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Posts tagged “control

Standards and Practices: Mo’ Colors Mo’ Problems

It seems the undead horde is relentless, evidenced as much by tournament results as by the increasing number of zombie movies directed by George Romero. (Seven “of the Dead” movies? Really, George? Seven?) For two consecutive weeks, American Grand Prix have been won by aggressive Rakdos decks featuring zombies, dragons, and devils that ride from the fiery pits of hell.

"Hi, mom!"

“Hi, mom!”

In times like these, one might think that streamlining their midrange and control decks, so as to be able to bear the brunt of the undead onslaught, is the correct course of action. “Surely,” quip the commentators, “Any sane man wouldn’t be caught dead playing more than eight shock lands when aggro decks dominate the format.” This is true; any sane man wouldn’t.

But I’m interested in decks built by the metaphorically insane.

Conley Woods

Brewmaster extraordinaire and Andre the Giant understudy Conley Woods recently piloted a four-color deck to the top eight of Grand Prix San Antonio, packing ten shock lands in his seventy-five.  The deck featured format staples like Restoration Angel and Thragtusk alongside aggro-hindering stalwarts like Loxodon Smiter and Huntmaster of the Fells to help brunt the initial rush of damage from an aggressive opponent, with Unburial Rites and Armada Wurm to pressure control decks after they’ve handed down their Supreme Verdict.

In Conley’s case, the life loss from shock lands is mitigated by the life gain from Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusk, as well as the fact that Loxodon Smiter and Restoration Angel present a sizable blocker against Rakdos and Selesnya decks predominantly featuring creatures with three or less power. The recent showing of midrange Naya decks as well as the Jund decks that appeared early in the format are a testament to those creatures’ strengths against the hyper-aggressive decks that have come to dominate the format in recent weeks.

However, adding a fourth color to an already solid deck helped Conley shore up the Naya deck’s main weakness: control. Bant control has become a driving force in the past few weeks, being piloted to money finishes by the likes of MTGO superstar Reid Duke and former Player of the Year Owen Turtenwald. The deck is very well-positioned against any and all midrange strategies, be they Naya, Junk, or Jund. Supreme Verdict is often a 2- or 3-for-1 against midrange decks, so Unburial Rites basically draws you a creature in the late game, allowing you to keep up on card advantage against the control player.

Lewis Laskin

While not placing in any large tournaments recently, Lewis Laskin’s “Not Black Midrange” deck has received a bit of buzz and seems very well-positioned against the current crop of aggressive decks. For those of you who haven’t seen it already, here is his masterpiece:

Not Black Midrange
Lands (26)
2x Clifftop Retreat
1x Desolate Lighthouse
2x Hallowed Fountain
4x Hinterland Harbor
1x Kessig Wolf Run
4x Rootbound Crag
4x Steam Vents
4x Sulfur Falls
4x Temple Garden
Instants (7)
2x Searing Spear
3x Sphinx’s Revelation
2x Syncopate
Sideboard (15)
1x Aerial Predation
1x Augur of Bolas
1x Blasphemous Act
1x Counterflux
3x Dissipate
1x Ray of Revelation
2x Rest in Peace
2x Rolling Temblor
1x Silklash Spider
1x Supreme Verdict
1x Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Sorceries (10)
2x Bonfire of the Damned
4x Farseek
4x Pillar of Flame
Planeswalkers (4)
3x Jace, Architect of Thought
1x Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Creatures (10)
4x Huntmaster of the Fells
2x Snapcaster Mage
4x Thragtusk
Enchantments (3)
3x Detention Sphere

Yet again we see ten shock lands shored up by the life gain from Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusk (a common trend with these four-color decks). If we look at this list as Bant control attempting to strengthen its aggressive matchup, the red splash helps with both the aforementioned life gain creatures as well as packing a full set of Pillar of Flame and two Searing Spears to blast any and all Gravecrawlers, Geralf’s Messengers, and Hellriders that might be getting too close for comfort.

However, we can also look at it as a Naya midrange deck trying to shore up its weakness to the over-the-top Bant control decks that win through repeated board sweepers and Sphinx’s Revelations. Jace is great at threatening a Bant player trying to win the long game, especially now that those decks have been trimming numbers on Detention Spheres and counter magic. Being able to steal the Elixir of Immortality from their deck can stop their grinding potential, and Rest in Peace out of the sideboard completely hoses that avenue of victory. Tamiyo’s emblem plus burn spells can also quickly end the game, though it does require you to play around Dissipate and Rest in Peace.

I will admit that the mana is stretched to the point of breaking, but any reasonable draw will keep you abreast of the format’s top strategies. I’m not the biggest fan of Syncopate right now, but Snapcaster Mage demands at least a few permission spells in order to be as Cryptic Command-y as he can be. Augur out of the sideboard seems cute but negotiable, and I wonder if the life gain on Aerial Predation makes it better than Crushing Vines, which has the added benefit of taking out errant Runechanter’s Pikes.

Ali Aintrazi

This article would not be complete without discussing the mad scientist himself. Ali Aintrazi is quickly becoming the spiritual successor to Conley Woods, known for such off-the-wall decks as Turboland and Blue-Black Heartless Summoning, as well as the Custom Cube he and Justin Parnell created. However, his most recent creation is probably his craziest, recently piloted to a 15th place finish at Grand Prix Charleston:

3 Doors Down
Lands (27)
1x Blood Crypt
3x Cavern of Souls
1x Dragonskull Summit
4x Glacial Fortress
2x Hallowed Fountain
1x Hinterland Harbor
2x Isolated Chapel
1x Kessig Wolf Run
4x Overgrown Tomb
1x Steam Vents
2x Sunpetal Grove
4x Temple Garden
1x Vault of the Archangel
Sorceries (14)
4x Farseek
3x Lingering Souls
2x Rakdos’s Return
2x Ranger’s Path
3x Supreme Verdict
Sideboard (15)
1x Abrupt Decay
1x Cavern of Souls
4x Centaur Healer
2x Duress
2x Rest in Peace
3x Slaughter Games
2x Tragic Slip
Planeswalkers (4)
1x Garruk, Primal Hunter
1x Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
1x Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
1x Vraska the Unseen
Creatures (6)
1x Angel of Serenity
1x Griselbrand
4x Thragtusk
Instants (5)
2x Abrupt Decay
3x Sphinx’s Revelation
Artifacts (3)
2x Chromatic Lantern
1x Door to Nothingness
Enchantment (1)
1x Oblivion Ring

After further testing, Ali posted the updated list on his recent article on StarCityGames.com, including an explanation for his deck choice and the changes he made after Charleston. I’ve been testing the updated list for the past week and plan on playing it in Baltimore this weekend:

3 Doors Down v2.0
Lands (26)
1x Alchemist’s Refuge
1x Blood Crypt
3x Cavern of Souls
1x Dragonskull Summit
3x Glacial Fortress
2x Hallowed Fountain
1x Hinterland Harbor
2x Isolated Chapel
1x Kessig Wolf Run
4x Overgrown Tomb
1x Steam Vents
2x Sunpetal Grove
4x Temple Garden
Sorceries (14)
4x Farseek
3x Lingering Souls
2x Rakdos’s Return
1x Ranger’s Path
4x Supreme Verdict
Sideboard (15)
1x Abrupt Decay
1x Cavern of Souls
1x Curse of Death’s Hold
1x Door to Nothingness
3x Duress
1x Rakdos’s Return
2x Rest in Peace
2x Slaughter Games
2x Tragic Slip
1x Ultimate Price
Planeswalkers (3)
1x Garruk, Primal Hunter
1x Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
1x Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Creatures (6)
1x Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
1x Griselbrand
4x Thragtusk
Instants (6)
2x Abrupt Decay
3x Sphinx’s Revelation
1x Ultimate Price
Artifacts (3)
3x Chromatic Lantern
Enchantments (2)
1x Curse of Death’s Hold
1x Detention Sphere

That’s a grand total of twelve shock lands with nary a Huntmaster in sight. To supplement the requisite Thragtusk-and-Sphinx’s Revelation pony show that is the mainstay of every Bant control deck, Ali dipped into the Block-banned Lingering Souls to help prevent some early beats as well as provide a threat against the slower control decks. “So,” you may ask, “What’s the point of adding two additional colors to a deck that already has a proven track record of success? What do you gain?”

Everything.

Playing five colors means you can play every card in the format, so long as you can hit all your colors. The benefits of this are twofold; the first and most obvious benefit is that you can adjust your deck with any number of cards to prey on the suspected meta of the next big tournament. Aggressive decks expected? You have access to Supreme Verdict, Pillar of Flame, Sphinx’s Revelation, Thragtusk, Huntmaster of the Fells, Centaur Healer, and Curse of Death’s Hold in the same deck.  So long as you can insure being able to cast these spells in a timely fashion, five color control lets you play the most powerful answers and threats in any given format.

The second benefit is more subtle but equally important; five-color means your opponent has less information about what cards are in your deck. When you play Rakdos aggro or Bant control, there is a finite number of cards that are useful to either strategy, so your opponent knows what to play around. When you play five colors, the only cards your opponents can be sure are in your deck are Farseek and Chromatic Lantern. Everything else is basically good stuff dictated by what colors of mana your lands produce.

Going into this weekend, I can’t lie that I have some reservations about playing greed.dec. However, this is the type of deck I love to play. I expect there to be a rise in decks designed to beat Rakdos aggro, most of which will be midrange strategies upon which this deck preys. This is what Chapin calls level two; playing a deck that beats the deck which beats the deck to beat. I can only hope I’ll be able to show my opponents the Door.

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Standards and Practices: Back in Black (and Blue and Red)

It’s been awhile since I last graced this space with my words. I’d like to say I’ve been busy with things far more important than a silly little blog, but the truth of the matter is that I’ve just been lazy and not felt the urge to write about anything as of the past few months.

I think it’s time to change that.

For those of you who’ve read this blog in the past, welcome back to Friday Night Malafarina. For those of you just joining us, I hope you enjoy your stay. Now let’s talk about Standard.

Return to Ravnica

Since I’ve been away, the Magic world has been shaken up by the yearly rotation of expansions. It seems like only yesterday we had turn-one Delvers flipping Mana Leaks over into the faces of defeated opponents, while Birthing Pods tapped to turn humble Blade Splicers into savage Ravagers of the Fells. Players were still Pondering the merits of Blue-White midrange versus Delver while Primeval Titans trampled over all who opposed them. Now we live in a strange new world filled with giant, tusked beasts that require two spears to kill, the Return of the demon lord Rakdos spelling doom for opponents, and the triumphant second coming of a four-mana Jace that can claim to be somewhat near He Who Shall Not Be Named in power and versatility. It is a format where a card like Bonfire of the Damned is too costly and inefficient while Mizzium Mortars is just fine at two or six mana, and Geist of Saint Traft isn’t the scariest thing one can face (though it is still pretty scary!)

Welcome to the tier 2 metagame, my friends.

For those of you new to Magic who don’t know what a tier 2 metagame is (and have a premium account on Starcitygames.com), I refer you to Mike Flores’ article from last week. The key point to take away from the article in question is that there are three conflicting models for deck design: the linear model, the tier-two metagame, and the haymaker model. With the linear model, Wizards has more or less designed the deck from the ground up and the players simply fine-tune the intricacies of said deck. This is the case with tribal decks like Zombies and Goblins, or Affinity in Modern. The deck exists because Wizards intended for it to exist.

The haymaker model is the model to which we have grown accustomed in the past few years. While most people would point to the obvious example of Primeval Titan, Flores chooses to point out Tarmogoyf as one of the first indicators that constructed Magic had moved to a more haymaker-based strategy. Before Tarmogoyf, it was perfectly reasonable to expect a game to be won off Meloku, a 2/4 flier for five mana that needed a certain board state to actually take over a game. After Tarmogoyf, we saw decks being built on the backs of the inherent power of each card rather than synergies and card advantage. Planeswalkers are guilty of contributing to this style of deck building, as are the myriad of powerful enters-the-battlefield creatures we’ve been seeing in recent years, most notoriously the Titan cycle.

However, I agree with Flores that Standard has regressed back to the second model of deckbuilding not seen since we last visited Ravnica. While haymakers still exist in the form of Angel of Serenity, Thragtusk, Geist of Saint Traft, and other ridiculous creatures, games have become less about individual threats and more about having a solid game plan, whether it be extreme aggro, total control, or out-valuing your opponent. There are a greater number of viable decks in the current Standard format than there have been in quite some time, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what can be accomplished if we think outside the box.

Living in a Brewmaster’s Paradise

One of the biggest pitfalls for any Magic player is conflating a previous constructed format with a post-rotation format. Many people entered into the new Standard environment expecting Zombies to be the top deck and expecting Delver to still exist in some form (I mean, the card is still legal and all!) However, in a format devoid of Mana Leak, Vapor Snag, or Primeval Titan-into-Kessig Wolf Run, games tend to go longer and players are not punished for taking time to set up their game plan. As such, control is an actual presence in the metagame and Cavern of Souls is more or less relegated to dedicated tribal decks.

Reanimator, a fringe strategy in the era of Delver, is an actual contender for the “best deck” in the current Standard format, having usurped Jund and Raka Midrange as “the deck to beat” in the last few weeks. While one could consider such a strategy to be indicative of a haymaker format, when a deck like Reanimator becomes the boogeyman it means the format is very receptive to new ideas, as its “unfair” strategy is easily hated out and thus can be forced to play a fair game against any deck in the field.

This is the kind of format that rewards innovation and punishes complacence, as relying on a deck that did well in the previous week can have you hated out the following. All of the “top decks” we’ve seen over the past few Grand Prix or Star City Games Opens have all been very near in power level, with no clear frontrunner in sight. Eventually, the metagame will reach equilibrium, but hopefully Wizards’ recent policy change of not posting Magic Online Daily Events decklists will have the intended effect of slowing down the evolution of the format enough that it won’t grow stale before the release of Gatecrash.

It is important to keep this in mind when brewing control for the new Standard. While your local metagame will vary only slightly from week-to-week, you have to be able to anticipate the next big deck at higher-level events and be able to figure out the answer to last week’s winners, then either play that deck or be prepared to beat that deck (or, as Patrick Chapin calls it, finding Level 2).

Level 2

With Reanimator on top for the past few weeks and aggressive strategies like mono-red and Zombies on the downturn, the format is ripe for a control deck to take the gold at the next big event. Most of the top players are on Reanimator, Selesnya Aggro, Raka Midrange, or Bant Control, meaning our main offenders are planeswalkers, Geist of Saint Traft, Angel of Serenity, and what is more or less a glorified White Weenie deck. With this in mind, I believe I’ve found a deck that can go toe-to-toe with any and all of these titans of the format:

The Legion of Doom

Instants (13)
1x Cyclonic Rift
3x Dissipate
2x Forbidden Alchemy
2x Izzet Charm
3x Think Twice
1x Thoughtflare
1x Ultimate Price
Lands (25)
4x Blood Crypt
1x Desolate Lighthouse
4x Drowned Catacomb
4x Island
3x Mountain
4x Steam Vents
4x Sulfur Falls
1x Swamp
Sideboard (15)
3x Cremate
2x Essence Scatter
2x Olivia Voldaren
3x Rolling Temblor
4x Pillar of Flame
1x Slaughter Games
Sorceries (9)
1x Bonfire of the Damned
2x Dreadbore
2x Mizzium Mortars
2x Rakdos’s Return
2x Sever the Bloodline
Planeswalkers (6)
3x Jace, Architect of Thought
1x Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
2x Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Artifacts (2)
2x Rakdos Keyrune
Creatures (5)
1x Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
2x Snapcaster Mage
2x Thundermaw Hellkite

My love of Grixis Control may not be as well-known as my love of Mono-Black Control, but I’ve been known to cast my share of Cruel Ultimatums, or resolve a Nicol Bolas or two (not two at the same time, mind you!) While this deck seems to be a “sit back and react to everything my opponent does” sort of control deck, it is more proactive than it appears. The deck is packed full of answers to the various threats in the format, but subscribes to the concept of “the best defense is a good offense,” as is the case with the most substantial new inclusion to the deck:

2x Thundermaw Hellkite

I wasn’t initially sold on this card in control, opting to play Olivia Voldaren in its place at my local shop’s most recent Standard tournament and keep the hasty dragon in the sideboard. Then, I took Steve Campen’s advice (always a risky move!) and sided in this card against control decks, regardless of whether or not they were packing Lingering Souls.

I did not give this card the credit it deserved.

Having an opponent drop a Jace onto an empty board on turn four, only to chomp down on it with a 5/5 hasty dragon and leave him having to find a way to deal with this new threat sans his draw engine felt almost like casting Cruel Ultimatum. Going into the second round of a recent Grand Prix trial, I played against a hybrid Grixis-reanimator list that replaced planeswalkers with Lingering Souls and an Unburial Rites package. I realized in hindsight that, had I been playing Thundermaw Hellkite over Olivia Voldaren, I would have easily stomped my opponent in spite of his repeated recursion of Angel of Serenity, simply for the fact that I would get the dragon back to my hand and immediately smack him in the face for five, Lingering Souls be damned. On top of that, I realized that I was winning most of the games where I continually put pressure on my opponents before finishing them off with a Rakdos’s Return, and a 5/5 haste flier is a great way to put an opponent on the back foot.

Suffice to say, I used my winnings from the tournament to pick up two more of this guy and happily switched Olivia to my sideboard.

2x Rakdos Keyrune

By the same token, my closest games were the ones involving Strangleroot Geist, Rancor, and Silverblade Paladin. With Pillar of Flame in my sideboard, I was more or less a dog to the super-aggressive Selesnya strategies going into the tournament, mising a match win off a Selesnya beatdown deck in round three only to lose to a similar deck the following round. While Rakdos Keyrune may not have won me those games, it would have helped stem the bleeding against Thalia or Silverblade Paladin long enough to let me come back. The fact that it curves into Thundermaw Hellkite is just gravy.

1x Ultimate Price, 2x Izzet Charm

There were games where I would drop a Jace and activate his +1 ability, thinking him safe to my opponent’s assault on the following turn, only to have him eat a Rancor, Wolfir Avenger, Silverblade Paladin, or any other haste creature that could have been avoided had I been packing instant-speed removal. The presence of such cards in the format requires me to include removal which is narrower like Ultimate Price or less efficient like Izzet Charm, with the added bonus of Izzet Charm being able to counter planeswalkers, making the loss of a Dreadbore less painful.

2x Dreadbore, 2x Sever the Bloodline

I have been very impressed with Sever the Bloodline in current Standard, where exiling has become a very important mechanic to combat Reanimator and where token swarms are common. Dreadbore is a solid card, but I don’t think I need to run more than two to reliably deal with my opponents’ threats.

1x Bonfire of the Damned, 2x Mizzium Mortars

The miser’s Bonfire of the Damned is more theory than practice at the moment, as I added it after the tournament and only was able to test it against hybrid Reanimator, where it is basically dead. The logic on this card is threefold. Against Geist of Saint Traft, it kills the problematic creature a turn sooner than Mortars. It also provides an early board wipe against  weenie swarms, but can come into play against control as well by taking out a planeswalker or doming them for lethal.

3x Dissipate

This used to be three Syncopates. What happened?

Control is a major presence in my local metagame, and Syncopate isn’t a good card in those situations. Sure, it’s great when you’re trying to counter a Geist of Saint Traft on the draw, but it’s better to have a way to force through a planeswalker when you’re playing the draw-go mirror. With the addition of Izzet Charms as the cheaper, “soft” counter, I’m comfortable main decking three of this card.

1x Cyclonic Rift

Grixis is notoriously soft to enchantments, and the widespread use of Detention Sphere and Oblivion Ring means that having a single Cyclonic Rift is a necessity. I had the pleasure of overloading this against a control player when they were at ten life, tapped out, and I had two Thundermaw Hellkites hidden under his enchantments.

It’s also super sweet to end-of-turn this into…

2x Rakdos’s Return

No Grixis control list is viable without this card. I considered running a one-one split between this and Devil’s Play, but testing has shown that this card is the game-ender against any control or midrange deck, and it is the most reliable way for this deck to actually win the long game. Nugging an opponent for four with this, then using Snapcaster to finish off their hand is completely reasonable, and actually won me a game in the top eight of the recent Grand Prix trial.

1x Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius, 1x Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

For those times when Rakdos’s Return simply won’t cut it. It is impossible to lose a game once you’ve untapped with either of these cards in play. I won a game off Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius without ever activating his ability, simply using him as a 5/5 flying Ophidian while leaving mana up to counter or kill all of my opponents spells.

3x Jace, Architect of Thought, 2x Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

I originally ran four Jaces, but testing has shown this deck is very good at protecting a Jace for more than a few turns. It may still be right to run four, as he is one of the main reasons to play blue right now, but I think cutting the last one for Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is entirely reasonable, as this deck already has very few win conditions to speak of.

Side note: Rakdos Keyrune allows for a turn-four Tamiyo, which is awesome!

2x Forbidden Alchemy, 3x Think Twice, 1x Thoughtflare

I am happy with this combination of spells for my draw engine. Forbidden Alchemy is an all-star alongisde all the flashback spells and Snapcaster Mage, and Thoughtflare is almost as good as Sphinx’s Revelation when you can bin excess lands and spells with flashback. I’ve been wavering back and forth between Think Twice and Desperate Ravings. Each has its merits, but I’m erring on the side of caution and running Think Twice at the moment. This deck already has a lot of card draw and very few win conditions, so randomly discarding said win conditions can be brutal.

2x Snapcaster Mage

Originally a three-of, he’s a solid card that I found stranded in my hand one too many times for my comfort. He almost always does something and I may bump the number back up to three in the future, but he’s a two-of for now.

1x Desolate Lighthouse

This card has never been bad for me, but I would never run more than one as it becomes much, much worse in multiples and strains the mana a tad too much.

3x Cremate, 1x Slaughter Games

Cremate inevitably comes in against Reanimator and Zombies, with Slaughter Games pulling double duty against Reanimator and control. Having a cantrip answer is always preferable in a control deck, but Angel of Serenity can be a real beast against this strategy and Slaughter Games naming Angel of Serenity makes any matchup involving that card a lot easier to win.

2x Essence Scatter

As stated in my explanation for the main deck Dissipates, this deck has a problem being on the draw against Geist of Saint Traft, so boarding into Essence Scatter seems like a reasonable answer when it can also deal with Restoration Angel, Thragtusk, Angel of Serenity, or any other problematic creature in a pinch.

3x Rolling Temblor, 4x Pillar of Flame

Rolling Temblor is included in the sideboard to deal with Geist of Saint Traft (to which this deck is somewhat weak), but also serves as an answer to Selesnya Aggro and Zombies. Pillar of Flame comes in only against Zombies and Selesnya Aggro.

2x Olivia Voldaren

As previously stated, this comes in when facing down Selesnya Aggro. It can also come in against Geist of Saint Traft decks, as it stacks up reasonably well against Restoration Angel and Moorland Haunt.

Playing the Deck

As with any control deck, the key is to know what is or isn’t a threat, and properly sequence plays. There are times where it is correct to counter a planeswalker (such as when you’d need the mana up on your turn to drop a threat of your own), but sometimes it’s equally correct to let it resolve, then Dreadbore or Thundermaw Hellkite it the following turn. It all depends on which planeswalker it is, and whether or not allowing the opponent to activate any of its abilities is too threatening.

By the same token, do not run out your threats unless you know you can protect them. This deck is relatively threat-light compared to a lot of other strategies, but has the necessary tools to keep its threats on the table. The only time when you can be liberal with casting spells is after resolving a Rakdos’s Return for your opponent’s entire hand, as you will almost always be ahead of them on cards for the rest of the game and as such can lose one or two threats to their answers. Just don’t get cocky.

Jace, Architect of Thought is probably the most difficult planeswalker to play optimally outside of Liliana of the Veil and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Against any non-black creature deck, it’s almost always right to use his +1 ability unless you have to dig for an answer, as he will buy you a nonzero amount of time while your opponent repeatedly bashes creatures into him. He is there to blunt the assault so you can force your opponent to over commit, or simply lock creature strategies down in tandem with Tamiyo. He also makes Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius very good against most creatures in the format.

The most important part of playing control is to never get too cute with your plays. In the quarterfinals of the Grand Prix trial, my opponent was facing down a tapped Thundermaw Hellkite and Snapcaster Mage with his Tamiyo at a reasonable five loyalty. Rather than keep my Thundermaw tapped while he waited for an answer, he chose to use her -2 ability to try and dig for that answer a turn early. This ended up costing him the game, as I had a second Snapcaster in my hand to swing in for lethal on the following turn. When in doubt, always go for the safer play; it is always preferable to put yourself behind to make sure you survive another turn rather than hope your opponent doesn’t have you dead to a risky move. This deck can out-attrition most other attrition-based decks, as it has plenty to do with its mana in the late game between flashed back Forbidden Alchemies and Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius activations.

The Takeaway

This Standard format is far from solved, and as such this list is far from final. As the metagame continues to shift, so too must its answers. Now is the best time to be a brewer like myself; the current trend of SCG Standard Open results and Grand Prix finishes have shown that innovation is rewarded with a trophy and a write-up by Conley Woods or Patrick Chapin. Whatever your preference, make sure you know what you’re setting out to accomplish and know what obstacles lie in your way.

It’s all one big Epic Experiment; now is the time to don the white lab coats and get to work.