I was very much hoping that this article would be about my many triumphs at GP: Chicago this past weekend.  However, the main event did not go quite as planned as I lost a few very close matches to very good players (Paul Reitzl, Matt Nass, Ryan Forsberg).  My matchup with Paul Reitzl was pretty much a coin flip, and I just wish that I had chosen to play Hurkyl’s Recall instead of Nature’s Claim in my sideboard.  Game 3 against Matt Nass, we both mulled to four and I never drew the second land or infect creature that I needed to win the game.  The turn before I had a lethal Rancor’d Noble Hierarch, he managed to combo off perfectly with Pyromancer’s Ascension.  It happens.

Luckily for me, I had the absolute best standard deck in my backpack when I showed up for the TCGPlayer 5K the next day.  At the time I am writing this, I still have not lost a match with the UW Flash deck between going 4-0 at FNM, 7-0-2 at the TCGPlayer event, and X-0 on Magic Online in 2-man queues this week.  I think that it is safe to say that UW Flash marks the first definite break of the current standard format, and we will see this in full effect this weekend at GP: Charleston.  First, I am going to share the current 75 cards that I am playing, and then I am going to discuss what happened to lead to this break in the format.

 

Creatures: Artifacts: Sideboard:
4x Augur of Bolas 2x Runechanter’s Pike 2x Clone
4x Snapcaster Mage 3x Supreme Verdict
4x Restoration Angel Lands: 1x Essence Scatter
4x Hallowed Fountain 2x Dispel
Instants: 4x Glacial Fortress 1x Unsummon
4x Thought Scour 1x Azorius Guildgate 2x Fettergeist
4x Azorius Charm 8x Island 1x Negate
3x Think Twice 3x Plains 3x Rest in Peace
2x Rewind 2x Cavern of Souls
2x Dissipate 2x Moorland Haunt
2x Syncopate
1x Essence Scatter
2x Unsummon
2x Sphinx’s Revelation

 

The only thing that I think the deck is lacking right now is a reactive answer to Runechanter’s Pike for the mirror, because that is really the card that makes this deck tick.  I am sure that you have all read the many articles about this archetype by now, so I will spare you the card by card analysis.  The basics are that you pretty much don’t do anything until your opponent’s end step unless you need to counter some of their spells during their turn.  Going Counter into Snapcaster-Counter into Restoration Angel-Counter happens very often.  The turns where you don’t need to counter anything, you get ahead with Sphinx’s Revelation, Think Twice, and Thought Scour.  Nothing feels better than Snapcaster-Sphinx’s for 7 when you are at 1 life in response to a Searing Spear (it happened…).  Rewind is the absolute best answer to their end step Sphinx’s Revelation because you can keep counter magic up for their turn through the power of untapping four lands.  It is also very good with Restoration Angel/Sphinx’s Revelation if they cast a sorcery speed spell on their turn which we can then counter and still cast our game changer on their end step.

I have 2x Dispels in my sideboard for the mirror and for control decks.  The matchup with control is very easy if you have enough counter magic.  Clone is for Sigarda, Thragtusk, Angel of Serenity, and Geist of Saint Traft.

A lot of people have been talking about how Cavern of Souls coming back is going to make this deck bad and unplayable.  Honestly, I couldn’t disagree more.  The decks that give this deck trouble already have stretched mana bases that can’t really afford to run more than 2 Caverns in their main deck and have three or four creature types represented in those main decks.  Additionally, I managed to beat a player who went turn 5 Cavern on Beast for Thragtusk into turn 6 Cavern on Angel for Restoration Angel.  I won with dumb little combat tricks like Unsummoning and Restoration Angel-ing my own value creatures and eventually found a Runechanter’s Pike to just go bigger.

Here is what, in my opinion, has led to this break in the format:

– Early on, Zombies was the hyped best deck and represented an incredible amount of early pressure.  This made red the best reactive color and green the best color to gain life and try to win in combat.  For a few weeks, every deck that was built had to keep Zombies at the very front of their mind.

– As the format progressed, people were beating Zombies consistently through the power of Centaur Healer, Thragtusk, Angel of Serenity, and Pillar of Flame.  As people discovered the most effective ways to combat the Zombie assault, they were able to dedicate more slots to going bigger than their other opponents.  Cards like Sphinx’s Revelation, Unburial Rites, and Rakdos’ Return continued to become better positioned.

– Creative deck builders realized that Counterspells were a great way to punish all of the decks that were going big, but still had to keep the dedicated Zombie players at bay.  This spawned the UWR Tempo lists featuring counter magic, burn spells, and Thundermaw Hellkite.

– And then we come to today, where Zombies is widely accepted as a tier 2 deck that you really will only see in the early rounds of a tournament if at all.  The same UW cards that punished the big decks are still very well positioned, but the red cards just don’t do anything without Zombies to prey on.  Sure, there are still the GW Human decks and the UW Aggro decks, but there are cards in UW that are able to answer those quite effectively (Azorius Charm, Supreme Verdict).  These facts leave UW Flash in an incredible position to combat the metagame.

The New Standard Dilemma:

Bant Control, Reanimator, and UW Flash are the Tier 1 decks.  Each deck is fairly popular, and I expect those three archetypes to make up at least 50% of the metagame in Charleston.  If those are the three matchups you plan on playing against all day, I don’t see a better archetype to choose than UW Flash.  It completely stomps the Bant Control deck, and has very good game against the Unburial Rites decks through counters that exile and Rest in Peace out of the board.  As long as you have a sound plan in your sideboard for the Flash mirror, you will be in good shape.  The real problem is that if you want to build a deck that crushes the UW Flash deck, you will pretty much just roll over and die to Bant Control and Reanimator.

Here is a list of cards that are actually good against UW Flash:

#1 Uncounterable Huntmaster of the Fells (GR + Cavern)

–  You don’t attack with him, you don’t block with him.  You just let him sit there and force your UW opponent to cast spells on their own turn or risk him flipping.

#2 Deathrite Shaman on turn 1 (GB)

–  This little guy punishes them SO MUCH for playing Thought Scour.  He is very good as a reactive answer to Snapcaster Mage and represents a clock the entire game.

#3 Lingering Souls (WB)

#4 Uncounterable Sigarda no later than turn 6 (GW + Cavern)

–  Any later than Turn 6 and they will likely just have things like Restoration Angel + Pike or little combat tricks online.

Honorable Mention:  Invisible Stalker

–  I haven’t tested it or seen it played, but supposedly this little fella comes down early enough and makes it possible to push through a ton of damage in ways that the UW deck can’t interact with.  I don’t know if I agree, but this is the word on the street.

 

Intuitively, it appears that a Jund deck with Cavern of Souls has the best shot at beating UW Flash.  And I definitely agree with that.  However, have you ever watched a Jund vs. Bant control matchup?  How about Jund vs. Reanimator?  Those are the two reasons that Jund has been struggling to actually make the type of Top 8s that the power level of its cards deserves.  Not to mention the mana base already has some trouble and the creature types in the deck are Vampire, Human, and Beast.

Another option, and probably the best one available, is a Junk Reanimator shell with Caverns, Lingering Souls, and Sigarda.  However – a good UW player realizes that this approach is the best way to get ahead against them and sideboards in Supreme Verdict and Rest in Peace.

This brings us back to Zombies.  They play Cavern, the creatures are very resilient to UW forms of interaction, and they represent a very fast clock (faster than the UW Flash decks Sphinx’s Revelation).  However, as long as people are still playing Bant Control and Thragtusk-Reanimator, Zombies will not be able to win a major tournament.  It is going to take until UW Flash is truly dominating the meta-game in with extreme numbers for Zombies to have a shot at a comeback.

Conclusion:

For the next two weeks, I really think that any other choice is inferior to UW Flash.  I felt so incredibly powerful in every single match I played on my way to victory in the TCGPlayer 5K, and the deck is the real deal.  As a UW player at heart and member of the Azorius guild, I love it that this deck is so powerful right now.  However, I do feel a little bit bad hearing the constant cries of disgust as another UW deck starts to take over the format.  They really should not have printed Snapcaster Mage and Restoration Angel at the same time…Flash with inherent card advantage combined with Counterspells is super powerful.  Even if those counters are bad ones like Syncopate.

Good luck to the many Roxie Cards readers competing at the GP: Charleston this weekend!  I hope to hear many good things as I watch the coverage.  My grind takes me to Bloomington, IL where I fully intend to win a Mox Ruby playing UW Miracles in Legacy.

Thanks for reading!

Alex Binek

@PTQChamp on Twitter