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The Background, Build, and Battles: “The Conclave’s Revenge”

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

The Background

Hello all and welcome to another deck tech — One that I’ve been anticipating for quite some time now! Those of you who have been following me since my origins as a content creator probably remember my deck, “Conclave Counter-Cutter.” For a long time, this was my pride and joy and it was the first of my brews to receive moderate approval from the MTG community. This was the build that made me confident enough to begin my first articles, Showdown, which has given me the opportunity to bring me to the place I find myself at today. Needless to say, the deck has a special place in my heart.

However, not every deck can last forever in an ever-changing environment like competitive Standard, and with the fall of Selesnya I was forced to abandon my build and to try out other decks that were a bit more resilient to the hordes of Mono-Black Devotion and Esper Control that had risen to the top of the metagame. This was a move that I did not enjoy. With each new release of cards I found myself trying against all odds to make the deck function properly again…to no avail. The truth of the matter was simply that the cards weren’t there.

Selesnya midrange truly was missing some key parts to function. The first of these was decent removal options. Oblivion Ring was long-gone and I think everyone was feeling separation anxiety from it. GW’s options for removal pretty much included Celestial Flare, Selesnya Charm, and then lackluster spells like Pacifism and Mana Tithe. Things got even worse when Stormbreath Dragon became popular, as my heavy-hitter Archangel of Thune had met her match in the air. With no good, cheap removal spells to handle devotion aggro, those match-ups were also fairly bad.

The second and third issues sort of tied together. These were a lack of protection from removal and a lack of generating card advantage. Gruul had Domri Rade and the new Xenagos, the Reveler. Garruk, Caller of Beasts was awesome, but took up slots that were needed to hold off aggro — plus a majority of the creatures were actually just sorceries and instant spells due to the token nature of Selesnya from Return to Ravnica. Witchstalker was nice as it gave some way to begin to handle MBD, but with them 1-for-1-ing the cards I played and then getting back the advantage through Underworld Connections, it was still tough to manage. There simply wasn’t a way to refuel, which was made worse by the addition of Thoughtseize to the metagame and then the uprising in use of Rakdos’s Return. Things were grim at best. Karametra CERTAINLY didn’t do the deck any favors.

However, she must have heard the prayers of the conclave, because with the release of Journey into Nyx, Selesnya midrange began to show a comeback with their new savior Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, the resurgence of Oblivion Ring in its new “fixed” version (Banishing Light), and a couple creatures that really helped to pull the whole thing together in a way that I am excited to share with you all. So, without further ado, I present to you all the descendant of my first successful build — One you should be on the lookout for — The Conclave’s Revenge!

The Conclave's Revenge

The Build

You probably noticed some new faces to “competitive” magic located in this deck. Hey, would it be one of my brews without that? Let’s start off with the heart and soul of any non-control deck — The creature base.

The curve starts off with your standard green mana dorks. We have a playset of Elvish Mystic to make sure we can start off the game ahead on mana, and I chose to tailor the build to support 2 Sylvan Caryatid as a means of ramp, fixing and Mutavault-blockage. I don’t want to rely on ramp to win and I don’t want too many “dead” creatures mid/late game. For that reason, I stay at 2.

Our other selection of 2-drops comes in the form of 2 creatures: Fleecemane Lion and Nyx-Fleece Ram. When these two aren’t busy being the best pillows for the other creatures, they’re hard at work setting this deck up for success. Fleecemane Lion is one of the most ridiculous 2-drops in Standard right now. Not only is he above the curve in terms of stats, he is great to have on the field on T4/5 when you don’t want to overcommit to the board. His monstrous ability, if not met by a Hero’s Downfall, gives you an incredibly powerful and resilient tank to power your way past your opponent’s creatures to victory.

The Ram provides use on the exact opposite of the spectrum. At 5 toughness, it blocks creatures from Rakdos Cackler to Boon Satyr and provides healing along the way. Out of range of even Mizzium Mortars, this one creature can single-handedly hold off aggro long enough for you to set yourself up for victory. Getting two on the field against even the most aggressive of decks can be incredibly painful for them, and this really helps to handle prevent us from dying in the first few turns.

At 3 mana, we have Courser of Kruphix and Loxodon Smiter. I additionally tested Boon Satyr and Witchstalker at this spot. Boon Satyr suffers from having 2 toughness. This is something I absolutely hate in this Standard right now between Precinct Captain, Ash Zealot, Mutavault, the numerous 2-power 1-drops, and Searing Blood. He is far too fragile for use in this particular deck. Witchstalker was alright, but I ended up feeling he was unnecessary with all the other powerful creatures in the deck.

Courser of Kruphix is a staple for green decks right now. It helps hold off aggro, it gains you small amounts of life, and most importantly it generates you card advantage over the game. Combined with the effects of Ajani and Garruk, you can potentially know the card you’ll be drawing off of them before you use the effect. The same holds true for Nessian Game Warden, who I will address later. Loxodon Smiter is in here for a few reasons. First, he’s huge. Second, he can’t be countered. And Third, he can’t be discarded. Yeah, okay, all I did was read the card to you…but that’s just it! Smiter is all-around a fantastic beater in any GW deck. One of my favorite things to do when I draw multiples is to hold one back in my hand to get full value out of an opposing Thoughtseize or Rakdos’s Return. The reaction is priceless.

Our last two creatures are Polukranos, World Eater and Nessian Game Warden. Polukranos is yet another creature who is above the curve. Additionally, he has the amazing ability to pick off Elspeth tokens or Mutavaults or even the occasional Lifebane Zombie. Green decks play Polukranos because he is good — enough said. I more want to address a card that I would like to see more Standard play. Nessian Game Warden is in this deck because he addresses one of the problems GW midrange had — card advantage. Sure, he’s a 4/5 for 5 and that’s not mind-blowing, but he makes up for that by almost always replacing himself with another good creature. Against control and MBD this is invaluable. He also just loves getting hit by Detention Sphere and Banishing Light so that he can later re-enter the battlefield and give me more value. He can’t be hit by Selesnya Charm!

Now for the other spells in the deck. I have selected a slew of planeswalkers to guide this deck through the toughest of games. Additionally, I would have been remiss to not include Banishing Light, which helps to solve this deck’s issue of not having good removal without splashing for another color. Being able to remove anything from a Detention Sphere to an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion means we have a lot less to be afraid of. But instead of going into too much detail about that, let’s address the planeswalkers.

With the coming of JOU, GW received it’s very first planeswalker in the form of Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. I just have to say that WOTC really knocked this one out of the park! Both of Ajani’s +1 abilities are very relevant to a game state and the best part is that you can pick and choose whatever is best for you at that time. I love the first ability against control as it allows every single one of my creatures to become a HUGE threat. This allows breakthroughs to kill a Jace they may have thought was safe or to break past an opposing Nyx-Fleece Ram they thought would hold me off. I don’t have to over commit to a board and get blown out by a wrath because all of my creatures get to attack for 3+ damage (yes, even a Ram can become a threat). And what do I do when I don’t need to add more to my board? Well, I’ll just go ahead and start filling up my hand again. I’ll have an Elspeth, Smiter and Fleecemane Lion please! Ajani allows one to prepare for a board wipe long before the opponent even has the urge to play one, and that’s why he is so very good in this deck.

Lastly, we have Elspeth and Garruk. Singing the praises of Elspeth seems superfluous at this point. most people are aware of just how powerful a win-con she can be and having the ability to play her on T4 is a massive threat for the opponent to overcome. She pairs very well with Fleecemane Lion as he doesn’t die to her wrath-effect before OR after his monstrous ability. Garruk is finally playable in this deck due to the smaller number of mana dorks and non-creature spells I need to play, and it suffices to say that the fact that he can draw on average 2-3 relevant cards a turn is insane in a card advantage department.

Overall, the deck plays like a hybrid between your average midrange deck and a superfriends deck, which is just where I want it to be right now. I’ve access to good removal, good creatures, good aggro defense, card advantage, and the ability to attack the board from multiple angles that simply overwhelm an opponent trying to 1-for-1 me and win with creatures. So, now that you’ve had the chance to understand the deck from the inside-out, I’d like to explain the basics of a few notable match-ups.

The Battles

It’s time for me to teach you how I, personally, would sideboard and play against some of the current biggest competitors in the standard metagame. We will start with the current top of the heap.

Mono-Black Devotion

I’m going to lump Orzhov mid and Rakdos mid into this category too, as they really aren’t too far off and don’t change our game too much. One thing I enjoy about the GW Mid deck I have here is that it has a decent to favorable match against MBD. The biggest two threats they impart upon us are Pack Rat and Thoughtseize. This is followed up closely by Underworld Connections. This…honestly should be obvious to anyone who plays competitive Standard right now as these are the pillars upon which MBD finds its immense strength. These are the engines by which it excels past other decks. So how do we beat it? And why do I still feel we are sitting well against them?

The answer comes from our planeswalkers. Elspeth does a magnificent job of racing Pack Rat, and can also wrath away a Desecration Demon. Garruk provides us card advantage that can race even a double Underworld Connections from the other side. Ajani provides an ability to grab these two AND make all of our creatures threats that need to be answered. What this ends up doing is completely overwhelming the opponent who typically has all the answers and who doesn’t have too much to fall back on when they run out if underworld connections isn’t enough.

As mentioned, an early Pack Rat can easily spell disaster. All I can offer against this are the assortment of large, cheap creatures and the Pithing Needle in the sideboard. The rest sort of comes down to luck and good play. Banishing Light is a great addition that can hit the opposing Underworld Connections or Whip of Erebos. Lifebane Zombie is a sometimes-mainboarded threat to us in many ways. While it can be crippling to face, Lifebane Zombie does fall prey to Polukranos very easily if we can get him out there safely. Nessian Game Warden also allows for some refueling that doesn’t care about a Doom Blade or Ultimate Price.

Sideboard changes:

+1 Scavenging Ooze
+1 Pithing Needle
+2 Deicide
-4 Nyx-Fleece Ram

Mono-Blue Devotion

MUD is another devotion deck we typically do not have a huge problem with. Nyx-Fleece Ram has been a great addition that effectively removes the need to run Unflinching Courage as a way of stabilizing. Flyers are still a little bit of a sore spot, but we are generally able to race a MUD deck that doesn’t curve out perfectly. Thassa is always an issue, but Deicide proves to be a HUGE boon for this deck against that sort of threat. Similarly, Banishing Light is a great answer to a newly-cast Master of Waves or to a Bident of Thassa.

Nessian Game Warden isn’t at its strongest here and this is the exact match-up where Archangel of Thune shines. Being a flyer and a source of lifegain, Archangel is just the kind of mid-game bomb that completely shuts off the aggression of MUD. Celestial Flare can be good to bring in if you’d like more removal. Glare of Heresy is great if they are splashing white for D-sphere and Ephara. Mistcutter Hydra can come in in place of our slow planeswalkers as a way to close out a game out of nowhere.

Sideboard Changes:

-2 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
-2 Nessian Game Warden
-3 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
-1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
+2 Archangel of Thune
+2 Deicide
+4 Mistcutter Hydra

UW-based Control

Here is where we find ourselves in a rough patch. This is not a deck built to destroy control. This is a deck built to reign in aggro and midrange through stabilization and card advantage. So don’t expect me to sugar-coat things and say we sit well against this archetype — because we still don’t.

Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict, Jace and Elspeth are our Everest. The game must start off aggressive as we can muster, through Elvish Mystic, Fleecemane Lion and Loxodon Smiter. From there, we need a way to recoup losses after what is sure to be a timely wrath setting us back to square one. Ajani and Garruk are great for refueling our hand and making sure we force them to have the second or third verdict or to have the second or third Detention Sphere or jace, etc. Sure, they can stabilize with Sphinx’s Revelation. I don’t care. I will MAKE them hope a rev stabilizes them. We will make them pray that their Jace -2 reveals a second Supreme Verdict and we will make them pray that we don’t end up with massive Mistcutter Hydras swinging in for lethal out of nowhere post-wrath or after dropping an AEtherling.

Nyx-Fleece Ram is obviously bad here, so it comes out. Caryatid is also pretty poor for this match-up. Glare of Heresy is key in removing Detention Sphere, Banishing Light, or even just elspeth from the other side. Pithing Needle is also a way to answer their walkers that they will rely on to stop from dying. When playing this match-up it is important to remain calm and think about your moves. Much like a game of chess, everything you do should be with reason and thought behind it. Thoughtseize hurts as always, but you pretty much just have to press on in this format against Thoughtseize and know that the walkers are there to recoup your losses.

Sideboard Changes:

-4 Nyx-Fleece Ram
-2 Sylvan Caryatid
+3 Glare of Heresy
+1 Pithing Needle
+1 Deicide
+1 Scavenging Ooze

GR/Jund Monsters

Now we shall address the head of the midrange department of standard — GR monsters. This deck used to have a much harder time against them due to the fact that Domri Rade exists and is very good. Guess what? We have our own fancy planeswalker now, too. Ajani once again helps to pull us ahead when things look bleak and provides a way for our creatures to out-grow the ones on the other side of the field. Elspeth does a great job of removing the important threats. And Garruk can generally provide way more creatures per turn than Domri. Nessian Game Warden is good here but not amazing, and I will honestly say that if you are playing in an environment where this sort of deck is played heavily that you should replace them with Arbor Colossus — no doubt. I, personally, will do the same if this archetype grows in popularity again.

Celestial Flare from the sideboard is a great answer to any threat a midrange deck can provide — including Stormbreath Dragon. If they attack with multiple creatures, remember that you can block and kill the others and still have a window to cast Celestial Flare and force them to sacrifice the dragon after damage. Archangel of Thune actually still works well against this deck even though Stormbreath exists. It can threaten to kill a planeswalker and provides a way to stabilize on life. Pithing Needle can come in as an alternate answer to planeswalkers if you need it.

Sideboard Changes:

-2 Nessian Game Warden
-2 Nyx-Fleece Ram
+2 Celestial Flare
+2 Archangel of Thune

Aggro (Red, Black, whatever man)

This is the deck we really just shouldn’t be losing to. We have a playset of mainboard Nyx-Fleece Ram to handle things in the early game alongside Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix and Loxodon Smiter. Even Fleecemane Lion tends to trade or provide a wall against a lot of aggro decks. Having three power and three toughness is great in this format as it wrecks Mutavault, Ash Zealot, the many 2-power 1-drops and more. Banishing Light does a good job of permanently handling a Chandra’s Phoenix or Voice of Resurgence or Master of the Feast or whatever large threat comes your way. Being able to last long enough to drop an Elspeth or Ajani will generally mean you’re doing things right.

After sideboarding, we get to bring in Archangel of Thune — our bomb against aggro. This obviously comes in in place of Nessian Game Warden. Celestial Flare is brought in for additional removal and to potentially get a 2-for-1 out of a double-block. If the opponent is playing Rakdos or Black aggro, Scavenging Ooze is great as a way to make use of all the killed creatures and provide some lifegain.

Now, I currently have Archangel of Thune sideboarded. However, I believe the metagame may switch to favor aggro a bit more with the printing of some cards like Mana Confluence and Master of the Feast. If this proves to be true, she will absolutely be swapping spots with Nessian Game Warden. As mentioned before, the Game Warden can be replaced with Arbor Colossus if GR mid rises up to a top spot. Basically, if control takes a huge dip in popularity, the Game Warden gets a lot worse and is probably not worth playing at that point.

Sideboard changes:

-2 Nessian Game Warden
-2 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
-1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
+2 Archangel of Thune
+2 Celestial Flare
+1 Scavenging Ooze

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the first official edition of BBB (Background, Builds, and Battles)! I look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions on this build and I highly encourage you to test it out yourself.

Until next brew…

– Christian
Twitter: @Spootyone

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