Stags & Oozes Can’t Swim

Figure out what to play in Standard at #SCGMKE or #SCGRDU this weekend by reading three-time SCG Open winner Chris VanMeter’s analysis of the Top 8 at #SCGCLE!

Week #2!

I expected the Top 8 at the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Cleveland to be exciting, but never did I see this coming in my wildest dreams.

There were no Islands in the Top 8 of Cleveland.

I repeat:  there were no Islands in the Top 8 of Cleveland!

We did have an Esper Control deck and a U/W Control deck in the Top 16, so all hope for you control mages isn’t lost, but it was still quite a surprise!

What happened? Where did all of the Supreme Verdicts and Jace, Architect of Thoughts go?

For starters, there were sixteen Voice of Resurgences in the Top 8. When you are expecting a field of Mono-Red Aggro and Azorius-based control, what better dude to ride stag with than Voice of Resurgence? I really think that this is just the start of the shift in the Standard metagame, and Voice of Resurgence fills a lot of gaps and just gets better and better.

This Top 8 was not a good place to be for Jace, Architect of Thought either. Between Dreadbore and Hero’s Downfall, the control/midrange-ish decks have Jace covered. When you’re fighting a bunch of Lingering Soul tokens or a slew of 2/1s, Jace, Architect of Thought is awesome, but when you’re looking at Boon Satyr and Advent of the Wurm, his +1 ability to protect himself suddenly becomes less viable—and this is without even taking into account Selesnya Charm for the quick pump!

I can imagine that with the success of Mono-Red Aggro the first week, all of the control decks were prepared for handling Chandra’s Phoenix and Fanatic of Mogis fueled assaults and weren’t ready for all the green monsters that came stomping all over them.

Where does all of this leave us for next week?

Pro Tour Theros is this weekend, but we also have the StarCityGames.com Standard and Legacy Opens in Milwaukee and a StarCityGames.com Classic Series in Raleigh. I’m excited to see what people can come up with to attack the format.

To figure out where we are going, let’s look at where we were last weekend, starting with the G/W deck that won the whole thing!

This is similar to the G/W deck that I played in a Versus video a while back, and I really like cutting the Loxodon Smiters. I’m sure this Elephant won’t forget being benched any time soon, but for now I think the vanilla 4/4 just isn’t good enough. Since we only have a single one-mana accelerant to use in Elvish Mystic, I think it’s better to take the route Erik did, doubling up on 3/3s for two mana with Fleecemane Lion and Call of the Conclave. Not being able to play Smiter on turn 2 as often as we used makes us lean toward being a bit leaner and playing the powerful two-drops.

We still have a four-power three-mana creature in Boon Satyr, who does a very good job of evolving our Experiment Ones when we need it to and pressuring our opponents in a unique way that doesn’t leave us high and dry if they have a removal spell.

This Satyr definitely brings the boom!

Since we now have Call of the Conclave and Advent of the Wurm in addition to the Elemental token from Voice of Resurgence, we get to play Rootborn Defenses in the main. With Terminus gone, the control decks are relying on Anger of the Gods and Supreme Verdict as their sweepers, and we get to blank them while progressing our board. Rootborn Defenses also lets us continue to pressure our midrange opponents by making attacks that would normally be disadvantageous to push through damage; making our team indestructible; and populating a 3/3, 5/5, or X/X token.

The other omission from Erik’s deck is also tied to the switch to Call of the Conclave, and that’s zero Scavenging Oozes. Since we have fewer actual creature cards in our deck than before, Scavenging Ooze is worse in our deck and worse against us than it used to be. Erik cut Scavenging Ooze and played Dryad Militant and Unflinching Courage in the main. Unflinching Courage helps push through damage against other midrange decks, but unlike Boon Satyr it can be a liability against all of the awesome removal spells available in the format. I’m not sure if it’s right to cut Scavenging Ooze since it is one of the few cards that can break a stalemate on board and is always a huge late-game threat against control decks.

I do really like the Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice in the maindeck. If the format shifts to an influx of midrange decks trying to beat down on the aggressive decks and grind out the control decks, Trostani is a card that plays a perfect role for grinding out the midrange decks. Beat ’em at their own game!

The other G/W deck in the Top 8 did play Loxodon Smiter but also had spicy kitty Ajani, Caller of the Pride in the main. I really like Ajani and think that this might be the right format for him—definitely keep an eye out!

Another Experiment One deck in the Top 8 was Ian Barton’s Naya deck. Ian kept Boros Reckoner in the deck, which is something that BBD and I talked about at length in our Versus video last week, but he did change the mana base a bit to be a little less comes into play tap-y. Playing basic lands instead of all the Temples allows us to cast our creatures on curve and stay as aggressive as possible. Boros Reckoner is really the only creature that we might not play on curve, but in the aggressive matchups, it is so good it doesn’t really matter if it comes down on turn 3 or 4.

Ian also opted for Ghor-Clan Rampager over Selesnya Charm, which makes Domri Rade a bit better (as if he needed help) and lets us be hyperaggressive. I still think that Selesnya Charm is worth playing, however, possibly in tandem with Ghor-Clan Rampager.

Ian also cut Scavenging Ooze from the main and played Fleecemane Lion and Soldier of the Pantheon. I really like Soldier of the Pantheon even though it can lead to some awkward interactions with Domri Rade and we can’t Ghor-Clan Rampager it. There are a large number of creatures that are unable to attack through the Pantheon, which translates into a large number of creatures that are unable to block it too. It is also immune to Azorius Charm and Detention Sphere. That is a lot of mileage for only one mana.

I really like the Boros Charms in the sideboard here as well. Since we have Experiment One and Soldier of the Pantheon getting in early damage, I can see a lot of games being ended from like twelve or fourteen life using a combination of Ghor-Clan Rampager.

One thing that I think is missing from this list is Ruric-Thar, the Unbowed. Stormbreath Dragon was cut to try to make the deck a bit leaner and drop the lands down to 23, but I still think that Ruric-Thar is so good that he deserves a slot.

The last Experiment One deck in the Top 8 was Chris Renner’s Mono-Green Aggro.

Even though it lacks Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx so it can’t cast Kalonian Hydra on turn 2, I really like how aggressive we can be with our Kalonian Tuskers and Reverent Hunters. Burning-Tree Emissary really helps turn Reverent Hunter into a beast, with a common line being Experiment One into Kalonian Tusker into Burning-Tree Emissary and Reverent Hunter. That’s fifteen power in play on turn 3, and that’s with only one Burning-Tree Emissary—and we all know how they like to stick together.

Nylea, God of the Hunt also makes an appearance as an often 6/6 indestructible creature who lets us pump our creatures with extra mana. Giving all of our creatures trample is actually the most important part here. Our Reverent Hunters are always going to be giant, as are Deadbridge Goliath and Polukranos, World Eater. Any creature with Boon Satyr bestowed on it loves trample too.

I feel like a Bow of Nylea or two and some Nykthos, Shrine to Nyxes could go a long way in the deck, giving us a lot of mana for some explosive early turns with Kalonian Tusker and Burning-Tree Emissary. Nykthos also fuels Nylea pretty well.

I really like the Garruk, Caller of Beasts in the sideboard and feel like he probably comes in against a lot of decks. Supreme Verdict isn’t that big of a deal when we can just draw a bunch of creature and rebuild after we get swept. Nylea’s Disciple is poised to gain a billion life against the aggressive decks for us too.

I think that we could pretty easily play a second color here to help shore up the control matchup with something like Rootborn Defenses or Ready // Willing.

The rest of the Top 8 was rounded out with a Junk Midrange deck, a B/W Midrange deck, and a B/W/R Midrange deck, leaving us wondering what’s going to be the best strategy for next week. I’m not quite sure yet, but here are some of my thoughts on Standard that I’m going to be considering as I decide what to play at SCG Classic Series: Raleigh.

  • Voice of Resurgence is the real deal. Control decks with white in them should be heavily considering Last Breath in the maindeck and Glare of Heresy in the sideboard.
  • Elspeth, Sun’s Champion seems very well positioned as a way to punish the midrange decks trying to go bigger than Jace. Elspeth can also beat opposing control decks all by herself and isn’t half bad at closing the game out against aggro decks once you’ve stabilized.
  • As long as people are slotting Rootborn Defenses in maindecks, relying on Detention Sphere, Last Breath, and Devour Flesh type cards will be the way to go for control decks.
  • Mono-Red Aggro is still a deck to keep in mind. Never forget!
  • Master of Waves is an awesome card, and I’m looking forward to seeing it soon!

Here is a sample list I’ve had in my head since I heard about a friend at work playing a Master of Waves deck and saw the one in Mark Nestico article last week.

I think that some sort of U/B Tapout deck could be a good way to take advantage of Master of Waves. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is a nightmare for control and midrange decks. An early Thassa, God of the Sea is very tough for any control deck to beat, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx lets us have some explosive turns in the midgame with Divination and our high devotion to blue count. Let me know what you guys think about this type of Master of Waves deck; I’m not sure if U/B is going to be better than a U/W build since Sphinx’s Revelation is just so good.

Thanks for reading this week, and I hope to see a bunch of new faces at the SCG Classic Series in Raleigh this Saturday. Good luck to Brian Braun-Duin, Gerry Thompson, and Jacob Van Lunen at the Pro Tour, as well as everyone on TeamSCG—let’s get ’em boys!

<3 CVM

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