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By: jamuraa, Michael Janssen
Nov 20 2008 10:36am
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Hello, and welcome to another week of exciting statistics and deck analysis from the crazy world of standard premier events, or maybe we should call them daily events now because the premier events are reserved for release events and special tournaments now. We're back to normal week, almost like we had before the big switch.

Along with the release of Shards of Alara, we get another set of the hottest card type to be created recently, planeswalkers. These ally cards which got introduced in Lorwyn more than a year ago now are definitely having an impact on the game. They are showing up in almost every archetype in one way or another. The original planeswalkers are getting more play, as Jace Beleren struts his stuff in many of the Faerie decks which are showing up nowadays because of the lack of really decent card draw in blue nowadays. I can honestly say that in the last week I have glimpsed almost every single planeswalker released in a top eight deck.

I have my own opinions on planeswalkers obiously. I think that some of the newer ones are a bit more powerful than they need to be. Elspeth, Knight-Errant seems like a no-brainer for any deck which has a smattering of white around, as it's pretty easy to keep her in play starting at essentially 5 loyalty tokens and increasing the life soak effectiveness every turn. Her ultimate also makes it pretty crazy for the other person to win. Not all of them are crazy powerful in the standard environment though - Tezzeret the Seeker seems to be practically tailor-made for larger card pools where you want to pull some of the cheap and useful artifacts out of the deck quickly, but there are not many of those around in the standard, except that almost everything on the Esper shard seems to be an artifact - maybe it will find a deck yet.

Of all of the new planeswalkers, I think that Sarkhan Vol is probably the craziest, though. There aren't many cards in the game that will put 20 damage worth of flying tokens into play, even with a three-turn wait. Consider a card in Time Spiral block with Suspend 3 that had the same text, and I think you would have warped the metagame considerably. I haven't seen Sarkhan in a lot of decks lately, but there are a few with the guy. He's also one of the cheaper of the new planeswalkers.

Speaking of cost, for all of the analysis of the Mythic rarity in the weeks preceeding the Alara release, it was the most clear that the planeswalkers would be the most expensive of the Mythics, because Wizards own guide for creating the cards have implied playability and powerfulness. This plus the new "ultra-rare" rarity is basically a recipe for high prices. As this article is published, the most expensive of the Lorwyn planeswalkers (Garruk Wildspeaker) is cheaper than the cheapest of the Shards of Alara planeswalkers (Tezzeret the Seeker). While I admit that the earlier cards were once more expensive than they are now, we're basically into the demand stage of the short-supply-driven to demand-driven range of the Shards relase cycle already I think. Elspeth, Knight-Errant is currently on the rise due to inclusion in some nifty new decks, including one we will cover later, and pretty much an auto-in for the Windbrisk Weenie decks, and it doesn't look like she's going to go back down anytime soon. At any rate, none of them are at the level of Figure of Destiny or even Reflecting Pool yet, but I would keep an eye out.

Statistics for Standard PEs: 11/5/2008 to 11/11/2008

We're back to normal this week, with just a single week's worth of meta to analyze. However, Alara events passed, so we actually have four more events than the three week period that we covered in the last Deviations. Twelve events graced our presence in this week's standard daily events, giving us 96 top eight spots to fill with sweet sweet meta. We're still not at the levels that we were at before version three, but it's not too bad for a new set and not a lot of people knowing what to play yet. I've also heard that some of the new queue structures are quite enticing. Again, I wasn't able to get the player stats on every event, but the average of the sample I got was 29 players. If we can keep up the trend for more events, I will be happier - more events means we have a better idea of which deck is the best, after all.


For those unfamiliar with the graphic, I'll direct you to last week's article which explains it in full.

In the first filled-out week of meta for the new set, it's pretty obvious who is on the top - Faeries is just dominating the meta, taking more than double the top table spots of it's closest competitor, Cruel Control. The event graph shows us that it pretty consistently took three spots, and early in the week it even won five events in a row. That's domination if I've ever seen it. I suspect the loss that you see later in the week is because it was becoming obvious that there were a lot of Fae around, and we saw more hate enter. During that time the natural enemy of the Faerie deck, the quick Windbrisk Weenie, started gaining some success. Tied for second is Cruel Control and Demigod Red, although technically Demigod Red has had more success than Cruel Control as it has a few more semifinals spots. What's interesting to me is that neither of these decks managed to get a single win, while Windbrisk Weenie in fourth place list in total spots comes in second in the wins category. I would argue that Faeries is sitting pretty in this new metagame as the obvious winner, with these three "second place" decks vying for the next-best spot.

Below the rogue deck contingent this week we see that Elves is making a comeback in it's normal form, with Imperious Perfects mucking up the ground and everything. There weren't any Token Elves to speak of this week like the three weeks prior, but it might show up again soon as it's been making an appearance time and again in the queues. WB Tokenize is a new deck archetype this week which came out of left field and managed to make itself to a few wins - successful enough that it is this week's outlier. Reveillark is still hanging in there with just a few spots, and Merfolk is tailing close behind. Trailing with only one top eight spot is last week's outlier, Painter's Backlash, proving that I can consistently choose decks that will underperform in the week after I feature them.

This week we have eight decks which qualified as none of the archetypes in the main list that were all on their own but battled it out anyway. The most successful this week was an Elementals deck piloted by yoel42 to a second-place finish. The deck abuses the Horde of Notions and a whole host of monsters with comes-into-play abilities, not the least of which are Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw. A similar deck also had less success as well later in the week. A couple of Bant Control decks featuring the Bant Charm, Stillmoon Cavalier and a set of Wrath of God also took two of the spots. There were two mannequin decks, one using Archon of Justice multiple times, and another which seemed like a more classic mannequin deck except for the inclusion of the Painter's Servant-Chaotic Backlash combo for random win. Finishing up the unique decks this week is a deck which focused highly on Jund creatures including Broodmate Dragon and Woolly Thoctar, and a deck which seemed to just have all the one and two mana elves that you could find in standard, strewn into a deck with twenty forests to tie them all together.

Mode of the Week: Demigod Red

Demigod Red
Standard deck as played by The player87
Ashenmoor Gouger
Demigod of Revenge
Figure of Destiny
Hell's Thunder
Mogg Fanatic
Stigma Lasher
24 cards

Other Spells
Flame Javelin
Magma Spray
12 cards
Ghitu Encampment
24 cards


It's been a while since we had a good look at a Demigod Red list, them being generally pretty formulaic, and we haven't seen any of them after the rotation yet. This version was played to a semifinals finish by The player87 and shows some of the new cards which have entered into this deck and some of the changes that the deck had to make as some of the really good Red cards in Time Spiral block rotated out of the standard environment. The deck still has the same basic gameplan, which is to attack the opposing team until they are dead, with some burn to back it up. There is a lot less burn around in these decks as compared to the pre-alara decks, and the notable missing element of Skred in order to provide single-red-mana removal of any pesky creature on the opposing team.

One of the additions from Alara is the Hell's Thunder beater. This card harkens back to the days of the Blistering Firecat with a little less oomph behind it's body but a bit more butt in order to outlast basic removal like Nameless Inversion or the newly popular Agony Warp. Most of the time these will act like Flame Javelin numbers five through eight, and in some longer games sometimes copy nine or ten with the possibility of unearth a couple turns down. The Figure of Destiny is, as mentioned earlier, one of the most expensive cards in standard at the moment, but the man is worth it. The figure is a one-drop which turns into a solid two-drop given an extra mana, and takes the "upgrade" idea to the max when you get a crazy powerful guy in the final iteration. However, I don't see the card getting any cheaper, as it's in two of the most successful decks at the moment.

Demigod Red tends to do well when the Faeries are powerful in the metagame because of powerful sweeper effects from the sideboard. This sideboard specifically is trained on the Kithkin matchup with the Chaotic Backlash coming in to do a heap of damage to anyone who has a lot of blue or white guys - but I wouldn't bring it in against most Faeries decks because they don't have a ton of blue guys most of the time. Guttural Response is good against the other two big decks in the format, Faeries and Cruel Control as it takes out a Cryptic Command or even a Bant Charm with a single mana open. Unwilling Recruit has been showing up a lot more lately, as it's more versatile than you might think. It's easy enough to screw up the blocker math by stealing a creature and then attacking with it, but this card can just as easily be used when the opposing side is completely empty as a very expensive Enrage. It's not uncommon to see this in the main deck, but with Cruel Control out there with so few creatures on the board to steal, I can see the reasoning behind having it in the sideboard. At any rate, I would expect to see this deck a bit more in the coming weeks as it struts it's stuff against the Faeries-dominated metagame.

Outlier of the Week: WB Tokenize

We have the break-out hit which has been pretty successful for it's short run this week, which I am calling here WB Tokenize, but you could easily call it something else. I'm just not sure about what to call it and my naming skills have left a bit to be desired recently. If you have a better name for the deck I would appreciate a comment. Anyway YYsapporo and a couple of other guys have played this deck to an astounding five slots in the meta from absolutely nothing before, and it's gaining some momentum.

The crazy pile of manafixing which is in standard right now makes this deck viable, with the Fetid Heath and Caves of Koilos and Arcane Sanctum leading the way. This makes for a pretty solid manabase which can easily put out any combination of white and black that you would want to get your hands on. With this flexibility it focuses on a couple of strong token generators available right now in Spectral Procession and Bitterblossom, putting a constant stream of flying baddies on the board ready to head into the red zone. Glorious Anthem makes them bigger than the other side's tokens, which is definitely possible in the meta right now. Along with this we have the amazing Mesmeric Fiend-like Tidehollow Sculler which is a turn two monster, removing the most dangerous card in the hands of your opponent and attacking as a bonus. Thoughtseize completes the hand disruption package. On top of that, we get a bunch of removal in the form of Shriekmaw and Terror which make it pretty easy to get the way clear for attack.

I ranted a bit about the planeswalkers in the earlier section of this article, but this deck makes good use of them. In conjunction with Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap (which also is aided by the Glorious Anthem) and their persist tokens, we have Ajani Goldmane making them good for a third or fourth life by counteracting their negative counters with positive ones. Ajani does a pretty good impression of a Glorious Anthem himself for the tokens which are around as well. Elspeth, Knight-Errant makes an appearance as well, making more tokens and lifting up your Tidehollow Scullers to get in for five damage. I've tested this deck for five hours or so, and it may look pretty hodgepodge but it works quite well against the field right now, with just the right amount of each element that is needed to get a win. I wouldn't be surprised to see more of this archetype in the next week's rundown.

Well, that will wrap up this edition of Standard Deviations. As always, you can look at every single decklist if you would like to sift through them for yourself at the Wizards site and see for yourself. I'm sorry for the lateness of this week's article, I will try to make up for it by having the meta for the next week done in speedy time and available before the weekend. Until then, good luck in the PEs!


BW Tokens deck by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Sat, 11/22/2008 - 00:34
Anonymous(Unregistered)'s picture
@ Iceage4life:
I decided to try out this WB tokens list. While at first I thought the glorius athems didn't make any sense, after playing the list, they are fantastic, and they should not be cut. Even if they have esper charm, you have both bitterblossom and glorious anthem, and thus eventually your enchantments will stick, and when either sticks they are both pheomenal. I can't tell you how many times I have hidden one underneath a windbrisk heights and swung in for a ton, messing with combat math. It is very good in this deck.
If you do not cut the glorious anthem, then you cannot afford to play unmake due to curve issues. I do like your thinking on figure of destiny, although unfortunately i will not be adding him cause I don't feel like spending 105 tix to do so :).
by iceage4life at Thu, 11/20/2008 - 11:33
iceage4life's picture

I like that Token deck though it's mana base is wrong.  Zero reason not to run one Reflecting Pool, lots of reasons to run 2-4. Oh and Puppeteer Clique in the side is so Blocky, its pretty awful in STD.  Running Terror over Unmake also seems suspect though curve is already kinda wack.


I think I'd also want at least a Cloudgoat Ranger or two.  Have not seen list before but I'd change it a ton:

4x Figure of Destiny
3x Thoughtseize
4x Bitterblossom
4x Tidehollow Sculler
4x Finks
4x Spectral Procession
4x Unmake
2x Ajani
2x Elspeth
2x Cloudgoat Ranger
2x Profane Command

4x Windbrisk Heights
4x Caves of Koilos
4x Fetid Heath
4x Reflecting Pool
3x Swamp
6x Plains

Mana base gets both better and worse but B/W aggro decks in STD always are kinda troubled in that regard.   Only three lands don't pump Figure which should be fine with 25 as hitting a Heath means that problem goes away.  Possible 24 land is the right call but that seems low to me.  Profane is the total nuts in this type of deck with fear, zombify, and drain life all being awesome.  Might want more than 2 but not sure what else to cut.

Deck is very cool just seemed super loose and I'd much rather play the above list.