It has been a couple weeks since my last update and not much has changed as far as standard goes.  UW Delver is still dominating the standard scene, as far as sheer numbers go, but Delver players now have a boogeyman hiding under their bed that they must acknowledge, and that boogeyman is none other than Solar Flare!

You read that right, for the first time since Innistrad standard’s beginning, Solar Flare has risen to the top of the food chain and has claimed two 1st place finishes, despite having to wade through a sea of delver opponents.

First, Michael Belfatto claimed victory at the SCG Standard Open in Columbus, OH on 6/2 with the following list:

 
MAIN DECK
Creatures [6]
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
2 Phantasmal Image
3 Sun Titan
 
Planeswalkers [2]
1 Gideon Jura
1 Liliana of the Veil
 
Spells [26]
1 Batterskull
1 Curse of Death’s Hold
2 Day of Judgment
1 Dead Weight
1 Dissipate
4 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Go for the Throat
4 Lingering Souls
2 Mana Leak
1 Negate
1 Oblivion Ring
3 Ponder
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Terminus
1 Unburial Rites

 

Lands [26]
1 Darkslick Shores
3 Drowned Catacomb
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Ghost Quarter
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Island
4 Isolated Chapel
3 Plains
3 Seachrome Coast
2 Swamp
 
SIDEBOARD
1 Celestial Purge
1 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Divine Offering
1 Flashfreeze
1 Griselbrand
1 Liliana of the Veil
3 Negate
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Terminus
2 Timely Reinforcements

 

I have my reservations about this list.  First, the list only runs a pair of Phantasmal Images.  Image is, by far, one of the strongest cards in Solar Flare’s arsenal.  It acts as removal in the early game, taking care of Thalia, Geist of Saint Traft, Strangleroots, and almost anything else that the opponent can throw at you.  In the late game, it is a powerhouse in conjunction with Sun Titan, creating a stream of 6/6s and overwhelming card advantage.  I cannot see any reason you would want to play less than 4 of these in your deck.  I have played 4 in my list and have never been upset to draw them at any stage in the game.

Second, I do not like Liliana in the main board of this deck.  I think she is a great card to bring in against the mirror or against other control opponents, but there are too many aggro decks out there that make her less than optimal.  Wolf Run can always activate an Inkmoth to counter her edict, and other decks have a number of creatures that they can sacrifice to her in lieu of their biggest threat.  I see Liliana best utilized in the sideboard.

Third, I do not like Terminus here.  You don’t have a way to utilize the miracle on your opponent’s turn and why would you ever want to send your Sun Titans/Images to the bottom of your library?  Sure, sometimes there are situations where casting Day to reset the board is necessary, and in those situations you can usually reanimate or recast a Sun Titan to fill your side back up, but Terminus doesn’t really play well with that strategy.  This should definitely be a third Day of Judgment or possibly a Doom Blade, Go For the Throat or Dismember.

Forth, I am wary of the sparse counter suite included in the main deck.  I am not against playing counter spells, but I do not feel like they are very strong right now.  I can see using Mana Leak and Negate to stall the early game development of some opponents, but I think Dissipate is a little out of place in this deck.  Personally, I would still eschew counter magic altogether in favor of more direct answers such as Oblivion Rings.

I’m also not 100% sold on Curse of Death’s Hold.  However, I do understand that it can just shut some decks down, especially in game 1 when they may not have a main board answer to it.  It’s a fine card, but I could also see it becoming a 2nd Gideon Jura or even a 2nd Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite.

As for the sideboard, I am not a fan of Griselbrand.  The deck has almost no way of ever hard casting this guy, therefore he will only ever hit the table as a reanimation target. Now, I am sure that if he ever does hit the table, he will most likely win you the game, but getting there seems like a stretch most of the time, especially when opponents will be boarding in their graveyard hate for games two and three.  I think Karn Liberated could better utilize this slot.  In addition, I am not a fan of the two copies of Terminus in the sideboard.  I would definitely consider more Celestial Purges or other specific answers, or even additional Nihil Spellbombs or Day of Judgment.

Even though I have some disagreement with some of the design points behind this deck, Michael still managed to take down the event and definitely has my respect for doing so.  I would definitely be interested in hearing his thoughts on his card choices and what, if any, changes he would make to his list for next week.

Moving on, Solar Flare also managed to win the first of the TCGplayer 5k Diamond Series events hosted in Edison, NJ on 6/3.  The winner of the tournament was Zack Mullin with the following list:

MAIN DECK

Creatures [9]
2 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
4 Phantasmal Image
3 Sun Titan

 Spells [24]

3 Day of Judgment
3 Doom Blade
4 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Lingering Souls
1 Nihil Spellbomb
3 Oblivion Ring
3 Ponder
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Unburial Rites

 Lands [27]

1 Cavern of Souls
2 Drowned Catacomb
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Ghost Quarter
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Island
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
2 Swamp
 
SIDEBOARD
1 Cavern of Souls
2 Celestial Purge
1 Day of Judgment
3 Divine Offering
1 Doom Blade
2 Karn Liberated
3 Negate
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Wurmcoil Engine

This is more along the lines of what I was eschewing in my last article.  Zach has made room for some much needed instant speed removal in the form of Doom Blade by cutting Gideon Jura from the deck entirely.  This is actually a move that I can completely get behind.  Gideon was always either a 3 or a 9 for me.  Either he was REALLY good, or he was pretty bad.

I like that Zack has kept the Image count high in this list, as well as cards that interact well with Sun Titan like Oblivion Ring and Nihil Spellbomb.  After playing with both Ponder and Think Twice, I definitely think that Ponder is the way to go with this deck.  It allows you to do so much more than Think Twice and interacts well with Evolving Wilds and Forbidden Alchemy.  I’m also a fan of the two main board ghost quarters.  Along with the four images, Zack is pre-boarded for the Wolf Run match up, allowing him an easier time dealing with the big green menace.

The only change I would consider would be to possibly exchange one or two Doom Blades with Go For the Throat in order to diversify the instant speed removal suite a little.  I like the sideboard in general.  Three copies of Divine Offering may be a little too much, but, like I said in my last article, Sword of War and Peace is very difficult for this deck to contend with, so I can definitely appreciate that Zach is respecting that threat by making sure he is very prepared to deal with the equipment.

If I were to play in a standard event this weekend, I would definitely be playing something more similar to Zack’s version of the deck.  Right now though, I am focusing mostly on legacy in preparation for GP Atlanta.  I am definitely happy to see Solar Flare finally getting the attention and respect it deserves.  I had a very strong feeling that it was going to be a powerful deck in this environment and it would appear I was correct.  It may not have the presence that Delver has, but it is certainly making a name for itself in this environment and should not be taken lightly.  I fully expect Delver, and other decks, to adapt to the recent Solar Flare victories by including more graveyard hate into their lists.  Delver players will definitely want to start boarding Surgical Extraction again, and other lists will probably start packing Grafdigger’s Cage, Purify the Grave, or Nihil Spellbomb to deal with the Flare decks.  It will be interesting to see if Flare continues to be successful or if it recedes back into the shadows.

Until next time, happy planeswalking.