The Great Champs Experiment: Part 4

Joshua Claytor continues his comprehensive series, examining the current Standard workhorses and producing updated (and Kamigawa-free) “skeleton” version for preliminary Champs testing. This particular article delivers some of the decks operating on the fringe of the current metagame…

Thanks for joining me on the final leg of this part of the series. We are going to finish up the current Standard decks that I think have a chance of surviving the rotation, and look at the final couple of cards that have been officially previewed for the week of the seventeenth. (Yes, I know that this is being printed after the prerelease. Bear with me.) Let’s get going, because this one is going to be a real dozy.

Paradox Haze
I’m not impressed with this card in Standard, mainly because I do not feel there are enough playable effects to justify having an additional upkeep. I’d love to see Braids, or Smokestack, but really I think the only worthwhile card to abuse this with is Debtors’ Knell.

Magus of the Disk
I was discussing this card with Daniel Neeley last night for about an hour; he’s really impressed, and I’m kinda impressed too… but the Magus has this problem, as all creatures do: he dies to just about everything in the format. True, it will take multiple Pyroclasms to knock him off, and I can see why this card has generated a lot of excitement. I do believe that it will see play, maybe in the sideboard of the White control decks to have something that can break the mirror match, but I would rather have Snow-Covered Land and Scrying Sheets so I could generate card advantage.

We are down to the last nine decks. I’m going to cover a lot of off-the-wall choices here, so I hope this is entertaining…

The Masterpiece made a bit of a splash after Regionals this past year. And why not? The “four-color good stuff” style was appealing to a lot of players. It has card advantage, fat beats, and plenty of removal.

We need to find replacements for a lot of broken men that are rotating out. No more Meloku, Ink-Eyes, Keiga, or Okiba-Gang (I feel that this ninja did not get enough play while it was legal, and I’m going to miss him.) However, the biggest loss is Sakura Tribe Elder. The Rampant Growth that could block was a huge deal against aggro decks. This guy, coupled with Birds, allowed you to play everything in the deck easily. The sideboard is losing Cranial Extraction and the last copy of Okiba-Gang.

For the maindeck, I would replace the elders with Rampant Growth (yes, that does suck). Meloku and Keiga become Simic Sky Swallowers, and Ink-Eyes becomes what I think will be a heavily-played creature: Skeletal Vampire. Okiba-Gang needs to be a huge monster too, and since we have the commitment to White, let’s try out Adarkar Valkyrie. The sideboard should finish out the removal packages – two more Mortify and one more Putrefy – and we’ll add another Naturalize.

Boros Tron is a deck championed by our own Evan Erwin here at StarCityGames.com. After seeing the deck in action at a few team Pro Tour Qualifiers, I decided to add it to my own set of testing decks, and I fell in love with it. The deck is fun as hell to play, so I wanted to give it a chance to shine.

We replace the legendary lands (again), Yosei, Ryusei, Godo, Jitte, Tatsumasa, Sensei’s Diving Top, and probably the best and most abusive key to the deck – Genju of the Fields. Replacing these cards is not going to be thrilling, but I think we can make something work. The sideboard is losing Kami of Ancient Law and Pithing Needle. Not much more of note there. To be honest, this skeleton may be a lost cause. Losing Top is a serious blow to the deck. We want to take full advantage of the Tron here, so I think adding in three more Demonfire makes sense. We want more card advantage, and sadly we cannot support a Snow-Covered base and Scrying Sheets, so more Bottled Cloisters are in order. There is a need for Big Monsters, so Adarkar Valkyrie is added, as is Firemane Angel. I bet Wildfire would be fantastic in here, so let’s use those. The last slot is now the underachieving Bloodfire Colossus. Finally, we round out the Fellwar Stones and add the rest of the set.

For the sideboard, we add Lightning Helix for a little more removal and replace Kami with Unicorns.

Battle of Wits is fairly simple. You have more than two hundred cards, find the enchantment, cast it, protect it, and win the game on your upkeep. So what does this deck lose?

I can’t believe I’m doing this…

The losses that Battle encounters are like a shopping list of Kamigawa. We have to find replacements for Top, Gifts Ungiven, Hideous Laughter, Hinder, Rend Flesh, Sickening Shoal, Kagemaro, Meloku, Night of Souls’ Betrayal, Cranial Extraction, Enduring Ideal, Eradicate, Final Judgment, Tendo Ice Bridge, and Mikokoro. Wow, that’s almost a full deck there! With Enduring Ideal leaving, we can lose the enchantment package as well. We can say goodbye to Form of the Dragon. Before we hit the sideboard, let’s go ahead and replace these cards.

There are (sadly) no good replacements for Top, so we can go ahead and add some more artifact mana. Coldsteel Heart gets the call up. Before I go any further, we are going to change the basic lands to Snow-Covered, and replace Mikokoro with Scrying Sheets. Rend Flesh is replaced with Disembowel, and Chill to the Bone takes over for Sickening Shoal. Confiscate takes the place of Night of Souls’ Betrayal. Sunscour takes over for Final Judgment. The creatures that needed replacing are now Vampire and Valkyrie. Tendo Ice Bridge becomes Mouth of Ronom.

For those of you scoring at home we still need to replace the following. Gifts Ungiven, Hinder, Cranial Extraction, Enduring Ideal and Eradicate.

Hinder becomes Rune Snare. Gifts Ungiven is replaced by Moonlight Bargain. Eradicate becomes another copy of Ivory Mask. Enduring Ideal becomes Court Hussar, and Cranial Extraction becomes Commandeer.

Sweet, we got through that. Let’s go to the Sideboard now. We lose Scour, and Genju of the Realm. I’m going to make them more Bottled Cloisters.

Counterpost is a throwback to the old Kjeldoran Outpost based control decks from Standard years ago. We have the same idea with this deck, even though there is not much actual countering in deck to begin with.

We need to toss out Meloku, Mikokoro, and Final Judgment. Thankfully there is not much that needs to be brought of the board (Ha! Nothing at all!). I think we need to add more Pride of the Clouds, so the Lion replaces Meloku. There also needs to be more countermagic for this “Counterpost” deck, so let’s add Remand.

The control deck of choice immediately following Pro Tour: Honolulu, this Blue/Red number is rather spicy after the rotation. There is a minimum amount of loses, and this already strong deck should be a contender after Time Spiral becomes legal.

It looks like we lose the Legendary Lands, Keiga, and Hinder. We’ll use two copies of Giant Solifuge to replace Keiga, and Rune Snag comes in for Hinder. Basic lands come in for the legendary lands. Out of the board we have to make up for two Solifuge, Threads of Disloyalty, and a Pithing Needle. Let’s add more Blood Moon – two to be exact. The rest of the board should be Annex.

The next deck that I am highlighting is another Tron-based deck. We’re looking at these Tron decks for multiple reasons. I believe that Tron will see a lot of play at Champs – it allows for powerful cards to be played quickly. This version is Blue/White, and was created by the same person who made Elf and Nail. When Mike Flores highlights you, there is a need to look at why he brought it up.

This deck does not lose much, just Meloku and Keiga. Those cards seem to be leaving just about every other deck I am writing about. Who said Blue was getting a power shaft? Note: Storm Herd is in this deck, and it is insane!

It really sucks for us Blue mages… we do not have a card we can play anymore that just says, “I win.” We do however, need to replace those cards. We could run Sky Swallower. (No, I am kidding.) After some research, I’ve decided that we run Valkyrie in the Keiga spot, and Ith in the Meloku slot. (Mahamoti Djinn may be fine.) I’m keeping the Storm Herd in.

U/W Tron Skeleton

4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Adarkar Wastes
2 Island
1 Plains

4 Adarkar Valkyrie
2 Ith, High Arcanist
4 Compulsive Research
2 Tidings
3 Condemn
3 Wrath of God
3 Overrule
3 Mana Leak
1 Storm Herd
4 Remand
4 Azorius Signet
4 Repeal

3 Weathered Wayfarer
3 Annex
3 Muse Vessel
3 Faith’s Fetters
3 Rewind

The next list is a fun little number that has started to get play on MTGO. It features a lot of Coldsnap cards, and is annoyingly fun to play. This deck could be a foil to aggro decks in Standard.

We lose Kami of False Hope, Yosei, and Top out of the main. The sideboard loses Terashi’s Grasp. There is no replacement for Top or for the Kami, and that hurts. We can add a fourth Martyr of Sands and still have room for three new cards. I want to see Blinding Angel get some play, so she will be there. Yosei will be Valkyrie. I also think we can take advantage of more Knells. We may not have the Grasp anymore, but Seed Spark will be a fine fit.

The final deck of the current Standard that I am going to cover is a Red/White/Black Angel control deck. Flores also highlighted this, and I think it will have a lot of good tools to take on the Standard environment.

We lose a grand total of three cards from the maindeck. Yosei and Ink-Eyes are easily replaced, with Valkyrie and Angel of Despair. The sideboard loses Night of Souls’ Betrayal and Kami of Ancient Law. The Unicorn takes over for Kami, and Night will be two more Fetters. How cool is it that in two decks today I have been able to use Moonlight Bargain?

Join me next time, when I go over the few Ravnica block decks that I think need to be covered. After that, we will look at the skeleton decks again and see where Time Spiral makes an impact.

Thanks for reading!