The Specter of Change

Posted in Building on a Budget on October 21, 2009

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

The new Standard is here, and a metagame is shaping up. I've tested a lot this past week, and I think I have the next big deck. I have always been a big fan of Sedraxis Specter. The Shards of Alara rare hasn't really gotten to see its full potential in Standard because cards like Bitterblossom and Spectral Procession were clogging up the air. Bitterblossom and Spectral Procession have gone away, though, and Sedraxis Specter hasn't looked this good since Shards of Alara Block Constructed.

I've been having trouble with mana bases since Lorwyn has rotated, and I feel like Ancient Ziggurat is a good place to start if I want to have a smooth four- or five-color deck. Our deck will have to rely heavily on its creature base, but I'm sure this won't be too much of an issue. I wanted to design a deck that won long games through a good deal of card advantage and had the ability to put its opponents on very aggressive clocks.

Cascade is one of the most powerful mechanics in a long time. I feel like this deck really needs to be playing Bloodbraid Elf. Cascading into a Blightning off Bloodbraid Elf is certainly one of the best things you can do in Standard right now. One of my favorite parts about Sedraxis Specter is its ability to re-Blightning an opponent. For example, if your opponent casts a Blightning of his or her own, you discard Sedraxis Specter and another card. Your opponent used one card to take two cards and deal you 3 damage. Then you untap, unearth your Sedraxis Specter, and attack. Your opponent loses another card and takes the same 3 damage. Now you're even, and your opponent had to spend extra mana.

Sedraxis Specter
Hypnotic Specter

Another card that caught my attention when going through my binders was Hypnotic Specter. The old-school powerhouse proved to be good enough for new Standard. I checked the price on this guy and was surprised to see how little you have to shell out to pick some of these up.

I'm going to explain each of the cards in the list and give you a feel for my new baby.

Madrush Cyclops: This is a card I've wanted to play with for awhile. I feel like this deck will be better equipped for the Cyclops than others. Madrush Cyclops is an incredible four-drop by itself, and this one-eyed monster gets especially exciting when you put it in a deck that packs a bunch of Specters that can rip apart your opponent's hand in all sorts of hasty glory.

Putrid Leech: I've already said a lot about this creature. It's probably the best two-mana creature available in Standard. It works incredibly well when you are the aggro or when you are on your heels. Trying to race Putrid Leech is like trying to beat Michael Phelps in the 400-meter butterfly. It also becomes incredibly difficult for your opponent to attack when you have a 4/4 staring them down.

Sedraxis Specter: I've already made my case for this fine Specter. Sedraxis Specter definitely has a place in the new Standard.

Hypnotic Specter: When testing the deck, I really just wanted more than four Sedraxis Specter. Hypnotic Specter isn't quite as powerful, but it works well as a threat that your opponent has to deal with. Did I mention that no one is playing any flyers?

Sprouting Thrinax: Another of my favorite cards. Even without Torrent of Souls to make it truly sick, Sprouting Thrinax is still one of the best things we can do for three mana. And because we are playing with Bloodbraid Elf, I want to maximize the chance that we hit an incredible three-drop.

Bloodbraid Elf: I've probably said it over a thousand times now. This is the best card in Standard. There is nothing I want to do more than play a Bloodbraid Elf on my fourth turn.

Blightning: This is one of those cards that I try to jam into any deck I make. I have a really hard time believing that this card is real sometimes. It actually does everything. It works as disruption and as card advantage, and it actually kills your opponent. Do yourself a favor and play four.

Lightning Bolt: Here's a nice one. Again, I don't need to make a case for one of the best red cards ever printed. It's in the deck. Yes, there are four. No, there is not a better option.

Terminate: I used to prefer Doom Blade to Terminate, because Burrenton Forge-Tender was exceptionally good at ruining a fine day. With Forge-Tender moving off to Extended-land, Terminate becomes a lot more attractive again. I like this card over Doomblade because it can kill all these obnoxious vampires that keep trying to suck my blood. The extra mana requirement shouldn't be too big of a deal.

Burst Lightning: I really like this card. It ends up in just about every deck I put together these days. I really like instant speed burn. This card does everything I want it to. In the early game it is just as efficient as shock always has been. As the game progresses it becomes a very real threat to my opponent's life total. Most opponents will be forced into making bad blocks or trades to prevent themselves from getting to a low life total. This card is clutch.

Ancient Ziggurat: I wish I could play seven of these in this deck. It would solve all of my mana problems in a snap. I've always been a big fan of this card, and I imagine I'll be playing a lot with this card over the coming months.

Crumbling Necropolis, Savage Lands, Akoum Refuge: My mana is still pretty shaky even with the Ancient Ziggurats. The Shards of Alara tri-lands and Zendikar's Akoum Refuge do a very good job of solving that problem.

Here's how the deck looks after I put it all together.

Blightning Specter Beatdown

Download Arena Decklist

If your local metagame is clogged up with White Weenie decks, you should probably play a list that looks more like this.

Blightning Specter Control (Anti-White Weenie build)

Download Arena Decklist

The shops in my area are currently packed with Jund decks, so I decided to play with the first list. I brought the deck to my local shop and played some games with it:

I lose the roll and keep Crumbling Necropolis, Mountain, Ancient Ziggurat, Lightning Bolt, Terminate, Sedraxis Specter, and Madrush Cyclops. My opponent plays a Savage Lands and passes the turn. I draw a Savage Lands, play Crumbling Necropolis, and pass the turn. My opponent plays a Swamp and casts Putrid Leech. I untap, draw another Ancient Ziggurat, play my Mountain, and pass the turn. My opponent attacks with his Putrid Leech and attempts to pump it, but I zap it with Lightning Bolt in response. He bins the Putrid Leech and passes the turn. I draw a Sprouting Thrinax, play my Ancient Ziggurat, cast the Lizard, and pass the turn. My opponent untaps, plays a land, and taps out for Bloodbraid Elf, he flips into a Maelstrom Pulse and destroys my Sprouting Thrinax. I get three 1/1s, and he passes the turn. I draw a Bloodbraid Elf, play my second Ancient Ziggurat, and tap out for Madrush Cyclops. I attack for 3 and pass the turn. My opponent taps out for Ob Nixilis, the Fallen and passes the turn. I draw a Swamp, play it, cast Terminate on the legendary creature, cast Sedraxis Specter, and attack with the now-hasty Specter and the Cyclops. My opponent discards a Putrid Leech to the Specter, and I pass the turn. My opponent draws for his turn and happily casts another Bloodbraid Elf, cascading into Lightning Bolt and shooting down my Sedraxis Specter. I draw another land, cast my Bloodbraid Elf, cascade into Hypnotic Specter, unearth my Sedraxis Specter, and attack for a lot of damage and some discard. My opponent is forced to double-block my Cyclops, and he is left with no hand and a very low life total. He draws for his turn and concedes.

I lose the roll again and keep Crumbling Necropolis, Savage Lands, Mountain, Sprouting Thrinax, Burst Lightning, Lightning Bolt, and Blightning. My opponent plays a land and passes the turn. I draw a Bloodbraid Elf, play a Savage Lands, and pass the turn. My opponent casts Bloodghast and passes the turn. I draw an Ancient Ziggurat, play my Crumbling Necropolis and pass the turn. My opponent attacks for 2 and taps out for a Vampire Nighthawk. I use his end step to cast a Lightning Bolt on the 2/3. I draw a Hypnotic Specter, play my land, cast the Hypnotic Specter, and pass the turn. My opponent taps out for a Vampire Nocturnus, revealing a Swamp on the top of his library, and attacks for 2. I draw a Lightning Bolt and attack with my Hypnotic Specter, and he takes 2 and discards a Mind Sludge. I then cast Lightning Bolt on the Nocturnus and cast my Sprouting Thrinax. My opponent draws for his turn and plays a Gatekeeper of Malakir; I sacrifice my Sprouting Thrinax and get three 1/1s. He attacks with Bloodghast and I double-block it. He plays another land from his hand, and the Bloodghast comes back to the battlefield. He has one card left in hand. I untap, draw another Bloodbraid Elf, cast a Bloodbraid Elf, flip into a Sedraxis Specter, and attack with my Bloodbraid Elf and Hypnotic Specter. My opponent discards a Swamp. On his turn, he draws a card and attacks with his Bloodghast and Gatekeeper of Malakir. I block the Gatekeeper with my Sedraxis Specter and take 2 from the Bloodghast, and he passes the turn. I draw a land, cast my second Bloodbraid Elf, flip into another Sprouting Thrinax, and attack with my Bloodbraid Elves, Hypnotic Specter, and the 1/1. My opponent draws his card for the next turn and concedes.

I win the roll and keep Akoum Refuge, Ancient Ziggurat, Island, Swamp, Blightning, Putrid Leech, Sedraxis Specter. My opponent mulligans. I play my Akoum Refuge and pass the turn. My opponent plays a Glacial Fortress and passes back. I draw a forest, play Ancient Ziggurat, and cast Putrid Leech. My opponent plays an Island and passes. I attack with Putrid Leech and attempt to pump. My opponent casts a Path to Exile. I go and get a Mountain. I play my swamp after combat and cast Sedraxis Specter. My opponent plays a third land and thinks for a bit before passing. I draw another Sedraxis Specter, and attack, my opponent takes 3 and discards a land. I cast Blightning, and he discards another land and a Baneslayer Angel. On his turn he taps four mana and casts Day of Judgement, and I bin the Sedraxis Specter. On my turn I unearth the Sedraxis Specter to attack for 3 and make him discard his last card. I cast my other Sedraxis Specter and pass the turn. My opponent plays a land and passes. I draw a Terminate, attack for 3, and pass. My opponent plays another land and passes. I draw a Bloodbraid Elf, cast it, flip into Hypnotic Specter, and attack with my Bloodbraid Elf and Sedraxis Specter. My opponent casts a Baneslayer Angel on his turn, but I show him the Terminate and he packs it in.

Things went really well for me this week. I feel like this deck is definitely tier one material. I didn't include a sideboard because the metagame is still open enough that sideboards will probably have a lot to do with your local metagame. I would definitely have some combination of Pyroclasm and Volcanic Fallout in the sideboard, though. I fear White Weenie may be a difficult matchup. Conqueror's Pledge seems very difficult for this deck to beat. I'm not sure if it fits, but I think there may be room for Caldera Hellion or Magma Pheonix in this deck. This deck is very easy to build if you drafted Shards of Alara block much, so it shouldn't be difficult to put together. If I wasn't on a budget, I imagine the list would remain almost the same. Perhaps I would add two or three fetch lands, but I don't think they're necessary. Give this one a whirl—I'm sure you will be very impressed with the results.

Happy brewing!

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