Surviving Standard

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“Hello?”

“Hello? Is this thing on?” Blows dust across the microphone, nearly dies in the ensuing dust storm.

Okay, wow, it’s been awhile. Almost a year. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was a pretty exhausting year, one where I barely found the time to play Magic, let alone go about trying to destroy a format. However, I thought it was about time I pulled on the old brewer’s gloves, spread a new set before me (soaking in that crisp, clean Fall Set smell that we all love), and set about my way to find a chink in the new format’s armor.

It’s no secret that I prefer to build thematically cohesive decks that tend towards being batspit insane off the beaten path. While I am still brewing with my favorite card in the set (and pick for the, “What the hell are all of you smoking, doesn’t anyone see how insane this card is, why isn’t everyone talking about this!” award winner, Narset, Enlightened Master ; seriously, she attacks and you get a 4-pack Mind’s Desire for free, she doesn’t even need to deal damage) I did cast a wayward eye towards the other avenues Khans offered for me to unleash my special brand of merry tomfoolery.

Obviously, I decided to do my durdliest with an Outlast deck.

Outlast seems so innocuous at first. I can grow my guy, but I have to pay extra to do it? And, at sorcery speed? Wait, I have to tap the turd to do it? At first glance this seems a limited mechanic, something that would never make its way to the tournament tables. All of these things are true, and I dismissed Outlast at first. But, the secret to building a good Outlast deck is that the best cards to enable Outlast aren’t in Khans. They were seeded throughout Theros block. Cards like Fleecemane Lion and Bow of Nylea were just sitting there, ready to give their +1/+1 counters for the greater good. Before I explain, I should probably smack you upside the head with the decklist.

This plays like a Voltron deck, but instead of building one great big, badass creature, you’re trying to “Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast” long enough to turn a team of pathetic weaklings into a lean, mean fighting machine full of big ass heroes. It’s not uncommon for you to trade back and forth for a few turns and then suddenly, your team of runts becomes a squadron of flying, dragon-sized, pantsy-crappingly huge beasts.

Ok, I know that’s a lot to digest, and it’s all over the place, so let’s break it down by highlighting some of the cards that make this thing purr.

Bow of Nylea: This was the card that finally put me into, “Okay, I see what you did there, Wizards, nice one.” When I first saw Outlast, I kept thinking, “Man, this ability could be interesting, almost like pseudo-slivers. If I could do this at instant speed, and without tapping my duder, I would give this a go.” Enter, Nylea’s Bow, which shifts all of your Outlast costs to, “1G: feel free to play this at instant speed for combat trickerization, and no need to tap this guy down, we know you’ve had it rough.” The Bow is still as versatile as hell too, giving you a maindeck salve against the fast beatdown decks and the graveyard decks.

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes: I flip flopped on this or Ajani Steadfast multiple times until I just decided that, if I was activating either Ajani with more than four creatures in play, I was probably already winning. So, the “all your creatures” clause wasn’t as important as the, “can draw you into creatures if you get board-wiped” ability.

Abzan Falconer, Herald of Anafenza, and Ainok Bond-Kin: Despite this being an “Outlast” deck, there are only 10 cards with the ability in the pile. Similar to affinity decks, you don’t need a huge presence to warp the entire design. In many cases, these cards are your trumps. You get to an even board state, drop the Bond-Kin or the Falconer, and all of a sudden your team outclasses your opponent’s. You can spend the early part of the game tossing counters around and then drop the Falconer and, even though you haven’t done a damn thing other than play a 2/3 for three, your team gets all sliver-fied and takes to the air. Herald of Anafenza is better late than early, but she adds another way to grind out a game.

Abzan Ascendancy: You probably want 4 of these, but I’ll be damned if I can find a way to fit the fourth one into the deck. This card provides the same benefit of Ajani Steadfast, with the addition of giving you a way to grind out wins in the battle of attrition. If you get multiples into play, your opponent is all of a sudden staring at giving you a free Lingering Souls every time they cast a removal spell. This combines with Herald of Anafenza to give you a nice little token sub-theme.

Hardened Scales: This card is on the fence. On one hand, it provides so much free value for so little a cost, and it stacks well in multiples. Playing this on turn one can allow for some seriously stupid curves. On the other hand, There are going to be games where it doesn’t do much, and it may be that the deck really wants four more creatures. As of now, I’m sticking with it, but you could possibly talk me out of it.

High Sentinels of Arashin: Another card that can come down and take over the game. I really want four of these, but the deck is so tight right now. It might be that I could cut the Elvish Mystics, but I feel like the deck needs that little boost of acceleration.

Other cards to consider:

Polukranos, World Eater: The last card I cut from the deck. The deck is shy on mana in the current build, and if you want to try Polukranos you definitely need to go up to 24 lands. That said, he acts as removal, he can put a counter on himself, and the sight of a huge, flying, first striking Polukranos would be enough to make Akroma toss in the towel.

Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix: It just feels flat-out WRONG to play green without the Tag Team Champions of the World. It may be that, ultimately, they are too good, and the deck should just drop the black and focus on being a GW deck with the best creatures and an Outlast/+1/+1 counter sub-theme. But for now, just call me Jon Snow, cause taking the black is all I want to do.

Abzan Battle Priest: In the board, for those pesky red decks. Sorry, but Lifelink just isn’t attractive enough for the main.

Favored Hoplite and the Heroics: Aside from sounding like a cheesy boy band, the heroic cards just seem to take too much effort to break. I originally thought that pairing them with Abzan Charm would be worth it, but you wind up going to a lot of trouble when Abzan Ascendancy does pretty much the same thing, better, and it gives you a backup win condition.

Right now, I’m pleased with the deck. It’s fun and it’s explosive, almost combo-esque really, just the way I like it deep down in my cold, black little Johhny heart. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for other Outlast cards, or Outlast enablers, throughout the rest of Khans block. If you’re looking for a fun deck that has the potential to be competitive, you could do worse than giving Outlast a whirl. Just make sure you have a lot of tokens and a ton of dice handy.

If you like my suggestions, you can follow me on Twitter: @travishall456. I throw around random observations and deck ideas every day.

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