Raise Your Standards – GW(r) Vigilance

Hi everyone and welcome to the debut of my column, Raise Your Standards.  My goal of this column is to provide you with some insight into the Standard tournament scene, and to discuss decks within the Standard format that you might want to play at your local Friday Night Magic tournament or at a PPTQ near you.

But first, a brief introduction is in order.  My name is Mike Likes and I have been an avid Magic player for just over 9 years (I originally learned to play when Revised was out, but didn’t begin collecting until Lorwyn came out).  I’ve played a multitude of other games (including Dungeons & Dragons, various board games, and a ton of different trading card games) for over 25 years.  I have hopes and dreams of competing on the Pro Tour someday, however realistically I don’t expect that to happen because I’m a family man first and foremost (which makes travelling somewhat challenging).  As such, I’m perfectly content being a big fish in a small pond and just trying to do my best at Friday Night Magic, Game Day, and other local tournaments.

With the pre-release of Kaladesh, my 12-year-old daughter (Arianna) and my wife (Keri) have began joining me at Magic events at my local game store.  It’s been very challenging to build three decks that are all competitive while staying within budget.  However, it’s a challenge I don’t mind since I love being able to enjoy playing Magic alongside my family.

This week I’d like to go over the deck my daughter Arianna has been playing.  It’s a deck that’s pretty straightforward, yet still manages to be interesting to play.  Here’s the decklist:

Illus by Daarken

Illus by Daarken

4 x Aerial Responder
2 x Angel of Invention
2 x Felidar Sovereign
4 x Lone Rider
4 x Sylvan Advocate
1 x Verdurous Gearhulk
3 x Woodland Wanderer

4 x Stitcher’s Graft

1 x Always Watching
4 x Oath of Nissa
2 x Stasis Snare

2 x Arlinn Kord
2 x Nissa, Voice of Zendikar

3 x Aether Hub
4 x Canopy Vista
1 x Evolving Wilds
6 x Forest
4 x Fortified Village
1 x Inspiring Vantage
3 x Needle Spires
3 x Plains

The basic premise of the deck is to stick a creature with Vigilance, load it up with bonuses from Stitcher’s Graft‘s and Planeswalker abilities, and attack at will.  Let’s go over the cards in the deck and I’ll explain the importance of each.

Building a deck with Stitcher’s Graft was the primary inspiration for this deck.  Since it only costs 1 to play and 2 to equip, the +3/+3 that it provides is a great value.  And on any creature with Vigilance, the drawback that Stitcher’s Graft gives is negated.  Also, since many of your creatures also have Lifelink, the penalty for unattaching Stitcher’s Graft from them is also turned into a non-issue.

Lone Rider and Verdurous Gearhulk are your only creatures without Vigilance.  Even as such, they both serve important roles in this deck.  Lone Rider is amazing at providing a deterrant for your opponent to attack you, with it having both First Strike and Lifelink.  Also, with the numerous ways in the deck to increase its power, it becomes relatively simple for you to flip into It That Rides as One.  Once that happens, gaining large chunks of life while either attacking or blocking helps you recover from any early rush your opponent may have made.

Verdurous Gearhulk serves a couple of purposes in the deck.  First, the +1/+1 counters it provides when it enters the battlefield help beef up your creatures with Vigilance, so they attack and defend better.  Then, the 4/4 body it provides is usually big enough to require your opponent to double block when it attacks or provides a large blocker for you.Aerial Responder and Angel of Invention provide you with necessary defense for your opponent’s creatures with Flying.  They also both have Lifelink which can help you reach the 40 life necessary to achieve the alternate win condition of Felidar Sovereign.  Finally, Sylvan Advocate and Woodland Wanderer both offer potentially large bodies with Vigilance that are great on offense and defense.  Always Watching helps these creatures gain Vigilance, and if I could find room having a couple more would be great.   Perhaps swapping one Oath of Nissa to make room for another copy is something to consider.

Next, let’s take a look at our two Planeswalkers.  Arlinn Kord‘s +1 loyalty ability helps provide Vigilance for any of your Lone Rider‘s or your Verderous Gearhulk, which helps your creatures attack your opponent, yet still remain untapped for defending Arlinn.  Once this ability is used, Arlinn transforms into Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon.  Once transformed, Arlinn’s +1 loyalty ability helps provide an additional +1/+1 bonus and Trample for all of your creatures, which should allow plenty of damage to get through on your attacks.  These +1 abilities are usually the only abilities you’ll need, however if you can ultimate Arlinn, the game should be over very quickly after that.
Also aiding you in your quest to make your creatures grow in size is Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.  Usually the first action you should take is to do her -2 loyalty ability to put a +1/+1 counter on each of your creatures.  The following turn, you should make a plant token with her +1 loyalty ability.  Then on the following turn, you can either add another loyalty counter to make another token or remove the remaining 2 loyalty counters to put an additional +1/+1 counter on each of your creatures, depending on which you need more at that time.  I can’t imagine a scenario where you would ever be in a position to ultimate her.

So, as you can see, even though this deck seems pretty straightforward and doesn’t have a lot of tricks, it plays out as a pretty powerful deck.  I love the fact that it can pummel your opponent into submission or could win out of the blue y resolving a well-timed Felidar Sovereign.  This is a great deck for any new player, yet I believe it would also be a great choice for an experienced player as well.

Please let me know what you think of this deck, and let me know of any improvements you would make by leaving  comment below.  Also, if you have a deck that you would like featured in Raise Your Standards, please feel free to contact me.  And join me next week when I take a look at another innovative Standard deck.


Mike Likes

Mike Likes

Mike started playing Magic back in 1994, but gave it up at the end of 1995. He came back to the game during the Lorwyn block and has been playing ever since. Around this time, he opened and ran his own comic & game store, while also raising his newborn daughter. After 8 years, he sold his business and moved to Wisconsin with his wife and daughter. With the debut of Kaladesh, his entire family became regular Magic players. He now has hopes of competing alongside his wife and daughter at a Grand Prix or similar event in the future. #MTGDad

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