Trading Manlands for Moxen: The Saga of Standstill

Steve Menendian sits down at the table and tells me that he has tested the Fish matchup a lot and is shaky about it, though he feels he can pull it out. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I wasn’t playing Fish, and as Carl von Clausewitz says in his military philosophy, don’t stop your opponent when they are making mistakes! He plays a typical strong opening hand with plenty of mana acceleration. Steve drops a fat artifact which gets Annulled and then follows up with Mindslaver later, which hits Mana Drain, accelerating me into a Disk. At this point, Steve has the epiphany that I am not playing the little Blue men, but it’s too late…

It seems that the metagame changes as fast as the seasons do here in Ohio, the home of the most recent full-proxy tournament at The Soldiery. I attended this past Saturday, sporting my now standard colors, Blue and Red. As you readers may remember from articles past, my experiences with U/R Fish have gotten me far in this fully-powered metagame, home of the most broken decks in the format. This is where you play if infinitely Mindslavering your opponent or comboing out on your first turn sounds like a fun time. Expecting many people to play decks with such strong effects, I chose to run something that would rub them the wrong way. After Top 8ing twice before and bowing out in the semifinals, always the bridesmaid, it was my time to be the bride for a day.

Blue is essential in any environment that supports combo, if only for Force of Will. Red is also strong, with Red Elemental Blast, Fire / Ice, and Rack and Ruin all-powerful contenders in the race for the win. The field was set for U/R Fish. I did not play U/R Fish. Why? I found that it had terrible matchups against Stax (of which only one or two copies showed up, evidently), and that I knew people would be bored reading yet another tourney report about the blue weenies. So instead, I ran U/R Landstill, a deck with a much stronger game against artifact-based decks and still sporting the hella-fun Mishra’s Factory beating. The deck best explains itself, so here it is!


The Card Advantage:

4 Force of Will

4 Mana Drain

4 Standstill

1 Time Walk

1 Ancestral Recall

2 Annul

3 Stifle

The Board Control:

3 Lightning Bolt

4 Fire / Ice

2 Chain of Vapor

4 Nevinyrral’s Disk

Mana Makers, Booty Shakers:

4 Mishra’s Factory

4 Faerie Conclave

4 Island

4 Volcanic Island

4 Wasteland

1 Strip Mine

2 Flooded Strand

1 Mountain

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Black Lotus

1 Lotus Petal

1 Library of Alexandria


4 Red Elemental Blast

2 Pyroblast

4 Null Rod

3 Rack and Ruin

2 Tormod’s Crypt

The deck operates as control, using threats that dodge the Disks and play under Standstill. Standstill itself is not bad at all; playing with five Ancestral Recalls seems like cheating! The deck has a strong matchup against Workshop-based decks. Mana Drain is key against them, netting you tempo and the extra mana needed to throw out Disks against them. The prevalent burn in Landstill also nails Goblin Welders before they become active, and the Chain of Vapors and Stifles take care of a lot of problems in themselves.

A new deck has come from hiding and showed up in great numbers at this tournament. Some know it as Slavery; a potent deck made to abuse Mindslaver and Goblin Welder, as well as packing Pentavus to allow for infinite Slaver action. My first match of the day was against none other than Stephen Menendian, playing none other than Slavery…

Round 1: Steve, Slavery

Steve tells me that he has tested the Fish matchup a lot and is shaky about it, though he feels he can pull it out. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I wasn’t playing Fish, and as Carl von Clausewitz says in his military philosophy, don’t stop your opponent when they are making mistakes! He plays a typical strong opening hand with plenty of mana acceleration. Steve drops a fat artifact which gets Annulled and then follows up with Mindslaver later, which hits Mana Drain, accelerating me into a Disk. At this point, Steve has the epiphany that I am not playing the little Blue men, and adjusts his plan accordingly. It is too late however, as the Disk clears the board, along with all of his artifact mana. We move on to game 2.


-4 Nevinyrral’s Disk

-1 Chain of Vapor

-1 Lotus Petal

+4 Null Rod

+2 Pyroblast

I resolve two Null Rods. Steve resolves Memnarch(!), a creature far larger than mine and with enough mana behind it to take control of everything I held dear. I found no need to prolong the inevitable and moved on to game 3.

The Null Rods were a mistake to sideboard in, and I changed my plan after that to reflect my newfound knowledge. I changed them back for Disks, a card that would demonstrate its usefulness time and time again that day.

Game three saw a very tight field, with me wresting a tenuous control from Steve and playing Disks to clean house. His Ancient Tombs proved to be the best cards on my team as when combined with Factories, they whittled him down nicely. He was reduced to three life when he played Pentavus, a wrecking ball against my deck. Fortunately, I had a Lightning Bolt in hand and apologized to Steve as I killed him with such a lame card.

Round 2, Aaron with CounterSliver

You read that right, that’s Sliver with an”I” and not an”A.” Aaron led with two Muscle Slivers out of the gate, putting me on a tight clock. I had Disk in hand and planned to Fire away the first one he played, but my cards quickly became obsolete as the second Green beater hit. Luckily, I drew a Black Lotus and popped it for three Red mana, Bolting his first and Firing away his second Sliver. I took control from there, although the deck had certainly thrown me for a loop.


-2 Annul

-2 Chain of Vapor

+4 Red Elemental Blast

The second game saw two early Muscle Slivers and a Crystalline Sliver, followed by the third Muscle Sliver. That’s too fast a clock for me and I just lose.

The third game saw me get a Library of Alexandria active early, allowing me to cycle through about a third of my deck as I gained board position. Aaron played a Standstill against me, which he ended up breaking, just to run into me casting Ancestral and then Forcing his Swords To Plowshares on my Factory. I simply had too much of a lead and ran him over. His deck was unexpected though, and certainly gave me a hard time. It would later end up just missing the Top 8, showing that plenty of decks have potential, even in a powered tournament such as this one.

Round 3, Justin with U/R Fish

I know this deck inside and out, I should be able to play against it! He was even sporting the maindeck Goblin Vandals, which you may remember I advocated in previous articles as a way of shoring up the Stax matchups. Landstill takes the control side, doling out the answers to Fish’s threats. These decks are about as close to a mirror match as it comes, with the difference between the two builds being about ten cards.

Justin applies the pressure early and doesn’t stop. His Grim Lavamancers eat away at me and I lose the manland war to his Wastelands.


-2 Annul

-2 Chain of Vapor

+4 Red Elemental Blast

I foolishly leave my Standstills in, which are a great liability in this matchup, as both decks are made to optimize its use. I draw my Fire/Ices, but he pulls out Force of Wills, and I cannot stand up to his speed. Being beaten by my signature deck is both comforting and scary, as it affirms that it has enough power in the hands of just about anyone to make it far. Justin ended up in the Top 8 with his deck, which warms my heart. No T8 is complete unless it has something that really shouldn’t belong!

Round 4, Tim with Draw-7

Combos. To many, a delicious junk food consisting of pretzel cylinders piped with faux Tombstone Pizza flavoring. In Magic, combos are far less fun to see on the table sitting across from you, especially if they abuse the Draw-7s (Wheel of Fortune, Windfall, Timetwister, Diminishing Returns, etc). Unlike the amazing snack food sharing the same name, combos inspire irrational fear in me. I guess playing against combos in Magic is a lot like being punched while you are sleeping. With decks like Draw-7 that can go off on the first turn and pack Force of Will backup, there’s little you can do while it builds up to ten spells and then casts Tendrils of Agony on you.

Such was the case when I started against Tim and my timely Force of Will met his timely Force of Will. Stupidity ensued. The storm count hit ten. I shuffled for game two.


-4 Nevinyrral’s Disk

-2 Chain of Vapor

+2 Red Elemental Blast

+4 Null Rod

The Null Rods would have been nice, had I seen a second turn. As Draw-7 is wont to do, I died before seeing my tenth card. Tim resolved a Necropotence, on which his copy someone had scrawled”Pay life: Win Game.” It seemed pretty apt for the situation.

At this point, my record sat at 2-2. I thought that I was out of the running for the top cut, but knew that there was a fifth-round Beta Lightning Bolt door prize that I wanted to win. I stayed in and played for the love of the game.

Round 5, Ryan with Welder MUD

I keep a decent hand, knowing that the match doesn’t matter. I burn away his Welders before they ever become active as we progress into the midgame. While all this is happening, those who drew into the Top 8 were discussing who would make it, as the 8th slot was in hot contention. Apparently I was in eighth place at the time, and somebody shouted to me that if I won this round, I could have a shot at the cut. Everything changed. My playing tightened up as I felt that competitive edge come back. I was damned if I was going to miss the finals!

I ended up resolving a Disk and clearing the board for my Factories, which, along with my direct damage, paved the way to victory. I sideboarded with purpose for the next game.


-2 Chain of Vapor

-1 Lotus Petal

+3 Rack and Ruin

My opening hand had two Rack and Ruins and two Mana Drains, as well as a Disk and enough mana to keep it all. I wound up Annulling a Blood Moon and then Draining into a Disk. That swept the board, and the Rack and Ruins cleaned up where it was necessary. It took an incredibly long time for me to find a Factory. In the meantime, Ryan had played a Chalice of the Void for two, shutting down my Drains. Luckily, when he cast a Grafted Skullcap, I had enough Blue mana to Drain it and Stifle the Chalice, netting me enough for the Disk in hand next turn to seal the game. Landstill is like a casino; in the long run, it always comes out on top.

My tiebreakers ended up being the strongest and I went on to the Top 8, a great turnabout after resigning to my fate an hour ago. Out of twenty-four players, the final cut included:

3 Slaver decks

1 U/R Fish

1 Hulk Smash!

1 Mint Skittles (U/W Control, built and piloted by my teammate Jon Patch)

1 U/R Landstill

1 Draw-7

Surprisingly, the Hulk deck was the only one that showed at the whole tournament. There were an equal number of Memnarchs and Psychatogs, something that your humble writer would never have imagined. The decks were varied and show a healthy metagame. While waiting for the last match to finish up (Slivers vs. Draw-7), Paul Mastriano and I entertained ourselves with figuring out how to cast four Muscle Slivers on the first turn. Think you know how? It involves Chromatic Spheres and the top four cards of your library being exactly what you need, but it theoretically can be done. Give it a thought and post in the forum if you figure it out!

Quarterfinals, Kevin Cron playing Slaver

Kevin is the Dr. No to my James Bond, the Lex Luthor to my Batman, the Goldfinger to my… James Bond. You may remember his thorough stomping of me last tournament at the hands of Trinisphere. I felt that my deck had a pretty good matchup against his and I was determined to avenge my losses against him in the past. We shuffled off to Buffalo and took our time in game one.

Every Welder he played, I had an answer for. I won the card race with Standstill and put down a Disk. I swept the board and we started over again. I had him down to three life when he resolved Memnarch, the bane of my existence and the cruel foreman that would stop all of my Factory Worker’s escapades. He dropped to one life at the end of my turn to make a Conclave an artifact, setting up for control next turn. Unfortunately, on his upkeep I was able to Fire him for the win.


-2 Chain of Vapor

-1 Lotus Petal

-1 Stifle

+4 Red Elemental Blast

The second game boiled down to Kevin resolving a Mindslaver. He had played a Chalice for two, cutting down my potency. With the Mindslaver on the board, he was poised to take control of the situation. He dropped a Chalice for one, cutting me out of the stoppers in hand. I luckily had an untapped Disk in play and set it off in response to his Slaver activation, nailing the crucial Chalices. I Stifled the Slaver, and his Force of Will was hit by my Red Elemental Blast. The game went in my favor from there. Never have I played a more tense game of Magic. Kevin was truly a tough opponent and a worthy adversary. Many moves in this game required several minutes of contemplation each, all of which were justified on both sides.

Semifinals, Justin with U/R Fish

As luck would have it, I am again paired with Justin! I know how to win this match now and an early Ancestral Recall paired with precision Stifling of his Wastelands sealed up the game.


-2 Chain of Vapor

-2 Standstill

-2 Annul

+4 Red Elemental Blast

+2 Pyroblast

I recognized the importance of taking out Standstills for this matchup, because he can match me Strip effect for Strip effect, burn for burn, and manland for manland. Thankfully, I drew into a Library of Alexandria and came up with answers for every one of his threats. The Blasts were golden and really swayed the match in my favor. It took another epic struggle to find and keep my manlands, but in the end they proved to be enough to win. I moved on to the finals.

Finals, Stephen Menendian with Slaver

Steve and I agreed to split the Mox Sapphire prize and play for the second prize, three draft sets of Darksteel. The crowd assembled as we sat down to play, Steve boasting that he could beat me, and myself eager to see it happen.

My first game involved an opening play of Mishra’s Factory, Mox Sapphire, Lotus Petal, Time Walk. I followed up with an Ancestral Recall into a Standstill, sealing the game there. My Disks caught his artifacts and we moved on to the next game.


-2 Chain of Vapor

-1 Lotus Petal

-2 Standstill

+4 Red Elemental Blast

+1 Pyroblast

Games two and three showed just how strong Mindslaver is as it took over my turns and wrecked my board position. Even against a deck like mine, which is resilient in the face of the Slaver, the brain-stealing artifact did its job and won the games. That scary beast Memnarch (Or Smmemnarch, as he was dubbed) hit the table and coveted my permanents. So Steve was right (though I hate saying that!) about Slaver being the top deck in the format. I feel that the new top tier of the format is Hulk Smash, Stax, and Slaver, all offering great matchups against the majority of the field.

The March DCI announcement, which included no changes to the Type 1 Banned & Restricted List, is symbolic of the healthy metagame that the format is enjoying. Hulk’s reign at the top is held in check by the destructiveness of Mindslaver, and a cornucopia of decks are being produced and piloted to success every week.

I feel that Landstill is a great deck to run in the metagame. It has answers for most major problems that the top tier decks can throw at it. I think that, at least in high-powered metagames, Annul is a very strong maindeck inclusion. There are few decks that it cannot hamper significantly and it fills a void in the deck’s counterbase. There were many times that it caught a Blood Moon or something even nastier. Chain of Vapor fills the same role, and it usually ends up one-sided, as Landstill only runs eleven non-land permanents, none of which stay on the table very long. It can bounce Blood Moon for that crucial swing or even just to put a Mana Drain target back into someone’s hand.

Three decks packing Null Rod made it into the Top 8, further strengthening its legitimacy. It helps shut down Mindslaver decks rather well, shoring up the match for decks that otherwise would have a hard time. Volcanic Islands also showed up in five of the decks, making me feel that Black is no longer the second-best color in the format. There are also several combo decks being refined as you read this, so remember to always have a plan against first-turn idiocy.

Until next time, and remember to bring food to the tourney, sideboard wisely and play a fun deck every once in a while!

Doug Linn

Hi-Val on TMD