Stripping Down Scars Block

For those with an interest in a cheap online format or something with no clearly refined metagame, Scars Block Constructed is a great place to be right now. Everything from single-set block gets shaken up with the infusion of new cards, and since very few top players play the format, it gives people a chance to take an underappreciated gem and make it shine. Better still, many of the issues plaguing the original Scars format—such as lack of card draw, lack of speedy aggro, and overpowering Planeswalkers—have all been fixed to an extent. If you have an MTGO account and some spare time, I highly recommend SBC dailies as a format with nice returns.

U/W Control

U/W control was a big player in Block due to the power of its Planeswalkers—Venser, the Sojourner and Elspeth Tirel. See, in Scars of Mirrodin, there were almost no real ways to get ahead on card advantage; there were a few cards that cantripped or had a return-from-the-graveyard effect, but that was the extent of it. As a result, the best decks all tended to make use of a Planeswalker or attempted to keep the game short enough that the opponent would be dead before it mattered. The other big thing U/W had going for it was the ability to answer anything in the format. It was the only color combo with a "real Wrath" in Sunblast Angel, and Volition Reins remains one of the most powerful cards in the format. This portion of the deck only grows more powerful with the addition of Phyrexian Rebirth, which takes out everything and is the first real answer to Hoard-Smelter Dragon and Myr Battlesphere without any restrictions.

Pre-Besieged U/W decks were subsequently easy to build: Run seven to eight Planeswalkers, Sunblast Angel, Volition Reins, a mix of Arrest / Contagion Clasp / Revoke Existence / Tumble Magnet, and a normal finisher like Wurmcoil Engine, Precursor Golem, or Myr Battlesphere. Not much has changed with the introduction of Besieged, the biggest deal being opposing Planeswalker control decks from Tezzeret instead of purely aggressive versions with Koth. Now, instead of focusing purely on board control, it'll have to spread out to cover itself against noncreature threats like Mindslaver, Blue Sun's Zenith, and Spine of Ish Sah. The fact that threats can dodge removal now like Inkmoth Nexus and White Sun's Zenith mean that taking a proactive approach or keeping counter magic open now is a necessity in certain matches.

With the ability to mix and match acceleration and additional high-end spells, you can have substantially different lists from before. Here's a sample list:

Generally, U/W only has problems against a turn-three or turn-four Koth of the Hammer and very aggressive decks like aggro Red and White Weenie. Even with the addition of a true unconditional sweeper, it retains some of the major issues the original builds had with aggressive decks. Turn six is simply too slow to deal with the Red or White aggro decks, which can consistently kill by turn five. Even with Tumble Magnet, the issue remains, and often even if the deck can stop an initial rush, Koth, Chimeric Mass, or a Glint Hawk Idol could often kill before a Wurmcoil Engine or Myr Battlesphere locked down the ground.

This can be somewhat alleviated with upping the removal suite post-board and even Choking Fumes against Kuldotha Red, but it's just awkward in general. The upside is that against slower Red and other control decks, you tend to be favored since a combo of Blue and White Zeniths along with your tag-team Planeswalker suite tends to be too much card advantage for other control decks to handle.

Mono Red

There are two ways to take the Mono Red deck in SBC; the first has already been explored in depth in the single-set format. The general principle is to smush together Koth of the Hammer with some removal and all the Red creatures that are best at blowing up artifacts. Sprinkle in some Myr acceleration and some Galvanic Blasts, and you have yourself a deck. If you feel particularly cheeky, you could run the Liquimetal Coating plan along with maxing out on Shatter and attempt to LD people out of the game or kill everything they play purely with artifact removal. Of course, in the 55 percent of the time you don't have an early Liquimetal Coating, you look pretty stupid having all that artifact destruction in your deck.

See, the problem with Big Red in the newer format is that decks don't really need that many artifacts to succeed. Sure, you'll be pre-boarded against Tezzeret decks, but against Infect, most U/W decks and the aggressive decks in the format, you'll be outta luck. It won't be entirely dead in any given match, but the amount of value you get out of Oxidda Scrapmelter is going to be a whole lot less than you did when Scars of Mirrodin was an only child. The main changes for this build will be the addition of Sphere of the Suns and Slagstorm with the possibility of a few Red Sun's Zeniths as late-game power cards.

If you don't draw a Slagstorm, this type of slow Red is dead on arrival against aggro decks of any sort and really relies on Koth or Kuldotha Phoenix to win a longer game against control decks. I'm not saying Big Red can't succeed in this format, but it has a substantially tougher road than it did before. People are going to have to adjust once more Besieged cards hit the system and people start building real two-set decks instead of just throwing a few cards into old SBC decks.

Kuldotha Red, on the other hand, made huge gains and is going to be one of the major players in Block. Most of the differences between the Block and Standard builds are minimal, with the only real losses being Goblin Bushwhacker and Goblin Guide, both of which can be replaced without too much trouble in a slower format like this. We simply go backward a bit in time and use the classic Spikeshot Elder to help fill out our one-drops, getting some solid usage out of Flayer Husk or Piston Sledge in the deck, not to mention all the Battle Cry creatures. Here's where I'm at right now:

Myr Sire probably sticks out a bit, but I find it's one of the most useful creatures in the deck. It attacks without fear of getting blocked at a loss; it provides another sacrifice outlet to Rebirth and Piston Sledge; and it leaves you with a guy after a sweeper. The full set against decks with Slagstorm or Black Sun's Zenith can be a game-changer, because even a single token left attacks very well with Hero of Oxid Ridge, equipment, or Contested War Zone.

This deck tends to have matches against hands and specific cards rather than opposing decks. Typically, only eight to twelve cards in a given deck actually matter to Kuldotha Red until the 5-mana mark. For example, the mirror and White Weenie matches are typically won based on opening hand speed and number of Arc Trails drawn, but throw a Sylvok Lifestaff into the mix and the entire dynamic changes. Against a Tezzeret deck, you laugh if they throw down early blockers, but if those happen to be Necropede backed by other removal, you're looking at almost a sure loss. Against Big Red decks, you just need to look at how many Arc Trails and Slagstorms they draw to figure out if you can even get them to single digits.

Kuldotha Red is by far the most explosive deck in the format and the best deck on the play, but it's highly vulnerable to sideboard answers and its place in the metagame will vary greatly.

White Weenie

White Weenie was probably the most underrated of aggro decks in SBC, and right now is the second-fastest deck in the format. Not only was this deck absolutely devastating with Tempered Steel, but Contested War Zone and the Battle Cry creatures make it so you don't need to rely on Steel as a crutch anymore. The deck can legitimately race without Steel now, and it gives it a huge boost against mid-range decks like Infect and Big Red. Control with sweepers is still an issue, but the increase in speed, artifacts that duck removal, and the use of Hero of Bladehold in the sideboard can really help out.

Now, while you can build White Weenie without a heavy artifact base, I don't necessarily recommend it. Unlike the Standard builds, you can't pack enough aggression in without the artifacts, and there's no Quest combo to fall back on. There are certainly some fine two- and three-drops like Leonin Skyhunter and Mirran Crusader, but the slower you make the deck, the more you play into the game U/W, U/B, and Tezzeret decks want to have against you. By doing this, you also leave yourself with no true recourse against sweepers, since you lack any creatures that dodge them and few that are threatening by themselves. At least with the artifact builds, Tempered Steel makes nearly everything into a reasonable clock on an empty board.

The biggest downside to the deck is really the fact that you play a card like Vector Asp to help with Metalcraft. It may end up being correct to cut Ardent Recruit and instead move the Hero of Bladehold to the main deck, but at the beginning of the format's lifespan, I like to go for extremes to test opposing decks with. Other potential additions include Tumble Magnet and Etched Champion, which were successful in old White Weenie builds.

Mono-Black Infect

With only Scars available, there simply weren't enough Infect cards to make any sort of a reasonable deck. Now we could conceivably have multiple Infect decks in the format, but mono-Black is the most obvious place to start and one of the most powerful shells for an Infect deck. The lack of combat-worthy Infect creatures is a thing of the past with Phyrexian Crusader and Phyrexian Vatmother. Not only are both capable of handling themselves in combat, the speed with which they kill the opponent is far beyond everything short of Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon. Additionally we have Plague Myr and Inkmoth Nexus adding value to the deck by providing additional Infect creatures while bolstering the mana.

While capable of being Wrathed out of the game or brought down by multiple spot-removal spells followed up by a Precursor Golem or Myr Battlesphere, MBI handles removal reasonably well with far more powerful single threats, and Skittles a late-game drop that'll almost always get in for 4 once. Its sideboard is a bit shaky, but Corpse Cur, Flesh-Eater Imp, and Mimic Vat can work around removal-heavy decks nicely, and it has access to all the removal it needs despite being monocolored. Additionally, against normal aggro, it can supplement its already impressive main-deck removal with Black Sun's Zenith against swarm decks. There isn't much else to say; the deck gained a lot of speed and resiliency with the update, but it's as straightforward a deck as they come.

Match-wise, aggro can be an issue at times, but realistically, you can outlast any other creature deck in a long game. They simply don't have the firepower to stay in the game against Corpse Cur and Mimic Vat recursion backed by removal and natural combat taking place. Thus far, the hardest match for it seems to be Tezzeret Control / Tezzeret Kuldotha Forgemaster decks with Black Sun's Zenith and Tumble Magnet for early defense and Tezzeret itself providing an endless supply of card advantage and ability to end the game out of nowhere. Additionally, the Forgemaster versions add the major problem of early Blightsteel Colossus or Myr Battlesphere hitting the field, to which you have no good main deck answers. Normally, the best thing you can do is stop Forgemaster, but that's really difficult due to the incredible 5 toughness, keeping it out of Grasp of Darkness range.

Infect is a solid enough deck that in SBC, it finally has enough time to actually take over a game and make up for the low toughness of all its creatures.

Tezzeret Decks

Many of the Tezzeret decks in the format will be based around Matrin Juza's Kuldotha Forgemaster deck from Paris, and the rest will have a base that resembles Chapin's Top 8 list. The key additions in this format are the increased use of Grand Architect, Volition Reins, and Stoic Rebuttal, depending on how quick or controlling you wish to make the deck.

The Forgemaster approach feels more appealing in SBC because the threat of an instant kill or ability to fetch up a Mindslaver is critical as a late-game threat. If you can stop early aggressive decks, then the key in the remaining matches is to keep up with U/W control decks' card advantage and have threats that don't get easily killed off by Wrath effects.

If you run toward the control crowd, what happens is that you tend to max out toward removal, and your kill conditions switch back to either Infect-based creatures like Skittles and Phyrexian Vatmother or the Grand Arch set of Precursor Golem and Myr Battlesphere, both important because they tend to end the game quickly if not dealt with.

For Tez decks, the specifics will be different from build to build, but I expect universal additions of Tezzeret, Sphere of the Suns, Contagion Clasp, Tumble Magnet, and at least one of the major artifact finishers, most likely Myr Battlesphere. Other common choices will include Stoic Rebuttal, Volition Reins, and Steel Sabotage, with rare inclusions being Lux Cannon, Mindslaver, and other non-creature-based weapons (usually for control mirrors).

As far as Grand Architect "Big Blue" decks, those will likely just become Tezzeret decks due to the ease of splashing and power of the card. There's really very little reason not to add Tez now, even mana-wise, since Darkslick Shores and Sphere of the Suns exist. The key difference in builds will be the number of large artifacts included, as these builds tend to max out on Battlesphere and Precursor Golems, while also keeping Palladium Myr for additional acceleration. This may change, though, and a move toward 5- to 6-cost artifacts could occur with the added acceleration and addition of Tezzeret to the curve.

That covers the main decks in SBC, though I suspect Tezzeret will be a rare sight until the prices settle down in the wake of Besieged's being officially released online. For those with an interest in cheap Standard decks, I do have one recommendation for you before I go . . .

Note that the only expensive card in the deck is Eldrazi Monument at 11 tix a pop. The rest of the rares will cost you around 30 tix depending on bot prices, and you could buy the entire deck for 100 tix or less. While not quite as explosive as normal Elves, it gains Eldrazi Monument abuse, which is highly underrated and a far better game against decks looking to grind you out. Not only do you have more creatures for your various Overrun effects, but the blockers and mana the Eldrazi tokens provide are very helpful in matches against Red or Vampires. Other than Kuldotha Red and Vampires, this is really the cheapest deck I can recommend for Standard play, with the caveat that normal Elves is stronger on the whole.

Thanks for reading and good luck!
Josh Silvestri