You know what, I need to get this off my chest. People always ask me why I chose a particular deck to play on any given weekend. Was it the Pro-Tour Top 8 list? Was it hours of extensive play-testing and rigorous analysis of the meta? The answer? Sometimes, but mostly no. I have a problem — I need to play cards I like.

I’m 80% Spike, 20% Johnny. This means that I take a very practical approach to playing the cards I like. It also helps that I generally like very powerful cards, like Supreme Verdict, Sphinx’s Revelation, and Detention Sphere). My Johnny side will often lead me astray however, causing me to add a dash of the ridiculous to the recipe, like Codex Shredder, Unexpected Results, and Door to Nothingness. I’ve found the only way to reign in my addiction to the ridiculous is to force myself to create a framework of acceptable cards to showcase my insanity.


How did I go about building my last 3 or 4 decks? Simple. I created a completely subjective list of cards that absolutely must be played in standard, then filled in the gaps with pet cards. Using this easy method I have successfully conquered 6 round standard tournaments without compromising my need to play the cards I really like.

The Best Cards in Standard Right Now:

Other than Codex Shredder, what are the best cards in standard for my play style?

I hate my opponents having cards I don’t know about. Luckily, there is an answer: Thoughtseize. You’d better invest in better swamps, because this card should be in every deck it is legal in. As a play-set. Forever. Referred to as “the king of discard” by almost everybody I know named James, Thoughtseize is so good for so many reasons that it makes by brain explode into rainbows.

This is the best example of a card that scales in power with the skill of its pilot. Thoughtseize is a squirt gun in the hands of an amateur, and a nuclear warhead in the hands of an expert. Play this card properly in the early turns of a game, and enjoy ruining your opponent’s opening hand, knowing their next 3-4 turns, and how your resources should be appropriately aligned to deal with theirs. This card is like a Swiss army knife, if Swiss army knives also baked you cookies and sent offensive e-cards to the office jackass.


I hate creature removal in standard. I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, clutching my plushie Jace, as I weep a salty tear caused by the fear of removal spells stranded in my hand against non-creature decks. Hero’s Downfall doesn’t have that problem. It is a legitimate removal spell against literally every popular deck in Standard, and you will never ever find a legitimate match-up that it is bad against.

Hey Cory what about Maze’s End?

Shut up John.

What about Hexproof?

I said legitimate.


I hate creatures. The only things I like to do in magic are: Make my opponents have a bad time and draw cards. Courser of Kruphix draws me cards, and lets my opponent see their inevitable demise sitting atop my glorious deck, so it gets a pass. I actually love this card. It’s so much more than 2 devotion and a good blocker, and it has been the Centaur of my attention ever since it came out.

Courser is a deck-building gem. He has positive interactions with so many cards. Archangel of Thune eats up the life gain, and makes him into a formidable attacker. Domri Rade and Chandra, Pyromaster both get immensely better because of the information he provides. Even the scry lands benefit from being able to see what’s on the top of the library. Like it? Play your basic / shockland instead. Hate it? Scry it away freely. Simply drawing you past lands and into more gas is worth it.

After identifying the must plays, we need to expand the base with “probably should play” cards.

Expand the Base:

Desecration Demon

A 6/6 flying creature for 4 mana, that also generates card advantage in his own little way. Undervalued in Innistrad, but a boss of Theros. If you’re in black, you’re packing the demon.

Polukranos, World Eater

Another creature / card advantage engine. A removal spell strapped to a fatty is nothing but value. I don’t usually play 4, but that’s because it is legendary.

Scavenging Ooze

This creature has been an inclusion in nearly every green deck since it came out. I especially love Scavenging Ooze in decks with a lot of removal / Thoughtseize, as they give the ooze plenty of targets for his ability.

Sylvan Caryatid

Excellent at blocking aggro creatures like Ash Zealot, and Burning-Tree Emissary, the Caryatid is a powerhouse for 3 color decks.

Pet Cards:

In no particular order, here are some pet cards that I think fit into this shell:

Some Brews:

I’ll show you some examples of what I like to do once I have my frame assembled.

White has some of the best hate cards in the format right now. Sin Collector and Blood Baron of Vizkopa are both devastating against the right deck, and going off with Archangel of Thune, Courser, and Ooze is golden.

Fun Jund generates it’s card advantage primarily off the top of it’s library, and further proves that Jund is the king of topdecking. Revealing a land with Courser, then ripping the creature with Domri Rade, and casting that removal spell with Chandra, Pyromaster all on the same turn makes bystanders do this:

I was far too deep into the first round of the tournament when I realized that I had just created a massive card advantage engine, and I had forgotten to include a real win condition. Every card in this deck is meant to protect you while you get more cards, and through interference, doesn’t do much except put you 55 cards deep into your deck before you can push enough damage though to win. I have a knack for creating decks where the win condition is “old age.” I did manage to land a Prime Speaker Zegana for 9 cards off of a Desecration Demon that had been turned sideways a few times by my opponent’s creatures.


All three of these were one-off experiments I took to one large tournament each. I ended up placing first or second in all three of them, largely because of the shell. The important thing to note is that all three decks play very differently, despite having the same basic framework.

  • The Junk list won by playing cards that take over the game by themselves.
  • The Jund list won through synergistic card advantage.
  • The BUG list won by annoying my opponent to death with Krakens, Assassins, or boredom.

What do you think? Is this how you usually construct a deck?¬†Leave a comment below with your “must include” cards in standard right now. I’d love to see your deck shells. :)

And finally I’ll leave you with this flavor text: