Good, Honest Decks

Four-Color Rally has been around Standard for a while. The Eldrazi are stomping on everyone’s Modern fun. What happened to good, honest decks? Tom Ross has a few brewed up utilizing some sweet stuff from Shadows Over Innistrad!

Grand Prix Washington, DC: March 11-13!

Shadows over Innistrad spoilers are hitting the scene, and I’d be lying if I said that I’m not already a little checked out from the current Standard format. Four-Color Rally is the still the best deck. Siege Rhinos are still running around. There remains only one stop left for current Standard on The SCG Tour® coming up at #SCGINDY the weekend after #GPDC. Instead of trying to break a solved format, I’m already looking forward to what’s around the corner.

Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged are rotating out. Ari Lax wrote earlier this week about the impacts of the new rotation, and rather than repeat what he said, I’m going to touch on some points to remember to be in the right mindset going into Standard with Shadows over Innistrad.

No longer will we have easy access to three or more colors with fetchlands getting Battle lands. Even two-color decks reaped the benefits of “off-color” fetchlands, like R/B Dragons, which played the full twelve that it could. More mono-color decks will emerge and we may have to settle for weaker lands like Evolving Wilds and the Submerged Boneyard “guildgate” cycle. Tri-lands are leaving too, but they’re already but forgotten as the fetch/Battle combo easily trumps them in most cases.

Graveyards will be smaller. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy will be tougher to flip now. Delirium will probably need Evolving Wilds to enable constantly. Games will start with less “20 19.” Life pad sales will go down and trees everywhere will rejoice.


Three-colored cards, with a small exception in Sarkhan Unbroken, are leaving. The payoffs for a stretched manabase will become more rare. The wedge-colored cards from Khans of Tarkir were very powerful for their converted mana costs. Going forward, we should expect to see more colorless mana symbols on the spells we cast and for the power-level of the format to drop a little.

Notably, without as many multicolored creatures to worry about, Ultimate Price will have more targets.

Delve is gone. Cards will cost full price for their effects. The overall casting costs of cards will decrease somewhat to compensate, so cards like Transgress the Mind are more likely to miss. Or maybe their costs will go up because the cards are weaker. Who knows. What I do know is that there will be fewer double- and triple-spell turns in the midgame enabled by exiling a graveyard full of fetchlands.

There’s a lot still to be unveiled for Shadows over Innistrad. Planeswalkers. Madness cards and enablers. Perhaps a new cycle of lands to fill the hole that tri-lands and fetchlands left.

What’s confirmed for sure is there will be zombies on Innistrad!

There are rumors of other cards, but I’m erring on the side of safety and not including anything that hasn’t been officially spoiled thus far.

This is my take on a mono-black build.

Zombies like getting sacrificed for value. Here we have enablers in Fleshbag Marauder, Bone Splinters, and Sidisi, Undead Vizier. Even the underused activated ability of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet comes into play to mess up combat by sacrificing Shambling Goblin. The Zombie Goblin is happy to hit the graveyard, as are Hangarback Walker and Relentless Dead. Kalitas even creates more zombies for Risen Executioner to pump up!

Risen Executioner has already been a little short on power-level to make it into Standard. A Zombie theme deck certainly helps its cause. Its biggest drawback is competing for the same slot as Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet on the curve. Still, I want to give Risen Executioner a try as it gets better once the 4/5 Siege Rhinos and Tasigur, the Golden Fangs rotate out.

While 26 lands may look like a lot, the deck is very mana-hungry between activating Hangarback Walker, using Relentless Dead, and buying back Risen Executioner. Blighted Fen comes in to smooth out the deck if it floods out. I’d like to run more, but between Grasp of Darkness and Relentless Dead, I can see needing triple or even quadruple black early in the game.

The removal suite is pretty nice. Grasp of Darkness is a heavy contender for pound-for-pound most efficient removal spell in the new Standard, and being able to cast it easily is a huge upside. Ultimate Price is great too, and Bone Splinters is nearly unfair when its sacrifice is used to an advantage. A stray Ruinous Path is there to hit a planeswalker and can be searched up with Sidisi, Undead Vizier in a pinch.

There seems to be some power here. Adding another color ought to bump its strength up. Let’s see what blue has to offer.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is likely the best card in current Standard and will also likely remain number one after rotation, especially with madness coming back. Compelling Deterrence is another compelling reason to dip into blue, as Recoil is an incredibly powerful effect to have at two mana. Dispel will become a popular counterspell with Disdainful Stroke and Stubborn Denial leaving.

Screeching Skaab is a little weak, but it provides random value by flipping over zombies for Relentless Dead, a Risen Executioner to bring back. There’s also getting your Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, going both for cards to Flashback and to flip him early. A 2/1 isn’t great in combat, but if Risen Executioner enters the mix, then the 3/2 trades with more relevant stuff like Reflector Mage and other three-toughness creatures.

Upwards of ten lands enter the battlefield tapped, which is a concern. Hopefully the tempo of Compelling Deterrence will be enough to overcome stumbles in the mana curve. I really wish we had an Underground River here.

Without Hangarback Walker, the sacrifice outlets are less impactful, so they’ve been shaved down to a minimum. It’s possible that some part of the synergy should be scrapped altogether, like the Shambling Goblins. It only takes one more good piece to the puzzle before B/U Zombies looks like a great deck.

A few Zombie cards that just missed the cut (but could be worth exploring) are:

Overall the B/U Zombie version is stronger, but clunkier. Seems to happen a lot when another color is added. I’d keep an eye out for a U/B land from Shadows over Innistrad or some key madness cards and enablers to combine with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy to strengthen this archetype.

And now for everyone’s favorite tribe: Eldrazi!

Michael Majors has been putting in hours designing Mono-Red Eldrazi and I’ve played with a bit myself developing it. I currently favor it over the other available Eldrazi flavors like Mono-Blue, R/U, or black-based ones with Bearer of Silence and/or Wasteland Stranger.

Mono-Red Eldrazi doesn’t lose anything from the rotation outside of Tomb of the Spirit Dragon and Arc Lightning in the sideboard. Thankfully, there is no shortage of colorless land options going around and the Tombs of the Spirit Dragon have become another Sea Gate Wreckage, Battlefield Forge, and Mountain. Other options include Spawning Bed, Mirrorpool, Rogue’s Passage, or more copies of Ruins of Oran-Rief. Arc Lightning is less necessary as token decks are due to be less popular, and Boiling Earth is a replacement anyway.

The deck flows well and takes advantage of the powerful planeswalker Chandra, Flamecaller. Formats tend to slow down when a rotation occurs as more sets leave a format than come in, so six mana will become easier to get to. The Hedronic duo in Hedron Crawler and Hedron Archive combine to ramp out Chandra, Flamecaller as early as turn 4.

The Eldrazi themselves do a nice job at dodging Ultimate Price, a removal spell that’s sure to rise in play after Murderous Cut’s departure.

It’s hard to go wrong with Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher. They’re dominating Modern and Legacy and will undoubtedly soon exert their dominance in Standard as well.

With Siege Rhino and friends rotating out, there’s less need for maindeck Roasts, so they’ve been moved to the sideboard. I’m a big fan of Warping Wail, so I’ve put a couple in the maindeck.

I have a feeling that Hangarback Walker will be making a comeback now that Abzan Charm and Utter End are leaving. Warping Wail nabs the Walker at its most common power and toughness of 1/1. Warping Wail also counters relevant sorceries like Ruin in Their Wake and Explosive Vegetation from the ramp decks. A surprise 1/1 Eldrazi Spawn can mess up Vile Aggregate math for the opponent or get you up to an earlier Chandra, Flamecaller.

I haven’t brewed it up myself, but B/W Eldrazi could be a nice one. It was short on exile effects to enable Wasteland Stranger and needed to run at least one of Stasis Snare or Transgress the Mind to fill the gap. Double-white for Stasis Snare proved difficult in what was essentially a three-color deck. Transgress the Mind was awkward in a deck that wanted to be aggressive on the early turns.

This card could tie the room together for it:

I can see black Eldrazi splashing white just for Eldrazi Displacer, Silkwrap, and Declaration in Stone being a thing now. If Shadows over Innistrad offers another playable card that exiles, then B/W Eldrazi could be pretty strong. Maybe Blight Herder will end up getting the support it needs too.

#SCGINDY will be the current Standard’s last hurrah. I, for one, am happy to see Four-Color Rally, Abzan Aggro, and Jeskai Black being pushed out. Four-Color Rally in particular is a strange design oversight that combines cards that unexpectedly work together well (read: broken). Everyone is tired of people curving Warden of the First Tree into level into Anafenza, the Foremost into Siege Rhino. Jace flashing back Crackling Doom on the regular just doesn’t feel right to me, either.

It’s time for some good, honest decks. I don’t even mind seeing the Eldrazi doing well on a fair stage.

Grand Prix Washington, DC: March 11-13!