Archive for the ‘Standard’ Category

Hey folks, I am dead tired so I will be brief, but I top-8ed Perth regionals/national qualifiers today playing my Brilliant Ultimatum deck, called repeatedly ‘the greediest deck I’ve ever seen’ by various observers at the tournament. I am heading to bed right after this post but since twitter hungers for decklists, here we go:


4 Arcane Sanctum

4 Marsh Flats

4 Celestial Colonnade

2 Crumbling Necropolis

2 Creeping Tar Pit

1 Arid Mesa

3 Swamp

3 Island

2 Plains

1 Mountain

2 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

1 Path to Exile

4 Ponder

4 Wall of Omens

4 Spreading Seas

4 Esper Charm

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

3 Day of Judgment

2 Liliana Vess

1 Gideon Jura

4 Brilliant Ultimatum

1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker


4 Kor Firewalker

3 Negate

1 Spell Pierce

1 Path to Exile

2 Oblivion Ring

1 Perimeter Captain

1 Celestial Purge

1 Mind Shatter

1 Telemin Performance

More content during the week on Mananation. If you have any questions or suggestions for a deck name, please leave a comment!


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Working on my article for ManaNation this week I started looking closely at Joraga Treespeaker. Here’s the spoiler again for reference:

Forget the last ability. Joraga Treespeaker basically reads as follows:

Joraga Treespeaker G

Echo 1G

tap: add GG to your mana pool


This is some crazy ramp! In your opener you drop it on turn 1, then the second turn you level it up once and immediately have another 2 mana open which you can use for whatever two drop you would have played without levelling, like Overgrown Battlement. Turn 3 you untap with 6 mana available, even with just Treespeaker you’ve still got 5. Lotus Cobra is too slow to keep up with this uncommonly powerful elf!

Looking at other mana ramp strategies brought me to Conley’s Magical Christmas Land deck from Worlds, which would get ahead on mana with Cobra, Khalni Heart Expedition and Harrow and then put the opponent way behind with land destruction spells. When your opponent is stranded permanently in stage 1 with just one or two lands they will have no answer to big dudes like Rampaging Baloths. While a mono-green Treespeaker based version obviously can’t top its curve with Violent Ultimatum, there are a couple of other options at 8 mana I’d like to try – Terastodon, and Ulamog’s Crusher. Now that you know where I’m coming from, here’s an off the cuff list.

Christmas Tree

21 Forest

4 Eldrazi Temple

4 Joraga Treespeaker

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Overgrown Battlement

4 Growth Spasm

3 Awakening Zone

3 Garruk Wildspeaker

4 Acidic Slime

4 Mold Shambler

3 Terastodon

4 Ulamog’s Crusher

2 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

This list is about as rough as it gets, and I really think some more land destruction spells would be good. A red splash for maindeck Ruinblaster or Demolish might be worth investigating but I want to give the mono-green version a try first of all. Keeping the opponent off their mana while presenting diverse problems like Garruk and Awakening Zone should in theory buy us time to land one of the big game enders, which could be as early as turn 4. Feel free to discuss the idea or offer suggestions in the comments, if you give it a go in testing please let me know how it works out.

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First of all I’d like to thank Monty & the rest of the people working on the mothership for featuring the Twitter Snowball piece in Friday’s Community Spotlight. I’ll do more of them in the future, twitter willing, and I have claim no ownership of the concept so feel free to start your own snowballs rolling! Secondly I’d like to welcome all the first time visitors and I hope you’ll stick around 🙂 Lastly thanks to Jon Medina from MTG Metagame for inspiring today’s post with his comments here.

Today I want to talk about something that’s been bugging me a lot. I pay a lot of attention to the secondary market as I don’t have the disposable income to drop on a case of each new set, so I like to make smart buys on sleeper cards which I can trade up when they make the big time. Preorders used to be a great way to do this as the prices were usually lower than they would be once the new metagame sorted itself out – Bitterblossom preordered at $7, for example. To me this is the natural state of things – the cards are unproven, they may not even find a deck. There is no reason to take the plunge on an expensive unproven card as its not like retailers will run out of stock, but this state has been upended by the emergence of tournament staple mythic rares.

Future Sight

Jon puts the origin of this change at Future Sight and the ubiquitous villain of the secondary market, Tarmogoyf. Old Goyfy was the mother of all sleeper rares, going unnoticed as a $3-$4 card for a few weeks after the set was released. Then people realised it was broken in half, and the price just kept rising. Past $20, past $30, past $40, to the almost unbelievable price of $50 for an in print, standard legal card. And people bought them by the truckload. Without 4 Goyfs you were really limiting the card power available to you and if you wanted to get on the Pro Tour or just have the best shot at winning FNM, getting Goyfs was a high priority. What is important to this discussion is that the players became resigned to the fact that $50 a card was not an  impossible price for a standard card. Despite not being reprinted Tarmogoyf was a vision into the future of magic – a future with increasingly expensive cards.

The Wicked Witch

Flash forward to M10. Goyf is long gone from standard but we have these new mythic rares to worry about. So far they have been fairly sedate, price-wise, besides the Shards of Alara planeswalkers. Then we see a Serra Angel upgrade – better power, better toughness, better abilities, and a Mythic Rare. SCG put a $15 price tag on it but that was quickly revised upwards as the articles started flooding out about how it was the most busted card in standard, possibly the best creature since Tarmogoyf. $30 seems about right for a top standard rare, based on comparisons with Mutavault, Reflecting Pool and Bitterblossom which were other top cards at the time.

Then Brian Kibler’s team designs the PT:Austin winning extended deck with maindeck Baneslayers, and the crowd goes wild. The set was short-printed, making this mythic rare even rarer, and now Baneslayer is showing up all over the place. The price takes another leap – $50 each, where it has stayed ever since. People are getting increasingly comfortable with $50 cards in standard, and Wizards explain that people misunderstood when they announced mythic rares – all bets are off, and nearly any card can have that little orange symbol.

More Flops than John Travolta

Zendikar spoilers. Mike Flores announces Lotus Cobra, the 2/1 for 2 with the famous name, and pronounces it ‘obviously better than Dark Confidant’. It pre-sells for $30.

Worldwake spoilers. Abyssal Persecutor is hyped out the wazoo. Another $30 card. Even more outrageously Jace, the Mind Sculptor preorders for $60, making it the highest priced card for a standard format it isn’t even legal in yet.

Both of these $30 cards have lost over 50% of their value since that time.

Now. Rise of the Eldrazi spoilers. Kozilek, Butcher of Truth is preordering at $30 and if he is at a higher price than Lotus Cobra/Abyssal Persecutor in 6 months time I will be astonished. Even more ludicrous is Hellcarver Demon for $15. This guy is a bulk mythic without a doubt, and this price is just silly. While there are a lot of awesome cards in the set some of the pricing decisions on preorders are way off base.

Going Forward

So, now that preorders are more expensive than buying the cards down the track and $50 mythics are expected, what can you do? Don’t preorder the hype cards, for one. Everyone is worried about missing out on the next Baneslayer, but when the preorders are already at Baneslayer prices what are you missing? I wrote a piece about why I didn’t get Jaces before Worldwake’s release and I stand by everything in it. Even though he has turned out to be all that and a bag of crisps, his price has hardly changed. If you want to play with the hype cards but can’t afford it, hold off for a couple of months. Most, if not all of them will see a dip as people realise their true worth, and even if they are smash hits they are unlikely to rise much.

I’ll be discussing spoilers this Wednesday over on ManaNation and then after the whole set is revealed I’ll be doing a Financial Value of… piece with a non-BenBleiweiss-plagiarizing title. Suggestions welcome 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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Twitter is a fantastic tool, just have a read of @robjelf’s blog post to see why you should be using it if you’re not already. However when people start to spitball combo decks and everyone joins in to tack on a third, fourth, or fifth card to the combo that will ‘definitely’ push it into tournament playability you end up with an unplayable pile most of the time. @YoMTGTaps coined the term “Twitter Snowball” to describe these decks, and today I decided to see what sort of a deck the assembled power of the world’s most talkative MTG minds could come up with, starting with just one card.

Djinn Snowball

4x Sage Owl

4x Djinn of Wishes

1x Kozilek, Butcher of Truth

1x Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

1x Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

11 creatures


4x Ponder

4x Jace, the Mind Sculptor

2x Splinter Twin

4x Fabricate

1x Mirror of Fate

3x Dreamstone Hedron

1x Darksteel Colossus

2x Selective Memory

3x Cruel Ultimatum

24 non-creature spells


4x Crumbling Necropolis

4x Scalding Tarn

4x Halimar Depths

3x Mountain

10x Island

25 lands

The central plan of the deck is to cheat on the mana cost of expensive spells by using Djinn of Wishes. The expensive spells we have to choose from are one of each of the legendary Eldrazi, a Darksteel Colossus, and the mighty Cruel Ultimatum. To help set up on the top of our deck we have a number of options including Halimar Depths, Ponder, Sage Owl and Jace. Splinter Twin is an odd choice but it does let you create new Djinns to avoid using up counters, and making a Sage Owl every turn makes sure you always have something good on top of your deck.

A more nutty way to go is the combo of Selective Memory and Mirror of Fate which lets you arrange your library however you like! We have Fabricate to find our one Mirror, because getting two is not that helpful, and I’ve also included Dreamstone Hedrons as either some decent card draw or a potent plan B, ramping into monsters the old fashioned way. Jace is an absolute monster in this deck, as his first and second abilities have obvious applications and his unsummon ability is great for reloading on wish counters.

There we go! Every nonland card was suggested on twitter besides the Colossus and Hedrons, which I added in to help out Fabricate. Thankyou everyone for your suggestions, and if anyone is game enough to give this deck a try please let us know how it turns out 🙂

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The other new deck to come out of todays standard pro tour was Pat Chapin’s UW Control. Pat has been writing and talking non-stop about Jace the Mind Sculptor, Treasure Hunt and Halimar Depths to anyone will listen ever since they were spoiled, and here he puts them to good use in a traditional, near creatureless control deck.

UW Control

1 Iona, Shield of Emeria

1 Path to Exile

2 Essence Scatter

2 Flashfreeze

1 Negate

4 Treasure Hunt

4 Everflowing Chalice

1 Celestial Purge

4 Cancel

3 Oblivion Ring

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

3 Day of Judgment

2 Mind Spring

2 Martial Coup

4 Plains

3 Island

2 Arid Mesa

1 Scalding Tarn

4 Halimar Depths

4 Tecton ic Edge

4 Glacial Fortress

4 Celestial Colonnade


1 Perimeter Captain

3 Kor Firewalker

2 Negate

x Essence Scatter

x Baneslayer Angel

Blue Control players, your saviour has arrived. Treasure Hunt is really at its best in this deck, with such a high land count as well as ways to organise the top of the deck. The high land count can be supported because so many of the lands are basically spells – Celestial Colonnade, Halimar Depths and Tectonic Edge are practically Serra Angel, Sage Owl and Stone Rain that can be drawn off Treasure Hunt. The card selection that Jace and Depths provide let Pat run a variety of narrow 2 mana counters and always have the right one on hand. Aaron Forsythe would be proud of the 4 Cancels in the deck as well, he has been championing that card for some time.

Pat says that Jace is the strongest card in standard and while I was slightly harsh about it in my post New New Power, it has certainly started to build a track record that can justify its high price tag. The best speculative tip to take from this deck is Day of Judgment – this card is actually Wrath of God, a perennial $15 card in search of a deck.

I’ll have more decks for you as they become available, for now stay tuned to @magicprotour and @mananation for all the latest from Pro Tour San Diego!

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Pro Tour: San Diego is underway, and its our first look at standard with worldwake in the mix. It feels like we skipped 2009 entirely with Pat Chapin, LSV and Gabriel Nassif back at the top of the standings after day 1. Lets take a look at their decks, first up is LSV’s Naya deck which was designed by Tom “The Boss” Ross, and is also being played by PVDdR! I’ve copied these lists down from the deck tech videos, so please excuse any transcribing errors. Look for my next post shortly with the UW deck piloted by Chapin, Nassif and Herberholz.

Boss Naya

4 Wild Nacatl

4 Noble Hierarch

2 Birds of Paradise

1 Scute Mob

2 Stoneforge Mystic

4 Knight of the Reliquary

1 Dauntless Escort

4 Bloodbraid Elf

4 Ranger of Eos

3 Lightning Bolt

3 Path to Exile

1 Basilisk Collar

1 Behemoth Sledge

2 Ajani Vengeant

5 Forest

2 Plains

2 Mountain

4 Arid Mesa

3 Misty Rainforest

2 Terramorphic Expanse

2 Raging Ravine

1 Stirring Wildwood

1 Tectonic Edge

1 Rootbound Crag

1 Sejiri Steppe


x Cunning Sparkmage

1 Basilisk Collar

1 Stoneforge Mystic

1 Behemoth Sledge

1 Goblin Guide

3 Dauntless Escort

x Qasali Pridemage

x Manabarbs

This deck is doing a lot of things I like. It is an aggro deck with a number of 1 drop accelerants, meaning turn 2 Knight of the Reliquary is a frequent occurrence. There are a number of toolboxes in the deck, with a Stoneforge Mystic able to fetch up either Basilisk Collar to punch through shrouded walls and turtles and Behemoth Sledge to turn every creature into a win condition. Even a lonely Noble Hierarch equipped with a sledge attacks as a Rhox War Monk with trample!

The second toolbox is Knight of the Reliquary, who has just been gaining value as time goes on. This girl can do basically anything you want – kill an opponent’s land, make a creature, act as Mother of Runes, fix your mana, power up Nacatl and end the game by swinging as a huge/huge creature.

The Cunning Sparkmage sideboard plan is also impressive. I’m surprised that with Gorgon Flail and Vithian Stinger already in the format nobody tried this before, but the Sparkmage equipped with a Basilisk Collar acts as a hasty Avatar of Woe.

This deck confirms a number of things I’ve been thinking recently –

Trinket Mage is just amazing, and Stoneforge Mystic is a rare version!

The manlands are insane and at least 1 should go in every multicoloured deck.

Knight of the Reliquary just gets better and better with worldwake.

So, my recommendations? Stock up on Stoneforge Mystics if you can still find people who are undervaluing them and get your sets of manlands before they all top $10 a piece!

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New New Power

In case you missed it, Kelly Reid had a great article over on ManaNation last week discussing the meteoric price rises of legacy staples like Tarmogoyf, I highly recommend checking it out. He termed these new $100+ cards “New Power”, comparing them to the original Power 9 in both in-game utility and secondary market price and availability. Today I’d like to talk about something different. Jace, the Mind Sculptor, who – with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek – I am nicknaming new new power.

Just for reference again, here is the card:

New Jace reached sixty dollars on starcitygames before Worldwake was even released. It is currently sold out at that store, but has still managed to make it to #20 in their Worldwake rare/mythic sales charts for the last month. I acknowledge that he is available cheaper through other channels, however the fact remains that some people are buying them from SCG at $60 a pop. This situation is simply astonishing and it deserves a closer look.

First things first – I am not denying Jace is a strong card. If a blue deck emerges it will certainly have to consider playing him as he can provide powerful card selection and card draw, two things blue control decks love to do. He is certainly one of the strongest, and rarest cards in the set. However there are several arguments against his ludicrous price point.

1: He doesn’t have a track record.

Good deckbuilders are throwing out deck ideas for Jace left and right, that is not under question. However none of these theoretical decks have recorded any wins, made any top 8s,  or made up any portion of any metagame that could justify the current price. There is every chance that the Jace decks just won’t be good enough for the new, unknown metagame – a metagame that will develop out of one where blue is by far the worst colour. Baneslayer Angel, an obviously insanely playable mythic with huge casual draw, presold at 15 and it took back to back pro tour wins across two different formats for it to reach $60. Jace is the equal most expensive card in standard before he has ever been played in a competitive constructed event.

2: Blightning.

The entire Jund archetype will be a problem for these theoretical Jace decks, but Blightning is an especially neat answer to Jace. The super Mind Rot is just as effective at wiping out the new Jace as it was at wiping out the old one, and blue decks will still have just as much trouble answering a Blightning flipped off a Bloodbraid Elf as they did previously. Great Sable Stag is still in standard as well – though it seems he has been largely forgotten – and it will eat Jace alive no matter what Calcite Snappers, Walls of Denial or Cancels the blue player can muster to throw in its way. I can’t imagine a blue deck with the cards we have becoming such a preponderant metagame presence that its flagship mythic would justify a sixty dollar price tag.

3: The set has only just been released.

One of the contributing factors in Baneslayer’s high price was the extreme scarcity around release time, due to shortages caused by the short first print run. We have no idea how worldwake is going to sell yet, and it is entirely possible that Jaces will flood the market. Due to it being a small set there will also be plenty more Jaces per case of Worldwake than there were Baneslayers per case of M10. Currently there are no problems on the supply side of things, so the high price is due entirely to demand.

And that demand is pushed overboard by hype. To paraphrase Ben Bleiweiss’ latest article, he claims that Jace will be played as a four of, in multiple tournament quality decks across multiple formats, including the most played deck in standard. This is a wild claim with no basis in fact and while I’m as excited as anyone about the possibility of blue being good again there is nothing concrete that tells me Jace is worth $60. I’ll be leaving him well alone for a couple of months while the price comes back down to earth, and I suggest you do the same as well.

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