Wingmate Roc is the best card in Standard.
There, I said it.
It's an evasive win condition that kills by itself in just a few turns; it evades past all the green ground blockers including Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix; it efficiently kills pretty much any planeswalker in the format; it gains life to get you out of burn range and to win races; and it does all this while matching up well against most of the popular removal spells in the format.
So with all these great advantages going for it, why doesn't every deck play four?
Well, the most pressing reason I have found is: you must be able to reliably trigger raid.
On the surface this might not seem very difficult. I mean, pretty much every deck runs creatures that can attack, right? Well, yes, but this high amount of creatures everyone is running has also resulted in nearly every deck running a ton of removal spells as well. And when we're talking about having to chump attack your Courser of Kruphix into an opposing Siege Rhino just to trigger raid for your Wingmate Roc, suddenly the drawback becomes a real cost.
This led me to the following question: What deck can most reliably and effectively trigger raid while also being able to fully take advantage of the Wingmate Roc's advantages?
After exploring several different options, my conclusion was that Boros Tokens was the best home for Wingmate Roc. Here's why:
- Boros Tokens applies enough early pressure to make Wingmate Roc a card that can finish an opponent in one or two hits, especially when combined with the burn spells in the deck.- Boros Tokens has lots of expendable creatures, most notably Goblin Tokens from Hordeling Outburst and Goblin Rabblemaster, so triggering raid is not hard for this deck.- Boros Tokens has a difficult time with planeswalkers and with fighting through a board stalled by green creatures. Wingmate Roc provides the size and evasion to solve both these problems.- Boros Tokens already has a ton of cards that are well-positioned for the metagame right now, so once Wingmate Roc is added, the deck is arguably better-positioned than any other deck!
My metagame call earned me a thousand dollars by going 10-4 and finishing Top 16 at the TCG50K MaxPoint Championship this weekend. The maindeck was great, but the sideboard needed some tuning. Here is the list I ran:
These were my results by matchup:
Temur Midrange 2-0RG Midrange 2-1Abzan Constellation 1-0Abzan Midrange 1-1Heroic Red 1-0Jeskai Tempo 1-0Jeskai Ascendancy Combo 0-1Jeskai Ascendancy Tokens 0-1
So I played against eight green midrange decks in the tournament and went 6-2 against them. One Abzan player drew Siege Rhino on the very last turn to kill me and another player on RG drew several five-mana threats in a row to come back and win a game that I had been pretty far ahead in. I won some close matches as well though, so 75% against green midrange decks is probably about what I would expect from Boros Tokens.
In addition to the eight green midrange decks, I played a close match against Heroic Red where my poorly constructed sideboard made the match much closer than it should have been. Nevertheless I still won. I also played against a Jeskai Tempo deck where his draws were pretty poor, but I've tested this matchup a lot and it is in fact one of our best matchups. Their removal matches up very poorly against Hordeling Outburst, our removal matches up well against their threats, and if they ever tap out to deal with our board advantage, we can punish them with Wingmate Roc. It's probably our best matchup amongst the top tier decks.
So we're 6-2 against various green midrange decks and 2-0 against burn-based aggro decks. This brings us to our worst matchup: Jeskai Ascendancy, where we lost handily to both versions.
First I played against Mark-Antony Byrd's version (found here) and he had an early Sylvan Caryatid both games and was able to find all his combo pieces quickly enough to steamroll me. For style points, he also managed to blow me out with AEtherspouts in game 2, which was essentially Wrath of God splicing Time Walk. I only had two copies of Erase in my sideboard, which was clearly not enough. If he doesn't find Caryatid early, I think we're at a significant advantage since we can easily kill anything else he plays. The Caryatid, however, is a big problem for us since (unlike Mardu) we don't have Crackling Doom to answer it. If I were to splash black in this deck, it would mostly be for Crackling Doom. I'd like to try four Erase first though because adding the third color might not be necessary to fix this matchup.-->
The other version of Jeskai Ascendancy I played against was Jeskai Tokens with a similar combo-kill built in. It's less all-in than Byrd's version since it can just cast Raise the Alarm and Hordeling Outburst and then use Jeskai Ascendancy as a pseudo Collective Blessing and also a way to continue drawing action and outlast the opponent. His combo is Springleaf Drum + Retraction Helix. As long as he has at least two creatures on the battlefield he can use Jeskai Ascendancy to make them each infinitely large while also cycling through his entire deck [cast Retraction Helix on creature A, then tap creature B with Springleaf Drum to add 1 mana. Tap creature A to bounce Springleaf Drum to hand. Use the 1 mana floating to recast Springleaf Drum, untapping both your creatures (and giving them +1/+1 and getting a free loot). Repeat indefinitely]. He also ran Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise, which meant he not only had a combo kill to worry about but he also had late game inevitability. So my best plan was to kill him quickly, at which I failed miserably. The extra copies of Erase would be helpful here, but this may still be a bad matchup because of the blue card draw. I'm ok with that though since this version of Jeskai Ascendancy is practically non-existent in the metagame and not really something that needs to be prepared for (yet, at least). The Sylvan Caryatid version, however, is a solid Tier 2 deck that I would expect to face at least once over the course of a tournament.
[Side note: The pilot failed to make Top 32, so his list from the event is not published, and I cannot find a single list anywhere on the Internet. Anyone who can find one please post it in the comments section of this article. He said he got the list from his friend who played it at the Pro Tour, but it's not listed in the decks from the Pro Tour coverage either. It contains Retraction Helix, Springleaf Drum, Raise the Alarm, Hordeling Outburst, Jeskai Ascendancy, Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, Stoke the Flames, Lightning Strike, Brimaz (post-board), and I don't remember what else. It was straight three-colors.]
Given how the tournament played out, let's take a closer look at my sideboard from the event:
1 Arc Lightning1 Banishing Light1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos2 Chandra, Pyromaster1 Deflecting Palm1 Devouring Light2 Erase1 Glare of Heresy2 Magma Jet1 Purphoros, God of the Forge1 Searing Blood1 Suspension Field
I wanted to have a variety of removal spells in the sideboard because I would usually only want to bring in a handful in each matchup and many of them would just be upgrades. For instance, I would board out Magma Jet for Banishing Light and Suspension Field against decks with bigger creatures. And going the other direction, I would board out Stoke the Flames in favor of Searing Blood, Arc Lightning, and more Magma Jets against decks with smaller creatures. The plan was for the most part decent, but I'm convinced there are some better sideboard plans for the deck.
Starting with the top decks, Mardu is on the rise in a big way. It was the third or fourth most popular deck at the TCGplayer State Championships in week one and two. Then it was moderately represented at the Pro Tour in week three. Then Brad Nelson and Valentin Mackl did well with it in week four at GPLA. Now this past weekend it was all over the place and dominated the TCG50K. It seems to be going the opposite direction that Jeskai Tempo is going and for next week I would say that Abzan Midrange and Mardu Midrange are the two decks to beat, despite Jeskai Tempo winning GP Stockholm in Europe. As far as Boros Tokens is concerned, Jeskai is going to be a great matchup no matter what, so we don't need to devote a whole lot of sideboard space for that matchup regardless of how much or how little it is represented.
UB Control has been a pretty consistent Tier 2 deck ever since the Pro Tour. UW Control won the SCG Standard Open this weekend so it's possible that deck starts moving up the metagame ladder. My sideboard plan against the control decks was to board out Chained to the Rocks in favor of Purphoros, God of the Forge, Chandra, Pyromaster, and either the third Magma Jet or Brimaz, King of Oreskos. While Purphoros is good, I don't think he is worth the sideboard spot. More testing is in order before knowing for sure though.
The one card in my sideboard that I never brought in was Deflecting Palm. It is great in the Jeskai Tempo deck because that deck is basically a burn deck with some creatures. In contrast, our deck is a board presence deck with some burn spells. Hence Deflecting Palm is worse than a removal spell in nearly every matchup. After the first couple rounds I realized this and just accepted that I essentially had a 14 card sideboard, instead of trying to board it in and force a suboptimal strategy to work. So Deflecting Palm is the easiest cut from the sideboard.
Our toughest matchup is Jeskai Ascendancy, so the first thing I want is four copies of Erase. I haven't tested the matchup enough to know if four Erase is sufficient, but if it's not then the other option is Phyrexian Revoker (naming Sylvan Caryatid). I'm skeptical about that plan though since they usually have access to Magma Spray and/or Lightning Strike. The more likely solution is to just ignore the matchup and hope to dodge it or add black for Crackling Doom. If I do this, I would also replace Eidolon of Countless Battles with Sorin, Solemn Visitor. And if that's still not enough, we can also run Stain the Mind in the sideboard, which happens to also be very good against UB Control (naming their win condition, whether it is the Pearl Lake Ancient version or the Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver version). And my mana base would look like this:
4 Battlefield Forge2 Mana Confluence5 Mountain4 Temple of Triumph4 Caves of Koilos4 Bloodstained Mire1 Swamp
It's also possible that Nomad Outpost is worthwhile, but that would mean giving up untapped lands (pain lands) or scry lands ( Temple of Triumph), and I don't like either of those options. Hopefully it doesn't come to this though. My fingers are crossed that four Erase is sufficient. Any other suggestions to improve the Ascendancy Combo matchup are welcome.
The other two matchups that are closer than I want them to be are Abzan Midrange and Mardu Midrange.
Mardu basically has the same general game plan that we do, so it's a pseudo mirror. They have Seeker of the Way, Butcher of the Horde, and Sorin, Solemn Visitor as their primary win conditions. Some versions also have Elspeth, Sun's Champion and some have Wingmate Roc. Mardu has a worse control matchup than we do since they have fewer burn spells, but head-to-head it is pretty even. The card I want most against them is Glare of Heresy. It kills pretty much any creature or planeswalker that we care to kill, and it does so at an efficient cost of just two mana. Combining Chained to the Rocks with Glare of Heresy gives us several cheap and efficient answers to most of their potent threats. If they run Hordeling Outburst, I would also want to bring in Arc Lightning.
Abzan is another close matchup but fortunately it has the same weakness: Glare of Heresy. Glare kills their Siege Rhino, Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and Wingmate Roc. It even kills Fleecemane Lion if they run those. The only thing it doesn't kill is Courser of Kruphix, but that's fine since Courser is only effective if they're blocking with it. And if they block with it, we can kill it with Lightning Strike. Besides, we still have four Stoke the Flames that kill it outright.
So given the potency of Glare of Heresy against the two top decks in the field, I would want at least three copies in my sideboard. I'd have to test the fourth to see how many times I get flooded with too many of them, which I can envision maybe being a thing if I ran all four copies. What I like most about Glare is that they cannot blow us out with Erase, Unravel the AEther, or Utter End like they can when blowing up a Chained to the Rocks, Suspension Field, or Banishing Light. This happened to me in the tournament and they got their Siege Rhino back at an opportune time (mid-combat), drained me again for three, killed my best attacker, and then attacked me the following turn. It was not a pleasant experience.
Room permitting, I would also like a pair of Magma Sprays against the red aggro and black aggro decks and against Elvish Mystic / Rattleclaw Mystic / Voyaging Satyr decks when I'm on the draw.
So here is the sideboard I would recommend:
4 Erase3 Glare of Heresy2 Arc Lightning1 Magma Jet2 Magma Spray1 Chandra, Pyromaster1 Banishing Light1 Suspension Field
I need to test the green devotion matchup more as well as the Sidisi matchup. It's possible that End Hostilities is better than Banishing Light and Suspension Field for those matchups. If it is, then I would recommend making that swap.
Chandra, Pyromaster is great against Abzan decks and any other deck that boards in extra removal spells against us. It's our card draw engine on an empty board, a way to slowly kill off small creatures, or a way to keep a large creature from being able to block for the turn. It also adds a point of damage to our other burn spells, allowing Stoke the Flames to kill a Siege Rhino and Lightning Strike to kill Courser of Kruphix. I've been happy with having 3-4 copies against Abzan and I would not want less than three in my 75.
Arc Lightning is great against weenie decks, green mana production decks, and also against Hordeling Outburst and Goblin Rabblemaster. Two copies feel like the right number. I like the 2-2 split between Arc Lightning and Magma Spray.
I would also like to fit in the fourth Magma Jet as that card is very powerful against aggro decks and control decks, furthering our game plan while making our draws more consistent. I would not cut a Magma Spray for it though since that is much more important at doing what it does (negating the opponent's premium turn one plays in several matchups while still being effective later in the game).
So here are the things that need to be tested with this deck:
1. Post-board games against Jeskai Ascendancy Combo (Caryatid version) where we have four Erase. If it's enough to swing the matchup, great! But if not, then we need to try adding black for Crackling Doom (and potentially Stain the Mind) and then re-test all the other matchups to see how the addition of a third color changes them.2. Post-board games with four copies of Glare of Heresy against Abzan Midrange and Mardu Midrange to see if it's too many. If four is not too many and we are winning all the games where we have extra copies stranded in hand, then I would run all four copies to maximize our win percentage against them. If we lose games with extras in hand, then four is too many.3. Post-board games against Green Devotion and against the Sidisi Midrange decks that did well at GP Stockholm to find out what the best sideboard card is for those matchups. Is it End Hostilities? Is it Banishing Light? Is it Suspension Field? Which cards are most problematic? Hornet Queen? Polukranos, World-Eater? Whip of Erebos? Doomwake Giant? Nylea's Disciple?4. Post-board games against UB Control and UW Control to find out what our best sideboard cards are for that matchup and how much they would improve the matchup. For instance, is Purphoros or Chandra so good that it's worth a couple more sideboard slots? Is the black splash for Stain the Mind a huge bonus for this matchup (at least the UB Control one)?
Our matchup is good against Jeskai Tempo and the aggro decks and I also like our matchup against Temur and RG Midrange, despite losing once to it in the tournament. We were still 80% combined in the five matches played, which is about as good as you can expect in any matchup.
I'm optimistic about this deck and I think it is especially well-positioned right now. I outlined exactly what testing needs to happen to fine-tune the deck to perfection, though I will unfortunately not be able to get around to it until next week since I'll be in Nashville for the Halloween Weekend Team GP where my teammates (Alex Hayne and Frank Skarren) and I hope to be treated to a pair of strong sealed pools and to not be tricked into building them wrong. If you want to help out by doing some of the outlined testing for me and reporting what you find, that would be very helpful! Also just battling with my recommended 75 (with the fixed sideboard) in your local FNM or wherever and telling me how things go would be helpful. I'd love to win GP San Antonio with this deck next month!
Craig Wescoe@Nacatls4Life on twitter