A midrange Standard

Over at Channel Fireball, Gerry T breaks down the current Standard, including a discussion of how it’s all about the midrange, and how that and a lack of super-powerful card drawing in most decks has made individual card quality very important (and how this tends to null Thoughtseize a lot, e.g.).
This is a helpful breakdown of Standard as it is right now. Expect (hope?) that Alara Reborn will mix this up, but in the mean time, if you’re going to a Standard event – for example, a $1K at Superstars – then the article gives a clear, cogent overview of the traits and specific decks of Standard.

Super Friends in Standard

As the most recent Extended season wanders off into memory (with the last round of PTQs gone by, and just one Extended GP left to go), it’s time to turn back to Standard. In the near term, Superstars is running a Standard $1K next weekend, which I may attempt to attend. Looking a little farther out into May, we have PTQs starting for Austin, and that’s in the Standard format as well.
With all these things in mind, I had to plug back into Standard and figure out what was going on, then do some thinking about a deck that I’d really enjoy playing. The first one I went for was a planeswalkers deck that started out quirkier, but ended up looking rather more like the sole planeswalker deck that made it to the “top Standard decks” registry from Pro Tour Kyoto.
Click through to the extended entry for deck list and some development and play commentary.

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Siege Team

The upcoming Superstars $5K in a little less than two weeks, combined with PT Kyoto, has put my mind back on the topic of Standard (more or less). As a result, I’ve decided to push myself to come up with reasonable and interesting designs as we head into that event, with an eye toward expanding the range of deck types I’ll consider (since I tend to hover around certain build types).
I know I’ll still tend toward certain design decisions – preferring board control to counterspells, and discard to drawing cards – but I still think it’ll expand how I think about the game.
In this post, I’ve included an aggressive WBG deck that hopes to strike with fatties, benefit from exalted, and backstop its aggression with planeswalkers. Click through to the extended for deck list and commentary.

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That most dignified of keywords

In testing for the upcoming PTQ here in San Jose, I’ve been using this gal:
It’s awesome, by the way. It also reminded me of the same feeling I had when I was running this lady at the Superstars Standard $1K:
Specifically, exalted is a brilliant keyword. Why is that?
In his recent article Rethinking Investment Theory: Everything Has Haste, Zac Hill discussed the way in which Sorceries and Instants beat out the random beater, by dint of having an immediate effect – effectively, “they have haste.” Thus the title. I tend to agree with Zac’s concept that a straight-up, wait-a-turn investment in a creature is kind of disappointing. This is why I tend to prefer creatures that have comes-into-play effects or have some other potential immediate value (e.g. Eternal Witness and Sakura-Tribe Elder, respectively).
Exalted is, much of the time, an immediate ROI, regardless of what else is going on with the creature in question. In the case of Battlegrace Angel, the immediate value is twofold, as by buying into the 4/4 flyer for next turn, you also get +1/+1 and lifelink for whatever you had in play this turn. This was brilliant much of the time in Standard (and has me, tangentially, thinking about playing Battlegraces as finishers in Extended).
In the more subtle case of my testing with Noble Hierarch, I found that the presence of the exalted keyword changed all my late-game Hierarchs from terrible draws (cf Birds of Paradise) into value draws. Now instead of a mana developer that you no longer need, you have something that reads “G: Give a solitary attacker +1/+1.” Clearly you wouldn’t play that on its own, but it means you suddenly have a topdeck that can do all sorts of things – like, for example, winning a Tarmogoyf war.
Over on Five with Flores, Michael J referred to his old article The Breakdown of Theory, which discusses the three-phase model of a Magic game. The phases are, briefly:
Phase 1: Manascrew (aka mana development)
Phase 2: Interactive play
Phase 3: Noninteractive play
Cards that get you out of phase 1 traditionally suck when you draw them post-phase 1. The presence of the exalted keyword converts Hierarch from a phase-1-only card to a card that has some value in all phases of the game.
So that’s why I’m so high on exalted right now. All in one concise little package, it solves the dual problems of delayed ROI from a creature and of mana smoothing being a poor late-game topdeck. That’s impressive for one little keyword.

Hierarch Tower

When I first started considering Noble Hierarch in Standard, my thoughts initially went to building a straight-up Bant deck. However, after a pause to reposition my thoughts a bit, I realized that there was no requirement to use all three of the Hierarch’s colors. Pretty clearly if you just want green, it’s almost universally better to go with an elf, but if you wanted, say, green and white…
…and if, perhaps, you were planning on running out a 3-mana Legendary tree who would make the Hierarch hit for 2…
That prompted the deck list in the extended entry. Click through to see it.

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