Positive EV – Future Standard Deck Ideas

SCG 10K Philadelphia... the first major event featuring Zendikar!
Tuesday, September 22nd – In today’s edition of Positive EV, Manuel Bucher brainstorms a selection of Standard deck ideas featuring some of the hit cards from Zendikar. With the powerful Lorwyn spells sauntering off to Extended, the format is set for a cataclysmic shift. Let Manu lead the way!

In today’s edition of Positive EV, I am going to talk about Future Standard, and examine how it might look. As there is only half of the Zendikar spoiler out as I write this, there might still be a lot of changes, but as those cards need to be very strong in order to be able to change a metagame completely, I think the article is reasonable at this point of time — especially as some of you probably want to start the testing forthcoming Standard events. The obvious decks seem to be Jund Aggro and some sort of Baneslayer Angel Control. For the latter, I’ve already spent a lot of thought on how to build it, and this is my current solution.

4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Rampaging Baloth
2 Enlisted Wurm

4 Journey to Nowhere
4 Rampant Growth
4 Harrow
2 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Ajani Vengeant
4 Day of Judgement

4 Arid Mesa
1 Mountain
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Graypelt Refuge
1 Gargoyle Castle
4 Plains
5 Forest
1 Verdant Catacombs

First, I tried to build it as an U/W/r Control deck, but I couldn’t find any good argument to include Blue. Mind Spring and Essence Scatter are the only cards I really want to play, and that’s a bit too thin. The Red splash was included before Journey to Nowhere was released, when I had Lightning Bolt in that spot. For those of you who don’t know the card, here you go.

Journey to Nowhere
When Journey to Nowhere enters the battlefield, exile target creature.
When Journey to Nowhere leaves the battlefield, return the exiled creature to the battlefield under its owner’s control.

Eventually I was adding Green as soon as I discovered the combo between Harrow and Khalni Heart Expedition. But I think that the enchantment is just a lot weaker than Rampant Growth, especially when you don’t draw the Harrow. Also Rampant Growth lets you cast Ajani Vengeant and Garruk Wildspeaker on turn 3, which is important.

Khalni Heart Expedition

Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a quest counter on Khalni Heart Expedition.
Remove three quest counters from Khalni Heart Expedition and sacrifice it: Search your library for up to two basic land cards, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.

The real deal that Green delivers is Rampaging Baloth. This is the card advantage engine of the deck, and it delivers you even more creatures that your opponent immediately has to handle to stay in the game. With an active Knight of the Reliquary on the table, you immediately get two beast tokens as you are able to search for a Fetchland to trigger the Beast ability twice. This is also the reason I run a singleton of the BG Fetchland, which I can play the turn the Baloth comes into play to create enough card advantage so a spot removal wouldn’t be enough to stabilize the game. For those of you who don’t know the Baloth, here you go.

Rampaging Baloth
Creature — Beast
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a 4/4 green Beast creature token onto the battlefield.

I don’t know how good Knight of the Reliquary is in the deck. I try to overload my opponent’s spot removal with both Baneslayer Angel and Rampaging Baloth, but the Knight is the only card delivering a real target for their Lightning Bolts, aside from Planeswalkers. But aside from overloading their spot removal, it brings some synergy with the Baloth and the new “gain 1 life tap-lands. It also lets me play a singleton Gargoyle Castle, to tutor for later on.

The two Enlisted Wurms are controversial cards. I don’t know if they deserve a spot in the deck or if they should be something else, like more Garruk Wildspeakers. The deck has several cards which are almost dead Cascades, like Rampant Growth, which leads to you playing a Cavern Thoctar. If this scenario is too devastating, the card doesn’t belong to the deck.

Next up, Jund.

4 Vampire Lacerator
4 Putrid Leech
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Bloodghast
1 Vampire Hexmage
4 Great Sable Stag
4 Bloodbraid Elf

4 Lightning Bolt
3 Doom Blade
4 Garruk Wildspeaker

4 Savage Lands
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Dragonskull Summit
1 Rootbound Crag
5 Forest
6 Swamp

There are a lot of different ways you can start building a Jund deck. You can choose any two of the three colors as your main color, or just build it as a heavy three-colored deck. In this case I tried to build a GBr version of the deck. Lotus Cobra seems like a huge addition to the deck, as it lets you play a turn 3 Bloodbraid Elf with no Red mana, and it is not a dead card by itself, as a decent two-mana two-power beater. Vampire Hexmage is definitely the 60th card of the deck, and it might be either really good or just bad in the upcoming metagame. If the metagame features a lot of Planeswalkers, it definitely deserves a spot or two in the deck. It is another card you might not know, so here you go.

Vampire Hexmage
Creature — Vampire Shaman
First strike
Sacrifice Vampire Hexmage: Remove all counters from target permanent.

The deck doesn’t run any Goblin Ruinblasters because it is only splashing Red, and I don’t know how often you can support the card, even though it is the nuts with the Lotus Cobra. As I wanted to build up a deck on those two. Lotus Cobra is another card that wasn’t spoiled last week, so you might not have seen it.

Lotus Cobra
Creature — Snake
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Woolly Thoctar
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
3 Spellbreaker Behemoth
4 Acidic Slime
2 Siege-Gang Commander

4 Lightning Bolt
1 Behemoths Sledge
4 Ajani Vengeant

1 Plains
4 Arid Mesa
4 Rootbound Crag
2 Ancient Ziggurat
2 Mountain
9 Forest

The deck is ramping to some land destruction in form of Goblin Ruinblaster, Acidic Slime, and Ajani Vengeant, which all are threats by themselves as well as support for other huge, cheap threats to win you the game while your opponent fights for his mana.

Woolly Thoctar was an addition I made when I was searching for three-drops to curve out the deck. I expect to mulligan often with this kind of deck when you don’t have a mana fixing creature in your opening hand. This makes the Thoctar rather easy to cast, as you’ll always start with some sort of fixing available.

Instead of the land destruction / big guys plan, you could definitely take another approach when building a Hierarch / Cobra deck, playing something like a Five-Color (almost) Aggro Ziggurat deck. This would be similar to what Mitamura played in Honolulu.

The last two decks I’ll discuss today are decks I already mentioned in last week’s article. Both of them are Mono Red; one tries to play as many Ball Lightning effects as possible, while the other takes a more controlling approach.

2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
22 Mountain

4 Goblin Guide
4 Hellspark Elemental
4 Ball Lightning
4 Hell’s Thunder
4 Goblin Ruinblaster

4 Burst Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Punishing Fire
4 Elemental Appeal
3 Earthquake

Punishing Fire is a card that is only good if the “gain-one life” tap lands see play, but if so, there might even be a space for more of these. The deck is missing what Mono Red had an abundance of in the previous season: three-drops. All of the best are gone, and the only one left behind is Ball Lightning (with no good Red three-drops spoiled jet). This is, of course, when counting Goblin Ruinblaster as a four-drop. There is the possibility of splashing Black in the deck, but there are not many beatdown-fixing lands anymore, with both Auntie’s Hovel and Graven Cairns rotating out. As I am writing this, another interesting card for the deck has been spoiled, which makes me think there is definitely room for a Ball Lightning deck in Standard. However, it obviously needs some testing to see if it works.

Zektar Shrine Expedition
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a quest counter on Zektar Shrine Expedition.
Remove three quest counters from Zektar Shrine Expedition and sacrifice it: Put a 7/1 red Elemental creature token with haste and trample onto the battlefield. Sacrifice it at the beginning of the end step.

This card also wants you to play a full amount of fetchlands in your mono red Aggro deck!

The final deck today is the deck I like most so far, and I can’t wait to test it for real. Here you go!

4 Valkut, the Molten Pinnacle
22 Mountain

4 Wall of Fire
3 Siege-Gang Commander

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Burst Lightning
1 Magma Spray
4 Armillary Sphere
3 Pyroclasm
1 Seismic Strike
3 Chandra Nalaar
4 Chandra Ablaze
2 Earthquake
1 Banefire

This deck is trying to get the most out of Valkut, the Molten Pinnacle and is using itself, Chandra Ablaze, and Siege-Gang Commander as card-advantage engines at the same time as win conditions.

Armillary Sphere is here to ensure you that you are able to get the Valkut active, and to ensure you are not missing your mid-game land drops so you are able to drop your more (or cheaper) Chandras and Siege-Gang Commanders. I don’t really like that this list is currently running a total of 7 Planeswalker — Chandras, but I want enough ways to deal with Baneslayer Angel, and aside from the Lorwyn Chandra, Seismic Strike is one of the better solutions.

Wall of Fire should ensure you that you have enough time to fetch lands with Armillary Sphere and later go nasty with your Planeswalkers. It also makes both your spot removal and your mass removal a lot more effective.

Even though the biggest factors of the deck are removal spells, the deck should have a decent amount of equity against control decks, which are unlikely to stop Valkut, the Molten Pinnacle. In addition, you are able to shoot a lot of your removal directly to your opponent’s face, including some of the mass removal spells.

The deck has still some weak spots, which hopefully will disappear with some future spoiled cards. I don’t really like to play the singletons of Magma Spray, Seismic Strike, and Banefire, and I also dislike the seven Planeswalkers with the same sub type.

That’s it for this week. I hope the article gives you some ideas for future Standard and helps progress your testing for upcoming tournaments!

Thanks for reading…

Manu B