Friday, February 18, 2011

Top Ten Creatures in Standard

Its been a long while since I talked about competitive magic in any capacity, but competitive standard has been my primary gaming focus as of late. Next month, there are two major cash tournaments here in LA, so I've been keeping up on Standard and preparing for those tournaments. Instead of sharing my deck list for that tournament and talking about its match-ups and other boring things, I'm just going to share with you what I think are the best creatures in Standard so far. The goals of this post are as follows:

1) Try to give myself a better understanding of the format by forcing myself to write about it.
2) Try to give the more casual players who read my blog a glimpse at the kinds of creatures that are good in the tournament scene.
3) Try to display pretty pictures to look at for those who do not give a shit about magic.

On with the list!

10) Avenger of Zendikar

This is a card that took a while to catch on for some reason, but its obviously really powerful. If you drop this onto the battlefield, your opponent has to deal with it immediately, or else you just win. Even if your opponent does successfully stop the Avenger before you can pump up all of your plants, you still have a mini army of defensive blockers to buy you some time. This card is number 10 only because it has narrow applications (i.e its only good in Green ramp decks).

9) Fauna Shaman/Vengevine

I put the two of these together since they are rarely seen apart from each other. Together, they make a blazing fast, combo engine which can tear apart unsuspecting decks. Vengevine is really one of the best cards to stop Jace, and the fact that you have to exile it to stop it completely is just amazing against non-white decks. These cards are number 9 simply because they don't see play in the most powerful decks ... in standard anyways...

8) Wurmcoil Engine

When Scars of Mirrodin first came out, I was convinced that this was the best card in the set, and easily one of the best creatures in Standard. I tried my hardest to take advantage of it, but this creature has one glaring problem: it fails the Jace test. The Jace test is whether or not this creature can fight the planeswalker and win in a one on one battle. Playing a Wurmcoil Engine, and then having your opponent play a Jace and bounce the engine is just brutal for you and sets you way back. The creature is nuts against aggressive decks though, that often can't fight past it. I suspect Wurmcoil Engine's stock will shoot up once Jace rotates out of Standard, but for now this creature is number 8 on the list.

7) Signal Pest

This was one of the break out cards from Mirrodin Besieged in my opinion. Its pretty easy to get a turn three kill with an aggressive deck by playing one of these on the first turn. Its one of the reasons why these aggressive decks are so fast at the moment. Its also hard to chump block, making it likely to survive an attack even with its shitty power/toughness. If your opponent drops a Signal Pest on turn one, expect the round to be over quickly.

6) Grave Titan

Let me be honest here, the titans ruin Standard for me a little bit. Its ridiculous that every color has access to these super efficient and powerful creatures. Grave Titan is one of the best because he works so well both offensively and defensively. I mean paying 6 mana for 10 power worth of creatures is a pretty amazing offense, and having three creatures to block with off of one card is a pretty amazing defense. Its a card almost every black deck needs to consider running. Its stock fell a bit recently with printing of Go For the Throat in the latest set.

5) Goblin Guide

Goblin Guide is one of the most aggressive creatures ever printed. One mana for a 2/2 haste in Red is so far above the curve its disgusting. Sure it has a drawback, but the drawback is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, and sometimes the 'drawback' is actually helpful for you because you get to see what card your opponent is about to draw. A turn one Goblin Guide can easily get in 8 points of damage against a control deck if they don't have a way to stop it immediately.

4) Lotus Cobra

If theres one creature in standard that you absolutely have to kill the moment it hits the battlefield, its this one. If you play a turn two Lotus Cobra and play a fetchland on the following turn, that gives you access to five mana on turn three, which is just absurd. It doesn't even have to tap to generate the mana for you, so you can beat down with him in the meantime or use him as defense. Things get stupid real quick if you start chaining ramp spells off him like Harrow. If you're playing in Standard and your opponent drops a Lotus Cobra, KILL IT IMMEDIATELY!

3) Squadron Hawk

Oh Squadron Hawk, you're so deceptively good. At first glance, people look at this card and don't understand what all the fuss is about. Its just a 1/1 Flier that fills your hand with more bad creatures. Put let me put it this way, when you play a Squadron Hawk, you immediately draw three cards, and all of them are creatures. This card is easily one of the best ways for white based aggressive decks to play around cards like Day of Judgment. All you need is one piece of equipment out to turn your hand of stupid little birds into legitimate treats post-board wipe. But hes not just good in aggro decks, control decks love him too. Playing one creature to draw you into three more chump blockers is an amazing tempo gain for a W/U control deck. Then hawks allow you to have enough time against an aggressive deck to draw into a Day of Judgment or Gideon to stop the onslaught completely. At the last Pro Tour, there were more copies of Squadron Hawk played in the top 8 decks than Jace. That should tell you something.

2) Primeval Titan

Primeval Titan is a card advantage machine. I can't think of another creature in standard that has just an immediate swing in the game the minute its played. He only costs six mana, which in a green deck you can reliably play him on turn four. After one swing, hes already netted you four extra cards, which is just ridiculous. Take note that his ability allows you to get any land, not just basic lands. So grabbing up copies of Valakut and going for a combo kill is pretty easy to do with him. The printing of this card has opened up a ton of various Green based ramp decks, which have been the top dogs in Standard for the past six months. If you're playing in Standard and you don't have a plan against the Primeval Titan based decks, expect to lose horribly.

1) Stoneforge Mystic

It didn't take a genius to realize that this card was going to be amazing when they printed her over a year ago. This bitch gets exponentially better with every new set thats released. Obviously, her use is tied hand in hand with the amount of good equipment in the format. It just so happens that Standard has a ton of good equipment. There are so many good targets in standard that she can grab a piece of equipment for every kind of situation. Also, if she manages to stay out for a turn, you can use her second ability to play equipment at a reduced cost, uncounterable, and at instant speed. Her partner in crime is number 3 on the list, since she provides the equipment so Squadron Hawk can lay on the beats. Stoneforge Mystic, more than any other card in the artifact based block (Scars of Mirrodin), demands that you play artifact hate in your sideboard, else you're gonna get blown out by a hawk carrying a sword in its mouth. 

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