First, so that you don’t have to keep flipping between the previous article and this one, here is my current recommended main deck:
3 Lonely Sandbar
4 Krosan Verge
4 Skycloud Expanse
1 Flooded Strand
3 Exalted Angel
4 Wrath of God
4 Renewed Faith
3 Memory Lapse
3 Cunning Wish
4 Deep Analysis
3 Moment’s Peace
2 Mirari’s Wake
1 Exalted Angel
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Ray of Distortion
1 Elephant Ambush
1 Circular Logic
1 Krosan Reclamation
1 Moment’s Peace
This main deck is the exact listing I used at Regionals – and I still wouldn’t change a card. The sideboard ended up not as exact as I would have liked, partly because I changed several things in the last week or so before the event and just never had the time to thoroughly test which options were best. I’ll start by going over the card-by-card so that you can see why each is included from a functional perspective – and then we’ll use that knowledge to jump into the matchups.
While some of the board options have wiggle room, some are essentially untouchable. Unless you are extraordinarily pressed for space and willing to make very big sacrifices, the following cards should be considered must-haves.
The copy of Opportunity is what makes your Wish targets into additional card drawing when needed, and will normally never come into the main. To remove this, you would need to replace it with another instant that draws lots of cards, and I haven’t seen a better target than Opportunity for this purpose.
One Ray of Revelation should be considered completely off-limits for removal. There are just way too many times you will want to Wish for this, and the cost on both sides of the card are too good to pass up. In a real pinch, you could drop this and just go with Ray of Distortion, but I wouldn’t recommend such a change because of the enormous casting cost difference between the two. Ray of Distortion can theoretically be dropped, but you then have to replace it with a card that can stop Mirari (and ideally Ensnaring Bridge). Since you’re using the slot anyway in that scenario (and probably with something worse), I’d stick with one of each Ray.
Krosan Reclamation provides an answer to a surprisingly diverse set of issues and also allows you to drop the Flash of Insight from the board, since Krosan Reclamation and the Wish engine is enough on its own to infinitely recycle your key spells. (See below for more on Flash of Insight.)
Moment’s Peace is listed for those versions that have only three main. If that’s you, you really do want to include copy #4 in the board, as several of your matchups will come down to being able to Fog ASAP.
Which brings us to the cards that do have wiggle room:
The best sideboard cards aren’t just about power; they’re about forwarding your plans as a whole. At their best, they allow you to craft a collection of cards that becomes more powerful than the sum of its individual parts. Seedtime is the perfect example of this.
Against Tog decks, your plan will often involve trying to set up a superior mana base and then test-spelling them into using their mana to cast those expensive card-drawing spells. Once that happens, hopefully you can start a counter war to resolve a permanent that will seal the deal – typically Mirari, but sometimes Wake. (It depends on your hand.)
Seedtime fits perfectly with this plan, as it allows you to either fight at the end of their turn over a Wish or instead give you a two-mana spell that completely wrecks them for fighting on your turn. Either way, you come out ahead. The fact that you have Wishes and they often don’t means you can use this plan game 1 while their deck is still clogged with a bunch of anti-aggro cards, and that gives you even further advantage. In the event they have access to Mana Short, this card gets even better. The best part is when you get to fight over a Mirari, resolve it, and then cast Seedtime and fork it. That is good times indeed.
So the question becomes one of numbers. Unquestionably you want to include at least one of these in your board as a Wish target; after that, it becomes a question of how much space you can afford. I found that I wanted at least two, because this meant that I could bring all the copies into the main deck and have a reasonable chance to draw them. I tried adding a third to the board for a while, but found that the card that I had to take out was too costly – space is tight and Seedtime is only really amazing against Tog for the most part. It’s also useful in the mirror, but not to the extent that it threatens Tog.
The problem was that whenever I tried to drop another card from the board to free up space for Seedtime #3, I was losing a badly-desired card from some other set of matchups. As an example, either Compulsion #4 or the Logic could go, both of which would improve the Tog matchup a bit, but both those cards come in against a lot of other decks as well, not to mention you like them for the Tog match. At some point you have to draw the line of diminishing returns, and in this case I went with two. If I were playing this weekend, I’d stick with that plan.
Most current Wake lists that run only three Compulsion main seem to skip having the fourth in the board, and I think that’s almost surely wrong. Compulsion #4 is good against MBC, Tog, the mirror, Slide, and any deck that goes after your hand with disruption (like the various B/G or aggro black decks). That’s a very big list, and it reminds me that the only reason I don’t have four main right now is because there’s still plenty of R/G and U/G running around out there. I don’t like running four main because of that, but I can’t imagine not having access to four after the board. This card is incredibly good at what it does, and that goes double in this deck. In an archetype where your sideboard slots are so squeezed, I can’t imagine passing up the power and versatility of this card.
As a side note, I should point out that part of what I’m really getting at is that against many of the decks in the field, you’ll want the ability to go up to four Compulsion and four Deep Analyses. I found that seven of these were about right for the maindeck, and that six felt like I was skimping a bit too much. Regardless of you how configure your own maindeck suite of card drawing, I’d highly recommend having access to all eight copies for game 2. Against all but the fastest decks, the added power of this card drawing package is easily worth the slots (and part of what makes the deck so powerful).
I experimented with dropping access to the fourth Angel for a long time, but found that this weakened me too much against U/G to be acceptable. Angel is good to great in several matchups and allows the deck to play a purer version of control than would otherwise be possible, for those matchups where doing such can be a real plus. Since you’re always going to have at least a couple cards in the board for U/G, the real question is which is better: Angel #4 or another copy of Chastise? After scary amounts of testing, I found that Angel #4 is just too good to pass up and I wouldn’t skip it at this point. Chastise is nice against U/G, don’t get me wrong – but at this point, I think you’d play as many Angels in the U/G matchup as you could, given the chance. That means that Angel #4 gets the nod for the slot, and other U/G slots can get in line.
This was a last-minute addition for Regionals, something I hadn’t tested for more than a couple days and which turned out to be only good, not great. The idea is to have a Wish target capable of taking out big guys, particularly when they’re trying to gang up on defense against one of your Angels. As such, it does its job pretty well, but in combination with access to an Unsummon I found it to be too redundant for the slots used. In retrospect, I think it’s best to choose between a copy of one or the other, not both.
This was another late addition, but which ended up having enough time to test that I had a better idea what it added to the deck for the slot used. The original lineage of this choice goes back to early in our testing, when Seth wanted to free up a slot by dropping the Ray of Distortion. At the time, Wake was fairly rare and MBC wasn’t doing well either, and Ray of Distortion’s primary job is to get rid of Mirari. By dropping Ray, we could add one Chain of Vapor as an answer to R/G’s annoying Elephant Guides. I quickly found that I wanted to keep the Ray, and also discovered after some more testing that Chain of Vapor’s drawback came up too much for my taste. My mind was made up once MBC started looking good again and after I had a bunch of board testing under my belt. It turns out that having one Ray of Distortion and one Ray of Revelation means you can bring in the Ray of D against decks like Slide, giving you an in-deck removal spell while leaving Ray of Revelation as a Wish target.
However, I also found that once that bounce spell was gone, I was back to really sweating against R/G game 1. An early Guide makes Wrath a lot less attractive, since they often have the burn to seal the deal if your Wrath just gives them another 3/3 guy for free. I added the bounce spell back, but this time as Unsummon, and was very happy with the result. Unsummon makes for a great answer to Guide, allowing you to Wish and play it for four mana, as well as having several uses in other matchups as well. In particular, the card is quite useful against U/G, allowing you to”kill” 6/6 tokens as a 1cc instant as well as punishing them for gang-blocking your Angel with the proverbial Wondered Wild Mongrel + surprise Arrogant Wurm.
There are other times when Unsummon comes in useful as well, but the function it serves against R/G and U/G make it worth the slot in my experience, particularly because of the help it gives you against R/G game 1. As I mentioned above, I feel that this card and Reprisal serve many of the same functions, Guide aside, so I would consolidate a slot by just using one of these at this point. Currently I would choose Unsummon over Reprisal, both because of casting cost as well as the more important fact that this gives you an advantageous answer to Elephant Guide.
This seems to be the best board card against U/G after you’ve maxed out on Exalted Angels, but the number I employ has fluctuated drastically over the last six weeks. For a long time I actually had four of these plus access to four Angels, and that’s the best I’ve felt against U/G for a while. The problem is that to do this, I had to give up on the Reprisal and the Unsummon from the current list (assuming I’m not willing to drop to one Seedtime, which I’m not, at least for the moment). I can easily see losing Reprisal (as long as it’s for an anti-beatdown card), but also losing the Unsummon means R/G is more of a problem, including game 1. Also, Chastise isn’t as sexy as you’d like against many of the other aggro decks.
Because of that, I would only run the two Chastise I already have and then drop the Reprisal for a Teroh’s Faithful. The Faithful is decent against U/G and very good to outstanding against R/G and Goblins, where I wouldn’t mind having some additional help. Given more space or a greater desire to bias against heavy aggro like Goblins and R/G I would look to up the Faithful count to three or four – but if you do so, go in with the understanding that you’re sacrificing in other matchups to do this. (Hey, you have to pick your battles.)
I only list this because some lists have occasionally shown up that ditch this kill method. Since Ambush basically depends on the Wish engine, you can theoretically end most of those games by just recycling your deck with Reclamation tricks + Angel and/or just decking them.
This plan goes in with the understanding that you have Angels as a primary kill and the Ambush is just a backup plan, so might as well skip the Ambush to save a slot since you already have the alternate kill in your recursion cards. It’s an interesting idea, but I suspect that time issues alone are a good reason to avoid going down this road. This plan also seems a lot weaker against Tog decks, where I notice that the Ambush kill comes up a lot more, at least in the way I approach that matchup. Lastly, it seems likely to me that to go without Ambush you have to add back in the Flash of Insight, so you still can’t use that slot for something else you might want, like an additional anti-beatdown card.
Against the non-aggro decks, you’ll find that additional countermagic is very useful to keeping things under control. However, I found that adding too much can water the sideboard down too much; again, you only have so much space to work with. I’m not willing to pull any more anti-aggro cards, and I’m definitely not willing to pull any card drawing, so one counter in the board it is – at least for me. Other lists often have a second counter in the board by cutting the eighth card drawer (either Compulsion or Analysis), but I feel that the eighth card drawer is more important to those matchups than another countering spell. Analysis and Compulsion will either draw a counter out anyway or draw you enough cards to get other countermagic. Note that Counterspell #4 is perfectly acceptable here if you prefer it over Logic #1 (assuming you don’t have it main already). The reason I went with Logic was because I have fewer blue sources than most lists and also because it’s a lot easier to Wish for Logic and cast it in the same turn, particularly given my list’s blue mana count. Add in the nice synergy with Compulsion and I’ve never really regretted the swap.
Flash of Insight
This was the single most painful cut I ended up making, and I fought like mad to keep it. The main attraction to this card is that it makes for a very quick and easy way to set up recursion on your countermagic and card drawing. By flashing it back and removing all those Counterspells (and Opportunity) from the game, you allow yourself to get them right back with your Wish engine. The card is also quite handy for the games where you have Wake and a Wish and just need to find the Mirari or Compulsion. In very long exhaustion wars (such as against ‘Tog and some Slide and MBC variants), the ability to recycle your countermagic is attractive indeed. Add in the ability to get two cards from this (between casting and flashing it back) and you have a strong card indeed. So why doesn’t it make the cut?
The answer is that Flash of Insight doesn’t fill a need; it just adds a comfort zone. Once I got experienced enough with the deck, I found that I rarely if ever truly needed Flash. Early on you can normally just get Opportunity instead, and if you’re going to use it once the whole engine is set up you’re almost surely in complete control anyway. In a real pinch you can always use the Wake/Mirari/Wish engine to fuel lots of Krosan Reclamation action to achieve nearly the same effect, if slower and sloppier. Because of all that, it turns out that Flash just doesn’t do any one thing that you can’t already do in the deck – and since it only really shines when you’re basically already winning, it just didn’t make the cut. This deck is greedy beyond words for sideboard space, so you better be amazing at what you do if you want to make the cut. If there’s already something else present that accomplishes the same thing, I’m not interested.
Man, I miss having that card.
Wrapping up the sideboard section, given the above and working with my maindeck listing I would now use the following sideboard if I were playing this weekend:
1 Exalted Angel
1 Teroh’s Faithful
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Ray of Distortion
1 Elephant Ambush
1 Circular Logic
1 Krosan Reclamation
1 Moment’s Peace
That’s only one card different from the listing I used a few weeks ago at Regionals. Not bad! That means it’s time to get to specific matchup strategies. Note that all of these sideboarding suggestions are just guidelines. There are plenty of times that I adjust the ins and outs depending on my opponent or their deck.
+1 Faithful, +1 Moment’s Peace, +2 Chastise, +1 Exalted Angel
-3 Counterspell, -1 Mirari, -1 Deep Analysis
This is about getting through the early turns as intact as possible. A big part of that will involve using as much of your mana early on as efficiently as possible. Don’t even think about bluffing countermagic if you don’t have it and there are other things to do. That means you will indeed often tap out for things like Deep Analysis or Mirari/Wake.
As with most of the matchups, the most valuable thing you can bring is experience. The more you play this, the better feel you’ll get for what you can and can’t get away with. The early turns will be used on things like life gain, Memory Lapse, and so on. Try to balance your Fog action so that you still have enough life to get through all the burn. Don’t forget that you can use Wish to get Moment’s Peace back once you’ve used it up! Because of that, it’s pretty common to start Fogging on turn 3 and 4, then Wish it back for turns 5 and 6. Hopefully at that point you have enough mana in play that you can move things along properly from there.
Normally, you’ll have something of an edge in game 1 because you can shut down their attack phase so well, and this goes extra if you went first. Losses will typically come to not having enough defense early enough or not getting life gain and having too much burn pointed at your face. The extra defense you bring in means you can get more reliably to six mana (and still have something to stand on), which makes Angel much better. Overall, this matchup favors you, and game 1 is better if you have access to Wish=Unsummon. I sometimes take out the third Wish to keep an extra Counterspell since Wish is often only good if you’ve already drawn a Moment’s Peace – but with the addition of Unsummon to the board, I think it’s better to have all three Wishes still present.
Typical U/G madness is a favorable matchup, but it’s not as easy as some have made it out to be. If they draw two Logics early, there’s a reasonable chance you’ve already lost. In addition to that, there are many different scenarios where their draw will just trump yours. All that said, there are also many things you can do to them that will make them cry when their draw isn’t perfect, and most of the times it won’t be perfect. Angel is a big help in this matchup, but be aware that many to most people have bounce now, so you’ll have to take that into consideration when deciding how risky flipping an Angel will be.
Typically, this matchup will have two stages: Stage 1 is you trying to make it past the first six turns or so. If you do, stage 2 is all about the exhaustion war. You try and take everything they can dish out, and eventually you pull ahead with your superior late game. That’s assuming you don’t get an Angel active, which makes things much easier!
Things to keep in mind are that if they have Upheavals and extra countermagic after sideboarding you could be in real trouble – especially if they carefully ration how many threats they expose to Wrath. Also, keep in mind that desperation Fogs are often best cast in their upkeep, before they can draw additional countermagic.
I’ve tried more boarding strategies in this matchup than I can come close to counting. Despite all that, I’m still not at all sure how best to approach things. Currently, I use two plans. Plan 1 is that I yank all the enchantments to bring in two Chastises, a Peace, a Faithful, and an Angel. In this plan, you accept that they can Quiet Speculation for Rays and that you don’t realistically have mana to drop and sac a Compulsion until so late that you’re already in good shape. By going this route, you keep plenty of business in the listing while also stranding their Rays. The extra defense helps set up a winning Angel while retaining all your Deep Analysis to keep a good late game and win the exhaustion war. I like this plan and typically do it game 2, especially if I suspect they are bringing in Rays and/or they don’t realize I am doing this.
The other plan is to narrow down some of the main deck numbers to fit in the extra defense. This typically means something like -1 Compulsion, -2 Deep Analysis, -1 Mirari, -1 Wish. This still keeps four card drawers main and also still allows the amazing Compulsion+Wake combo. I use this game 3 if I suspect they’ve dropped their Rays back in the board, or for opponents who don’t seem to Spec for Ray in the early turns.
There’s also the Dutch plan of just removing all the Deep Analyses and a Mirari, but then you’re down to just Compulsion for card drawing and they can kill that if they want to with Spec, so I’m skeptical of this approach.
However you go (within reason!), this is a favorable matchup, but if they want to win it badly enough they have the sideboard options to go after you. The extra slots will cost them in other matchups, though, and there are a lot of decks to try and beat right now!
This is the matchup where experience will pay off the most. Your main advantage is a deeper and faster mana base. Also, you can really punish them for tapping out at four (or sometimes five) for Analysis or Concentrate, since your main threat cards cost five(Mirari and Wake). Often you’ll cast a few threats early on, in reverse importance, with the idea of getting rid of their countermagic. Then you can refuel with your own card drawing, especially since Deep Analysis normally won’t be countered and you have four of them, plus the cycling to help find them. Since you’ll often put more mana out it’s likely that at some point they’ll have to give you an opening, or they’ll simply run out of land to play before you do.
The setup is to force a fight at the end of their turn, either with Wish itself or, if they let that go, with an Opportunity at the end of their next turn or a Seedtime for a big fight on your own turn. Either they fight you on their turn, in which case they have too much mana tapped and you can force something through on your turn, or they fight on your turn and you can try to set up a devastating Seedtime. In most cases, Mirari is the best card to get into play, not Wake, so choose your spell order and priority accordingly. Once Mirari is in play it’s virtually impossible for them to force an Upheaval through if you’re careful, which buys you enough time to go crazy with the card drawing.
Sometimes I keep an extra Wrath in, sometimes I use a Chastise or two… But that’s the basic plan. Wishes become tutors for Opportunity as the rest of the good stuff is mostly in your deck. Having both Seedtimes means there’s a pretty good chance you’ll draw into at least one over the course of these long games, and that means you’ll be armed without the opponent knowing you’re armed. Plan accordingly! Also, be aware that you’ll be facing Duresses game 2, so you can’t just sit on your laurels the way you can game 1. They get an edge here because of that, but you’ll still have a lot of game to bring at them and I consider Wake a pretty serious favorite for game 1, which puts the burden of proof on them to take you out twice in a row against stiff resistance and superior mana.
This is a very good matchup for you, based on typical MBC lists. They will typically strip you of several cards early on but your card drawing will refuel things quickly since they can’t normally put you away very quickly at all. Once you get to the mid-game they don’t have countermagic or removal to stop your overwhelming permanents – which means that Compulsion, Mirari, or Wake will put things beyond their reach. Don’t bother wasting time with Angels if you have better things to do.
The main thing to watch for here is getting a Cunning Wish discarded into the graveyard and then having a Haunting Echoes resolve, which cuts your chances significantly. (Haunting Echoes is, otherwise, surprisingly minor.) You can still try to win with Angel, but you’ll need to draw into an arsenal of Angels and countermagic to make it happen.
Game 2, you’ll bring in Logic, Compulsion, and a Chastise, removing three Moment’s Peaces. The assumption here is that they need to bring in creatures to have a chance, so you just head them off at the pass by keeping all your Wraths and adding in a Chastise. In combination with the added counter and Compulsion, you’ll be a heavy favorite unless they’ve mortgaged their other matchups to come after you and/or other control decks in an enormous way.
Not as important as it used to be now that Wake and MBC have joined Tog in the”Tier 1 and smash Slide” club. However there are still a few Slide decks out there, so you might face some here and there. You have significant inevitability in this matchup as long as you can get the time and mana to get your toys in play and humming.
If they have Cartographer, you’ll want to give Astral Slide more respect than you might otherwise have done. Lightning Rift is their best chance so make sure to keep plenty of life and you’ll be able to make them cry with your superior card drawing and the ability to Wish for Ray of Revelation. The longer the game goes the more permanents you’ll get into play and the easier things will get. There are certainly some scenarios in which they can steal a game from you, but you’re the heavy favorite.
Game 2 you’ll normally bring in something like a Ray of Distortion (keeping the other, better Ray as a Wish target), a Compulsion, and a Logic, taking out three Fogs or something similar. I often also take out a couple Wraths to add in the Chastises, especially if they have Nantuko Monasteries. You may need to keep more anti-creature in if you suspect things like Hopper or the like, but since you’ll almost surely win game 1 you can gamble a bit game 2 if need be, allowing you the luxury of adjusting in game 3. Just make sure to play quickly – you are the favorite, but time can be a factor in this one. People with the more popular mana base of ten-plus Islands will need to play around Boil at times, but you won’t have that problem as much with my listing. Again, a very good matchup.
This deck seems to be seeing a bit of resurgence lately, presumably at least in part due to the drop of R/G’s numbers and success in recent weeks. This is the other matchup (after R/G) where you’d really like to have Faithful in numbers; if you expect lots of R/G and Goblins, by all means make room for three or four. Other than that this plays out like a faster version of the R/G match-up and your boarding will be the same. Your scramble is to stay alive through the early turns so that you can set up your tools in the later turns. The difference is that they don’t have Guide to annoy your Wraths, but they probably have Blistering Firecats to make up for that. They also pack more burn in some variants and your Chastises may be disappointing if they’re just saccing the target to give other Goblins +1/+1. This is an even matchup and goes to bad if they have Flaring Pain, but additional Teroh’s Faithful make a miraculous difference if you get to cast even one.
I’m referring to the mono-green ultra-aggro deck, which seems to have picked up some lately in popularity. Similar to Goblins, this deck brings a furious brawl within a very short period of time. Unlike Goblins, this deck can’t do anything if you shut down the attack phase and even just a turn 3 Gray Angel can give them a lot of trouble. Wrath is a good weapon here, but be aware that they will often have Caller of the Claw either in hand or able to be searched via herald. If they have access to three mana, you’ll have to be more careful with your Wrath effects. Fortunately, this isn’t as much of an issue since they don’t have any burn or other interference, often allowing you to Fog and otherwise stall things until you’re ready for something like Wrath+Memory Lapse or whatever else presents itself. A very good matchup for Wake, I would board the same as against the Goblins.
The more controlling they are, the more trouble they’ll have with Wake. This is because a more controlling version of B/G tends to give Wake too much time to get going thanks to all the card drawing and toys. Things swing around, however, once they get more aggressive. Versions that pack a good early aggro curve backed up by disruption like Duress and Cabal Therapy can be quite good against Wake. Combine all that with Braids as well, and you’re really starting to make Wake sweat.
In this kind of scenario, Wake normally has to get a Wrath online ASAP, particularly since Withered Wretch takes a lot of the bite out of several of your other cards like Moment’s Peace… But with all the discard they can pack, it can be tough indeed to get that Wrath and keep it. With the right balance of aggro and disruption, this is probably your worst matchup, and the decline of R/G may be opening the door for these decks to at last get down and party. Because of the way the decks work, more aggressive mono-black beatdown decks tend to play very similarly and can be treated about the same as well.
What comes in and out for this match depends heavily on the actual cards you see, but typical candidates will be Compulsion (to help recover from all that discard), Angel (for the normal reasons plus to give an extra permanent against Braids), Faithful (a good blocker which buys you time as well as providing a permanent for Braids) and the two Chastise.
Cards to consider taking out are the real question. Assuming they are pretty aggro, I often take out a Mirari first, since if they’re aggro enough to give me trouble the Mirari can be too slow to get going. I also often drop a Wish, since there isn’t much I want to get and Peace isn’t nearly as good in this aggro match-up as in others. A Counterspell can also come out for speed reasons, but this makes you a little bit more vulnerable to what they’re throwing at you – the thing is that you’ll need to tap out quite a bit to set things up and you’re bringing in a lot of defense anyway. If you see Braids, it’s possible you should keep all your counters in, but so far I’ve been fine pulling one.
It’s also possible to trim out a Renewed Faith – it’s an amazing card, but something has to give to bring all this extra defense in. Beyond that I haven’t found anything else I’m really happy swapping so if you expect much of this match-up you’ll want to test enough to find your most comfortable scenario.
After nearly two months of solid testing and experience with this deck, I feel it is unquestionably one of the Tier 1 decks of the current field, if not the outright best deck of the field. With reasonable to good matchups against almost everything out there and a very real fighting chance in most of its bad matchups, Wake has what is almost surely the best set of matchups in today’s Standard. In the right hands, it wields awesome power and can completely dismantle many of the decks out there. No other deck in my current Standard experience has anywhere near such a good ratio of favorable to unfavorable matchups.
If that’s so, I’m sure we’ll continue to see Wake decks excel until the metagame manages to adjust. Until then, those who understand this deck and play it well are likely poised for some very strong finishes. Whether you end up playing with this beast or against it, I hope these articles have helped you in your upcoming matches. Good luck to all of you with events coming up!