One thing I am known for in my playgroup is the ability to create interesting formats for strange tournaments, and it’s been a long time since I’ve done so. The last interesting format we did was The Mono-Blue Challenge, quite some time ago, and so it’s high time we did another cool tourney again.
This time, our format was called The Gold Standard. And what a format it was! I took a quick look at the format a few weeks ago here and some sample decks here, and we finally got a chance to play the format yesterday. Who won, and with what? What sets were popular, and which cards ended up being all-stars?
Let’s take a look!
To sum up, this was The Gold Standard:
“This is a Constructed Challenge, featuring these five blocks:
-Invasion block (Invasion, Planeshift, Apocalypse)
-Ravnica block (Ravnica: City of Guilds, Guildpact, Dissension)
-Shards of Alara block (Shards of Alara, Conflux, Alara Reborn)
-Return to Ravnica block (Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Dragon’s Maze)
-Khans of Tarkir block (Khans of Tarkir, Fate Reforged, Dragons of Tarkir)
Here is the Challenge:
Build a 60-card deck, with a 15-card sideboard from amongst these sets, with these unique restrictions.
You must choose:
-One base set (so either Invasion, Ravnica: City of Guilds, Shards of Alara, Return to Ravnica, or Khans of Tarkir)
-One small set, which cannot be from the same block as your large set
-A second small set, not from the same blocks as your other two sets
-All planeswalkers are banned, as the early sets didn’t have any
-Only cards that are in a certain set’s number are legal (ie. Fetch lands were in Fate Reforged packs, and Shocklands were in Dragon’s Maze packs, but they didn’t actually have a set number, so you can’t use those lands by choosing that set)
These three sets will form the building blocks of the Gold Standard Constructed deck, and each player can only choose to use cards from their chosen sets.”
For this event, I had nine competitors, cutting to top four. These were our competitors:
I built my deck at the extreme last minute. I was originally planning to play a Siege Rhino-based Abzan list, with Vindicate, Spiritmonger, Gerrard’s Verdict and the like, and lots and lots of removal. My sets would have been Khans of Tarkir, Apocalypse, and Gatecrash.
When I sat down to build the deck, however, I came to the conclusion that a discard-based deck would not only be possible in this format, it could potentially be really good against the control decks that I expected. In the end, this is what I went with:
B/W Discard - Khans of Tarkir/Apocalypse/Dragon's Maze:
The deck was simple and straightforward. Rip their hand to shreds, kill any creatures that they’d resolved, then finish them off with either Sin Collector, or a big Empty the Pits. It was my sideboard, however, that I was most proud of:
4 Maze’s End
1 Gruul Guildgate
1 Azorius Guildgate
1 Simic Guildgate
1 Dimir Guildgate
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Izzet Guildgate
1 Rakdos Guildgate
2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
1 Necropolis Fiend
1 Debilitating Injury
That’s right, against the control decks, my plan was to board into Maze’s End and the rest of the Gates! With very little good land destruction in the format or ways to stop me, I figured I would just be able to fetch up a Gate each turn, and the control player wouldn’t be able to stop me.
I found the idea of a transformational sideboard hilarious, and really looked forward to putting it into play.
Anyone who knows my lovely wife knows that she loves to play blue/black control, so that’s what we had built for her for this event. She got to play scads of kill spells, some sweet counterspells (she now loves Undermine, which she nicknamed “counter-Bolt”), and was one of three players to have chosen Fact or Fiction as her build-around card.
This was her deck:
U/B Control - Invasion/Gatecrash/Fate Reforged:
2 Urza’s Rage
1 Urborg Volcano
1 Psychic Strike
1 Dimir Charm
1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death
1 Crux of Fate
3 Plague Spitter
Going with Invasion and Gatecrash gave her many options for her third set. In the end, we decided to go with Fate Reforged to have access to Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Crux of Fate; her other choice was Dragons of Tarkir, which would have given her Dragonlord Silumgar, Self-Inflicted Wound, Silumgar’s Scorn, and Negate. In the end, she needed a Wrath effect, so Fate Reforged it was.
Her sideboard was also notable, because she had the option of boarding in a pair of Urza’s Rage to kill other control players with. When combined with Undermine and Yawgmoth’s Agenda, this would be an immensely effective sideboard plan, that would be very hard for control opponents to play around or stop.
Darby attempted to build several decks for this event. He started with a combo deck, based around Tidewater Minion and Illusionist’s Bracers to make infinite mana; this proved to be far, far too fragile, so he gave it up as a bad idea. From here, he moved to a R/B/G land destruction deck, using Ravnica, Apocalypse, and as his sets; he gave this attempt up as a bad idea as well after I kept crushing him with Joel’s R/G Aggro deck.
Darby’s final deck, however, was a good one: a five-color aggressive deck built around Dissension’s Pillar of the Paruns, giving his manabase a solid land that would let him cast Siege Rhino, Lightning Angel, and whatever else he damn well wanted.
Rainbow Stompy - Khans of Tarkir/Apocalypse/Dissension:
1 Anafenza, the Foremost
3 Surrak Dragonclaw
3 Deflecting Palm
4 Gerrard’s Verdict
Incidentally, “Rainbow Stompy” is easily my favourite deck name from this event.
I thought Darby’s deck was quite strong, and figured he would end up doing very well.
Brianna is a relative newcomer when it comes to Magic (she’s only been playing for a few years), so I put together a R/G aggressive list for her to play, since she had no idea what was in each set. The deck I built for her featured a whopping 15 haste creatures, letting her smash unprotected opponents asap; plus, she was able to use the powerful Urza’s Rage, the versatile Assault // Battery, and the potent duo of Burning-Tree Emissary and Ghor-Clan Rampager. To top all this off, she was the only player to harness the power of cascade, and was the only one who used the mighty Bloodbraid Elf.
This was the list I built for her:
R/G Aggro - Invasion/Gatecrash/Alara Reborn:
4 Blurred Mongoose
1 Urza’s Rage
2 Meteor Storm
3 Jade Leech
2 Gruul Charm
1 Ground Assault
Brianna’s deck was nice and simple, and importantly, was easy for her to play. Once she understood that I just wanted her to attack every turn, everything fell into place, and she piloted the deck very competently. Her sideboard was even more anti-control cards in Blurred Mongoose and Meteor Storm, and some anti-aggro cards like the huge Jade Leech, and I gave her a nice, easy sideboarding guide before the event to follow.
One of many old-school players that I dug out of mothballs to play this event, Joel played tournaments with me back around Invasion (aka. a really, really long time ago). Joel has a strange love of creatures with the Beast creature type, and is a strong aggressive player.
Clearly, he went with an aggro deck:
R/G Aggro - Return to Ravnica/Guildpact/Dragons of Tarkir:
1 Collected Company
4 Den Protector
4 Deathmist Raptor
4 Giant Solifuge
2 Ainok Survivalist
Of all the decks at this event, Joel’s was easily the most straightforward, as he just wanted to chain one-drops with 2 power into a two-drop with 3 power, and kill opponents as quickly as possible. His sideboard gave him more of a long-game plan against control, letting him board out useless Roasts and Mizzium Mortars for the Standard combo of Den Protector and the recursive Deathmist Raptor, and the control player’s bane, Giant Solifuge.
Joel’s deck was strong and fast, and I expected it to wreak havoc upon the control players in the room.
For this event, Brad had put together one of the decks that I’d been looking at for myself, a Jeskai aggro deck with tons of removal, very efficient creatures (including the potent tag team of Lightning Angel and Mantis Rider, and the mighty Treasure Cruise to reload with. Boros Reckoner ended up being extremely good for him all day as well.
Jeskai Aggro - Khans of Tarkir/Apocalypse/Gatecrash:
2 Ashcloud Phoenix
3 Spark Trooper
3 Orim’s Thunder
2 Assemble the Legion
2 Suspension Field
I liked Brad’s deck a lot against the field, and was rooting for him to win the whole thing.
A dedicated combo player, Jay set out for this event to make a combo deck work. There were many different things he could have potentially gone with, but in the end, Jay used Khans of Tarkir/Apocalypse/Conflux, giving him a fragile but viable Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck. With Ascendancy in play, Jay could cast Life // Death, turning his lands into creatures, and use View From Above as many times as he wanted to make his lands flying (Ascendancy would untap his lands, giving him infinite mana, and View From Above would return to his hand each time), and he could easily kill opponents from here with gigantic flying land creatures, or Banefire.
Jay’s deck was certainly the most unique one at the event, and after seeing it in action, I really wanted him to do well, as he managed to do something that no one else did (figure out a viable combo deck for this format and make it work).
One of the old-school players that I recruited for this event, Anthony is an old friend of mine and Jay’s brother, who was a tournament player back in Ravnica days. Hence, I figured an event like this would be perfect for his building and brewing skills.
Anthony ended up being one of the three Fact or Fiction players, and wound up building a deck that was eerily similar to Ben’s deck (below). Anthony built an Esper Dragons list, using Invasion for counterspells like Absorb, Fact or Fiction, and Rout; and Dragons of Tarkir to give him Dragonlord Ojutai.
Esper Dragons - Invasion/Dragons of Tarkir/Guildpact:
2 Risen Executioner
3 Teferi’s Moat
2 Virulent Plague
1 Dragonlord’s Prerogative
1 Foul-Tongue Invocation
The cards from Dragons of Tarkir were on display in Anthony’s deck, giving him counterspells, card drawing, sideboard cards, and the finishing power of Dragonlord Ojutai. Anthony was not alone in building around Ojutai, either…
Ben is an old-school control player, so I had figured this event would be right up his alley (and I was right). He was one of the three players to build around Invasion’s Fact or Fiction, and his deck ended up being a very strong control build.
Notably, his deck ended up looking quite similar to Anthony’s deck, but Ben chose to use green for Dragonlord Dromoka, rather than black spells. This is Ben’s deck:
Bant Dragons - Invasion/Dragons of Tarkir/Dissension:
3 Muse Vessel
3 Stratus Dancer
3 Surge of Righteousness
2 Teferi’s Moat
1 Indrik Stomphowler
Ben’s deck was a strong control deck, with lots of removal, several counterspells, and the amazingly hard to stop Dragonlord Ojutai. When backed up by the mighty Fact or Fiction, Ojutai gave Ben a nigh-unstoppable stream of extra cards, letting him sculpt the perfect hand of counters or removal.
Notably, Ben was also the only player in the event to use Signets (Azorius Signet and Simic Signet) to help fix his mana, and accelerate him to his bigger cards. The Signets ended up giving him a huge advantage in pretty much every matchup he played, and were excellent for him all day.
So, we finally played The Gold Standard this past Sunday, and it was indeed a blast to play. From Jay’s wacky and crazy combo deck, to Darby’s five-color aggro build, to the R/G Aggro players, to the control players, to my own Gate SB plan, everyone had something fun and unique that they were trying to do, and it was super fun to see all these old cards in action again.
I wound up winning my first match against Anthony and his Esper Dragons (lost game one, but beat him with the Maze’s End plan in games two and three!), but lost the next three rounds to manascrew and the hard-to-answer Dragonlord Ojutai.
Our top four ended up being:
Joel, with R/G Aggro
Ben, with Bant Dragons
Jay, with Jeskai Ascendancy combo
Brad, with Jeskai Aggro
Joel’s R/G deck ended up putting more pressure on Jay than he could deal with, and Joel quickly took him out in three games. Meanwhile, Brad was able to burn Ben to death with a surprise Fire // Ice and Boros Charm in their game one, but could not put the wily veteran away in the next two games, and Ben won their match.
So our finals was set: Ben, with Bant Dragons vs. Joel, with R/G Aggro!
Joel was all business as the first game started, with turn one Dryad Militant into Scab-Clan Mauler, putting a huge amount of pressure on Ben before the control player could even start the game. Unfortunately, luck was not with Joel, as Ben managed to draw three crucial copies of Condemn early on, nuking Joel’s early attackers one by one. Ben landed a Dragonlord Dromoka, and the lifelink from the big Dragon quickly ended this game in Ben’s favor.
Game two was more of the same, but Ben now had access to some very powerful sideboard removal spells: Surge of Righteousness and Teferi’s Moat. He drew very well in this game, and even though Joel had his patented one-drop into two-drop opening, Ben was able to kill each creature and again land the mighty Dragonlord Dromoka. Once the mighty Dragon started attacking, this match was all but over, and Ben slammed the door shut on Joel with a Teferi’s Moat set to green, shutting down all of Joel’s creatures in play.
Ben, with Bant Dragons, was our Gold Standard winner!
This proved to be an immensely fun event. I was a little saddened that the control players didn’t diversify their main set (all three control players went with Invasion to have access to Fact or Fiction, as opposed to Return to Ravnica, which would have given them Supreme Verdict and Sphinx’s Revelation). I was surprised that nobody had built a Jund deck for this, as Bloodbraid Elf, Terminate, Maelstrom Pulse, and Bituminous Blast were all in the same set, giving you a great start on a deck. I was also surprised that no one had gone with a Khans of Tarkir-fuelled Abzan deck, with the power of Anafenza the Foremost and Siege Rhino backed up by Apocalypse’s Vindicate and Pernicious Deed. Still, in one room, we had everyone playing a wildly different decklist, which was awesome, and made for a fun event.
I gave everyone a preview of an event that we’ll be running next year, much like this one: The Bad Set Standard, where we’ll be using nothing but Magic’s worst sets ever to build our Constructed decks.