Intimidation Tactics

Posted in Top Decks on July 4, 2013

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,'s exclusive Magic Online column. Last week, we discussed Standard's shift toward a board presence–based metagame. Today, I've got an exciting preview from Magic 2014 that's sure to get players amped for the new core set.

Art by Min Yum

Before we take a look at the preview, I'd like to show you the Top 8 of a recent Magic Online Premier Event. Take a look at the following decklists and see if you can find a common theme.


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Four copies of Restoration Angel are necessary tools for the current Red-White-Blue lists. The four-mana flash creature lets the deck apply pressure on opponents and makes combat difficult for opponents who don't have hard spot removal or Ghor-Clan Rampagers in their hands.

Restoration Angel


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Human Reanimator has been picking up a lot of steam over the last week or so. The deck uses Burning-Tree Emissary, Cartel Aristocrat, Fiend Hunter, and Angel of Glory's Rise to create infinite mana. Replace Cartel Aristocrat with Undercity Informer and you're milling your opponent's entire deck. Toss Huntmaster of the Fells into the mix and you're gaining infinite life. Most players are starting to realize that Naya Blitz and Gruul Aggro strategies are being hated out of the format by decks that go just a little bit bigger. It's hard to pilot a Burning-Tree Emissary aggro deck when half of your opponents have Boros Reckoner and four copies of Pillar of Flame. Human Reanimator does exceptionally well, especially in Game 1, against virtually every other strategy. Huntmaster of the Fells, Fiend Hunter, Cartel Aristocrat, Burning-Tree Emissary, and Angel of Glory's Rise are all necessary to the deck's survival and eventual combo; having any one of these cards exiled poses a huge problem for Standard's premier combo strategy.

Fiend Hunter
Angel of Glory's Rise


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Standard's premier aggro strategy relies heavily on Ghor-Clan Rampager to prevent trades and force through damage.

Ghor-Clan Rampager


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The new wave of Bant Control decks takes advantage of the powerful green and white creatures in Standard and uses incredible card advantage engines to eventually overpower opponents.

Voice of Resurgence


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Junk Aristocrats plays like a combo deck in many ways. Cards like Cartel Aristocrat; Doomed Traveler; Voice of Resurgence; Varolz, the Scar-Striped; and Young Wolf are all necessary pieces of the combo. Removing one of these from the equation severely disrupts the deck's ability to operate at full potential.

Cartel Aristocrat
Doomed Traveler


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Standard's newest/oldest aggressive strategy uses green and white's most aggressive creature combination to end games before they've even begun. The deck plays similarly to Bant Hexproof, but it's a lot less susceptible to variance.

Advent of the Wurm
Silverblade Paladin


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This interesting green-blue-black control strategy leans hard on its Thragtusk. The deck can be weak to Supreme Verdict strategies, but it seems like it's quite strong against the rest of the standard metagame.


You may be asking yourself, "What's similar about these decks?" After all, that looks like a pretty diverse metagame to any living, breathing, Magic-playing human.

All of these decks rely heavily on green or white creatures. It's about time that players get punished for playing these cards, and today's preview card knocks them out of the game entirely.

Today's preview card looks like a powerful sideboard option upon first glance. However, after an inspection of the current Standard metagame it becomes clear that the card deserves main-deck consideration. Notice that all of the decks above contain some number of white or green creatures. Most of these decks contain an abundance of these cards. Even the most controlling strategies these days are packing some number of Thragtusks or Restoration Angels, or both.

What if there were an aggressive creature that punished your opponent for playing these cards? A card that had the ability to change Standard deck construction drastically from now to Theros? Today's preview card is just that.

Without further ado, let's take a look at Lifebane Zombie

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A 3/1 black intimidate creature for three mana wouldn't normally be worth getting excited about. Sure, it's pretty unlikely that your opponents will have black creatures in their main deck to block it if they aren't an Aristocrats variant, Jund, or a rogue brew. The real power of this card is its triggered ability.

Think about it. Lifebane Zombie comes down on the third turn and plucks the Thragtusk out of your opponent's hand. Your opponent built his or her entire game plan around the five-mana game changer, and now he or she is left exposed. You now have the ability to play around whatever tricks you might have seen; you added 3 (probably unblockable) power to the board; and you're threatening to cast Restoration Angel the following turn, during your opponent's draw step, to strip his or her hand of the endgame plan, Prime-Speaker Zegana.

That may seem like an optimal situation, but it's pretty hard to whiff with a turn-three Lifebane Zombie in this format. Even if you do whiff, against most decks a 3/1 intimidate is essentially unblockable. Your opponent needs to find a removal spell or will be losing 15% of his or her starting life total every turn.

The card combos nicely with Restoration Angel, too. I expect there to be some black-green-white strategy that plays some combination of Sin Collector, Centaur Healer, and Lifebane Zombie alongside Restoration Angel. The deck could main deck a few of each card and have the ability to sideboard into the right pair of four-ofs to make the matchup an absolute nightmare for any opponent. Playing against an aggressive deck? Four Lifebane Zombies and four Centaur Healers with Restoration Angel seems like a pretty nice game plan. Control got you down? Let's pick apart their hands with Lifebane Zombie and Sin Collector and then threaten with Restoration Angel to do it again during their next endstep or draw step (depending on whether it's a deck with Supreme Verdict or not).

Sin Collector
Centaur Healer

Even aggressive black or black-one-other-color Zombie strategies could become a big thing again. Liliana's Reaver, Lifebane Zombie, Geralf's Messenger, Diregraf Ghoul, Gravecrawler, and a sprinkling of other creatures; removal; and perhaps discard seems like it could make for a very powerful deck in the coming months.

Faith's Shield has been getting its fair share of Standard play recently, but with the abundance of black-green-white creatures with "enter the battlefield" and "leave the battlefield" triggers, it makes sense that Undying Evil might become a premier trick in the post Magic 2014 metagame.

Only time will tell what Lifebane Zombie and the rest of Magic 2014 will do to the new Standard. Don't miss the rest of the Magic 2014 previews this week on and be sure to find the location of your local Prerelease so you can be among the first to play with Magic's latest core set. Let's all celebrate Magic's 20th anniversary together!

Knowledge is power!

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