Five All-Original, Mono-Color Standard Decks

Wednesday, October 6th – LSV once got Devon to 4 life and also gave him 9 poison counters; someone joked that he was going for the “double up.” Why stop there? Why not use a Sign in Blood to kill via decking and damage with nine poison?

The Trifecta

The Trifecta is something I thought up while (Wescoe check) drafting with Luis Scott-Vargas, Paul Rietzl, David Ochoa, Brian Kibler, Kenny “Mistake of Creation” Hsuing, Devon Miller, and Gary “Andy Dick Once Hit On Me” Talim (with Dan Burdick traveling in to railbird; look for Burdick on next year’s Railbird Hall Of Fame ballot — he probably deserved it this year, but I forgot to add him).

During one game, LSV got Devon to four life and also gave him nine poison counters, and someone joked that he was going for the “double up” — or whatever they call killing with both poison and damage.

“Why stop there?” I suggested, “Why not use a Sign in Blood to kill via decking

damage with nine poison?”

Then I thought, what if I have Inexorable Tide out when I Sign in Blood the opponent at the moment he has nine poison counters, one card or less in library, and one or two life? (They won’t

die three ways, since the trigger resolves first, but it’s close enough.)

I call this play The Trifecta.

If you can achieve the Trifecta, you’ll level up as a mage and probably take at least a year off your opponent’s lifespan (rough estimate — the effects of large-scale humiliation on lifespan are not well known). There have been murmurings of Trifecta-ing someone as their time is about to expire on Magic Online for the Quadratic Equation, a.k.a. the Don Ciccio, a.k.a. the full-blown AIDS, but I personally think it’s too dangerous to attempt. Rietzl suggested a “Quad Shot of Massimo Espresso” IRL by Trifecta-ing someone while the judge is walking over with
his decklist in hand (because of a registration error). Before you suggest a five-way kill, someone may have already captured your idea on camera,
shown here.

On a less silly note, I’m going to throw out some ideas for mono-color decks in each of the five colors. I tried to take each deck in some new direction, so that you, the reader, will get something new given all the various Standard articles available.

Any of these decks should be able to teach you something about Standard if you FNM or test with them; though none is ready for any kind of big dance just yet. I’ve chosen to do mono-color decks because they help me figure out where the colors are strong and, most important, where they have weaknesses that need to be addressed by adding another color.

If, early in a format, I can make a mono-color deck that

gets to Tier 1, often I can add something to the deck to make it Tier 1 (in current Standard, maybe something like Pyroclasm + Bolt, Wall of Omens + Day of Judgment, or Mana Leak + Jace + two Frost Titan), and I’ll know what the deck needs most from my testing.

For each deck, I’ll discuss what cards or angles of attack didn’t make the cut; I’ll list some of the deck’s strengths, and finally I’ll list some of its weaknesses.


All My Spells Cost Four, Hope Yours Cost More

What didn’t make the cut: Strata Scythe, Forked Bolt, Pyroclasm, Masticore, Chandra Nalaar.


This deck is built to prey on ramp decks while maintaining enough threats to battle control. You’ve gotta keep Primeval Titan off the board with your land destruction/Lodestones, or have your Dragonlord ready to kill them, but you’ve got the tools to do it. Against Valakut, you’ll usually be able to kill all the Valakuts you see, giving you a fighting chance against a Titan. Sword of Body and Mind is a cute combo with Roiling Terrain, but each card is good in its own right, so we don’t lose much. If we cut Roiling Terrain, we probably don’t want the Sword, opting instead for Strata Scythe, which I think is better than people realize, or no equipment at all.


All of the Titans (and the honorary artifact Titan Wurmcoil Engine) are annoying for this deck once they resolve, and you won’t always be able to keep the opponent under six mana. Aggro decks also present a problem, since they don’t care that much about LD, and we’ve chosen not to play cards like Pyroclasm that would keep an aggro deck in check.


Please Don’t Resolve Koth, I Have a Family

What didn’t make the cut: Steady Progress, Argent Sphinx, Lux Cannon, Voltaic Key, Throne of Geth.


Maindeck Flashfreeze in blue is something I wouldn’t leave home without, going into States. Like at certain points in the past, the combination of a) the strength of Flashfreeze vs. certain decks (here, against Koth decks and ramp decks), plus b) the popularity of red and green decks, makes Flashfreeze worth it in the main. Preordain, Halimar Depths, and Jace help us avoid or get rid of dead copies in other matchups. The Contagion Clasp seems very good in our deck, killing an early creature (or perhaps just wounding it), and then later helping us build a Ratchet Bomb up or just aiding our Chalice or Jace.


Again, an aggro deck is likely problematic, as we’re geared towards beating the ramp/control end of the spectrum. With the blue decks, it’s harder to tweak us back in the other direction, since we can’t just add something like Day or Pyroclasm (without adding another color, which in the real world might in fact be our solution — that I avoid in this initial exercise). Summoning Trap is also problematic when counterspells are such a central facet of our plan.


Pale Hot Dog

What didn’t make the cut: Elite Vanguard, Strata Scythe.


Relative to other WW decks that use equipment, this deck is a little slower, but in return we are

more resilient to spot removal. Cheating an Argentum Armor into play can be effective but requires that a lot of things go your way. Here, we have to hope we’re fast enough to race the ramp decks, but if we are (maybe with some tweaks), this deck offers a lot of resilience against the rest of the field. Normally “Wraths” like DOJ or ‘Clasm are a nightmare for WW, but here we take the “army in a can” approach, playing several cards that either need to be dealt with on a one-for-one basis (Student) or making multiple creatures to present a clock all by themselves. Brave the Elements is good enough in Extended, and probably in Standard, even though artifacts diminish its utility somewhat. (There will be times when you’re staring down a Wurmcoil Engine, helpless, despite your Brave the Elements.)


WW’s natural weaknesses are all present here. You can’t do that much to disrupt your opponent other than reducing his or her life total to zero, and your clock isn’t the fastest at doing that. WW shines when it can get a leg up on the other aggro decks,

the control decks aren’t really prepared to deal with the types of threats it’s presenting (usually a lot of creatures, as here, but sometimes “protection from X” creatures or fliers). Are these conditions present now? Only time will tell.


Never Trust a Big Snake and a Smile

What didn’t make the cut: Necropede, Tel-Jilad Fallen, Sylvok Lifestaff, Overwhelming Stampede, Blazing Torch.


Wizards once was of the opinion

that a 1/1 double strike for 2G was potentially overpowered.

“Eventually, we realized it might be flawed as a keyword because you just can’t put it on cheap creatures. Even a 3-mana 1/1 would lead to insanely easy quick kills — turn 1 Elf (or Bird), turn 2 Doublestrike Dude, turn 3 any combination of 3 Giant Growths and/or Reckless Charges and/or other 3-power enhancers. That’s 20 damage on turn 3. Anyway, the real reason we vetoed Doublestrike Dude is that green is the wrong color for him. First strike just isn’t something green is good at. This card should be either white or red.”

Wizards did eventually change course on much of this, printing double strike on 1/1s at RR, RW, and even 1R, despite the potential for turn 3 kills. The ability has mostly stayed out of green (outside multicolored green cards), but Blight Mamba is essentially Doublestrike Dude if all your other ways of dealing damage also infect.

Infect sets your target to ten rather than twenty. The pump spells you have access to in Standard make a deck full of double strike creatures an interesting option, presenting the possibility of turn 3 kills, using not just one or two unlikely draws, but many variations on the same theme.


No one-drops is a problem for any aggro deck. I’ve attempted to mitigate this by adding one-drop equipment and four Evolving Wilds, which does give us more turn 1 action, but it isn’t the kind of action that the Steppe Lynx and Goblin Guide decks have access to. Pump always leaves you vulnerable to instant removal. Path to Exile is no longer legal. This helps. Vines of Vastwood also helps, though I wish I could play ten copies instead of just four. The sideboard likely will contain Withstand Death and/or Autumn’s Veil (almost certainly the Veil), so that’s something to keep in mind if

tries to burst our bubble.


Just Another Black Deck Caught Up in the Mix

What didn’t make the cut: The Vampires tribal strategy, Malakir Bloodwitch, a Grim Discovery + Tectonic Edge package, Dread Statuary, Mire’s Toll, Sorin Markov, Strata Scythe (maybe you can spot the under-the-radar card I like the most from Scar), Abyssal Persecutor + different removal, Smother.


There are some powerful anti-creature options available in black, and we even get a solution to planeswalkers at BB in Hexmage. Mind Sludge and Duress are great at what they do, and Grave Titan and Wurmcoil Engine are wonderful finishers. With Nocturnus gone, the rewards for being tribal in Vampires are diminished greatly, but the two most efficient Vampires find a home here and don’t need tribal support to be great in Standard.


Our plan against Ramp is Mind Sludge and only Mind Sludge, and even then, a topdecked Summoning Trap or Primeval Titan could do us in, as could Eye of Ugin. Against Vengevine decks, I won’t pretend the two Nihil Spellbombs are going to be enough to swing the matchup. We’ll need to get a good draw and stick one of our six-drops on turn six to have a chance. The weaknesses are somewhat daunting here, but mono-black hasn’t been Tier 1 in a while, so I can’t say I’m that disappointed in myself for not coming up with something impressive here.

Closing thoughts on the SCG Talent Search

I’d like to close with some tips for anyone who plans on entering our
Talent Search.

Something I’ve always struggled with (and continue to struggle with) as a writer is recognizing and respecting this simple quote, which I learned when studying legal writing but is applicable to all writers:

“There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” –Justice Brandeis

“Draft then submit” works in 8-man queues, but not in writing. If you’re new at it, a friend’s opinion might be as valuable as or more valuable than your own reread, so pass it along to someone who’s close to you. Basically, it’s dangerous to submit something without rereading, editing, sharing with a close friend, and rereading and editing again, at a minimum. The best things I’ve come up with didn’t arrive on the first take, and I’m not alone when I say that.

Also, cheesy as it sounds, take chances. Is there something that always makes you and your friends laugh uncontrollably when you’re playing Magic and joking around? There’s a decent chance other Magic players will laugh too. (If it’s site appropriate, and if not, often there’s a way to spin it so it’s “clean” but still funny. Trust me.)

Are you afraid to start a decklist from scratch because you’ll certainly leave a card out or have an “unwinnable matchup” that people will post about in the forums? Take a page from my book, and realize that if you write a 60 or 75-card decklist that has little chance of winning a PTQ, readers still can learn from the decklist. When I’m reading other people’s articles, a decklist is worth reading if it shows me even one new idea that I hadn’t thought of, whether that idea is a maindeck card, a strategy, a combo, a sideboard card, a mana base, or whatever.

Think of the readers as people who already have some ideas and decks, but who might need another idea or two of yours to pair up with their existing ideas and decks. Winning decks are more like Lego sculptures than ice sculptures, so don’t worry about giving the readers a ready-to-win list every single time.

Even if you‘re able to publish the “best deck,” it wouldn’t be the best two weeks from now, so readers will be stuck taking home “lessons” rather than “lists” no matter what!

Best of luck to everyone who participates.

Matt Sperling