Theros Standard: 16 events, 13 decks

So, the problem with Theros Standard lately is essentially the usual problem that we have with the end of the time with the fall set: the card pool is on the small side, and the format is considered “solved.” This might be slightly more true this time around that other times, but I’m not sure it’s all that much worse.

Regardless of what Standard is right now, it really was possible, over the three months of the format, to have fun playing a variety of different decks. I got to play more Standard than usual this time around, and decided I was really going to vary my decks a lot. I played 16 different Standard events, and played a total of 13 different decks, without playing Monoblack, Monoblue, or RDW.

I’m not recommending everybody do this—it’s not good for your quality of play, since you never get deep into the nuances of each deck. (I don’t have time to playtest; almost all games I play are in-tournament.) But if you’re like me and you like to try out new decks, this kind of thing is a lot of fun.

So, here’s the list:

10/20/2013 Theros game day: Esper Control

10/27/2013 Sunday Standard: Bg Devotion

  • Record: 3-1, missed T4 cut on tiebreakers.

11/3/2013 Sunday Standard: Esper Control (repeat)

11/8/2013 FNM: WBR Midrange

  • Record: 1-4, simply awful. Not the deck, my draws and my play.

11/15/2013 FNM: Selesnya Aggro

11/22/2013 FNM: BUG Midrange

11/29/2013 FNM: Wb Devotion

12/6/2013 FNM: Kibler Golgari

12/8/2013 Sunday Standard: Bant Control

12/13/2013 FNM: Barely Boros Burn

  • Record: 3-2, missed T8 on breakers.

12/20/2013 FNM: Wb Devotion (repeat)

12/29/2013 Sunday Standard: Naya Control

1/3/2014 FNM: Rw Devotion

1/17/2014 FNM: Esper Midrange (aka Esper Humans)

  • Record: 3-2, missed T8 on breakers

1/24/2014 FNM: Junk Midrange

  • Record 2-3, obviously missed T8.

1/31/2014 FNM: Naya Control (repeat)

Total record: 45-26-15, with all except 2 of the draws being IDs into elimination rounds or splits in T4 or finals. Spectacular? No. But a heck of a lot of fun! Certainly, these are not all top-tier decks but, with the exception of Bant Control (which was just silly) and Junk Midrange, these archetypes have all at one time or another made the top 8 of a big tourney (GP or SCG), so these are all at least competitive decks.

I played Naya Control and Wb Devotion twice because they were the most fun. Esper Control I only repeated because I didn’t expect to play that day and didn’t have time to build something new. If I had to repeat one more I’d give Esper Midrange another shot, as that was a lot of fun as well.

Also, anything with Prophet of Kruphix in it is a good time because that card is a blast. It’s just not really in particularly strong decks right now, but maybe Kiora will give us a Bant or BUG list with Prophet that is actually competitive.

Naya Controls Last Theros FNM

My next post is going to be the story and all the decklists from the 16 THS Standard events I’ve played. There are 13 different decks. This was one of the few repeats. I had such a good time playing this one earlier, but only for a few rounds, so I decided for the sendoff of THS Standard I’d give this one a go. It’s not quite the same list as last time, but it’s pretty close:

[deck title=Naya Control]
4 Loxodon Smiter
3 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Chained to the Rocks
4 Mizzium Mortars
3 Selesnya Charm
4 Anger of the Gods
4 Advent of the Wurm
1 Assemble the Legion
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
3 Xenagos, the Reveler
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Forest
3 Mountain
2 Plains
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple Garden
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Temple of Triumph
4 Mistcutter Hydra
2 Wear // Tear
3 Skylasher
1 Bramblecrush
2 Warleader’s Helix
3 Assemble the Legion

Basically, I cut the Selesnya Keyrunes for Chandras and shaved one main deck Assemble and one Selesnya Charm to go up to the full playset of Advent of the Wurm, and tightened up the sideboard.

Five rounds cutting to top 8, but because the store was running a midnight pre-release as well, we knew we’d be splitting the top 4.

Round 1: Alex, playing UR Pyromancer
OK, so this is not really a Tier 1 deck on the other side from me, but it has the potential to be dangerous. Unfortunately for Alex, it was just potential this time around. Game 1 we both flooded like crazy, trading a few blows each way but removal winning out, then finally I drew a Stormbreath, and we had both flooded so badly that I was able to cast and make it monstrous on the same turn, which ended the game quickly. Game 2 I drew a couple Mistcutters, the first one for 5, which died to a Lightning Strike plus a Magma Jet, but the second one for 7, which got there.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: Nick, playing Monoblack Devotion
Very interesting matchup. Game 1 I managed to draw more threats than he drew answers, and in fairness he was a little flooded, but when your monoblack opponent is using Pharika’s Cure to kill Xenagos satyr tokens, you know you’re in a good spot. I also had a lot of the right answers at the right time, like a Chained to the Rocks in hand when he cast Erebos. I expected Lifebane Zombies after sideboard, so I took out all the Smiters. Dragon isn’t very good here, either, so those came out as well. Unfortunately, Game 2 went completely the other way, with him Thoughtseizing me on turns 1 and 2 and then again on turn 4 or 5. From there on it, if I drew a creature, he had removal, and if I drew a planeswalker, he drew Downfall. He actually did most of the damage this game with a Mutavault, and me with Anger and Chained in my hand. The only good result during this game is that he did play a Lifebane and missed with it. Game 3 his turn 2 was a Pack Rat, and his turn 3 was an Underworld Connections, so he couldn’t activate the Rat. I had a Bramblecrush in my hand, but I played Chandra and killed the Rat because the only other removal I had in hand was a Selesnya Charm. He untapped and Downfall’d Chandra, and rather than using Bramblecrush, I played Assemble the Legion because I didn’t want to lose it to a Thoughtseize. He came back with a Whip. My draws since Chandra had been all removal, so I let him have the Whip and used Bramblecrush to take out the the Temple with Connections on it. He of course never drew an answer to Assemble, and I kept everything relevant of his off the table, and my hasty soldiers went all the way.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games

Round 3: Ryan, playing UW Control
Ryan is a good guy who I’ve played many times. Game 1 I kept a sketchy hand in the opener: lots of land, but two pretty much dead cards (Chained and Mortars) against him. While not missing land drops was good, I drew too few threats and he drew lots of answers, and he eventually took over. i did actually overload Mortars twice to take out Elspeth tokens and hit her, but it was never quite enough. So, sideboarding. I sided in 13 cards and considered siding in all 15. The two I didn’t side in were Skylashers, thought I did side in one of those. I sided out all the Charms, Mortars, Chained, and two of the Angers. Game 2 he had a turn 2 Ratchet Bomb (knowing I’d bring in Mistcutters) and a turn 4 Sphere for my Xenagos, and I got the 2-for-1 with Wear & Tear. Sweet. He was then stuck on 4 land with only 1 blue source and I just crushed in. Turns out he left in a full playset of Last Breath, thinking I would side in Voice. Hey, if my opponent wants to use a full card to kill a single Xenagos satyr, I’m OK with that. Game 3 I just drew threat after threat, including multiple ‘Cutters, and finished him off with a Helix.
3-0 matches, 6-2 games

Rounds 4 and 5: ID
We did the math, all four 3-0 players were safe to draw in from here, which we did. During one of my rounds off, I played a few games against my son who was playing Monoblue. Always good since I hadn’t played this yet. Turns out Monoblue is a tough matchup main deck (not impossible, I did win once), so I see why some build run the full playlets of both Mistcutters and Skylashers. The protection from red on Master of Waves is a definite difficulty.
3-0-2 matches, 6-2 games

Quarterfinals: Festus, playing RDW
One of the players from one of the other top 8 matches came by and asked us if we would take the 8-way split, and I declined, no so much because I wanted the prize, but because I really wanted to play after sitting out the last two rounds. Also, I won the roll and saw my opener, which included an Anger and a Smiter, so I felt like I was in a good position. So, I played land and passed, he played a Rakdos Cackler and passed, land-go from me, then Burning-Tree into Firefist Striker for him. Cool, 3-for-1 with Anger. He seemed surprised by the main deck Anger—I think he had me on a more midrange Naya build. He came back with a Boros Reckoner, and I still played the Smiter, but didn’t block his swing, bringing me to 13. He played another Reckoner, and I decided to use the Anger to take out both of them, which meant I took six—but I really didn’t want to give him the chance to Fanatic me for seven. I followed with another Smiter and the elephants got there. Game 2 I kept a hand with 2 Smiters and an Advent, but no green source, and paid the price when I didn’t draw one and he just ran me over. Game 3 was pretty close, but I got another 2-for-1 with an Anger (taking out a Phoenix, always a bonus) and got Xenagos making blockers. He burnt me down to 2, but I had a Helix to give me some cushion and then got consecutive Dragons, which brought me home.
4-0-2 matches, 8-3 games

The top 4 split was $32.50 in store credit, and I won the die roll for one of the two FNM promos (my second Helix promo). Not a bad night at all.

Thoughts on the Deck
As I noted last time, this is a very fun deck to play, though I didn’t really explain why. While it is a control deck, it is also one that can close out a game quickly with large threats. The decision space is often whether to play out another threat or to deal with one of your opponents’ threats, and there’s good give-and-take there that makes it fun to play. The other thing about playing a “rogue” deck—but one that’s actually decent, and not just rogue for the sake of being rogue—is that opponents sometimes aren’t quite sure which way you’re going with it and play around things you don’t have or fail to anticipate things you do have. Thoughtseize still sucks, of course, but I can’t play black all the time. Also, Xenagos is really good in this deck. He’s a strong card that I think is underplayed because he just doesn’t fit into the dominant GR deck right now, but he generates pressure against control decks and stalls the ground against aggro decks, and those are pretty valuable.

I was very happy with this particular build. While the Keyrunes were actually OK for me last time out, I really liked Chandra and having a full set of Advents. The sideboard seemed really good as well. I’d really like to be able to work in a third Helix, but I’m not sure what I can cut for it. Maybe Bramblecrush is a little on the cute side and could go, but it seems so good against Monoblack and UWx control decks. I’d also like to work in a Bow of Nylea somewhere, but again, I’m not sure what I’d cut to get it in there.

Of course, all of this is pretty moot, since the environment is about to change with Born of the Gods coming out—nothing in that set jumps out as being especially good in this deck, except maybe Brimaz, which is probably good in almost everything white, and the GW Temple, and that I’m not so sure about—but it certainly was a fun deck for this environment.