Getting Aggressive with Thoughtseize and Detention Sphere

What are the most powerful things a player can do in Standard? Anthony Lowry explores the possibilities for a brewer in Standard and continues to powerful options in Legacy ahead of #SCGNJ.

The results for the SCG State Championships are coming in, and there’s going to be a lot of information for players going into Somerset. For me, I think there will be a ton of decks to choose from,
and there’s a whole lot of room for innovation. With R/W Burn at the top of the rock last week, everyone’s going to be gunning for it, but I don’t think
that changes much for burn players. The deck has so much power, that anyone well versed may still wind up doing well. To be honest, I’m still on the
Prophetic Flamespeaker train, but I’m not opposed to playing something else if I think it’s better than what I can come up with.


I’m of the firm belief that Thoughtseize is the second-best card in the format behind Mutavault, and I’m sure many players will agree with me. The problem
I have is where Thoughtseize is being played. Where is the range? We know that it’s going to be played in Mono-Black Devotion and black-based aggro, but we
can do much better than that. Detention Sphere is in the same camp, as U/W Devotion is the only deck that’s really playing it. Let’s jam some Brimaz,
Scavenging Ooze, and Courser of Kruphix in your Detention Sphere deck. Why are you durdling around so much with these cards that can completely break open
so many of these aggro and midrange decks!? C’mon people!

Here are my leading choices for the Standard portion of SCG Somerset, most of which give an example of what I mean.

Number one on my list is Blue Devotion:

If you really, really want to beat the Monsters and Burn decks, this is where I’d go. The white splash gives you Detention Sphere, a removal spell that
Blue Devotion desperately needed, on top of a huge assortment of strong sideboard cards. Couple that with a non-zero number of Banishing Light, Deicide,
and maybe even something as strong as Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, and your midgame gets a huge bolster. The black splash offers Thoughtseize, which
is…well…Thoughtseize, one of the two best cards in the format. You also gain Far // Away, which offers the same tempo advantage as a non-overloaded
Cyclonic Rift, but with the added effect of dealing with potential Blood Barons of Vizkopa, as well as a straight removal spell for singular Pack Rats on
the play, Desecration Demons, and Sylvan Caryatid.

Speaking of Pack Rat, we have four in the sideboard, and I think that this is one of the primary reasons, if not the primary reason to play black.
Pack Rat adds an entirely different angle to your post-boarded games, and it’s very possible that you’ll be able to steal games by riding it to victory in
your Game 2. Playing Pack Rat is also strong on the play against blue control decks because of how few resources you need to invest into it to make it
strong. They’re forced to Detention Sphere it, and you only really need to discard one card to make it a strong presence in that match. The deceptive thing
about Pack Rat, even to this day, is that it’s one of the best two-drops in Standard, and one of the best five-drops in Standard. When going about
a game with this deck, it isn’t out of the question at all to force your opponent to expend a ton of resources into dealing with your
more-aggressive-than-in-Mono-Black-Nightveil Specters, Master of Waves, and big Cloudfin Raptors, then slam a Pack Rat on Turn 5 and sit on that. Notion
Thief is also a strong way to steal games, not only because of the dream of hitting Sphinx’s Revelation but simply as a flash creature that can keep the
pressure going after a Supreme Verdict (which conveniently doesn’t get hit by Last Breath and doesn’t really get hurt too much by Jace).

The Mana Confluence count is a concession to really wanting to get Thoughtseize off on Turn 1, but it may not be too necessary, and the count could easily
go down to two or maybe even one. You don’t even really need to cast Thoughtseize on Turn 1 against a lot of decks. Using this deck as an example, it may
just be better to wait until the critical turn to grab that crucial Supreme Verdict; Elspeth, Sun’s Champion; Desecration Demon; or opposing Thassa, God of
the Sea, which is another point against three Mana Confluences. Starting a game with two Confluences is miserable against anything playing creatures that

Next up is Red Devotion:

Gerry firmly believes that Red Devotion is potentially stronger than Monsters, but he can’t quite figure out why it isn’t putting up the numbers that
Monsters has. I think that the reason is simply the amount of players playing Monsters opposed to Red Devotion. There is no real champion of the deck like
Sam Black of Mono-Blue, Chris VanMeter of Monsters, or Owen Turtenwald of Mono-Black, so there isn’t much information going around, and the little that
does isn’t spread as quickly as those other decks. Despite all that, both Gerry and I have really been working toward making this good, as I’m also of the
belief that this is just a Monsters deck with a higher ceiling. I’m starting to believe more and more that the problem with red devotion is the fact that
it’s relying way too much on devotion, and not enough on establishing strong threats without it.

It’s very possible that we just want strong cards that don’t necessarily have all red pips, like Mogis’s Warhound. It also makes your underwhelming
Burning-Tree Emissaries much better than just bears outside of the Hammer of Purphoros play. Regardless, I’d definitely look to start with something like
this, as it’s one of the few red decks that actually has game against Mono-Blue Devotion and can really tear midrange decks apart if they stumble at all.
If you can figure out how to not get picked apart by Thoughtseize, then this is my choice.

The next deck combines the strengths of Jeff Hoogland’s Junk Midrange deck with the power of Sphinx’s Revelation. I’m a big fan of “When in doubt, jam good
cards” when I’m undecided on a deck for a tournament, and this really exemplifies that.

I gave a brief explanation of this deck in the StarCityGames.com Newsletter, but it deserves more attention. I want my U/W/x decks to actually have action,
and this is where I’d start. Brimaz hasn’t gotten a ton of attention, but I think that it will always be in a sweet spot for as long as Last Breath and
Reprisal are in the format. It doesn’t matter how good either card gets, Brimaz gets over/under both (though you should be wary of Jace shenanigans). We’re
trying to jam every single piece of power we can into this deck, so cards like Sphinx’s Revelation are playing more of a backseat role, rather than a
primary win condition in disguise.

Archangel of Thune is especially strong here because we have Brimaz, and your inherent strength against hyper-aggressive decks is another strong point.
While Ajani, Mentor of Heroes is strong in Jeff’s masterpiece, I think that it’s much better here. Yes, you lose the ability to get Underworld Connections,
but you gain Kiora, the Crashing Wave, Jace, Architect of Thought, and your sideboarded Agoraphobias, all of which do a great job protecting Ajani in most
situations. I feel that this is even stronger against Burn than Blue Devotion is, and you gain a huge advantage in raw power against other creature decks.
You can easily customize the deck to your liking as well, adjusting with cards like Polukranos, World Eater, Reprisal, and Dissolve.


I really dislike Legacy, as I feel that there aren’t very many choices that cater to my style. I’ve been jumping around from deck to deck a lot lately, but
they all feel terrible. Regardless, there are only two real choices for me in the format that I’m willing to even work with. Both of which I have
experience with, and both I think can work out for me this weekend. I’m sick of having to bounce around Legacy decks, and just working on mastering one or
maybe two is the way to go. I think the theme is similar here as well for Thoughtseize, but in a different way. We can attack with Thoughtseize from more
than just a Delver angle, and many of those angles don’t have to rely on a single creature that you need to ride to victory and protect with reactive
countermagic. Jund is exactly the kind of Thoughtseize deck I love to play, and Bloodbraid Elf is still one of the best cards against blue decks.

Jund: by Anthony Lowry

Nothing special here, but I think that the deck is very well positioned right now and is my primary deck of choice for not just this tournament, but for a
long time down the road. In a sea of Delver decks, specifically non-BUG Delver decks, the power of Jund can really out-muscle those flimsy bugs right out
of the sky. Show and Tell, Jund’s biggest enemy, has been on a serious decline lately, and I think that’s because the masses have figured out how to beat
it. This is great for Jund, as you can worry more about playing fair, rather than taking an extreme shift to compensate. Jund is also pretty strong against
Miracles, one of the most popular decks right now. Liliana of the Veil is the absolute best card against them, and getting her to ultimate is backbreaking.

There are a lot of cards that I do want to try, like sideboard Desecration Demons, which is particularly strong against fair decks that aren’t playing
Swords to Plowshares, Eidolon of the Great Revel, which can put a beating on decks like Omni-Tell and Storm, especially when backed by additional pressure,
and additional Toxic Deluges, which helps a ton against Death and Taxes and Maverick, which have both been on a slight incline. Huntmaster of the Fells has
historically been insane against Delver, but I have no idea if that carries over to Legacy as well. In my head, it seems like you have to position yourself
a little more than Jund is comfortable with doing, especially at that mana cost, but it’s certainly worth trying.

The second deck is Omni-Tell, a deck that has completely fallen off. I know that AJ Sacher played a version at the SCG Invitational in Charlotte, but wound
up disliking the deck. I strongly prefer the deck over Sneak and Show for playstyle reasons. I know that Sneak and Show is the better deck, but I dislike
the “slam it and see what happens” style of Sneak and Show, and it never really felt that smooth to me either. Omni-Tell usually wins the game the turn
your Show and Tell or Dream Halls resolves, and I’d much rather get things over with right then and there, rather than slog through nonsense. Granted, you
can easily get blown out by effects like Detention Sphere, Vendilion Clique, and Krosan Grip, and your Sneak and Show matchup is horrible, but I think that
can be fixed with AJ’s idea of Thoughtseize.

Again, another way to be proactive with the addition of Thoughtseize (only post-board this time), only here, they’re just dead afterward, no
questions asked. I never want to play Leyline of Sanctity in this deck again. While Leyline is fine on the draw against dedicated attrition decks that can
pressure you on the back-end (BUG Delver and Jund) and against Storm, I’d much rather nab their primary threat to my gameplan on my turn one, than to
protect myself against theirs. Lotus Petal is also another way to just jam as hard as possible. Yes, you do lose some blue cards for your Force of Wills

Well…your single Force of Will? What’s going on here?

I know, it looks crazy, and I didn’t know how AJ did it, but it made a whole lot of sense eventually. This deck needs every single card it can get, and
Force of Will is incredibly bad when you’re trying to sculpt your gameplan around all of the cards in your hand. Because of this, you get to play one main
and one in the sideboard, allowing you to convert Cunning Wishes into a Force. This also makes playing Lotus Petal much easier, and further enable a turn
one or two kill, lessening the need to protect yourself with Force of Will on the backfoot, and allowing yourself to be way more proactive. It just all
ties together, and looks incredibly fluid on paper. I think that this is one of the ways that we can revitalize Omni-Tell, but it’s going to need more
work. Can we make more use of black without being softer to Wasteland? Do we want even more discard spells outside of Thoughtseize? What about Massacre?
All are valid questions that are seriously worth considering.

The SCG Open Series in Somerset is sure to be an exciting one, and I can’t wait to see how people respond to R/W Burn’s victory in Knoxville and the
results from the State Championships. I think that it’s a good idea to particularly look at the results from the Northeast States, as players from all
across the region will be there. What do you plan on bringing to Somerset?