Crucible of Words – Setting the Standard by Cyrus Bales

Crucible of Words: Extended in the New Year by Cyrus Bales

Crucible of Words – Setting the Standard

With Pro Tour Paris behind us, we have a wealth on new deck information to take in for standard. Whilst a couple of new archetypes have arisen, there have been some updates to older ones. The Pro Tour tends to set the benchmark for standard, so you can expect to see it’s influence begin right away.

The most notable deck is the re-imagining of “Caw-Go”, a deck that previously was a UW control deck that had Squadron Hawk to provide card advantage as well as a slow clock that could block or attack planeswalkers. This build of UW Control has now gone from a cute idea that didn’t seem to put up good enough numbers compared to traditional UW control, to becoming the new UW control shell. So what changed? Basically put, Sword of Feast and Famine. These decks now run not only the four hawks, but four Stoneforge Mystic along with Sword of Body and Mind as well as they new Sword of Feast and Famine. What this gives the deck, is a strong and effective way to clock an opponent right from the off, and eventually, one of your guys will hold a sword and begin to end the game for you. The best thing about the new sword, is the ability to untap your lands and keep open your counter spells, whilst still applying pressure and committing to the board. Of course, the discard from it definitely helps. This build of the deck not only topped the points for the standard portion of the event, but also won the top 8 of the event in the hands of Ben Stark. Clearly a deck to consider before sleeving up for a tournament.

Aggro it seems, has returned with a vengeance. From recent months where the top three decks were all Jace, The Mind Sculptor based control lists, followed closely behind by Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle decks, we see a lot more aggro doing well in the field. The two main decks in question have one thing in common, Signal Pest. A card that allows aggressive decks running zero drop creatures, Ornithopter and Memnite, to clock very quickly indeed. Kuldotha Red is a deck we saw a little bit of before Mirrodin Besieged, but since then, it’s come on leaps and bounds. Signal Pest and Contested War zone both give the deck a quicker clock, making 1/1 tokens from Kuldotha Rebirth much more fearsome. This speed is giving them enough of a boost to compete with the superior card quality of the control decks. Quest for the holy relic is what drives the other aggro deck in question, a mono white quest deck, using cheap creatures and bounce effects like Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher to charge up the quest to slap down Argentum Armor. Of course, the Signal Pest and Contested War zone give it a much stronger game without the Quest than it used to have.

There is another familiar aggro deck in the standings, this is Boros. Numbers wise, it’s been sitting just behind Valakut for some time, but rarely gets the appreciation it deserves. Whilst slower than the “hyper-aggro” lists above, it has more durability since it plays Stoneforge Mystic and gets the best of both the white and the red decks. It seems to be using the new Hero of Oxid Ridge as a curve topper that creates vicious alpha strike. In my opinion, Boros is the best of these three decks and I believe it’ll keep up it’s numbers in the future.

The last big talking point of the tournament is Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. I spoke about how great this card was last week, and it seems to be proving me right. It found itself in three different decks over the weekend, an unusual Kuldotha Forgemaster deck that cheated in back-breaking plays whilst fuelling itself with Tezzeret. A UB control deck, much like one I discussed last week, and a third deck that plays a little like the UB build, but includes red for Slagstorm and Pyroclasm. This third deck found it’s way into the top 8 of the tournament as a whole, in the hands of Patrick Chapin after a 25 point run in the standard portion with it. This deck garnered a lot of attention, and will likely be a popular choice in future tournaments. The deck itself worked off of Prophetic Prism for the colour fixing, as well as a host of other mana producing artifacts, Mox Opal, Sphere of the Suns and Everflowing Chalice, and used Tumble Magnet as an additional way to control the board that could become a 5/5 when needed. I felt it’s use of Treasure Mage to find a single Mindslaver and a single Wurmcoil Engine wasn’t the best use of that slot, and forcing heavy red to achieve something Ratchet bomb and Black Sun’s Zenith could already do was curious and possibly not the optimal decision. However, the deck put in a fine performance and you’ll undoubtedly see it in coming weeks.

Now, last week I spoke about an infect deck using Tezzeret, and in light of the Pro Tour data, I think it’s a perfect time to share the list.

4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
4 Jace, The Mind Sculptor

4 Necropede
4 Plague Myr
4 Phyrexian Crusader
2 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

3 Ratchet Bomb
1 Brittle Effigy
2 Sword of Feast and Famine

3 Doom Blade
4 Inquisition of Kozilek

4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Island
7 Swamp

1 Ratchet Bomb
4 Duress
3 Memoricide
3 Disfigure
4 Spell Pierce

This is a deck I’ve spent a little time with, and whilst I detest the Infect mechanic, I found this deck to be reliable strong, and found myself unable to reliably beat it with other decks, which is usually a sign of a strong deck. As we can see, it features the combination of Jace and Tezzeret that I spoke about last week.

The creature base is relatively small, we have 8 two drops with no colour commitment, one is an excellent road block against aggro, the other can ramp us towards a turn three Tezzeret or Jace. Further up the curve, we have Phyrexian Crusader, this card is simply amazing. It is pretty much unkillable for Red, White and Boros aggro, and is unblockable against Caw-Go lists, also immune to red sweepers, it causes problems for Valakut decks, and due to infect, it clocks very quickly. Finally topping out the curve of the deck is Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, often a six mana “you win the game” effect, since it’s haste usually means you get to deal four in one hit, it’s regeneration comes in handy if needed in the late game as well.

Down to the artifacts in the deck, Ratchet Bomb, a tried and tested tool against aggro decks, it’s power against Kuldotha Red and Monowhite Quest decks is fantastic. Brittle Effigy is next on the list, a card that Tezzeret can pull up from the top five cards of your deck, this card deals with almost anything it needs to, it’s cheap cost gets it out underneath counter spells if required. Sword of Feast and Famine, as we can tell, a very strong card, on a Phyrexian Crusader, you have a three turn clock that is almost unstoppable, on your two drops, it turns them into four turn clocks, very powerful stuff that Tezzeret likes to find you.

In terms of spells, Inquisition of Kozilek is a great way to begin a game, getting to plan around your opponent’s hand and make optimum plays. In terms of removal, we have Doom Blade. A lot of people have claimed that Go For The Throat could obsolete Doom Blade in people’s main decks, I don’t this could be further from the truth. In a format with Tezzeret, Go for the Throat is useless, and looking around at other threats, Kuldotha Red, Monowhite Quest, Boros, Caw Go, it’s clear that killing black creatures is not much of an issue. Grave Titan has been muscled out a little due to Tezzeret making a splash, and sure, Vampires is still around and will punish you a little for running Doom Blade, but considering all the other decks in the format, Tezzeret will be punishing you a lot more, making Doom Blade the correct decision.

So, what is this deck doing? Well, it’s got a lot going for it, by sleeving this deck up, you automatically get to reduce your opponent’s life to 10 and prevent any life gain from affecting the game, not a bad start. Your creature base is generally good, rather than trying to squeeze in terrible infect creatures like Plague Stinger and pumping them, this deck just plays solidly good cards. Necropede is excellent against aggro, and whilst is only a ten turn clock on his own, with 4 Tezzeret and 2 Sword of Feast and Famine, there are six ways to make him a big threat, same goes for Plague Myr, who whilst not being the two-for-one against aggro that Necropede is, he is instead accelerating you to critical plays. The Crusader is truly awesome, and a very strong creature, as is the Blight Dragon, one being more of a steady win condition, the other a blow-out curve topper. Inkmoth Nexus has been seen in a lot of Tezzeret lists due to it clocking in two turns with Tezzeret, but since the whole deck supports Infect, you get a lot more mileage out of it.

Card advantage wise, Tezzeret and Jace are doing a lot of leg work, you can generally find whatever you need with them, and they give you dominance over most boards. With both on the field, you get to see nine cards a turn to look for your Sword or Brittle Effigy etc. This ensures you never run out of gas and can close games easily. Tezzeret has two main modes in this deck, digging, and closing the game, there’s enough artifacts to get value out of both his +1 and -1 consistently, without having a deck that scoops to Creeping Corrosion. Sure, the deck can also have turn four wins:

Turn one, Inquisition of Kozilek.
Turn two, Plague Myr.
Turn three, Tezzeret, make Plague Myr a 5/5.
Turn four, activate an Inkmoth Nexus, make it a 5/5, the Doom Blade their blocker and win.

But a powerhouse opening like this isn’t what the deck is about, rather than the glass cannon of all or nothing infect that seems to be popular(yet terrible), this deck is all about card quality whilst still retaining an easier clock.

I’ve been testing the deck a lot, and to be honest, it annoys me that it’s performing so well. I would love to be able to ignore Infect as I detest it’s design, but when I play this against Caw Go, Kuldotha Red, Boros, Valakut and Tezzeret decks and see good win percentages, I’d have to be crazy not to continue playing this.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.


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