Taking a Walk Through Standard

Posted in Feature on July 18, 2007

By Frank Karsten

Before I start off, I'll start with an erratum to last week's article, where I covered Prismatic. Apparently, the big deck mulligans that I described only work in casual play, not in the Premier Event room. However, I also have good news for you online players. Another grand Invasion Block Sealed Deck tournament has been scheduled, and the qualifiers start ... today! Look in the Premier Event room for the IPA Qualifier Events, which will invite the Top 8 finishers to play in the IPA X Champs on Saturday July 28. Click here for more information.

With that news out of the way, let's start on the online metagame and new deck technology. In Time Spiral Block Constructed nothing truly groundbreaking seems to be happening, and since the metagame isn't warping, I'll just skip a week and focus on Block next week. In the meantime, I will discuss Standard today. It has been a month since I last wrote about that format, and the metagame has changed quite a bit. I am aware that Tenth Edition will rotate in extremely soon (it's legal already by July 20, i.e. next weekend), and that will change the format, but knowledge of last month's Standard metagame can still be relevant for two reasons. First, Tenth Edition won't hit Magic Online as soon as real life. Second, the latest metagame and deck technology prior to the rotation is the best and most accurate baseline to work with when you start building post- Tenth Edition decks and consider what you might face.

Alright, so in the following table, the Top 8 results from last month's Magic Online Standard Premier Events are compiled, with week-by-week popularity percentages. The decks are sorted on average popularity. Decks that have been gaining significant popularity are in blue; decks that are clearly falling in popularity are in red.

Deck nameAverageWeek 25Week 26Week 27Week 28
1. Solar Flare13%13%14%12%12%
2. Dralnu du Louvre11%10%14%5%13%
3. Gruul Aggro10%12%13%9%7%
4. Dragonstorm8%7%10%16%3%
5. Zoo Aggro8%17%7%3%5%
6. W/B Control7%4%1%15%13%
7. NarcoBridge7%5%14%2%4%
8. Mono Green Aggro4%2%4%4%5%
9. Mono Blue Pickles3%1%1%6%6%
10. Angelfire3%3%6%1%0%
11. U/B Tron3%0%4%3%4%
12. Touch-Blink3%0%2%0%8%
13. U/R Perilous Storm2%4%2%0%2%
14. Mono Black Rack Discard2%7%1%1%0%
15. Satanic Sligh2%6%1%0%1%
16. B/G Rack Discard2%1%2%3%2%
17. W/B Aggro2%1%0%3%3%
18. Battle of Wits1%0%0%3%2%
19. B/R/U Korlash Control1%2%0%3%0%
20. Red Deck Wins1%0%0%2%2%

Dralnu du Louvre is no longer the king (okay, well, it's still in second place). Solar Flare is the deck to beat now. My clanmates Antoine Ruel, Olivier Ruel, and Kenji Tsumura have all played Solar Flare in recent tournaments, such as the French Nationals or online Premier Events, and if they all like the deck, I'll trust their judgment. The deck has to be good again. A recent Solar Flare innovation of note—which may have supported its comeback—is the addition of Take Possession, sometimes with Coalition Relic as well, usually instead of Remand. Take Possession works in Block Constructed, and you have even better mana acceleration in Standard, so it should be an awesome inclusion.

Gruul is still the default aggro deck. Pretty much all versions play Tarmogoyf nowadays, and many versions also include a Greater Gargadon, Keldon Marauders, and Mogg War Marshal package (instead of traditional 2-drops). Gargadon allows you to sacrifice lands, and Marauders and Marshall will head to the graveyard on their own, which should make Tarmogoyf huge in no time.

I have also spotted two interesting "new" decks putting up good results. Here they are.

The Great Black Hope's W/B Control

Download Arena Decklist

The Great Black Hope, a.k.a. Jesse H., had been winning Premier Event over the past 3 weeks with this deck, but it probably didn't catch on because it was too "new" for the metagame. Phyrexian Arena plus Wrath of God is not an innovative new design, but it just hadn't been part of the metagame lately. But when he finally won a 4x prize event, people seemed to finally understand how good the deck was.

Damnation and Wrath of GodI asked Jesse why he chose the deck, and he explained that it destroys aggro decks with the sheer amount of creature removal. I'm not sure if having access to 4 Damnation, 4 Wrath of God, and 4 Faith's Fetters after board is overdoing it (not to mention the Circle of Protection: Red), but I can certainly believe that all creatures will die horrible deaths against this deck. Furthermore, it has good matchups versus Dralnu du Louvre and Solar Flare. The Phyrexian family (Arena and Totem) are hard-to-answer threats that must definitely help to beat control, along with the discard spells. The matchup against Dragonstorm is luck-dependent, but still "good enough" according to Jesse.

He had been running it alongside his friend Peter C., a.k.a. K1llaK1dd, whose version is geared towards truly dominating aggro decks, with inclusions like Martyr of Sands and Hide. Jesse's version has more cards that are aimed more at the control matchups. If we look at the metagame chart and making some broad abstractions, the current Standard metagame looks like 30% aggro, 25% combo, and 45% control, so I'd prefer the above version. A special tweak in this version is the maindeck Sudden Death over cards like Mortify, because it can kill Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir against all the control decks, and enchantments don't see that much play.

I think this deck will unfortunately die out with the advent of Tenth Edition, as it loses Phyrexian Arena and Persecute (more on that later). The next deck, however, seems like a lot of fun to play, and it doesn't lose anything from Ninth Edition.

I love the Aethermage's Touch plus Momentary Blink synergies. You can start pretty sick things with an Aethermage's Touch at the end of your opponent's third turn (on the back of Signet acceleration). Imagine you hit an Angel of Despair, nuking one of your opponent's permanents. Then you attack with the 5/5 flyer on your turn, and Blink it out after damage. Living the dream! You get to destroy another permanent and you the Angel will stick on the board, since when it comes back in play it is a "new" creature without the annoying Aethermage's Touch trigger.

Aethermage's Touch
Aethermage's Touch is a potentially powerful card in the abstract, but it never saw much play. Well, if there is one deck in which it can work, it is this one! This deck has a ton of creatures with come-in-play effects to abuse the instants. There is the aforementioned Angel of Despair, but also Skeletal Vampire as a big guy. Furthermore, Riftwing Cloudskate and Venser, Shaper Savant also work very nicely with both Blink and Touch. Court Hussar tends to die if it comes in play and you didn't cast it from your hand, but you still get the card selection. The deck is rounded out with Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, which can wreck Dragonstorm on its own, and it gives the deck a mana denial angle, together with all the bounce creatures.

The deck was originally created by superchevalier. At least, he was the first to pilot an Aethermage's Touch into a Premier Event Top 8. Unfortunately, I couldn't catch him online. shoktroopa created his own list based on watching superchevalier's replays, and he subsequently made multiple Top 8s as well. Their lists seem to be close together, although superchevalier's board is definitely different, with Teferi's Moat, Leyline of the Void, and Riptide Pilferer.

According to shoktroopa, Dralnu du Louvre is arguably the worst matchup. Persecute is the worst card to see (so the deck is going to be better once Ninth Edition rotates out). The deck steamrolls aggro, especially with Aven Riftwatchers—how is that for Momentary Blink synergy—coming in after board. The Solar Flare matchup is 50/50, although the games tend to be very long and attrition-based. I don't think you can easily beat NarcoBridge with this deck, but according to shoktroopa he has enough bounce and removal to take out the fragile combo. Lastly, don't let the fear of missing completely with Aethermage's Touch deter you from giving this deck a spin. Those odds are really small; Touch usually hits something relevant, and if not then you are happy to scry away 4 lands.

Dredging a Walkthrough

About one month ago, I used a poll to get your feedback on which Standard deck you wanted me to write an interesting game walkthrough with turn-by-turn explanations and decisions about. Due to miscommunications, I did not get the poll results in time and failed to do a walkthrough on the deck that came out on top. I promised I would get back to you on this, and today I'll fulfill that promise. The deck that won the poll was NarcoBridge, so today I'll highlight a game with that deck.

The week before Regionals, I played a ton of Standard and made a NarcoBridge version that I liked. I wrote about my version and card choices here, and I think that the version I made back then is still very solid. The majority of the online versions run green discard enablers like Llanowar Mentor, but I still don't like those, because I want all of my discard enablers to draw cards, and thus, dredge. That speeds up the combo significantly. The blue enablers may not help in the mana department like Llanowar Mentor does, and they can't create token creature fodder for Dread Return flashback, and they come down a turn later, but a card like Thought Courier gives you one extra dredge each turn. Since that's what the deck is truly all about, it outweighs the downsides in my opinion. Hence, I felt no need to change that version and just loaded up the list to battle in some 8-mans. This is the deck, for reference:

Frank Karsten's NarcoBridge

Download Arena Decklist

I'll assume you are somewhat familiar with this archetype already. I played two 8-man tournaments, and lost in the finals of both. I lost one match to a red-green aggro deck, one game because he burned my discard enablers, and one game because his Greater Gargadons prevented me from going for the combo aggressively, since he could sacrifice a creature to Gargadon at any time to remove all my Bridges. I had to change my game plan to go for a control long game with Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Grave-Troll recursion, but he had just enough burn to take me down. I lost another match to Izzetron, one game due to a mulligan to four (you have to mulligan aggressively with the deck, but this can easily backfire) and one game because he had 2 Tormod's Crypts backed up with other business spells. That was the only match where I faced graveyard hate, though. I don't know if my six matches are representative, but if merely one in six players has kept Tormod's Crypts in their sideboard (did I always board in my Krosan Grips for naught?), then NarcoBridge should be a strong choice. The combo is consistent and powerful; it just has a major vulnerability in graveyard removal, and if no one has that anymore... well, you can fill in the blanks.

On to the game! I chose one that illustrates how the combo works, that is not overly complicated or long (since I'm easily exceeding the word count on this manifesto already), and that shows how you can work through creature destruction. It is Round 2 of an 8-man Standard tournament. It is Game 1, and we're up against Schlumi. He wins the die roll, chooses to play first, and mulligans down to six. This is my opening hand:

Perfect, just what we need. In my opening hand I am looking for at least two lands, a discard enabler creature, and either a dredge card or another discard enabler creature. This hand clearly classifies, so we keep.

Schlumi starts off with a tapped Overgrown Tomb. That means we're most likely up against Black-Green Rack Discard or a Black-Green-White Glittering Wish control deck.

Drowned Rusalka
I draw Breeding Pool, and decide to play Island and Drowned Rusalka. Sometimes I keep Rusalkas until I can play them with a blue mana up for safety, but in this case I'm not too scared. If he kills it, then he has one less removal spell for the superior looter creatures in my hand. If he doesn't kill it, I'm always happy to have the Rusalka in play already, as it saves me a mana later on. The only situation that I can imagine where playing the Rusalka on turn one is somewhat bad is if he plays a Signet on the next turn, as that would signal a potential turn three Wrath of God. In that case, I probably wouldn't want to add a looter on turn two, since I don't want him to sweep two of my enablers. So if he plays a Signet, playing the Rusalka may look a bit stupid, but if that happens, then I think I would just sacrifice the Rusalka in my upkeep to start dredging with the Stinkweed Imp and play around Wrath.

However, he doesn't have a Signet. Schlumi plays Temple Garden and Castigate. He removes Magus of the Bazaar. I'm not entirely sure that that is the best play. Magus is certainly the best discard and dredge enabler, but I already have access to multiple discard enablers and losing one is not such a big hit. If he had taken the Stinkweep Imp, then there is a chance that I would not find a dredge card for a while and never get a combo going. That is a small chance, as in that case I would still have the Magus and would draw cards like a madman, but from my perspective I would rather keep the Imp than the Magus.

I draw Thought Courier, so I play Island and the Looter, and attack with Rusalka. Schlumi plays Glittering Wish and gets Orzhov Pontiff. It's annoying and pretty good in this situation, but not unbeatable since my dredge enablers are already active. Schlumi then puts a tapped Overgrown Tomb in play and passes.

Now it's our upkeep. Let's see.

Now, I want to activate Thought Courier in my upkeep, because it allows me to dredge the Stinkweed Imp in my draw step. If I would not activate Thought Courier in my upkeep, then my draw step would be "wasted" by not being able to dredge, whereas if I can get that Imp in my graveyard before my draw step, I can happily mill 5 cards then. So that's what I do. I draw Watery Grave and discard Stinkweed Imp. (Addendum: an even better play here would be to activate Thought Courier's ability and hold Control to retain priority; then activate Drowned Rusalka in response by sacrificing Thought Courier (he's going to die to the Pontiff anyway), then discard the Imp to Rusalka's ability, then dredging it back, and if there is another Imp or Grave-Troll in the top 5 cards that are put in the graveyard, its dredge can be used when Thought Courier's ability resolves, which would not be possible in my original play. Thanks to krazykidpsx for pointing this out.) In my draw step, I dredge the Imp and hit 2 Narcomoebas. I'd rather have gotten those later, with Orzhov Pontiff coming in next turn and all, but they still make nice fodder for the Drowned Rusalka.

I start to sacrifice both fresh Narcomoebas to Drowned Rusalka right away. There is no point in waiting to do that, since next turn Schlumi will play Pontiff to wipe my board, and then I will be forced to work my creatures through the Rusalka anyway. And there is an advantage to sacrificing on my own turn already: I might just get insanely lucky and dredge the nuts (i.e., more Narcomoebas, multiple Bridge from Below, a Dread Return and a Flame-Kin Zealot for the kill).

A nice thing about Drowned Rusalka is that you discard first and then draw, as opposed to Thought Courier and friends. Since the five cards I put into the graveyard did not contain another dredge card, being able to discard before drawing is very helpful. So I sacrifice a Narcomoeba, discard Stinkweep Imp and get it right back. I hit most notably a Bridge from Below and a Golgari Grave-Troll. Then I sacrifice the other Narcomoeba—netting a 2/2 Zombie in the process, now that I have a Bridge in the graveyard—and misclick, taking back the Imp instead of the Grave-Troll. Oh well, I've had worse misclicks. I hit Flame-Kin Zealot and Dread Return with this dredge.

Now I play a Watery Grave—untapped of course—and for some reason I make the mistake of passing the turn.

Looking back at the replay, I don't know why I passed the turn without sacrificing the Drowned Rusalka. It's going to die to the Pontiff next turn anyway, and if I sacrifice it now, I might just hit a good dredge (I'd just need 1 Narcomoeba and 1 Bridge from Below to have a kill), so that is an inexcusably bad play on my part.

As expected, Schlumi plays Orzhov Pontiff on his turn. I respond by sacrificing Drowned Rusalka (getting a zombie token for my troubles), discard Stinkweed Imp and dredge back Golgari Grave-Troll (no misclicks this time). I dredge up a Narcomoeba and a second Bridge from Below. If I would have been paying attention last turn and made the correct play of sacrificing my Rusalka last turn, I would have won right there, but alas, I'm still in a good spot. I lose Narcomoeba and Thought Courier to the Pontiff, but this gets me four Zombie tokens in return. Schlumi plays Overgrown Tomb and passes.

In my draw step, I take back Stinkweed Imp over Golgari Grave-Troll, because dredge 5 or dredge 6 is not a big difference, and if I need to play a creature to flashback Dread Return (a reasonable assumption), Stinkweed Imp is easier to cast. It is now my main phase.

So my hand is two lands, Stinkweed Imp, Golgari Grave-Troll, Thought Courier. I have in play three lands and six Zombie tokens. The important cards in my graveyard are 2 Bridge from Below, a Flame-Kin Zealot and a Dread Return. There is 1 Narcomoeba left in my deck.

Let me analyze what the correct play is. I have the option of flashbacking Dread Return on Drowned Rusalka—a vital play that is often forgotten—and then I can sacrifice four creatures, dredge back the same Golgari Grave-Troll every time, and mill my entire deck (I have 24 cards left, and four dredges times six cards per dredge conveniently equates to 24). Do I win if I do that? I basically have three relevant cards left in my deck that I need to hit; 1 Narcomoeba and 2 Bridge from Below. Let's take the worst-case scenario: the Narcomoeba and the 2 Bridges are in the bottom six cards. If that is the case, then I would first sacrifice three Zombies to flashback Dread Return on Rusalka (in my initial discussion, I forgot about this, and it changes the play and the discussion significantly, so thanks to Balbok for pointing out this oversight). Then, I would sacrifice three Zombies to Rusalka and finally the Rusalka itself to dredge my deck. After all that, my board would consist of two Zombies and the last Narcomoeba. Then, I would sacrifice Narcomoeba and two Zombies to flashback Dread Return on Flame-Kin Zealot. With four Bridges total in the graveyard, I would net four Zombies by sacrificing those, so afterwards my board would consist of four 3/3 hasty Zombies and 1 Flame-Kin Zealot, which is not enough to kill yet. I could win if the relevant cards left in my deck (Narcomoeba and 2 Bridge) are not near the bottom and I would hit them quickly, but it's a risky proposition, since if I execute this play and I miss, I can't attack for lethal this turn and I will be decked next turn.

And there is a sure win available: instead of going for Dread Return flashbacks on Drowned Rusalka, I could play the Stinkweed Imp that I dredged for my draw, then sacrifice it and 2 zombies to Dread Return the Flame-Kin Zealot (netting two zombie tokens), and then attack with with six 3/3 zombie tokens and Flame-Kin Zealot. He could only block one, so that would be lethal. So that's the play, right?"

Well, it is, but I just didn't make it. It feels a bit embarrassing and awkward to watch a replay of a game in which I played so badly and even more so because I am writing a 'how-to-play' walkthrough on it. I know I am a very sloppy player on Magic Online. I can never focus enough to put in my best game, since I'm often chatting via online messenger programs, surfing the internet while my opponent is thinking, and watching a movie at the same time as I am playing my game. In real life tournaments, those tempting distractions are never there, and I can actually concentrate and think my plays through and do the math. Online, I tend to just make the first play that I come up with and don't bother to consider other plays. Perhaps you can relate with similar experiences. However, what this does show is that watching back replays of your own games and looking back at them from a fresh perspective can be a useful learning experience, as you may see yourself making many mistakes that you can learn from. At least I can tell you what the correct play would be when I am typing this up right now.

Back to the game. Which play did I actually make, if not the winning play? I chose to attack with all of my six Zombies. He blocks one with Pontiff, putting him down to 6 life. My two Bridges are now removed because his Pontiff died. After the attack, I flashback Dread Return on Drowned Rusalka (a bit late, no?) in order to have a safety net for Wrath of God, play Breeding Pool, and pass.

Schlumi, on his fifth turn, then plays Temple Garden and with that second white mana he plays Wrath of God. In the game state in the following picture, Wrath is on the stack.

At this point I finally wake up and notice that I can kill. Just in time, I guess. I sacrifice all Zombies to Drowned Rusalka, dredging 18 cards in the process. Wrath of God resolves and I get 2 Zombie tokens in return for my Rusalka. In my draw step, I dredge Golgari Grave-Troll to empty my library. I then play Thought Courier and Stinkweed Imp from my hand, and sacrifice them along with a token to flashback Dread Return on Flame-Kin Zealot. I get a massive army of Zombie tokens, Flame-Kin Zealot gives all of them haste, and I attack for the kill. I made it very hard on myself, and it took me more turns than it should have, but I still won in the end.

So what can we learn? First, NarcoBridge is an awesome deck that can fight through opposing mass removal and mistakes of the pilot and still easily combo out. Second, if I want to start winning more online, perhaps I should just shut down every other distracting program while playing. That may be less exciting, but concentration is worth a lot. Furthermore, next time I write a walkthrough like this, I am going to plan ahead and not add it last minute in a rush job. Rather, I'll take my time, find a good game to show, proofread, and take out any errors and misplays.

The Influence of Tenth Edition on Standard

Tenth Edition was rolled out last weekend, and it becomes legal for all Constructed formats on July 20. In Standard, Ninth Edition will no longer be legal when Tenth Edition becomes legal. That has big implications, and today I'll highlight what I consider to be the most important losses (cards that are in Ninth but not in Tenth) and the most important gains (cards that are in Tenth but not in Ninth). I'll use a completely subjective Top 10 list in order to focus the discussion, and I'll try to focus on changes that may shake up the Standard metagame. That means I'm not going to include cards like Blood Moon or Battle of Wits; even though those are relevant losses, Blood Moon is easily replaced by Magus of the Moon and Battle of Wits was never a popular deck, so I doubt these will have major impacts. The hard part in this grand evaluation is figuring out how influential some of the new cards are going to be. For instance, Siege-Gang Commander comes back, but is it still good in the current format with less Goblins? Same goes for highly specific cards like Rule of Law, which can wreck a storm deck, but will those still be part of the metagame? I chose not to include those cards and many others, but I can't guarantee my estimations are going to be correct. Head to the forums to share your opinion on which cards you think I overvalue or undervalue.

The Top 10 Most Influential Losses

    Seething Song . . . no more!
  1. Seething Song. This is a major blow to Dragonstorm and Blue-Red Perilous Storm; it's the backbone of these decks. I'm not sure they are completely dead now, but any storm strategy is now at the very least severely weakened. Importantly, if Dragonstorm is "dead," then slow decks that could never beat it may come back in the picture now.
  2. Kird Ape. Gruul has been the most popular aggro deck mainly on the back of this card, and losing it is a big blow. Now there is significantly less reason to play green and red together. Maybe now Boros could become the superior aggro deck, since it still has...
  3. Savannah Lions. Ah wait, no. No Savannah Lions anymore. The best aggressive one-drops in the format have been taken out. Without two-power creatures for one mana, Zoo decks get severely worse and Standard will slow down considerably.
  4. Persecute. This one is also huge. Most black-based control decks heavily relied on this card. Without it there is less incentive to play black in decks like Solar Flare, and mono-color decks will become better.
  5. Phyrexian Arena. The White-Black Control deck that I featured today loses its flagship. Without it, I think all Damnation control decks should turn to blue for card draw. White-black does not seem like a good enough strategy anymore.
  6. Rewind. This is a huge loss for Dralnu decks. It is not easily replaceable with Cancel or the like. Rewind allowed you to counter multiple spells per turn, and the turn four Rewind-then-Teachings allowed you to keep enough tempo in the games. I consider this to be a nontrivial loss; it will weaken Dralnu considerably.
  7. Urza Lands. They have not seen all that much play lately, but these lands have been metagame warping in the past. I won't shed a tear losing them; they induced too much random variance. It was frustrating losing to someone who raw-dogged the 'Tron turn 3.
  8. Mana Leak. Now we get to the losses with less impact. Mana Leak is easily replaceable with Rune Snag, no big deal. The nice part is that you don't have to try and play around it anymore; keeping two extra mana up is now enough.
  9. Sleight of Hand. An important element of Dragonstorm and Blue-Red Perilous Storm, as it could easily jack up the storm count and search combo pieces. Losing Seething Song is a huge blow, and losing Sleight of Hand weakens the deck even more.
  10. Circle of Protection: Red. One of the more annoying cards you could play against a Gruul or Zoo player. Having Krosan Grip in the sideboard is now less important for these decks, and Mono-Red strategies have gained a bit.

The Top 10 most Influential Gains

    Seismic Assault
  1. Seismic Assault. We have all seen what this can do if it is paired up with Life from the Loam in Extended, and with Horizon Canopy substituting for cycle lands, I think that we will see this combo in Standard as well. I'm not sure if it will be as good, but players will certainly try it out en masse, so you have to prepare to face Assaults and Loams.
  2. Quirion Dryad. I have this one quite high, once again based on experiences from the past (i.e., Miracle Grow). I can imagine a new deck cropping up with lots of cheap spells (like Peek, also in Tenth) that splashes green for Quirion Dryad and Tarmogoyf. The 'Goyf requires almost the same support cards as the Dryad, so it seems like a natural fit.
  3. Mogg Fanatic. This is an auto-include for red aggro decks. I don't think it is as good as Kird Ape, but it makes up for something, and this card will certainly see a lot of play. Your Birds of Paradises are not safe anymore.
  4. Incinerate. Obviously very good, but it's not going to warp the metagame because we lose Volcanic Hammer at the same time. So every red deck that was playing Hammer will make the obvious switch. Incinerate is a bit of an improvement over the Hammer, but it won't change the way you build your decks.
  5. Treetop Village. A favorite from the past, and it fits perfectly in the current metagame full of Wrath of God and Damnation. It is back along with Faerie Conclave and Spawning Pool, and it will offer completely new deck building angles for mid-range green decks.
  6. Mind Stone. In two-color decks, this seems better than Signets. Horizon Canopy is good because mana is important in the early game and being able to cycle it after getting some mana out of it is like a free card. Mind Stone is similar; I wouldn't underestimate it.
  7. Goblin Lore. Tenth is all reprints, but this is one of the cards that almost no one has. Nevertheless, it looks interesting. It is not for an average deck; you need to balance the drawback somewhat. But it has a lot of potential if you put it in a deck with Tarmogoyf, threshold, dredge, madness, or similar strategies.
  8. Pithing Needle. It doesn't have that many applications in Standard right now, although it is good against NarcoBridge (shutting down Magus of the Bazaar and other looters for just one mana) and good in NarcoBridge (to shut down opposing Tormod's Crypts). And it is just an objectively powerful card.
  9. Troll Ascetic. I don't think this one is going to be that influential, as there are plenty of solid green three-drops around that it has to compete with (for instance, Call of the Herd), and you don't have Umezawa's Jitte to equip. Nevertheless, it's still a solid card overall.
  10. Platinum Angel. I actually doubt this will see a lot of play because it is very expensive, but it has a unique effect that some decks just can't get past. For instance, my NarcoBridge version can't deal with a Platinum Angel Game 1, so reanimator strategies should consider it and other decks should think of a way to beat it.

I think that the metagame is going to significantly change post Tenth. I don't think you'll face much Dragonstorm anymore, and instead I expect a sea of Tarmogoyf plus Quirion Dryad super-grow decks or Seismic Assault plus Life from the Loam decks in various forms. These decks seem extremely hard to build a correct solid version of though, since there are so many possible cards and colors, and you can take these decks in any direction you wish, be it more control, aggro, or combo. The cards are abstractly powerful, but apart from that it is not clear how you should approach a deck with Assault or Dryad. I'm not going to try and build a deck with them today out of the blue, without being able to at least test it a few games. I know I won't be able to nail a good version from the top of my head.

And if I had to play a Standard tournament this weekend with Tenth, I would probably pick a fast aggro deck, since I'd expect many players to come up with untuned decks with funky synergies that you can smash quickly. Furthermore, the one-turn-faster Dragonstorm combo and Circle of Protection: Red are not concerns anymore, which should favor the aggro decks. Moreover, Incinerate and Mogg Fanatic are nice additions. However, without Savannah Lions and Kird Ape I see less incentive to run green or white. So, I turn to the dark side and channel Satanic Sligh again. This is a very rough list, modeled after Steve Locke's winning deck from the Nebraska Regionals.

Satanic Sligh

Download Arena Decklist

You have all the good red burn elements, complemented with the still awesome Dark Confidant. Withered Wretch might become neat in the expected metagame full of NarcoBridge, Tarmogoyf, and Assault/Loam decks. I think that a black/red deck like this could become quite potent in the months to come. I wouldn't be surprised if this something like this would become the staple aggro deck of the format.

Next Week ... Time Spiral Block Constructed

Virulent Sliver
Next week's column (and probably most of the next two months as well) is going to resolve around the format of the current PTQ season again. I'll give you a quick update on this week's Magic Online Premier Events before I sign off, though. The most popular deck was U/G Tarmogoyf Aggro, which has surpassed its W/G brother as the aggro deck of choice, although just by a slim margin. Furthermore, Mono-Blue Pickles has put up approximately as many Top 8 finishes as U/B/w Teachings Control, which has in turn taken a bit of a plunge. I still consider U/B/w Teachings Control to be the most powerful deck in the abstract. It's difficult to play correctly, but it has the strongest cards in the format, and I would run it if I could play PTQs at the moment. Just take note that the Magic Online results indicate that having a game plan versus Pickles is also important now. Cards like Spell Burst and Vesuvan Shapeshifter work pretty well against their morphs.

And last but not least, the Virulent Sliver beatdown deck (which was featured on Brian David-Marshall's column last week) seems to be for real. It broke into the charts with 3% last week, but right now it's up to 8%. Be prepared and bring creative poison counters to your next Block Tournament! I am planning to give the deck a spin this week and enter a few online events with it in order to learn what makes it tick and to see exactly how good it actually is. I'll report back with my opinion on the deck next week. Thanks for reading and see you then.

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