stsung's picture
By: stsung, Ren Stefanek
Nov 13 2017 11:00am
Login to post comments

When I saw 'Recent Standard Gauntlet' in the Magic Online Announcements article I wasn't really sure what to think about it. The information about this Gauntlet was posted soon after the information about Innistrad-era Gauntlet though. I eagerly clicked on it. Again, the entry is 10 tix or 100PP, you play 3 rounds of swiss and the prize structure is 150/100/40/10. The League can be found under Limited Leagues.

I wrote about the previous Gauntlet last week, so if you want to see what Innistrad-era Standard looked like, you can check it out (I loved it) - Innistrad Standard Gauntlet.

The Innistrad-era Standard Gauntlet was more condensed - it truly contained decks that actually had the possibility of encountering each other in some form. In the case of Recent Standard Gauntlet, this does not apply. It features decks from several Standard formats starting with Theros and ending with Shadows over Innistrad (just before the format went really awry). This means that unlikely scenarios can happen and more games will be won by variance.

The first deck to pop up at me from the Wizards page was Blue Devotion that was followed unsurprisingly by Black Devotion, these alone totally took my excitement away because I remembered all the discouraged players of that time. These two decks were practically forming the format. Blue mages were casting many cheap creatures, Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves while black mages were casting Pack Rat and Desecration Demons. While everyone was disgusted by playing either a mirror match or the other devotion deck I was on UW Control. I never piloted either of the devotion decks so I wasn't entirely sure what the games looked like. I remember Jeremy Dezani and Pierre Dagen at a PT in the finals though, playing the same Mono Blue Devotion deck. I remember that a few times I expected the game to be over for one or the other team member, but no, it wasn't, they always found a way to come back in the game. Watching that match was like watching the waves of sea. I was amazed by what the deck could do, but I was also certain I wouldn't like it. This Gauntlet gave me the possibility to try it out and see if I was right or not (spoiler, I was right).

How does this deck win a mirror match when the only possible win conditions are 2 Mutavaults? With boarded creatures (and Elspeth, Sun's Champion).


The third deck listed was Sphinx's Rev Control which wasn't much of a surprise. Ivan Floch's deck with its Elixir of Immortality threatened the possibility of a VERY long top 8. Those being able to watch the whole event would in the end see sheep fly (Elspeth, Sun's Champion ultimate plus Nyx-Fleece Ram) for the victory. The following decks seemed totally out of place for me, because they were from a following Standard era - Junk Midrange and Sidisi Whip. I loved both decks and I have fond memories with playing with these. It's also the time when I started playing constructed on Magic Online and Sidisi Whip was my fun deck of the time while Junk Control was the deck to bring to competitive events. Shahar Shenhar though won a World Championship with Sidisi Whip so even my fun deck turned into yet another net deck. This was the era of Siege Rhinos that either never showed up during a game or came in packs (or rather in a crash of Rhinos) to usually ruined the day of Atarka Red players.

Jungle Hollow, the occasional Temple of Mystery and a lot of basics had to do. Who could afford Polluted Delta (4 tix?) or Temple of Mystery (18tix). My budget Sidisi Whip was doing well though! So I brought it to a PTQ later and didn't regret the decision.


Devotion to Green, the next deck on the list, was a deck I never really understood, mainly because I do not get the allure big green creatures have for certain players. I had to admit that Dragonlord Atarka was nice, as it was one of the few creatures able to deal with Siege Rhino. Red Aggro on the other hand is a deck that dominated the metagame for a while when Magic Origins came out. Abbot of Keral Keep always hitting what the opponent needed was something we all experienced. I'm not a fan of red decks but I had a really nice experience playing Atarka Red at one of our FNMs. Since everyone expected me to be playing a control deck they often kept a very slow hand, like a turn 4 Siege Rhino. Well, Atarka Red was able to close the game by then! I went 4-0, no one believing it. So be warned, I sometimes show up with a strange deck at event, not just control! The remaining decks are from more recent past - Esper Dragons, Green-White Tokens and Bant Company. I had the opportunity to play with Esper Dragons because I somehow managed to have all the cards both in paper and on Magic Online. It was supposedly a control deck but it came down to playing Dragonlord Ojutai and keeping it in play. It wasn't my kind of a deck. GW Tokens is from a moment I stopped playing Standard, the same way Bant Company is. Since I showed up at PTQs and WMCQs that year though I had the chance to play against these. My deck was obviously fine against GW Tokens and I didn't struggle much against them, Bant Company though was a shock. The deck felt unbeatable and only after those events I played in, I was like 'I can't stand this deck'. I tried to imagine how I'd feel if I'd face the deck each week or even more frequently. I understood why people were so disgusted with it. From that time I also remember how painful it was to be hit by Lambholt Pacifist on turn 3 (they should rename the card to Lambholt Butcher). Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was a card that was obviously EVERYWHERE but it was Reflector Mage that almost made me go insane and was often the reason why I started to swear (for those that do not know me, I don't swear often, very rarely actually).

This sums up the lists one can randomly get in the Recent Past Standard Gauntlet. Since I love control decks I did not manage to get either Esper Dragons nor UW Control as expected. On the other hand I got to play with a devotion deck 4 times (figuring out that I can't beat Elspeth, Sun's Champion nor Archangel of Thune), GW Tokens, Devotion to Green (that was a torture, probably even for my opponents) and Bant Company.

While playing with Blue Devotion, at least I managed to 'unlock some achievements', one of them being casting my opponent's counterspell!


Bant CoCo

After several Leagues with devotion decks I finally got a different deck - Bant Company. After staring at the decklist for a while I felt that this deck should be rather called Bant Humans because it is obviously Thalia's Lieutenant that makes the deck work (what I remember referred to as Bant Company was a deck with Spell Quellers, Sylvan Advocates and Archangel Avacyn). All the creatures with the exception of Nissa, Vastwood Seer are Humans. The Lieutenant can make your creatures huge and can also make Lambholt Pacifist able to attack (similarly Dromoka's Command can be used to make it 4/4). The odd card in the deck seemed to be Knight of the White Orchid and Day's Undoing. Knight of the White Orchid though can work as mana fixing since Canopy Vista and Prairie Stream are Plains. I already fetched a Savannah or Plateau with this creature but this was new for me. I couldn't come up with a different reason, that copy in the sideboard still confuses me. After not being able to consistently cast Reflector Mage though I came to the conclusion that this was the Knight's purpose. Since the creature has First Strike it's also a good in combat (after you put some counters on it). Day's Undoing is something I didn't figure out during my League which could be easily understood - I didn't play Standard much when this deck was around, I don't know if this card was common in sideboards or not. I played against 3 decks that weren't around when this deck was played in the League. I was wondering how much this deck needs a Timetwister effect but this 'If it's your turn, end the turn.' made me think there was a different reason for that card. A few hours later, I randomly realized that Emrakul was a thing, or rather Delirium. Could have that been some very 'desperate' attempt at dealing with graveyard? Well, I was certain with one thing - I would not board this card against any of the decks in this Gauntlet.


This is the first Gauntlet that featured half of decks that I didn't have much experience with (unlike the previous decks saved under freeform, showing being legal and ready to play!). It changes the perspective when looking at the deck on your screen. You ask strange questions because you do not know what the metagame looked like and what decks were in it to be fought. I could see that this deck was very aggressive but had also a late game plan with Collected Company and Tireless Tracker. I only figured how insane Thalia's Lieutenant is during my matches and casting Collected Company and hitting a Human and Thalia's Lieutenant would make me ask my opponent if both abilities trigger (on MODO it's a bit easier, it just puts the counters there). While I expect this is what happens, I was never in such a situation. If I'd go with this deck to a competitive event I'd certainly earn some warnings because I wouldn't be familiar with triggers in the deck. Enough of theory, now a little bit of practice, here is a report from one of my Leagues.

Unlike last time I spent quite some time wondering what each deck does and also checked the decklists.


Round 1 - Blue Devotion
I kept Plains, Forest, Thraben Inspector, Knight of the White Orchid, Reflector Mage, Thalia's Lieutenant, Lambholt Pacifist. I was on the play so I opened with Plains and Thraben Inspector. My opponent played an Island and Cloudfin Raptor which I wasn't really happy to see. Next turn I played Lambholt Pacifist that I could make bigger next turn with Thalia's Lieutenant. I hoped my opponent wouldn't play Tidebinder Mage which would tap my Pacifist. My opponent played 2 Judge's Familiar so all was fine. I swung next turn with my two creatures and I even drew a land - Evolving Wilds. Next turn my opponent played the Tidebinder Mage targeting my Pacifist. They swung and played Nightveil Specter. I checked my decklist to see if my deck contains a Plains card that would also be an Island because I remembered that there were some lands with basic land types. There was Prarie Stream so I fetched for Plains and played Knight of the White Orchid fetching the Prairie Stream. My opponent removed Dromoka's Command from the game with Nightveil Specter which was the card I was looking to draw. I drew Tamiyo, Field Researcher which allowed me to survive one more turn. I needed to draw Dromoka's Command and play Reflector Mage next turn and then use Tamiyo again to survive. Unfortunately my opponent played another Judge's Familiar which meant that the math didn't work out (I was down to 1 life) and I lost the game.


I boarded in all the removal I could. I kept a hand I didn't like at all. Tireless Tracker, Fortified Village, Fortified Village, Collected Company, Plains, Yavimaya Coast, Thalia's Lieutenant. I played Fortified Village not showing my opponent anything. They played Judge's Familiar which I saw rather than the Evolve creature. I top decked Lambholt Pacifist so I played that. My opponent played Omenspeaker and attacked with the owl. Omenspeaker is a card I didn't like in Blue Devotion, it was still triggering Cloudfin Raptor though and that is the only reason I was willing to accept the card in the deck (I'm not sure what two-drops existed at the time). On my turn, I played Thalia's Lieutenant making my Pacifist big enough to be able to attack. My opponent didn't play an Island a second time (another Mutavault) which was good for me because Blue Devotion deck needs its Islands in order to play cards like Frostburn Weird or Nightveil Specter. I played CoCo right into a counterspell and attacked with my 5/5 Butcher. Next turn I continued with another misplay of mine. I played a land before playing Tireless Tracker. When thinking about this my opponent conceded because obviously without Islands the deck couldn't win against a deck that plays BIG creatures each turn.

This time I kept an ideal hand containing Dromoka's Command, Tireless Tracker, Thraben Inspector, Fortified Village, Forest, Yavimaya Coast, Reflector Mage. My opponent opened with Cloudfin Raptor and I played Thraben Inspector on my turn one, planning to deal with the Raptor next turn so it wouldn't grow too big. I knew though that Reflector Mage could deal with it too, so I could play a two-drop if I drew one. My draw for the turn was Duskwatch Recruiter, I played that instead of the Command. My opponent didn't play anything. Quite strange, or at least that's how it seemed to me. I was usually shipping hands not containing a turn two play when I had Cloudfin Raptor in my hand. Especially when one-drop into a two-drop was crucial against control decks and also as it seemed to me against Bant Company. I attacked with my transformed Recruiter and Thraben Inspector into my opponent's Raptor and Mutavault. I wondered if my opponent had Negate in their hand. If they had it I'd deal an additional damage since Mutavault would be tapped. This does not sound particularly awesome written like this but it was actually good because that would allow my Thraben Inspector to survive. I played a fetchland (Evolving Wilds) and let my opponent play. They played Nightveil Specter finally putting a counter on the Raptor and turning it sideways. On my next turn I realized that the flipped creature in play has an ability which allowed me to play both Tireless Tracker and Reflector Mage (it's good to sometimes read what your cards do!). I was like 'Oh, that's insane'. I played both creatures and returned Nightveil Specter to my opponent's hand. They were in a really bad spot and I had another Reflector Mage for a different creature than the Specter. They played Jace, Architect of Thought, using the plus 1 ability. I didn't bother using Duskwatch Recruiter's ability and just drew for the turn (since I had still some Clues in play). I drew Collected Company. I played it during my pre-combat main phase so I could in theory bounce the Raptor or make my creatures bigger with Thalia's Lieutenant. I hit Reflector Mage but the creature with Thalia in its name was Thalia itself. My opponent scooped.

Round 2 - Black Devotion
I stared at my hand for a while and tried to figure out how I would sequence my lands and plays with those odd lands in it. The hand looked like this: Fortified Village, Evolving Wilds, Duskwatch Recruiter, Reflector Mage, Prairie Stream, Thraben Inspector, Thraben Inspector. I kept, then played Thraben Inspector off Fortified Village. Next turn, I played another Thraben Inspector and Evolving Wilds so if by a chance I'd drew a basic land I could later play the Prairie Stream untapped. My opponent in the meantime played Temple of Deceit and Thoughtseize targeting me discarding Reflector Mage. This was reassuring play though because it meant I wouldn't face Pack Rat. I went to to check how a Black Devotion list looks like and drew for the turn (or rather the client did that for me). I drew Thalia, Heretic Cathar which wasn't a land. Next turn I wondered for a long time what to do. I didn't want to face Desecration Demon and I had no way of dealing with it. All I could was sacrifice my Inspectors to it. I decided to go aggro and killed my opponent's Nightveil Specter and attacked with my three creatures. I put a counter on the wrong creature obviously (Recruiter) that died to Ultimate Price. My Thalia met the same fate and I couldn't attack with my Inspectors due to my opponent having Mutavault and another land untapped. They played Underworld Connections which didn't look good for me. Still I felt better than if I had to face the Demon or Pack Rat. I played Lambholt Pacifist and expected to attack next turn. I had Tamiyo, Fiend Researcher that could tap two permanents down. Unfortunately for me it doesn't tap Mutavault which was still able to block my Thraben Inspectors (we pay for our mistakes!). Instead I used Tamiyo's ability targeting my opponent's Nightveil Specter and one of the Inspectors.

My opponent chose not to attack. They played another Mutavault making my attacks look terrible. They still didn't draw any creature though even with the help of Underworld Connections. They played Devour Flesh making me sacrifice a Thraben Inspector. I drew Tireless Tracker so I played that and followed it up with Thalia's Lieutenant which finally made my creatures big enough to go through a Mutavault or two. I tapped my opponent's Specter and attacked. My opponent could have double blocked one of my creatures killing it. They still would need removal to deal with Tracker and Pacifist. They just chump blocked though meaning my attack next turn was lethal. That surprised me so I went to check the list again to see if it doesn't run a sweeper of sorts that I was convinced wasn't featured in the deck. There was Gray Merchant of Asphodel that could do a life swing and was a good blocker against majority of my creatures. My opponent conceded while I was still staring at the decklist.

I wasn't sure about my sideboard plan. I just wanted to be fast with big creatures. I put removal in and Gideon even though I suppose this card was put in the sideboard against control and midrange decks.

I kept Plains, Forest, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Tireless Tracker, Thalia's Lieutenant, Tireless Tracker, Thalia, Heretic Cathar which wasn't a good keep I suppose. My two-drop was certainly not meant to be played on turn 2. My opponent played Thoughtseize and I almost conceded, losing Thalia's Lieutenant seemed really bad for me. My opponent though discarded Thalia, Heretic Cathar. On turn 2 they played Pack Rat and I really felt that I can't win this game. I didn't draw a land but I drew Lambholt Pacifist - the beater of this deck. I played it so I'd have something to double block a 4/4 rat next turn. My opponent though played Nightveil Specter instead. On my next turn I was very lucky and drew a land, and a perfect one - Prairie Stream. This allowed me to play Reflector Mage and that dealt with a Pack Rat token. Next turn I played another Reflector Mage bouncing Desecration Demon and swung with my team which now featured a 4/4 Thalia's Lieutenant, 3/3 Lambholt Pacifist and Reflector Mage. My opponent played Devour Flesh targeting me, poor Reflector Mage was the chosen card to die. Next turn I wasn't sure what to do. I could attack into 2 Pack Rats and Nightveil Specter which would mean one of my creatures would die to double block, leaving behind a Rat and Nightveil Specter or I could play Gideon, get an emblem and attack. Which would result in me losing a creature and my opponent's board would get wiped. Don't ask me why but I went with scenario one. I played Gideon post-combat and created a 2/2 token. My opponent played Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which alone was not enough to stop me. It gave my opponent one more turn to live though. They were unable to do much and I won a turn later. I told my opponent that they should have been just creating Pack Rat tokens because that would most probably be unstoppable even for a Collected Company deck.

Round 3 - RDW
I checked our die roll values to double check if I'm on the play or not. My hand didn't look well, it featured Dromoka's Command, Reflector Mage, Reflector Mage, Dromoka's Command, Collected Company, Plains, Fortified Village. I took a mulligan. No lander, that was even better. My keep was Thalia, Heretic Cathar, Prairie Stream, Evolving Wilds, Reflector Mage, Collected Company. I kept Thraben Inspector on top, so I would have something to do on turn 2 and possibly turn 3 after I wouldn't draw a land. My opponent played Zurgo Bellstriker on turn 1 which made me frown. I was lucky and top decked a creature that I thought could stop anything - Lambholt Pacifist. My first creature died to Wild Slash on my turn and Pacifist died to Exquisite Firecraft. At least I got hit just for 2. I drew a land, but it was Evolving Wilds meaning I'd get hit by Zurgo at least once again. My opponent didn't play another creature but targeted me with Exquisite Firecraft. Next turn I played Reflector Mage on Zurgo and wondered what my opponent has in their hand, because they weren't playing anything next turn. On my turn I wondered if I want to play a creature and keep mana open for Dromoka's Command. I figured though that Thalia's Lieutenant is better played when there are creatures around so I decided to go for Collected Company first. When Zurgo attacked I played CoCo and put Reflector Mage into play, bouncing Zurgo back into my opponent's hand, and Lambholt Pacifist that could attack next turn thanks to the Thalia's Lieutenant I was clutching in my hand. I hit my opponent for 7. They dashed Zurgo and Lightning Berserker in. Then they tried to get rid of my Lieutenant. I (reluctantly) prevented that damage and let Reflector Mage fight Zurgo. My opponent for some reason still attacked into my Lieutenant, so I happily blocked. The last card in my opponent's hand was another Zurgo Bellstriker. Two turns later the game was over, my Humans won the game.

I boarded in some removal so I could get rid of Satyr Firedancer - which was my bane when I was playing Blue Devotion. I kept Thraben Inspector, Tireless Tracker, Declaration in Stone, Fortified Village, Prairie Stream, Lambholt Pacifist, Knight of the White Orchid. My opponent obviously kept a worse hand. They started with Lightning Berserker, that I could possibly block and kill with my turn 1 Thraben Inspector. To my surprise my creature didn't die which also meant my opponent didn't attack. They played Monastery Swiftspear at least. Next turn they played Wild Slash killing my Thraben Inspector hitting me for four. I once again put my hopes in Lambholt Pacifist but it immediately died to Roast (the anti-Tasigur, anti-Siege Rhino card). I decided to play Tireless Tracker and a tapped land, getting a clue so I could play a creature and Dromoka's Command next turn. My opponent played Satyr Firedancer that I really wanted to get rid of. The question was how. In the end I decided to make one of my creatures fight it (I played Lambholt Pacifist) and put a counter on Pacifist. This would mean that my opponent would have to spend all their resources in order to kill it with Lightning Berserker. I'm not entirely sure if that was a good idea because in the end I'd probably be just fine with trading no matter what since I could play 2 creatures or Declaration in Stone plus a creature next turn. I played two creatures because Monastery Swiftspear wasn't able to finish me off. My opponent was a one (additional) card away from that. They played Arc Lightning on my 3/3 First Strike Knight and attacked. I let the attack through. I drew a card, made my Tracker bigger, played another Knight and hit my opponent for 7. They went down to 6 and couldn't kill me thanks to my blocker, or at least I thought - Searing Blood, Wild Slash and attack for 3 would do the job. It didn't happen though and I won the game next turn.

After those Leagues I played I learned little bit about the top decks in their respective formats. I made many misplays, lost many games, won some games and learned a little bit about recent past Standard formats and cards from 'new sets'. I experienced funny moments. For example after I wrote this article I found out that Lambholt Pacifist's werewolf side is actually named Lambholt Butcher. I also learned how it feels to play against someone who drew their whole deck 3 times before finally finishing me off with Archangel of Thune. I even managed to win once against Sphinx's Rev Control with Aetherling! Also, I used Polukranos's ability to deal with a 8/9 Siege Rhino, which was pretty cool (I won the match by top decking well, skill had nothing to do with).

While my feelings about this Gauntlet are mixed - I had fun in certain matches, lots of it, but other matches went really badly and I didn't like that. I played badly and that made me tilt sometimes (I started one League with passing my turn twice - I do not recall writing DROP so fast). These Leagues were certainly worth joining though. When next Gauntlet will be available, I'll give it a try, no matter what it is.

Thanks for reading
S'Tsung (stsung on Magic Online, stsungjp on Twitter)