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Carrie On – Lessons from Block

Wasn’t the Pro Tour awesome? Unfortunately my parents were visiting during most of it so I only caught the semi’s and final but that means I did get to see that sweet Miracle deck in action.

Block is usual a good indication for where Standard will be going and what cards are going to be big players in the next 9 months or more. Take Zendikar block where [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] and [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] both enter the fray in a big way. Scars block was dominated by [card]Tempered Steel[/card] and [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card]. Whilst [card]Tempered Steel[/card] was already seeing play in Standard [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] was a neglected $5 mythic. It went on to be the cornerstone of GW Township and later, UW Humans.

Therefore this week I want to take a look at the big players from the Pro Tour, be they whole decks or individual cards, and think about how they might influence Standard.

Miracles

We really should start with the winning deck. I know a lot of people harbour a deep-seated hatred for Miracles and I can totally get your perspective. One of my friends went round all day yesterday saying “hallelujah” at the top of his voice. However, let’s set that aside and consider this deck from a purely theoretically point of view.

[deck]4 Evolving Wilds
13 Island
10 Plains
4 Devastation Tide
1 Dissipate
4 Entreat the Angels
4 Feeling of Dread
4 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
4 Temporal Mastery
4 Terminus
4 Think Twice
4 Thought Scour
Sideboard
1 Angel’s Mercy
4 Cathedral Sanctifier
3 Dissipate
3 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Midnight Haunting
2 Snapcaster Mage[/deck]

There’s the list. I giggled with glee when I saw this in the Top 8 decklists. A truly creatureless deck apparently hasn’t won a Pro Tour since 2003. I’m sure by this morning shops all over the world have sold out of Miracles. Odd, really. People used to go to Church for those.

What does this deck gain in Standard?

Well, I actually spent a good portion of my Sunday thinking about this. The biggest problem was what to remove from the deck before you start adding in cards. To keep the same Miracally (is that a word?) feel to the deck you can’t really cut any of those. Feeling of Dread looks like a “this is the best available in Block” card and yet it does an essential job, that of keeping you alive, and is not easily substituted for. Sure, I want to put some [card]Ponder[/card]s in but not at the cost of dying to early aggression.

If I hadn’t seen the deck in action I would almost instantly cut the Dreads but they were so key and not just in preventing pain from attacks. They were also well used to tap mana dudes in the upkeep to cause mana denial and to move blockers out of the way so the Angelic hordes could do battle. I guess this is one of those decks that reminds us of the valuable lesson that if you netdeck with no experience of the deck don’t just change cards you don’t think are useful, they probably have a very important purpose.

The other easily underestimated cards in this list is the instant speed card draw. Sure, I could cut the [card]Thought Scour[/card] for [card]Ponder[/card] but with [card]Thought Scour[/card] (or [card]Think Twice[/card]) I can Miracle in my opponent’s turn. Ideally in a “Declare Attackers into [card]Entreat the Angels[/card]” situation. This will be easier to achieve with [card]Ponder[/card] in the deck but not if you cut the instant speed draw effects.

Oh, and yes [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] will probably flip on Turn 1 but this is not a Delver list. Delver is in Block so, please take note of the fact that they did not run four copies of it in this list and think about what that means.

I would very much like to hear how Mana Deprived would update this list for Standard as they have the most experience with this list. However, here’s how I have been thinking of evolving Miracles.

Just Standard Miracles

[deck]4 Evolving Wilds
4 Glacial Fortress
10 Island
9 Plains
3 Devastation Tide
4 Entreat the Angels
4 Feeling of Dread
4 Ponder
3 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
4 Temporal Mastery
4 Terminus
4 Think Twice
3 Thought Scour
Sideboard
3 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Mana Leak
2 Midnight Haunting
4 Timely Reinforcements
2 Snapcaster Mage[/deck]

I’m really itching to try this out in Standard. I’ve updated the sideboard here as I don’t think [card]Angel’s Mercy[/card] quite makes the cut in Standard.

The biggest problem I see for Miracles in Standard is the ever present Titans. My goodness those cards are getting old. I really hope Wizards have learnt from this mistake. Every time I think we have something new to do I remember Titans still exists. Boring! Anyway, I’ve digressed. My point is that I don’t think this deck will appreciate [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] beatdown. I added [card]Mana Leak[/card]s to the sideboard to at least contain the Titanic forces. Having [card]Ponder[/card] to set up Miracles in the opponent’s turn will help but I would genuinely be surprised if this has a good matchup against Ramp. If they start running [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] instead of [card]Glimmerpost[/card] we could be in for a world of hurt.

The other problem that springs to mind for this list is Delver decks. Tempo backed up with counter spells could well be disastrous for this deck. It has no early plays and the wise Delver player will only put out one or two threats so getting value from [card]Terminus[/card] will be tedious. Angel tokens can block Delver but on Turn 3 you can only make one, which will be [card]Vapor Snag[/card]ged or the spell will simply be [card]Mana Leak[/card]ed leaving you basically dead.

Speaking of counterspells I really won’t rate this deck against a true control list but [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] has all but killed off UB control for now so I guess this may not be a concern.

Before I get all doom and gloom I do rate this list against any and all creature lists. R/G, Naya, Humans, Zombies etc. It slows them downs and then plays better spells. The Top 16 of the SCG Standard Open this weekend was dominated by aggro lists so Miracles may be well places to take them down.

Hexproof

This was a deck I wasn’t surprised to see but was still sad to see. While some hate Mircles my personal peeve is with Hexproof. During spoiler season I even proposed a deck based around using Hexproof while also giving voice to my dislike of the mechanic.

Anyway, the second place deck, piloted by Gaudenis Vidugiris and designed by Sam Black does indeed put Hexproof to good use. It uses [card]Invisible Stalker[/card] and [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] as safe places to store +1/+1 counters and then hit home for the win. Interestingly, one of the other pump effects in the deck comes from [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card] who, incidentally, plays well with [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card].

The mana in this deck is super awkward! Multiple double Green cards and a good helping of Blue and White symbols. I can see why [card]Abundant Growth[/card] was run. Luckily in Standard we get [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] which should definitely help out.

The inclusion of [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] in this list is dubious outside of block. With multiple different creature types, especially once Bird is added, I can foresee many forced mulliganing decisions and I hate mulliganing.

Once out of Block you get access to Swords again and whilst I respect [card]Spectral Flight[/card] I would just rather have a shiny piece of metal my creatures can pick up to become instant threats. Red-based decks are still prolific in Standard with Naya and R/G both putting in strong performances this weekend. With UW Delver still an ever-present threat [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] is the place to be. Especially once you go up to 7-8 mana dudes and can power it out on turn two.

Undetectable Standard

[deck]4 Evolving Wilds
9 Forest
4 Hinterland Harbor
3 Island
1 Plains
3 Razorverge Thicket
3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Dungeon Geists
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Increasing Savagery
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Strangleroot Geist
3 Sword of War and Peace
3 Vapor Snag
4 Wolfir Silverheart
Sideboard
2 Celestial Purge
4 Mana Leak
3 Naturalize
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Vapor Snag[/deck]

I have entirely changed up the sideboard here. Again [card]Mana Leak[/card] is a nod to Ramp but at least this list might be able to win first, unlike Miracles. Thrun is also incredibly annoying for Ramp lists and any Control decks waiting to take advantage of the missing Caverns.

Most of the rest of the sideboard is general catch-alls for what you might come across. [card]Naturalize[/card] for Swords, [card]Celestial Purge[/card] for [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] etc.

I thought for some time as to whether I wanted to keep an unsummon effect in this list. For now I have gone with Vapor Snag but with actual testing this may disappear entirely. In favour of what I could not say: more mana dudes? main deck Mana Leaks? It’ll be interesting to find out.

Angel of Restoration and Zealous Conscripts

There is a lot of stuff coming out of this Pro Tour but, so that I’m not here all day, I want to just look at one more; the pair of cards [card]Restoration Angel[/card] and [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card].

Did you see the semi-finals? If you did then you have gained a healthy respect for this pair of cards. Admittedly the really sick stuff happens at a hefty 9 mana but if you enter the long game then this is going to close it out for you.

You can however, reduce the cost of this synergy by using [card]Birthing Pod[/card] to tutor one part in.

Luckily for my tired brain this is something that has already started to make an appearance in Standard. Brian Kibler has been talking about this combination of cards for a couple of weeks now and this weekend this little list came 5th at the SCG Open:

Naya Aggro by Daniel Cecchetti

[deck]1 Acidic Slime
3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Birthing Pod
4 Blade Splicer
1 Daybreak Ranger
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Garruk Relentless
1 Green Sun’s Zenith
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Inferno Titan
1 Llanowar Elves
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Restoration Angel
4 Strangleroot Geist
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Zealous Conscripts
4 Copperline Gorge
6 Forest
3 Gavony Township
1 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
2 Rootbound Crag
3 Sunpetal Grove
Sideboard
3 Daybreak Ranger
2 Hero of Bladehold
1 Zealous Conscripts
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Celestial Purge
1 Combust
2 Incinerate
1 Naturalize
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/deck]

I love it. But that’s because I have a huge weak spot for Birthing Pod. If you are hoping for some recommended changes then I’m going to control myself and say the only switch I would make would be to cut the lonely Garruk for a third [card]Restoration Angel[/card].

[card]Restoration Angel[/card] really is an amazingly awesome card. I’m glad it saw so much play at the Pro Tour as it combines so well with many different effects in many different situations. Now that it has been properly brought to everyone’s attention I really hope to see some innovative decks appearing in Standard based around this beautiful card. Like [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] it is possible she will only really shine after rotation but I can’t wait to see her at work.

I’m going to leave it here today. I hope you enjoyed the Pro Tour as much as I did. What has it got you think about? Did you already spend all your savings on Miracles? What do you think will come out of Block to most influence Standard? Get chatting below or tweet @onionpixie. I’m always happy to chat. See you soon.

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