Super Friends, Esper Aggro, & The Rock!

Tired of playing the same old thing and want something different for Standard at #SCGPROV or #SCGVB? Then join Patrick Chapin as he hunts for a rogue deck worth playing!

When we last left our hero, he was just sitting down to take a stab at the Standard metagame . . .

Last week there were a lot of good suggestions as to where to look in the format. The name of the game is finding a good place to be positioned in the format, not just going rogue for rogue’s sake. Of course, this is a good time to explore outside the box a bit, so some of the lists we brew today are going to be firmly inside of “rogue” territory.

Last Friday I was dining on fried chicken at Tom’s Home Cooking in Denver and discussing Standard with Luis Scott-Vargas. Luis was on the barbeque pork plan. Both fine choices.

In discussing possible deck choices for Albuquerque, the topic of B/W Midrange came up. It has largely fallen out of favor, with Mono-Black Devotion generally occupying that spot in metagame. Why? To begin with, Mono-Black wins the head-to-head and is still one of the most popular decks. In fact, Luis thought Mono-Black might be the second most popular deck online behind Mono-Red Aggro. Of course, Mono-Red is Orzhov’s worst matchup.

These two decks already have me very hesitant to play Orzhov, though it doesn’t have a ton of other bad matchups. It is slightly behind Green Devotion. The main selling points? It has excellent matchups against Esper Control and Blue Devotion.

Do I think it might be time to bring back Orzhov? Eh, I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem that well positioned. If I were going to play Orzhov, I guess I’d play a list something along the lines of:

I do like the sideboard options available to Orzhov, and the deck still has a good foundation. I just think people are better set up against Thoughtseize / Doom Blade / Hero’s Downfall / Desecration Demon than they used to be.

Last week the idea of building a different kind of Orzhov deck was suggested, a White Weenie-based build with black removal (and discard) instead of Boros Charms, etc. You even get Xathrid Necromancer and Profit // Loss if you want them.

I guess this looks ok; I just am not totally sure on why this particularly random collection of cards on this particular day. It’s not even about the somewhat shaky mana base or the general weakness of playing Thoughtseize in a White Weenie deck. I just want to know what the theory is that brings us to this particular place. It has to be more than just “not a lot of other people are playing this sort of White Weenie deck at the moment.”

I guess we do get to put a halfway decent clock on people while we clear the way with removal. Brave the Elements is an exciting card, though it does decrease in value every white weenie you cut for a black removal spell. I really like Soldier of the Pantheon, Precinct Captain, Xathrid Necromancer, and Banisher Priest, though there are more than a couple loose creatures helping fill out the list.

One idea that has come up a few times of the past few months has been the idea of adding Sphinx’s Revelation to the B/W Midrange deck. Yeah, yeah, of course that is how you get Esper, but what if we managed to hold on to the creature theme of Orzhov?

I wouldn’t mind a bit more Hero’s Downfall action maindeck, but space sure is tight when you play this many creatures. Regardless of anything else, the prospect of leading with Thoughtseize and then defending our Jace with white weenies is pretty appealing. I’m not sure that you can’t play a passable aggro-control game against other control decks either. The mana is kind of loose, as it is obviously not trivial to support Precinct Captain in a deck with eight U/B duals.

The Supreme Verdicts in the sideboard are such a wishy-washy hedge. The first couple of Verdicts do seem excellent, but I wonder if it might be possible that we are supposed to have access to less than four. We could always go more of a Banisher Priest or Hero’s Downfall avenue. A related issue is do we even want Aetherling? We could pick up Obzedat . . . I just want to tear other control decks’ hands apart with Thoughtseize and Sin Collector while putting them on a clock with Jace for backup.

A couple other possible control decks were mentioned last week. One that has fallen out of favor in recent months is U/W/R.

When posed with a list like this, the most important question to ask ourselves is “why?” Why are we not playing Esper? This is not to say that we should just be playing Esper but rather that we must be able to answer when this is better than just playing Esper. Remember the Prime Directive!

Never play a bad something else.

We are missing out on discard, black spot removal, and access to Blood Baron Vizkopa. In addition, having only four Temples is a big downgrade compared to Esper, which has eight.

What does red give us? The most important card it provides is Anger of the Gods. In theory, this could be the decisive weapon against fast aggro, like Mono-Red, to give us a different selection of matchups. Esper, for instance, is weak against Mono-Red. With as popular as Mono-Red has been, I definitely don’t mind gaining some ground in that department.

Anger of the Gods’ utility goes beyond just Mono-Red of course. Having such a good anti Voice of Resurgence plan is great, and frankly just killing a couple Rats or a Nightveil Specter is all right with me.

Beyond that red doesn’t really have much to offer. I guess you get Mizzium Mortars, which is fine but nothing to write home about. We also gain access to Counterflux, but I am somewhat skeptical of whether Counterflux is even better than Dissolve.

I definitely like the Stormbreath Dragon in the sideboard and could actually see playing a second one to surprise people by hitting from a new angle. We could add Izzet Staticaster or Izzet Charm depending on what we expect the meta to look like. Even Shock could be an option if we just need some tempo.

I definitely miss Hero’s Downfall, which leaves us a little soft to planeswalkers again. It’d be nice to be able to Planar Cleansing, but Detention Sphere is probably just too important. Still, it is the lack of Thoughtseize (and Sin Collector, Reap Intellect, etc.) that hurts the most. Our anti-control plan is Counterflux, when theirs is Thoughtseize / Sin Collector? Not a great plan.

Another alternative for U/W/R Control is to go the Super Friends route and load up on planeswalkers. We can’t beat them at the “control” game, but who’s to say that we can’t overload them with potentially game-winning planeswalkers?

Playing zero Azorius Charms might just be insane, but we are aiming to play a very tap-out game. The tap-out game plan extends to the sideboard, where instead of loading up on permission (as people often want to do in control mirrors) we actually embrace our tap-out nature even more. If they have a ton of discard, our permission is likely not going to be super effective anyway, so instead we just board in Soldier of the Pantheon, Stormbreath Dragon, and maybe a couple more threats like Chandra and Aetherling. If we just play a big threat every turn, we have reasonable chances of sticking some of them and hopefully overpowering the Esper deck.

Of course, there is a good chance that the Esper deck is just too efficient at dealing with these kinds of threats, but it is worth experimenting with. I’m curious as to how many people will sideboard wrong against us . . .

One thing that makes me sad about both this and the previous U/W/R list is the disynergy between Soldier of the Pantheon and Anger of the Gods. Obviously we want to cut Anger against Esper, so no conflict there, but Soldier of the Pantheon is at its best against G/W, one of Anger of the Gods’ best matchups. It’s not the end of the world to lose your Soldier to a sweeper, and in fact the Soldier often forces opponents to overcommit. But let’s just say these two are closer to the Shaq-Kobe end of the spectrum than the peanut butter-chocolate end.

Looking at U/W/R and its overabundance of sweepers and card draw while missing Thoughtseize and good two-cost spells begs the question “what about Grixis?”

It is definitely nice to be able to play so many cheap cards, but the loss of Sphinx’s Revelation seems like it has to be brutal. Is it weird to not play Ashiok maindeck? I don’t know; it just doesn’t seem all that unbelievable in the format.

Why is Dispel the only countermagic in the board? We aren’t winning any big permission battles, nor are we equipped to play a true permission game. What we can do, however, is use Dispel to force through planeswalkers and Rakdos’s Return or just give us a layer of protection against Sphinx’s Revelation. Dispel actually seems pretty awesome here and is one of the more exciting aspects of this build.

I definitely like Dreadbore, and Anger of the Gods and Chandra aren’t bad. However, the hard question is whether all this stuff is really worth the loss of Sphinx’s Revelation (to say nothing of Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere). We don’t even get eight Temples!

Another possible way we could try a controlling approach is Maze’s End:

I am not overly optimistic about this approach. The mana looks atrocious, the deck is slow as molasses, and weaknesses abound. The upside? We are gonna kick some Esper butt. We are probably in pretty great shape against Mono-Black as well, but man it just seems like we are going to lose a lot of games against aggro before we cast a spell.

We could always play a version that uses just one of each Guildgate (maybe two Azorius) and is willing to “go off” slower in exchange for a mana base that has some similar properties to reality. I guess the theory is that Thoughtseize sucks against Maze’s End, which is true; I just question if enough of the metagame is playing Thoughtseize to justify this risky of an approach. My guess is that we are still going to see a diverse mix of aggro as people try to beat control that way.

One suggestion was to build around Golgari Charm. Another was to try a classic Jund Midrange deck. What might that look like?

I tried to force Xenagos in there, but he’s kind of suspect. If he’s good, it’s gotta be because of Sylvan Caryatid into Xenagos into Rakdos’s Return.

I wonder if we’re supposed to adopt Anger of the Gods instead of Sylvan Caryatid maindeck. That looks like it kind of just makes you into a bad Esper deck or a bad B/R/W deck. If you aren’t playing Sylvan Caryatid, what are you even getting out of green? Enchantment removal?

I could see an argument for Polukranos instead of Desecration Demon maindeck. We don’t have a ton of pressure and are more of a control deck than beatdown.

I will say that at least Jund doesn’t have a clear reason not to try it. Its card quality is high, it does good things, and it has novel elements. Mana acceleration + Rakdos’s Return is pretty hot when you have Thoughtseize to pave the way. I just wish our creatures were better suited to a defensive game. Desecration Demon and Stormbreath Dragon are very much not Huntmaster of the Fells, Olivia Voldaren, or Thragtusk . . .

Another Golgari Charm concept that was laid out last week was Reanimator. There are a number of giant holes in this plan, as I discovered when trying to put together a workable list.

Sure, you’ve got Lotleth Troll and Pack Rat to discard fatties and Grisly Salvage and Commune with the Gods to dredge, but what are you reanimating with? It is pretty hot that Commune with the Gods can find you a Whip of Erebos, but it sure would be nice to have a few Zombify effects. Rescue from the Underworld seems unreal clunky and slow, requiring a creature in play and an extra turn of waiting.

Breaking // Entering is not embarrassing but does make our mana worse. The problem, of course, is that a six-mana reanimation spell is pretty slow even if the creature does have haste.

The next problem is what fatties to actually use. Giant Adephage and Ashen Rider? Those are not exactly Craterhoof Behemoth and Griselbrand, if you know what I mean. The mid-level fatties, like Shadowborn Demon and Nemesis of Mortals, are decent but require you to play a pretty heavy creature count. It is doable, but it is one more restriction.

Here’s a possible starting point, but I do not recommend this list:

I guess if you want to explore Reanimator youhave to start somewhere. Still, this one doesn’t look super promising. My guess is that if this is good it’s because of Shadowborn Demon and Nemesis of Mortals. That kind of suggests cutting way down on the spells even further to make room for more creatures.

Another suggestion was to try to build a dedicated burn deck, possibly with Toil // Trouble. I guess I don’t know enough about what that might look like, but it would be nice to play direct damage when opponents are playing Underworld Connections and Thoughtseize or painful mana bases. If we are going to be fast, why aren’t we just red aggro? If we are slow, then I guess we might look at card draw such as Toil // Trouble and Read the Bones as well as Chandra, Pyromaster.

My guess is that this is just a bad Mono-Black deck.

The final suggestion in the comments last week was Gorgon tribal:

There really aren’t a lot of payoffs for playing Gorgon tribal. You get to have Hythonia the Cruel not kill your guys . . . and, well that’s about it.

While I would only recommend the above list if you’re trying to show off, maybe there is something to B/G Midrange . . .

Depending on how aggro we want to get, Experiment One, Lotleth Troll, Dreg Mangler, and Varolz are all fine options to consider. I actually wouldn’t mind exploring something along these lines, as it might be a different way to do what Orzhov tries to do. Elvish Mystic replaces Soldier of the Pantheon, Scavenging Ooze replaces Precinct Captain, and Reaper of the Wilds replaces Obzedat and Blood Baron.

Golgari Charm is a pretty sweet card:

Speaking of Reaper of the Wilds, that guy is pretty underrated. While he isn’t exactly Aetherling, he does provide an inevitability rarely found outside of blue decks. It also just commands a larger influence over the game than first glance would suggest. It is the epitome of overperformer.

With this much acceleration, what we really want is more ways to use our mana. Eight fatties is probably not enough, so finding a couple more five- or six-drops should be the priority. We also need to answer the question of whether the deck would be better off if we added white.

White gives us:

Reid Duke tested something along these lines before the Pro Tour before moving on to Thassa. I wonder if there is something to be gleaned from his old test lists?

Ok, I’m out for today, but I’ll be back Wednesday to continue the search for a rogue deck worthy of playing in Albuquerque. Which of these (if any) is worth working more with? Any concepts not found here that should be? Should I just play Esper Control? As always, any suggestions, feedback, and ideas are welcome and much appreciated!

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”

Next Level Deckbuilding