This week there’s just way too much Standard to talk about with three major tournaments all happening over the same weekend. We had a Standard GP, a much larger Standard SCG Open, and that’ not even taking into account PTQs and M14 hitting Magic Online. Frankly, it’s too much to cover in-depth, so I’ll let someone else handle that and focus on some of the decks I have played recently, along with some of the most potent ideas from this weekend.

On last week’s podcast, I talked about red for almost 20 minutes straight, so I’m glad to see that red decks made an impact this weekend. [card]Burning Earth[/card] saw some play, and so did [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] after a week one no-show. As people are trying out the new tools M14 brought to the table, red decks have adapted well.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Hellrider
4 Thundermaw Hellkite
4 Burning Earth
3 Brimstone Volley
4 Searing Spear
4 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Pillar of Flame
21 Mountain
4 Mutavault
Sideboard
4 Ratchet Bomb
3 Possibility Storm
3 Shock
2 Mizzium Mortars
3 Rolling Temblor[/deck]

Joseph Herrera’s deck is actually Andrew Shrout’s take on a midrange red deck. In fact, Shrout’s build was even slower than I first imagined, and I’m glad at least a handful of players tried the deck out and put up some results. So much removal, along with a handful of red’s best threats and [card]Burning Earth[/card] presents a significant challenge even against midrange decks normally configured well against red. It also punishes control severely if they don’t respect [card]Burning Earth[/card] with plenty of haste guys and extra burn.

Up in the great fiery north, Adam Laforest was making Top 8 of Grand Prix Calgary with a near-identical deck. Honestly, I find some of his sideboard choices confusing. [card]Volcanic Strength[/card] with so few creatures, all of which are expensive, is a head-scratcher. I’m not thrilled to be running eight creature-only burn spells in the board, so it all comes down to figuring out a post-board configuration against aggro that works for you. I definitely want to pick up some [card]Burning Earth[/card]s and give this a shot on Magic Online to practice for our upcoming PTQ.

If you prefer a more traditional red deck, you’ll be pleased to see that at least one mono-red player stood strong with his [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] and [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card] sets:

Eric Cieszynski, Top 8 SCG Open Somerset

[deck]Main Deck
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Stromkirk Noble
3 Ash Zealot
2 Lightning Mauler
3 Young Pyromancer
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Hellrider
2 Brimstone Volley
3 Pillar of Flame
4 Searing Spear
2 Shock
18 Mountain
3 Mutavault
Sideboard:
3 Burning Earth
2 Flames of the Firebrand
2 Legion Loyalist
1 Magmaquake
2 Rolling Temblor
3 Skullcrack
2 Thunderbolt[/deck]

I’d like to see the 4th [card]Mutavault[/card] somewhere if we’re going to board in more expensive spells, but this is a good example of a deck that compromises a bit on speed for some additional reach. Extra spot removal, [card]Young Pyromancer[/card], and [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] may not get there quite as quickly, but it performs better against waves of removal and blockers. The short of it is that having creatures that can move around Jund’s blockers or not get stuck attacking into terrible board states is important given the current metagame. It also gives you a few more ways to interact in the red mirrors without trading 1-for-1.

Note that if you want to remain aggressive and mono-red that [card]Mogg Flunkies[/card] is a reasonable creature to consider. As Patrick Sullivan mentioned in his Deck Tech, [card]Mogg Flunkies[/card] gains a fair bit from [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] being a hasty flier on turn three. [card]Legion Loyalist[/card] will also likely be better as a maindeck inclusion in many metagames, so really think about the ones and twos you play in your deck.

Unlike these red decks, I’ve talked a lot of smack about Junk Reanimator as of late. I don’t like how it sits in the current metagame, and M14 brought a lot of cards I can’t ever see wanting to play against. [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] may be beatable, in part thanks to [card]Shadowborn Demon[/card], but dealing with Ooze, better red decks, [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], and an Elf deck that can Craterhoof me out on turn four is a bit of a bummer. Still, I liked the core of Brian Braun-Duin’s Reanimator deck, even if I felt the rest wasn’t where I want to be. For reference, here’s his Top 8 list:

[deck]Main Deck
3 Arbor Elf
3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
1 Elvish Mystic
2 Fiend Hunter
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
4 Restoration Angel
1 Shadowborn Demon
4 Thragtusk
2 Angel of Serenity
2 Garruk Relentless
4 Grisly Salvage
2 Lingering Souls
2 Mulch
1 Putrefy
4 Unburial Rites
1 Cavern of Souls
3 Forest
2 Gavony Township
2 Godless Shrine
3 Isolated Chapel
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
2 Woodland Cemetery
Sideboard:
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Acidic Slime
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Garruk Relentless
1 Golgari Charm
1 Profit Loss
1 Putrefy
3 Sin Collector
2 Tree of Redemption[/deck]

Having a bunch of mana dorks is great until somebody casts [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card], and having to play [card]Mulch[/card] still just fills me with disgust. The rest of the deck is a solid start though for a Junk base, so let’s take what I like and run with it:

[draft]Arbor Elf
Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Restoration Angel
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Shadowborn Demon
Thragtusk
Garruk Relentless
Grisly Salvage
Lingering Souls
Putrefy[/draft]

If we want some amount of mana acceleration and fixing, the Elves are a good start, but rather than rely on [card]Mulch[/card] I’d rather just go with the staple accelerator and fixer [card]Farseek[/card]. I also want at least three maindeck [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card]s because the card is a massive beating and good against the majority of the format. Even in matches where Lifebane is bad, it still cracks for 3 a turn without too much trouble. Those fill most of our remaining slots, so let’s see where we stand:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Arbor Elf
2 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Lifebane Zombie
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thragtusk
2 Shadowborn Demon
2 Garruk Relentless
3 Grisly Salvage
4 Farseek
3 Lingering Souls
2 Putrefy
1 Doom Blade
1 Swamp
3 Forest
2 Gavony Township
2 Godless Shrine
3 Isolated Chapel
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Temple Garden
4 Woodland Cemetery
Sideboard
1 Cavern of Souls
2 Unburial Rites
2 Acidic Slime
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
3 Rhox Faithmender
2 Doom Blade
2 Liliana of the Veil
1 Ray of Revelation[/deck]

So what is this deck good at? [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], [card]Thragtusk[/card], and [card]Shadowborn Demon[/card] are all very friendly with [card]Restoration Angel[/card], and a lot of the decks in the current format have issues with this set of threats. Lifebane alleviates the traditional problem of only being able to deal with threats after they’ve hit the table. [card]Shadowborn Demon[/card] provides a nice way to deal with 95% of the threats in the format, including [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card], which otherwise keeps us from just leaning on a bunch of [card]Doom Blade[/card]s.

[card]Grisly Salvage[/card] is probably the weakest card left in the deck, but provides some much needed selection and another way to snag key lands. It also works well with [card]Lingering Souls[/card], and the sideboard plan of [card]Unburial Rites[/card] and [card]Ray of Revelation[/card] in various matches. If you expect more Hexproof in your metagame, then a 2nd Ray certainly isn’t out of the question.

[card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] is an obvious omission, however I felt I already had enough raw power for slugfests and while I may miss the lifegain, [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card] is just superior against Jund and other midrange. Junk Aristocrats is probably the exception to this rule, but I’d also just rather run [card]Profit // Loss[/card] to deal with that. Against normal aggro, I’d rather run [card]Rhox Faithmender[/card], since between Faithmender, Ooze, ‘Tusks, and basics, you can pull yourself out against a [card]Burning Earth[/card] or [card]Hellrider[/card].

I could simply be underestimating the power of the maindeck Rites package, but I’m not trying to cheat costs like BBD’s version is. I don’t mind getting into straight fights and winning via value cards or simply edging them out with multiple effects they hate. [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] on turn 2 and a blink on turn 3 can cripple opposition, and you can do similar things with ‘Tusks and [card]Acidic Slime[/card] in important matches. If you’re willing to devote more sideboard space, you can make this even more effective against specific decks.

Of course, maybe this is all too cute for you and you just want to have somebody dead on turn four to a giant ‘Hoof. Perhaps you enjoy drawing 3-4 cards on turn 3 and turning your collection of 1/1s into a 3/3 army within a turn. If so, I have just the deck for you!

GW Elves by William Jensen, 2nd SCG Open Somerset

[deck]Main Deck
4 Arbor Elf
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Elvish Archdruid
2 Loxodon Smiter
4 Kalonian Hydra
4 Wolfir Silverheart
4 Craterhoof Behemoth
4 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
10 Forest
4 Gavony Township
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
Sideboard:
3 Acidic Slime
3 Garruk Relentless
2 Ranger’s Guile
4 Strangleroot Geist
3 Tree of Redemption[/deck]

Last week, I wrote that I wasn’t sure if Fat Garruk was the right Garruk for the job.

I was wrong to question Sir Beasts-A-Lot.

[card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card] may be a little more expensive than I want to pay, and sometimes against removal heavy decks it’ll struggle to make a major impact. However, I vastly underestimated just how much fuel the card can provide with just a single activation—let alone two! I’m reminded of my times with [card]Goblin Recruiter[/card] and [card]Goblin Ringleader[/card] where it was just an endless stream of Goblins. An active Garruk is a lot like that, except when necessary it can just cheat a [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] or [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card] into play and kill you.

If people adapt to this deck by packing more spot removal, then I think the deck sinks back into a space in the metagame similar to Hexproof. Good when unexpected, and passable when it’s a known quantity. Right now, there are a lot of decks like the ones I talked about that are trying to play fair Magic. If they draw their removal, then they get to play their game, and we let the chips fall where they may. Against this deck though, if you don’t disrupt it the odds are high you’ll just get run over before your cards remotely matter. Even when forced to play fair Magic, this deck tries to push the ‘fair’ envelope as far as it can with a full suite of eight 8/8 creatures for five. Township almost feels like an afterthought here, but it still does a fine job of grinding out games against Verdict decks and the occasional board stall.

I wouldn’t be surprised if people dropped the white for [card]Burning Earth[/card], so you should also be aware of that potential swap. It provides some scary propositions in the mirror with [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card] and [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card], both of which can turn a potential alpha strike on the opponent’s side to your favor.

This deck certainly jumped from my fun-to mess-with-list to a high contender for the next Standard tournament I have. Honestly, if I weren’t having so much fun battling with the Jacob Wilson/Pardee/Nass UW list or want to play four [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card]s in my next deck, I’d commit to this deck and not look back. Jund is always the backup plan of course, but playing multiple mirrors of that sounds miserable. I guess we could always run the maximum number of [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card]…

Until next week!

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: josh.silvestri@gmail.com