You Lika The Juice? – Preparing for Champs, Day 0

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With Time Spiral Block Constructed season winding down, and everyone holding their breath for news of Lorwyn trickling out from Wizards, Scrye, and other magazines, and the eagle-eyed sleuths at MTGSalvation, it’s tempting to just drift away from thinking about Magic right now. I mean, you spend eleven months devouring Magic strategy and content, you can take a month off… right?

With Time Spiral Block Constructed season winding down, and everyone holding their breath for news of Lorwyn trickling out from Wizards, Scrye, and other magazines, and the eagle-eyed sleuths at MTGSalvation, it’s tempting to just drift away from thinking about Magic right now. I mean, you spend eleven months devouring Magic strategy and content, you can take a month off… right?


As I break out in a cold sweat at the notion, I ruminate on the term coined long ago to describe Magic — “Cardboard Crack.”

Each Fall’s State Champs is my absolute favorite tournament of the year, and I’m already salivating at the notion of shaking up Standard once again, giving the boot to the very powerful and defining Ravnica block card pool and welcoming Lorwyn’s tribal themes and funky new Planeswalker cards to mix. While we can’t fully work on decks for the upcoming Standard yet, we can still do some preliminary work on getting decks 75% there. There are some clearly dominant decks rising to the top of TBC, and many if not all of them will only get better once you add Tenth Edition, Coldsnap, and eventually Lorwyn cards. There are also some decks from TBC that don’t quite cut the mustard now, but perhaps access to a larger card pool will provide the missing components needed to become tomorrow’s Tier 1.

Yep, there’s still plenty of Magic strategizing to be done, even during the lazy days of August.


To kick things off, I’d like to first stand on the shoulders of giants: Frank Karsten wrote a nice article last week called The Island of Lost Toys, and he had two sections that had some nice food for thought. First up was “Why Does No One Play this Card Anymore?” Since Frank is an excellent Constructed Magic strategist, I thought we could get the juices flowing by going over some of the cards he mentioned that will still be legal this Fall. Why reinvent the wheel?

Condemn, Deathmark: these are two fantastic answers to Tarmogoyf, a creature so ridiculously powerful as to warp the mana of all sorts of decks in TBC just to include it. Both are dirt cheap, and Condemn is certainly maindeckable.

Desert: Karsten pointed out how many one-toughness dudes are running around out there, and Desert mows them down quite nicely. Let’s not forget that the Desert can help keep and opposing Tarmogoyf from attacking if you need to keep one home to block. I also can’t help but think Magus of the Candelabra can be used to really work these lands, especially if you toss in a Scryb Ranger.

Disenchant: between Griffin Guide on the aggro side, and a host of Coalition Relics and Prismatic Lenses on the control side, we may be back in the age where maindeck Disenchant (and it’s Green ilk) is a necessity again.

Flashfreeze, Remove Soul: narrow, yet still solid cheap counterspells in the right metagame.

Honorable Passage: In a Red-heavy metagame this card is maindeckable, not least of which is because it’s not useless against non-Red decks. “The next time a source of your choice would deal damage to target creature or player this turn, prevent that damage. If damage from a Red source is prevented this way, Honorable Passage deals damage equal to the damage prevented this way to the source’s controller.” Think of it as a nice damage negator that just happens to kick into high gear against Red.

Hypnotic Specter, Ohran Viper, Paladin en-Vec: Specter and Viper are fantastic cards that make you want to play Birds of Paradise so you can get the fellow in play on turn 2. The Paladin is a little marginal where Tarmogoyf is the beatdown king – and without Worship to combo with – but he’s got protection from Tendrils, and that’s not a bad thing.

Loxodon Warhammer: We’re used to playing ridiculous equipment like Skullclamp and Umezawa’s Jitte, but I think we all forget sometimes that equipment is generally a really good supplement in many decks with creatures, so long as the equipment does something cool. Warhammer does two things cool; have your Troll Ascetic pick one up and you can race a Tarmogoyf.

Spike Feeder: We used to do Stupid Green things with Stampeding Wildebeests and Spikes waaaaay back in the day. Say, we’ve got Stampeding Wildebeests around again – thanks, Tenth Edition!

Stalking Yeti, Scrying Sheets, Boreal Druid: crunched between the guild-fueled multicolor decks of Ravnica and the Relic/Lens-fueled multicolor decks of Time Spiral, it’s easy to forget the fact that Coldsnap’s snow theme offers saner manabases some really nice options, especially the raw card advantage engine of Scrying Sheets (and the sheer creature-killing power of Skred). This gives a real nice segue opportunity…

Karsten also had a section called “Why Does No One Play this Deck Anymore?” And here was one of the decks he posted:

Red/Green Snow

8 Snow-Covered Forest
5 Snow-Covered Mountain
4 Highland Weald
1 Mouth of Ronom
4 Scrying Sheets
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Giant Solifuge
4 Troll Ascetic
4 Boreal Druid
4 Ohran Viper
4 Stalking Yeti
2 Loxodon Warhammer
4 Demonfire
4 Into the North
4 Skred

This would be a pretty easy deck to port over to new Standard; swap Giant Solifuge out for Groundbreaker or Timbermare, and swap Demonfire for Disintegrate. Now, far be it from me to challenge a Frank Karsten build, but I’m going to through down a trump card and reach back for some Patrick Chapin technology – Orcish Librarian! Doesn’t that seem like the perfect complement to the Scrying Sheets engine, helping to set up your snow cards for each Sheets activation, and hopefully keep a steady supply of burn and beats? Something like this:

It occurred to me that a combination of Orcish Librarian, Riftsweeper to put back “good” cards removed from the game by the Librarian, and Gaea’s Blessing could be an interesting element to add to such a deck. Hmm, infuse Chapin with Sullivan? It could be either genius or insanity! Hmm, I’ll have to ponder that some more.

There was another Karsten deck creation from a different column I had fun tooling around with in TBC… perhaps you remember this one?

Twenty One
Frank Karsten

10 Island
10 Mountain
4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Greater Gargadon
4 Mogg War Marshal
4 Riftwing Cloudskate
4 Sulfur Elemental
3 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
4 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
3 Fatal Frenzy
3 Mystical Teachings
4 Prismatic Lens
3 Word of Seizing

2 Psionic Blast
1 Swamp
2 Aeon Chronicler
1 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Brine Elemental
2 Dead / Gone
1 Detritivore
1 Draining Whelk
1 Fortune Thief
1 Lightning Axe
2 Snapback

The deck could set up a gigantic smash attack with Greater Gargadon and Fatal Frenzy, and I particularly liked how you could use Word of Seizing on an opposing Teferi in order to safely resolve your unsuspended Gargadon and Frenzy it. I don’t suppose that Tendrils will be any worse in the upcoming Standard, so I suspect Gargadon may remain a solid counterpunch.

Porting this deck over to Standard, we can take advantage of Shivan Reef and Mind Stone over Terramorphic Expanse and Prismatic Lens. I wonder if Siege-Gang Commander might have a place in such a deck? I had kicked around the idea of running Sword of the Meek in a Gargadon deck, especially with the War Marshal to feed the loop; with Siege-Gang, it could be even nicer.

Another deck that has a lot of raw power that has fallen off the TBC radar is the Wild Pair archetype, with or without Slivers. I suspect the Sliver version piloted by deckbuilding genius Wafo-Tapa at GP: Montreal is the strongest version out there.

Porting this baby to Standard should presumably give it better mana with the 10th edition painlands, though I wouldn’t presume to be able to figure out the correct configuration in a green/blue/red/white sliver deck. Ohran Viper’s power and toughness add up to the magic number “4.” Would adding some poison slivers help speed the kill, using Telekinetic to tap down blockers, or is that an unnecessary “win more” enhancement? Maybe we move completely away from Slivers and go more utility? Maybe take a note from André Coimbra’s techy sideboard from last weekend’s Grand Prix—Grinning Ignus and Wild Pair!

Here’s the comments under the decklist: “Coimbra’s list is basically a normal Big Mana G/R deck. It’s the sideboard that exciting. Against control decks, he can bring in the whole board minus the Damnations. Ever play Wild Pair plus Grinning Ignus? Sounds like fun right? What about playing Ignus to fetch Primal Forcemage into Avalanche Riders and bashing for 20? That just sounds awesome.”

The maindeck listing from Wizards’ page was only 58 cards, so I assumed that he was running 2 Grinning Ignus main deck. Let’s extrapolate a G/R Standard Wild Pair deck:

This looks like a whole lot of fun, I have to admit. Well, for you, not so much your opponent!

I was corresponding with Magic Hack Sean McKeown the other day, asking for some tips on preparing for the upcoming Standard, and one thing he said that sounded like really good advice: “start with beatdown.” Looking at TBC, it seems that the Predator decks are at the top of the beatdown chain. Here’s David Irvine’s deck from last weekend’s Grand Prix:

What do we get from Standard? I would presume you could swap out the Terramorphic Expanse for some combination of Brushland, Karplusan Forest, and Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], though there is the consideration that Expanse is good Tarmogoyf food. Riftsweeper is an obviously good inclusion for TBC, but it might not be quite as maindeck-worthy in Standard. I have the urge to swap him with Mogg Fanatic (or more accurately Mogg Fantastic). Hey, he helps win Tarmogoyf on Tarmogoyf, and conveniently hits the graveyard to boost said ‘goyf also. Dead / Gone is good, but I think that Incinerate might be better.

So I’m wondering – have any of you reworked some of the Tier 1 or Tier 2 decks from TBC for the Standard environment? I think it would be time well spent to go ahead and start fleshing out the face of Standard prior to Lorwyn; after all, many people are going to go to Champs playing what they are already comfortable with, either because they haven’t had the time to try out new decks or haven’t been able to acquire the new cards. Drop me an email or sound off in the forums!

This Saturday is our big Elder Dragon Highlander multiplayer game at Richmond Comix! Join me next week when I recap how it went, hopefully with some pictures if my camera holds up.

Bennie Smith
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com