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Six Standard Stumbles


Audio Version of Barbarian Class!

1. Izzet Epiphany - Biasing Blue Instead of Red

Izzet Epiphany, boogeyman at the top of the metagame, has many trappings of a classic Control deck. It plays an enormous number of lands - up to 29/60 when you consider the Modal Double-Faced ones - can Counter Target Spell, bounce not only creatures but any sort of permanent... And needless to say, is Blue.

Especially given all the Blue card drawing, longtime combo and control players might bias their mana choices in favor of Blue rather than Red. This is the intuitive way to play even though the deck is not actually built that way. Ondrej Stasky's famous version from the 2021 World Championships has two more basic Mountains than basic Islands: Take note!

But the deck actually needs more Red operating mana than Blue, at least up until the end game. Not only does Burn Down the House require rr just to keep you alive, there is one extremely important play pattern that requires not just rr, but rrr as early as turn six:

Galvanic Iteration
Unexpected Windfall

Unexpected Windfall is actually the more important four-mana card drawer in this archetype, over Memory Deluge. The reason is that, unlike close cousin Izzet Dragons, this deck needs to get to 8-10 mana to set up the Galvanic Iteration + Alrund's Epiphany combo that is the planned finishing stroke of this deck's unique character. Doubling Unexpected Windfall with Galvanic Iteration is a really cool play. Not only will you walk away with four Treasure tokens, you only have to discard one card to Unexpected Windfall, but will get the full benefit of both copies. On a side note that didn't get its own bullet this time around: Don't try doubling a Memory Deluge; that's a good waste of two mana and your second best spell.

So, what do we mean by biasing the mana? Playing Riverglide Pathway over Lavaglide Pathway, choosing which lands you might discard to Unexpected Windfall, or what to search up with Field of Ruin or Environmental Sciences. The deck does need uu; but you will lose a surprising number of games by getting to uuu or even uuuu before finding your third r. This is largely under your control, Izzet Wizard.

2. Izzet Epiphany (mirror) - Missing Galvanic Iteration as a Counterspell

Your luck couldn't be worse.

They went first.

Then they hit Galvanic Iteration into Unexpected Windfall!

You're beyond boned. Aren't you? They are flashing back Galvanic Iteration and are tapping a ridiculous amount of mana for that sorcery that everyone ("everyone") says should be banned. You have a Divide by Zero, but can't stop both their copies.

... Or can you?

Even with a measly five mana, or four with the right answer, you might have a way out. First off, if you're going to try to defend yourself with Divide by Zero, target the Epiphany copy, not the cardboard. One will go back to their hand, and the other is imaginary. If you hit the imaginary one, you'll get the bounce back value of your Divide by Zero, presuming you ever get another turn, but they won't get an Epiphany back, because, um, it doesn't actually exist.

That makes sense, right? But, an often missed play is a mite of turnabout: Try using your own Galvanic Iteration to copy Divide by Zero.

I probably don't have to explain this beyond the potential initial "a ha" moment; but man wouldn't it be cool to pull of the same with Test of Talents or, even better, a truly surgical Jwari Disruption // Jwari Ruins? Let's assume you've merely doubled a Divide: You don't auto-win or anything, but you probably cost them not only a ton of Treasure, but most of the value of their Unexpected Windfall. Plus, you're simply not dead, and can keep playing, probably from a position of now superior resources.

3. Blood on the Snow - Shambling Ghast Sequencing

You're probably sick of me talking about Blood on the Snow variants, but I've seen this error a ton recently, so it bears mention. In addition to playing Blood a lot myself... I've watched tons of streamers grind out variations of the same on Twitch and YouTube.

The most common mistake I see is someone running a first turn Eyetwitch when they could have played a first turn Shambling Ghast. First turn errors always seem to characterize this as close, or a point of preference. It simply isn't. Even if you don't have anything else, the Shambling Ghast is generally the better play in the dark; even if all you do is chump into a fast Skullport Merchant, you'll replace your Treasure immediately and have a great blocker. Eyetwitch makes little sense unless you have no Deadly Dispute and are planning to miss your third land drop otherwise.

But the real reason is that there is very little upside to starting on Eyetwitch. I've personally been shocked by how many times I've consciously made the right first turn play and then just drawn Deadly Dispute as my eighth or ninth card.

... Which is not to say you should necessarily immediately Disupte. But against beatdown? It's often the right play to block, sacrifice, and then see what happens next. If nothing else is going on, and you have the option of Deadly Dispute or Hunt for Specimens [or Prosperous Innkeeper, Kalain, etc. based on color combination], I'd go with the latter in the abstract, especially if you're in a matchup where even a small amount of damage might matter.

But if you open on Eyetwitch? You get neither the meaningful option, nor the possibility of luck sacking into Lolth on turn three via the old saw of "play right, get paid."

In sum, Eyetwitch is great; and you should definitely have it in your Blood on the Snow deck. You know those kind of weak mid-game Bloods, where too much mana came from Treasure, Field of Ruin, or Spell Satchel? One of the ones that is bad for the opponent but not really fireworks for the home team? Go ahead and get back Eyetwitch over Shambling Ghast there; this can be close, right, or downright clear against, say, a deck with Goldspan Dragon. Just don't favor Eyetwitch on turn one, or you'll cost yourself the possibility of winning the third turn Lolth lottery... For no good reason.

4. Mono-Green - Land Sequencing

Two things about Mono-Green that people miss.

One: It is probably the most underrated deck in Standard. A lot of stuff has to go right for Izzet Epiphany to even live to turn five against even mediocre Mono-Green draws. And given Izzet is uber popular? Do the math.

Two: Far from a mindless aggro to deck (that would be Mono-White), Green is arguably the most difficult deck in Standard to play properly, especially in the early turns. The average Mono-Green deck might have to choose between Tangled Vale, Kazandu Valley, Snow-Covered Forest, Faceless Haven, and Lair of the Hydra to play on turn one, before casting its first spell! Getting it right will offer little fanfare, but getting it wrong? Multiple unanticipated Time Walks, and not on the backs of Alrund's Epiphany.

So anyway, unlike most other colors, Lair of the Hydra might not be the right first turn land!

Sometimes you have weird draws that start Lair, Lair, Sculptor of Winter.

How do you decide if you should start on Kazandu Valley or Tangled Vale on turn one... Or when you should hold for the Florahedron on turn two?

I wish I could give you a general rule, but it's simply difficult. Hard and fast rules are tough to forge because Green literally has awesome 2-drops, 3-drops, 4-drops, and fives! However, you will often have to plot a turn to take off somewhere along that curve. Generally, you will have to plot out which land sequence you'll need to execute on whatever bomb you drew, hopefully on time. So, if you have Kazandu Valley, Tangled Vale, and Esika's Chariot, you might start by facing down the Mammoth, deploying Lair of the Hydra non intuitively on turn two to cast the Florahedron as a 1/1, and planning to slap down your best threat a turn ahead of the curve.

If you make the wrong decision, Mono-Green can play like a beatdown deck that is sadly half lands. So, sacrificing a potential Gnarled Mass as a tapped Forest proxy can cost you if you start to flood out. You might have no threat!

Here is a general rule that comes up quite often: If you're just going to play four Snow lands the first four turns, the proper sequence is very likely first Forest, second Forest, Haven, then third Forest. This will allow you to attack with the Haven on turn four if the path is open. You're unlikely to be bit by this mistake very often, but that's one of the reasons you should strive to sequence it correctly: Otherwise, you can develop bad habits where autopilot can cost you an otherwise winnable duel.

5. Mono-Green - Who's the Beatdown?

When Mono-Green clashes with Mono-White, it is very easy to confuse oneself for the Control. In classic Who's the Beatdown? fashion, Mono-Green has more removal and card drawing.


If Mono-Green tries to play the full Control role it is very possible to just get overwhelmed in a long game. The problem is that Mono-Green has so many lands! Up to twenty-nine with the wrong draw. If it has excess mana, Mono-White can do things like power up Intrepid Adversary or Paladin Class. But in the same pickle, Mono-Green might just be ripping a 1/1 for two.

It can be confusing especially in sideboard games where Green is bringing in even more removal (the life gaining Devouring Tendrils really is the best). This feels like the Control, doesn't it?

But what you really want, as the Green mage, is to use your highly mana efficient removal like Blizzard Brawl to steal - and then hold - the initiative. You want to keep attacking. Close it before you can flood out.

A lot of people don't understand this because it's very non-intuitive. Beatdown decks (which includes combo decks in many contexts) want to run a high land count in early turns. Then they want to leverage their mana availability to empty their hands and quickly run the opponent over. If successful, they can end the game before many lands start to feel like too many lands.

Have you ever been the beatdown, or a combo deck, that has had its initial flurry halted by the perfect sequence of opposing answers? Then you just rip mismatched pieces or too many mana sources while the control opponent just draws more and more perfect cards and builds more and more resources?

That is NOT the position Green wants to be in. Freaking kill White. Don't let them use their Adversary to attack, and certainly don't get Mauled or double-struck. Mistaking yourself for control can turn lethal on a dime. You're not Mono-Black and Wrenn ain't Lolth. White, well played, will jockey for the beatdown also. Let them attack and you shouldn't be surprised when their Cathars and Apparitions show you just how Brutal they can be at forcing through blocks. Kill White's dudes and kill them before they can go wide, land one of their breakers, or Exile you into oblivion.

6. Everyone - Lessons, Learns, and Card Advantage

This final one is something a variety of decks can fall prey to... The Divide by Zero propeller heads, the Professor nerds, the pre-meds Hunting for Pests or sacrificing Bats. Especially when you need land, the instinct is to Learn for Environmental Sciences.

... Except that will get you killed sometimes.

As Zvi Mowshowitz once wrote, more games have been lost on tempo than card advantage. Great! You kept yourself alive with a three mana bounce. But that doesn't mean you have time - or two spare lands - to dig for your next drop.

So, an underrated play is to "Rummage" with Learn, rather than reaching to your sideboard for a Lesson. Discard your worst card... Which is probably a Test of Talents. It might seem painful near-term, and conceding the card advantage might set your Spidey Sense off like Doc Ock sneaking up from behind... But at least you didn't just take a line that will guarantee you die two turns down the line.



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