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By: Psychobabble, PB
Aug 29 2014 12:00pm
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A high profile hall of famer recently expressed his disappointment that the post-Theros standard format featured the four deck types in the top 8 - Mono-Blue, Mono-Black, Mono-Green Devotion, Esper - that have dominated the format ever since. It's been rare that a deck outside of those four has been able to mix it at the top tables of standard, so when you see something completely out of the box 4-0 a standard daily, you have to sit up and notice. And as a bonus for this column, the deck has virtually no expensive cards that are set to rotate. Read on to find out the deck that I've had the most fun in standard for almost a year...

RUG Chord

I have no idea who Yu-Ki is, but his deck is a thing of beauty. In contrast to most decks in the format where you look down the list at a bunch of 4x powerful spells with an obvious game plan, you just get more and more confused the more you read here. Izzet Staticaster? Master of Waves? Reclamation Sage? Purphoros, God of the Forge? Hornet Nest? Keranos, God of Storms?

RUG Chord
yu-ki Magic Online Standard Daily 8 August 2014 (4-0)
Creatures
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Master of Waves
1 Scavenging Ooze
4 Young Pyromancer
1 Polukranos, World Eater
1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
9 cards

Other Spells
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
1 Hornet Nest
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Xenagos, the Reveler
4 Chord of Calling
3 Izzet Charm
4 Lightning Strike
1 Shock
3 Stoke the Flames
3 Turn // Burn
15 cards
Lands
1 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Mana Confluence
3 Shivan Reef
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple of Abandon
2 Temple of Epiphany
4 Temple of Mystery
4 Yavimaya Coast
24 cards

Sideboard
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Hornet Nest
1 Izzet Staticaster
3 Nylea's Disciple
1 Scavenging Ooze
3 Magma Spray
2 Negate
1 Setessan Tactics
1 Keranos, God of Storms
12 cards
Chord of Calling

There really is a lot going on here, and it takes a fair bit of tinkering to figure out. The biggest clue, and the card which glues this deck together, is of course the 4x Chord of Calling. Chord is a card which hasn't really made much of a splash in standard to date, but this deck is built to take full advantage of it, with a full toolbox of creatures to tutor up. Chord is the engine, token makes are the grease which gets it going. Pyromancer and Rabblemaster are the only 4x creatures for good reason, they (along with cheap burn in the case of young pyromancer) get your convoke spells up and running, as well as being solid value creatures in any event. In terms of the toolbox, there's a lot of interactions you want to keep in mind.

+ izzet staticaster

This combo's pretty sweet once you realise what's going on, as you can ping your own nest each turn to make a deathtoucher. This is absolutely brutal against green and white decks with minimal interaction, and hornet nest on its own is fairly brutal against red. Hornet's nest is pretty bad against black removal though, particularly if you are ever tempted to turn your own burn onto it. Watch out for Golgari Charm and the like, too. Staticaster on its own is usually pretty underwhelming, but it's not irrelevant that it can allow your Lightning Strike to take out Courser of Kruphix or (Blood Baron of Vizkopa) and your Stoke the Flames to kill Polukranos, World Eater or Obzedat, Ghost Council. Staticaster also combines with the Turn side of Turn / Burn to kill anything.

Master of Waves + Young Pyromancer or Purphoros, God of the Forge

Don't forget that Pyromancer tokens are elementals, a flashed in Master can do quite a bit of surprise damage with either Young Pyromancer or Purphoros out. It's also a perfect answer to (Goblin Rabblemaster) and red creatures in general. Speaking of Purphoros, don't forget his pump ability, it can be quite relevant with all your 1/1 tokens floating about either in letting them get in more damage or allowing you to trade up with something relevant. Always remember that Purphoros damage can be redirected to planeswalkers, so chording a token maker can potentially get you the multiple triggers necessary to kill a planeswalker.

Young Pyromancer or + Chord of Calling or Stoke the Flames

Just a couple of notes here on timing and convoke. Convoke is part of the casting cost of a spell, so while casting Chord creates a Pyromancer elemental, you don't get to use that token to pay the convoke cost. With Young Pyromancer, you are potentially able to cast two instants in your hand instead of one if you cast the convoke spell second, which essentially gives you an extra mana after creating the token. With the Rabblemaster, convoke is a nice way to stop your newly-created, hasty, "must attack" goblin token from a suicide attack, so that's definitely one consideration to keep in mind when you're thinking about whether you want to wait until your opponent's turn to cast your instant.

Xenagos, the Reveler

Don't forget about Xenagos' often-overlooked +1 ability, you can do some good things with Chord and lots of mana, and the +1 will often get you lots of mana with all of your token makers.

It's amazing how many decks have really solid targets for this. Courser of Kruphix comes up a lot, and alone justifies leaving it in post-board in those matchups. Other common, relevant, targets are Underworld Connections, Detention Sphere, Banishing Light, Eidolon of Blossoms, Hall of Triumph and Eidolon of the Great Revel. There's also some rogue decks that rely on a key artifact like Necromancer's Stockpile or Strength from the Fallen. Given that you can tutor it, it's often worth leaving in even if your opponent only has 4 cards to hit, if they are strong.

Izzet Charm

This is better in this deck than I've seen it in any other deck in standard. It has obvious synergy with Young Pyromancer as a cheap burn spell, but you also really appreciate the ability to counter planeswalkers/underworld connections or throw away useless toolbox cards. Be mindful that the deck sometimes does want to hit 7-8 mana to tutor a 4 or 5 drop (Keranos, post-board) so you should be a little cautious about automatically ditching excess lands.

Keranos, God of Storms

Speaking of Keranos... boy is this card good. Not many people are playing anti-god cards given that the gods in general haven't proven that troubling, and against a deck like Jund Walkers, Mono Black or Planar Cleansing control, Keranos is almost unbeatable if you can stabilise to the mid game. It's almost worth a place in the main deck, but it's probably a bit slow for the format overall. The power level is so high in the matchups that it's good in that it's often worth saving up till 8 (convoke) mana instead of pulling a three of four drop, the ability to dodge pretty much any removal possible is really valuable in a grindy game. One thing to watch with Keranos is whether to go to the face when you proc the three damage, or take out a relatively un-threatening target like a mystic elf or random 2/2 satyr token or something. I've lost a few games where I was too conservative with my Keranos burn and my opponent was able to draw into a wincon.

That covers the main cards in the deck, but playing it is an entirely different thing. The deck requires a lot of practice to play optimally, and the skill goes way beyond remembering what your chord options are. More than any other deck in standard, your deck is a puzzle that you need to piece together a victory from. You have many ways to do damage to your opponent or their creatures, you constantly need to map out your potential damage over the next few turns to see if using your removal on your opponent's creatures is the right line. Purphoros is a key part of this. Tutoring, or even just casting, Purphoros can feel awful as it doesn't affect the board, but it dramatically increases the damage output of your deck with all of your token producers and can take an opponent from a safe life total to dead very quickly.

On sideboarding, you generally want the extra Hornet Nest/Staticaster against green and blue devotion decks, but take them out of the main against black decks and red aggro where they're too slow. Negate comes in against green devotion, jund walkers, control and mono black - frequently you take out Izzet Charm in these matchups to make room as it's just an upgrade. Young Pyromancer is more of a liability than a threat if your opponent is playing Golgari Charm, so I'd generally sub it out in those circumstances.

Conclusion

I urge you to try this deck, it's really an amazing experience and one of the very few decks you can build with virtually no expensive rotating cards - Scavenging Ooze is the only card which brakes my 5-tix rotating card rule - and it also happens to be essentially the most interesting thing going in standard. It's not the most competitive deck ever, it essentially has no really strong matchups, but can also beat anything if the cards fall right due to the diverse toolbox nature of the deck. The synergy and interactions are really sweet, and give the deck a huge amount of play. At the end of the day, this is an extremely fun deck that's well within the realm of "competitive" even if it's not the absolute best and most consistent deck in the format.