You Lika The Juice? Brainstorming Innistrad Standard For States

What Innistrad cards have got your juices flowing?

Wow, what a week it’s been, huh? Right now all my friends are buzzing about the huge bombshell Mike Turian and Wizards dropped on us regarding the new Planeswalker Points system replacing the ages-old Elo system. At first many of them were cautiously optimistic about the change, but as they’ve chewed on it over the past couple days they seem to be getting more and more pessimistic and unhappy with the change.

I haven’t really had a chance to dig deep into the weeds and grok how the changes will pan out, but I personally have a lot of faith in Wizards and in Mike Turian in particular. And let’s keep in mind this is version 1.0 that’s being rolled out—the engine needs to be fired up and the tires kicked, and it’ll need to be taken out for a spin. Some bugs will be found, and some tweaks will be made.

Ultimately I’ll be very surprised if this new system is going to make qualifying for the Pro Tour and earning byes at GPs harder than it is under the old system—and let’s keep in mind it’s not easy to Q under the old system, and it’s not supposed to be easy. Just like when anything major changes, there are going to be some small percentage of people who are going to be negatively impacted by the change, and some percentage of people who are going to be positively impacted by the change. I expect things to shake out to make this a net positive change.

In the meantime, I’ll be happy to see friends and acquaintances who are really good players not have to make the hard decision whether to come play with us at FNM or sit on their rating and stay home. More people playing more Magic sounds good to me.

And so does being a Level 37 Sorcerer—yeah baby! *nerdgasm*

Now I just need to earn 4,564 points to reach the next Battlemage status… whoa, that’s a bit daunting.

Not to be outdone, then Star City drops another bombshell about their Open Weekend Series—more Opens and two more Invitationals! Checking out the schedule so far has me personally pretty stoked since there are four of them within easy driving distance for me—Washington DC, Richmond (obv), Charlotte, and Baltimore for the Invitational. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Project Take Back My Life continues to progress and I’ve got a roommate by then and am not having to work my part-time job so much so that I can go to more than just one of these! Hopefully I might see some of you there.

But enough about the future; we’ve got more immediate concerns don’t we?

Innistrad Standard for the 2011s

I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming about the new Standard for the upcoming 2011 Championships next month, and while it’s difficult to brew without knowing everything that we have to work worth (or potentially face), there’s still plenty of new Innistrad cards that have been revealed to get us started.


Anyone who knows me or has been reading my columns for any length of time knows how much I love playing green and black decks, and when I found out Innistrad would be featuring enemy-colored dual lands I got really excited and started tinkering with deck ideas. Last week really pushed the excitement into overdrive though with the spoiling of Liliana of the Veil and Garruk Relentless!

Now, I have to say in G/B playing Liliana at three and Garruk at four (each possibly a turn earlier due to Birds of Paradise) appeals to me much more than playing Garruk, Primal Hunter at five and Sorin Markov at six. So let’s get cooking!

Liliana’s ultimate is as distracting as her artwork—I mean, who doesn’t want to go ultimate as fast as possible? Tinkering with proliferate takes you down some sketchy roads that I’m not sure I want to go down, but that’s okay—her first two abilities are just fine, thank you very much. The +1 ability is something you can build around if you look for cards you want to discard or at least don’t mind discarding. There are new flashback cards, Reassembling Skeletons, the ridiculous beating that is Skaab Ruinator just to name a few.

And Vengeful Pharaoh, a card I’ve been enamored with since I first saw it. It even nicely triggers off damage done to your planeswalkers, perfect in a deck we want to run Liliana and Garruk in! Venge Tut has a well-designed tension due to its triggered ability not being a “may” ability—so if you’ve got multiple Tuts in your graveyard and someone attacks you, suddenly all those Tuts are now on top of your library, setting your draws back and potentially clogging your hand if you can’t muster the heavy black to cast them or have lost the ability to drop them into the graveyard. The question that keeps slapping me in the face when putting Venge Tut in my deck is “how many copies are correct?”

Of course, then there’s her -2 ability, which satisfies the “can the planeswalker protect itself?” checkbox on whether a ‘walker is good or not. It’s not precise pinpoint removal, but you’re already playing black; you should be able to sculpt the situation to work out much of the time. And let’s not forget sometimes you’re going to want a sacrifice outlet yourself to put a creature in the graveyard… perhaps your Solemn Simulacrum, or a creature you stole with Act of Treason, or you want to trigger Morbid.

Now you’ve played turn 1 Birds of Paradise, turn 2 Liliana to make your opponent sac his only creature. Turn 3 play Garruk Relentless and use his neo-fight ability to brawl with the next creature your opponent plays—and flip it (assuming it’s not got more than two power). Then you activate Liliana’s +1 and discard Venge Tut. Assuming Garruk spits out deathtouch Wolves each turn, how are you ever going to swing in and deal with those planeswalkers, much less your opponent?

Yes sir, I want to be on Team Veil!

Here’s one stab at building a deck around Liliana and Garruk:


4 Birds of Paradise
3 Dismember
4 Merfolk Looter
4 Spellskite
3 Beast Within
1 Skaab Ruinator
4 Liliana of the Veil
4 Garruk Relentless
4 Solemn Simulacrum
3 Vengeful Pharaoh
2 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Hinterland Harbor
4 Darkslick Shores
1 Island
2 Swamp
9 Forest

The Looters and Liliana give me outlets to get the Tuts into the graveyard without clogging my draw step and hand too badly, so I feel that three is probably okay. Spellskite offers yet another way to protect the planeswalkers both by blocking and soaking up burn spells.

Dismember and Beast Within complement the removal that Garruk and Liliana naturally already give you. Solemn Simulacrum does some solid work as an excellent chump blocker/value guy who’s perfect to feed to second ability of Garruk, the Veil-Cursed to go get your Wurmcoil Engines or Skaab Ruinator.

The deck may or may not want more Skaab Ruinators. I’m not so sure there are enough creatures in this deck to make multiples worth running, but I’m sure it’s going to be a huge player in Birthing Pod decks.

So what do you think of the Team Veil version of BUG Tut? As Innistrad fully spoils I’m sure there will be adjustments made and a sideboard cooked up, but I think it’s a pretty exciting place to start!


Another part of me wants to build a Werewolf deck for States. Of course it would be cool, and it would be flavorful, but could it win? One big question mark is going to be how easy will it be to naturally transform the Humans into Werewolves, and how difficult will it be for your opponent to flip them back. Early in the game you’re much more likely to catch a break when your opponent just plays a land and passes the turn, but if not then you’ll have to timewalk yourself to transform during your opponent’s upkeep. How frustrating will it then be when your opponent plays two spells on his turn, so during your upkeep your badass Werewolf turns back into the puny human?

I also think a lot of the more competitive people are going to be resistant to building or testing against a werewolf deck in part because of just how much a pain-in-the-ass transform cards are going to be to play with. Like, you play the card in its sleeve, and if you leave it in is sleeve, your opponent may still ask to see the other side, so then you’ve got to pull it out and show him, then sleeve it back up… then when it transforms, you unsleeve it, reverse it, sleeve it back up.

I imagine how it will mostly play out is when you play a transform card you unsleeve it and leave it unsleeved on the battlefield (likely playing with a playmat to protect them) and set your sleeve aside, only re-sleeving the card when it dies or gets bounced back your hand or shuffled into your library. Regardless, the logistics of playing a Werewolf deck are going to be annoying… so people might not be as prepared to face them as they might otherwise be. There’s an opportunity there, no?

Let’s take a look at the Werewolves that have been spoiled so far.

1cc: none

2cc: (Village Ironsmith), Gatstaf Shepherd, Mayor of Avabruck

3cc: Kruin Outlaw, Daybreak Ranger

4cc: Instigator Gang

Of these only three are obviously powered up enough to consider playing in your Werewolf deck—Mayor of Avabruck, Kruin Outlaw, and Instigator Gang. A gang of 12 makes a pretty anemic pack of Werewolves! You can probably stretch your competitive sensibilities and consider Gatstaf Shepherd (not too awful) and Daybreak Ranger (pretty awesome when he’s transformed), but it’s pretty clear we’re going to need to keep our fingers crossed for some more Werewolves that are above the curve. Considering this is the first set in the block, we might not get many more.

And of course, it seems pretty obvious that any Werewolf deck will be packing four copies of this card:

Moonmist seems so critical to the deck you might even consider splashing blue for Snapcaster Mage!

Hey, he’s a human; he can hang with the Mayor during the daytime and feel pretty good about himself…


Last up I want to keep an eye out for a cool f&%@ing Zombie deck. Mark Rosewater piqued my interest when he talked about Innistrad Zombies:

“For the black Zombies I was interested in building a Zombie deck I’d never seen. Magic has had a few Zombie decks over the years, but they tend to be fast and aggressive (more like what are sometimes called zoombies). That’s not how zombies work in an archetypal zombie apocalypse story. Zombies individually are slow and not particularly hard to kill.

“I was very eager to make a Zombie deck that slowly built up over time, creating an army of zombies that overwhelm you. We accomplished this through several means. First, we made more spells and abilities that can get Zombies out of the graveyard and back into the hand or battlefield. Second, we gave Zombies a strong token making theme. Third, we created some cards that made it easier to get Zombies onto the battlefield. All those cards added together to create the feel we needed.”

I’ve never been overly interested in aggro tribal decks, but something like this, something that slowly built up to an overwhelming force… well that sounded right up my alley! I couldn’t wait to see the preview card and begin brewing… Army of the Damned?

Yes, I know 13 is a number they’ve woven into the set quite a bit, and 26 power worth of creatures is pretty much going to kill your opponent when they attack… next turn (they even come into play tapped so you can’t do any haste shenanigans). But yikes—eight mana is A LOT, even in a slow grind deck.

Still, I like Diregraf Ghoul (with pitch-perfect blend of flavor and mechanics), and Endless Ranks of the Dead seems like a great enchantment so long as you’ve got two Zombies out there often enough. Moan of the Unhallowed makes two Zombies, how convenient! Cemetery Reaper is back in Magic 2012 and ready to churn out Zombies out of people’s graveyards.

Grimgrin, Corpse Born seems awkward… yet powerful. I kinda like him actually. Makes me want to play with Reassembling Skeletons right? Skaab Ruinator is an absolute beating, and I think Undead Alchemist might be insane as well.

Here’s a rough first stab at new-school Zombies:

The Skeletons grate on my nerves some by not being on theme, but they just play so nicely with Grimgrin I can’t help myself. Of course what’s going to happen to me is I’ll have two or three Reassembling Skeletons and an Endless Ranks of the Dead in play and that’s it, and I’ll gnash my teeth in frustration. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for a new Innistrad Zombie at two mana for sure…

So what do you think? What do you have brewing up for the 2011s? What Innistrad cards have got your juices flowing? And what do you think of Planeswalker Points and the new Star City Games Open Series changes? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Facebook.

Before I go… MJ Scott is back with an great follow-up to one of her best, so if you haven’t already be sure to check out Mage-Craft Cocktails, Part 2: Innistrad, chock full of drinks, awesome Magic humor, and more drinks. And more laughs. And drinks… (Funny how that goes sometimes…)

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend everyone!

Take care,

starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I’ve also created a Facebook page where I’ll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!

I’ve started a blog, it’s not Magic-related but you may find it fun to read and comment on. I update at least once a week so check on it often and let me know what you think! This week I got to do a guest-spot on a much more popular blog called Simply Solo, and that was pretty exciting—it drove quite a bit of traffic my way. I also recently revamped my blog header with a perfect drawing from the awesome MJ Scott, check it out!

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