I have recently been requested on Twitter to write about the Standard deck I played at Worlds. I hadn’t really planned to write about Constructed, but I believe this article could help some of you who are in search of a really good deck to play that isn’t at the top of the charts (yet).
Using the deck, I pulled off a 5-1 record on Day 1 of World Championships, and I just won a 60-player Standard tournament last weekend running the exact same 75.
Without further introduction, here is what I’m talking about:
Julien Parez (2010 French National Champion) showed me the deck before Worlds when I was just starting to catch up on Standard. I first thought it was the list U/W Control players were playing. Turns out it wasn’t. It actually surprised me, since I thought Midnight Haunting would be universally accepted as the best card U/W had to offer, and even U/W creatures don’t play four of them.
I’m usually on the other side of the Day of Judgment, but there was something I really liked about this control deck. It had the potential to win really fast and become the aggressor. While I’m usually a terrible control player, I was surprised at how effectively my play style worked with this deck. I will explain in details why, but even if you’re not a control player, I suggest you try it.
Julien, Elie (Pichon, RoY runner-up and fellow Toulousain), and I worked on the deck for a week prior Worlds. We really liked how it performed against the decks we thought were going to be popular: Wolf Run Ramp and W/G Tokens, as well as against any other control deck, Esper and U/B. We were also very happy with the sideboard that seemed to cover all the decks of the field.
Let’s take a look at each card individually:
4 Midnight Hunting
This is the reason I like the deck. I just love that card. When people asked me between rounds, how many of them I was playing, I was always a little surprised. Why wouldn’t I play four? The card does literally everything:
-It gives you two creatures able to wield Sword of Feast and Famine.
-When you have four mana up, thanks to its instant speed, there’s always the risk of you having a creature with evasion carrying a Sword and attacking on the next turn, and that can make the math very complicated for your opponent.
-Against aggressive decks, they buy you so much time. To either chump block while you dig for your Day of Judgment, while you wait for your Consecrated Sphinx to hit the table, or just to trade for their threats. Spirits love to trade for Inkmoth Nexus.
–Squadron Hawk didn’t have flashback…
The best 6cc card in the format and a game ender. Very few answers in the current Standard environment. Oblivion Ring and Go for the Throat/Doom Blade. The latter only appear in B/U Control, which is a great matchup. You will have already netted two cards before the Oblivion Ring can take care of it. You will be able to take it out with your own O-Ring on the next turn.
Just like in every deck he’s in, Tiago has a large spectrum of abilities. While it’s really good to flashback counterspells and Day of Judgments, it really shines when it flashbacks Midnight Haunting. Three instant blockers when you need to buy time or four power at instant speed to start the clock on your opponent.
Gideon plays the role of the fourth “big spell.” You don’t want any more Sphinxes, as that would make the 6cc count too high. He is the best Planeswalker out there for your deck, and you have ways to protect it efficiently (Day of Judgment, Midnight Haunting).
The Counterspell Suite
Are explanations really needed here?
This slot is arguable, but I’ve never been disappointed by this card in the main deck. It works effectively against almost any deck, and it’s nice to have a cheap hard counter (even if a little situational) to have in your hand or graveyard to flashback while Mana Leak wouldn’t always do it in the long game.
While I could argue that this deck is not your conventional control deck, it still features countermagic and Day of Judgment. It’s very good in the current metagame, since there are very few decks against which you don’t want to have at least one in your main. You have enough ways to deal with creatures that you don’t need the fourth one.
The deck works a lot like Caw-Blade. There’s nothing like casting a Sphinx, attacking with an equipped Spirit, and having six mana up on your opponent’s turn. Unless you’ve been living under a rock this year, you know how that card works with flying creatures and counterspells. If you don’t, you probably have no business reading this :)
Think Twice is the card-drawing spell that blue players have been waiting for. I love the fact that I’d keep almost any hand with lands (including a blue source) and a Think Twice. It fits the mana curve nicely, giving you a play in case you didn’t Mana Leak on turn 2 and gives you nice synergy with Forbidden Alchemy…
For 3 mana, digging your deck for the right answer/threat while giving you extra resources is a good deal. Extra resources meaning putting extra spells in your graveyard to flashback, either with Tiago or just built-in flashback instants (Think Twice/Forbidden Alchemy).
With the extra blue sources from Drowned Catacombs, an efficient U/W manabase.
The black mana from the Drowned Catacombs serves two purposes: pay for the flashback of Forbidden Alchemy, and in more rare cases, save some life when playing Dismember after sideboard. The downside of sometimes having them coming into play tapped is made up by the huge card advantage/selection you get from a flashbacked Alchemy. You will only do that after turn 7, so it is likely you’ll have a black source by then.
Wolf Run Ramp is a popular archetype, and being able to blow up an Inkmoth Nexus will give you better odds against that deck. Very useful against U/W Humans/Illusions’ Moorland Haunts and W/G’s Gavony Townships.
Note that you don’t want a Swamp in your manabase. It is true that sometimes, you don’t get that black mana to flashback Forbidden Alchemy and that adding one Swamp would add potentially four black mana sources to your deck. I believe it would hurt your manabase a lot and that it’s not worth it. You could try cutting a Drowned Catacomb for a Swamp, but I’m pretty sure you’ll regret it.
The manabase allows you to play an extra utility land, and this one works great in this deck. You don’t have that many targets (seven in the main deck), but being able to make one Spirit will often save the day. Much better than Inkmoth Nexus, since you don’t lose your land when the creature gets blown up, and you can potentially get more than one creature out of it.
1 Gut Shot
A nice one-of against Illusions, mana-creature based decks, and anything with Inkmoth Nexus. You don’t really want more since you already have Dismember, and paying life is often quite relevant. Also keep in mind you’ll probably be playing it a couple more times with Snapcaster Mage anyway.
When set up correctly, both Phyrexian mana spells can help you gain life with Timely Reinforcements.
The fourth Day of Judgment for matchups where you’d rather play it on turn 4 as often as possible.
3 Timely Reinforcement
Often replaces counterspells against aggressive decks. Efficient against most aggressive strategies.
At first I thought they would only be good against U/B. Turns out they also consolidate your defensive arsenal against aggressive strategies while providing a cheap threat.
An extra hard counter against Wolf Run Ramp and Mono Red. I could definitely see this card being cut for something else.
Before Worlds, we didn’t know how good this card would actually be. Since the Channel Fireball team decided to play Tempered Steel, it became a lot more valuable. Efficient against Shrines, Equipment, and Nexus.
Extra removal to take care of fast red creatures and to try to stabilize at a decent life total as well as against infect creatures (except for Phyrexian Crusader).
Matchups and Sideboard Plans
The deck doesn’t really have bad matchups. I never felt like I was afraid to see a particular land laid down on turn one. You definitely have tough game ones against Mono Red and Illusions, but it’s made up after sideboard.
Here’s a breakdown of the matchups:
Vs. Mono Red
This is not a matchup I tried much, and I believe it’s probably the hardest one. With no way to gain life in game one, you’ll probably get burnt down right after you stabilize the board and start the offensive. Phoenixes and Shrines sound like trouble and so does Stromkirk Noble on turn one.
Your plan is to be a lot more proactive in game one. Counterspells don’t quite do it in this matchup since you’ll most likely be trying to deal with the board and tapping out to play Reinforcements, blockers, or removals (Purge or Day of Judgment).
I haven’t seen many black infect decks around at any of the two tournaments I played, but let’s cover it anyway:
You don’t really want the Sphinxes after board since they cost too much, and you won’t be able to efficiently protect them against Doom Blades and Go for the Throat. Mirran Crusader is going to do all the work for you, so no need to wait for your sixth land. Divine Offering takes cares of both Nexus and Equipment (including Lashwrithe). Dismember takes out Phyrexian Crusader and Skithiryx.
Vs. G/W Tokens
I have seen a lot of different GW lists, and in general this is how you want to sideboard:
It’s not a particularly hard matchup (especially Juza’s version). It’s too slow, very vulnerable to Day of Judgment and counterspells. They have no real ways to deal with Sphinx, and Sword is a real pain. When you think they’ll be running Swords and Mortarpods after board, board in one or two Divine Offerings.
Playing more instant-speed threats than your opponent is key in the control matchup. Add to the mix the Swords of Feast and Famine that will make every token/Snapcaster Mage a threat that has to be killed on the spot, and you have a very favorable matchup.
Oh, and rub it in with some Mirran Crusaders, just in case. You can add Celestial Purge if you want to take out Liliana of the Veil or Grave Titan at instant speed instead of Oblivion Ring. In that case, make sure you don’t die to Consecrated Sphinx.
It’s a different story after sideboard when you exchange your expensive spells for efficient removal, life gain, and reliable creatures. With Gut Shot, Day of Judgment, Dismember along with Oblivion Rings, you’ll be able to take care of all of your opponent’s threats. Ghost Quarters come in handy to destroy the only chance they have to get back into the game, Moorland Haunt.
Vs. Wolf Run Ramp
There are a bunch of versions of this deck, but they mostly have the same problem; they are very vulnerable to counterspells. You can lose game one when you’re out of counterspells at the right time (unlikely, but still possible); you have to save them for the right spells. Don’t counter their ramp spells (Rampant Growth/Solemn Simulacrum); you don’t have enough counterspells to afford countering the “harmless” spells. You’ll also lose the games where you can’t put enough pressure while Thrun beats you with Kessig Wolf Run backup.
While WRR plays Galvanic Blast these days, Mirran Crusader will always be better than Day of Judgment or Oblivion Ring. They block Thrun efficiently and put a fast clock on them. The Gut Shot can kill a Birds at times, but it’s even better to take care of Inkmoth Nexus, which will often try to get in the way of your equipped Spirits.
Vs. U/W Humans/non Humans
Just like against other aggressive decks, you want to be more proactive and cut the counterspells for efficient spells. You usually start the game defending, buying time with Spirits, Crusaders, Reinforcements, and removal till you either hit Day of Judgment or a Sphinx. Games usually don’t last long after that.
Vs. Tempered Steel
Tempered Steel is a fast deck, and you won’t really have time to set up your Swords. They have blockers to deal with your equipped creature, and Dispatch will make you lose a lot of times. Just like against other aggressive strategies, board in the creature setup in addition to the extra removal spells. More than any other creature deck, they will be able to dodge Day of Judgment with Origin Spellbombs, Glint Hawk Idols, Inkmoth Nexus, and Shrine of Loyal Legions, and that’s why you need the instant speed removal, even if Dismember doesn’t really feel intuitive to board in. Once you have stabilized/killed everything, you can play your Sphinx and start the beating. That will be your best strategy.
I ran that deck in two tournaments and would run it again if I had to play in another Standard tournament.
If you believe I missed a matchup or if you want more information about the deck, I’ll be around to answer your questions!
Until next time,