I was in a weird place with standard, coming off of Gameday weekend, and a mediocre performance in the Standard events, as discussed in my Game Day Decknology article. I had two serviceable decks that had potential to be strong, but they really didn’t speak to my play style. Both of these decks were fun to play but I wasn’t overly passionate about either of them. I messaged a testing buddy to discuss plans for the evening, and he told me about his new Standard. Then he asked me, “What do you actually need to want to play Standard.” I thought on this, and the answer came easy; a deck with Thalia’s Lieutenant and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. I started brewing and sent him a list of cards I would need to borrow.
I brewed this list on short notice, which is generally a bad idea. In this case, I feel confident in my understanding of the Human Tribal in the current meta. I’ve played many local events and even a GP with Human Tribal, because Always Watching is my spirit in the form of an Enchantment, and Thalia’s Lieutenant is my Spirit Creature in the form of a creature card. I’ll admit, the deck I went into battle with had some flaws, but it was based on cards I had available to me at the time of construction.
2Declaration in Stone
The intent was to leverage some of the strengths of the RW list that I ran on Game Day, but have some longer term survivability. I had tons of trouble with black-based control cards in while playing the faster more aggressive list. The purpose of the mainboard suite of spells was to allow me to get my creatures out of reach of Yaheeni’s Expertise before my opponent could cast it. This would require me to go bigger with a few creatures, instead of going wide with many small things. I also didn’t want to go all-in on just one creature because I’d be susceptible to spot removal.
The inclusion of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon. Ally of Zendikar allowed me to make my game plan flexible. They also gave me to have a better chance of winning game-ones that were previous an instant loss for me. If I faced an opponent that I put on running a full playset of Yahenni’s Expertise, I could add counters from Nissa, and even ultimate Gideon instantly to give an additional toughness, this would make a resolved Expertise less backbreaking. If my opponent started picking off my threats with single target removal, I could move into a wider strategy embracing the power of these two Planeswalkers to fill the board with small creatures. While the planeswalkers were sculpting the board state, I’d be doing powerful things such beefing up Tireless Tracker with +1/+1 counters while gaining card advantage. For the first time in a while, I was super excited to play a regular Standard event.
I showed up at the event with a freshly sleeved deck and ‘gold-fished’ a few hands. I thought to myself, ‘there is no way this can be as much fun as it looks.’ I was wrong, it was more fun than I had imagined, and I quickly fell in love with this deck. This may very well save Standard for me, in a time where many people are grumpy over the format being dominated by apparently broken combos, and a super strong color pair that didn’t need more help (Black/Green.)
Round One – Black Eldrazi
Round one started and I knew instantly that I’d be facing big, fat, and ugly Eldrazi. The Mage piloting
this deck was an avid home brewer who had been intrigued by Eldrazi and trying to make them work for months. I knew his brewing style, and although his brews were well thought-out and powerful, I felt favored in the matchup. In game one, by the time he cast his first big spell, an Oblivion Sower, I had a Gideon Emblem, Nissa, 7/7 Thalia’s Lieutenant, and a 6/4 Tireless Tracker on the battlefield. I attacked with both humans and had 2 Clue Tokens and 4 open mana, bluffing that my plan was to buff the Tracker to kill the Sower. He blocked Thalia’s Lieutenant with the Sower, and I cast Heron’s Grace Champion, giving my humans +1/+1 and Lifelink. I killed his Sower with my Lieutenant, hit him for 7 damage, and gained 15 life on the attack. After this crushing sequence in game one, my opponent never fully recovered and I also took game two, with a half an hour wait until next round.
Round Two – Fevered Emerge
In round two I faced off against a variant of Fevered Emerge which I was pretty nervous about. I hadn’t played against this deck, but I knew I’d have to be super fast and kill him before he could start looping Elder Deep-fiend. Kozilek’s Return could be a problem if I wasn’t aware of it. Thraben Inspector, into Duskwatch Recruiter, put me on my way to victory as Recruiter flipped on my opponents turn, and I cast a Tireless Tracker and Thalia’s Lieutenant for reduced costs on turn three. Always Watching and a second Thalia’s Lieutenant made short work of his slow defense.
I moved Blossoming Defense, Selfless Spirit, and Heroic Intervention in from the sideboard and it was onto to game two. A turn two Selfless Spirit slowed down his plan for Kozilek’s Return since I could give my creatures indestructible in response to the K Return. I swung with the team into his board, expecting him to block- then I would sacrifice Selfless Spirit while he didn’t have mana to cast K Return. Upon doing this, I saw a hint of satisfaction in my opponents face since he planned on casting a K Return to wipe my board when he untapped. During my second main phase, I played Renegade Rallier with a Revolt trigger, returning my Selfless Spirit to the Battlefield. On his next turn, he hard cast Kozilek’s Return, knowing I would sacrifice my Selfless Spirit and I put him on an Elder Deep-Fiend after my untap phase, during my upkeep. I knew this would flash the K Return from the graveyard, and possibly cost me the game. But I had an answer in hand.
As I went to untap all of my permanents I gave a dramatic pause as my opponent stops me so he can cast a card. He smiles as he tapped mana and sacrificed his creature to Emerge the Deep Fiend. I respond while the Deep Fiend is on the stack with a Heroic Intervention, protecting my creatures from being tapped down and protecting them from damage from the Kozilek’s Return. Once my opponent registers what has happened, he scooped his cards and extended his hand.
Round Three – G/B Control?
I lost miserably in round three, as I was outmatched with cards that were the kryptonite to my Superman. I named this deck ‘G/B Control?’ because it was very similar to the Snake decks floating around but very control oriented. He crushed me on the shoulders of Liliana, the Last Hope. The combination of Winding Constrictor, Liliana, the Last Hope, Verdurous Gearhulk, Walking Ballista, Yahenni’s Expertise, and 10 other removal spells in the main deck was just too much removal for my deck – not to mention the tank he had in the parking lot. Since losing this round in two games, I have played the various flavors of GB in 20 test matches, and have only lost three. More testing is definitely required to tune my deck if others decide to mash together the GB archetypes and play similar decks.
Round Four – Fevered Combo Kitty
Game one, I was decimated with a resolved combo and no answer on turn five. Game two, I took mulligans until I had an answer in my hand for the combo. My 5 card hand revealed a Stasis Snare and mana to cast it. On my opponent’s turn three, he cast Fevered Visions and this helped my situation from starting with a hand of five. I slowly built up my board as my opponent dug for his combo. As soon as he drew the last pieces to his combo I could tell from his expression that he thought the game was sealed. I responded to his Saheeli Ra being cast with the Stasis Snare targeting his Felidar Guardian to disrupt the combo.
In Game three, I had an opening hand with Authority of the Consuls and the land to cast it on my first turn. ‘I have no answers to enchantments, but let us play it out and see if I can find a way to win.’ I smiled and cast a second Authority on turn two. He laughed and shook my hand.
I learned very quickly that although Metallic Mimic was a powerhouse in the lower casting cost human variants that it didn’t really fit with this more midrange sort of deck. I always felt like I wanted more if I drew that card. I have updated the list to include Selfless Spirit to the main board, in place of the Mimic. Aethersphere Harvester just did not fit the strategy I was going for as I rarely wanted to take a turn off from casting creatures that affected other creatures, so I removed them to add in 2 more Renegade Rallier. The synergies of returning Selfless Spirit or Thalia’s Lieutenant with Rallier is just too powerful to avoid playing. I am now testing out Oath Of Ajani in the sideboard, as I feel it is another great way to try to get too big for Yahenni’s Expertise and Grasp of Darkness. My updated list looks like this:
This is a list that I’m extremely excited about, and I’m relieved to have accidentally found a deck I could be passionate about playing in Standard. I will be announcing details of a Strictly Average Sponsored Standard League using XMage. Spoiler Alert, this is the deck I plan on winning the League with.
If you have found the recent Decknology articles useful, please let me know. I will be expanding formats that I cover in these articles as I get an opportunity to play more and test for the Modern SCG Open in Charlotte this summer.
Good Luck and Have Fun!
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Jeremy aka “Strictly Average” is an ‘average’ guy with ‘average’ plans. He is the creator and overboss of Strictly Average Gaming, which includes the Patreon group and StrictlyAverageMTG.com