Feature Article – Green/White/Black in Standard

Wednesday, March 17th – With Standard operating under a strict Jund regime, a number of strategies have arisen to combat this tricolor behemoth. Marijn Lybaert ran Green/White at Pro Tour: San Diego, and today he updates his list with a touch of Black and explains the pertinent sideboard strategies. Is this the Jund-killing deck that the metagame desires?

It’s been quite a while since my last article here on StarCityGames.com. During this time, there weren’t any big tournaments anyway, and all I did was play Standard on Magic Online in order to stay updated for Pro Tour: San Diego. Before Worlds, I was playing Jund all the time, winning most of my matches. After Rome, things changed. A lot of decks had improved (mainly UWR and Grixis), while my Jund list was still pretty basic. I started to lose more than I liked, to so I switched to UWR myself. I was having good results, and when I saw Worldwake I was more than happy to see some great Blue cards.

One of the first decks I built for San Diego was an updated UWR list, including Jace, Calcite Snapper, Treasure Hunt, Everflowing Chalice, and Celestial Colonnade. The deck was fine, but the mana was far from ideal, and by removing Spreading Seas from the maindeck my matchup against Jund had become a lot worse. Calcite Snapper was fine and gave you an out against Luminarch Ascension and opposing Planeswalkers, but it was also much weaker than Wall of Denial against Jund and Mono Red. A deck that was doing really well in our testing was the WGb deck that Martin Juza played at Worlds. This was his decklist:

5 Forest
1 Gargoyle Castle
4 Marsh Flats
4 Plains
4 Sunpetal Grove
1 Swamp
4 Verdant Catacombs

4 Baneslayer Angel
3 Borderland Ranger
4 Emeria Angel
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Noble Hierarch

2 Behemoth Sledge
3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
3 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Martial Coup
4 Path to Exile

3 Acidic Slime
3 Celestial Purge
1 Day of Judgment
3 Luminarch Ascension
2 Martial Coup
3 Wall of Reverence

Unfortunately, Worldwake didn’t bring a lot of goodies for this deck. Stirring Wildwood was an obvious addition, and so was a singleton Sejiri Steppe, but apart from those two there wasn’t something obviously broken, like Jace, the Mind Sculptor was for the Blue decks.

The deck was certainly powerful, but it also had one big issue: it needed the right combination of lands, accelerators (Lotus Cobra and Noble Hierarch), and ‘big’ spells (Baneslayer Angel, Knight of Reliquary, and Emeria Angel), and all that without any form of card draw. On top of that, you needed your small guys to survive the early game, while your big cards had to live long enough to finish your opponent. With that in mind, I made the following changes:

– I added 3 Steward of Valeron to increase the number of accelerators. On top of accelerating, Steward also served as an extra early beater against the control decks. Often they would play Jace and bounce the only creature on the board, but with Steward that was no longer an option.
– I added 2 Vines of the Vastwood to protect your big guys. Between Maelstrom Pulse, Terminate, Oblivion Ring, and Path to Exile, there is more than enough spot removal in Standard, and I needed a way to protect my big guys. Vines also served as an extra finisher sometimes.
– 2 Marshal’s Anthem served not only as a late game finisher but also helped in those games where I drew too many accelerators, as it would pump all my small guys and put my opponent on a clock.

Let’s take a look at the deck Jan Doise, Pascal Vieren, Christophe Gregoir, and I played at Pro Tour: San Diego:

The changes improved the deck, but it didn’t completely fix the problem. The deck had to mulligan far too much because of the great number of lands and accelerators, but it couldn’t really handle all those mulligans. Blightning made things only worse, as both Emeria Angel and Lotus Cobra demand a lot of lands.

In order to add Steward of Valeron, Vines of the Vastwood, and Marshal’s Anthem, I decided to cut the Maelstrom Pulses, as I thought the deck didn’t need them. I wanted to play as many creatures as possible, and testing against Vampires showed that Malakir Bloodwitch wasn’t a problem because our deck was faster than Vampires and their Malakirs would come too late. While I was right on the Vampires part, I was definitely wrong on the Malakir part. Jund was sideboarding Malakir Bloodwitch, and it had enough removal to ensure that they could stabilise until Malakir would take over the game. We hadn’t tested against Jund after sideboard, and our plan of sideboarding 4 Great Sable Stags proved to be pretty bad. Almost every Jund deck at the Pro Tour was playing four Raging Ravine, and those served as yet another answer to Great Sable Stag (next to Lightning Bolt, Bloodbraid Elf, and Siege-Gang Commander).

Another problem with our decklist was that, because of all non-basic lands, we could only fit in 3 Swamps and 3 Forest, which was just not enough. I had several games where I drew a fetch that couldn’t search up another land, which makes a big difference when you are running cards like Martial Coup, Marshal’s Anthem, and Emeria Angel.

The overall record of the deck was 20 wins/20 losses (with me having the best result at 6-4), and we all agreed the list could have been a lot better. I don’t think all the work we did was useless though, and the matchup against Jund can certainly be improved. After comparing our own list with the lists played at PT: San Diego, this is what I would play if I could go back in time:

I changed the mana a little in order to add three more basic lands, which should make sure you can always fetch a land in the late game. Maelstrom Pulse was added to fight Malakir Bloodwitch. Probably the biggest addition to the deck is the Stoneforge Mystic package. Stoneforge Mystic is a fine two-drop, a great card against Blightning, and a tutor for two very powerful pieces of equipment. The one Borderland Ranger is added to give the deck some more consistency, and is also great against Blightning. It might be even better to run a second one instead of the singleton Vines of Vastwood.

I’ve also been thinking about adding Qasali Pridemage (to fight Naya and UW Control), but they look very bad against Jund so I left them out for now. If Naya and UW Control (or maybe even Open the Vaults) keeps growing, they might be worth it. Another thing I’ve considered was a Bant list similar to the one from Dennis Stone. He’s running Blue for Jace, Spreading Seas, and Rhox War Monk, as well as two Mind Control maindeck and two in the board, but I don’t have any experience with his version so it would be useless to write about that.

The sideboard changed completely, as the one we had proved to be really bad. The new sideboard is based on the one from Daniel Grafensteiner, except for the Martial Coups, which I found to be crucial in the mirror and also look very good against ‘Boss’ Naya.

Let’s take a closer look at the most important matchups:

Pre-board, this matchup is all about Blightning, so try to keep any excess lands in hand until you really need them. An active Knight of the Reliquary ought to be game most of the time, as it protects all of your other guys (with double Sejiri Steppe) or searches out Tectonic Edge and Stirring Wildwood.

Sideboarding: -3 Path to Exile; -1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant; +3 Wall of Reverence; +1 Borderland Ranger

After sideboard, things get worse thanks to Malakir Bloodwitch, but if you keep your Maelstrom Pulses for them you should be fine. Against Jund without Putrid Leech you could sideboard some Identity Crisis as well, because they are much slower.

“Boss” Naya
I haven’t played against this deck much, but a friend of mine told me this deck is like Naya Lightsaber and Jund in one solid package. I’m unsure how the matchup is, but I don’t think you’re supposed to win it, although your Baneslayer Angels should be able to steal some games.

Sideboarding: -1 Vines of Vastwood, -2 Marshal’s Anthem, -1 Emeria Angel, +3 Martial Coup, +1 Day of Judgment

Martial Coup was the best card for me at the Pro Tour, and having three now is certainly correct. Against other WG decks, or against Boss Naya, you can win solely on Coup, since most Naya decks are sideboarding out Ranger of Eos (which is something I wouldn’t do myself), so it is hard for them to recover from a well-timed Wrath. Cunning Sparkmage looks to be a lot of pain, so try and keep your removal for him and Knight of Reliquary. I keep in the Borderland Ranger because of Martial Coup, but it might be better to sideboard the extra Swamp instead.

I really liked Master of the Wild Hunt in the mirror, but Stoneforge Mystic seems better as Behemoth Sledge is hard to beat.

Sideboarding: -1 Vines of Vastwood, -2 Marshal’s Anthem, +3 Martial Coup

Martial Coup is once again your best card, and it should win you a lot of games.

I played against some sort of RDW at the Pro Tour, and won in three close games. Remember that you should win the late game, so try to prevent damage by blocking whenever it’s possible.

Sideboarding: -1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant; -2 Marshal’s Anthem; +3 Wall of Reverence

A pretty good matchup, as long as you watch out for Vampire Nocturnus and Malakir Bloodwitch. Keeping some Emeria Angel tokens back in case they play Nocturnus is often the correct call.

Sideboarding: -1 Vines of Vastwood, -1 Borderland Ranger, +1 Wrath of God, +1 Martial Coup.

Martial Coup isn’t as good here (mainly because of Mind Sludge), but I still like to sideboard one of them to have an extra answer to Malakir.

Maindeck you probably can’t win. Day of Judgment is really good against you, and so is Martial Coup (obviously). Fortunately, the sideboard is well equipped against any form of control.

Sideboarding: +1 Swamp, +3 Luminarch Ascension, +3 Identity Crisis, -1 Vines of Vastwood, -2 Path to Exile, -1 Stoneforge Mystic, -1 Basilisk Collar, -1 Borderland Ranger, -1 Maelstrom Pulse

The Luminarch Ascension / Identity Crisis plan comes from Daniel Grafensteiner, and I think it will completely change the matchup after sideboard. Every time they tap out for Jace / Oblivion Ring / Day of Judgment, you’ll have the opportunity to land Identity Crisis, which should be game.
Yes, I’m sideboarding out Vines of Vastwood against almost any deck, but that’s because I’m assuming they’ve seen it game one (which is actually quite unlikely). As long as your opponent doesn’t know about it, just keep it in and take out another card. Sideboarding depends on your opponent’s deck anyway, but I’m just trying to give you guidelines in case you have absolutely no clue. Things can even change between game 2 and 3; for example, in the mirror you might Day of Judgment on the draw to fight back from a slow draw, but on the play you don’t really need it.

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll be back with my thoughts on Legacy from Madrid. While I didn’t do very well at the Grand Prix, I learned a lot from playing such a big Legacy tournament, and I’ll be happy to share my experiences. See you then, and thanks for reading.