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Brewing for Return to Ravnica Standard

October 4, 2012

This will not be a post with too many words in it but rather a parade of decklists, showcasing some of the ideas I have for the new Standard format. A page out of my notebook if you will.

I do want to stress that they are brews and should be ctrl+c, ctrl+v with care. What you should rather focus on is the concepts and some of the key cards from these lists, which I think will become forces to reckon with in Standard starting this Friday. In short, don’t think “hm, it should be 3 of this card instead of 4 and max 2 of that card” or “what was he on when he thought up that manabase?”. Instead, focus on the main idea.

One more thing though before jumping to the decklist parade, a keen reader will probably notice from the decklists that they are fairly skewed toward being able to beat Zombies. While the new Standard format as a whole is somewhat of a blank paper for us, one thing you can be sure to expect is to see Geralf’s minions running rampant starting from day 1.

The archetype lost basically nothing from the rotation while a ton of good cards against the deck disappeared into the Modern vortex. In addition to that a bunch of new lethal cards has been delivered to the archetype with the release of Return to Ravnica. The deck both looks and feels very powerful and certainly is a very easy deck to build at least good enough to rumble over a lot of people, so being able to match up against Zombies is something I consider to being a 101 competence your deck should have even right out of the gates.

Enough reality check, let’s get dreamy:

Dega Reanimator

4 Angel of Serenity
4 Griselbrand

4 Faithless Looting
4 Wild Guess
4 Liliana of the Veil
4 Lingering Souls
4 Unburial Rites
3 Pillar of Flame
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Blasphemous Act
1 Ultimate Price

4 Blood Crypt
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Dragonskull Summit
2 Evolving Wilds
4 Mountain
4 Swamp
2 Plains

Unburial Rites is one of more powerful cards in Innistrad and now when the crazy tempo strategies the previous format had have left us or at least lost a couple of gears, I believe reanimation strategies like the one above could shine.

The idea is classic; play a Careful Study-effect (Faithless Looting, Wild Guess or Liliana of the Veil) to dump a fatty in the graveyard and then bring it back to play with Unburial Rites and simply let the threat take it home.

As sweet as I think the list looks, I have a couple of concerns though. Among the major ones is whatever the manabase is good enough to support a deck that potentially wants to cast a spell that cost RR on turn 2, then 1BB on turn 3 and then 3W on turn 4. The shocklands and the M10/Innistrad-duals are good but are they enough for the task?

Another concern is whatever the threats are actually good enough to be relied on. Don’t get be wrong, Angel of Serenity and Griselbrand are really powerful. However, are they that good that they can feasible carry you on their own towards victory in a traditionally very removal filled format?

There are questions regarding the deck that needs to be answered rest be sure, but man, doesn’t the list look sweet?

Junk Reanimator

4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Arbor Elf
2 Lotleth Troll
4 Thragtusk
3 Armada Wurm
3 Angel of Serenity

4 Mulch
4 Grisly Salvage
4 Lingering Souls
4 Unburial Rites

3 Gavony Township
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Temple Garden
2 Sunpetal Grove
3 Woodland Cemetary
6 Forest
2 Swamp

As much as I would love to be casting Wild Guess in Standard, a reanimator approach based off a Frites shell seems more likely to work and be good in reality.

While you still have the possibility of reanimating a superb threat like Angel of Serenity or Armada Wurm as early as on turn 3(!), this approach allows the same threats to simply be cast the old fashion way thanks to the mana dorks. Not only does it help in the consistency department but it also allows the deck to play around eventual hate it might face, like Grafdigger’s Cage or Rest in Peace. Also not to forget that there is also a reasonable plan C if the resolving a fatty-plan has totally failed, which is moving in on Gavony Township and grow your mana dorks and Spirit tokens to immense sizes.

Other thing this approach got going for it which the previous list lacks is really take advantage of Angel of Serenity, as removing a creature from your graveyard as an insurance in the Dega list is nowhere as sexy as in the Junk list. Finally, having 4 copies of Thragtusk in your deck seems also ideal if your goal is to stop a horde of zombies from eating your brains all day long.

It should also be mentioned that the basic idea was brought up to my attention by Brad Nelson over at Star City Games. What I have done is mostly move around the manabase and the threatbase a bit after my likings.

Esper Tokens

4 Snapcaster Mage

4 Thought Scour
4 Azorius Charm
4 Intangible Virtue
2 Favorable Winds
4 Lingering Souls
4 Midnight Haunting
4 Talrand’s Invocation
2 Cyclonic Rift
2 Syncopate
2 Jace, Architect of Thought

4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Isolated Chapel
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Vault of the Archangel
4 Island
2 Plains
1 Swamp

How I came to this list is actually quite funny. At first I really wanted to put Lingering Souls and Intangible Virtue (also known as the banned couple) in a deck, as they pretty much ruled the Block Constructed format before they were sidelined and I have a fond experience with them in various BW Token builds from last season. However, I couldn’t really put together a BW token list that I liked in theory so I put that idea to rest for the time being.

Then I moved on and toyed around with UWx Delver lists but also in this department I didn’t really get anything going to my liking. Then again mr Nelson lit a lightbulb for me when I saw him playing a Delver variant in a “Gerry Vs. Brad”-episode over at Star City Games:

What happens if I just mash together the cards I like from the BW Token deck and the ones from the Delver lists together?

I did just that and then rounded out the list with Talrand’s Invocation, Favorable Winds and a couple of Jace 4.0 and voila, the list above appeared in front of me. This seems like a really sweet board control deck to me and as long as the number of Bonfire of the Damned and Mizzum Mortars isn’t skyrocketing in the format I firmly believe that some Lingering Souls and Intangible Virtue strategy is going to claim quite a few scalps in shortly.

A card I like to specially mention is Azorius Charm, which I have been quite pleased with so far. In this particularly build it’s even better than in most decks I have seen so far as every mode on the card is very relevant. That said, it’s the Aethertow aspect of the card that is the most lucrative one. I have seen people complain that it “just” puts the creature on top when it’s potentially even better than just removing it. Anyone who have ever played with Memory Lapse or Hinder will tell you that.

UWr Miracles

4 Thought Scour
4 Pillar of Flame
4 Think Twice
4 Azorius Charm
3 Vessel of Endless Rest
2 Detention Sphere
3 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
4 Entreat the Angels
4 Terminus

4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Sulfur Falls
2 Desolate Lighthouse
5 Plains
3 Island

While the powerlevel of countermagic have plummeted greatly in Standard if we compare with how Standard looked like a year ago, I actually think control decks will be bigger deal now post rotation then it was previously. That said, people who wants “draw-go” style of control decks to be good will be disappointed. It’s the “tap-out” school of control decks that seems to be the melody of this season.

If UW, Grixis or even RUG based is the way to go is hard to say as building control decks without having a good grasp on exactly what people are doing in the format is hard. That said, having both Entreat the Angels and Terminus seems like a good place to be if beating Zombies is your goal. Also, I’m really digging the pair of planeswalkers the list above is sporting.

In the list above I have chosen to dip into red to have an additional good early play against Zombie, which would be Pillar of Flame, and get access to the very powerful Desolate Lighthouse.

I really liked Pristine Talisman last season in this style of deck so I think I would like to field some kind of manastone moving forward as well. I have chosen Vessel of Endless Rest here over the other options available because I want the stone to tap for both blue and red so you can  play it on turn 3 and play a Thought Scour or Pillar of Flame on the same turn. That dismisses Azorius Keyrune, and I don’t think the obscene manafixing that Chromatic Lantern provides is necessary. Izzet Keyrune looks quite sweet in control mirrors but otherwise the body is fairly embarrassing.

On the other hand, I actually think the enters the battlefield-ability on Vessel is quite relevant. There are tons of reanimation and flashback stuff going on in Standard right now, which you get to nuke for free with Vessel. Not to forget either is the ability to recycle Entreat the Angels, which for those who has played/seen a bit of Block Constructed know that ability is highly relevant when playing against someone who can potentially answer multiple Entreat the Angels.

A card that isn’t featured on the list above that might be criminal not to play with is Sphinx’s Revelation. That card just looks so darn powerful, particularly if you are playing in a matchup where your lifetotal matters. I have heard people calling it “Sphinx’s Ultimatum” around the webs and that for a good reason.

Although countermagic in general isn’t very attractive at the moment, you probably at the very least want access to a couple of Negate or Dissipate in the sideboard. Being completely dead in the water to something like a Rakdos’s Return is not a place where I would like to be.

White Weenie Blue

4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Precinct Captain
4 Knight of Glory
4 Fiend Hunter
4 Geist of Saint Thraft
3 Angel of Jubilation

3 Detention Sphere
3 Spectral Flight

4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Glacial Fortress
11 Plains
2 Island
2 Moorland Haunt

This is another list that I came up with that started somewhere very different. It started with the idea of that killing Geist of Saint Traft in the upcoming format is not a walk in a park with cards like Phantasmal Image and Whipflare no longer with us. More so, there are even less answers if you put some sort of pants (Magic slang for various creature enhancement that you put on a specific creature) on it.

This was a strategy that people utilized in Block Constructed to great success, among other thing putting Jon Finkel and Gaudenis Vidugiris into the Top8 of Pro Tour Barcelona earlier this year. So my idea was to simply port this concept over to the new Standard format.

Unfortunately I couldn’t really put together a Bant shell that I felt happy with, partly because Wolfir Silverheart is way easier to deal with in Standard than he was in Block Constructed. However, when I had scrapped that idea I remembered that way back in March and April when I played Haunted Humans in Standard, that the most effective way to beat green deck was simply to put Angelic Destiny on an arbitrary creature. That memory lead me into the idea of of just putting Geist of Saint Traft with some pants in a White Weenie shell.

I think there are several ways you could build a White Weenie-esque deck right now in Standard. For example, you could play Restoration Angel and play some more guys that interact favorably with that card, like Attended Knight or Azorius Arrester. It’s not necessary that the human twist is the best way to go either.

What I like about the list above is that it really takes advantage of Thalia, many of the creatures are really good against Zombies (first strike is huge, Knight of Glory has protection from black, Fiend Hunter exiles messengers and hasty vampires and have a big enough butt to block the small guys) and it has the suckerpunch move of putting Spectral Flight on Geist of Saint Traft.

I’m not super sold on Angel of Jubilation but having some anthem effect now when Honor of the Pure has left the format seems desirable. Moving from Oblivion Ring to Detention Sphere seems important considering that you probably will have to wade through quite the few Spirit and Angel tokens in the near future.

And finally, it’s an aggro deck that I, at least in theory, can see being able to fight against Thragtusk decks fairly well. I have already mention Spectral Flight on Geist of Saint Traft as a big play but even just putting the same aura on Precinct Captain seems like a big game.

That is what I had in my notebook up to this point. Hope you saw something that caught your eye. Also, be sure to take a look at the coverage of SCG Open Cincinnati this weekend, which will be the first event that will showcase the new format.

Exciting times lies ahead of us!

Bernhard

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