I've been testing a lot of Standard the past few weeks. Well, the past few months really. I ended up playing Mono-White Humans at the Pro Tour, but I had been testing a BW Sacrifice deck a lot leading up to the Pro Tour and almost played it instead. So then in the Magic Online Championship Playoff last weekend I played the BW Sacrifice deck. I've since been trying various other decks including BW Humans, GW Tokens, BW Super Friends, GW Humans, BG Tokens, and finally Abzan. I'm not quite set on what deck I'll be playing at Grand Prix New York this weekend, but today I'm going to show you all seven decks I've been working on and talk about the advantages of each.
Let's start with the deck I played in the MOCS this weekend and almost played in the Pro Tour:
The original test name for this deck was "Dead Humans" and was posted to our team forum by Sam Black. I picked up the deck and tuned it a bunch, moving away from the human theme and focusing more heavily on the sacrifice theme. I then re-named the deck "W/B Fireballs" because it could Fireball the opponent out in several different ways. It then was just called "W/B Sacrifice," in contrast with our B/G Sacrifice deck that most of the team played at the Pro Tour and that Luis Scott-Vargas made Top 8 with.
W/B Sacrifice can deal a ton of damage in various ways:
In addition to these interchangeable and synergistic ways to generate large chunks of damage out of nowhere, often at instant speed, it can also just curve out normally with a ton of pressure. For instance: Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim into Nantuko Husk into Gideon, Ally of Zendikar into Archangel Avacyn or Secure the Wastes is enough pressure to force any deck onto the backfoot.
The deck can also play a mean game against controlling decks. For instance, Duress into Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim into Read the Bones into Gideon, Ally of Zendikar into holding up 5 mana for Secure the Wastes or Archangel Avacyn to flash out on the opponent's end step.
I lost in the MOCS to a pair of Collected Company decks, so maybe we need a bit more sideboard help against that card, but overall the deck offers a lot. I had Liliana, Heretical Healer in the deck for most of testing, so maybe she's worth reconsidering. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is also a card to consider. Or maybe just Hallowed Moonlight in the sideboard.
I ended up boarding out the Zulaport Cutthroat / Nantuko Husk combo in some of my matchups and so I wanted to try a more controlling version of the deck. I ended up here:
I feel like the deck is slightly too top heavy. A lot of my losses involved getting stuck on four lands with a handful of five drops. Maybe adding a 27th land is the answer, but I suspect maybe moving Ob Nixilis Reignited to the sideboard in favor of more Hangarback Walkers is probably the actual right answer. Or maybe just the third Hangarback Walker and a Westvale Abbey as the 27th land? In any case, this deck is pretty well-tuned, much like the previous deck, and it has a lot of powerful things going for it.
The removal in white and black is the best in the format. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Archangel Avacyn are two of the most impactful creatures that can be played in the midgame and can also work great in tandem since Archangel Avacyn transforming can kill all the opponent's creatures and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet not only survives, but also gives us a hoard of zombies.
W/B Midrange decks have been performing well and my version isn't far off from the stock lists, so nothing too exciting here, but I wanted to share my list as it is among my frontrunners going into this weekend. Anguished Unmaking and Ruinous Path are especially good right now since W/G Tokens, with its eight Planeswalkers, is the deck to beat, Esper Dragons is on the rise, and even Mono-White Humans has Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the sideboard.
Speaking of Humans and Gideon, the biggest two weaknesses of Mono-White Humans are Radiant Flames and Languish. The way to combat these strategies is to sideboard into more lands and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I decided to go one step further and give myself better game against this strategy pre-board. This is where I ended up:
Essentially I cut all the Savannah Lions (Expedition Envoy and Dragon Hunter) to make room for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Shambling Vents. I also cut Gryff's Boon for Duress. Duress allows us to efficiently strip the opponent's board sweeper for just one mana, which allows us to continue progressing our board in the same turn. Going up to 22 lands with the 4 Shambling Vents allows us to cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar reliably on turn four. The Shambling Vents and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar provide additional reach against a topdecked sweeper after we Duress their first one.
This deck is slightly less explosive than the Mono-White version, but it is much more resilient to the cards that are best against us (sweepers). I'm not convinced Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim belongs in this deck over, say, Consul's Lieutenant, but she has been reasonable. I'd also consider adding a few more creatures to the deck, but I'm not quite sure how to find room. Maybe only play 21 lands? Move a Declaration in Stone to the sideboard? Or perhaps just use Duress as a sideboard card and rely on Gideon and Shambling Vent to help us beat maindeck sweepers? These are all reasonable directions to go that I have not yet fully explored.
Another approach to the Human tribe I tried this week is adding green:
Cryptolith Rite and Collected Company is a potent engine in the B/G Company deck, and the Human tribe is easily the most potent creature suite as far as aggression is concerned. So the idea was to see if there is a way to borrow strengths from each archetype to form something as good or better.
The most important creature for the Cryptolith Rite + Collected Company engine is Duskwatch Recruiter, who conveniently happens to be a human (at least on the front side). Duskwatch Recruiter allows you to tap your creatures using Cryptolith Rite to find more creatures, which then tap for more mana to allow you to activate Duskwatch Recruiter more to find more creatures, ad infinitum. B/G Company doesn't really need to attack with anything other than maybe a Nantuko Husk since it just wants to find Zullaport Cutthroats to eventually drain you out. In contrast, this deck definitely wants to attack. Always Watching allows us to have our cake and eat it too, allowing creatures to simultaneously attack, block, and tap for mana.
Much like with the W/B Humans list, I feel like I'm a bit light on creatures to really get things going but I'm not exactly sure where to make cuts. Collected Company and Cryptolith Rite each want a high density of creatures, as do Duskwatch Recruiter and Thalia's Lieutenant. Maybe I can afford to cut a land and/or a Cryptolith Rite? Then again, Duskwatch Recruiter and Tireless Tracker are excellent ways to utilize excess lands, so maybe that's not the place to make cuts.
It's possible I'm just missing a key card for the deck ( Bygone Bishop?), but this deck doesn't feel particularly better than Mono-White Humans or B/G Company. It's at least competitive though, and can be super fun once things get going. I'm unlikely to play this deck at the GP this weekend, but it would probably be my frontrunner for FNM.
I've wanted to play Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar together ever since Nissa, Voice of Zendikar was first spoiled. If you don't remember the W/G Tokens article I wrote the week she was spoiled, it's worth re-reading the intro to get a sense for just how much I wanted to make this deck work. Fortunately Team Face to Face figured out the supporting cast and produced a Tier 1 deck and a Pro Tour Championship with it. My take on W/G Tokens is not much different than the stock lists floating around, and I'm sure you've already read endless articles on the subject, so I'll just say the deck is very powerful and is among my frontrunners for this weekend.
The next deck I want to talk about is a hybrid somewhere between W/G Tokens and the W/B Superfriends deck I talked about earlier.
The basis of this deck is basically to generate an advantage through either curving out or wiping the opponent's board with Languish. While these two strategies might seem a bit at odds with each other, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet pulls them each together. If it curves out into Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and the opponent somehow pulls ahead of it on board (for instance, in a Humans deck or a Collected Company deck), then it can cast Languish to wipe the entire board and leave itself with an army of Zombie Tokens. It's essentially Descend upon the Sinful for four mana if Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is on the battlefield.
The other way to make Languish good is to add a +1/+1 counter to all our creatures, including Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, which will allow it to survive Languishes. Sylvan Advocate can also survive if you have six lands, and Catacomb Sifter turns each of our fallen comrades into a scry 1 trigger.
While this deck might seem a bit wonky on paper, the lines of play it offers can be quite powerful. Deathcap Cultivator allows us cast our larger spells faster. A turn three Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet followed by turn four Ob Nixilis Reignited to kill a creature and get a zombie is hard for any opponent to come back from.
Another thing I like about this deck is the amount of card selection it has. Read the Bones can find lands or spells, Ob Nixilis Reignited draws cards, and Catacomb Sifter's scry triggers can really add up.
I'm considering Lambholt Pacifist and Tireless Tracker for this deck, but have not tested either of them yet. I'm also considering Nissa, Vastwood Seer over Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and potentially moving the Languishes to the sideboard in favor of more creatures, depending on what I expect the metagame to look like.
I've been testing everything Abzan this week, but I haven't actually gotten to the Abzan deck yet!
This deck does a lot of the things I want to do, but I haven't done much testing with it yet. I'm a little sad that the mana doesn't support Archangel Avacyn, but maybe with some tweaks it would splash black instead of white and be able to play Archangel Avacyn over Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Ob Nixilis Reignited. I'd have to move some things around though to make that happen.
So anyway, those are my seven decks that I'm deciding between for GP New York this weekend. I'll post my deck list on Twitter on Sunday, so follow me (@Nacatls4Life) if you want to know right after the tournament what I ended up playing.