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A Basic Witches Guide to Post RTR Standard - Part 4: Combo Like Substances

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  A Basic Witches Guide to Post RTR Standard - Part 4: Combo Like Substances Empty A Basic Witches Guide to Post RTR Standard - Part 4: Combo Like Substances

Post  CardboardWitch on Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:17 pm

Well folks, this is it; our 4th and final installment in this quick primer on post RtR Standard. So far we've mostly stuck to talking about established decktypes that have excelled in at least one large tournament someplace out there. Unfortunately just because a deck has never top 8'd a tournament doesn't mean you won't have to face it in lower level tournaments like FNMs, weekly 1x tournaments or even local GPT events. In this segment we're going to talk about some of the weirder combo-ish decks I've played against on Trice that you might run into at these kinds of events. I should also mention that I'm using the term "combo" somewhat loosely; as far as I can tell there is no "turn 3-4" Storm type combo deck here in Standard. These decks are more about sideways thinking and exploiting card interactions that are maybe not super-obvious at first glance.

Additionally as I mentioned in the last article there aren't exactly a plethora of quality decklists out there for these decktypes. In light of this and in the interests of "science", I've cloned copies of them from memory in this article. Naturally these means this lists may end up slightly "off" what a well tuned version would look like, but I feel they capture the basic idea of the decks involved fairly well.

G/W/x Flicker

The "x" in this deck's title refers to the fact that while this deck is always base G/W it's possible to build versions that feature either Black, Red or Blue "spices" to finish the meal. The basic idea is to combine a little bit of mana ramping, a whole bunch of creatures with beneficial enter/leaves play effects and Restoration Angel/Cloudshift into a "value-town machine gun" that generates life and tokens at will. For the most part the G/W portion of this deck will look something like this:

2 Centaur Healer
3 Strangleroot Geist
3 Thragtusk
3 Borderland Ranger
4 Restoration Angel
2 Armada Wurm
2 Acidic Slime

4 Farseek
4 Cloudshift
2 Selesnya Charm

4 Temple Garden
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Forest
2 Plains
1 Gavony Township

This set up isn't exactly universal; I've seen versions of this deck running Arbor Elves and Avacyn's Pilgrims instead of Farseek for example. I'm also fond of the variation that uses Angel of Serenity at the top end of it's curve instead of Armada Wurm simply because Cloudshifting an Angel of Serenity with her triggers on the stack seems criminally unfair to me. With that having been said this trick takes a staggering WWWW to accomplish and only works as she's being cast so I went with the considerably more versatile Armada Wurm here. Those of you who can count will note that this is 44 cards (including 15 land); leaving us with roughly 9 more land spots and 7 more cards to fill out our spice quotient:

Red: +4x Rootboung Crag +2 Mountain, +2 Clifftop Retreat, +1 Kessig Wolf Run +3 Huntmaster of the Fells, +4 Pillar of Flame.

This set-up does a nice job of maximizing both the life gain and "free tokens" concept of the deck while simultaneously opening up a slot for Pillar of Flame. The downside of course is a very unstable mana base. I should also mention that in this variant many players will cut Gavony Township to go up to 2 Kessig Wolf Runs simply because it argues less with the "Flicker" elements of the deck.

Black:-1 Gavony Township +4 Overgrown Tomb, +2 Swamp +2 Isolated Chapel +2 Vault of the Archangels, +3-4 Lingering Souls +3-4 Kill Spells (usually Sever the Bloodline with 1-2 Abrupt Decays from time to time).

Whereas splashing Red in this deck is all about "getting more" of the same things, splashing Black tends to change the nature of the deck entirely. Lingering Souls and Vault of the Archangels make it a more grindy build which explains the preference for Sever the Bloodline in the versions I've played against.

Blue: +3 Hallowed Fountain, +1 Island, +4 Hinterland Harbor +1 Gavony Township, +3 Snapcaster Mage/Geist of St Traft, +4 Azorius Charm.

This is by far the least popular version of this deck I've seen on Trice but there are some merits to playing it. In particular Az Charm works perfectly into the build because you can play it after blockers on anything you would have flickered out with your white cards normally. It's not optimal and more often than not you're going to be targeting your opponent's creatures with this card but in a pinch it can roughly aproximate Cloudshift/Restoration Angel. Personally I prefer the versions that use Geist of St Traft and just flicker him out before Damage but I've seen some reasonably cute tricks with Snapcaster Mage in this build. The major issue of course being that you don't actually have a PILE of great cards to flash back with Snappy; I'd be way more likely to run 2 than 3 but in my experience people usually choose 3.

In terms of beating this deck to key is to understand what it does and doesn't do well. This deck is good at gaining life, very resistant to spot removal and throws around some reasonable sized fatties over the course of the game. It is however an engine that depends on having at least some creatures in play to function and no amount of "Flicker" technology is going to save this deck from efficient boardsweepers. From an aggro perspective; you probably aren't going to simply turn a bunch of men sideways in the early game and beat this thing but you *can* grind it out. The key is to avoid getting 3 for 1'd when your opponent flicker's out a creature you're trying to kill; play around open mana accordingly.

B/G Jarad

Like the various Rites decks this build is primarily about using Grisly Salvage and Mulch to put a bunch of creatures into the graveyard. Unlike those decks however it actually wants to keep them there to combo with cards like Boneyard Wurm, Splinterfright and of course Jarad, Golgari Litchlord himself. While I'm sure this list could stand some tuning, if I were going to build the deck it would probably look something like this:

4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Arbor Elf
2 Avacyn's Pilgrim
3 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
4 Boneyard Wurm
4 Splinterfright
4 Lotleth Troll
4 Grisly Salvage
4 Mulch
2 Sever the Bloodline
2 Gnaw to the Bone
4 Dreg Mangler
2 Dawntreader Elk
8 Forest
3 Swamp
2 Borderland Ranger

SB:

3-4 Pithing Needle
11-12 other cards

Now just to be clear; I don't think this is a good deck. It lacks removal, evasion and it's far too dependent on Spliterfright/Jarad to actually win games. What it *can* do however is kill you in a single cycle by connecting with a Splinterfright and then throwing it at your head for lethal damage. Additionally it's almost impossible to actually outrace this deck if they can draw/bin a Gnaw to the Bone. In my experience this is actually the deck's primary victory condition: baiting you into a race with Splinterfrights and then gaining 40+ life on his last two turns.

Kill Jarad (as many times as you have to) and grind slowly instead of racing and you'll win this match-up; just don't fall asleep. Btw: the Pithing Needle names "Tormad's Crypt" and good luck dealing with Rest in Peace folks Smile

G/W/b Populate

This is basically another version of Junk Tokens that uses some number of the RtR cards that say Populate. It's less aggressive than Junk Tokens but the additional populate effects make it a very good grinding deck; it's also a pretty good excuse to dust off your Trostani's and Growing Ranks so there's a reasonable chance you see this deck in small tournaments. I should also mention that I didn't sell out for the Populate concept; I have definitely seen versions of this deck running Rootborn Defenses, Eyes in the Skies and Parallel Lives. Personally I just couldn't fit these cards into the build but when playing against it don't be shocked to see them in the slightest. Additionally tho I'm not a huge fan *MANY* people who run this deck online will play Intangible Virtue; though at the cost of good token producers/creatures so it's sort of a wash in my opinion.

3 Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
4 Selesnya Charm
4 Call of the Conclave
3 Armada Wurm
3 Thragtusk
2 Restoration Angel
4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
4 Arbor Elf
2 Garruk Relentless
4 Lingering Souls
3 Growing Ranks
4 Temple Garden
1 Gavony Township
1 Vault of the Archangel
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Sunpetal Grove
2 Isolated Chapel
2 Woodland Cemetery
3 Forest
1 Plains
2 Farseek

SB:

3x Sundering Growth
12 other cards

Conceptually this deck is pretty simple. Play a bunch of tokens while developing your mana, drop a Trostani/Growing Ranks and then grind the crap out of the game with Gavony Township and/or Vault of the Archangels. Of the two options Trostani is actually better; once you start making 2-3 tokens a turn her life gain becomes insanely relevant. Both of your lynchpin cards are pretty hard to kill in game 1 and this allows this deck to mise wins against stronger decks pre-sb. Of course post SB it's weak to all the of the same things as Junk Tokens and you can firmly expect them to bring in something to answer Trostani. For those of you asking the 2x Farseek is a concession to the deck's general need for Black mana at certain points in the game; namely right about when you absolutely HAVE to activate a Vault of the Archangels.

Beating this deck can be a little tricky if the Populate player has a decent draw. Spending your removal on tokens will rarely work out against this deck unless you're getting 3-4 for 1 interactions (Sever/Detention Sphere for example). On the plus side your opponent is probably so slow and grindy that you'll be able to draw and cast most of the cards in your deck at least once. Beating this deck is literally a "Grind" but despite outward appearances it's a grind you CAN actually win. Just play smart, keep the board as clear as possible and make him sacrifice some tokens to stay alive. Alternately, drop a bunch of 1 sided board-sweepers and go to Town; this deck absolutely HATES Mizz Mortars and Cyclonic Rift for example.

Heartless Summoning

Once again this isn't really a combo deck per se; it just behaves like one in the early game because 95% of the time the opponent will mulligan until he hits a Heartless Summoning in his opening hand. I've literally seen them go to 4 without blinking online but even in a real life tournament with money on the line I'd expect them to mull to at least 5 if necessary. I should also mention that this is just one of many versions of the deck I've seen/heard about; I choose Rakdos because it gave me access to Rolling Temblor and Thundermaw Hellkite but I've seen Green versions that run Thragtusk and if you built the creature base right I don't see why you couldn't play Jund or Junk if you wanted to.

4 Heartless Summoning
4 Desecration Demon
4 Thundermaw Hellkite
3 Olivia Voldaren
3 Pillar of Flame
3 Sever the Bloodline
3 Rolling Temblor
2 Appetite for Brains
3 Bloodgift Demon
3 Bloodline Keeper
2 Hellrider
2 Zealous Conscripts
4 Rakdos Guildgate
4 Blood Crypt
4 Dragonskull Summit
8 Swamp
4 Mountain

Now remember folks, this deck is going to mulligan for a Heartless Summoning every game if possible. You might keep a 6 card hand that's 4 land and 2 4 drops vs an exceptionally weak opponent but most of the time you're going to find Heartless before the cc on your creatures matters. This is the fundamental flaw with the design but that doesn't stop people from playing the deck. Regardless of the specific build you can expect to see board sweepers, some disruption, Heartless Summoning and a whole lotta fat dudes.

Beating this deck typically revolves around stabilizing against or killing his first couple of fatties and then shifting into a grind out strategy once you can put him on the defensive. Heartless is good at many things but typically "blocking" is not one of them and once you can force him to sacrifice some creatures on the defensive it's typically "good game" time. With that having been noted I'd advise you to pay close attention to the creatures your opponent casts in game 1 before you decide to go hard after Heartless itself post SB. Some builds will happily throw down multiple Heartless Summonings because they have 6-7-8 cost creatures and against these decks your enchantment removal will be very strong. Other builds, like this one, are specifically geared to only ever cast a single Heartless Summoning; these decks will simply sandbag additional drawn copies until such a time as you destroy their first one. This can still be beneficial if it slows down the opponent enough to let you establish board presence but it's not going to win you the game like you're hoping. Just a warning.

Well folks, that's about all I have to say about combo decks. Unfortunately despite the efforts of MANY of my Trice opponents I have not lost a game to any of the Epic Experiment decks I've played against so I really can't tell you what a "good" one would look like. Hopefully this guide has helped you catch up a bit on Standard and I hope to see you all at FMN/GPTs or wherever.

-nina
CardboardWitch
CardboardWitch
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