While BUG Defenders is my current pet deck – I know there are some other gems that need to be included in the Gauntlet. In this article I will list 6 more decks to include in the gauntlet with very brief nuggets of strategy wisdom.
In the last week of just practicing I have seen 4 other players rocking my list, which is nice to see but also frustrating because it means I have to start playing a deck that can actually beat it consistently. This cycle has happened before. After I won an SPDC tournament with Cyclops Combo I needed to find something to beat it since I kept running into it the following week. Thus, BUG Defenders was created, not only to beat the Cyclops, but also other aggro and mid-range strategies like Mono-White, Boros, and Mono-Black that have been popular lately.
So how do I plan to beat BUG Defenders? How bout an old favorite.
What better way to beat a mill deck than with a deck with more consistent mana, more removal, more counters, and more dedication to milling.
Some deviations from traditional Dimir Mill builds include the lone Tome Scour, which helps get ahead of other mill decks while Balustrade Spy creates an alternative win-con through evasive damage, and has the rogue creature-type to block Death Cult-Rogue.
Leave counter mana open when you have counters in hand even if you have removal. You want to cast Pilfered Plans early to hit land drops but you don’t want to risk them having God’s Willing or Ranger’s Guile when you attempt to snipe things down with Pharika’s Cure or Grisly Spectacle. You will eventually have to play into those cards but you would rather guarantee their creatures get put in their graveyard early in the game so you have the most time as your draw will allow to develop your board.
My latest deck, inspired by @Greg Hatch’s brew (seen below) from the NorCal PTQ last weekend at Channel Fireball. This deck was a joy to watch in action.
I give you the Standard Pauper version:
Crouching Cipher, Hidden Strings
I have tried this list and even a UWR version that included Akroan Crusader. That card was bonkers – it blanked cards like Devour Flesh and Celestial Flare and gave our deck a wide line or attack to mix in with our tall attack. The only problem was the mana-base. Playing 3 colors means a lot of guildgates*, and the tempo loss is too much to bare in an aggro deck. Shocklands would make this deck playable, but I couldn’t handle all those time-walks in tempo from a simple comes in to play tapped land.
*Std Pauper would greatly benefit as a format if there were lands designed for it. The fixing needs helps for multi-color aggro decks to exist. A quick brainstorm: Every guild pair gets a dual land that says “[card] comes into play tapped unless your opponent played a spell last turn” or “[card] comes into play tapped unless you received combat damage last turn or [card] comes into play tapped unless you reveal your hand. Wizards can come up with some better ideas I’m sure – we just need something sweet in print to give us more mana-fixing options that aren’t overpowred at common. (I realize duals like these could be appropriately rated as uncommon or rare).
If you are dying to enter more decks, then I guess you could enter the UWR version as well:
Crouching Cipher, Hidden Strings Strategy:
Cloudfin Raptor is the workhorse. It is easy to evolve him up to a 3/4, just save Daring Skyjek for last in the chain. Hidden Strings lets us go off by ciphering onto an evasive threat, tap down any blockers, and enabling our heroic creatures to explode out of control! Untapping lands is also fantastic so you can hold open God’s Willing or Mizzium Skin to protect our team. Extorting is a great way to close the gap in a race. And Swift Justice – the blowouts! They never see it coming.
I won SPDC 20.02 with a list similar to this before Born of the Gods was released. Bolt of Keranos gets the nod over Annihilating Fire since scry is value and we often want to cast spells on our own turn anyway to get our Nivix Cyclops to attack. The addition of Nullify gives us Essence Scatters 5-6 and allows us minimal interaction with Ethereal Armor and hexproof aura decks.
Cyclops Combo Strategy:
Play some 4 toughness creatures, kill their creatures, get value from Divination + Archaeomancer, and crash in with the Cyclops.
I got 2nd place in the first MPDC event I ever played in with this deck. Not much has changed except I like Grisly Spectacle more than Quag Sickness for the instant speed and ability to fill the graveyard for Crypt Incursion. I like Rakdos Shred-Freak more than Corpse Hauler because it gets through more damage early in the game and has more devotion. A 5-mana Disentomb is not that good even though it sometimes gets back a Gray Merchant in the late, late game.
Mono-Black Devotion Strategy:
Try not to trade creatures off. Every point of devotion counts. This deck can race better than any deck. Disciple of Phenax is quietly the best card in the deck since Devotion enabling and Thoughtseize lets you know if your removal will stick or if you should deploy creautres instead. Try to get every point you can from Basilica Screecher’s extort but don’t hesitate to curve out in the first 4-5 turns on the game to establish your board. Save Gray Merchant for last to maxmize his value, but sometimes it’s correct to run him out first and follow up with a Phenax if you can gain access to the entire hand. There’s a huge difference between getting the best card in the hand and any other card.
Loyal Pegasus was featured in CCHS as a cheap, evasive evolve enabler but this deck pushes his offensiveness to the next level.
Loyal Pegasus beats real well with all the haste creatures. This deck packs a ton of damage quickly but struggles against decks with a lot of removal. If that removal is enchantment-based or sorcery speed then we have a chance to get ahead and finish them off with burn spells.
Loyal Boros Strategy:
Curve out, kill any blockers that would get in the way.
Check out Standard Deviations over at MTGOStrat.com to submit your own list. I cannot wait to watch the March madness ensue.
Good luck to everyone in the event!