Standard Mistakes: Suggestions for Tuning Popular Archetypes

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So not excited to be playing.

It was round five of the SCG Standard Open in Madison. I had already racked up two losses and I was not excited about playing the rest of the day out. My hangover and deck choice were getting the best of me.

I sat across from my opponent and complained about how much I disliked my deck. He claimed that he was “loving” his deck and that it was working well for him all day, a strange thing for a man with a 2-2 record to say. About two turns into the game it was revealed that we were playing the GR Aggro mirror-match.

Maybe I’m just more particular than other people.

We got to playing and I 2-0’d him very easily. His list featured Hellrider, which, in my experience, isn’t very good in this deck. He drew two of them in game two while on the play and they just didn’t matter very much. Four mana is a lot and the card doesn’t compare to Huntmaster of the Fells.

It also has some negative implications for the manabase, but even when you draw two G/R duals (which he did), there are just better things to be doing than casting 3/3s at the top of your curve.

Last week I talked about the importance of having a good decklist. This week I’d like to highlight some of the weaknesses that exist in the popular versions of some of the most-played decks in Standard.

GR Aggro

As I stated above, I really did not enjoy playing GR Aggro this weekend. A variant of the deck did end up winning the tournament though, so it’s not like it’s completely unviable. However, there are a few slots in most lists that I feel are just plain wrong.

Hellrider definitely doesn’t belong in this deck. Double-red if very hard on the manabase and for a four drop he’s pretty underwhelming. It’s true that three toughness is a good stat in the current metagame, but I’d much rather have a fourth Wolfir Avenger for its efficiency and ability to bait counterspells.

It’s important to remember that if you cut Hellriders, then you want to turn at least one Mountain into a Forest. Double-green is very important, and without Hellrider double-red becomes generally extraneous.

I like Lange’s inclusion of Wolfir Silverheart. I was playing one copy myself and he proved to be insane in aggressive mirrors. That said, I’m not sure why he was playing Garruk Relentless. It’s possible that it’s good in control matchups but I’d be more worried about beating the mirror and Delver.

I also really hate playing eight mana-dorks. I frequently found myself drawing far too many mana sources with this deck, especially in post-board games when your opponent will always have an answer to your equipment. Casting a Wolfir Avenger on turn two isn’t really better than Strangleroot Geist.

I like having more two-drops in the deck and advocate the inclusion of Garruk's Companion. He attacks well and trades with most things on defense, not to mention how well he pairs with Wolfir Silverheart.

Another potential two-drop is Porcelain Legionnaire. Some Delver lists have been playing him for his resilience to Whipflare. I think I’m more worried about Delver Gut Shoting him, so I’d go with the Companion.

Pillar of Flame is just better than Galvanic Blast. If you’re metalcrafting Blast that means you have three Swords and you should just be winning anyway. That or you’re losing so bad that your other non-creature spells just don’t matter. Being sorcery speed makes Pillar interact worse with Huntmaster, but killing opposing Strangleroot Geists and Geralf's Messengers is more than worth this tradeoff.

The last slot that I don’t like in most lists are the sideboard Act of Aggressions. It’s a rare occasion that you instant speed them and Zealous Conscripts comes with an attacking body.

Bad ones:

Good ones:


Delver was very successful in Madison. With six decks in the top 16 it’s clear that Avacyn Restored hasn’t brought the monster down. At least not yet.

I’m a pretty big fan of the second place list. I think it’s very close to what I would play were I to Delve again.

The thing that I like most about it is that it’s not playing Invisible Stalker or Dungeon Geists.

Stalker is absolutely abysmal if you don’t have equipment, and, like I said, in the GR section everybody has answers to your Swords. If you really like attacking for one then just don’t reveal anything with your Delver of Secrets.

Dungeon Geists is fine against decks with undying creatures, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that it’s a four-mana sorcery-speed monster. Tapping out and giving your opponent a window to cast the spells on the same spot on their curve can be devastating.

The inclusion of Phantasmal Image seems very good if you're expecting to play the mirror and GR Aggro a lot. Copying Geist of Saint Trafts and Strangleroot Geists are both fine plays.

I’m not really a fan of Tenjum’s Thought Scours though. If you’re not playing Runechanter's Pike, all that it does is cycle. I’ve heard arguments that it’s super special awesome that you can use it to use your Snapcaster Mage as an instant speed Silvergil Adept. I’m assuming this is in games when you don’t draw Vapor Snag or Mana Leak. That really isn’t very much utility and I’ve never had the complaint that my Snapcasters weren’t giving me enough value.

One card that is notably missing from most Delver decks is Midnight Haunting. I know what you’re thinking, but the existence of Lingering Souls hardly invalidates the legitimacy of playing Haunting. You’re just spoiled and need to get over it.

Instant speed threats are great in decks with counterspells and Haunting has been very good in my experience with the deck. There are some games when it’s too risky to tap out for Geist of Saint Traft and Haunting is an all-star in these situations.

Bad ones:

Good ones:

RW Humans

I don’t know if it’s fair to call this deck tier one just yet, but I can attest to it being somewhat nerve-racking to play against. The deck looks extremely weak to Whipflare, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s going to be seeing a good amount of play. Most of your matches are going to be aggressive mirrors in the immediate future anyway.

For reference, here is the list that Top 8’d Madison last weekend.

The first thing I would do if I wanted to play this deck would be to cut Doomed Traveler. What is this, block constructed? 1/1s are stinky and rebuying for another 1/1 isn’t exciting. I understand that it’s a Stormblood Berserker enabler, but you have plenty of other two-drops. It’s not going to destroy your game plan to bloodthirst Berserker on turn three.

Speaking of two drops, I’m not huge on Honor of the Pure in this deck. It looks to me like you’re already playing creatures that beat down very effectively. I certainly wouldn’t want to be playing the mirror-match where my opponent has it and I don’t, but it doesn’t look especially relevant in other matchups. I would recommend switching it to the board for some of those Oblivion Rings.

The biggest weakness of the deck is the lack of ability to interact with your opponent at all. Just turning creatures sideways is no way to go through life. That isn’t even the recipe for a good limited deck. I don’t think that there are enough red sources to reliably play burn spells, but O-Ring and Dismember seem like good inclusions to me.

Bad ones:

Good ones:

Wolf Run

I’m going to go ahead and say that I would not be the guy to ask for advice about building this deck. I do have some grievances though.

Looking at recent Top 8s I’ve been seeing a lot of Wolf Run players splashing for white. I really don’t like this, as it makes your mana much worse. Were I to play ramp, I believe I’d play a straight GR list with Cavern of Souls. Delver is still everywhere and resolving Titans and Huntmasters is still good against them.

I don’t know what incentive you have to splash for Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. You already go way over the top of GR Aggro. It’s probably really good against RW Humans, save for the fact that you can’t cast it before you lose. Batterskull and Wurmcoil Engine seem like much safer bets to me, as they come down earlier and don’t require you to play a terrible manabase.

The other note that I have about Ramp is that it should most definitely be playing Bonfire of the Damned. I mean, have you read this card? Not miracle-ing it isn’t the end of the world and miracle-ing it is often the end of the game. Just try it out.

Bad ones:

Good ones:


I reckon that’s about all I have for this week. If you’d like me to elaborate on any of these card choices, I’d be more than happy to respond to any questions in the comments section.

Until next time,
-Ryan Overturf

2 thoughts on “Standard Mistakes: Suggestions for Tuning Popular Archetypes

    1. I read Cedric Phillip's article about WRR after writing this and I think I like his maindeck Glimmerposts sideboard Cavern of Souls. It requires you to play a lot of colorless sources but Sphere and Sad Robot help on that front. I think that it can make Slagstorm awkward but it's probably really good against RW humans and GR aggro.

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