Feature Article – Blue-White Reveillark in Standard

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Friday, September 12th – In his debut article for StarCityGames.com, Grand Prix: Columbus Top 8 competitor Owen Turtenwald takes us through Blue-White Reveillark in Standard. While a lot of players favor the combo variants offered by multiple colors and Body Double, Owen turns his back on the combo finish for more stability. He shares his sideboarding strategies for the major players in the metagame, and throws in some in-game tips and tricks for good measure.

My name is Owen Turtenwald, and for my first article here at StarCityGames.com I wanted to write about what I believe is the current best deck in Standard: Blue-White Reveillark. This deck was pretty popular at Grand Prix: Copenhagen, and with good reason. It’s really well positioned against both Elves and the incredibly popular Demigod Red decks.

This is close to the decklist I played at U.S. Nationals, and I’m pretty confident in a lot of the card choices. This is very similar to a list Yuya Watanabe used to win a local tournament, and I don’t think that this deck has received as much attention as it deserves.

Let’s look at some of the card choices in more detail…

No Body Double
As you may have noticed, this list doesn’t play Body Double; in fact, it doesn’t have any way to combo. This means I don’t have to play loose cards like Bonded Fetch, Mirror Entity, or Murderous Redcap.

No Greater Gargadon
Although this card is mainly in Reveillark lists as a combo piece, it is also very strong with Sower of Temptation. In testing, one of the biggest problems in the mirror match was that your opponent had Greater Gargadon, meaning all their Sowers were insane… they could take my stuff and sacrifice it, whereas I could only take their stuff for them to take back later in the game.

This card may look a little weird in this list, but it’s actually just what this deck requires. First, the deck has 23 lands and 4 Ponders, so there is a wider range of opening hands you can keep. Second, this deck plays very differently based on whether or not you have a turn 2 artifact mana accelerant. Third, in certain matchups you need certain cards; against faeries you want Pact of Negation and Venser, against Elves you want Sower of Temptation and so on (the same logic goes for digging for sideboard cards). A lot of people with whom I have shared this list have suggested Ancestral Visions over Ponder, and though Visions can be a better turn 1 play, Ponder is a perfect fit. This deck has a lot of card draw, and getting artifact mana early, along with being a fine topdeck, make Ponder the obvious choice.

3 Pact of Negation
This might seem like one too many, but unless I’ve mulliganed against an aggro deck I am always happy to see one of these. When I play this deck, I tap out on every single turn, which is the main reason I believe Rune Snag is very bad in this deck. I’ve had people tell me you can play Rune Snag and not tap out every turn, but I’d rather just have the Pacts and let my draw dictate that I can tap out and not die to Profane Command. Pact is also very good against Faeries.

3 Momentary Blink
This card is great in this deck, as opposed to other Reveillark decks that run fewer Vensers in favor of more combo cards. Even when Blink isn’t targeting evoked Mulldrifters or “Venstar,” it has many uses: it can reset my Sower, reset Finks, and you can justify these marginal uses since it has flashback.

4 Remove Soul
This is one of the best cards you can play for the Reveillark mirror match. Most people play stuff like Faerie Macabre and other random chaff, but Remove Soul does so much. Not only does it stop you from getting combo’ed out, it also is very effective in Sower fights. And if you’re ahead you can just press your advantage by countering a Finks or a Mulldrifter. In the mirror, it’s a two-mana hard counter. I know… now you’re thinking “but Rune Snag is bad because you always tap out!” Thing is, you can afford to tap out early as Remove Soul is just as good turn 10 as it is turn 2, whereas in a lot of matchups if you don’t land a Snag early they quickly become blanks. Remove Soul also does double duty, as upkeep Mistbind Cliques are absolutely sick against Reveillark decks.

4 Ronom Unicorn
Seems pretty obvious as an answer to Bitterblossom, as that’s the best card the Faerie deck has against you. It’s also very good against the Swans deck, as they have to play around it before comboing off. He also gets the nod over Wispmare, for what he loses in Blink synergy he gains in the art of beating down. You may want to board in a few of these against Red decks if they have Everlasting Torment.

2 Runed Halo
At U.S. Nationals I played Condemn in this slot, as it’s cheap and very good at dealing with Demigod of Revenge and Treetop Village. Now that Runed Halo has been Innovated, this seems like an obvious upgrade.

2 Glen Elendra Archmage
This card can be absolutely devastating against Five-Color Control decks, and decks like Swans and Swathshot Storm. You can continually reuse his effect, be it with Momentary Blink or Reveillark… he protects your spells from counter magic and stops folk from Mind Shattering you. The card is a little expensive, but when it works it’s absurd.

Now that I’ve finished explaining some of the main differences between this and “normal” Reveillark decks, I’ll share how I have been sideboarding against some of the most popular decks in the format.

This is one of the worst matchups for Reveillark, mainly because your entire deck operates at sorcery speed and their entire deck works at instant speed. Game 1 there isn’t much you can do about a Bitterblossom, but you can fight Ancestral Visions with Pact of Negation and Venser. If you can Sower a Scion of Oona it can be devastating but outside that, things look grim.

-4 Kitchen Finks
-4 Sower of Temptation
+4 Remove Soul
+4 Ronom Unicorn

After sideboard your plan is pretty simple: try and keep Bitterblossom under control and beat them in a fair fight. Some people might disagree with taking out Kitchen Finks as the early beatdown is very good against Bitterblossom, and I agree with that. But everything else in the deck is just so good against them, and this sideboard plan plays for the long game. The early beatdown from Finks isn’t as valuable as, say, a Careful Consideration, which will let me cycle through dead cards. You might also think Ponder is especially weak against Spellstutter Sprite, but it’s still very good as just digging for a Unicorn can be insane, or just for leaving a certain card on top of your deck so it can’t be Thoughtseized away.

This is the main reason to play Reveillark: Elves is your best matchup. If you look at the newer lists of Elves, you’ll see they run 4 Nameless Inversion or Terror and some additional Slaughter Pacts. At first glance this may make it look like Sower is a weaker card, but that just isn’t true… one of the main reasons Reveillark is so good against Elves is because it feeds off creature removal. Evoke a Mulldrifter, play a Sower which dies, cast Reveillark. What do they do? Kill it and let me retake something? Bash into it and let me take something? Stay home and concede to a Momentary Blink?

-3 Pact of Negation
+3 Wrath of God

I haven’t had much experience with Runed Halo against the Elves deck, but I had Condemns for the Demigod Red deck and they did double duty. I can’t see how the Elves deck wins through a Runed Halo on Treetop Village and a Wrath of God. Naming Mind Shatter or Profane Command can also be very good.

Demigod Red
This is another matchup that is very good for Reveillark. Logic dictates that Sower of Temptation is very weak again Red decks, but if you take a look at the stock Red lists they only have Skred, Incinerate, and Flame Javelin for spells. Wrath of God and Sower of Temptation are very good against this type of Red deck, and on top of that this deck has so many basics and Coldsteel Hearts that Magus of the Moon is almost a non-factor. I’ve seen lists with two Adarkar Wastes and more basics, so if you’re afraid of Magus of the Moon then this is an acceptable change.

-3 Pact of Negation
-2 Careful Consideration
+2 Runed Halo
+3 Wrath of God

Runed Halo on Demigod all but shuts them out of the game, as their early beats are weak against you, despite Blood Knight being incredible. Pact of Negation just isn’t that good against them, as Demigod and random burn late are the only cards worth countering, and Careful Consideration is just slow and bad. Mulldrifter should be all you need to stay ahead. You can sideboard in 1-2 Ronom Unicorn if you fear Manabarbs (yes, you can just Halo this) or Everlasting Torment.

In my testing, the mirror matches that I’ve played have been my Blue-White version against the three- to five-color versions with Greater Gargadon. Since they have Gargadon, their Sowers are insane and yours are pretty weak, as they can sacrifice what you target and what they take. One of the most important things to consider is to make sure you don’t get Sowered early, which means evoking Mulldrifter even if you can hardcast it, and only start dropping fighters once you have a Pact of Negation. Sometimes you can get a pretty aggressive draw with either multiple Mutavaults or Venser plus Blink, and just blow them out of the water.

-4 Kitchen Finks
+4 Remove Soul

After sideboard you can play a longer game, since you have seven hard counters and they will have 2 Pact at most… maybe they’ll have four Rune Snag, but Snag isn’t great if they don’t land one early. You could get combo’ed at any time, but you have so much resistance with Vensers and counters. This is one matchup where that single Wrath looks real bad, since if it were a Blink you could just take out the Finks and leave as is… I could see wanting a stray Wrath after board, just in case things go horribly wrong.

Quick n’ Toast
This is another very good matchup for the deck. Rune Snag can be pretty annoying, but other than that they are low on counters so your Mulldrifters and such usually resolve, and it’s easy to out-card them. One of the better parts about their deck is that it wins with random creatures, so they are forced to deal with your Sowers later, and Sower is usually one of the weaker cards in your deck for this matchup.

-1 Sower of Temptation
-4 Kitchen Finks
+2 Glen Elendra Archmage
+3 Remove Soul

This may look like an awkward board strategy, and it may well be, but Remove Soul is actually fine against them. Countering an early Mulldrifter is acceptable, as is countering as an instant speed Cloudthresher or later Platinum Angel. Though Sower is fine against them, taking out one is pretty good since you never want to have one early unless you’ve missed a land drop and you take Wall or Roots. Extirpate can be annoying but it’s easy to win through, and the same can be said for stuff like Primal Command and Mind Shatter.

This is probably the deck’s worst matchup, as Sage’s Dousing is unbeatable. Even if you Sower Lord of Atlantis, they still Islandwalk your face. I’m not sure what else to say here… draw multiple Sowers and hope they don’t see a lord? Try to race with Mutavaults and Finks? It’s a bloodbath.

-2 Careful Consideration
-1 Momentary Blink
+3 Wrath of God

You have to hope they overextend into a Wrath with Pact backup… winning from there is usually pretty easy, since they always run out all their lords to jack for damage.

As I said, I am very happy with this list. I have been playing it nonstop on MTGO, and it’s very good against the top decks. The dominant Demigod Red deck is almost a bye, since they are so low on burn and so high on creatures which means Sower and Wrath are great. Merfolk and Faeries can be rough matchups, but it’s a fair trade since you’re so good against the rest of the field.

That about wraps up my thoughts on UW Reveillark, and I hope it helps. Since I haven’t written in a while, I look forward to any and all feedback in the forums!