I hope everyone had a good Halloween! While most of you saw Lingering Souls, Geralf's Messengers, and Sorins I was busy in Indianapolis casting otherworldly aliens that would put any monster to shame. I was casting Eldrazi! (Sorry Zendikar, but I'm all about me some Ulamogs!) The deck performed really well for me, but I made some plays that were overall wrong in hindsight. I want to talk a bit about the deck I played and the changed I would I make. Afterwards I want to discuss some of the more unique decks we saw in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Indianapolis.
Last week was the week ramp broke out and decided to combine the mono-green decklist with the R/G decklist. I liked Sylvan Scrying and I liked Nissa's Renewal, so I played both. This is the list I ran.
The split on Renewal and Sylvan Scrying came from not really knowing which one to play as a four-of but they both ended up being really good. I had some cards that didn't feel too good when I cast them and in some matchups they just sucked. These were the questionable cards.
Hangarback Walker: This card was just so odd. In some situations it was pretty good for just buying some time; in others it did nothing, especially when staring down an Anafenza or Mantis Rider. Frankly the card was only really good against the aggressive deck; basically just Atarka Red since the token decks can just go very wide against you and ignore your Hangarback. Don't get me wrong though Hangarback was pretty good at triggering Sanctum of Ugin for you. The downside to that though? It doesn't really die when it is a 4/4 and sometimes you really want it to die to get more blockers or to get some fliers to deal with a planeswalker. Really torn about this little robot. Especially since the matchup up where it can shine is still your worst matchup by far, Atarka Red.
Dragonlord Atarka: Atarka was okay overall but not sure if it's worth splashing for to be honest. You have to run more Map the Wastes to make sure you get the red source and you miss out on potentially playing some other utility lands like Mage-Ring Network.
Map the Wastes: Three mana Rampant Growth feels bad, man. Only time this card was good was when you had already cast a Hangarback Walker for one. It was a Necessary evil though, especially since we want to find that Mountain for Atarka and Seismic Rupture after boarding.
Hedron Archive: Good ramp card overall, I liked it but it's not healthy to run this when Kolaghan's Command is a thing and that card is a huge blowout since they also usually make you discard a card. From Beyond is probably the safer bet. Really just depends on the metagame since From Beyond dies to Dromoka's Command. Worth noting that late game you can just sacrifice the Hedron Archive or From Beyond in response to the Command. It's just backbreaking if they do it when you tap out for them.
While those cards were a bit shaky some others over-performed and I was impressed with them. Let's go over those cards.
Nissa's Renewal: I really disliked this card at first, but it actually just bought me so much time and allowed me to Threaten Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger the following turn. If I had Jaddi Offshoot in play, I got to buy even more time. This card also curved nicely from a Blighted Woodland if I had no more ramp spells to cast.
Sanctum of Ugin: Man, did this card over-perfom. Imagine having a land that added mana and when you didn't need it anymore it sacrificed itself to basically become a Demonic Tutor. That's what this card did: allowed me to chain Ulamogs and basically Armageddon my opponent out of the game.
Sylvan Scrying: I was too stubborn and kept comparing this card to Rampant Growth. I was just so salty that we didn't have a two-mana ramp spell in Standard. That being said this card is no Rampant Growth but it can act like one by fetching up a Shrine of the Forsaken Gods. See, Shrine of the Forsaken Gods basically is a Rampant Growth as soon as you get seven lands onto the battlefield. Scrying mid and late game would just get you the Demonic Tutor land, Sanctum of Ugin, which was completely fine most of the time.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: What can I say? If you've cast Ugin you know how powerful this card is. Well imagine casting it as early as turn five. Do you have that mental image yet? Well it should be of you signing that matchup slip 2-0 in your favor.
Bane of Bala Ged: Have you ever been to Bala Ged? Well I haven't either, because there is nothing there. Bane does so much work in the mirror match, eating lands as he pushes the opponent further and further from victory. I also bring him in against control decks, and if he sticks it's just game over.
Void Winnower: The mirror trump! They can't ramp, can't block with Ulamog, can't cast Ulamog, they just can't even. This card is also decent against Jeskai. If they don't have the Crackling Doom they will struggle to Remove it. Utter End is their other out which they can't cast. They also can't search for answers with Dig Through Time. Same thing against Abzan, they have to have Abzan Charm for it or they struggle to deal with it.
Winds of Qal Sisma: You know what's really good against Atarka Red when they go all-in on Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage? ... Yup! It's not even card disadvantage since they will lose one or two pump spells in the process. Even against token decks when they try to alpha strike you with Secure the Wastes and Gideon, Winds can save you.
Jaddi Offshoot: I was very skeptical of this card when I first started playing it. It's actually really good at buying you time. It works very well in multiples and with all the ramp spells you play, especially Nissa's Renewal. Murasa is a great place to be. Even the trees grow trees!
I was wrong about only playing three Ulamogs maindeck. I should've ran the full playset to begin with. If I had to play in a Standard tournament tomorrow this is how I would update my deck.
Not playing the full play set of Ulamogs was a mistake. Hedron Archive was not the greatest thing against Kolaghan's Command. Also drawing two cards in a deck that is mostly lands and spells that get lands isn't that great. From Beyond doesn't draw us cards but it tutors for the one we need, makes blockers, and doesn't die to Kolaghan's Command. If Atarka Red is big where you play you're going to want the Jaddi Offshoots maindeck to try and stem the bleeding. The deck is so rough for the ramp deck though, even with the trees maindeck honestly.
I really love ramping. I believe this to be the most fun deck to play in Standard at the moment. Nothing really better than casting Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in Standard.
Another deck I want briefly talk about is Chapin's Esper control deck.
Chapin's deck is proof that a control deck gets so much better once you know what the metagame is going to be like. Maindeck Surge of Righteousness and Hallowed Moonlight had to have caught many players off guard game one. Even if that card is bad in the matchup you're playing, it's only a one-of and it can just be pitched to Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. I can't imagine how powerful it is to counter your opponent's big Secure the Wastes by casting Hallowed Moonlight. Not only does it neuter the spell but you also net a card in the process. Chapin is basically operating at just instant speed. Outside of three board wipes, Ugin, and five creatures (four costing just two mana), he's operating the vast majority of the time at the opponent's end step. Notice how he is also playing the full zero copies of Ruinous Path anywhere. I firmly believe that card to not be good at all in control decks that have counter magic. It's just so awkward to tap out for a removal spell early and give your opponent free reign to do whatever they want to you. I haven't seen a control deck I've liked since Battle for Zendikar has come out until now. This is where I would start if I wanted to play a control, I'd just add a Virulent Plague or two to the board. This deck is fantastic.
One last deck I wanted to talk about was the Hardened Scales deck that David Phelp's played to a Top 8 finish.
If you listen to Freshly Brewed at all Frank and I actually discussed the Hardened Scales deck on the podcast. I was talking about how I thought the deck was pretty good but it either steamrolled your opponent or you didn't draw Hardened Scaled and became a subpar Heroic deck. I also talked about how I believed Undergrowth Champion was not good in this deck. Well David Phelps apparently felt the same way too. He ran no copies of the moldy warrior. Instead he splashed a little blue for the full playset of Stubborn Denials. This is the best way to protect yourself against Crackling Doom and board wipes since Feat of Resistance doesn't do anything against either and Valorous Stance can only help against board wipes.
Sadly we didn't get to see the full potential of this deck in the Top 8 since David Phelp's got a deck registration Error and started his match down a game. He did however qualify for the Pro Tour so hopefully he'll give us a good performance there!
This coming weekend I'll be flying to Seattle for the Grand Prix and to hang out with Frank Lepore. Come by and say hi!
For my next article I'm going to try and do a video for guys. Crossing my fingers and hoping I can get everything to work.
Until next time,
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