FABLES FROM KITCHEN TABLES – PERSPECTIVE

Greetings, readers! Like a complete idiot, I forgot that July has one Wednesday left in it, so here I was thinking that it would be the 1st or 2nd of August for some reason, and that I’d just jump right into Let’s Build month. In light of that, I’m going to divert from my usual cutesy themed articles and discuss an issue that I can’t help but notice when I play EDH.

Over my years of playing EDH, I’ve gone from starting with playing heavy combo-based strategies, then shifted towards a heavy control approach when I started playing at CG Realm, and most recently, after becoming entirely burnt out of permission-based control, I’ve taken to aggro. I’ve tried a lot of interesting things over the years, and some have worked, some haven’t. What ultimately decides whether I continue down the path of playing an EDH deck are a few factors, but the biggest factor I take into account is whether or not the deck’s able to do what I want it to do. At the end of the day, if I’m playing one of the three main archetypes (combo, control, or aggro) and I’m unable to one-shot the table, live until turn 20, or beat everyone’s faces in, respectively, then I’m probably not seeing a future playing that deck, no matter how fun its best-case scenario is.

Too many people I know are obstinate about making their game plan work. Whether their argument is “I want to just play it for fun!” or “I want to cast this spell, or attack someone with this creature!”, or “I want to win.”, people will run headfirst into danger. While I don’t want to evoke my first article series, Adapting to EDH Metagames, too much by saying metagames have an impact on the deckbuilding process, it’s an undeniable fact, and if your proactive plan of using Jhoira of the Ghitu to cast Obliterate into Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre continues to steamroll your local playgroup, it’s not up to you to make your deck worse by comparison. You want to do what you want to do; with a deck like that, I’d wager winning is a pretty high priority for you, and a strategy like that is pretty solid, if you ask me. If your playgroup would rather whine about you using “unfair” cards than adjust their strategies to what you’re doing, that’s the problem of your metagame and not you, and don’t let side eyes and trash talk misconstrue your perceptions.

But let’s see the argument from the other side. You and your friends are a nice little playgroup with your tokens deck, the Oloro, Ageless Ascetic deck that reaches 200 billion life every game, the wacky tribal list that worked that one time (and they’ll never cease to remind everyone about it), and then there’s that guy; the guy who walks in with his foiled out Grand Arbiter Augustin IV deck with a turn 1 Mana Crypt into turn 2 GAIV into turn 3 Linvala, Keeper of Silence into turn 4 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Perhaps even more frustrating to play against is the proactive strategy that’s just as linear as it is miserable. See: Hermit Druid.

In general, it’s your choice how you want to win your games, but a concept I think few players realize they’re doing is mashing their proactive strategy against an opposing proactive strategy and just hoping for the best every time. That sort of approach will favor the better-constructed deck nearly every time (and an absurdly lucky draw in the remaining cases), and anyone who’s put time and effort into making their proactive strategy difficult to stop will have the tools necessary to put up roadblocks against you that deter you so thoroughly you’ll eventually be buried in them while your opponent steamrolls you into the pavement.

The solution, however, is not to cry broken and lament over something insignificant as “how your deck sucks” or “man he just drew so perfect”. EDH is nothing if not a flexible format, and while some people are able to drop some serious cash into their hobbies, Magic’s immense card pool allows cheap, efficient answers so that even the most expensive decks can falter if a timely response disrupts a critical piece of their engine. What bothers me most, and the reason I’m writing this article, is that so few people are willing to see the two biggest issues that are holding them back from becoming great players, the players their metagame fears.

The first and most important part of “stopping the menace” of your store is to realize how they win. The biggest way someone can be oppressively reactive is to stick something that both adds pressure and allows them to overextend. The biggest perpetrator of this crime by an astronomical margin is Avacyn, Angel of Hope; if the player is playing aggro, sticking Avacyn will answer the biggest problem an aggro deck has; Wrath of God. The next thing your opponent will try to do after sticking Avacyn is giving her hexproof, through Asceticism, Privileged Position, Lightning Greaves or Archetype of Endurance. While it’s a powerful game plan–your board is indestructible and your threats have hexproof–if any sane person allows this to happen, you really have to question why you aren’t able to handle this. If you can, and you didn’t draw what handles the problem, that’s one thing, but there are a number of factors to consider when it comes to a setup like this. For one, it costs anywhere between 10 and 16 mana to setup, so if your deck is “proactive”, you should be proactively removing this sort of threat from the table, and you have no reason not to if you know what that player is capable of.

If you’re more of a reactive deck, with answers and counterspells, you have to always be aware of who and what you should be answering. If someone attempts to remove your permanents and you have just enough mana to counter it, consider letting it die so the next player in turn order doesn’t combo off and win the game. Yes, it sucks when your opponents sweep your board, but always be mindful of the greater good.

Once you’re aware of how your opponents win, you can adapt your playstyle to them. Generals and specific cards become familiar game to you; I don’t think I’ve ever learned this lesson harder than watching a Rhystic Study hit the table. That being said, ensuring that you properly allocate your resources comes first; usually, the player who casts the first-turn Sol Ring and has a follow-up play with it is the one to watch out for, but keep in mind if you remove their resources and suddenly someone else is the threat, don’t keep kicking them when they’re down; make sure you assess the threat density of the table appropriately as the landscape of the game evolves.

Magic has a beautiful tendency to create cards that are proactive, reactive, and not totally dead all at the same time. Let’s backpedal to Jhoira of the Ghitu for the moment; while terrifying, you can play things like Pithing Needle and Nevermore, which are cheap and effective, or you can play things like Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir or Linvala, Keeper of Silence to stop her as well. While the former two are a little inflexible in that Pithing Needle is only really good as a Trinket Mage target in a vacuum (you won’t always be playing against a general with an activated ability), and Nevermore is an awkward card on its own, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir has the bonus of stopping opponents’ other spells (like counterspells), and Linvala, Keeper of Silence doesn’t restrict you to naming a card (by joshua). While I realize these latter two are expensive to invest in, it’s merely an example to show that if you really want to stop specific strategies, there are ways to do it without the cards being dead draws in other matchups if the consistency of your strategy is something you value.

The biggest answer to the question of “X card is starting to show up in my meta and I need to beat it” is “run more removal for it”. I will tell people until the end of time, it’s as easy as shoving Swords to Plowshares, Cyclonic Rift, Grave Pact, Chaos Warp or Beast Within in your deck and calling it a day. Running your deck entirely proactively without at least some room for spells that react to a potentially more proactive deck than yours is just asking for those decks to show up and destroy you.

For reference, I’ll give you a nice little list of spells you can run as potential removal, to save you the trouble of looking them up:

-Swords to Plowshares
-Path to Exile
-Oblation
-Cyclonic Rift
-Capsize
-Rapid Hybridization
-Grave Pact
-Ashes to Ashes
-Fleshbag Marauder
-Chaos Warp
-Aftershock
-Wild Ricochet
-Beast Within
-Krosan Grip
-Desert Twister

If you’re running removal in your deck and you still get steamrolled, maybe your opponent did draw well. Maybe you drew terribly. Maybe you wasted your removal spell on something you didn’t need to. If you want to better yourself as a player, though, and break through a bad losing streak in your metagame, consider why you lose the games you lose, and what you can do to make your deck better and your draws more consistent. Maybe you need to add more removal. Maybe you just need to cut the dead cards.

That brings me to my next point, something I struggled with for the longest time. Sometimes, there’s that combination of cards we really love to draw, and have a great best-case scenario together. For example, in my Marath, Will of the Wild deck, I used to run a Goblin Welder alongside Wurmcoil Engine and Solemn Simulacrum. While I didn’t mind drawing it after I had the latter two, on its own, it was extremely weak, and ended up just being cast as a 1/1 blocker while I was behind. Mind you, when ahead, I was constantly swapping those two artifact creatures and making a bunch of tokens with Seedborn Muse and Doubling Season, but overall, I found that its worst-case happened far more often than its best-case, and it just slowly found itself becoming the worst card in the deck.

Sometimes, we just have to understand that cards like that just don’t have a place in our EDH decks. While the card is powerful, narrow, swingy cards that do absolutely nothing when you’re behind ultimately are the first cards you cut from your deck. Anything that depends on anything else already being in play ultimately falls by the wayside when you want to improve the consistency of your deck.

There’s also a case to be made about redundancy. I’m without a doubt the type of Magic player who would rather run a bunch of silver bullets and tutor them all than be bothered to run three variants of Acidic Slime. While removal has a bit of leeway from this argument, there’s something to be said when you hold 3 cards that all have to wait for your opponent to play something for the card to be good. Running cards that remove different things in different ways, or are more flexible in their targets, are the best types of removal to consider, in my opinion, as they’re rarely ever dead, and if you draw multiple removal spells, you have the opportunity to answer multiple things as opposed to answering the same thing multiple times.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

This article is merely something to consider. Overall, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about a lot of things, whether it be blue, combo, or some unfair card or another. I wrote this as an answer to the outcry of problems people seem to have, because it’s really that simple: make your deck better. I’ve gotten to the point where my Marath, Will of the Wild list has a “sideboard” of cards that are only really powerful in certain matchups but fall flat in others, and I just put them back in the deck as the metagame shifts. Learning how to adapt to the playstyles of the people around you is the first step you can take if you want to win, or at the very least, have a significantly less miserable experience playing against certain strategies.

Remember, for every problem in Magic, there’s a solution.

Next week begins Let’s Build Month. Until then!
~L

Check out my previous articles here:

Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454

Building on a Budget:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1522

Choose Your Champion:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1594
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1868
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2539

Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1810

Guidance:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2548

Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586

M14 –  http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508
Born of the Gods - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2800
Journey into Nyx - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3101
M15 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3174

Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2264

Let’s Build:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617
Part 12 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2691
Part 13 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2822
Part 14 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2933
Part 15 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3086
Part 16 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3134
Part 17 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3153
Part 18 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3181

Let’s Talk Conspiracy:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3138

Let’s Talk Journey into Nyx:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3015
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3030

Let’s Talk M14:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2228

Let’s Talk M15:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3159
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3167

Let’s Talk Theros:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2362
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2378

Oh My God:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3118

Painting a Target:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2631

Planeswalking and You:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2184 

Resource Management:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2200

Stacking Up Commander 2013:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2561

The Slippery Slope:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2440

The Top Soldiers Of:
Azorius - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2640
Bant - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2907
Boros – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2854
Dimir - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2653
Esper - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2957
Five-Color - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3156
Golgari - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2760
Grixis – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2984
Gruul - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2669
Izzet- http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2710
Jund - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3124
Naya - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3146
Orzhov - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2681
Rakdos - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2663
Selesnya - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2677
Simic - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2900

Trial & Error:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2089

FABLES FROM KITCHEN TABLES – TRIAL AND ERROR

Hello, readers! Today I’ll be covering something that mostly stems from personal experience, and largely encompasses a deckbuilding philosophy that a lot of us cling to, but never flesh out.

Whenever we build decks, or simply pirate them from a list on TappedOut or MTGSalvation, we look at some of the cards and our immediate reaction is “I [like/dislike] this card specifically.” In theory, these cards have the potential to be complete blowouts, fantastic in your metagame, or absolute flops that lead to dead draws or virtual mulligans. But what’s theory without a little bit of practice?

Before I continue, let me give you something to work with, because I realize it can be quite easy to misconstrue the point I’m trying to make. My Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice deck features the following gems that differ in function:

-Nomads’ Assembly
-Ulvenwald Tracker
-Phyrexian Processor

So in these mockup scenarios, the following key plays happened:

-My opponent cast Wrath of God to prevent me from alpha striking him the next turn, and I’m fresh out of gas aside from a pitiful Sprout Swarm. My topdeck ends up being Nomads’ Assembly.

-My opponent is playing Sigarda, Host of Herons with a focus on dealing 21 general damage. He’s got me at 16 general damage, threatening lethal next turn. My topdeck ends up being Ulvenwald Tracker.

-I topdeck Phyrexian Processor with Trostani on board and slam it, going all-in. In response to making the token, my opponent removes Trostani somehow.

So with that being said, obviously I’ve cast the three example cards in a pretty bad light. However, let’s look at other similar mock scenarios:

-My opponent is playing a similar Trostani list and is at upwards of 200 life. Every player on the table has spent countless amount of resources attempting to remove his, leaving you unfettered with ten 1/1 Human tokens from an Increasing Devotion cast from your graveyard, as well as five utility dorks. You topdeck Nomads’ Assembly, and the turn after draw Craterhoof Behemoth.

-Your opponent slams Rhys the Redeemed on turn 1. On your turn 1, you play Khalni Garden, follow it up with a turn 2 Intangible Virtue and a turn 3 Ulvenwald Tracker.

-A very complex board state erupts, and your opponents, more fit to deal with it than you, tap out on their turns to solve the puzzle. Your Trostani, made indestructible via Dauntless Escort untaps as you draw Phyrexian Processor. With upwards of 15 mana at your disposal and 80 life, you pay 60 life for it, create a token, and then populate it. Attacking with your Sun Titan returns Dauntless Escort to play, and you’ve gotten yourself to 143 life with two 60/60 tokens.

So obviously there’s a lot of swing and synergy involved to make these cards good, but it takes a certain type of board state to make them specifically bad as well. But when do we decide one outweighs the other and start making cuts?

1) When the card’s value narrows, perhaps due to metagame shifts

Whaddya mean, I don’t get to attack?

In simpler terms, opponents will get smart to the strategies you employ, especially if you tend to be repetitive about it, and will work together to stop you if it’s toxic enough. This can severely hamper the effectiveness of your plan, specifically if you lean on it to win your games. Alternatively, the matchups it functions best in may change as the players you attempt this strategy against begin to favor alternative decks that it functions poorly against. Adaptation obviously goes a long way here, but don’t try to make a certain card or combination of cards work so much that it eschews the other, perhaps more important parts of your deck.

2) The card is good in situations not popular in your metagame

Hexproof? u wot m8?

The absolute perfect example of this is the card Vandalblast. The card is extremely attractive at first glance until you realize it has an incredibly volatile best-case / worst-case scenario. Best-case, Sharuum the Hegemon combo sits across from you and you chortle silently. Worst-case, it’s a Shatter that destroys a Sol Ring. Most times, the card will have 3 or less targets, making it vastly inferior to Return to Dust, but in certain situations, the card will be an absolute workhorse (because let’s face it, Plague Wind + Shatterstorm is awesome even if it has 3 or less targets – that being said, it’s still not as awesome as Return to Dust or even Into the Core)

3) One card usurps the deck’s purpose

Why cast spells when you can cast me instead?

This is an example of an opposite reaction to live testing cards while playing them – one card ends up being so good you want to dedicate your game plan to that card. My former Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius deck was for the longest time a  URgoodstuff.dek until I was in a board state where Relic of Progenitus stopped me from abusing my Charmbreaker Devils, then I topdecked Time Warp. There are situations where you don’t realize the sheer value of a card until you playtest it – you sleeve it up thinking “hmm, this card is pretty decent for getting two or three key cards in the deck” until you test it out and have little else to do with it, then ask yourself “why don’t I do more with this?” Common examples of cards that will do this are the aforementioned Charmbreaker Devils, Stonehewer Giant, Reveillark, Deadeye Navigator, Leyline of Anticipation, Mikaeus the Unhallowed, Sheoldred, Whispering One, Utvara Hellkite, Seedborn Muse and Genesis Wave.

4) Your metagame forces you to adapt to it

Leyline of the Void? Well piss on a rake!

This is a rather extreme example in the case of established decks and more of a natural example when building new decks for an established metagame. For the longest time, the CG Realm has been known as the blue meta (it’s since not really been keeping up such a reputation, but admittedly I’ve been playing control a lot more often lately), so a lot of players would dedicate cards in their decks to fighting this – Grand Abolisher, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, Price of Glory, Choke and Vexing Shusher. Sometimes, you want to build a deck from the outside in (the best example of such a deckbuilding process is the innocuous Gaddock Teeg).  Save some of the deckbuilding room to fight that one guy you’ve had trouble beating in the past. (Spot removal is the best way to go about this without being too narrow – disruption has its name for a reason, after all)

5) The strategy got stale

Totally not going infinite here. Nope. Never!

Sometimes, let’s face it – we get bored of the strategies we play. We ready the deck, it does the same thing over and over (this is mostly caused by a strong dependence on a select few card(s) to get going), and its lack of variance turns us off from playing the deck. It’s happened to me multiple times (it’s why Niv-Mizzet is now a Melek deck), and it happens to everyone – we go in thinking we’ll enjoy the lines of play that the deck entails, play them out, again and again, and they grow dull. (A good example of this is any self-sufficient combo deck that involves the general, such as Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind.) Blanking a good 70 or so cards because you all-in your combo can get very dull very fast for some.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

So I hope I’ve given you insight on the process of playing your deck. If you want to craft the best deck possible for the metagame you’re in, you need to be constantly evaluating cards and adapting to what your metagame calls for. To do that, sometimes you need to drop the less effective cards from your deck, and while evaluating those cards to remove can be difficult sometimes, if you’re going to take anything away from this article, let it be this – the wilder the best-case/worst-case scenario, the less you have to attach yourself to the card and the more you have to realize that the card probably isn’t as good as you evaluate it to be.

That’s all for this week. Until next week!

-L

Check out my previous articles here:

Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454

Building on a Budget:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1522

Choose Your Champion:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1594
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1868

Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1810

Hits & Misses of Dragon’s Maze:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870 

Let’s Build:
Part 1 – Melek, Izzet Paragon - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?
p=1606
Part 2 – Sunforger - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595

Top Ten Most Hated Generals:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2083

Magical Thoughts #6-Analyzing Pro Tour Montreal

With another standard formatted Pro Tour in the books, we now have tons of new deck lists to mull over and strategies to discuss in the coming weeks. Today we’re going to look at what happened and what new and exciting decks have taken over the formats. One thing that stood out is that Boros Reckoner is the best non-land card in Gatecrash. If your deck could support triple r/w then you better have a very good reason for not running this card. It also showcased many of the colourless utility lands from Innistrad block and that is a tell of how powerful some of them are. Let’s get right into it.

The Impact of Gatecrash

First we’re going to look at the top performers from Gatecrash starting with the top 8.

From a quick glance you can guess what the top two cards that were played and they happen how they are affiliated with the same guild. Boros Reckoner was the breakout card of the pro tour. With 16 copies appearing it was the most dominant of the new cards. Whether it was in combo with Azorius Charm and Boros Charm or being an efficient attacker and blocker Reckoner has made it clear that your deck should have a plan for dealing with this guy or suffer the consequences. The next two played cards were lands which brings us to Boros Charm. A heavily favoured card leading to the event it wasn’t quite as prevalent as expected, but still found a home next to the other great Boros cards in the set. Next, we have another land in Godless Shrine and then mostly 4 copies of the remaining cards. A few noticeable omissions from the list are Skullcrack, Ghor-Clan Rampager, and Experiment One. Given the hype surrounding these Gruul cards I was expecting a bigger showing from these aggressive cost efficient spells, but that was not the case.

As one would expect we get a much different picture when we expand to include the top 16 minus Roberto Gonzales’ list which I could not find information about other than it was a UWR deck.

Besides Watery Grave joining the party and completing the Gatecrash lands cycle we see the top three cards still continuing to dominate. It goes to show one fact that all three cards have in common is the colour red. That says a lot about the format when the most played rare lands share red as their colour. Generally this indicates a faster format and one where you need to build decks that can survive the early turns or be faster than the red based ones. It’s also telling that the blue based lands were the most underplayed in the top 16. Generally people play red decks in the early stages of a format because it’s difficult to build a control deck when you don’t know what the problem cards are yet, so attacking every turn is never bad thing. While this is not a brand new format there was never a dominant deck that warped the meta game, so it might as well be a new one as there were many different decks to play before Gatecrash was released.

You will also notice we have 21 brand new cards with 43% of them being common or uncommon. It does show that not every card needed to build competitive decks has to be a rare or mythic. There were only three mythics and out of those one showed up as a one of in a sideboard.

The Winning Deck

Tom Martell was able to capture the trophy with the deck named “The Aristocrats” (Bonus point to those who get the deck name reference). Here’s the list for reference:

What’s the Game Plan? : Attack with small creatures while producing hard to remove threats like Falkenrath Aristocrat and Cartel Aristocrat. If you understand the benefits of Doomed Traveler you understand how the deck works. It’s a cheap creature that later can be used to help both aristocrats stay alive. There’s also more sacrifice synergy with Skirsdag High Priest and Zealous Conscripts. The deck also packs heavy hitters like Boros Reckoner and Silverblade Paladin to finish the game off.

How do you beat it? : Every card in the main deck can potentially put a creature onto the battlefield, so there is your first clue. Like most aggro decks it tends to live and die on the opening 7. There’s also nothing to generate a large amount of cards once they have blown through their hand, so play it smart. The deck can also just draw awkwardly and get a hand with Doomed Travelers and Cartel Aristocrats to your Loxodon Smiters and Huntmaster of the Fells. If you really want to put the proverbial nail in the coffin you want to play Curse of Death’s Hold or Mutilate as almost every creature has one toughness.

The Runner-up

Joel Larsson came up just short of taking home the title with his updated look at an old archetype. Using similar philosophies of the UW Delver decks of old, cheap efficient creatures backed up with cheap efficient spells, he was able to quickly reduce opponent’s life total to zero. Here’s the list:

What’s the Game Plan? : Ideally you want to play an early Boros Reckoner or Restoration Angel to continually attack while using cheap removal to kill their creatures and disrupt their game plan. It uses Sphinx’s Revelation to refill their hand when the game goes late. Azorius Charm is a card found typically in decks that run white and blue, but this version can use it to gain infinite life. They start by having a Boros Reckoner in play. They then give it indestructability by way of Boros Charm and lifelink by way of Azorius Charm. The next time the Reckoner takes damage you have it target itself with the damage dealing ability. You’ll then gain that much life and have the chance to do it again for as many times as your heart desires. If that’s too much work for you, there’s Blasphemous Act to deal an easy 13 damage to your opponent.

This combo was actually available before by way of Stuffy Doll, but is played now for a few reasons. First, Reckoner is playable without the combo while Doll can be flown over and has much worse stats. Second, Reckoner only costs three mana compared to five from Doll. Lastly, Doll can only play defense and therefore terrible in an aggressive deck.

How do you beat it? : I would classify this deck as an aggro/control deck because it has elements from both archetypes in it which means it can have the downsides that both carry. Specifically it can have the wrong answer at the wrong time or a slower draw.  The deck only has so many threats and maintaining a high life total is key. Putting early pressure on them, so they do not have time to use their Azorius Charms effectively is key. If they can get past your early advances they’ll have time to fire off large Revelations that will be hard to come back from.  As a control deck you want to really grind them out because despite their Revelations you have bigger end game threats like Tamiyo and Obzedat while they have plenty of useful targets for all your spot and mass removal. Even if they have managed to gain infinite life they still have to find a way to kill you and Jace, Memory Adept is a real card against them.

Jundtastic!

Owen Turtenwald and Stephen Mann both managed to top 8 with similar Midrange Jund lists. The biggest gain it got from Gatecrash is Stomping Ground.  That helps fix the issue of wanting a Rootbound Crag off of a Farseek while allowing you more consistency in having a green turn one. We’ll take a look at Owen’s deck for sake of analysis:

What’s the Game Plan? : The addition of Stomping Ground appears to have already paid off as three Arbor Elves has been added that could not have been before with just Overgrown Tomb. It has a very similar look to pervious Jund decks of the last year. The goal is to survive the early onslaught of creatures in order to play some of the most efficient creatures in standard while generating card advantage every turn with its planeswalkers and eventually big x spells. Kessig Wolf Run is also a monster in a deck like this because it turns even the small threats like the 2/2 wolf into a must deal with threat. Rakdos’s Return is a real card and often the bane of many control decks. Combined with Liliana of the Veil it provides a great one-two punch against decks hoping to grind you out.

How do you beat it? : Since the deck has many expensive spells it gets especially punished against aggro deck if it ever stumbles on mana or mana colour. You have to just keep jamming threats and hope they can’t remove it. Giving them any amount of time to set up means you’re likely to run into a large Rakdos’s Return. The creatures in the deck are also often easy to destroy meaning they are weak to removal of any kind, but often require multiple pieces to get rid of. If you’re the control deck your best bet is to counter their large threats as they come and hope they don’t have what they need at the right time.

Final Thoughts

Overall I would say it was a very diverse meta game. With a wide open format like standard is now I think you can play any of the top 8 decks you want and not be at a huge disadvantage. This wasn’t always the case as some events would have half the top 8 be the same deck, but standard is quite healthy right now and I definitely recommend playing if you enjoy the challenge and excitement of an ever evolving meta game.

FNM Report

Last week at CG we had 26 combatants duel it out for five rounds. The top 8 consisted of one Jund, two Bant Control, two “The Aristocrats”, one Junk Midrange, and two Naya Midrange decks. I was able to go 4-1 in the Swiss with the Bant Control deck I wrote about a few weeks ago with some minor changes in the side board, but lost in the top 8 to “The Aristocrats” deck. In the swiss I won against Junk Midrange, Naya Midrange, Jund Aggro, Esper Control, and lost to Jund Midrange. The deck performed consistently as it has the past few weeks. The weakness against Falkenrath Aristocrat was again an issue. Both decks I lost to ran the card in some number. The deck does have some answers to it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m always going to draw them and Aristocrat is a card that can punish having the wrong answer in your hand. I’m pretty happy having a good matchup with most midrange and other random decks going forward. I don’t foresee having to make any major changes to it when I pick the deck back up again in the future. I’ll probably try some new things next time I pick it up as I want to keep working on it for upcoming large events while trying new things at FNM. Grinding with the same deck is a great way to learn about it, but it can also get dull fast regardless of the deck. Trying new decks is also a great way to learn how they work and best ways to stop them, so even if you do not like the deck it will not be a waste of time testing it.

Thanks for reading,

B-Rad