I was disappointed this weekend when I looked over the results from the SCG Standard Open in Providence. I wanted to see what sweet new decks people would play with AVR, and most decks had zero or one new card and there were no new archetypes. I understand that the set had just come out and card availability might have been an issue, but I was still at least hoping to see someone do well with something new.
Clearly, people haven’t had time to brew new decks. I hope that people who are preparing for this week (like the tragic SCG Open Series in my hometown, Madison, WI, that I won’t be able to attend due to Pro Tour Avacyn Restored) understand that Providence should not be taken to in any way indicate that new cards aren’t playable. People haven’t had much time with it yet, but AVR is still a set that offers a lot of powerful tools. Things will change.
I don’t know what the best deck is now, but I’d like to spend some time offering ideas to get some brews going.
Consider the following creatures:
What do those creatures have in common?
They all do three extra damage when Thatcher Revolt is cast. They also happen to work together and pump each other. Champion of Lambholt with battle cry stops almost everything from blocking. This means that, if your deck contains these creatures, Thatcher Revolt is a three-mana Overrun that does three extra damage.
That’s not a decklist, but if you just put "4" in front of most of those, it becomes most of a decklist. Said deck might have some issues with Gut Shot getting Snapcastered, but unmolested the damage output on such a deck is absurd.
If I were to try to turn it into a deck, I think it would look like:
- 2 Hero of Bladehold
- 4 Accorder Paladin
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Hamlet Captain
- 4 Mayor of Avabruck
- 3 Champion of Lambholt
I’m not certain about Mental Misstep, but I think you’re trying to use all your mana every turn and kill them before you run out of cards, so a free spell that stops them from buying time with a Gut Shot, Vapor Snag, or Pillar of Flame seems potentially huge. And against other creature decks, there’s nothing wrong with slowing them down by hitting their first guy.
The mana is interesting to figure out. The hardest part is Thatcher Revolt, which is powerful enough to be worth working for but difficult because it’s off color and can’t be cast off Cavern of Souls (which does excellent work other than that). Aside from that, Champion of Lambholt and Gather the Townsfolk are the hardest spells to cast, but I think this mana does what it has to do. It could be off a little though.
Borderland Ranger makes the mana dramatically better in any Pod deck and gives non-white Pod decks a reasonable three-mana creature to Pod through, which they didn’t really have before.
Zealous Conscripts is just amazing. Often, you can just take their creature and kill them. This is especially important against ramp or reanimator strategies. Other times, you can Pod into him and "steal" your own Birthing Pod, which lets you Pod straight up from four to six. Additionally, if you have two Birthing Pods, or if you just draw and cast him, you can take their creature and Pod it away. If you draw Birthing Pod and Restoration Angel, you can pod for Zealous Conscripts and then Restoration Angel him to take two creatures, or, if that won’t kill them, you can take one creature and then Restoration Angel it to keep it forever.
Restoration Angel isn’t a great creature to Pod through for value, but it is awesome to just cast in a deck where most of your creatures do things when they come into play. It’s also an awesome blocker that ambushes Delver of Secrets at instant speed, so it’s just a nice card to have access to. Plus, a relevant instant is a nice thing for a deck to have.
Sigarda, Host of Herons is another interesting card, just because some decks really won’t be able to deal with her. There will be times when you can just find her and win rather than going up the chain.
A list might look something like:
- 2 Llanowar Elves
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Archon of Justice
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 2 Borderland Ranger
- 1 Inferno Titan
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 Hero of Bladehold
- 1 Viridian Emissary
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 2 Blade Splicer
- 1 Fiend Hunter
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 1 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight is another option. It’s kind of like a bigger Elesh Norn, but its effect leaves entirely if it gets killed. Elesh Norn has usually already killed some of their creatures even if they can kill it, so I think the more consistent Elesh Norn is the better choice.
If for some reason Elesh Norn isn’t big enough, you could sideboard Griselbrand and just hope not to draw it, but I’m generally not that concerned about how to win once I can Pod into Elesh Norn.
If you want something more fun, you could try to go heavier blue for Phantasmal Image and pick up Deadeye Navigator as a six that lets you do a lot of great things. Fiend Hunter can permanently remove things by Blinking with exile on the stack, Blade Splicer makes a lot of 3/3s, and Zealous Conscripts probably just wins the game by taking all their creatures. Acidic Slime can lock them out, Geist-Honored Monk, Stonehorn Dignitary… I think you get the idea.
On a very different note, I think Mono Red actually gets quite a bit more respectable. Not because of Vexing Devil, who I still think is terrible, but rather because of Pillar of Flame, which is just an excellent card, and, more importantly, Stonewright. Stonewright is insane. I’m not going to pretend to know how to build a red deck, but I know that if you give Chandra’s Phoenix Firebreathing, you’ll often just get to spend all of your mana damaging them.
Red has a lot of reasonable one-mana plays right now: Grim Lavamancer, Spikeshot Elder, Goblin Arsonist, Reckless Waif, etc., but I think the only one that’s better than Stonewright is Stromkirk Noble.
Red also gets several different excellent tools against control. Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded is a tough nut to crack, but he could actually be an excellent sideboard card against control. I’m not entirely sure how U/B control deals with him outside of Ratchet Bomb. He just sits in play powering up, and eventually they can’t cast Grave Titan or any other finisher because he just kills them. Once he gets big enough, he can just start throwing Sudden Impacts at them. It’s not like they can really empty their hand.
Zealous Conscripts joins the huge number of other threaten effects that red can sideboard against Titans. I think I like it, because it’s a body by itself but also has applications in other places. If control tries to lock you out with Gideon, stealing him and attacking is unbelievable, for example.
I never expect Mono Red to be a good deck, but you never know. Maybe some of these cards, and others like Lightning Mauler, will breathe new life into the archetype.
Another fun option to explore is Wild Defiance Poison.
There was a time when R&D seemed convinced that Mono-Green Poison was a real deck in Standard, and maybe it could finally have a chance now.
Wild Defiance basically turns off red removal, which is huge, and it also makes your pump spells all insane. You can even play Gut Shot and it doubles as a pump spell with Wild Defiance in play. Artful Dodge is incredible with Wild Defiance.
Consider something like:
Mental Misstep is another powerful card here, but I think I’d only want it in the sideboard. It’s too important to just kill people in the main.
It’s hard to pioneer entirely new decks and to tune them in a short period of time, so I think people will mostly succeed with established decks and new archetypes will emerge slowly. It’ll be particularly interesting to see if anyone has time to build something exciting for Grand Prix Minneapolis the weekend after SCG Open Series: Madison.
Even without trying to build radical new decks which are, admittedly, likely to fail, there’s a lot of room for new cards in existing decks.
Terminus is incredible. It’s two more mana than Day of Judgment, but in a lot of places, you get two more mana worth of value by actually getting rid of undying creatures and Thrun, the Last Troll. Miracle comes up more frequently than you think, and games that you steal by super Wrathing on turn 3 certainly increase your overall win percentage, which is very welcome.
The best advice I can give to someone preparing for Standard tournaments right now is to try every new card that might be good in your deck. Why not put a copy of Peel from Reality in your Delver deck for a few games? Can it really be that bad? Doesn’t bouncing your Snapcaster and their whatever sound awesome? What about doing it again the next turn with the same Peel?
What about Fettergeist? Stitched Drake was once a popular card, and its drawback was not insignificant. Ruling the skies for three mana doesn’t seem unreasonable if you’re not playing an especially token heavy build.
Another awesome card: Wolfir Silverheart, though the Avenger isn’t too shabby either. Still, a ~12/8 for five with partial haste is pretty unprecedented. Why not try it out? If your curve can support it, I’m pretty sure it will impress. At the very least, it almost has to be an upgrade over increasing Savagery in the G/R sideboard.
I’m looking forward to hearing all about the SCG Standard Open in Madison when I get home from Barcelona, and I’m hoping that it involves a lot of stories about awesome new cards. So try some stuff out, as a favor to me, and let me read some sweet decklists. Is that too much to ask?
Thanks for reading,
@samuelhblack on Twitter