No Bad Matchups – A B/W Deck for Standard

The Cak has a deck which, he claims, has “no bad matchups” in the current Standard environment. With the metagame as diverse as it is, I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a mighty bold statement. However, with recent results in high-level events bearing out his assertion, and with a bevy of match analysis and gameplay tips behind it, perhaps this particular Black/White offering has the strength to go all the way…

A Standard deck for your Nationals, with no bad matchups?

Yeah, it exists.

How many times have you been playing Tron or Solar Flare, and have ran into the second turn Eye of Nowhere your land, third turn Stone Rain?

For U.S. Nationals, Kyle Goodman and I wanted to find the best possible deck that didn’t straight up concede to any other deck in the field. At that time, Kyle and I were both testing different versions of B/W aggro. Eventually, we decided to collaborate. We created what we thought was the best list possible for B/W, which I will get to later on. A bunch of new decks were popping up in the 8-Man Queues on Magic Online… including a “crazy B/U/W deck.” I noticed Kenji Tsumura rating had skyrocketed from 1800 to around 1900 just from playing in 8-Man Queues online, which is next to unthinkable for most people (including myself). The deck was called “Solar Flare,” and apparently it was all over Magic League. Kenji sent me the list, and I was in awe. Two Zombify, two Persecute? I’d like to know who came up with that little number.

Here’s the deck Paul Cheon used to win U.S. Nationals. The deck effectively made up two thirds of the U.S. National team (Cheon’s list varies a little from the Scott-Vargas offering).

I wonder how long it took them to perfect that manabase… However, this deck can get some very powerful draws involving Compulsive Research on turn 3, followed by a turn 4 Zombify on a 5/5 Flying Vindicate, but it also can be inconsistent at times. We figured this deck wasn’t going to be that popular, but we still knew we had to be at least 50/50 against it going into the tournament.

After Kyle and I had collaborated lists, this is what we came up with…

If you have checked out Canadian Nationals at all, you may have noticed Nathan Braymore make the National Team with this exact list. I’m not quite sure how he got it, but I’m guessing it was through one J Evan Dean. Kyle and I discovered that there was not a single deck we were scared to play against on Magic Online, which is another reason why we chose to run this at our Nationals.

Some key components of the deck…

Two Shizo
This is actually a very important card in the deck. I was so happy every time I drew Shizo because it enables you to get around both Keiga, the Tide Star and Simic Sky Swallower, so we decided to add another one to the deck. In about 200 or so matches played on Magic Online, having two Shizos only hurt me a couple of times. If you draw two of them, it doesn’t hurt you that badly… and it can even act as a Wasteland against the Solar Flare deck.

Three Shining Shoal
This card will win you so many game 1s because your opponent will never see it coming. In round 3, I was playing against a Firemane Angel control deck. On my turn 4 I played a Jitte and equipped it to my Isamaru. In response, my opponent cast Lightning Helix targeting my Isamaru, which I simply sent back to his face. He eventually lost to the Jitte counters. Shoal is also amazing against cards like Pyroclasm and Wildfire. The card is so versatile, which is something I’m always looking for.

Two Phyrexian Arena
This will probably puzzle some people, but hear me out. We expected to see almost no Zoo, Boros, or Red/Green decks at Nationals… and we were right. The card is simply amazing against any control deck, and you will be in great shape if it resolves early on in the game. It fuels Shining Shoal in the late game, and sometimes they are forced to deal with it on their turn, which sets up a perfect Persecute on your turn. Which brings me to…

Three Persecute (sideboard)
This card is key versus so many decks. If it resolves, the game is simply over. Against Billy P in round 1 feature match action (sort of), I resolved a turn 4 Persecute after a turn 4 Kodama’s Reach on his part. His discarded his entire hand, and he conceded two turns later.

Now let’s go over the matchups…


In: 3 Persecute; 1 Castigate; 2 Faith’s Fetters.
Out: 3 Mortify; 1 Umezawa’s Jitte; 2 Hand of Honor.

I would put Tron at about a 60/40 match percentage, in favor of Black/White. They never suspect the Shining Shoal game 1, and a Wildfire is easy to recover from if you play it right. If Ghost Council resolves, the game is already over. The same goes with Persecute after sideboarding. Usually, they are forced to Wildfire with no threat in play, and if you can follow it up with an Isamaru the following turn you generally will win the game.


In: 1 Castigate; 3 Persecute.
Out: 1 Mortify; 1 Umezawa’s Jitte; 2 Hand of Honor.

Kyle thinks this is a very good matchup for us, but I generally disagree, although it can’t be worse than 50/50. Shining Shoal has the potential to win the game for you on the spot if it resolves, and Paladin En-Vec is no picnic for them either. You have to try to avoid playing your Basilicas – because of Stone Rain and Eye of Nowhere – but sometimes it is unavoidable. Even if you are forced to play it, they are too busy dealing with your threats anyway so it isn’t that bad for you. If you are still worried about this matchup, throw some copies of Guardian of the Guildpact into the sideboard… hehe.

Solar Flare

In: 1 Castigate; 3 Persecute; 2 Faith’s Fetters; 1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni.
Out: 3 Shining Shoal; 2 Paladin En-Vec; 1 Umezawa’s Jitte; 1 Mortify.

The Paladins come out because they are pretty slow, and they get chumped by Court Hussar. The matchup is a lot better after sideboarding, because they are forced to deal with almost every single card you play. I wanted to play a second Ink-Eyes so much, solely for this matchup, but you can’t afford to reveal it with Dark Confidant. Faith’s Fetters aren’t that great against them (because of their Mortifies, and Miren), but it can catch them off-guard sometimes.

Red Green, Zoo, Boros

In: 2 Faith’s Fetters; 3 Descendant of Kiyomaro; 3 Last Gasp; 2 Manriki-Gusari.
Out: 2 Phyrexian Arena; 1 Dark Confidant; 3 Castigate; 4 Mortify.

The Mortifies can stay in sometimes against Red Green because of Moldervine Cloak, but they are generally too slow against these types of decks. These are the matchups where the Descendants truly shine. They have to kill it right away or the game will shortly turn in your favor. Shining Shoal is another card that can break the game for you, although it doesn’t combo very well with Descendant in play.

The Mirror

In: 2 Faith’s Fetters; 3 Descendant of Kiyomaro; 3 Last Gasp; 2 Manriki-Gusari.
Out: 3 Castigate; 3 Shining Shoal; 2 Isamaru, Hound of Konda; 2 Mortify.

This matchup is all about card advantage, or getting Jitte active as early as possible. Jitte can win the game by itself (obviously), and they will have Manriki-Gusari so be careful with your equipment. Dark Confidant is another key part of this matchup, which is the only reason the Last Gasps come in. This matchup actually takes a lot of skill, so make sure to practice it a lot.

Ghost Husk

In: 2 Faith’s Fetters; 3 Descendant of Kiyomaro; 3 Last Gasp; 2 Manriki-Gusari.
Out: 3 Castigate; 3 Shining Shoal; 4 Isamaru, Hound of Konda.

This matchup is very similar to the mirror, except the Mortifies are still good against cards like Promise… although they might side them out. Their Husks are usually dead cards because you have eight creatures that have Protection from Black.


In: 2 Manriki-Gusari; 3 Last Gasp; 1 Castigate.
Out: 3 Shining Shoal; 3 Hand of Honor.

This matchup is actually pretty bad, but I’d be surprised if people started playing this deck. If it does become more popular, you can add Orzhov Pontiff to the sideboard, which is just a wrecking ball in the matchup. The Castigates are necessary, to take out Sosuke’s Summons, and Paladins need to stay in to make sure they can’t acquire any Jitte counters. The one thing you need to watch out for is Seshiro, but he isn’t that hard to play around because of Mortify.

[So, a “Standard deck for your Nationals, with no bad matchups” … apart from Snakes. – Craig, amused.]

Ghazi Glare

In: 2 Faith’s Fetters; 3 Last Gasp; 3 Descendant of Kiyomaro; 2 Manriki-Gusari; 1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni.
Out: 3 Shining Shoal; 3 Castigate; 4 Paladin En-Vec; 1 Isamaru, Hound of Konda.

After Worlds, this deck was shoved back onto the shelf until some of the TOGIT players decided to randomly play it at Nationals. It probably should have stayed where it was, because I don’t see how this has any good matchups right now. Anyway, this should be pretty one-sided for Black/White, unless they manage to get Jitte going (which is a problem for any deck). Ink-Eyes comes in because of the Shizos, and you never know when you might be able to randomly return a Loxodon Hierarch to your side of the board. Pithing Needle can sometimes be a problem, but other than that, the matchup is heavily in your favor.

How I did with Black/White at Nationals

The first round I was paired against Billy P who was running Heartbeat, which is generally a pretty bad matchup for Black/White. I start the first game with early pressure backed up by a Castigate that took a Muddle the Mixture. He tries to go off, but I have Mortify for the Heartbeat and he scoops them up. Game 2 I once again get in early pressure, but his hand is better this time. Turn 4 he taps out for Kodama’s Reach, with four cards in hand and a Sensei’s Divining Top in play, so I promptly untap and Persecute his entire hand of Green cards. I win shortly after.

Round 2 I am paired against Julian Levin with Solar Flare. Game 1, and my turn 2 Dark Confidant goes uncontested. My Castigates make sure Wrath of God never shows up to play. Game 2 takes a pretty long time, with both of us resolving early Persecutes, but I eventually lose to a pair of Descendants. Game 3 I resolve a Phyrexian Arena, and a Dark Confidant to go with it. The card advantage is just too overwhelming, not to mention the three Castigates. Ghost Council finishes the job.

Round 3 I’m paired against a Firemane Angel control deck. Like I said earlier, Shining Shoal saves my Isamaru holding Umezawa’s Jitte, and it goes all the way. Game 2 Castigate takes Wrath of God, which is followed up by a pair of Paladin En-Vecs. Once again Ghost Council gets through, and that was pretty much the game right there.

Round 11 I am paired against Kyle Goodman, with the card-for-card mirror match. We agree the best option would be to let the person with the best tiebreakers win, which ended up being me. (I won the games for fun, if that’s any consolation).

Round 12 I am paired against a small child running Tron. I lose game 1 to a Wildfire with double Remand backup. Game 2 he drops Tron early on, but I have Faith’s Fetters for his Keiga. He is forced to Wildfire my Isamaru away. I follow it up with another Isamaru, which goes all the way. Game 3 my two-drop gets Mana Leaked, and he has Tron again by turn 4. On my turn 4 I Castigate him and take his only spell, which was a Demonfire, and I follow it up with a Dark Confidant. He rips Meloku the following turn, and I lose to the five flying illusion tokens he makes the same turn. Seems about right.

All in all, I lost one match, to a topdecked Meloku on the only turn it would save him. I was very happy with how the deck played out, and I would run it again in a heartbeat. I would also like to take this time to congratulate all the members of the U.S. National team. I’m positive they will do well at Worlds, and I will be disappointed if Ben Lundquist doesn’t make Top 4 at the very least.

If you’re still looking for a deck for Nationals, give Black/White a try. You won’t be disappointed.

For all you MTGO freaks, send all questions or comments about the deck to Sleepwalking.

Thanks for reading.
John Pelcak