It has been several weeks since I first wrote an article. Since then, I have had several unexciting finishes at the StarCityGames.com Open and two
Grand Prix events. The most disappointing was failing to defend my title at Grand Prix Kansas City. Even though I had been not putting up the types of
finishes I expect of myself, I was glad to be able to travel with and visit my friends again. I think sitting out of Magic events for several months
really made me realize just how much fun I was having and taking for granted on these trips. Even when I did badly, I still had some really great
people to hang out with. Unfortunately this last weekend was another unsuccessful event for me, and to top it off, my computer broke on the drive down.
Thankfully I am busy writing this at Dave Shiels house while he sleeps off this past weekend.
For the past couple of weeks, Standard has been very stagnant to say the least. If you were not playing Caw-Blade, you had better have a very good
reason. I was happy with the RUG Twin deck I pioneered for the StarCityGames.com Orlando Open, but once it lost its surprise factor, I felt it was just
better to play Caw-Blade. For that event and any right after, I felt like it was a reasonable alternative to playing Caw-Blade, but by the time
Baltimore rolled around, even I had to give in and sleeve up some Stoneforge Mystics.
Fast forward to Sunday night at Grand Prix Kansas City. Many of us were sitting around near the bar having a few drinks and drafting or preparing to go
out. Everybody was having a good time, and I was lured by the invitation from BDM to do a team draft. I got a phone call after building my deck from my
friend James, who wanted to know if I wanted to sell my Jace, the Mind Sculptor on Magic Online. Obviously I asked him why all of a sudden I would want
to sell the best card in Standard.
He dropped the bombshell: they had banned it along with Stoneforge Mystic. The king is dead! The king is dead! I instantly started pondering
how that would change Standard… and then realized I had a sweet draft deck in front of me and went back to the task at hand. I got to talk about
the banning with Steve Sadin, as we played out our draft games. The idea for this article actually came out of that match.
After winning my two drafts and failing to find another at around 3:30 am, I decided to call it a night and returned to my hotel room to find everybody
else asleep. As I was getting ready to go to sleep, it really sank in that we had a brand new format on our hands. I love to test and get ready for new
formats. I love making new lists and smashing them against the old tried and true. I ended up spending another hour trying to sleep, only able to think
When approaching a format like this, I first look at what already worked. Clearly you can expect to still see all the decks that did not play Jace, the
Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic. These decks seemed to fall into two categories: aggro and ramp. Valakut decks and various Splinter Twin decks are
sure to be a major player in the new format.
The loss of Jace clearly hurts the deck, but it was also the card I was most afraid of. The last list I had was something like this:
This was the natural starting point. Clearly we can’t play Jace, the Mind Sculptor anymore, so those have to go. With Stoneforge Mystic getting
banned, we don’t need our Nature’s Claims anymore either. The Oracles of Mul Daya get quite a bit worse without Jace, so we can do without
one of them as well. As the format is likely shifting toward aggro and away from control, I think Consecrated Sphinx becomes quite a bit less
important. This leaves us with nine slots to fill.
Adding more Inferno Titans makes sense, and we need to replace the Consecrated Sphinx with a pair of finishers. With aggro in mind, adding some number
of Lightning Bolts makes sense. Jace Beleren works for the card drawing engine and becomes a four-of. Urabrask the Hidden has been a sweet card that I
have been keeping in the back of my mind as an answer to Splinter Twin combo, and until now the deck has not been big enough to worry about. He also
works really well with Inferno Titan.
The mana base should stay pretty much the same. Cutting a Halimar Depths in a format filled with aggro decks makes a lot of sense. I would add another
Mountain, since we now have a few more double-red cards in Urabrask and the extra Inferno Titans. The sideboard needs some work as well. Obstinate
Baloth is very good against the red decks and Vampires. Pyroclasm is also good against those decks as well. With Lightning Bolt in your deck, you
don’t want four Pyroclasms anymore. Against the ramp decks, you want to have Flashfreeze. Consecrated Sphinx is good against any lingering
control decks. Dismember is a little better than Nature’s Claim against other Splinter Twin decks.
The final list looks something like this:
A bunch of lists are running around right now, but you should board against them all in about the same fashion. You want to attack their creatures with
your Lightning Bolts and try to keep the board clear in the first game. You want to board in 4 Flashfreeze, 3 Pyroclasm, 4 Obstinate Baloth for 1
Inferno Titan, 4 Jace Beleren, 3 Splinter Twin, 1 Oracle of Mul Daya, and 2 Urabrask the Hidden. Your plan is basically the same for game two, but now
you have more ways to deal with Goblin Guide and his various friends as well as a good finisher that puts you out of burn range in Obstinate Baloth. If
you can play around Act of Aggression, you should, but that’s not always a luxury you can afford.
The match plays out somewhat similarly to the RDW matchup, but they have better guys, and their only burn is often Kalastria Highborn. You really want
to cast an Inferno Titan as soon as you can in this matchup. Try not to run into Gatekeeper of Malakir when you can. Your combo is really good against
them if they’re not running Dismember, which most lists I have seen are not sporting. You want to board in 4 Obstinate Baloth, 3 Pyroclasm, and 2
Dismember for 1 Oracle of Mul Daya, 2 Urabrask the Hidden, 2 Splinter Twin, 4 Jace Beleren. Not much changes from game one, but they should have
Dismember now. This matchup seems pretty rough the few times I have played it before.
This matchup is all about racing. I suspect we won’t see them maindecking four Nature’s Claims like in the list I played against during the
StarCityGames.com Orlando Open. This means they are just dead to your combo game one. Overall this matchup seems very favorable. I would board in 4
Flashfreeze for 3 Lightning Bolt and 1 Oracle of Mul Daya.
It is hard to say how to board because that depends mostly on what their plan is when they don’t have Splinter Twin. You will always want the 2
Dismember, but the rest depends on what their other 53 cards are. Usually you want to be comboing off second in this type of match, as Deceiver Exarch
cast in response to their Splinter Twin stops their combo for a turn and allows you to win on your subsequent turn.
I think these are the four big decks to expect in the new Standard metagame. I’m sure there will be quite a few others, but I don’t think they
have very established lists right now, so I would be hard pressed to give any sort of sideboard and play map for them. Most of the sideboard cards
should be pretty easy to figure out though.
This deck seems like it should match up pretty well against what I am expecting for the new Standard. I have quite a bit of brainstorming ahead of me
before a PTQ this weekend. It is now Tuesday morning, so I have a couple of days to prepare for the PTQ. Ideally I would be testing using Magic Online,
but I have no idea if, how, and when I’ll end up at my house or be stopping by a Best Buy to see if they can fix my computer. Hopefully I will be
writing a tournament report about winning the PTQ in the near future on my repaired computer. Until next time!