Tag: theros-standard

Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - January 28, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Mono-Black Devotion by Zach Jesse (1st a...

Mono-Black Devotion
Zach Jesse
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 1/25/2014
Lands (26)

Creatures (16)

Spells (18)


And so with the final SCG Tournament for Theros Standard we have the usual suspect taking down the tournament with Mono-Black Devotion. This was a forgone conclusion by the end of the semi-final round as the last two wizards left battling were both devotees on The Path of the Pack Rat. And while we wait to see if Born of the Gods will shake up a new Standard format we are left to enjoy what was with this weeks offering.

The core of this deck has remained the same for the time it has enjoyed it’s lions share of the spotlight. As it has been mentioned countlessly an opening sequence of Thoughtseize then Pack Rat is often doom for an opponent who will be left crossing their fingers praying for a lucky topdeck to swing the game back in their favour. Once you are able to start cluttering the board with rats you’ve often pulled so far ahead that victory becomes inevitable. To compliment the Pack Rat you also find in this build four Mutavault which also double as rats themselves pushing the power of your army even further. Then we have the remaining creature suite on curve with Nightveil Specter into Desecration Demon into Gray Merchant of Asphodel. As long as you are able to build a board presence even if you are starting to lag behind the Gray Merchant often will be enough to swing a game back around into your favor. There is the full set of Thoughtseize and an additional singleton of Duress which are all key in assuring that any hard to deal with threat is eliminated before it sees play. Then the requisite set of Underworld Connections not only works to maintain your position in the card advantage game but also provide very important and difficult to remove devotion for your Gray Merchant or Erebos out of the sideboard. The rest of the deck is comprised of a rather robust removal package containing a trio of Hero’s Downfall and a set of Devour Flesh complimented by singletons of Pharika’s Cure and Ratchet Bomb, the latter very adept at removing both Soldier or Elemental tokens very handily.
Given the sheer power level of this deck there’s no doubt in my mind that it will continue to find a place in the new meta moving forward. Of the new cards from Born of the Gods I am certain that Bile Blight is the one that will impact this deck the most. Not only will it certainly occupy some slots in the decks removal package it also needs to be accounted for as an efficient way to clear your Specter and even Pack Rat before they grow too large. Another interesting removal spell is Drown in Sorrow which in a pinch is another great way to clear out an army of tokens and other smaller creatures. I would like to see if Pain Seer is able to break through as a viable draw engine but would have to find a role that is somehow complimentary to Underworld Connections. Finally with the printing of Temple of Malice it will be interesting to see if there is a red splash added to this devotion deck, and if so is Mogis, God of Slaughter one of the cards that will find a way into that build. Well, only time will tell and we have just a couple weeks to go before the new face of Standard starts to reveal.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - January 27, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Azorius Control by Alexander Hayne (1st Place at...


Azorius Control
Alexander Hayne
GP Vancouver Champion

Lands (27)

Creature (1)

Other Spells (25)

Planeswalkers (7)


Local Montreal hero and perennial golden boy Alex ‘Insayne’ Hayne went on to win yet another Grand Prix tournament in what is turning into an illustrious and formidable young career. As you may have already heard that makes three such victories in the past six months. If he keeps this up there’s no telling where he and his team ManaDeprived will soar to this year. And to mention his team Alex had to battle fellow teammate and Montrealer Jon Stern, who has also been making waves on the Pro circuit, in the semifinal in a tough battle spotlighting the talent emerging from ManaDeprived and Montreal alike.

The deck he piloted is a rather straightforward U/W Control shell based around the Return to Ravnica trilogy of Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere with full set of each of those. For his win conditions Alex chose a singleton Ætherling to go with a trio of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. He was also able to squeeze three Mutavault in by bringing his land count up to twenty-seven to have the extra reach against other control decks. The permission package is a robust combination of a set of Dissolve and a trio of Syncopate to prevent threats from hitting the board. To keep pressure off the board there is a set of Last Breath which do well to answer a variety of threats big and small. We also have Jace, Architect of Thought with its ability to either weaken opposing armies or dig for answers which has been a key to many a blue based decks success. The final cog in the machine comes from the versatile Azorius Charm where a pair of them help to either gain some life in a pinch, bounce a pesky creature to the top of the library or most often as a means to cycle for another card which is hopefully the one you’ve been waiting for.
With the ability to answer so many questions I don’t doubt that this deck is going to show continued success going forward into Born of the Gods Standard. There are a few cards which look interesting with the most important of course being the UW scryland Temple of Enlightenment. I’m also interested to see if Ephara, God of the Polis can be work into Elspeth heavy builds to max out on draw potential. I could also see some possible sideboard options with Glimpse the Sun God, Fated Retribution or Revoke Existence. Only time will tell us what the new look of U/W Control deck is going to be.
In honor of this amazing win by Alex we are offering a 5% discount on all Standard sets this week until Friday Jan. 31st.
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - January 20, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Big Boros by Michael Kenney (1st Place a...

Assemble the Legion

Big Boros
Michael Kinney
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 1/18/2014

Lands (25)

Creatures (16)

Planeswalkers (3)

Spells (16)

Sideboard (15)

Winning the SCG Standard Open in Columbus this weekend we have a Red/White Midrange deck that its pilot liked to refer to as Big Boros.  It’s a pretty sweet concoction which had the stamina to make it to and take down the final table.  There was some luck handed to him in the shape of an epic misplay in his quarterfinal match when his opponent minused Elspeth and destroyed his own Ætherling but that should not downplay how good this deck actually is.

The core of the deck consists of a wide range of threats capable of performing across a varied field.  The heavy hitters come in the form of Elspeth, Assemble the Legion, Stormbreath Dragon, Purphoros and Chandra which are able to attack from different angles.  The only issue lies with the very limited card selection engines which only come from Chandra and the Scry from Magma Jet.  For supporting characters there are two sets of three drops in Boros Reckoner and Chandra’s Phoenix.  We find some incredible synergy with Young Pyromancer and Purphoros working with the dozen instants to quickly work away your opponents life total one .  Speaking of those instants there is a robust burn package with Magma Jet, Lightning Strike and Warleader’s Helix all of which double as removal.  For true removal there’s a pair of both Chained to the Rocks and Mizzium Mortars to help clear out any opposition.

Putting it all together we have a a resilient package that works hard to diminish the opponents life total quickly and efficiently.  Definitely give this deck a whirl if you like aggresive midrange style decks, you won’t be disappointed.  And we will see if Born of the Gods has any new toys which will continue to push this deck to the forefront.  Perhaps Archetype of Courage, Searing Blood or Brimaz will find a spot.  Only time will tell.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter

Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - January 12, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Mono-Blue Devotion by Tyler Wilkerson (1...


Mono-Blue Devotion
Tyler Wilkerson
1st Place at Star City Games Orlando Standard Open on 01/11/2014

Lands (25)

Creatures (28)

Planeswalkers (2)

Spells (5)


And again we find that devotion is such a powerful strategy in the current Standard meta.  While we wait for some new power players to emerge with the release of Born of the Gods we still have three more weekends to go before they will be working to forge a new face of Standard.

This deck is aggro through and through but uses Thassa, her Bident and Jace to help the deck keep the pedal to the metal.  It all starts curving out smoothly through the one drops with Cloudfin Raptor and Judge’s Familiar.  Then we move through the two drops from Frostburn Weird and Tidebinder Mage into three drops Nightveil Specter and Thassa herself.  That all works to push out max devotion to drop Master of Waves.  There is just a tiny bid of support in one-ofs from Domestication, Cyclonic Rift and Rapid Hybridization.  All together the deck is able to pack a formidable punch that shows why it has been so dominant the last few months.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter

Gregoire Thibault - January 4, 2014

Deck of the Day – UB Control by Shouta Yasooka (4th place Grand ...

Prognostic Sphinx

UB Control – Dimir Control
Yasooka, Shouta
4th place GP Shizuoka 2013

Lands (26)

Creatures (4)

Other Spells (24)

Planeswalkers (6)


After what was becoming a stale Standard meta abundant with Mono-Blue, Mono-Black and UW Control reigning supreme the Japanese Grand Prix in Shizuoka showcased for us more somewhat fringe decks. I’ve already broken down two new top decks with the GP champion Orzhov Human by Ryo Nakanada and second place Esper Human/Midrange by Shota Takao. These new decks are tuned for the meta with favorable match ups against those top three decks in Standard, something you’d expect when the Japanese start brewing. I wanted to call this deck Dimir Devotion because of it’s Master of Waves, but this is definitely much more then your standard UB control deck using a plethora of removal, counters, draw and disruption coupled with it’s finishers: Master of Waves and Prognostic Sphinx. Blue and Black has a very nice mana base with Dimir GuildgateWatery Grave and Temple of Deceit so Shouta was able to add the full set of Mutavaults.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver could be considered a finisher, but his role is more against aggro decks where he slows them down by using +2 ability to exile the top three cards, followed by his -X to bring one of opponents creatures that was exiled to the battlefield usually as an additional blocker. He could become a problem for UW Control if you just keep using his +2 ability mill all his answers and hopefully their Elixir of Immortality till you finally ultimate which is usually good game. What you  want to do against midrange and other control decks is bring in your Pack Rats from sideboard and flood the board with rats. Our next planewalker in the list is the  good ole MVP for all control decks with a set of Jace, Architect of Thought who’s just great at slowing down the beatdown from aggro as well. Continuing down the list we see more answers against aggro with a plethora of black removal  such as singletons Devour FleshDoom Blade and Ultimate Price as well as three Hero’s Downfall. Shota also added Domestication which has been gaining popularity in Mono-Blue builds with so much creatures with under 4 power like Master of Waves and Nightveil Specter making them a good catch-all. Another very interesting addition main deck are the three Ratchet Bombs to easily take care of tokens from Pack Rats, any Zombies from Xathrid Necromancer or Elementals from Master of Waves. Yasooka added more originality to his deck with a couple of Warped Physique. There probably mainly used as removal, but I wonder if he ever pumped a Prognostic Sphinx for the win.

It wouldn’t be much of a blue control deck without any counters. Yasooka opted for three Dissolve and Syncopate with a singleton Essence Scatter which sounds good to me. Finally with a couple of Opportunity as draw for late games as every blue control deck does just little less in this one.

The sideboard is tweaked to the metagame with two Gainsay and a Negate to bring in against UW control along with three Duress which seem very sound to me. Let’s not forget the Pack Rats in the sideboard against deck with little or no answers to a turn two Rats, they work especially well with the set of Mutavaults. The rest of the sideboard is pretty much self explanatory with Tidebinder Mage against Green or Red and Gainsay obvisously against Blue decks.

The Blood Baron of Vizkopa have been a common issue lately, but this deck had a lot of counters like Essence Scatter to stop it from resolving and a Devour Flesh main deck. I would prefer Far & Away for it’s versatility cause if the opponent has only two creatures and one of them is the Baron then you bounce the other so the Away resolves with opponent sac’ing the Baron. Another use Far  is to bounce opponents creature like a Blood Baron and Thoughtseize it. This deck looks like a fun list, if you like control and your tired of the do-nothing draw-go cycle of UW Control you should try this one out. If anyone sees any more issues with this deck leave comments, i’m sure a lot more people got to test it by now.

Happy New Year everyone

Gregoire Thibault

Follow me on Twitter @Gregsterism

Gregoire Thibault - December 31, 2013

Deck of the Day – Esper Human by Shota Takao (2nd Place Grand Pr...

Whip of Erebos

Esper Human – Esper Midrange
Takao, Shota
2nd place at GP Shizuoka 2013 Top 8

Lands (25)

Creatures (24)

Other Spells (11)


This deck  got a lot of heads turning at Grand Prix Shizuoka on Dec. 22nd. Esper Midrandge or Humans piloted by Shota Takao, so named for its interactions between its humans paired up with Xathrid Necromancer. It is based on the more recent Orzhov Midrange strategy that evolved out of Paul Rietzl Orzhov Midrange at Pro Tour Theros. Takao was running into problems against Pack Rat so he added blue for Detention Sphere which also give him access to Lyev Skyknight. Adding the third color did not make the mana worse by taking full advantage of all the duals in Hallowed FountainWatery GraveGodless ShrineTemple of Deceit and Temple of Silence.

Esper Midrange has a strong match up against the three major decks in the format: Mono-Blue Devotion, Mono-Black Devotion, and Blue-White Control. The interaction between  Whip of Erebos with Obzedat, Ghost Council is very important in these matches. You use the Whip to bring Obzedat back into play from the graveyard, then by stacking the triggers properly you can exile Obzedat to his trigger and return him back into play on your next turn.

As two-drops Takao opted to make a  metagame call with a singleton Cartel Aristocrat which is strong against Domestication used mostly in Mono-Blue Devotion, Imposing Sovereign to slow down aggro decks and Daring Skyjek to speed up the clock especially when paired up with Lyev SkyknightDesecration Demon or even Mutavault to activate Battalion. Adding a set of Detention Sphere allows him to drop the Hero’s Downfall that can get awkward to cast on the double black. Accompanied with a singleton of these removal spells Doom BladeUltimate Price and Far // Away again a metagame call.

Blood Baron of Vizkopa can be devastating against white and black based decks like this one, but Takao has answers like a  Far // Away and two Supreme Verdicts in the main as well as access to Thoughtseize and another Far // Away and Supreme Verdict in the sideboard. Imposing Sovereign is also interesting as it stops Blood Baron but only for the turn it was summoned.

Overall Shato Takao got a lot of attention with this deck as it kept winning him round after round giving him a 14-1 record going into Quarterfinals, but finally losing in the finals to the GP Shizuoka champion Ryo Nakada piloting Orzhov Human.

Gregoire Thibault - December 26, 2013

Champion’s Deck – Orzhov Human by Ryo Nakada (1st at Grand...

Xathrid Necromancer

Orzhov Human – White Weenie 
Ryo Nakada
1st place GP Shizuoka 2013

Lands (22)

Creatures (29)

Other Spells (9)


Ryo Nakada piloted this Orzhov Human list to take down the final Grand Prix of the year in Shizuoka. The first thing we notice about the deck is that it is basically a White Weenie deck with a splash color similar to the Boros ‘white weenie’ that Ben Lundquist used to win SCG L.A. in November. This time we see a black splash instead of red for Xathrid Necromancer and Orzhov Charm in the main as well as a plethora of answers in the sideboard.

Generally White Weenie comes out of the gates fast, but then is weak to sweepers like Supreme Verdict and Mizzium Mortars. Enter Xathrid Necromancer which can be dropped on turn 3 making your opponents sweepers awkward to use by leaving an army of 2/2 Zombies behind to deal with. The Orzhov Charm  in the main is used as cheap instant removal to clear the path for your team or can also be used to bring back a 1-drop in your graveyard onto the battlefield. The black becomes more then a splash once you look into the sideboard, with all black except for a singleton Pithing Needle. Bringing in Dark Betrayal against the strong and popular Mono-Black Devotion decks. A fourth Xathrid Necromancer to use against sweepers from UW and Esper control decks. Profit // Loss against the mirror and other popular ‘White Weenie” versions and probably also good against burn decks like Boros Burn. I imagine the Sin Collectors are used to get your opponents removal and sweepers. The Thoughtseize and Pithing Needle is the decks only answers to planeswalkers.

This version of White Weenie curves out almost like its predecessor with the exception of a turn 3 Xathrid Necromancer instead of Ajani, Caller of the Pride or Frontline Medic. Orzhov Humans starts off with a turn 1 Boros EliteDryad Militant or Soldier of the Pantheon followed on turn 2 with a Daring Skyjek, a Precinct Captain or an Imposing Sovereign and finally comes turn 3 with a Banisher Priest to clear the path for more beats or Xathrid Necromancer to “protect the team”. Spear of Heliod helps speed your clock by pumping your team and can act as removal against big threats. And in classic White Weenie fashion Brave the Elements protects your team against targeted spells or helps push through an alpha strike for the win.

Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - December 21, 2013

Decks of the Day – Spotlight on Shaheen Soorani at the SCG Invit...

Shaheen Soorani

Esper mastermind and longtime magic aficionado Shaheen Soorani battled last weekend at the SCG Invitational in Las Vegas to a third place finish. Fighting through a field of 299 qualified participants he was able to slaughter most every mage who stood in his way. The Invitational, much like the Pro Tour, is a multiformat tournament requiring proficiency in both Standard and Legacy to find success. In true Soorani fashion his weapon of choice for both formats was blue, white and black control style concoctions. With the two byes he had been awarded he drudged to a final swiss record of 12-3-1, the last round an intentional bye with Thea Steele to clinch the top 8 berth. The competition was fierce with hard wins against Tom Ross, Tim Landale, Erik Smith and Jeff Hoogland. Some tough losses came at the hands of Matt Nass the last round of day 1 playing for the perfect 8-0 and against eventual winner Max Brown entering the second leg of Legacy putting Shaheen on the ropes fighting to maintain a top positioning. In the top 8 he was immediately put to the test against Brian Brawn-Duin but dispatched him easily in three games but was knocked out by Greg Hatch after a hard fought five game battle.

Esper Control
Shaheen Soorani
3rd Place at StarCityGames Invitational on 12/14/2013
Lands (26)
 Creatures (3)

Planeswalkers (6)

For the Standard rounds he piloted a sweet and well rounded Esper Control list built around the stock UW pieces. Full sets of Supreme Verdict, Detention Sphere, Jace, Architect of Thought and Azorius Charm are complimented by a trio of Sphinx’s Revelation and a pair of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion to for the core of the deck. Premier creature finishers come with an Ætherling and a pair of Blood Baron of Vizkopa both very resilient to removal in the meta. Speaking of removal the deck sports pairs of Devour Flesh and Hero’s Downfall for spot duty and an additional sweeper in Merciless Eviction which with its many modes is surely able to remove the permanent that is most troubling you. The deck is rounded out by a light disruption package that contains counters from two Dissolve and a Syncopate with discard from two Thoughtseizes.  Shaheen took this to a 6-2 record through the swiss and top 8 winning games 15-5, with three of those losses in the semifinal match.
Esper Stoneblade
Shaheen Soorani
3rd Place at StarCityGames Invitational on 12/15/2013
Lands (22)

Creatures (8)

Planeswalkers (3)

 Spells (27)
For his Legacy deck Shaheen kept in the same vein with Esper Stoneblade sticking to a more classic list by eschewing both Deathrite Shaman and Legacys newest golden boy True-Name Nemesis. In quintessential control style we start with a formidable draw package with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Brainstorm, Ponder and a singleton Intuition. For the permission the is the requisite Force of Will with a Counterspell comboing with discard from Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek to stifle the opponents plans. The plan of attack starts with Stoneforge Mystic which is able to tutor up preeminent beatstick Batterskull. There is also an Umezawa’s Jitte which paired up with the Lingering Souls can make short work of your opponent. I especially like how Intuition can work together with Lingering Souls to quickly provide access to a small flying army. To complement those flyers there is also a one of Vendilion Clique which also carries equipment, and has an abusable interaction if you’re also able to get your Karakas out. For removal there is a diverse array with spot removal from Swords to Plowshares and Vindicate complimented by sweepers in Supreme Verdict and Engineered Explosives. Finally, to take full advantage of all the varied instants and sorceries we have a trio of Snapcaster Mage to flashback whichever answer you need access to the most. For the seven rounds that he played with the deck Shaheen was able to pull out a 5-2 record including his two last wins in the swiss which allowed him to intentionally draw the final round to secure his spot in the top 8.
So if you enjoy control style decks and need a list to try either in Standard or Legacy I definitely recommend giving one of these decks a go. It’s great to see Shaheen continue to excel at these high level tournaments and you can be sure that we will see him maintaining this caliber performance for years to come, and where he goes control mages everywhere will benefit from his tightly tuned lists.
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer