I bet you thought I disappeared. After all, 2020 has brought so many bad surprises that expecting the unexpected is just the norm we live in now. But, here I am, crawling out of the darkness and filth that has made this year one for the books. If you've been following the podcast much, you've no doubt heard about the flak I've been catching for going off-jank. It's true, your ears did not deceive you. I have been playing Teferi in histoirc...GASP!!! It works, there's no doubt about it. I built an approach deck that you may see an article about once we get settled into Zendikar. I will show off the very non-jank deck that I played to grind leagues for gold and also the version I would prefer to play given card availability, which we all know is an issue if you aren't playing all the time or putting in some real money. Today however, I wanted to highlight some of the fun decks that I have been playing, and will continue to play through rotation.
These decks aren't super competitive, so if you're looking for that, refer to one of James's articles or follow his FNM deck choices on the podcast. These decks are just some of the fun ideas that I have been messing around with from time to time and have yielded some success. You could probably win some leagues with them but I wouldn't trust them to get you very high on the ladder, probably low-mid platinum if you're favored by the meta. If you're in best of one then you might get higher than that.
To start out, I present to you an Esper Blink deck that I really enjoy. You can adapt the list to your liking since there are several wonderful blink targets in the current standard. Options get far more limited once sets rotate out but for now its a great way to get some daily quests knocked out and enjoy a few standard events. Keep in mind, this was made primarily for best of one so if you look to take it to a competitive level, you'll want to drop some creatures for more interaction.
The idea is simple. Cast your creatures for value and then blink them for more value depending on the situation. Thassa keeps the ball rolling along with Lumbering Battlement, because saving your value under a massive, must-kill body is exactly what the card is designed for. This will draw out targeted removal and even sweepers. This in turn will recover your board and in many cases refill your hand, along with whatever other value you had tucked away. Your most unfavorable match-ups are Embercleave decks and hard control. However, if you get creatures down on curve you still have a fighting chance, especially since many of your creatures draw cards and/or gain life. Ramp and midrange decks are toast. Jam your threats and bounce the important stuff with cards like Barrin, Tolarian Archmage or kill it with cards like Cavalier of Night and Plaguecrafter. This deck isn't usually the beat-down. The deck is designed to bait your opponent into over committing resources while simultaneously keeping you stocked. Take your time to think about the sequencing, possible draws, and how the opponent can effect the board state, especially since it's always favorable to keep your creatures around if you can help it.
In heavy aggro/cleave matches, you're at a disadvantage because you're not in a great position until turn 3 and at that point, the aggro opponent is looking for a kill shot. In these matches, mulligan for your low curve and play multiple threats when possible. Look for cards like Charming Prince and Barrin, which I now refer to as Barrin the Bouncer. It's not ideal but forcing the opponent to replay Fervent Champion is still costing them mana and buying you a little more time.
In control match-ups, just do your best to make things stick, even though it may seem dismal, they can't counter everything. Don't be afraid to draw out some counters with good creatures. They aren't likely to counter Fblthp or Charming Prince and two damage is better than no damage, get in there! Don't hold spells unless you're certain you can sequence them into a favorable situation....as The Patron Saint of Instant Speed once told me, make them have it...words to live by.
The next deck has really surprised me! The concept is fairly simple, it's reanimator.... live, die, repeat. My favorite creatures and spells are in Abzan colors so here's the beast. I think the reason it's done so well is that it approaches the kill from multiple angles. You can win by reanimating a massive board or you can get the beat down kill, which is important as many of my previous reanimator decks just folded to graveyard hate. Let's take a gander...
Across 29 games in the best of one format, the deck has a 62% win rate. I don't have the stats for best of three but I will say that I took the deck to a 3-0 in round robin at the last FNM. I don't think that's a good judge of the deck's best of three performance since it wouldn't represent a large event meta....but a win is a win. If you take it to the best of three ladder, please let me know how it does for you. In best of one, I'm currently Platinum 3 playing this exclusively for the past week in standard. I was set back by some ranked Historic losses.
Enough about me, let's talk about the deck. It's really PureJank's greatest standard hits. I can say with confidence I have played some of these cards since their respective releases. You're looking to start your early game with low cost creatures and dare I say, at least 3-4 lands. Four lands is the key to victory. Why four specifically? Well, because most of my losses were due to having lands milled in the early game, and assuming you can't get a mana dork to stick, four lands will get you Acolyte of Affliction and Solemn Simulacrum which will get enough lands to start dropping bombs. Your 2-drop and 3-drop slots are devoted to milling and mana. Skull Prophet and Llanowar Visionary can accelerate you to a turn 4 God-Eternal Oketra or Cavalier of Night while also filling the graveyard with Mire Triton. A fun interaction here is to use the Llanowar Visionary to help cast Cavalier and then sac the Visionary to kill a creature. In addition to killing an opponents creature, you have a 4/5 lifelink beater that upon death will get your mana dork back and draw you a card. It's all about the value. Oketra is great because just casting creature spells starts an army of 4/4's with vigilance. It's usually kill on sight, but it never really goes away because you can tuck it or grab it out of the yard any number of ways. When all other plans fail, attack with Oketra and then play another Oketra. If the previous copy lived, you'll get a token and tuck the old one after the legend rule resolves.
Our mass reanimation spell is of course Eerie Ultimatum, which usually leads to a counter spell or a scoop. To the few of you who stick out the fight after a spell like that, much respect. Even if I know the opponent has a sweeper, I'll still cast it, especially when you can put it back on top of your library with Cavalier of Thorns. I know that sounds like a specific instance but it happens more than you'd think. I couldn't put all of my stock into Eerie Ultimatum because of the blowout potential, especially against blue players and graveyard hate. My solution?... The Cauldron of Eternity. The deck has recursive value built in. With Cauldron out, creatures that die get put on the bottom of your library. This prevents them from getting exiled from the graveyard which can be a consideration with Scooze running rampant. It's not a perfect fix for graveyard hate by any stretch but it helps. Having creatures put back in the library also helps keep the Oketra tokens coming and also helps keep you from milling out whether it be by your own hand or the opponents.
I know these decks may not be for everyone, but if you enjoy creature based shenanigans like me then you'll have some fun with these. Out of these two, if you're looking to be more competitive, I'd take the Abzan list and adapt as necessary. Obviously some interaction/disruption would be good but why main board removal when you can have your creatures do the work!? Going all in on my plan is just part of my play style and I am aware of the risk that brings. I hope you have enjoyed the article. Feedback can be sent to email@example.com. I'd love to hear from you.
I hope you lose.