nnistrad hits the shelves on Friday and will be Standard legal for the weekend. Diving headfirst into a new format requires a lot of trial and error. Many well-known deckbuilders will write columns, but initial lists will be rough and unrefined. Today, I'd like to present to you what I believe to be one of the best decks in the new Standard.
A new format is often difficult to build for. Fresh control decks are bound to have their numbers wrong when they don't know the questions they need to be answering. Getting as aggressive as possible is one of the most common strategies amongst deckbuilders tackling a new format. Today, I would like to share one of the best aggro decks for post-rotation Standard.
Mentor of the Meek | Art by Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
I've seen a lot of Green-White Token decks floating around the Internet. Most of these decks are token based and plan on abusing planeswalkers like Garruk Relentless and Elspeth Tirel. The token-based strategies seem weak to me, though. Planning to win on the sixth turn seems questionable when every black control deck has access to Curse of Death's Hold, which blanks your entire deck by giving all your creatures -1/-1. Forum dwellers on every Magic website have decided that Humans, as an archetype, is underpowered and unplayable. I have some good news for all humans, though. All the forums are very wrong. In fact, Humans just might be the fastest deck in the new format. It's even faster than any red deck I've been able to come up with.
We'll get right into the thick of things with a decklist:
Standard (as of September 30, 2011)
Let's start by taking a look at the creatures:
Champion of the Parish, a rare from Innistrad, is a powerful one-drop that puts an incredible amount of pressure on your opponent. It's hard to encapsulate just how powerful this guy is in a dedicated human deck. I intend on playing enough one-drops that it won't be unreasonable for me to cast two of them on the second turn and attack for 3. Champion of the Parish is a seemingly weak draw when it is not in your opening hand, but Mentor of the Meek ensures that there will be enough Humans in your hand to make the Champion into a viable threat at any stage of the game.
Speaking of Mentor of the Meek, have you guys read this card? Sure, Snapcaster Mage may be the best card in Innistrad, but Mentor of the Meek is a close second. Mentor gives aggressive decks the ability to stay at or above parity (in terms of card advantage) even against control decks with powerful spells like Forbidden Alchemy. These are still fairly easy to acquire through trading, and I would recommend picking up a playset before the masses catch on to the true power level of this spell.
I've always been a fan of Savannah Lions. Elite Vanguard is a 2/1 for one mana that has the exceptional bonus of being a Human Soldier. Playing four copies each of Elite Vanguard and Champion of the Parish will ensure that you have a reasonably aggressive start in most of your games.
Avacyn's Pilgrim is another awesome one-drop for this deck. It enables turn-two Mentor of the Meek and it lets you quickly empty your hand in match-ups where board presence is most important. It's a Human, so it's going to get pumped by Mayor of Avabruck, Adaptive Automaton, and Hamlet Captain. Mana creatures like Avacyn's Pilgrim are usually unnecessary for aggressive decks with very low curves, but this deck makes good use of the mana creature as the game progresses. It's nice to attack for 3 or 4 with your one-drop mana creature on turn three.
Gideon's Lawkeeper is another great one-drop Human. Having a tapper makes it difficult for opponents to interact with anything other than Day of Judgment, Consume the Meek, or Black Sun's Zenith. It's also worth noting how good Gideon's Lawkeeper is when you're up against an opponent with Swords. Sure, Invisible Stalker will still cause some problems, but things are generally very good for you when your opponent spends the first few turns casting utility creatures that just get run over by an angry mob of Humans.
I hope you saved your Prerelease promotional card, because Mayor of Avabruck is an all-star here. Two-mana lords are obviously strong, but some may worry about what happens when your opponent lets Mayor of Avabruck transform. Fortunately, Howlpack Alpha is nothing to sneeze at. A 3/3 for two mana that makes more creatures every turn and increases in power with multiple copies is a fine addition to any aggro deck. These should be fairly easy to acquire because they were the Prerelease promo. Just about everyone at your local shop should have at least one.
Hamlet Captain is another Human lord. Initially, I had Accorder Paladin in this spot, but Hamlet Captain's ability to pump toughness really put it over the edge for me. The deck plays enough lords that Hamlet Captain's trigger should make even your one-drops big enough to attack through Blade Splicer's 3/3 first-striking Golem token.
Adaptive Automaton is the top of the curve. It's another lord, and it becomes a human as it enters the battlefield. I'd like to play a fourth copy of this, but I think three should be plenty for now. Again, Adaptive Automaton is a rare, but it's easily acquired through trading.
Now let's talk about the spells.
I played a good amount with the Illusions deck before rotation, and Gitaxian Probe was always one of my favorite spells in the deck. It gave me the ability to play around board-sweeping effects when I needed to, and to apply maximum pressure otherwise. This decklist makes Gitaxian Probe especially good by playing a few copies of Nevermore. Imagine the frustration of an opponent who shows you a pair of Day of Judgment when you Gitaxian Probe, only to have you cast Nevermore naming the powerful board-sweeping effect.
Gitaxian Probe also allows you to make perfect plays with perfect knowledge. You can cast a two-drop and leave open mana for Dismember because you know your opponent is going to cast a Mentor of the Meek or Puresteel Paladin on the next turn. You can Oblivion Ring a Sphere of the Suns if you see that your opponent doesn't have a third land. This information makes it possible to win a lot of games that might be otherwise unwinnable.
Nevermore is pretty awesome. Naming Day of Judgment or Black Sun's Zenith against white-blue or blue-black control decks is going to make the game very difficult for them. Sometimes you cast Gitaxian Probe on the third turn and see that an opponent has two or three copies of the same card in hand. Casting a Nevermore for the named card will often force a concession in these types of spots. I used to use Vendilion Clique with Meddling Mage, and I see no reason why Gitaxian Probe and Nevermore won't have a similar effect.
Oblivion Ring came back in Magic 2012, and I'm happy to see it. One of the most versatile removal spells in the game's history, Oblivion Ring can be used to kill a creature, but it can also be used to deal with planeswalkers like Gideon Jura, one of the most powerful cards that can be played against you as a Humans pilot. Sword of War and Peace can also be problematic, especially when your opponent has an Invisible Stalker on the battlefield. Having a few copies of Oblivion Ring means that there's no permanent that can keep a good human down.
The lands for the deck are pretty straightforward. Sunpetal Grove is going to take a seat on the sidelines today, because it's incredibly important that your lands don't enter the battlefield tapped.
The sideboard is a thing of beauty.
Tempered Steel decks will have a decent match-up against you in the first game as long as they draw their namesake enchantment. Saving Oblivion Ring is important if you want to win. Mentor of the Meek will let you generate enough card advantage that you should be able to profitably trade and win a good deal of Game 1s. Games 2 and 3, however, will not be so difficult. Creeping Corrosion is absolutely backbreaking in a lot of match-ups. Decks like Tezzeret, Puresteel Paladin, and Tempered Steel will probably lose the moment your big green sorcery is cast. I literally cannot say enough good things about Creeping Corrosion as a sideboard option in the new Standard. Think about Perish, a sideboard card that was far too powerful. Creeping Corrosion is on par with Perish in this metagame. It's always going to generate card advantage and it's usually going to result in some absurd four-for-one trade.
Fiend Hunter is very good against the Puresteel Paladin decks that I expect to do very well after rotation. Exiling an opposing Mentor of the Meek or Puresteel Paladin while continuing to apply pressure with more Humans is a pretty sweet course of action. This card is also quite strong against traditional creature decks or the mirror match.
You want an extra copy of Nevermore against decks that have board sweepers. Multiple copies of Nevermore aren't even bad. It isn't unreasonable to leave your opponent with a full grip stranded if you use a well-timed Gitaxian Probe.
Purify the Grave is a nice haymaker against Reanimator decks. It only costs one, so you can continue to apply pressure and leave one mana open for the turn your opponent gets to four mana. You want to reanimate that Sun Titan? Sorry, friend, I'd like to exile it instead. If you happen to have Surgical Extraction, then I'd recommend using that. Sun Titan is going to be the Reanimator target of choice, and you can successfully neuter most control decks by Surgically Extracting a Sun Titan at any stage of the game.
I wanted some extra copies of Dismember for post-sideboard games. This is especially important against Puresteel Paladin and other Humans decks. Basically, any deck with Mentor of the Meek or Puresteel Paladin will find it difficult to beat your aggression backed up by some well-timed removal.
The last three spots in the sideboard should probably be Mirran Crusader. Mirran Crusader can be difficult to trade for, but if you happen to have a playset I would include one in the main over an Adaptive Automaton and three as the last sideboard slots. As it stands, I've included extra Gideon's Lawkeepers for non-Puresteel Paladin Sword decks and an extra Automaton for match-ups where I need another sideboard slot.
Is this deck good?
Hamlet Captain | Art by Wayne Reynolds
Yes! I've been fortunate enough to play a few matches with the deck, and I can wholeheartedly assure you that it's insane. In fact, if I play in a Standard tournament this weekend there is a 90% chance that I'll be fighting with Humans. (There's at least a 10% chance that I break the format by Friday, right?)
This deck kills people on turn four. It's not just capable of turn-four kills, it actually delivers them with a startling level of consistency. I challenge you to play ten solitaire games with the deck and record how often you deal 20 damage by the fourth turn. The spells are awesome at what they need to be doing and the deck gives you a lot of room to outplay your opponent.
This is the perfect deck if you haven't decided on a deck for post-Innistrad Standard and you want to find something budget friendly. I'm going to make a bold statement and say that this is the best aggressive archetype in the new format. Enjoy it!