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Blue-Black Rogue Deck Guide

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Hey everyone!

Standard has gone through a wild ride this past month. We saw Uro get the ban hammer one week followed by Omnath. I say, "good riddance!"

Now that the two most obviously broken cards have been removed from Standard we are left with a fairly diverse format. I have redeemed plenty of wildcards testing out the niche powerhouses; especially those from Throne of Eldraine that are finally allowed to shine.

Standard has become stale quickly in recent memory because there was always a broken mana engine at a modest price. It's clear what "the best deck" is with each rotation. Fires of Invention, Wilderness Reclamation, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, and Omnath all enabled the most powerful end game by turn four. Why play anything else? I think things are finally different.

Magic Twitter loves to complain, but I've heard plenty of positives about this fresh Standard environment. At the moment we can't even agree on the most powerful card in the format which is rarely the case. If Bonecrusher Giant, Embercleve, and Skyclave Shade are in the mix sign me up.

As I was testing for weekend events, I tried a ton of decks and had medium success. Rogues was a deck I played while Omnath was being discovered so I gave it another shot and quickly racked up the wins. I was turned off by all of the fringe escape spells being played, but it hasn't mattered so long as I'm careful.

Rogues is one of the most powerful decks in Standard, but the role played in each matchup changes. It's a rewarding deck to play if you put in the reps. Today I'll discuss my card choices which should help you identify the roles I like to take. I'll have a sideboard guide, too. I wouldn't forget to include that.

That's a long enough preamble; here's my list:


Maindeck

The first fork in the road with Rogues is deciding to play Lurrus as a companion. I'm choosing to play the companion because I want to minimize the amount of threats in my deck while having the same effect. The option to draw Lurrus for three mana ensures I have enough gas in the tank each game. The threat of Lurrus in the late game also causes opponents to hold up extra removal while my other creatures survive longer.

I have a lean Rogue package: Thieves' Guild Enforcer, Merfolk WIndrobber, and Soaring Thought-Thief.

Thieves' Guild Enforcer is the best Rogue in the deck; it plays out like a Wild Nacatl with flash. Deathtouch and flash ensures it will go to the graveyard quickly only to be recast with Lurrus. The milling trigger stacks which makes late game Agadeem's Awakening get close to decking the opponent. I only board it out when I shift to a pure Dimir Control deck against Rakdos.

Soaring Thought-Thief is the next best Rogue. Costing two mana is very relevant with Agadeem's Awakening as the rest of your creatures cost one. The opponent must respect the possibility Thought-Thief gets flashed in to block down early creatures. I never board out Soaring Thought-Thief.

Merfolk Windrobber is the final Rogue. It mills the opponent which is one of your objectives in the early game. I can sacrifice Windrobber to draw a card each turn when Lurrus is on the battlefield to create a very annoying blocker for the opponent. Since Chainweb Aracnir can kill an early Windrobber I cut all four of these against Green decks. That way the 1/2 won't kill my remaining four flyers.

Ruin Crab didn't impress me at first, but it started to perform once I thought of it as a Dark Ritual that demands a removal spell. It makes my remaining twelve creatures stronger once I have eight cards in the graveyard and seven cards for Into the Story. I board out Crabs against Rakdos Midrange because they fuel their own graveyard. It can be correct to not cast crab on turn one to guarantee one mill trigger before it dies to Bloodchief's Thirst.

The landfall trigger on the crab is not a may ability which means if you're far ahead it may be correct to not activate for fear of having to deal with a new escape card in the graveyard.

I was unimpressed with Vantress Gargoyle. The early game is about gaining the initiative. A 5/4 that doesn't affect the board allows the opponent to develop unimpeded. A late game 5/4 is rarely needed as those types of games are often determined by decking. I sideboarded them out frequently and ultimately cut them. Its best quality was being returned by Agadeem's Awakening. If I want a two-mana beatstick I would maindeck Skyclave Shade in the future.

The top of the curve without Lurrus includes Brazen Borrower, Zareth San, the Trickster, and Nighthawk Scavenger. I am willing to go without these threats for the real haymaker- Into the Story. I'm fairly agnostic to my creatures dying in the early game when I can chain together enough draw spells.

Lullmage's Domination is a late game effect to steal creatures with Escape such as Chainweb Aracnir, Polukranos, and Kroxa. Another annoying creature I want to fight is Garruk's Harbinger and traditional Black removal won't do the trick. Triple Blue is asking a lot so I only have two copies.

Cling to Dust is in the maindeck as a concession to Rakdos Midrange and the mirror. Most decks are able to maindeck cards with escape which means I also need to respect the possibility. I can cycle it early by exiling a noncreature card; I can cut down on lands as a result. Watch out for Scavenging Ooze as it can fizzle the spell. Most decks board in more escape cards so they are rarely boarded out.

It may be correct to hold onto cling in the early game as you work to fill up the opponent's graveyard. Four mana to flash back Cling is expensive and can only be done one or two times per game as exiling five cards from your graveyard is a tall order. I will also look to hold onto Cling in case I mill over an escape creature and can deal with it for a single mana as it's hard to double-spell by escaping.

Bloodchief's Thirst is stronger in post Omnath Standard because it kills Lotus Cobra, the key rogues, Kroxa, and Stonecoil Serpent for one mana. Planeswalkers are more expensive post rotation; I still need an answer for Ugin, Vivien, and Ashiok. Since Bloodchief's Thirst is a sorcery I have a removal split with Heartless Act. I often cast Bloodchief's Thirst on turn three to double-spell with a 2-drop.

Heartless Act is instant speed, but has a downside with Green decks filled with creatures that have counters. I like both removal spells against the creature decks, but am willing to customize based on the threats I expect. Eliminate is better against Green threats with counters, but that leaves me with having to kick a Bloodchief's Thirst to deal with a big creature.

The counterspells in Game 1 are sparse- Drown in the Loch and Mystical Dispute. Thanks to the graveyard fueling from my creatures Drown becomes a hard counter very quickly. It's arguably the strongest card in the deck. When I'm ahead I try to keep Drown in hand as long as possible and use other interaction first. I have never sideboarded out Drown.

The single Mystical Dispute is a fifth counter that's the least embarrassing. I don't want to maindeck Negate or Essence Scatter because they are too narrow and I'm a more focused tempo deck in Game 1.

Sideboard

Skyclave shade has been fantastic in the Rogues mirror and Rakdos because it can be cast from the graveyard and there are few profitable blocks. I also like the shade against control decks as it lines up favorably against removal. I even had a sweet game where I allowed a Doom Foretold to resolve because the shade could be used as fodder.

Extinction Event, Essence Scatter, and Lullmage's Domination are primarily to fight Green midrange decks. I'm worried about not being able to interact with Garruk's Harbinger. In addition, these spells line up against creatures with Escape. Extinction Event also exiles Skyclave Shade against Rakdos; many of their threats are even.

Duress serves as a third Mystical Dispute with lower diminishing returns. When the opponent plays around Mystical Dispute I don't want to draw three copies. The single Duress can be played in the late game in a draw-go situation. Think of it as a Mystical Dispute that interacts with Shark Typhoon.

Matchups

Dimir Rogues Mirror

+3 Skyclave Shade +1 Mystical Dispute +1 Duress +1 Bloodchief's Thirst +1 Cling to Dust

-1 Lullmage's Domination -4 Ruin Crab -2 Heartless Act

I have a lot of fun playing the Rogues mirror. This is a low resource matchup where Into the Story is the haymaker. Like most mirror matches every card is relevant so it's tough to turn the matchup into a soundbite.

I try to cast my spells aggressively in low resource games. It's unlikely for Into the Story to resolve if we stare at each other.

Post board Skyclave Shade can slant the matchup to a racing situation. I see the shade picking up popularity which makes me like the crab less post board. I'm also adding more cheap interaction; the opponent's graveyard will fill up by playing Magic.

Cling to Dust can be used to gain life and reduce creatures for the opponent to cast with Lurrus. I find myself wanting to gain life with Cling after sideboard because it's difficult to remove Skyclave Shade.

Mono-Green

+3 Extinction Event +1 Lullmage's Domination +1 Bloodchief's Thirst +1 Essence Scatter

-4 Merfolk Windrobber -1 Ruin Crab -1 Mystical Dispute

The most important thing to remember against Green decks is to fire off your removal on big threats before they untap. It may feel familiar to sit back and react, but this is how they get The Great Henge in play. A resolved Great Henge is difficult to beat.

I have raised the curve by quite a bit so I plan to answer all of their threats then refill my hand with Into the Story. Since I'm working with a lower land count, I will be more proactive in answering threats.

Esper Yorion

+3 Skyclave Shade +1 Mystical Dispute +2 Negate +1 Duress

-1 Cling to Dust -1 Lullmage's Domination -3 Bloodchief's Thirst -2 Heartless Act

Against control decks I want to leverage my one mana threats. Since many of control's threats are more expensive, I plan to generate positive mana exchanges. If the game goes late the extra cards drawn will provide enough resources to deck eighty cards.

Use your judgement on how many Cling to Dusts to sideboard out. If you see spells with escape don't board out the third Cling. It's possible control decks play their own Cling to Dust or Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis.

Rakdos Midrange

+1 Cling to Dust +1 Essence Scatter +1 Lullmage's Domination +3 Extinction Event +1 Bloodchief's Thirst +2 Negate +3 Skyclave Shade +1 Duress

-4 Ruin Crab -4 Merfolk WIndrobber -4 Thieves' Guild Enforcer -1 Into the Story

This is the most challenging matchup, but very winnable. Game 1 I act like they don't have it and try to win quickly. It usually doesn't work out, but I plan to be competitive in the post board games.

The best way to interact with Rakdos after board is to play as a Dimir Control deck that exiles Kroxa with Cling to Dust. I have a secondary plan of attacking with Skyclave Shade as it persists through removal.

Ruin Crab and the 1-drop Rogues aren't necessary because Rakdos does a good job self milling. Since Rakdos plays so much self mill I can still count on Into the Story and Lullmage's Domination to cost less than retail.

Cling to Dust may have to exile a noncreature in order to hit land drops. Target instants and sorceries to reduce the stats of Magmatic Channeler or enchantments for Tymeret Calls the Dead.

Mono-Red

+3 Extinction Event +1 Lullmage's Domination +1 Bloodchief's Thirst +1 Essence Scatter

-4 Merfolk Windrobber -1 Into the Story -1 Mystical Dispute

I keep Ruin Crab over Windrobber because an 0/3 is a good source of life gain after I fill the opponent's graveyard.

I don't board in a fourth Cling to Dust, but it's worth considering due to Phoenix of Ash.

In a match without open decklists it's best to be safe and play 2-3 Clings after board.

That's all I have for today. I have been very impressed with the new Standard format so far. Even after watching results from last weekend we have an open metagame which is a breath of fresh air. Rogues is like Faeries from Standard over a decade ago and I'm happy this style of deck is once again competitive.

Thanks for reading!

-Kyle

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