Waste Not, Revisited

Main Deck (60)
Lifebane Zombie
Liliana's Reaver
Consuming Aberration
Aetherling
Waste Not
Thoughtseize
Lightning Strike
Rakdos's Return
Hero's Downfall
Syncopate
Mind Rot
Duress
Sign in Blood
Whispering Madness
Blood Crypt
Mutavault
Swamp
Temple of Deceit
Temple of Epiphany
Temple of Malice
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Watery Grave
Sideboard (15)
Duress
Lightning Strike
Doom Blade
Negate
Anger of the Gods
Hero's Downfall
Lifebane Zombie
Bile Blight

I almost had to do a spit take the first time I cast Whispering Madness. Here’s the scenario. My opponent, playing Blue/White Control, is tapped out. I have a Lifebane Zombie and Waste Not in play, and have just untapped with four mana available, and my one-of Whispering Madness is in my three card hand. My opponent, meanwhile, has five cards in his hand. Unsure of what’s about to happen, I cast Whispering Madness. We both discard our hands. My opponent draws his five cards, but I look carefully. I get four mana and draw eight cards. After I Cipher Whispering Madness onto Lifebane Zombie, I cast a Liliana’s Reaver for free. Attack with Lifebane Zombie. Whispering Madness happens again, and this time, I get two mana and draw nine cards, while my opponent is still over there tapped out and with a hand of five cards after having to pitch ten cards to his graveyard. Since I get the second set of mana during the combat damage step, I can’t cast anything with it, but I have nine cards in my hand, and am about to untap with five mana. If my opponent casts a spell and plays a land, I will Rakdos’s Return him for his entire hand, and then still have a Whispering Madness Lifebane Zombie and a Liliana’s Reaver.

Needless to say, I won that game. In fact, every match I’ve played of the last week and a half or so has been extremely close, always going to game three. But the deck was missing something, something very important. It wasn’t discard spells (trust me, I had more than enough of those). If we look at the revised list, you’ll notice it’s removal city. The deck has one major problem: Creature decks. While control decks are easy-peasy, it’s the aggressive/beefy decks that give the deck trouble. Red Deck Wins was an especially frustrating matchup, often their hand is empty by the time you get to have any sort of fun.

So, how does the deck change? It moves from a completely dedicated discard deck to a more control-ish shell, running a bunch of removal and card draw mainboard. Underworld Connections, while a fantastic card, was too slow for the shell. Sign in Blood is a great card that lets us get similar acceleration while keeping us on curve. Lightning Strike fills a similar hole, coming in at the two slot so that we have an early enough removal spell to deal with aggressive cards like Ash Zealot.

Duress, meanwhile, is one of the many cards that has been downsized. The card is excellent, but only in certain matchups. In general, it stays in the main board because we have to be able to deal with threats such as Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Domri Rade. Ordeal of Erebos, Drainpipe Vermin, and Slate Street Ruffian have also gotten the axe. These cards do not impact the game in a meaningful way, and have such have no home in this deck. Liliana Vess has also been removed, as there are just other things you’d rather be doing with five mana. The deck really curves out at four mana, and anything above four is just gravy on the Rakdos’s Return train.

On the other hand, cards like Whispering Madness really get to shine. It’s been upgraded to a two-of, and should be considered a win condition in this deck. Resolving a Whispering Madness with a Waste Not in play is insane, as we saw earlier, especially if you get to immediately Cipher it. Even if you don’t, resolving it only once is enough to put your opponent in a very, very bad spot. Speaking of win conditions, Consuming Aberration has made the grade. The Horror is very good and synergizes well with this deck, allowing us to have the alternative win conditions of either milling out our opponent or just bashing face with a giant beat stick. Sure, he’ll eat a ton of removal, but that’s what his big brother Aetherling is there for. Aetherling is a tried and true Standard all-star, and he fits quite well in this shell at the top of our mana curve, again giving us an alternate win-condition in the form of just beating down our opponent if discard doesn’t work.

Another new card to the deck is Lifebane Zombie. Lifebane Zombie was initially a sideboard card that I was testing out, and have decided that it needs to be in the mainboard. Intimidate is no laughing matter, especially when you’re trying to get through with a Cipher’d Whispering Madness.

So, now that I’ve had a chance to play the deck, let’s look at some of its matchups.

Control: Game one should be pretty decently in your favor. You have a ton of disruption in various forms, and Waste Not will get you there if Liliana’s Reaver and Lifebane Zombie don’t. Games two and three, you’ll want to cut out your Lightning Strikes and Syncopates in favor of Negate and Duress. Bringing in the fourth Hero’s Downfall couldn’t hurt, as it allows you to deal with their planeswalkers rather efficiently.

Aggro: I hate to say it, but you’re going to lose game one unless some serious shenanigans occur. You do have Lightning Strike mainboard, but realistically it’s not enough to deal with their various threats, and as it stands the mainboard doesn’t have a way to effectively make them discard. Games two and three though change the stakes entirely. Bring in Anger of the Gods, Doom Blade (if applicable), Bile Blight, and the fourth Lightning Strike. Cut your Duresses, Mind Rots, Rakdos’s Returns, and if you’re feeling gutsy, one or two of your Waste Nots. While good, Waste Not is not how you’re going to win against aggro.

Monsters: Game one is awkward in this matchup. While you have ways of dealing with their threats, sometimes they just flood out and draw every creature in their deck. Domri Rade helps a lot with that. This, of all the current Standard matchups, is probably the most evenly balanced. Sideboard options for this matchup basically come down to Doom Blade and the singleton Lifebane Zombie, replacing Duress and Rakdos’s Return. It’s possible to tune the sideboard to have a more favorable matchup here, but as it stands Aggro is where the deck needs to most help.

Mono-Black: Their lifegain is a problem, and dealing with cards like Underworld Connections is tough. The goal here is to just out-grind them. Sign in Blood and all of your discard spells will help keep the pressure off while you assemble an army of Zombies to take them down. As for sideboard options, Bile Blight and Anger of the Gods seem good to deal with threats like Pack Rat, while you’ll want to keep Hero’s Downfall for Desecration Demon. Duress mainboard is probably not where you want to be in this match, so I would recommend taking it out along with potentially either Lightning Strike or a Rakdos’s Return or two.

Mirror Match The mirror for this deck is extremely weird. Game one could realistically go either way, depending on who draws more threats. Sideboarding is also very awkward, although you want to bring in the extra Duresses and the Negates. Being able to shut down their Waste Nots or Rakdos’s Returns is extremely important. Feasibly you could also bring in Bile Blight and Lightning Strike to hit their creatures, although it does depend heavily on how they decide to play. There’s a lot of meta-gaming that goes into sideboarding for the mirror, and it’s easy to think in circles for it. As for me, I’ll just do what I normally do and go with my gut.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this revisit of the Waste Not deck, and I look forward to hearing feedback about its new iteration.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan M.