Something like six tournaments in 8 weeks, while fun, is not something I’m looking to repeat anytime soon. We luckily get a week off before Toronto, then two weeks off before Indy, and that I can deal with. The multiple GPs in a row are just too much, and it makes testing extremely difficult. I really enjoy each tournament individually, I just don’t like how much strain it puts on my time and preparation.
That said, I still played a decent amount of Standard over the last couple weeks, and watched the format evolve significantly.
Let’s start with the token attempt I made, as I tested this deck before both Charleston and San Antonio.
I 4-0′d a DE with this list a couple days before Charleston:
What this deck does well: Gum up the board with tokens, often giant ones. Lingering Souls is just an incredible card, and this might be the best Lingering Souls deck in the format. The same goes for Gavony Township, and the power of the two combined goes a long way. Against most decks, if you can get to turn five and not be dead, you are usually in good shape. Cranking out infinite power worth of tokens is hard to beat, and all the planeswalkers give this deck a ton of late game power.
What this deck does poorly:: This is just about the most midrange deck I’ve ever played. It exists to dominate the mid-game against both control and aggro, which can be a tenuous proposition. Two cards specifically concerned me:
Both of these cards are problematic for different reasons.
The Hellkite makes it so you can’t stabilize behind a giant army of Spirits, which is crucial against aggro.
Sphinx’s Revelation (and the decks that usually go with it) exploit the fact that Tokens takes a while to get going. As good as your long game is, beating an opponent who draws 4 extra cards, Wraths, and then draws 7 extra cards just isn’t going to happen very often.
Changes I’d make:
I liked Rootborn Defenses a lot when I tested it, and later versions of the deck had one main and two sideboard. It’s mainly to stop Supreme Verdict, a card this deck has some trouble with, but it does good work on stalled boards of any kind. Collective Blessing has similarly impressed me, and the second seems good.
For the sideboard, I’d run something close to:
If you can solve the Bant matchup (which Duress should help with), this deck isn’t a bad choice. As annoying as Thundermaw is, you do have a bunch of solid removal, and this deck shrugs off most creature-based assaults easily. Trostani in particular is awesome, and for this deck is like a better version of Rhox Faithmender, another card I think is great right now.
Despite doing well on MTGO with this, I ended up deciding to run UW Flash in Charleston, as did Web, Matt Kurtin, and Pat Cox. We all played the same 75, with Pat making Top 8 and Web top 32’ing:
What this deck does well: Casts Talrand? What the deck actually does well is fight against other control decks, with a grip of counters and flash dudes.
What this deck does poorly: Dealing with Cavern of Souls is tough, and playing against aggro is tough. It’s no surprise that with all the aggro decks also playing Cavern at this point, UW is not favored against them.
Changes I’d make: I’d actually add an entire color. I just wouldn’t play straight UW right now, as I don’t think it’s well-equipped to fight the rising tide of aggressive decks.
This is what I considered playing at GP San Antonio, and very close to what Pat did end up playing:
Pat’s report covers the two decks as well.
What the UWR version was meant to do was shift the good matchups from control to aggro, and in that, it succeeded. Having [card pillar of flame]Pillars[/card] and Searing Spears makes game one much better, and Izzet Staticaster is a very good sideboard card right now. In fact, the Staticaster was the biggest reason I saw to play the deck.
Unfortunately, control is really tough with this deck. There are very few counters left, the removal and bounce really doesn’t do much, and only Angels and Thundermaws give you a good chance of killing them. If there’s a way to make this better against control without sinking the aggro chances that would be ideal, and I imagine that there is.
I’d start by looking to cut some or all of the Unsummons, and at least one Searing Spear. Adding in some [card geist of saint traft]Geists of Saint Traft[/card] could be awesome, even if they aren’t great across all matchups.
The sideboard also needs work. With Reanimator on the downswing, cutting the Rest in Peaces for more action against control would be nice as well.
Cavern is still going to be annoying, but that’s just this format. Unless you are super beatdown, you want counters to stop Sphinx’s Revelation, and are therefore vulnerable to Cavern.
The next deck I considered was GW Humans, as played by Josh Utter-Leyton to 20th place:
What this deck does well: Attack for 16 on turn three. The good draws by this deck are the best in the format, with [card avacyn's pilgrim]Pilgrim[/card], [card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalia[/card], [card champion of the parish]Champion[/card], and Rancor all combining to render the opponent dead or helpless almost instantly.
What this deck does poorly: Deal with Supreme Verdict and Knight of Infamy. Both of these heavily-played cards are really annoying to play against with GW, particularly Wrath. There’s significant tension between trying to keep enough gas in the tank to beat Wrath and being aggressive enough that they can’t just Azorius Charm and Thragtusk you out.
Changes I’d make: None. This deck does what it does, and I don’t think it needs any significant changes. It can sideboard Garruk Relentless as an answer to Knight of Infamy, and its Zombies matchup isn’t horrendous or anything. I don’t like the Bant matchup all that much, but if you expect mostly non-Bant decks, this is a fine choice. It’s so fast that it can sweep away the midrange decks most of the time, and punishes slow starts more than any other deck.
I actually had GW sleeved and ready to go, and was pretty set on playing it at the GP. I then made the mistake of watching BenS and Efro play a match on MTGO with Efro’s Bant deck, and two Sphinx’s Revelations later I was ready to jump ship.
Wolf Run Bant
As the name suggests, this deck has some spice. Efro went through a bunch of iterations, with the colors ranging from just Bant to all five, and he settled on a more midrange version of Bant than Cuneo, Owen, Reid, and Shaharazad played.
After some incredibly useful and intelligent insight from BenS, Martell, and I, here is the list the four of us played:
What this deck did well: Beat Mono-Red, midrange, and GW. The creature-heavy version of Bant was better off against some of the aggressive decks, and it also had the sadly relevant advantage of finishing matches faster. Time was a consideration, and this deck was much less likely to end up drawing. Five Angels plus Caverns made UW less of a consideration as well.
What this deck did poorly: It sacrificed its mirror percentage significantly, yet was still not great against Rakdos. We went something like 2-5 combined against Rakdos, which ended up being the most important matchup.
Changes I’d make: I still like a lot of what this deck does. The sideboard against control was good in the few matches we used it (though definitely needs more testing), with Sands is a legitimate way to win. It might not be the most controlling way to build a Sphinx’s Revelation deck, but I was impressed by a lot of the differences. Kessig Wolf Run was very good, and I liked all of the Angels.
I started 8-1, but then followed that up with a stellar 2-4 on Day Two, losing to Rakdos multiple times and finishing in the Top 64. BenS made Day Two in 128th, but decided he’d rather sleep than play (value?). Efro made Top 32, and Martell didn’t Day Two, electing to star in the next Walk the Planes instead.
Centaur Healer underperformed, as did [card jace, architect of thought]Jace[/card], so the first round of changes would probably look something like this:
I haven’t tested these as much as I’d like (just a few matches on MtGO), but this is the direction I’m looking at.
Fog Bank is the change I’m least sure about, but I wanted something relevant against Rakdos, ideally something that doesn’t cost that much.
Rhox Faithmender was the card that impressed all of us the most, though I don’t think you can just run three or four. I’m going to try three soon, but for now I’d go with two.
What I’d Play
As it looks like Rakdos is the deck to beat right now, I’d look at testing either the UWR deck or the Bant deck, since I think they have the most room for change. UWR is already pretty strong against Rakdos, but figuring out the rest of the matchups is a challenge. Bant I like more against the non-Rakdos field, but needs a ton of help in that matchup. The changes I suggested help somewhat, just not enough.
Standard is pretty sweet right now. Sphinx’s Revelation is too good, but the best deck doesn’t play it or care about it much, so that’s not really that bad. If you can figure out a way to beat the Rakdos mirror, that could be awesome, but that’s not really my wheelhouse.
After a much-needed break this week, I’ll be back at it the next, battling Modern in Toronto. I have lingering doubts about what to play, but I’m sure we can figure out something sweet.