Peebles Primers – Sifting Through Standard Premier Events

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Tuesday, September 23rd – Shards of Alara promises to have a great impact the Standard metagame. With Magic Online now capable of tracking Premier Event Top 8 information, Benjamin Peebles-Mundy looks at some of the format’s great performers and examines how they will be affected by the coming rotation.

Perhaps my favorite feature of Magic Online V3 is the fact that Premiere Event Top 8s are now tracked, and the decklists are displayed on the Wizards website. I think that this tool will usually be used to stay ahead of the current metagame, but at the moment I think it’s a great opportunity to see what impact the impending rotation will have on Standard.

This past week, Wizards tracked nine Standard Premiere Events, and I’ve sifted through them to get the raw data.

Number of Top 8s by Archetype
9/11 – 9/16

11 UW Merfolk
10 UW Reveillark (No combo)
9 Kithkin
9 Demigod Red (total)
8 Black Green Rock
7 Faeries
5 Swans Combo
4 Demigod Red (No Moons)
3 UWR Reveillark
3 Demigod Red (MD Moons)
2 Quick N Toast
2 Heritage Elves
1 Zur Swans
1 White Weenie
1 Warrior Elves
1 Red Green Big Mana
1 Red Black Tokens
1 Mono-White Martyr
1 Demigod Red (SB Moons)
1 Demigod Red (1 Moon)

It’s pretty clear to me that the current Tier 1 is made up of Merfolk, Reveillark, Kithkin, Red, Rock, and Faeries. The question, then, is just how hard are these decks going to be hit by the rotation.


4 Adarkar Wastes
4 Island
4 Mutavault
7 Snow-Covered Island
4 Wanderwine Hub

4 Cursecatcher
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Stonybrook Banneret

2 Aquitect’s Will
4 Cryptic Command
4 Ponder
4 Sage’s Dousing
3 Unsummon

4 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
2 Reveillark
4 Sower of Temptation
4 Sunlance
1 Unsummon

Merfolk finds itself in a somewhat awkward position. Of the above seventy-five cards, only eight are rotating out. Of those, the Sunlances are not the biggest loss to plague a deck. However, the four Lord of Atlantis that the deck currently runs are going away, and the Lord is among the most important cards in the deck. A 2/2 for 2 is already pushing it for Blue’s supposed creature curve, but the Islandwalk and +1/+1 granted by him were the truly scary aspects of the card. The piece of it that always annoyed me was that I couldn’t simply steal the Lord with a Sower of Temptation to deny my opponent the bonus; somehow the “drawback” of pumping your opponent’s creatures actually wound up being a benefit to the card most of the time.

However, there have been successful Block Constructed Merfolk decks, and those clearly manage to make do without Lord of Atlantis.

4 Flooded Grove
2 Mutavault
3 Reflecting Pool
4 Secluded Glen
4 Vivid Creek
3 Vivid Grove
4 Wanderwine Hub

4 Chameleon Colossus
2 Oona, Queen of the Fae
4 Silvergill Adept
3 Sower of Temptation
4 Stonybrook Banneret
2 Sygg, River Guide

1 Crib Swap
4 Cryptic Command
3 Firespout
3 Jace Beleren
4 Nameless Inversion
2 Sage’s Dousing

3 Cloudthresher
2 Crib Swap
2 Hallowed Burial
2 Puppeteer Clique
3 Recumbent Bliss
3 Wispmare

Essentially universally, players have chosen to replace Lord of Atlantis with Chameleon Colossus. Part of this is due to the power of Protection from Black and four toughness in the Block format, but most of it comes from the simple fact that the Colossus is a Merfolk, and manages to steal some tribal benefits you might not expect.

All in all, it appears as though the Merfolk deck will be alive and kicking after the rotation. However, I expect that it will drop from its current spot at the top of the heap, as one of the most important reasons it made it there in the first place was the ease with which it preyed on Reveillark decks thanks to Lord of Atlantis. Further complicating the matter, none of the official or unofficial spoilers for Shards have been Merfolk.


I’ve been championing the combo versions of this deck for months now, but the presence of ten comboless versions and zero combo versions in the week’s worth of Top 8s tells me that it’s not the place to spend any more time.

2 Adarkar Wastes
8 Island
4 Mutavault
4 Mystic Gate
5 Plains

4 Kitchen Finks
4 Mulldrifter
4 Reveillark
4 Sower of Temptation
3 Venser, Shaper Savant

2 Careful Consideration
2 Coldsteel Heart
4 Mind Stone
3 Momentary Blink
3 Pact of Negation
4 Ponder

2 Glen Elendra Archmage
4 Remove Soul
4 Ronom Unicorn
2 Runed Halo
3 Wrath of God

Merfolk lost basically one card, but one card that was defining to the deck. Reveillark, on the other hand, loses quite a few cards, but none of them is truly essential to how the deck functions. The thing that comes closest to such a card is Venser; he’s powerful, synergystic, and he costs the right amount for the curve of the deck.

The other cards that we lose are the various pieces of artifact mana, leaving us with only Mind Stone to accelerate. This shouldn’t be too big of a hit, as most lists ran only five or six accelerants, and can likely make do with four. Momentary Blink leaving the format gets rid of a lot of tricky power for this deck, but many versions were trimming them down to one or two copies, or completely removing them from the deck. Again, it’s a hit, but it’s not so bad.

Pact of Negation, on the other hand, is a card that comes close to Venser in terms of its importance to Reveillark. Almost every copy of UW Reveillark, whether they play the combo or not, had three Pacts somewhere in the build. They’re great to defend yourself when you tap out every turn for a giant bomb, and they’re great to make sure that your Crovax (absent from this list’s sideboard) actually manages to resolve against Faeries. With Pact of Negation gone, Reveillark will have to go back to the old model of simply having so many powerful spells that eventually either the opponent’s defensive wall breaks down or their aggressive force is stuffed by the bombs.

Lastly, we bid goodbye to Careful Consideration. There are hands that are off the charts in terms of power level due to the fact that you know a third-turn Consideration is going to set you up for the rest of the game, there are times that you can use it at the end of turn to possibly bait out a counter, and there are games that you break wide open when you rip this card off the top. I doubt that there will be another card that is as powerful for Reveillark on the third or fourth turn, but at the same time I believe that there will be at least something that approximates this card.

The good news is that there are plenty of Reveillark targets unofficially spoiled so far. Of them, I think that the one with the best chance to make it to the big time is…

Knight-Captain of Eos
Creature – Human Knight
When Knight-Captain of Eos comes into play, put two 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens into play.
1, Sacrifice a Soldier: Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn.

People have been winning tournaments in Block Constructed with Cloudgoat Ranger for a while now. While it’s true that Cloudgoat is bigger and gives you an extra token, you’re still getting the same sort of a deal here. In addition, the sacrifice ability gives you a nice way to make sure that you don’t wind up dead before you can actually end the game with your flying men.

It’s pretty clear that the combo version of the deck is dead at this point, but that doesn’t mean that Mirror Entity is just an auto-exclude after the rotation. If you have Entity in your deck alongside the Knight-Captain, it means two good things for you. First, if you untap with just the Entity and a Knight-Captain (and friends), you are representing a lethal attack right there. Second, if you have the two of them and activate the Entity for x=1, you have given yourself extra Soldiers to sacrifice to him. Using a Mulldrifter to fog the entire turn seems pretty strong to me, as does using the actual Reveillark. Alongside Sower of Temptation, you even have a sac outlet for your opponent’s creatures (though I think that you won’t really need that if you’ve got the Captain, Mirror Entity, Sower of Temptation, and a stolen ally).

My conclusion is again that Reveillark will stick around after the rotation. Unlike Merfolk, though, I think that Reveillark will remain Tier 1. The only thing that would really change this, I think, is if Shards really doesn’t have any good utility to replace Momentary Blink, Careful Consideration, and Venser/Pact. The counterspells are going to be hard to replace, but the other two shouldn’t be too sorely missed.


2 Mutavault
4 Rustic Clachan
14 Snow-Covered Plains
4 Windbrisk Heights

4 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
4 Cloudgoat Ranger
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Goldmeadow Stalwart
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
4 Wizened Cenn

3 Glorious Anthem
2 Mirrorweave
3 Oblivion Ring
4 Spectral Procession

1 Ajani Goldmane
4 Faerie Macabre
4 Gelid Shackles
2 Kinsbaile Borderguard
4 Mana Tithe

Like Merfolk, the Kithkin deck is basically a Block Constructed deck that happened to be powerful enough to make the jump to Standard. Unlike Merfolk, Kithkin isn’t losing its two-drop lord.

In fact, Kithkin is barely losing anything due to this rotation. The maindeck does not include a single card from Coldsnap or Time Spiral Block except for Snow-Covered Lands. These are obviously replaceable by regular old Plains, as they were only there for the Gelid Shackles that are, in fact, going to be a loss to the deck. Other than the Shackles, though, the only rotation victim is Mana Tithe.

The Shackles were so nice because they were a one-mana way to remove a blocker or stop a utility creature. I think that if I were playing Kithkin, there wouldn’t be much that felt better than dropping the Shackles on a Wall of Roots and getting in there for five with my one- and two-drops. In a pinch, you could even spend a mana to make sure that the guy didn’t hit you back. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that will do all that for a single mana, but there are plenty of Pacifism options out there, whether Recumbent Bliss or Prison Term, that can at least emulate the effect of Gelid Shackles.

Mana Tithe is not something that I expect to find a replacement for. Using it to hold off a Wrath of God, Firespout, or whatever was about to wipe out your side was always nice, but unless they reprint it in Eleventh Edition, I don’t see it coming back. The only reason that I even think that they might reprint it in a Core Set is the fact that they released it as a textless card, so clearly Wizards thinks that it’s cool, simple, and relevant.

I think that the biggest loss to the Kithkin deck’s power is the fact that it’s not slated to get any more cards out of the new sets. The good news is that the creatures aren’t going anywhere, so they don’t need to be replaced, and the spells don’t need to be Kithkin to be playable. Yet again, I think we have a top deck that will remain a top deck in the year to come.

Demigod Red

Demigod Red put up top numbers when looked at as a single deck, whether or not it included Magus of the Moon. Of course, Magus of the Moon is a game-changing card, so that might not be fair, but it’s pretty clear that that one card does not make or break this deck. Since the Moonless version did the best of them all, I think that it’s fair to look at that flavor of the deck.

2 Keldon Megaliths
22 Snow-Covered Mountain

4 Ashenmoor Gouger
4 Blood Knight
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
4 Demigod of Revenge
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Magus of the Scroll

4 Flame Javelin
4 Incinerate
4 Skred

3 Everlasting Torment
2 Faerie Macabre
4 Greater Gargadon
2 Sulfurous Blast
4 Unwilling Recruit

Straight out of the gates, every land in the deck is rotating away. After Time Spiral and Coldsnap leave the scene, the only bonus lands that you would think about playing are Ghitu Encampment and Mutavault. With RRR and RRRRR costs in the deck, chances are good that you’ll go for Ghitu Encampment first.

The lands going away also obviously means that Skred is going to be gone too. Part of the power of Demigod Red was the fact that it could answer something like Chameleon Colossus for a single mana and a single card, and it’s going to be hard to do that after the rotation. There are plenty of two- and three-damage burn spells spoiled from Shards, but there aren’t any that will do as well as Skred. Even the one card that people seemed to pick over Skred at U.S. Nationals (Dead/Gone) is rotating out, so this is a slot that’s going to take some effort to fill.

Then there are two big creatures taking a hike. Blood Knight was amazing at what it did, and without it there will be a huge gap in the Red deck’s two-drop slot. We again feel the squeeze as the only other widely-played two-drop also rotates out. There is a new Red Raise the Alarm, but two 1/1s for two mana is not nearly the same as a 2/2, First-Striking, Protection from White badass.

Gone with Blood Knight is Magus of the Scroll. People for a while couldn’t decide between the Magus and Mogg Fanatic, and Fanatic isn’t going anywhere, but Magus alongside Megaliths gave the deck even more late-game punch, and Mogg Fanatic doesn’t do anything of that sort. In addition, the Magus gave you more game against decks like Merfolk and Faeries, though Mogg Fanatic does tend to perform well against both of these decks.

Out of the sideboard, we’re losing another two big tools. Greater Gargadon was not only a massive guy to bring in for Mirror and Aggro matchups, he was a combo with Unwilling Recruit that let you take an opposing threat, smack your opponent with it, and then remove it from the game permanently. Sulfurous Blast was an amazing way to clear out the Faeries and Merfolks while letting your Ram-Gangs, Gougers, Figures, and Demigods continue to hit hard. Again, we’re left without equivalents for these two decks.

As with Merfolk, the place to look for a new Red deck is Block Constructed. While it won’t be as powerful as the Standard version, it will at least point us in the right direction. This list was pulled from the same deck tracker as all the ones I’ve discussed so far, so it’s proven itself on Magic Online.

24 Mountain

4 Ashenmoor Gouger
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
3 Countryside Crusher
4 Demigod of Revenge
3 Intimidator Initiate
3 Mudbrawler Cohort
3 Tattermunge Maniac

4 Flame Javelin
4 Lash Out
4 Tarfire

4 Ember Gale
4 Everlasting Torment
4 Firespout
3 Incendiary Command

This deck focuses on getting the opponent as close to dead as possible, as fast as possible. I am honestly surprised to see Tattermunge Maniac here instead of Figure of Destiny, but in draws that feature a one-drop and a Mudbrawler Cohort, the Maniac hits for an extra point.

The Block deck suggests that the way to adapt to the change is for the Red deck to try to become more aggressive. After all, many of the cards that rotate are ones that gave the deck late-game power, so it makes sense to try to shift towards the early game instead of play a weaker late-game. Even with this shift, you’ve still got things like Demigod of Revenge to make sure that the opponent can’t just stabilize on turn 6.

I think this is the first deck I’ve talked about that will experience a big drop. I’m not sure whether it will manage to stay in the second Tier or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it went away almost completely. Of course, I could easily be wrong, as it doesn’t take much to make a Red deck powerful. One really good two-drop and we might just be right back in it.

BG Rock

4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
2 Llanowar Reborn
4 Llanowar Wastes
3 Mutavault
2 Snow-Covered Forest
5 Snow-Covered Swamp
4 Treetop Village

3 Chameleon Colossus
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
1 Shriekmaw
4 Tarmogoyf

3 Bitterblossom
2 Eyeblight’s Ending
2 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Nameless Inversion
2 Primal Command
4 Profane Command
1 Slaughter Pact
3 Sudden Death
1 Terror
4 Thoughtseize

4 Damnation
4 Extirpate
2 Mind Shatter
1 Shriekmaw
4 Squall Line

If it weren’t for Magic Online, I wouldn’t even know that this was a real deck, let alone one of the top decks in the format. Unfortunately, it’s probably not going to be the biggest deck a month from now.

Tarmogoyf is rotating out. I know that the Goyf hasn’t made the most noise in Standard, but it’s been shining in decks like these for a while now, and without it the deck doesn’t have a cheap monster that’s capable of winning the game on its own. To make matters worse, Llanowar Reborn is going away too, which makes its other early-game creature (Kitchen Finks) that much worse too. The Finks-Reborn synergy was an extremely powerful way to beat any sort of aggro deck that attacked on the ground, and without it or Tarmogoyf, this deck is likely to get run over.

To add insult to injury, most of the Terror effects played here are going away too. Slaughter Pact was always nice to get out from Magus of the Moon or just to stop yourself from dying to Greater Gargadon when you had to tap out for a big spell. Sudden Death was just an all-around solid removal spell due to its Split Second, and we won’t see something like that come out of Shards.

Finally, almost the whole sideboard is rotating out. Losing Damnation to fight Aggro, Extirpate to fight Combo, and Squall Line to fight Faeries just kicks the deck up and down the block. I’m sad to say that this deck is dead, as it looks like a great innovation to come out of Magic Online, but I’m pretty sure that there’s no saving it.


2 Island
4 Mutavault
2 Pendelhaven
4 River of Tears
4 Secluded Glen
3 Snow-Covered Island
2 Sunken Ruins
4 Underground River

4 Mistbind Clique
4 Scion of Oona
4 Spellstutter Sprite
1 Vendilion Clique

4 Ancestral Vision
4 Bitterblossom
4 Cryptic Command
3 Nameless Inversion
4 Rune Snag
2 Slaughter Pact
1 Terror

3 Consign to Dream
3 Damnation
3 Flashfreeze
2 Sower of Temptation
4 Thoughtseize

Good old Faeries. If you paid attention to Block Constructed, you know that Faeries was a long-standing powerhouse for most of the time the format was played in PTQs, so this deck isn’t going anywhere.

Every creature is going to stay legal, though they’re going to lose out on the buff they once got from Pendelhaven. This is unfortunate, in my opinion, because Pendelhaven was one of the best ways to beat an opposing Bitterblossom in the mirror match. Without it, we’re back to the old gripe of “he had Bitterblossom and I didn’t,” and it’s a legitimate one.

The spell that we feel the loss of hardest is Ancestral Vision. It was often said that without the fifth-turn jolt of gas that Standard Faeries got, Block Faeries was a deck that it was much easier to power through. After all, they just couldn’t put up the same defense when they didn’t get a three-card shot of juice in the middle of the game. This was a very good point, and Suspend rotating out is being felt in a lot of places, as now Faeries will have to draw cards for the same mana cost as everyone else. I think it’s more likely that people will just try to kill their opponents faster than try to replace the card that let them cheaply maintain their defenses.

Also rotating is Rune Snag, which doesn’t have a good replacement. In Block, people went with Broken Ambitions because it had the ability to stop a Bitterblossom on the play. It’s possible that something very strange might happen, and the replacement of choice will become the new three-color charm that staples Demystify to an instant-speed Consult the Necrosages, but outside of that I think that the Broken Ambitions will hold over. The other counterspell possibility is Cancel, and since that can’t hit a turn 2 Bitterblossom I think it’s unlikely to be the choice. I am willing to wait and see, though, whether it’s decided that that is truly the most important factor when selecting a card to fill this slot.

The sideboard loses Damnation, which was there to try to fight the aggressive decks like Elves that could really put a lot of pressure on the Faerie deck before it could manage to set up a good enough defense. This will be a loss that matters quite a bit, but the fact that Tarmogoyf is going away alongside Damnation means that the decks it was there to fight will become considerably weaker. Wren’s Run Vanquisher is still there to put a big dent in the Faerie deck, but it can be handled by Nameless Inversion and Terror, so things are not as grim as they may seem.

I again think that we’ll be seeing a lot of Faeries in the year to come.


In general, it doesn’t look to me like Time Spiral and Coldsnap going away is going to be as big of a shake-up as we usually see in Standard. New contenders like BG Rock aren’t going to exist after the rotation, but the Tribal decks from Lorwyn will remain, and Reveillark will continue to be an insanely powerful card for as long as it stays in the same format as powerful 2/x creatures.

States is a bit off on the horizon, but when it comes time to buckle down and prepare for it, I’ll be looking hard at a few of these decks.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM