You Lika The Juice? – Fighting the Good Fight in Standard

The StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard open Comes to Philadelphia!
Thursday, November 20th – Now is the time to try something off the beaten path in Standard. Except for those of you within striking distance of the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Philadelphia, the rest of us who might want to shuffle up a Standard deck to play will be going down to the local store for Friday Night Magic.

Now is the time to try something off the beaten path in Standard. Except for those of you within striking distance of the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Philadelphia, the rest of us who might want to shuffle up a Standard deck to play will be going down to the local store for Friday Night Magic. With the more “serious” players likely working on their Limited game for the PTQ season, or gearing up for the upcoming Extended PTQs, the density of Good Players Playing Broken Decks at FNM will likely go down. That opens up more room for fun rogue strategies, doesn’t it?

In the spirit of that notion, I wanted to travel around the country and call out Champs decks piloted by people who broke their own path through the metagame jungle. These guys didn’t subscribe my Chicken Little take on the metagame being completely dominated by a trifecta of overpowered cards/themes, and they got at least a cool Top 8 playmat and a good number of booster packs for their boldness and play skill. These guys help me realize that Virginia’s results weren’t necessarily some weird fluke, and yes – you can do well without Cryptic Command, Reflecting Pool, and/or Faerie (Tribal) power.

From the Wintery land of Wakefield…

To kick off my cross-country revue, let’s start with the Green Mountain state, Vermont! In the early days of Magic writing, Jamie Wakefield brought his home state to life with a vibrant cast of characters, nearly all of who played Magic. I don’t know if Jamie’s still playing Magic now or not, but based on what did well there I’d say his love of creatures charging across the red zone lives on. Take a look at the new State Champ’s deck:

Granted, Wakefield was fond of monocolored decks, but nowadays multicolor decks are just so ridiculously easy, why not play three or more colors? Actually, that reminds me of a rant I’ve been meaning to write about how making color fixing so easy is actually a pretty severe blow to one of Green’s supposed strengths — in true Wakefield style! — but I’ll save that for another time. Anyway, back to the list – I have no doubt that, if Wakefield could swallow playing multicolor creatures, he’d have loved Woolly Thoctar, and I know he’d have loved Naya Charm’s ability to clear away blockers – can’t you just see him splashing Naya Charm into an otherwise Mono-Green Elf deck? Micah’s deck isn’t just large critters smashing and burn thrashing; he’s got some nice card advantage working here with Ranger of Eos and Hell’s Thunder.

Now, I tend to be more of a Green-monster guy rather than a White Weenie guy, but this deck does a nice job of playing just some really good beat-down creatures up and down the mana curve. Wilt-Leaf Liege is a card I’ve loved kicking around as a boost to anything from Wooly Thoctar to Doran, the Siege-Tower. Another thing to keep in mind though? It makes a darn good card (or two) to have in hand for when a Cruel Ultimatum resolves, don’t you think? Thorson adds just a dash of Planeswalker spice to go along with a pretty hot burn suite. The real kick though, the Naga Jolokia, is that singleton Tower Above – now that’s some heat!

Here we have Jeremy Muir, whom Wakefield-o-files will recognize as a recurring character. I have to say I love Jeremy’s deck, which I guess you’d call Bant Ramp, and I must give the man props for not giving in to the lure of Cryptic Command despite the Blue. He is not afraid to tap out during his turns, ramping up his mana to backbreaking sorceries: Wrath! Primal Command! Tidings! Boom-boom-BOOM! And then, when the smoke clears and there’s lots of mana lying around… down comes the ridiculous Empyrial Archangel, taunting you with her saucy good looks and J-Lo curves. She knows she’s worth every bit of the eight mana you bled to lay down for her.

What’s really funny is the Archangel isn’t even the most eye-popping surprise on this list… check out the sideboard Kederekt Leviathan. Click on the card link and think of the possibilities… I’ll wait…

You know you want to try it, don’t lie.

Okay, so it ain’t Wakefield land, but it’s close… and I had hopes to maybe seeing John Rizzo’s name here in the Top 8, because then maybe we’d get a 20-page tournament report-slash-pop culture riff-slash-political rant-slash Gen-X philosophical manifesto-slash-treasure trove of utter nonsense. Where have you gone, JFR?

Okay, so back to John Wickham’s deck… remember what I was saying about Wilt-Leaf Liege? Wickham ain’t playing with his Liege deck – packing all four colors, and chock full of double-dipping boostafarians. Doran? Check. Cavaliers? Check. Teeg? Check (but in the sideboard). But wait, there’s more! Qasali Ambusher and Steward of Valeron and Oversoul of Dusk? Oh yeah! And I love how this deck can make even Birds of Paradise scary…

Down the Turbulent Atlantic Coast…

While I was waiting… and waiting… and waiting for Champs results to be posted, someone was kind enough to post a link to the North Carolina Champs Top 8. Now, first off, their attendance was an eye-popping 217 players; who do they think they are, Ohio?! Now, wrap your mind about all those players spread out across a vast sea of tables, battling over god knows how many Swiss rounds. Hearts are broken due to razor-thin tiebreakers, until finally a Top 8 emerges. Three rounds later you have one deck arise victorious from this epic battle…

… and it looks like this:

Okay, so maybe Jamie Wakefield changed his identity and moved down to the Tar Heel state… Mono-Green Elves FTW? Taking a cue from Extended, Muesing utilizes the insane mana engine of Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel to run Overrun and Regal Force in a 16-land deck. Now, I’m all about a Green deck doing well, but I have to say I’m completely shocked this deck would have won a large tournament. Did he dodge Wraths and Firespouts all day? I would love to read a tournament report by Mr. Meusing recounting his path to the trophy…

To the Hordes of the Mid-west…

I have to say, I find the Mid-west Magic intriguing; on the one hand, there are a ton of players, so finding people to play with is likely to be as easy as falling down. On the other hand, there are a ton of players, so doing well at these big tournaments has got to be excruciatingly difficult.

Take a look at this thing of beauty. He’s got a good helping of Planeswalker love, but he’s not all in, and avoids the trouble with running four-ofs. Before he gets to enlisting big-ticket allies, he’s got plenty of creature help, starting with the “deal with me or die” beating stick we know and dread, Figure of Destiny, rolling up to Woolly Thoctar and Kitchen Finks, and rounding things out with… Brion Stoutarm and Twilight Shepherd?! Brion looks a little curious until you realize that not only can you pump something large with Elspeth or Garruk and then chuck it, but you can also steal something with Sarkhan Vol and chuck it too – nice! Now, I love me some Twilight Shepherd, and I did some work to try and build a good quality deck around her, but it just never seemed to come together; seemed that she’d get countered or else stolen with Sower of Temptation. Chris Hodges obviously had no fear of that – didn’t even run Cloudthreshers, main or in the board.

Lucas Duchow has a pretty normal-looking Jund Ramp deck, packing cards that have you nodding along, grunting in agreement or at least appreciation… until you get to the sideboard. Vithian Stinger, you say? Hm, yeah he is indeed pretty good at pinging off Faeries, ain’t he? But… Foxfire Oak? Really? Foxfire Oak?! For six mana, I can certainly buy Cloudthresher. I can certainly buy Broodmate Dragon.

Foxfire Oak? Please tell me this was a dare…

And finally to the Hinterlands, where Anything’s Possible…

At first I was impressed with Jia Wu 1st Place deck from Alaska, chock full of Singletons… Except he’s playing 4 Reflecting Pools, 4 Cryptic Commands, and 4 Esper Charms for good-card-drawing-measure. If I were still cynical about the metagame, I would hold this up as proof – see? All you need are 4 Cryptics and 4 Reflecting Pool, and it doesn’t matter what else you put in the deck, it’ll win. Even a random bunch of singletons. Bah!

Oh, now here we go – ZOMBIES! Stillmoon Cavalier is a metagame monster; try this exercise whenever you’re playing a Standard Magic deck; stop at some point and look at your cards. How many cards in hand can’t target Stillmoon? How many creatures in play can’t block or attack into the Stillmoon without just uselessly dying? You’ll be surprised how often that happens. Shawn Kimura takes 4 copies of Stillmoon and then surrounds it with eight ways to get it back, 4 of which can keep getting it back (and boosting it to boot).

So, you’re having a hard time dealing with Stillmoon? Okay, let’s dwindle your options even further, attacking your hand with Thoughtseize, Raven’s Crime, Tidehollow Sculler, and Liliana Vess. Yeah, things are looking bad now, especially once Liliana goes and tutors up a Battlegrace Angel to make my Stillmoon even more problematic.

Now, I have to wonder how many times he got to Memory Plunder a Cruel Ultimatum during the tournament…

By now we’ve seen Bloom Tender/Realm Razer decks popping up in Top 8s and on columnists’ radars, but I wanted to draw attention to point of interest here to Randall Klemann’s deck and it’s one miser’s Lich’s Mirror. Now, I’ve been intrigued by Lich’s Mirror since it was spoiled because:

1. It’s a Lich thingie that doesn’t make you lose the game if something bad happens, which is cool (hey, it’s the mirror-opposite: it saves you if you lose the game!).
2. There’s got to be a way to abuse draw-7 cards that also get you back to twenty life.

As I was tinkering around with Lich’s Mirror ideas, it occurred to me you could break its symmetry with Puca’s Mischief, swapping your permanents with your opponent’s permanents, so that once the Mirror triggered your opponent would lose permanents while you retained some. Sadly you’d lose all your lands… and that’s when I made the connection with Realm Razer. If the Mirror triggered while a Razer was out, you’d get back the lands removed from the game by the Razer!

Sadly, I couldn’t seem to get a decent Puca’s Mischief/Mirror/Razer deck to come together before States. The omnipresence of Esper’s Charm also threw a wet blanket over that spark. Still, it’s glad to see at least one other fellow out there noted the semi-synergy of Realm Razer and Lich’s Mirror!

That about wraps up my trip around the country’s Champs Top 8s*. While Cryptic Command, Reflecting Pool, and Faerie/Tribal decks certainly compromised the vast majority of elimination round decks, I was pleasantly surprised to see decks other than Kithkin and RDW elbow their way into the club. What decks are you looking forward to playing at your local FNM?

That’s it for this week. Y’all have a good weekend, and I’ll see you next Thursday.

Take care!


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Listening to:
Too Hot to Sleep, Eilen Jewell
Poor Boy Blues, Terry Garland
The Sweetest Taboo, Sade
She Sells Sanctuary, The Cult
All I Need, Antenna

* 8th Place — Montana. Check it out. Dude.