Thirst for Knowledge – The Rest of Standard

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Tuesday, August 10th – If you wanted my opinion on the best deck to be playing for the remainder of this Standard format, I’d happily direct you to my article from last week for the answer. The bottom line is that Destructive Force is just absurd, but I’d accept “Primeval Titan decks” as a viable answer to the “best deck in Standard” question as well.

If you wanted my opinion on the best deck to be playing for the remainder of this Standard format, I’d happily direct you to my article from last week for the answer. The bottom line is that Destructive Force is just absurd, but I’d accept “Primeval Titan decks” as a viable answer to the “best deck in Standard” question as well. Standard has gone from a cutthroat and fast creature-based format to a race to see who can cast the biggest spells. And, ultimately, if you want to cast big spells, the most efficient way to do that is with the help of Primeval Titan.

You’ve no doubt seen the UG Turboland lists playing Primeval Titan, but those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. See, I’m not really convinced that those decks are that good. Cedric was really into the one he built, but it not only seemed underwhelming in my time with it but it also didn’t really abuse the Titan as much as it should. In reality, the UG deck can do everything that it does without the use of Primeval Titan, and therein lies the problem: in that deck, the Titan is an unnecessary addition to an already-present engine. In Destructive Force or Valakut decks, the Titan is the engine.

In the Valakut deck, Primeval Titan actually accelerates your combo and allows you to shave as much as two to three turns off your average kill time compared to before, but in Turboland he just feels like an expensive Cultivate most of the time. Yes, he is also a 6/6 trampler, but Turboland’s game plan revolves around playing Avenger of Zendikar and Time Warping so that you can kill them before they get a chance to untap. You aren’t playing any Eldrazi or anything, and so you don’t have any special lands to fetch, so what does Primeval Titan actually do in that deck? My initial post-M11 lists for Turboland featured four copies of Titan in them, but I was wrong about him and I just feel like he’s not really doing that much in that deck.

That being said, if you’re looking for a Primeval Titan deck that doesn’t feature Destructive Force, this is your best bet:

Stream-lined, powerful, and fairly hard to disrupt, this is the real deal. Valakut was a Tier 2 strategy for months, but it might finally be good enough to be at the top tables consistently (so far it has, anyway). The good news, too, is that I don’t see this approach getting any weaker, as a majority of the cards will not leave with rotation in the fall. I’d expect to see Valakut lighting people up for months and months to come. It’s a cheap deck, it’s very easy to play, and it ends its rounds pretty quickly. I’d go as far as to say that it’s the “fairest” and “most healthy” combo deck that Standard has seen in quite a while.

And speaking of combo, take a look at this:

This list from Spanish Nationals is the resurgence of another fringe combo deck from a few months ago (much like Pyromancer’s Ascension in France). My friend Caleb played this deck at Pro Tour: San Diego, and it has only gotten better since then. Now you have Mana Leak to keep the pressure off you much easier, and you get access to Temple Bell, quite the boon for the deck. Font of Mythos is a fine card, but Bell costing one less is simply huge. Curving from Mine to Bell to Font to Warp is pretty much what the deck plans to do, and it’s about as resilient as ever. I’m still not a huge fan of these Time Warp decks, but the only deck that actually gives you much trouble is Jund due to Maelstrom Pulse. UW can be tricky if you wait too long (or don’t attempt Time Warp when they’re tapped out), but beyond that you have solid match-ups.

While we’re still talking about combo…

Months back I wrote about Summoning Trap with the Rise fatties, and this is about as close to the culmination of that idea as I’m going to get. Here we see Primeval Titan actually doing something relevant, as he’s fetching out our Eldrazi lands so we can cast our monsters if necessary. Summoning Trap itself if a pretty viable win condition too, since we can use it in response to a counterspell on Primeval Titan and just dump Ulamog or something into play for free, not to mention that an end-of-turn Primeval Titan is pretty spicy anyway.

I’m not really sure if Everflowing Chalice is that much better than, say, just more ramp spells, but it plays well with the Eldrazi and All Is Dust, so at least it has that going for it. I’d also probably play a third Tectonic Edge before a second Mystifying Maze, but beyond that I’m a fan of the list. I don’t normally like mono-colored decks, but Green I’m alright with. Why? Because what other color fits the “race to the biggest spells” bill?

The next deck I want to talk about is one we’re all sick of hearing about, but still need to hear about every once in a while: Jund. Here’s one of the newest iterations from Canadian Nationals:

I spent a good amount of time with this version of the deck, and the biggest thing to keep in mind when evaluating this list is noting that there were three other Jund decks in the Top 8 of Canadian Nationals, and I’d wager that Jund made up a large portion of the metagame in that tournament. The reason I mention is because the “new” part of this list, the four maindeck Obstinate Baloths, is only good against Jund. I mean, that’s just the bottom line here.

Against UW they’re simply miserable. Against RDW, they’re a little too expensive to make a huge impact, but I suppose they’re alright. Against any Titan deck they’re a joke. Against any combo deck they’re awful. But against Jund? Nah, they’re actually really good in the mirror, and so if you’re expecting a lot of the mirror then I’d be on board for playing four of them maindeck. But otherwise? Otherwise I’d definitely stick with the Siege-Gang Commanders, Broodmate Dragons, or Grave Titans that you normally would be playing in that slot.

LSV recently said in an interview at GP: Columbus that “Jund is finally just a deck rather than the deck,” and I’m going to have to agree with him. Jund still does insane things, but it just folds to Destructive Force, the newest versions of Sun Titan UW, and its match-up with RDW is shaky at best. I’d personally not put much stock in playing Jund at any future events, but some people are gluttons for punishment…

The last deck I want to talk about before heading out is one from Michigan native Kurtis Droge. This is a random brew he came up with for the Midwest Masters Championships, and although I have not tested it, nor do I have any idea how well he did with it, I must say that I am in love with this deck. See for yourself:

Oh yes. Yes, that’s correct – those are Rites of Replication you see there. And might I point out that Frost Titan’s “pay 2 more” ability is only for opponents? Do I need to explain how good having multiple Frost Titans in play must be? Or how good Rite must be in Titan mirrors regardless? Or what would happen if you… dear me… kicked it?

The deck looks really sick to me. Jace and Time Warp make an appearance, and we get to play Ponder… which I haven’t cast in Standard in ages. I’m sure that Primeval Titan could theoretically be in this deck (he’s not fetching specialty lands, sure, but without Avenger he would serve as another win condition and help ramp us into Rite’s kicker), but other than that I like where Kurtis is going with the deck. I’m well aware of the fact that he probably just threw this together (Kurtis is a master innovator, and sometimes he makes sick decks in less than half an hour), but I’m still intrigued.

What I’m curious about, however, is what would happen if we played Avenger of Zendikar in this deck. It’s a great target for Rite and is yet another win condition, not to mention that could serve as a reasonable defense in the late game. My only concern is about how likely we are to get to that much mana in a decent amount of time, but that could be remedied with less emphasis on Birds of Paradise and more on Rampant Growths or Cultivates. Maybe Garruk?

In any case, decks like this make me feel a bit better about Standard. In truth, this format went from being pretty abysmal to actually somewhat enjoyable. I mean, not like last summer’s format (which was probably the most fun I’ve had playing Magic since Ravnica, and even then it was close), but still a good time. Jund stopped being 60% of the metagame, and control found itself in a favorable position despite many saying it was “impossible to play in such a hostile environment.” Patrick Chapin spoke a few weeks ago about how many of the issues with this format arose from laziness in deckbuilding, and I feel like that’s probably true. So many people just assumed that control was dead, and that they’d “never play with Cancel,” but after Worldwake came out there was a viable UW Control deck with Jace, Everflowing Chalice, and — you guessed it — Cancel.

If more people were like Kurtis and Patrick, we wouldn’t need to hate Standard so much. Gerry Thompson also said recently that because of MTGO most players just keep playing the same 75 and never even switch cards around to see if things improve. It’s all copy and paste, the old “sticking with what works” approach. We’re all guilty of it, too, including myself — I’ve played Jund so many times with the same cards that I often want to just vomit whenever I see a Bloodbraid Elf. The solution? Be just a tad more open-minded. It can be hard, especially when the hivemind has such a firm grasp on us as a community, but strive to be an innovator, not just another follower. I think most of it is simply fear of trying something different, but we can’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to play a list you came up with on your own in a PTQ just because you don’t have a few similar ones from DeckCheck that you can use as a crutch. You don’t need “proven results” to have confidence in your deck choice. If more people trusted in their own skill, theory, and testing, we’d see a much more diverse Standard.

There isn’t much time left for this format, but by now you’ve seen a plethora of decks to rock until Scars of Mirrodin hits, but I strongly urge you to play less decks like Jund and UW and more like Frosty the Snowman. Yes, Destructive Force is what you should play if you just want to play “the best deck,” but if you want to innovate, then you know what to do.

Until next time…

Chris Jobin
Team RIW
Shinjutsei on MTGO