Cook’s Kitchen: Moving On

Cook’s Kitchen: Moving On

I’m over Zombies in Standard.

As much as I enjoy playing creepy crawlers and am a huge fan of zombies in general, I’m just sick of that deck. I’ve been riding the zombie wave since Star City Games: Baltimore and in that time I’ve grown tired of the inconsistencies of the red and black dead creatures. I’ve always felt that twenty-four lands in an aggro deck is too many, but the weird part about Standard is it’s the norm. When you’re aiming to consistently drop five mana dragons, it requires more land. The problem with that is it makes the deck run out of steam more easily. It’s a deck that lives off of its draws; every land after five is essentially a dead card. Not a single card in the deck can utilize extra mana either.

While we’re taking about the Zombie mana base there’s one glaring issue that I have. The deck aims to win or establish itself before Thragtusk can hit the table in order for the opponent to stabilize. It’s very difficult when the mana in zombies comes into play tapped so often. With Zombies there should be a threat dropped on the table every turn in order to set the tempo for the game and keep the opponent on their heels. When the deck isn’t doing this, it often loses. So I ask, why is it still playing “Enters the Battlefield Tapped” lands?

I’ve made a switch to a deck that doesn’t mind as much if it’s lands in the opening turns are coming into play sideways, UWr Midrange.

It doesn’t exactly look like Zombies, but it does have quite a few of the lands I was just talking about. The ones that come into play sideways, in fact, there’s four more than Zombies. The difference is that UWr Midrange doesn’t require mana in the early stages of the game on a regular basis. The mana curve of Midrange is slightly higher than Zombies meaning that the initial land drops of the game become less relevant unless the opponent is playing a fast aggro deck. If the opponent is trying to kill midrange quickly a turn one Pillar of Flame or even a turn two Azorius Charm or Essence Scatter become crucial. In these match-ups, I’d consider a mulligan with slower hands. Such as hands without interaction or awkward mana draws.

What UWr Midrange does look like is the UW Flash deck I wrote about before Baltimore, although, UWr Midrange is a completely different deck than UWr Flash. The play style between the two decks couldn’t be more different. Midrange is more of a tempo based blue deck that aims to apply some pressure while it stops the opponent from dropping threats. Flash is more of a traditional control deck at this point. Flash’s creatures are for value rather than putting a clock on the opponent. Actually, that’s the reason I chose Midrange over Flash, I like putting pressure on my opponents. I have always favored tempo based blue decks rather than traditional control based island decks. Both Flash and Midrange are great choices for the current metagame but I dislike the lack of clock that Flash presents. Without Restoration Angel that deck might have to swing twenty times with an Augur or Bolas or ten times with a Snapcaster Mage.

The defining difference between the two decks would be the main deck Geist of Saint Traft, as well as Thundermaw Hellkite. Both of these creatures provide a real threat when backed by counter magic and removal. It’s a fairly easy plan to follow, “Play a dangerous threat, counter spell their removal spells, and then use removal on their creatures.” Well, maybe it’s not exactly that easy every game.

Let’s break down the deck!

The mana base was already discussed for the most part, the deck plays the best available multi-color lands it possibly can along with one of each basic land. Then there’s a Moorland Haunt. I’m not exactly sure how good it is to be honest, I’ve played this deck in a single event since building it. A local Friday Night Magic with fourty-two players where I went 5-0-1 on the day drawing with fellow Jupiter Games writer Paolo Cesari in the final round. In all five rounds, I never activated Moorland Haunt once. I’m not saying it’s bad because I never used it, five rounds isn’t a lot of Magic. I’m saying I don’t have any experience with this deck with a singleton Haunt. Although, I will say this, without Runechanter’s Pike or another effective way to turn the tokens into serious threats they appear to be underwhelming.

After winning the FNM, a friend asked to look over my list for UWr Midrange. His first response was, “No Cavern of Souls?”

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why they’re not included. The list I originally based mine off didn’t play them. I would image it’s because of this decks mana cost requirements. With plenty of cards that require multiple colored mana to cast, perhaps the smartest thing isn’t to run more than a couple of colorless lands. If I were to add Cavern of Souls, I would likely cut the Moorland Haunt and Basic Mountain for a pair. As to which land is better for the deck? I’m still a bit unsure.

A full play set of both Snapcaster Mage and Restoration Angel, this is pretty standard amongst this archetype. What isn’t the norm is three copies of Thundermaw Hellkite as well as three copies of Geist of Saint Traft, there’s usually four copies of ‘Geist and two Thundermaw Hellkite. I moved to the three/three split because, frankly, Geist is often out classed on the ground too often and I don’t want to be stuck sitting on additional Geists in my hand. Thundermaw is a serious issue for decks right now, there’s not a whole lot other decks have against it. Which is another reason why I wanted to increase the number.

Part of the reason I chose UWr Midrange over Flash was it’s incredible removal package. Pillar of Flame has been a must for me in this format run by the undead, when paired with Searing Spear it’s completely possible to have enough reach to burn the opponent out too! Something unique about my list is the two copies of Mizzium Mortars, I’ve liked that card since it was printed. To me, any deck that can consistently produce it’s overload cost should play it. I cut a lonely Unsummon to add the first copy and a Rewind for the second. Rewind is only good in metagames with heavy control decks. Where I’m from Control decks are few and far between. In a larger metagame I would consider finding room for the Rewind, although, I’m not convinced it’s needed due to the sideboard counter magic. Next up would be the Charms; two Azorius and a single Izzet. They add some flexibility to the deck being multifunctional in different types of match-ups, removal against aggro, draw spells against control, and sometimes a hidden Counterspell.

The counter package is pretty standard, I’ve considered cutting an Essence Scatter for a second Counterflux since the deck is already very impressive against creature decks. But I regress to the fact that there just aren’t very many control decks in Syracuse. If I were to travel to a Star City Event I could definitely switch the numbers. Part of the reason that I don’t think the deck needs the copy of Rewind is the additional Counterspells from the sideboard. Rewind is mainly there to deny an end step Sphinx’s Revelation and keep mana available. Dispel and Negate fill the same role while not being blatantly obvious. A Bant player won’t be casting their Revelation into a Dissipate or Counterflux if they don’t have to, they’ll suspect you have one if you’re always leaving three mana open. Be sneaky! Keep a Sulfur Falls untapped and reject a Sphinx’s Revelation unexpectedly.

The sideboard is dedicated to beating the control decks that the deck isn’t completely prepared for game one. The game plan against control decks is to side out the burn spells for the four additional counter spells, the two copies of Tamiyo and Zealous Conscripts. I would also side out a single Azorius Charm for the third Detention Sphere, since it’s basically just a cantrip.

Unfortunately, I will not be in attendance for Grand Prix: Denver this weekend or Atlantic City the following weekend. Work has me flying out to Las Vegas for CES 2013, which will overlap both Grand Prix. Rough life, right? It’s apart of not being a full-time, card slinging, mastermind like some others out there. One thing I have managed to do for my resolutions is set down a deck when I know its time is over.

I would like to wish all of the storm players or as I like to call them, “Storm troopers” good luck out in Denver.

Well that’s all for this week, come back again next week! Until then, keep Storming!

Bryant Cook

Bryant Cook on MTGtheSource


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