How to Win in Standard, The Season Continues

assemblethelegionfull

How to Win in Standard, The Season Continues

I’m having a lot of fun.  Standard season is now in full swing and I don’t think I’ve ever put in as much time towards Magic as I am right now.  I’ve gone on some tournament runs before, but I told myself this time around that it was going to be different.  In the last article I mentioned some of the tournaments I was going to, and the first one, the Eau Claire, WI SCG IQ is now in the books.

Sadly, I didn’t perform well at the IQ, losing to Mono Black Devotion and GW Aggro in the Swiss, along with another loss which was just downright embarrassing, but two of my other teammates did well, both making top 8.  One of them was running RW like myself, the other was running Esper Humans.  We didn’t expect much from the IQ, we certainly practiced for it but it was essentially the starter tournament for us to get the feel of a big tournament back before we start hitting PTQs.  I think it did a good job at providing that experience, as there were 46 people present, six rounds, a lot of quality decks, and some good opponents / teams.  Ultimately I believe the finals were W/x aggro versus GW Aggro, but we had to leave so we couldn’t see it finish.

For the rest of this article, I’d like to cover the various decks in Standard right now that I think are relevant and what is good against them.  Previously I gave you readers a list and how to sideboard, but I think that’s the wrong approach at this moment.  For starters, I’ve been waffling a lot on my 75s, and secondly I believe it’s more important to know what is the keys to winning against each deck and let you decide on your list for yourself.  Having had more time to practice and play tournaments, its given me a more accurate grasp on this.  I’m also going to post a few lists that I’ve tested with recently that I feel are worth giving some attention.  Again, the content here is all my opinion, so you’re welcome to wildly disagree with it and I always appreciate constructive feedback.

The Metagame

Enemy #1:  Mono Black Devotion

desecrationdemonfull

The Best Cards Against It:  Chained to the Rocks, Assemble the Legion, Elspeth, Divine Verdict, Wear // Tear, Mizzium Mortars

The key here is obviously containing Desecration Demon.  He’s the biggest threat they produce aside from chaining Grey Merchants, and he’s the only creature you can’t burn out.  The problem is, you only have so many Chains, and they have Thoughtseize to strip your answers away.  Divine Verdict is a nice supplement, and it doubles at being a solid card against GR Monsters, Obzedat, and Advent of the Wurm.  Assemble the Legion is unanswerable outside of Thoughtseize, so I would absolutely run no less than three of these in your 75 if possible.  Wear // Tear is good against Underworld Connections and Whip, although a lot of lists are sans Whip and I personally don’t board it in because I prefer to be the aggressor.  Mono Black is slow, and you can take advantage of it.

Elspeth is basically the same as Assemble except that it gives you instant defense against attacks and it can be killed by Hero’s Downfall.  Hopefully you’ve played enough threats to force them to use their Downfall prior.  Mizzium Mortars is my pick for the best removal outside of what’s been mentioned because it literally kills every creature in their deck aside from Demon and Erebos, and you really need to answer Pack Rat immediately.  A lot of people don’t realize how strong Pack Rat is in Mono Black, but it is one of the keys to them winning against you.

Nightveil Specter isn’t that big of a deal, so if you’re light on removal in this matchup, save it for Pack Rat, Demon, and Merchant.  If you think they are going to chain a few Merchants together, than Nightveil is absolutely worth killing.

Enemy #2:  Mono Blue Devotion

masterofwavesfull

The Best Cards Against It:  Chained to the Rocks, Last Breath, Mizzium Mortars, Stormbreath Dragon, Anger of the Gods, Ratchet Bomb, Fanatic of Mogis

The key here is that you really just need to kill Thassa and Master of the Waves, as these cards are the two that break you in half.  Killing Master kills all the tokens, so that’s priority number one and that’s what Chained to the Rocks and Last Breath do best.  They do have Cyclonic Rift for Chains, but otherwise their outs are extremely limited.    If you’re taking a more aggressive role with your build of RW, you’ll want to max out on Mizzium Mortars between the maindeck and sideboard.  It’s very important to be able to kill Frostburn Weird so that he doesn’t slow down your tempo, and it also doubles at killing the rest of their stuff or overloading for value.

One situation that can come up often in this match is that you get incrementally overwhelmed by their fliers.  Between Judge’s Familiar, Cloudfin Raptor, Nightveil Specter, and Thassa’s ability to make them unblockable, the few points of damage you take in the early game can turn into lethal later in the game when you’re finally stabilizing.  This is one of the reasons I like having some spot removal in the deck along with Strombreath Dragon, because you really just need to buy time.  Stormbreath is difficult for them to answer because it’s very easy to stretch their removal and he flies over their whole team once you deal with the little guys.  Fanatic of Mogis is another inevitability factor that they can’t stop outside of counterspells.

Make sure to watch out for whenever they are keeping a singleton blue mana up when they pass the turn.  This often signals that they have Rapid Hybridization.  I usually see it used on Boros Reckoner, but it can sometimes rue your day if you were planning a big devotion swing.  Patience is really important in this matchup because even though they have insane threats and are trying to out-tempo you, you have much bigger haymakers than they do.

Enemy #3:  GW Aggro

fleecemanelionfull

Best Cards Against It:  Chained to the Rocks, Lightning Strike, Mizzium Mortars, Boros Reckoner, Stormbreath Dragon, Anger of the Gods, Glare of Heresy, Warleader’s Helix, Last Breath

This is an aggressive matchup that is very difficult and requires tight play.  GW plays one game, and that’s to simply unload their entire hand on you because they know that their creatures are bigger than yours.  If you ever see them holding back 3, 4, or 5 mana, absolutely play around Boon Satyr or Advent of the Wurm.  They have absolutely no reason to hold back this mana aside from this fact, and they will almost always have it with the amount of each they have in the deck.  My teammate was watching a game I was playing against GW yesterday where I simply passed even though I had three creatures on the board to his empty board, but it was because I knew he had Advent.  Sure enough, he did, and it saved me a 2-for-1.

Instant speed burn is very relevant, although you don’t want to overload too much on removal.  They have better threats, so it’s important to keep as many of the creatures in your maindeck in the 60 as possible.  You can’t play a control game against them, you have to play tempo.  Lightning Strike is especially potent because it deals with Fleecemane Lion, not giving him a chance to go Monstrous.  It also kills Boon Satyr and most of the other creatures.

Advent of the Wurm, Unflinching Courage, and Trostani are the toughest things you’ll usually see.  All these things of course get properly dealt with by Chained to the Rocks, although it’s worth being aware that many of them have Glare of Heresy in their sideboard.  It’s highly unlikely that they’ll board it, but a wise player just might.  Speaking of Glare of Heresy, it’s a great answer to most of the problem cards like Voice of Resurgence, Fleecemane Lion, and Unflinching Courage.  I don’t like going hog wild on it just because Boon Satyr and the Advent token aren’t white, but it’s a nice supplement regardleses.  Anger of the Gods is another card that exiles and hits most of their stuff if you decide to run it.

Loxodon Smiter appears in some versions, if you see they’re on that plan make sure to bring in Mortars which is generally a card I like having against them anyway despite not being instant speed.

Selesnya Charm kills Purphoros, and that play happened frequently to me, so it might even be worth sideboarding him out.  He is however one of the best creatures against them, so it’s a tough call, but I think it’s worth it to just make that aspect of their removal suite dead.

Lastly, Boon Satyr on an Advent of the Wurm is pretty much game over, so may you draw strong against it.

Enemy #4:  G/R Monsters

polukranosworldeaterfull

Best Cards Against It:  Chained to the Rocks, Mizzium Mortars, Lightning Strike, Shock, Anger of the Gods, Boros Reckoner, Divine Verdict

Arguably this is the toughest matchup for RW Devotion.  It’s a shame because it’s catching fire (no pun intended) due to Brian Braun-Duin’s videos and subsequent tournament performances.  The deck does a lot of things that make it hard for you to match up with it.  For starters, like the previous season’s G/R deck it has mana acceleration to ramp into huge threats on turn 3, most of the time being Polukranos.  Thus, cutting off their mana dorks if you can (obviously not Caryatid) can go a long way towards getting over on them.  A lot of their hands are either a flood of mana dorks and one big threat, or a pile of threats and not enough land.  That’s one of the few weaknesses they have so make sure to expose it.

The two biggest threats in the deck are Polukranos and Stormbreath, which is why Chained to the Rocks and Mizzium Mortars are yet again the go-to cards for this matchup.  The problems don’t quit there unfortunately, Boon Satyr, Scavenging Ooze, and sometimes Mistcutter Hydra and Arbor Colossus join the fray.  The main way I’ve beaten them is to let your creatures deal with everything but Polukranos and Stormbreath and save your specific removal for those cards.  They might exhaust your resources on that end, but hopefully if you control their mana sources and load the board faster than them you can squeak by.  That’s really the true strategy, because while they’re faster at ramping down big threats, they typically don’t load the board with anything relevant besides those threats.  If they have an army of Voyaging Satyrs and Elvish Mystics on the table, that’s very good times for you.

A few things worth watching out for; Flesh // Blood is insanely dumb, the first time you get hit by a Stormbreath only to have it hit you again because of that card makes you want to cry and quit magic (or switch decks).  Just be conscious of the life swing capability depending on what mana they are holding up and what they’ve played.  Out of the sideboard, Destructive Revelry can wreck havoc on your Chains, but there’s not really much you can do about it aside from maybe adding more Divine Verdicts to your board.  I don’t like playing too many Divine Verdicts though because it’s a high casting cost and requires situations to make it work.  It also doesn’t hit Stormbreath.  That said, it’s still an instant speed answer to the rest of the cards in their deck.

Hopefully you can dodge this matchup. . .

Enemy #5:  W/x Aggro

imposingsovereignfull

Best Cards Against It:  Anger of the Gods, Shock, Warleader’s Helix, Stormbreath Dragon, 2cc Removal, Ash Zealot, Boros Reckoner

These W/x aggro matchups are winnable, but you really need to make sure that your list respects them.  I see a lot of RW players just assuming their 2cc removal spells and big guys like Boros Reckoner will take care of the matchup and call it a day.  This really isn’t the case, as these decks are much faster than you and have brutal counter-punches in Imposing Sovereign, Banisher Priest, and Brave the Elements.  One of these decks was in the finals of the IQ I was just at, it won a GP in Asia a few weeks ago, and Ben Stark piloted it to a strong finish.  It’s also popped up in just about every top 16 in the last month.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to not just give away this match by thinking your spot removal is good enough.  You specifically need at least two of the cards above (removal-wise) to feel safer against W/x Aggro.  Personally, I’ve found Anger of the Gods and Warleader’s Helix to be the best combination followed by Shock and Warleader’s Helix.  Sometimes you can get really roughed up if they have a Brave the Elements when you play Anger, but often times you simply don’t have a choice not to play it even if they have a white mana up.

Warleader’s Helix is actually quite awesome as you’d imagine against them, and the 4cc casting cost isn’t a big deal.  When you have other removal it buys you enough time generally to make Helix that exact amount of life you need to stabilize, and as soon as you get a few creatures on the board after that it’s usually game over.  I played against my teammate a decent amount last night with the GP winner’s list against his Top 8 RW list from the IQ and rolled him four times in a row though.  He wasn’t running Helix or Anger, and it showed.  The thing that really changed the games was not so much that he couldn’t kill my guys and put down threats, but more-so that the W/x decks just continually draw threats.  It’s like how Naya Blitz was, only a turn or two slower with an added element of cards like Brave and Banisher Priest which make up for that turn.  Mutavault is probably the scariest card in their deck, so any kind of Shock, Magma Jet, etc, is massively appreciated in this matchup.  I like Magma Jet a lot here, because you absolutely need to hit your spells on time to survive and it smooths out your draws.

And as you did with Aristocrats, make sure to kill Xathrid Necromancer on first sight.

Enemy #6:  UW Control

divinationfull

Best Cards Against It:  Pithing Needle, Glare of Heresy, Wear // Tear, Hammer of Purphoros, Purphoros, God of the Forge, Stormbreath Dragon, Skullcrack, Toil // Trouble

I’m covering U/W in this article and not Esper because the Esper matchup is a joke for most builds of R/W Devotion.  My teammates and I have crushed it so many times and the looks on our opponents faces are always priceless.  The U/W deck is a different animal though, and I think it stems from the fact that they are playing a more pure control build and not trying to just stick a Blood Baron or play spot removal on your guys.  Their planeswalkers are very difficult to deal with and often give them plenty of time to pick off your threats one by one.  That’s one of the reasons why I think Pithing Needle is the best card for the matchup, followed by things that remove Detetion Sphere.  Their deck is a lot more consistent than Esper; they have Divination for added draw power and they don’t have to worry about having so many lands that come into play tapped.  They’re also fairly Burning Earth-proof if you’re running that sort of thing.

Glare of Heresy gets the nod over Wear // Tear because it exiles and also deals with Elspeth.  Elspeth is generally the kill condition, or an ultimate’d Jace.  Like when playing against Esper, you still want to jam as many threats as possible and thankfully you have a lot of dead cards to cut from the main.  Hammer is the best “real” threat, because it’s just about impossible for them to keep up with a creature-a-turn with haste.  The tokens also don’t die to Last Breath which is usually a removal card they run.

Enemy #7:  YOU

peakeruptionfull

Best Cards Against It:  Mizzium Mortars, Boros Reckoner, Warleader’s Helix, Peak Eruption, Purphoros, God of the Forge, Hammer of Purphoros, Wear // Tear~, Glare of Heresy~

The mirror, like any Red mirror, is pretty dumb.  A lot of times, despite being a midrange deck, it comes down to who goes first.

There are some nuances to this one though worth talking about.  First, Purphoros and his Hammer are easily the strongest cards here.  Despite the fact that you’ll be busy burning each others guys down and keeping each other off devotion, Purphoros is really tough to answer and kills fast.  Same goes for Stormbreath.  Chained to the Rocks is great in game 1 but can be a liability in games 2 and 3 and I usually sideboard it out.  If you think your opponent is not smart enough to bring in removal for it, then by all means keep it in because it still remains a great card.  Mortars and Warleader’s Helix though are far more important, as you’ll want to kill any Dragons that show up with the former and swing close life totals with the latter.  Boros Reckoner is usually the decider of the match, so he’s the big incentive to keep Chains in even if your opponent has hate for it.  There’s an argument for Glare of Heresy because of this too, as it hits both Reckoner and Chains, along with Elspeth if they have it.

Peak Eruption is much better in an aggro shell where you’re taking advantage of the fact that you’re going underneath them, but it also can be potent here in keeping the opponent off their big drops before you get to yours, especially if you’re on the draw.  I don’t think I’m going to run it anytime soon, just because it is a very narrow card, but it has its merits.

RW Lists to Consider

These are some of the lists that I’ve been testing that I like the most right now, I would consider any of these if you’re going to be PTQing with RW-

Michael Kenney, 8th Place SCG Indy Open

Creature [16]
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
2 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Young Pyromancer
2 Purphoros, God of the Forge

Instant [10]
4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
2 Warleader’s Helix

Sorcery [2]
2 Mizzium Mortars

Enchantment [4]
2 Assemble the Legion
2 Chained to the Rocks

Land [25]
11 Mountain
3 Plains
1 Boros Guildgate
2 Mutavault
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Triumph

Planeswalker [3]
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
60 cards

Sideboard:

2 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Last Breath
2 Wear // Tear
2 Anger of the Gods
1 Glare of Heresy
1 Mizzium Mortars
2 Pithing Needle
2 Chained to the Rocks
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
15 cards

Quick Notes:  Very Controllish, Great Incremental Value against Mono Black.  Doesn’t have the punch factor against decks it needs to close the deal against though.

Longtoe, 1st Place MTGO Standard Premiere

Main Deck
60 cards

11 Mountain
4 Mutavault
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Triumph
23 lands

4 Ash Zealot
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
2 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Rakdos Cackler
2 Stormbreath Dragon
3 Young Pyromancer
19 creatures

3 Chained to the Rocks
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
2 Mizzium Mortars
3 Shock
18 other spells

Sideboard
3 Boros Reckoner
1 Chained to the Rocks
1 Flames of the Firebrand
2 Last Breath
2 Mizzium Mortars
1 Mountain
3 Skullcrack
1 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Wear // Tear

Quick Notes:  I have yet to lose a game with this deck online, but the Mono Blue matchup worries me because your little red men don’t matchup well against their creatures.  It’s very aggressive though and definitely a place I’d prefer to be when playing aggro at the moment then straight-red.  It also took down just about everything in the field on its way to first place.

Mike Torrisi, Top 8 Eau Claire SCG IQ (My Teammate)

4 Ash Zealot
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Boros Reckoner
3 Fanatic of Mogis
3 Purphoros, God of the Forge
3 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Mindsparker

3 Hammer of Purphoros

4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
2 Chained to the Rocks

12 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Triumph
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Boros Guildgate

Sideboard

3 Anger of the Gods
2 Chained to the Rocks
2 Pithing Needle
2 Last Breath
2 Skullcrack
2 Wear // Tear
2 Assemble the Legion

Quick Notes:  Mike’s made some small changes since this list, but he’s had a lot of success with it and he really likes the non-standard elements that he’s playing.  I’ve seen him be able to aggressively handle many situations, and that’s a positive direction worth exploring.  He’s not 100% sold on it just like I’m not with my lists, but he’s mostly cool with this one.  I think since he’s added another Assemble, but there weren’t many other major changes to my knowledge.

Evan Golden, FNM Hero (local friend)

4 Boros Reckoner
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Stormbreath Dragon

4 Chain to the Rocks
3 Magma Jet
3 Mizzium Mortars
2 Lightning Strike
2 Warleader’s Helix

1 Hammer of Purphoros
3 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Assemble the Legion
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

3 Mutavault
2 Nykthos
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Triumph
2 Boros Guildgate
7 Mountains
3 Plains

Sideboard
1 Assemble the Legion
3 Anger of the Gods
1 Mizzium Mortars
2 Last Breath
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Boros Charm
2 Wear//Tear
2 Pithing Needle

Quick Notes:  Evan doesn’t play in many big tournaments, but he’s one of the smarter players I’ve ever met, and everytime he brings something to the local smaller tournaments he just demolishes people.  He often plays cool lists with tech that other people aren’t playing, and I really have great respect anytime I see what he’s rolling with.  He said he’s been doing very well with this list, and while it seems super top heavy I’ll at this point take his word for it until I have a chance to test it further.

Good luck to all my fellow PTQers out there and a shoutout to the Mox Mania crew and the rest of my Team (Still Got There).  Be sure to keep an eye on my twitter feed, I’ve been testing a lot (just at random times) and I’m still working on trying to schedule a time to do some videos to post here on the site.

Thanks for all the love and support from all my readers, keep that fire alive

– Red Deck Winning

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6 thoughts on “How to Win in Standard, The Season Continues

  1. My list does play quite a bit differently from most lists. You’re not the beatdown as often. I prefer playing midrange that can go aggressive or controlling depending on the matchup. Elspeth and Chandra both can completely take over a game. Games against things besides mono black and control the most important thing is to keep as much off their side of the board as possible.

    Good overview of the matchups; I’d definately agree that killing nightveil in mono black isn’t a priority, but if they hit a land or two you need to get rid of it to prevent the card advantage. I often like to bait them into going for pack rat if I know I can handle them until an overloaded mizzium mortars or elspeth can wipe them out.

    Cheers

  2. Longtoe was playing my 75 in the PE, better than I play it myself I might add :o) Take out the 1 drops and 2 Ash for Chains, Mortars, LB, Dragon, land and FotF against MonoU and you should be fine :o)
    Check out the Forum at http://www.diestoremoval.com I think you’ll like it there :o)

    • Ha, yeah I’ve seen that forum, I should read it more. Thanks for the sideboard tips, I played his list in a win-a-box yesterday at the PTQ. Sadly I ran into Boros Burn with 4 maindeck Warleader’s Helix

      • Skullcrack is certainly an option against Burn. I agree with you it’s janky Vs MoW, cute if it works though 🙂

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