Heroics – Standard Deck Ideas From Innistrad

With the full Innistrad spoiler yet to be revealed, Corey Gaudreau gives you some interesting deck ideas to start preparing for States, including the new Hero-Blade, Mono-Black Control, and Mono-Forests.

It’s that time of the year again—the time where we say “good bye” to an entire year’s worth of cards in Standard and welcome the first set of a new block. Zendikar block saw two cards banned in Standard for the first time in years in Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic. Gigantic 15/15 Time Walking ridiculous fliers, lands that Lightning Bolt you, and recurring 4/3 hasters  will now be memories of the format. Our beloved Lightning Bolts and Squadron Hawks will also take a bow, along with other Core Set favorites that didn’t make the cut this summer.

So what does the future hold for us in Standard? A 17th century, European, Gothic/Horror themed set, oozing with flavor. Zombies and Vampires and Werewolves—Oh, my! We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore (or Zendikar, for that matter).

Let’s cut to the chase. People want to know what to play once rotation comes around, especially with The 2011’s shortly after the Innistrad Release in October. That’s what I’m here to do. I rather enjoy coming up with new deck ideas for the competitive scene. While you’ve most likely never seen any of my decks Top 8 a Standard tournament, you might after you read this.

We’re going to start with a deck that some of you might be hoping will just die: Caw-Blade (or U/W Aggro-Control). Now, obviously several of the cards are rotating, including Squadron Hawk and Preordain. But a majority of the cards from the “creature heavy” versions will remain in the format. I give you Innistrad Hero-Blade: 

[Plus two Haunted Moorland, which is not yet in the database.]

One of the more exciting cards for this deck will be Invisible Stalker. Squadron Hawk’s primary role in the first Caw-Go decks was the ability to have a cheap, evasive threat to attack planeswalkers. Once cards like Sword of Feast and Famine were introduced to the deck, the Hawks became incredible sword wielders. Our 1/1 hexproof, unblockable blue creature for two mana fills this role very nicely. Get either sword on this guy turn 4 or 5 attacking, and you’re going to put some crazy pressure on your opponent. Dismember I am sure will still be played in a number of decks, and the invisible dude dodges that (and every other spot removal in the format!). If this guy gets big, I’m sure cards like Geth’s Verdict could end up in some of the black decks, but that’s why he isn’t the only creature the deck plays!

Tiago Chan’s Invitational card has raised a lot of eyebrows and caused deckbuilders to wonder how good the card is. I would play Snapcaster Mage if the only instant or sorcery card I played in the deck was Mana Leak. Having cheap instants such as Dismember, Mental Misstep, Divine Offering, to name a few, gives this guy some insane utility and card advantage. While this version seems to be more of a tap-out style with this many creatures, Snap provides us with some mid- to late-game advantage. Playing both a 2/1 creature and an instant on our opponent’s turn is pretty sweet. While I’m sure there is going to be a deck much more fitting for Snapcaster Mage in the format, he still fits nicely into Hero-Blade.


Haunted Moorland is the U/W land in the new cycle of ‘do-something’ lands from Innistrad. This land is crazy good. Exile a creature from your graveyard and make it a 1/1 flier for two mana? Sold. You can grind out the late game with this land along with one of your swords. The amount of value this land can produce for you is certainly worth the two slots, and possibly more.

The usual suspects return, in the form of Blade Splicer, Mirran Crusader, and Hero of Bladehold. While the above list may not be the optimal numbers, these are the creatures I would definitely begin any sort of U/W Aggro-Control list with. Gideon Jura returns as well, as he should continue to aid against aggressive strategies. With decks like Valakut and Splinter Twin rotating out, Gideon becomes less of a liability.

One issue I see with this deck is the lack of a card-drawing engine. Preordain and Jace Beleren will be gone, and you can’t refill your hand with 1/1 fliers anymore. Cheap, efficient card draw seems to be lacking for a deck like this and will have to generate card advantage through its creatures./p>

There is a possibility that this deck would be better just as mono-white, using cards like Honor of the Pure as well. Mentor of the Meek seems like he would do really well in such a deck. This build does need a bit of work after some testing with it, but the general idea is there.

One of the more exciting interactions I am looking forward to is between Volt Charge and red creatures that get +1/+1 counters on them. Oh, that and Koth of the Hammer ultimates. Who doesn’t love angry Mountains? Here’s the Mono Red list I am beginning with:


Between Stromkirk Noble, Bloodcrazed Neonate, and Stormblood Berserker, we’re gonna get some +1/+1 counters on our creatures. How can we make these guys bigger? Proliferating them with Volt Charge. Here’s an idea of how the deck could normally play out.

Turn 1 – Stromkirk Noble

Turn 2 – Attack with the Noble, make him a 2/2. Cast Stormblood Berserker as a 3/3.

Turn 3 – Volt Charge their blocker, proliferate the counters on your creatures, attack with a 3/3 and a 4/4, and your Noble then becomes a 4/4 as well.

Turn 4 – Koth of the Hammer. +1. Make a Mountain a 4/4. Bash for 12.

With cards like Kor Firewalker, Baneslayer Angel, and Leyline of Sanctity rotating out, Mono Red decks could be pretty powerful. Gideon Jura and Timely Reinforcements could be an issue, but every deck has enemies. Hero of Oxid Ridge out of the board can help against Timely Reinforcements, and Gideon seems like he could also be beatable.

Grim Lavamancer is a bit of a question mark for the deck. With the loss of fetchlands, it’s going to be a lot tougher to be constantly using his Shock ability. Hopefully, Ghost Quarter and the 11 burn spells plus Shrine will be enough to do so. For now, he gets the nod as the other one-drop for the deck.

Chandra’s Phoenix fills the three-drop spot on the curve along with Volt Charge and is aggressive enough to make the cut. The evasion is also really nice for a red deck.

Another build I have been working on drops all of the Koths, loses a Mountain, and adds in the fourth Shrine and then four Furnace Scamps. I haven’t quite figured out if being more aggressive is the correct angle for Volt Red or not just yet, but both versions have been testing quite well.

Mono-Black Control has been a strategy for several years but hasn’t quite made it to the competitive scene in quite a while. As far as Standard goes, black has been a fairly underwhelming color, with very few decks utilizing a large number of Swamps and black cards. This deck hopes to change all of that in a split second:


Very simple strategy: kill all of their creatures, remove the remaining threats, and kill them with planeswalkers, Sorin’s Vengeance, and/or an army of 13 2/2 Zombies. Yes, I intentionally put zero creatures in the main deck. It’s all part of the master plan! In game one, you play out your deck and get your opponent to realize that you are playing zero creatures and are relying on sorceries and planeswalkers to win the game. After sideboarding, you bring in four Phyrexian Obliterators (or Grave Titan, Wurmcoil Engine, whichever you fancy most). They look at their sideboard at the spot removal they sided out, and you just smash face. Heck, you can play a super mind game with them game 3, and make them wonder if you are keeping in your creatures or siding them out again! My only issue thus far has been that people are just keeping in their removal anyway, so not siding in any creatures is probably better.

This deck, I believe, needs the most work. The Doom Blade and Go for the Throat numbers are certainly meta dependent, and I may have overlooked a few cards from Innistrad as well. Liliana of the Veil is awesome in this deck; she is 100% the real deal. You have all of the removal in the world to protect her, and you can use her +1 ability to ditch discard spells when your opponent is empty. The other planeswalkers are in there, as I feel they are worth testing out but could become something else. Sorin’s Vengeance is the card I mostly wanted to try out, as you can just grind the game out and deal them 20 damage and win.

I would possibly consider some splashes for the deck, such as red for artifact removal and possibly Chandra, the Firebrand. Copying a Sorin’s Vengeance is usually GG, I hear.

If you don’t want to fool around with the zero maindeck creature plan, or your buddies catch onto it, you could consider cards like Lashwrithe, Skinrender, and Solemn Simulacrum. Or you could go with a Smallpox strategy using Vengeful Pharaoh and Reassembling Skeleton.

Towards the end of the last Standard season, decks with Dungrove Elder began springing up, and people everywhere began testing it to see if it was viable or not. Random green dudes, here we go!


Just. Play. Dudes. Dungrove Elder is one of the most underrated cards out of M12 and is awesome in this deck. Green Sun’s Zenith for it, Birthing Pod into it, or copy it with Phyrexian Metamorph. Evasion is obviously an issue, which is why the Overruns are there.

The Sylvok Replica could be Viridian Corruptor, but I figured that if I’m going to be casting an Overrun, I would want the four extra power from the Replica instead of infect damage. You also play a lot of one-mana accelerators, which can later benefit from Overrun or can begin a Birthing Pod chain. The one-of Bellowing Tanglewurm can help your Elders get in there as well and could just randomly blow your opponent out.

So speaking of a deck with Birthing Pod in it, let’s take a look at further implications for the New Phyrexia artifact.

Birthing Pod Variants:

The Birthing Pod decks have so many different possibilities, from card choices, color combinations, and whether they happen to be playing a combo or not. Birthing Pod prices have risen since Innistrad spoilers have been released, and I believe this is probably deserved. The power level of this card is still underrated and will probably only get better from here. Let’s take a look at a few versions of the deck:

I think the G/W/x deck has the most potential. The Suture Priest, Leonin Relic-Warder, Phyrexian Metamorph infinite life combo is still intact. You could even use red for Warstorm Surge instead of the Suture Priest to deal infinite damage! Here’s what a Naya Pod list would look like:

You could even max out on the number of Fiend Hunters you run, as if you have three of them in play, you also have an infinite number of creatures entering the battlefield (you would have to play the second and third in the same turn, unless the one you have in play is removing another Fiend Hunter).

Both Venser Bant Pod and BUG Pod seem like the next two strongest combinations for Birthing Pod in the fall. I haven’t actually sat down and came up with a list for either of them, but they are certainly worth looking at. 

Of course, there are certainly more decks to consider other than ones mentioned above, but that is for you to determine! Plus, there are over 100 more cards to be spoiled from Innistrad. Use these decks as starting points or just get ideas flowing in your head. I’ve been seeing a ton of crazy decks out there, like an R/G Primeval Titan deck that searches for Inkmoth Nexus and Kessig Wolf Run. Also, R/W Humans has been popping up a lot as well. As for me, I’m still working on a U/B Combo deck to play for the 2011’s. I’ll give you a hint; it uses Grimgrin, Corpse-Born.

Now is the time to begin brewing and thinking about how you are going to attack the format, whether it be at your local FNM, preparing for the 2011’s, or the Star City Games Open Series! Good luck everyone, and let the brewing begin!