SCG Daily – Thoughts on Team Standard

For the first in his Daily Series, Zac shares his current Team Standard decklist. It’s proved somewhat successful for him… can it do the same for you?

Another day, another daily. Ah, I love these things…

So, like, I qualified for another Pro Tour. And stuff. Two, actually. How lucky.

No, but really. Richard Feldman called me a slacker, a child-killer, an embezzler, a meanie-face, and other horrible things for not writing a tournament report about my win in the St. Louis PTQ — Prague. Fortunately he’s been off my case recently, since shopping for prime suspension bridge/skyscraper real-estate from which to leap off and end one’s Team Constructed misery apparently takes a lot of time. The spirit was there nevertheless.

The problem is that said report would basically consist of the sentence, “Thx MattSchmaltz!” since he hooked me up with the sickest Top 8 draft ever. Sixth-pick Trophy Hunter much? I may or may not have been the only Green drafter at the table. It wasn’t even close. There were a few critical plays made over the course of the day, which I actually intend to talk about later in the week, but the gist of the story is that PT MS felt that I wanted the slot more than he did, and thus started shipping Selesnya Evangels like freshly-baked Krispy Kreme donuts. Well, not that Schmaltz would ever pass up a donut – especially if someone else paid for it – but you know what I mean.

“Thx MattSchmaltz!” would also cover for my tournament report this past weekend, only this time MS actually deigned to team with a Mr Timothy Chief Galbiati and myself. It’s Little Rock, so obv we had to take the slot. It’s not that we’re particularly good, it’s just that Zac Hill and Arkansas PTQs go hand in hand. It’s a fundamental law of the universe, up there with “objects in motion remain in motion unless acted on by another force” and “if it’s a side-draft, Gerry Thompson will cast the card Storm Herd and generate at least twenty Pegasus tokens.” Plus, literally every other player from Memphis was qualified for PT: Charleston on rating, and if Alex Kim and Dale DeWood attended a Pro Tour while I was sitting at home, I would actually disembowel myself atop the Lincoln Memorial. Just kidding, I love you guys. Dale, you know why.

Ahem. So yeah. I guess if I’m writing a strategy article, I have to actually offer some advice somewhere. Therefore, the moral:

If you want to qualify for the Pro Tour, barn the right people.

Easy, right?

No, but I actually do want to talk about the deck I played at the PTQ very briefly – at least until I get up to 1500 or so words so I can e-mail this thing to Craig without getting killed. [I don’t actually kill anybody who’s short on words. I find maiming is usually sufficient. — Craig.] I’ll then talk tomorrow about the Greater Good deck I designed based off Yokoi and Go Anan’s PT: Honolulu list that T-Galbs played in our B-seat. I’d yak about Schmaltz’s Promise of Bunrei deck, but unfortunately I actually know nothing about it. I am the worst at all the B/W aggro strategies.

Before I get to the list, I also want to publicly thank Mark Henderson for convincing his team to concede to us in Round 5 after time was called. We were 2-1-1 with a guaranteed Top 8 if we won our next match, while they were 2-2. I had my opponent dead on the board, with a Keiga and Genju on the table and him at five life, on the fifth of extra turns. They needed the rating points, but decided to be Good Men and give us the match. Thanks, y’all. We appreciate it.

Alright, so here is the sickness that I played:

“OMG! That threat base is awful! Choose one, Jeeeeezus, if you play one of each kind you just draw them at random! One has to be better than the others!!!!111”

Die, please. That is the first thing everyone says about the deck, and then I win because I’m actually able to cast two giant legends at once and gain all kinds of advantage when all you’re able to do is re-cast the Burning-Tree Shaman I Repealed back to your hand and Remanded the following turn. You are playing four different legends because:

1) People are stupid and Cranial Extraction things like Meloku and Keiga when they should be naming Hinder.
2) You really like to have more than one out at a time because once you establish some semblance of control you want to win as quickly as possible. Other times, you just need the blockers.

Minamo, School at Water’s Edge, by the way, is the sickest card. I don’t need a qualifier on the end of that sentence because the statement is true in all given circumstances. The sickness you can do with it actually makes you ill. You pity your opponent, because all you can think about is how desperately unfair it is to be doing whatever you just did.

“28 cards left? Die, tks.”


The thing about this deck: don’t play it if you don’t know how it works, because you won’t finish games. Starting around turn 5 or so you ought to have a clear picture in your mind of how the game is going to end. Then, you have to figure out what sequence of actions you’re going to have to take to ensure the game ends in that way. If you play everything on a turn-by-turn basis, this deck seems like the worst. If you Repeal things just to gain tempo and draw cards without thinking about the fact that, for example, you’re going to have to hold it so that you can allow a Promise of Bunrei to resolve and still be able to counter their real threat, you will earn many an L over the course of your playtest sessions.

The other thing is that you’re not going to have many games that you just coast through as if sunbathing. Matt said that literally every single time he looked over at my game, with the exception of the one where my opponent mulliganed to four, it looked like I was going to lose. After we started out 0-1-1, my teammates’ first thought was “wow, we’re going to have to find a better configuration.” The deck looks like a pile because you’re always fighting to tread water. They get a threat on the table, and then you start countering spells one-for-one, until you’re down to something like five life, because you haven’t had the mana to deal with that threat. But then you win, because you Compulsive Research on your turn, take the hit from their guy, neutralize whatever they’re going to do that turn, and Repeal their dude at the end step. Now the game is even except you’re up three or four cards. They may not know they’ve lost yet, but they definitely have.

Something else I like about this deck is that, to cak a Flores, it has incredibly high velocity. You may only be up three or four cards on your opponent in the mid-game, but you’ve looked at around thirty Magical Cards. So it’s not like there is a significant portion of spell-types that you haven’t had a chance to look at with your eyes. You’ve seen countermagic, you’ve seen bounce, you’ve seen removal, and you’ve seen win conditions. It’s nice because you get to play the same game basically every round. It’s not like “Dude, where’s my Char?” You rarely lose because you didn’t see your high-end, or your burn, or your Mortifies, or whatever.

Finally, a word on playing against this deck: don’t get scared away whenever you see a win condition. I know they’re dragons and they’re big and scary, but if you Castigate someone and there’s a five-plus mana spell in their hand, you don’t have to get it the hell out right away. It got to the point where if I was holding Ryusei, I wouldn’t even counter a Castigate, because I knew my opponent would make the poor choice. How this deck kills you actually doesn’t matter. I can Jushi you to death if I please. Get those counterspells out, because every man you deploy to the board that doesn’t get dealt with by Electrolyze, Pyroclasm, or Threads is another man that they have to Time Walk themselves to bounce away.

“But they can just cast a Dragon and block!” Well, sorta. But if you’re not a donkey, you’ve been holding your burn, or your Ghost Council, or your Mortify, or whatever, for exactly such a situation. You have got to have a plan. This is a skill-intensive deck, and you’ll lose if you make a poor decision, but I would wholeheartedly recommend this list right here as a part of anyone’s configuration.

Stay tuned for tomorrow where I talk about the “best deck in Standard*.”

* in the words of Tim Galbiati.