Standard Decks of Tomorrow: Innistrad Block Metagame
Block Constructed has always been one of my favorite formats. It was the format for the first Pro Tour Qualifier (PTQ) I’ve ever played in as well as the first Pro Tour I’ve ever played in, so it has a special place in my heart.
Unfortunately, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has been taking Block out of the PTQ scene and focusing more on Standard. That usually means that the Block format rarely matters. However, this year, WotC gave us a Grand Prix in Anaheim, CA that featured the Avacyn Restored Block format. I think the Grand Prix was a great success, and I hope that means WotC will bring back Block tournaments for PTQs.
If the Grand Prix is over and there are no Block PTQs, why should we even bother playing? Block is still being heavily played on Magic Online as well locally in gaming stores. The format is very fun and popular, and there are a ton of decks that fit everyone’s play style. Also keep in mind that Block decks help to define the Standard metagame once the fall set is released. Today, I’m going to discuss the different decks and options of what to play in Block.
Boros is the fastest aggro deck in the format. Piloted by Paul Reitzl to a Top 25 finish at Pro Tour: Avacyn Restored and a second-place finish last week in Anaheim, this deck is capable of winning as early as turn four. It plays the most efficient creatures in red and white such as Stromkirk Noble, which is practically unblockable in this format. There are also a few burn spells to give the deck more reach. Here’s the decklist.
"Boros by Paul Reitzl – Second Place at Grand Prix: Anaheim"
This deck has the potential to open with the most broken draw in the format:
- Turn one: Champion of the Parish
- Turn two: Gather the Townsfolk, attack with 3/3 Champion
- Turn three: Silverblade Paladin, pair with Champion, attack with Champion for 8
- Turn four: Hellrider, attack with everything; opponent is dead!
On the play, this draw is nearly unbeatable.
The downside of Boros is it has a hard time beating decks with big creatures and burn such as Naya or R/G. Wolfir Silverheart combined with ways to remove your best creatures is bad news for Boros. Not to mention how embarrassing it is to tap out to cast a Hellrider, attack, and be ambushed by your opponent’s Restoration Angel.
While this deck didn’t put up the results that Boros did, it is still a very fast, consistent deck. This deck, like Boros, plays the most aggressive mana curve possible. Mono-red plays a lot of creatures with haste and a ton of burn.
This deck also suffers against decks that play big green creatures. Here’s the list created by Darwin Kastle that Rob Dougherty piloted to a Day 2 finish at the Grand Prix.
"Mono-Red by Darwin Kastle"
Why play mono-red over Boros? It is mostly a play-style preference. Mono-red is a faster deck, but its creatures are smaller and more vulnerable. Mono-red also plays more burn spells, so you have to do a bit more math so you know whether to use burn on your opponent or his creatures. Boros has more raw power and is capable of seeing more unbeatable draws than mono-red.
I like to call midrange decks Wolfir Silverheart decks because they mostly revolve around the card Wolfir Silverheart. There are three different options for Wolfir Silverheart decks: Bant Hexproof, Naya (including R/G), and Jund.
The deck tries to do one thing: Play a Hexproof creature—such as Invisible Stalker or Geist of Saint Traft—and pump it up with spells like Increasing Savagery and Spectral Flight. Because most of the removal in the format targets creatures, hexproof guys can be huge threats. Mass removal is either sorcery speed or very inconsistent (miracles), so by the time your opponent can cast Terminus or Bonfire of the Damned, the damage has already been done.
The downside of this deck is it has some very inconsistent draws. If your opponent is able to deal with a turn-two Invisible Stalker, you may just sit there for a few turns with a bunch of copies of Increasing Savagery and Spectral Flight in your hand until you draw another threat. Here’s the list that came in seventh place at the Grand Prix.
"Bant Hexproof by John Sittner – Seventh Place at Grand Prix: Anaheim"
I feel that this deck is arguably the strongest deck in the format, and it’s great for new players to pick up for a tournament due to its straightforwardness and raw power.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have Naya. It’s less powerful than Bant but way more consistent. It plays the best creatures of green, white and red and the most powerful removal spell, Bonfire of the Damned. It also has a lot of ways to obtain card advantage, thus making it one of the safest choices for a tournament.
"Naya by Melissa DeTora"
Jund was created to beat the Bant decks. Adding black to the Wolfir Silverheart decks gives you access to cards that can kill hexproof guys, such as Liliana of the Veil, Tribute to Hunger, and even Barter in Blood. Black also gives you Falkenrath Aristocrat, a huge, hasty threat that is amazing when played alongside Humans.
The weakness of the deck is it plays too much removal, making it vulnerable to the control decks of the format.
There is really only one control strategy in Block right now, and that strategy is miracles. We first saw miracles at Pro Tour: Avacyn Restored where Alex Hayne piloted W/U miracles to victory. Since then, the deck has been evolved by the members of the ChannelFireball team to include red for Rolling Temblor and Bonfire of the Damned. This was mostly due to the rise of Bant Hexproof, and the deck needed more ways to deal with creatures that couldn’t be targeted.
They also added Gisela, Blade of Goldnight to the sideboard. If you’ve never played with this card, give it a try. It is impossible to kill with burn (other than Blasphemous Act), and it makes it pretty difficult for your opponent to damage you. Not to mention it attacks for 10!
"W/U Miracles by Eric Froehlich – Fourth Place at Grand Prix: Anaheim"
There are some combos that exist in Avacyn Restored Block Constructed, and they are super-fun to play. While there aren’t auto-win combos in this block, there are some neat things that you can do to make it very difficult for your opponent to win
This deck is not exactly a combo deck. It usually wins by beating down with creatures. However, if that plan doesn’t work out for you, there is the added option of reanimating all of your creatures every turn, making it nearly impossible for your opponent to recover.
This creates a lot of triggers from Huntmaster of the Fells, Borderland Ranger, Geist-Honored Monk, and Fiend Hunter, netting you massive card advantage. Fiend Hunter will usually exile your Angel of Glory's Rise, so if your opponent has a Bonfire of the Damned or a Blasphemous Act to wipe away your creatures, the Angel will just come back, reanimating all of your creatures again. Note that this doesn’t work if your opponent plays a Terminus, but if you have a Falkenrath Aristocrat in play, you can just sacrifice all of your stuff so Terminus won’t matter anyway.
This deck also has a neat infinite combo that involves Falkenrath Aristocrat. First, have the Aristocrat and an Angel of Glory's Rise in play. Then, play a Fiend Hunter, exiling your Angel. Next, sacrifice the Fiend Hunter to the Aristocrat’s ability, giving it a +1/+1 counter. Then, the Angel returns to play, reanimating the Fiend Hunter. Fiend Hunter returns to play, exiling the Angel. Then, sacrifice the Fiend Hunter, giving the Aristocrat another counter. You can do this a million times, making your Aristocrat more than lethal.
This combo also works if you have a Cathedral Sanctifier in play, netting you infinite life!
"Human Reanimator by Michael Hopkins – Fifth Place at Grand Prix: Anaheim"
Arcane Melee Combo
First, cast and flash back Mystic Retrieval on any two spells that you want to return. Next, cast Runic Repetition on the Mystic Retrieval. Then, cast Mystic Retrieval on the Runic Repetition and flash it back on a spell that you want to return.
Then, cast the Runic Repetition on the Mystic Retrieval again, and repeat. With an Arcane Melee in play, this loop costs only 4 mana each time. Eventually, you will gain board control with all of the creature removal in the deck and finish off your opponent with Devil's Play.
"Arcane Melee Combo by Arthur Halavais"
This deck’s weakness is graveyard hate, which unfortunately means that this deck is not a great choice for a tournament on Magic Online. It seems that every deck is packing Grafdigger's Cage, and that card makes it very difficult for you to set up your combo. Devastation Tide helps to get it off the board, but that is only for a turn.
Arcane Melee Combo is incredibly fun, and I’m sure it will be strong enough to make a splash in Standard once Scars of Mirrodin block rotates out.
Despite there not being any more competitive tournaments using this fun format, Avacyn Restored Block Constructed is still very relevant to us. Block decks of today are the Standard decks of tomorrow, so be prepared to see these decks become tournament staples in a few months. With the knowledge of Block now, there’s no reason not to be prepared for next season’s Standard format.
As always, thanks for reading, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @AllWeDoIsWinMTG