StarCityGames.com isn’t wasting any time, kicking off this year with two big money tournaments. Last week in the City of Angels, we saw the same stale Standard selection that we’ve come to hate. I’m getting pretty tired of the word “Jund” too, but at least we had LSV representing a tight-looking UWR control deck to take down all those dirty Jundies.
I’m certainly expecting the UWR deck to make up a much larger percentage of the Dallas / Fort Worth Open metagame, for three reasons.
1) LSV was playing the deck.
2) It won the whole she-bang.
3) There were TWO identical copies in the Top 8!
After reading Sam Black article on the UWR dominance, I fully expect for it to at least double given how strong it is against the perceived field.
So, what are rogue deckbuilders like us supposed to do in these situations? We’ve got 30% of Jund to take on, another 15% of UWR, 9% Mono-Red, and a bunch of fringe decks like Vampires, Boros, Eldrazi Green, Bant, and Grixis taking up around 5% of our the field in the tournament. This is the kind of field over which rogue deckbuilders salivate. There are three decks we’ve got to beat, and a bunch of lower-power midrange Tier 2 decks running around trying to capitalize. The Tier 2 decks are pretty easily handled with sideboard slots, so we’ve got to find a way to be great against UWR, Jund, and Mono-Red.
The meta-brewed Bant deck Billy and I made, that I talked about last week, could be set up for a big weekend. It’s very comfortable playing against Jund and Mono Red, but I’m a bit leery of the control matchup. However, they aren’t playing Day of Judgment, and they only have a pair of Earthquake to clear the board, so I might be in better shape than I thought. I’d really like to play a deck that doesn’t care about Spreading Seas, so maybe some kind of Blue deck is in order. The Open the Vaults deck I presented, again last week, isn’t weak to Seas. Sadly, it has a very difficult time beating any sort of countermagic, so that deck is scratched off my list. I’ve been working the kinks out of this GWB Junk deck for awhile now, and it’s one of the two decks I’m considering for this weekend…
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Tidehollow Sculler
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Putrid Leech
- 4 Baneslayer Angel
- 2 Vampire Nighthawk
The premise of this deck is practically the same as Naya Lightsaber. Land a huge dude, back it up with removal and hand disruption. If they kill it, play another big guy. Of course, I’ve got a few curve balls in this one to throw unaware opponents off guard. The hand disruption package was giving me a lot of leeway to plan my turns and play around removal, and with three slots in the deck, instead of playing something mediocre like Mind Rot, I opted for busty five-mana green spells that win the game if resolved. At first, that five-mana spell was Soul’s Majesty, which, when paired with a Leech, Baneslayer, Knight, or any creature plus an Elspeth pump (in the first version), led to some extreme blowouts.
Then that slot quickly became Gigantiform when I was inspired by a hopeful youngster who opened it at the card shop and automatically threw it in his Eldrazi Green deck. You might not notice at first glance, but it makes the creature an 8/8, so Knight of the Reliquary (the ideal target) becomes absolutely monstrous, and will end the game faster than you can say “Bang A Baneslayer.” Of course, landing it on a Bird to make her a 8/8 Flying trample monster is also great, or on a Nighthawk to have an 8/8 Lifelink (ditto with Baneslayer). On Putrid Leech you can still pump to make him a 10/10, so the creatures in here were slightly altered to give Gigantiform more value.
You guys remember when Spectral Force was a legitimate threat in Standard, right? You had to pair it with Scryb Ranger in that awkward U/G deck which achieved moderate success in Time Spiral Block and Standard. Gigantiform is Spectral Force… only better! Your 8/8 trampling dude has Haste now, and clearly has some other bonuses to put it over the top. The catch is that it costs five and you need a creature, but, with the discard plan propped around it, I haven’t had much trouble outside of them topdecking a Maelstrom Pulse, since an 8/8 is well out of conceivable burn range. Calculating their outs has also been important to maximize Gigantiform. If you can’t get it done in two swings, which is how it plays out most often, then your best bet is to wait a turn and keep bashing to see what they draw. If they’ve packing Celestial Purge, Day of Judgment, Into the Roil, Ajani Vengeant, Maelstrom Pulse, etc. they’ve got a lot of outs, and since this deck doesn’t exactly have much along the lines of card draw, you’ve got to maximize the great threats you’ve got available.
The goal is to exhaust their answers with cheap threats like Nighthawk, Knight, Leech, Duress, and Sculler before I get to five mana and give them the business, which doesn’t seem like too bad a plan right now. Fighting through today’s slow countermagic opposite Grixis and UWR also isn’t that big of a problem, since Birds give me the speed to set up a dude before they’ve got enough mana up to Double Negative or Flashfreeze.
Wall of Reverence out of the board gives you another big dude that the aggro decks have to answer before things get out of hand. Celestial Purge is there to primarily combat Mono-Red and their Hell’s Thunder / Hellspark Elementals. However, it’s also solid against the Leech version of Jund. If they aren’t playing Leech, I’d only board two of the Purge in, since Thrinax is the only problem creature on their roster and they might have boarded in Bloodwitch, so boarding Pulse out for Purge for efficiency also comes with a possible pitfall. Stag is there to give me a threat Vampires can’t deal with, so my Gigantiform resolves every time! The Mind Shatters are there for the control decks, but it’s also pretty great against Jund since they tap out so often. If they don’t have the double Blightning (which can be slowed by my Sculler/Duress), Mind Shatter for three or four on turn 4 or 5 is usually enough to make them run out of gas.
My one problem with this deck is the mana. It’s good, but it’s not resilient enough to survive a Goblin Ruinblaster randomly taking out a Sunpetal Grove, or a pair of Spreading Seas to keep me off Green or White. The curve also might feel a little clunky when you draw too many five-drops, which is why Elspeth/Garruk isn’t in here anymore, all the non-five-mana cards are three and below to make sure I have enough early game to set up the five-drops. I still really like this deck’s chances, since landing a Baneslayer/Gigantiform when they have no answer is the easiest way to claim a quick win in Standard these days.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Ranger of Eos
- 3 Wall of Reverence
- 3 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Hedron Crab
This is another deck I’ve been revisiting. One of my initial problems when I was first playing this deck was the mass amount of hate that people were aiming at the Turbo Fog deck, hate that just so happened to be great against me. Now that Turbo Fog is off the radar and its supporters few and far between, I feel like people are aiming those extra slots at Jund and the other more popular decks… but I wouldn’t even consider this deck if I didn’t stumble upon a gift from above.
A long time ago, I brewed up a toasty Elementals deck that I was sporting for awhile, which included Gift of the Gargantuan to enable my land drops while finding my Mulldrifters, Reveillarks, more Flamekin Harbingers, and Horde of Notions. I think a lot of people forgot about Gift, because it’s a great incentive to play Landfall stuff, and with Standard so depleted of mass card advantage we’ve been stuck in the “two for one” dynasty where Jund rules. Gift is a two-for-one; it digs to several very important creatures for this deck, it finds me more land to keep the Crab infection going, and it fits right in with the curve as being a three-drop on turn 2 thanks to Birds and Hierarch.
With Gift in the deck, I felt like I wanted more creatures to avoid the embarrassing whiff, and Ponder just wasn’t cutting it anymore, so I looked for a solid dude that could help prolong the game. After hours of digging around the Gatherer, I became frustrated and punched a wall… then it hit me. Wall of Reverence! Okay, that’s not exactly how it happened; I got an email from a bro who said he added four Wall main deck and was steamrolling everyone in the wake of his Crabs. I loved Wall out of the sideboard, but putting it main deck presents several very good situations. For one, the match against Jund goes much longer, giving me time to topdeck into more Archive Traps to finish them off after milling away thirty or so cards with Crabs. I often run out of Crabs before actually decking them, usually yielding me 20-30 cards before I run out of landfall dudes. In this situation, I need to draw into Archive Traps to finish them off, and Wall gives me many more draws to accomplish this. Wall is also superb against Mono-Red.
I’m going all out on the creature sideboard plan this time. Against Control decks, I’ll usually just swap out Paths and Walls for Negates, another Trap, and a singleton Baneslayer Angel. Against Jund I board out all the mill cards except two Ranger for everything but the Traps in the sideboard. Ranger obviously isn’t that great, but drawing a couple of Hierarchs while filling my hand to avoid a Blightning blowout, along with having no other relevant cards to board in, is the reason. This plan has been testing alright… it doesn’t feel 100% correct, but I don’t lose very many game 1s out of surprise factor, so I just need to get scrappy to win the next two. If they aren’t expecting Baneslayer, or I can start confusing them by throwing my entire sideboard in my deck after game 1, they’ll probably have to hybrid their plan of attack. Keeping Gift relevant post board also takes away some of my options as far as creature or non-creature lines of attack post board, so I think this is as close as I’m going to come to a complete Crabs deck before Worldwake drops.
The issues I had with the previous version are all taken care of now. Before, I didn’t like my sideboard plan. Now it’s acceptable. I didn’t like playing sixty-one cards, so I cut it down to 60. I didn’t like playing only 23 land, so I’ve got 24 now. I didn’t like Ponder (at least as the backbone of the card selection), and Gift has been very good for me as a comparable answer to Blightning, as well as making me feel like my deck is a lot deeper since I can stack up my hand and line my attack out without taking up draws for the next couple of turns like Ponder made me do. I’ve also been trying to find a version that makes sense that includes both Ponder and Gift, but then I’ve got to cut my Snare’s and a Path, which screws up my sideboard plan a bit since I’d like to have a full set of Paths post board.
I’m definitely leaning toward Crabs, but I’m also having a lot of fun putting Gigantiform on Knight of the Reliquary to make a massive 12/12 trampler out of nowhere on turn 4. At the last StarCityGames.com Dallas Open, I got cold feet about my Colfenor’s Plans deck and ran an awful BWru Bitterblossom, Esper Charm, Ajani Vengeant, control/aggro, hodge podge pile of feces, and it cost me the tournament. So maybe I should go with my gut this time and pilot the janky combo deck…
See you guys in Fort Worth! If you’re looking for hot spots to chill at before/after the tourney, check out the article I put out for the last SCG Open for some ideas.
Thanks for reading…