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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - October 5, 2014

Abzan Midrange by Samuel Valentine (1st at SCG Indianapolis Standard O...

Champion’s Deck 

siege rhino - Abzan Midrange

Abzan Midrange by Samuel Valentine

1st at SCG Indianapolis Standard Open on Sep 27th 2014

And so we have the winner from that other SCG Open happening in Indianapolis. As it wasn’t broadcasting live it would seem that some of the hype was lost in the shuffle, especially with the Jeskai Tempo deck causing financial ripples in the secondary market. But this is not a deck to dismiss as it placed 11 similar decks between both top 32, including the second place at this tournament, and Midrange strategies added another 7 to pull just over 28% of the field. This could be the dawning of the Age of Midrange, or just anomalous opening weekend numbers. Regardless you can be sure that this is a deck you’ll need to beat if you want to be victorious of the next few months at least.

Starting with a base of mana dorks there is both Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid to quickly advance the game quickly into the mid-game. We also find Satyr Wayfinder which interestingly will help us dig for lands but also fills the graveyard for interactions with Delve and other reanimation effects. Nyx Weaver is another interesting cog in the engine which provides little mills every turn that it can take advantage of by exiling itself to return any one card in your grave, as well it has reach so it can chump a huge attacker then use its ability to keep you churning. Another key piece of the puzzle is Siege Rhino with its 3 point drain when it enters the battlefield that is just as amazing when he is whipped back, not to mention his 4/5 Trample body to boot. To ensure that you can control the air along with having blockers that are just great Hornet Queen brings a squad with her representing 5 Deathtouch blockers and an additional 4 more when she rises back from the grave. We shore up the creatures with Necropolis Fiend which can possibly drop for just two black using Delve for a 4/5 Flying not even taking into account his ability and a misers Ashen Rider to absolutely rid yourself of any troubles you may encounter in your way. One of the key enablers for the deck is Commune with the Gods which allows you to dig into your library for a creature which could be either another mana dork to continue ramping, a necessary offensive weapon, or even a Whip of Erebos. There is additional upside with the remaining four cards being dropped into the graveyard to be either reanimated or delved away. Speaking of Delve our main source of removal lies with Murderous Cut which can be as cheap as just a single Black mana to destroy any creature. There are two copies of the Whip of Erebos that is used to reanimate any creatures that either died already or were communed away, and there’s also Lifelink tacked on to all of you creatures to ensure you last deep into the game. The final card is Empty the Pits which looks to be an amazing top deck going into the late game where you can tap out and empty your graveyard to possibly add a horde of 5-8 Zombies which without a sweeper should definitely spell certain doom for any opponent.

 

This deck is definitely not to be dismissed. It will certainly be tried with a toolbox of creatures in every combination to see which best design rises to the top. I you are a fan of either Midrange or reanimator strategies then I would recommend this as a great launching pad into the new Standard. We will most certainly be seeing it continue to show these numbers so get your Siege Rhinos now before they’re unreasonable. With its sheer power I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Eric J Seltzer
 
@ejseltzer on Twitter
 
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com

 

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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - June 3, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Naya Midrange Standard by Justin Crandal...

Naya Midrange Standard - Ajani, Mentor of Heroes

Naya Midrange Standard by Justin Crandall

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 5/31/2014


Another weekend of SCG Standard has passed and sitting at the top of the heap we find a successful jumble of acceleration into monstrous beasts and powerful planeswalkers. What we find there is essentially the GR Monsters shell that’s been prevalent in Standard for quite a while, but dipping into White for additional planeswalkers and some removal options. And judging by the popularity of this archetype in the Theros Block format it looks like it has quite a future ahead.

It is no stranger that the most prevelant duo of Green mana dorks both in Standard and Block is Sylvan Caryatid into Courser of Kruphix. This not only fixes your mana and even effectively draws you additional cards but also gains you vital life points which are so crucial in this aggressive metagame. The downside is that Courser provides your opponent with nearly perfect information which can foil you bluff when playing off the top of your deck. As an additional accelerent there is also Voyaging Satyr which won’t help if you are missing a color but will still allow you to gain extra mana. All of that goes towards powering out some monstrous fatties quickly so you can activate their Monstrosity abilities and close out games quickly. The two we find in the deck are Polukranos, World Eater which also acts as much needed removal in this deck and also the hasty flier Stormbreath Dragon which peeled off the top is often the recipie for certain doom. If those monsters are the meat of the deck we then find the fine wine pairing in the foursome of planeswalker to accompany them. The main player is party animal himself Xenagos, the Reveler who not only brings his satyr buddies with him but also helps acheive Monstrosity fast with his ramping ability. Next to join the party is Ajani, Mentor of Heroes who has a dual purpose between pumping up your creatures and digging into your deck to find more threats, but also when protected can threaten its ultimate to bolster a diminishing life total. There is also a major contribution from Elspeth, Sun’s Champion with her legion of soldiers following her, but be wary of her second ability as your bombs tend to be destroyed as well as the opponents. And why not a misers Chandra, Pyromaster as well to add a little card advantage to the deck and her first ability helps slip your big boys past their chump blockers handily. The rest of the deck is rounded out by some varied pieces of removal. There is Keening Apparition which is able to destroy any enchantment the opponent presents to the board such as Chained to the Rocks or even Underworld Connections. As a great sweeper Mizzium Mortars is able to be overloaded to deal four damage to all the opponents creatures and cast aside any would be blockers for your giant monsters. Then the last piece of the puzzle comes with the flexible Selesnya Charm that can either pump and grant Trample to a creature to rampage for a win, exile a creature that has power greater then five, or even add another threat to the board with a vigilant knight token.

So here we find that the GR Monsters deck which has already been a force in Standard continues to have room to grow and adapt as it proves it is a major player in Standard. What really interests me with this list is that the core of the deck is all from Theros Block and will undoubtedly continue to be a force into the next rotation of Standard. If you are looking for a deck to invest in as a long term prospect then this is undoubtedly the one.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - January 7, 2014

Champion’s deck – Jund Depths by Kennen Haas (1st Place SCG Indian...

Dark Depths 620 x 229 
Jund Depths
Kennen Haas
1st Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open on 1/5/2014
Lands (30)

Creatures (2)

Planeswalker (4)

Spells (24)

Sideboard 

Now here’s an interesting deck that’s really piqued my interest. The interaction between Dark Depths and Vampire Hexmage brought about a resurgence of Depth‘s somewhat around Zendikar but the inherent fragility of Hexmage being a spell allowed there to be some answer in countermagic. Then along comes Return to Ravnica with the interesting new Vesuva variation Thespian’s Stage to spin the power of a 20/20 flying Avatar in a new direction. Because copy effects like Vesuva trigger onto the battlefield effects it was not able to pair with Depth‘s for value but Stage is already in play so doesn’t get the tokens placed on it. Thus you are able to copy and trigger the token generating effect immediately. This is the basis for the win condition of this cool new Loam brew.

The deck is stacked half full of lands thus able to work with the very powerful Life from the Loam engine. This engine is fueled by an extremely heavy discard package which works not only to strip threats and answers from the opponent but also to gain back advantage from costs and effects from your spells. Starting with something as simple as rebuying the land pitched to a Mox Diamond, Raven’s Crime or Crop Rotation, reusing a fetchland or the dreaded Wasteland. Crop Rotation is able to tutor directly into play either piece of the Depths/Stage combo you’re missing or any of your utility lands such as Bojuka Bog against Dredge or Reanimator, Maze of Ith & Tabernacle against creature decks, Karakas to bounce pesky Legendary creatures that might get in your way or even Wasteland to punish decks relying to heavily on non-basic lands. There are very few non-land permanents in the deck but a full set of Liliana of the Veil are included to clear away opponents creatures on board and strip away potential threats or answers from their hand, and the built in synergies in the deck reduce the downside from pitching your own cards. Speaking of synergies there are several elements designed to fully take advantage of the devastating Smallpox. We’ve already seen how we recycle lost lands from the graveyard but we also find Nether Spirit which returns itself to play to be sacrificed again and Squee which returns back to your hand to be discarded for Smallpox or Liliana alike. We also find the very powerful Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows combo which can double as a secondary win condition in a pinch. Then rounding up the deck we have Entomb and Faithless Looting which combined with the rest of the parts of this deck form a formidable draw engine to get the rest of the decks combos working.
One of the main weaknesses of the deck is the difficulty in dealing with on board non-creature/non-land permanents. Obviously the goal of the deck is to deny mana then strip the hand but sometimes everything does not go according to plan. From the sideboard we find a trio of Pithing Needle used as a catchall to lock out planeswalkers primarily but also other activated abilities can be bricked easily. Also there’s an Ancient Grudge and a Ray of Revelation to remove artifacts or enchantments respectively. Interestingly we find Phyrexian Ingester which is possibly the most offbeat answer I’ve seen so far to creatures from Show and Tell decks. There’s added redundancy with some of his other picks in the sideboard but you’ll obviously need to tune it to your expected meta.
Definitely a deck that needs some play time to learn how to pilot it properly but a real treat of a deck with some amazing but simplistic synergy guiding a sheer bolt of lightning. If you’re able to pull it together don’t cheat yourself the chance to take this baby out for a spin.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
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Gregoire Thibault - January 6, 2014

Champion’s deck – Mono-black Devotion by Owen Turtenwald (1st Plac...

Underworld Connections
Mono-Black Devotion
Owen Turtenwald
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 1/4/2014
Lands (26)

Creatures (16)

Other Spells (18)

Sideboard 

Owen Turtenwald takes down the first standard tourney of the year with what is becoming his stock Mono-Black Devotion. What an excellent way for him to start off 2014 after having such an incredible run last year! Owen won two GPs back 2 back in completely different formats last November, one of them here using a solid Mono-Black Devotion build. There were also two winners at the SCG LA in December here, one from the Standard Open and the other the Invitational mixed Legacy with Standard. When we compare Owen’s list with the last three we showcased, we see it’s mostly streamlining the list to fight the metagame. He removed Erebos, God of the Dead from the main and opted for 3 in the sideboard, which is strong card advantage against control decks and stops life gain from Sphinx’s revelation. Adding more Pharika’s Cure against aggro decks like White Weenie and RDW to both remove and heal back a few life points, and finally a full set of Devour Flesh which is supremely useful against Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Mono Black Devotion shows that it is still one of the biggest contenders in the current Standard meta. I can’t wait to see how it holds up and gets further tweaked once Born of the Gods is released.

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