As a high school math teacher a lot of different things make sense to me as equations. Magic, Standard specifically, seems like an ever changing equation to solve. If you have read any of my articles, you know that I am typically not one to follow the crowd and play the best deck. Always, I am trying to find a way to attack the metagame as a whole and find a weakness to exploit, or solve the equation if you will. Sometimes there is a clear answer and others its a bit harder to pin down. When Jund was the big deck my answer was Naya that transitioned into Boss Naya and I found so much success with that solution. Recently when the big baddy was Caw-Blade, I ran Red Black Vampires successfully. I must have been one of the only players I know who was actually sad that cards were banned from that deck because I was perfectly fine beating up on it with my little blood suckers. The past few months, I have been a huge advocate for Blue White and then Green White Puresteel, which I obviously named Voltron because that's way cooler right? Well, at least I think so. The point is that the metagame was defined and I developed an angle to attack.
So, the question of the day...
Is Standard solvable right now? Let's take a look and see.
Based on the metagame right now, there are two main decks to beat in my opinion. The first is the aggro match in Blue White Illusions and Blue White Humans. While these decks are very different, their goal is the same. They both aim to play aggressive creatures and disrupt you just enough to win the game. They do this primarily with Mana Leak but also many of these run Oblivion Ring and the Illusions deck runs Gut Shot and Vapor Snag. To be honest, all of the creatures in these decks suck. In fact the creatures that are being played in Standard all suck accept the almost too slow Hero of Bladehold. The one thing I have realized though, with all the testing I have been doing for the Star City Invitational Weekend in North Carolina, is that these decks are doing the best job with the available cards in Standard. There really just aren't better options. Go look through the database of cards in Standard and you will see what I mean.
We can basically throw Red Deck Wins in this category as well because while the cards do not overlap, the strategy does. So, what is the key to beating these decks? Well red has some obvious cards in Timely Reinforcements and Celestial Purge. Neither of those is a new thing but we certainly cannot forget about preparing for red. The two blue white decks need to be interacted with in the early turns of the game or you can find yourself in a tempo hole so big even super human powers won't help you. If you can deal with the first few creatures they play by playing guys of your own or killing them, you will probably win the game. Basically, just get those thief skills on and steal the tempo from them. That is how you beat these types of decks. Once you are controlling the pace of the game, it is much harder for them to overcome whatever super hero you have deployed to protect you. Moorland Haunt is one way they can but usually that is not enough. Day of Judgment is not enough because of all the Mana Leaks, so pack those one and two cost spells to help the early game.
One important concept that I have realized this week is with sideboarding. Since we must dedicate these inferior cards main deck to beating the aggro decks, you need to have cards in your sideboard to replace all the cards you want to take out when you are facing down other decks like Kessig Wolf Run of whatever colors are the new thing and whatever control decks are brewed up. One key with your sideboard is to find cards that apply to a variety of matchups. That way, you can bring in more total cards. We do this in order to remove all the cards like Gut Shot that are irrelevant in certain matches.
The other decks you have to beat are Ramp/Control. These come in a variety of forms already mentioned but their basic goal is to control the game and then stick a threat that your opponent can't deal with.
Option 1: Play one of the aggro decks you have tested and tweak it to your play style.
Option 2: Play ramp or control but you need to be conscious of each card choice more so here than the aggro decks. Testing here is key but the major factor is tech. Bring something unexpected or forgotten so your opponent will be unprepared. My friend did this by running Timely Reinforcements main deck in his Esper Solar Flare Control build. Really threw his opponents off.
Option 3: Play something new or fix a deck that has fallen out of favor.
You know me, I go for option 3!
Let's start with this week's brewing. With all my negativity towards the aggro decks in particular this week, my goal was to build something better or make changes to one of the existing decks. Looking at Illusions and watching Todd Anderson's videos made me think on the creatures in the deck. Are they actually good? Was there something better? Basically no, but black is close to being a better support color than blue. Black gives us some really good one drops in Dirgraf Ghoul and Fume Spitter. I was working on a version of "Illusions" with those cards but I just could not get the mana to work. The main reason I was having a hard time was because the main reason I was playing black was for Phyrexian Obliterator. I ended up with too much black mana so I could never cast my blue spells. The black cards are quite good though and if we see some support for black in Dark Ascension, I think that deck could really take off.
After I was done messing with the Illusions shell and trying a variety of iterations, I moved onto testing something I already was familiar with, Green White Puresteel. A couple weeks ago, I advocated this deck heavily for most of the same reasons that the Channelfireball crew took Tempered Steel to Worlds. There was a hole in the metagame for an artifact heavy deck to break out. Now, even though there is not a ton of hate, I realized that the White Weenie decks are not as good of a matchup as I thought. These games are much closer than I want them to be. Since this type of strategy is such a large percent of the metagame, Voltron does not seem well placed at the moment. Other than Blue White humans though, I like Voltron against basically everything else, so I am still considering playing it.
I was unsettled on the aggro decks I was working on so I moved to control. Pondering control's place in the metagame made me really rethink how control is played right now. Mostly control is a small percent of the metagame because in order to compete with the field, you must run a shaky manabase to support all the important cards. Though they are different than those already being played, my efforts also yielded similarly crazy mana requirements. Sadly I did not have time to test this deck to see how good it is but I will post the list for reference and hopefully I will have time to test it before the Invitational.
Now despite the deck being untested, there are a lot of things I like about it. Thrun the Last Troll is quite good right now just being an uncounterable wall that can attack once the board is cleared up. He is good against aggro and control and should be seeing more play. Some of the numbers are probably wrong because it would certainly need tweaked; however, including things like a maindeck Dismember to deal specifically with Hero of Bladehold and Negate for planeswalkers are what you want your control deck to be doing. One reason I think red should be included in control decks right now is due to the power of Arc Trail. This removal spell is just so good right now. The red removal spells are even more potent with Snapcaster Mage.
Though there may be more questions about this deck than answers, I like the direction of the deck. With what it is trying to do, the threats it presents, and the way it controls the game, this seems like what a control deck should be doing right now to beat a large portion of the metagame.
The other deck I wanted to talk about today was the main focus of my testing this week. Green White Tokens. I know, I know, everyone says this deck is basically dead. There were no copies in the top 8 of Worlds or the last Star City event. I know these things. What is the main problem with Green White Tokens right now? The tempo decks, and some others, started playing Gut Shot to kill your Birds of Paradise and Avacyns Pilgrim and they keep playing things while you are stuck waiting on your mana. Why is Gut Shot such a problem? Two mana creatures are really terrible right now is why. I spent a lot of time researching in the Gatherer this week and two mana creatures basically are vastly underpowered. There is one two mana creature that I feel has been overlooked, especially in a strategy like this.
Enter our hero...
It's a two drop. It has seen play in Standard. It is still an aggressive creature that can trade with your opponents creatures, all the while ramping you to the land you need if they kill. I was immediately impressed with this change to the deck. This one change is exactly what the deck needs to make it playable once more. When I thought about this addition to the deck, it blew my mind. There was one more change to the deck that is unprecedented. Removing Elspeth Tirel and Geist Honored Monk from the deck. These two cards are just not very good right now. They are too slow with too low of an impact against both the aggro decks and the ramp decks. Take a look at my current list.
You will notice that most of the cards are the same types of things you are likely to see in any other Green White Tokens list. The important cards are the ones that are different. Seriously, Viridian Emissary is very good in the deck. You can even equip Mortarpod to him so you can get your land whenever you need it. I am not sold on the fourth Garruk Relentless. He is always good in testing but I am not sure the fourth copy is necessary. I do not know what would replace that spot if I chose to remove it though but it is worth considering.
I really like this deck and I think this version is solid. It matches up well against the metagame and the Sun Titans go over the top of a lot of decks. This is the deck I am leaning towards for some events over the course of the weekend. The sideboard is still undecided but it is more of the numbers rather than some new piece of tech.
Hopefully this article has given you incite into my week of testing for this event. Everyone's process is different so develop yours and go from there. If you are looking for a change, give Green White Tokens a chance again. It is still a good deck and even more so with the changes I suggested. Thanks for reading!
Until next week,
Unleash the Token Force!