What’s the best deck in Standard?
The one with basic island in it. Duh.
Today we’ll be talking about just such a deck. A Banefire Jace for a million, combo-y control deck. Here’s the deck-list Eli Kassis used to take down GP NJ:
The Win Con: Sweep their early game stuff, counter their late game things. Burn them out. Usually it’ll be in the form of Banefire. Sometimes you won’t find Banefire and instead you’ll win via an accumulation of Expansion//Explosions, burn spells and burn counterspells to the face. After you draw through about 3/4s of your deck, that is. And sometimes, it’ll end like so many games have ended in the recent Standard environment and that’s with Teferi repeatedly and incessantly tucking himself in.
Keys to the City
The key to this deck, as with any control deck- is to know what to counter, what to kill, and what threats are the ones that will lose you the game.
But knowing your meta is more important than simply having a knowledge of what cards you’ll likely encounter. It’s integral that you be able to tune your removal package to deal with whatever meta you’re likely to go into. With that knowledge, you’ll know which cards you can maybe play more of- more counter magic for control matchups or more removal spells for aggro matchups.
Why this deck?
It’s a hedge against all other decks by having few (if any things) that the opponent can interact with. Even the big bad win condition (Banefire) is uncounterable in a way that Expansion//Explosion is very much not.
Game 1, almost always your opponent is going to end the game with a card in hand.
And it’ll basically always be some dead removal spell which is completely irrelevant against your creature-less, main deck.
It’s a weird form of card advantage but it is a form of card advantage- the fact that your opponent is starting the game with 52-56 playable cards in their deck.
But everything- EVERY card is relevant for you.
Even the dead removal spells matter, because those are the things that you use as sacrificial fodder to ‘cycle’ with Azor’s Gateway and Chemister’s Insight on your quest to find that ever elusive Banefire.
But you do find it.
You sweep their board over and over, and you manage to find a way to end up with 8 cards in your deck and you find that one of Banefire (sometimes you don’t even need it) and you win the game after you’ve exhausted them of resources, as they sit there, hopeless and helpless with 3 dead removal spells in hand.
If I was sleeving up for the Pro Tour tomorrow and I had to take a deck with me, I’d 100% go with the one that has 4 Teferi in it. And I’m gonna choose the one with Banefire too. It’s step into my web, pull you down in quicksand, drag you to a complete halt, all to have it end with a 20 Fireball to the face Magic.
Azor’s Gateway is cycling any card in your deck for one mana. This allows you to get rid of a card that maybe isn’t the ‘right fit’ for a situation. Deafening Clarion is important in that it’ll keep Jeskai control decks competing against any low-to-the-ground-beater decks for as long as it’s the best 3-mana sweeper in the format. You’ll want Clarion if you’re playing against mono-red, or Golgari, or half a dozen other options as it’ll probably win you the game outright. But against a control opponent, this card might as well read, ‘if you have two of me in hand, you lose the game’. It’s a nightmare to have a bunch of removal against a control player when they have all the Planeswalkers or Searches or counterspells to take you down. But the legendary artifact nullifies that in a way. You take a minor tempo disadvantage in return for a full replacement of the card in question. Disaster averted.
It’s because of cards such as Azor’s Gateway that you can diversify your threats in the new meta. Hedge against control with a few main deck Negates or hedge against green with a few extra Settle the Wreckages and Seal Aways. Whatever meta you think you’re headed into, with this deck- feel free to hedge as you please.
Chemister’s Insight is what control decks are made of- hearty, excessive card advantage. 3 cards it nets you if you play it twice with the new Jump-start mechanic which lets you discard any card in your hand to cast it again. Control decks are defined as decks that win through an accumulation or denial of resources. In this case, the resource in question is a fistful of cards.
The meat and potatoes of the deck. The card that makes it so that ‘counter-burn’ is even a genuinely viable strategy in a Standard context. While Banefire alone adds up to the 20 requisite points of damage to knock them dead, the addition of Ionize allows for a maybe vital 8 more. No tempo loss on board, no tempo loss in life total. Ionize is electrifying.
Star of Extinction
When Magic players really like a card they’ll tell you something along the lines of, ‘well, if I could I would run five of ‘em’. That’s how I feel about Deafening Clarion in the G/W tokens match-up. Unfortunately, the rules of Magic dictate that I’m only allowed to play a maximum of 4 Deafening Clarion in a sanctioned Standard event. It’s for that reason, that we’ve got ourselves a spicy 1 of Star of Extinction for just these kinds of situations.
An obvious troll inclusion in the deck-list. I wasn’t there so I have no idea how Eli came to the final conclusions on what to include in his list, but if I had to guess at it I’d say the story revolves around Eli claiming that “I’m so good, I can win GP NJ with TWO Revitalize in my sideboard”! This is all purely conjecture of course, but that’s the only thing that would seem to make any sense…
When someone finds themselves losing to spells falling from the sky, the typical reaction is to buckle down on threats, going completely off any removal package in an attempt to outrace the opponent. Niv-Mizzett’s better the longer he sticks around- which is a mighty long time when there ain’t a removal spell in sight.
The Immortal Sun
An answer to decks that want to grind you out with Planeswalker card advantage. So much of what makes this deck great, is that it has powerful inevitability that basically can’t be interacted with. Black can deal with Banefire- that’s it. And almost no one is packing artifact hate outside of the few Assassin’s Trophys and Conclave Tribunals that are floating around, causing The Immortal Sun to usually stick around forever.
The unconquerable win condition. The control deck to beat all other control decks.
Winning not with creatures on the ground, but by reigning hail-fire spells from the skies.
It’s obvious that a guru put together this deck-list. It doesn’t follow any particular trends (Justice Strike for starters)- it seems to just be a fair evaluation of what cards are most difficult to deal with in the meta and proceeds to have appropriate answers for each and every one of them. Seal Away for every relevant threat in Boros, Izzet Phoenix, and everything relevant outside of Carny T in Green decks. Settle for Carny T. But it’s also what’s not there. No Crackling Drakes ‘cause every other control deck is playing them. No Enigma Drakes or Arclights or creatures that can be interacted with. Nothing that an opponent can use a Cast Down on.
If anyone reading this has ever found themselves sitting on the fringe of a blue spells deck and isn’t sure where to start or how to even begin- this deck-list is as good a place as any. This is wizard level mastery of the craft.
If you don’t understand what makes a control deck tick before reading this article, then, I’d imagine, that- after dealing 100 uncounterable damage to Jace, Cunning Castaway via Banefire- you will.
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