Last week, my adventures in Standard led me to an interesting blue/green Prime Speaker Zegana deck that had the ability to go over the top of the token-based midrange decks that have been doing well lately. I continued to play with the deck at the beginning of this week, but found myself losing a lot of matches to blue/white/red Supreme Verdict decks. These control strategies were so commonplace that I decided it was time to leave the Craterhoof deck for the time being and venture out into uncharted waters.
I recalled the blue/white Flash deck that I played in late October-early November last year. The deck was extraordinarily powerful, but I had to stop playing it because of Nephalia Drownyard Esper decks and aggressive black/red strategies with Cavern of Souls. Cards like Assemble the Legion and Obzedat, Ghost Council seemed like they could be easily dealt with via Renounce the Guilds. The most aggressive strategies, like Naya Blitz, have become less Human-based and are no longer playing any copies of Cavern of Souls.
I was lucky enough to find a few UW Flash lists online. I found the following list and put it together to play a few matches:
Standard Daily #5527585 on 06/12/2013
I was immediately impressed with the deck's position in the metagame. I found myself crushing the UWR decks with Renounce the Guilds and superior countermagic. The BRW versions of Aristocrats were also a breeze. Jund players would plan their whole game around using Cavern of Souls to drop Sire of Insanity into play, and my Renounce the Guilds would make for a huge tempo play. Naya Blitz stole a match or two, but I even felt slightly favored there. The only matches where I was truly outclassed were against decks that packed 4 copies of Voice of Resurgence, a card that severely hinders this deck's ability to operate optimally.
I was getting pretty attached to the deck, though. I wasn't playing against a huge amount of Junk Aristocrats, and my win percentage against the other decks was incredible. After around 25 matches I decided to address what I felt the deck's weaknesses were so that I could be more confident in my new Standard deck.
Naya Blitz wasn't a bad matchup, but the deck is capable of stealing games from just about anyone. I needed to find a sideboard card that effectively dealt with their early onslaught of creatures, even when I was on the draw. I've found that aggressively going for 1-for-1s in the early game usually takes enough steam out of their explosiveness for our card advantage to win a long game. I was, however, finding this strategy to be nearly impossible when on the draw against good Burning-Tree Emissary draws. I wanted a Pillar of Flame, but I felt like splashing red would make the mana base less consistent and encourage me to play cards like Boros Reckoner and Assemble the Legion, making Renounce the Guilds, one of the best cards in the deck, nearly unplayable. Eventually, I was able to remember that Righteous Blow was still legal. I was confident that I had found the perfect card to put the brakes on Naya Blitz.
Azorius Charm was underwhelming. The card was at its best when I was able to put an Obzedat, Ghost Council or Falkenrath Aristocrat on the top of my opponent's deck. I would occasionally lifelink when I had a Runechanter's Pike to put myself out of range before I finished the game the next turn. The card's versatility is staggering, but I found myself with more than one copy stranded in my hand against Voice of Resurgence a few times. Having even a single Azorius Charm in hand when the opponent casts Voice of Resurgence on the play is pretty rough, but having two copies makes the game extremely difficult, especially if you're unable to buy enough time with Augur of Bolas to resolve an advantageous Supreme Verdict. I decided that I could cut a few copies of Azorius Charm without negatively affecting the deck too much.
I had been incredibly impressed with Renounce the Guilds, and I had lost at least a few games to being unable to find Supreme Verdict in time. I cut a pair of Azorius Charms in favor of third copies of both Renounce the Guilds and Supreme Verdict. Sure, Renounce the Guilds isn't great against Voice of Resurgence either, but it at least allows me to cast it at sorcery speed and follow up with Supreme Verdict and move on to the next stage of the game. An extra copy of Renounce the Guilds also makes the deck more resilient to Sire of Insanity, Assemble the Legion, Falkenrath Aristocrat, and Obzedat, Ghost Council—cards that traditionally pose a major problem.
The token-based strategies, especially Junk Aristocrats, still most threatened the deck's viability. I've played a bit with Junk Aristocrats and I know from experience that Terminus is the best card against them. I needed to find room for at least one copy of Terminus in my sideboard. I couldn't squeeze a second or third copy just yet, but I'm vigilant of sideboard cards that seem excessive in particular matchups or underutilized. I badly want to fit a second or third copy in to swing the Junk Aristocrats matchup in my favor.
I thought about swapping my Oblivion Ring for Detention Sphere, but I couldn't justify having to board out my Renounce the Guilds every time I wanted the effect. I also wanted to find room for the fourth copy of Sphinx's Revelation. After going back and forth a few times, however, I came to the conclusion that three Sphinx's Revelation is a fine number. Having four copies is nice if you're a control deck with 25 or more land, packing a playset of Farseek, or if you're playing an Esper deck with an obscene amount of spot removal and planeswalkers.
These strategies absolutely need to draw Sphinx's Revelation to stand a chance in most of their games. The UW Flash deck doesn't really want to draw more than one Revelation in the earlier turns, though. Snapcaster Mage lets you recycle Sphinx's Revelations while applying pressure in the late game. I settled on three copies of the big spell and I feel that it's correct.
One frustrating thing that kept coming up was the Maze's End Fog deck. It's pretty much the most obnoxious thing in the universe. I could never kill my opponent, and the inevitability of Maze's End was destroying me. I had a plan, though! I tried to think of the worst possible card for these decks, and I wanted a card to bring in against the other hard control decks. I thought about Increasing Confusion as a serious option. It's nearly impossible for the Maze's End deck to win after you flashback Confusion. Aggressively target your opponent with Thought Scours and use Increasing Confusion as a follow-up play after getting involved in a counterwar over Sphinx's Revelation on your opponent's endstep. With this sideboard plan in mind, I felt extremely confident that I could beat the latest gimmick deck that was taking the two-man meta by storm.
The deck continued to improve and I eventually found room for additional copies of Terminus. It was the best topdeck against virtually every deck I was siding it in against. Hitting off a Think Twice against any Aristocrat variant is almost always an autowin. The card is extremely high impact and I've been really happy with it.
Here's the list I've settled on:
Let's talk about the major matchups we'll face, and look at sideboarding strategies:
The Jund deck is surprisingly easy for UW Flash. Renounce the Guilds works extra hard here and their removal suite is lackluster against Augur of Bolas and Snapcaster Mage. Try always getting value off your Restoration Angels if your opponent has a few cards in hand and no planeswalker in play, especially in game one. They almost always have a removal spell, and it's important to net value from each card.
Countermagic is strong against them. Oblivion Ring helps against their planeswalkers. Runechanter's Pike can be used to nab a Garruk, Primal Hunter in conjunction with Restoration Angel, but never really serves as much more here. Again, because they have plenty of removal. That being said, you need to keep your Restoration Angels in the deck as an effective answer to planeswalkers. They'll likely slow themselves down by sideboarding in Ground Seal and more copies of Sire of Insanity.
Hitting your land drops is very important here, you don't want to get forced into a situation where you have to tap out without Renounce the Guilds or Unsummon when they have mana for Sire of Insanity. The “hope they don't have it” play never works in my limited experience with the matchup. Supreme Verdict is better than Terminus here because you're usually wrathing away one of two dudes and they attack you with planeswalkers, so you might miracle into something not worthwhile.
You're a better control deck than they are, plain and simple. You can grind them out of the game with more efficient cards for the fight they're fighting. Detention Sphere and Assemble the Legion are very weak against Renounce the Guilds, some versions will have Geist of Saint Traft post-board, only making the Renounce work harder.
Post-board you dominate Revelation wars with Dispel, and against versions that are just trying to win with Aetherling you can just leave open a wall of countermagic and win over two turns with Increasing Confusion/Dispel. They don't have nearly enough countermagic to stop you.
Most versions don't have Voice right now because it doesn't pair well with Burning-Tree Emissary, so that's a good thing. Winning the roll is huge here. Being on the draw against them gets scary, but being on the play feels like a breeze in my game ones. You don't have time to be thinking once, let alone twice, in most games against them. Dissipate and Rewind are also less than stellar. Unsummon is beastly against Advent of the Wurm. I stand by my earlier assessment that aggressively hunting for early 1-for-1s will make this matchup very easy—always trade your Snapcaster Mage with that Lightning Mauler before it mauls your face to pieces.
Unburial Rites Decks
Oh, these are incredibly easy. Once you have Purify the Grave there's almost no way for them to beat you. Aggressively get Voice of Resurgence off the table with Renounce the Guilds in game one if they have it, which they usually don't. You don't want to give them too much power when shutting down Craterhoof Behemoth or Angel of Serenity. They don't have much removal, and a single Angel will usually do a lot of work to prevent any aggression from their end. Once you find your Pike, you can just whittle them out of the game.
Sin Collector is good against us, but we'll usually recover and we can always Syncopate or Dissipate it. Terminus shines again here. We don't really need a board presence to be scary and their end-game Angel plan can be cut off at the head by putting the creatures where the sun don't shine. The chance of Voice of Resurgence really makes me hate Think Twice as an option.
You need to be willing to adapt to cards like Obzedat, Ghost Council or Assemble the Legion if they have them and keep all the Renounce the Guilds in the deck, but right now most versions seem to just be sideboarding extra copies of Sin Collector and a couple Voice of Resurgence.
Against stock versions of Junk Rites:
This matchup is pretty simple. Falkenrath Aristocrat used to be really tough, but Renounce the Guilds does wonders to solve their main course of action to follow up a Supreme Verdict. Their Blasphemous Act plan is pretty worthless against our countermagic. Terminus is at its absolute best here. I played a lot of BRW Aristocrats and I would never want to be paired against this UW Flash deck.
This can be a tad more difficult thanks to the presence of Voice of Resurgence and post-board Sin Collector. Terminus goes a long way here and will often steal the match for you. Expect Obzedat, Ghost Council in sideboarded configurations and play accordingly. You really want to overload on wrath-effects after game one. As long as you have two then you can feel completely safe. It's having just one that poses some serious problems.
I'm very confident that newer iterations of UW Flash have what it takes to compete against all comers in the current metagame. I look forward to battling with this deck in the coming week. I think this is a very strong choice for upcoming PTQs and I won't be surprised if more than a few individuals snag trips to Dublin piloting lists similar to this one.
Again, I'm new here. Hit the comments at the bottom to let me know how I'm doing. I'm always looking for feedback!