Solving for Standard

Posted in Reconstructed on December 2, 2014

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Unified Standard. One of the most interesting deck-building puzzles of all time is appearing in the World Magic Cup this week!

If that doesn't sound like a case for ReConstructed, I don't know what does.

Unified Standard is intriguing in that it isn't just about building one deck under the restrictions of the format or identifying the best three decks—it's about piecing together the best combination of three decks without overlapping the pieces.

To recap, the rules of Unified Standard are as follows:

  • There must be three Standard-legal decks.
  • Between the three decks, you can only use four copies of any given card. (Other than a basic land.)

In short, if you were to stack all three decks on top of each other, combined they must be a legal deck to play in Standard.

You can also check out this video with me and Jackie Lee that talks about it a little more:

How do you want to split up your decks? Do you want to play three established decks or try something new that might thrive in this format? Can decks split cards up or do you want them to be three very different decks entirely?

Well, it's time to dig in! Today, I'll be going over two different tactics for tackling Unified Standard. Let's get started.

Splitting Up

It's hard to find three decks that are at the top of Standard and don't overlap at all…but with some tweaks, you can get pretty close. One good strategy is to take three decks with little overlap, deal with the fact that you're going to have to make a couple concessions, and play three fairly known, strong decks.

We saw France use this to good effect last year, as they used two decks with a definite green presence—Mono-Green and Jund—and the Jund deck just had to survive without Arbor Elf or Elvish Mystic and the Mono-Green deck couldn't play any Thragtusks.

That left all the blue and white cards wide open for the last deck in the hands of Yann Guthmann.

Yann Guthmann

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Raphaël Lévy

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Timothée Simonot

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So, how to recapture that magic for this year?

Well, reader Georgr Wolfe presents one pretty solid approach. He wants to start with Jeskai—a decklist that looks like this:

Georgr Wolfe's Supermantis

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Jeskai has seen a lot of success in Standard. And while there's nothing too crazy about this decklist, that might actually be why it's so attractive here: it can fit in the paradigm of Unified Standard without eating too many cards from other decks.

Georgr proposes to pair this with Abzan and Mono-Red. Abzan and this deck have very little overlap, making them good interlocking pieces. Mono-Red does clash with a few cards, like Lightning Strike, but he's willing to pay that cost to have these three decks in the configuration. That makes for two pretty good decks that don't take from each other at all and one deck that clashes only slightly with another.

For example, you could look at something like this:

Gavin Verhey's Unified Abzan

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Gavin Verhey's Unified Red

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Georgr's version of Jeskai doesn't play Rabblemaster, clearing the way for an aggressive red deck to have it—and the Lightning Strikes get filled by Magma Jet. (If I was modifying the Jeskai deck to fit this model, I'd probably split them evenly between the decks or give the Jeskai deck the Jets over the Strikes.) But despite some tiny conflicts between the red and Jeskai decks, you have three fairly solid decks that go well together.

Now, this is one approach. But what's another? Well, I'm glad you asked!

Coming Together

If one approach is to split up your cards between three well-known decks with minimal casualties, on the other side of the spectrum is coming together with something new.

If other people are making their decks a little weaker, then it could be prime time for a less-played deck to prey upon that and strike!

I should note that these two strategies can be used in tandem when appropriate, too. If you look back to last year's winning decklists from France, Mono-Green wasn't really one of the decks soaring at the top with its flag planted all over Standard—but in this format, it turned out to be a good choice.

This year, it could be something simply flying under the radar like UB control. Control decks are often well poised to take advantage of tiny edges if other decks weaken slightly. Similarly, it could be time for something like devotion to make a comeback.

But in this case, we're going to go pretty extreme and look at an entirely new deck. Feast your eyes on this deck, from Itou Kazunari:

Itou Kazunari's UR Flesh and Stone

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This kind of deck isn't something you've seen running around the top of Standard—yet anyway—and don't get me wrong: this deck is far from perfect and ready to go to Worlds. But with some tweaks, it could be a contender—and in a Standard format where lots of other people are tweaking their decks a little you could see something brand new with an opportunity to shine.

Now, playing a deck like this doesn't take up as many in-demand card slots as some other decks might. In fact, if you were to play this deck, you can could straight-up lift most of the best-performing main decks from last weekend's Grand Prix San Antonio and they would be instantly compatible!

For example, here are two pretty strong decks you could grab from last weekend:

Orrey Swift's WU Heroic—2nd Place, Grand Prix San Antonio

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Jeremy Frye's Temur Monsters—3rd Place, Grand Prix San Antonio

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You might see some real unusual decks pop their heads out this week—which just makes Unified Standard all the more fun to watch!

A Unified Nation of Magic

Unified Standard is one of the true Constructed puzzles. How would you solve it? I'd love to hear from you about it! Feel free to send me a tweet or a message on my Tumblr with what you would do. Let's see if you can call the champions before the games even begin!

No matter what approach teams end up using, this week is going to showcase a ton of great Magic to watch. Be sure to tune in this week as everything kicks off!

And while the Magic World Championship and the World Magic Cup kick off, this year of ReConstructed is starting to come to a close. It's almost time for our winter break! That means no deck submissions for this week.

But don't start preparing for reruns just yet—next week I'll be back with one more article before the break hits!

Enjoy the coverage this week, stay warm, and have fun!

Gavin

@GavinVerhey

GavInsight

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