Seemingly every week since the release of M13, exciting new decks have been popping up in Standard. This increase in diversity revived the health of Standard, when UW Delver was the best deck by a very large margin. Although UW Delver is still one of the top decks, its popularity has waned quite a bit, allowing for some new brews to enjoy success.
In preparation for a PTQ in Riverside, California this last weekend, I spent quite a bit of time trying out some of these new strategies. Of course, some of these decks are more successful than others, but each is incredibly fun to play. So if you’re looking for a fun, new deck to try out in Standard, hopefully one or more of these brews will tickle your fancy:
When M13 was first released, I brewed up a rough list of a Delver of Secrets deck with Quirion Dryad, which can be found here. I’ve tried the deck out since my initial suggestion, and found it to actually be quite powerful. Last week, while scouring lists from Magic Online Daily Events, I stumbled upon a Delver deck than ran green for Quirion Dryad without cutting the white cards as I had. Of course I immediately threw the deck together on Magic Online and gave it a try. Here is the 4-0 decklist by Ozryel:
Since green already gives the deck access to Quirion Dryad, Ozryel included Rancor as well. Rancor is absolutely insane in this deck—I’m even embarrassed that I missed it in my first draft of the deck. Although it does not flip Delver or add counters to Quirion Dryad, the ability that Rancor has to close out games really puts it over the top in this deck. One of the problems I found with my initial UG Delver deck was the difficulty of connecting with Quirion Dryad once it was big enough to matter. With many of the green decks rising in popularity, it was way too common to have your Quirion Dryad chump blocked by Elvish Visionary, Birds of Paradise, Llanowar Elves, or the like. Rancor gives your Quirion Dryads the ability to finish off your opponent before he/she can fully stabilize.
When M13 was released, one of the first decks to give Rancor a home was Mono-Green Aggro. Rancor and Dungrove Elder is a sweet synergy that saw some success right away, since hexproof means there is little fear of losing tempo or a card to a removal spell. It’s no secret that powerful auras and equipment work really well with hexproof creatures, and Geist of Saint Traft is no exception. Although Rancor doesn’t help keep Geist of Saint Traft alive like Runechanter’s Pike or Sword of War and Peace, Rancor allows Geist of Saint Traft to attack into bigger creatures without having to worry about losing a card. There are many situations where it is advantageous to attack with Geist of Saint Traft into a 3/3 or a 4/4 just to push through four more damage. This is even more true when you have another Geist of Saint Traft to follow up with. In these situations, Rancor allows you to not only push through more damage, but it lets you take down your opponent’s creature with it.
This deck is a lot of fun to play, and can be just completely unfair at times. In many cases, a turn two Quirion Dryad can win the game all by itself. With number of Phyrexian mana spells, Quirion Dryad gets very big very quickly. There are not many other creatures since Tarmogoyf that would come into play on turn two and single-handedly take down the game. Although if you’ve ever played against a Delver of Secrets that flips on the second turn, you know that Delver of Secrets can often also deal the full 20. Keeping in mind the power of Delver of Secrets and Quirion Dryad, it hardly seems fair that this deck plays both.
In pre-M13 Standard, Naya Pod and RUG Pod were the most popular options among the Birthing Pod decks. Although both of these decks are still around, Bant Pod has quickly surpassed them. Bant Pod was never much of a contender before M13, and it has only really started to see success now because of the recent decline in UW Delver and the rise of other green decks. In fact, Cedric Phillips won a PTQ with a very well-tuned Bant Pod deck just over a week ago. Here is his winning decklist:
The distinguishing characteristic of RUG Pod and Naya Pod is the inclusion of red for Huntmaster of the Fells. Huntmaster of the Fells was always at its best against UW Delver and Zombies, and at it’s worst when facing Ramp decks, other Birthing Pod decks, and decks with Bonfire of the Damned. Bant Pod plays just blue, white, and green, with no need for this werewolf has-been. Now don’t get me wrong—I love Huntmaster of the Fells as much as the next guy, but I believe that his time in the sun (or the moon?) has currently come to a hiatus in Standard. I’m sure he’ll see plenty of play in the future, but for now the Standard metagame has shifted to a place where Huntmaster of the Fells is far from the all-star he once was.
In place of Huntmaster, the Bant Pod deck gets to abuse new M13 superstar Thragtusk. Thragtusk is a powerful card by itself, but the synergies in this deck make it outright ridiculous. Birthing Pod allows you to sacrifice the Thragtusk for full value, Restoration Angel let’s you trigger both of Thragtusk‘s abilities at the same time, and Phantasmal Image let’s you copy the Beast and get double the tusk. Of course, you can even sacrifice the Phantasmal Image (as Thragtusk) to Birthing Pod for Sun Titan, use Sun Titan to return the Phantasmal Image, and do it again!
Another important M13 addition here is Elvish Visionary in place of Strangleroot Geist. Many variants of Pod made this swtich, since drawing an extra card tends to be better than having a creature with undying. Although Strangleroot Geist gives you an extra body once you sacrifice it to Birthing Pod, you usually only need one two-drop, since you’ll soon be Podding into bigger and better creatures once you start the chain. The extra card that you get from Elvish Visionary helps you dig deeper into your deck to find the crucial Birthing Pod. In my opinion, this deck abuses Birthing Pod better than any of the other Pod decks. If you know what to do, an early Birthing Pod is just the beginning of the end for your opponent.
Before you go out and play Bant Pod in any tournament, I have one word of advice: practice! This is one the hardest decks I have EVER attempted to play. Cedric said that the day after the PTQ he won, he was actually physically exhausted because the deck was so mentally draining. There are so many different and obscure lines of play that you really need to play a ton of games before you will be able to see them all. I’m really not trying to discourage you from playing with this deck, because I really enjoyed it. I’m just warning you that even though it is fun to play, you will mess up a lot, and you will miss a lot of options to begin with. But have fun making those mistakes and trying it out, because Bant Pod is very synergistic and powerful in every way.
Travis Woo created this deck a few weeks ago and wrote about it on this very website. His latest version of the deck can be found here. Although I don’t know Travis personally, I have a lot of respect for him as a deck builder after trying this deck out. It’s the real deal. I played quite a bit online this past week and I absolutely love it. In fact, if I hadn’t audibled to a different deck at the last minute, I would have played his deck at the PTQ this past weekend. This deck is so good that I fully expected more people to switch over to it for last week’s PTQs. Because I wanted an extra edge in the mirror and in other green matchups, I decided to tune Travis’s deck to add Arc Trail in the sideboard. Here is the RG version of Travis Woo’s Green Summer that I’ve been working on:
This deck is just Travis Woo’s deck from his latest article, with a few changes. In order to add the Arc Trails in the sideboard, I had to switch out white for red. This also meant switching Gavony Township for Kessig Wolf Run. Both of these lands serve a completely different purpose, but they are both excellent in certain situations. Since they’re both good in different circumstances, it’s really hard to say which one is better. I personally like Kessig Wolf Run better because it helps you win the games where you’re trading card for card against green decks, or where you get hit with multiple sweepers against control decks. It will turn all your mana dorks into individual huge threats when you are playing off the top of your deck in the late game. This circumstance doesn’t come up all the time however, since if Green Summer is allowed to do its thing, it really doesn’t need Kessig Wolf Run. In other words, Kessig Wolf Run is best in the games where you are facing a lot of sweepers or other creature removal. Gavony Township works best as another threat in the games where you don’t draw any of your fatties. If you play three mana dorks on the first two turns, followed by Gavony Township, you will usually win.
I have to admit that playing Arc Trail in the sideboard is a little greedy and there will definitely be games where you draw Arc Trail and you don’t have a red source to cast it. However, the power of Arc Trail in this format is worth the slight increase in variance. I tried to add a couple more red sources to the deck, but it just hurts the deck’s consistency too much. You need as many Forests as possible in order to be able to use Arbor Elf, so it’s really hard to justify going below 12 Forests.
Green Summer is easily one of the fastest decks in the format, and it is extremely consistent. There are so many draws with this deck that will get you a turn three Primeval Titan, which is tough for most decks to beat. The deck just drops threat after threat until the opponent is dead to either a Primeval Titan, a Wolfir Silverheart, or more commonly, Craterhoof Behemoth and pals. This deck is vulnerable to Arc Trail, but it is surprisingly resilient to both Gut Shot and Bonfire of the Damned. One Gut Shot will not stop Green Summer from doing its thing, and two Gut Shots usually won’t either. Bonfire of the Damned is only really good when cast as a Simoon if you get a draw with multiple one-drops instead of Elvish Archdruid or Palladium Myr. Overall, the consistency and resiliency of Green Summer make it a great choice in Standard right now, not to mention how much fun it is to play.
This last Friday before this weekend’s PTQ, I was set to play RG Green Summer. James Gates still wasn’t sure what to play, so he tried out many different decks against me. When he put together Mono-Green Infect, he was winning the vast majority of our games. I decided to build the deck online and try it out in a Daily Event. I went 4-0 in the Daily Event, then I won match after match online, and eventually decided to audible to Infect for the PTQ. Here is the deck that James Gates, Greg Hatch, Eugene Levin, and myself all played at the PTQ:
James, Greg, and I all went 2-2 at the PTQ before dropping to play Alex Bertoncini’s combo Cube. Eugene stayed in the tournament longer, and although he won more matches, he also failed to make Top 8. Although our PTQ results were pretty miserable, my results with the deck online make me think it’s still got something going for it.
Mono-Green Infect is easily the fastest deck in the format. It is possible to get a turn-two kill with the deck, and it is not unreasonable to see a turn-three kill. Because of Wild Defiance and Inkmoth Nexus, Mono-Green Infect can even play the long game if necessary. Because of Gut Shot, Mental Misstep, Apostle’s Blessing, and Mutagenic Growth, it has the resiliency that such a linear deck needs to do well. What is gets in resiliency, however, it lacks in consistency. I would have done better in the PTQ if I had mulliganed more aggressively. Since the draws can be inconsistent, it is important to mulligan aggressively and throw back hands that need some work to get there. Although I wish I had done better at the PTQ, I had a ton of fun playing this deck. It has the ability to just win games out of nowhere like no other deck can.
Probably the strangest thing about this deck is the four Green Sun’s Zenith and the lack of green creatures. The only green creatures in the maindeck are the four Glistener Elf. However, if I were to play this deck again, I wouldn’t change that at all. A two-mana Glistener Elf is just what you need sometimes. There are better two-mana infect creatures you can play such as Blight Mamba and Necropede, but the ability to search for Viridian Corrupter, Melira, Sylvok Outcast, and Diregraf Escort in games two and three more than makes up for the lack of power that Green Sun’s Zenith has in game one.
Although an opposing Melira can be annoying, there are so many ways to deal with it that it usually doesn’t do much. Against any deck that might bring in Melira, such as decks with Birthing Pod or Green Sun’s Zenith, bring in the one Melira out of the board. In games two and three, Mono-Green Infect essentially has nine ways to get rid of an opposing Melira. Between Dismember and the ability to legend rule it out of play with Green Sun’s Zenith, it’s not so problematic.
Standard has become truly exciting with a ton of viable decks right now. I hope at least one of these decks piqued your interest, since they are each radically different strategies. UW Delver is still top dog in Standard—but it is nowhere near the menace it was a few months ago. Why not take advantage of the window to try something new?
Thanks for reading,
greyknight7 of MTGO