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Thoughts about Standard leading up to GP Bochum

November 14, 2012


Sadly, I’m not attending GP Bochum because I’m preoccupied elsewhere. That does leave me with no problem to dish about what I think about the current state of Standard though. So, what do I have on my mind?

Draw, go…with a splash!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my experience with UR Delver in Standard. To make a long story short, I said back then that I really liked the angle of attack that deck had on the Standard metagame.

Standard has evolved to a place where midrange decks that intends to cast expensive and extremely potent cards like Thragtusk and Angel of Serenity has become the top predators of the format. There are a couple of variants out there but they share a similar core and their gameplan is very similar although the exact execution might vary.

When the field looks like this, suddenly the usefulness of countermagic spikes to ridiculous levels. Even though the counterspells that are available in Standard are relatively crappy, the usefulness outweights this “crappiness” times over. When the threats are so difficult to handle once they hit play combined with the fact that they have a hefty manacost attached to them, playing with countermagic is exactly where you want to be.

While I felt that the counterspells and the cheap threats of the UR Delver deck felt spot on to combat the format, the actual card Delver of Secrets felt underpowered. I have since wanted to find a replacement for it and/or build the deck in such a way to circumvent the use of the card.

And then roughly a week ago, I think Adam Prosak broke the ground that I gazed towards at the end of post about UR Delver.

I don’t have anything to say really about the deck’s strategy and how it plays out that neither mister Prosak or GerryT hasn’t already said over at Star City Games, so I won’t. Do you want to know more of the ins and outs of the UW Flash (is that what we are calling the deck?) archetype, check out their respective latest article on SCG.

What I do want to say is that if I would be playing in Bochum (or Charleston for argument’s sake), that is the deck I would play. I would however strongly look into splashing a third color, probably red, primarily to have something to deal with Deathrite Shamans. That card is so frustratingly hard to deal with in straight UW since it’s so cheap and there literary are no instant or sorcery speed way to deal with one that has resolved  At the same time it’s hard to ignore because it more or less shuts down your Snapcaster Mages and makes Runechanter’s Pike embarrassing. I like red for this task as the bolts you would play in that case, Searing Spear and/or Pillar of Flame, have other lucrative uses, like going upstairs or somewhat deal with Planeswalkers that manage to sneak by your counterspells.

Thragtusk, meet Cavern of Souls

If playing with counterspells doesn’t float your boat and you rather just steer into the skid and duke it out in the midrange battle with some arbitrary approach, my advise to you is to embrace Cavern of Souls. I know that the manabases are tight and doesn’t really allow for much wiggle room when it comes to incorporate basically colorless lands, but you need to because of the rising popularity of the UW Flash decks. Try to squeeze some into your maindeck and see how many you can afford to run without the manabase completely collapsing. You could even have what couldn’t be fitted into the maindeck in the sideboard and just treat them as virtual spells.

Just make it work somehow, because otherwise all your shiny powerful cards will get syncopated, essence scattered, dissipated or rewounded to oblivion.

As for which Thragtusk deck I would be battling with if it would come to that, I’d have to say a reanimator variant. From my experience  the mirror-esque matchups all come down to the big haymakers, like Thragtusk and Angel of Serenity. The answer to who can draw and play the most of them in a at least somewhat effective manner determines a majority of the games in those matchups (given that neither player isn’t screwed by their mana in any way).

Given that premise, the reanimator decks just seems to do this the best to me. Not only do they typically play more of these haymakers than say Jund, Band or Naya, they are also really good at sifting through the deck and finding the relevant spells. To boot, they have Unburial Rites which allows the pilot to basically recast the relevant spells over and over again.

The case you could make against reanimator is that unlike Jund or Bant for example, it’s susceptible to graveyard hate. I don’t however think that case is a very good one though because while the archetype is labled as reanimation strategy, the actual reanimation part isn’t a super critical component to the archetype. Most of the better lists can actually cast all their threats off their lands or the occasional manadude, making Unburial Rites not a necessity to draw but rather just a sweet value spell. While cards like Purify the Grave and Rest in Peace technically does something against the reanimator lists, they could just side out Unburial Rites and ignore that battle almost completely, which in the end would leave the opposing side with some dead weight in their deck.

As for actual lists go, I have been very enticed lately by the following list that was brought to my attention by GerryT:

Forbidden Instincts Reanimator, played by hima123


4 Cavern of Souls
1 Drowned Catacomb
2 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Hinterland Harbor
1 Island
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
4 Angel of Serenity
4 Centaur Healer
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thragtusk
4 Farseek
4 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Tracker’s Instincts
4 Unburial Rites


2 Armada Wurm
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
3 Detention Sphere
1 Ray of Revelation
2 Sigarda, Host of Herons
1 Slayer of the Wicked
2 Sphinx’s Revelation
3 Supreme Verdict

I haven’t been able to play a significant number of games with the list so far to make a fair assessment if I think it’s actually better than the more common approach with Faithless Looting, but theoretically this list just strikes the right chords.

For starters, the list fields the arguably top 3 creatures in Standard right now, which would be Thragtusk, Angel of Serenity and Restoration Angel. I would call that a solid start.

Moving on it has a full playset of the aforementioned Cavern of Souls, which I deem to be really crucial for this style of deck these days,  and I’m loving the Deathrite Shamans. The card is great against other reanimator decks for shutting down their Unburial Rites. It’s fantastic against Snapcaster Mage and the Runechanter’s Pikes those kind of decks typically plays. Also, because of the choice of running Forbidden Alchemy and Tracker’s Instincts as the means of sifting through the deck and loading up the graveyard with goodies, Deathrite Shaman will more reliably tap for mana than say in a version with Mulch in those slots.

As I said, I haven’t put a lot of time of actual playtesting with the list, but it sure looks enticing to me.

Full circle?

With all the talk about the UW Flash decks with their plethora of countermagic and how you are poised to squeeze in Cavern of Souls in your Thragtusk midrange deck, we might soon reach a point where attacking with Gravecrawlers and Geralf’s Messengers is where you want to be again.

It makes sense right, as the UW decks become more and more popular at the expense of the midrange decks. When the number of midrange decks diminishes and those who are left needs to go through hoops to play against the abundance of countermagic, it leaves space for the super aggressive decks to shine again. UW Flash doesn’t want to play against hordes of Zombies and their like. Rewind is far from the ideal card to have to combat Gravecrawlers.

If that scenario plays out we would be exactly at where we started this Standard format and thus the circle would be complete…and then then evolution would start all over again. I would be surprised if that time has already come to this weekend but it’s bound to happen sooner or later unless the midrange decks can prove that they can play around and/or through the sea of countermagic successfully.

That is what I had at the moment about Standard. I hope this post was insightful and I wish the best of luck to friends and colleagues that do attend either GP Bochum or Charleston. Godspeed!

Until next time,


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