Going Deep In Standard

Ari shares some brews he’s come up with for Dragon’s Maze Standard that could be successful in the right metagame. Get some ideas for #SCGMA and #SCGNASH this weekend!

In retrospect, every Standard format is remembered by a key characteristic or two. Last year, it was the wait for the low-end card quality in decks to surpass the minimum required to beat Delver of Secrets. The year before, it was the progression of oppressive decks from the manageable but miserable Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to the unbeatable combo of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic.

Most of the "best" decks in this format haven’t been especially unique and haven’t won for long enough to really leave a mark. Generic Thragtusk deck, generic Sphinx’s Revelation deck, generic Falkenrath Aristocrat deck, generic Burning-Tree Emissary deck. Same stuff, different day. The only reason I would be nostalgic about any of these decks in a few years is if I played a ton with a specific list.

This year, the story is "Wait, people played that?"

The following cards have been played in this Standard format to varying levels of success. Some were just online trends, while others won major events.

Craterhoof Behemoth
Omniscience and Door to Nothingness
Clinging Mists and Fog (the latter more than the former by a lot)
Giant Growth
Chronic Flooding
Nightshade Peddler
Ethereal Armor
Primal Surge
Burn at the Stake and Battle Hymn
Conjurer’s Closet

I’m probably even missing a few.

While decks like these are often punished by one of the major players in the format, they find their moments. In the current midrange flood, we’ve seen a lot of Ethereal Armor. Nightshade Peddler often finds a home when aggressive decks flood the format, making Izzet Staticaster a solid option.

In this vein, I’ve decided to go into the tank. While not all of these decks will be immediately viable, at some point in the near future I could see one or more of them being an awesome call for a weekend.

Acidic Slime

It’s come to this.

Actually, that’s the wrong phrase. This isn’t bad—it’s awesome.

The latest evolution of G/B/W Reanimator has shown us the power of repeated land destruction in control mirrors. I’ve even seen comments that the deck is no longer a Reanimator deck; rather, it is just G/B/W Slime.

It’s easy to understand how this came about as well. Jund, the other big deck, was always the midrange mirror trump due to its access to Rakdos’s Return. Dragon’s Maze only brought it a better Mind Twist in Sire of Insanity. If you want to beat Jund, your plan has to come in under theirs. Angel of Serenity will always come down after you have to discard it. Acidic Slime comes down first and cuts their access to their game-enders.

I want to build a bigger Slime. When I won a PTQ last year with the card in my deck, it wasn’t because I Slimed them once. It was the second, third, and fourth times that did it. Reanimator has methods of doing this, but I want to go deeper.

Progenitor Mimic is the perfect companion to Acidic Slime. Why should you ever stop Slimeing them? Also worth noting is the awesome—possibly win more—interaction between Restoration Angel and Progenitor Mimic. The "make a token on upkeep" trigger of Mimic is a copyable value and is given to the tokens it makes. If you Restoration Angel the original Mimic after it makes a token and copy said token, it will have two instances of the "make a token on upkeep" ability. Probably win more, but still awesome.

I also decided to go with Tracker’s Instincts as the way to find Acidic Slime. This led to the addition of the other Tracker’s Instincts package: Nightshade Peddler and Izzet Staticaster. I’m cheating on lands relative to Brad Nelson original list, but the swap from Deathrite Shamans to normal mana guys should help a bit here.

It’s quite possible this still isn’t as good as G/B/W Reanimator at entering Slime Time. Of course, it’s possible G/B/W Reanimator isn’t as good at Slime Timing people as it could be. Morgan Chang played G/B/W Reanimator with blue early on in the format to some strong finishes. It’s possible that Tracker’s Instincts and Progenitor Mimic could team up with Unburial Rites and Grisly Salvage to make all of the Acidic Slimes. The amount of blue mana required for this is actually quite low, especially if you opt for some number of Deathrite Shamans in the mana guy slot.

Progenitor Mimic is also the exact kind of card I want to be able to Unburial Rites. It’s playable from hand, good to reanimate, and benefits a lot from coming back after removal spells. They have to kill it, and it’s a trump that scales really large.

Either way, these lists are very specifically targeted at beating the midrange decks. Sideboards should be dedicated to fighting Burning-Tree Emissary. The red list should have an easier time of this because Staticaster and Huntmaster of the Fells are already some of the best tools there and Pillar of Flame is awesome out of the sideboard, but even that might not be enough. Bant Hexproof is also a concern, but part of the appeal of Acidic Slime is that it has utility there. As always, work will have to be done to ensure the deck has game everywhere.

Other awesome Slime buddies to consider: Cackling Counterpart; Conjurer’s Closet; Evil Twin; straight up 1993 style Clone; Deadeye Navigator (likely bad as it doesn’t immediately retrigger Slime); and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage as additional land destruction.

Plasm Capture

To be honest, I had completely sidelined this card until I watched Chi Hoi Yim play it in his Bant Control deck this past weekend:

That said, the shell I want to play this card in is not this one.

Two fun facts to think about before I delve into a list:

1) 4 + 1 + 5 = 10.

2) Even if they have a Cavern of Souls, Plasm Capture still adds mana.

(Mana base courtesy of Travis Woo.)

Plasm Capture feels like the exact ramp spell this deck has been waiting for. First of all, it provides a real incentive to be Omniscience over just Door to Nothingness. The mana jump it provides is huge, but it doesn’t line up with the five then ten expense of Door. As I mentioned above, it does line up with the ten cost of Omniscience or even just the eight of Borborygmos Enraged and Griselbrand.

The interaction of Plasm Capture against uncounterable spells is also huge. Acidic Slime often comes paired with Cavern of Souls, which usually would be a big problem for this deck. Instead, you can often piggyback off their land destruction into something far bigger than they were expecting. It’s even possible that this list is low on eight-to-ten-drops to take advantage. I have dreams of jumping off their Slaughter Games into the eight-drop they failed to hit.

I really like this list compared to the Obzedat’s Aid ones. Those lose a lot of the reliable inevitability that always made this deck so awesome. Your goal with these decks was never nut draw or bust; it was always that you were doing things that were so grand in scale that your opponent making some Thragtusks just didn’t matter. While it looks like Acidic Slime and Rakdos’s Return should hurt this strategy on paper, Plasm Capture says otherwise.

The one thing I would suggest is finding a good answer to Sire of Insanity backed by Cavern of Souls. Renounce the Guilds comes to mind, but I’m sure there are many others.

Heartless Summoning

This card saw a moderate amount of success last year, but since the departure of its best buddy Wurmcoil Engine, it has struggled to find a card that pairs with it as well as that one.

I think I’ve found a new home for it.

I tried to transplant as much as possible from Owen Turtenwald latest Jund list, but the gist is that Heartless Summoning gives you nut draws that the deck didn’t have before. I realize that isn’t really the plan of the deck to begin with, but I can never pass up some free wins.

Turn 3 Acidic Slime is basically the nuts for the other Slime decks, and this deck gets to do it off of two cards (Heartless Summoning plus Acidic Slime) through a removal spell that would otherwise take down an Avacyn’s Pilgrim or Arbor Elf.

There is probably a little too much mana in this build. When I’m on a ramp-heavy plan, I would rather be safe than sorry. Mana rocks support the 2-4-6 game plan of Farseek into another ramp spell into Sire of Insanity, reminiscent of the old Primeval Titan curves. This also involves hitting your lands from one through four, so you can’t trim there. I’m unsure what the best line is, but for now I’m just relying on the fact that Cluestones cycle to carry through a flood, especially with Rakdos Keyrune being a nonbo with Heartless Summoning.

You do lose Huntmaster of the Fells, which is a definite downside, but this is an angle to consider for metagames where that card is not at its best. As is the theme with most of the decks I’ve talked about today, this is mostly a midrange breaker. That isn’t to say you can’t beat aggro with it; you are just pre-boarded for a certain sector of the metagame.

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed was considered for the deck, but I liked the Jund removal suite too much to play something that cuts off my noncreature options. Angel of Serenity is a similarly awesome gamebreaker to Sire of Insanity, and if you think you can make 1B on turn 2 and 2WWW on turn 5 (and possible 2BR on turn 4), I might try to pair it up with Summoning.

There’s also the "old" combo of Havengul Lich with Summoning, and any of the Primordials would also work fine. Sphinx of Uthuun is another seven-drop that has seen past play with Summoning, and while we no longer have the Clone variant (Phantasmal Image) plus Rune-Scarred Demon combo from last year, there are enough Clones to chain together a bunch of 4/5 fliers here. On the subject of Clones, Progenitor Mimic also works nicely with it, as does Acidic Slime in case you wanted to go full circle back to the start of the article.

Obzedat’s Aid

I just want to note one really cool and fair use of Obzedat’s Aid. Everyone else wants to get back Omniscience, and I just want some value.

The big draw of Obzedat’s Aid compared to other, similar cards is that this one can target planeswalkers. Naturally, my goal would be to find planeswalkers that have a very powerful –X ability that puts them into the graveyard immediately and a powerful other ability that makes the double up on them backbreaking.

Enter Garruk, Primal Hunter. -3, draw a bunch of cards. One of them is Obzedat’s Aid. Get it back, do some more things. The green Sphinx’s Revelation just got a whole lot more awesome in my book.

Of course, the best planeswalker to get back might just be Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. If you have the mana to do that, I can’t really argue with you.

Ajani, Caller of the Pride

Searching for cards that met the above criteria, I found this one just waiting for some buddies to show up and make it good…I guess again isn’t the right word. While I’m not sure it’s the best use for the new card, a chase rare from Dragon’s Maze seems like it could do the trick.

The issue with Ajani was that you needed to untap with a large creature and attack in order for the -3 to matter. While previous large creatures were either not good enough, not durable enough, or too good to need the boost, Advent of the Wurm seems to fall into the perfect spot here. 5/5 trample isn’t enough to assure a win, but with double strike and flying it easily could be. The flash helps ensure the untap half of the issue, and even without Ajani the Wurm token is good enough as is.

I’m not promising anything will show up, but this pairing is an interesting place to start thinking about a potentially good "big G/W" strategy similar to the Brian Kibler deck from last fall.

There is definitely room to dream in this Standard format. These are just the decks that I’ve come up with in between Block games that aren’t also Block Constructed brews. Go deep, have fun, and you will (possibly) be rewarded.