A Look at Some Non-Standard Formats

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Welcome back once again everyone! There’s a lot to talk about this week, so I’ll delve right in. Last weekend, I played in an Extended Grand Prix Trial for Grand Prix: Atlanta. With the PTQ season coming up so quickly, and through helping with some Worlds testing, I’ve really come to love the format. I realize it’s not for everyone, but this format is so wide open, and so many strategies are viable: there’s Combo in the form of Pyromancer Ascension, Scapeshift, Elves, or Time Sieve, Aggro with Goblin Guide, Spectral Procession or Vengevine, midrange in Jund, Bant, Faeries, Merfolk or 5 Color Cascade, and Control with Reveillark or Cruel Ultimatum Control. While it remains to be seen which of these decks are actually viable, the sheer awesomeness of this cardpool is amazing. I’m really enjoying the format so far.

At the Grand Prix Trial card availability was an issue for me, since I never played Standard during Lorwyn block, and I was given about 8 hours of notice before the tournament. I had wanted to play either Faeries with White for Esper Charm and Path to Exile or this 4ish Color Cruel Control deck:

but I couldn’t find any Mystic Gates or Vivid lands. Instead, I played what I had the cards for, which is this Faeries list:

The deck was fine, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Because only eight people showed up to the GPT, I only got in one round of play, vs. Elf Combo, where I lost despite his ramming his Nettle Sentinels into my Scion-pumped Mutavault repeatedly. I had some really terrible draws, but afterward I played the deck vs. the field and it still felt underwhelming. It’s not that it’s bad per se, but there are a lot of must-answer cards in this format, and Faeries can’t really do that like it used to. I see Red-based Aggro, along with Jund (Great Sable Stag and Volcanic Fallout), and Vengevine all being potential problems with no great solution. While I wouldn’t fault you for playing Faeries if you really love it, I’d suggest something else (Cruel Control has been testing well and plays similarly, in my opinion).

That Time of Year

Once again, we’re at that wonderful time of year where Banned and Restricted list updates can shake up the Eternal formats. As a former exclusive Vintage player, I know that these announcements are particularly exciting to people who are invested in those formats. While I must admit that I have not been able to follow Vintage as much as I’d like since the unrestriction of Gush, there are two cards, one in Legacy and one in Vintage, that have been generating some good ole’ B/R discussion: Survival of the Fittest and Library of Alexandria.

Let’s start with Survival. If Legacy is your thing, I’m sure you’re well aware by now that Survival decks have been recently dominating the format. According to our good friend Patrick Chapin, Survival actually has no bad matchups. Since its debut at Grand Prix Columbus, Vengevine has been a major part of these decks. While there are some Survival decks that can certainly function without it (Necrotic Ooze combo), Vengevine is the core of the strategy, and on its own, even without Survival, represents a pretty powerful threat in a format dominated by small creatures. As a result, some have called for the banning of Vengevine as the enabler rather than Survival of the Fittest, the engine.

I must wholeheartedly disagree with this philosophy. Banning the enablers was the strategy way back in the day with Necropotence, and that didn’t help the issue all too much. Now quite honestly, Survival is an extremely powerful card. It is a repeatable tutor effect that requires little investment for a huge reward. Perhaps it is too powerful for Legacy in its current, Mystical Tutorless incarnation. While Mystical Tutor enabled Reanimator to be a dominant force, it was also the backbone of the Ad Nauesam combo deck, Survival’s worst matchup. I tend to agree with Mr. Chapin that Survival has certainly proven its unprecedented level of format dominance and should be dealt with. While I’m not a fan of banning cards by any means, the only solution that is consistent with Wizard’s current Legacy philosophy is to ban Survival. Lessons need to be learned, and the engine has to go. Unless of course they unban Mystical Tutor and just ban Entomb again instead…

A Very Special Vintage

Moving on to Vintage, there has also been talk of Library of Alexandria’s impending unrestriction to match its treatment in the upcoming Magic Online release of Master’s Edition IV. Library is a card that has been discussed extensively before by Vintage enthusiasts at Library has not seen significant play in Vintage, especially as the format speeds up to make even the venerable Mana Drain a liability. I fully support the restricted list being as small as possible, and I like the new philosophy of experimentation and rotation through B/R list changes. However, Library is certainly a card that can be extremely powerful in multiples, so let’s take a stab at a potential way to break an unrestricted Library. Cards that immediately come to mind that are good at keeping your hand at seven cards (and remember multiple Libraries are good at this too) are: Gush, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and in this case, Life from the Loam. Here’s a preliminary idea that focuses on keeping 7 cards in hand while disrupting the opponent’s Library plans:


I’ve been particularly interested in Extended recently, so here’s another potential deck. Considering that Faeries, the worst matchup, is probably not as oppressively good as it once was, this deck might have a shot.

The plan is to abuse enters or leaves the battlefield effects with Reveillark, Venser, the Sojourner and Mimic Vat. Let me know what you think!

-Josh Lalo

@joshlalo on Twitter

MirariKnight on TheManaDrain, most Forums

xhollyw0odx on AIM

joshualalo at gmail dot com

3 thoughts on “A Look at Some Non-Standard Formats

  1. Where do those "58% against TES and no bad matchups" come from? Where did he get those numbers/statistics from? Would be nice if there's some representative data instead of such claims … I guess Pat knows better.

    Seriously … didn't Brad Nelson (!!) talk about a tournament Survival took 7 spots in T8 recently; and thus it proves action is needed?

    I'm pretty sure that tournament never existed because 1) I can't find that tournament listed on any site and 2) since the last 2 months I hear so much arguments based on stupidness/rumors/lies like never before in Vintage or Legacy history including instant classics like….

    – It has a beat-down blan b, TOO!
    – Can't beat it without mainboard hate!
    – It ALWAYS kills TURN 3!
    – My Krosan Grip's are too low on the draw, so it's unbeatable!
    – Graveyard removal is no auto-gg! (lol)
    – It's faster than TES
    – It's exactly like Necropotence in ol' Extended! (wtf?!)
    – Vengevine/Survival is undercosted in Power/mana-ratio (from a Zoo-Player)
    – etc.

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