Friday, June 22, 2012

The 10 Cards You Should Be Playing In Standard

With Avacyn Restored previews starting next week, we've finally come upon a metagame that has stabilized. Since September, we've had a roller coaster ride through a variety of top decks. At present, three have established themselves as the ones to beat: U/W Delver in all its variations, Pod decks, and R/G Aggro. Following close in their footsteps are Zombie, B/W Tokens, U/W Humans, Wolf Run, and Esper/UB Control variants.

    Since we know that the majority of our matches will take place against the first three decks, and a large percentage of the rest are made up of the tier 2 decks listed, we have valuable information for building our decks. We know the stock lists for these decks, so we can prepare our own decks to crush those decks, or at least significantly improve against them post-board.
    For this piece, I originally had decided to showcase the 5-10 cards I thought were well-positioned to take advantage of this settling of the meta. However, I found that each color had 2-3 very good cards they should be playing, so this will showcase 2 cards in each color I believe should be seeing use right now.

    Few cards seem as well-positioned right now as Arc Trail. A former all-star uncommon, this card has game against every deck in the meta. Delver of Secrets dies to this card no matter which side it is. Frites, Pod, and R/G decks all rely on mana dorks. Tokens, Humans, and Zombies all have goals to beat you down early with a swarm of smaller creatures.

    Enter Arc Trail. With this, you have the versatility of knocking out almost any early creature your opponent can play. This loss in tempo is huge for most aggro decks currently. Setting Frites or Pod back on its mana acceleration can often seal you the game right then and there. It is also one of the few pieces of removal that can trade with at least half of Lingering Souls. Any deck with Red in it should be fitting this in to their 75 due to how versatile it is currently.
    This fella has all but disappeared from the spotlight, overshadowed by a certain other Hero from Mirrodin. However, aggressive red decks  might want to give him another look. As mentioned above, Lingering Souls is quickly on its way to being recognized as the format-defining card it is. Any deck running White or Black is finding a way to squeeze this card in, and some deck are finding ways to cram it in even if white or black is found nowhere else in the deck. It is that good.
    Enter Hero of Oxid Ridge. This guy not only lets himself through your opponents wall of weenies, he lets your entire team come along for the ride too. Against Tokens, Frites, R/G Aggro, and some Esper lists, this can be that final nail in your opponents coffin. And did I mention he even throws in a Battle Cry for you!?
    While I don't see him as maindeck material for anything other than Naya Pod variants, I think he is an ace out of the board in several matchups right now.
    Black currently is at a low ebb with hand disruption. While Despise and Distress and both standard-legal, neither have been a factor due to the relatively small impact they make to your opponents gameplan. Simply put, your loss of a card means more than the potential hit you might have on one of theirs. However, Memoricide brings something to the table that neither Despise or Distress do. It not only has the potential for hand-ripping, it also rips all copies of said card from your opponents grave and library. And then exiles them.
    The second part of that might be as important as the rest of the effect. It exiles the cards. Surgical Extraction is seeing a high amount of play in sideboard due to this very fact. Cards such as Delver of Secrets, Primeval Titan, Birthing Pod, Huntmaster of the Fells, Lingering Souls, Mana Leak, Dissipate, Geralf's Messenger, and Elesh Norn are focal points of top strategies. Besides the mana cost, the big difference between Memoricide and Surgical Extraction is that Memoricide lets you be preemptive in your use of it. You don't have to wait for your opponent to play a Titan, kill it, and then extract it after it's fetched a Kessig Wolf Run. Deal with them all permanently before it even hits the table.
    The matchups where this shines the most are R/G Aggro, Wolf Run, and Zombies. R/G Aggro without its Huntmasters is a significantly weaker beast. Same with Wolf Run and no Primeval Titans, or Zombies without Geralf's Messenger.

    This card is a Block standout, and one that has seen fringe play in Standard by many control players. It fulfills a few roles currently that black mages should be very happy with.
    First, it can deal with Tokens in a way few other cards can. It also does a great job at remove Undying creatures such as Strangleroot Geist and Geralf's Messenger, two cards that normally give control deck fits. Along with this is the added bonus of flashback, so when your opponent rips a lategame threat, you have an answer for it waiting in grave. If Tokens and Zombies see a rise in play, this is a great card to have in your binder.
    Here's a card with a checkered past. Banned in one format because of how much it warped competitive play, Mental Misstep hasn't seen real play in Standard since the days of Caw-Blade. However, right now could be a great position for it in a wide range of decks.

    Simply put, this is a card that has uses against any top deck. It protects your Delvers, mana dorks, and Champion of the Parishes from Gut Shot or Tragic Slip. It also stops Gut Shot and Tragic Slip. Vapor Snag becomes a back-firing combat trick, and Frites doesn't have to worry as much about Nihil Spellbomb or Surgical Extraction ruining its day.While it may not be to the level of maindecking, it's something that is extremely versatile right now and can be great to see in your opening hand.
    Few mythics were looked at with as much disdain by the Magic community as this big fella here. With the way the community talked, you thought he was as bad as the dragons that somehow made their way to a plane that was inspired. However, look at the stats on this beast! Yes, he is 7 mana. However, a 3/5 flying double-striker is nothing to sneeze at. Oh? He has lifelink?....AND he draws me a card every time I gain life?
    I don't think any card in DKA has as much potential as this one. He is an absolute Timmy, who is in one of the easiest color combinations to build in. There is a truckload of great lifegain cards currently in Standard: Timely Reinforcements, Pristine Talisman, Chalice of Life/Death, Sorin, Wurmcoil Engine, Batterskull, Vault of the Archangel. Add that he is in what is probably the most powerful Innistrad tribe, and you have something brewing.
    So how does he apply to the current meta? Well, for one, the only things that are real threats to him are removal spells and Vapor Snag. As you are in blue, you have a few options available to you in the form of counterspells, as well as Drogskol Captain. Giving this guy an additional +1/+1 and making him hexproof is pretty harsh. Token decks have no way to deal with that besides DoJ, and they can't go over you. R/G Aggro has to pray for a Sword of War and Peace, and even then, they probably can't race you. Naya Pod probably has the best answers, but for a finisher, I think this might be one of the best a control deck can break out right now.

    This card has seen play before, in the sideboard of G/W Aggro decks when Neo Flare was the rage. It gives green mages a great answer to two things they traditionally have no way to deal with: counterspells and targeted removal. Being able to safely land a planeswalker or push through with a beatstick is usually the crux of games against these decks, and Autumn's Veil lets you do that. It also has an added benefit in that it gives your creatures protection from targeted black and blue effects and counters for the entire turn, so you can push through several spells without any fear. If you play in a U/B Control-heavy meta, this can be a godsend for a green player.
    This card is a bit more pidgeon-holed than the others on this list; however, it provides a keyword no other card can give. Namely, hexproof. With targeted removal the name of the game in the current meta, this can be invaluable in protecting Huntmaster, a Titan, or Elesh Norn.
    One of the biggest issues for white decks is the threat that equipment can pose to it. While Oblivion Ring is probably the best overall removal spell in Standard, some decks are able to shrug off the loss of one piece of equipment or an artifact, and simply throw out another. This isn't something white is well-equipped to handle, and something like Pod can tutor up an answer to O-Ring.
    Stony Silence, while not getting rid of problems, stops them from being useful. Decks such as Tokens and U/ W Humans, who can struggle against a resolved Pod or sword, benefit the most from siding this. They also run few if any artifacts, so there isn't a conflict of interests. If Naya Pod and equipment-heavy versions of Delver continue to be dominant in the meta, this card could be the best way white has to combat those strategies. Short of naturally drawing an Acidic Slime, Pod can't answer it, and Delver can only answer it if they happen to be running Oblivion Ring.
    Speaking of now have none.
    If Stony Silence is problematic for Pod and equipment, Paraselene is a downright nightmare for Token decks. The deck runs at minimum 8 enchantments, and most builds main around 10. This absolutely crushes the deck, and terrifying spirits turn into small, unimpressive 1/1's once again.
    Another application can be its uses for Delver against Control decks. Curse of Death's Hold pins down 80% of the deck, and Delver struggles with it traditionally. Paraselene also comes with the upside of giving you a few life for the investment, and those couple points can make all the difference in the matchups it is useful in.
    Don't expect this card to ever be more than a meta-call piece of tech, but make no mistake, it wrecks the strategy of one of the top decks in the format, and is playable in Frites, Delver, and Humans. 

    There you have it: ten cards that combat the top decks in the meta. So. What did I miss? Have suggestions? Post them in the comments and let hear if you think I forgot something!

Editor's Note: This is ported over from the old version of my blog, which I no longer have access to. It was written in mid-April, so it is a bit different than the current meta!

No comments:

Post a Comment