Buidling Decks with Return to Ravnica – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

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UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop

Buidling Decks with Return to Ravnica – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

 

My girlfriend snores like no-one’s business. If you imagine a cartoon of someone snoring, she’s louder than that. There’s generally one position she can lie in that will stop her snoring for the night, and enable me to actually get some sleep. Sadly, that position changes from night to night, so each evening, I’m left dealing with the challenge of finding the one position that I can get her to be quiet in, and fall asleep in the brief window before she rolls over. It’s a nightmare.

Building constructed decks is, to me, like trying to get a good night’s sleep. What worked yesterday probably won’t work today, and I’ve only got a small window to act on things before external forces start conspiring to ruin my fun.

The Plan

This article will be somewhat unlike my usual fare, in that it’s primarily going to be decklists. Some of these have been tinkered with, others have not. Most of them are lists that I’ve found around the internet, and aren’t mine. I don’t take credit for any of these lists, as they’re not mine. What this represents is the gauntlet of ‘best decks’ as I perceive them, and while they’re probably nowhere near as tuned as they could be, they represent a decent starting point for the format, which is, if nothing else, a good thing.

The way I see things, there are five basic areas to which it is likely to be able to classify your deck. These are the standard Aggro, Control and Combo as well as Mid Range and Ramp strategies. I’ll work through some of the options available under these broad banners. If you’ve got nothing to add barring the fact that you perceive me to have mis-classified a deck, please attempt to restrain yourself. It’s not important, for the purposes of this article, which is intended more as a list-dump than an in-depth deck tech on any of the featured decks.

Aggro Decks

First up, is Aggro. Traditionally speaking, Aggro decks are the most powerful at the dawn of a new format. People are experimenting with what’s available, and won’t have the most tuned decks, which are likely to stumble. Hyper-aggressive linear aggro decks are the best positioned to take advantage of any stumbles in board development.

I’m going to start off with the two aggro decks including Red that I perceive to be the strongest, B/R Zombies and Mono-Red. These decks typically include Small creatures to chip away at an opponent’s life in the early game, and a decent smattering of burn spells, to either clear away the opposition defenders, or to point to the face if the board becomes legitimately stalled.

Mono Red Aggro

4 Ash Zealot
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
3 Stonewright
4 Stromkirk Noble

4 Brimstone Volley
3 Flames of the Firebrand
4 Pillar of Flame
4 Searing Spear
4 Thunderbolt

18 Mountain
4 Hellion Crucible

SB

3 Geistflame
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Pithing Needle
3 Thundermaw Hellkite
2 Traitorous Blood
3 Zealous Conscripts

It’s possible that this deck wants some Faithless Lootings in the maindeck, as a way to keep the gas flowing, possibly in the place of the Flames of the Firebrand, but I’d rather have the deck aimed at being as fast as possible than slowing it down for consistency’s sake.

The sideboard should be relatively self-explanatory. Plenty of hate for Lingering Souls, and ways to fight decks that are attempting to go over the top. This style of deck is about as old as Magic itself, and will be nothing new to the majority of players.

Rakdos Zombies

4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Geralf’s Messenger
4 Gravecrawler
3 Knight of Infamy
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Rakdos Shred-Freak

2 Brimstone Volley
2 Dreadbore
2 Flames of the Firebrand
3 Searing Spear
4 Sign in Blood
3 Tragic Slip

4 Blood Crypt
4 Dragonskull Summit
13 Swamp

SB

3 Appetite for Brains
2 Cremate
2 Electrickery
3 Liliana of the Veil
2 Rakdos Charm
1 Thundermaw Hellkite
2 Ultimate Price

Very similar to the Mono-Red list above, though this deck skimps on lands, and attempts to get the majority of its reach from creatures like Geralf’s Messenger. The Sign in Blood’s are a huge upgrade on the Mono-Red version, as the ability to function as an additional burn spell, as well as a way to keep the gas flowing is just too good to pass up.

As with the Mono Red deck, the SB is largely focused on beating Lingering Souls and decks that go over the top. Its low land count means that maxing out on fives is not possible, so it makes do with other options. I’m inclined to prefer the mono-red sideboard over this.

Moving away from Red we can look at the perennial good guys of Magic, the Humans

Selesnya Humans

3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Champion of the Parish
2 Fiend Hunter
4 Mayor of Avabruck
4 Precinct Captain
2 Riders of Gavony
2Silverblade Paladin
3 Sublime Archangel
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

3 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
4 Rancor
3 Selesnya Charm

4 Cavern of Souls
2 Forest
2 Gavony Township
8 Plains
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden

SB

4 Knight of Glory
3 Sigarda, Host of Herons
4 Slayer of the Wicked
2 War Priest of Thune
2 Wolfir Silverheart

This is a standard white based aggro deck. The usual strengths and weaknesses of the archetype are here. You’ve got a first rate one drop in Champion of the Parish, and we’re using cards like Rancor and Riders of Gavony in an attempt to keep him relevant for longer than usual. The absence of any sort of reach, ala burn spells is always the main drawback to this type of aggro deck, so we’re building it in a way that attempts to maximise our creatures.

This isn’t re-inventing the wheel. You’ll likely know whether or not this is an archetype you’re interested in playing before now.

This deck definitely has excellent mana, and makes superb use of Cavern of Souls, which is still relevant, even in a post-Mana Leak world.

Returning to Zombies, though slightly unhealthier looking ones, we come to…

Golgari Zombies

4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Dreg Mangler
4 Geralf’s Messenger
4 Gravecrawler
4 Lotleth Troll
4 Rakdos Shred-Freak

2 Murder
4 Rancor
4 Sign in Blood
4 Tragic Slip

4 Cavern of Souls
1 Golgari Guildgate
4 Overgrown Tomb
10 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery

SB

3 Cower in Fear
3 Duress
2 Liliana of the Veil
2 Skirsdag High Priest
3 Thragtusk
2 Underworld Connections

This version, unlike the Rakdos one above, has sufficient Zombies to make Cavern of Souls worthwhile, and I suppose you might just ‘Get’ someone who hasn’t got the memo that counters aren’t very good any more. The sideboard is constructed largely with the mirror match in mind, which certainly seems reasonable. In a mirror, you either want to be significantly faster, or be the deck that goes over the top, and that’s what Thragtusk allows you to do.

This seems to be the default ‘deck to beat’ in the opening days of the format. Time will tell.

Midrange Decks

Slowing down our decks a little bit, we’ll move into the Midrange decks. These decks are traditionally somewhat slower than the Aggro decks previously discussed, and attempt to go over the top of what they’re doing while still presenting a clock for an opponent to deal with, which separates them from tap-out control decks. This is very broadly speaking, of course. I don’t usually like getting myself particularly bogged down in classifying decks, as I fail to see how knowing what kind of deck I’m playing actually helps me in a real-game situation, assuming I actually have a knowledge of what’s in my deck, and a rough idea of how it’s meant to play.

Junk Midrange

2 Angel of Serenity
4 Arbor Elf
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Borderland Ranger
3 Disciple of Bolas
3 Loxodon Smiter
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thragtusk

3 Cloudshift
2 Farseek
4 Lingering Souls

7 Forest
2 Gavony Township
4 Overgrown Tomb
3 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Temple Garden
2 Vault of the Archangel

SB

2 Angel of Glory’s Rise
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
3 Knight of Glory
3 Oblivion Ring
2 Tree of Redemption
3 Wolfir Silverheart

There’s very little going on here that shouldn’t be obvious. We’re a Restoration Angel deck, with a Lingering Souls plan. It’s tough to see how Zombies beats a blinked Thragtusk, so we’re building our deck in an effort to maximise the chances of that happening. This colour combination is lucky in that it wants to be base-green, and both the new Ravnica duals allow that to happen with a minimum of fuss.

The sideboard is pretty unfocused. This colour combination can deal with anything, and when one of your backup plans is to cast Disciple of Bolas and sacrifice a Thragtusk, you’re likely to have enough time to find the answers you’re looking for. I dream of casting Angel of Glory’s Rise against a Zombies opponents, and you should too.

Is Red better than White? Let’s look at Jund, and see if we can decide.

Jund

4 Borderland Ranger
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Thragtusk

4 Abundant Growth
2 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Dreadbore
4 Farseek
3 Garruk Relentless
2 Golgari Keyrune
3 Pillar of Flame
1 Rakdos’s Return
1 Vraska the Unseen

4 Blood Crypt
1 Dragonskull Summit
4 Evolving Wilds
3 Forest
2 Mountain
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Rootbound Crag
2 Swamp
2 Woodland Cemetery

SB

3 Annihilating Fire
2 Bonfire of the Damned
3 Duress
1 Pillar of Flame
3 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Vraska the Unseen
2 Zealous Conscripts

What do you think? This deck uses the Block constructed decks as a base, fixes the mana, and upgrades some of the less than stellar Innistrad cards *cough*Avacyn’s Pilgrim*cough* into more permanent ramp with Farseek. I’m unconvinced that the deck still wants Abundant Growth, but I’ll need to experiment a bit with it. My gut tells me that Junk is the better Midrange deck, but your mileage may vary.

Control Decks

Sliding effortlessly into control now, there’s only really two decks that I’m interested in talking about, Grixis Control and Azorius Miracles. First up is:-

Grixis

2 Augur of Bolas
1 Griselbrand
1 Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
1 Olivia Voldaren
2 Snapcaster Mage

1 Blasphemous Act
1 Curse of Death’s Hold
1 Cyclonic Rift
4 Desperate Ravings
2 Dreadbore
2 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Gilded Lotus
1 Increasing Ambition
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Mizzium Mortars
1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
4 Pillar of Flame
1 Rakdos’s Return
1 Syncopate

4 Blood Crypt
1 Desolate Lighthouse
2 Dragonskull Summit
3 Drowned Catacomb
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Island
2 Mountain
3 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
3 Swamp

SB

2 Annihilating Fire
1 Augur of Bolas
1 Curse of Death’s Hold
1 Devil’s Play
3 Duress
2 Liliana of the Veil
2 Negate
1 Rakdos’s Return
2 Tribute to Hunger

This deck really appeals to me. It’s everything I want to be doing, and looks like an absolute blast to play. You might recall, I’m the guy who ran Griselbrand to the finals of a Scottish WMCQ, and I’m always looking for a deck that could make good use of him.

Really, any deck that features Griselbrand, Olivia Voldaren, Niv-Mizzet and Nicol Bolas is always going to be a home-run for me, and I can’t wait to experiment with this deck further.

Azorius Miracles

2 Azorius Keyrune
4 Azorius Charm
2 Detention Sphere
2 Dissipate
4 Entreat the Angels
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Oblivion Ring
3 Supreme Verdict
2 Sphinx’s Revelation
2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
4 Terminus
4 Think Twice
1 Thought Scour

1 Azorius Guildgate
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
6 Island
5 Plains

SB

1 Dissipate
4 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Lone Revenant
2 Negate
3 Rest in Peace
1 Supreme Verdict
2 Witchbane Orb

Another deck that’s built on the blocks of a Innistrad block deck; This one on the winner of PT Avacyn Restored’s UW Miracle deck. We’re, ideally, upgrading the mana base, and smoothing out the Maindeck. I like Azorius Charm over Feeling of Dread, as it pulls double duty in instant speed card draw AND removal. I’m not sure which is better.

This deck will definitely produce the most ‘Oh shit’ moments from an opponent, when they think they’re doing ok, and suddenly, 5 Angels appear from nowhere. Very interesting deck, and comes with quite the pedigree.

There are many other potential control colour combinations, but those are the two that I feel have the most potential, and look the most developed, which is important in the early days of a format.

Combo Decks

Moving on now, the only combo deck which I fell remotely comfortable discussing are the Reanimator variants. Obviously, Sun Titan and Elesh Norn are gone, but there are definitely some powerful creatures that we can pull out of our Graveyard. Here are a couple of examples:-

Angel of Glory’s Rise Combo

4 Angel of Glory’s Rise
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Borderland Ranger
2 Falkenrath Aristocrat
3 Fiend Hunter
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Kessig Malcontents

4 Faithless Looting
4 Grisly Salvage
2 Jarad’s Orders
3 Mulch
4 Unburial Rites

1 Blood Crypt
4 Evolving Wilds
1 Forest
2 Mountain
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains
2 Rootbound Crag
1 Swamp
4 Temple Garden
1 Vault of the Archangel
1 Woodland Cemetery

SB

3 Abrupt Decay
1 Acidic Slime
1 Armada Wurm
2 Cathedral Sanctifier
1 Golgari Charm
1 Jarad’s Orders
2 Restoration Angel
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
2 Slayer of the Wicked
1 Zealous Conscripts

This deck is an update of Travis Woo’s block constructed deck. It features infinite life, infinite 2/2 creatures and infinite damage combos, which work as follows:-

Step one, get Angel of Glory’s Rise on the battlefield
Step two, return Huntmaster of the Fells and Fiend Hunter to the battlefield
Step three, using the Fiend Hunter, target your Angel of Glory’s Rise – Allow the ability to resolve. Gain two life from Huntmaster of the Fells, and put a 2/2 Wolf token onto the battlefield
Step four, using the Falkenrath Aristocrat you’ve already got, sacrifice both the Huntmaster of the Fells and the Fiend Hunter. Place the +1/+1 counters on the Aristocrat
Step five, return the Angel of Glory’s Rise to play.
Step six, repeat steps two through five, gaining infinite life, creating an infinite/infinite Falkenrath Aristocrat, and infinite 2/2 wolf tokens.

In order to do infinite damage, you can replace the Huntmaster with Kessig Malcontents for a similar, game ending effect.

Previously, Cyrus Bales wrote about an Oros coloured reanimator deck. This deck is an update of that, though presumably Cyrus will have his own take on the deck. Maybe if you ask nicely, he’ll share his version with you.

Griselbrand Combo

4 Angel of Serenity
4 Griselbrand

4 Faithless Looting
4 Lingering Souls
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Pillar of Flame
4 Terminus
3 Tragic Slip
4 Unburial Rites
4 Wild Guess

4 Blood Crypt
4 Clifftop Retreat
2 Dragonskull Summit
3 Evolving Wilds
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Mountain
2 Plains
2 Swamp
1 Vault of the Archangel

SB

2 Annihilating Fire
3 Liliana of the Veil
3 Olivia Voldaren
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Pillar of Flame
3 War Priest of Thune

This is pretty raw, and is presented untested. It was pretty good at the tail end of last format, but I’m inclined to believe that that’s not the case now. Clearly Angel of Salvation is Plan A, though whether that’s good enough is still up for debate.

Ramp Decks

Closing out now, we’ll look at a ramp strategy.

Junk Ramp

4 Angel of Serenity
2 Armada Wurm
4 Centaur Healer
2 Griselbrand
4 Thragtusk

4 Chromatic Lantern
4 Farseek
4 Lingering Souls
4 Ranger’s Path
4 Terminus

6 Forest
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains
4 Sunpetal Grove
1 Swamp
4 Temple Garden
2 Vault of the Archangel
4 Woodland Cemetery

SB

3 Angel of Glory’s Rise
4 Duress
2 Purify the Grave
3 Underworld Connections
3 Vraska the Unseen

The ramp plan should be pretty obvious to most of us by now. Cast spells which accelerate your mana, then do stupidly powerful things ahead of the curve. There’s nothing back-breaking like Primeval Titan into Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle any more, but there are certainly a large assortment of fatties that wouldn’t mind coming down ahead of curve. Turn four Armada Wurm is definitely a realistic goal with this deck, and will definitely happen.

Final Thoughts

That concludes our look at where I think the format will start. These are all decks that I’ve got saved on Cockatrice, and will be trying out over the coming weeks. Once again, I take no credit whatsoever for the design of these decks, they’ve come from various sources around the internet, so thanks various sources.

Hope this was useful.

Stay classy mtgUK

Grant

 

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