Perilous Research 2: U/W VenserBlade in m12 Standard
The m12 Prerelease events have come and gone, leaving us with a whole new core set and a lot of important decisions to make. Important decisions such as “Why should I even bother buying any of this product if all of the good cards are just a bunch of reprints?!” Unfortunately, this is the subject matter for an entirely different article. One which I am not going to write. Why? Because griping about what is in m12 isn’t actually going to change what is in m12. The set is officially spoiled and we’re stuck with all 249 of these cards for Standard. It’s time to deal with it and move on to what we should really be putting our focus into, m12 Standard.
The first major m12 tournament is this very weekend at the StarCityGames Open in Cincinnati, literally the day after m12 becomes legal in the format. Getting a jump on the metagame is going to put you in a better position to do well at an event like this. We know that m12 isn’t bringing a lot of brand new constructed playable cards to the table, it’s mainly just the reprints and a lot of these reprints aren’t from that long ago. This only means that the metagame is going to be filled with known decks for the most part. These will include block decks like Hawkward, Standard decks that were edged out by CawBlade like Valakut, and even a Standard deck from the M10 Standard era in Pyromancer Ascension. Looking at daily events we can see 6 decks that are constantly posting good results. These are Hawkward, Valakut, Br Vampires, RDW, U/B Control, and UR SplinterTwin. Other decks that are doing decent but in smaller numbers are UW “Equipster” Puresteel Paladin, MonoBlack Midrange, and Pyromancer Ascension. Any deck that you brew or pick up to play is going to have to be able to defeat these decks, with a focus on beating the first six. I myself have been brewing with a UW Aggro-Control deck which is going to look extremely familiar.
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Tectonic edge
4 Squadron Hawk
2 Wall of Omens
4 Blade Splicer
1 Sun Titan
4 Mana Leak
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Jace Beleren
3 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Day of Judgment
2 Venser, the Sojourner
4 Mental Misstep
2 Jace Beleren
1 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Leyline of Sanctity
Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic have left the format but the rest of the CawBlade shell has not. The advantage to playing this deck is the duality put forth by cards in the deck. Blade Splicer is great against aggro where this deck wants to play the Control. A third turn 3/3 first striker and a 1/1 on turn 3 can put a damper on a lot of aggressive plans. 4 power for 3 mana can also put Control decks on a fast clock. Venser is also a good example. Against aggro Venser can “blink” Blade Splicer to get you another 3/3 golem (which is just as good against control), while against control he can “blink” Wall of Omens to draw more cards. Also, once you hit Venser’s ultimate, the game is exceedingly difficult for your opponent to get back into.
Wall of Omens cantrips and is an all-star against aggro. Spellskite similarly clogs up the ground and can single handedly make a mockery of your opponent’s plans. It can eat Valakut triggers, prevent Twin from going off, and keeps burn away from your dome. The final creature in the list is a miser’s Sun Titan. If the game goes late enough to where you draw and play this one-of then he can easliy allow you to just grind your opponent out by returning almost every non-Venser permanent in the deck. He can also wreck Valakut when combined with your Tectonic Edges.
In the non-creature area Preordain makes sure you draw what you want. Combined with Wall of Omens, 26 lands, and Jace Beleren you will often hit your land drops. The reason why there is only 2 Jace Beleren is because he’s really only good against control decks where you need to try and match them card for card to keep up pressure before they bury you. Similarly Day of Judgment usually only meets it’s intended value against aggro strategies. Playing lower numbers allows you to mise it when you need it, but not draw them excessively in match-ups where you don’t exactly want them.
Oblivion Ring made it’s return with m12 and everyone is happy to have a good answer to the powerhouses that are planeswalkers. Here Oblivion Ring makes a nice catch-all in a similar manner to Into the Roil, but with lasting effect. Venser enables you to move your Oblivion Ring around to whatever is the biggest threat at the time.
Mana Leaks and Negates form the counter suite. I think that Negate is widely underplayed. I much prefer it over Spell Pierce because it’s harder for your opponent to play around. I especially like it against U/B control which I think will make up a large portion of the metagame as the go-to control deck.
The maindeck is finally rounded out with three copies of Sword of Feast and Famine. This sword is the best against the majority of the current meta. It protects it’s carrier from Dismember or Go for the Throat and allows it to attack right past Overgrown Battlements. When it connects and untaps your lands on the turn you played and equipped the sword it is an enormous tempo gain that is frankly needed. Without untapping your lands the turn you take to play and equip your sword is resoundingly mediocre. Making your opponent discard a card is huge against the format’s boogeymen of Valakut, Twin, and U/B Control.
Moving to the sideboard we find a card that is becoming more common in Standard, Mental Misstep. Misstep is huge against Vampires and RDW. Early it can put either aggro deck at such a tempo disadvantage that they’re literally clawing to get back into the game around turn 4 or it can stop those late game burn spells from finishing you off, letting you stabilize. It is also useful against U/B control decks that like to pack their 4-7 one mana disruption spells in addition to their own preordains. Not letting them have the information or the choice of what to take out of your hand can often lead to you winning the game.
Flashfreeze is in because of Valakut, but also has the added utility of being able to counter Splinter Twin, Pyromancer’s Ascension, and even the odd Birthing Pod. Having a hard counter available against a wide variety of decks proves to be extremely useful.
The other two baby Jace are present in the board for the control match-ups where the game is going to be centered around card advantage and pressure. Jace will help keep your hand filled with gas. It is also nice to stick one on the board before your opponent can do the same, keeping them off of their own draw engine.
Consecrated Sphinx is here to also come in against control. They will most likely be using their own Sphinx. Matching theirs can give you crazy/awkward situations where your opponent will be unsure if they should use their own Sphinx because you’ll get to draw off yours. In a match-up that can come down to simply drawing more cards than the opponent the Sphinx will be something you want.
Lastly in the board we have Leyline of Sanctity. I was sad to see that the Leylines will be leaving standard with Zendikar block. Leyline of Sanctity is amazing against Valakut and RDW. This neuters the red deck’s plan of burning you out of the game with spells or Shrine of Burning Rage. They play such small dudes and in a lower quantity that if you get a Leyline it is pretty much game over for them. Against Valakut it cuts off one of their avenues of attack and forces them into the beatdown plan. Forcing them to do this allows you to focus on stopping them on that front alone and can give you enough time to get Venser to his ultimate which will then shut them out of the game.
There are two cards that I’m sure people notice is nowhere in my list. First up is Spreading Seas. This deck is not a dedicated control deck. It doesn’t have the game-plan that U/B uses, which is to interrupt the opponent early, hit land drops, and have a better late game than it’s contender’s. Also, people are using Spreading Seas as an additional way to stop Valakut. You were once able to slow Valakut to a halt by denying them early green with Seas. Unfortunately with m12 Valakut gained access to Solemn Simulacrum. Denying Valakut green will no longer stop it’s ramp effectively enough to put it behind. Jens doesn’t care if their forest makes blue because of your enchantment. It’s still getting them the land. This brings us to the next card missing, Solemn Simulacrum.
I’ve already said this isn’t a dedicated control deck. This deck simply wants to curve out. Playing Solemn makes you want to skip your turn 5. However, the turn 5 to this deck is important because you are either going to play and equip a sword or play a Venser. Solemn wants to take you directly to turn 6 and supports you moving away from the aggro-control strategy and further into the straight control territory. This deck doesn’t want to be in that territory. It wants to stay flexible and take advantage of opportunities given by it’s opponents.
Playing this deck properly takes getting used to and a lot of situations will come up where you initially won’t be sure of the best choice. Like most midrange decks and the CawBlade deck that came before it, the deck rewards player skill. The tighter you play, the more the deck will reward you. Play it loose and you’ll get blown out. You no longer have Mind Sculptor and Mystic to save you. But that shouldn’t push you away from this deck. It should want make you want to be a better player and increase your skill. I encourage you to sleeve this up and give it a run. I think you’ll find it’s a lot better than you’d expect.
Next week we’ll move back to a Limited and discuss m12 Sealed and I’ll tell you why it might be important for those of you going to US Nationals at GenCon that aren’t yet qualified!
Until then keep dishing those bad beats.
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