I like to always have a standard legal deck built. I’m not looking to win a pro tour with it, but it is nice to have it on hand for the occasional pickup game; most people pack a standard deck with them when they go down to play somewhere, so it’s a convenient thing to have.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who has read my earlier articles, but my standard decks are usually heavily focused around a particular mechanic. This makes building them easier; the synergies are easy to spot, since most of the cards work in a similar way, and as a result the first version of the deck comes together quickly. What’s more, these decks usually start life as old draft decks I enjoyed playing and just needed to polish up.
When I first started playing, back around the time of New Phyrexia, I gravitated toward the Metalcraft mechanic, building a mono-white Myr deck featuring Myrsmith and Tempered Steel. Later, around the time of Theros, I built a deck utilising Heroic creatures, targeting them repeatedly with Hidden Strings. Most recently I built a blue-green Energy deck focused around Fabrication Module and Bristling Hydra. None of these decks have ever performed particularly well, being somewhat inconsistent or under powered, but I had a lot of fun building them and playing with them. That said, I do have a standard legal deck that has performed better than I expected.
During Battle for Zendikar drafts at FNM I had always wanted to build a deck around Halimar Tidecaller, a human ally that returns cards with Awaken from your graveyard to your hand. It reminded me of cards like Mnemonic Wall, Archaeomancer, and Snapcaster Mage, and while its ability was a bit narrower than those older creatures, it still seemed really sweet. Unfortunately, the few times that I saw the Tidecaller in those drafts was inevitably in pack 3, when I was already deep into a different archetype and it was too late to switch colours for it. Eventually I just decided to pick up four copies of Halimar Tidecaller and make a standard deck with it instead:
Halimar Tidecaller could only get a card with Awaken back, so I needed to run enough of those to make it worthwhile. The Awaken mechanic, for those unfamiliar with it, puts +1/+1 counters on your lands and turns them into creatures if you can pay the spell’s alternate casting cost. With that mechanic in mind, it meant the plan for this standard deck would be fairly straightforward: I would delay my opponent with bounce spells and counterspells long enough to get enough lands into play, then start animating those lands and attacking with them. Halimar Tidecaller would of course be key to this plan; it would allow me to cast these cards in the early game to buy me time, only to get them back later when I would have more mana.
Cards like Coastal Discovery and Anticipate would provide a steady flow of cards. The original version of the deck used Clash of Wills as a cheap counterspell, but it had to be replaced with Revolutionary Rebuff to keep it standard legal once Origins rotated out. This was clearly a downgrade, being unable to counter artifacts, but it was quite apparent that without a counterspell that could be cast for 2 mana the deck would struggle. The Rebuff was really the only option if I wanted to counter both creatures and noncreatures with it.
The problem with only running counterspells that cost 3 or more is that early threats would slip through the cracks too easily, and it would also make it too hard to keep up mana for a counterspell while also playing another spell in the same turn. Cards like Clutch of Currents and Roil Spout benefit greatly from a cheap counterspell like Revolutionary Rebuff; bouncing a creature and then countering it on the way back down is a great way of dealing with these problems, especially if my opponent spends an entire turn trying to recast their threat. Delays like that are just what this deck would need to buy time until the late game.
When that late game finally arrived, thankfully I would have a way of dealing with those problematic creatures that maybe didn’t get countered. Planar Outburst can destroy my opponent’s creatures while leaving my animated lands alone. Considering that the rest of the creatures in this deck are pretty disposable, this is excellent. Follow it up with a Halimar Tidecaller and the deck can recycle the same Planar Outburst a few times!
Funny enough, while Planar Outburst has proven to be the most powerful card in the deck, and while Halimar Tidecaller pulls the deck together, it is one of the ‘disposable’ creatures that may be the most important: Wall of Resurgence. In terms of buying time until the late game, this 0/6 Defender can get in the way of almost anything on the ground, and it can even be used to animate a land. What’s more, it can make an already animated land even bigger. A good blocker early on and a buff in the late game? This makes the wall a great draw at almost any time.
Overall, if this deck can survive into the late game it can set up some backbreaking turns, and the deck has the tools to get it there. Granted, I feel that if it was matched up against top tier standard decks it would come up short, but for casual matches it’s managed to hold its own. If nothing else, it’s doing things in a different way than most of the standard decks I’ve seen lately. Just because there are a bunch of new cards out doesn’t mean that the older sets in standard should be ignored entirely.
There’s also something just really satisfying about attacking with basic lands.