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Moving Forward with Standard

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Heading into the new year, I, like so many others, find my resolve renewed once again. I’m excited about more opportunities to prove my skills and qualify for the Pro Tour.

With the release of Born of the Gods coming up, a new Standard format is swiftly approaching. Even though I am eagerly awaiting a new format to brew in, I’m not going to sit around and wait for some new cards to play with.

If you know me, you know that I never stop searching for the perfect deck that attacks the metagame from just the right angle. While I did take some time off from competitive Magic over the holiday season, I didn’t stop crafting new decks to battle with.

Last week I showed everyone some best-case-scenario decks that have huge potential for wins, but accomplish that goal sporadically, aka Magical Xmasland scenarios. It was enjoyable to dwell on best-case draws for a moment, but my competitive blood burns for tournament-winning decks.

If you have been keeping up with the competitive scene in the last month or so, you may have noticed some white-based aggro decks doing well. The strategy I play the most successfully is aggro with a bit of disruption, so this development perked my interest.

Shortly after those decks wrecked some Star City tournaments though, we had a resurgence of U/W and Esper Control to keep them in check. Once the control fad died down a bit, the metagame stabilized to basically what it has been the whole season.

There are lots of playable devotion decks and some control decks as well. In an open metagame, my strategy of aggro plus disruption is at its best, I just needed to find the right mix of cards.

New Beginnings

Starting with the successful white aggro deck seemed like the best place to embark on my new mission. There were some things I didn’t like about it though. Here’s the list that got the gears turning.

Ben Stark's Mostly White Orzhov Aggro
Top 8 - Standard – Grand Prix Dallas Fort Worth 2013

The strategy behind this deck is solid and it helped a number of players find success. With the state of the metagame being more spread out now, some cards need to change though. Let’s start with the creatures because they are the most important part of the deck.

Daring Skyjek

Of all the batallion creatures, Daring Skyjek is one of the best. The problem is that it doesn’t hold up well against any other creatures. Against decks with no removal, there is no problem and he is a decent three-power two-drop, but against many decks I find him severely lacking.

Boros Elite

Cards like Boros Elite need a much bigger payoff than a couple bonus points of power for me to be interested in using them. If the majority of the time he’s a one mana 1/1, the payoff is not worth the risk.

Dryad Militant

Jamming as many one-mana 2/1’s as possible is exactly what this deck wants. The problem is that he’s not a human and the secondary ability is not relevant in this format. If it were a human, I’d be much more excited to play it in this deck. His stock goes down because of my next point as well.

Xathrid Necromancer

From other aristocratic endeavors in previous formats, my love for this zombie-making necromancer runs deep. Every single time I cast it, it feels like one of the most powerful things in the format and the times when I cast two of them feels like I have an unfair advantage.

Playing with the Rotlung Reanimator update reminds me of when I first started playing competitive Magic as I crush my opponent. Certainly they may kill him, but at minimum you are getting a 2/2 replacement, sometimes more than one 2/2.

My biggest complaint about this version of the deck is that it does not have four Xathrid Necromancers in it. I view it as the best card by a large margin, so including less than four cannot be correct from my vantage point.

Brave the Elements

It seems logical that you don’t want many non-white creatures if your plans involve protecting them with a sweet protection spell like Brave the Elements. The problem is that I want to play more black creatures.

I tried cutting down on the numbers of this card, but it was rare that I had a board state where I wanted this effect in hand. Unless all your creatures are white, you are really not getting the most out of the card anyway. And it couldn't protect my best creature, Xathrid Necromancer.

For a brief time, I tried Gods Willing in place of Brave the Elements, but as you can imagine, that didn’t work out as well as I hoped. In the end, I decided to be brave and remove the card completely.

Spear of Heliod

Even though I like Spear, the card did not work as well with this version. Keeping the double-white cards to a minimum seemed like a good plan because of the increase in black mana and most of the time I would rather have another creature anyway.

If I change the deck further in the future, I will keep this card in mind because it does add another dimension to the deck. Especially if the next set adds any token producers, look to bring back Spear of Heliod.

Replacements

Thoughtseize

There was a gaping hole in this deck that needed to be filled by one of the most powerful cards in Standard. While Thoughtseize was in the sideboard, it seemed like a crime to not have access to such a powerful card in the maindeck. Removing Brave the Elements had also freed up some spell spots in the deck.

Upon further analysis, the two cards play similarly to each other. The difference is that Thoughtseize takes care of the problem before it is an issue, whereas Brave rots in your hand until the moment when it's useful. Thoughtseize is a powerful tool that works well in the majority of matchups.

Cartel Aristocrat

Another way to strengthen the deck versus control or random removal spells is to add a sturdy creature that is resistant to those cards. Enter Cartel Aristocrat.

In addition to staying alive, the sacrifice effect comes up more often than you would think, especially when making 2/2 zombies is an option. While not quite as good as he was in The Aristocrats, Cartel Aristocrat fills an important role in this deck and is a solid replacement for Daring Skyjek.

Tormented Hero

To be 100% honest, the best part about Tormented Hero is his creature type. The fact that he is a human matters quite a bit. Because I was adding more black cards, I was able to add more black mana so casting it is not too awkward. The pros and cons of Tormented Hero are much better suited to this deck than Dryad Militant and since I made the swap, I have not looked back.

Sin Collector/Blood Baron of Vizkopa

After freeing up some slots in the deck, I needed to fix a couple weaknesses. In a deck with this structure, I like having a bigger threat to cast if the game goes long. For this role I chose Blood Baron of Vizkopa, not only because of his protections but also because of the lifelink ability.

Ideally I would like a four-cost creature instead of five, but I like what Blood Baron brings to the table.

Sin Collector is a card that is really great in some matchups, but not all. Running two copies of Sin Collector maindeck has worked out well for me so far, but it often gets the cut after sideboard depending on the matchup. Even in matchups where it misses most of the time, nearly every deck has a couple cards you can hit and the information about their hand is valuable.

W/B Humans

Overall, I think this deck is great. It gives you the ability to beat your opponent quickly, but also has some late game potential, all while disrupting them a little along the way.

One major plus is that it has great matchups against most of the top decks. Mono-Black Devotion for example, is a great matchup because you can strip their hand and then put too many creatures on the board for them to keep up with. Any control deck is pretty good as well because of your disruption and recursive creatures.

The sideboard is in progress right now and many of the spots I am testing out to see how strong they prove to be.

Take Mogis's Marauder for example. This seems like a great tool to fight against any other aggressive or midrange deck because it gives you the ability to punch through those last points of damage. I am not sure if this deck needs that type of effect yet until I test it out more, but for the moment I like it.

Many of the cards in the sideboard are like that as well. Gift of Orzhova could be amazing against a red deck because you’ll gain a lot of life, or against a green deck to let you fly over top of their defenses, but at the same time, it’s still an aura and I think casting auras is usually a recipe for disaster.

Some cards I am considering adding are more Dark Betrayals because I think it’s the best sideboard card right now and Profit // Loss because I think it would be strong against any decks similar to this one.

This deck keeps creeping up in tournaments and I think this version is the next advancement of the strategy. Maindeck Thoughtseize is such a potent tool and it’s great in every matchup. The same can be said for Xathrid Necromancer.

In closing, I am excited about this deck for competitive play and although we are getting a new set filled with new tools soon, there is still time to make a splash with this deck.

Until Next Time,

Unleash the Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

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