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Rule of Law – All Aboard the Geist Bandwagon

I’ve only preordered one card from Innistrad so far: [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]. The card seems very very good and $15 leaves a lot of upside for a Mythic Rare. I’m not here to give financial tips, but that’s why I preordered my playset.

Before I get into the specifics of what I intend to surround this card with, I’ll discuss some of its strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths:
-attacks for 6 damage unassisted. That’s 2 more than [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]’s 4 damage, considered by most to be more than a bargain.
-has hexproof. That’s more protection (on balance) than [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]’s Protection from Black and Green, considered by most to be more than a bargain. The fact that Hexproof isn’t Shroud means it carries equipment and auras, and with reduced risk of the dreaded downside to auras, the 2-for-1 removal spell.
-costs 1UW. Being blue and white puts this card into an existing archetype (UW aggro-control) even if we can’t find any other homes for it. It doesn’t require double color of either mana type, so we can splash it in a mostly blue deck or mostly or entirely white deck fairly easily. The fact that its white means [card]Honor of the Pure[/card] pumps both it and its token in more aggressive builds (more on this later). CMC 3 means [card]Sun Titan[/card] digs it up.

Weaknesses:
-Unassisted, it dies to a [card]Runeclaw Bear[/card]. [card]Slagstorm[/card] is similarly potent. 2 toughness is a weakness on a 3 mana creature.
-Legendary. Key weapons against this card will include other [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]s, [card]Phantasmal Image[/card]s, and [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card]s.
-[card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] kills it unless we have another creature in play. This is kind of like printing “it dies when it receives lethal damage” since it applies to every creature, but this interaction is worth noting as we consider the new Standard.

Reread these 6 bullet points, they say a lot about where this card is headed.

Cards with Geist of Saint Traft Synergy:

-[card]Honor of the Pure[/card] The payoff here is 8 damage instead of 6, and a tougher body on the Geist. Producing 3 power in blockers is clearly more difficult than producing 2 power, but just how much more difficult we don’t yet know. A more subtle upside of this particular interaction is that it begs us to play more white creatures. Those white creatures we have lying around make [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] much less threatening than she would be if we use Geist in a creature-light strategy.

-[card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card], [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card], [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] The Swords do similar things to Honor of the Pure; our guy becomes harder to block and kill, and we need to play additional creatures to make the Swords playable. Invisible Stalker is an early candidate to hold a sword, and creates a nice anti-Liliana curve for our deck. You pay more mana for the Swords than you do for Honor, but you get extra abilities.

-[card]Sundial of the Infinite[/card] The most “Johnny’ish” interaction, you get to keep the 4/4 token if you end the turn with Sundial with the sacrifice trigger on the stack or earlier. You can even attack into blockers and end the turn before damage is dealt to generate Angels. If Sundial did anything else in the deck, I’d try it out, but I’ve looked and kind find another good interaction. This one remains a pipe-dream at present.

-[card]Sun Titan[/card] Cast or attack with a [card]Sun Titan[/card], return a Geist. Nothing complicated about this interaction.

-[card]Oblivion Ring[/card], [card]Dismember[/card], [card]Doom Blade[/card] Cheap cards that remove whatever blockers the opponent presents are going to yield 6 damage a lot of the time. These cards are good anyway, so everybody wins.

-[card]Angelic Destiny[/card] Attacking for 10 Flying on turn 4 sounds like something Mythic Conscription used to do. That deck was a lot better than it looked on paper, because the combo of ramp + [card]Sovereigns of Lost Alara[/card] wasn’t that hard to assemble, despite most people’s initial skepticism. This combo might likewise be better than it seems, but I’m still in the “initially skeptical” camp. It’s just going to feel pretty bad to draw [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] without the Geist of Saint Beatdown. We can’t tutor up the Geist, so my sense is we need to either find more flexible ways to pump him up, or find additional guys we’d love to put the [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] on. [card]Invisible Stalker[/card] is an OK target, but I’m not sure that deck doesn’t want a Sword instead.

-“Bad” Auras, e.g. [card]Spirit Mantle[/card], [card]Skeletal Grimace[/card], [card]Spectral Flight[/card] Even these crappy cards start to seem enticing when you imagine you have a Geist in play. These feel like poor [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] substitutes, but maybe somehow there’s an aura theme that wants the cheaper versions. Not right now, but someday perhaps.

-[card]Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/card] As this guy pumps our Geist, he adds an extra damage to the Angel that turn. Another [card]Honor of the Pure[/card] type effect, and he protects us against Liliana.

-[card]Ajani Goldmane[/card], [card]Gavony Township[/card] Same theory here, but a little slower.

-Time to Brew:

-White Weenie

[deck]4 Elite Vanguard
2 Gideon’s Lawkeeper
4 Champion of the Parish
3 Grand Abolisher
4 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Mirran Crusader
3 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
4 Hero of Bladehold
4 Honor of the Pure
2 Mutagenic Growth
4 Dismember
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Moorland Haunt
3 Island
11 Plains[/deck]

My first draft had [card]Mana Leak[/card] but it’s very likely a sideboard card if we play it at all. [card]Mutagenic Growth[/card] will be most useful in two key scenarios: a) when they put something with 2 or 3 power in front of the [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card], or b) when they [card]Dismember[/card] our [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card]. That sounded like a decent bargain at 0 mana so I’ll try 2 copies out. Other options for this type of effect include [card]Stave Off[/card] and even the more expensive but potentially game winning [card]Guardians’ Pledge[/card]. [card]Stave Off[/card] is pretty bad against artifact dudes. [card]Guardians’ Pledge[/card] and [card]Apostle’s Blessing[/card] work around [card]Spellskite[/card], which I expect to see in the new Standard. The [card]Champion of the Parish[/card] doesn’t seem great, but we don’t have much to choose from if we want a 1-drop.

[card]Grand Abolisher[/card] is more annoying to play against than people think, so I gave it the nod over [card]Porcelain Legionnaire[/card].

-Honor of the Aggro-Control

[deck]4 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Mirran Crusader
4 Hero of Bladehold
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Timely Reinforcements
3 Dismember
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Oblivion Ring
4 Mana Leak
3 Gideon Jura
2 Angelic Destiny
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Moorland Haunt
5 Island
11 Plains[/deck] [card]Honor of the Pure[/card] + [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] is a potential powerhouse, but the decklist ends up looking a bit strange. Here I’ve used Geist, Crusader, and Hero to make [card]Honor of the Pure[/card] valuable without Timely. Hero hardly combos with Honor because it’s so easy to win with it alone if they can’t kill it, but Honor does add a little value to the Hero. [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] has the Crusader as an additional turn 5 kill plan, so I’m trying those over more swords. [card]Moorland Haunt[/card] seems like a great way to find an additional body or two in the midgame.

-Ghost Blade

[deck]3 Invisible Stalker
4 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Phantasmal Image
2 Sun Titan
3 Timely Reinforcements
2 Dismember
2 Day of Judgment
3 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of War and Peace
2 Oblivion Ring
4 Mana Leak
3 Gideon Jura
3 Think Twice
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Moorland Haunt
3 Inkmoth Nexus
5 Island
8 Plains[/deck]

This kind of deck really misses a [card]Preordain[/card], [card]Ponder[/card] w/shuffling, or other efficient card selection or card drawing. [card]Think Twice[/card] isn’t where I’d hoped to be, but perhaps here we are. Adding black gives us the flashback on [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card], which seems decent (I’ve come around a bit since I filmed my initial take on that card, which likely isn’t up on the website yet). [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] with [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] or [card]Ponder[/card] just doesn’t excite me that much in a deck like this, but I could be talked into trying it. With black the Snapcasters get better, but we’re drifting away from being a “Blade” deck at that point. [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] is a way to fight the Geist mirror, which is pretty speculative at this point. The card is pretty damn good on its own though in a [card]Sun Titan[/card] deck, so I’m not giving up much by trying it out.

-Let’s try a list with black

[deck]4 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Phantasmal Image
2 Sun Titan
3 Timely Reinforcements
2 Doom Blade
1 Dismember
2 Day of Judgment
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
4 Mana Leak
2 Gideon Jura
4 Forbidden Alchemy
3 Gitaxian Probe
4 Seachrome Coast
2 Glacial Fortress
4 Darkslick Shores
2 Drowned Catacomb
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Moorland Haunt
2 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Island
4 Plains[/deck]

Implementing some of the ideas from above, we’re getting the feel of a [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] deck, but that’s alright. Snapcaster seems powerful, so working two of the new cards that are potential boons to this archetype into the same deck makes sense. If I’m an aggro player in an upcoming tournament, and I like to be from time to time, I will not look forward to facing [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] + [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. It just isn’t going to end well.

Working [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] into this deck would be nice, but it’s a bit hard on the mana and doesn’t combo with Geist or Snapcaster in any great direct way (indirectly it could stop their Liliana, make them discard answers, make you discard Snapcaster fodder, etc. but those aren’t reasons to stretch a mana base).

I think one or more of these types of strategies will prove effective and the [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] will be a major player in Standard. Paul Rietzl thinks it is the best card in Innistrad for Standard, and I think it’s got a real chance to end up with that crown.

Discussion

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