Standard is diverse. Wizards has worked endlessly to craft a Standard environment where many archetypes are not only viable but compete week in and week out for supremacy. There is so much you can be doing with your deck in Standard right now and there is definitely a deck out there for you. Even if you don’t like any of the existing decks or versions of decks, you can alter an existing archetype to your liking and still find success.
Looking at the trends in Standard I have noticed a number of powerful cards that players, for one reason or another, are not playing right now. Today I want to discuss some of those cards, their strengths and weaknesses, and other reasons why you should think about playing them in your decks.
When I was playing The Aristocrats, one of my favorite cards in the deck was Zealous Conscripts. Not only can you steal any permanent, but often you can sacrifice them to one of your other cards. With Standard slowing down more again, we are seeing much better targets for Conscripts like all of the different planeswalkers. Every time I cast this spell, my opponents were surprised as if they never thought I could be playing a copy in my deck. No one expects this card, especially maindeck. Zealous Conscripts needs to make a comeback in Standard.
Four mana might seem like a lot, but if you are playing a midrange or control deck, you can afford to leave that much mana open to cast it. Helix 2.0 is taking longer to see play than many other Dragon’s Maze cards, but once the format comes around, you will be facing down large swings in life and tempo. The UWR control decks that have emerged in Dragon’s Maze Standard are already starting to adopt this card. For four mana, you are able to rid yourself of most threats in Standard. This may never be an automatic card to include four copies of, but don’t be surprised if you get blown out by one in the near future.
This may be an obvious one to most of you but I still feel this card is underplayed right now. The diversity of the format gives Acidic Slime a chance to show off all of its strengths. Even though Acidic Slime has been around for a while now, I think this is the best it’s ever been.
While its primary function is to blow up your opponents lands repeatedly by combining it with Restoration Angel and Unburial Rites, this ooze has other strengths as well. Bant Hexproof is moving into position and attacking an unprepared format. Acidic Slime not only blows up the pesky auras, but also gives you a blocker to take out the creatures can be blocked. Even when you have no great targets, I’ve noticed that playing Slime as a blocker is an effective solution to many of the formats hard-to-deal-with creatures.
I have even heard it said that Acidic Slime is better than Thragtusk in Standard right now. Although I am not sure I would support that claim, I have seen games where the most aggressive Blitz decks were unable to cast any more spells because they had all of their lands blown up. This is a maindeck card and should be seeing more play than it does currently.
Continuing in the vein of preparation for Bant Hexproof, we arrive at a particularly strong sideboard card. You would likely see this card in the sideboard of Junk Aristocrats, Bant Hexproof (for the mirror), and maybe even Reanimator if they decide to run more hate than just Acidic Slime. This is not the type of card that will take four spots of your sideboard, but certainly two copies would help against a popular deck. Another option if you don’t have the green mana would be Paraselene. Be careful not to rely on these enchantment destruction spells too heavily though because you still need to deal with the creatures they were attached to. They are a vital part of any sideboard with these colors, so don’t prepare for an event without them!
This Avacyn Restored all-star needs to make a comeback in a big way. There are so many targets that make playing this Shock variant enticing, how can you resist including it? I think it’s time to set those Tragic Slips in a box and return to “pillar your guy.”
Most decks have targets for this removal spell. You can hit everything from cheap aggressive creatures to mana producers. The main reason you should be looking to Pillar though is for dealing with the resilient threats. Between Doomed Traveler, Voice of Resurgence, and the return of Strangleroot Geist, you won’t lack for juicy targets.
Speaking of Voice, have you noticed the price on this Grizzly Bear? When the set was released, even the supporters for this creature didn’t believe it would be a fifty-dollar card, but we have reached that point. By now, everyone knows this guy is good. My opinion is that his power isn’t fully explored yet.
He has seen some play in Bant Hexproof, Junk Aristocrats, and a few other underplayed archetypes, but he is still finding new places to shine. At many events over the past few weeks, Voice has been revitalizing the Zoo Archetype. This hate bear is going to impact Standard as well as both eternal formats. The reason this list includes him is because players are not respecting him yet. If we do not get an exile effect in M14 or the new block, Voice could become even more powerful than he is currently.
Respect the Voice and prepare for it. Choosing cards like Pillar of Flame or Sever the Bloodline, at least while they are legal, will help you defeat the increasingly-popular Voice decks.
For a while now, the card I have feared the most is this unplayed five-mana enchantment. My love for The Aristocrats is great and this curse is the bane of that deck. Think about resolving a spell that nullifies over half of the cards in a player’s deck. How has this card not seen play in sideboards? Lingering Souls, both halves of Doomed Traveler, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, Gravecrawler, Champion of the Parish, Mayor of Avabruck, Blood Artist, Avacyn's Pilgrim, Arbor Elf, Lightning Mauler, Experiment One, Dryad Militant, and I’m sure this list is incomplete.
Both Reanimator and Jund Midrange should be looking to include this card because of how much it shuts down specific decks. Similarly Jace, Architect of Thought and Golgari Charm should be reassessed once more for the same reasons. I found Electrickery to be underwhelming because it is so ineffective in certain board states, so although there are similarities, I think any of the other similar cards are better choices.
Many cards on this list are solid cards that saw lots of play in Standard but have fallen out of favor for one reason or another. Liliana is no different. We all know she is powerful enough for Standard, Modern, and Legacy alike. With Bant Hexproof developing increased support, Lily is needed once more. Combined with cheap removal, she can force nearly any creature off the board. Adding her back into Jund Midrange seems almost automatic to me at this point.
She also allows you to gain a benefit from dead cards in your hand by making both you and your opponent discard a card. This three-mana planeswalker is too good to sit on the sidelines for long. If you don’t think she is quite what you should be doing, try some Devour Flesh instead. Either way, removal that doesn’t target is necessary right now more so than it has been in a while.
Through working with sideboard plans for The Aristocrats and creating my recent B/W Zombies deck, I have come to respect the power of Obzedat. Though it may seem mediocre, this finisher is a potent threat that can dig you out of games you had no business competing in. Many times against a variety of decks I saw this guy turn what I thought were no-out situations into victories.
Decks are not equipped to defeat the Ghost Council either. There are very few spells in Standard that actually deal with it. Jund Midrange has started playing a copy or two of Putrefy, but outside of that, your opponent is hoping to draw one of their few Tragic Slips or simply has no outs. The comparison is strange, but the only card I can relate Obzedat to is Gideon Jura. Both of them shut down the opponent's aggressive assault as well as attack their life total at some point. My next Standard project may involve Ghost Council as a central piece.
At first I too was skeptical. Is this mana-intensive threat actually good enough to warrant inclusion in an existing archetype? Is it good enough to build a deck around?
I think the resounding answer is yes. If you have already played with or against this card, you know just how powerful it really is. Not only is it hard to kill in the vein of the classic control finishers, but it also ends games much quicker than we are used to seeing. When you cast Ætherling, you likely have access to about eight mana. Once you untap with him in play, you can start dealing chunks of unblockable damage.
By ending games much sooner, the control deck cuts off any chance their opponent has of drawing answers to get back in the game. My initial worry with this card was that too much mana was required to make it good. Now that seems like an irrelevant issue as long as you craft your deck for a long game. Over the next year, we are going to be seeing a lot of Ætherling.
That's All, Folks
All of these cards are good enough to see more play than they do currently. Many of them are Dragon’s Maze cards that require more time for players to adjust to, but some of them are just strong cards that have not been well-positioned for some time.
Whatever deck you are playing, think about adding some of these cards to it. Be careful though because once you make a big change to your deck, you may need to reevaluate the rest of it. Even the best decks in the format are in a constant state of flux so don’t fall behind the curve. Whether you adjust your deck with new tech or old staples, make sure you are thinking about the cards you choose for your deck and not just copying what other players have done. If you fall into the cycle of copying the decks from previous weeks, you will be behind the curve and fall prey to other players' updates.
Until Next Week,
Unleash the Force!
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