You Lika The Juice? Dear Santa: A Standard Deck on Magic Online?

Friday, December 31st – Wizards has told us that there’s a Zendikar Block card that made Infect into a force to be reckoned with… at least in the Future Future League. So what could that card be?

Tin roof… rusted!

I spend
a lot

of time thinking about Magic — during my commutes, at work while I’m doing mundane tasks, at work sometimes when I should be doing other tasks, when I’m at home puttering around the apartment, or when I’m catching up on shows on the DVR. Pretty much any time that I’m doing something else, I’d rather actually be playing Magic.

My thoughts are many — Standard deck ideas, card synergies of interest, brainstorming upgrades for my Commander decks or brand new ideas, news of the day, spoilers for upcoming sets. Some coalesce into ideas for columns; some coalesce into piles of cards stacked around my apartment awaiting decks. Some end up as emails to friends or tweets to the Twitterverse.

Spending so much time thinking about Magic has helped me remain plugged in and excited about the game for sixteen years straight. It’s kinda remarkable, really, that one past-time has kept me engaged at such a high level for so long with no waning of interest. It’s been a full-blown love affair from day one.

I’m a pretty smart guy, and spending mental energies on Magic certainly helps me keep playing a pretty decent game of it when I actually get to sit down and shuffle up. However, nothing really substitutes for actually spending some time

the game.

One of my recent resolutions is finding more time for the actual playing of Magic. The past couple of tournament events I’ve gone to I’ve been frustrated by the volume of mistakes I’ve made that can pretty easily be attributed to a buildup of rust. Even more frustrating is that life has made it pretty difficult this year to find the time to play. Even making it to Friday Night Magic has become intolerably rare.

That means I need to make more time for Magic Online, where you can squeeze in a game here and there no matter what time of day or night. The past week, I’ve been jumping online and scaring up singleton copies of cards from Magic 2011 and Scars of Mirrodin to update my Commander collection, and started working on my Teneb, the Harvester deck again. I certainly have the highest volume of quality Commander cards in green, black and white, to the point where it’s hard to trim down to a hundred cards. That’s a good place to be!

My Teneb list online is pretty good, with some strong synergies going for it, but it’s still a few cards shy of the quantity of haymaker punches I want it to have. It’s getting there. In the meantime, I’ve got a couple other sub-themes that’ll eventually coalesce into another couple of Commander decks.

Of course, Commander games aren’t exactly for the faint of heart… or the pressed for time. This past Saturday evening I had the kids staying with me, and it took forever to get them settled down for bed, with the excitement of Christmas ramping up in the countdown to Santa. Around 11:30 p.m. I hopped online and started working on my Teneb deck. Norbert88 messaged me for a game, and after about fifteen minutes I’d cut the final thirty cards out of the deck and joined the game. It wrapped up close to 3 a.m. — ugh! Considering I needed to get up with the kids around 9 a.m. and fix some breakfast, this was brutal… especially since, insult to injury, I was one of the first to go.

Drafts are another great way to work your Magic muscles, but they aren’t free for someone like me who isn’t able to “go infinite.” Unfortunately,

is the very definition of both my Limited skills and my discretionary funds for Magic, and I tend to prefer spending my hard-earned cash on actual real-life cardboard over digital copies.

It’s almost unthinkable for me to try and piece together an online Standard deck, given how mythic-heavy the format has become. Just about every deck it seems has at least a handful of mythic rares that are nearly as pricey digitally as they are on paper. Still, I’d like to have some at least semi-competitive, affordable Standard decks that would let me jump online for an hour or two and get in some games to knock the rust off and, who knows, maybe actually teach me something about the metagame before the next tournament I play in.

I’d been trying to figure out how to solve that dilemma recently when I read something in Tom LaPille column ”
Big Sets and Standard


“Earlier in this article, I mentioned infect as a strategy that hasn’t popped in Constructed yet. There’s a green card from Zendikar block that we’ve found is the key to our infect decks, and I haven’t seen anyone out in the real world play a single copy of this particular card in an infect deck yet. (It’s not a creature pumping effect.) Don’t fret, though — it took us a long time to find it too. In fact, it took us until “Action” was the most recent set in our playtest Standard environment. Our mono-green infect deck that includes the card in question has traveled to several events now with an impressive winning record.”

I found this paragraph a tantalizing nugget to toss out there — a puzzling challenge, really. When I first heard about the infect mechanic I thought it was pretty cool, and when I heard the vast majority of Magic pundits dismissing it as too weak right now to be taken seriously in Constructed, it set off opportunity alarm bells in my head — after all, that’s what people had done with Dredge initially. It was

surprising that Dredge propelled me to Top 8 at Virginia States back when Ravnica first came out.

Oh man, did I hope to make infect work for Champs this year, but I couldn’t get it to come together. I tried Black/Green, mono-green, and mono-black. I didn’t like the overdose of creature-pump spells that other people were trying, yet my slower but more resilient approaches couldn’t seem to cross the finish line either. As I reluctantly set aside my infect aspirations, I had to conclude the pundits were right. Infect just didn’t quite have the tools it needed.


Tom’s paragraph above actually doesn’t totally discount that notion—he says they didn’t find the infect “key” card from

until “Action” came out, which means they had the full breadth of infect cards to choose from when building their deck. However, that also doesn’t mean the “key” card couldn’t help infect decks right here and now.

So, what card is he talking about? Let’s break down the clues.

  • Green card from Zendikar block
  • Not a creature-pump spell
  • Wizards’ staff have traveled to events with a mono-green infect deck featuring this card

The easiest thing to do would be to check out Magicthegathering.com and search for the decklists they provide for Wizards’ employees traveling for the
prereleases and featuring the new cards from Scars of Mirrodin. So I did… and ran across
Zac Hill mono-green infect deck
, which unfortunately featured thirteen pump spells along with Carrion Call as non-creature spells. No hidden gem there.

I kept searching, and… nothing, no other mono-green infect decks listed for Wizards’ employees. So much for that clue. Any of you run across one of these decks Tom is alluding to?

Moving on, I decided to just dig in and search all of Zendikar block’s non-creature green spells looking for one that fits as not being a creature-pump spell. Here are the best options:

I tossed out Explore and Summoning Trap, because neither would qualify as “undiscovered gems,” and neither seems to juice up a mono-green infect deck. Ancient Stirrings seemed a bit underwhelming to dig for a single infect creature, and infect creatures tend to be pretty small relative to their non-infectious cousins — so Momentous Fall and Predatory Urge are unlikely to be the card we want. That leaves three.

Canopy Cover is certainly an interesting thought. Making your infect dudes hard to block and giving them troll shroud can put some opponents in a tough spot. I have my doubts about this one, though — there are still enough fliers running around that it’s no guarantee your infect dude can get through.

Beast Hunt is another interesting notion, since it potentially allows you to reload on infect creatures after your opponent has dealt with the initial onslaught. On the other hand, the card is slow, expensive, and a bit unreliable — spending your fourth turn fetching up a singular Blight Mamba has to hurt.

Last up is Gigantiform. Personally I’d count this as a creature-pump spell, but I suppose technically it doesn’t

power and toughness so much as it just

the power and toughness to 8/8 and gives it trample. Tom said “it’s not a creature pumping effect,” but I wouldn’t put it past him to use semantics and a technicality to throw those of us trying to puzzle out his clues off the trail. Besides, this card actually does something pretty damn awesome in an infect deck — it wins the game on the spot. By the time you get to the point in the game where you’d want to cast this, your opponent is likely to have a handful of poison counters already, in which case an 8/8 trampling infect creature is probably lethal. Your opponent at ten or more poison counters certainly minimizes the risk of your opponent taking out your enchanted creature and gaining two-for-one card advantage on you, doesn’t it? He either kills it right then, or it’s lights out.

As I was pondering Gigantiform, it occurred to me that a mono-green infect deck featuring Gigantiform would be pretty cheap to put together online. I knew I’d probably want to run Putrefax and Oran-Rief, the Vastwood as well — and after checking the prices (something like .08 tix for Gigantiform, .30 tix for Putrefax, .80 for Oran-Rief, and pennies for the commons and uncommons) that seemed very budget-friendly. Here’s what I ended up pulling together:

Over the StarCityGames.com Open weekend in Richmond, I became a believer in Tumble Magnet — and for the infect deck, I thought it might be a nice way to both buy time against aggressive decks to get the generally slower infect creatures in play, and also to tap blockers so you can get through and give the gift of poison counters. I also wanted to play a couple of Contagion Clasps to give the deck some reach and inevitability, as well as some early removal for dangerous small creatures like Lotus Cobra. Its proliferate also happens to feed your Tumble Magnets as an added bonus!

I’ve been experimenting with Soaring Seacliffs as an additional way to give my infect dudes evasion, and they seem to be working okay… though I draw them in my opening grip way too often. I’m not completely sold on them, though they have been helpful on a couple occasions.

From the sideboard, I’ve been loving the Nature’s Claim, which have zero drawback in an infect deck. I’ve been bringing in Khalni Gardens to help against sacrifice-heavy decks like Mono-Black Vampires. Asceticism and Corpse Curs come in against the removal-heavy decks.

I put this together over the weekend and have played a half-dozen matches in the tournament practice room, all against U/B Control and Vampires. I’ve lost just a couple games, a few due to my own incompetence with Magic Online and setting the stops wrong, so that I wasn’t able to use my Magnet to tap down an attacker armed with Blade of the Bloodchief. One other game was a bloodbath, with three Inquisitions of Kozilek stripping me from my early plays, and then removal spells for what little anemic offense I was able to muster. Even then, I managed to get a Carrion Call token in play and played Gigantiform, which would have won the game if the lone card in my opponent’s hand wasn’t his third Doom Blade. Overall, I felt pretty good about the deck in its initial runs.

Speaking of Gigantiform, that card has been positively nuts! I don’t know if that’s the key card tricksy LaPille was referring to, but it’s certainly given the deck a lot more game than I would have thought, at least in my limited testing. Of course, I need to see how things go against some of the other archetypes of the format, but for now I’m pretty happy to have a Standard deck I can play in the tournament practice room that at least has a decent shot at winning without breaking the bank first.

A Few Words on Phyrexian Crusader

At Worlds, they spoiled two awesome cards from Mirrodin Besieged—Mirran Crusader and Phyrexian Crusader. I have to say I’m pretty excited about Phyrexian Crusader, because it’s so obviously a high-quality card that also really boosts the infect deck’s game plan. A black creature with protection from red and protection from white pretty much blanks nearly all plans for pinpoint removal and laughs off Pyroclasm. First strike on an infect creature means only a creature with four or higher power can kill the Crusader.

Hand of the Praetors and Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon are both high-quality cards that argue for a heavy-black approach to infect, but I haven’t been able to make monoblack or B/G work. Phyrexian Crusader may help tilt that over the top! With what I’ve been trying out with my mono-green deck, let’s take a look at a heavy black approach:

While Khalni Garden might be correct for defense, Turntimber Grove feels like it plays better with the themes of boosting the infect dudes and provides that later game green mana for Gigantiform.

Join me next week when I wrap up the year with something fun!

Hope you have a wonderful holiday,
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

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New to EDH? Be sure to check out my
EDH Primer, part 1

part 2

, and
part 3


My current EDH decks: