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A Standard Interlude: 4 Color Singleton

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This week I wanted to talk about something a little different from my typical Commander musings. I hope you guys don't mind too much.

Last Friday I was trying to figure out how to tweak my U/W Draw-Go list to beat the various midrange and token decks, without losing too much from my great control matchups. I foolishly decided to complain on Twitter about how I couldn't fit all the cards I wanted to play into my deck. Then my benevolent editor threw the gauntlet:

It doesn't take much to get me to try something off the wall. The singleton nature of Commander is the thing that I like the most about it, so it sort of makes sense to try to recreate that in Standard. Regardless of how bad an idea this was, I wanted to do it. I started with the four color Tezzeret list that Tsuyoshi Fujita T8'd Pro Tour Nagoya with earlier this year. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is my favorite card in Standard, bar none. Unfortunately, the card isn't very good right now, and so I was excited to take the chance to play with it.

At some point during the process of trying to make a "good" list, I got fed up with trying to metagame individual cards against decks I knew I'd see, and just started jamming cards that I liked playing with into the deck. Here's the monstrosity I ended up with:

[deckbox did="a135" size="small" width="560"]

All it's missing is Child of Alara as an unofficial Commander, right? Honestly, at some point building this I decided that I just would have to play against control matchups all night since I could try to grind out small advantages and outplay people. Aggressive and over-the-top strategies like Mono-Red and Wolf Run are just going to apply too much pressure; you'd have to draw all the right singletons at all the right times to have an outside chance against them.

I showed up to my local game store about an hour before FNM to play a few games against whatever decks people had on them with my U/W deck, and to get an idea of how that might have fared. I got in a few games against Mono-Red, U/G [card Mayor of Avabruk]Mayor[/card]-Go, and U/B, won those games pretty handily, then registered for the Standard event. We had just enough people to run a five round event with a cut to Top 4.

Round One

This round I was paired against Zach, a younger guy at what looked to be his first FNM. He won the die roll and started off with a Glistener Elf and a [/card]Plague Stinger[/card], which made my turn 2 Myr look pretty abysmal. We traded guys, he cast a Whispering Specter, and it was around this point that we got repaired, since someone had forgotten to register.

It's more than likely that Zach would have crushed me game one, but I think that after sideboard I stand a much more reasonable chance. I was hoping we'd get paired again at some point so I could find out!

Round One: Repair

This time I was paired against Zach's brother, Tim. Tim was a little younger than Zach, and hadn't been playing the game for very long. These kinds of matches are my favorite and least favorite to play. I really do enjoy playing with people who are new to the game. It's important to help them understand the rules when they make mistakes, but mostly to make sure that they have a good time. We all started there at some point, and it's easy to lose sight of that sometimes; playing these kinds of matches is an opportunity to show someone how the game can be a ton of fun, and make them want to play more and get better.

I hate playing these kinds of matches, because I played a turn 3 Garruk Relentless off of a Leaden Myr, and he'd never seen a planeswalker before. Planeswalkers are some of the most confusing and unintuitive cards in the game. Against someone who hasn't seen them before, Garruk just won the game on his own because Tim couldn't interact with it.

In Game Two, Tim led off with a Delver of Secrets, while I had a Copper Myr. His Delver flipped, and he had a Curse of the Bloody Tome to follow up. I whiffed on lands, and so just played a Sword of Body and Mind. He Cancel my removal for his Delver, then played a Bitterheart Witch. I went to 8 off of another Delver hit, and he cast another Bitterheart Witch. At this point, a Day of Judgment swept the board, since I figured the Witches would get more Curse of the Bloody Tomes, and I'd need to put a faster clock on. Instead, they got double Curse of Death's Hold, which almost shuts me out of creatures, and turns off the Wolf tokens from Sword of Body and Mind

A Blade Splicer gave me a 1/1 Golem, which I equipped with Sword of Body and Mind. Then he played an Elixir of Immortality, and we got into a silly race. I had to either mill him to death or beat him to death with a 3/3 golem before I lost to his Curse of the Bloody Tome. Eventually though, I milled his playset of Elixirs, and got there with 4 cards left in my deck.

1-0 (2-0)

Round Two

This time I faced off against Ian, who I know has been on Mono-Red. I was pretty sure I was just dead, but I guess there's an outside chance I can get a good hand, right? I won the die roll, then traded a Myr for his Stromkirk Noble, while he played a Shrine of Burning Rage. I Phyrexian Metamorphed his Shrine, had Day of Judgment for his follow-up, killed Koth of the Hammer with my copy of Shrine, and then Batterskull mopped up the rest.

Game Two I mulliganed down to five on the draw and kept this: Seachrome Coast, Celestial Purge, Trinket Mage, Sun Titan, and Shimmering Grotto. I took one from a Stromkirk Noble before Celestial Purgeing it away, but he stuck a Shrine. Trinket Mage fetched a Sylvok Lifestaff, which gave me a little more breathing room. Ian had a Koth of the Hammer, but I ripped Snapcaster Mage to flashback Celestial Purge to stabilize the board at 14 life. We played draw-go for two turns, before I drew the land I needed to Sun Titan my Trinket Mage back, this time getting Gremlin Mine.

What followed is the most hilarious way I've ever seen a red deck locked out of the game. Sun Titan bought back Gremlin Mine until his Shrine was under control. Then I cast a Myr, equipped it with Sylvok Lifestaff, and sacrificed it to Phyrexia's Core, and got to repeat that every turn, thanks to Sun Titan!

2-0 (4-0)

Round Three

This round I got paired against Rich, with Wolf Run Red. He won the die roll, and in Game One he landed a turn three Primeval Titan and crushed me.

In Game Two, he had a turn two Dungrove Elder, which I had Dispense Justice for. Then Liliana of the Veil started eating away at his hand. I had Phantasmal Image for his Thrun, the Last Troll, then dropped a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas with Flashfreeze backup. With Liliana and Tezzeret in play, Rich scooped a few turns later.

In Game Three, Rich had a turn one Birds of Paradise, but no turn two play, so I Contagion Clasped his Bird. Rich found a Rampant Growth up to four mana, followed by a Solemn Simulacrum up to five mana, threatening Primeval Titan next turn. I had a Myr, followed by a Jace, Memory Adept, which milled away ten of Rich's cards, including his singleton Kessig Wolf Run.

That made the follow-up Primeval Titan much less terrifying. I used Jace to draw into a Life's Finale to answer his board, and to deal with most of his remaining threats. Jace took two damage from [card]Inkmoth Nexuses, down to one loyalty. I drew a card with Jace, and used my on-board Ghost Quarter to be sure that Jace wouldn't die to Inkmoths. Then I found the sixth land I needed to Sun Titan back by Ghost Quarter and lock up the game.

3-0 (6-1)

Round Four

This time I get paired against Brian, who I know is playing Solar Flare without countermagic. Finally, I'm getting paired against something I think I can beat! I won the die roll, and played a turn three Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas on the play off of a Myr. Tezzeret let me kill Brian's Liliana, then dug into a Contagion Clasp, which let me ultimate twice to kill Brian before he could do too much.

Game two was pretty straightforward. Trinket Mage found a Nihil Spellbomb, and got suited up with a Sword of Body and Mind. This let me kill the Liliana he'd run out and exile most of his relevant plays before he could make them, and Sun Titan buying back Nihil Spellbomb was enough to lock up the game.

4-0 (8-1)

Round Five

This round I got crushed by Eric. He was playing U/G Mayor-Go, with Delver of Secrets and Snapcaster Mage. Neither of our games were particularly close. He had a turn one Delver both times, which flipped on his second turn, and he countered all of my relevant plays for the rest of the game.

There was an interesting point in game two, where he'd led with Delver into Mayor of Avabruk. I played Timely Reinforcements, which allowed him to resolve Garruk Relentless. On my turn, I had the opportunity to resolve either a Garruk of my own or a Day of Judgment to clear the board. I was dead in three hits to what was on board, but only two hits if he played another creature.

I made the wrong choice, and figured that playing Garruk followed by Day of Judgment clears the board, and gives him another opportunity to overextend into the board sweeper. What's actually important is that he tapped out for his Garruk, and that Day of Judgment is the card you have to resolve, otherwise you lose, so you have to resolve it while you can, and then find another way to fight the Garruk.

It turns out that he had another Garruk regardless, so I was dead pretty much no matter what, with the hand that I kept.

4-1 (8-3)

Epilogue

And that 4-1 finish was enough for second place, and after splitting I ended up with 11 packs, in which I opened Snapcaster Mage, Garruk Relentless, and three dual lands! Regretfully, I opened zero Zombie Tokens for the Horde Magic deck I'm working on. After the event, I played a few more games with the deck, and went a much more reasonable 5-5 in four matches against the same decks I played in the last four rounds of the swiss.

If I had to recommend a deck for standard, it certainly wouldn't be this one, as fun as it is. I'd have to recommend the U/W Draw-Go deck I've been playing, as it absolutely crushes the control mirrors, and can be tuned to beat just about everything else. Here's the list I'm playing with for a metagame heavy on U/B and Mono-Red:

[deckbox did="a136" size="small" width="560"]

And that's just about it for my excursion into Standard! Next week will see a return to form, and a copy of the Myojin of Seeing Winds deck I've been promising. As always, be sure to let me know what you thought, especially since a report of sorts is something I haven't written before. If you've got any deck ideas you want to discuss, or just a list you want looked over, be sure to shoot me an email or hit me up on Twitter!

Carlos Gutierrez
cag5383@gmail.com
@cag5383 on Twitter

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