Tag: standard-born-of-the-gods

Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - April 23, 2014

Champion’s Deck – UW Control by Simon Stahl (1st at SCG De...

U/W Control
Simon Stahl
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 4/19/2014
Fated Retribution
While it’s not a newcomer to the top of the pile this weeks winner was able to wrestle dominance away from the big bad Mono-Black menace. One of the most classic styles of control, UW is able to operate more fluidly then Esper versions even though they are relatively the same core concept. Control relies upon a good mix of permission and removal, backed up with a strong finisher once the board has been stabilized. This deck follows that structure to a tee while adding in a few interesting one ofs to round it out.

Since the printing of Return to Ravnica and with it the Azorius guild UW has had an arsenal of weapons that each decklist has been build on the foundation of. This deck is no different with four copies of each Jace, Architect of Thought, Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere. That group alone is able to provide the deck with so much power and consistency, giving it answers to a plethora of threats. For permission we have a full set of Dissolve, which also help as pseudo-draw, and a pair of Syncopate, which can be key at stopping a dangerous two drop like Pack Rat. For removal you have primarily Detention Sphere to pick off pesky threats of varied permanent types or Supreme Verdict to sweep the board free of creatures, but also a Celestial Flare and two Last Breath as pinpoint removal. We also find the inclusion of Fated Retribution as a catchall reset against all creatures and planeswalkers if necessary. The deck keeps your hand full through the draw power of Sphinx’s Revelation and Jace, which both also help to keep your life total from falling too low, and also a couple of Divination. The finishers are a very tight package which has a one of Ætherling and two Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which you must be very mindfull to deploy only once you have taken over the game. Also, because the deck only runs two colors we find room to squeeze three Mutavault in the manabase which while small over time will produce more then enough damage on an empty board. Another versatile spell in the deck is the Azorius Charm which can either help gain back some life to stable against aggro decks, cycle itself away to dig for a necessary answer or as removal for a bothersome threat. The final card in the deck is some old tech in Elixir of Immortality which just keeps the deck churning even after you’ve depleted so many spells.

So with just a couple weeks left until new standard it is certain that people are looking forward to Journey Into Nyx instead of backwards at our current standard. While I don’t feel that this deck benefits too much from the new set there are two cards with an outside chance to slip in. Deicide could be a good piece of removal depending on how the Gods appear in the meta. Also, Aegis of the Gods is a great way to protect yourself from targeted oppression, but neither are backbreakers for the deck. We will see over the next few months how it plays out.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - April 15, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Mono-Black Devotion by Nicolas Schoolcra...

Mono-Black Devotion
Nicholas Schoolcraft
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 4/12/2014
Lifebane zombie
Yet again we have another victory notched into the belt of Mono-Black Devotion. It would seem at this point that people are hopeful that Journey Into Nyx will be able to offer some variety to a format which while mixed seems to cede in the end to this deck. And while this is a very similar deck to what has been played previously there are some interesting tweaks.


The most apparent difference in this list from those past is the exclusion of Nightveil Specter for a very different evil in Lifebane Zombie. It looks like taking the extra precautions to hedge against Green Monsters and White Weenies paid off. His removal package, which is usually constructed for what you’re idea of the meta calls for, consisted of a full four Hero’s Downfall, a trio of Devour Flesh and two copies each of both Ultimate Price and Bile Blight. The other interesting point of note is that he went for two sets of Temples for the Scry power, which is very handy in conjunction with Underworld Connections when you’re low on life but absolutely need to find something specific.

So with what has been spoiled so far from Journey Into Nyx I’m not convinced that we’ve gotten anything new to bolster this deck. We could stretch and say as a possible 1 of that Hall of Triumph would additionally beef up your already pretty big Pack Rat swarm, but I’d expect it more in the Mono-Blue Devotion instead to ensure your MASTER tokens didn’t disappear along with their Master. There is still many more cards left to come and so we will wait to see if it gets more weapons or if the rest of the field gets a level up to push Mono-Black Devotion back to a more equal footing.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - April 7, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Mono-Black Devotion by Robert Berni (1st...

Mono-Black Devotion
Robert Berni
1st Place at Grand Prix Pheonix on 4/6/2014

Bile blight

And so the song remains, the same as it ever was, playing that same old tune.  Black Devotion has proven itself to be a solid front runner consistently as one of the true tier 1 decks.  It has an array of weapons that make it difficult to beat when it draws it’s threats in sequence.  The deck also has two main lines either through Pack Rat or devoting itself up to Gray Merchant with ample removal and card draw to boot.  It’s no surprise to see it post results week in and week out.

The opening that this deck wants to see everytime it starts a new game is turn one Thoughtseize into turn two Pack Rat.   So often this will rob the opponent of a key defensive piece which will allow the Pack Rat to get to work multiplying itself until it has gotten out of control, which tends to happen very quickly.  The synergy with Mutavault which also happens to be a rat is another factor in boosting the lowly rats to monumental proportions.  The secondary line of attack comes with a curve of threats starting at the three drop with Nightveil Specter a formidable Flying attacker which has the added value of not only stealing life from your opponent but also can steal cards from the top of their deck, which can even be played as long as the specter remains in play.  Then at the four drop we have Desecration Demon which is quite simply a beat stick which you’ll use to grind the opponent to dust.  Finally we get to Gray Merchant of Asphodel which has a very useful Devotion ability that will drain the life from your opponent and add that amount which is based on your total Devotion to Black mana.  To help boost your Devotion count the deck also has Underworld Connections which provides a steady stream of cards at the price of some life and also a misers copy of Whip of Erebos that helps regain lost life point with Lifelink and will raise your dead creatures from the grave for a turn to fight for you again.  As is typical with a Black deck removal is a key element and this deck is no different.  There is a varied spread of spells but the key one is Hero’s Downfall which can deal with problem creatures and planeswalkers alike.  This is complimented by Devour Flesh and Doom Blade to vanquish other creature problems. Then we round out the package with pseudo-sweeper Bile Blight which is capable of removing some very significant threads but you must be mindful of its use in the mirror.  As mentioned before there is also Thoughtseize which not only takes care of any otherwise hard to handle problem but also provides very valuable information about the opponents plans.

I have serious doubts that this strategy will be oppressed come the new offerings of Journey Into Nyx. In fact I shudder to think of what new weapons might even enhance this deck.  One thing is certain, whether you decide to play this deck or not if you aren’t prepared to face it then you should consider yourself not prepared at all.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - March 26, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Esper Control by Kyle Boggemes (1st at G...

Esper Control
Kyle Boggemes
1st Place at Grand Prix on 3/23/2014
With the metagame in Standard much more defined now then it was a few months back it has slowly become time for the Control decks to shine. Once the major threats are known then Control mages are able to more easily prepare for the decks they expect to face. This has proven itself in the dominant showing of Esper Control this past weekend by winning both the Grand Prix and the SCG Open. And it is no secret that in the Esper colors of Blue, White and Black we find the integral pieces necessary to answer almost any threat that can be thrown at us.
The Control deck is a carefully crafted work of beauty and this list is no different. Looking at the win conditions of the deck we find a very precise package consisting of one Ætherling and a trio of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which are meant to only be deployed once the deck has stabilized and taken command of the board. To do this we find a balance between permission and removal. For the permission suite there is a set of Dissolve and a duo of Syncopate used to deny the opponent from casting their most key of spells, especially if unable to handle it with the removal in hand. Then the removal consists of the requisite Blue/White staples with mass removal in Supreme Verdict to reset the battlefield in a pinch and the utility removal from Detention Sphere capable of dealing with almost any problem permanent especially those which are indestructible. For spot removal there is also two Doom Blade and a Last Breath to supplement and handle those threats which slip in especially creatures with Haste. As with any Control deck the final and perhaps most important aspect of the deck is its draw power and here we find that from full sets of both Jace, Architect of Thought and Sphinx’s Revelation both of which offer some extra utility be it in diminishing the opponents power or just straight lifegain to ensure continued survival. This deck also has the ’12 Temple’ package in its manabase which especially in the early turns can use the Scry ability to carefully craft it’s draw step. With the final odds and ends there is the utility player of Azorius Charm which is primarily used for the draw to cycle it at the end of an opponents turn, but is also very useful as a spot removal or can even prove as a savior by gaining a few points of necessary life. As far as hand control we only find discard in the form of two Thoughtseize to gain some important information and deal with any specifically difficult threat. Finally, there is also a duo of Mutavault which are able to skirt around sorcery speed removal and will be at time the final nail in the coffin.
As always Control decks need to adapt to an ever shifting metagame and this one will be no different. I am certain that this base will be a common sight going forward but expect to see constant tweaks and tuneups to stay a step ahead. All in all though Esper Control should continue to be a force to be reckoned with and you’ll need to be prepared to face it any round of your tournament.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Avatar Bruce Gray - March 25, 2014

Casual Encounters – UW Tempo (Standard Pauper)

 Wavecrash Triton

          I have never been a guy to quibble much over format.  I’ve mostly just played whatever I had in whatever deck I felt like building.  This can yield some very interesting and fun deck ideas, but it is really only practical if you play with your friends at the kitchen table.  However, sometimes, as an exercise to challenge yourself,  it is interesting to limit your deck building options and force yourself to do as much (or perhaps more) with less.

To this end, my friends and I are meeting for our monthly game.  We get together once a month and it is a collection of people from all the stages of my life.  Some of the players are guys I played with as a teenager, others are friends that I have made through playing Magic, while others are spouses or acquaintances I have made elsewhere.  It is a very eclectic group with some of them having all the top tier 1 competitive decks.  Others are very much interested in brewing with a small number of cards in order to keep the relative cost down.  This can result in some match-ups that just aren’t super fun as one guy plays a Legacy “Show and Tell” deck, while the other guy plays a random smattering of cards from the most recent set.

To level the playing field a bit and to make the evening a little different I challenged my friends to build Standard Pauper decks for this month.  In case you aren’t overly familiar, Pauper is a format that only uses common cards.  By limiting the cards even further by only allowing cards that would be Standard legal (Return to Ravnica and Theros blocks) we have limited the pool of options available and evened out the power level of the cards that can be played.

This is a relatively new experience for me as I have never consciously made a Pauper deck.  Sure, I have used common cards and tried to limit my choices, but I have never been one to purposefully limit my card choices so dramatically. Herein lies the challenge: build a deck that I feel can win without leaning on the cards that I come to rely on.  My friends all jumped at the suggestion and so it is ON! This weekend we will battle with Pauper!

The first dilemma when trying to build any winning deck is anticipating what you will be playing against.  If I were going to be playing at a Stadard event at a local game shop I would come prepared to play against all the top decks like Mono-Black, Mono-Blue, and G/R Monsters.  However, we have no meta…this is one off…and so I need to instead rely on my understanding of my opponents and what some of their tendencies are.

Some of the players will be wild cards.  They are relatively inexperienced players (even compared to me) and are likely to bring decks packed with creatures and just looking to turn sideways and smash.  This likely means inexpensive white, green, and red creatures and ramping into some sort of fatty that will be hard to deal with.  With those decks in mind, I will need to ensure I have access to enough removal to slow them down and give myself a chance to get into the game.

My friend David likes mill decks.  He likes to play B/U and will undoubtedly slide in some cards that are designed to force me to grind through my library.  He will also likely play hand destruction, so I need to come prepared for that.  If his mill cards are creatures, then I should be okay because my removal should be able to handle them too, so that isn’t a concern for me overly.  The bigger issue is seeing enchantments or artifacts that force the milling of my deck.  So, some enchantment destruction needs to be considered in order to close down this angle to some degree.  Hand destruction is tougher to deal with because I will need countermagic, but Duress on turn 1 totally ruins the hope of any counter spells, so I may hedge my bets and hope David goes for creatures and not hand destruction.

Sam is a terrific player but invariably will be running a U/x deck with a bunch of counter magic.  Sam is the quintessential control player and I expect nothing different.  This is always a troubling matchup and Sam is good at it.  So, if I can’t beat the control match up…I may have to join it. This is the matchup that I need to be most interested in performing well, so time to go to the old box of stuff and see what I can put together.

I start off with cards from the most recent set, Born of the Gods, and see what I can find.  Divine Verdict is a fine reprint of a reasonable removal spell.  Most creatures need to attack, and this gets rid of them and is a solid card.  Stratus Walk is another strong card.  It gives something flying, draws me a card, and is reasonably costed. The last addition is a little steep in terms of cost, but potentially a bomb.  Sphinx’s Disciple makes use of the Inspired ability, so for 5 mana (3 colourless and 2 blue) I get a 2/2 flier, but whenever it untaps I draw a card.  If I can protect this guy, it could be a real card draw engine.  Card advantage in this sort of game will be key and this could be just the ticket.

Next, I look at some options in Theros.  Prescient Chimera is one place to start that could be a pretty good bomb.  For 5 mana (3 colourless and 2 blue) I get a 3/4  flier that let’s me Scry 1 every time I cast an Instant or Sorcery.  As a 5 drop at the top of my curve this is pretty strong creature that allows me to draw into better cards as the late game continues.  It also works pretty well with Sphinx’s Disciple to set up the Inspired trigger to ensure that the extra card is more valuable to me.  Next I need to look at some enchantments and conclude that Chosen by Heliod is a solid, inexpensive Aura that is useful and pairs really nicely to help protect Sphinx’s DiscipleChosen By Heliod is also a very dynamic card with Wingsteed Rider to trigger the Heroic trigger. All in all, some good fodder for a viable Pauper deck.

The last additions to the deck are from Return to Ravnica block and include Lyev Decree. Lyev Decree is very interesting because it allows me to tempo my opponents out by rendering their creatures unable to block.  It is cheap and efficient and allows me to power through some extra damage.  Shielded passage is another interesting little twist that protects cards, either Sphinx’s Disciple, or enacts the Heroic trigger on Wingsteed Rider, and triggers the Scry on Prescient Chimera.  All three are very relevant abilities in this deck making Shielded Passage a very interesting card and neat combat trick.  The last creature is Keening Apparition which builds in a little enchantment destruction and a very reasonable 2/2 body.  This is in essence a “Bear” with a bonus and raises its appeal considerably.

Here’s the Decklist

 U/W Tempo – Standard Pauper

In building this deck I looked at a variety of things and considered what pieces went together.  I started with my curve looking to curve out into my powerful creatures and not miss out on any of the spots if I could help it.  There is no Turn 1 play, which is unfortunate, but I struggled to fit a solid 1 drop in this deck and opted to pass on it.  Turn 2 I can play Concordia Pegasus or Keening Apparition, at 3 there is Wingsteed Rider and Wavecrash Triton.  I almost stumbled at 4, but I noticed Runewing and immediately saw that it was a viable option with an upside.  I curve out at 5 with Prescient Chimera and Sphinx’s Disciple giving yet more flying threats.

The Spells really serve three purposes.  My first play is to try and straight up remove my opponent’s creatures from the battlefield with Divine Verdict or Last Breath. If that doesn’t work I can use Lyev Decree to slow them down and punch my own creatures through their defences. All the other spells are there to protect my creatures and to trigger Heroic abilities on my Wingsteed Rider or Wavecrash Triton, which can also serve the dual role of adding to the tempoing out of my opponent by tapping their creatures.

Overall, I think the deck looks pretty solid and like it may have a good showing this weekend when I sit down for my Casual Encounter with my pals.  If you have any suggestions, let me know as I would love to hear what you guys think.  I’ll also give you an update on how it fares and what adjustments I intend to make down the line.  I have really enjoyed this process and think that this may be something I continue to bring forward to my Casual Encounters to keep them fun and different.

Until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…and keep it Casual.

Bruce Gray


Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - March 19, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Boros Burn by Neil Hartman (1st at SCG S...

Chandra Pyromaster
R/W Burn
Neil Hartman
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 3/15/2014

Oh burn…ever since the printing of Lightning Bolt there have been Red mages looking to blast their spells straight to the dome. Each block there is always a Mono-Red or R/x deck that is straightforward, efficient and appeals to highly aggressive players. This deck is just one like that exactly.

While this deck is Boros by strict definition Red is the primary color with White a splash to add a few excellent cards. The creature package is is set with a tight curve building from Ash Zealot which can be a highly effective beater and the First Strike coupled with burn allows you some utility. Boros Reckoner has always been interestingly unique with his ability often making combat math complicated enough to hold off enemy attacks from even happening. Then with seventeen burn spells in the deck and additional help from Chandra her bird Chandra’s Phoenix is able to attack with impunity knowing that getting it to rise from the grave back to your hand is an almost guarantee. There is also a pair of Stormbreath Dragon which help the deck just go straight over the top when the games start to run long and can also be a huge surprise you’re dead. Because of the primarily Red base to the deck it can squeeze Mutavault into the manabase easily to get additional ground pounders. Then we find Chandra, Pyromaster who is the only source of card advantage in the deck and if you can ultimate it is doubtless that she’s going to hit the paydirt on that roll of the dice, and incidentally can prevent a big blocker from thwarting your attack while building loyalty. For straight removal we have Standards newest best impression of a Swords to Plowshares in Chained to the Rocks which should not have issue with the enchant Mountain clause given 15 copies in the deck. The rest of the deck consists of a plethora of burn spells which can double as either removal or damage right to the dome. We find a mix of Lightning Strike and Searing Blood as simple burn for the deck while the others carry some utility with them. Magma Jet helps to filter through your deck which is a key ability for this style of deck as draw isn’t one of these colors strengths. Warleader’s Helix is a beast of removal with four damage it’s able to get into those bigger creatures and coupled with First Strike creatures can surprise a chump block into the removal of a huge creature. And finally the ‘Boros’ deck would not be complete without the utility from Boros Charm which can either be that knockout punch taking down four points of life, can save your army from sweepers or is able to turn one of your creatures into a formidable fighting machine to Double Strike your opponent to the death.

Whether this deck can sustain dominance as a tier one deck is always in question as the Burn deck is always a popular choice but doesn’t always find itself at the top table. But what it does have going for it is consistency and a simple game plan which involves just straight-up beatdowns on your opponent. I personally love Aggro decks and would without a doubt take this badboy for a spin anyday.
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - February 24, 2014

Champion’s Deck – GR Monsters by Jonathon Habel (1st at SC...

Xenagos The Reveler

G/R Monsters

Jonathon Habel

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 2/22/2014

No groundbreaking shake-up to be found here just a solid and consistent Midrange deck which aims to throw huge beaters at you whirled up with powerful planeswalkers to gain advantage.
Start it up with a ramp package consisting of Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid which is an integral cog in the machine to power your monster out ahead of the curve. The deck runs Scavenging Ooze as its two drop which can come down early but is best once there is already food in the graveyard for him to grow fatter upon. The main threats in the deck come in the form of the ‘Monstrous’  Polukranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon ready to rip chunks of life from your opponent. Then you have the buffs in Ghor-Clan Rampager and Boon Satyr both of which can either make your monsters into ridiculously large game-enders or can turn your little guys into formidable threats in a pinch. The creatures are backed up primarily by the powerful dynamic duo of planeswalkers in Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler with a little additional assistance from Garruk, Caller of Beasts. We have very few spells in this extremely creaturecentric deck finding a trio of the powerful onesided sweeper Mizzium Mortars and also a copy of Flesh // Blood which is used almost solely for the Blood half as removal or burn but the other half could be used with black mana from a Caryatid if necessary.

This deck is nothing new as this big monster strategy has been very successful for the past few months but what strikes me as odd was that the new players from Born of the Gods Xenagos, God of Revels and Courser of Kruphix are inexplicably absent from this list. Seeing as he did win the event I’m not so much questioning the decision but more wondering the reasoning, was it some sort of meta choice or more of a card selection issue.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - February 14, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Mono-Black Devotion by Owen Turtenwald (...

Hero's Downfall

Mono-Black Devotion

Owen Turtenwald

1st Place at Super Sunday Series Championship on 2/9/2014

So the first ever Super Sunday Series Championship has come and gone with no surprise that Owen T was able to walk away victorious. He has become something of the authority on Mono-Black Devotion with previous wins at GP Albuquerque and most recently SCG Indianapolis. This iteration of the deck hasn’t changed much from when we last saw it in action at the SCG tournament with only a few updates from new Born of the Gods offerings.

The creatures all remain the same with Pack Rat into Nightveil Specter into Desecration Demon into Gray Merchant of Asphodel working up the curve. The manabase also remains entirely unchanging with full sets of Mutavault which double in the deck as rats to bolster Pack Rat and Temple of Deceit the chosen Scry land although the deck doesn’t run any blue spells per se. The draw/discard package again is no different with Underworld Connections to not only fuel the hand but also devotion count and Thoughtseize which is perhaps the most powerful turn one play in Standard at the moment. Now where we find the changes are in the removal suite that still has a full set of Hero’s Downfall but has eschewed Pharika’s Cure and scaled Devour Flesh down to two in order to squeeze in Born of the Gods new offering Bile Blight.

Now as the tournament was a multi-format event the win does speak more volumes to the talent of Owen as a whole more then the power of this deck. But you can rest assured that he puts more then the average players time in testing and tweaking so you can be sure that if this is his weapon of choice for his perception of the current meta then you would be wise to take his advise and try to dominate with it yourself.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter


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