A Shift in Standard

Posted in Building on a Budget on July 27, 2011

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

I went hunting for new ideas at a Pro Tour Qualifier this last weekend. I was happy to see that Standard has become a significantly more diverse and fun format in the past few weeks. I saw a number of Birthing Pod variants, a Glissa deck, and a brand new deck from the talented up-and-comer Jonathan Sukenik.

Many know Jonathan as Watchwolf on Magic Online. He's known for playing very original brews in all formats with a great deal of success. This past weekend, Jonathan was playing something that no one expected.

Gravitational Shift is a card that was a lot of fun to build your Limited deck around, but I doubt anyone ever thought it would find its way into a competitive deck. I became even more excited, though, when I learned that Jonathan made the top four of the (roughly) 180-player event.

Gravitational Shift

Jonathan's exact list is still a mystery to me, but I'd like to try to build a deck that abuses the overlooked rare enchantment from Rise of the Eldrazi. A lot of players have asked me to make the decks more budget-friendly than they have been recently, so I'm going to try to keep this deck under the 40-ticket mark on Magic Online.

Gravitational Shift has many applications in the current Standard format. The first thing you'll notice is that it beats the Vampire deck outright. Once you've landed the enchantment, they can only beat you by using Viscera Seer in conjunction with Kalastria Highborn. Gravitational Shift also interacts very well against Splinter Twin combo decks. It's fine if your opponent makes a million -1/4s. Against most other decks it completely neuters their offense while massively buffing your own.

Watchwolf chose the blue black route. He had cards like Abyssal Persecutor and Vampire Nighthawk in his deck. I decided to stick with the blue-black route and make a more budget version of Jon's deck.

Black has some nice flyers and it provides excellent spot removal and discard spells. Vampire Nighthawk is probably my favorite of the bunch. It does exactly what you need your cards to do. It's excellent against aggressive decks, and it provides a great threat against the more controlling strategies of the metagame.

Vampire Nighthawk

Liliana's Specter is another fine inclusion for a deck like this. It combos nicely with our Gravitational Shift and it helps with the card advantage war. This is another card that's very strong that hasn't had a chance to shine since it was printed in Magic 2011.

Liliana's Specter

I noticed a lot of Titans and Swords of Feast and Famine when I was walking around the PTQ. This made me feel that Tumble Magnet may be a good card again. It works very well against the two most popular win conditions of the format. Remember to save a spot removal spell for Spellskite in the sideboard, though, as Tumble Magnet looks pretty miserable when it's staring at a Spellskite.

Tumble Magnet

I'm already playing Tumble Magnet, and I wanted to play Everflowing Chalice to help ramp myself into the top end of my deck. This seems like an excellent opportunity to cast some Thrummingbirds. Thrummingbird is a pretty reasonable clock when combined with Gravitational Shift. The fact that Thrummingbird charges up the Tumble Magnets and Everflowing Chalices on top of that is pretty huge.

Everflowing Chalice

I wanted some really juicy win condition that worked especially well with Gravitational Shift. Thopter Assembly with Gravitational Shift is about as fun as things get. You'll have 15 points of power spread over five fliers if your opponent doesn't have a removal spell for your Thopter Assembly immediately. Originally, I had four copies of this in the list, but I decided that I wanted to cut a copy and play a singleton Blue Sun's Zenith. The Zenith lets me get full value out of my Chalices, and it lets me find enough gas to close otherwise unwinnable games.

Thopter Assembly
Blue Sun's Zenith

Doom Blade seems better than Go for the Throat in this deck. I want to make sure I can kill any Spellskites that may render my Tumble Magnets useless. I'll still have countermagic for things like Grave Titan, and I'll have some other cheap spot removal in my sideboard for the Vampire match-up.

Doom Blade

Mana Leak is the best counterspell in Standard. It's a common and shouldn't be difficult to acquire. I'm going to happily play four of this card.

I like playing singleton copies of Into the Roil. Sometimes there's something on the battlefield that just needs to go. Having a single copy of Into the Roil in the deck makes you draw live in the most dire of board positions.

Once I stitch all the pieces together it looks something like this.

Blue-Black Gravitational Shift

I want to play some extra cheap spot removal in my sideboard to help against decks like Red and Tempered Steel. Disfigure is my favorite of the bunch. We'll also want some Dismembers for fighting against Splinter Twin decks. The rest of the sideboard will be made up of targeted discard spells. Here's the sideboard I've decided on:

4 Disfigure
3 Dismember
4 Duress
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Into the Roil

I decided to play a few games with the deck to see how it fared against what players at my local shop were playing.

I lost the roll and kept Jwar Isle Refuge, 2 Swamp, Thrummingbird, Everflowing Chalice, Tumble Magnet, and Doom Blade. My opponent played a Celestial Colonnade and passed the turn. I drew Thopter Assembly, played my Jwar Isle Refuge and passed the turn back. My opponent played an Island, cast Spellskite, and passed the turn. I drew an Island, played my Swamp, cast Thrummingbird, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Sword of Feast and Famine and passed back. I drew a Vampire Nighthawk, cast Everflowing Chalice for one, attacked with my Thrummingbird, tapped the Chalice for two mana thanks to the Bird's trigger, played my Swamp, and tapped it to cast Tumble Magnet. My opponent cast a Preordain, cast a Squadron Hawk, searched up some copies, played a fourth land, and passed the turn. I attempted to tap the Squadron Hawk on my opponent's end step, but he paid 2 life to redirect it to Spellskite. I drew another Island, cast Thopter Assembly, and passed the turn. My opponent played a fifth land and cast Gideon Jura, activated Gideon's +2, and passed the turn back.

I made my 1/1s, drew another Tumble Magnet, and attacked with Thrummingbird, which traded with a Squadron Hawk. I then cast the second Tumble Magnet and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Day of Judgment and made his Gideon a 6/6, but I tapped it. He then cast another Squadron Hawk and equipped Sword of Feast and Famine. I drew an Island, cast Thopter Assembly, and passed the turn. My opponent cast Jace Beleren, gave him -1 to draw a card, cast Dismember on my Thopter Assembly, and attempted to enter combat after animating his Gideon. I tapped the Hawk and let myself eat 6 damage. I drew a Jwar Isle Refuge, cast Vampire Nighthawk, and passed the turn. My opponent gave Gideon +2 and attempted to enter combat with the Hawk again. I tapped it. He cast another Sword of Feast and Famine, cast another Squadron Hawk, equipped that Squadron Hawk, and passed the turn. I drew a Gravitational Shift and tried to think of a way to win the game. It seemed impossible even if I drew perfectly and my opponent drew nothing, so I conceded.

Sideboarding: -3 Gravitational Shift, -4 Liliana's Specter, -1 Thrummingbird, +4 Duress, +2 Inquisition of Kozilek, +2 Into the Roil.

I kept Island, 2 Swamp, Duress, Vampire Nighthawk, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Thopter Assembly. I played a Swamp, cast Inquisition of Kozilek, and caught my opponent with a hand of Jace Beleren, Spellskite, Spell Pierce, and four lands, including a Celestial Colonnade. I figured that I could resolve my Duress on turn two and take the Jace, so I decided to take the Spellskite while I had the chance. My opponent played a Celestial Colonnade and passed the turn. I drew a Jwar Isle Refuge, cast Duress, and saw the same hand as before plus a Sword of Feast and Famine. I took the Sword of Feast and Famine, played my Jwar Isle Refuge, and passed the turn. My opponent drew and cast Squadron Hawk, which seemed pretty unlucky for me.

I drew a Doom Blade, played my land, cast Vampire Nighthawk, and passed the turn. My opponent cast Jace Beleren, gave him -1, and passed the turn. I drew a Swamp and attacked Jace, but my opponent chump-blocked. I cast Everflowing Chalice for two and passed the turn. My opponent gave Jace -1 again, played a fourth land, cast two Squadron Hawks, and passed the turn. I cast Thopter Assembly and attacked Jace. My opponent chose not to block, so I took out Jace and then passed the turn. My opponent cast Diving Offering on the Thopter Assembly, cast another Sword of Feast and Famine, attacked me down to 24, and passed the turn. I drew a Swamp, played it, and passed the turn after attacking with Vampire Nighthawk. My opponent equipped a Squadron Hawk with Sword of Feast and Famine, and I responded by casting Doom Blade. My opponent equipped it to the other Squadron Hawk and attacked. I discarded, and he untapped all his lands, then cast Gideon Jura and gave him -2 to kill my Vampire Nighthawk. I drew an Island and conceded to the interaction my opponent had on the table.

The Caw-Blade matchup is very bad for this deck. I thought the Tumble Magnets would be good, but because of Spellskite they're actually just awkward.

I won the roll, mulliganed, and kept Island, 2 Swamp, Thrummingbird, Liliana's Specter, and Gravitational Shift. I played my Swamp and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Vampire Lacerator and passed the turn back. I drew an Everflowing Chalice, cast Thrummingbird, and passed the turn. My opponent went to 19, attacked for 2, cast Bloodghast, and passed the turn. I drew an Island, played my Swamp, attacked for 1, and cast Liliana's Specter, and my opponent discarded a Pulse Tracker. My opponent went to 17, and attacked for 4, but I traded my Specter for the Lacerator. My opponent cast a Kalastria Highborn, played a Mountain, and passed the turn. I drew a Blue Sun's Zenith, played my Island, used both Islands to cast an Everflowing Chalice for one, and attacked with my Thrummingbird. My opponent decided to Lightning Bolt the Thrummingbird, so I cast Vampire Nighthawk, and passed the turn. My opponent cast another Kalastria Highborn and passed back. I cast Gravitational Shift, attacked for 4 lifelinking damage, and passed the turn back to my opponent, whose creatures all suddenly had 0 power. My opponent thought for a bit and decided to scoop up his cards.

Sideboarding: -4 Doom Blade, -4 Mana Leak, +4 Disfigure, +2 Into the Roil, +2 Dismember

I kept 2 Swamp, Jwar Isle Refuge, Disfigure, 2 Vampire Nighthawk, Thopter Assembly. My opponent cast a Viscera Seer and passed the turn. I drew an Into the Roil, played Jwar Isle Refuge, and passed the turn. My opponent attacked me down to 20 and cast a Kalastria Highborn. I drew another Jwar Isle Refuge, played it, cast Disfigure on the Kalastria Highborn, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Vampire Lacerator and a Bloodghast, attacked me down to 20 again, and passed the turn. I drew Gravitational Shift, played my Swamp, cast Vampire Nighthawk, and passed the turn. My opponent, still with no red mana, was forced to pass the turn. I drew Into the Roil, attacked for 2, and went to 22. I cast another Vampire Nighthawk, played my land, and passed the turn. My opponent drew and passed again. I drew an Island, cast Gravitational Shift, and attacked for 8 lifelinking damage, putting me at 30 and putting my opponent on a one-turn clock. My opponent drew for his turn and conceded.

The deck fared much better against a deck that really folds to the Gravitational Shift. This deck doesn't feel great to me, but it utilizes an underplayed enchantment that a lot of readers have asked me to build around. This deck is very easy to put together, and it has what it takes to beat some of the mainstream strategies in Standard.

As always, be sure to hit the forums if you have any questions or comments.

Happy brewing!

Latest Building on a Budget Articles

Daily MTG

June 27, 2012

War Falcon by, Jacob Van Lunen

The Magic 2013 core set is going to be on the shelves of your local game shop in less than three weeks. Many powerful cards have already been announced. I can't begin to explain how excit...

Learn More

Building on a Budget

June 20, 2012

Solving the Control Conundrum by, Jacob Van Lunen

ello and welcome back to another edition of Building on a Budget. I've been working on a new deck for Standard over the past two weeks and I'm excited to share it with you guys today! In ...

Learn More



Building on a Budget Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All

We use cookies on this site to personalize content and ads, provide social media features and analyze web traffic. By clicking YES, you are consenting for us to set cookies. (Learn more about cookies)

No, I want to find out more