New Standard Decks For StarCityGames.com Open: Richmond

As always, with every set release, it’s the perfect time to be a brewer. There are so many good ideas floating around, but so little time…

As always, with every set release, it’s the perfect time to be a brewer. There are so many good ideas floating around, but so little time…

Aside from W/B Tokens, Zombies is the obvious “new” deck that Dark Ascension will bring. How do you build it though? There’s beatdown, midrange, and some crazy combo lists out there. Luckily for you, the good people at Magic-League have done most of the work for you.

I’d imagine that most Zombie lists are going to start similar to this. Molding the deck after B/R Vampires certainly makes sense. Gravecrawler and Geralf’s Messenger are similar to Bloodghast, and Diregraf Ghoul and Gravecrawler are better than Vampire Lacerator and Pulse Tracker.

However, what’s truly missing is the mid-game reach of Kalastria Highborn. Geralf’s Messenger gives you a little push, but it’s not nearly as good as Highborn was. The equipment and Faithless Lootings give you a dimension that Vampires never really had, but is it good enough?

This is a similar list but doesn’t take the Sword/Looting route. Instead, Homie focuses on Cemetery Reaper and the full four Falkenrath Aristocrats.

There are a couple notable things about this list, mainly the Ratchet Bombs and Manabarbs in the sideboard. With Tokens (and specifically Lingering Souls) on the rise, Ratchet Bomb might very well be a maindeck card, even for an aggressive deck like Zombies.

Manabarbs is just an old favorite of mine. Being able to KO a Ramp or Control deck with a single card is very nice. Who wants to work for wins anyway?

This one is certainly interesting. It showcases the power of Gravecrawler in control, which I didn’t think would be a real thing. There are plenty of ways to get it into the graveyard, and once you find a second copy, Secrets of the Dead becomes a reasonable engine.

With all the graveyard love, I’m surprised there isn’t a third Nephalia Drownyard, but I can respect wanting to cast your spells.

The thing I’d be truly worried about with this list is the decks that can produce tokens. Moorland Haunt and Lingering Souls are difficult to beat with the above list. Geist of Saint Traft, protected from edict effects, is also going to be a pain. Some of those Ratchet Bombs or Curses should probably be in the maindeck.

Birthing Pod is one of those cards that gets better with each new set, and DKA doesn’t disappoint. Various recursion creatures and value creatures make your Birthing Pod chains even more devastating. The above G/B list looks very good.

With each Pod activation, you’re going to be up nearly a card and half between enters-the-battlefield abilities and undying creatures returning to play. An unanswered Birthing Pod is far more devastating in this G/B list than previous Pod lists I’ve seen.

This list looks a little better than the first one but is actually lacking Birthing Pod! Skirsdag High Priest, Glissa, the Traitor, and Hex Parasite all have crazy interactions with the rest of the deck, but I can’t imagine playing without Pod.

Altar’s Reap looks like a fine addition, seeing as how sacrificing a creature is a benefit most of the time. It definitely looks like a solid role-player.

According to everyone, W/B Tokens is the hot new deck. In order to gain an advantage in the “mirror,” I’ve splashed green for Ray of Revelation and Gavony Township. As anyone who’s played a token mirror can tell you, the one with the most Anthems is king.

Ray allows you to keep their Anthems under control, while Township provides a nearly unkillable one. Even if you’re behind on tokens, it’s going to be difficult for them to break through if your creatures always have a higher toughness.

Maybe the benefits don’t outweigh the slight inconsistency issues. After all, we still don’t know how popular W/B Tokens will end up being in the first place.

I’m not the most qualified to talk about this type of deck, but it does seem to be out there in a reasonable quantity. For more on Strangleroot Geist, check out Jeremy Neeman article here.

This is definitely one of the archetypes that gained the most from Dark Ascension. Not only do we have a better manabase with Evolving Wilds (not that it was bad to begin with, honest), but tokens is going to be huge, and rightly so. One of the most powerful things you can do in the format is Sun Titan plus Ratchet Bomb, and this is probably the best shell for it.

Thought Scour is a nice value card to have but is by no means necessary. If you do cut those, you might want some card drawing in its place.

Pristine Talisman is no longer where you want to be. Before, Illusions would grind you out with Moorland Haunt, but as the season went on, that changed. Current Delver decks are fighting you with Geist of Saint Traft and Sword of War and Peace, and Talisman does little to stop that.

Lingering Souls might seem out of place, but it’s actually quite good. Either you’re trading with a Delver, fighting Moorland Haunt, or pressuring a control deck. Below are some rough sideboarding guides, and in them, you’ll see that I go up on Lingering Souls against basically every deck.

One thing to note is that in game ones, you’ll be hard-pressed to deal with Swords and pump effects like Intangible Virtue, which will make their Lingering Souls better than yours. Post-board, you gain efficient ways to maintain parity through Ancient Grudge and Ray of Revelation, which make your Souls a lot better.

Could you play more Lingering Souls maindeck? It’s possible, but that would require at least a Ray of Revelation maindeck, which isn’t a concession I’m willing to make quite yet.

Maybe going harder on Unburial Rites is better, but for now, I’m fine with just playing this 75. If that’s the case, you definitely want more Faithless Lootings. I didn’t want to play many of that card to start, since unless you’re discarding things you actively want in the graveyard, you’re losing a card. I’d rather draw one Looting and one Alchemy though, so I’m playing a 3/1 split.

U/W Delver

+ 2 Ancient Grudge, 1 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Lingering Souls, 1 Phantasmal Image, 1 Nihil Spellbomb

– 2 Mana Leak, 1 Negate, 3 Oblivion Ring, 1 Sun Titan

Once you sweep the board and wipe their graveyard, they’re pretty helpless unless they have a Sword. In order to combat that, we have to go up to three Ancient Grudges. It might seem like a lot, but it’s by far their best card against us.

We’ll be tapping out to draw cards and kill things a lot of the time, so the counterspells can leave. I never minded having a Negate or two to fight their Dissipates, but not everyone has them.

Shaving a Sun Titan could end up being a poor choice. Having a hand full of six-drops isn’t going to beat anyone, especially a deck with Mana Leaks. I’d rather lower the curve and take over the late game with card drawing.


+ 2 Ray of Revelation, 1 Phantasmal Image, 2 Lingering Souls, 1 Ratchet Bomb

– 2 Nihil Spellbomb, 1 Ancient Grudge, 1 Negate, 2 Mana Leak

This is traditionally a worse matchup than U/W Delver. Their threats are more powerful, and they still have Moorland Haunt and Mana Leak. This is what Delver would be like if every single Phantasmal Bear they had was closer to Geist of Saint of Traft.

There were two main ways to lose this matchup. First was allowing them to attack with Hero of Bladehold. I don’t think I’ve ever won a game where my opponent attacked with a Hero when they weren’t dead on the swing back. MJ and I used to play Dismember or Combust just for Hero, so consider that if there’s a lot of Humans in your area.

The second way to lose is by Moorland Haunt. The great thing about Nihil Spellbomb against the Delver deck is that it stops Snapcaster Mage from doubling the amount of permission they have. Humans only has Moorland Haunt for Nihil Spellbomb to interact with, so I don’t think it’s worth keeping in.

Two cards have changed what’s important in the Human matchup—Thalia and Ray of Revelation. Before, you’d finally resolve a Sun Titan, which would easily turn the game around if it stayed in play. That wasn’t likely because they probably had a Fiend Hunter or Oblivion Ring waiting for such an occasion.

Ray of Revelation answers the Oblivion Ring problem and also does wonders at fighting Honor of the Pure, but is it enough? If they didn’t gain Thalia, I’d be willing to say yes.

On the play, Thalia is going to be backbreaking. There’s no real good way around it, but it’s why I’m playing a split of Whipflares and Ratchet Bombs instead of 2/4. If you don’t get to cast your sweeper until turn three, it better be one that impacts the board immediately.

Gut Shot and Dismember are playable answers, but they aren’t very good against the rest of the format. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like Thalia is getting much love in the Human archetype, which is good news for control mages everywhere!


+ 1 Nihil Spellbomb, 3 Celestial Purge, 2 Lingering Souls, 1 Phantasmal Image

– 1 Negate, 1 Ancient Grudge, 3 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Mana Leak


+ 2 Lingering Souls, 2 Dissipate, 1 Devil’s Play (and then Phantasmal Image, Nihil Spellbomb, Ancient Grudge/Ray of Revelation depending on their exact build)

Ratchet Bomb, Whipflare, Ancient Grudge

Providing sideboarding guides is tough for Zombies and control. There are no consensus best lists for either, so you’ll have to do all your sideboarding on the fly. I definitely like that type of experience, as it forces you to think and develop your own theories.

That said, these general guides seem helpful by explaining what I was thinking with my card choices.

That’s about all I have for this week. I could post some stuff about self-mill, but I don’t think it has what it takes to compete in Standard. You know I’ll be brewing something like that for Block though.

The StarCityGames Open Series is returning to Richmond this week, and I can’t wait to see what shows up. If you can’t make it out, be sure to tune in to SCGLive!


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