Innovations – Gratuitous Standard Decklists (a Gauntlet Full of Fish)

The Star City $5,000 Standard Open comes to Charlotte, NC!
Monday, February 11th – Today’s Innovations sees Worlds finalist Patrick Chapin walk us through his take on the current Standard Metagame. With close inspection of both the recent StarCityGames.com Standard Open and the Japanese Grand Prix Trial – plus a healthy dose of new lists and innovations – Patrick has the inside scoop on the format. If you need a fresh edge for your next tournament, look no further!

Today, I am going to jam pack this article so tight of fish you’ll think Michael J. Flores and Tom LaPille finally got it over with and got married, settled down, and started their own fish farm.

Up first, my take on Goblins now that Morningtide is here. The primary innovation here is the inclusion of four maindeck Bitterblossom. I cannot say enough good things about this card. It is easily one of the five best cards in the set, and will become a staple in both Standard and Extended by the time the day is done.

You may be asking, “why the Bitterblossoms when we have no Faerie theme and almost no Rogue theme?” The card is just that good as it is. Try it. “Four? Isn’t that a lot of life loss?” Yeah… so is four Necropotence

This card is no Necropotence, but be a man! You’ve gotta pay the cost to be the boss. Between Bitterblossom, War-Marshal, Marsh Flitter, and Siege-Gang Commander, you have tons of implied card advantage. On top of that, Earwig Squad and Greater Gargadon help ensure that you will continue to hit harder than the other guy as the game progresses.

It should be noted that I am not sure the deck is best designed to take advantage of Earwig Squad, but it should be built to use that guy, he is amazing.

Up next, a quick look at another B/R deck. This one was piloted to a third place finish in StarCityGames.com $1,000 Standard Open tournament last weekend by Brian Braun-Duin.

I think this is a very solid foundation point for the next step in the evolution of Siege-Gang midrange decks. These decks first reared their heads at the Grand Prix in Krakow a couple of months back, and are typically R/G or B/R/G. It is nice to see a version that finally shakes the Green, basically claiming that Bitterblossom is so good that Green is no longer necessary.

The deck has some similarities to Snow Red as well, as its primary game plan is to play board control and try trading with value for long enough to get to a reasonable position mid-game, when its bombs (like Siege-Gang and Planeswalkers) take over. My primary concern with Brian’s build is that it looks a little light on card draw, though obviously the Bitterblossoms help here.

As I have already mentioned, Bitterblossom is just an incredible card that allows Brian to convert one resource (life) into another, greater resource (board position) ultra-efficiently (almost no mana and just a one card investment). Another interesting new card Brian utilizes is the much hyped Mind Shatter.

I had an interesting encounter with Mind Shatter yesterday. A friend of mine (also named Brian, as it turns out) Mind Shattered me for four. If it would have been a Mind Twist for five, I surely would have lost. As it was, I still lost. It turns out that paying one more for a Mind Twist is still sick.

This is a card to watch. Random discard is so much more powerful than traditional discard. I think this card may prove to help shape the format. It certainly should be explored more than it has been thus far. It is exactly the type of card these long game big mana decks are looking for. I would be interested in seeing someone build a turn 2 Fertile Ground, turn 3 Garruk, turn 4 Mind Shatter for five deck…

Staying with Black, we move to my current build on Mono-Black Rogues. Rogues have already demonstrated themselves to be here to stay in the new Standard, and the major question is, “Should Rogues be Mono-B or U/B?”

This is a tough question, and I am fairly sure there is room in the metagame for both archetypes. Mono-B is a pure route, giving up the Blue trickiness and card draw available via Permission, Psionic Blast, Looter Il-Kor, and Latchkey Faerie, as well as Flash Faeries.

Instead, it emphasizes Bad Moon style action, swarming the opponent while providing some key disruption aimed at destroying an opponent’s ability to reset the game by way of Damnation, a combo, or powerful big mana threats. It does this through hand disruption as well as Jester’s Cap action.

The key to building a Rogue deck that is bent on taking advantage of the Prowl mechanic is to view it as a new form of madness. You have to use creatures like Nightshade Stinger and Prickly Boggart to ensure that your Prowl will be active. They are your enablers, and though they don’t hit hard, they give you a huge tempo boost whenever you Prowl, plus they get powered up by Bad Moon and Oona’s Blackguard.

Some people advocate even more aggressive strategies than I, but personally, I prefer the staying power to all of the 1B enchantments, as well as the heavy hitters Earwig Squad and Marsh Flitter. Don’t be left behind on the Marsh Flitter Technology. That guy is an all-star sleeper that is becoming more and more mainstream by the day. You want four because five isn’t legal.

One card I have not yet tried, but one that looks very promising, is Stinkdrinker Bandit. This guy looks potentially very explosive, although he surely leads to less consistency as he leaves you more vulnerable to opponents that play heavy removal and can keep you off Prowl.

Still, that boost seems potentially incredible, especially if you Prowl him down turn 2 or 3. I have included two, but it could easily turn out to be that zero or four is correct. I am hedging my bets here and trying to limit the inconsistency while still taking advantage of the blow outs he is capable of producing.

For more on Mono-B rogues, look here.

Sticking with the theme of quick, aggressive decks, we look at Pro Tour Superstar Shuuhei Nakamura’s extraordinarily single-minded Aggro deck, Mono-Green Elvish Warriors.

I must admit, it was not until I battled my friend Kenta armed with this particular deck that I appreciated just how devastating a selection of nut draws it is capable of producing.

He won the die roll and played a Boreal Druid. His turn 2 was the Obsidian Battle-Axe, which as I maintain is also one of the Top 5 cards in the set.

Turn 3, Kenta drops a Paragon, then a Vanquisher attacking for six. His turn 4 of Chameleon Colossus attack for 14 (Trample!) blew my mind. Chameleon Colossus plus Bramblewood Paragon is just unreal. Obsidian Battle-Axe plus any warrior is pretty unreal too.

Still, this strategy is very single-minded and vulnerable to hosers such as Teferi’s Moat, which I fully expect to increase in popularity as the format continues to evolve.

It is nice to have such a powerful anti-Damnation card such as Obsidian Battle-Axe, especially in a format where artifact hate is rare, at least maindeck.

Finally, a note on Overrun. The current Standard format is very hostile for Planeswalkers. Big mana and midrange decks have enough creature control to help protect these heavy hitters, but aggro decks like Elves plan on racing and usually spend little to no energy on defense. As such, cards like Garruk lose a lot of value. The innovation of Overrun over Garruk is one that a few people have been experimenting with since Worlds, and it’s a move I expect to cross over to mainstream use (albeit in relatively small numbers).

I think this is a deck to watch and to work on. In my opinion, it is the natural evolution of elves, as I think the format is not right for the midrange G/b Profane Command/Planeswalker style Elf decks that were popular pre-Morningtide.

This next deck was inspired by a deck concept by forum-goer CB4. It is a very rough draft, so be gentle. Still, it might have promise, as it takes advantage of two of the most powerful kinship cards to be printed, Wolf-Skull Shaman and Leaf-Crowned Elder. Both are fairly reasonably costed in their own right, but they become downright insane when you consider that you will hit kinship half the time in this deck.

The general idea is to fight a fair fight on the board with efficient fatties, while developing some incremental edge on kinship. The end game is the classic Profane kill or alternatively, Warhammer on an unstoppable Troll or Elder.

I suspect there is just not enough value to sticking with the Shaman tribe, but it is an interesting experiment involving cards besides Reveillark, Bitterblossom, and Obsidian Battle-Axe.

Speaking of Reveillark, I would be remiss to not include a list featuring what I believe will prove to be the most powerful card in Morningtide. This is the list that Takao Higashi took to a second place finish in Japan last week, losing a heartbreaker to Kithkin.

The concept is simple. Play like a U/W Control/Blink deck, taking advantage of all the natural synergies built in to the components. Eventually, the conditions will be met for the Reveillark/Mirror Entity/Body Double Combo which can be explained by Benjamin Peebles Mundy here.

A point about this combo that should be emphasized is that you can stack Mirror Entity’s ability a million times. Then let one resolve, killing your team and triggering your Body Doubled Reveillark’s ability. Get back Body Double and any action (like Mulldrifter or Riftwing), then let another Mirror Entity activation resolve. Repeat.

It will be interesting to see how people evolve this and other Reveillark concepts, though they seem to be very vulnerable to hate that people have readily available. If your deck can’t beat Rogues, then you should probably consider playing something else. This current incarnation most certainly cannot beat Rogues, but who knows what the future holds.

While we are on the Japanese Grand Prix Trial, I will include the winner, Shintaro Ishimaru’s white weenie list, although a more in-depth look is available in the Peebles-Mundy article here.

Shintaro’s White deck is from the same school of thought as the Obsidian Battle-Axe list Shuuhei played. The idea is to attack as aggressively as possible, enhancing your team of already aggressively-costed men.

The primary Morningtide action utilized here is the Kinsbaile Borderguard, an all-star in a dedicated Kithkin strategy. This guy is so large and is very rarely dealt with in any sort of a reasonable manner. You are basically guaranteed to get serious value from him. Even as a 3/3 or 4/4, he is already incredibly efficient when you factor in the fact that his replacements upon death will be almost as strong.

He also has interesting synergy with the Kithkin land, another Morningtide addition. Mutavault rounds out the additions, basically ensuring that you are able to run 25 land without as serious a risk of getting flooded.

The other interesting aspect of this list is the ability to build your own Exalted Angel. Many decks forego any sort of creature removal, leaving themselves vulnerable to things like a Knight of Meadowgrain with Griffin Guide.

Finally, it cannot be overlooked that 4 Sunlance, 3 Oblivion Ring, and 4 Goldmeadow Harrier is far more creature removal than most White Weenie decks feature. I wonder if this is a trend that will continue.

I want to make this list fairly exhaustive, so I am going to include my current build of Mannequin Command, although I do not advocate this strategy as I think it has too much trouble with the format’s control decks (as well as Black Aggro decks such as Rogues).

My only addition from Morningtide is once again the subtle Bitterblossom. Not much to say here that I haven’t already said. That card is bananas.

It should also be noted that Deathmark is criminally underplayed and is one of the absolute best sideboard cards in the format. This list would use four for sure, if not for the effective Sower of Temptation. If you are playing a Black deck, there needs to be a compelling reason to not start your sideboard with this card.

Next we have the winner of StarCityGames.com $1,000 Standard tournament, Chris Woltereck. Chris has a classic take on R/G Big Mana that seems particularly well-suited at combating new strategies such as Rogues.

Cheap pinpoint removal combined with incredible sweepers such as Cloudthresher and Molten Disaster, all backed by powerhouses like Siege-Gang Commander… this showcases a consistent anti-aggro plan that is hard for those decks to overcome.

Chris goes so far as to not dedicate a single sideboard slot to combo, figuring that the format is too hostile for decks like Dragonstorm to survive.

If you are looking for consistency and a strong anti-creature plan, this may be the deck for you, though it must be noted that the mirror is annoying as it is hard to get edge. Also, if combo does rear its ugly head, this deck will have to adapt or be sent back to the bench.

Finally, I would never hear the end of it if I did not include a Dragonstorm list, although I have little to say on the topic. In my opinion, this is more of a fond memory than a viable strategy at this point. It is listed here so as to remind people to not become complacent again, lest horrors like this return.

If your opponent is playing Riftsweeper, consider sideboarding out Lotus Bloom. I wish I had thought of this at Worlds last year.

Riddle of Lightning is an interesting experiment that should be tried, but I don’t think it will revive this sleeping beast. Shard Volley is no good for this deck at all, as you need to use your Shocks as early creature removal.

Dragonstorm R.I.P.

I hope this helps provide you with a working gauntlet for the new Standard. It is also interesting to see which cards don’t appear here. Namely Countryside Crusher. That is no mistake.

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”

Bonus Extended Decklist:

Personally, I think this deck is too inconsistent and suffers from all the weaknesses of Dredge combined with all the weaknesses of Ideal, but it is definitely an interesting deck to think about. Still, why play this when you could play Dredge?

I am probably just playing Next Level Blue come Grand Prix: Philly.