The Future of Standard
By Matt Sperling

Very Abbreviated Recap of PTDKA

Preparing for Pro Tour Dark Ascension was a really fun challenge. Our Hawaii beach house chemistry was surpassed only by the Ruthie season of The Real World, and our results at the tournament were as good as anyone’s (prior to the top 8 starting, discussed further below). Here’s the deck we played:

Matt Sperling
Pro Tour Dark Ascension, Standard Constructed
45th place

[deck]4 Darkslick Shores
2 Evolving Wilds
3 Glacial Fortress
5 Island
2 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
1 Swamp
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Drogskol Captain
2 Dungeon Geists
3 Phantasmal Image
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Divine Offering
4 Gitaxian Probe
1 Gut Shot
4 Lingering Souls
2 Mana Leak
4 Ponder
1 Revoke Existence
4 Vapor Snag
Sideboard
1 Celestial Purge
1 Dismember
1 Dissipate
1 Divine Offering
1 Dungeon Geists
1 Gut Shot
1 Mana Leak
2 Negate
1 Phantasmal Image
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Revoke Existence
2 Surgical Extraction[/deck]

Ben Seck put it this way: “We had the best deck in the Swiss rounds, they (team ChannelFireball) had the best deck for the top 8.” Their deck, Wolf Run Huntmaster, was better in the top 8 for two reasons. Most importantly, it happened to beat our deck, and thus it knocked out both Jelger and Jon. Less importantly, but still a factor, was that our deck was somewhat of a riddle to opponents in the Swiss, but not so with published decklists being handed out before the top 8. Each of us had the experience in the Swiss of Gitaxian Probing opponents who sideboarded in [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] or [card]Divine Offering[/card]. We learned in testing that everyone would assume [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card], and most would be prepared for it. A similar disadvantage accrues when the opponent knows we only play 2 [card]Mana Leak[/card] maindeck. We tap out a lot, so we didn’t play 4 Mana Leak, but it sure is nice to pretend when your only intention is making a [card]Moorland Haunt[/card] token that you actually are ready to Leak that spell.

Here is the winning ChannelFireball list for reference:

Brian Kibler
Pro Tour Dark Ascension, Standard Constructed
1st place

[deck]4 Copperline Gorge
5 Forest
4 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Kessig Wolf Run
6 Mountain
4 Rootbound Crag
1 Acidic Slime
1 Birds of Paradise
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
2 Inferno Titan
4 Primeval Titan
3 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
4 Galvanic Blast
2 Green Sun's Zenith
4 Rampant Growth
4 Slagstorm
4 Sphere of the Suns
1 Whipflare
Sideboard
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Autumn's Veil
2 Beast Within
2 Combust
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
2 Karn Liberated
2 Naturalize
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Whipflare[/deck]

The Present Future League: Standard in the Weeks to Come

ChannelFireball’s Wolf Run Huntmaster list is certainly public enemy number one moving forward in Standard. Our deck might be a starting point for the next Delver iteration, but changes will need to be made in order to compete with the quantity of anti-creature cards they (wisely) chose to play. Also, the edge we enjoyed against “stock” Delver decks won’t be a reason to play our deck, since that stock deck will be our deck or something that beats it going forward.

One card Sam Black and I thought was well positioned before the PT, and still think is well positioned, is [card]Angelic Destiny[/card]. [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] suffered a lot from being in the spotlight. [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] and [card]Divine Offering[/card] saw a lot of play, but they don’t hit the Destiny. [card]Naturalize[/card] and [card]Revoke Existence[/card] also saw play, and they do hit [card]Angelic Destiny[/card], but 2-4 answers is better than 4-6 when you’re the one making an angel. It’s also just cheaper to get a guy out of Slagstorm range with Angelic Destiny than it is with Swords, which matters a lot since the efficacy of [card]Slagstorm[/card] often determines the outcome of a game between a creature deck and a ramp or control deck.

Other cards that are getting better include [card]Celestial Purge[/card] (Huntmaster and [card]Inferno Titan[/card] can both be Purged, and are often relied upon by the Wolf Run Huntmaster player), [card]Flashfreeze[/card] (this had fallen out of favor but if you look at the winning deck, it makes you want to reconsider), good old [card]Dissipate[/card] (this should be viewed as a Flashfreeze that’s a little worse but not as narrow, you’ll get to use it against Control and can maindeck a couple copies in Delver or control), [card]Doom Blade[/card] (players in Honolulu struggled to kill a [card]Dungeon Geist[/card], flipped Huntmaster, or a Titan, and it showed), and [card]Unburial Rites[/card] (whenever everyone is focused on the “fair” decks, it might be time to play unfair).

Aside from single card shifts, expect to see archetype shifts. Creature decks should decrease a bit in popularity in the face of the Wolf Run menace. Taking those spots will be Wolf Run, of course, but also control and graveyard combo seeking to exploit those same slow and anti-weenie metagamed Wolf Run decks. A quick Jin-Gitaxias or a ton of counters are likely too much for Wolf Run to handle. The problem with these decks is of course beating Delver consistently, so a Rock-Paper-Scissors dynamic is perhaps going to form. Playing a deck that loses to Delver was an insane act in Honolulu, but perhaps it gets saner as Wolf Run tones down Delver’s dominance.

Metagame Choice 1: Reanimator

Raphael Levy
Pro Tour Dark Ascension, Standard Constructed

[deck]4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Darkslick Shores
6 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
1 Rootbound Crag
4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
2 Inferno Titan
1 Llanowar Elves
2 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Faithless Looting
4 Lingering Souls
4 Mulch
4 Tracker's Instincts
4 Unburial Rites
Sideboard
4 Ancient Grudge
2 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
2 Memory's Journey
1 Purify the Grave
3 Ray of Revelation
1 Thrun, the Last Troll[/deck]

A deck like Wolf Run doesn’t really have the tools to compete with what this deck is doing. We might start seeing more [card]Grafdigger's Cage[/card] and [card]Purify the Grave[/card] than we saw at the PT, but people can’t afford to play a ton of hate, and Grudge can kill the Cage. I wonder if Ghoultree is a playable sideboard card here against decks looking to use sweepers and/or graveyard hate. 10/10 is a lot bigger than [everything else]. If Delver players skimp on Dissipate, you should have an edge. This list has room for improvement with so many available tweaks, I look forward to working on it.

Metagame Choice 2: Walkers

Orrin Beasley
Pro Tour Dark Ascension, Standard Constructed

[deck]4 Darkslick Shores
3 Evolving Wilds
3 Glacial Fortress
2 Island
4 Isolated Chapel
3 Plains
2 Seachrome Coast
5 Swamp
2 Snapcaster Mage
4 Day of Judgment
3 Doom Blade
1 Elspeth Tirel
2 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Gideon Jura
3 Liliana of the Veil
4 Lingering Souls
4 Mana Leak
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
3 Think Twice
3 Tragic Slip
Sideboard
1 Azure Mage
1 Batterskull
2 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Curse of Death's Hold
3 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Revoke Existence
1 Sword of Feast and Famine[/deck]

This is the kind of deck that seems like a nightmare for Wolf Run. With Wraths, removal, counters, and hard-to-kill walkers, how are they going to kill you? As Delver slows down and hopes you don’t have Doom Blade (read: plays Dungeon Geists), they might not be that favored over you. This is another deck that can go in a few new directions if it needs to, keep an eye on this one.

Improving Delver

I think approaching the new metagame is going to start with adding more counters to the deck and tapping out a bit less, at the very least after sideboarding. [card]Dissipate[/card] is just a necessary evil, and not just 1 copy. Mono Red isn’t a real deck, tokens underperformed in the PT winners metagame, the format is just a bit slower than it seems, and people are going BIG, meaning they’ll try to cast things like Inferno Titan and Elesh Norn. Don’t let them resolve. For me, the card [card]Dismember[/card] was an overperformer at the PT, and Doom Blade might even be a little better except the mana is tougher. Either way, make sure you have targeted instant removal for large creatures. The last Dungeon Geist standing gets the last laugh.

Cards that are a little worse than they were are [card]Dungeon Geists[/card] (more of a known element now, see remarks above about spot removal), [card]Vapor Snag[/card] (not very impressive in the mirror, against control, or against Wolf Run), and Divine Offering (fever than expected targets going around). Trim numbers accordingly, and best of luck.