Your Deck is Bad and You Should Feel Bad

Standard is diverse, but sadly, that comes with a price. Today, Ari Lax tells you the weaknesses of each of Standard’s main players and why those weaknesses are so hard to mitigate.

At the start of the last ever Extended season in 2010, Max Mccall wrote an amazing article. In the end, he was proven
incorrect as it turns out Faeries and Scapeshift were both actually absurdly good decks, but he was dead on about the rest of the format.

We’ve come to another format of bad decks. I alluded to this in my Dredge walkthrough after Grand Prix Cincinnatti,
but literally every deck in the format is bad now.

There are a few specific factors that play into this. Because of the power level jumps at two and four mana and a lot of your fixing is temples (and
because Mana Confluence is a liability), you can’t just build a smooth aggressive shell. Because the four drops are so powerful, you need answers to them
in your deck alongside your threats, preventing you from being truly linear. Because the removal is so bad and the spread of threats is so wide, playing a
control-ish deck is difficult. There isn’t really a key toughness or anything to break open, most people are just throwing their powerful cards at each
other and seeing what sticks.

And there isn’t a Preordain to tie the room together.

One-by-one, let’s knock down the house of cards that is this format.

Jund Monsters:

Sorry CVM, it had to be said.

Under all the hype, Jund Monsters is atrocious.

Patrick Sullivan nailed this one on the head. When you don’t draw your mana accelerants, your deck is a clunky pile. When you do, you can cast powerful
cards at a relevant point, but without one, you do basically nothing for too long to matter.

The deck is also beyond awkward against Black Devotion. It’s not a terrible matchup, but you just aren’t in the right position for it. Your game plan
against them is to be a grindy board presence deck… except their plan is to be a grindy deck with removal. You are playing right into their game plan,
except they have Thoughtseize, Pack Rat, and Desecration Demon and you don’t.

You also are a midrange deck with no real long game trumps. Stormbreath Dragon isn’t really a super huge threat, and Polukranos is one of the most
vulnerable cards. Your engine card, Domri Rade, is both very vulnerable and not very good at pulling you ahead when the -2 ability doesn’t matter.

Courser of Kruphix is also shockingly bad. The format was already about forcing the aggressive one drops out because the mana wasn’t good enough to play
them with cards that fought up the curve, you don’t need to play a three mana 2/4 life gain spell to do so. So you are stuck with a mediocre body that
sometimes gains value and does absolutely nothing in the big spell fights that inevitable dominate the format.

You also can’t kill Master of Waves without playing Polukranos and having it live. Apparently, people forgot to play that deck after States, but I assure
you it is still a thing.

If all of my opponents were playing smaller Green decks, I would love to play Monsters. Oddly enough, those aren’t decks people play because they also lose
to everything else.

The Takeaway:

You need a Deathrite Shaman-style mana guy that lets you saturate on that effect without feeling bad about drawing a bunch of non-Monsters creatures. You
also need better removal, but that’s the story of the format.

Black Devotion:

This is The Rock.

Don’t let yourself think it’s not The Rock just because Desecration Demon is a slight upgrade from Ravenous Baloth, and Thoughtseize is an upgrade from the
classic Duress. You are still hoping your random answers and threats are drawn in the proper amount and line up well against their cards.

You have clunky removal, as Devour Flesh and Abrupt Decay suck against Monsters, Ultimate Price sucks against the last block, and Doom Blade can’t be
played because of the mirror.

Your catch-up mechanisms are real loose because your removal is so expensive and conditional. You can hope Desecration Demon is enough (it really isn’t any
more), activate Pack Rat after casting it on five mana (expensive and slow), or hope that you can chain enough draws to their bricks off Underworld
Connections that they die (hope you have enough life). As my interjections show, these aren’t really great options.

Your five-drop options aren’t actually great. Blood Baron of Vizkopa is a Durkwood Boars against half the field, while the other half of the field just
plays Devour Flesh and Supreme Verdict. Gray Merchant of Asphodel is a cool card if you are playing the game to deal damage, but your other threats are
more the kind that deal 20 or 0 so the extra damage is only situationally good.

I guess Pack Rat isn’t a reasonable Magic card. Hope you always have it on turn 2 and it doesn’t die.

The Takeaway:

Find another real threat and this deck might be redundant enough to actually represent a good proactive midrange deck like Jund. Or just always draw Pack

Also, be absolutely sure you picked the right removal spells for that weekend and hope you dodge the people that aren’t on the level you expect them to be.

R/W Burn:

My favorite deck to bash.

For all intents and purposes, you are a pure goldfish deck. It’s not like the other top decks are actually playing enough things for you to Searing Blood,
and every burn spell you target their creature with or Chained to the Rocks you cast that’s another draw step needed to find the cards to kill them.

Your actual best case scenario (bar Toil/Trouble) is a turn 5 kill. Well, I guess quad Boros Charm, double Shock, perfect mana kills on turn 4, but let’s
get real here. Many games, you don’t kill until turn 6, especially if you don’t draw Chandra’s Phoenix or they don’t shock land themselves.

The issue isn’t really that there are a ton of ways to race that, though there are. The issue is that beyond this, every piece of interaction they draw is
a Time Walk. Duress? Time Walk. Devour Flesh? Time Walk. Nightveil Specter? Probably a Time Walk. Thoughtseize? Honestly, that one’s still a Time Walk.

So, you’re already slow goldfish deck is slowed down even further by a large number of things. You have a couple cards that might help deal extra damage
(Eidolon of the Great Revel), buy more time while dealing damage (Warleader’s Helix), or counter an interactive spell (Skullcrack). But they are all
situational and can easily be run over by multiple opposing spells that matter. A lot of the top decks just happen to incidentally feature a lot of
interaction, and that becomes a problem. You can prey on the metagame when they don’t have the cards, but those times are few and far between.

I forgot the worst part: You are a Burn deck that needs to draw lands. Not just two. You probably want four and want the right colors. This makes your deck
more prone to the variance that Burn historically tries to avoid by being, well, Burn.

The Takeaway:

The cards to make this happen don’t necessarily exist, but you need to either A) make the deck more mana efficient to avoid the land drawing issues, B)
find spells more capable of dealing more damage per card to minimize the number of cards needed to win or C) find more threats capable of dealing multiple
hits of damage. B and C are actually the same thing.

Shouta Yasooka recently made the finals of a Japanese event with the following list, which seems to be a step in the right direction. Notice the post-board
plan of Prophetic Flamespeakers, Chandra, Pyromaster, and removal to become a reasonable control deck.

Esper and other UWx Control:

This deck is sweet if you hit all your land drops and play all your spells. Unfortunately, you can only play so many temples to make that happen. When I
played this deck, I would see three land, four spell hands that could do a ton of things, but if none of those lands were temples, I would feel ill about
keeping the hand.

Your mana is also very loose despite being all duals. You have the awkward decision of playing basics and not having the right mana, playing shock lands
and not having life against decks that are attacking you, or playing off-color temples and not casting spells on time. The last one might almost work in
another format (see: Vivid lands and Cruel Ultimatum), but the individual threats in this format are too good to let just a Supreme Verdict catch you up.

Detention Sphere is also miserable right now because everyone gets to play Abrupt Decay. But not playing Detention Sphere is miserable because then you
can’t actually interact early game unless you play Hero’s Downfall, at which point (again) your mana just doesn’t work. Double Black on two, double Blue or
double White on turn four? That’s really not going to work.

You also just fold whenever someone plays a two power one drop. Not a lot of people do that, but there’s just the knowledge that if they do only Supreme
Verdict is going to save you. Except those decks usually play Thoughtseize with their Gnarled Scarhides or Chandra’s Phoenix with their Firedrinker Satyrs,
so that isn’t actually how it goes down.

The Takeaway:

I really want to play a thousand temples. Or Planar Cleansing.

Mono-Blue Devotion:

Can’t reasonably interact with a Pack Rat. Hope you can race it with your mediocre beatdowns. Speaking from experience, it’s really hard because all their
removal is bad news for you.

Pretty mediocre against Esper. They have a shocking number of outs to your Thassa, your board plan of six drop threats is real clunky, and while counters
are okay, they still don’t solve the issue of “You can’t overextend into Supreme Verdict.”

That said, this is one of the closest things to an actually good deck in the format. When you don’t draw your good cards, your crappy ones do their best to
bring the beats and actually have a game plan beyond making clunky trades.

Your mono-color deck also has mana issues thanks to Mutavault. I’ve had Nightveil Specter stuck in my hand with three lands in play more often than I want
to admit. In all fairness, once would be more than I would like, but the number is at least ten. Good luck ever casting anything if you decide to splash.

The Takeaway:

There aren’t a lot of Mono-Blue cards to play. About all that can be done with them has been. If the deck isn’t good enough as is, it’s probably not good
enough ever.

Green Devotion, Red Devotion:

Have you ever played a deck with four Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in it?

Have you ever looked at an opening seven of Burning-Tree Emissary, five drop, four drop, Nykthos, Nykthos, basic land, three drop?

It’s not very fun.

It happens way too often with these decks.

These decks are also really heavy on enablers, light on threats, and super light on engine cards that tie the room together. Beyond the Legend rule
consistency issues, sometimes you don’t draw Nykthos and have a bunch of clunkers in your hand. Sometimes you have Elvish Mystics full of Burning-Tree
Emissaries and can’t do anything with your eight billion mana. Sometimes, you draw one threat and pray it doesn’t get Hero’s Downfalled.

None of these are optimal.

The other issue with these decks is something I addressed with the Monsters deck. So, you make a million mana. What’s your big finish? A Polukranos you
hope to Monstrous for 5? A Stormbreath Dragon? Your game breaking big spell isn’t really that big of a threat. The version of your deck without Nykthos
gets to still play those cards. The reason is that there isn’t a good plan B to Nykthos for making a million mana to play something bigger, and I’m not
even sure this format’s something biggers are actually good enough to be worth it (Sphinx’s Revelation doesn’t count). There’s no Craterhoof Behemoth, just
Sylvan Primordial that…. makes more mana.

The Takeaway:

Either don’t focus on Nykthos, or find another way to make mana and a threat that makes putting all those resources into it worth doing.

Naya Hexproof:

You have twelve auras that make your creature better. Of course, a single Ethereal Armor doesn’t cut it, so that doesn’t function as a full twelve. You
have twelve Hexproof creatures. You need double Green mana on time to cast most of them. You also have a specific timeframe to hit the combo and have it

You have no draw fixing besides the mulligan mechanic.

You are admitting before the event starts that your loss is going to come as a result of your deck failing to draw a playable hand two games in a match.

That might be fine, but it’s not like the other decks in format don’t do things that matter. Black Devotion has a stack of Devour Flesh, Thoughtseize, and
Abrupt Decays. Esper is basically unwinnable thanks to Supreme Verdict, Elspeth Sun’s Champion, and counter magic.

It’s not like I haven’t played decks like this in the past, but when your inconsistent but powerful deck also has issues with two of the top four decks,
what are you really trying to accomplish? Maybe if the metagame changes to a bunch of aggro, Burn, and Green midrange decks you could get people with this
strategy, but if that hasn’t happened since last October it certainly isn’t happening any time soon.

The Takeaway:

Picking your metagame spot with this deck is really hard. Even if the top tables don’t reflect it there is still a ton of Black Devotion and U/W Control
you have to slog through.

Black Aggro, Red Aggro, White Aggro:

Look at the one to two drop comparison I posted in this article.

We are really trying to send our 2/1s into Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix? Or Frostburn Weird and Nightveil Specter?

That’s ambitious.

Even if you are in for trying to exploit the decks that don’t have good two drops for blocking with, those decks can just get you some of the time. Black
Devotion has Nightveil Specter, Desecration Demon, and two drop removal to keep pace. Esper can just cast Supreme Verdict on turn 4.

The Takeaway:

If none of your opponents is casting a two drop creature, go ahead and get them. Good luck if they are.


This deck was sweet in Block Constructed. It’s also really sweet whenever you can get them with Doomwake Giant.

Except as pointed out above, the format is already very hostile towards most of the decks that die to Doomwake Giant. The fact that you are a
Caryatid-Courser deck alone is typically enough to fight those strategies.

Compare this to Monsters. Instead of a fragile 2/2 engine that draws you more do nothings, you have 5/5s that are hard to kill and give you a chance of
racing Burn. You have cheap Planeswalkers that give Esper fits instead of more things that die to Supreme Verdict.

The Takeaway:

I don’t even like Monsters, and this is just a bad Monsters deck.

G/W Aggro:

This deck isn’t actually bad. It’s one of the few decks that can play a low curve that is resilient enough to blockers and removal to function. It’s also
reasonably redundant and most of its threats can actually be expected to supply a reasonable amount of pressure without much help.

That said, it’s not especially great against anything.

It isn’t really good against Mono-Black because Desecration Demon and Pack Rat are really good against it. You aren’t necessarily faster than Burn by that
much. You are actually pretty bad against Mono-Blue, as evidenced by Pro Tour Theros.

At least all your flash threats and Voice of Resurgences are good against Esper.

The Takeaway:

This deck consistently does nothing exciting.


This was as close as I ever got to a fundamentally good deck in the format.

Consistency? Check. Powerful? Double check. Actually good against the top decks and cards? Check/scoreboard.

Except Journey into Nyx had to go and ruin things.

Esper Control’s best card against you was Detention Sphere as it managed Bestow very well and took out Lotleth Troll. They now get to play up to eight of
that card AND gained an instant speed removal spell on the same axis with Deicide.

Black Devotion’s biggest issue with Dredge was not being able to profitably interact with Nighthowler. Temple of Malady. Abrupt Decay. We don’t even need
to go to Yuuya levels with Scavenging Ooze to make things worse.

The Takeaway:

This deck is sweet, the cards other people gained access to with this last set are not.

All of this doesn’t mean I dislike playing the format. I personally get a lot of joy out of

Bitterblossom and Mistbind Cliqueing

Pack Rat and Desecration Demoning people. I know a lot of people who really enjoy resolving Sphinx’s Revelation or activating Thassa.

That all said, none of these decks are actually good. No matter what you play, you can look forward to some inconsistent hands and mismatches between nut