The decks in this thread are decks without Time Spiral (and later sets), so this thread is more of an archive of old decks. You are referred to the new Online Tech's deck-o-pedia for post-Time Spiral decks.
This thread is designed as an easy, quick-reference guide to decks from all online formats that are covered in my Online Tech column. The entries simply provide a brief overview of the deck, a sample decklist, and sometimes some extra information. These are not intended to be full, in-depth primers. They are merely used so that I can link to them in my column. The goal is to make every deck that I cover in my column into a hyperlink to the corresponding post in this thread. Doing this allows readers to view a short description of an unfamiliar deck when they read my column. Plus, anyone else can read this thread to learn more about the popular decks.
Solar Flare first became popular on Magic Online. Paul Cheon caught up and won US Nationals 2006 (late July) with the deck and truly put it on the map. On first sight, you might want to classify this deck as an average blue control deck, but it’s not. It doesn’t even play any countermagic besides the Remands! Solar Flare is more of a “hybrid good stuff” deck that just brings the highest card quality to the table. It takes the concept of card advantage to a new level, since almost every single card in the deck provides card advantage of some kind, from Wrath of God to Persecute. The game plan of Solar Flare is to keep opposing threats off the board and then drop a big win condition as quickly as possible. It can accelerate into a turn 4-5 Angel of Despair via Signets or by using the degenerate Compulsive Research plus Zombify draw. The sideboard has cards that allow you to tune the flavor of the deck to your liking: against aggressive decks, more anti-creature cards come in the form of Condemn and Descendant of Kiyomaro. Cranial Extraction and discard come in to tweak the numbers against opposing control strategies or combo decks, just as the situation calls for.
Solar Flare is pretty good against aggro decks. You can lose to a very fast draw that is followed up by a flurry of burn spells, but usually the anti-creature suite should handle it. To deal with the burn spells, you can rely on Persecute red. Against very slow mid-range creature decks that are not fast enough, Solar Flare excels. The other side of the coin is that Solar Flare has trouble against control or combo decks. You need a good draw in game 1. Game 2 becomes better when you can replace useless creature removal with discard, but you’re still not happy to face off against control or combo.
Juomaru (Thirawat Chaovarindr from Thailand) made top 8 at the MTGO World Championships qualifier and said the following: "I always play this deck online and I think it has less bad matchups than other decks. My most-feared matchup was Heartbeat, that's why I play Cranial Extraction main. GhaziGlare, Gruul beats, and Enduring Ideal is an easy matchup. I'd like to thank Frank Karsten for telling me to add Night of Soul's Betrayal to the main deck, and to Paososo99 and Papayapokpok because they shared their knowledge with me."
Hand in Hand is an aggressive deck, but not a particularly fast one. Instead of focusing on hitting a 1 drop and a 2 drop every time and winning the game as quickly as possible, this deck has more of a mid-range strategy. It simply plays the best Orzhov drops at every mana slot, from Isamaru, Hound of Konda on turn 1, to Ghost Council of Orzhova on turn 4. It also runs eight creatures with protection from black (Hand of Honor and Paladin en-Vec), which can give certain decks headaches. In fact, a Paladin en-Vec carrying an Umezawa’s Jitte is one of the hardest-to-deal-with-threats in the format. The deck doesn’t do anything exiting, but it simply has a solid game against everything and has late game staying power. This archetype can be tuned to your liking and no two Hand in Hand decks will be the same. The above list is tuned against aggro decks, as is evident from the maindeck Descendant of Kiyomaro and Shining Shoal. Burn doesn’t really worry this Hand in Hand variant. Other Hand in Hand versions can differ from the above one by playing maindeck Castigate, Azorius Guildmage instead of Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, or Phyrexian Arena against control. Besides those tweaks, there are many more valid options in black and white and you can really tune this deck into any angle you want.
Orzhov decks have been a mainstay since Guildpact hit the shelves, in many different forms. For a while, the more exotic and fancy variants were more popular, particularly Ghost Dad (featuring the interaction between Tallowisp, Thief of Hope, and Arcane/Spirit cards) or Ghost Husk (featuring the interaction between Nantuko Husk, Promise of Bunrei, and Orzhov Pontiff). All of them had something in common: they ran Godless Shrine, Ghost Council of Orzhova, Mortify, and Dark Confidant. It appears that when you start a deck with these powerful cards, you’ll end up with a good build no matter what. This deck abandons the fancy tricks and eye-catchers for solid efficient cards.
This is a land destruction deck that tries to keep the opponent low on lands, thereby keeping him from casting any spells. The ideal draw starts with Boomerang or Eye of Nowhere on turn 2 (not technically land destruction, but it definitely gets a land off the table, which is good for tempo), followed up with a Stone Rain on turn 3. On subsequent turns, some more land will likely be destroyed, perhaps some card draw to reload, and some countermagic to make sure the opponent will be able to resolve anything noteworthy. A turn 6 Wildfire clears the board, after which a Magnivore the size of a Polar Kraken – the deck plays that many sorceries - comes down to end it all. Playing first, Magivore is a monster and can simply get the “I win” draw that I just described. But even if that perfect draw doesn’t show up, Magnivore can play a good game and the high amount of card drawing will make sure the land destruction will keep on flowing.
The good news is that Magnivore has a pretty good matchup against basically any control decks with fragile mana bases. Without lands, those decks cannot cast their mana-intensive win conditions, nor can they win a counterwar. The sideboard of the above list is pretty much dedicated to beating aggro decks, since the deck has a pretty hard time doing so game 1. Magnivore has problems against quick creatures. It has a feather-light removal suite in Pyroclasm and Wildfire, which is usually not good enough. Imagine when your opponent starts off with an Isamaru, Hound of Konda plus a Hand of Honor and then you start playing a Stone Rain while he flings a Char in your face. You can imagine who wins that one. So that’s where the Volcanic Hammers, Pyroclasms, and Repeals from the sideboard are for.
This deck plays the best snake theme cards and uses them to their fullest extent. It starts with mana acceleration in the early turns with Sakura-Tribe Scout, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Coiling Oracle, all snakes of course. Then Sosuke’s Summons (which never stays in the graveyard for long, I might add) and Patagia Viper make an army of snake tokens, after which Seshiro the Anoited (sometimes fetched via Chord of Calling) or Coat of Arms come down to turn those tiny little 1-power Snakes into big threatening monsters. The deck is very synergistic and never runs out of snakes, due to the card advantage provided by Sosuke’s Summons and Ohran Viper. It also runs some permission spells to make sure the snakes are kept alive and slithering. The deck looks "just" fun and casual, but it turned out to be very, very good because it has broken draws that can’t be beat and because it rarely loses to any aggro deck. It also does very well against Wildfire decks because of Coat of Arms and the card advantage of Sosuke’s Summons. Snakes can get broken draws for sure. Snakes is also very good against Solar Flare. Right before Coldsnap became legal, Snakes saw a rise in popularity. The deck got a huge boost from arguably the best card in Coldsnap, which also happens to be a perfect fit for this deck: Ohran Viper. Ophidian had always been a format defining card and Ohran Viper is better. Much better, actually, since it’s a snake as well.
Heartbeat is the best combo deck in Standard. It uses Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama’s Reach to build up to a high land count quickly. In the meantime, it searches for combo pieces with Sensei’s Divining Top and transmute cards. The deck usually tries to go off around turn 5-6 or so, starting with a Heartbeat of Spring and then using multiple Early Harvest (and Drift of Phantasms that can magically exchange for more Early Harvests) to build up to an overflowing mana pool, ending the game with a lethal Maga, Traitor to Mortals. Weird Harvest gets the entire combo in one pinch, since Drift of Phantasms go for Early Harvest which will net you a lot of mana. A simple counterspell won’t stop the combo that easily, since this deck can fight back with Remand, Spell Snare, and Muddle the Mixture of its own.
Heartbeat combo is incredibly difficult to play optimally. It does not find success in just anyone's hands and it takes a lot of practice to play the deck well.
.Draft Paradise chimed in and told me the following: "I chose Heartbeat because it seems to be the best deck in terms of ruff power. Secondly, it has a lot of great matchups against most of the aggros which dominate the format. I was looking for UB/UWB counterbalance decks to be the most difficult matchups, fortunately, the deck seemed very little played; though I knew UG aggro would be a hard one as none of my MD or SB plans work well against it, in the end I eventually lost to it. The easiest matchup is probably GhaziGlare. I came second in the MtGO Worlds Qualifier. I felt like I did my best but I'm really disappointed losing again one step from victory. I finished 9th in GP toulouse and lost my rating-based-qualification a week ago when trying to ensure it in an PTQ here in france. Ouch! Well, congratulations to Felix for winning the whole thing which is a great accomplishment."
Thanks Jeremy. Still, second out of the thousands who've entered events to make the tourney is commendable.
AMMP chimed in and told me the following: "I chose this deck because it's the only deck in the format that can largely ignore Umezawa's Jitte. It also doesn't have any auto-loss matchups, except for Dutch Simic Aggro with Ninja of the Deep Hours, but very few play that. Solar flare, glare, snakes are among the best matchups. Demonfire is the best kill card in the deck and the random indrik stomphowler in the main is awesome too (i added it 5 mintues before start after moving my 2nd mass removal to the sb); I beat Enduring Ideal with it. Oh, I actually told wefald to play Yamabushi's Flame in his Satanic Sligh deck he won Norwegian Nationals with."
Take 21 creatures (ironically, all them 2-power), 21 lands, 18 spells (including as many as 15 straight burn spells), put them all in a stew, mesh together, cook for a while, and voila, you have made yourself a Boros Deck Wins. People will always turn up with Red decks and try and burn you out. The deck is highly aggressive and consistent, starting with a 2-power creature on turn one, then another 2-power creature on turn two, and one or two more guys on turn three. Then the Boros player tries to keep the initiative and attacks his opponent down to a low life total, clearing the path with burn spells. After the opponent is down to ten life or less this deck will just throw some burn spells in the face to end it once and for all. It is also the simplest deck; even if you play badly, you can still win with a good draw. Slow decks that take time to take control will usually die to all the highly efficient burn spells. The strength of this deck is its consistency and straight forward game plan: quick creatures and burn. The weakness of this deck is that life gain is hard to beat. It won’t beat a deck with Faith’s Fetters and Loxodon Hierarch. It also prefers to avoid Descendant of Kiyomaro, Umezawa’s Jitte, and Shining Shoal.
The goal is to assemble the Urzatron: one Urza’s Tower, one Urza’s Mine and one Urza’s Power Plant. Compulsive Research, Remand, Tidings, Repeal, and Electrolyze draw cards so that you get closer to all the Tron pieces. Once the Tron is in place, you can use all that colorless mana by playing Keiga, the Tide Star or a huge Demonfire. Keiga also survives Wildfire, which is the board sweeper of this deck. Ideally, this deck keeps one of each Tron piece along with a couple Signets after a Wildfire, while the opponent is left helpless.
The deck is an all-round good choice. There aren’t really any bad matchups but then again, the deck doesn’t have any really good matchups either.
The idea of this deck is to combine cheap threats with counters and it also has a graft theme interwoven. A typical start is turn 1 Llanowar Elves, turn 2 Plaxcaster Frogling, turn 3 Cytoplast Root-Kin. That’s two 4/4 guys on turn three and those fast openings are backed up with eight tempo counters – Mana Leak and Remand. Vinelasher Kudzu combines well with the graft guys and the deck also has a decent long game with Umezawa’s Jitte and 5-mana legends. But most of all, the deck just tries to overwhelm the opponent with fat guys as quickly as possible and holds on to the initiative via its countermagic. The Spell Snares in the sideboard give the deck the power to emerge victoriously out of counterwars. The rest of the sideboard consists of good cards against aggro in Iwamori of the Open Fist and Threads of Disloyalty, and all-round answers in Naturalize and Repeal. The Mimeofactures might appear a bit strange, but it can be used in many versatile ways, for example as removal on an Angel of Despair or an opposing Umezawa’s Jitte.
This deck is a cross-over between straight Gruul aggro and straight Simic aggro, combining the best of both worlds. The deck name comes from combining blue counters (Sea) with green creatures (Stompy). It can come out fast with the best 1-drop around, Kird Ape, or accelerate into a quick turn two Trygon Predator or Ohran Viper with Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves. Attacking with a Birds on turn 2 that transforms into a Ninja of the Deep Hours is also a nice surprise. Sea Stompy rapidly gets five power worth of creatures on the table by turn 3, after which the permission package of 4 Mana Leak and 4 Remand kicks in. They just stop the opponent's big and powerful spells until you deal the last few points of damage.
Against control decks, you can just put out one or two creatures, keep on attacking, draw cards with Ohran Viper or Ninja of the Deep Hours while you're at it, and have counter back up for Wrath of God. It’s a very easy gameplan, but it works. A weakness of the deck is the inconsistent mana base; a three color aggro deck needs a little luck to draw all the colors, although Birds of Paradise can come to the rescue.