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By: arekdahl, Alex Rekdahl
Feb 12 2014 1:00pm
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Hello everyone and welcome to.........

Standard Deviation!

In addition to my other article series that has been featuring Pauper decks and soon to be featuring other content as well (next article coming very soon, hopefully as soon as Monday!), I decided to take a quick detour (hence the Deviation in the title) and feature a deck that I have been spending a lot of time working on lately. I probably won't be writing these articles nearly as often as my other series, but you might see one from time to time when I feel like changing things up a bit. As you may have seen in the summary, I don't play a lot of standard. I keep up with the metagame, and I understand what decks/cards are good in the standard environment, but the cost of a competitive deck has generally been prohibitive to me. Any of my previous attempts at building a standard deck usually have resulted in me building the deck slowly over time, only to have it either rotate out or get hated out of the meta.

This time, I may have found a deck to "end" my long-running drought of standard success. (Astute readers my notice me using the word end for a pun. There's a reason, keep reading!) Most of the time, my "budget" decks fall into one of the following categories -

1. Top-tier deck with a substitution for the most expensive cards in the deck
2. Top-tier deck without the rare lands for the manabase
3. Top-tier deck without the expensive sideboard cards
4. Rogue brew that has potential but is too inconsistent

The deck I am going to show you today doesn't fall into any of these categories. Another thing that is common when I play standard is that I tend to play very aggressive decks. In fact, I think the last 4 or 5 standard decks I have tried to build have been some variety of mono-red, I've always tended to avoid control or combo, fearing that I didn't have the skills to pilot those types of decks successfully. As my game has progressed however, I have started to dip my toe into the water that is control in constructed formats, and have become more and more comfortable ever since. This deck is mostly a combo/control deck. It uses a specific combo as a win-condition, with control elements to make sure I survive long enough to make that happen. In short, the deck is pretty a-MAZE-ing(OK, that should make it obvious!). Enough puns, let's get to the deck!

For those of you who have been around the game a while, the term Turbofog should be familiar to you. The traditional Turbofog decks aimed to win the game by causing you to deck out. This was usually accomplished by mill cards, as well as cards like Howling Mine to cause the opponent to draw more cards. Usually allowing your opponent to draw cards is something you want to avoid at all costs, but with all of the Fog effects, the deck simply didn't care. The opponent usually felt helpless as they drew all the best cards in their deck, assembled an army, and ran into something like Moment's Peace every time they tried to attack.

This deck operates under the same premise, but the win condition is a little bit different. Instead of getting your opponent to draw their library, your goal is to assemble all 10 guildgates to win the game with Maze's End. The deck may not have the all-star fog spell mentioned above, Moment's Peace, but the suite of damage prevention is quite formidable. There are 16 spells in the deck that prevent damage - the classic original Fog, a couple of two mana instants in Defend the Hearth and Druid's Deliverance, and the all-important Riot Control which includes some lifegain as additional insurance. The deck opts for mostly mass and utility removal, with Supreme Verdict as an extremely reliable reset button, Detention Sphere to deal with any troublesome nonland permanent or the occasional token army, and Merciless Eviction to deal with, well, pretty much whatever you want it to. Ratchet Bomb is there to give even more insurance against token armies or cheap creatures (There is a card in standard called Pack Rat, and it can, on occasion, get out of hand!).

The deck packs a very light creature count at eight, and both playsets are there more for their utility roles than the creature themselves. Gatecreeper Vine is great for searching up gates in the early turns before Maze's End is online, and Saruli Gatekeepers gives us a nice amount of lifegain on a solid blocker. With the vine, you are happy to chump-block any time, and the gatekeepers you are happy to get as many blocks as you can with it. Both of these are crucial against decks like Mono-Red, allowing you to save fogs while waiting to draw your removal. Urban Evolution rounds out the deck as a one-of that fits perfectly in this deck. It draws us more fogs and lands that we need, while allowing us to ramp into our Maze's End win even sooner.

Sideboard

Crackling Perimeter is probably the most important card in our sideboard, and I have even considered running some amount of it in the maindeck. An advantage that this deck has is that very few decks in Standard interact very much with our win condition. This is the card that you bring in against any deck that can. Perfect against any deck that runs Pithing Needle or some measure of land destruction, this card ensures we have another path to victory. Negate is our versatile answer to anything that really disrupts us. Any deck that can stop us from fogging, either via counterspell, or via an effect like Thoughtseize poses a threat to us. Bow of Nylea is another versatile card that gives us either more lifegain, more removal against flyers, or an answer to land destruction. The board is rounded out by extra copies of Ratchet Bomb and Merciless Eviction for when your mainboard removal suite isn't quite enough.

Metagame

The hallmark of this deck is how well positioned it is against the metagame. We are extremely well positioned in Game 1 against virtually any Tier 1 deck (except maybe mono-red) and even the decks that can board against us don't have very many cards to do so. Pithing Needle is probably the card that we are worried about most when it comes to our win condition, but we have options in case we run into one of these. This deck struggles against any hyper-aggressive strategy, but if played correctly, we can hope to stabilize until we draw into our Supreme Verdict or other removal. As always, I will give you a few common matchups to help you and let you figure out the rest on your own!

Against Mono-Black Devotion

This is another matchup that can be a thorn in our side. Depending on the build, a maindeck Thoughtseize can really hurt us, and especially in multiples. The Nightveil Specter is also trouble if they get our gates, so we want to try to fog whenever one attacks, and deal with it as soon as we can. Pack Rat can get out of hand, but we have the sweepers in our deck necessary to take care of it as long as we draw into them. (Mercliess Eviction) and Detention Sphere deal with Underworld Connections, and we can usually fog enough once Desecration Demon is out to hold off until we win or draw a sweeper.

We can do more post-board once we bring in the Negate. This helps to counter their Thoughtseize or the occasional Pithing Needle or something like Corrupt out of the sideboard. Going up to the full set on our Ratchet Bomb and Merciless Eviction should assure that we have enough answers to keep the board clear and survive to find our way out of the maze. Try to balance saving fogs when possible and keeping your life total out of range of (Grey Merchant of Asphodel)

Sideboarding for this deck -

+2 Ratchet Bomb
+4 Negate
+1 Merciless Eviction

 

-4 Saruli Gatekeepers
-2 (Gatekeeper Vine)
-1 Urban Evolution

Against Mono-Blue Devotion

Another devotion deck, this deck doesn't have cards that can take over a game as well as Pack Rat or threats as big as Desecration Demon. Instead, it aims to flood the board with small devotion creatures like Judge's Familiar and Tidebinder Mage to ramp up the devotion count for Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves. This deck doesn't disrupt us quite as well as mono-black does, but if they have any counterspells that can be tough if they can counter one of our fogs. We can hold our fogs a little more in this match without the threat of Gary, but Master of Waves changes the game immediately when it comes down and must be answered. Fortunately for us, we have those answers.

After sideboarding, their matchup tends to get better, especially if they have a strong counterspell suite. We need to make sure we are prepared for our fog effects to be countered, and to play around them if we can. One skill that this deck requires is knowing when to activate Maze's End on your main phase to stay on tempo, or to hold back for a backup fog if needed. This is one deck that will test this skill and we need to make sure to play our best. Negate out of the sideboard helps with this, and keeping the board somewhat clear helps as well. If you see a Pithing Needle, as always, bring in the Crackling Perimeter.

Sideboarding for this deck -

+4 Negate
+2 Ratchet Bomb

-4 Saruli Gatekeepers
-2 Merciless Eviction

Against Mono-Red

There are a few varieties of decks with the mono-red core (little red, big red, boros) but the overall plan of attack is pretty similar. They are super-aggressive decks that aim to win as fast as possible. They do this with cheap, hasty creatures, a lot of burn spells, and finishers like Fanatic of Mogis or Stormbreath Dragon. They put a lot of pressure on us at all times, and it is CRUCIAL that we use our fogs smartly. We probably won't have enough for every attack, so we need to know when to take the damage here and there if we are going to survive. A common mistake I see is that players will tend to hold Riot Control until they have more creatures, opting instead to cast Fog or one of the other spells. This is a terrible error- there will be times you need to use Maze's End to keep moving towards your wincon and won't have the mana to cast Riot Control. Save your cheaper fogs for then, and treat the lifegain as a bonus. This is especially important in this matchup, they will kill us if we don't keep moving towards our 10 gates.

After boarding, we can grab a couple more (Ratchet Bombs) but we are actually sitting pretty good in the maindeck. The creatures help, and the Saruli Gatekeepers might be the best card in our deck against Mono-Red. You might see them board into cards like Assemble the Legion or other big, splashy spells like planeswalkers. Make sure to use your Detention Sphere wisely!

Sideboarding for this deck -

+2 Ratchet Bomb

-1 Urban Evolution
-1 Merciless Eviction

Conclusion

I hope you all like this deck and the different style of gameplay it offers. The key to having success with it is to know when to fog and when to hold the fog and that skill will come in time. You may not be the most well-liked player if you run this deck at your local FNM, but in the right situation, it can be a blast to play, and can definitely have its fair share of success. The deck is extremely cheap - I bought the whole deck, including sideboard, for about 15 tix on MTGOTraders, and it doesn't get much cheaper than that. Good luck in your travels, and may you find your way out of the maze successfully!

3 Comments

Double Maze deck feature by rayjinn at Wed, 02/12/2014 - 19:43
rayjinn's picture

It's funny how there's no mention of Burn, Skullcrack or Fanatic of mogus or not drawing a fog.
Merciless eviction is rarely something that would take enchantments, seeing as you kill your detention spheres and perimiters.

The lack of heroes reunion give you no life until turn 5 and by then lifebane zombie or thoughtseize usually has taken it or essence scatter countered it.

Not saying this deck does nothing, but it''s not particularly good against the field in this setup.

Quote from the article - by arekdahl at Thu, 02/13/2014 - 02:23
arekdahl's picture

Quote from the article -

**************************
Against Mono-Red

There are a few varieties of decks with the mono-red core (little red, big red, boros) but the overall plan of attack is pretty similar. They are super-aggressive decks that aim to win as fast as possible. They do this with cheap, hasty creatures, a lot of burn spells, and finishers like Fanatic of Mogis or Stormbreath Dragon.
**************************
Burn and Fanatic are both mentioned above. Not drawing a fog is pretty rare considering I run 16 - if you mean not drawing a fog every turn, I generally don't need to. I mention here that one of the keys to playing the deck is knowing when to Fog and when not to. You are right in that a dedicated burn deck beats this deck. When building I decided that trying to improve that matchup would weaken the rest too much.

I will say it is pretty cool we both got Maze's End decks published at the same time. This just illustrates hows cool of a game Magic is - we both took a deck based on an obscure win condition and went completely different directions with it. I don't think mine is strictly worse against the field as you suggested, nor is it necessarily better. I think it all depends what shows up in the matchups.

This could change in the coming weeks, and I might even move towards your deck more if I see a lot of dedicated burn decks. Anyway, I liked your article, keep up the good work!

I for one like that there by JXClaytor at Thu, 02/13/2014 - 02:40
JXClaytor's picture

I for one like that there were two different maze's end articles today :D