Playing Devil’s Advocate: The Face of the New Standard

This is it folks, Ravager is dead, New Standard has begun and it’s time to start breaking down the format. Dave takes an in-depth look at several of the contenders for the new crown plus a cursory glance at the rest of the decks that you’ll see in the coming months. Is Tooth and Nail going to be the best deck in the format, or is there somewhere else you should focus your deckbuilding energies? Check out what Dave has to say today and see if you agree.

Okay, one for four isn’t bad. That’d get me a pretty decent contract for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. But this ain’t baseball.

It looks like R&D wanted to make sure the beast was dead. Not partly dead. Not mostly dead. Completely dead.

And Aether Vial? I guess R&D doesn’t consider the card to be broken…yet.

Emphasis on “yet.”

So what happens to Affinity now?

I mean, we still have Aether Vial. And Ornithopters, Somber Hoverguard, Qumulox, Cranial Plating, Chromatic Sphere, Myr Moonvessel… there’s a deck here somewhere.

Oh, who am I kidding? This is like trying to build the Brooklyn Bridge with Velveeta.

The king is dead!

Long live the king!

But who is the king?

Tooth and Nail

The bulls-eye for Best Deck now moves to Tooth and Nail (you could make cases for other decks, but I’ll stick with the known quantity for now). You gotta love the new Standard, where the king of the heap depends, ostensibly, on a nine-mana sorcery that masquerades as a pseudo-combo deck but is, at heart, a narrow toolbox built along the lines of Maher Oath or Napster.

As for which version of Tooth is best – straight Green, G/R or G/U – that’s going to depend upon the direction the metagame goes. G/R provided E-Bolt and Pyroclasm; even more hate for Affinity and weenie decks in general, while G/U offered counters and card drawing, which, in a moderately slower environment, might be the way to go. I’m a big fan of Sensei’s Divining Top, which is just too slow in pre-banning Standard – and you needed to have that early Green open for Oxidize – but in this new environment, the Top, in combination with the myriad shuffling effects in the deck and blue card drawing like Thirst for Knowledge, is a potent mini-combo. The deck might look something like this:

3 Sensei’s Diving Top

4 Sylvan Scrying

2 Reap and Sow

4 Thirst for Knowledge

4 Mana Leak

2 Condescend

4 Tooth and Nail

4 Sakura Tribe-Elder

4 Eternal Witness

3 Solemn Simulacrum

1 Darksteel Colossus

1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

1 Leonin Abunas

1 Platinum Angel

4 Cloudpost

1 Tendo’s Ice Bridge

4 Island

1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

12 Forest

Season your sideboard with Viridian Shaman, Oxidize, Keiga, the Tide Star, Mephidross Vampire or Triskelion to taste. That’s good eats.

Given that Tooth and Nail runs up to four different mana fixing cards, running a second color won’t be a problem. Now, if Aether Vial proves to be as much of a factor as I (and better minds than mine) believe it will become, then the mono-Green build with Oxidizes becomes more attractive, and a Red deck would provide Shock (much better than Electrostatic Bolt now) and Pyroclasm. But I like this build.

Betrayers doesn’t provide a whole lot of new cards for Tooth, which is mildly surprising, given the large number of neat-o legends. Kira, Great-Glass Spinner could replace Leonin Abunas (serves a similar purpose, and can be hard cast sans Tooth), but seems about it. It’s conceivable that, if you wanted to go the Arcane route, you could add The Unspeakable, replacing Reap and Sow with Kodama’s Reach and Thirst for Knowledge with Peer Through Depths – although I’ve tried PTD in this deck and there’s nothing worse than swinging and missing frequently, whereas T4K will always draw you cards.

Mono-Blue (Draw-Go)

Finally, those Vedalken Shackles are going to be good. Really good. No more main deck Oxidizes (we hope), no more Viridian Shamans. And with Condescend, Mana Leak, Hinder and Shimmering Shoal, Blue has the best suite of counterspells available since the days of Dr. Teeth. None are hard counters, true, but we take what we can get in the post-reapportioning-of-the-color-pie these days.

I originally thought Shimmering Shoal was pretty bad, but in this sort of deck, it’s got merit – you have one, two, three and four drops to feed it early if you’re tapped out, and later in the game, when you have plenty of free mana (theoretically), suddenly this ACC Spell Blast doesn’t seem so bad.

I know Mike Flores has been championing the archetype, and with good reason – this deck has the potential to be as powerful as the original Tempest-era Draw-Go decks. Who needs creatures when a) you can steal your opponent’s creatures or b) use your lands – Blinkmoth Nexus and Stalking Stones – to beat down? The template is virtually the same.

My version, based on the inimitable Mike Flores‘ original concept, looks like this:

3 Reach Through Mists

4 Serum Visions

4 Condescend

4 Mana Leak

4 Hinder

4 Disrupting Shoal

4 Thirst for Knowledge

2 Gifts Ungiven

4 Echoing Truth

1 Keiga, the Tide Star

4 Vedalken Shackles

4 Stalking Stones

18 Island

Card drawing? Check.

More counterspells than you can shake a stick at? Check. (I usually find that fourteen is about my stick-shaking maximum)

Reprint from the last time Draw-Go was dominant? Check.

I think we’re good to go here. [The mana-base seems a bit light (counterspell decks need mana) and probably needs Blinkmoth Nexus. – Knut]

The only thing that’s going to be keeping mono-Blue from dominating is probably the presence of Aether Vial, which I’ll discuss a little later on.

B/G Cloud

You can call it The Rock, you can call it B/G Cloud, I call it a damn close contender for King of the New Metagame. B/G decks are the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of the new Standard, combining the sweet creaminess of Green’s mana acceleration and graveyard recursion with the chunky goodness of Black’s spot removal, discard and Black fat.

There are a lot of different ways you can build this deck, as I’ve mentioned previously, but I prefer the slower swing-for-the-fences feel of “Pet Rock,” as compared to the smaller, more versatile versions.

Cards like Oxidize and Viridian Shaman can now be moved to the sideboard or out of the deck entirely, leaving more room in the main deck for removal and mana fixing (although I wouldn’t get rid of those Oxidizes just yet).

What’s in Betrayers Black for Cloud? Sickening Shoal is an excellent choice, providing free removal while it ramps up to beat-you-to-death mana. Horobi’s Whisper could make the leap from Limited bomb to Standard staple, though it will mean you’ll need to run plenty of Arcane spells to abuse it properly. Fortunately, the deck already runs many Arcane spells, so squeezing it in wouldn’t be hard. It’ll just have to fight for room with Eradicate, Dark Banishing, Sickening Shoal and Rend Flesh/Rend Spirit.

That could be an ugly fight.

It didn’t take me too long to make a few tweaks to my favorite version:

4 Kodama’s Reach

2 Sylvan Scrying

1 Eradicate

4 Sickening Shoal

2 Night’s Whisper

2 Rend Flesh


4 Death Cloud

4 Plow Under

4 Sakura Tribe-Elder

4 Eternal Witness

4 Kokusho, the Evening Star

1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

12 Forest

10 Swamp

Getting the removal right is going to be tricky, as is determining which number, zero to four, is the right number of Cranial Extractions to run in the main. I’ll start with two and alter accordingly (it’s Arcane, don’t forget). It’s a solid foundation, but, as previously mentioned, there are many, many different directions you can take B/G decks.

I consider these to be the Big Three of the New Metagame, but there are several other archetypes that could easily slide into Tier 1.

U/W Control

U/W Control definitely has the potential to move into the upper tier. As with mono-blue, those Vedalken Shackles get much more interesting (and now you don’t need to run Leonin Abunas in order to protect them – although you certainly could if you wanted to).

Plus, there’s Final Judgment, which laughs at silly things like indestructibility and Dragon triggers. Laughs, I say! Laughs!

But the kill mechanism? It’s going to have to be something that’s Wrath-proof. Millstone is still hanging around somewhere, muttering about “how he used to be a contendah,” but it hasn’t seen serious tournament play since I had a hairline. Most likely it will be some combination of the Blue and White Genjus – the Blue Genju offers more power and evasion, but I like the white one for the mid-game defensive value and life gain, especially with the multiple-activations ruling. If you want to go the Spirit/Arcane route, Hikari, Twilight Guardian is attractive as well.

And did I mention the best card in Betrayers, Shining Shoal? I wasn’t sure if I did or not.

All this adds up to potential bad times for my King of the New Metagame. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

With the resurgence of mono-blue and control decks in general, I really think that Boseiju, Who Shelters All is going to be an important card. It’s feasible mono-blue would run it simply as a way of getting rid of an opponent’s copy. G/x decks, like Tooth and B/G Cloud, have the advantage here, since they can both fish it out with Sylvan Scrying or Reap and Sow, but can also recurse it with Eternal Witness. U/W doesn’t have that luxury, so it may end up getting shafted in this department.

And speaking of U/W and no Oxidize, that opens the door for a Standard version of “NO” Stick, but that’s another article.


No, not Bluetooth, but U/G more along the lines of Mirrodin-block’s Crystal Witness, which abused Crystal Shard with the goodness of Eternal Witness and Viridian Shaman, usually winning with an entwined Rude Awakening, backed up with a smattering of countermagic. That deck has evolved into an odd conglomeration with some seemingly counterintuitive kill mechanisms, running both Rude Awakening and Meloku the Clouded Mirror.

I don’t know if the deck is going to be fast enough, but countermagic and mana acceleration is never a bad thing, and the Meloku/Thought Courier engine makes for a lot of fliers and card advantage.

Big Red

Obviously, the Furnace Dragon is out…and no longer needed. There’s still a damn fine deck here. There’s Shock, Pyrite Spellbomb, Magma Jet, Yamabushi’s Flame for the burn contingent, Slith Firewalker and Hearth Kami to fill out the weenie base, ramping up to Arc-Slogger and Kumano, Master Yamabushi. The deck loses Shrapnel Blast with the loss of the arti-lands, but that wasn’t a linchpin of the deck by any means.

Blazing Shoal, which may be the most overrated card in Betrayers, would actually be a pretty decent fit here, since you’d most likely have something pricey to feed it. Not to mention excellent hosers against both Blue and White decks.

Remember, when in doubt, burn ’em out.

White Weenie

Without Aether Vial, this deck is another feeble attempt to revitalize a dead archetype.

With Aether Vial… maybe not so dead.

Aether Vial will let you power out twice the weenie swarm in short order and get around countermagic, plus, there’s the new Winter Orb, Hokori, Dust Drinker. Hokori fills a long lost and much needed niche for white weenie, the four-mana mess-with-your-lands spell. Mana hungry decks like – like my aforementioned Big Three – are not going to be happy to see him. Unfortunately for mono-Blue, bounce is only a temporary answer at best, but B/G has plenty of answers – permanent answers – for old Dusty here.

And did I mention Shining Shoal?

Perhaps we shouldn’t take all those Oxidizes out quite yet.

Other Decks

I’ve only touched on what I think is going to emerge with these bannings, as I’m certain there will be entirely new or previously unplayable archetypes that will now start popping up. Beacon Green decks, either Stompy-esque beatdown specials or U/G combo-ish types like Bennie Smith Blasting Station special, are worth considering. Mono-Black aggro, perhaps with Aether Vial for Ravenous Rats, Nekrataal and ramping up to Greater Harvester, combined with oodles of Black discard and removal spells, could also be a contender. And I’m sure there’ll be a few decks that make the translation from Kamigawa Block Constructed to Standard.

What we have, for the first time in almost a year, is a vibrant, diverse Standard metagame, and a fun road to Regionals. Ladies and gentlemen, let the deck building begin.