with the card draw is the most important way to play this deck, since the more mana you have the more better the deck functions. There’s so much card draw in the deck, and turns 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, etc. are all geared to be more powerful turns than the last, since you can consistently combat whatever they’re doing.

Basically, the deck is massive amounts disruption backed up by massive amounts of attrition.


Once the first disruption spell resolves, it leads to the card draw resolving, which leads to more disruption and better cards than they have. They’ll be fighting with 1/1 fliers, while I’ll be shutting them down with Stillmoon, bashing with Finks, and eventually get enough mana to put Reveillarks into play with Cryptic Command mana up.

If they commit to the Bitterblossom plan early, Stillmoon Cavi and Finks are the perfect trump since they won’t be able to build up an army without risking collateral damage. Their Mistbinds and Cryptics rarely come into play because of the discard spells, and Command doesn’t do a whole lot since I have the luxury to sit back and play off my own Cryptic/Mannequin/Esper Charm, or draw it out with a Mulldrifter or Jace, neither of which they let resolve often if they can help it.

+2 Esper Charm, +1 Mannequin, +1 Stillmoon Cavalier
-3 Sower of Temptation, -1 Reveillark, -1 Jace Beleren

The goal is to have a few more instant speed options while having more answers to Bitterblossom and ways to turn the race. Sower is almost completely useless in here, and the goal becomes to resolve Stillmoon Cavalier and ride it into the sunset. They will probably have Infest after board, but Faeries doesn’t have the card draw to keep up, and Esper Charm will usually strip their grip around turn 6.


In game 1, leaning on the discard is very important. Keeping them off Spectral Procession and Ranger of Eos is key to getting a game 1 win. The early rush isn’t very important as long as there’s a Finks or Stillmoon with which to rebound, or a Sower if the coast is clear of Unmake and O-Ring.

+3 Wrath of God, +3 Agony Warp, +1 Stillmoon Cavalier, +1 Esper Charm
-1 Tidehollow Sculler, -4 Thoughtseize, -3 Jace Beleren

A huge face lift, but really it’s just changing the game plan from proactively taking care of their threats to reactively taking care of their threats. I prefer Agony Warp to Shriekmaw right now, because you’ll always get them in response when they try and make Figure a 4/4 on turn 3. Also, with Tidehollow, Finks, and Mulldrifter clogging the ground, the opportunity for a two-for-one comes up a fair amount of the time.

Mono Red

This is the rough one, but by no means unwinnable. They could mulligan and fall victim to a discard-heavy hand before they get their Hell’s Thunder rolling. The Red matchup really isn’t that bad if they are stupid and waste burn spells on Jace or leave back Fanatic to block Sculler. A Kitchen Finks or two should be enough to get out of burn range; in the meantime, Sowering Figures, Scullering Javelin, and Seizing Thunder works to keep the game going longer.

+2 Runed Halo, +1 Makeshift Mannequin, +3 Liliana Vess, +2 Esper Charm, +3 Agony Warp
-3 Jace Beleren, -4 Thoughtseize, -3 Stillmoon Cavalier, -1 Tidehollow Sculler

After board I haven’t had too much trouble with Red. They have to kill Liliana before she tutors up too many Finks, and Esper Charm helps get rid of their last two burn spells.

WB Tokens

They have the same disruption, but far less card draw with which to recover. They have to protect their Blossom and Spectral Procession, which is the key starting point of their army. This means that, while I have the luxury to take their best spells, they have to take my disruption to ensure they have a follow up on the next turn. The card draw is what really wins this match, and they have absolutely no answer to Stillmoon Cavalier, whereas I have Sower to take those and any Cloudgoat Rangers.

This deck doesn’t have a way to remove mass amounts of tokens, so there is a definite overload threat, but most of the time you can race them with Stillmoon (with Cryptic Command as the trump to their attacks).

+2 Esper Charm, +3 Wrath of God
-1 Sower of Temptation, -1 Reveillark, -3 Jace Beleren

They might have Grave Pact after sideboard, so Esper Charm should be used sparingly and not on just any O-Ring that removes a Sculler. Same game plan as the first: take away their threats and beat them into the ground with Finks, Stillmoon, and Mulldrifters. It’s a slow win, but a pretty easy one as long as they don’t get a well-above-average draw.

WR Junk

This deck has been getting a lot of respect lately, and is a very positive trend since UWB has all the tools to dismantle that awkward WR junky junk. The discard is just as effective against them as WB Tokens, except they don’t have much removal for Sculler or disruption of their own to fight back. Their early game of Figures, Finks, and Fanatics are pretty irrelevant, and all their removal costs four or more mana, with Redcap and Ajani being the “answers.”

They still have quite a lot of built-in attrition in their deck, with Siege-Gang Commander, Ranger of Eos, and Reveillark all on the away squad, but they cost so much that I’ll have Command mana up, or have stripped them away by the time they can cast them.

+3 Liliana Vess, +2 Runed Halo, +2 Esper Charm
-3 Jace Beleren, -3 Stillmoon Cavalier, -1 Reveillark

Vithian Stinger will most likely make an appearance opposite Cavaliers if they saw them game 1, but if they have those and Fanatics and I don’t have Cavaliers, I’m in pretty good shape. Still, not having Stillmoon means I’m slightly more susceptible to Ajani Vengeant, which makes Runed Halo an anti-Armageddon measure as well as a fine answer to Figure of Destiny and Siege-Gang Commander.

Liliana is fantastic here, since they have a hard time keeping their hand size up against this deck without resolving Ranger. Esper Charm gains the same value, since often it will make them vomit two cards from their hand if there isn’t a Guttural Response. They just don’t have too many ways to attack this deck outside of hoping their creatures get them there.

Five-Color Control

This has been on the down slope since the obvious ascension of Faeries, but that doesn’t mean those Five-Color Control buffoons aren’t fumbling about. Again, the disruption is huge here, but it’s not as important to get a Stillmoon or Finks in play early. Getting Jace going is the prime goal, since they have no answer to the Blue Phyrexian Arena. If they play a Finks or Monk to attack Jace, Stillmoon or Finks can follow up to keep the stream of cards coming. From there it’s extremely easy to win, and it’s relatively easy to get to that point throughout the entire match. They just don’t have the tools to deal with Jace.

+1 Makeshift Mannequin, +2 Esper Charm, +3 Liliana Vess
-3 Sower of Temptation, -3 Kitchen Finks

I’m being deadly serious… all you need to do is resolve a Jace to win this match. That’s it. Just Thoughtseize their Force of Will and win on turn 2 3.

That’s all I got. Hit me up in the forums if Standard tickles your taint as it does mine.

Thanks for reading!


Top 10 Trainless Americans

1) Mark Herberholz
2) Gadiel Szleifer
3) Antonino De Rosa
4) Patrick Chapin
5) Benjamin Lundquist
6) Matt Hansen
7) David Irvine
8) Sam Stein
9) Owen Turtenwald
10) Jonathan Sonne

This is really sad, because all these guys are on my Ctrl + F list during PTs and GPs.