From the Brewing Board – Sometimes You Need a Break
Standard is far from boring right now. There are no fewer than six decks that could win a tournament any given week (Heroic Ascendancy, Jeskai Burn, Abzan, Boss Sligh, GB Constellation, UW Heroic) and several more just below. There’s no format boogeyman dominating, no oppressive and unbeatable one-two punch and no stifling and boring hard control deck. For the time being at least, we’re right where we want to be.
Of course that doesn’t mean that on any given Friday you might not decide to play something different. Maybe you are fed up with besieging your opponent’s face with a rhino, or you’re done riding mantises. I don’t blame you! Not one bit. You know the deck, you know it’s good but you’re going through a slump or perhaps you just need to try something else to give your brain a stretch. This is my wheelhouse baby, and since I have been remiss in providing you with fun articles and lists I am bringing you not one, but TWO piles of amusing jank to rock at your next FNM.
Pile the First: GR Bees
I’ve been playing with Hornet Queen a lot. I loved the Sidisi Whip deck that ran 3, and the card is really hard to answer. Sadly some decks like GB Constellation are perfectly set up to handle the stinging onslaught, investing a lot less mana than we did in order to dispose of our game-winning threat. Pretty rude, if you ask me.
GR Monsters is one of very few decks that survived rotation. Sure it lost Domri Rade, Mizzium Mortars and Ghor-Clan Rampager but the core of the deck remains viable and we have some spicy additions in Hooded Hydra and Ashcloud Phoenix. This list, while not revolutionary, aims to take a green devotion/GR Monsters shell and throw in Purphoros, God of the Forge so that we can win the game almost on the spot with our Hornet Queen. Yes, that IS ten damage.
If we want to go this route we almost certainly want Hornet Nest as well, because Chord of Calling is simply one of the best cards in this sort of deck. Flashing in a Nest to block a large Rabblemaster or a monstrous Polukranos could just win you the game between Purphoros damage on the hornets and the subsequent crack back. I’m also including a few one-ofs as toolbox cards for our Chords. Here’s where my list is at currently:
I initially had Stormbreath Dragon in here but it just seems poorly positioned in my local meta. Ashcloud triggers Purphoros twice and still takes care of Wingmate Roc, though admittedly not as well as our sausage-esque friend. Setessan Tactics is way better than I initially thought, often acting as a board sweeper against decks like UW and Boss Sligh even without the bees in play. Once you add the deathtouchers it gets very silly.Xenagos, the Reveler was initially in my main deck but he ends up being very vulnerable against a lot of decks as I am often tapping out in the early turns for one large threat. He comes in against slower decks that can’t easily kill him. The Eidolon in the board might seem strange but it’s a good way to put the breaks on the Jeskai Ascendancy decks early on.
Some of my highlights with this deck include winning a match on 1 life by Chording for Hydra Broodmaster, untapping and going monstrous for 7 (thanks Nykthos!), winning when stuck on two lands because Goblin Rabblemaster is a fair card and Purphoros doesn’t help, and losing to a Sultai deck that stole Purphoros and Hornet Queen with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. Sometimes I can have fun even when my face is getting smashed in!
Pile the Second: Scry Burn
Scry is one of those mechanics that looks completely innocent and slightly poor on the face of it, but in practice and skilled hands is remarkably powerful. Not only is it good, it gets better the more of it you do. Stacking a deck is illegal for a reason, and having cards that essentially legitimise it is great for people who want to leverage superior play skill against the field.
I am not for one moment suggesting I am superior in play skill to everyone at my LGS, but I do know how the game works. Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, for example, are busted-wide-open levels of good. They also have a converted mana cost of 8, which is a nice high number for a spell with scry to use: Riddle of Lightning. That it lets us scry 3 is good on its own, but the added damage at instant speed while setting us up to draw well makes the card very strong in the right deck. I just wish we still had Blast of Genius…
Riddle isn’t going to win us many games on its own. Thankfully there’s an abundance of good burn spells in Standard right now, as well as stuff like Chandra, Pyromaster and Keranos, God of Storms to throw some damage around. And don’t pretend you haven’t dreamed about ultimating Chandra and hitting Dig Through Time. You have, and so have I.
Another unconventional card in here is Spite of Mogis. Don’t get me wrong, this card is generally not good. I realised though that a deck relying on red removal was going to have trouble with large-assed creatures like Siege Rhino and Polukranos that can kill me quickly. Fated Conflagration has already been discovered but Spite can sometimes do more for one mana.
Finally, the creature suite. I am seriously tempted to cut all but the Prognostic Sphinx from the main deck, but Spellheart Chimera has been REALLY good for me. It’s usually lethal in one hit, so they have to find or have an answer right away. That said, they will probably have an answer since there is nothing else in the deck they can reliably use it to kill. It also dies to my own main-deck Anger of the Gods. It just hits SO HARD, and nobody sees it coming…which makes it even better in the board I guess. OK OK, you got me. To the board we go!
Here’s my current list then, bearing in mind our most recent changes:
This might look like a deck that has trouble winning, but with opponents damaging themselves with painlands, fetches and occasionally Thoughtseizes you often only have to do 16 damage to win. Chandra is astoundingly good in this deck, either serving as a Howling Mine or a ticking timebomb that WILL end the game. The main deck Angers are a bit of a local meta call, and can probably come out if you are not beset on all sides by aggro decks. I’d suggest some rather unconvential choices in that case: move the Mindswipes main, try Bolt of Keranos or potentially Master the Way.
I have on two occasions managed to get Chandra to ultimate, once hitting Treasure Cruise and once hitting Dig Through Time. Sadly in both cases I could just win by choosing a burn spell instead. I’ve also won games by casting Riddle at the end of turn, revealing Sarkhan to deal 5, then dealing 3 more with Keranos in my upkeep before casting Sarkhan and hitting for 4 more.
The card selection in the deck is phenomenal. You honestly feel like you have exactly what you need almost all the time. I am considering the addition of Thassa but honestly I don’t think she is worth it unless we can turn her on. We don’t have enough to make unblockable. Something like Aetherspouts or another pseudo-sweeper would be of great use, since Anger is sometimes not enough and Mortars is no more. I also considered Steam Augury but right now I don’t know what I would cut for it.
I’ve been doing a ridiculous amount of travelling and judging so my brain isn’t exactly in brew mode right now. I do have a few Modern lists for you to try out, which we can talk about next time. Until then…brew on!