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Arcane Laboratory – Marduing it in Standard

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

I haven’t written or streamed in what seems like forever. I proposed to my girlfriend of eight years at GenCon this summer and since then have become re-enthralled in my relationship. It’s awesome…except for when trying to motivate myself to stream or write. Then Khans of Tarkir spoilers started and everything changed. Standard was going to be fun again.

Onslaught fetches were being reprinted, new charms were made, and delve was coming back. Khans had me at “give use your money for sealed product”. This is a stark comparison to when I spent zero dollars on sealed Born or Journey product. I couldn’t wait to begin brewing. I was so excited to get back to playing a control deck!

When I sat down to start compiling a list while going through the spoilers I came to a startling realization, the new Wrath was FIVE WHOLE MANA. Wizards, why must you do this to me?! How would I ever stand a chance against aggressive decks when I don’t have Doom Blade and my Wrath costs five?

The answer is simple, you don’t have to worry about it that much. Every deck playing three colors is beholden to playing a bunch of these awkward enters the battlefield tapped lands. Even the aggressive decks are a turn slower because of this. A Wrath effect at five would be just fine.

Except mono-black aggro had an absurd curve without taplands. So much so that I knew that I would have to play enough red in my deck to include Anger of the Gods in my 75. Red would also give me access to some of the better win conditions in the format outside of  white’s Elspeth.

This left me debating what my third color would have to be. Blue would allow me to play counter spells, the new delve draw spells, and gain Keranos as a finisher. These are strong incentives to go with Jeskai for control, but I felt that my other option in black had better options.


3 Anger of the Gods (vs. little aggro+Jeskai tempo)
1 End Hostilities (vs. midrange/devotion)
1 Empty the Pits (vs. control)
1 Utter End (vs. Planeswalkers/gods)
1 Glare of Heresy (vs. elspeth)
1 Crackling Doom (vs. monsters+Fleecemane)
1 Thoughtseize (vs. control)
1 Liliana Vess (vs. control)
1 Bile Blight (vs. Aggro/tempo)
1 Lightning Strike (vs. Aggro/Tempo)
3 Nyx-Fleece Ram (vs. Aggro/Tempo)


Black gives us hand disruption, more removal, and my favorite card advantage spell in the new format, Read the Bones. Red brings some removal, a powerful planeswalker, and one of the best win conditions in the format. White of course brings a board wipe and Elspeth.

I decided to base the deck in Red and Black with white as the third color because it ended up bringing so little that was needed to the party. Because of this we have 16 Black, 16 Red, and 12 White sources of mana. I originally only had 10 White sources but found that it was just too few to reliably cast End Hostilities or Elspeth on time.

In the removal suite we have Bile Blight and Lightning Strike to hold down the early turns backed by Hero’s Downfall, Utter End, Murderous Cut, and End Hostilities for the mid to late game. I originally was playing 3 End Hostilities main, but the more I played with it the more I found myself sitting with multiples in my hand not wanting to cast them. Crackling Doom is a spell that really grew on me. Early I was jamming with Mardu Charm but I found more often than not I was using it to make tokens as opposed to killing a Courser and I never once wanted to use it as a three mana Duress. Where as Doom was killing my opponents best guy, even if I couldn’t target it. This is important because of how strong Fleecemane Lion’s become once they go monstrous. Doom can also kill Sagu Mauler, a currently underrated creature. It also has the benefit of dealing 2 damage that can be redirected to Planeswalkers like Sorin or Xenagos.

I went with a split on Thoughtseize and Despise. I like Despise a lot in the format as an alternative to ease up on the pain I deal myself with the deck. However, Thoughtseize can actually hit a spell that can end up devastating to our game plan; Hero’s Downfall. We want to win with Stormbreath Dragon or Elspeth. Downfall is their best answer to both of these.

Read the Bones is incredible. The format is lacking in good raw card advantage spells. Everything is currently more about card quality than quantity. [card]Read the Bones does the best job with this, allowing you to see up to a full four cards of three mana. You can fully ensure you hit your land drops if your light or fill up on business spells if you have the necessary mana.

In the Planeswalker club we have the ever-fantastic Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. She is quite easily the best card of the format, just like she was in Theros Block Constructed. Chandra, Pyromaster is also present in the deck as a way to further gain some form of card advantage. She can also slowly whittle down an opponent and threaten to ultimate. She does exceptionally well at killing Elvish Mystics and Soldier of the Pantheons. Hiding amongst our 75 is also a few Liliana Vess, one main and one side. Liliana is great in midrange matchups where she can push an opponent into topdeck mode while threatening to ultimate. She can also vamp tutor up specific answer spells you need, like End Hostilities or Utter End.

While on the subject of Planeswalkers most of you will notice that my deck doesn’t feature any copies of Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker. I’m sure most people wont agree with decision, but hear me out. Sarkhan and Stormbreath Dragon compete for the same spot. Stormbreath dies to less removal than Sarkhan does.  If you cast Sarkhan on turn 5 he takes 5 total turns to kill an opponent. If you play a dragon on turn 5 then monstrous it on turn 7 it takes 4 total turns to kill an opponent. You may lose a little bit of utility without the -3 of Sarkhan, but you gain a more resilient and scarier win condition.

Moving on to the sideboard we find a lot of tools to help shore up the aggressive match ups and a few tools for Midrange or Control also. I feel as though the maindeck already has a lot of cards that you want against midrange and control, so I didn’t need to devote too many slots to them.

Anger of the Gods is amazing against little men aggro like MonoB or MonoR. It’s also quite good vs Jeskai Tempo outside of Brimaz, who’ll you have plenty of other answers for.

The third End Hostilities comes in against decks that really like to just dump a a large plethora of threats onto the table at once, like Gx Devotion.

Empty the Pits is amazing against anyone trying to play some form of Control deck. Being an instant allows us to cast the Empty on our opponents end step. They can either counter it or die to a zombie horde. If they do counter it that will hopefully leave you free to land a Stormbreath or Elspeth on your own turn.

The Utter End is primarily to be another answer for decks that are heavier on the gods and Planeswalkers side, like Naya Walkers or MonoG Devotion. Nylea can be rough to beat. Utter End makes it less so.

Glare of Heresy is a very powerful card in a format defined by Elspeth. It also happens to hit Siege Rhino, Sorin, Solemn Visitor. and either Ajani.

Another Crackling Doom to help give us more outs against decks packing 4 Fleecemanes. This is likely the weakest of the sideboard cards and what I would consider a flex spot in the board.

A fourth Thoughtseize to come in against Control or against decks with Hero’s Downfall.

The second Liliana Vess shines against grindy midrange matches or control.

The Bile Blight and Lightning Strike are for aggro and Jeskai Tempo to help give you some more early game removal.

Finally we round out the board with three Nyx-Fleece Ram. Ram really slows down aggro to a position where you can easily come back.

The deck is a lot of fun to play. I never really thought I’d be the one to move away from playing blue in Standard, but here I am. At least I’m still playing control!

Now, for an entirely different topic. Yesterday Scott MacCallum announced that he was leaving LegitMTG. I want to take a brief moment to thank Scott for all his work. Scott helped me land this gig here at Legit, and I will always love him for it. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.

His departure has left a few questions being asked. Primarily, what will happen to the LegitMTG stream? Well, don’t fret. I’m hear to tell you that I’m back to stream once again. You can actually catch me TONIGHT at 8:30pm EST for Arcane Laboratory over at www.twitch.tv/LegitMTG. I’ll be playing some Khan’s of Tarkir draft for the first time ever! If you can’t make it tonight to watch then make sure you check in on Sunday at 9pm EST to watch me play some Legacy. I’ll be packing Bug Delver or Sneak and Show for that night. Either way, the stream is here to stay!

Catch you all on Twitter.

Jason Clark

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