This weekend marked an interesting milestone for me that only Magic players will understand, and mostly only those of you who’ve played the game for a while.
I bought new card boxes for my Standard cards.
Every Standard rotation I go through the painstaking process of culling out the old cards that are rotating out from my Standard card boxes and loading them with Standard cards from the new set. And every time I do this, I vow to buy new boxes… next time. See, I’ve had these boxes for well over 10 years, so they’ve gone through 10+ rotation culls, they’ve been through 10+ Champs, 10+ Regionals, and god knows how many PTQs, Arena Leagues, FNM, and side events. They’ve been lugged all around the Mid-Atlantic region. They’ve been hit by rain, snow, soda, and beer. They’re marked up with all sorts of random notes from when I’ve needed to jot an idea down or a reminder and couldn’t find a handy piece of paper. My green and black boxes are so worn out that I’ve reinforced them with duct tape, and the land box was pretty much needing the same treatment for months (and luckily hadn’t disintegrated on me yet and pitched all my lands into a rain soaked gutter or something terribly unfortunate).
I dare say I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of these boxes. So I finally bought new ones. As I folded them up and assembled them, I appreciated the design of them, the engineering cleverness that goes into envisioning a handy three-dimensional item and devolving it into a flat piece of corrugated that can be run through a die-cutter at high speeds and distributed through the miracle of mass production. When I was in high school I worked summers in a corrugated box plant, often as a “catcher,” the dude who stands at the end of the machines that produce the boxes; they’d come out the back, I’d stack, tie, palletize and shoot them down the rollers. I got so many paper cuts on my fingers that they literally didn’t bother me, if you can believe it. It was hot, backbreaking work, but I made damn good money that let me save for college and still have plenty of cash on hand to party hard on the weekends.
When it comes to containing my Magic collection, card boxes bookend my experience. When I first started buying Magic cards, I bought a couple of boxes to keep them in. When my collection quickly overwhelmed that, I decided to put them in three-ring binder sleeves. I did this starting with The Dark, and filling backwards with Unlimited, Arabian Nights, and Antiquities. At first I grouped them by set, but after a while that got to be cumbersome as I flipped back and forth for, say, Green cards I needed and had to dig through every single binder. I then started grouping them by colors in binders.
Eventually the binders and the sleeve pages would wear out. Have you had the binder fail, spilling the sleeve pages out on the floor, and then because the pages were worn out from constantly pulling out cards out and putting them back, the cards come loose and spill everywhere? The acronym for getting it all back together is P.I.T.A.
So I went back to boxes, but in an organized manner built around Standard since that includes Block Constructed and it’s what I play the most. I have a box for each color, with the rares facing to the right side of the box, and the commons/uncommons facing the left side of the box. That’s it. It means I don’t spend a lot of time sorting this stuff, but I can also quickly find what I’m looking for. In the course of building various decks, the “good stuff” tends to congregate at the front of stack, and the little-used stuff descends to the back. I was appreciative of this method of organizing when I was brainstorming some deck ideas and was quickly able to grab the cards I needed from 9 or so 400 count boxes. A teenager who was watching me work was impressed, and indicated he just has his collection scattered throughout a bunch of random boxes and binders, so I thought it might be cool to share my method with any readers who might be in a similar situation. It’s pretty low-maintenance and effective.
I’ve got two slight exceptions to the rule: one is my land box; I’ve got non-basic lands (including commons) facing to the right, and the basic lands facing left. The other is my “gold” box – there are too many for one box, so I’ve got the rares in a small half-box and the commons and uncommons in the 400-count box. I ran into this problem before when Ravnica was in Standard, and my artifact box got out of hand during Mirrodin, but in general the system works great.
Okay, onward to Standard…
Star City’s deck database has a great jump on the fall Standard metagame, recently uploading the Top 16 decks from their “Mana Overboard” Magic boat cruise qualifier Sunday. Not only is this great information for building your gauntlet for States, but it also gives particularly relevant insight into what you might expect to show up at the Star City $5K Standard Open two weeks prior. Richmond is just down the road from Roanoke, so a lot of these guys — and the people they beat along the way — will be sleeved up and gunning for a slice of the cash.
When I saw the decks had been uploaded, I clicked on the link lickity-split. After all, I’m planning on playing in both the $5K and States, and have been building decks like crazy. Just last night I was hit by two new ideas. So little time – must devour metagame information! Yet as the database spit out the list, I immediately felt depressed as my eyes kept seeing the words “Faeries,” “Control,” and “Toast” dominate the screen.
Before I clicked on each list, I did a little exercise. I went to the deck database, searched for Standard decks in the past two weeks containing “Cryptic Command.” Here’s what popped up:
Faeries 1st place Tim Furrow
Cruel Control 2nd place Chris Woltereck
Cruel Control 3rd place Joseph Keaveny
Merfolk 4th place Justin Perdue
Reveillark 6th place Randy Williams
Justice Toast 7th place Ali Aintrazi
Cruel Control 9th place Josh Cope
Faeries 11th place Christopher Barfield
Bant Control 12th place Joshua Owens
Faeries 14th place Troy Doyle
Cruel Control 15th place Chris Wallace
Yep, the entire Top 4 consisted of Cryptic Command decks; 6 of the Top 8 had that broken Blue instant, and 11 of the Top 16 were down with the sickness. All of them had four copies. I have to say, this revelation didn’t do a whole lot for my enthusiasm for Standard. I mean, this is the time of year I usually love the most, when the format is in flux and people are trying out new and different things. This year, though, it appears that the only thing in flux is what sort of cards you flesh a deck out with once you finish writing 4x Cryptic Command on your decklist.
Still, I don’t want to be completely down on things, so I’ve been going over these lists looking for nuggets of information I can use to build my own creations. Despite the omnipresence of cleverest of the Command cycle, the new Standard is wack, people. Here are some observations outside of “if you can cram Cryptic Command into your deck you’d best do it.”
Wrath of God is the new Firespout.
What’s old is new again. Where did the Firespouts go? Surprisingly, in the frickin’ Merfolk deck! (Okay, it’s in the Red deck too.) I suppose Figure of Destiny gets too big too quick to rely on catching it with Firespout, so might as well take four more and just Wrath it away (or hope to catch it at 2/2 with a Pyroclasm). One of the things I’ve been keeping close in my mind is worrying about getting devastated by Firespout, but initial metagame appearances suggests I should be more concerned with Wrath of God.
Granted, conventional wisdom seems to be high on Ranger of Eos for its ability to fetch up a couple more Figures of Destiny, one of the most threatening one-mana creatures ever printed. But if you check out Ken Adams’ Vengeant Control deck, there’s another possible target – Loyal Sentry! So you don’t have to click away like I did to see what the card was, here it is:
Creature – Human Soldier
When Loyal Sentry blocks a creature, destroy that creature and Loyal Sentry.
This Portal 1999 special slipped into 10th edition without too many people taking notice, but the Ranger brought him to attention. He makes a pretty solid answer to an attacking Doran or Chameleon Colossus, doesn’t he?
Where’s Jace Beleren in the Faerie builds?
The recent buzz seemed to suggest that Jace Beleren might be the card that Faerie decks would turn to for card drawing now that Ancestral Visions isn’t available. One deck turned away from running any maindeck dedicated card drawing (though he did run two Jace in the sideboard). Two of the three Faerie decks decided to run with Esper Charm instead. Of course, Esper Charm also does a nice job of nuking Bitterblossoms in the mirror match.
So Who Didn’t Run Cryptic Commands?
I thought it would be nice to commend the brave souls who “succeeded” without the broken Blue instant (I use quotes around “succeed” because none of them broke into the Top 4).
5th place – Kithkin Backlash, by Marsh Usary
8th place – Red Deck Wins, by Joshua Drum
10th place – Vengeant Control, by Ken Adams
13th place – Blightning Aggro, by Richard Lovern
16th place – Quillspike Combo, by Matthew Thornton
To these guys, I say bravo – and thank you; you give an old man hope.
- 4 Knight of Meadowgrain
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 3 Oversoul of Dusk
- 4 Painter's Servant
- 4 Figure of Destiny
- 4 Stillmoon Cavalier
I watched some games Marsh played with this deck on his march to winning the Richmond Block Constructed PTQ, and to the best of my recollection he’s playing pretty much an exact copy of the same decklist with the exception of 10th edition Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forges[/author]. The deck offers a reasonable beatdown skeleton between the Figures, Knight of Meadowgrain and Spectral Procession, along with metagame wreckers Stillmoon Cavalier and Oversoul of Dusk. Painter’s Servant and Chaotic Backlash offer up a potent combo finish — dealing massive damage out of nowhere — while also just happening to work well with the protection abilities of the creatures in the deck. It’s nice to see such a rogue Block strategy make the transition to Standard.
A word of warning: playing this deck could contribute to the Global Warming Crisis! Lord ha’ mercy, this deck is loaded with cook! Looks like what we’ve seen before, with the addition of Hell’s Thunder, which offers 8 points of damage per card.
Sarkhan Who?! While the other Planeswalkers were getting all the buzz, the poor little prerelease giveaway went and had a good deck built around him while no one was looking. The deck has strong creature control elements, while keeping a beatdown promise with four Figures of Destiny… Say, weren’t Figures the giveaways for the Release events? Maybe this deck should be called Pre/Release Aggro/Control…
- 4 Mogg Fanatic
- 2 Siege-Gang Commander
- 3 Ashenmoor Gouger
- 4 Demigod of Revenge
- 3 Murderous Redcap
- 4 Figure of Destiny
Respectable amount of burn plus beatdown potential — with a Demigod finish — makes Blightning a potent part of the package here. The Redcaps feel a little suspect here, but it does dish out some direct damage. I wonder if Hell’s Thunder would work better?
- 2 Loxodon Warhammer
- 1 Primal Command
- 3 Profane Command
- 3 Thoughtseize
- 4 Bitterblossom
- 4 Rite of Consumption
What the — Murderous Redcap again?!? Four copies?! Man o’ man, a successful Green and Black deck has a strong pull on my heartstrings, but the fact that I only own two Bitterblossoms keeps me in check, plus I’m not sure how such a deck would perform in a tournament three times the size of the 50 people who came to this one without some card-draw to ensure some of the shakier individual combo pieces are drawn frequently enough to gel. I may sleeve this up anyway just to see how it feels; it looks like a load of fun!
So what am I cooking with this week? Two decks I talked about last week are still in the running, and first string is the Naya Geddon deck I talked about. Here’s where it currently stands:
- 3 Cloudthresher
- 4 Gaddock Teeg
- 3 Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers
- 4 Wilt-Leaf Liege
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 2 Twinblade Slasher
- 3 Realm Razer
- 4 Woolly Thoctar
First, it features Gaddock Teeg, the preeminent thorn in the side of Cryptic Command lovers everywhere. Teeg goes great with Wilt-Leaf Liege obviously, but I also took a page from a “protect Teeg” deck earlier this year that made use of Barkshell Blessing and Shield of the Oversoul. Depending on how many Bant Charms are running around the Shield may exit to the sideboard, but I’ve liked them so far. They’ve allowed me to sneak in some large damage out of nowhere, and are particularly fun to slap on a Woolly Thoctar. The Briarhorns have left because this creature base is plenty gigantic enough to trigger Mosswort Bridge when I want to, thanks to Wilt-Leaf Lieges; when I was running elf beatdown, the creature base was pretty small and really needed an extra 6 power of creatures at instant speed for two mana.
I had some people watching me playtest this deck keep suggesting that I cut the Sentinel and Slasher and replace them with Birds of Paradise and/or Llanowar Elves for acceleration and post-Razer mana. This rationale is certainly appealing to my gut instinct; however, this deck’s heart still feels very much like the aggressive monogreen Elf deck I played during the PTQ’s, and I think the beatdown this deck can dish out starting from the very first turn is very important. Eventually my opponent will draw an answer for Teeg or Woolly Thoctar; I need to make sure their life totals are low enough so that they’re within striking distance once they try to stabilize. Also, I don’t want to pull the trigger on Realm Razer unless I’ve got a sizable board presence to make it worthwhile. Naya Geddon is still a work in progress, but I’ve been pleased with its results so far.
Next up is my Doran/Sedris deck, which has taken a few new twists in response to the ridiculously lopsided Cryptic Command environment we seem to be in:
- 3 Doomed Necromancer
- 4 Doran, the Siege Tower
- 4 Gaddock Teeg
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 4 Shriekmaw
- 3 Reveillark
- 4 Fulminator Mage
- 3 Sedris, the Traitor King
I decided to call it “clarity” because Gaddock Teeg makes it “anti-Cryptic.” Get it? Okay, maybe too clever by half, but I think it sounds good and I’m pretty sure there are going to be so many Cryptic Command decks that taking an actively anti-Cryptic stance is not unwarranted. Doomed Necromancer and Reveillark have been added to the mix; Doomed Necromancer is actually pretty darn strong with Sedris, if he gets killed or countered before he can get going your Necromancer can reanimate him and then Sedris returns the favor by letting you Unearth the Necromancer to reanimate something else — maybe Reveillark? Necromancer’s two power means he can also pall around with Reveillark even if Sedris doesn’t show up.
Ultimately, Sedris may not test as strong as I think he will and he’ll become Makeshift Mannequins more in keeping with a more traditional Reveillark stance, but I suspect that Doomed Necromancer will be worth his slots.
EDH this Weekend
Okay, Elder Dragon Highlander fans, it’s been a while since I was able to play in an EDH game and write about, and that drought will be coming to an end this Saturday at Richmond Comix. I’ll talk about how the game went and share my deck with y’all next week, along with the deck I’ve chosen to run at the Star City $5K. Whether you’re casual or competitive, I’ll have content for ya next week!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Mama Said Knock You Out, Royal Crescent Mob
White Winter Hymnal, Fleet Foxes
Hop a Plane, Tegan and Sara
Private Idaho, The B-52’s
Rich Man’s World, Eilen Jewell