The Moore Report - Delicious Wedges
Delicious Wedges (Wedge Colours in Standard Part 1)
This Standard season started with a bang. Khans of Tarkir showed that it has the power to overthrow devotion as the number one strategy in Standard (though that “power” might have just been forcing the rotation of Ravnica Block), and has ushered in a colourful era of wedges. I love wedges. Maybe with a bit of sour cream on the side, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, some cheese and bacon. Mm. Unfortunately you can’t win a pro tour with any amount of bacon, so let’s talk about the wedges that are getting it done. Maybe you’ll find a variety of fried potato slice among them that you’d like to take down the next big Standard event with.
Recent first time pro tour champion Ari Lax showed us the power of our first wedge, Abzan, with this brew. It’s very reminiscent of the Shards of Alara block Jund decks of old – which just played a bunch of the best cards every turn until their opponents stopped twitching.
This deck showcases the power of some of the most powerful cards in Standard right now. Courser of Kruphix is one of the best in the business at creating incremental advantage while keeping you in the game long enough to deploy some game-winning threats. In this case, that means Siege Rhino, Wingmate Roc and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. On the face of it, this deck doesn’t look that exciting. It’s just a collection of creatures, planeswalkers and removal spells. But early on in a format, especially a small one like this (where there is only one full block plus the first set of the next), there usually aren’t enough synergies to exploit, so a collection of good cards can be enough to win games of magic.
It’s certainly telling that this deck, created for a pro tour at the beginning of October, is still putting up results on the StarCityGames circuit. The core cards are all there, with just small adjustments to a few of the numbers. Some people are playing Brimaz, King of Oreskos, others are playing less Elvish Mystic and more removal spells; things like that. You can attribute these changes to players looking to gain small edges, or trying to get better angles against the shifting metagame. If you’re looking for a solid, consistent deck for your next Standard tournament, it’s hard to move on without recommending some form of Abzan - considering its consistent success. While you’re at it, take a look at some of the other versions that did well at the pro tour. There is one that lowers the curve slightly and plays things like Fleecemane Lion and Rakshasa Deathdealer, in an attempt to finish off games before Elspeth makes an appearance. This is obviously a more aggressive version of the deck, so if aggro decks are more your style, this might be something you’ll want to consider.
Let’s move on to the second best wedge from pro tour Khans of Tarkir: Jeskai. Down from Abzan, Jeskai had the most impressive showing at the PT - good enough to give Shaun McLaren second place. Here is the list he played:
1 Seeker of the Way
That weekend showed us a few different versions of this deck, but they all revolve around dealing with your opponents threats while deploying efficiently costed threats of your own and putting together enough cards to add up to 20 damage. It has been interesting to see the Jeskai wedge evolve in Standard. There is a very spicy Jeskai Ascendancy heroic aggro/combo deck doing the rounds, but I’m not ready to make a comment on that one. Recently, the version that seems to be having the most success is quite different to the one above. Rather than skimping on creatures for reactive spells, it packs the full four Seeker of the Way along with some Stormbreath Dragons and even Brimaz, King of Oreskos. It seems like Brimaz is getting some love in this format, which isn’t surprising considering the stats you get for his mana cost. Personally I don’t have much experience with Jeskai, but if what you’re looking for is a powerful aggro deck with a bunch of burn spells, I’d start with this list from Dylan Donegan, which was good enough to win him an invitation to one of the StarCityGames Invitational tournaments.
Let’s look at Temur next. Temur didn’t really make an impact at the pro tour, but it did make an impact on Brian Kibler. And if it made an impact on him, I’m already interested. Kibler is a man who knows how to build creature decks. He has shown time and again that he can build a deck from scratch and bring it to high level events to crush people with. It might also be that he’s an amazing player, but it’s no coincidence that his success usually comes paired with Basic Forest. This list isn’t from Brian himself, but it is almost card for card the list that he has been championing for the wedge:
The sideboards that I’ve seen vary quite a bit, which makes sense considering there isn’t really a consensus on what Standard should look like at the moment. However, almost all of them contain some number of Stubborn Denial, Magma Spray, Disdainful Stroke and Hunt the Hunter, which I agree with whole-heartedly. I really enjoy playing this deck. It could be that I developed an affinity for playing green creatures last season with my Wanderer Bard deck, but I’m just really into slamming huge monsters and turning them sideways. I’ll be playing this deck a bit going forward, and what I’m interested in most is the mix of spells. I’m not sold that the counterspells should just be in the sideboard. When you consider the powerhouses in Standard and the fact that a lot of them are winning with huge spells, Disdainful Stroke comes painfully close to making the maindeck. The argument against this is of course that it’s abysmal against the aggressive decks, but how many true aggro decks are out there at the moment? Also, in a pinch, it can still counter a Stoke the Flames. Is one in the maindeck too many? I feel similarly regarding Stubborn Denial. Surely just one or two couldn’t hurt. The ferocious condition on the spell is completely backbreaking, especially when you just need one spare mana to blow someone out. I don’t have the definitive answer for you, except that I’m certain that four Crater's Claws is correct (that card is obscene in this deck), so check back in a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll have some miser’s counterspell stories to tell. This deck has been putting up results consistently, and put multiple copies of clan Temur into the top 8 of the most recent Grand Prix in Santiago. You’d be foolish to discount Ashcloud Phoenix for your next Standard tournament.
Mardu is an interesting one. It has been very very quiet (hunting wabbits, I assume), and I’m not sure why. There are some amazing cards in that wedge. Butcher of the Horde is just awesome, and I’m really surprised that more hordes haven’t been butchered…Or is it more hordes haven’t been joined by their butcher? Either way, I’m surprised. I’ve scoured the internet for lists, and if Mardu is your jam I’ve got a deck for you:
I really like this deck. It has Butcher of the Horde, for starters, but if you look closer you can see that there is something interesting going on. In the maindeck you’re beating down with Seekers, Rabblemasters, Butchers and outbursts of Hordelings, which is sweet. I’m sure a lot of games have been won by a combination of the above. However, if you’re in a match-up where that doesn’t happen to be sweet, you can completely transform your deck after sideboard. Anger of the Gods, End Hostilities and extra planeswalkers turn you from an aggro deck into Mardu control. I like that instead of trying to complement a possibly weak strategy in some match-ups, this deck has managed to find a spot where it can bridge two different ones, and change between them at will. It’s not often you get to play with a deck that can do this, and if nothing else, doing so will test your skill as a player. Again, this is another deck that has been doing well, so give this a shot if you’re down to butcher some hordes. I would make sure to plan out my sideboard plans before coming to the tournament with this, though. You’d want to be thoroughly prepared.
Finally, we have Sultai. Sultai is really cool. Specifically the delve mechanic. We’ve seen it make huge waves in all formats with Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, and in Standard there are already a lot of Murderous Cuts flying around. None more so than in Sultai, which makes sense considering the origin of the mechanic. This next list is from a personal favourite of mine, Willy Edel. Not only does he come up with some excellent brews, he’s also a super nice guy to talk to. If you hit him up on Facebook for advice he’s more than happy to help out, which is really cool. Without further ado:
Ooo baby this is a nice one. Sultai decks in general haven’t really made much impact on the format until people started playing Whip of Erebos. It really is the card that puts these decks over the top. In formats like this one where people are trying to find the most powerful spells, it is important to find ways (if you can’t find a way to ignore your opponent and cast the Standard equivalent of Dragonstorm for storm=4) to go over the top. Whip is a great way of doing so. It gives your powerful creatures like Hornet Queen two bites at the apple, while also giving you heaps of life points to get you into the late game where it can take over. Speaking of Hornet Queen, I’m pretty sure it’s one of the best cards in Standard right now. It dominates almost any board state, and provides six points of power in the air, which creates a pretty sick squad of men to dive bomb opposing planeswalkers. Interestingly, if Hornet Queen is one of the best cards in Standard, Doomwake Giant is probably one of the best cards against it. Willy has both in his deck, which I love. And let’s not forget the 4 Murderous Cut sitting in there as arguably the best removal spell available (it is at least the most efficient, which is important). It even gets to sideboard in Disdainful Stroke against decks that want to cast any of the aforementioned cards, which is great. As the format becomes less fluid, I’m certain that the best decks will include a plethora of big spells, and if that’s the case, an efficient counter to those in the form of Disdainful Stroke is exactly what the doctor ordered. I am a huge fan of this deck, and I’m probably going to be messing around with something like it for upcoming Standard tournaments (like the Hobbymaster Standard 500 series, for example).
And there you have it, a competitive deck for each wedge. This isn’t the whole story, however. Tomorrow we’ll take a comprehensive look at decks that refuse to play three colours – or at least don’t think they need to. If you take nothing else away from this article, just think about this: It’s clear that Standard is wide open. There are new decks coming out every week, so it’s pretty hard to pick the “best” deck. I’d advise picking a strong proactive deck that you enjoy playing and just practice with it heaps. If you want to try and solve the format, look at the lynchpins of the most successful decks and figure out what cards they’re weak to. As I said just above, I think Willy Edel’s deck has a lot of those cards, so consider starting there. But whatever you do, remember to have fun!
Part Two of this article is now up. Continue Henry's Analysis with Not Wedges (Wedges in Standard Part 2).