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Building with Innistrad


Last week, I began to discuss the challenges faced by Magic-playing guys when it comes to dating. I started by giving them some strategy tips for making a connection with female Magic players. While I got quite a bit of positive feedback on the article, they were also many people who seemed to take offense to it as well.

I was trying to help men be more desirable to women, which I think should benefit women. I specifically stated that it was important not to be pushy with women and to back off if the woman isn’t interested. I have great respect for women, and I don’t believe that wanting to be impressive to them changes that.

A problem with giving strategy advice about anything is that it usually involves generalizations. I give strategy advice about playing Magic, and you need to customize that advice to the situation, too. I specifically emphasized the importance of getting to know any specific woman in whom you are interested and to keep her, the individual, in mind. If you don’t like my advice, or you think it’s bad advice, that’s fine; don’t use it. Not everyone likes my Magic advice, either!

As a result of the many negative comments, however, I will not be presenting Part 2 of my dating advice here. Instead, I’ll be discussing a less controversial topic: Innistrad in the new Standard. Those of you who want more of my advice on dating will just have to wait for my book!

When I’m looking to a new set for ideas for Constructed deck-building, I usually start with one of two things: themes that are suggested by playing the set in Limited or specific cards that seem like they would be exciting cards to build a deck around.

I recently read an article by my friend Tim Landale on the new Standard, and one of the tenets for deck-building in a new environment he espoused was to avoid playing aggressive decks. I disagree. One of the biggest problems with building for a new environment is that you don’t know what decks to prepare for. If you build a fast enough aggressive deck, you almost don’t really care what your opponent is playing. Your goal is to kill him before his strategy gets going. This is especially true if you’re playing burn for creature control. If you’re playing control, you’re also playing a guessing game. Part of playing a control deck is having answers for the problems presented by other decks; in a new environment, it’s hard to correctly guess what to prepare for. Interestingly, the first two decks Tim suggested were aggressive decks. This is true for me as well, but I actually believe aggression is a good idea in a new format.

Let’s start with a somewhat obvious aggressive deck:

The plan: Get as many Vampires as possible into play as quickly as possible. Deal with early potential blockers using burn and Crossway Vampire. Use Adaptive Automaton and Rakish Heir to make your guys too big to block well. Finish the job with Vampiric Fury.

The inspirations for this deck are Vampiric Fury and Rakish Heir. Not only are we adding a new large set, but we’re losing four sets. As a result, the format is undergoing a massive facelift. Compared to the RDW and R/B Vampires decks that were popular in the previous Standard format, this deck might seem a little too slow and/or weak, but the card pool is smaller now. Stromkirk Noble might not be as impressive a turn-one play as Goblin Guide, but if you follow it up with a 2-drop and a 3-drop, you can certainly do 20 damage by turn four. Shock and Galvanic Blast may not be as powerful as Volt Charge or Arc Trail, but given the number of 2-drops and 3-drops as opposed to 1-drops, they are the best fit for the deck’s mana curve.

Another deck that should be somewhat obvious to anyone that’s played Innistrad Limited is Humans:

The plan: Play an awesome 1-drop like Champion or Vanguard, then follow up with more creatures and Honor of the Pure. Use Lawkeeper and Fiend Hunter to deal with problem creatures. Midnight Haunting can be used to ambush attackers, recover from Day of Judgment, or increase the pressure. Guardians' Pledge helps win combats and makes a great finisher.

The cornerstones of this deck are Champion of the Parish, Mentor of the Meek, Honor of the Pure, and Guardians' Pledge. Obviously, Green has good tools for a Human deck too, but I like the consistency of monocolor for an aggressive deck, and in this case, I’m happy to be taking advantage of Honor of the Pure. White has easily the best 1-drops of any color, and Mentor of the Meek and Mikaeus give the deck some late game. Fiend Hunter is basically a cheaper Faceless Butcher, which was a solid card back when it was in Standard. Midnight Haunting may not be making Humans, but it does go great with Honor of the Pure and Guardians' Pledge.

I did make a Green/White deck, but it wasn’t a human deck:

The plan: Play a turn-one mana creature followed by enchantments and tokens. If the 8-mana creatures and twenty-four land lead to mana flood, with luck, Geist-Honored Monk and Jade Mage can help you power through.

This deck was built around Parallel Lives and Intangible Virtue. If you get either in play quickly, thanks to the 8-mana creatures, it will make any of the twenty token-generating cards into bombs. Getting multiple creatures for one card is good against aggression and control. It makes individual removal bad and can overwhelm mass removal with its ability to reload the board.

I’ve always been a fan of Lhurgoyf, so this next deck is a sentimental favorite of mine:

The plan: Play Mulch, Forbidden Alchemy, or Armored Skaab on turn two so that you can start dropping growing monsters as soon as possible. The Splinterfrights and the Boneyard Wurms are the main threats, so it’s critical to start filling up the graveyard with creatures immediately. The Mulches can help both fill your yard and keep your hand size high for Looters. Snapcaster can be an early threat or blocker, while being used best in the late game to reuse Alchemy or Mulch.

Obviously, the inspirations for this deck are Boneyard Wurm and Splinterfright. Not only does the deck include eight potentially huge threats, but you can search for them with Forbidden Alchemy and Merfolk Looter. You can even reuse the Alchemy with Snapcaster Mage. The fact that Splinterfright has Trample helps power through potential opposing blockers, plus AEther Adept helps keep the pressure squarely on the opposition. AEther Adept is especially powerful in a format likely to have lots of tokens and lots of +1/+1 counters.

The key things to determine when starting from scratch in a new format are: On what turn can decks kill? What are the most powerful things you can do by turn four? What cards make good cornerstones to build a deck around? What themes in the new set have the best synergy for Constructed? How will the ideas I’m working on match up with other decks I’m expecting? I hope that these four decks have given you some ideas to work with as you prepare for your first taste of the new Standard.

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