Part 1: Updates to existing strategies
With M12 finally here, there is sure to be no shortage of set reviews discussing each and every card, both reprint and new. I have never really been a
big fan of rating cards 1-5 or 1-10, since relative values will entirely depend on context, which will vary from time to time. Keeping an open mind and
seeking to understand all of the new cards are far more useful. When we understand the purpose of all of the new cards, what theyÂ couldÂ
do, we can then evaluate what we ought to do. As such, my “set review” for M12 will be in the style of my set review for New Phyrexia, primarily
looking to see ways that the new cards could be used to give us something to build on to figure out what the primary questions the metagame is asking
Today, we will be discussing the top decks in Standard leading into M12 and how they are impacted by the new cards. Wednesday, we will discuss a ton of
new strategies in Standard made possible by cards from M12. Finally on Friday, we will explore the cards likely to make an impact on Legacy, Extended,
and Vintage, as well as some cards that we may want to keep an eye on when Innistrad hits (and Zendikar block and M12 rotate). With so many cards
leaving the format, a number of cards that have not yet had a day in the sun may get theirs.
We have a lot of ground to cover, and the strategies we discuss today will be all existing strategies, so there’s no need to get too far into a
breakdown of the individual decks. Instead, we will be focusing on the changes from M12 both in terms of new cards from the set, as well as changes as
a result of the format changing. A better understanding of these levels of metagaming (level 1 and level 2) will help us uncover the level after that
(what strategy we want to use to beat the strategies that we imagine people will want to actually use to beat the strategies that they imagine everyone
else will play).
Let’s begin at the level zero of the format, Valakut.
That’s right; we are starting the M12 review with a deck that contains zero new M12 cards! Rampant Growth is the obvious new card to try in Valakut,
and very well might actually be where you want to be. It is just that after having actually played some games with different versions, the current
version I like is the one listed above.
What are you supposed to cut for Rampant Growth? Explore is certainly better, and Overgrown Battlement seems quite vital if you are playing Green Sun’s
Zenith (which I like more now that there are fewer Mana Leak). That leaves us with Khalni Heart Expedition or cutting something besides a two-drop
(and that is with Lotus Cobra already on the bench).
So, if we are just looking for ways to use M12 cards, you can use Rampant Growth instead of Khalni Heart Expedition and replace Harrow with Cultivate.
There is nothing wrong with that approach; I have just not been as impressed as I have been with the Expedition + Harrow package. I was certainly a
little surprised when Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz tweeted this same very idea (that Rampant Growth might not be good enough for Valakut) weeks ago,
but I have to say I agree with him.
The Lightning Bolts are certainly negotiable and might be better served as Beast Within to give us better game against U/R combo decks; however, for
the time being, I’d prefer to be slanted against aggro (which seems quite popular at the moment).
I would like to point out a couple cards in the sideboard of note. First of all, Act of Aggression shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point, but it is
worth noting that it is both a killer card for the mirror (steal their Titan, get two lands, and use the triggers to kill itself or just kill the
opponent outright) and a fine option versus Twin. If they try to “go off,” you can respond to their activation by stealing the Deceiver. Then on their
end step, you just go off, yourself. You will have the copies until the end of your turn!
Next, it is kind of funny to be noting Slagstorm, but I have seen people using Whipflare recently as their “extra Pyroclasms.” This is a dangerous
game, as you are left with one fewer option against Kuldotha Red and Tempered Steel. Besides, with so many sweepers that deal two, sometimes it is nice
to have a little variety, like against Boros (Steppe Lynx/Geopede). Maybe the extra speed from Whipflare is just worth too much to give up, but if we
are playing it, it better be for more reason than it is newer.
Long-time Valakut players may notice that I have opted not to include any Tumble Magnets, which have historically been Valakut’s defense against Mark
of Mutiny type cards. Now that everyone (and I mean everyone) has access to Act of Aggression, Tumble Magnet doesn’t work right. Let’s say you
have a Magnet with three counters on it and a Titan. Are you really just not going to use the Magnet at all while the Titan is in play? If I have three
attackers, and you try to tap one, I can steal your Titan at the beginning of combat and attack with it then. Maybe it is just right to commit to never
using a Magnet when you actually have a Primeval on the table, but I am not so sure that is a game I want to be playing.
Solemn Simulacrum was another consideration for Valakut, though the comparison to Oracle of Mul Daya is only part of the equation. The main reason I
ended up not liking Solemn Simulacrum here is that it is really just a Cultivate for four. You get a land onto the battlefield, sure. Then you soak up
some damage and draw a card (which is better than Cultivate’s land in hand, but not by that much). One possible direction to go with Valakut is to
actually totally embrace the 2-4-6 curve, however.
As you can see, using Solemn Simulacrum makes us “miss” on Summoning Trap less, as well as reduces the risk of flooding from playing so many
accelerators. The lack of Bolts is partially compensated by the Solemn Simulacrums blocking and increased number of turn 4 Titans. This build moves
away from as many tapped lands as the other version, since drawing too many can could end up costing you a turn. Using the full four Summoning Traps,
as well as no Harrows, has us naturally slanted against control, which could be interesting if the current popularity of U/B continues.
If Valakut is level 0, what is level 1? Deceiver-Twin, a strategy that is naturally extremely well suited to preying on the Valakut menace.
The Deceiver-Twin combo is several turns faster than Valakut can ever hope to be, avoids ever being blocked, and a few Dismembers, Nature’s Claims, or
Beast Withins are really not going to make much difference. In fact, the main reason I moved away from Dismember in my Valakut lists is that it just
wasn’t having enough of an impact (not to mention how many Twin players I expect to become Pyromancers).
The addition of Ponder goes a surprisingly long way towards making up for the loss of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. What Ponder lacks in power (despite
being restricted in Vintage) it makes up for in speed. With so much cheap library manipulation, it is relatively trivial to set up the turn four kill
with alarming consistency. Without Jace, it is much more difficult to win through any other mechanism but comboing; however if you can consistently
count on the combo by turn 4, you end up with a lot of extra time due to opponents who can’t afford to tap out starting on turn 3 or 4.
Ponder has us increasing the number of fetchlands we use, since the ideal play with Ponder is generally to find the best of your top three, then
shuffle without having to draw the other two. As such, when we have the choice between turn one Preordain and turn one Ponder, the default is
definitely Preordain. First of all, if you end up keeping both, this gives you a chance to draw both without having to shuffle. Second, if you
Ponder on turn one and keep, you have to keep at least two of the cards. If you wait until the second turn, you can play a fetchland that turn (and
possibly another cantrip after that…).
I have opted for maindeck Spellskites partially to combat the popularity of Dismember, but also to provide a little early defense. Aggro is always
popular at the start of new formats, and banning Jace and Stoneforge has released so many repressed beatdown players from the silk handcuffs that bound
them to play Caw-Blade (against their own inner desires).
I like Spell Pierce quite a bit in the new format, but have never liked the card in Twin decks. The main thing I want a card like that to be able to do
is protect the combo. Mana Leak is bad enough, but is at least versatile (and we need plays we can actually make on turn two). Having access to Negate
and Dispel gives us ways to actually force through the combo against an opponent with removal. The right mix of those is unclear, but I tend to err on
the side of variety (so they can’t play around our cards as easily) and on the side of versatility (Negate is slower, but has more applications).
The Twisted Image prophecy has obviously come true and should now be a standard way to combat opposing Spellskites (not to mention Birds and
Battlements). As for the mix of fatties, I am hesitant to use too many maindeck, due to the desire to race to the combo on turn four every game.
Beleren is nowhere near as effective at controlling a game enough to win with a “six” as the Mind Sculptor, but it is important to have some backup
plans against opponents with more disruption than we can handle.
What’s level 2, then?
There are a ton of exciting options to consider for Mono-Red with M12. While Mono-Red has been a fixture in Standard for quite a while, the
strength of the new options combined with its ability to race even the combo decks suggests a greater popularity for the archetype than we have seen in
years. Dismember and Shrine of Burning Rage nicely solve most of its biggest problems, and the strategy is brutally fast and consistent.
To begin with, Chandra’s Phoenix is one of my favorite cards in M12. Red decks have often made use of 2/2s with haste that cost three, and flying is
just about the best ability you could hope to tack on to a creature like this. Chandra’s Phoenix is the red Vengevine and is every bit as devastating
to reactive strategies. It may be vulnerable to Celestial Purge (a card that has gotten a lot better, with the increased popularity of Splinter Twin,
Pyromancer Ascension, Phyrexian Obliterator, Bloodghast, Manabarbs, and more), but it does provide inevitability and is the best card in the mirror.
Even a Vulshok Refugee gets Dismembered. Â
Arc Trail and Searing Blaze combine nicely with the Phoenix, letting you deal with opposing threats while bringing your Phoenix back. I do like
Staggershock, but with such a low land count, it is hard to play many three-drops. Besides, Shrine of Burning Rage and Chandra’s Phoenix already give
us sweet game going medium, so I’d rather focus on more early action.
The next M12 card we take advantage of is the much-hyped Grim Lavamancer. I am somewhat surprised by the Rainmaker Patrick Sullivan response to the
card. The Patron Saint of Red Mages has suggested that reprinting the card was a mistake (for being too powerful and too good against low-level
players), but I suspect that on some level this may just be a reaction to having such a skewed view of red cards in general. Once you get into the
mindset where Furnace Scamp is one of the best cards in the format, it is not surprising that Grim Lavamancer could seem too good.
Personally, I don’t think Grim Lavamancer’s ability to be used turn after turn against unprepared opponents is even on par with Fauna Shaman, another
card that I don’t think is even particularly amazing these days. While I certainly agree with Sullivan’s strategic takes on red decks and generally see
eye-to-eye with him on evaluations regarding the health of formats, put me down in the camp that actually likes Grim Lavamancer being reprinted. Magic
could use more Orcish Artilleries and fewer Wild Nacatls, if you know what I mean.
Now that Red has access to so many amazing one-drops (Goblin Guide and Grim Lavamancer are both top-notch and Furnace Scamp is easily third), I am a
fan of moving away from two-drops entirely (outside of the absolutely unreal Shrine of Burning Rage). This is amusing, given Red’s amazing selection of
two-drops from the past two years. Plated Geopede and Kargan Dragonlord are much less exciting with such low land counts. Kiln Fiend is much more
appealing when we have 20 sorceries and instants, rather than just 16. Even still, I like boarding him in against decks without removal (or just to
tune our deck). Ember Hauler is much less exciting when people aren’t using Equipment, though he is always at least decent.
Stormblood Berserker is an interesting new option from M12, especially with so many one-drops. I actually think he may be the best alternative to Kiln
Fiend, especially if you end up fitting him in while keeping a large number of one-drops. He is definitely worth trying, but he does make you much more
vulnerable to cheap removal. It is nice how well he fights Walls and who knows? Maybe there is a build that uses Volt Charge (with Shrine of Burning
Rage and putting +1/+1 counters on the Berserker)?
Instead of using two-drops, I have opted to buff the one-drops even more, looking to lead with one-drop into one-drop + one-mana removal (or just
Searing Blaze or Shrine). We do have another interesting question as a result of M12, however. Incinerate or Burst Lightning? Lightning Bolt and
Searing Blaze are too good not to max on, and Arc Trail gains a bit of utility from the Phoenix, as we mentioned. This leaves us torn over whether to
slant towards Burst or Incinerate. Incinerate is new and generally better than “Shock,” so we have to ask ourselves: how often will we really kick the
Burst Lightning? That said, I am not that sure that Incinerate really is that much better than Shock, right now. Who regenerates? Thrun? Â
All I want is a little tempo, so the prospect of saving a mana is very appealing. Besides, there really aren’t all that many three-toughness creatures
in the format (and we already have Bolt and Searing Blaze). In an effort to maximize chances of opening with one-drop into one-drop, one-mana removal
spell, I am slanted towards Burst, for the time being. Flame Slash and Dismember are reasonable options for this, but I want to make sure I can trigger
Chandra’s Phoenix at will.
Dismember is a relatively universally adopted sideboard card for Red, these days, but I don’t see many people playing Blackcleave Cliffs. It is one
thing if you are playing four-drops and want to avoid stuttering on four, but many builds have neither four-drops nor enough land to hit four on four
anyway. It is a small edge, but being able to cast Dismember while paying less than four life is still a reasonable option (especially if you are in
the Mono-Red mirror and facing Vulshok Refugee). It is so close to a free-roll that you might as well run them.
Manabarbs is a super exciting sideboard card and honestly is the main reason I play 22 land instead of 21. If I played a Red deck with 24 land, I think
I’d like to play the full four Manabarbs, as the card is just so exciting against almost every non-aggro deck. What in the world is a U/B control deck
supposed to do about Manabarbs?
There are a number of other interesting options for Mono-Red in M12, but I consider the Goblin decks to fall under “New Strategies Made Possible by
M12,” since I don’t consider Goblins to be a “real” deck before the set becomes legal. As such, Goblin Grenade and its ilk will be covered Wednesday.
I absolutely love/hate Pyromancer Ascension, right now. If US Nationals were next week, you could lock me in to Ascension. The speed and consistency of
the combo is very high, and I have found it to be far more difficult to disrupt, now that everyone and their mother pack Dismembers. Another advantage
is that with eight burn spells and six counterspells, plus an absurd amount of card draw, you really can play a passable control game (unlike Twin). It
isn’t just that you are able to kill turn 6 against a red deck; it is that you are also able to kill the first two creatures they play and counter at
least one spell.
What did Ascension gain to make it so good? Yeah, just Ponder. Ponder is that big! It was just one year ago that Pyromancer Ascension snuck up on
everyone, thanks to Jacob Van Lunen budget breakthrough. The only cards PA really lost were Time Warp and Ponder, and at the end of the day, Time
Warp was nowhere near as relevant. Besides, now we have Gitaxian Probe and don’t have to face Jace, the Mind Sculptors, Blightnings, Maelstrom Pulses,
Esper Charm, or Relic of Progenitus!
Spell Pierce is back and in a big way. In fact, it may be that a third Spell Pierce is a better fit than the fourth Burst Lightning, depending on how
much aggro there turns out to be. I am hesitant to cut the maindeck Jace Beleren, as this is already on the low-end of how much card draw I’d want to
play. The new Standard is extremely tempo oriented, so Spell Pierce costing only one is great. Valakut? Twin? U/B Control? Spell Pierce is in a good
spot, and even against someone like Mono-Red, where it isn’t at its best, there are no shortage of targets that you will generally be able to hit.
Another interesting card to consider is Mental Misstep. Mental Misstep could theoretically help either Twin or Pyromancer against Nature’s Claim or
Inquisition of Kozilek. It is also a great card against Mono-Red, and in a world full on Ponders and Grim Lavamancers, there are likely to be few
opponents outside of Valakut where it is truly bad.
One plan that gets discussed a great deal is that of sideboarding a Pyromancer Ascension deck into a Deceiver-Twin one. This idea has had mixed success
in Extended and is certainly reasonable in theory. My main issue with the plan is that people are overcompensating for Twin already. With so many
setting their sights on fighting it, I am not so keen on morphing into it. Besides, so many of the natural answers to PA hit Twin, such as Nature’s
Claim, Into the Roil, Flashfreeze, and Celestial Purge. Additionally, eight slots is a lot to use on transforming, and we have access to some great
It is possible that we should just use Kiln Fiends or Echo Mages as our transformation, but so far I have been underwhelmed. Kiln Fiend is just too
vulnerable to blockers, Purges, and people hedging in case you board into Twin. Echo Mage is decent, but slow enough that I’d rather just have a
natural six. I like Inferno Titan’s ability to take over a game on its own maindeck in Twin but prefer to sideboard blue creatures in PA because of
Flashfreeze and Celestial Purge.
What about a strategy that can actually get out of the combo deck arms race?
Going back to Worlds of last year, it was U/B that dominated the format and kept Valakut in check. While Jace, the Mind Sculptor has been banned, we do
have a format that seems poised to be attacked by U/B control. Pyromancer Ascension and Deceiver-Twin greatly increase the number of combo decks (which
are traditionally vulnerable to discard + permission). Additionally, everyone seems to be compensating for Twin and Valakut so hard (and generally at
the expense of their anti-control cards) that U/B might be exactly where you want to be.
Solemn Simulacrum does some interesting things to control decks that use it. You can actually start off playing a normal U/B control game, making them
discard, countering spells, and killing creatures. Then turn four you can drop a Solemn Simulacrum and actually smoothly transition into a sort of RUG
game. This isn’t just Tap-Out Blue, as we are getting card advantage and acceleration. Once we start to look at Solemn Simulacrum as a sort of
three-cost Jace’s Ingenuity, his purpose in the deck is a bit more apparent.
Once again, we have a deck that makes only minor use of M12, but has a variety of changes to its line-up as a result of the changes that everyone else
is making. Remember, core sets have far fewer new cards than normal sets, so the number of cards that it features that will have an impact is naturally
going to be lower. That said, I do think that M12 is not going to have anywhere near the impact that M11 had (which kind of went over the top with
Titans, Preordain, Fauna Shaman, Mana Leak, and more).
I am generally a pretty big fan of Spreading Seas, but I am not convinced that it deserves a spot maindeck, right now. U/B is naturally strong against
Valakut, so it isn’t like we absolutely need the percentage there. Besides, a very non-zero number of Valakut players will just be playing Valakut Twin
anyway, as discussed here.
More than that, though, the format feels so tempo-based that wasting two mana over and over is a recipe for trouble. We don’t want Spreading Seas
against Twin, Mono-Red, or Pyromancer Ascension, which is the majority of the most popular decks out the gate. The opportunity cost for Spreading Seas
isn’t high, so it isn’t like you’ll be heavily punished for going that route. I just kind of prefer leaving them in the sideboard, for now, trading
Valakut percentage for points across the board.
Mental Misstep’s strength in the format was discussed above, but I’d like to remind you that all we want to do with U/B is live long enough to drop one
of our bombs. The tempo gained from a turn 1 Misstep (especially on the draw) is huge, and with Ponder and Grim Lavamancer, we’ll likely see more decks
with more ones than in recent months.
Vendetta might be too cute, but I am not sold that Dismember is actually better in a black deck. Killing six-toughness creatures with Vendetta sounds
painful, but is more useful than you might expect (especially when it comes to killing Frost Titan, where mana is at a premium). Additionally, I find
that killing a Goblin Guide or Grim Lavamancer with Vendetta instead of Dismember to be potentially game-winning.
Jace, Memory Adept is worth exploring, but the use of Solemn Simulacrum has me thinking we’ll be ramping straight into “sixes” too often to be worth
it. I do think Jace will see some play even pre-rotation, but we’ll be covering that on Wednesday.
Divination is an old favorite of mine, and I’d love to rock them here, but I think you might have to choose between Divination, Solemn Simulacrum,
Jace’s Ingenuity, and Jace, Memory Adept here (and I still like Solemn Simulacrum for the time being). Divination gets better in formats where Jace
Beleren is bad, which is worth keeping an eye on.
Right now, I am mostly fighting Vengevines and Chandra’s Phoenix with Batterskull and Wurmcoil, but it’s quite possible we need more. Haunting Echoes
is better suited for Vengevines (which don’t seem that good in the format), whereas something like Nihil Spellbomb might be more versatile. Right now,
I am only sideboarding one, but a pretty cool option if you specifically want to fight Chandra’s Phoenix is Suffer the Past. It is kind of cute that it
isn’t just an answer to the recursive creature, but also some instant-speed life gain (which U/B doesn’t always get at a reasonable rate).
So far, it looks like U/B has been quite popular, doing well at Chinese Nationals and online. If this trend continues, I suspect we’ll see an increase
in aggressive strategies, to punish the hose-y U/B decks designed to beat combo. These five decksâ€”Valakut, Twin, Mono-Red, Ascension, and U/Bâ€”form the
foundation of the format, but are certainly not an accurate cross-section of the strategies, as there will be a great number of “random” decks. Let’s
take a look at some of the existing “random” strategies that have received updates from M12.
Oblivion Ring is back in M12 and one of the most important cards from a deckbuilding standpoint. It isn’t just that it can hit Planeswalkers; it is a
maindeckable answer to Pyromancer Ascension, Vengevine, Shrine of Burning Rage, and more. Venser works beautifully with it, letting you move it to a
better target, later in the game (which sometimes is worth extra when cards with counters are involved, like Shrine of Burning Rage). The Into the Roil
“trick” is worth being reminded of, which is Into the Roil targeting your Oblivion Ring with the trigger on the stack (exiling the target for good,
plus leaving you with an Oblivion Ring and another card).
Venser does a lot of work in this deck, not only doing Mind Sculpting duties (Sea Gate and Wall of Omens to draw cards) and moving Oblivion Rings, but
also gaining life with Kabira Crossroads and locking down multiple targets with Frost Titan. Sometimes it is even right to blink your Frost Titan out,
then Day of Judgment.
It may be surprising to see Celestial Colonnade getting trimmed in the numbers crunch, but I can’t stress enough how important tempo is in the new
format. I was finding that I really didn’t activate Colonnade often in U/W with no Equipment, so having the land untapped a little more often as
Glacial Fortress is more appealing. Seachrome Coast is definitely the best of the bunch, right now, as the early turns are when you need it untapped
most. It isn’t worth a lot of space, but not using Preordain in decks like this is lunacy, despite how tempo oriented the format is. When observing any
“debate” on the subject, ask yourself if those advocating no Preordains are the same people that were wrong about Preordain last year. What is
different about their argument this year?
Celestial Purge out of the sideboard is actually one of the most exciting reasons to play U/W, as the card is just going to have so many applications
for the next three months. It isn’t just control decks that can take advantage of it, however, as any white midrange strategy is sure to value it as
Caw-Blade may not have the Mind Sculptor or Stoneforge, but both the Caw and the Blade are still legal. Most people experimenting with this strategy
are currently using Blade Splicer (Blades on Blades on Blades…). I am
more drawn to Sea Gate Oracle, however. Add Hero of Bladehold and the usual mix of Hawks and manlands, and we have plenty of worthy sword-bearers. One
advantage is that the format is way, way less hostile than it was. Maindeck Divine Offerings? A thing of the past. A downside, however, is that Caw-Blade’s
best matchup (Caw-Blade) was banned, so now you have to face a much larger variety of decks and can’t just rely on hundreds of games’ worth of
experience in the mirror.
Once again, not a ton of M12, but Oblivion Ring is a nice addition and is always a little better in proactive decks that don’t mind tapping out. Â
Caw-Go players may wonder about moving back towards Mana Leaks over Spell Pierce (which I am not sure of), but I am concerned with the loss of
Stoneforge; we may need more good turn-two plays. Additionally, Spell Pierce was always more of a turn-three play and with O-Ring, Sea Gate, and more
actual Swords, we are a bit glutted at that spot on the curve anyway. It may be that we just need more Mental Missteps main. I realize that no one
plays Mental Misstep main yet, but the day is coming when they do (and it is coming soon).
- 24 Swamp
Continuing in the fine tradition of adding only a couple copies of a single card from M12, here we see Mono-B taking advantage of Distress to provide a
minor upgrade to Despise (one of the cards that has lost the most value from Jace and Mystic being banned). Distress is particularly nice against
Valakut, where it can hit whatever bomb they were relying on, whether it’s a Titan, a Trap, or a Zenith.
The high number of lifelink creatures (setting up a Lashwrithe combo) is out of necessity, as Red is quite popular and mere Obliterators with discard
is not enough of a plan to actually stop how much quality burn is getting played right now.
Sorin’s Thirst is a reasonable sideboard option from M12, as the extra two life is a big deal against the people where it is coming in. Is Kabira
Crossroads good against Red? Of course, it is fantastic. The ability to trade a single mana (compared to Disfigure) for two life (without even spending
an extra card) is fantastic for many of the same reasons Teetering Peaks is so good in those Red decks. I am hedging here and splitting with Disfigure
for mana curve considerations.
Mimic Vat is especially important, now, as it is our primary answer to Chandra’s Phoenix as well as Vengevine. Besides, we need all the help we can get
against Red, as Shrine of Burning Rage is still a gigantic problem (since Pithing Needle was not in M12 and Phyrexian Revoker would just eat a Bolt).
Mono-Black Control is a strategy beloved by its faithful, so it is not surprising that people talk about it making more comebacks than it actually
makes, but we are already seeing the beginning of a true comeback, with one making Top 8 of Chinese Nationals. Now that the Mind Sculptor is gone and
there are an order of magnitude fewer Swords of Feast and Famine (the strategy’s two toughest challenges), the coast is clear for MBC to make a move.
Add to this that the discard gives it a natural game plan against combo, and we are seeing why this strategy is not only solid today, but possibly
Medina-level legit if new Innistrad Liliana is strong enough.
Another card I have my eye on for Mono-B is Monomania. The card doesn’t combine well with Inquisitions and the like, but in the post-rotation future,
that will no longer be an issue. As such, let’s table this card until Friday.
One of the big questions that Mono-Black players have to answer is “Why not add a color?” Mana-fixing is so good these days that color concerns are
minimal. In fact, you could even support Phyrexian Obliterator in a deck that splashes blue or red, with all black making lands. So far, it looks like
Lashwrithe is the selling point, which does improve now that there are fewer Divine Offerings. Lashwrithe is extremely powerful, but it is possible
that a second color would offer us more. Here is a very different direction to consider:
- 3 Trinket Mage
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
- 3 Vampire Lacerator
- 4 Kalastria Highborn
- 4 Pulse Tracker
- 4 Viscera Seer
- 1 Hex Parasite
This list doesn’t use any M12 cards, but it is fascinating to consider the implications of Trinket Mage doing Stoneforge Mystic duty. Blade of the
Bloodchief is a strong enough effect in this deck that it really does serve as your “Good Sword.” Additionally, Act of Aggression is very exciting in
decks with Viscera Seer. I have a feeling this list could be greatly improved with tuning, but it is an interesting starting point.
There are plenty of possible ways to build White Weenie in the days to come, but it is fine line between “new” and “update” when it comes to White
Weenie. I don’t really see Tempered Steel gaining anything from M12, so I am going to cover traditional White Weenie today and Puresteel Paladin on
- 4 Elite Vanguard
- 4 Student of Warfare
- 4 Mirran Crusader
- 4 Hero of Bladehold
- 4 Inquisitor Exarch
- 4 Vault Skirge
While this is probably more of a “new deck” than the other lists from today, it is just an update to the strategy I discussed a couple weeks ago, here. Angelic Destiny is
an exciting new finisher that combos particularly well with Mirran Crusader and Vault Skirge. Oblivion Ring is obviously a versatile interactive spell
that gives us a lot more interaction beyond just playing dudes and swinging. Stave Off is actually very exciting and a total sleeper in this set. Brave
the Elements types have been good before, and while Stave Off only protects one guy, it can protect your non-white creatures (unlike Brave), and it can
target opposing creatures! This is particularly sexy when you give Deceiver Exarch protection from red. Besides, the ability to protect a Hero of
Bladehold or someone about to meet their Angelic Destiny can be game-winning.
Leonin Arbiter gains a bit with the changes, as we are no longer compelled to stick him in Stoneforge decks. Having more answers to Valakut is
important for slow-ish aggro decks, and he is actually pretty decent against these Birthing Pod/Fauna Shaman decks.
I am not sure of the future of War Priest of Thune, but thought it worth reminding people that the card exists, now that Pyromancer is posed to make a
comeback. Inquisitor Exarch isn’t new, but he is underplayed and a fine man.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 3 Leatherback Baloth
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Memnite
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 4 Chancellor of the Tangle
Our last deck of the day is the Craig Wescoe inspired Mono-Green Overrun strategy. Wescoe is certainly hipper than most and has been playing it before
Overrun was legal (and while Jace and Mystic were legal). I am not sure what that says about the concept, but I do know that Overrun is a strong enough
card that I’d like to see it somewhere. I am sure you’ve noticed an alarming number of Pyroclasms in the above lists, but this list seems reasonable
against U/B and the various U/R combo decks. I am not sure how we do against Red, which, depending on who you ask, is either 90-10 in favor of green or
realistic (which is 60-40 in favor of Red, before it gained access to Grim Lavamancer). Personally, I still don’t see the compelling reason to go this
route, but there should be some kind of Overrun deck (unless Eldrazi Monument is just better).
Okay, that wraps it up for today. I realize most of these decks don’t feature all that many M12 cards, but one of the interesting features of M12 is
that it seems that a lot of the new cards seem designed for decks that do not yet exist. If we are discussing only new cards, M12 has fewer flagships
than any set in years, but it does have a lot of role players and quite a number of cards that are both fun and strong (which bodes well for enjoying
tournament play). The various combo decks, U/B, and Mono-Red place some pretty serious constraints on the format, so any new archetype is going to have
its work cut out for it. See you Wednesday, when we examine the strategies that try to do just this.
M12’s Top 12 New To Standard Reprints (Top 12 New Cards on Wednesday!):
11. Merfolk Looter