Feature Article – Five-Color Reveillark In Standard

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Tuesday, June 17th – While Regionals is in the books, the Standard format is never dead… and today, Luis Scott-Vargas brings us a funky looking deck based on two popular strategies: Quick n’ Toast and Reveillark. By smashing the concepts together, LSV produces something with game across the board and a possible powerhouse in the current metagame. And if that’s not enough, he shares a speedy Red deck too!

The Pro Tour is over and we have an abundance of interesting lists for consideration. I know Regionals has come and gone, but Standard is still there for our amusement. Naturally Wafo-Tapa and co. had the most intriguing concoction, the oddly named Quick n’ Toast. Harnessing the power of Reflecting Pool plus Vivid Lands is, as many have already noted, going to be a pretty strong strategy both in Block and Standard for the foreseeable future. This deck started it all, unashamedly running the full four Pools and eight Vivid lands. In the unlikely event that you haven’t seen the list, here it is:

1 Dreadship Reef
2 Fungal Reaches
1 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Mystic Gate
4 Reflecting Pool
2 Sunken Ruins
4 Vivid Creek
4 Vivid Grove
4 Yavimaya Coast
3 Cloudthresher
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Mulldrifter
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
4 Wall of Roots
4 Careful Consideration
4 Cryptic Command
3 Firespout
3 Makeshift Mannequin
4 Rune Snag
2 Slaughter Pact

1 Cloudthresher
1 Detritivore
3 Mind Shatter
1 Murderous Redcap
2 Primal Command
1 Shriekmaw
3 Teferi’s Moat
3 Wispmare

I try not to make any changes without playing a deck first, and this deck was so far removed from what I was used to that I didn’t dare. After watching many people unsuccessfully pilot the deck at Regionals as well as local events, a problem with the deck is obvious. You aren’t Wafo-Tapa, or even Manuel Bucher for that matter*. I constantly see people losing or timing out due to inexperience with the deck and its surprising scarcity of win conditions. I can’t help but be reminded of the Gifts deck during Kamigawa Block. Basically, Gifts was the best deck, much better than Quick n’ Toast or any other deck in this format. Still, it was almost always a bad choice for PTQs. It was so complicated that most people would either unintentionally draw or lose despite the deck having the tools necessary. Now, I’m certainly not calling everyone terrible, it’s just that this deck is glacially slow and doesn’t have much of a margin for error, up to and including the order you play your lands and how you tap them. Even Wafo-Tapa himself went to time many of the rounds, and if he was going to time then the average Regionals player doesn’t stand a chance.

All Quick n’ Toast really does is draw cards, and as nice as that sounds it doesn’t always translate to a win. Evoking a Mulldrifter into a Mannequin that draws you a Careful Consideration is pretty awesome, but at some point you want a card with real meat on its bones. The original list basically just has the three Cloudthreshers and one Oona to really bash with, although random Finks and Drifters have been known to finish games. I found myself always wanting more action cards, and maybe less pure card draw, as strange as that sounded. Bear in mind this is coming from the guy who played a deck with the sole purpose of getting out Arcanis, so when I say that I thought the deck had too much card draw then it means something. The metagame also shifted, as it tends to do, and Merfolk was far more popular than it was at the PT. Just looking at the number of slots it won from various Regionals shows how popular it is now. Clearly the only solution to my grievances with the deck is to drastically change it by shuffling a completely different deck into it and pulling out the pieces I no longer want. It would be insane of me to take any sort of credit for the underlying ideas of this deck, since it basically takes Manuel B’s deck plus Chapin’s five-color Lark deck plus Mihara’s three-color Lark deck, but sometimes you just have to brew. The skeleton for this deck was thrown together the night before Regionals. I was watching my friend Brent play Mihara’s Reveillark deck. Brent was actually Paul and my third when we won a Team Standard PTQ for PT: Charleston…if you don’t remember hearing how we did it’s because I had a final I couldn’t move, and hence screwed all three of us. Anyway, he kept playing against Quick n’ Toast, and after watching the two decks collide over and over I decided to smash them together and see how it did. The guy who ended up playing it probably would have made Top 8 had he remembered that Primal Command doesn’t do a very good job of bouncing Treetop Village (target noncreature permanent, for those who are wondering).

For those of you without a sense of adventure, the Momentary Blink can also be the 4th Finks.

This deck is pretty sweet. It’s got some pretty exciting things it can do, all at the cost of a funny looking manabase. One of the better ways to evaluate this deck is in the context of its “parents,” since clearly this is the result of Quick n’ Toast and UW Lark meeting in some secluded deckbox.

How does this deck differ from UW Lark?

Wrath of God becomes Firespout, which is better at killing Magus of the Moon and comes out turn 3 even without acceleration.
Coldsteel Heart/Prismatic Lens become Wall of Roots, which is basically the best card ever. It’s in fact so good that Cheon’s deckbuilding process before the PT started with: “I want to play a deck with Wall of Roots, because it’s sweet.” We did end up playing a deck with Walls, but sadly chose to accompany them with stupid Warhammers instead of good Blue spells. In any case, I think Wall of Roots beats Coldsteel Heart in the head-to-head comparison.
Primal Command and Mannequin provide flexibility (Command) and instant-speed ways to threaten the combo kill (Mannequin). You do lose out on the disruption of Rune Snag / Cryptic Command or the raw card draw of Careful Consideration, but Primal Command and especially Mannequin seem like they more than make up for those losses.
– You get to sideboard cards that are pretty awesome, like Cloudthresher (plays well with Mannequin) and Puppeteer Clique (also plays well with Mannequin). Actually, the Clique does a lot of things. It’s pretty much only for opposing Lark decks, but it sure wreaks some havoc there. Simultaneously reducing their graveyard while letting you draw off their Drifters and steal their guys with Sower, Puppeteer Clique is really awesome. With a suspended Gargadon out you can completely stop them from going off just by having a Clique in play, much less ambushing them with a Mannequin. It’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t pull its weight against Faeries, since Puppeteering a Mistbind Clique then Championing the Puppeteer sounds awesome.
– UW Lark is pretty resilient to Magus of the Moon, but this deck approaches the problem from the other direction. With 4 Firespout and a Redcap main and 2 Slaughter Pact plus a Redcap sideboard, you have way more ways to kill Magus then they have Magi. With 3 Finks and 2 Primal Commands, most Red decks really only beat you on the back of that guy, so that’s pretty good news.

Overall it seems like Five-Color Lark has at least some compelling reasons to be five colors, although admittedly the mana is nicer in the UWr deck. Comparing Five-Color Lark to Quick n’ Toast is less relevant, since the focus of the decks are now completely different. Basically Five-Color Lark stole the manabase and Wall of Roots plus Mannequin from Q n T, and has a bunch of midrange creatures instead of full sets of Rune Snag and Cryptic Command. It’s pretty tough to say which is better or worse, but the Lark deck certainly ends games faster. It’s full of threats, and even has that nifty combo in case you really have to win instantly.

I don’t want to focus too much on the basic workings of the deck, since I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume most readers know how the Reveillark deck works. There are countless articles on the subject, most of them written by Peebles. Still, there are a few cute things this deck can do, and I apologize in advance if they seem too obvious.

Persist plus Body Double is nice, since if you Body Double a Redcap or Finks and it dies, it comes back with a —1/-1 counter but as any creature you want. This allows you to gain infinite life off Body Double + Reveillark + Gargadon in the event that you need to. Body Double the Finks, gain 2, sacrifice the Body Double and persist it back as a Reveillark. Sacrifice it again and target itself with Reveillark’s trigger so it comes back without a —1/-1 counter as a fresh Finks. Repeat until you are at some arbitrary and very large life total.

Get infinite Green mana out of Wall of Roots when you are going off, and using it to Primal Command for a way to kill them. (I know Chapin mentioned that in one of Evan Erwin videos, but it was hard to catch everything amidst that frenetic banjo music!)

Attack with Gargadon. Seriously, just sac some lands and bash. I have seen more games than you would expect finished by a Gargadon coming in a few times. Once you have Sowered or Redcapped a few guys, sometimes you gotta just move in with Gargs, assuming you aren’t able to combo off in the near future. This path to victory is a bit underrated, but it’s still pretty viable. One of things I really like about this deck is that it can legitimately win without comboing off. Incremental card advantage through Mulldrifters and Sowers adds up (not to be confused with literal “Incremental card advantage” gained by casting Incremental Blight in Limited, which also adds up). Even if your opponent sides in Extirpate or Macabre, you can still just beat him with an army of 2/2s.

The sideboard is a lot cleaner than some of my sideboards tend to be. I have been known to try sideboard with upwards of seven or eight different cards, and nothing is better than the numbers being something like a three-of, four two-ofs, and four one-ofs. This particular board is trying to beat up on Merfolk, Faeries, and the mirror primarily. The natural merits of the deck pretty much beat Elves and Red decks, although there certainly are cards for them in the board too.

Versus Faeries
+3 Cloudthresher, +2 Pact of Negation, +2 Slaughter Pact, +1 Crovax
-2 Primal Command, —4 Firespout, —1 Murderous Redcap, —1 Sower of Temptation

The typical anti-faeries plan of trying to force through a Thresher or Crovax, greatly aided by Mannequins and Pacts of Negation. Slaughter Pact is to answer Mistbind Clique, as he is one of their best cards against you.

Versus Merfolk
+3 Wrath of God, +2 Pact of Negation, +2 Slaughter Pact, +1 Murderous Redcap
-2 Primal Command, —3 Kitchen Finks, —1 Momentary Blink, —1 Makeshift Mannequin, —1 Venser

Just keep Wrathing them, even if it’s just two guys. They can go from nothing to lethal very quickly with all their various Lords. This reminds me of the Teachings against UG Tempo matchup from Time Spiral Block, with Merfolk basically fighting to untap with just one or two guys in play and protect them with counters. Pacts of both flavors help fight this plan, and just be careful not to get a Lark stolen by their Sowers if possible.

Versus Reveillark
+2 Puppeteer Clique, +2 Pact of Negation, +1 Faerie Macabre
-3 Kitchen Finks, —2 Firespout

The last two Firespouts help just in case they get too many idiots out, since you have far better tools for this fight if the game goes long. Primal Commands and Puppeteers plus a Faerie Macabre should thwart most of their combo efforts, so just don’t lose to random beatdown.

Versus Elves
+3 Wrath of God
-2 Primal Command, —1 Kitchen Finks

I don’t even think you want Slaughter Pacts or Redcap, although those are next on the list. Your maindeck is already pretty awesome against them with 4 Sowers and 4 Firespouts.

Versus Doran
+3 Wrath of God, +1 Slaughter Pact
-4 Firespout

Much like Elves, you are pretty awesome against these mopey creature decks.

Versus Red Decks
+2 Slaughter Pact, +1 Murderous Redcap
-1 Momentary Blink, —2 Sower of Temptation

As long as you don’t get mised by Magus of the Moon, you really should be beating Red pretty consistently. If they have bigger dudes you should keep Sowers in and take out a Mannequin and a Reveillark instead.

So if you enjoy drawing cards and then drawing more cards, well, play Quick n’ Toast. But if you enjoy drawing cards and then stealing and bouncing your opponent’s whole board, look no further. I’m still not sure why I didn’t play something more like this at the PT. Five whole colors AND a ton of card draw! I guess hindsight is 20/20, but I woulda settled for a lot worse than that in retrospect. Don’t let this conclusion-like sounding paragraph fool you though, I still have a bit more today. Another pretty interesting deck I have been playing will be found below, and although it is a departure from my usual fare I like it.

I was interested after I read Adrian Sullivan article about Chevy Red. He came to some really different conclusions than what I found, but we also agree on some points.

I really like Lash Out right now. Every deck has an abundance of men, so it’s almost inevitable that you will want to burn some of them. Hands down, Lash Out is the best Red spell if you have to point a spell at a creature. Granted, this deck seems like it’s going a little longer game than Adrian’s deck (note the whopping 26 land present), but I still was happy with Lash Out in a lower curve Red deck.

I agree that Magus is awesome; playing less than four really bears the question of why are you playing Red at all.

Now here is the most exciting thing about this list: Demigod. When you talk about cards that people use to beat Red, Demigod pretty much answers all of them. He flies over Finks, and Primal Command isn’t that backbreaking when you are hitting for five every turn. Drawing two Demigods is almost always game, and one brings home the bacon more often than not. No removal besides Skred and Mouth of Ronom gets him since he is Black and has four toughness [Flame Javelin works too — Craig]. However, Demigod doesn’t fit in most Red decks out there, since playing 22-23 land with some number of Mutavaults is insanity with Demigods. That leads into my next point, the number of lands we play.

Adrian even sides in Megaliths in every matchup, and while I’m clearly not going to say that it means he should have them main, since there are many problems with that sort of statement, it seems like we both like our Red decks to have ample land. This deck started with 24 land and we wanted one more, and then still wanted another, so we ended with 26.

Most of the differences between what Adrian found and what I found have a lot to do with the focus of our respective decks, so my point isn’t that either of us is right or wrong. I just found it interesting how we approached the Mono-Red deck in this format in somewhat different manner. That actually wraps it up for real this time, so I guess that’s that for now.

Lsv on MTG (at least now that Shadowmoor drafts are up I have some semblance of a reason to brave using v3)
Scottvargas AT gmail Dot com

* Not to say that Manuel Bucher isn’t awesome, since he is, but it’s pretty tough to hold a candle to the man, the myth, the legend that is Wafo-Tapa.