French Food for Thought : A Standard Gauntlet with Darksteel

With Regionals on the way, it’s time for all of us — except the few happy qualified for Kobe – to focus on Standard again. This format before Darksteel was a bit boring because of the domination of Affinity and the White control decks. Now, with the introduction of Darksteel, it’s certainly a better time for innovation. I’m going to take a look at updated versions of the three tier 1 decks that you should be testing all of your latest creations against.

If you’ve ever wondered what one of the Top Ten players in the world thinks about when he dabbles with new decks in his favorite format, check inside!

Hi dear readers.

With Regionals on the way, it’s time for all of us – except the few happy qualified for Kobe – to focus on Standard again. This format before Darksteel was a bit boring because of the domination of Affinity and the White control decks. Now, with the introduction of Darksteel, it’s certainly a better time for innovation.

In this article, you will find a standard gauntlet with Darksteel, designed to help you testing some new decks and make innovation of your own. I will describe the three tier one decks, with special attention paid to Goblin.

One Step Ahead: Affinity

One hundred and sixty five new cards. That’s a lot, but certainly not enough to entirely change the standard format, so the tier one decks (at least for the beginning of this season of Standard with Darksteel), are the same as before – namely Affinity, Blue/White and Goblins. Darksteel will certainly have an impact on these three archetype, and before we could start looking carefully at some more exciting decks, we have to know what will be the new face of these serious contenders.

For good reasons, Affinity was the best deck in Mirrodin standard. It’s as fast as the best aggro deck, and can counter and draw more cards than the best control deck. Darksteel gave to the deck a few new toys, but the main part of the deck will stay unchanged. Based on a list I play a lot in Block Constructed, this is the version I would play in Standard right now:

Affinity (Darksteel Standard)

2 Arcbound Ravager

4 Frogmite

4 Myr Enforcer

4 Broodstar

4 Aether Spellbomb

2 Pyrite Spellbomb

2 Lightning Greaves

4 Thoughtcast

4 Thirst for Knowledge

4 Mana Leak

3 Override

3 Talisman of Progress

4 Chrome Mox

4 Great Furnace

4 Darksteel Citadel

4 Seat of the Synod

4 Glimmervoid


4 Pyroclasm

4 Shatter

3 Temporal fissure

1 Override

3 Welding jar

As I promised, here is my ” secret Â” decklist for Kobe:

Cut the 4 Mana Leak to add 1 Override, 2 Assert Authority and 1 Pyrite Spellbomb. Sorry, but I won’t give you my sideboard.

This decklist as nothing particularly surprising, which is probably a good thing for the purpose of this article: when you want to test new decks, it’s obviously better to play them against something not too far from what your future opponents will really play. Darksteel Citadel helps a little against Akroma’s Vengeance, but a lot more against first turn Oxidize or Detonate post sideboard, and Shatter when your opponent plays first. Arcbound Ravager is, as you may know, really good in this deck – it also pumps your creature count to fourteen, something that seems essential for me. The only reason not to play more is, as we could say for Lightning Greaves, that they aren’t as good in multiples.

I’m not really sure of the sideboard I propose – the idea is to have four good cards against each of the tier one decks, and Welding Jar to counter the sideboard of your opponents. I already hear the complaints about how I waste three slots in my sideboard to put Welding Jars that I could play main deck. But really, those cards are better when your opponent has artifact removal, and it will happen a lot more in game two and three.

Another interesting possibility is to go for the burn version of Affinity, cutting Override and some Aether Spellbombs to add Shrapnel Blast and the two other Pyrite Spellbombs – suddenly you get a lot more aggressive deck, less dependant on Broodstar and able to kill a turn earlier, but also more exposed to Vengeance.

Does U/W Still Live?

That’s enough for Affinity – let’s talk a little about the other really solid deck in pre-Darksteel Standard: Blue/White. I know that there is some other White control decks around, but they aren’t as popular as U/W, so in order to build our gauntlet, considering none of us really want to test against all the current versions of White control decks, let’s just have a look at the most played deck.

Darksteel has some cards that could arguably be useful in a U/W control deck. Pristine Angel is a monster. Blinkmoth Nexus, as a man-land, is attractive too, as is Darksteel Brute, an indestructible victory condition. The only problem is that U/W is already full of good victory conditions, and would rather have added a good countermagic, card drawing, or removal… In those departments, Darksteel is pretty poor – please, don’t talk me about Vex or Last Word – so I don’t think that U/W will change due to Darksteel’s inclusion in the deck. However, the U/W players will have to adapt to some Darksteel inclusion in opponent decks in general, and to the arrival of Skullclamp in particular…

Here, we touch on perhaps the most important point in this article: Skullclamp will have an enormous impact in Standard. This card is so strong that it may change the format more than all the other Darksteel cards, and in the long run, could push White control decks down to tier two…

At least, U/W have to adjust. Akroma’s Vengeance won’t be enough to stop a one mana-card that allows aggro players to potentially draw two cards for each killed creature. Control deck addicts now have three main options:

As a side note, splashing Green in the Astroglide deck, for Viridian Shaman, Krosan Tusker and more cycling lands, is probably a good choice. In fact, it seems better to play a White-Green Astral Slide deck, splashing Lightning Rift.

Considering that you already have a lot of good Mirrodin standard U/W list, here I’ll give you a U/W/g version:

U/W/G Control :

4 Wrath of God

4 Akroma’s Vengeance

4 Mana Leak

4 Talisman of Progress

4 Naturalize

3 Eternal Dragon

3 Rewind

3 Concentrate

3 Decree of Justice

4 Exalted Angel

4 Mirrodin’s Core

2 Grand Coliseum

2 Windswept Heath

8 Island

7 Plain

1 Forest


4 Circle of Protection: Red

3 Oxidize

3 Stifle

2 Wing Shards

2 Carry Away

1 Decree of justice

So that’s it. My personal touch here, apart from the Naturalize splash – where is Disenchant when we need it? – is the Talisman of Progress. I really think that this deck will be too slow without them, especially against Affinity or Goblins. The Carry Away in the sideboard are here not especially for White Weenie decks, but to deal efficiently with Skullclamp: suddenly, if you can carry the Equipment away, your Decree of Justice will became a lot more juicy. I think you don’t really need more explanations for the rest of the decklist, so let’s go to the third great archetype.

Goblins, with or without Bidding.

Take a good deck, add four Skullclamps, and suddenly you have the best deck. That’s the first thing we have to say for Goblins: even if it wasn’t as good as Affinity and U/W before, (due to mostly to it’s lack of power when you compare it to Affinity and problems against Circle of Protection: Red), it will certainly became a tier one deck again with Darksteel.

Next, we have to choose between two builds: the Goblin Bidding version and the Biddingless one. When we examine the Red/Black version post Darksteel, we could quickly say that the interaction between Patriarch’s Bidding and Skullclamp is extremely powerful. The Black also offers you a way to deal efficiently with Broodstar, unmorphed Exalted Angels, and more via Dark Banishing. So a decklist quickly emerges:

Clamped Goblin Bidding

4 Skirk Prospector

4 Goblin Sledder

4 Goblin Piledriver

2 Sparksmith

4 Goblin Warchief

3 Goblin Sharpshooter

4 Siege-Gang Commander

4 Dark Banishing

3 Patriarch’s Bidding

4 Skullclamp

5 Swamp

3 City of Brass

4 Bloodstained Mire

12 Mountains


4 Detonate

2 Shatter

3 Flashfires

3 Gempalm Incinerator

3 Sword of Fire and Ice

Some explanations: the Sparksmiths are here to add some two drops in a deck that desperately need them – they aren’t useless against control if you have Skullclamp in play, and they could be very useful against Affinity, in the mirror, or against various Creature decks, so there’s no real reason not to include a pair. The sideboard is pretty obvious, except for the Sword of Fire and Ice: they prove to be a key card in the mirror.

Despite the obvious power of this version, I won’t recommend you use Goblin Bidding. With Affinity, U/W control, and Goblin decks on top of the food chain, the Patriarch’s Bidding is not the ultimate card it was in a format with more MBC and Astroglide decks. This deck is still a little too slow for an aggro deck, and has real troubles against COP:Red. Assuming that the White decks will add solutions for Skullclamp in game two and three, you can’t count on the Equipment to overwhelm the White enchantment.

So how could a Biddingless deck be better? With Skullclamp, you gain something in the long run that can emulate in some way the power of Bidding. So let’s concentrate on speed, and ways to deal with white sideboard.

To add speed, let’s add some burn spells in place of Dark Banishing, seems the best option. The most efficient burn spell is Shrapnel Blast. You already have Skullclamp – assuming you’ll play mostly Red, Blinkmoth Nexus will be in the deck. So with four Great Furnace, we arrive at twelve artifacts in the deck without any real sacrifices. The next addition is pretty obvious – if we want more speed and artifacts, Chrome Mox is the card we need. After all, Skullclamp is here to rebuild your hand, so the loss of the imprinted card won’t be too painful.

You can’t do a lot with Red cards and artifacts to deal with Circle of Protection: Red – obviously, there is Oblivion Stone, but in a deck supposed to be fast and that uses so many permanents, it’s not really an option. So, enter a Green splash for Naturalize… the card could easily replace the Shatter or Detonate slot in the sideboard, and can also help against the Astral Slide matchup. With one Forest, four Wooded Foothills and two City of Brass, you reach seven sources of Green without hurting your mana base too much. Seven is not really enough, however, but there is a possibility to put the count up to nine.

With twelve artifacts already in the deck, and the three Patriarch bidding slots if we compare to the B/R version, it’s pretty easy to bump the artifact count to sixteen: Pyrite Spellbomb or Bonesplitter could both be an interesting inclusion in the deck. With the lack of Gempalm Incinerator, and because I’d rather shoot my opponent than his creatures with Shrapnel Blast, the Pyrite Spellbomb seems more useful, at least to kill opposing Morph and Goblin Sharpshooter, plus the occasional lost Silver Knight. With a one-mana cantrip card instead of the five-mana Bidding, cutting a land is an easy decision, meaning we have the room for all four spellbombs. Suddenly, an excellent sideboard card against Affinity has also become playable, namely Furnace Dragon. To support this nine-mana Affinity creature, and help us in casting Naturalize, we could add two Talisman of Impulse to the board: these two slots won’t be totally lost, if we consider that they both help turning the Affinity matchup in your favor, and put your Green sources to nine when you need it.

So, keeping the same goblins base that in the Bidding version, we came to this list :

Goblin Affinity

4 Skirk Prospector

4 Goblin Sledder

4 Goblin Piledriver

2 Sparksmith

4 Goblin Warchief

3 Goblin Sharpshooter

4 Siege-Gang Commander

4 Shrapnel Blast

4 Pyrite Spellbomb

4 Skullclamp

4 Chrome Mox

4 Blinkmoth Nexus

4 Great Furnace

1 Forest

4 Wooded Foothills

6 Mountain


4 Furnace Dragon

2 Talisman of Impulse

4 Naturalize

3 Sword of Fire and Ice

2 Flashfires

Finally, with this particular sideboard, you may need an in and out :


+ 4 Furnace Dragon, + 4 Naturalize, + 2 Talisman of Impulse, – 4 Shrapnel Blast, -3 Goblin Sharpshooter, -1 Siege-Gang Commander, -2 Goblin Sledder

The Shrapnel Blasts had to go, considering that we can’t side out ten Goblins. The Goblin Sharpshooters are pretty bad anyway against Affinity, and cutting one Siege-Gang Commander while adding four Furnace Dragons doesn’t hurt your late game plan much. When you look at the remaining goblins, Goblin Sledder is the only one you can really cut.


+ 4 Naturalize, + 2 Talisman of Impulse, + 2 Flashfires, – 3 Goblin Sharpshooter, – 2 Sparksmith, – 2 Chrome Mox, – 1 Pyrite Spellbomb

Obviously this sideboard won’t be good if your opponent doesn’t play that terrible White enchantment. The Talisman of Impulse/Chrome Mox switch is pretty good, in a matchup where you don’t want to concede the card advantage too easily. The littlest goblins are also removed here. I know that Goblin Sharpshooter is good against Decree of Justice, but if you can’t kill U/W before a large amount of soldiers hit the ground, you will lose anyway.

Mirror Match: + 3 Sword of Fire and Ice, -3 Goblin Piledriver

This one is self-explanatory. If your opponent also plays the Sword of Fire and Ice tech, add two Naturalize (for the fourth Goblin Piledriver and a Shrapnel Blast) in the last game.