Monday, October 31, 2011

SCG Open Series Kansas City 2011 and GP Hiroshima 2011 Standard Review

What a great weekend for Standard!  We had 2 big tournaments being held at opposite ends of the world.  States side we had Star City Games Open Series in Kansas City and in Japan we had a Grand Prix in Hiroshima. 

Take a quick glance at the top deck lists:
SCG Open Kansas City
GP Hiroshima

SCG Open Kansas City:

Week after week we see growing meta here in the states primarily due to the Star City Games Open Series with an almost weekly live coverage of the event.  In the early round this weekend we saw the rehashing of the previous weeks deck lists coming out in full force.  We had Solar Flare, Mono Black Infect, Tokens, Wolf Run Ramp, and several Blade strategies attempting to make it to the top 8. 

Now in the top 8 of this event we still have 6 Wolf Run Ramp strategies comming out.  Thing to note is that two of these deck feature White as either a primary color in this deck trying to capitalize on one of the most powerful plays in standard; a turn 2 mirran crusader or a more solid removal splash as in this deck.  Either way, this new addition of white seems to give this deck the added "something" it needed to survive in this evolving meta-game.

Also, we had several Solar Flare decks holding on to their last breaths.  Over the weeks we have seen this strategy fall out of favor primarily due to its horrendous mana base.  Sure when you are getting every land drop, things are Magical Christmasland, but when you stumble in a couple rounds in a 9 round tournament, you tend to look elsewhere.  Something interesting about these two lists (here and here) is the small counts on Snapcaster Mage.  While I know Snapcaster Mage is one of the most broken cards printed in recent years (on the level of JTMS, Stoneforge, and BBE) he most likely is not needed in this style of deck.  What you need here is more chances to draw your answers and removal rather then get card advantage out of replaying these cards.

Gavin stated on the live coverage, he was shocked at how few UW Humans decks were represented at this tournament as they were rocking the MTGO ques like crazy.  Unlike MTGO, acquiring cards is always more of a pain in the ass in person, thus most people had sleeved up these decks last week and spend this week refining them and had no intention of changing at the last moment.  That is just something paper magic always has to deal with, most local shops do not carry an endless inventory of cards. 

Also, props to those guys playing Necrotic Ooze Combo!  While I know you didn't go all the way, you put up a good running.  The combo seemed excellent to me and the fact you go some live coverage of it was great.  While I am not convinced that spell-less and a green splash is the way to go, you may have something going there.

Grand Prix Hiroshima

Last standard Pro Tour(Jace/Stoneforge) the Japanese pros found that UW non-caw was a very effective deck while the American Pros had settled on Stoneforge/Squadron Hawk and both styles were ahead of the curve for that particular PT.  I assume the same players post rotation were looking at this strategy and grinning with delight.  With UW Humans rocking the MTGO ques, many players sleeved it up and took it to victory.  One thing I really enjoyed about the coverage of this event was the breakdown of the top 10 decks at different rounds of the event.  While they are easy to get from the coverage, I am just going to put them in order so that people can see them easily:

Round 1

Round 4

Round 7

Round 10

Round 13

I take no credit in putting these together, they were all the work of the Wizards Coverage Staff, but they were so cool I had to share them.  You could see that after the first few rounds UW Humans kept dominating presence at to top tables.  I think most MTGO players would look and see this as a standard "standard que". 

My big take away from this is that Mirran Crusader is just completely bonkers when it comes to power plays in this format.  He is hard to deal with for most the decks, he sets up a clear path to victory if not dealt with, and he is currently a great choice for the meta.  Four of the top 8 decks from this event featured him and this means coming this friday you will need to be prepared to deal with him at your local FNM.  Playing UB?  Find some way to put more mass removal in, Life's Finale might need to get played.  Playing Wolf Run Green?  If you do not up your red, your resolved Garruk most like is dead.  Add some Inferno Titan, I hear he is good. 

So that wraps this up, a great weekend of a developing meta game!  I can't believe its over 5 weeks of Innistrad and we are still getting new blood into this meta.  While I think we are going to get the "best decks" up soon, we are still going back to the brewing tables to get that needed edge.  Keep it up Magic!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Necrotic Ooze Combo Standard Update 10/25/11

So after much testing, I have slowly refined my list for the Necrotic Ooze Combo.  For those who didn't see my original post, check it out here.  The first major update was the dropping of white due to the fact that the mana base was a major stumbling point in the deck.  If you stumbled on mana for a few turns to be able to Day of Judgment, most of the time there was no coming back from it.  When the mana was perfect, you played the spells every turn you wanted too and often won on turn 5-6.  After drooping the white I found that casting a Necrotic Ooze on turn 4-5 was cake and often enough my turn 1-3 removal and counters often set me up for a win. 

My updates are as follows:

2x Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
2x Bloodline Keeper
1x Trespassing Souleater
4x Mindshrieker
1x Molten-Tail Masticore
1x Geth, Lord of the Vault
1x Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

4x Mana Leak
3x Doom Blade
1x Dismember
2x Dissipate
2x Wring Flesh
2x Black Sun's Zenith

3x Jace, Memory Adept

8x Island
6x Swamp

4x Drowned Catacomb
4x Darkslick Shores
2x Nephalia Drownyard

Overall right now I fee that the deck is almost near perfection, or as perfect as this deck gets.  I've seen on many of the forums that people are leaning towards full combo rather then a combo/control strategy and I have to say based on my testing with the meta, that is just a bad choice.  The fact that this combo is a turn 5 at minimum combo, you need controlling style cards to maintain a game state to set up your win.  If there was a way to win turn 3, then I would be all for it, but there is no possible way to win on turn 3 with this combo. 

A few things I am looking at possibly changing:
Dropping Jace, Memory Adept to 2.  More often then not, I am pulling an extra Jace in the first few turns that I didn't want to see.  Luckily with Civilized Scholar we have means of pitching him and replacing with a more relevant card.
Upping Black Sun's Zenith to 3.  This card by itself can destroy almost any aggressive plan, but is a completely dead draw against any control deck out there.  If the meta keeps leaning towards agro, I will be updating this to 3.
Mindshrieker to 0.  This card is so amazing and many people do not give it the respect it deserves.  Many times it prevents people from attacking in with their Titans or other fatties due to the fact that more often then not, if I have open mana, it becomes HUGE.  Also, since it is blue, there are no relevant pro-blue guys that just walk past him.  So yes, equip that Mirran Crusader with a Sword of War and Peace as I will pump my guy and block all day.  On the other hand, people have started to use cards like Wring Flesh, which happens to be a 1 mana removal that trades 1 for 1.

Monday, October 24, 2011

SCG Open Baltimore 2011 Review

Hasn't the last few weeks been a meta-game roller coaster?  One week the deck is soooooooo good, next week it is soooooo bad.  I spent most of the day Saturday trading and testing my latest brews to try and bring them up to the next level.  When I came home, I was just in time for SCG Live to turn on the stream from round one to the finals.  The first thought that came to mind was, "Where did all the Lilianna's go?"  What has she been up too lately?  For the most part, not a whole lot.

SCG Open 2011 Baltimore
DeckTop 16 Decks
Wolf Run Green5
UW Blade2
Solar Flare1
Wolf Run Red1

In between Baltimore and Nashville we had the State Championships that had really given us a nice idea of what the format had panned out to be.  If you haven't seen the deck lists, click here.  For me, nothing really shocked me all too much or got my brewin juices flowing.  What I did get out of this was that Wolf Run Ramp style decks had really taken off since it took first at Nashville.  This is all due to one card- Prime Time!  The fact remains, Primeval Titan is still doing it's broken things, ramping out card advantage and putting your opponents game on tilt.  The card is that good and he seems to be the king of the titans.  Most people heard the news, a resolved Primeval Titan beats most opponents.

Then comes Baltimore and some are prepared and others are not.  Those who decided to drop that horrid mana base of Solar Flare and tried some 2-color control lists seemed to have a better time beating the Wolf Run style decks than those attempting to shove too much into one deck.  While I have to say Solar Flare is one of the more fun decks to pilot at the moment with all of its flashiness and synergy, when it stumbles on mana, it stumbles hard.  I think this had prompted a lot of good players to shy away from it and start working on other control strategies. 

Here are my take aways from Star City Games Baltimore 2011:

People need a serious plan for Wolf Run Ramp

Counterspells and targeted removal is great for dealing with most of the threats that this deck dishes out.  Ramp decks have always been incredibly resilient against 1 for 1 removal and counters.  They can count on always having their next card be just as threatening as their last and things are just going to get more threatening as the games go on.  Things like 2 for 1 removal and discard have been the best ways in the past to deal with these style decks. You will also need a plan against their newest buddy Dungrove Elder. Opting out of playing Tribute to Hunger is not an option for UB lists as you will have no answers to this guy.  Equipping a Sword of Feast and Famine will help you defend against this monstrosity but he will keep getting bigger.  Also, you need to run more Ghost Quarters as this will help you beat their plan B (Inkmoth Nexus).  In my testing Wring Flesh has been a great addition to most decks I have put it in.  Against Wolf Run it also nails turn 1 Birds of Paradise and activated Inkmoth Nexus's.  Try it out, you will like it.


I know Gerry T had been advocating this deck as viable, and I have agreed.  Phyrexian Crusader is a house in this meta.  Red has only one answer to this guy, Shrine of Burning Rage, and white decks, especially blade style decks have no answer to him main.  He will quickly take over a game and enjoy ticking up the poison counters.  Another reason this deck is doing well is the lack of people playing solid flyers.  Whispering Specter, Plague Stinger and Inkmoth Nexus all have one thing in common, they fly.  The only flyer people are playing at the moment, Consecrated Sphinx.  Anywho, I recommend this as a solid agro deck in this format as it has everything you need- disruption, a quick clock, and a meta not tuned against it.  Need something to beat it?  See Wring Flesh.

Skeletor Rising

Did you take a close look at the top 8 deck from Chris Pregent?  Check it out as I am going on record to saying that you will see more of these coming to a top 8 near you soon.  This deck is beautifully designed for this meta.  I was watching some matches a buddy of mine was playing recently of UB vs Wolf Run.  He had a very similar list to Chris here and was using Snapcaster with Sword of Feast and Famine to finish the game once he had full control.  His only other back up was Inkmoth Nexus.  More often then not, he ran out of threats to even win the game.  With Reassembling Skeleton, all those problems are gone and you will be getting more out of your sword.  Take a look at the mana base also, did you see that?  3, count it, 3 Ghost Quarters main!  This guy had his finger on the pulse of this format knowing that Wolf Run was a problem.  While I think there are some improvements I might make, like lowering the Dissipate and Doom Blade numbers in favor of Wring Flesh(2), Druidic Satchel(1-2) and a Batterskull(1). 

Coming up soon, I'll have some updates for my Necrotic Ooze Combo deck and also my BW Zombie deck within the next day or so.

Friday, October 14, 2011

BW Zombies in Innistrad Standard

I spent much of my time thinking of new ways to get more value out of Unburial Rites.  This card is so amazing that it much have uses outside of the typical Solar Flare decks that have been going around lately.  In my mind there are two legit targets in this format for complete blow outs - The Titans and The Preators.  Each one of these cards have an almost instantaneous effect on the field and is a force to be reckoned with if not dealt with.  Out of the titans at the moments, two stand out - Grave Titan and Sun Titan.  Grave Titan is Doom Blade immune, which seems to be the removal of choice.  If any other targeted removal is used, he still had value by making tokens.  Sun Titan may not be as resilient, but he does get a 3 cmc guy from the grave.  Out of the Preators you have: Jin-Gitaxias who has just a game ending effect, Sheoldred who can seriously punish any mid-ranged deck, and Elesh Norn who makes weenie decks unplayable when she is on the field.  What do a majority of these cards have in common?  They contain the colors of Unburial Rites.  I knew after that, I had a mission to make a BW Aggo mid range deck together.  So here it is:

13x Swamp
4x Inkmoth Nexus
4x Isolated Chapel
3x Plains

4x Cemetery Reaper
4x Phyrexian Crusader
2x Phyrexian Metamorph
2x Vengeful Pharaoh
2x Grave Titan
1x Unbreathing Horde

1x Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1x Sheoldred, Whispering One
1x Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur

4x Altar's Reap
3x Doom Blade
1x Dismember
4x Unburial Rites
2x Dead Weight

3x Zombie Infestation
1x Endless Ranks of the Dead

First off, for this deck to be successful the you must approach this as an aggressive deck with combo finishes.  The goal is to put your opponent on the defensive and the blow them out with a big finish.  You want to put them in position early on where everything you bring out with an Unburial Rites requires an answer or you just win.  Let me explain a few of my card choices as on paper this looks worse then it actually is.

Zombie Infestation
I thought the only deck I would ever put this in included 4x Treasure Hunt and 52 land. At first the deck design revolved around WB Tokens with Intangible Virtue and Zombie Infestation with a multitude of other token producers.  While playing these matches I found a lot of value of discarding a Grave Titan and an Unburial Rites on turn 3 only to play them on turn 4. Most of the time it was a blow out as they had just recently used their Day of Judgment on my other critters or were tapped out to deal with something else.  While I lost most games that I wasn't able to turn 4 a titan, this looked very promising as a strategy. 

Phyrexian Crusader
This guy is a house at the moment as he is almost impossible to deal with.  Gerry Thompson brought this up during this weeks Magic Show and I think we were on the same page.  Mono Red has to burn shrines on this guy, Solar Flare has to hope they main decked their Dismember, and RG Kessig decks need to chump.  The infect plan isn't 100% in this deck but I found that Inkmoth Nexus's seem to end games against Solar Flare as their answers are not always prevalent.  In my view, Phyrexian Crusaders will hit the field, get atleast 4 poison on them while demanding answers and you will be able to finish them off with an Inkmoth or two.

Phyrexian Metamorph
A true answer to Thrun and all other BS legendary you might be dealing with, beyond that he is your 5th and 6th Cemetary Reaper or Phyrexian Crusader.

So far I have just ran this through the gauntlet a few times, but it still needs some refinement.  As far as using this in States this weekend, I am still on the fence.  While I may get a lot of surprise factor, I doubt it will hold up super well to the meta without a bit more work. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Star City Games Open Series 2011 - Nashville Review!

If you haven't seen the top 16 yet, click here.  Like a lot of you preparing for states this upcoming weekend, I sat anxiously watching the SCG Open Nashville 2011 hoping that my play testing had gone in the right direction.  Over the week, I had seen Tempered Steel's strength fain as many people drew towards the red decks.  Geistflame, Arc Trail, and Slagstorm are HUGE problems for this deck.  I had assumed the popularity of Tempered Steel would dwindle due to this factor and allowing slower more resilient strategies to become more popular. 

Less Red in the top 16!
But I can almost guarantee you that it was a major portion of the meta-game.  The fact remains that it is a very easy and cheap deck to build and pilot.  But since it did so well last week, people were main decking hate for it.  Just look at the top 8 lists, 11 copies of Timely Reinforcements main!  Why?  Because once you stabilize against red, it is very hard for them to get back into the game.  They have little to no way to deal with Titans, a mainstay of the last rotation.  I would expect a decent amount of red at your State Championships since folks will have already bought the cards for the deck and do not wish to change. 

This deck is legit.  It really is!  The main reason I feel it is doing so well currently is that people haven't learned how to deal with it properly.  With new cards, comes new break out strategies which we have to design solid counter-strategies for.  Liliana of the Veil is most likely the 2nd most powerful planeswalker made(Note:she is still a far cry from JTMS).  The big thing is that they slap her in a deck that can take full advantage of all of her abilities.  The fact that they can continually dump cards into their bin and not care that they are there is huge factor to this decks success.  The fact of the matter is that people are not packing any graveyard hate at the moment.  While your best option is Nihil Spellbomb, decks can utilize other cards such as Memory's Journey, Purify the Grave, and Surgical Extraction.  If Solar Flare maintains this type of dominance on the format, side boarding at least 6 of these answers would be justified.

Oh yea, this is what I love to see.  Happy Brewtown Days!  I just get so excited when a previously unrecognized deck takes down a tournament.  I've been spouting for weeks in my play test group that there is a RG ramp deck of some sort in this format but I just couldn't put the pieces together.  We smashed faces yesterday for a couple hours putting this deck against the gauntlet.  Turns out that it has a solid match against Solar Flare (nothing to get excited over) and a nice plan against most other aggressive strategies.  Take this to States if you have the Garruk Primal Hunter's.

The other notable is the B/G Heartless Summoning Pod deck.  The only thing I do not like about this deck is it has no way to get rid of your extra Heartless Summonings.  Drawing multiples of that card just wrecks your day.

Comming Soon:
I'll be posting a pretty cool WB Aggro list that takes advantage of Unburial Rites.  I have a few more matches to play and cards to slide around before I want to present it. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Necrotic Ooze Combo for Inni-standard!

So for those of you who have not seen it yet, the interaction between Necrotic Ooze and Civilized Scholar is just bonkers. 

When Civilized Scholar is in the graveyard and Necrotic Ooze is in play you may tap Necrotic Ooze to draw a card and discard a card.  As long as the card discarded is a creature, you may do this indefinitely.  

So Obviously the deck starts out like this:

Now it is important to note that you do not have to attempt to just get Civilized Scholar into the graveyard.  He happens to also be a very aggressive blue card.  In many match ups, I have simply "gone aggro" with him and won games droping people to 0 with 4 hits.  The knowing when to go from combo to control to aggro is very important.  Sometimes you just have to swing for the fences.  Next up what to combo with:

2x Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
2x Bloodline Keeper
1x Trespassing Souleater

This cute combo lets Necrotic Ooze make a Vampire and then sacrifice it to untap it and give it a +1/+1 counter.  You now have an infinitely big Necrotic Ooze.  Please note, do not make him a 10k/10k, there is a sac effect that is really annoying at the moment(tribute to hunger), just make him as big as he needs to be.  Trespassing Souleater just makes sure that your damage hits.  In order to get this 3 piece combo together, you need things to help you survive long enough to do it.  Of course you could live the dream, but it doesn't happen every time.

4x Mindshrieker

For a long time I had Merfolk Looter in this slot, but she happened to do "nothing" most of the time.  Sure she helped me assemble the combo, but more often then not, I found myself chumping her to save some life.  This guy does the same thing but can go from protecting yourself to aggro very easily.  With 2 mana open, your opponent doesn't know if his titan is going to live or not.  You can always just mill some cards and boom, 6/6 or a 8/8 with some more mana.  A very versatile creature.

1x Molten-Tail Masticore
1x Geth, Lord of the Vault
1x Mirror-Mad Phantasm
1x Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

These are your one of silver bullets.  These typically come out of nowhere and just can win you the game on their own.  Molten-Tail Masticore gives your Necrotic Ooze some resilience and also the ability to just dome them for a ton.  It will put them on a very quick clock if not dealt with.  Geth, Lord of the Vault can be really amazing sometimes.  With many decks playing Phantasmal Image, you just pay 3 to get it out of their grave and into play under your control.  What shall you choose?  Necrotic Ooze perhaps?  More is always better.  Mirror-Mad Phantasm is a very interesting card as it does some ridiculous things.  Most of the time it just helps you finish your combo.  Play Necrotic Ooze while it is in your graveyard, pay 1U and boom you most likely have your combo.  Other plays revolve around making multiple Necrotic Oozes.  If you pay the cost twice, you get 2 copies of Necrotic Ooze.  Skithiryx give you both resilience and effectively combo on the same turn you play Necrotic Ooze.  Sometimes he even hits them 3 time and they die..... only sometimes....

4x Mana Leak
3x Day of Judgement
2x Doom Blade
1x Tribute to Hunger
1x Diabolic Tutor
1x Dismember
2x Unburial Rites

These give you the ability to sustain long enough to combo without diminishing your creature density too much.  The creature density is needed in order to maximize value from the Necrotic Ooze/Civilized Scholar interaction.  Unburial Rites allows you to "not care" if something goes to the grave as you can always get it back.  This is another key point about this deck.  Do not be afraid to chump if it lets you live long enough to combo. 

So once you put it all together

2x Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
2x Bloodline Keeper
1x Trespassing Souleater
4x Mindshrieker
1x Molten-Tail Masticore
1x Geth, Lord of the Vault
1x Mirror-Mad Phantasm
1x Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

4x Mana Leak
3x Day of Judgement
2x Doom Blade
1x Tribute to Hunger
1x Diabolic Tutor
1x Dismember
2x Unburial Rites

4x Island
5x Swamp
2x Plains

3x Glacial Fortress
1x Seachrome Coast
4x Drowned Catacomb
2x Darkslick Shores
4x Isolated Chapel

Hopefully this new build is more tuned to dealing with issues that the previous build did not.  Please comment either here or on  I'd love to hear about how you did with this deck or any improvements you would make. 

SCG Open Indianapolis 2011

To view all the deck lists that I will be talking about, Click Here.

So I spend a small amount of time yesterday breaking down the top 32 of the event.  Below are the breakdowns of popularity and finishes.

SCG Open Top 32# of DecksTop 8Percent top 32
Solar Flare6118.75%
Mono Red5215.63%
Tempered Steel4212.50%
UW Blade216.25%
UW Agro216.25%
Wolf Run Red26.25%
UB Control26.25%
Pod Decks26.25%
UW Illusions113.13%
UB Tezz13.13%
UR Vengence13.13%
GW Humans13.13%

As you can see Solar Flare was well represented at the top.  While I do not have the data about the entire event which would tell me the success rates of these decks, but this is good enough for a general idea what people would be expecting next weekend at SCG Open Nashville 2011.  Week ones are always filled with a variety of decks, we saw 14 different decks in the top 32 which means next weekend we will see less variance but more refined lists. 

Every time I see data like this I find it hard to break down what to be prepared for, so I took the deck archetypes and grouped them together as overall strategies.  Below are the breakdowns:

Aggressive Creature Decks
Mono Red515.63%
Tempered Steel412.50%
UW Agro26.25%
Wolf Run Red26.25%
UW Illusions13.13%
GW Humans13.13%
Total 50.00%
Controlish Creature decks
Solar Flare618.75%
UW Blade26.25%
Mid Range
UB Tezz13.13%
Pod Decks26.25%
UB Control26.25%
UR Vengence1Total3.13%

As you can see, aggressive creature decks make up majority of the successful decks at this event.  If you are preparing for next weekend of states, prepare against this strategy.  If your deck wins every control match up but loses every aggro match up, expect lackluster results.  For this I suggest looking at these cards to improve your game:

Timely Reinforcements
Day of Judgment
Oblivion Ring

Mental Misstep
Mana Leak

Tribute to Hunger
Doom Blade (not Go for the Throat)
Black Sun's Zenith

Galvanic Blast

Prey Upon
Bigger Dudes

You will need some mix of these in your main deck and sideboard.  I'd suggest having 6-10 answers in your deck right now to highly aggressive creature strategies. 
Also, I'd put a couple Ghost Quarter's in every sideboard right now as UW are using Moorland Haunt and red decks are splashing green for Kessig Wolf Run.  Fyi, did you know that you can pay just a green and a red to destroy target Phantasmal Image with Kessig Wolf Run? Very relevant in this format.

I get to play in my first Standard Tournament this week on Wednesday.  It's a toss up between my brew and Tempered Steel.  I just have to nab some more of these Innistrad lands prior to playing if I want to get my brew some tourny testing.  Hopefully this data will help you brew up this week pre Star City Games Open Nashville!