Chris Weidinger, 2nd SCG Cincinnati
This is was going to be an interesting carry-over from previous Standard, with some of the main predators removed from the environment and some mana assistance, along with the gift of either Grisly Salvage or Jarad's Orders, depending on how you want to build the deck. The power level on display here is huge with Thragtusk, Angel of Serenity, and Unburial Rites being better than nearly anything else in a creature-dominated format. What's more interesting to me is that the deck can also play fairly with a few tweaks, and in fact if Farseek and perhaps a Chromatic Lantern made it into the deck, it could just play as a ramp variant with the reanimator just adding another angle of attack. It would also go a long way toward tweaking the mana base toward respectability without inflicting even more pain on itself.
Back in my last article I called Jund mana bases ambitious by culling basics down to a couple of Forests, while maxing out on shocks and M13 duals. If that was ambitious, this is flat out reckless in terms of mana consistency and respect toward your own life total. I know a fair number of these are going to come into play tapped and it won't make a major impact, but the mana base feels frantic and the lack of a distinct main color anchor* means you need to sequence very carefully. Mulch and Grisly Salvage have plenty of work to do here when you have such a scattered spell selection and 7-drops in a 23-land deck.
*G: 16, B: 10, W: 10, R: 10
What I mean is that even though green features more sources than any other color, outside of Mulch and possibly Grisly Salvage, the deck isn't bleeding all over the place to cast green spells and there are plenty of spells that want to be cast early. Usually the green spells would mostly consist of the low-end and then every other color would be higher on the mana chain or meant to be cast later in the game regardless.
The kicker is that with this type of spell split and the void Birds of Paradise, you really do need to have a massive number of nonbasics that makes it very hard to run basics. What hurts more though is losing out on spell lands like Gavony Township, which gave the deck a legitimate plan B between random mana dorks and Lingering Souls. This deck can win without resolving a giant or having it killed off immediately by grinding with Thragtusk—but really that only lasts as long as people let Unburial Rites remain a major player. If you plan on playing this type of deck this weekend, you may have a mostly free ride since it'll take more time for sideboards to adjust without major popularity backing the deck. It would be wise to invest in tweaking the deck toward small ball, or having another way to get Angels & Demons active sooner.
Dan Kauffman, T8 SCG Cincinnati
When I talked about GW Aggro I was mostly focusing on GW Humans as I felt the curve was respectable and made a lot more sense against Zombies and UW decks. This is the other type of GW and wants to go a lot bigger while pushing the mana base with Strangleroot Geist. It discards the low-end of the curve, only packing Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Strangleroot Geist as attackers and instead trying to jump right into the 3/4/5 and sheer bulk. I’m not sold at all having seven Plains in a deck with all green one-drops, Strangleroot and only one Gavony Township. Since the deck isn't trying to curve reliably, I'd love to see Selesnya Guildgate take up some of the slack and another Township or two to give the mana dorks and Thalia's something to do later in the game. You could argue that Rancor and the big guys already do enough to enhance the potency of your mana dorks, but I feel like one of the biggest pluses for GW is having access to an amazing Charm and free rolling Township.
There's plenty of upside to this strategy, and when your mana and sequencing is on target you'll be pumping out creatures bigger than anything the opponent throws out and curve into a creature that not only provides another threat, it will deal a truckload of damage in the process. Unfortunately, this also makes the deck very linear as it plays a lot of cards that are OK usually and really sweet when on curve—but unlike a Snapcaster Mage, Olivia Voldaren or Dungeon Geist there isn't much play to be had here. And while Zombies can suffer from similar issues at times; cards like Gravecrawler, Geralf's Messenger and Falkenrath Aristocrat can all conserve some power on the table unless you get Terminus’d out. If someone just jams three consecutive removal spells into a Jace, Architect of Thought, how exactly do we ever come back and win from that? The biggest advantage you have over classic GW is that your creatures are big enough that sometimes you can just run the control player out of relevant answers and beat them to death.
Still... Having a plan, such as a real planeswalkers package or alternative form of reach, would be nice to have here.
Andrew Strout, T16 SCG Cincinnati
Is anyone else sad that Precinct Captain wasn't around when Humans was a real deck and Honor of the Pure was still legal? This deck is going to roll Zombie players if they don't have Flames of the Firebrand or some sweeper to keep the number of beats down. When nearly every guy in the deck has a relevant anti-Zombie ability or just flies over and bashes, there isn't a lot that can be done from the brain-eating side of the crowd. Feeling of Dread also means that in aggro mirrors you can effectively Sleep your way to victory, even if your clock isn't as strong. This deck does lack the maximum amount of Sublime Archangel which saddens me since Silverblade Paladin and Sublime Archangel is the quickest one-shot in Standard at the moment. If you slam both and get a swing in the opponent is just dead, or at best be unable to take any other damage for the rest of the game.
As for the mana, the lack of Moorland Haunt surprised me, but with the number of WW cards and strict curve requirements I can understand why it didn't make the cut. I am surprised that there are any numbers of basic Island in the deck, since playing one early is a blank, and it makes hands with one Plains and one Island very uncomfortable. I wouldn't hate to see a Guildgate here and it hurts the deck a lot less compared to Zombies, which still ran it despite hating life if it couldn't play a Messenger on time.
The deck doesn't even have the full set of Geist, and Spectral Flight is only best buddies with the man from Traft St. He'll help out a Champion of the Parish or Precinct Captain, sure, but it's only a huge threat on a hexproof guy, or a threat you absolutely need to keep out of combat. With so many creatures with first strike, any sort of pump or trick will do the job. Spectral Flight may be the best card for the job, but I keep eyeing Bonds of Faith in the sideboard and going back to how useful they were in limited testing.
Sideboard-wise the deck doesn't offend, and Thalia and counter magic is certainly going to make control players sad. I'd really like to see a split on Syncopate and Negate though since even if you leave mana open, if the opponent miracles a Terminus they can often pay a few mana if necessary and Supreme Verdict already invalidates both. Bonds of Faith is a sweet removal spell that hits 90% of the relevant cards you want and can give you the extra pump on Knight of Glory to crash in for five a turn. Nearheath Pilgrim is interesting and I assume another way to win races, though I'd be interested to hear how it performed throughout the day. The only card missing that I feel could be well-placed is Intrepid Hero—it single-handedly demolishes the GW decks and only Oblivion Ring answers it.
And to be complete, there are some other ways to build Haunted Humans.
Andrew Jessup, 1st TCGplayer 5k
I really hope Lyev Skyknight catches on because it just does so much in this type of deck. Not only is it an effective beater with evasion, it also gives you some actual play by being able to detain Jace, Tamiyo, Garruk, and other flyers while still chaining with Silverblade and Sublime.
This deck in particular really feels like it could use Faith's Shield over Spectral Flight and the 4th copy of Silverblade Paladin and Sublime Archangel since it positions itself so well against removal decks. Shield to protect a guy for one turn can easily be the equivalent of getting through 10 damage, and I'd really love to see the decks come together. Restoration Angel is a nice touch and gives the deck some play and combat trickery, instead of just mashing guys every single turn.
I actually like Restoration Angel here, since it plays well with detain and is another way to gain a little play to a straightforward aggro deck. Recovering from a sweeper with end-step Restoration Angel and Sublime Archangel is a pretty massive beating and demands an immediate response. The maindeck 3rd Geist over the 4th Lyev Skyknight is an option, and it really comes down to how much work you want to put into making him work. That's really the key to any UW deck trying to min/max Geist power, your deck gets clogged with cards that don't do much when he isn't in play or make you unbeatable when he does make an appearance. Skyknight doesn't really need help and Silverblade has as much raw power as Geist once he bonds.
Aside: If you run counters main deck and more actual Islands or Guildgates in your build, then may I recommend Jace, AOT in the sideboard? It gives you a way to grind matches out, kill other Jaces and duck the 8x package of Supreme Verdict and Terminus.
Caleb Durward, T32 SCG Cincinnati
I feel silly calling this Delver, since the namesake card has been really mediocre for me in testing. That saddens me a little since I love the rest of the deck. It does still feel good when Delving and casting Bonfire of the Damned, I just don't love Delver when I get to play infinite 2/2 Drakes. Powering up Talrand's Invocation and then snapping one off later or blasting multiple 2/2 drakes with Talrand is still tough to beat. The reduction in Bonfire of the Damned and increase in six-mana sweepers makes this plan a lot more palatable, and there's still Unsummon, countermagic, and even a sneaky Redirect in the board for protection. What also amazes me is that it's possible Pillar of Flame and Searing Spear answer the vast majority of threats you'd be worried about here. Tamiyo and Dungeon Geists can shut down any non-Geist creature that can't be dealt with via fire, and eventually you just make an army to battle around any defenses.
I'd love to see some Syncopate in the main deck or even a Sync/Dispel/Redirect split, though that has to be too cute. While I don't love the mono-singleton sideboard, having access to a Dispel or Redirect in a long grinding game can be huge. You'll usually hit it thanks to Augur of Bolas and cantripping, and the opponent really has to go out of their way to play around these singletons if they even expect them in the first place.
Caleb commented elsewhere that he loved having access to Thoughtflare, since keeping up counter magic and then casting Careful Consideration on end step is a solid play. I hope Caleb gets an article up for any tweaks he'd make to the deck, since this should be on the short-list for a lot of people who like tempo and controlling decks. The combination of Augur of Bolas, Snapcaster Mage, Dungeon Geists, and removal is going to smash the majority of Zombies builds on the merits. I'd like to see an extra Devil's Play or two in here as a better way to interact with opposing grind decks since it feels like a free roll and most decks don't have any way to deal with it over a long game. If people move back toward heavy Dissipate then I'd be a bit more concerned, but even then you can run Dispel and if the counter doesn't hit the front end of DP, you can just do a wake-up DP later (Hopefully canceling into super).
This is a great base to adapt from and you could easily push it more aggressively or scale it back by removing Delvers and a singleton or two to slide in counter magic and more drawing power.
I was working on this after I had tested ramp for a while when I realized that Farseek and Thragtusk were the main reasons I even wanted green in my decks. Over time this also included Garruk of both verities as well, though for obvious reason I'm sticking to the one that doesn't blow up my mana base. This is less aggressive than other similar midrange decks, but it can grind with the best of them and absolutely dominates Zombies and most versions of midrange. Talrand's Invocation was a card that started as a two-of to help stabilize the board, provide some protection vs. fliers, and get flashed back later when I wanted to close the game out. Over time it became the full set since it frequently became my main road to victory along with Bonfire of the Damned and Devil's Play.
Right now I need to refine the deck slightly, since the lack of early card drawing can sometimes stymie you, and I really want a Desolate Lighthouse, perhaps over the 2nd Island. The mana is a bit of an issue without Breeding Pool and Rootbound Crag would typically be nowhere near the deck, but you can't afford to run more basic Forest and you really want to Farseek on either turn two or three. I do like that later in the game they have some use with the number of X-spells and Snapcaster Mage though, where as in most ramp decks they quickly become useless.
The sideboard is a bit of a mish-mash, and the card that stands out the most is Frostburn Weird. Just like Augur of Bolas the card sits back and blocks pretty much everything an aggro player can throw at you and this has the bonus of being able to pump to a 2/3 and kill off one-drops or get in for four later in the game. It may be a case of just having too many walls at the two-slot, but I find them to be great weapons against aggressive plans until Thragtusk takes over. Silklash Spider is there to deal with Delver/Talrand decks and also have a way to beat Olivia Voldaren (surprisingly annoying if she grows at all). Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius falls under the same vein, the card is OK main, but post-board you'll likely deal with less removal and it's a threat that has to be dealt with quickly or it'll dominate the game.
Jack Fogle, 9th SCG Cincinnati
Bant Control falls under brews because none of the decks tend to agree with each other and all of them just look scatter-shot in many places. I like a lot of cards in Fogle's deck, but there's so much heavy-end and the odd mix of Sphinx's Revelation, Terminus, and Angel of Serenity on the deep really makes for some out-there sample hands. Not drawing Farseek is far worse here compared to other Farseek decks, and the curve heavily slants toward four mana and above. Thragtusk is a great way to make up lost ground, but I just need more here to feel comfortable playing it. I list it because the power level of the deck is very high and it feels like a deck that just needs to be a bit more refined to be one of the best decks.
Start with a main core
Then sprinkle in some defense, possibly some more acceleration and counter magic and you have a very interesting deck.
Obviously I've strayed away from the original iteration and moved it more toward creatures, I can't resist the Restoration Angel - Thragtusk synergy here, and Angel of Serenity is a great way to buyback your army late in the game. You have plenty of raw power still and while I've cut back slightly on the removal, the addition of Healer and Resto should make a good dent in any attacking armies. This is just one of many ways you could take this strategy and I'm almost glad Breeding Pool isn't available, because again the sheer number of power cards with synergy you can tuck together in these shells is very high.
That's all for my breakdown of States. I know I missed a few decks, but you can look elsewhere and get a good summary on what I did miss. Travis Woo had a great breakdown on a mono-red plan if you don't want to play Zombies, and this should be one of the most open metagames in recent memory. Good luck this weekend!