Third Turn Standard Kills

Posted in Reconstructed on May 29, 2012

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.

Last time I looked at a Standard deck, I worked on something that was practically as slow as you could possibly get. This time, we're going out to exactly the opposite end of the spectrum.

How does a third-turn kill in Standard sound to you?

Inkmoth Nexus | Art by Jung Park

Infect has had some time out of the spotlight recently as Innistrad block's cards have (rightfully) had a chance to shine. Save for Inkmoth Nexus, few infect cards seem to skitter across Standard tables. However, a new card from Avacyn Restored makes it look like it's time for infect to once again make a stand—and fittingly so, with only months to go before Scars of Mirrodin block departs Standard.

But what could it be now that pushes infect forward? What in Avacyn Restored makes me want to dust off my copies of Glistener Elf?

Let's take a look at today's deck, submitted in by Robbi Ramirez.

Robbi Ramirez's Blue-Green Infect

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    The Battle Plan

This deck's plan is to be the stereotypical school cafeteria lunch lady, doling out overly generous helpings of poison counters as consistently as possible. It wants to hit hard and fast, winning the game before the opponent can go over the top with a powerful endgame. By using cheap infect creatures in tandem with extremely efficient power-increasing spells, you can put pressure on your opponent in a hurry.

Wild Defiance | Art by Slawomir Maniak

A crucial distinction between this infect deck and other infect decks is that this one wants to run on few lands. Ideally, it wants to draw three lands and then never find another. Cards like Putrefax don't fit well here because they don't fit into the deck's curve, and it can't afford to have five-drops sitting in its hand while the deck is busy trying to outright win the game on turns three and four.

So, what's the key card from Avacyn Restored that kickstarts this deck? An unassuming enchantment named Wild Defiance.

You might have missed this on your first, second, and eighth passes through the set, but Wild Defiance is a perfect fit for an infect deck. It holds two crucial purposes.

First of all, it helps pump your infect creatures to lethal heights. Every pump spell you cast provides an additional +3/+3, letting you one-shot the opponent fairly easily.

Second, it protects your creatures. If Wild Defiance were merely a three-mana pump spell it might be okay enough to see some play in a deck like this, but it wouldn't be the exciting piece it is now. Three mana can already buy you Wild Hunger, which immediately provides +3 power. However, the protection Defiance affords is irreplaceable.

One of Infect's major weaknesses is how fragile its creature base is. Your creatures are all just 1/1s that die to any stray Gut Shot. That's far from the truth with a Wild Defiance on the table—in fact, you can even use your own Gut Shots as a (/P) Giant Growth if you want to!

Let's run down the card choices and see how each one supports what the deck is doing.

    Card Breakdown

Blighted Agent and Glistener Elf

These cards are essentially non-negotiable in a Blue-Green Infect deck. Glistener Elf is cheap, Blighted Agent is unblockable, and both allow you to quickly bring the poison. There is perhaps an argument to be made for going mono-green and eschewing Blighted Agent, but as long as you are both blue and green these guys are the sauce that holds this pizza together.

Ichorclaw Myr, Plague Myr, and Necropede

After the core two infect creatures and Inkmoth Nexus, some amount of additional infect creatures are still necessary to make this deck. Twelve infect creatures will not be enough to consistently find them and keep them in play. The only question is: which goblet has the poison which other ones are the best?

To do this, let's look back to the deck's goals.

This deck wants to win quickly. It is not looking to be interactive. The counter from Necropede likely means it blocked—if this deck is blocking it is likely in a very bad spot—in which case Ichorclaw Myr is likely better. It boils down to some metallic, clank-filled myr-on-myr action here, and in the end I would pretty substantially lean toward Ichorclaw Myr as the favorite. It's tricky to block, and the extra mana from Plague Myr isn't very important for this deck.

Not to get ahead of myself, but I still want a few more creatures with infect after that. An option that Robbi didn't use is Blight Mamba, but I would actually give it the nod over Plague Myr. The ability to assault the opponent fearlessly thanks to regeneration is worthwhile, and the mana from Plague Myr only seems really crucial in the situation where I have Wild Defiance and also miss my third land drop.

Wild Defiance

As covered above, this card is excellent for infect strategies. While a full four copies does run the risk of drawing three in your opener, you nearly always want to see one staring back at you. I'm sticking with four.

The Pump Spells—Mutagenic Growth, Titanic Growth, Mirran Mettle, and Unnatural Predation

Infect creatures make up one core element of this deck, and the pump suite makes up the other. It's important this deck has enough pump spells, otherwise it'll fall flat on its face—especially when you're counting on Wild Defiance.

Mutagenic Growth is the best of the bunch here. For no mana it gives a creature +2/+2, and the life payment is unlikely to matter. If 2 life make a difference, you have likely already lost. Thanks to Wild Defiance, you can do something like turn-two Blighted Agent, turn three Defiance, attack, Mutagenic Growth, and hit for 6 poison! In the unlikely situation you have two Growths, you just win on the spot.

After that, Titanic Growth is the next best. Though it does cost two, the large +4/+4 bonus can easily kill opponents. A hand with two Titanic Growths and a Glistener Elf is, uninterrupted, a turn-three kill!

The slope continues to move downward on pump spells after that. Unnatural Predation is likely next best because of the trample, and Mirran Mettle comes in last because it's going to just be +2/+2 and I'd rather have a small upside. I'm going to be looking for better options over these if I can.

Livewire Lash

Livewire Lash works similarly to Defiance, although they don't work together. When the equipped creature is targeted it deals 2 damage—and since the creature is dealing the damage, the damage is dealt in the form of counters!

Lash is a little slow, though powerful when it gets rolling. I might end up with a couple, but I definitely don't want to run too many; it's easy to risk too many draws that are heavy on Lashes and Defiances.

Apostle's Blessing

This is a nice way to push your creature through for lethal poison and also serve as protection. You definitely want a few effects like this. It's also a targeted spell for Wild Defiance, which is a nice bonus in a pinch.

Artful Dodge

Ah, yes, Constructed staple Artful Dodge.

For a fairly weak Limited common, this card does surprisingly good work in this deck. It pushes an infect creature past enemy lines for two turns, or just targets a creature twice to pump with Wild Defiance on the battlefield. Some split of these and Blessings is going to be right, likely a 3/2 split in favor of Apostle's Blessing since Blessing also protects your creature.

    Infectious Upgrades

A lot of the changes with this deck involve tweaking the existing numbers, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few additions worth talking about.


But before we get into what I do recommend adding, it's worth talking about what I don't—namely Blessings of Nature and Revenge of the Hunted.

On the surface, these seem completely sweet in an infect deck. If you play turn-one Glistener Elf and miracle Blessings of Nature on turn two, you're in pretty good shape.

Increasing Savagery | Art by Steve Prescott

While the ideal situation is nice, the reality is that this deck aims to play very few turns. You want to engineer it so you have four or five total draw steps over the entire game. The odds of finding a miracle in that timeframe aren't great. And they certainly aren't worth the cost of having some five- or six-mana card stuck in your hand, eating up a crucial pump-spell slot.

While tempting, I'd stay away from miracles in a deck like this. The times when you flip one will feel incredible—but too often one will end up in your hand and it's going to have been like you took a mulligan.

Gut Shot

Another Phyrexian spell, and one of the few avenues this deck has to deal with creatures. If your opponent plans to block your Glistener Elf with a Delver, this kick to the gut will prove him otherwise. It's a nice bonus—though this deck isn't so concerned with that element.

What does make Gut Shot more attractive is its interaction with Wild Defiance. Thanks to the power of the stack, if you Gut Shot your Glistener Elf with Wild Defiance on the battlefield it's a free +3/+3. The versatility of a card like this might be enough to earn it a couple slots.

Increasing Savagery

This costs one more than this deck ideally wants to pay, but, well, it is rather savage. This is the kind of card I could see playing as a one-of. You never want to draw two, and you don't want to find it early on, but plucking this once you have four mana can be game ending.

Spectral Flight

The upside on this card if your opponent doesn't have anything can be tremendous. Turn-one Elf into Spectral Flight is a probable turn-three kill if you have Titanic Growth. It also pushes your creatures out of Pillar of Flame range.

The downsides are certainly there as well, though. It's both in your splash color and it doesn't trigger Wild Defiance. There are also a fair number of fliers running around. Still, it's definitely worth noting as an option.

Blight Mamba

I talked about this above, but I wanted to put it down here again and reiterate that it's a solid fit for this deck. Good news for mambas everywhere!

After reworking the original numbers and looking toward possible changes, that brings the final list to:

Turbo Poison

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The one item that might look a little weird is Cavern of Souls. None of the creature types in this deck match! The Cavern is there because casting Glistener Elf on turn one is crucial, but you also need enough blue sources for Blighted Agent. This way, you can play it on turn one for Glistener Elf if necessary or, if you already have green, use it to fix your blue. It kind of plays like a weird Tendo Ice Bridge in this deck—but that's all I was looking for.


Before going over the sideboard plans, let me explain what each card is there for.

In a deck like this, you have to be wary of sideboarding too much. This deck's core strategy is solid, and often players will over-sideboard and remove crucial pieces. You don't want to sideboard too much unless you're aware of the large ramifications it can have on your deck.

Ratchet Bomb | Art by Austin Hsu

Ratchet Bomb is there to help clean tokens out of the way in case you play against any token-heavy strategies.

Mental Misstep is to fight off Pillar of Flame and Galvanic Blast against control decks so you can keep your creatures on the table.

Corrupted Resolve is for both the control and ramp decks. You can use it to counter a lot of the swingy, top-end threats the control decks use. Against ramp, you can either counter a sweeper like Slagstorm or, if they don't have Cavern of Souls, a Titan. Either way, its goal is the same: buy you time.

Ranger's Guile comes in against control over other pump spells to try and help fight the barrage of removal.

Grafdigger's Cage is for any heavily graveyard-based strategy. Cage is pretty weak in this deck overall since this deck plans to win in the first few turns and can often outrace the graveyard-focused decks, so only bring this in when you're playing against a graveyard deck you need an answer to quickly.

The green-red beatdown deck often leans on its mana Elves (as do many other decks in the format) and the extra Gut Shot is there to help slow those starts down a little so you can walk over them.

Finally, the last Apostle's Blessing is to help attack past beatdown and as a defensive card versus control.

Let's take a look at each kind of matchup:


-1 Livewire Lash
+1 Apostle's Blessing

These matchups depend a lot on what kind of beatdown decks you are playing against. In general, you want to make sure you don't get blown out by their removal spells and that you can attack past them for an infect victory. The methods of doing that depend on the deck. The one tenet is that, especially against beatdown, you definitely want to be careful not to change too much while sideboarding or the core strategy of your deck might just cease to function.

Apostle's Blessing | Art by Brad Rigney

Against decks that use mana Elves to accelerate into four- and five-drops like Red-Green Beatdown, I would bring in Gut Shot over a Predation. If they also have one-drop removal spells, you will want to bring in Mental Misstep over Increasing Savagery, the second Predation, and a Blight Mamba.

Against token-heavy decks, bring in Ratchet Bomb over Savagery, a Mamba, and a Titanic Growth. Those decks tend to have less removal and more tempo plays, and you want to be able to clear their board of tokens to attack through.


-1 Gut Shot
-2 Artful Dodge
-2 Unnatural Predation
-4 Titanic Growth
+1 Apostle's Blessing
+2 Ranger's Guile
+3 Corrupted Resolve
+3 Mental Misstep

Control is the one matchup where you actively want to alter your game plan. Note that you shouldn't do this if you're against a control deck light on removal and it seems like a good matchup anyway.

Most control decks will be bringing in extra removal after sideboarding and it will become harder to just kill them in a couple turns. Sticking on that route invites losing to a string of Vapor Snags and Pillar of Flames. Instead, you slow down by a few turns and gain some resilience.

You still want to establish an early guy and start attacking; that hasn't changed. However, instead of taking a gigantic risk by unloading a barrage of pump spells, you plink away while setting up. Mental Misstep helps shut down control's early suite of removal like Pillar of Flame, and then once you've pecked your opponent for a poison counter Corrupted Resolve comes online. Resolve can counter any top-end threats and let you just keep attacking. Ranger's Guile and the fourth Blessing also protect you from more removal spells.

Once you attrition away a lot of removal your opponents should be high on poison. At this point, you can freely use Mutagenic Growth and Wild Defiance to finish them off.

It is worth noting that sometimes the game will work out differently, opening with several Mutagenic Growths, and you will take a very aggressive bent. Also, depending on their decks you might not want to transform onto this plan—it just depends how many removal spells you think they will have.

Ramp and Combo

-1 Gut Shot
-1 Livewire Lash
-1 Unnatural Predation
+3 Corrupted Resolve

Just as with beatdown, what exactly to sideboard depends on the nature of their decks. You might want to leave Gut Shot in, for example, if they are reanimator with a bunch of mana Elves. In general Resolve is good, but against Birthing Pod you don't even want them.

Corrupted Resolve | Art by Greg Staples

Against ramp, you sideboard exactly as above. You are favored against them as long as they don't clear your board with Slagstorms and Whipflares, and Corrupted Resolve helps ensure those—as well as Titans—don't resolve. If they have lots of cheap removal, you can also bring in Misstep over a Wild Defiance and both Artful Dodges.

Against Birthing Pod you actually want both of your Gut Shots and no Resolves, so cut a Lash for a Gut Shot and that's it. This matchup favors you as long as you find a way to get past their blockers... and they don't have Melira, Sylvok Outcast in their seventy-five cards at all. So few people do that I wouldn't even worry about it.

Against reanimator without a bunch of mana Elves, bring in Grafdigger's Cage over the pair of Artful Dodge. If they do have a bunch of mana Elves, you're going to want both of your Gut Shots—cut Savagery and a Blight Mamba to keep both of those in.

    Honorable Mentions

As always, I received a lot of really exciting Standard decks. Here are some of my favorites I wasn't able to feature.

Lachlan Ward-Smith's Séance Combo

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Julo De Jesus's Naya Land Destruction

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Alexander Caruso's Jund

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Tadeus Martyn's Stonewalled

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Connor Goldstick's Forgemaster

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Audrey's Red-Black Rising

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Jeff Van Egmond's Big Red

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    From One Mirrodin to Another

So far, we've looked at what Avacyn Restored can do in Block and Commander. But next up, I want to go to a much different place in the time vortex and take the opportunity to look at one of my favorite formats: Modern!

Format: Modern
Restrictions: None!
Deadline: Wednesday, May 30 at 6pm Pacific Time
Send all decklists via email by clicking the "Respond via Email" link at the bottom of this article

There's a lot of crazy stuff that can happen in Modern... What can you come up with? While this isn't a restriction, I would especially be interested in seeing any decks that use new cards from Avacyn Restored.

Contact me on Twitter (@GavinVerhey) if you have any questions, thoughts, or comments on this article or deck—I always love hearing from you guys.

Until next week, may you successfully build up a resistance to iocane powder.


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