New Phyrexia is fast approaching, and everyone seems to be in a scramble to find the new best deck. Deceiver Exarch introduces a powerful new combo to
the Standard metagame. Gitaxian Probe makes the existing combo strategy, Pyromancer Ascension, into a much more potent force.
Today, I’d like to explore the new combo decks and help you figure out what they mean for the new metagame. I’d like to discuss card choices and
numbers in both respective combo strategies. I’d also like to discuss how decks might evolve in an effort to battle the new combo menaces.
The first combo deck in question is Pyromancer Ascension. This one is my baby. I worked on Pyromancer Ascension decks long before Preordain had even
been printed. Let’s get down to the numbers. Gitaxian Probe helps this deck soar to new heights. Any free cantrip would’ve been a welcome addition for
this archetype, but Gitaxian Probe goes the extra mile by giving us a look at our opponent’s hand. It may not seem like a powerful effect, but when
you’re armed with a combo deck, it becomes a lot easier to play around your opponent’s interaction when you know they have it.
I’ve seen a lot of Pyromancer lists that are so bold as to play less than four copies of a number of cards. This is a mistake. It’s an easy one to
make. If you haven’t played much with Pyromancer, then you probably haven’t had the misfortune of getting a well-balanced draw that hinders your
ability to quickly activate your enchantment. Pyromancer Ascension players are rewarded for redundancy in their lists. You want to have the ability to
activate an Ascension quickly so you can start reaping the rewards.
The following cards are must-have four-ofs in modern Pyromancer Ascension
This doesn’t leave much room to fool around. I think the deck needs at least one copy of Call to Mind; I prefer having two. Foresee is another
exceptional tool available to the Pyromancer deck. Most Pyro players have started to include planeswalkers and Spell Pierces. We can maximize
redundancy by playing a full set of Treasure Hunt. We can have more game against other combo decks and a blanket answer in the form of Into the Roil.
Spell Pierce is only really good when your opponent is on the Mana Leak plan. The new Standard format will probably have some powerful aggressive
strategies as a result of cards like Porcelain Legionnaire. We can’t simply aim to beat RUG and Caw-Blade; we’re going to want more versatility. Given
the infancy of the format, I think it would be safest to play a set of Into the Roil.
Here’s the list I would play.
As I mentioned above, the value of Spell Pierce in the new Standard is still untested. It’s a card that can fluctuate in power level from week to week,
so the introduction of a new set makes it a sketchy inclusion in pre-Prerelease builds of anything. This build of the deck includes more card draw than
you’ll see anywhere else. This is a good list for learning the deck. It’s built to combo quickly and consistently against a completely unknown
metagame. If you’re looking for a list for testing, this is a good choice.
Pyromancer isn’t the only combo deck you need to worry about now. Deceiver Exarch combos with Splinter Twin to kill your opponent as early as the
fourth turn. This combo is extremely potent. Deceiver Exarch is big enough to eat a Lightning Bolt and sneaky enough to tap your opponent’s lands to
keep them off countermagic. If there’s a combo deck to watch in the new Standard, it’s Deceiver Exarch.
Most Deceiver decks being thrown around online seem to be Pyromancer Ascension Hybrids. Patrick Chapin wrote about this list in his column earlier this week.
This list looks dangerous to me. The innovator came through with a deck that probably has more raw power than any other deck in Standard. The good
draws with this deck will not only be blisteringly fast, but they’ll be stone-like resilient as well. Unfortunately, I can’t help but have nightmares
of draws that involve multiple Pyromancer Ascensions and not enough ways to activate them.
I feel like Deceiver Exarch decks will be more interested in interacting with discard spells than counterspells. Also, cards like Doom Blade and Go for
the Throat seem like they’ll be a lot better than Lightning Bolt when we’re trying to fight other Deceiver Exarchs. The discard spells trump the
counters because we don’t need to hit our fifth or sixth land drop to go off with a reasonable amount of safety. The discard can even be “comboed” in
with your combo. On turn 3, you might cast a main-phase Deceiver Exarch and untap a black mana source to cast Duress. You’ll get to ensure that the
coast is clear with the Duress, and you don’t even have to slow yourself down. You won’t need to worry about sorcery-speed removal in post sideboarded
games. Your opponents would be very silly to keep any of that in their deck.
The black cards make it very difficult to interact with a deck like this. People may try using cards like Torpor Orb, which may warrant having some
random Into the Roils. Interestingly, though, Torpor Orb will never go alongside a Squadron Hawk, Titan, or Stoneforge Mystic. This makes it somewhat
unlikely that Torpor Orb will see a significant amount of play, especially in the first few weeks of the new format.
Here is my new take on the newest Standard combo deck.
This is an untested and thrown-together list. A well-tuned version of this archetype is going to be very difficult to handle. I imagine the best
version of the new combo deck needs to be playing Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Jace is, not close, the best card in the format. The abundance of strong
discard available to protect your combo is very scary for those hoping to interact. It’s also worth noting that the discard spells are incredibly
strong in the mirror.
If you’re a fan of combo strategies and you want to be prepared for both hate and the mirror. Then I strongly suggest you sleeve up this deck. It
accomplishes everything you need to accomplish. Your deck even gets access to the most powerful sideboard plans against everything except red, and I
don’t think you need to worry about red.
“Great, there are combo decks in the new format. How am I supposed to interact?”
A lot of strong players have become attached to their Caw-Blade decks over the last few months. My guess is that Caw-Blade decks will have scattered
success until the lists become clean again. At which point, Caw-Blade will, again, rise to dominance.
Caw-Blade may have just acquired Sword of War and Peace, but the deck in its current form isn’t well-suited to deal with the new combo decks. Sword of
War and Peace does wonders for the red matchup, though; this means your Caw-Blade sideboard probably doesn’t need something as narrow as Kor
Firewalker. Instead, I suggest including a playset of Celestial Purges. Celestial Purge lets you interact with the combo decks without making you lose
your sideboard space against red players. Purge deals with Pyromancer Ascension and Splinter Twin.
Celestial Purges in your sideboard aren’t going to be enough. Demystify is a fine choice for redundancy, but that card suffers from the same narrowness
that Kor Firewalker does. Splashing black for Doom Blade or Go for the Throat and Creeping Tar Pit seems like the best route to me. Day of Judgment
loses a lot of its power with the introduction of combo. The black removal spells, however, actually gain value in a Deceiver Exarch metagame. Black
also gives you access to discard spells, which are incredibly strong against the entirety of the new, expected metagame.
If you’re still on the RUG plan, then you’ll need to have a set of Nature’s Claim in your sideboard. It’s hard to pilot a RUG deck against combo,
though. RUG basically plans on ramping into big tap-out spells. Tapping out is very dangerous against the Deceiver Exarch decks. Dropping a Titan used
to feel great. Now it’s going to feel like you’re crossing your fingers and yelling, “one time!”
Valakut players will also be suffering from the same likeness of beatings. Basically, tapping out for monstrous creatures is just a bad plan if you’re
expecting a lot of people to arm themselves with Splinter Twin decks.
I expect Deceiver Exarch decks to be a huge part of the new metagame. As a result, I can’t see RUG or Valakut as top contenders. As a result, there
will be very few decks in the format with Pyroclasm. This will pave the way for hyper-aggressive creature-based decks that are capable of racing
Kuldotha Red is probably going to start doing well again. People will probably be trimming Day of Judgments from their decks. People will be replacing
cheap removal like Lightning Bolt with cards like Doom Blade or Go for the Throat. This gives a deck like Kuldotha Red a huge opening to start stomping
some face again. I’ll be interested to see the sideboard plans that come from the combo decks.
New Phyrexia is certain to change Standard completely. I expect Mox Opal aggro decks, Modernized Caw-Blade decks (less planeswalkers, more counters),
and hateful combo decks to be the early favorites jockeying for position as the new best deck in Standard.Â