Hello everyone, I am back for another short article before heading out for my holiday vacation. This time, I want to talk about the standard deck I have been playing recently with some positive results. The deck is a Bant control list that seeks to utilize Misthollow Griffinto its fullest extent. Ever since I first saw Misthollow Griffin spoiled on the Avacyn Restored spoiler list, it jumped out at me as an extremely unique ability just ready to be abused. Everyone’s first immediate thought was utilizing the creature in conjunction with Moorland Haunt or Memorcide/Surgical Extraction for incremental value or in conjunction with Food Chain in legacy to create an infinite mana loop. Unfortunately, none of these ideas ever really panned out in the competitive Magic scene, and the griffin faded into obscurity as just another bulk mythic. Now, however, with the release of RtR, the obscure little griffin finally has the necessary tools to become a force in competitive standard.
Before I go any farther with the discussion, let me first share the deck list in question with you.
Misthollow BantCreatures (8) 4 Thragtusk 4 Misthollow Griffin Planeswalkers (3) 2 Jace, Architect of Thought 1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage Spells (23) 4 Supreme Verdict 4 Terminus 4 Detention Sphere 1 Oblivion Ring 4 Farseek 4 Sphinx’s Revelation 2 Rest in Peace Land (26) 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Temple Garden 1 Steam Vents 4 Hinterland Harbor 4 Glacial Fortress 3 Sunpetal Grove 1 Forest 1 Island 2 Moorland Haunt 1 Kessig Wolf Run 1 Alchemist’s Refuge Sideboard 1 Rest in Peace 1 Curse of Echoes 2 Dispel 2 Negate 3 Rhox Faithmender 1 Centaur Healer 1 Witchbane Orb 1 Jace, Memory Adept 1 Pithing Needle 2 Silklash Spider
This is basically a fairly traditional Bant control list that has been warped to work around Misthollow Griffin’s ability to be cast from exile and take advantage of it every way possible. The reason this deck is so strong is because it tries to do something that no other deck in the format can do: Play from exile. This list is also built to combat almost every major competitive standard strategy available right now, including other Bant control lists. Let’s look at a card-by-card breakdown of the list for an explanation of how this deck operates and why it’s a strong choice given the current meta.
As it stands, the standard format is comprised of three basic types of decks:
- Aggressive creature decks – This includes Rakdos Aggro, Mono Red, G/W, etc.
- Sphinx’s Revelation decks – This includes U/W Flash variants as well as all manner of Bant control lists.
- Graveyard decks – This includes all manner of reanimator strategies as well as the “storm” decks.
We ourselves fit into the Sphinx’s Revelation archetype, as we operate with 4 main deck copies of the card and it is our main source of card advantage. Our goal is to maintain card parity with other Sphinx’s Revelation decks using our own Revelations, while gaining incremental value through the use of our Misthollow Griffins in conjunction with either Moorland Haunt or Rest in Peace. Moorland Haunt allows us to exile our griffins from the graveyard, which gains us a 1/1 spirit token and allows us to recast our griffin from the exile zone. Having Rest in Peace on board makes our Supreme Verdicts much more favorable for us to cast, as we will only temporarily lose our threats whereas our opponent’s threats will be permanently exiled. Additionally, Misthollow Griffin effectively ‘dodges’ some of the Revelation decks’ most widely used removal: Detention Sphere and Oblivion Ring. Our griffins are also only temporarily removed via Angel of Serenity, although she is seeing considerably less play lately.
The majority of successful Bant control lists right now rely on a late game mill strategy, which usesElixir of Immortalityto recycle their graveyard and outlast the opponent. Rest in Peace helps negate that strategy by exiling our opponent’s graveyards. Against flash opponents, Rest in Peace significantly reduces the power level of Snapcaster Mage, and being able to recast our griffins lowers the impact of counterspells. Kessig Wolf Run also fits into our game plan against these decks rather well, as it gives us a way to negate their Revelations by fireball’ing them for more than they can Rev.
Post-board we go even bigger by bringing in Dispels, Curse of Echoes, Witchbane Orb, Pithing Needle, and Jace, Memory Adept. Dispel helps stop our opponent’s Revelations. Curse of Echoes shuts down our opponent’s counterspells, and allows us to copy their Revelations. When we copy their Revelation, our copy resolves first, which allows us an opportunity to draw into a Dispel and counter theirs. Witchbane Orb gives us Hexproof, which will stop them from being able to target us with Drownyard. Similarly, Pithing Needle can also shut down Drownyard or possibly stop a problematic planeswalker from taking over the game. We also bring in Jace, Memory Adept here for another angle of attack.
Typically, aggressive decks can be troublesome for Sphinx’s Revelation decks if the control player is unable to wrest control of the board within the first 3-5 turns of a game. Most Bant lists only run 4-5 main board sweepers to deal with the aggressive strategies, as well as some number of Detention Spheres or Oblivion Rings. We run a full 8 sweepers (4 Verdict, 4 Terminus) as well as a full 4 Detention Spheres and a singleton Oblivion Ring. It is not at all uncommon for us to play 3-4 wrath effects, as well as a number of Oblivion Ring effects, within the first 10 turns of a game. This is normally just too much for most aggressive decks to handle, especially when combined with the stopping power of Thragtusk. We also have Jace, Architect of Thought to lean on a little and help stem the bleeding. In the aggressive match ups, Jace’s +1 ability is almost always a double-fog or more, as the aggressive decks sometimes have difficulty dealing a full 5 damage to Jace on the swing-back with his +1 ability active. At the very least, Jace will normally buy you 1 free turn of no damage, and if your opponent refuses to target Jace and instead point his weakened creatures at you, a turn 4-5 wrath with a Jace still on board will almost certainly wrest control of the board. Once we have wrathed away their first wave or two of creatures, we can usually stabilize off of the back of Thragtusk or Sphinx’s Revelation.
Post-board, we bring our Rhox Faithmenders, Centaur Healer, and possibly our Silklash Spider if our opponents are playing cards such as Falkenrath Aristocrat, Thundermaw Hellkite, or various angel-folk. Faithmender is by far the most devastating creature for aggressive decks to face as it makes all of our life gaining effects utterly backbreaking for them. I have ended games against Rakdos decks with my opponent conceding with me sitting at a health 140 life. There’s no better feeling than casting a Sphinx’s Revelation for 5 and gaining 40 life because you have 3 Rhox Faithmenders on your side of the table.
Against the graveyard-based strategies, we run main deck Rest in Peace. It is very difficult for most graveyard decks to effectively fight through main deck hate like Rest in Peace. They just don’t have many good answers to the card in their main board. The biggest threat you have to be concerned with is a hard cast Craterhoof Behemoth. Alchemist’s Refuge gives us a little play here, allowing us to instant cast our sweepers, but the best thing you can do is just keep their side of the board clear as best as you possibly can.
Post-board these decks can go one of two ways. Either they will go harder on their reanimator strategy and board in counter-hate for your hate, or they will board into becoming an aggressive creature deck and remove most or all of their reanimation spells. Regardless, you should play it safe and board in your third copy of Rest in Peace. Jace, Memory Adept is a solid threat in these match ups as well, as milling them is much less threatening when you have an active Rest in Peace. If you suspect that they are running a more transformational sideboard, you can board against them as if you were boarding against an aggro/midrange deck and bring in your Faithmenders/Silklash Spiders. Regardless, keep your wrath count high and just try and establish board control, then whittle them down with your recurring griffins.
Overall this deck is a blast to play and it is very powerful against most of the strategies in the current standard format. I definitely recommend this list to anyone who loves playing a more controlling game and utilizing obscure mythics to their potential. I hope you have enjoyed the read and have a happy holiday!