I was looking for something different. You see, I was playing American Flash for quite some time. Originally as the UW Flash list made famous by Adam Prosak, I eventually evolved as the deck evolved in the Meta; adding Red, adding Harvest Pyre, adding Blasphemous Act. Several months with the same shell eventually wore me out, and I decided I wanted to something different from the American build. With so much control, I wanted to go in the opposite route for my next standard deck, which lead me down the road to Aristocrats, Act 2.

I’m getting off topic here, so I’ll keep it brief. I love the Aristocrats and did well with it for a few months but again it was time for something new. Dragon’s Maze just got released and I wanted to do something with the new cards but had no inspiration. Finally, a Deck Tech from Andrew Schneider with his Grixis Highlander deck gave me that inspiration. The list looked fun and the concept was great; playing a bunch of different spells with either 1 or 2 of most of them (hence the Highlander name), giving you lots of flexible options. I wanted to go that route but I couldn’t convince myself to play Grixis. I missed Sphinx’s Revelation. I missed Azorius Charm. So I knew I was heading back down toward the American route. But this time, I wanted something different.

I am not a great deck designer. I, like many of you surely have, tried to make great Tier One decks but have failed in the past. Fun decks are great, but not consistent enough with winning to keep me happy. I wanted to try build an American deck that wasn’t like the bulk of them. I cut Reckoners. I cut Thought Scours. I cut Searing Spears. And then, I began adding. An Aetherling here. An Angel of Serenity there. Cyclonic Rifts, Ral Zareks. I was creating in the Highlander style of the Grixis Deck. After about a week of testing or tuning, this is what I ended up with for the TCG State Championship:

1 Desolate lighthouse
1 Cavern of souls
1 Island
3 Sacred foundry
4 Hallowed fountain
4 Steam vents
4 Glacial fortress
4 Clifftop retreat
4 Sulfur falls
1 Think twice
2 Cyclonic rift
3 Sphinx’s revelation
2 Syncopate
2 Dissipate
1 Warleader’s helix
1 Supreme verdict
1 Mizzium mortars
4 Azorius charm
2 Turn // Burn
1 Izzet charm
4 Snapcaster mage
3 Augur of Bolas
2 Restoration angel
2 Aetherling
1 Angel of Serenity
2 Ral Zarek

Sideboard

2 Dispel
3 Boros Reckoner
1 Warleader’s Helix
1 Psychic Spiral
2 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Turn // Burn
1 Electrickery
1 Wear // Tear
2 Supreme Verdict
1 Assemble The Legion

 

The concept is basically the typical American Control idea: Counter, bounce, and board wipe. Gain life and draw cards in the interim, and then finally win with any of the Angels or Aetherlings. It’s actually a really fun deck (at least for me it is) and can get there in most matchups. Let’s take a look at the cards you may wonder about. Again, I am no expert deck builder, and I could be wrong with my decisions but at least you get to see my thinking for each.

Cyclonic Rift – I added the rifts over Unsummon because I like the ability to target other permanents. Bouncing a Detention Sphere or Planewalker can help a good amount of times, and with overload, you can turn the spell into an Aetherize if needed.

1 Warleader’s Helix – I felt that lifegain was very important in the aggro matchup and this card gives me an extra chance to have that happen. It was also pivotal against a Sire of Insanity coming down as a way to deal with it. Hitting players also provided useful as it got me to deal that last bit of damage I needed to do against my opponent. I never underused this card and included another copy in the SB for the same reasons I listed about. I feel like one is enough because with a cost of 4, I don’t want this in my opening hand too often.

1 Supreme Verdict/1 Mizzium Mortars – I did singleton’s of each for that weekend just to give me flexibility in most matchups. While Supreme is great overall, sometimes I wanted to just his an early Olivia and the two mana Mortars is relevant. I lump it with verdict because it does become a board wipe later if needed.

2 Turn// Burn – Another 2 of, this card preformed fine but the 5 total cost is sometimes too slow. Popping a Thragtusk does help keep you alive and the card definitely has it’s use. At worse, you card Burning little guys to keep the aggro player slow. I’ve also used Burn to reach in for that last bit of damage to a player when needed.

1 Angel of Serenity – I wanted more threats than just the Aetherling and the Restoration Angels and this card can perform as the one sided board wipe, along with bringing back any Aetherlings that I may have lost. I kept it as a one of just because I don’t ever want to see it in my opening hand or draw it on my first few turns. I think it’s still too good not to remove and most players don’t expect it.

2 Ral Zarek – I wanted more ways to deal with troublesome creatures and I figured Ral was a good option. Overall, it underperformed in this deck. It was great when I had advantage but otherwise it didn’t do much. As a 4 cost, I’d rather have a Supreme Verdict or Restoration Angel to keep me going.

Here were my thoughts for the Sideboard choices:

3 Boros Reckoner – For the aggro matchups, I wanted the Reckoners in there to slow them down. This also helps against any Blasphemous act shenanigans.

1 Wear // Tear – This is for any troublesome Artifacts or Enchantments. An opposing Assemble the Legion or Staff of Nin becomes a nuisance so I wanted to at least have 1 answer in the Sideboard. It also helps against an early game Ground Seal because you want to get full value out of Snapcaster Mage.

1 Burn // Turn and 1 Warleader’s Helix – Again, a resolved Sire of Insanity is big trouble for this deck so I wanted to have more options to deal with things like that.

Anti Control Package – I may have had too many sideboard slots reserved for control matches. Dispel was usually sided in along with Assemble. Spiral helps against Mill obviously.

 

Performance:

The deck performs well for the most part. Without getting into too many details, it performed 4 – 3 at States, which was mainly due to my unwillingness to mulligan at times. If you’ve ever played an American deck, you know that land drops are important for your first several turns. I don’t know why, my mind likes to fight itself on questionable hands. Even though I know I should mulligan, part of me thinks I can risk it. It’s like hitting on a hard 17 in blackjack. There is no reason to, but sometimes you want to risk it. Well, I did that once too many times at the event and it cost me.

That being said, I’m still planning to play the deck for a bit. I like all the interactions it has and how it plays. I did make some changes though. First, Ral Zarek was cut. As much as I wanted to play the card, it just wasn’t performing like I needed it too. In it’s place I added another Supreme Verdict and an Assemble the Legion. I think there is a lot of aggro and midrange that requires a second verdict. As for Assemble, its an alternate win condition, but I’m not sure if its needed in the maindeck. That freed up 2 SB slots which are fill with Rhox Faithmenders, but I’m not sure I want them in there.

So that’s it for my current Standard deck, I’ll be sticking to it for at least the next few weeks while I figure out what to play for GP Miami. I’m sure it could use some improvements so any suggestions are welcome. Let me know in the comments.