Lucky 13 – Having Fun in Standard with M13

Time sure flies when you’re having fun. When I started playing Magic, the base set was called Revised, and I didn’t realize that there were cards without white borders. The new base set is Magic 2013, and now it’s filled with many new cards and not just an entire set of reprints. Most importantly: Magic is still fun.

Sure, the childlike wonder of opening a pack of newly purchased Revised to see what cards I can potentially add to my ante deck has been replaced with the joy of cracking an Magic 2013 pack to see what cards I will have the option of adding to my deck during a Booster Draft, but the pleasure is still there.

Delver of Secrets
After all that what this is about, right? Sure, Magic can bring its share of heartbreak and pain, but we keep playing for the fun and pleasure we get from playing our favorite game. While I treasure the chance to occasionally make some money here or there because of Magic, no one (including me) should think being a Magic player is the best way to make money. Play for the love of a fantastic game, and if you can make back some of your investment while pursuing your hobby, great!

Of course, for many people, including me, one of the great joys of being a Magic player is designing decks. Why do you think people keep showing up at FNM with wacky rogue decks when everybody knows that it’s going to be two Delver decks facing off in the finals? Of course, it’s because playing the same deck as everyone else week after week stops being fun after a while, even if you’re winning most of your matches. It’s because the creative process of deck design is a joy in itself, but once you’ve created something, you have to find out if your newborn can hack it in the savage unforgiving wasteland that is: Friday Night Magic.

The arrival of a new set means that it’s time for deck brewers everywhere to lock themselves in their laboratories and see what masterful new creations they can assemble. For me, there were several cards in Magic 2013 that seemed to have “Standard playable” written all over them. One of these was relatively obvious: Quirion Dryad. Obvious in large part because it’s a reprint that was a staple in Constructed previously. Now it’s just a matter of finding the right fit for it in the current environment. Previously, the Dryad was most often seen in aggressive blue decks. Conveniently, aggressive blue decks are all the rage right now, so we already have a readymade framework to slide it into:

So, I’ve basically swapped green in for white in Delver. White has the advantage of better lands, with more dual lands and Moorland Haunt, but I’m pretty excited about Quirion Dryad. While it’s a bit of a bummer having to play with Evolving Wilds for color smoothing, it does allow you to Ponder for one good card and then shuffle your deck instead of drawing the other two.

The idea with the Dryad is making it enormous while in the process of doing stuff that your deck wants to do anyway. Thus, the natural pairing with blue, cheap library manipulation is great: Every time you play one, you make the Dryad bigger while searching for the next card to make it even bigger. “Free” spells such as Gut Shot and Gitaxian Probe are great because you can even make it bigger if you play it on turn two. Now it won’t always be the optimal play to use your Probe on turn one.

Another card I’ve added from Magic 2013 is Augur of Bolas. Like much of the deck, it helps me find the cards I need when I need them. It also synergizes nicely with the Dryad. Much like Snapcaster Mage, it essentially represents two spells, thus giving the Dryad two +1/+1 counters. I’ve also added a couple Cathedral of War. I suspect most of the time, I will be attacking with just a Delver or just a Dryad, and any bonus is a good thing. I especially like knowing that my Delver is big enough to trade with a Restoration Angel.

I think a red burn deck can be another good fit for Quirion Dryad.

As many of you may know, I’m a big fan of aggressive mono-red decks. This makes for another good setting for Quirion Dryad. The key to the Dryad is finding room for it in a nongreen deck that casts lots of colored spells. A Shrine/Phoenix deck is a nice fit if you can get the mana right. The Dryad works on similar principles to a Shrine: You want to get one in play early, and then you want to cast as many of the appropriately colored spells as possible as fast as possible so you can overwhelm your opponent. This deck does the two most important things you want to do with Shrines and Dryads:

Archwing Dragon

I’ve also found room for a couple other Magic 2013 cards in this deck. In a deck with a lot of Mountains that wants to have green mana on turn two, Flinthoof Boar seems like a good fit. A 3/3 for 2 mana is a good beater for an aggressive red deck. The fact that it essentially has a 1-mana kicker for later in the game that gives it haste makes it a very good fit.

I’m a big fan of decks that are busy in the early, mid, and late game. This means having a lot of cheap stuff while also having plenty of sinks for your mana in the late game. Hellion Crucible is definitely my type of card. In the early game, it helps make sure I’m able to cast my spells because it’s a land, but in the late game, it’s another productive thing to do with my mana to help my aggressive deck finish the job.

As usual, one of the first things I do when trying to work on Constructed with a new set is to look at the mono-colored possibilities. I’m always on the lookout for a way to play some sort of mono-black control deck:

"Mono-Black"

This deck is somewhat less polished than the previous two lists in large part because it’s not based on an existing deck with a lot of tournament play. The possibilities for mono-black in Magic 2013 are myriad: Mutilate, Vampire Nighthawk, Liliana of the Dark Realms, and perhaps even Diabolic Revelation.

I imagine it will take me a while to determine what the right build will be for the new metagame, but for now, I’m trying something without any main-decked mass removal. Murder is among the best black kill spells ever printed, and it will probably see a decent amount of play in heavy black decks.

The problem with black decks is always finding what to do at 4 mana. The choices are head-spinning: Mutilate, Barter in Blood, Bloodline Keeper, Diabolic Tutor, Evernight Shade, Liliana, Phyrexian Obliterator, Skinrender, Lashwrithe, well, you get the picture . . . 

In this case, I went with two card-advantage creatures. The Exarch can be powerful hand destruction, especially combined with Liliana. I also have an excellent suite of creatures for retrieving no matter what archetype I’m facing. The Shade is my primary finisher. I can play it on turn four if I’m mana stalled, and if my opponent Gut Shots it, at least I fetched a land, and I can always bring it back in the late game with an Exarch.

Perhaps the archetype I’m most excited about at the moment is mono-green:

I already thought green had excellent tools such as Strangleroot Geist, Green Sun's Zenith, Dungrove Elder, and Wolfir Silverheart, but I feel that the addition of Rancor and Thragtusk may be what the archetype needed to make it Tier 1.

The biggest reason to play the deck mono-colored is Dungrove Elder, which is conveniently the perfect target for Rancor. Rancor loves Dungrove Elder because he has hexproof. Dungrove Elder loves Rancor because it gives him trample.

Thragtusk is a great addition for two reasons. One, the life swing helps you outrace Delver, something green has had immense trouble with. Two, it helps you with green’s other Achilles’s Heel—mass removal—by giving you a 3/3. I also love how much Delver hates to bounce him—not only do you get a 3/3, now you can gain 5 more life.

I hope you find deck design as fun as I do. Perhaps you even enjoy reading about how much fun I have doing it. At the very least, I hope you have fun trying out new tech in Standard now that Magic 2013 has given us some new toys to play with. Just remember: One of the best ways to pay respect to a great game is to enjoy yourself while playing it. Have fun. I know I will.