Spread the Sickness – Hunting the White Stag in Innistrad by Grant Hislop

UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop


For those not up on their Hungarian mythology, the White Stag is a creature that appears, and leads the Hungarian people to the ‘Promised Land‘. In a Magical context, I’m looking for cards that have gained in position, and could be primed to explode in value and playability.

Recent examples of ‘White Stags‘ include Natural Order, Time Spiral, Candelabra of Tawnos and Grim Monolith. These are all cards that were easy to acquire, and relatively cheap to do so (excepting the Candlesticks). They’re now seeing play due to either unbannings or new printings, and can’t be found anywhere.

Due to Innistrad having a mild graveyard theme, one of the first things that we should be looking at is the cards from current standard that reference it. I’ve done a gatherer search, with the word ‘Graveyard‘, and these are the cards that spike my interest:

Buried Ruin
Cemetery Reaper
Elixir of Immortality
Entomber Exarch
Geth, Lord of the Vault
Glissa, the Traitor
Grim Lavamancer
Jace, Memory Adept
Kuldotha Phoenix
Life’s Finale
Mimic Vat
Molten-Tail Masticore
Necrotic Ooze
Nihil Spellbomb
Noxious Revival
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Slag Fiend
Sun Titan
Vengeful Pharaoh
Visions of Beyond

Bonehoard seems insane at the moment. The living weapon mechanic from Scars block has mainly had Batterskull as its posterchild, with occasional look-ins from Flayer Husk in decks like Puresteel Paladin. Look at what Bonehoard does! This is a card that I could see finding a home in both control and beatdown strategies going forwards. It’s important to remember that it’s not just your own Graveyard that Bonehoard counts. Imagine this, equipped to an Invisible Stalker.

Buried Ruin certainly gets my juices flowing now. In a format with flashback spells, and cards like Forbidden Alchemy being printed, having ways to rebuy later what you don’t want in the early game seems insane. I envisage control decks using this as a 1 or 2 of, probably to re-buy on a Wurmcoil Engine that’s either died, been discarded, or filtered through by either self-milling at the hands of Jace, Memory Adept or the aforementioned Forbidden Alchemy.

Forbidden Alchemy is probably my favourite card from the new set at the moment. It’s obviously been printed as an homage to Mystical Teachings, and sits somewhere between that and Impulse in terms of power level. It’s obviously neither of those cards, but is similar to both, and its existence is very welcome as the format seems to slow down a touch.

Grim Lavamancer is one of the cards on this list that’s got noticeably worse. The rotation of the fetchlands means less fuel for the fires. I’m sure as the block progresses, we’ll find more things to burn, but he’s no longer the auto-include in the Stupid-Red-Decks that he was before rotation.

Jace, Memory Adept is a strange one. I don’t think he’s all that good at present, but most of the Planeswalkers end up seeing play at some point during their standard tenure. There’s no denying that his abilities are powerful, but he costs five, and doesn’t protect himself, or impact the board the turn he comes into play. It remains to be seen if tapping out on Turn 5, milling yourself and having him die is a feasible strategy. Based on my own experiences, I’d say no. There’s so many other things a blue mage can be doing, this isn’t what’s needed, in my opinion.

Molten-Tail Masticore is, on paper, absurd. He’s a resilient discard outlet, creature removal, finisher and a reasonably costed/sized body all in one card. It’s insane that he’s not seeing more play, but there just isn’t a deck for him at present. I know I’ve been stocking up on this guy. I’ve got a stack of about 30 on my desk at the moment, and I’m waiting on the deck to come together. I ran it as a 2-of in a Fauna Shaman BUG deck that I was working on pre-Nationals, and it, in combination with the next card I’m talking about, was the highlight of the deck.

The card in question was Necrotic Ooze. In a deck like Birthing Pod, or Fauna Shaman (Sadly rotated), this guy can get out of hand. Last extended season (The last extended season, hopefully), we saw this, in tandem with cards like Fulminator Mage, Devoted Druid, Quillspike and friends to good effect. He’s been part of one of the best legacy combo decks of all time, and it seems ridiculous to expect a graveyard based block not to have some fun new toys for the Ooze to play with. It’s a shame that his former good buddy Gigantomancer has rotated, as well as Fauna Shaman. Again, I’m sitting on about 50 of these, so when it does hit, you know who to talk to.

Sun Titan seems to be one of the top Reanimation targets. It seems to be between this, Grave Titan and Rune-Scarred Demon. I don’t especially like Grave Titan as a target, and am unsure on the demon. I understand that you want something that impacts the board, even if it dies, but I think a 3-drop from the yard is more capable of doing so than two 2/2’s. Imagine re-buying a Liliana of the Veil, an Oblivion Ring, a Buried Ruin, or even better, a Phantasmal Image, and double reanimating! The Demon also seems powerful, but I’d be starting with the Sun Titan lists at the moment, until the format progresses.

Vengeful Pharaoh will probably see play in Birthing Pod, assuming that they end up in BUG. I don’t think he’s impressive, or reliable enough to see play in any other kind of deck at this point.

There’s more to the set than the Graveyard of course, and as powerful as the Reanimator/Solar Flare decks may be, there’s certainly other options available. What else has gained in the rotation?

Birthing Pod loses Lotus Cobra. That’s about it. Gains Avacyn Pilgrim, which can fill a similar role. The Pod decks are most likely to be Bant colours, due to the better mana, although RUG and BUG may have potential. I’d be wanting to stick to Bant for the time being. This is the only defined combo deck in the format at present, so will be the starting point for the Combo players.

The deck is a blast to play, and incredibly skill intensive, so be warned. You’ll need to have your curve memorized, and sideboard with curve concerns in mind. There’s no feeling quite like trying to Pod for something, only to realize that you’re out of targets…. Obviously this writer has never done that. Ahem. Moving on….

Tempered Steel was the best deck of the previous Block constructed format, and not by a small margin. Steel was at times in the old standard incredibly potent, and a terrible choice. The nature of the decks reliance on both artifacts and its namesake Enchantment, makes it reasonably easy to hate out. Now that Steel Overseer is gone, the deck leans even further on Tempered Steel. I’d expect Green decks to be packing Naturalizes in their boards at the beginning of the format.

That said, there isn’t a ‘Green deck‘ at present, per se. All the green decks from old Standard were either Fauna Shaman, Lotus Cobra or Valakut decks, and with both of them gone, there’s no framework to fall back on, so anything that emerges will be an entirely new deck.

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas was the centrepiece of the 2nd best block deck. There’s a huge number of ways to build this deck. From the more combo-riffic versions, with Kuldotha Forgemaster to the more traditional UB Control decks, which use Tezzeret as an engine to filter through the deck, and provide the end game, through either ultimating or Inkmoth Nexus poison beats.

The problem with this strategy is that it hasn’t really gained anything from the new set. It existed as a tier-2 strategy before, gained nothing, and doesn’t strike me as being any better positioned now. Time will tell. I’m sure Tezz will be good at some point in this Standard environment. Whether or not it’s good enough is a different matter….

Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph are part of the new wave of Clone effects that seem to be getting pushed by Wizards at present. These are the two best ones. Both will see play, in a variety of decks, at most stages of the format. I can’t see the other effects seeing much play. Evil Twin is garbage, if flavourful, and Cackling Counterpart isn’t as good as either of these two.

Inkmoth Nexus, as many people before me have said, is now the only creature-land in the format.

This is an important part of why decks like Caw-blade were so good. The ability to max on lands while minimizing the amount of flood by providing a mana-sink was extremely important. The fact that Caw could run 26 lands, some number of which were pseudo-creatures, and Preordain, which let them play as though they ran 28 lands were so important to the decks success.

The fact that the only one we have access to deals Poison rather than damage is also worth looking at, and lends some extra value to creatures such as Phyrexian Crusader, who will likely now fill the Vampire Nighthawk role in the sideboard of Black decks, where previously they wouldn’t see play.

Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon is a £5 card at present. It still dies to Dismember, but in the same vein as above, gains in value when our creature-land poisons as well. Dismember is a heavily played kill-spell that can deal with it, so as the format moves away from that, Skittles becomes better. In a format where every creature is chosen with Dismember in mind, how long does it take before decks start relying on true removal, like Go for the Throat and Doom Blade rather than –X/-X? Or is Dismember so ubiquitous that Skittles gets meta’d out before it even got properly started?

Sword of X + Y. All of these are still good, in various decks. Body and Mind is the worst, but still has its uses. To be honest, being the worst Sword is sort of like being the poorest millionaire. It’s still powerful, still relevant, and worth considering. I can see these fluctuating in a way similar to the Titans. As the format evolves, each will take their place in the sun.

War and Peace is still insane against Control decks, Feast and Famine still lets control decks cheat on mana, and play like draw-go decks, and Body and Mind is still legal in the format. Sorry Body and Mind, I’m sure your time will come.

Hero of Oxid Ridge is a card that’s been seeing some love recently. Utilized in both the Vampires deck and the Stupid-Red-Decks, as well as being the closer in the RUG Pod decks. In a world of Timely Reinforcements, this guy is even more Timely for the aggro decks. This card is a poster-child for post-wrath recovery. Control decks drop the wrath, and you play this guy, and keep beating. He’s almost certainly better than any of the other alternative 4-drops that people are talking about, and most Aggro decks don’t want too many 4’s in their curve.

Elspeth Tirel combos very well with Mentor of the Meek, who in turn works incredibly well in a token based strategy. Working as your post-wrath recovery plan, refilling your hand, while impacting the board, Mentor is the real deal. There’s no Spectral Procession in the current format, but we could certainly be looking at a return to a token based deck being on top.

Sample, super rough GW Tokens deck:-

4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Blade Splicer
4 Hero of Bladehold
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Mentor of the Meek
2 Mikaeus, the Lunarch

4 Elspeth Tirel
4 Garruk Relentless
2 Overrun

9 Forest
4 Gavony Township
3 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
4 Sunpetal Grove

No sideboard. Real men only play 60 cards.

While that deck looks rough as hell, look at the synergy there. Everything barring the Hero of Bladehold triggers the Mentor of the Meek, so the amount of through-put this deck has when Mentor is online is insane. Also, Pyroclasm just rotated. Just sayin’.

I don’t like most of the Liliana of the Veil decks I’ve seen. The card is obviously insane, but the deck isn’t there for it yet. It will be one day, and will appear come States tournaments in a couple of weeks, no doubt, but I don’t think it’s there yet. In the Solar Flare decks I’ve seen, I’d rather be playing Forbidden Alchemy than Liliana, and I don’t want to be playing both.

Snapcaster Mage is the best card in the set. By miles. I’m amazed that it exists, but really happy that it does. He’s always at least as good as your worst instant or sorcery. Consider:-



When Discard Mage enters the battlefield, target opponent reveals his or her hand, and discards a Planeswalker or Creature card of your choice.


I’d play that.

Ponder mage  1UU
When Ponder mage enters the battlefield, look at the top 3 cards of your library, and put them back in any order. You may shuffle your library. Draw a card

I’d play that too.

Countermage 2UU
When Countermage enters the battlefield, counter target spell unless it’s controller pays 3.

I’d play that, with bells on.

Timelymage 3UW
When Timelymage enters the battlefield, if an opponent has more life than you, you gain 6 life. If an opponent controls more creatures than you, put 3 1/1 Soldier tokens onto the battlefield.

That seems silly. But I’d play it.

Doommage 2UB
When Doommage enters the battlefield, destroy target non-black creature.

Instant speed Nekrataal? Ok….

Snapcaster Mage is all these cards. And more. I can’t be bothered counting how many Instants and Sorceries there are in standard, but it’s a lot. Snapcaster Mage lets you rebuy them all, for 1U, and provides a reasonable body.

Not to undersell the fact that you can shank creatures from nowhere (Geist of Saint Traft, I’m looking at you) as well. This card is nuts, and I can’t believe it’s been printed. Seriously, Tiago Chan must have been performing Darwin Kastle-esque levels of trolling if THIS is the card that they deemed was OK to print out of all of his submissions.

I guess that’ll wind down my somewhat disjointed thoughts on what Standard’s going to look like come the weekend. Thanks for stopping by.

Stay classy MTGuk.


Bonus Decklist:-

UB Draw-go

1 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Grave Titan
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Wurmcoil Engine

1 Black Suns Zenith
2 Despise
2 Dismember
3 Dissipate
2 Doom Blade
4 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Karn, Liberated
4 Mana Leak
4 Think Twice
2 Tribute to Hunger
1 Volition Reins

2 Buried Ruin
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
9 Island
7 Swamp


2 Black Suns Zenith
2 Bloodline Keeper
3 Flashfreeze
2 Memoricide
2 Peace Strider
4 Sorin’s Thirst

Super bonus video link:-

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.



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