Positive EV – Standard Bant

SCG 10k St. Louis Offers First Chances to Qualify for the 2010 StarCityGames.com Invitational!
Wednesday, December 9th – At Worlds, Manuel Bucher rocked into the Top 8 on the back of some excellent Constructed choices. Today, he deconstructs his Standard GWu deck, in time for this weekend’s SCG 10K St. Louis! He shares the latest build of his deck, plus sideboarding plans against the format’s big dogs.

As promised, today I will talk about the deck I played in the Standard portion of Worlds. I know the timing with States was a little awkward, but on the other hand we have the StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard Open in St. Louis this weekend! Also, the decklist has improved a lot since last week, thanks to the addition of Battlegrace Angel, in perfect time to take down the big prize at the SCG Open.

Early in development, the deck ran Lotus Cobra and Conqueror’s Pledge. Lotus Cobra was pretty disappointing . I lost tons of games because it wasn’t able to produce mana consistently, and with the new addition of Honor of the Pure, Cobra had to make way for the more consistent Steward of Valeron. Recently, Cedric Phillips wrote: “Another benefit of Lotus Cobra that often goes unnoticed is that it will consistently draw a removal spell.” This is a point on which Cedric and I disagree. It will often draw a removal spell such as Lightning Bolt or Burst Lightning, which Steward of Valeron does just as well. This might be more necessary when you run Master of the Wild Hunt, and therefore Lotus Cobra might be the right choice for his list, but in mine, where Lightning Bolt has far fewer targets thanks to Honor of the Pure, this is much less necessary.

Conqueror’s Pledge is a card that really disappointed me. As a five-mana card it must have a big impact in the game, and the impact of Pledge is just not big enough. Against Boros you often have to chump block with several of the tokens, which is not what you want to do with the card that is supposed to win you the game. But more importantly is the Jund matchup. While it is fine in the first game, as they only have Maelstrom Pulse as a solution, it gets horrible in post-board games. Cards like Pyroclasm or Jund Charm, that are otherwise only mediocre against you, become fantastic. They not only wreck your manabase, but also your late-game threats.

This is the list I would run in the SCG $5K Standard Open on Saturday:

Rhox War Monk
I think it is necessary to splash for the Rhino, just so your matchup against Boros is good enough. If you don’t want to splash Blue, I think it’s necessary to play some Grizzled Leotaus main deck, if you expect the Red/White aggro deck to be a big part of your metagame. I prefer the splash for the Monk, as the card has better applications in other matchups, and with the help of Honor of the Pure or Ajani Goldmane it can be decent against Jund as well.

Battlegrace Angel
With the main deck inclusion of Brave the Elements, and the Naya deck winning Worlds, I think it is okay to lose some percentage against Jund by excluding Captain of the Watch for the Baneslayer proxy. Battlegrace Angel should be able to overload your game-winning threats against Naya, especially with the two additional copies in the sideboard.

Brave the Elements
As I sideboarded this card in almost every matchup, it definitely deserves a spot in the main deck. We discovered the card the day before the tournament, when we cut Mark of Asylum in favor of it. It not only fights Windstorm, as it’s also is able to attack through Eldazri Monument. The applications of Brave the Elements in the other matchups are absolutely fantastic.

Qasali Pridemage
Mainly here because of the Turbo Fog matchup. There is no deck played enough to make the Luminarch Ascensions in the sideboard reasonable. And with Turbo Fog being played a fair amount on Magic Online, I would like to pick up some percentage against the deck, to which you are otherwise almost drawing dead.

Path to Exile
The card is not necessary in the non-Baneslayer-Angel matchups. There are not a lot of threats you need to remove. Also, with the addition of Brave the Elements, you can protect your Baneslayer Angels, which are usually bigger than your opponent’s copies.

Versus Jund
This matchup is all about them having enough answers for your threats. As soon as they run out of answers, you are very likely to win; if they never do, you lose.

+1 Gargoyle Caste, +1 Borderland Ranger, +1 Captain of the Watch
-1 Battlegrace Angel, -2 Ajani Goldmane

Ajani Goldmane is absolutely horrible against Jund, and you should play it as the last spell in game 1 if you draw it. Blightning completely makes the card a blank, and your opponent can often deal with two or even three threats if you play the Planeswalker before you play all your guys. If your opponent brings in Jund Charm or Pyroclasm, you might want to cut Birds of Paradise in favour of the Baneslayer Proxy. If they’re playing a version with Master of the Wild Hunt, you want to bring in the extra Path to Exiles.

Versus Boros
Boros might be the most powerful deck in the format, and during testing this was sometimes very frustrating. I had draws including turn 2 Rhox War Monk and turn 3 Baneslayer Angel where I could never untap for a fourth turn. On the draw, assuming you don’t have a turn 1 mana producer, it is often right to Path to Exile their turn 1 critter in order to avoid taking too much damage. This doesn’t count for Elite Vanguard, unless he is pumping it up.

+4 Grizzled Leotau, +1 Path to Exile
-3 Brave the Elements, -1 Borderland Ranger, -1 Battlegrace Angel

If you know they have Mark of Mutiny in the sideboard, you should keep a pair of Brave the Elements. Battlegrace Angel is not good enough in the matchup, as you are very unlikely to be able to block a guy on the turn you play the card, as both Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede are potentially bigger. You are also not very likely to attack the turn it enters the battlefield, unless you have an active Rhox War Monk.

Eldazri Green
They have a lot of trouble dealing with the amount of Angels you are dropping in the early turns. With the main deck inclusion of Brave the Elements, you are now able to win against an active Eldazri Monument as well. Like Boros, you are very unlikely to win if they have the nut draw, but otherwise you should be in pretty good shape.

+2 Battlegrace Angel, +2 Path to Exile, +1 World Queller, +2 Qasali Pridemage, +1 Gargoyle Castle
-1 Borderland Ranger, -2 Honor of the Pure, -4Rhox War Monk, -1 Island

Rhox War Monk gets blocked far too easily, while Battlegrace Angel is yet another Angel you are able to drop early. Honor of the Pure just does not have any impact, as the size of your guys doesn’t really matter. The Vigilance effect gained by Ajani Goldmane is much better than the card’s pumping ability.

This matchup is all about having Baneslayer Angel. Rhox War Monk does a really good job in fighting Wild Nacatl, Ranger of Eos, and Bloodbraid Elf in the first game, but as you can expect your opponent to sideboard out the Nacatls, it doesn’t do enough in the post-board games. Brave the Elements is key again, as they are virtually more Angels.

+2 Battlegrace Angel, +2 Path to Exile, +1 Gargoyle Castle
-4 Rhox War Monk, -1 Island

Turbo Fog
I don’t know if it’s reasonable to actually run cards in the sideboard addressing this matchup, as it is close to unwinnable in the pre-board games. Even though your opponent sometimes has Baneslayer Angel in the sideboard, I wouldn’t keep Path to Exile, as their main deck is usually much too good to have them board in the Angels.

+3 Qasali Pridemage, +1 World Queller, +1 Gargoyle Castle
-3 Brave the Elements, -2 Path to Exile

This is another very bad matchup, almost like Turbo Fog. I tried Windstorm and Great Sable Stags in the sideboard, just to fight this matchup, and it still was not good enough. With main deck Brave the Elements you might steal game 1 from time to time, but the post-board games are very similar to the pre-board ones, except that your opponent probably has even more removal. As soon as he draws Malakir Bloodwitch, you lose. If you expect a lot of Vampires in your metagame, you should either not run the deck, or try a combination of Windstorms and Mind Controls in the sideboard.

+2 Path to Exile, +1 Gargoyle Castle
-1 Battlegrace Angel, -2 Honor of the Pure

Again, the size of your guys doesn’t really matter. Therefore, Honor of the Pure is more a blank than an active card. Path to Exile is here to fight the Vampire Nocturnus, which might steal a game if you can wreck them in combat.

In the mirror you should have the advantage, especially in the post-board games, as you are running more Angels than your opponent. Rhox War Monk once again does not have big enough impact on the game, as all the creatures played are bigger than the Rhino. This is yet another matchup where it is all about the Angels.

+2 Path to Exile, +2 Battlegrace Angel, +1 Gargoyle Castle
-4 Rhox War Monk, -1 Island

I think the deck is a good choice in any non-Vampires, non-Turbo Fog metagame. With the help of Battlegrace Angel to fight against Naya, and the good matchups against Boros and Eldazri Green, the deck is a great alternative for Jund, as it has a matchup close to a coin flip against the Green/Black/Red menace.

Thanks for reading. Good luck in St. Louis!

Manu B