Jason’s Archives: The Shape of Standard (And How It Looks Like Every Other Format)

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Another week has come and gone and the results from Michigan State Champs are still not up anywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the professionals at "Professional Events Services". They still haven't forwarded the Top 8 deck lists from Michigan State Champs to nor have they posted decklists on their own website since December 2011. Don't worry, though. I'm sure they'll do a fine job running GP Philadelphia.

The Best Deck From Champs No One Is Talking About

We've heard a lot about how Jund is smashing the meta. We knew about Zombies for weeks and the U/W/R Miracles deck, designed by Team SCG to beat the zombie decks they all insisted were a good choice for the Open, saw a lot of play the following weekend at Champs. U/W Control ditching the red made an even bigger impact on the meta because it didn't rely on fickle miracles but instead compounded the oppressiveness of turn four [card Jace, Architect of Thought]Jace[/card], turn five [card Tamiyo, the Moon Sage]Tamiyo[/card] with breakout cards like [card Sphinxs Revelation]Sphinx's (Sphinx!) Revelation[/card].

Thragtusk is a force to be reckoned with in the coming year. Jund decks are including it to combat both quicker decks and the mirror. Even a control decks can struggle to stabilize post-Wrath if they have to contend with a bunch of beast tokens.

As much as everyone is super hot on Jund right now, drooling over being able to jam Thragtusk, [card Olivia Voldaren]Olivia[/card], Falkenrath Aristocrat, Huntmaster of the Fells and $900 worth of mana base into sixty sleeves and call this a fun format, it may not be the best Thragtusk deck out there.

As hot as I am on Séance, which I would likely jam were I to play any Standard in the next month, going to 80 life with [card Trostani, Selesnyas Voice]Trostani[/card] and Rhox Faithmender doesn't appeal to everyone. Ryan's Séance build is a fine way to abuse Thragtusk -- he gains three life both coming and going with Trostani; he still provides his usual benefits (minus the 5/3 body) in the form of a fake Séance copy; and a three-color deck can easily come up with single green on turn 4 or 5 (Farseek likes to help with early Thragtusks).

However, there is another Thragtusk deck out there that lets you make both of the plays I want to do in Standard right now.

  1. Casting, attacking with, and getting extra reach from Thragtusk.
  2. Casting Jace on turn four, Tamiyo on turn five, and laughing maniacally.

There is a deck that allowed people to do those things. That deck is Bant Control.

Putting a copy or four into nearly every Champs Top 8, including a win at Rhode Island and Montana Champs, Bant Control gives you access to nearly every card I want to play in Standard. It won't let you play [card Olivia Voldaren]Olivia[/card], [card Falkenrath Aristocrat]Aristocrat[/card], [card Lotleth Troll]Troll[/card], [card Huntmaster of the Fells]Huntmaster[/card] or Rakdos's Return (eww, anyway). It does, however, let you play Thragtusk, [card Sphinxs Revelation]Sphinx's (Sphinx!) Revelation[/card], Detention Sphere, Supreme Verdict, [card Jace, Architect of Thought]Jace[/card], [card Tamiyo, the Moon Sage]Tamiyo[/card], Angel of Serenity and/or Restoration Angel.

In my analysis of the decklists from the states that bothered to submit their Top 8 lists, I have concluded that Bant Control has the worst power-to-buzz ratio, which could work in your favor. Luckily someone from New Mexico managed to get 2nd (the deck also got 8th there) and write a tournament report as well as the first place winner from Montana who also wrote a good primer.

Surprisingly, outside of the reports of players faring incredibly well at their state's Champs with various builds, the deck is being largely overlooked and I'm not sure why. Certainly this is not the only way to build, but I feel like the combination of the Jace-Tamiyo play that control decks love so much and Centaur Healer makes this the best Thragtusk deck right now and I expect it to be the premier control deck going forward. The meta is far from developed right now, and another control deck could come along and crush this one into powder, but omit this deck from your testing gauntlet at your peril.

The comment section of this article is reserved for anecdotes like "My brew beats this 90% of the time, lol." But understand that if you can beat this deck I'm happy for you, because I wouldn't sleeve up a 75 that can't. If you have to choose between beating Jund and beating this, go with beating Jund because I fully expect it to be a larger percentage of the meta. However, at least test this enough to know how it wins so you're not caught with your pants down in the Top 8.

The Consensus Best Thragtusk Deck

I'm just one opinionated analyst and we have some data from over the weekend that seems to take some of the helium out of my Bant zeppelin.

There were six Jund decks in the Top 16 in Indy and only two Bant decks. Furthermore, the Top 8 had three Jund decks to zero Bant decks. What does this mean?

It could mean that Jund is a strictly better choice. However, I feel Bant has more tools to deal with what may boast the most raw power of any deck in Standard -- Reanimator variants. In the finals in Indianapolis, Harrison Deemer fought valiantly with Jund, but he was ultimately taken down by Rob Vaca's Reanimator build. Post-board, the matchup favors Reanimator and Vaca won game three easily on a mulligan to five.

Regardless, Jund is another deck you should be able to beat if you're going to bother showing up. Surprisingly, U/W/R Midrange is back, this time with Thundermaw Hellkite, another card Jund can access that Bant, er, can't. Hellkite is a real card to watch and if you can still get them around $10 (unlikely), snag them. These babies might not be done going up.

Give Me Moar DATA!

Fine, I will. Bant won the TCG Open in Minneapolis this weekend and put an aggro Bant deck (not even loosely related) in the Top 8. In fact, there was only one Jund-colored deck in the entire Top 8 in Minneapolis. The meta is anyone's guess right now, but with solid archetypes putting up good numbers, I expect it to be one of the more healthy fields we've seen.

Steve Medanic ultimately beat a 4C Reanimator deck in the finals. I realize the sample size is really small, but I wouldn't be surprised if Bant beats Reanimator more than than it loses to it and Jund loses more than it wins. That could change as people test more and sideboard better, but I feel like if Reanimator becomes a huge thing, having access to a card like Rest in Peace is going to tip the scales in Bant's favor. Don't expect Bant to stay under the radar after winning in Minneapolis.

Onward to Non-Standard Decks

They played Legacy in Indianapolis too, and wouldn't you know it, Michael Bernat won with High Tide. The legacy Boogeyman, RUG Delver, managed to come in 4th but was only represented by two copies in the entire Top 16. Another Top 8 with eight unique decks puts a smile on my face, and while we didn't see any wacky breakouts like Angel Stompy or 12 Post this week, Legacy is anyone's format.

Goblins is consistently out-performing Merfolk (suck it, Hosler) despite Merfolk getting a new Lord for absolutely no reason. Omnishow continues to consistently top eight as well, but the Academy Rector everyone forecast is still nowhere to be found.

Despite being garbage against the Omniscience variants of Sneak and Show, which have eschewed Sneak Attack entirely in a lot of cases, Karakas may stay a $100 card, which really bums me out considering I bought them for $45 and was stoked to out them for $75 a mere month before they hit $100. With price memory being a stronger force than logic, I don't expect Karakas to come down that much, even with the new Judge Foil set to supplement the finite supply. Karakas on an [card Emrakul, the Aeons Torn]Emrakul[/card] from Show and Tell or Sneak Attack was a solid play. Karakas on one played with Omniscience is a really bad idea. With Omnitell being the most consistent variant, expect your Karakas to be a little lackluster in the future as all it's going to do now is turn their Griselbrand into a Necropotence, which I hear is still fine.

Mana Bloom and Urban Burgeoning were two cards I thought might see play in Enchantress (or at least get tested) but Drew Idoux managed a top eight without their help. Supreme Verdict, however, showed up alongside Terminus in Justin Adams' U/W Miracles build. No wonder Merfolk is having a tough time. With Cursecatcher, Force of Will and Daze impotent to stop a wrath, Merfolk is just a Goblin deck with no [card Goblin Lackey]Lackey[/card] or [card Goblin Warchief]Warchief[/card]. Stoneblade continues to be a deck, proving anything good enough to be banned in Standard has to be good enough for Legacy. Lauren Nolan got 2nd place with an Esper variant.

Great job, everyone!

I Think Elevenses Is a Better Name Than Second Breakfast

But I didn't build the eggs deck that took down the Pro Tour so I don't get to name it.

Top 8 Modern Deck Lists

If you wait for my Monday recap of a Pro Tour, you're doing it wrong because I could write 10,000 words about all the noteworthy things I saw on the coverage and I'm not paid nearly enough for that.

Half of the Top 8 was Jund, and there was only one Bant deck so I guess the same struggle we currently have in Standard has migrated to Modern. Modern Jund, however, has Bloodbraid Elf and that card was accidentally made a little too good and has been ruining lives since.

However, be Jund all you like, you can't win the Pro Tour if you're not prepared to beat a silly, hard-to-play combo deck that is so fragile and cold to myriad hate spells that most pros decided not to even test it. Sure the deck is cold to hate, but if no one sees you coming, that hate will be in their hotel rooms and not in their sideboards.

Stanislav Cifka took down Pro Tour Return to Ravnica with a little luck and an Eggs/Second Sunrise combo deck called Second Breakfast. Eggs has always been a deck a lot of people are fond of, but this is by far the most challenging build. Don't expect a repeat as this deck is easily hated out. This would be the Modern equivalent of Dredge, if only Dredge were hard as balls to play. The more popular it gets, the worse it does because it can only thrive where it's not expected. Regardless, Cifka had to play tight all weekend and earned every bit of the win.

I urge you to watch PT coverage, even if you only watch on Sunday, because it's wall to wall entertainment and watching the plays isn't done justice by any post-game wrap-up. I'll leave the DQ controversy for Jackie Lee's own article later this week, so with that in mind, I bid you a fond farewell.

That's All for Now!

Remember, try to find the best Thragtusk deck, be able to beat Jund in every format and remember that Eggs are like the Spanish Inquisition.

Spanish Omelet! That's a better name than Second Breakfast, too!

7 thoughts on “Jason’s Archives: The Shape of Standard (And How It Looks Like Every Other Format)

  1. Hey, thanks for the mention!

    The top four at the 5k in Mpls actually split – the other gentlemen were kind enough to give me the official win as I had the highest remaining seed and was undefeated on the day.

    Bant is a great choice right now and it really should be getting more hype. The enchantment aggro deck that lost in the top 8 seems very strong and the control version has treated me very well – 12-2, with 2 IDs over two events so far.

    The matchup against the current reanimator decks is pretty good because you don’t really care about anything they reanimate. Last round at states playing for T16, my opponent drew 14 cards off of Gristlebrand and it didn’t really matter because none of the cards could get through the deck’s defenses. You can stall / wrath into an Angel of Serenity fight and eventually win through an ultimate Jace.

    If reanimator goes back towards the mana dorks + craterhoof build that got some play just after Avacyn Restored released, that would swing the matchup as their threat could overwhelm Bant’s defenses. Dana’s deck, with the Angel of Glory’s Rise combo, would of been an interesting match since I have limited ways of interacting with the combo.

    One thing I would recommend for anyone playing the deck is to practice enough so that you can play quickly. The deck can take a very long time to win and the mirror match can be terribly slow.

    Feel free to hit me up with any questions on the deck or whatnot!



    1. Steve,

      Do you feel like if Reanimator WERE a bigger deal, Bant would be better equipped than Jund to deal with it? I understand ignoring their reanimating as a Seance player; we win through graveyard hate all the time and it often just ends up being dead against us because we can hardcast anything. So if they can ignore GY hate, you shouldn\’t play it.

      That said, Craterhoof is a card that is spiking lately and may continue going up, If players find that they want to shift to this build (I don\’t personally recommend it) would Bant have better access to the kind of hate that would make that matchup more winnable? That was the basic premise behind my pitting bant against jund in the analysis. I wish I\’d known you guys split, but it doesn\’t really matter because I read the SCG coverage of the finals there and Jund just ate it against Reanimator. I have to imagine your build would have been better capable. Thanks for the insight and thanks for helping to popularize what I think is my favorite collection of 60 cards in standard right now.

  2. The hate is there if reanimator decks moved towards Craterhoof builds. Purify the Grave would be useful to stop an early hoof (or to stop the Angel of Glory’s Rise combo), and just Azorius Charm or Cyclonic Rift, can allay enough damage to keep you alive through the Hoof trigger turn.

  3. COMPLETELY AGREE ON ELEVENSES! Actually made that exact remark to a friend the other night.

    I’m also huge on Bant right now, but my list is a bit off of the conventional ones. I’ll be writing about it for next week.

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