Force Of Will: The Not-Quite Metagame Clock

How do Pernicious Deed and Call Of The Herd change the metagame for the worse?

Well, I didn’t make it to States – so I didn’t get to run Ody Bloo: Pretty Hate Machine. Probably not much of a loss. I’m not sure how I’d have done in the Missouri pool but it looked about split between creature beats and three-color control decks in the finals… And most of those were creature-reliant. I think there were also one or two Opposition decks there.

Now I’ve had a chance to look at the winning decks coming out of the tournaments, I have some thoughts.

This is probably the most confining Standard metagame in some time. Why?

Pernicious Deed was aptly named.

Call of the Herd is making the cut in Extended and has a price to match its value.

I will obviously need to explain…

Last year around this time, the Standard metagame took on form. We had Fires explosive”Tinker”-type beatdown, the two U/W decks (one being Counter Rebels), Skies making the jump from MBC, and Nether Go was also in the cask, aging its brew. NetherHaups was played at States, but not by anyone that you probably know. It wasn’t developed yet, either – which, of course, took some time.

And of course, Binary (thanks to Mike) brewed up the little metagame deck, the underground killer of Glittering Cats and Cursed Totem that was the”God” deck.

Right at this time, I remember talking on the Meridian list about CounterRebels. What I knew was that it wasn’t a bad deck. Outside of”God,” which wasn’t even formed yet, there just weren’t very many bad matches for the deck… But it didn’t overpower anything, either. In the talk, it was described as a”mid-game” deck and the tone of comment was derisive. I can understand after the blitzkrieg that was let loose with the Urza’s block why that was. That format was fast, and Invasion-era Standard was the one that was slowing down a format.

The game of Magic was being pressed into actually being about the mid-game and not a flurry of three or four turns. This format has probably slowed from even that one and it’s allowing the reformation of combo on a different level.”Rice Snack” can actually”go off,” yet it’s not done in the flurry of three to five turns that the historical Yawgmoth’s Bargain/Skirge Familiar/Soul Feast deck, High Tide, or Academy decks strove for. It may be as much as two turns slower than that deck, but it is still being seen as viable by a knowledgeable crowd.

Don Lim’s take on it:




Reading Sean always makes me think of the Big Black tune”Bad Houses.”

The last two paragraphs were a bit of a digression – or perhaps an investment. Rice Snack’s evolution with Lim into LETC (Little Engine That Could) winds up including a card that is format dominating in my humble (or less than so) opinion:

Pernicious Deed.

See, we did get somewhere.

No I in TEAM, remember? My buddy, Carl Jarrell, stomped around the WV State tourney for some time. I believe he lost one game in the swiss and then got bad mana in the finals to place second. What was he playing?”Hot Garbage” – or, more precisely, the”new Fires.” Let’s have a look-see, eh?

Hot Garbage

by Carl Jarrell

with input from a cast of thousands

4 Birds of Paradise

2 Llanowar Elves

4 Kavu Titan

4 Call of the Herd

4 Ebony Treefolk

4 Flametongue Kavu

2 Shivan Wurm

4 Spiritmonger

4 Pernicious Deed

4 Urza’s Rage

8 Forest

4 Swamp

4 Llanowar Wastes

4 Sulfurous Springs

2 Karplusan Forest

2 Darigaaz’s Caldera


4 Duress

4 Slay

3 Hull Breach

4 Terminate

Obviously the jump from the actual enchantment Fires (because of the loss of its”combo-riffic” partner in Saproling Burst) to its replacement means something. But what?

I’ll tell you what I think it means. It means that while Burst Fires was frighteningly more explosive than”Hot Garbage,” it was also less stable. I say”less stable,” because the actual Fires enchantment did very little on it’s own and the replacement enchantment, Pernicious Deed does a lot. Like shift or dominate environments. Almost singularly. Nearly alone. Here the objective is to put out a Wakefieldian fatty and nuke anything less. Anything.

Read it again.


And this does something to the metagame.

It means that approaching winning with a deck that uses permanents to win in the mid-game, like our”God” deck did, is almost out of the question.

I know that this is a cross-format hypothetical, but you wanna set up with Glittering Cats and a Cursed Totem? What do I care? Here – have a Deed set off for”three” in one turn that wipes out all of that. Everything that you’ve been striving to do, wiped out.

I got this e-mail not long ago…


Hey guys. I’ve been trying to get this deck to work, but I can’t seem to get going fast enough.

Anyway, here’s the deck:

Stupid Good B/G/W cards

4 Sterling Grove

4 Pernicious Deed

4 Vindicate

4 Wrath of God

4 Gerrard’s Verdict

4 Duress

3 Still Life

3 Phyrexian Arena

3 Death Grasp

1 Overgrown Estate

2 Holistic Wisdom

4 Swamps

3 Plains

3 Forests

2 Brushland

4 Elfhame Palace

4 Llanowar Wastes

4 Caves of Koilos

The basic idea is to get control and keep it, via Wrath and Still Life or Gerrard’s Verdict. Then kill them with Still Life. I’ve also been trying to work in Creeping Mold, so if you think there’s something I should cut for it, I’m all ears. Thanks for the help.


Actually my first impression was that this was interesting and my mind immediately churned to the interaction between G/W permanents and Necra Sanctuary.

Then I remembered: In a format with Deed, this is an approach called”barking up the wrong tree.” You can set that up and then watch as Carl’s Hot Garbage or Lim’s LETC just Deeds it all away.

Deed is the answer for all permanents. Those don’t happen much… And for good reason. They alter the playing field radically.

Deed jumps up and says loudly,”You will not invest in permanent forms of control!

The problem in this environment is that just as loudly, Call of the Herd is saying,”You will not invest in open states of control!” Okay, I’m overstating that case – but the point really is the sandwich that the two create together. Open/empty board state control, i.e. counter and discard, is being hindered by some very good flashback cards in Call and Beast Attack. There is but one friend to the open state of control – and that friend is the maniacal card drawing afforded by the Finkel-imagineered Shadowmage. You absolutely need that kinda card drawing to hope to keep up with opposing cards being reused from the grave.

Still, the Finkel is not immune to the Deed. It’s a permanent.


So let’s add up this metagame just a tad in terms of options.

Beatdown quadrant. I would like a good black-based deck (which is probably years off; Double Feh), but you’ve got R/G”Rocket Shoes”, Hot Garbage, and possibly WW, although the latter suffers being nuked too easily and too well by the Deed. I’ve also fooled with building Sligh with some stave-off mechanism against green fatties – i.e. Ensnaring Bridge or Meekstone – but again, the problem here is a certain G/B reset button.

Aggro Control. There is no”Skies” deck. There are no alternate casting-cost counters. There are”Solution”-type variants, which are generally swinging even more towards U/B as opposed to U/W because of the Infiltrator and the blocking of Vodalian Zombie. White Weenies with Armageddon woulda been nice – Deed needs mana to function – but alas that’s not an option anymore.

Open Control. I don’t know if the deck exists. I’ve fooled with the concept with Ody Bloo and”Instant Guitars,” the U/G all-instants approach (which may gain enough from Holistic Wisdom to make it the more”open” state control deck of the environment). There is also the B/W based discard-plus-Desolation Angel-plus-Wrath decks that have some presence that fit here. The group of”Upheaval” decks may belong here as well, and are showing some promise.

Combo. Well we have basically two. The”Rice Snack” variants, i.e. Lim’s LETC, and the ones based on the Lich card, which have very little working (or winning) presence to my knowledge.

Mid Game. The Upheaval strategy probably deserves more to go in this quadrant, along with most land destruction and any control deck looking to win with Millstone. As I say, I think the format should probably be more favorable to more permanent forms of control, but Deed is cutting that off.

The point winds up being subtle and I am actually sort of conflicted on this. There are a lot of good cards in this set – ones that are making the jump straight to Extended – and really, there are a lot of variants to the decks that are working in standard. I didn’t even mention the Snake Tongue deck or the”Good Creatures/Miss America” types. So there is variety and diversity to deckbuilding… Except that I feel that certain, well defined, archetypal approaches are so depressed in their viability that it is presenting a somewhat stunted metagame. I could understand the suppression of combo because of the”Solitaire” nature of its victories (and defeats) which many hated, although I didn’t agree with it.

Now, take a look back at the quadrants. Is LETC that good? I’m not sure yet. I really hope it is that good because if it isn’t to me it’ll mean that there will be even fewer real choices of approach to the metagame. Mid-game control through permanents is being cut off by Deed and open state board control being undermined by flashback.

I don’t know. It’s always a tough balancing act, and we all wind up playing with the cards that they design. The field in that is”level.” I’ve got Deeds. I can play and use ’em. It may be that I’m just irked because last year I could support to some degree some six to eight great to good Standard decks, and I’m doubtful of that this year. In part, it’s because too many of the good ones are sharing too many parts – like Flametongue Kavu and Call of the Herd – and the fact that many of the better decks run three or more colors that the demands on non-basic lands will be at such a premium that I’ll be pressed to do that.

I will, however, soon have more viable Extended deck capabilities than I’ve ever had before. The kicker here being that while I’m up for St Louis'”Most Improved” player, I’m also sure that my bad jag through the Extended season of last year helped set that one up…

Ain’t that how it goes.



‘grats, Jay. You da man.