The more I try to make things work with Standard the more I wish I were playing Legacy or Pauper. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I never actually had "the fire" when it comes to Standard. I've been missing a crucial element, and that is I don't get especially disappointed when I fail.
See, the fire isn't just about wanting to win. Everybody wants to win. The difference between being competitive and being passionate is what you feel when you lose. When I 6-2 a large Legacy tournament I spend a great deal of time contemplating whether or not my list needs updating. When I don't cash a Pauper Daily I run through my replays and try to pinpoint how I could have played better.
When I lose a match of Standard I feel mostly apathy. I tell myself that there was nothing I could do, that anybody could've figured out to cast Thragtusk or Thundermaw Hellkite on five and that there was no way I could have won after drawing as many lands as I did.
Yet I continue to play. That, I believe, is insane. So my options are to quit or to adapt. I've quit Magic three times, and my efforts were laughable. Perhaps it's an inability to give up on all the time and effort I've put into the game previously, or perhaps it's the fact that not playing Standard severely limits the opportunities I would have to go on road trips for Magic or just the time I spend with all the people I've met through Magic in general.
So right now I want to be incinerating money on drafting Modern Masters (if you haven't tried it, it's really sweet) but instead I'm going to jam a bunch of Standard. Matter of fact, I'm playing a Standard Daily right now. I'm going to continue battling until I either start caring a lot or stop caring at all. So far my drive to be competitive is causing me to care more. I don't know if this is good or bad, but this is what I've convinced myself that I want, so we'll see.
Anyway, from grinding away at Standard I've learned a few things about what the UWR deck needs to do in the format. Here are the most important things I've learned thus far:
You Can't Cut Pillar
So I've gone down to 2-3 Pillar for a couple matches but the card has proven to be much more impactful on the deck's effectiveness in the matches where it's good than in the matches where it's bad. Voice of Resurgence is literally everywhere and just being able to throw burn spells at Planeswalkers has proven very relevant against multiple archetypes.
The long and short of it is that you will win far more matches due to drawing the Pillar of Flame that you need against the things it matches up well against than you will lose for it being lackluster. A big part of this is that...
Ætherling Is All That Matters
When it comes to midrange and control decks, Ætherling has proven to be far and away the most powerful card in Standard. It wrecks planeswalkers, it blocks everything, and it closes games very quickly. Did I mention that it's basically unkillable?
The absolute dominance of Ætherling in slower matches has firmly placed me in the Cavern of Souls camp. Casting Ætherling into coutnerspells always feels miserable and just resolving one will often win the game. It is, however, important to note that if you tap low and your opponent just Ætherlings back they can beat you, so just hitting your land drops and being able to leave up a counterspell when you play yours matters a lot. This leads me towards both having a 28th land (the third Cavern) on board as well as having a Counterflux in the main to be able to tap out for Ætherling and beat Ætherling + Dissipate.
It is, however, dramatically weaker against the aggressive decks, and for this reason I've been playing one maindeck and one sideboard. I could easily see maining the second copy, but I refuse to play fewer than 27 lands and having two in addition to four Sphinx's Revelations leads to more mulligans.
Azorius Charm Was Disappointing
With the four Pillars I really didn't need an excess of other removal spells and Azorius Charm has been historically awful against non-aggressive decks. Switching to Think Twice was fairly easy for me, though somewhat embarrassing considering that last week I cut Think Twice for Augur of Bolas. More embarrassing considering that I've trimmed a couple Augurs from my list, but four was probably just too many.
At any rate, hitting your first, I don't know, eight land drops tends to matter a lot with this type of deck, and all the while you'll need to be casting relevant spells. Think Twice just happens to be the best spell at achieving both of these goals. It also gives you a non-zero increase in odds of beating a resolved Sire of Insanity.
Hexproof Bant and Jund are Going to Be Coin Flips
These matches do involve some amount of skill, but they can be straight draw dependent. Sometimes Hexproof just gets you, and sometimes they just die. Sometimes Jund succumbs to the fact that your spells are just better, and sometimes they draw the right spells in proper succession.
While these matchups have been exactly the type of Magic that I despise, the Naya and Esper matchups have been favorable and the mirror has proven to be a pretty fun chess match, which is an important aspect of any deck from my perspective.
All that said, here's my current list:
The big change that I haven' addressed yet is the miser's Devil's Play. I had it in my sideboard for a couple days and have decided to give it a whirl maindeck. It's a bit slow against the aggressive decks but it's awesome against Planeswalker-based strategies, is awesome for the burn plan and is an okay way to deal with Sire of Insanity.
The deck still probably needs some tuning, but I'm feeling pretty good about the results I've been having thus far. On occasion I've wished that I had access to some manner of two-mana counter like Negate or Syncopate, but the situations have been too few and far between for me to make such a consideration for the maindeck as of yet.
As always, questions and comments are not only welcome, but encouraged. Thanks for reading.
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