There’s a certain joy in playing the slowest deck in a format. I’d be lying if I claimed that playing with my food and doling out agonizing, torturous deaths wasn’t a small part of it. But even more important than that is the confident feeling you get knowing that you’re going to win the game as long as you aren’t losing. When you have the most powerful late game in the format, you put the pressure on your opponent to beat you because, if they can’t, you’re going to come out on top in the long run.
Seasons Past is a GB-based control deck that features tons of cheap removal and the late-game engine of Dark Petition plus Seasons Past. Once you’ve emptied your hand, you cast Dark Petition for Seasons Past, cast Seasons Past to return a handful of spells—including Dark Petition—from your graveyard to your hand, and put the Seasons Past on the bottom of your library. Now you can cast Dark Petition for Seasons Past again, and in this way repeatedly loop all of the spells in your graveyard and ruin any hope of your opponent sticking a threat on the battlefield.
In today’s Standard, Seasons Past is the slowest, most powerful late-game deck. It’s unusual for the premier control deck to not feature the color blue, but blue has no card drawing options that can hold a candle to Seasons Past. RG Ramp also has a powerful late game, but if Seasons Past comes prepared with Infinite Obliteration, it can dismantle them as well.
Seasons Past has 2 specific strengths that make it an appealing choice.
The first is its ability to beat up on opposing slow decks. For obvious reasons, the deck’s powerful late game makes it excellent against decks that fail to put on a fast clock. You and your opponent will Duress one another and trade off creatures and removal spells, but once the dust settles, you’ll have 5 or 6 cards (Dark Petition and Seasons Past) that you can topdeck to immediately refill and bury the opponent in card advantage.
The second strength is its ability to make use of Languish and tons of cheap removal (and possibly more board sweepers if you splash a color). Many games against White Weenie and the various Collected Company decks boil down to simply, “win if you have Languish, lose if you don’t.” A deck that can comfortably maindeck 4 Languishes and has a minimal number of its own creatures that will die to it is positioned to score a lot of easy wins in Standard.
Jund Seasons Past
This is the deck list that I used in the Magic Online Championship tournament last weekend (to a 4-3 record). At Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, my teammates and I played a plain BG version of Seasons Past, and Jon Finkel reached the Top 8 with it. While both builds have their advantages, I slightly prefer the version with the splash of red.
Radiant Flames serves as Languish #5 and #6. When you have 4 of a card, you’ll see it often, but not every game, and you can’t realistically mulligan for it. When you have 6 board sweepers, you can begin to count on having one. This change brings the matchup against small creature decks like White Weenie from favorable to excellent. Radiant Flames is also a powerful card against decks like Bant Collected Company and WG Tokens, often leading to at least a 2-for-1.
Dragonlord Atarka is a nice curve topper, especially for a deck that can struggle against planeswalkers. Blue decks often come prepared with Negate, Dispel, and Invasive Surgery, but the commonly played permission spells fall short against Atarka.
The most important reason to add a color isn’t a red card at all—it’s Painful Truths! The BG version of Seasons Past would run buttery smooth in the games where you drew Read the Bones, but when you weren’t that fortunate, it could be tough to have enough resources to make your land drops, find the right answers, and still have business cards for the mid- and late game.
4 Read the Bones and 2 Painful Truths is a lot of life loss, but when these cards increase your chances of finding a turn-4 board sweeper or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, they wind up being helpful even against aggressive decks.
Deck Difficulty: Harder than Average
But that difficulty rating doesn’t exactly tell the whole story. Seasons Past is so powerful that the majority of games are fairly easy to play. You cast your removal spells, resolve a Seasons Past, and are so far ahead that it doesn’t really matter what you do from that point on. It’s only in the very close games, or if you demand perfection from yourself, that Seasons Past is challenging.
It takes a lot of effort to protect yourself from opposing top decks once you establish the Seasons Past loop. Could it happen if you’re not careful that your opponent top decks Negate, nails your Seasons Past, and then you draw 7 lands in a row and lose the game? Of course it could! Does it happen in practice? Not very often at all.
Also worth noting is the fact that Seasons Past is a very slow deck, and winning in time can be an issue. This is even more reason why you probably shouldn’t agonize over every detail once the game gets to the point where you’re dominating. Play carefully while the game is close—pay close attention to your scrys and how you’re using your Dark Petition. Once you’re ahead, try to speed up your pace of play and close the game out in efficient fashion.
As mentioned above, the good matchups for Seasons Past come at the extremes of the format. Slow decks can’t keep up with your card advantage and fast aggro decks don’t do well against Languish. The decks in the middle can sometimes make for tougher opponents.
Unfortunately, Seasons Past is a small but noticeable underdog against WG Tokens, which is the most popular deck in Standard right now. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is probably the single most difficult card to beat (try to snatch it with Duress or Transgress the Mind). That combined with the flash threats of Archangel Avacyn and Secure the Wastes makes for a very annoying package.
Collected Company decks are 50/50 matchups. While Seasons Past excels against creature decks, the flash threats and sideboard permission spells of Bant Company give them a lot of tools against you. The matchup against BG Collected Company is extremely dependent on Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.
Ramp can also be a bad matchup if, like me, you’ve chosen not to maindeck Infinite Obliteration.
Finally, there are a handful of particular cards and combinations that give Seasons Past trouble. Some of these include Dragonlord Ojutai plus Always Watching, Secure the Wastes, Westvale Abbey, Reality Smasher, Pyromancer’s Goggles, and Fevered Visions.
Seasons Past is the deck’s namesake and most important engine. Since many games of Standard are won and lost in the early game, this is a card that you don’t want to see in your opening hand, and you certainly don’t want to draw 2. I think 2 is the right number in the main deck so that you don’t draw too many but aren’t out of luck if one gets countered or hit by a Transgress the Mind. Against a deck like WG that has neither discard nor permission, feel free to sideboard one out.
Dark Petition makes up the other half of the engine. I played the full 4 copies at the Pro Tour. Sometimes drawing 2 is nice because it means that your first copy can search for your silver bullet answer card and the second copy can go for Seasons Past. That said, it’s still a 5-mana spell, and the fact that it’s a sorcery reduces your ability to play around flash threats like Collected Company and Archangel Avacyn. I prefer cutting the 4th copy in favor of Painful Truths.
Duress and Transgress the Mind do what your creature removal cannot in disrupting creature-light decks and breaking up frightening combos. They’re particularly important for resolving Seasons Past against decks with permission spells.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet started as a sideboard card, but has become essential due to the popularity of Collected Company decks. When you see Collected Company, it means that your opponent’s deck is filled to the brim with creatures and—by definition—is light on removal spells. Kalitas is a way to turn the tides in your favor against these decks that can produce such a dominant board presence so quickly and efficiently. He’s great against Bant and outrageously good against BG Company.
I love Nissa’s Renewal so much that I’m tempted to name it as a “core card,” but the fact is that it’s not integral to your game plan. When you have the luxury to cast Nissa’s Renewal, it makes your future Seasons Past loops all the more impressive. It also allows you to build life gain into your deck, which is a must for a slow deck like this.
Infinite Obliteration goes perfectly with Dark Petition, is incredibly important against ramp decks, and helpful against BG Collected Company. Surprisingly, it’s also passable in some midrange matchups since games go long, and you have the chance of seeing a creature with Duress and then nailing it with Infinite Obliteration a few turns later. If ramp becomes more popular, I’ll move it back into my main deck, but for now I think this is a sideboard card.
Virulent Plague is similarly a great tutor target, and is awesome against WG Tokens, which is the most important matchup right now. I’ve experimented with maindecking Virulent Plague, but it doesn’t make a ton of sense since the WG decks always have Dromoka’s Command stranded in their hand against you anyway. It’s better after sideboard when your opponent might not have 4 Dromoka’s Commands, and when you’ll have 4 Duress and 2 Virulent Plague to try to fight through. Also, be aware that Virulent Plague will stop Kalitas from making Zombies, which is a big part of your game plan against creature decks.
So that’s your crash course on Seasons Past Control. It’s a fun and powerful deck with plenty of room to customize and make it your own. Want to try splashing a color other than red? Give it a try! Have a pet card that you want to find with Dark Petition? Maybe you can make room for it! I believe Seasons Past offers the best card advantage engine and the best shell for a control deck in Standard.