We’re a full month out and this Standard format still feels wide open. As I’ve stated a thousand times, the mana is very good and the spells are very powerful. No matter how you want to battle, there are tools for you to battle with. There’s even a somewhat-legitimate combo deck in the form of Epic Experiment ramp!
When the format dictates that players can play whatever they want, I want to play the deck that draws the most cards. In this format, I want to play the Sphinx's Revelation deck. If all of the spells are good, then it stands to reason that you want to draw more of them, right? What’s better than playing Thragtusk? Playing Thragtusk, drawing three cards and gaining three life the next turn, playing another Thragtusk the turn after, then drawing five cards and gaining five life the turn after that. That’s what’s better than playing a Thragtusk.
This is what I have been battling in Standard lately:
This looks pretty different from the typical Bant lists out there. Where most Bant players opt to build Jace decks, I’ve instead elected to build a Thragtusk deck. In my mind there is no question that Thragtusk is the best card in Standard. It gives you exactly what you want against aggro (life and bodies) and exactly what you want against control (multiple bodies). Not to mention how insanely above curve it is…
But why no Jaces?
The newest version of Jace is a very peculiar card. When I first saw the spoiler I assumed that it would be good against slower decks and bad against aggressive decks. After seeing it in action a few times against Zombies it was clear that Jace was the real deal against aggressive decks. After seeing it in action against Thragtusk it was clear that Jace could not compete with the beastliest beast that ever did beast. Sure, a resolved Jace will generally at least replace himself, and that’s pretty okay, but we can do much better than pretty okay.
The first problem with Jace is that his ultimate might as well be blank. Even against decks where the +1 ability is good, it is unreasonable to sit around activating it for turns on end only to ultimate Jace and make… Diregraf Ghoul. Against decks where the +1 isn’t good, Jace only has one ability. The question then is how good is it to play a sorcery speed card that is worse than Concentrate some percentage of the time and better some other percentage?
If Thragtusk is as good as I say it is, which is obviously what I believe, then such a sorcery is going to be much worse than leaving up mana for Dissipate going into turn five. Additionally, as a draw spell this Concentrate-esque card pales in comparison to Sphinx's Revelation. As I said, Jace is strong against the aggressive decks, but the matchups where he’s weaker tend to go long. When games go long Sphinx's Revelations get bigger. In slow matchups card advantage is king. For these reasons I wouldn’t play the first Jace before I had the fourth Revelation, and at that point I don’t see much need for Jace.
Centaur Healer and Restoration Angel
I said a couple weeks ago that I was pretty down on Restoration Angel, and that was a foolish thing for me to say. While it’s true that the card isn’t close to as good as it once was, it is still a far cry from unplayable. It has a body that blocks extremely well against most of the aggressive decks (basically all of the non GW-smashy-smash aggressive decks), all the while blinking a creature that gains life. Additionally, flash threats are nothing to scoff at in control mirrors.
Centaur Healer is a card that has performed considerably above my expectations. The idea behind playing them is clearly to beat up on aggressive decks, but they carry themselves pretty well against slower decks as well. Having a high density of creatures which attack for three or more damage makes combatting opposing Planeswalkers a joke. Tamiyo can be a problem if all you have is a lone Thragtusk, but adding another monster to the mix makes racing a Tamiyo ultimate a pretty easy game.
The Counter Suite
There are quite a few options for counters in Standard right now. I’ve seen Syncopate getting a lot of love, and I think that it’s the exact wrong card for the job. Two weeks ago I wrote about the importance of cards that scale well, and Syncopate just gets worse and worse as games progress. This is particularly true in decks like this that are trying to cast large Sphinx's Revelations. Sometimes you need to leave up mana for a counterspell or two while doing so and it is borderline impossible to fight a counterwar with Syncopate. Further, there is basically nothing on turn two that is so important that it must be countered, so why does having a two mana catch-all counterspell matter at all?
The absence of Essence Scatter, especially considering the presence of one Negate is probably more notable than the absence of Syncopate, especially operating under the assumption that Thragtusk is strongest there is. The reason for this is that Thragtusk and spells that cost more than Thragtusk are the only creatures that a deck full of life gain actually needs to counter. Additionally, I'm already playing the best answer to Thragtusk- my own Thragtusks.
Alternatively, there are a few very strong non-creature spells that often must be countered. Off the top of my head Rakdos's Return, opposing Sphinx's Revelations and Epic Experiment are pretty tough to beat when resolved. There are also some situations where your creatures don’t quite cut it against Planeswalkers, so having counters for them is nice. Sorin in particular can be pretty tough to attack into.
The misers Negate over the fourth Dissipate is mostly a concession to control mirrors. In a counterwar mana-efficiency, particularly costing less blue mana, is often important. So there’s that. It’s not a very dramatic difference and either card is probably fine, but I’ve been happy with the maindeck Negate. Sometimes it even catches a Rancor.
Where are all the Azorius Charms?
I’ve already discussed my qualms with Azorius Charm on “Good Luck; High Five!” and for the most part I believe that Think Twice is just better. That said, I’ve lost a couple matches to Loxodon Smiter decks recently, and having a card like this to buy time against them is probably pretty good. Against literally any other deck though I don’t want to be anywhere near Azorius Charm. Mostly it just replaces itself, which is by no means what I look for in a card. If Green/White Big Dumb Elephants is popular in your area then I would begrudgingly play some Charms. For the most part I’d just hope that my opponents are playing cooler decks.
Not a lot of Wraths in this pile. What’s the deal?
I’ll start by saying that having Terminus in my deck has only ever made me miserable. At six mana, having it in your opener is very close to a mulligan. Once you have access to that much mana you’re probably beating aggressive decks with any of your spells. When it’s not in your opener you’re hoping to peel it exactly when you need it. I’m much more interested in consistency than raw power.
The number of Supreme Verdict is, perhaps, one or two off. Against decks like mono-red and Zombies the creature-base does a great deal of work at stopping them, but as I said above Loxodon Smiter is a big game. Having an extra Wrath or two might just be necessary to hedge against Little Kid Stompy. I definitely like that call more than having Azorius Charm. I’m not entirely certain what I’d cut for them, but one of the counterspells or even moving the second Angel of Serenity to the sideboard wouldn’t be the worst.
So why should I play this deck?
Thragtusk and Sphinx's Revelation are the most powerful cards in the format. In terms of actual individual impact they don’t hit as hard as Angel of Serenity or Griselbrand, but building a deck around them to play into the long game allows you to beat the Griselbrand/Angel decks.
This deck matches up very favorably against Jund and the other Bant lists out there. Epic Experiment decks are practically a bye. Monored and Zombies are very beatable, though I recommend having a good amount of cards in your sideboard dedicated to beating them. While your spells all are bigger than theirs and your cards just invalidate theirs as you enter the late game you do still need to stop them from killing you before that happens.
The only especially bad matchup that I’ve run into has been Green/White aggro. A three mana 4/4 hitting you with a Rancor on turn three or four is pretty impressive. Silverblade Paladin is also a hell of a card. If this deck becomes especially popular, then this list will need to change to combat it, but with just the one bad matchup I’m very happy with where the deck is right now.
Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit me up in the comment section!
Until next time, good luck, high five!
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