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State of Standard, Vengevine and Kuldotha Rebirth

November 15, 2010

Moving on with formats in my preparation for Worlds, the turn has come to Standard. While there is roughly a whole month left until World which off course leaves time for further innovations, the format is stagnating and stabilizing. Today I’m going to talk about how the format is shaped right now along with some extra tidbits about specific strategies in todays Standard.

My prediction about the format which I made almost two months ago ended up being fairly accurate. I thought the format would have 4 big cornerstones, JtMS based control decks, Primeval Titan ramp decks, decks abusing Vengevine along with a stint of red. The format started out heavily shifted towards ramp decks and some amount of aggressive decks. Nothing strange about that, proactive decks are easier to build than reactive control decks.

But then has the JtMS-based control decks risen in numbers and slowly but steady establishing themselves as the big cheese of the format. UW was popular at the beginning but was quickly remodeled into UB, which we still see around. Recently a new branch of JtMS-decks, RUG control/ramp has surfaced as a major contender for the high crown of the format. I wouldn’t say that the evolution of the format has completely stopped thought. Right now we see a surge of aggressive decks that are doing better and better, feasting on the relatively slow ramp and control decks.

Thought I would say that JtMS-based control decks and ramp decks make out the “tier 1” of Standard right now, Standard is a format with something for everybody. Compared to last years Standard (i.e. the Jund-infested format of doom) this format is much more balanced out and far more decks are at least viable. While there are certainly decks out there I think are worse than others, unlike last year you won’t automatically crash and burn with a “slightly less than optimal” deck choice, which is nice. There is always something in a format that is going to be the “best” with some margin. As long as that margin is fairly small, we have a healthy format with several options in deck selection.

If there is something that I missed with my prediction it’s the case Vengevine. While Jace-decks and Primeval Titan-decks is flourishing in Standard right now, the number of Vengevine-decks we have seen is fewer than anyone could have guessed in late September. Why is that? Why is there so relatively love for Vengevine right now? A definite answer is difficult to say, but I have theory’s based from personal experience and what I have read/been told about the format.

Oh Vengevine, where art thou?

As I mentioned in my prediction-post, the best ways to beat Vengevine-based decks are either be faster or do something more unfair. And if we look at the ramp decks, the JtMS-based control decks and the upcoming aggro decks (I’m coming to that, bare with me) we see those elements.

The Vengevine-decks aren’t really fast enough (at least not consistently) to beat the ramp decks. The ramp decks gets most of the time enough time to deploy Primeval Titan or worse which tilts the game around out of favour of the Vengevine-decks. The decks do relatively well against the control decks but as the format as evolved, the control decks now play with much more powerful finishers that often can lock up the game on their own compared to trying to grinding out with Planeswalkers which was more common last season. Frost Titan, Grave Titan, Wurmcoil Engine, Avenger of Zendikar and even something like Mimic Vat threatens to take over the game as they land on the board. Lastly we have the aggressive decks, primarily the red-based ones in mind. These decks combines a fast clock along with cheap efficient removal spells for key creatures as Fauna Shaman. These decks can end the game before the Vengevine-decks can get their dirty stuff going.

Does this mean that there isn’t a place for Vengevine-decks in Standard right now? Yes and no. I don’t think the cute more midrange-y style of Fauna Shaman-Vengevine decks we see right now are just to midrange-y to compete right now. What this archetype need to do in order to compete for real is trying to get faster and be more “unfair”. I’m thinking in the lines like the old DredgeVine from last season…

I mentioned the rise of aggressive decks earlier. It’s not hard to figure that when the format is slowing down a bit that fast, aggressive strategies can get in there and feast on those slow decks. While there are certainly plenty of options on how to beat down, there is the White Weenie Quest deck, Elves and even Vampires as options. But the most successful way to beatdown seems to be having a deck with Goblin Guide in it. Boros, Kuldotha Red, Cedric Red… there is a lot of variants and flavors. What they do however in the end is the same. They end games…quickly. And while the format looks like it does right now they will continue to do that, so beware.

Surprisingly impressive(!)

One deck or rather the pivotal card of that deck that I’m recently have been really impressed by is Kuldotha Rebirth. If anybody would said to me a couple of weeks ago when the set was released that this card would see Standard play, I probably would have laughed at them to be honest. Pretty much the same reaction I had to Goblin Bushwhacker last year but that card turned out to be completely ridiculous in the Boros Bushwhacker deck.

So, why am I so impressed by Kuldotha Rebirth? The fact that you could make 3 guys for 1 mana in the current format is actually pretty darn good. Since the control and ramp decks is the leading decks right now, people are prepared to deal with singular massive threats. Doom Blade and other efficient answers are at high premium right now. What people aren’t prepared to face (at least in the main deck) right now is a hoard of small creatures. Trying to stem the bleeding with spotremoval is just not working out and this is the fact that this deck and other like it feast on.

Standard is overall my favorite constructed format and this format in particular isn’t disappointing either. I have enjoyed playing this format so far and I’m looking forward at playing more and more in the future, stay tuned!

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 17, 2013 06:21

    I need to to thank you for this very good read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it.
    I have you saved as a favorite to look at new things you post…

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