Setting the Stage for Standard – The Juicy Fruit Primer

Last time we saw Ben Snyder, he was blowing up Twiddle Desire as part of a 40-page manifesto on the deck and how fast it goldfishes. Well he’s back, folks, and this time he’s tackling Standard combo instead. Part in-depth deck primer on an Intruder Alarm combo deck and part format overview for what Standard will look like for months to come, this article is all quality and will be referenced many many times in the months leading up to Regionals.

For Standard, it’s a new day and almost a new format. While I still believe that people are overestimating the effects of Affinity’s hasty retreat to the “old” formats, it is certainly true that without the shadow of the silver menace, there are plenty of new decks to consider.

As for me, I’m sticking with the deck I ran at Champs. It is a deck that lost only two matches (and one, more or less, concession) in that tournament. Oh, is it important that those losses happened to come to Affinity? Probably.

Of course, it’s been a long time since that tournament, and the deck has evolved considerably. I’ve been playtesting this deck in Standard for months, with gauntlets that included, and were without, the Artifact Army, and it’s time to present my results.

If you haven’t read any of my articles before (and its possible you haven’t, since its been almost a year since I’ve written anything) this follows roughly the same format as my other deck primers.

Juicy Fruit

4 Intruder Alarm

4 Lifespark Spellbomb

2 Natural Affinity

4 Sylvan Scrying

3 Fabricate

1 All Sun’s Dawn

1 Revive

3 Gift’s Ungiven

4 Aether Vial

2 Goblin Cannon

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Eternal Witness

1 Kumano, Master Yamabushi

2 Dosan, the Falling Leaf

2 Chrome Mox

4 Forbidden Orchard

4 City of Brass

1 Blinkmoth Nexus

1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge

4 Island

5 Forest

There you go. 60 cards. I know, no sideboard. Not yet anyway; we’ll get into that. The core of the deck is the combo, but this version has diversified from what I played at Champs in order to give you more options if something goes wrong (like a Cranial Extraction for Intruder Alarm on turn 3, before you’ve dropped it).

If you aren’t aware of this combo (which has been present in the metagame and the minds of players for far longer than the folks who were amazed by Ped Bun’s Extended “creation” would give it credit for) it revolves around using an animation spell to turn Forbidden Orchard into a creature with an Intruder Alarm in play. From then on, every time you tap the Orchard for mana, it untaps itself, netting you infinite mana. You can use that mana on a big Goblin Cannon, or millions of Kumano activations. You can also use the Blinkmoth Nexus to pump itself up infinitely and swing for the flying win (spirit tokens don’t fly, sorry…)

The peculiarities unique to my build:

Aether Vial and Dosan the Falling Leaf

These six cards are present only because MUC is an auto-loss otherwise. I tried making the deck without them, but to no avail. Sadly, they don’t help much in other match-ups, save for some minor splash damage turning instant speed removal into sorcery speed removal, but I’m fairly certain that MUC will be 20% of the metagame at least, and you cannot simply auto-lose to that deck. Note that Aether Vial does make it possible to combo off during your opponent’s turn, which could be relevant in some situations.

And, well, that’s it, actually. The rest is fairly standard. It’s strange saying that, because aside from me and some guy from Iowa, this deck was extremely hard to find at Champs, but somehow builds of this have filtered through the Internet, any way.

On with the article:

The Turn Count

A favorite theoretical concept of mine is the Fundamental Turn. Since I try and play combo whenever possible (except when I am stupid and try to play Trinity Green, even though I can’t) I latched on to non-interactive theories of Magic. Some of Flores’ most recent work has been exciting, but generally I had to go about developing concepts on my on. While at work on Twiddle Desire during that particular Extended season, I started tracking the turns that each combo deck in the field won on.

I’ve continued to do that, and I’ve played or goldfished several thousand games with this deck since I started testing for Champs. Of course, some of those builds are extremely different than this one, so here are the results I got based on the current build.

Turn one: 0 out of 2000, or 0%

Turn two: 3 out of 2000, or 0.15%

Turn three: 270 out of 2000, or 13%

Turn four: 600 out of 2000, or 30%

Turn five: 709 out of 2000, or 35%

Turn six or more: 418 out of 2000, or 21%

You can see why Affinity was such a problem. I expect to win with Juicy Fruit on turns 4 or 5. Affinity gold-fished turn 4. As Juicy Fruit was non-interactive and didn’t do anything to stop Affinity, I only won 1/3 of matches where I had a 50% chance of going first.

A couple of notes about the data: the turn 2 results are extremely anomalous. You can only win on turn 2 given a specific set of 8 or 9 cards, where you only see 9 cards at most. I can’t actually do all of the fancy tabulation, but my percent-minded poker mentality figures that the percentage rounds off to roughly 0.0012%.

On the flip side of everything, I think the turn 3 win percentage should be higher. It only requires six cards out of the nine or ten you see, and three of the cards are interchangeable with at least four others in your deck.

But moving on…

The Sideboard

One of the hardest things for me to do is post a sideboard online. I can’t help but think that the sideboard is notoriously malleable, and will shift at least a dozen more times by Regionals. At the same time, I know that testing results are only really valid if they include sideboarded games, which necessitates a concrete sideboard throughout testing. With that in mind, here is what I have been working with, but I’ll note the changes to it after the Affinity bannings. (Keep in mind this is since January, and I had to change when Betrayers was released)


3 Tel-Jilad Justice

3 Condescend

3 Dosan, the Falling Leaf

4 Oxidize

2 Naturalize


3 Tel-Jilad Justice

3 Disrupting Shoals

1 Gifts Ungiven

3 Dosan, the Falling Leaf

4 Oxidize

1 Quash


4 Disrupting Shoal

4 Quash

1 Dosan, the Falling Leaf

1 Gifts Ungiven

1 Cranial Extraction

4 Naturalize

Obviously, the most current incarnation of the sideboard is the one I’ll talk the most about. It contains answers to the two decks you worry most about post-banning. MUC and DC Green or Mono-Black. Specifically, it contains answers to counterspells and Cranial Extraction. I’ll go over the sideboard plans when I discuss each matchup, but the general explanation is pretty simple.

Disrupting Shoal

Somehow, this card is still a sleeper, and I do not understand it at all. What more do you people want? Seriously. You can hard cast it, by the way. Oh, and it doesn’t have to cost anything. Exactly. So why aren’t you playing it? Well, I suppose if you aren’t running Blue this doesn’t do much. In Juicy Fruit you can play this for free for 2 (five targets), 3 (four cards, but usually only three assuming you want to win), or, most frequently, 4 (eight cards). After sideboard, against Black, you’ll have 4 of these, and eight spells that cost four to counter Cranial Extraction. Testing – and logic for that matter – have shown that you need to cast things on turn 2 and 3. Furthermore, you cannot allow Cranial Extraction to resolve if you haven’t cast Intruder Alarm. Put two and two together and you arrive at the conclusion I did at Champs: I wish counterspells were free. Now they are. Rejoice.


Of the counterspells that cost four, this is the most useful right now. You can pitch it to the Shoal, or use it to rid an opposing deck of four bad-ass spells (like Sowing Salt, Cranial Extraction, or Naturalize or something). I’d go into more detail, but I don’t really like the counterspells, yet I find I have to play them. It’s a sad world.

Dosan, the Falling Leaf

I’ve said before that MUC can counter all your stuff all day long and draw more cards while doing it. This provides an answer. If you resolve your turn 1 Aether Vial, you are probably going to win a post-board game. If not, it gets tricky, and we’ll talk about that later. Since we don’t have Xantid Swarm, this is the next best thing, and three seems to be the right number to have in the deck at any one time.

Gifts Ungiven

It is functional, as it helps us find our combo, and it doubles as a card to pitch to counter Cranial Extraction, which is why we bring it in. As you’ll see, the deck gets very strange after board against black, and the Gifts are invaluable.

Cranial Extraction

This has been a variety of different things, including a win condition like Fireball or Vulshok Sorcerer. For now, it is Cranial Extraction only because the threat of this card is so big against many decks, including Tooth, which is a hard matchup for us sometimes.


This is the multi-purpose, the Swiss Army Knife, slot. Annoying enchantments, and bothersome artifacts are no longer a problem. As it gets closer to Regionals, we’ll be able to do more to determine what this is going to be, but for now, Naturalize is the best multi-purpose answer.

There you have it. The sideboard so far. As we move into the match-ups, these are the cards and numbers of that we are working with. Keep a few things in mind as we go: believe it or not, this list has been tuned and tweaked into almost tiny fragments of a greater shell. Every card has proven itself in some way or another and has an important function in the build. That being said, I am always the first to admit that my builds never seem to have quite the polish of a Pro construction (look at the roughness of my Elvish Succession combo deck compared to the list YMG developed a few months later). If you feel that you can make it better, by all means, do. I’m not sharing this for it to disappear into a vacuum of cyber-space. Still, please remember that I have done an inordinate amount of work since Champs on this deck, and refrain from mindlessly trashing it. It has top 8’d several large tournaments, and even made a splash on the Extended metagame.

All asides aside, on to the matchups.

The Aggro: Can you Kill me before Turn 4?

There are aggro decks in the new format, but as of right now, they are still few and far between. The four contenders that I’ve included in my gauntlet are White Weenie, R/G Spiritcraft, Sligh, and Beacon Green. Are there other aggro creature decks? Yes, probably. But fortunately, for right now, these seem to be the best and fastest, which is fantastic for us. Of the four, only Sligh appears to goldfish before turn 5, and even that is arguable. For us, that means that only the Red deck is a real problem for our deck. Unfortunately, this version of Juicy Fruit lacks the Sakura-Tribe Elders to really slow down the aggressive draws. Nevertheless, the results have been mostly positive.

White Weenie: Pre-board, 23 wins, 17 losses. Post-board, 6 wins, 4 losses.

You have every advantage here, assuming they are running a more traditional build of White Weenie. For the record, this is the list I used:

20 Plains

Eiganjo Castle

Lantern Kami

3 Suntail Hawk

Isamaru, Hound of Konda

Savannah Lions

Kami of Ancient Law

Samurai of the Pale Curtain

2 Hokori, Dust Drinker

3 Eight-and-a-Half-Tails

Otherworldly Journey

3 Umezawa’s Jitte

Shining Shoal

Glorious Anthem



Ivory Mask

Wrath of God

Altar’s Light

Ghostly Prison

You can obviously argue against this build in favor of several others. Needless to say, this takes the core of the successful White Weenie builds since last year’s Champs and adds the Betrayer’s cards.

For our purposes, this is what I tested against, and it is a very good version. The games are close because of very specific cards, which, I wish, if only it were possible to avoid. Kami of the Ancient Law, Ivory Mask, and Altar’s Light are all very good cards against our deck. The Shoal doesn’t do much, but the Journey and the Jitte are frustrating. Since I imagine all of those cards will still be in the deck come Regionals time, it makes for some interesting challenges.

Your sideboarding plan against WW is -4 Aether Vial; +4 Naturalize.

The turn count for the victories is:

Turn 1: 0 out of 30, 0%

Turn 2: 0 out of 30, 0%

Turn 3: 11 out of 30, 36%

Turn 4: 9 out of 30, 30%

Turn 5: 5 out of 30, 17%

Turn 6+: 5 out of 30, 17%

Obviously, if you can go off by turn 3, you have a much higher percentage in making a notch in the W column, but there are a few key points to note about the matchup. First of all, you can actually go off in response to them destroying your Intruder Alarm. Essentially, you’ll probably not be able to kill them, (or else, why didn’t you already), but if they are attempting to destroy it on your turn (and this applies later in other matchups as well) then you can make infinite mana (go for the Goblin Cannon kill) or an infinitely large Nexus-or use Aether Vial to power out a Kumano in response. This might seem obvious, but I still feel the need to point it out. Moving along.

R/G Spiritcraft

As one of the hot new decks (straight out of Kamigawa block), R/G Spiritcraft will be present at Regionals in some way shape or form. Sadly, this is what I’ve tested against, as it seems to be the tightest version available:

4 Hana Kami

4 Hearth Kami

4 Kami of the Hunt

3 Kodama of the South Tree

3 Cunning Bandit

4 Soilshaper

2 Rootrunner

4 Lava Spike

4 Glacial Ray

4 Kodama’s Might

12 Mountain

12 Forest

Pre-sideboard, 31 wins, 9 losses. Post-sideboard, 8 wins, 2 losses.

Not much to say here, as far as discussing this build against mine. Even with their best draw, they aren’t doing much to stop us. For example,

My Turn 1: Forest, Aether Vial.

His Turn 1: Forest, Hana Kami.

My Turn 2: Charge the Vial, draw. Play Forbidden Orchard. Play Birds of Paradise.

His Turn 2: Mountain, Soilshaper.

My Turn 3: Charge the Vial, draw. Cast Intruder Alarm.

His Turn 3: Mountain, cast Lava Spike splicing Glacial Ray to kill the Bird. Attack for 2 (15, 20)

My Turn 4: Charge the Vial, draw. Cast Lifespark Spellbomb, Animate the Orchard. Fabricate for Cannon. Combo out. (15, 0).

Even if I have a slower draw, it is still hard for the R/G deck to deal 20 before I can.

As far as sideboard goes, the R/G build I used sided in 4 Wear Away and 4 Sowing Salt. Our plan is to bring in, well, what? If we know they have the Salt, bringing in the Shoals is probably a good idea. If not, we are safe to leave the build like it is. So, against Wear Away and Sowing Salt, the plan is -4 Aether Vial, -2 Dosan the Falling Leaf, +4 Disrupting Shoal, +2 Quash. As almost always, if you don’t know, it’s probably safer to bring in the counterspells, just in case. If you want all of your counters, it’s -1 Eternal Witness, -1 Natural Affinity, +2 Quash.

The turn count for the 39 victories:

Turn 1: 0 out of 39, 0%

Turn 2: 0 out of 39, 0%

Turn 3: 8 out of 39, 20%

Turn 4: 14 out of 39, 36%

Turn 5: 11 out of 39, 28%

Turn 6+: 6 out of 39, 16%

The later turn victories are generally post-sideboard games in this match-up, since you have to play differently when you know they have Wear Away and Sowing Salt. Keep in mind that you don’t need to fear the Salt once you have more than one Orchard in play.

Mono-Red Beats, or Sligh

For this list, I turned to Google. While there were a smattering of Red Decks at Champs, Betrayers really reinvigorated the archetype.

4 Slith Firewalker

4 Frostling

4 Hearth Kami

3 Zo-Zu the Punisher

3 Viashino Sandstalker

4 Magma Jet

4 Lava Spike

4 Glacial Ray

4 Volcanic Hammer

4 Genju of the Spires

4 Chrome Mox

18 Mountain

This build does a good job of clearing out opposing creatures and beating down quick and dirty. Part of me thinks that this is sub-optimal version-probably is-and that the best deck of this deck wants Aether Vial. But, still, this gave me a fight.

His turn 1: Mountain, Chrome Mox, cast Slith Firewalker. (19, 20)

My turn 1: Forest, Bird.

His turn 2: Mountain, cast Lava Spike, splicing Glacial Ray to kill the Bird, swing for 2. (14, 20).

My turn 2: Orchard, cast Lifespark Spellbomb.

His turn 3: Cast Zo-Zo, the Punisher. Swing for 3. (11, 20.

My turn 3: Island, cast Intruder Alarm. (9, 20)

His turn 4: Play Mountain, cast Lava Spike, splicing Glacial Ray, targeting me. Attack with Zo-Zo, the Punisher. (2, 18).

My turn 4: Animate the Orchard, combo off. Use Gifts Ungiven to set up the Kumano kill, kill all of his creatures and him. (2, 0).

With games like that, it ended up a little bit in his favor, Pre-board, 14 wins, 16 losses. Post-board, 3 wins, 7 losses. Generally, the rule is, if you combo by turn 4, you win. If you don’t, you lose. Since you combo by turn 4 about 40% of the time, you’ll win about that many matches against a dedicated Red Deck. Your sideboard plan is to bring in either the counterspells or the Dosan and Naturalizes. It depends on how you want to solve the matchup. Pro-active disruption of their gameplan involves destroying the Chrome Moxes and the Genju plus negating their instant speed damage spells, or you can re-act to their Sowing Salts and the like.

To get the counterspells: -4 Aether Vial, -2 Dosan the Falling Leaf, -2 Natural Affinity; +4 Quash, +4 Disrupting Shoal.

For the pro-active disruption: -1 Eternal Witness, -2 Natural Affinity, -1 Aether Vial;

+1 Dosan, the Falling Leaf, +3 Naturalize

The turn count:

Turn 1: 0 out of 17, 0%

Turn 2: 0 out of 17, 0%

Turn 3: 6 out of 17, 35%

Turn 4: 7 out of 17, 41%

Turn 5: 3 out of 17, 17%

Turn 6+: 1 out of 17, 5%

In the end, this is a difficult deck for you to play against, but not impossible. I don’t know, yet, how this Red Deck stacks up against the rest of the field, for example, so it is hard to predict how much of a presence it will have at Regionals. Still, I recommend playtesting this matchup extensively to maximize the wins you can steal, in order to maximize your chance of success against any assortment of random decks in the field.

Beacon Green

This is one of those decks that was hiding in the shadow of Affinity. I’m not sure if it counts as Aggro, exactly, since it has combo elements, but for the sake of my playtesting, I’ve included this version here, and the Beacon Blaster version in the combo section. Here is the Beacon Green build I used:

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Wood Elves

4 Eternal Witness

3 Troll Ascetic

3 Meloku the Clouded Mirror

4 Beacon of Creation

3 Plow Under

3 Cranial Extraction

4 Sword of Fire and Ice

2 Sensei’s Divining Top

1 Swamp

1 Island

20 Forest

You have a decent matchup here, but it’s tempered by the fact that they can consistently cast a turn 3 or 4 Cranial Extraction. I really like this deck in the post-Affinity environment, and I’m pretty sure you can count on seeing a lot of this or something like this at Regionals.

Pre-board, 20 wins, 20 losses. Post-board, 4 wins, 6 losses.

In both the pre- and post-board games, it came down to whether or not they resolved a Cranial Extraction before I played an Intruder Alarm. For sideboard purposes, we need a whole lot of stuff. The Swords are deadly against us, so we want at least 2 Naturalizes. Obviously we want to stop the Extraction action, so we need the counterspells. How do we fit everything in? This is what I’ve worked out:

-2 Dosan the Falling Leaf

-1 Eternal Witness

-2 Natural Affinity

-1 All Sun’s Dawn

-4 Aether Vial

-1 Chrome Mox

+4 Disrupting Shoal

+4 Quash

+3 Naturalize.

Or one substitution, depending on whether or not they leave all the Swords in, +1 Chrome Mox, -1 Naturalize according to our plan.

This shifts the deck towards a much more controlling vein, which I admit, might not be the best plan. Still, it really seems to work best out of all of the options. This is a match-up where I really miss the Echoing Truths I ran at Champs. But no matter what, the end result is that the games are close, but careful play and accurate mulliganing will reward us.

The turn count:

Turn 1: 0 out of 24, 0%

Turn 2: 1 out of 24, 4%

Turn 3: 8 out of 24, 33%

Turn 4: 10 out of 24, 41%

Turn 5: 4 out of 24, 16%

Turn 6+: 1 out of 24, 4%

Now, the control match-ups.

The Control, or Cranial Extraction or No?

Of the various decks that are going to be present in the Regionals metagame, the control decks are our worst enemy. The weapons each is bringing to this particular fight are guns to our knife. That being said, this build has been tuned to beat MUC, leaving B/G and Ponza as the main source of concern. Unfortunately, we don’t have many options in this way beyond the tools I’ve identified. We just don’t have the space. Anyway, instead of worrying endlessly, let’s look at the matchups.


Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers

City of Brass

Tendo Ice Bridge

10 Forest


2 Swamp

Sakura-Tribe Elder

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker


Birds of Paradise

Viridian Shaman

Eternal Witness


Sensei’s Divining Top

Commune with Nature

Magma Jet

3 Cranial Extraction

The result was 26 wins, 14 losses pre-board, and 5 wins, 5 losses post-board.

Of the decks from Champs, Cabal Rogue’s Kiki-Jiki deck was probably my favorite (after this one that I played, of course) and it presents a few unique challenges. Like almost all of the control decks, this one can drop a turn 3 Cranial Extraction. Of all the matchups, this one keeps the pressure on more than any except for Beacon Green.

Still, the matchup ends up very close, since most of their lock-parts take until turn 4 to set up. It comes down in many ways to who plays first, and how fast your draw is.

The sideboard plan is -4 Aether Vial, -2 Dosan the Falling Leaf, +4 Disrupting Shoal, +1 Gifts Ungiven, +1 Cranial Extraction

We could consider adding the Quash, but with only a single target (usually), it just doesn’t seem all that relevant.

The turn count:

Turn 1: 0 out of 31, 0%

Turn 2: 0 out of 31, 0%

Turn 3: 8 out of 31, 25%

Turn 4: 11 out of 31, 35%

Turn 5: 6 out of 31, 19%

Turn 6+: 6 out of 31, 19%

As a final note to the match-up, DO NOT for the love of all that is good and decent, drop a naked Intruder Alarm if they have three or more mana in play. The Kiki-Alarm combo works fine for them, even if you’re the one who has the Intruder Alarm in play. This might seem obvious, but again, I’ll err on the side of caution and point it out in bold letters.

Mono-Blue Control

This is another deck where the best lists are already available, but for the sake of comparison, here is the one that I played against:

1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror

1 Keiga, the Tide Star

4 Disrupting Shoal

4 Condescend

4 Mana Leak

4 Hinder

4 Serum Visions

4 Thirst for Knowledge

4 Vedalken Shackles

4 Echoing Truth

19 Island

3 Stalking Stones

3 Blinkmoth Nexus

Pre-board, 27 wins, 13 losses. Post-board, 4 wins, 6 losses.

Pre-sideboard you have a form of Strategic Superiority because of the inclusion of Aether Vial. Keep in mind, these numbers assume that MUC doesn’t maindeck Annul. The post-board results demonstrate what happens when they have access to 8 or more one mana pitch spells plus Annul if they go first. Needless to say, in that situation, its hard to stick an Aether Vial to the table. Just remember, as long as you have Aether Vial in play, you will win the game. Barring anything strange like Oblivion Stone, there just isn’t anything that they can do.

Keep in mind, also, that you will have to play around the Shackles. With two Forbidden Orchards this becomes easy, but barring that, you’ll need to use Aether Vial to make sure you can keep comboing (if you are using Kumano or the Sorcerer).

The sideboard plan is to bring in the pro-active disruption. You don’t need all the copies of Naturalize, so here is the substitution.

-2 Natural Affinity, -1 Chrome Mox, -1 Eternal Witness; +1 Dosan, the Falling Leaf, +3 Naturalize.

This matchup should be in your favor, but the small sample size of the post-board games has distorted that result slightly. I suggest practicing the various feints and bluffs you can run against the MUC player in order to have Intruder Alarm or Aether Vial hit the board. With an Intruder Alarm in play, you should be able to win, even if it takes a while, likewise with Aether Vial.

Turn 1: 0 out of 31, 0%

Turn 2: 0 out of 31, 0%

Turn 3: 1 out of 31, 3%

Turn 4: 14 out of 31, 45%

Turn 5: 7 out of 31, 22%

Turn 6+: 9 out of 31, 31%

If MUC becomes an absolutely huge part of the metagame, adding Boseiju and Fireball to give you another uncounterable win condition (Fireball in addition to Blinkmoth Nexus) might not be a bad idea.

DC Green

Ouch, has this deck gotten better against us after Affinity left. With slots to fill that were once artifact destruction, DC Green (and its mono-Black ilk) has been able to add hand disruption in spades.

This is the only matchup that I feel is nearly almost unwinnable. For testing purposes, here is the list that I used:

3 Cranial Extraction

4 Rampant Growth

3 Waking Nightmare

3 Night’s Whisper

1 Rend Flesh

3 Horobi’s Whisper

4 Death Cloud

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Sakura Tribe-Elder

4 Eternal Witness

4 Kokusho, the Evening Star

12 Forest

11 Swamp

In other words, turn 2 Waking Nightmare, turn 3 Cranial Extraction, good game. Its not quite that bad, but the combination of Black discard, Black removal, and Death Cloud is vicious. You’ll notice this version doesn’t run the Black Shoal-which I actually agree with at this point. What are you going to pitch, Kokusho or Cranial Extraction? No. So why bother paying 3 mana to give a creature -1/-1 when you can do the same with one in this format (Lose Hope).

Any way, from our perspective:

19 wins, 21 losses pre-board. Post-board, 4 wins, 6 losses.

So it’s closer than “worst matchup” would presuppose, but the games feel a lot different than 50%. Depending on their draw, you can get absolutely wrecked, or you can squeak in a turn 3 or 4 combo. Generally, the turn count shows that you tend to go off later, once you stabilize.

Your plan is to bring in the counterspells, so follow this exchange:

-4 Aether Vial, -2 Dosan, -2 Natural Affinity; +4 Disrupting Shoal, +4 Quash.

Quash is useful whether it hits Cranial Extraction or Horobi’s Whisper, or just about any of the instants and sorceries, so don’t be afraid to use it to strip your opponent’s deck of a number of valuable resources. Generally, the discard (Nightmare, Extraction, and Death Cloud) is the number one target, but if you see an opportunity to hit a spell they haven’t cast yet, go ahead.

The turn count:

Turn 1: 0 out of 23, 0%

Turn 2: 1 out of 23, 0%

Turn 3: 7 out of 23, 30%

Turn 4: 5 out of 23, 21%

Turn 5: 2 out of 23, 8%

Turn 6+: 8 out of 23, 34%

Mono-Red LD (Ponza)

4 Slith Firewalker

4 Arc-Slogger

1 Kumano, Master Yamabushi

4 Stone Rain

4 Molten Rain

4 Demolish

2 Sowing Salt

4 Magma Jet

4 Glacial Ray

4 Lava Spike

3 Seething Song

4 Chrome Mox

2 Blinkmoth Nexus

1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep

15 Mountain

Ouch. That just looks horrible for us, huh? Well, I beat mono-Red LD at Champs, and testing shows it isn’t impossible-Just very, very hard.

13 wins, 27 losses, pre-board. 5 wins, 5 losses post-board.

Eh…not great. The main problem is, we don’t have a very effective plan. We bring in counterspells, but generally they are blowing up the land we’d like to use to counter the LD spells they are using.

Our plan is, nevertheless, -4 Aether Vial, -2 Dosan, -2 Natural Affinity; +4 Disrupting Shoal, +4 Quash.

Turn 1: 0 out of 18, 0%

Turn 2: 0 out of 18, 0%

Turn 3: 3 out of 18, 16%

Turn 4: 5 out of 18, 27%

Turn 5: 4 out of 18, 22%

Turn 6+: 6 out of 18, 33%

I think that the match-up can be reduced to how good of a player that they are. Depending on the pressure they apply on us with damage and land destruction, and the balance of the two, our chance of winning greatly varies. If they aren’t killing the Birds, or they aren’t destroying lands other than the Orchard, our chance of winning increases dramatically. Plus, we can always get randomly lucky.

Enough of the control, what about the combo?

The Combo, or Our Fresh Fruit Flavor Just Lasts

Most of the post-banning combo decks just can’t run with this one. There are, probably, new decks waiting to be discovered and posted, but until someone does, this was the combo portion of my gauntlet: Beacon Blaster, Tooth and Nail, Lickity Split, and the Dreaded Mirror.

Lickity Split

4 Raging Goblin

4 Spark Elemental

4 Slith Firewalker

4 Myojin of Infinite Rage

4 Bringer of the Red Dawn

4 Blazing Shoal

4 Eerie Procession

4 Unearthy Blizzard

4 Through the Breach

4 Chrome Mox

12 Mountain

4 City of Brass

4 Tendo Ice Bridge

Well, this certainly turned out differently than I hoped.

Pre-board, 19 wins, 21 losses. Post-board, 4 wins, 6 losses.

Surprised? So was I. The fact is, by focusing this deck too narrowly on the turn 1 kill causes people to ignore the fact that the deck can win on turn 2 or 3 or later just as easily. This version is the most consistent we’ve found so far. You have the same turn 1 percentage as any other version, and this one adds Unearthy Blizzard to get around any annoying blockers that pop up later on.

The games worked out about 50-50, as the matchup is largely determined by who combos first, and you have roughly the same goldfish (they goldfish faster, but much less consistently). Post-board, there isn’t much you can do, but they don’t have much either, if its any consolation.

The plan is to bring in some counterspells and Cranial Extraction, but that’s about it. -4 Aether Vial, -2 Dosan; +3 Disrupting Shoal, +2 Quash, +1 Cranial Extraction.

The Turn Count:

Turn 1: 0 out of 23, 0%

Turn 2: 1 out of 23, 4%

Turn 3: 9 out of 23, 39%

Turn 4: 8 out of 23, 34%

Turn 5: 5 out of 23, 21%

Turn 6+: 0 out of 23, 0%

A couple of notes about this matchup: if the game goes long enough, their chances just increase, since they need to draw cards or mulligan to get a hand, the longer the game goes without you comboing, the more likely they are to find 20 damage.

One thing that I enjoyed about playtesting this matchup was the opportunity it gave me to see the new deck in action. I doubt, greatly, the odds of seeing this anywhere near the top tables come Regionals time, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

Tooth and Nail, “The Number One Contend-uh”

Man, I love Tooth and Nail. I played 12-Post at Skullclamp Regionals and have tried ever since to make it as good as it wants to be. Of course, that being said, I don’t see it as being the best deck in any format (not even MirBC) and definitely can’t recommend it now that it has the gigantic bulls-eye. Still, someone (and probably quite a number of someones) will sit down across from you with the deck, so its important to know that you do in fact beat down.

Because of the supposed prevalence of the deck in the “New Standard” I tested against two builds of Tooth. First off is G/u:

2 Sensei’s Diving Top

4 Sylvan Scrying

4 Reap and Sow

2 Gifts Ungiven

4 Mana Leak

2 Condescend

4 Tooth and Nail

4 Sakura Tribe-Elder

4 Eternal Witness

1 Revive

3 Solemn Simulacrum

1 Darksteel Colossus

1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

1 Leonin Abunas

1 Platinum Angel

4 Cloudpost

5 Island

1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

12 Forest

Like I said, Tooth is a good matchup for us, the counterspells in this one are strange, but not a real problem, the only thing is that they are able to pressure our game plan with early counters and a much more powerful finisher than MUC has.

28 wins, 12 losses pre-board. 6 wins, 4 losses post-board.

I’m not sure how to go about sideboarding against this version of Tooth. Obviously, Dosan has some applicability, if they are going to leave mana open to counterspell. Reap and Sow gives them access to LD, which isn’t much of a problem, but is still troublesome.

For now, all I’m bringing in is the Cranial Extraction and the Quash. -2 Natural Affinity, -2 Aether Vial, -1 Dosan, +4 Quash, +1 Cranial Extraction.

Turn 1: 0 out of 34, 0%

Turn 2: 0 out of 34, 0%

Turn 3: 9 out of 34, 26%

Turn 4: 11 out of 34, 32%

Turn 5: 6 out of 34, 17%

Turn 6+: 8 out of 34, 23%

And the G/r version:

1 Okina, Temple To The Grandfathers

1 Stalking Stones

2 Shivan Oasis

3 Pinecrest Ridge

4 Cloudpost

9 Forest

3 Mountain

3 Eternal Witness

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

1 Duplicant

1 Sundering Titan

1 Darksteel Colossus

1 Platinum Angel

1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

2 Sensei’s Divining Top

4 Tooth And Nail

2 Rude Awakening

2 Reap And Sow

3 Fireball

4 Sylvan Scrying

4 Pyroclasm

3 Oblivion Stone

1 Mindslaver

Like the other version, we have a great match-up here to take advantage of.

Pre-board, 29 wins, 11 losses. Post-board, 8 wins, 2 losses.

We use the same sideboard plan here, basically, -4 Aether Vial, -2 Dosan; +4 Quash, +1 Cranial Extraction, +1 Gifts Ungiven.

As far as particular comments on the matchup go, I would offer that Oblivion Stone and Mindslaver are the two biggest threats to your board, but even they don’t spell game over. Pyroclasm works very well to kill Birds (sometimes two for one) so be aware of that I suppose. The fact of the matter is that Tooth had a hard time beating combo before the banning, and that didn’t improve afterwards. The main advantage you have is that if they Tooth for Angel/Abunas, they didn’t Tooth for Kiki-Jiki/Colossus, and you can still win if you find a Kumano.

Turn 1: 0 out of 37, 0%

Turn 2: 0 out of 37, 0%

Turn 3: 8 out of 37, 21%

Turn 4: 15 out of 37, 40%

Turn 5: 7 out of 37, 18%

Turn 6+: 7 out of 37, 18%

Beacon Blaster

This is different from some of the most recent versions I’ve seen, but I doubt the match-up changes much. Beacon Blaster is a strange combo deck that doesn’t really seem to do all that much against us.

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Eternal Witness

4 Wood Elves

4 Vine Trellis

4 Orochi Sustainer

4 Blasting Station

4 Sosuke’s Summons

4 Beacon of Creation

4 Fecundity

20 Forest

As far as it shook out, I almost didn’t lose a single game.

Pre-board, 38 wins, 2 losses. Post-board, 10 wins, 0 losses.

As for the sideboard, it shook out like this:

-4 Aether Vial, -2 Dosan the Falling Leaf, +4 Naturalize, +1 Quash, +1 Cranial Extraction.

I wish I could offer more as far as this matchup goes, but it just didn’t seem like much was happening for either of us. He would play out his creatures, make a bunch of insects, and then lose. After board, once the Naturalizes were in play, it seemed like his deck was even weaker. I’ve tested against the newest version of this that I saw, something called Sakura Tribe Uber, and the results were mostly the same. He pulled off a few more victories going the aggro route, but generally, he couldn’t kill me before turn 5, and that is just taking too long against our deck.

Turn 1: 0 out of 48, 0%

Turn 2: 0 out of 48, 0%

Turn 3: 10 out of 48, 20%

Turn 4: 14 out of 48, 29%

Turn 5: 19 out of 48, 39%

Turn 6+: 5 out of 48, 10%

The Dreaded Mirror Match

This is downright ugly. The games split, just like they were supposed to, but the games are ridiculous. Since this version doesn’t run an instant speed kill (outside of the extremely rare Aether Vialed Kumano), it’s not quite as random as it might be, but generally the games were all about patience. Of course, you can’t be too patient, because the other guy might just drop his combo and drop kick you out of contention.

So, the trick is, I guess, to win as fast as you can, while guaranteeing that you don’t leave yourself open to a counterassault? In the end, the player who dropped the Intruder Alarm first usually won, but they had to combo on the turn it hit play, which slows down the turn count and is frustrating post-sideboard.

Fortunately, the Internet is still largely ignoring this deck, and with any luck, we’ll have the same advantage at Regionals as I did at Champs (the only one in the field running the Orchard Alarm combo).

As for sideboarding, I like to change it up. Bringing in the pro-active and re-active disruption at various times. The logic runs that if they bring in counterspells and I bring in Dosan and Naturalize I’m ahead. Or you can just bring in the Naturalize. Or Naturalize and the counterspells. I dread testing the mirror so sometimes I change it up just to experiment and take some of the boredom off. Either that, or I play against one of these:

The Other Versions

Like most combo decks, Juicy Fruit comes in different flavors. After all this work, I still prefer my build, but, in case you are looking for more options, here are three other stand-out lists you can try:

Rotten Fruit (U/B)

4 Intruder Alarm

4 Lifespark Spellbomb

4 Consume Spirit

1 Goblin Cannon

4 Thirst for Knowledge

3 Fabricate

4 Distress

3 Cranial Extraction

3 Night of Soul’s Betrayal

3 Hideous Laughter

4 Talisman of Dominance

4 Chrome Mox

4 City of Brass

4 Forbidden Orchard

5 Swamp

3 Island

3 Blinkmoth Nexus

Salvaged Fruit (U/W)

4 Intruder Alarm

4 Lifespark Spellbomb

4 Auriok Salvagers

4 Trinket Mage

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

3 Sunbeam Spellbomb

1 Aether Spellbomb

4 Thirst for Knowledge

4 Serum Visions

3 Inspiration

4 Wrath of God

4 Chrome Mox

4 Forbidden Orchard

4 City of Brass

3 Coastal Tower

5 Island

4 Plains

Winterfresh (Mono-U)

4 Intruder Alarm

4 Lifespark Spellbomb

1 Goblin Cannon

4 Fabricate

4 Mana Leak

4 Condescend

4 Disrupting Shoal

2 Quash

3 Echoing Truth

4 Serum Visions

4 Thirst for Knowledge

3 Chrome Mox

4 City of Brass

4 Forbidden Orchard

3 Blinkmoth Nexus

8 Island

Obviously, for some reason or another, I’m not playing these builds. Each has their advantages and disadvantages-consistency being a key factor in favor of most of these designs, as well as resiliency in the mirror. Since I’m not worried about the mirror, and my results have been more or less positive, I’m confident that staying with what I have, at least for now, is the right choice.

Wrapping it up…

We’ve still got a long time before the summer hits and Regionals arrives. Months more of playtesting (plus a few weeks-depending on when the spoiler hits-after Saviors is released) means more refinement and better lists.

As for this article, well, I had the data, and I know how excited everyone is to be playing in a Type II format that at least resembles Extended’s deck viability for now. The Forbidden Orchard/Intruder Alarm combination is powerful and proven-like I said, it’s even succeeding in Extended.

Here’s the final analysis of the turn count:

Turn 1: 0 out of 355, 0%

Turn 2: 3 out of 355, 0.8%

Turn 3: 88 out of 355, 24%

Turn 4: 123 out of 355, 34%

Turn 5: 79 out of 355, 22%

Turn 6+: 62 out of 355, 17%

Slightly different than the goldfish, but it solidifies my belief that the new Standard is a relatively non-interactive format for a dedicated combo deck. Overall, you’ll notice that there aren’t many fantastic matchups, nor any really bad ones. You make your living in this format by drawing upon the fact that there isn’t a combo deck in most people’s gauntlet. An unprepared opponent is a beaten opponent right now.

In the end, I’m extremely hopeful for a Regionals metagame like the Extended season just had. Glancing at the various articles around the ‘net and the forums, it seems like something new pops up every week.

As always, send your questions and comments to [email protected]

Ben Snyder