Hello Premodern people!
The upcoming weekend it’s time for the Euro champs in Darmstadt, Germany. With around 200+ players registered for the main event on Saturday, we’re once again expecting to break the record for a real-life Premodern tournament, currently held by this year’s North American champs at Lobstercon, with 186 players (the same record-breaking cycle as last year, I believe). The weekend is going to be packed with side events but mostly I’m looking forward to just hang out with Premodern folks from all over—I hope to see a lot of you guys there!
I’ve been mulling about my deck choice for Euros quite a bit. Last year I played a control-style Lands deck with Humility and Decree of Justice, and this year, one of my candidate decks is UW Standstill featuring the same cards. I guess I just got a thing for these cards.
I’ve been tinkering a lot with this deck, with the main goal of making it better against fast creature based decks like Goblins and Elves, compared to the stock Landstill versions. I’ve playtested numerous iterations of the deck in 136 games against myself, and some against other persons too. 🙂
I’ve tried various combinations of numbers of Phyrexian Furnace, Impulse and Fact or Fiction, Annul, Absorb, Seal of Cleansing etc, with some Lat-Nam’s Legacy thrown in the mix as well. I’ve also tried a more tap-out oriented build with the full set of Meddling Mage and Exalted Angel in the main deck.
This is where I’m at right now.
As you can see I’ve trimmed off some fat, cutting Fact or Fiction entirely and going down to two copies of Decree of Justice, as I found that I was often cursing for having these in my hand in the early game for no good. Hence, Leanstill.
Inspired by the Stifle-Nought decks, I’ve added the full set of Portent. It makes for more keepable hands, and smooths out the mana. This is desirable, since you really want to have access to double white on turn four, to cast Wrath of God and Humility on curve. And speaking of Humility, I run two copies, compared to the standard single copy. The card is so powerful, not only against the aggressive tribal decks, but also against all sorts of creature based combo decks with Phyrexian Devourer and whatnot. And a solid proactive card against Phyrexian Dreadnought and his best buddy Meddling Mage.
Fact or Fiction is a case of “kill your darlings”. As much as I love the card, I felt that it was mostly used to dig for a specific answer anyways, like a Wrath of God. If the opponent knows what he’s doing, you’re not getting much extra value, so Impulse basically does the job better. It can also put you in a weird spot where you need to pick the Wrath of God pile, and be forced to bin a precious copy of Decree of Justice or Humility (or another Wrath!).
Standstill—a.k.a. ancestral-in-a-can—is our go-to source of card advantage. I think this card is amazing and I don’t get some lists recently running only three copies. It’s not unusual to just slam it on turn two, and it’s a great way to undo a mulligan. One should not be too afraid to tap out with this deck, as we can deal with most things on the board. In general, I think it’s a pipe dream to play the deck as a draw-go deck with total control anyways. You need to be a bit opportunistic with your game plan, get value where you can, and be ready to quickly switch gears and go for the throat with manlands or perhaps a couple of angels off Decree of Justice. Games often get very grindy, every life point matters as a resource, and you often win (or lose!) by a small margin.
Here are some comments about specific card choices:
- Seal of Cleansing vs Disenchant: Testing against Elves, it was obvious that Disenchant was much better, since we can destroy a Tangle Wire or Winter Orb end or turn, or second-best during our upkeep. If we pre-cast Seal of Cleansing, they can adapt their line, or even destroy it first with a Naturalize. Versus Stifle-Nought, Seal of Cleansing is weak to Stifle. There is little reason to play Seal of Cleansing in this deck unless you also play…
- … Enlightened Tutor! This card seems so good on paper, not least for sideboard silver bullets. In practice, I found that the mana, tempo and card disadvantage was not worth it.
- Faerie Conclave vs Forbidding Watchtower: while these cards are not substitutes, since one is clearly aggressive whereas the other is defensive, they do compete for the same comes-into-played-tapped slots. Faerie Conclave is a way to increase the scarce number of win cons, but I think it’s a bit too fragile, and tapping two blue sources is not always possible if you want to hold up mana for Counterspell. I added Forbidding Watchtower mainly to have another way of locking up the game once Humility hits the board. It’s not bad on its own though. Unlike Mishra’s Factory, it survives both Disenchant effects and Lightning Bolt. It can keep a Ravenous Baloth at bay, or soak up (most of) a Ball Lightning if needed.
- Annul: this card is so efficient, and countering a Survival of the Fittest is often better than Disenchanting it after. We need some answers to resolved artifacts and enchantments too, though, so it’s a trade-off. It’d be nice to fit a third one in the sideboard…
- Phyrexian Furnace: Brian Selden ran three in his winning deck from Lobstercon, and it’s not costly to include it, but I could only find place for one. These can be better in multiples, but it’s still much better having one than zero grave hate cards in the 75. It’s a bonus that it taps to Tangle Wire.
Last weekend, I ran the deck at a tournament at the local game store Dragon’s Lair in Stockholm. The tournament, which was the first of its kind here, had a Mox Diamond as first prize, and attracted 19 players. The tournament structure was five rounds of Swiss followed by a top 8. This is what my deck looked like
I got the bye in the first round, which was a bit of a bummer, but it gave me time to scout out the starting field, which looked as follows:
- 3x UW Standstill (including myself)
- 3x Goblins
- 2x The Rock
- Deadguy Ale
- UR Tinker
- Stifle-Nought (mono U)
- RW Rifter
- “Jank” midrange (GBW)
- Oath Devourer combo
- GWU midrange
In the second round, I faced Mattias on UR Tinker, featuring Goblin Welder, the Phyrexian Devourer + Altar of Dementia combo, and a bunch of lock pieces. In the first game I won after resolving Humility—a card which the UR deck had no main deck answers to besides a couple of Smokestack. In game 2 I was under some pressure from a first turn Black Vise. I stabilized, and after some back and forth Mattias managed to resolve a Winter Orb. It’s a nightmare card for us, but hurt Mattias a bit as well if I remember correctly, since he didn’t have any mana rocks. But he managed to squeeze in a Triskelion and I couldn’t find a Disenchant or a Swords to Plowshares to deal with it.
One of the worst cards for Landstill…
In game 3, we traded some threats and answers, whereafter I blew up his only blue mana source with Dust Bowl. I had Counterspell but decided to tap out for Humility, I believe that helped me reduce my hand size to avoid damage from Black Vise. Mattias drew a blue source however, and thus had a window to Tinker away Black Vise for a Winter Orb. The game went into a stalemate and ended up in a draw.
I faced Björn who played a fairly classic build of The Rock, including Living Wish. We split the first two games. In the game I lost I resolved Humility, but he had a lot of dudes to overrun me, with some help from my pain lands. In the third game, I had sided out Humility, with the plan of winning with Blinding Angel protected by Meddling Mage naming Pernicious Deed (punishing a likely switch of spot removals for Naturalize post-board). The game gradually went my way, as I kept making land drops, with a full grip of cards, including a Stroke of Genius that I had sided in. Björn played Haunting Echoes, commenting that it’ll never resolve. I didn’t have a counterspell though. But with four or five counterspells left in the deck (Mana Leak would have worked), I played Stroke of Genius for seven in hope to find one. But I didn’t. Awkward. I had all of my copies of Decree of Justice, Swords to Plowshares and Meddling Mage left between my hand (which was enormous at this point) and deck, though, so I managed to close the game shortly thereafter with a couple of angel tokens, with Meddling Mage guarding against Pernicious Deed.
I faced Fredrik who was 3–0 with RG Goblins. In this whole match, I pretty much had all the answers all the time. In game 1, I was on the play and I think he opened with a Skirk Prospector followed by a Goblin Piledriver (or was it just a Goblin Lackey?), which I exiled with Swords to Plowshares. Fredrik followed up with a Goblin Matron for Goblin Ringleader. I had lands to spare, so I decided to destroy a couple of non-basics for him (there are plenty in the RG version) over the following the turns. This bought me some time, and when the Goblin Ringleader was finally cast, I was ready with Counterspell. Two other Ringleaders followed shortly thereafter, but I was ready with two more Counterspell (I probably replenished my hand with Standstill somewhere along the way).
In game 2 (on the draw) I kept a hand with Swords to Plowshares, Hydroblast, Rain of Blades, Coastal Tower and three Mishra’s Factory. Fredrik had the signature opening of Goblin Lackey into Siege-Gang Commander, but as I had drawn an Adarkar Wastes, I could remove his whole team with Rain of Blades and Swords to Plowshares, saving the Hydroblast to counter a Goblin Ringleader, and I could answer all the goblin threats from there on.
Intentional draw with Rickard (on Natural Order Rock).
So, I was 3-0-2, and top of the Swiss, but with only two honest wins, hehe. The top 8 consisted of two UW Standstill, Stasis, RG Goblins, UR Tinker, Stifle-Nought, RW Rifter and Natural Order Rock.
I was paired against Mårten, who was also on Standstill. Unfortunately for me, my list is not particularly strong in the mirror matchup, with fewer copies of Decree of Justice and no Fact or Fiction. Mårten, on the other hand, was on four Decree of Justice and besides Fact or Fiction, he also ran Accumulated Knowledge. Mårten played it well and it was impossible for me to keep up, and he took both games.
Mattias went on to win with his UR Tinker deck, splitting the prize with Mårten in the finals. Congrats, and well played! Also, props to Patrik Thor on Dragon’s Lair for a smooth event.
I’m quite happy with this version of the UW Standstill archetype. The deck is consistent and powerful. I’m not entirely convinced about having only two copies of Decree of Justice plus manlands as win conditions in the main deck, though. In theory it’s enough, but in timed tournament rounds it may take a bit too long to wrap up the game. It can also create challenging situations, e.g. if both of your Decree of Justice get discarded versus The Rock. In this case you need to play really tight in order to go all the way with the manlands. For these reasons, this may not be my deck choice for the Euros, but we’ll see…
If I don’t see you at the Euros, don’t forget to tune in to the live stream on Saturday, at twitch.tv/wakwakmtg!