I…I haven’t done this for a while. It feels a little uncomfortable, so if I sound shy right now, please bear with me. It’s not like I’ve never done this beforeâ€”in fact, I used to do it all the time. The old guy who used to run this site (Ferrettâ€”he was younger then) used to beg me for it. Nowadays? Not so much. It’s not like I’m ashamed or anything, it’s just…
Well, you know when you haven’t kissed a girl in a while and you are kind of afraid of screwing it up, because it could be something really good, but that first impression of the lips brushing against each other is really important, so there’s all this pressure, but then when you finally make it happen fireworks go off and you wonder what all the fuss was about?
Yeah, this is like that.
Today, I’m going to write about Standard. And I just want to let you know up front that if this article ends up awkward and sucky, I am perfectly fine with not talking to each other and pretending this never happened, okay?
Believe it or not, along with keeping an eye on the Magic Online markets for speculation, I also play Magic from time to time. After I got back from my New York vacation, I started playing a lot of Standard on Magic Online. Personally, I prefer to play in the real world and hang out with friends (there’s the added bonus of being able to do this while drinking in the UK!) but my job has me working every weekend and until 8 PM on most Magic nights, which means Magic Online is pretty much my only outlet. On the plus side, by playing online I get more opportunities to play and test than I would in real life, so it helps me learn formats faster.
Anywho, I have a ton of cards on my account from drafting and speccing, but there are so damned many decks to choose fromâ€” where could I even start? Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to count a number of MODO ringers as my friends, so that meant I didn’t lack for decklists. I typically love a red deck and Caplan’s list from Worlds is really spicy, but it’s also a known quantity. I really dislike playing The Best Deck, especially when I’m starting from scratch and everyone else already knows about it. Playing control when you are just learning a format is almost impossible for me, so I knew I wanted something aggressive but also something with reach. That’s when Fat Phil Samms pushed me toward this little number.
Note: I do not know where Fatty (I’m not being mean, calling him this is a requirement. Some would say he insists on it) got this deck from, but it plays out quite a bit differently than Wescoe’s Worlds deck.
- 4 Mirran Crusader
- 3 Hero of Bladehold
- 3 Gideon's Lawkeeper
- 4 Grand Abolisher
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Doomed Traveler
In ancient times, we probably would have called this a White Weenie deck with Mana Leak, but apparently everything is tribal these days, so I suppose the appropriate term for this archetype is U/W Humans. Yaaawn. We live in the era of Boring Deck Names â€˜R Us, but I’m too old to fight the power.
Anyway, I battled with this for ten or twelve matches before coming to a couple of conclusions. First, I hated Champion of the Parish. Not personallyâ€”he didn’t slay my family or use my dog for target practice or anythingâ€”I just hated drawing the card in the mid or late game. He was not, as Millionaire Playboy Pete Hoefling likes to say, Da Bidness. Yes, the one time I played all four Champions plus Honor the Pure by turn 3 was pretty nice, but the odds on that happening twice in the same year are about the same as me hooking up with Bar Rafaeliâ€”not impossible, but not exactly likely.
Cutting Champion got me thinking about what I wanted to replace him with, which then sent me into researching decklists sundry and various (remixed!) for answers. The first set of scribbled notes I wrote said, “Snapcaster Mage + Midnight Haunting.” Sounds sexy, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, Tiago Chan isn’t white and neither is Snapcaster Mage, meaning the whole “have synergy with Honor of the Pure” plan from the original decklist would be violated by Tiago’s bespectacled mug.
Fortunately, Midnight Haunting on its own isn’t so bad. Because it’s an instant, it lets you keep counter mana up while still playing a threat on turn 3 if your opponent drops a blank, plus it puts pressure on decks whose removal works at sorcery speed. With Honor the Pure down, it provides a reasonable and annoying-to-remove clock, and it’s less of a blank in the late game than Champion.
Now, however, I had a problem. You know those guys who work on cars and say they are just going to change the spark plugs, but when you come back a few hours later, the entire engine and transmission are out and being worked on? That’s me with decks. Now that Champion was out and I had moved the curve higher, I started looking at what else I could change. Thankfully, Craig Wescoe provided me with options. I’ll assume you’ve seen Wescoe’s deck from Worlds already, but here’s his revised list, which Ryan Waller played at the StarCityGames.com St. Louis Standard Open.
- 2 Leonin Arbiter
- 4 Mirran Crusader
- 4 Hero of Bladehold
- 2 Leonin Relic-Warder
- 2 Gideon's Lawkeeper
- 3 Fiend Hunter
- 3 Geist of Saint Traft
- 4 Doomed Traveler
Wescoe’s deck always looked pretty cool (minus the Mausoleum Guards, but he made the Top 8 at Worlds while I sat on my ass and worked on the English Premier League, so what do I know?), and Fiend Hunter is actually pretty great in a creature-filled environment. However, I didn’t want to go overboard with these because they are still 1/3s for three mana. For the record, Phil Samms hates them. I like them, but in small doses.
With Tempered Steel sitting on the sidelines, I nearly left these guys out of the new build until I noticed that they work on artifacts and enchantments. Like all the Oblivion Rings that are floating around, stealing my Heroes of Bladehold! They obviously work well against Shrines of Burning Rage and even against the occasional Druidic Satchel as well. In get, Mr. Warder!
These are obviously in place for Ramp decks, an archetype that isn’t getting as much play online as it seems to be getting in the real world. I tested with him in the main and sideboard, but he never seemed to do enough to matter. If Ramp cycles back up then I’ll obviously need to reconsider, but until then this guy can chill out.
Vapor Snag is an actual thing now in a number of decks, and there are few worse feelings than trying to plonk down an Angelic Destiny on Mirran Crusader only to see that little bastard get Snagged into your hand. Swords cost slightly more, but don’t care as much about bounce. They also transition well from offense to defense and have additional side benefits that make up for the smaller bump they give to power and toughness. After playing with Stoneforge Mystic, it feels a little clunky to actually have to draw these things randomly, but apparently this is what playing fair Magic is supposed to feel like. Go figure.
- 4 Mirran Crusader
- 3 Hero of Bladehold
- 2 Leonin Relic-Warder
- 3 Gideon's Lawkeeper
- 2 Grand Abolisher
- 2 Fiend Hunter
- 4 Doomed Traveler
Why Wouldn’t You Just Play Geist Main?
Because the mana isn’t quite good enough. One of the most important rules in building aggro decks is maintaining mana consistency so you can cast your threats on time, every time. Getting blue mana by turn 3 is a tiny bit shaky in this deck, so I have relegated it to the sideboard. You tend to board it in against slower matches where you cast it anytime and it’s a house (as is Mirran Crusader), or you board it in where spot-removal is heavy and hope he sticks.
One sideboard note Jarvis Yu made that I agree withâ€”originally the sideboard had an extra Sword of Body and Mind, but I changed it for a Sword of War and Peace. White and red are both prevalent in the metagame, and the Sword will help you win any mirror matches with a quickness. Obviously as the metagame changes, your complement of Swords in the main and sideboard will change as well.
Quick Sideboarding and Matchup Thoughts
The new deck to beat has not been that difficult to keep down in my experience. For starters, you have three one-drops that dominate the board (every time I cast Gideon’s Lawkeeper, I have flashbacks to this). Your creatures are at least as good as theirs and nearly as fast, and you get creature-pumping while their deck gets… library manipulation? Huh. The dangers to you are Lord of the Unreal and an unanswered Geist, but your deck is reasonably equipped to handle both. Don’t be afraid to burn a Haunting to trade with a flipped Delver that is beating you down and know that if you make it to the middle and late game at a decent life total, you will probably win.
Most people cringe when you call something the deck’s â€˜best matchup,’ but in my experience this is a cakewalkâ€”which, by the way, is the exact opposite for the U/W Illusions deck and one reason I prefer this deck. Before sideboarding, the matchup feels relatively even, with the outcome mostly depending on whether you can land an early Honor and then remove their problem creatures (Noble, Berserker) with O-Rings and Hunters before they get you into burn range. After sideboarding, it’s never close. Timely Reinforcements makes _Soldier_ tokens of an unspecified variety, and those tough little guys will gladly throw themselves in the way of Vampire royaltyâ€”anytime, anyplace.
You can also consider bringing in Destiny in place of/in addition to your Swords if you want to play the â€˜Is he sideboarding in artifact removal?’ mini-game. I don’t think it really matters, but sometimes it pays to keep â€˜em guessing.
This is the matchup I have had the most trouble with, especially when it comes to the red versions. I’ve only played against red Ramp four times, and Samms swears it’s not as bad as I think it is, but all I know is I die a sad little death every time. Those Slagstorms, they are always epic. With that in mind, consider the sideboarding here to be a little looser than the other onesâ€”as in, I’m not winning against red Ramp decks, so I might not quite know what I am doing yet.
Your key card in this matchup is Hero of Bladeholdâ€”if she connects, you should be able to pull off your finishing move with style. Also, if Ramp is heavy where you are, you may need to tweak back to the heavy Leonin Arbiter builds that were running around previously. I don’t think Arbiter does enough, but every little bit of resistance helps. Finally, Samms likes Mortarpod because it annoys the hell out of Inkmoth Nexus decks, which is a rare valid (dare I say lucid?) point from Philly Boom Boom.
The control decks vary dramatically in build, but have yet to make a major impact or finish in the format. That’s not to say they aren’t goodâ€”in the right hands, I think they are pretty strong. Thankfully, your matchup against them seems at least reasonable if not better. Your deck has so many angles of attack that it is difficult and costly for control decks to respond to all of them, both pre- and post-sideboarding.
You know how Timely Reinforcements is like the best anti-red card ever? Moorland Haunt has a similar impact against control decks. You get to play creature Doritosâ€”they crunch all they want, you just make more. This is especially true if you’ve managed to make a Sword stick, but even an Honor the Pure (or two) will cause real issues, since every creature in your deck gives you some sort of advantage and is now a decent clock. They can’t counter everything, and you have a high threat density with seven finishers before sideboarding and up to ten after. You also get to Mana Leak their mass removals spells, which is one of the best feelings Magic has to offer. Finally, you get Grand Abolisher, who probably should have been painted as flipping the bird to some blue mage.
I hope you have liked this look at the U/W Humans archetype. It’s rare that I fall in love with a Standard deck this quickly, but I view it as Pain-In-the-Ass-Creatures.dec, which really suits my play style. It even has the nice bonus of currently flying just under the radar and seems to provide good matchups against what Chapin calls the top two decks in the format right now (Illusions and Mono Red), without being terrible against control decks. It is not, however, that great against Ramp.
Before I leave you, however, let me leave you with a truly rogue opening I saw from an opponent the other day.
And just to spite Chris Mascioli, who seemed to imply I only write articles so that I can include Quotes sections and that I spend more time gathering quotes than I do writing the article itself, there will not be a Quotes section this week. Complaints can be addressed to @dieplstks on Twitter.
[BIG WHITE SPACE]
Bah, whatever. Screw him.
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