Standard: A New Breath

October 24, 2016

Alexandre Darras

32, from Brussels, Belgium.
Started playing Magic in 1995
Won GP Manchester 2012
17th GP Praha 2009
2 times Nationals top 4

More Posts (12)

Hi! This week I’ll talk about standard and especially about the different removals we have as options for our decks.

The first one I shall discuss wasn’t really played until Stanislav Cifka top 8′ed GP Vienna last week with his Azorius deck. This is his list (both Seth Manfield and William “Huey” Jensen top 8′ed GP Dallas with a similar deck the next weekend):


4 Azorius Charm
4 Detention Sphere
4 Dissolve
2 Essence Scatter
4 Last Breath
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Supreme Verdict
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Jace, Architect of Thought


4 Azorius Guildgate
4 Hallowed Fountain
7 Island
2 Mutavault
6 Plains
2 Temple of Deceit
2 Temple of Silence


2 Archangel of Thune
3 Fiendslayer Paladin
4 Gainsay
2 Negate
1 Pithing Needle
3 Soldier of the Pantheon


I’m obviously talking about Last Breath. This card was a major innovation in Stanislav’s deck, allowing him to get to the top 8. Why is this card so good right now? This is the only conditional removal that can deal with both Master of Waves and Nightveil Specter, which are the main threats to Mono-Black and Mono-Blue Devotion.

The other really good removal spell is the sweeper of the deck – Supreme Verdict. It basically deals with everything, since nothing has regeneration in the format. The only “creature” left behind after a Verdict is Mutavault, which makes the card super important versus control.

The Azorius deck also packs a full set of Detention Spheres, as most Esper players (except for Guillaume Wafo-Tapa) have opted to do. The Sphere is really good, since one of the main ways to beat a control deck is to play a threat that can’t be wrathed away (Planeswalkers, as well as a few planeswalker-like cards, such as Assemble the Legions).

Another “removal” spell played by most control mages is Azorius Charm. This card is played mainly because of its versatility. Since Think Twice left standard, this is one of the few cards that helps smooth draws, while at the same time serving as an answer to an early threat.

The last card, sometimes played in Azorius (not in this list), is Celestial Flare. This card is mainly played as an answer to hexproof or protection creatures, such as Blood Baron of Vizkopa or Witchstalker

Let’s look at recent Mono-Black lists:


4 Desecration Demon
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Pack Rat


4 Mutavault
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
18 Swamp
2 Temple of Deceit
1 Temple of Silence


2 Devour Flesh
1 Doom Blade
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Thoughtseize
2 Ultimate Price
4 Underworld Connections


3 Dark Betrayal
3 Duress
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
3 Lifebane Zombie
3 Pharika’s Cure
1 Shrivel
1 Whip of Erebos


Blood Baron of Vizkopa is now played a lot following the recent success of Mono-Black Devotion. Mono-Black decks responded to this by adding a previously marginal removal, Devour Flesh (most recent lists pack between two and four). Devour Flesh is also a direct answer to Pack Rat, even on the draw, and that makes it even more suited to the current meta.

The other removals played in Mono-Black are usually a full set of Hero’s Downfall, which is fine but a little bit slow in certain match-ups. It’s not usually a good idea to keep them all versus the mirror, as your other removals are much cheaper.

Mono-Black decks usually play a mix of Doom Blade and Ultimate Price. These are both very situational, and the first one might not be a good choice going forward with so many Black mages. The only creature Doom Blade can kill in the mirror match is Mutavault which, ironically Ultimate Price, can’t destroy as it is a colorless creature, which isn’t the same as mono-color. Against Mono-Blue, Ultimate Price misses all the hybrid creatures, namely Judge’s Familiar, Frostburn Weird[card] and [card]Nightveil Specter. Considering both Mutavault and [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[card] aren’t valid targets either, it means this card can’t kill a lot.

That’s why some players have pushed some Pharika’s Cure, usually seen in the sideboards, to the maindeck. It helps against really aggressive decks, while being fine versus mid-range.

The sideboard of Mono-Black also packs the best removal for the mirror, Dark Betrayal. The overabundance of cheap removal that Mono-Black has access to renders a lot of slow and large threats less appealing. That’s why Desecration Demon should sit on the bench in the mirror.

Some players have elected to take another route, either splashing White in their Mono-Black list, à la Andreaz Ganz, or even playing an Orzhov deck much closer to White Weenie. Here’s an example of one:


4 Banisher Priest
4 Boros Elite
4 Daring Skyjek
4 Dryad Militant
3 Imposing Sovereign
4 Precinct Captain
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
2 Xathrid Necromancer


4 Brave the Elements
3 Orzhov Charm
2 Spear of Heliod


4 Godless Shrine
4 Mutavault
1 Orzhov Guildgate
8 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Temple of Silence


3 Dark Betrayal
3 Doom Blade
1 Orzhov Charm
2 Profit // Loss
2 Sin Collector
2 Thoughtseize
2 Xathrid Necromancer


These decks have access to a previously unplayed piece of removal, Orzhov Charm. This card, as Last Breath, deals with the major threats of the format, Pack Rat on the draw, Nightveil Specter and Master of Waves but is better suited to an aggressive deck as it makes you lose life instead of giving your opponent four life.

The Orzhov deck also packs Profit // Loss in the sideboard, which can be really nice against a variety of decks, such as Mono-Red Blitz, which packs 20 one-drop, 16 of them with one toughness (Firedrinker Satyr, Akroan Crusader, Legion Loyalist and Foundry Street Denizen). It is obviously better in a deck packing 29 creatures, which can even get tokens out of Precinct Captain and Xathrid Necromancer

Let me now address the different options Mono-Blue devotions decks have:


4 Omenspeaker
4 Thassa, God of the Sea
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Master of Waves
4 Tidebinder Mage


3 Quicken
2 Cyclonic Rift
2 Dissolve
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
3 Claustrophobia
1 Domestication


21 Island
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx


2 Dissolve
2 Domestication
2 Ratchet Bomb
4 Nightveil Specter
2 Rapid Hybridization
3 Gainsay


This is not a normal list as it avoids playing any 1 mana creatures. However it does play the most common removal spells (and even some obscure ones).

Rapid Hybridization is really good in the deck for a few reasons. First, Blue doesn’t have a lot of options for removal. Second, it only costs 1 mana and the deck wants to curve out nicely. Third, it can target anything, dealing with the holy trifecta of Master of Waves, Nightveil Specter[card] and [card]Pack Rat[card]. Fourth, you can tap the frog lizard token with your [card]Tidebinder Mage. Fifth, you can target you own creatures to get a surprise blocker (and evolve your Cloudfin Raptor). And if you target your own [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[card], you don’t even lose a card.

The second most played removal in Mono-Blue Devotion is Domestication. It is really good as it deals with the major threats of the format while contributing to your devotion and diminishing your opponent’s devotion at the same time.

Then you have some Claustrophobia and Ratchet Bomb, not often seen. The first one is good at dealing with huge threats while contributing to your devotion (much like Domestication), while the second one is good versus hyper aggressive decks such as the Mono-Red Blitz deck I already mentioned or White Weenie. Don’t forget the casting cost of Pack Rat tokens is 2, so sacing your artifact without a counter on it won’t do anything versus the infamous rats.

To sum it up, what do you want from your removal in this format?

You need your deck to deal with Nightveil Specter, Pack Rat (even when you are on the draw), Master of Waves and, if possible, Mutavault. Be sure your deck has enough ways to deal with these, or at least a really proactive plan.

Good luck to everyone playing in standard PTQs or in the next GPs and see you all in Prague!

Recent posts