8/7/2012 RC: "Zero to Sixty: How to Win in Standard"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's ReConstructed, which goes live Tuesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
It really feels like your deck needs more board sweepers than just Black Sun's Zenith. Whipflare works perfectly in this deck. You never need Arc Trail to target your oponent, since you don't want to try and race with this deck, so Whipflare being able to deal 2 damage to both creatures instead of 2 and 1, plus hitting more than just two creatures AND not having to target, so you can get rid of that pesky Geist of Saint Traft makes it a much better choice. I'd take out 2 Arc Trail for 2 Whipflare, and almost certainly find a way to squeeze in a third.
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I'm not the only one who got a little annoyed after reading
If only there was an expensive, powerful Planeswalker who fits right into a blue-black-red control deck, dealt with any permanent type, and had an ultimate that should usually win you the game on its own. It would be great if a card like that was in Standard. It would also be cool if that character was some kind of legendary, iconic creature from Magic's storyline who previously had a non-Planeswalker card version of himself...


and not seeing Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker there, am I?

I mean, I'm sure it was intentional. Well played, Gavin, and all that. But I was a little annoyed all the same.
Rules Nut Advisor
"since it's a proven fact that everything gets better when you're killing Zombies..."

Gavin, do the community team (and by extension all us MODOers) a favor, and take a leave of absence in the weeks before and during the hamtastic cup? 
Thank you, Erik.
I love the abundance of cards that are on the chopping block and like, 3 cards from M13.

How to Win in Standard: Forget about M13. Unless you play Green.
I want to be Cultured.
I'm not the only one who got a little annoyed after reading
If only there was an expensive, powerful Planeswalker who fits right into a blue-black-red control deck, dealt with any permanent type, and had an ultimate that should usually win you the game on its own. It would be great if a card like that was in Standard. It would also be cool if that character was some kind of legendary, iconic creature from Magic's storyline who previously had a non-Planeswalker card version of himself...


and not seeing Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker there, am I?

I mean, I'm sure it was intentional. Well played, Gavin, and all that. But I was a little annoyed all the same.



ditto
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Wasn't too happy with the article to be honest. This deck is so far out of reach for most players in terms of cost. I'm talkin' money. The thing is worth well over 300.00 smackers. Not the typical investment for someone who is currently losing in standard or doesn't know how to create a deck that opposes other decks in the format.


Additionally, why not just throw in some Bonfire of the Damned while you're at it? Eh... just sayin'
I think the points are all good, but I'm not sure that I like the inclusion of [C]Desperate Ravings[/C] over [C]Faithless Looting[/C].  The last thing I want is a copy of Karn ending up in the graveyard early.  One of these MTG website articles recently said that [C]Forbidden Alchemy[/C] felt wrong without some sort of reanimator effect, and I tend to agree.  If we're really trying to find a certain card, [C]Diabolic Tutor[/C] would seem to be a better fit. 


Also, I'm not sure why we would be main decking [C]Snapcaster Mage[/C] when one of the primary goals of the deck is to get out [C]Grafdigger's Cage[/C].  Neither of our critters are really that effective against Geist.  Delver these days almost always seems to plan on yanking him back on the first swing with [C]Vapor Snag[/C] or [C]Restoration Angel[/C].  I think I'd rather have removal.  Also, ETB effects are critical to all three of the archectypes we are fighting: Snapcaster in Delver, Messenger in Zombies, and all sorts of things in Pod.  I'd like to have [C]Torpor Orb[/C] in the  main deck.  THey are probably going to side in artifact hate when they see the Cage in Game One.  So, it seems that siding in will be suboptimal.  Something we could side in in Game Two that shuts down Pod and is not an artifact is [C]Encrust[/C].  This can also serve to shut down a creature threat.  The two blue mana is not ideal, admittedly.
Good article! Inspires me to brew up my own Standard deck using the steps you outline. Of course it also reminds of step zero: find a lot of cash.

But really, enjoyed the read.

I'm not the only one who got a little annoyed after reading
If only there was an expensive, powerful Planeswalker who fits right into a blue-black-red control deck, dealt with any permanent type, and had an ultimate that should usually win you the game on its own. It would be great if a card like that was in Standard. It would also be cool if that character was some kind of legendary, iconic creature from Magic's storyline who previously had a non-Planeswalker card version of himself...


and not seeing Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker there, am I?

I mean, I'm sure it was intentional. Well played, Gavin, and all that. But I was a little annoyed all the same.



Haha. It was certainly intentional.

"since it's a proven fact that everything gets better when you're killing Zombies..."

Gavin, do the community team (and by extension all us MODOers) a favor, and take a leave of absence in the weeks before and during the hamtastic cup? 



Not a chance! I want to be the first person to win on both sides of the cup!  :D


It really feels like your deck needs more board sweepers than just Black Sun's Zenith. Whipflare works perfectly in this deck. You never need Arc Trail to target your oponent, since you don't want to try and race with this deck, so Whipflare being able to deal 2 damage to both creatures instead of 2 and 1, plus hitting more than just two creatures AND not having to target, so you can get rid of that pesky Geist of Saint Traft makes it a much better choice. I'd take out 2 Arc Trail for 2 Whipflare, and almost certainly find a way to squeeze in a third.



I can agree with this. Whipflare is a strong inclusion here, and probably better than Arc Trail in many circumstances. I would try this swap.

I think the points are all good, but I'm not sure that I like the inclusion of [C]Desperate Ravings[/C] over [C]Faithless Looting[/C].  The last thing I want is a copy of Karn ending up in the graveyard early.  One of these MTG website articles recently said that [C]Forbidden Alchemy[/C] felt wrong without some sort of reanimator effect, and I tend to agree.  If we're really trying to find a certain card, [C]Demonic Tutor[/C] would seem to be a better fit. 


Also, I'm not sure why we would be main decking [C]Snapcaster Mage[/C] when one of the primary goals of the deck is to get out [C]Grafdigger's Cage[/C].  Neither of our critters are really that effective against Geist.  Delver these days almost always seems to plan on yanking him back on the first swing with [C]Vapor Snag[/C] or [C]Restoration Angel[/C].  I think I'd rather have removal.  Also, ETB effects are critical to all three of the archectypes we are fighting: Snapcaster in Delver, Messenger in Zombies, and all sorts of things in Pod.  I'd like to have [C]Torpor Orb[/C] in the  main deck.  THey are probably going to side in artifact hate when they see the Cage in Game One.  So, it seems that siding in will be suboptimal.  Something we could side in in Game Two that shuts down Pod and is not an artifact is [C]Encrust[/C].  This can also serve to shut down a creature threat.  The two blue mana is not ideal, admittedly.



While Desperate Ravings' random discard reads scary, it is usually better than Think Twice. (Which is already a good card.) If you have a bad hand Desperate Ravings can get you back in the game, and if you have a good hand, well... you probably don't need Desperate Ravings right now! Seeing two new cards is really worthwhile for two mana. As to the point of discarding Karn, you're playing enough Karns and an Elixir that accidentally discarding one isn't a big deal. 

Alchemy can dig into flashback spells and instants and sorceries for Snapcaster, plus also searches deep for anything from a crucial fourth land to Karn. I wouldn't want a ton of them, but I like having access to 2. I'd much rather have Forbidden Alchemy than something like Diabolic Tutor.

As to your point about Mage and Cage, I agree it's an awkward interaction. However, in the games in which you tutor up Cage the Cage is so crucial that the pair of dead cards is worth it. I'll happily turn my Snapcaster Mages into mere 2/1s with flash if it means disabling my opponent's entire Birthing Pod strategy or prevent him from casting Unburial Rites on anything!

While I do think Torpor Orb is reasonably positioned, doesn't it cause the same problem? Torpor Orb also turns off your own Snapcasters. Additionally, you can't Trinket Mage for it so I'm far less excited to maindeck it. The strength of the maindeck Cage is you only have to play one and then play a Trinket Mage package around it.

Hope this helps answers everyone's questions! Thanks for all the feedback so far.
Good article! Inspires me to brew up my own Standard deck using the steps you outline. Of course it also reminds of step zero: find a lot of cash.

But really, enjoyed the read.



Strago!  (Even if I like Relm and Shadow better as characters) I mean..uhm...heh...

I think I managed to circumvent step zero with my deck.  Yes it has rares, but I built it rather well without spending a whole lot.  (I think it helped that I had the dual lands from the previous cores.)  I really did not have to shell out a lot and I've been putting up consistent positive results. 

Those who fear the darkness have never seen what the light can do.

I've seen angels fall from blinding heights. But you yourself are nothing so divine. Just next in line.

191752181 wrote:
All I'm saying is, I don't really see how she goes around petrifying swords and boots and especially mirrors. How the heck does she beat a Panoptic Mirror? It makes no sense for artifacts either. Or enchantments, for that matter. "Well, you see, Jimmy cast this spell to flood the mountain, but then the gorgon just looked at the water really hard and it went away."
The more I think about it, the more dissatisfied I am with choosing Karn as a finisher for this deck. Quite simply, his ultimate doesn't win the game by itself. You only have a grand total of four threats in your deck, and all of them are 2-power creatures. While starting out with some power on the field is a good deal, that's not very much unless you get all four under Karn. You're going to be counting on exiling your opponent's threats to be able to win the restarted game, and you don't have the capacity to win much of anything without restarting. I don't know that I like counting on my opponent for my wincon.

I'm also a bit concerned about keeping Karn on the field long enough to exile sufficient threats and restart the game, even assuming your opponent has threats to exile. Admittedly, none of the decks you're trying to beat seem to play Oblivion Ring or Beast Within, even in the side, but if they do answer Karn before you get restarted, you're flat out of luck.
Rules Nut Advisor

Can Gavin or someone please explain the singleton Chimeric Mass in the sideboard? I understand that you can fetch it with the trinket mage but what is it good for? Just blocking? What deck do you use it against and how?


Thanks!  

The more I think about it, the more dissatisfied I am with choosing Karn as a finisher for this deck. Quite simply, his ultimate doesn't win the game by itself. You only have a grand total of four threats in your deck, and all of them are 2-power creatures. While starting out with some power on the field is a good deal, that's not very much unless you get all four under Karn. You're going to be counting on exiling your opponent's threats to be able to win the restarted game, and you don't have the capacity to win much of anything without restarting. I don't know that I like counting on my opponent for my wincon.

I'm also a bit concerned about keeping Karn on the field long enough to exile sufficient threats and restart the game, even assuming your opponent has threats to exile. Admittedly, none of the decks you're trying to beat seem to play Oblivion Ring or Beast Within, even in the side, but if they do answer Karn before you get restarted, you're flat out of luck.

I'm thinking that I'll try substituting Nicol Bolas for one of the three Karns, not least because I happen to have two of each. However, you're already in the colors and it creates an alternative win condition.  My observation has been that one Planeswalker that doesn't provide offense won't win the game too often, but two is almost a sure thing.  Just before M13 released, I tried running a very similar Grixis deck with multiple Karns that had been suggested in an article on Star City Games just after the Avacyn Restored release.  As I recall, I ended up cutting down to one Karn and adding an extra Liliana of the Veil (the deck already had one) because I needed a presence early on to deal with Geist.  It was moderately good then, but ultimately I decided to give up on control until after M13.    Seeing as there are no M13 cards in the main deck and the format has gotten even more aggressive, I don't expect much difference.  I do like the Thundermaw Hellkites and Phantasmal Images waiting in the wings when your opponent sides out most of their removal.  I'm probably not going to shell out for three more Hellkites in addition to the one I opened for an experimental sideboard though.  If I were, I might want to run a creatureless main deck just so they aren't tempted to leave a little in.
. . . Additionally, why not just throw in some Bonfire of the Damned while you're at it? Eh... just sayin'

Now that I think of it, this does seem like a strange absence. The Chimeric Mass in the sideboard has me puzzled as well. 'Splain it to us, Gavin!

I admit - I too expected to see Nicol Bolas rather than Karn.
But you know what, why not Nicol Bolas?

You've got some mana ramping. You're in the right colours. And quite frankly, Nicol Bolas just seems better to me than Karn.
I'd much rather mind control a creature than exile it. (which also means Nicol Bolas also has an easier time protecting himself)
I'd much rather destroy a Birthing Pod and actually -add- counters to my planeswalker.
And Nicol's ultimate is always good, whereas Karn's can easily be quite underwhelming.
On Karn Vs. Bolas:

I agree that Bolas is frequently the more powerful card on the table. However, the one mana is a very operable difference when you're trying to stabilize and usually they are of similar power levels. Often the creature you want to steal is tapped, meaning it doesn't even buy you the blocker you think it might. Overall,  I would rather play the cheaper card.

I disagree that Karn's ultimate won't win you the game. Even in a deck like this with so few creatures, you can swipe plenty good cards out of your opponent's grip/board - or even eventually exile a Karn to your Karn.

With all that said, I think Xylovenious may be heading in the right direction with a 2 Karn/1 Bolas split. Being able to present two planeswalkers as a threat is powerful, and I'm all for versatility. 

. . . Additionally, why not just throw in some Bonfire of the Damned while you're at it? Eh... just sayin'

Now that I think of it, this does seem like a strange absence. The Chimeric Mass in the sideboard has me puzzled as well. 'Splain it to us, Gavin!




No problem! The Chimeric Mass is a Trinket Mage target for matchups that will go long, like control or some midrange decks. For the low cost of one sideboard slot, it increases your threat density and draws in a long game. In control mirrors, a creature that can't be Day of Judgmented or Go For the Throated can be a complete game changer.

There aren't any Bonfires because, in a deck that doesn't care about the damage to the opponent very much, I would much rather just be using Black Sun's Zenith or Whipflare to control the board early. If the game goes long enough to make Bonfire's damage relevant, I should have massive inevitability on my side anyway. The one situation where Bonfire is nice is when you have to fight through opposing planeswalkers, but that extra utility in the long game does not interest me more than the consistant versatility of something like Black Sun's Zenith.

 Hope this helped answer your questions!
I liked your step by step breakdown of how to attack the three top decks.  I'll be giving this deck a try.
Karn's ultimate will definitely win you the game more often than not. I just don't like that it can't win you the game on its own. All the decks to beat have plenty of threats for you to exile, but against a goldfish, or a burn deck, or a mill deck, or much of anything creatureless, your game 1 is going to be a long slog. The singleton Bolas would go a long way to fix that vulnerability.
Rules Nut Advisor
Hmm, is it only me or is the decklist towards the end of the article not visible...
IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/25ceed5d20286936a2014d5e9a9026d2.jpg?v=90000)
Hmm, is it only me or is the decklist towards the end of the article not visible...


I can see it, but it is hidden underneath the same hidden thing as the Karn reveal.
Rules Nut Advisor
I really liked this article, I just have a small quibble (not so much with Gavin, but just magic in general).

When you were talking about all the things you needed: spot-removal, card-advantage, a controlling deck, you automatically went to blue. You have no bounce, no counterspells, and very little card-drawing in the deck. Yet because blue has this stranglehold over both the most efficient forms of card advantage and is considered 'the control color', you add blue. Specifically:

"Against Birthing Pod decks, a control deck absolutely needs a way to shut down Birthing Pod. It looks like I'm going to be going blue-black-red—also known as Grixis—since I'm going to need blue's card advantage and selection to keep up as the game goes on. The card I want to play isGrafdigger's Cage—and since I'm blue, I can also play Trinket Mage to go find it! This allows me to fit in a small Trinket Mage package for the Pod decks. While Grafdigger's Cage does hurt things this deck is doing, it fights the Birthing Pod decks enough that it's worth the tradeoff." 

Birthing pod is an ARTIFACT! You already are playing red. Doesnt red have good answers to artifacts? And as far as card advantage, why do red and black generate so little card-advantage that a control shell with those 2 colors MUST add blue? I'm asking not so much as to critique your particular deckbuilding exercise here, but more to bemoan the color wheel and general card balance in Magic cards for most of its history as a game.

I mean it's pretty "unthinkable" to try and build this deck without blue,  I can see that. It would be a gimped version of what you built. But that is SAD. Black and red have the most efficient spot removal of all the colors of magic. Yet you can't reliably play them together without blue to generate card-advantage (or you can, but you in the back of your head realize the deck would just be better with some blue).

You can play a black-red aggro deck! You wouldn't feel the need to add white to generate weenie advantage, though white is supposedly the weenie color. I mean, it felt absurd to write that. I guess I'm just frustrated with the philosophy that competitive magic must have blue in it. The only time I can think of in recent memory where it wasn't involved Jund, a deck that was inherently luck-based and required less skill to pilot, and the small window when Zendikar was released before Jace rose to power.

The other colors need to have their paths to controlling decks too! Blue can obviously beat down but is REQUIRED to make a control deck. Ie- blue can do everything. Even in a deck like yours, designed without counters or bouncing, the hallmark of blue spells, you still "need" it for card-advantage sources like Snapcaster or Forbidden Alchemy (The trinket mages are cute, but you only have 3 cards to search for and 2 of them do basically the same thing, you could just play 2 cages and 2 Nihil Spellbombs, though you'd be missing out on the virtual CA of having a 2/2 body and lose access to finding Elixir).

Does stuff like this get talked about? I know we're heading into Ravnica and the other colors and guilds will make a big multicolored mess and I can't expect to not see blue being played because every color will get some play, but honestly why is this reliance on blue being the best at card-advantage still around? Flavor? History? Players quit when its not this way? /rant
I'm not sure how well it would do, but you could run:
-2 Snapcaster
-2 Trinket mage
-4 desperate ravings
-2 forbidden alchemy

+2 Grafdigger's Cage
+1 Nihil Spellbomb
+4 Phyrexian Rager
+3 Sign in Blood

This allows you to fix your manabase accordingly.