Standard Innovations

It’s Brad’s birthday and he’ll look at sweet Standard decks from this past weekend’s State Championships if he wants to! Take a look and see what’s piqued his interest and what the biggest surprises were from this year’s States!

You know what’s cool? That Patrick Chapin finally won a Pro Tour! You know what’s cooler? NOTHING! Nothing on this planet is more awesome than the fact that Patrick Chapin finally got that monkey off his back so soon after he was inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame. There are not many games out there where someone can be on top of their game even after they reach the highest achievement. I was so happy for him watching the finals of the Pro Tour.

Alright, I might have embellished the truth a bit. There was in fact something way cooler than Patrick Chapin winning the Pro Tour. I mean, let’s be honest, it was going to happen eventually. This past weekend was the first ever Star City Games State Championships! With that long of a title also came a plethora of decklists. Fifty-two separate States tournaments were held this weekend, and all of them came with Top 8 decklists. That’s over 400 deck lists for those of you counting!

With so much data to sift through, I started to see some patterns. For starters, I realized that every single person who brought R/W Burn to their States Championships hates fun. By just looking at their decklist, I could tell they want to live in a world that is bleak and uneventful. A world where children get jobs for Christmas.

Come on, people! States is a sacred event where you are supposed to win… but you do it in style! This is the one (of many) event(s) a year that you spread your wings and fly! You find the coolest combination of cards and go into battle with some bad-ass rogue technology!

In honor of Mr. Patrick “The Innovator” Chapin winning the Pro Tour, I’m going to go over all of the awesome brews from this season’s Star City Games State Championships! To kick things off, we’re going to start in the largest continental State with a deck that has the biggest late game. Texans sure do it big!

Mr. Watts has been on my case to give his deck a chance for some time now. With the Pro Tour on the horizon and the fact that I was obsessed with Brave Naya, I never really gave this deck a chance. He didn’t get frustrated with my lack of reply and instead literally crushed every event he went to for about a month straight. Well, he sure does have my attention now!

Some might see this as a pile of rares, but there is a lot going for this deck. For starters, it’s designed to do battle in a Thoughtseize world. Each card in the deck has a small amount of synergy with the other cards, but not so much that you’d be punished by having one of them taken from your grip. This allows the deck to continue putting permanents on the board that have a high impact without Thoughtseize getting you down.

The other great thing about this deck is that it does all of this while getting to play Trostani, Voice of Selesnya. This is a Mythic Rare that has really not seen much play even though we all know how powerful it is. The reason for this is that Lifebane Zombie is too strong of a card for Selesnya decks to try to go over the top of it. That three-mana black creature has caused all Selesnya decks to try to go underneath it, forcing them to be hyper-aggressive.

Joshua Watts has broken that mold by finding a deck that has enough proactive cards against the other midrange and control matchups to be able to afford the slots needed for the most impactful cards against the aggressive decks.

I’m not going to deny that this deck took me by surprise when I finally got around to playtesting with it. Not only was I winning, but I was winning games I never thought I should have and without having to make great plays. I simply just continued to play my spells and started to realize that this deck’s raw power is higher than any other deck in the format. The midrange and control decks just don’t have enough answers for the amount of high-level threats I was presenting.

Naya Walkers gets my stamp of approval as the perfect States decks. Not only was it flashy and cool, but it was strong and powerful. Take note, “Netdeckers,” because this is how a real man wins States!

Next up on our list is one of the most beautiful states I have ever been to. It is also a place where two teammates both brought a crazy new deck that put both of them into the Top 8! Sadly neither of them found their way to the semi-finals, but the story of getting two brews into the Top 8 is good enough. Let’s take a look at the Bant Aggro deck that put James Nelson and Gunnar Brinkman into Oregon’s Top 8!

On the surface this deck looks just like a normal Selesnya Aggro deck. Early token producers backed up by Rootborn Defenses? There’s nothing really innovative about this Selesnya Aggro deck if you ask me.

That’s exactly what their opponents were saying right before they got blown out by Rapid Hybridization!

Rapid HybridizationThis one-mana removal spell has not seen much play outside of Mono-Blue Devotion due to the fact that it isn’t really removal at all. Giving your opponent a Frog Lizard token isn’t exactly what an aggressive deck wants out of its removal, but here the trick is that it isn’t removal at all! Rabid Hybridization is actually just another trick for this deck to use against an unsuspecting opponent.

The addition of this card changes how the deck is played. By being able to simply turn any creature that is about to die into a 3/3, the deck is able to be way more aggressive with its resources. They have a blocker? Who cares! Just jam with everything you have and Rabid Hybridization the creature that gets blocked! The only creatures this deck is going to kill are the ones they have no way of beating.

This also works well with Rootborn Defenses when you are just trying to get more creatures on the board. On turn four you can cast Rootborn Defenses to make your team indestructible, populate, and then target one of your guys with Rapid Hybridization to get a free 3/3 out of the deal. I’m guessing this sequence of events was an absolute blowout many times throughout the tournament for these guys.

Once we move to the sideboard, we get to see the other blue cards they played. Esper Humans was only designed because of how powerful Detention Sphere was, and this deck gets to exploit that fact as well. Selesnya decks have always had a tough time dealing with certain permanents, but this blue splash allows it to deal with anything with ease.

Great innovation, guys! I might even find myself testing this strategy out for Grand Prix Chicago and the next Invitational.

I’ve always been fond of Puerto Rico. It was home to my first Pro Tour Top 8. Even though I didn’t play it, the best deck in the format was RUG Midrange. That deck was able to pull off some of the most explosive starts ever with Lotus Cobra and Oracle of Mul-Daya, and was once of the most exciting decks I have ever played with.

This past weekend showcased Cesar Soto and his attempt to relive the good old days by making Top 4 with RUG Midrange in Puerto Rico.

So this deck isn’t exactly RUG since the only red card is Burning-Tree Emissary, but setting up a deck can be tough ok! I’m just setting the mood over here! Okay, okay, Cesar Soto isn’t really interested.

His UG Devotion deck is all about allowing both players to do as much cool stuff as possible and then return everything on their side of the board back to their hand with an overloaded Cyclonic Rift. This powerful Overload spell has really not seen as much play as it should… one-sided Upheaval effects have always been extremely powerful, and by always, I mean this was the first and it won a Pro Tour!

Cyclonic Rift Besides finishing every game in the most anti-climactic way possible, this deck does some pretty sweet stuff. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing more fun than untapping all of your permanents on your opponent’s turn. Prophet of Kruphix has not really seen any play in Standard yet, but I think that might change in upcoming months with how the format is playing out so far. This effect is very strong against any midrange strategy, since both decks are just trying to use as much mana as possible, and Prophet of Kruphix helps this deck go completely over the top of any deck trying to go big by just having more mana, more cards, and more time to use its mana.

I don’t know how consistent a strategy like this is, but I can assure you that the wins Cesar got with this deck were very fun and extremely eventful!

One of the biggest breakout strategies at last week’s Pro Tour was the Constellation decks. Eidolon of Blossoms was much better than most players originally thought, and by Sunday it had become the talk of the tournament. Michael Platt, however, got the memo about this card way before the Pro Tour and was crushing Georgia States with it while everyone else in Georgia was trying to find answers for it.

Now this deck might look similar to the B/G Dredge decks running around, but don’t be fooled. This deck is much more explosive than any other deck trying to fill up its graveyard. The secret behind Michael’s deck is that it centers itself around Strength from the Fallen. This two-mana enchantment allowed Michael to constantly present a “must-kill” threat whenever he triggered constellation.

How to kill you, let me count the ways.

The other added benefit of this deck is that it doesn’t have to rely on its graveyard. Scavenging Ooze still sees tournament play in every Monsters shell, which can be a serious problem for any deck running Commune with the Gods… but the way around that particularly scary problem is to generate card advantage via Eidolon of Blossoms and Courser of Kruphix. These creatures keep the spells flowing and help us go over the top with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Nylea, God of the Hunt.

It’s no surprise to me that the ability to attack from multiple angles is the reason why Michael Platt found his way to the Top 8.

The only change I would like to see is a couple Mutavaults in this deck. This man-land will do wonders against U/W Control variants by allowing the deck to deal insane amounts of damage with Strength from the Fallen triggers on the turn after Supreme Verdict destroys your other creatures. It can even be found with Satyr Wayfinder!

There are times that a cool synergy has to smack me in the face before I realize how good it is. Sometimes I catch them while playing, other times by scouring the spoilers over and over until something clicks. And sometimes it’s when a cool deck emerges from States! Without a doubt, this is the coolest deck that came from this seasons Star City Games State Championships. Not only is it innovative, but it also looks like a complete blast to play. Michael Belfatto, it brings me great honor to crown you this seasons “Bad A$$”!

Seriously!?! I would have never seen how absurd playing Nightveil Specter in a deck with eight sources of any mana was unless someone showed me. This deck has four copies each of Sylvan Caryatid and Mana Confluence to work alongside Nightveil Specter, letting you play anyone’s cards as soon as you rip them off the top of their deck. I just wish I could go back in time and ask Michael to take a picture every time he cast something sweet like an Obzedat, Ghost Council, Anger of the Gods, or even an opponent’s Sphinx’s Revelation.


I wish I could have seen the look on his opponent’s face when he slammed a Sphinx’s Revelation with that manabase! They had to have been in complete and utter shock!

The sky is the limit with this deck. As long as playing four copies of Mana Confluence isn’t too painful, I could see this shell being the home for all sorts of crazy splashes. Honestly, I don’t think I can explain how much this deck gets my gears turning! This is the first deck I’m going to pick up once I get back from Grand Prix Atlanta. Well, this or Brave Naya. I’m not really sure I have the willpower to put that deck down just yet.

Speaking of Brave Naya, I thank all of you that took that deck to battle this past weekend. I understand that listening to me can be scary at times, but I hope it paid off for you all. All of the outsiders think that the deck is named after Brave the Elements, but anyone that has ever played a deck built by me understands that it takes true courage to sleeve it up for battle. Just ask Cedric! He took Brave Naya to his States Championships in Seattle and finished in… I don’t actually know what place is 0-2 drop. [Editor’s Note: That would be tied for dead last, Bard. –Cedric]

Thank you so much for believing in Brave Naya! Here is my updated version that I think is exactly what I will be playing in the Sunday Super Series in Atlanta if I find myself on the sidelines during the draft portion.

Again, I want to thank everyone that took a sweet deck to States. For those of you that didn’t get mentioned or didn’t make Top 8, don’t let that discourage you. There are tournaments that are just supposed to be about fun, and States has always been that for me. I was a bit sad that the Pro Tour landed on this season’s State Championships, but I can assure you that I will compete in one soon enough and I will be sporting a fun deck once I get there!

My goal for next week is to be caught up with Standard to be able to bring you guys some deep knowledge about the changes Journey Into Nyx brings to the format. To do that, I just need to know what you guys want most. Let me know what you guys want to learn next Friday. Maybe you just want me to make a video with one of these decks. Who knows? I’m guessing you guys do, so let me know in the forums down below!

As for me, I am heading out to celebrate not dying in the past 364 days. Happy Birthday to me!