All Hell Broke Loose

Posted in Perilous Research on July 19, 2012

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

Welcome back to Perilous Research, the newest Magic Online column here on This column analyzes the Constructed formats of Magic Online. I've received a lot of great feedback on the last two columns. Many readers felt the Standard portion of the column seemed rushed because I was trying to fit too much information into too small of a space. This week, I'm going to focus on one format (in this case, Standard) and do a brief glimpse of another. I'll rotate the smaller format analyses from week to week.

Bonfire of the Damned | Art by James Paick


The Standard metagame is in flux. Last week, White-Blue Control decks were extremely well-positioned against a field of Midrange creature decks. As a result, many players started picking up a variety of Ramp strategies that are very strong against the White-Blue Midrange/Control decks. However, Ramp decks don't perform very well against traditional Delver decks. The metagame hit a sweet spot where a ton of decks became viable candidates to go undefeated in any given event. Here's a breakdown of the decks that went 4–0 in last Saturday's daily events.

Magic Online's Standard metagame is looking healthy. Delver decks still put up great numbers, but Zombie decks made just as many 4–0s in last Saturday's events. Ramp and Birthing Pod variants also had very strong showings. However, the most exciting thing about last Saturday's daily events is the White-Black Vengeance deck's superb performance. I've seen the deck go 4–0 occasionally over the past month or two, but last week was the first time I'd seen the deck go undefeated in multiples. Three different White-Black Vengeance players went 4–0 last Saturday in the most wide-open Standard field we've seen in some time, proving the deck isn't a niche metagame choice, but a real contender.

Swine_Flu's Delver

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The Standard format has become incredibly diverse. As a result, the teched-out versions of Delver are not the best choice right now. The best Delver lists are the most stock versions. Swine_Flu brought this remarkably unremarkable version of Delver to battle last Saturday and didn't drop a match. Swine_Flu plays enough land to reliably cast all the deck's spells. We're back to four Mana Leaks here and I can't say I disagree. Mana Leak has proven its worth even in a world of Cavern of Souls. The tempo game of the Delver deck rewards you immensely for simply countering the first spell you're able to without hiccupping your mana curve. Even most of the dedicated Cavern of Souls decks have four Bonfire of the Damneds, so the Mana Leaks are rarely dead. This is the Delver list I would recommend for the coming week.

Alex321's Black-Red Zombies

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Zombie decks performed very well this week. Pilots of the deck swear it has an exceptional Delver matchup. The deck is extraordinary in just about any creature mirror. Blood Artist makes it very hard for your opponent to find a profitable attack and stalemates on the battlefield can be broken by Bonfire of the Damned or by simply suiciding creatures with enough Blood Artists on the table. Alex321's list looks nicely tuned—the Skinrender in the main deck is strong against other Zombie variants and any white or green creature deck. One of my favorite things about this list is the pair of Manabarbs in the sideboard. Alex321 recognized the resurgence of Ramp decks and reacted accordingly. Imagine playing against a black-red deck as Ramp when there's a copy of Manabarbs on the table!

TKC55's Blue-Red-Green Ramp

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Ramp decks really proved their worth this weekend. This deck is similar to a Green-Blue Ramp deck that managed to win a Magic Online Standard PTQ. A few different friends of mine have played with this deck and they claim it has awesome matchups against everything except Delver. The deck works similarly to the Red-Green Ramp decks we're used to, but the addition of blue lets the deck have a brand new angle of attack. Cards like Tamiyo, the Moon Sage; Karn Liberated; and Frost Titan are here because of their incredible synergy with Temporal Mastery. Topdecking a Temporal Mastery in the earliest stages of the game is a lot like casting Explore, but the card gains a lot of power as the game progresses. Ramp decks often need two turns to win after they cast Primeval Titan. This deck still needs two turns, but it has the option of taking both of them in a row.

Gargoyle's Naya Pod

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Birthing Pod decks started doing well again this week. The deck struggled when the format had a lot of White-Blue Control decks running around, but the diversity of the current metagame is a great place for a deck that has a seemingly endless number of angles. Gargoyle's list is well equipped to handle any problem. Recently, I've seen many Birthing Pod decks that don't have a single copy of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. The card can be difficult to evaluate because of how bad it is in your opening hand, but the singleton Praetor gives this deck inevitability that forces opponents playing creature decks to get uncomfortably aggressive. Bonfire of the Damned has become a staple in Birthing Pod decks over the last few weeks. The card is beginning to define a large portion of the Standard metagame; most of the creature decks would much rather be on the giving end than the receiving end when it comes to Bonfire.

Minkus97's White-Black Vengeance

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White-Black Vengeance decks performed very well this week. The archetype made an impressive three undefeated performances. Minkus97's White-Black Vengeance deck is particularly interesting to me. Minkus97 chose to only play two copies of Lingering Souls and no creatures besides the Solemn Simulacrums. Phyrexia's Core lets this deck take its opponent on a tour of Value-town, while the pilot fires off an endless stream of removal spells. I played a few games with this deck and I'm starting to really like some of the decisions here. Lingering Souls is very good in a lot of decks, including this one, but this deck can get flooded with Lingering Souls while many other decks would rather draw as many as they possibly can. The deck is extremely resistant to Bonfire of the Damned because it only plays two copies of Lingering Souls and four Solemn Simulacrums as creatures. There's a small enough amount of Delver in the field these days that you'll often find yourself with some very easy wins when you pilot this deck. This deck is the new kid on the block and I'm excited to see how it translates into a post-Magic 2013 metagame.


Standard is in a place where you should play whatever deck you're most comfortable with. The format is diverse and healthy; every deck is relatively viable right now. If you're planning on fighting with creatures then I strongly recommend playing four copies of Bonfire of the Damned. Many people played three copies instead of four this week, but I can't imagine that's correct when the field looks like it does. We want to maximize our chances of triggering the miracle. If you're looking to try something offbeat then I recommend the Blue-Red-Green Ramp by TKC55. The deck supposedly has incredible matchups against everything except Delver and even that doesn't seem unwinnable.


As usual, the Modern metagame is wide open. Again, we have five unique archetypes being piloted to undefeated finishes. Here's a breakdown of the undefeated decks from last Saturday's Daily Events:

There are a lot of decks we're familiar with: Melira-Birthing Pod, Red, Soul Sisters, Red-Green Tron, and Storm are all established archetypes that have been doing well since early this year. White-Black Tokens is a bit of an oddity. White-Black Tokens was one of the strongest Standard decks of the past few years, and it has had a bit of success in Modern, but I haven't seen much of it in the past few weeks.

Yorick's White-Black Tokens

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Yorick took a break from farming top lane to 4–0 a Modern Daily event last weekend. I'm a huge fan of this list. The deck combines excellent disruption with an amazing board presence game. Cards like Thoughtseize and Tidehollow Sculler give the deck a lot of game against combo or control opponents who might be leaning on a single card to either combo or Wrath away your team. Path to Exile is incredibly strong here. You can profitably use Path to Exile on one of your own tokens to ramp yourself into enough mana to cast a Hero of Bladehold. The token strategy is naturally superior to the dude-plan in creature matchups. Zealous Persecution seems very strong to me. You can use Zealous Persecution as an Overrun effect to finish the game or as an often back-breaking mass-removal spell.


White-Black Tokens is one of my favorite archetypes and I'm happy to see a copy at 4–0. Soul Sisters has been regularly giving players undefeated records in Modern events for the last couple of weeks. Soul Sisters will remain very powerful as long as combo decks can only count to twenty and creature decks are trying to race. Splinter Twin combo decks punish the Soul Sisters plan, but the format is diverse enough that you can try to dodge a bullet. Red-Green Tron still seems like the most powerful deck in the format to me. The deck consistently plays extremely dangerous haymakers on the third or fourth turn. I've only had the discomfort of playing against Red-Green Tron a few times, but I felt helpless in every instance. I'd recommend Red-Green Tron or some pure combo deck for this week's Modern events. When formats are mostly undefined it's usually best to go for the most powerful deck.

Perilous Research is still a work in progress. I'm eager to hear as much feedback as possible so I can make this column into what you guys want to see. I've read a lot of Frank Karsten's work in the last few weeks and I'm going to start writing match reports for some of the more interesting 4–0 decks in the coming weeks. Is this something you would like to see? Is there something else that you feel would make this column better? Be sure to hit the forums or shoot me an email with questions, comments, or suggestions.

Knowledge is power!

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