Double Infinity

Posted in Top Decks on February 28, 2013

By Mike Flores

Michael Flores is the author of Deckade and The Official Miser's Guide; the designer of numerous State, Regional, Grand Prix, National, and Pro Tour–winning decks; and the onetime editor-in-chief of The Magic Dojo. He'd claim allegiance to Dimir (if such a Guild existed)… but instead will just shrug "Simic."

T his past weekend set yet another huge record breaker for Magic: The Gathering. In Charlotte, NC, we had not only the biggest North American Grand Prix of all time, not just the biggest Grand Prix,... but the biggest Magic event ever. Grand Prix Charlotte—some might say the Grandest Prix—was... Not Constructed.

Luckily—and this is truly amazing—at the same time that the largest Magic event of all time was raging, a pretty significant Standard Grand Prix was going on in Quebec City, up north. The Top 8 there was pretty exciting... and also pretty surprising.

Grand Prix Quebec City; or, " Boros Reckoner was so last week."

Naya Blitz

Nico Christiansen's Naya Blitz

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Nico Christiansen played a blisteringly fast Naya beatdown deck that mixed up many new cards with some substantial surprises.

On the one hand, we have tons and tons of new quick drops— Boros Elite and Experiment One on one; Burning-Tree Emissary (and virtual new card Flinthoof Boar ) on two; Frontline Medic on three; and even a solo Ghor-Clan Rampager on four... Naya Blitz is here-a-Gatecrash, there-a-Gatecrash... everywhere-a-Gatecrash!

Boros Elite
Flinthoof Boar

But the strange thing?

Over and over we see new Boros cards... a white one-drop into eventual Frontline Medic .

We see fast green beats that stretch from a displaced Simic ( Experiment One as a redundancy on Champion of the Parish ) to Flinthoof Boar (a virtual Gruul spell)...

But where is Boros Reckoner ?

Apparently, the dominant new card of Pro Tour Gatecrash is just so last week.

Other big surprise? Giant Growth !

This deck is built for speed, and Giant Growth helps out two ways. It can pull a creature past a red point-removal card and, of course, it can just rip 3 from a defender's desperate life total... in a pinch you can get both at the same time! If there is one thing players at home should take note of it is that if you have the choice... burn the Naya Blitz player on your own turn, or maybe at the end of his or her turn; otherwise, you risk a Giant Growth smackdown.

Ditto, potentially, on Boros Charm .

Naya Beatdown

Wenzel Krautmann's Naya Beatdown

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Wenzel Krautmann also posted an impressive finish with a similar Naya deck featuring mostly creatures and a couple of Searing Spear s. Krautmann's deck is substantially different, though. Wenzel played Avacyn's Pilgrim as a one-drop, as well as twenty-three lands. This allowed him to go bigger on drops—the traditional four-drop pairing of Huntmaster of the Fells and Restoration Angel . Overall, it's a more synergistic, potentially higher-powered look at a Naya attack, rather than going for purely quick beatdown.

Avacyn's Pilgrim
Restoration Angel

Among his "extra" three lands were two copies of Gavony Township . Obviously, this deck was built to go longer, turn its 1/1 creatures into legitimate threats over time; although, of course, it can get a similarly quick start. Nobody is going to easily walk away from Champion of the Parish into Burning-Tree Emissary + Mayor of Avabruck : 4 on two? Thanks for the Cavern of Souls on Humans.

Gavony Township
Cavern of Souls

Human Reanimator

Tzu Ching Kuo's Human Reanimator

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You know how, the first time you saw The Aristocrats play out, you expected something spectacular to happen? Not that The Aristocrats is bad or anything—in addition to a Grand Prix Top 8 we will discuss in a bit, it produced the best possible result for a deck designer (it won the Pro Tour it was built for). Just... you expect some kind of crazy infinite combo, having been primed by previous Cartel Aristocrat -driven Human Reanimator decks.

World Magic Cup standout Tzu Ching Kuo did not disappoint with this one. Totally different Gatecrash sacrifice outlet, maybe, but even more spectacular than even the previous Human Reanimator decks (which could produce infinite life and Wolves).

Here's the combo...

Set up a position where you can somehow get Angel of Glory's Rise onto the battlefield in concert with Burning-Tree Emissary , Fiend Hunter , and Undercity Informer . You can, in theory, chain out the Emissary and Informer, cast the Angel later, and then cover the Angel up with a Fiend Hunter by hand... but that's not really what we are talking about.

Angel of Glory's Rise
Fiend Hunter

The dream draw with this deck more involves dumping all the relevant tools into the graveyard using Faithless Looting , Mulch , and Grisly Salvage .

You then use Unburial Rites to get back Angel of Glory's Rise , which then returns the trio (at least). When Burning-Tree Emissary comes into play, it produces two mana, and Fiend Hunter 's job is to make the Angel disappear.

Now you use the two mana to sacrifice first the Burning-Tree Emissary , then the Fiend Hunter , to the Undercity Informer . For sake of simplicity, the Undercity Informer is pointing at the opponent's library.

Undercity Informer
Burning-Tree Emissary

The Burning-Tree Emissary goes to the graveyard, followed by the Fiend Hunter ... and when the Fiend Hunter leaves the battlefield, the Angel reappears, returning the Burning-Tree Emissary and Fiend Hunter back to the battlefield (again giving you two mana and again disappearing the Angel). You can grind the opponent with the Undercity Informer repeatedly this way, with the Burning-Tree Emissary giving you exactly enough mana to activate the Informer twice, looping these two pivotal Humans.

If you are rich (say you have an extra Burning-Tree Emissary and Huntmaster of the Fells access) you can gain lots of life and make lots of Wolves, but the real goal here is to just grind out the opponent's library. There are numerous advantages here over the previous build that "just" made Wolves and gained life. You don't need to get to your next attack to win, you can go completely over even an opposing "infinite life" combo (whether Humans Reanimator or RWU Lucky Charms Control). Also, you can jazz your own graveyard with Undercity Informer , taking advantage of either just a bigger graveyard for more Angel of Glory's Rise action or to gain access to tools like Purify the Grave .

Purify the Grave

Jund Zombies

Felipe Tapia Becerra's Jund Zombies

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A few weeks ago, it was the most laudable of three-drops. Great in Zombies; great in other Zombies; so good it was included as a difficult Bloodbraid Elf "target" in Modern Jund lists.

And then...?

Boros Reckoner !

Well, what seems like an off week for the Minotaur Wizard, combined with some Zombies wizardry by players like Becerra, have returned Geralf's Messenger to prominence—here in a Jund Zombies list.

Being Jund instead of Rakdos, Becerra got to take advantage of more great cards; he could start on Deathrite Shaman and activate all abilities. In addition to Geralf's Messenger , he got to take advantage of the mighty Dreg Mangler on three. And, of course, on two, yet another massively powerful Zombie in Lotleth Troll : the deck can put together a hellacious offense, draw on the resilience of not only Gravecrawler and Geralf's Messenger but the removal-resistance of Lotleth Troll (regeneration), Dreg Mangler (re-buy), and the four-drop bomb Falkenrath Aristocrat .

Deathrite Shaman
Geralf's Messenger

Punch and staying power.

Becerra's spell base is designed, nigh explicitly, to be able to handle a Boros Reckoner . Brimstone Volley might make for a painful exchange, but at least all main-deck spells can take out the beatdown-hating Minotaur Wizard (although Tragic Slip , perhaps tragically, takes a little setup via combat or Falkenrath Aristocrat ).

The Aristocrats

Thomas Holzinger's The Aristocrats

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Speaking of Falkenrath Aristocrat , Thomas Holzinger re-bought the success of the Pro Tour winner at the follow-up Grand Prix.

The Aristocrats is a tough deck to put into a simple box. It is essentially a Humans beatdown deck that can start on Champion of the Parish and then buff immediately—if surprisingly—with Knight of Infamy , then buff and pair with Silverblade Paladin .

Champion of the Parish
Knight of Infamy

But in addition to a straightforward Humans beatdown strategy, The Aristocrats plays off of multiple synergies based on sacrificing its own creatures. Cartel Aristocrat , going long, can ensure damage by forcing through an unblocked 2/2. Falkenrath Aristocrat is near the top of its always lofty game here. Haste, resilience to Wrath of God ,... even some extra buffing (and fuel) via Doomed Traveler !

Cartel Aristocrat
Falkenrath Aristocrat

All that self-sacrifice lets you set up a powerhouse long game via Skirsdag High Priest , plus massive extra value from Zealous Conscripts . The old "steal your beast thing, smash you with it, then throw it into the graveyard instead of giving it back" trick... might I suggest Thragtusk ?

Jund Midrange Variants

Speaking of Thragtusk , nearly half the Grand Prix Quebec City Top 8 was composed of Jund Midrange decks. Both the styles of Jund Midrange from the Top 8 of Pro Tour Gatecrash were represented.

Any version of Jund Midrange is going to run a combination of the best black, red, and green cards in the format, combining flexible removal, great threats, and blowouts... all set up with Farseek . Jund Midrange decks will typically play at least two copies of Rakdos's Return main deck to punish permission-poor control decks, and can turn even a lowly Arbor Elf into a murderer via an endgame Kessig Wolf Run .

Farseek
Kessig Wolf Run

Maxime Cantin's Jund Midrange

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This style of Jund Midrange features more offensive utility creatures main, notably Vampire Nighthawk . Cantin used all four copies of Mizzium Mortars main, the so-called Searing Spear / Mutilate split card.

Vampire Nighthawk
Mizzium Mortars

Wilson Wong's Jund Midrange

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Reid Duke's Jund Midrange

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Both Wilson Wong and Reid Duke utilized the same style of Jund Midrange deck that Duke's teammate Owen Turtenwald piloted to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Gatecrash. Unique elements include Arbor Elf and Bonfire of the Damned (although both Wong and Duke also played Mizzium Mortars main). In addition, Wong played one Staff of Nin main, a manifold breaker and favorite.

All the Jund Midrange decks from the Top 8 of Grand Prix Quebec City played a mix of Garruk, Primal Hunter and Liliana of the Veil as progressive, long-game tools.

Garruk, Primal Hunter
Liliana of the Veil

"Grandest" SCG Tournament

Not to be outdone by Quebec City, Grand Prix Charlotte put out a Sunday tournament that rivaled the size and difficulty of a Grand Prix itself. Given the epic enrollment of Grand Prix Charlotte, tournament organizers StarCityGames wanted to give something back. They had already scheduled a tournament for Sunday, but they not only doubled the prize payout... but gave away free entrances to everyone who was eliminated in the first pre-draft round of Day Two!

The tournament, whose winner would also get a free flight and hotel room for the upcoming Grand Prix Miami, gave us even more looks to the viable decks of Standard after Pro Tour Gatecrash.

Jund Midrange

Owen Turtenwald's Jund

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Just closing the loop on the Jund Midrange decks, Owen himself finished second in the tournament... playing essentially his performing deck from the Pro Tour. Again, the differentiating cards in this deck are Arbor Elf as an incremental accelerator and Bonfire of the Damned as a blowout.

Arbor Elf
Bonfire of the Damned

Thragtusk , Olivia Voldaren , the Planeswalkers, and—of course— Rakdos's Return are all potential game-winners, but they are played in most versions of Jund Midrange.

Reanimator

Michael Segal's Reanimator

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Straight Junk Reanimator seems like an important look back at the pre-Gatecrash version of the Standard format. Unlike many of the decks we have looked at—Naya Blitz, The Aristocrats, &c.—this deck is not rich with Gatecrash cards (although it does play some copies of Obzedat, Ghost Council in the sideboard).

The deck simply plays a great game against aggro, combining both a powerful combo element with some of the best "fair" tools in Standard.

On the one side, Reanimator can just be a good creature deck, a la Selesnya Ramp. You can start on Arbor Elf or Avacyn's Pilgrim and find your way to the Achievement Unlocked of Thragtusk + Restoration Angel . Restoration Angel is great not just with Thragtusk but Centaur Healer , Borderland Ranger , and Acidic Slime .

Thragtusk
Centaur Healer

Then again, you can go nutso with Mulch and Grisly Salvage , put a bunch of tools into the graveyard, and start grinding out discounted—and repeating— Thragtusk s. Or you can start on your one-drop accelerators... and then suddenly make them huge (and lethal in one turn) with a single Craterhoof Behemoth thanks to Unburial Rites .

One underrated feature of this style of Reanimator deck is the ability to grind out a very long game against Nephalia Drownyard decks via Angel of Serenity and Cavern of Souls . Over time, you can get an Angel in the graveyard (not hard against a Nephalia Drownyard deck) and either play an uncounterable Angel of Serenity or use Unburial Rites to hide the next Angel (and hopefully some other tools) under the one on the battlefield. In this manner, the opponent is forced to deal with each Angel... while giving you the next Angel to potentially set up further and further snowballs of card advantage.

Angel of Serenity
Nephalia Drownyard

Because Angels can kill many times faster than Nephalia Drownyard (and because the opponent will often be in a position where he or she has to find an answer for each Angel) this can prove a successful strategy, especially when you can net two more creatures (ideally, removal-resistant Thragtusk s) with each Angel loop.

Esper Control

Roland Bigford's Esper Control

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Esper Control decks exist—like many common color combinations—along a continuum. Bigford played a permanents-heavy version with both little and big creatures, with primarily Planeswalkers to kill.

Like many Esper decks, he played just the two Dissipate s for main-deck permission.

  • Only two copies of Sphinx's Revelation and three copies of Nephalia Drownyard main (many Esper decks play four and four).
  • A return of Lingering Souls ! After months of languishing in the zero-to-two range, the cross-format all-star returns in Bigford's deck as a four-of.
  • No copies of Planar Cleansing ... likely an accommodation to Bigford's own Planeswalker-defined strategy to win.
Sphinx's Revelation
Lingering Souls

This deck packs an Elixir of Immortality in the sideboard, not just as a foil to opposing Nephalia Drownyard but as a way to recycle his own Sphinx's Revelation s. And although there are just two of those, he played a variety of card-drawing spells, including Think Twice , Azorius Charm , and Forbidden Alchemy (although none of them as a four-of).

Brad Sheppard's Esper Control

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