Crucible of Words – What a Difference A Day Makes by Cyrus Bales

Crucible of Words – How do you solve a problem like a Mindsculptor? By Cyrus Bales

Indeed, what a difference one day can make in standard, the announcement on the 20th of June means that overnight, type two will change, and as July dawns, the format will be almost a new one. We all new that Caw-Blade was an overpowered deck, so it was hardly a surprise to see Stoneforge Mystic leave the party, Jace, The Mind Sculptor however was a bit less predictable. The new format does seem to be a lot better, of course, there will be people complaining, but rather than whine about things, I’ll be taking the time to see how standard will be shaping up.



This is the elephant in the room, a lot of people considered this deck as incredibly oppressive in the past, until Jace decks killed it off. The truth however, is that whilst the deck was (and is) very powerful, it was never on a level remotely close to Caw-Blade in terms of its dominance of standard, yes it’s a potent deck that eats up midrange, but if the deck wasn’t able to beat other decks, it wouldn’t exist. So, Valakut, the molten Pinnacle is effectively a “60 card combo deck”, that ramps into lands for its namesake as well some big creatures, to quickly put away games.

Why it’s good: The deck is pretty fast, and has the ability to consistently clock the opponent before turn 6 if undisrupted. This means it invalidates midrange strategies and gives it a solid game against non-disruptive decks that don’t win in the early game. One of its strengths comes from its mid-late game draws, due to turning every Mountain in the deck into a burn spell, its ramp spells and Mountains are no longer dead draws, unlike ramp decks of the past, and along with its big creatures, it is engineered in such a way that it draws relevant cards often.

Why it’s bad: As I said, it’s very strong against non-disruptive decks; however disruption can be a large thorn in its side. By taking out key spells, a player can limit the effectiveness of the deck, a well-timed Despise or Memoricide can happily rip out a Primeval Titan and halt the decks immediate progress and often turn the match around. Counterspells are usually somewhat less effective than discard, thanks to them being able to pay for Mana Leaks and the presence of Summoning Trap, but due to the nature of the deck, it doesn’t try to interact that much until it can win, which means faster decks, such as Kuldotha Red, Red Deck Wins and Tempered Steel can mount a real offensive. Red decks as we all know are always very popular and have often been able to beat Valakut in the past.



Deceiver Exarch and Splinter Twin have become a mainstay at tournaments. Whilst losing Jace, The Mind Sculptor can hurt, the combo is still around and there are other draw spells. The biggest issue here though, is that the perceived “best deck” of Valakut is going to be packing four Combust in its sideboard, as are the red decks, meaning that UR Twin is no longer a viable option, as black is needed for Duress and suchlike. Grixis Twin will most likely become the tool of choice, although RUG is still an option since it’s backup plan of Inferno Titan and Consecrated Sphinx still holds water.

Why it’s good: The potential ability to win on turn four is a strong one, especially considering the combo is immune to sorcery speed removal. Currently there is plenty of dig in blue, from Preordain and Sea Gate Oracle to Jace Beleren, who between them, mean finding a combo can be quite reliable.

Why it’s bad: The problem with any combo deck is hate cards. Unfortunately, every red deck packs the best possible hate card available for this match up, Combust. This card is impossible to play around without discard or multiple combo pieces, also Go For The Throat as the “go to” removal in black dodges their Spellskite. Along with Surgical Extraction, and all the one mana discard spells out there, there are plenty of tools to break the combo or stop the player from assembling it.



In most standard formats, if not all, there arises a fast red deck. This standard is no different, with Goblin Guide as a one drop, red has rarely had it this good. All manner of powerful burn spells along with Shrine of Burning Rage and Koth of the Hammer make quick work of twenty life points. Without having to race Batterskull hitting the board and devoting lots of main deck space to hate cards for Caw-Blade, RDW can just go all out and burn its way to the top tables.

Why it’s good: The deck can reliably kill quickly, meaning a lot of decks have cards that are too slow to meaningfully interact. The deck also has access to Dismember in case of Kor Firewalker, making it less vulnerable to hate than it has been in the past. With a slew of powerful burn spells, it can outrace the combo decks in the field whilst being more difficult to disrupt, Shrine being the perfect final reach spell needed, often hitting the opponent for more than six damage off of a single card.

Why it’s bad: Leyline of Sanctity is a very difficult card to win through, although sees only marginal play at the moment. RDW can be vulnerable to well-placed discard and removal for its few creatures, leaving it in top deck mode quickly, giving the opponent a chance to creep back into the game. Other fast decks with a lot of creatures often force burn onto the creatures instead of the opponent’s life total, making it more difficult to burn to twenty.



Whilst most people are putting away their UW cards in a drawer somewhere, others have noticed that the old fashioned UW control decks are now viable. Curving up to Sun Titan to recur your Jace Beleren is a great source of card advantage, and many powerful control spells like Day of Judgement as well as counterspells are still available. These builds utilize a high planeswalker count including Venser, The Sojourner and Gideon Jura, able to generate masses of card advantage throughout a game. With Valakut coming back, the old favourite Spreading Seas becomes a powerful option as well.

Why it’s good: Once the deck hits the late game, it becomes very hard to stop, recurring Tectonic Edges and suchlike can strip an opponent of any chance of winning. With many powerful cards, it rarely loses if it survives past turn six, also able to run Leyline of Sanctity in the board (or even the main deck) against the Valakut and RDW decks, it has a lot of powerful sideboard options also including Flashfreeze.

Why it’s bad: Surviving to the late game can often be a task, in the face of many red decks trying to clock quickly, it might have to adjust its main deck to compensate, the trusty Baneslayer Angel to the rescue perhaps. Turns one to four are crucial, and the deck can often fall too far behind to pick itself up again.

I suspect these decks will be the big four decks on the tournament circuit, and personally, I think RDW could be a really strong choice. Obviously there will be other decks like Tempered Steel and Boros variants running around with UB control and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas build as well. As for the future, from the spoilers of M12 so far, it seems like RDW is getting the most from the new core set, to the point where there will be at least two different viable RDW builds.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing and enjoy standard.



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