Pondering—Preparedness and the Metagame

I don’t like where Standard is right now. I used to think it was because of Thragtusk and the countless matches that go to time because of that card, but now I realize it’s because of how midrangey the format is. Gone are the days of Delver blind-flipping to Mana Leak or Gut Shot; games last more than four turns now. And as much as I loved being able to keep awful hands simply because I had an Island and a Ponder, things have changed. Change is good. Sometimes.

The problem with the current state of Standard, I feel, is the lack of interactivity — not necessarily due to the cards themselves, but because the players seem like they’ve agreed to a neutral ceasefire for the first five or so turns of the game. Decks no longer attempt to proactively undermine others. There is no good answer to a card like Thragtusk, one that immediately stabilizes the player that casts it and leaves behind value should it get removed. So people go bigger. Angel of Serenity tucks that Tusk away along with another Angel for back up, and also beats for 5 a turn — that is, until the Angel gets tucked under another Angel and the Angel-on-Angel Mexican standoff occurs.

In short, decks don’t try to win anymore. Instead, they only try to not lose, because the prevalence of lifegain and big, scary monsters makes winning through damage feel all but futile.

So when I happened upon this MODO Standard Daily winner a week back, I was instantly intrigued:

I almost want to call it Affinity in that, similar to the Modern deck, it’s a bunch of bad cards thrown together to make a surprisingly cohesive and potent deck. Though, obviously, that’s where the similarities end.

Seance plays kind of like Reanimator, but only insofar as the deck is fueled by the graveyard. The main engine is getting to Fact or Fiction off of your reanimated Sphinx of Uthuun as early as turn 5, on your opponent’s turn. The thing that most people miss (myself included) is that Seance triggers during each upkeep, meaning that you can get a gigantic blocker on your opponent’s turn while pulling off the Jace-into-Jace chain we’re all so familiar with by now, except Sphinx digs for five cards and the discarded pile goes to the grave instead of the bottom of the library, enabling further shenanigans. The best I’ve done is getting a Sphinx on my opponent’s turn, FoFing into two Sphinxes, dumping one into the yard and FoFing during my upkeep, then hardcasting the other during my main phase. That’s 16 cards I saw in a single turn. Absurd.

The ultimate goal for all this digging is to win through self-mill off of a Mirror-Mad Phantasm and two Laboratory Maniacs, a combo very few decks in the format can disrupt. The pieces can be hard-cast or called up for free with Seance, depending on what you want to play around. I’ve played this deck at 20SS for last week’s FNM and this week’s TNM, and was never not able to pull off the combo when I wanted to. People simply weren’t prepared for it. If anything, they were chuckling on the inside that I was playing Cathedral Sanctifiers.

My only non-wins in the 8 rounds I’ve piloted this deck were a draw against Matt’s Reanimator and a loss to Taylor’s Rest In Peace brew. Matt was very keen in recognizing that the quality of his creatures were greater than mine, and thus only needed to shut off my combo to win. He boarded out Thragtusks (gasp!) for graveyard and enchantment hate and effectively neutralized all of my Seances and reanimation attempts. He would have had me eventually being that he had more Angels of Serenity and a Griselbrand that I wouldn’t be able to answer, but I was saved by turns. Taylor’s brew, on the other hand, hedged completely against the meta and played a Bant control list with Rest In Peace in the main, gaining value off of infinite Misthallow Griffins. I almost fought through a turn 2 Rest In Peace, but died to Sigarda with three cards left in my library and my Lab Maniac pathetically on the bottom.

No one else was even remotely prepared for Seance. The aggro decks would huff and puff only to get stonewalled by Angel of Glory’s Rise bringing back two or more Sanctifiers. The control decks played lands and said go while I happily milled myself out. The UWR Midrange decks could only shake their heads in frustration as my Cathedral Sanctifiers nullified their Geists. In each case, it was lack of matchup knowledge leading to wrong decisions that would tip the scale further in my favor. I have no doubt that if the deck becomes more popular and everyone else starts packing hate that I’d start losing more. After all, it doesn’t have any creatures in the 2 through 4 slots (Lab Maniac is not a creature that you’ll cast until you’re ready to win the game), two singletons in the 5 slot (again, Mirror-Mad Phantasm doesn’t count) and eight 7-drops. Hate out Seance and I suddenly can’t do anything.

But as it is, no one’s willing to mainboard enough enchantment hate for four copies of a dollar rare from Dark Ascension.

That said, I’m excited to see what Seance does in this top 4 finisher from GP Auckland, NZ. Trostani and Seance is cute, but overall I just love being able to fit the enchantment in a more traditional Reanimator shell. Having dorks and Mulches and whatnot allows me to accelerate toward hard-casting my threats, something the original list seldom could. The original deck also relied too heavily on looting effects to dig through the deck, which is innately card disadvantage. Oftentimes I found the hardest decisions in my matches were picking which cards to bin when I didn’t have a Seance up or didn’t quite have a board position established yet. Mulch and Grisly Salvage get me the cards I want when I want them, especially if I bin a Craterhoof at the end of my opponent’s turn and immediately bring it back with Seance to win the game.

I’ll be trying this list next time I’m able to play Standard at the store, I’ll be sure to follow up with my thoughts on it after the event.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: