The Boys Are Back In Town

What are the top decks and best builds of Avacyn Restored Standard? Larry Swasey gives his take on Esper Control, U/W Delver, Wolf Run Ramp, and W/R Humans.

These past two weekends have been the earliest where Avacyn Restored is legal, and the Standard format is already shaken up. And by shaken up I mean it’s
relatively the same with a few key differences. What are these key differences? Well, as I’m sure some of you have noticed, decks can no longer rely on
countering the key creatures that makes certain decks work (I’m looking at you, Wolf Run Ramp). This is due to the awesomeness that is Cavern of Souls.
Plenty of other people have already spoken about Cavern of Souls ( including me) so I won’t go into how I feel about it in-depth,
but I will say that it’s very good with decks that wanted a dual land on turn one. It’s also very good in decks that want their huge guys to resolve.
Everywhere else? It’s just so-so.

With the rise of Titan decks, the presence of sweepers is also sure to rise to combat the aggressive decks that prey upon the “slow” ramp decks. Since
Slagstorm, Whipflare and the like are becoming increasingly present in the format, there are a few cards that I feel rise in value, namely Negate and
Mutagenic Growth. Now, I’m not suggesting that people go overboard and play four of each, but I feel that in some number these cards can do very powerful
things. Let’s say you just tapped out for a Geist of Saint Traft. Your opponent is suddenly all smiles, telegraphing that he clearly has the sweeper for
it. You put on your best poker face. “Oh no! Don’t sweep him off his feet!” you shout as he taps his mana and plays Slagstorm. “That’s my man!” you exclaim
enthusiastically as you pay two life to Mutagenic Growth your Geist of Saint Traft. OK, so that exact situation and phrasing may not play out word-for-word
every time, but Mutagenic Growth is a huge blowout against a lot of decks that rely on sweepers. Let’s not forget that you can randomly blow up a
Phantasmal Image or blow out your opponent in combat. (You only think you’re going to two!) Speaking of Phantasmal Image

Anything You Can Do I Can Do… The Same?

Phantasmal Image is insane right now and you have to be crazy to not realize that. When people are going the route of battlecruiser magic (aka casting
Titans) being able to clone a creature for a mere 1U is a helluva deal. It also helps that the rest of the format is casting guys with Undying, comes into
play abilities, or legendary creatures. Let’s draw up another hypothetical situation. You’re playing a generic Esper Control deck against a Wolf-Run Ramp
player. He casts a turn two Rampant Growth (obviously) and it resolves. You play an end of turn Think Twice or something else; you don’t care what it is,
because you’re playing blue and any card you have is better than Rampant Growth. On turn three he casts a Solemn Simulacrum. The old two-four-six strategy
is suddenly in full effect and staring you down. You go to your turn and cast a Phantasmal Image, netting a land when you copy the Simulacrum. What’s your
opponent going to do? Attack? A blue deck would love to make that trade.

Maybe he’ll just play a Primeval Titan and say go? Even if he plays an Inferno Titan and nukes your guy, you still get to absorb at least a point of damage
and you get to draw a card. Now you’re up a land, life, and a card that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Let’s assume you have another Phantasmal Image. (Why
wouldn’t you? You run four of them AND card filtering!) You just play that and suddenly you’re up a Titan and potentially two Ghost Quarters that
counteract whatever lands your opponent just got. And when he deals with your second Image? Well, now you have Sun Titan fodder which is all you ever
wanted in the first place. Yeah, Phantasmal Image is really good. If I’m playing a blue deck, you can bet I’ll be running four of them in my 75.

Speaking of Esper Control, I have a pretty good idea of where I’d start but not a definitive list in front of me. The same can be said of U/W Delver and
R/G Wolf-Run. I don’t have lists because those decks are clearly too mainstream for a brewer like me.

Hipster Lists

If I wer going to play Esper Control tomorrow in a tournament, I would start with this core. These cards are non-negotiable, either insane in all match-ups
or your victory conditions.

4 Sun Titan

4 Phantasmal Image

4 Lingering Souls

4 Ponder

4 Forbidden Alchemy

Every other slot? That’s up for debate. It probably wouldn’t hurt to run some planeswalkers. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage seems exceptionally good. I’m always a
huge fan of the tapping ability; I did jam Frost Titan for a year, after all. I’d assume that you’d want a decent amount of removal as well; Day of
Judgment seems like a necessity but the number is debatable. With Images and Souls to provide blockers until Sun Titan comes along, early game removal is
the missing link. Dead Weight and Ratchet Bomb interact rather well with Sun Titan so those would probably go into the deck. If you wanted to get really
crazy you could run a few Mana Leaks or Negates. I’d probably lean towards Negate because it seems like the non-creature spells are the ones you should be
worried about…especially since you can just create a literal wall of 6/6 blockers when the first Sun Titan resolves.

As far as U/W Delver goes, the core is obvious. Delver of Secrets, Geist of Saint Traft, Snapcaster Mage. All of the usual suspects make an appearance. I’d
probably just play Matt Costa Delver list. He seems to be well-tuned to the Delver decks and all their card choices.

I’m not so sure the Surgical Extraction or the Celestial Purges are worth the sideboard slots. I imagine another Dungeon Geists or two would go a long way
towards helping the R/G aggro match up, which I know was a tough one for Matt throughout the day.

Now onto the big baddie, R/G Wolf Run Ramp. There are two main thoughts concerning the current WRR decks: do you want Glimmerpost or Cavern of Souls? Well,
seeing as the first place decks at the StarCityGames.com Standard Open: Providence and the SCG Standard Open: Madison were both R/G Aggro, I’d lean toward
Glimmerposts. There was a lot of U/W Delver in Madison, but as Cedric Philips has said before, Glimmerpost is fantastic in that match-up. Is it better than
Cavern of Souls? That is entirely dependent on the rest of the metagame. I would start with Chris Lachmann list from Providence but possibly swapping out
the Caverns for Glimmerposts and then adding Caverns to the board over Tree of Redemption, Bonfire of the Damned, and Naturalize.

Well, that covers three of the old decks from before Avacyn Restored, but has the new set brought us anything? Well, yes. Yes it has. In fact, if I had to
play a tournament tomorrow, I would pick up W/R Humans. Take a look!

How awesome does this deck look? Thanks to Cavern of Souls this deck can actually cast all of its stuff on time so it can maximize its effectiveness.
However, there are a few things I don’t like about this list. Why is it running two Gather the Townsfolk? That number seems very random and Gather seems
like a bad option, given the deck is not currently maxed out on some other very effective threats. Stormblood Berserker and Thalia are incredible right
now. Ramp decks can’t actually beat an aggressive draw on the play from Humans. Thalia just turns off their entire strategy and Champion grows quickly out
of control, bigger than any sweeper can deal with.

So if that’s what W/R Humans looks like, what list would I run? Well, I’m glad you asked

OK, so what’s with the changes? Well, considering no matter how well I explain it, I’ll get flak from people commenting on how I “ruined” the deck, I won’t
bother telling you about the changes.

Kidding! Of course I’ll tell you!

The first big change is that there is no more Honor of the Pure in the deck. Honor was great when the deck was essentially mono-white, splashing blue only
for Moorland Haunt (which conveniently made white tokens) and Mana Leaks. Now there are eight creatures that aren’t white in the maindeck. By going the W/R
route, the deck becomes a LOT faster. There is also a plethora of two drops in the deck and I can’t see a turn to play Honor of the Pure, unless it’s the
last. The other big change is that there is now four Gut Shot in the deck. The biggest reason is that I hate losing to a turn one Delver of Secrets just as
much as the next guy.

OK, that’s not the actual reason, that’s just a convenient scapegoat for running four. The real reason is that it clears out the little blockers that are
“lingering” around, it stops Phantasmal Image, and it activates Stormblood Berserker. Oh, right, Stormblood Berserker. How was the other list not running
four of this guy? He’s just absolutely insane! He’s the reason I’m running four Doomed Travelers. The more ways to get this guy out on turn two and
swinging in for three, the better. Oh, and have you seen Silverblade Paladin? That guy is practically a create-your-own Mirran Crusader (which was cut for
being clunky). Can you imagine playing a turn one Champion, turn two Stormblood, turn three Paladin? That’s a lot of damage.

And the other two red two-drop? Imagine pairing him with Hero of Bladehold. I guess this guy has his own pair of Lightning Greaves to spare. The sideboard
has the cards I feel are the strongest. Why would I want to board Ratchet Bomb when it kills almost all my guys? To blow up spirit tokens? I think I can
just attack through those, thank you. I would much rather have the all-star of the new set, Zealous Conscripts. When I was playing in Providence, I went
from 20 to 0 in one turn because my opponent stole my Inferno Titan with this guy. It was pretty bonkers. Did I mention that this guy also steals
planewalkers so you can use them on your turn and even potentially ultimate them? Yeah, he’s insane. The Phyrexian Metamorphs were added as a catch-all.
They’re good against Delver’s Batterskull and Geist of Saint Traft, Wolf Run Ramp’s Titans, Frites’ legendary creatures, and Esper Control’s Titans. If you
expect a lot of R/G Aggro feel free to board some Dismembers or Batterskulls.

Dang, now I really wish there were a tournament tomorrow so I could roll faces with W/R Humans. Just thinking about this deck makes me wish that Avacyn
Restored would hurry up and come out on Magic Online. I would definitely recommend trying this deck out to anyone that has tournaments coming up soon!

krazykirby AT gmail DOT com

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P.S. As soon as Avacyn Restored comes out on MODO, expect me to be streaming a lot more now that I’m on my summer break from school!