Thirst for Knowledge: Reveillark Revisited



Going into this qualifying season, I wasn't sure what to expect. At the time, Standard looked boring and bland, and Alara Reborn didn't look as though it would be changing that. However, once we had the full set it was easy to see what would become of Standard. Regionals was dominated by the token decks, Grand Prix: Barcelona belonged to a (*gasp*) combo deck, and Grand Prix: Seattle featured five Faerie decks in the Top 8. The metagame has shifted back and forth with a great deal of vigor, and keeping up with it has proven to be a challenge for even the best of the best. But now that the dust has settled from the back-to-back Grand Prix events, what's next for Standard?

Well, let's look at what Seattle taught us: Faeries is very much a real deck again, and that means that the decks that are good against Faeries will be back in force. Archetypes like BG Elves and Jund Aggro (as well as Five Color Blood) will be likely the most popular decks for the next few weeks, and that leaves an open window for the decks that prey on these "Faerie-killers" to step up and get some Top 8's. My favorite of the bunch? Read on.


As good as ever.
Last week my group and I battled in Canada. As you all probably know, I played Faeries, and did rather poorly. My friend Brian, however, played UW Reveillark and had a decent showing. Lark was a deck that I had played a bit myself, but mostly just for testing purposes. I had never taken the deck to any events or put in any time with it on MTGO. I watched Brian play a number of his rounds, and I decided that the deck looked pretty exciting. I played Reveillark decks quite a bit a year ago, but not as much since Time Spiral rotated. I asked Brian how he felt about the deck, and he told me loved it. He only suggested that I play Knight of the White Orchid, a card he told me he wanted many times during the tournament. While I was glad he liked the deck, I thought the 2/2 Knight sounded awful. But more on that later.

The next day, upon returning home, I bought the deck on Magic Online. I tested with it a good deal in the practice rooms, and was really liking how the deck was working. I hadn't put UW Lark through a thorough testing gauntlet in a while, so it was refreshing to see that it was much better than I had remembered. I quickly ended up with a list I really liked, and entered some 8-mans. I won one, but was eliminated from a few others in the second round. I also decided to take the deck to a local FNM this past Friday to get in more testing for this article, and managed to easily make it to the finals and split first. A large number of my wins weren't even close. That is, I was steamrolling many of my opponents, and I would only take hard beatings from the Faerie deck.

As you might guess, I was pleased. I spent the weekend testing more, and came to this:

UW Reveillark
As suggested by Chris JobinMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Lands
4 Mystic Gate
4 Adarkar Wastes
8 Island
5 Plains

Creatures
4 Meddling Mage
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Sower of Temptation
4 Mulldrifter
3 Reveillark
2 Glen Elendra Archmage

Other Spells
4 Cryptic Command
4 Wrath of God
3 Path to Exile
4 Mind Stone
3 Fieldmist Borderpost



The Maindeck

4x Meddling Mage:
While this card is traditionally known as a sideboard card, I think not playing them maindeck is a mistake. The only match-up where it is "bad" in game one is Five Color Control, a match-up that I'm pretty confident about anyway. Any other time, Meddling Mage is passable in the first game. There is always something relevant to name, and against decks like Faeries and Swans it's obviously just a house. There are times where you'll want to use it to name removal to protect your Sowers, and other times where you just want it to delay a threat until you can properly deal with it (chanting Bitterblossom against Fae, for example). It's clearly bad in the mirror match, but even in game one you can protect yourself from your own deck by chanting something you've already played. For example, take this scenario I experienced on MTGO last week:


Shenanigans!
Me: Island, go.
Him: Plains, go.
Me: Plains, Mind Stone, go. (I'm holding two Meddling Mages, but don't know what he is plaiyng)
Him: Mystic Gate, Meddling Mage - naming Mulldrifter, go.
Me: Mystic Gate, Sower of Temptation, go.
Him: Island, Path to Exile on Sower of Temptation, go.
Me: Meddling Mage - naming Path to Exile, Sower of Temptation, go.
Him: Meddling Mage - naming Sower of Temptation, go.
Me: Island, Meddling Mage - naming Wrath of God, go.
Him: Go.
Me: During the upkeep, he Cryptic Commands my Sower of Temptation. I respond with a Cryptic Command, and he concedes.

In this situation, his only out at that point is to play a Reveillark, and I still had a Cryptic Command in my hand.
The idea is, if you play Meddling Mage correctly in the mirror, you can literally lock your opponent out of the game. He had no reliable answer to my 2/2 flier, and conceded because of it. You'll still want to sideboard it out in the mirror, but it's definitely passable in the first game.

Meddling Mage can flat out beat combo decks, which everyone knows. It can also hold off a card like Putrid Leech until you can get to Wrath of God mana, which is something I'm fine with. Against the GW Elves combo deck, you can chant Dauntless Escort or Regal Force to really put the hurt on, as well as blank removal spells in the control match-ups. All in all, I really like Meddling Mage and have been very impressed with it.

4x Kitchen Finks
These weren't in the original list. They have no synergy with Reveillark, and I wasn't entirely sure I truly needed them. I had maindeck Windborn Muse in their place, but I very quickly saw the error of my ways. One of the reasons that this deck as well as every other white control deck in the format has a positive match-up with red decks is because of some kind of life gain, and in my deck I had exactly none. Kitchen Finks may not have a way back to play after it kicks the bucket, but that's fine - it gains you life, and makes the deck more aggressive in addition. It trades with a fair number of creatures in the format, and usually draws a Path to Exile (which you'd rather have on it than on something you can recur). Netting additional life when up against any aggressive strategy is as good an idea as always, and I think at least three of these need to remain in the list no matter what.


Even better than in Faeries?
4x Sower of Temptation
This past weekend, I got a call at 4:30am from Honolulu. My friend Gavin apparently had not made Day Two of the Pro Tour and needed a deck for the next morning. When I shipped my list, he asked me if four Sowers was possibly too many. I assured him that four was definitely not too many, as I personally feel that they are the best card in the deck. I'd never honestly dream of cutting even one, as I can sincerely attribute a large number of my wins to that card alone. Fantastic vs Faeries, absolutely a blow out in the mirror, and just superb against any aggro deck, Sower of Temptation is at its very best in a Reveillark deck. It is single-handedly responsible for giving this deck such a strong match-up with BG Elves, as well as white-based aggro. I can't say enough good things about this card, so I'll cut it short before I go off into a tangent.

4x Mulldriftter
Anything less than four of this card is just wrong. The backbone of the deck, Mulldrifter was the card that originally pushed this archetype over the edge. I've never seen a blue-based Reveillark deck without Mulldrifter, and I hopefully never will. Spending six mana to evoke a Reveillark and getting four flying power as well as a Tidings is as sweet as it ever was.

3x Reveillark
Some people like four of these, and others like just three. I've even seen some lists with only two, though I think that's far too few. Reveillark is, well, the key card in the deck. I've always preferred just three since it does cost five mana (though you typically evoke it, which makes it even more expensive), but I can understand if someone wanted four. In fact, after playing the deck a good deal I'm convinced I want a fourth myself.

2x Glen Elendra Archmage
Two of these is pretty universally agreed upon, and I have to concur with the masses. You don't want to draw a ton of them, but they're rarely bad when you do draw them. They're very strong vs the Swans deck, and obviously they're good against Five Color Control. I've also had success with them in the Faeries match-up, and any help with that deck is immediately welcomed. A lot of times you'll use Glen Elendra Archmage as a beater, as it not only flies but doesn't have to be protected like Sower of Temptation does. It's also a tad more expendable than Mulldrifter due to persist, and that's always a plus. It's fairly bad against the Jund and 5CB decks, but otherwise it's a pretty evergreen card that can stay in against most match-ups.

4x Cryptic Command
This is by far the most awkward and clunky card in the deck. People have been saying that for ages about Cryptic Command in Reveillark decks, and it's always been true. However, that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be in the deck. In fact, I'd never cut it. It solves a large number of your problems, and it also allows you to tap down your opponent's team for an alpha strike. Countering Cruel Ultimatums and Cloudthreshers is pretty great, too, as is just drawing cards with it. The problem with the card in this deck is that a lot of times you'll want to hold back to counter a spell with it, but you'll have other relevant plays like playing a Mulldrifter or something. I've found that a good way to handle this issue is to use Cryptic Command first, and then start laying down threats and drawing cards. This eliminates the clunkiness of the card and also sets you pretty far ahead of your opponent. Additionally, having another out to Mistbind Clique is hugely important, as is having a way to break a stalemate against aggro decks or the mirror. Besides, for each time the card is unwieldy, it will win you a game on the play when you play it on turn three off of a Mind Stone.


The original sweeper.
4x Wrath of God
One of the biggest draws to playing this archetype is being able to play a full set of this card, as this is the only deck in Standard that would want to. It's pretty strong against all the decks in the format, though four might be too many. It's obviously really good against BW, Kithkin, Elves, Bant, and even the Jund deck, but it's pretty lacking against Fae and Five Color. I think you'll still probably want a playset in the seventy-five, but dropping to three in the maindeck is more than acceptable.

3x Path to Exile
This was originally an entire playset, but it didn't take long for me to cut one of them. I've even considering cutting a second, as the deck doesn't really rely on it for much, but having a way to deal with Mistbind Clique is pretty important. In addition, it puts an end to Putrid Leech and his friends, as well as manlands that Sower of Temptation can't deal with. The biggest reason I've kept three in the maindeck is Gaddock Teeg. If that guy resolves, it's bad news for the Reveillark deck. Shutting off Cryptic Command and Wrath of God is super awkward, and being able to dispose of that guy for a single mana is definitely a good thing. Path to Exile is just an efficient removal spell, and one that needs to be in the deck in some shape or form.

4x Mind Stone
I love Mind Stone. Love, love, love, love it. Accelerating you into a turn three Sower of Temptation, Cryptic Command, or Wrath of God is undeniably clutch, and I'd never leave home without four of these things to increase the likelihood of such plays. I typically like to keep my Mind Stones "unpopped" until I hit five lands, at which point I usually just sac them and draw some cards. I've heard that some people don't use these, but that just seems absurd. Don't those people like winning?

3x Fieldmist Borderpost
No, you didn't miss something in my list: I'm playing this card without Knight of the White Orchid. Why? Well, to tell you the truth, it's because Knight of the White Orchid is rancid in this deck (and I think that is the only word that truly describes it). That is, it's completely awful. I don't care how "awesome" it is with the Borderposts. The fact is, it is not the card I want to Lark back, and it is not the kind of card I want to, well, ever play in my control deck. How is a 2/2 first strike guy any good in a deck like this? He doesn't do anything for you whatsoever. He actually doesn't kill hardly anything, he doesn't fly, he doesn't gain you life, he doesn't take away options from your opponent, and he doesn't draw you cards. Getting more lands is swell and all, but I'll be totally honest here: I can't think of a single time when that was all that relevant, even in the mirror. Fieldmist Borderpost, however, is still fine since it gives you almost full immunity to Anathemancer. That's a huge deal.


The Sideboard

The beauty of this deck is that the sideboard is pretty wide open. You're always going to want some number of Windborn Muses, because if you can keep one around when up against BW Tokens, it is very hard to lose. They're also remarkably strong against Faeries, since making them pay mana in order to attack you is the best thing in the world. Brian Kibler played four in his maindeck in Seattle and really liked them, and that seems acceptable. After all, they're not bad against anything, though I wouldn't want them in a number of my match-ups. That being said, I like them in the sideboard myself.


Utterly ridiculous.
Paladin en-Vec is a card that hasn't seen much play in a while, but I assure you it is just nuts in this deck. I mean, we're talking "the stoneblade," the "nutter butters." I can't even praise this card enough. 5CB and Jund can hardly even beat this card, and RB Aggro just rolls over to it. It's also a part of Kibler's "get aggressive vs Fae" plan, which I have used to great effect recently. Whether it's a roadblock against red decks or an Agony Warp-proof beater, this guy just delivers. I'd want three to four in my list at all times.

Runed Halo and Pithing Needle speak for themselves, as do the Negates. You probably don't need the Runed Halos, but having a little extra help against Swans is always nice. You can also try Jace Beleren in the sideboard, as he's very good against any deck with blue mana. However, I don't feel as though he does a lot for the deck otherwise. Stillmoon Cavalier is a card that I would recommend over it, as it's not only good vs Fae but also Doran and BW Tokens. If you can fit them in, a three and three split of Paladin en-Vecs and Stillmoon Cavaliers helps to cover all your bases when up against Faeries, red decks, and BW. Aura of Silence is another card I could get behind, as it is very solid at not only disrupting Swans but also as a means to deal with a resolved Everlasting Torment or Loxodon Warhammer.

***

I played this list in a Premier Event on Monday (the 8th of June), making it into the Top 8. Here's how I did:

Round 1: Faeries (2-0)
Round 2: GW Elves Combo (2-1)
Round 3: Faeries (2-1)
Round 4: Cascade Swans (0-2)
Round 5: Grixis Control (1-2)
Round 6: Jund Aggro (2-1)
Round 1, Top 8: GW Elves Combo (same guy as earlier) (0-2)

As you can see, I had to play against two Faerie decks in the first three rounds, and managed to beat them both. The first Fae match wasn't even close - I actually pretty much demolished him. The second was a lot closer, but I still managed to win out with Paladin en-Vec beats. The GW Elf deck is a lot more solid than I had thought it was, but Sower of Temptation easily cleaned things up for me. I lost narrowly to Swans, as both games were close, and some poor draws against the Grixis deck gave me a rough 3-2 record by the sixth round. I destroyed the Jund deck, though, but lost to Cloudthreshers that I had not seen earlier when I replayed the GW player in Top 8.

My wins against Faeries bolstered my confidence in this deck's match-up with that deck, and so I'm pretty sure Reveillark is a lock for me at the PTQ this weekend.

***

Before I wrap things up, I'd like to leave you with some sideboard strategies vs the most popular archetypes:

Faeries
-4 Wrath of God
-4 Mulldrifter
+4 Paladin en-Vec
+4 Windborn Muse

Wrath of God is notoriously bad against Faeries, and Mulldrifter just costs too much to really be effective. Paladin en-Vec is immune to all of their removal, and serves as your main win condition after sideboarding. If you have Stillmoon Cavalier, bring that in as well and just be aggressive. Windborn Muse is very good in this match-up as well, as taxing Faeries to attack you just gives you a ton of freedom to do whatever you want. This match-up is very bad, but winnable if you stay aggressive and play smart. As an aside, I would bring in Negates on the play.

Jund Aggro / 5CB
-4 Meddling Mage
-2 Glen Elendra Archmage
-1 Wrath of God
+4 Paladin en-Vec
+3 Windborn Muse

Both Meddling Mage and Glen Elendra Archmage are pretty awkward in this match-up, so bringing in Paladin en-Vecs and Windborn Muses to replace them is a good idea. I like to keep some number of sweepers against this deck, but I'm okay with dropping a Wrath of God or two. Celestial Purge is very good in this match-up (if you're packing it), as it not only RFGs any creature in their deck (for the most part) but also deals with Everlasting Torment, pretty much the only answer they have outside of Snakeform to a Paladin en-Vec. The 5CB deck will also have Cryptic Command, but that only gets rid of the 2/2 super knight for a single turn. This is probably our very best match-up, and one that you should rarely lose.

BW Tokens
-4 Sower of Temptation
-3 Path to Exile
+2 Negate
+4 Windborn Muse
+1 Austere Command

You want to clear the board a lot in this match-up, and you also want to keep Windborn Muse active afterwards. Spot removal is awful here, and you'll want to bring in Negates to deal with their spot removal as well as stop Spectral Procession and Ajani Goldmane. Other than that, this match-up is pretty straight-forward. It's not terribly favorable, but it's not even close to being a bad match-up either. Often, they can't even beat a Windborn Muse and will simply concede (this has happened to me a few times). If you play one and follow it up with Meddling Mage naming Path to Exile (well, actually, in the reverse order), you could easily just lock them out.

Cascade Swans
-4 Wrath of God
-4 Kitchen Finks
-1 Mulldrifter
-1 Sower of Temptation
+2 Negate
+2 Runed Halo
+2 Pithing Needle
+4 Paladin en-Vec

Most of this is pretty self-explanatory, I understand. The reasoning behind Paladin en-Vec is that it infinitely blocks Bloodbraid Elf and cannot be killed by Seismic Assault in the event that it is Haloed but not Needled. This match-up is traditionally bad for this deck, but I think with this sideboard plan I'm slightly favored against it.

Five Color Control
-4 Meddling Mage
-4 Wrath of God
+4 Paladin en-Vec
+2 Runed Halo
+2 Negate

Paladin en-Vec is a card that is hard for 5cc to deal with, and you can usually "get there" with it unless they have Plumeveil. Runed Halo stops Banefire and Cruel Ultimatum, and Negate is just great against them all around. I used to think that this match-up was a bye for Reveillark, but it's slightly harder than it used to be. It's still in our favor, I think, just not like it was when there was no Volcanic Fallout.

BG Elves

This match-up is very easy. I don't think it's better than the 5CB/Jund match-up, but I also feel like no sideboarding is necessary. You could potentially bring in Pithing Needle or Windborn Muse, but I'm not sure if you'll need to. If they have Garruk Wildspeaker or Imperious Perfect, you can bring in Pithing Needle without much hesitation, though I think Treetop Village is probably a larger threat. I expect this deck to be pretty popular in the next few weeks, so having a strong match-up with it is a definite plus for Reveillark. Just watch out for Necrogenesis.

The Mirror
-4 Meddling Mage
-2 Wrath of God
+4 Windborn Muse
+2 Negate

Meddling Mage is obviously bad in the mirror, and Wrath of God loses a lot of value when you're both playing with Reveillark. Those cards can come out in favor of basically anything that's better, which in this case would be Negate and Windborn Muse.

***

If I haven't already made it clear, this deck is very good right now. It really does have a favorable match-up with almost every deck aside from Faeries, and I think that alone is something you just can't ignore. While there are lots of different ways to approach the sideboard, and even maindeck (for example, Owen Turtenwald swears by Ponder and Vendilion Clique), the end result is always the same: a workhouse that rolls most of the decks in Standard, but loses hard to Faeries. While it's true that punting the Faeries match-up of all things is a little sketchy, I don't think it's a terribly big deal in the long run. After all, I know personally that the match-up is very much winnable, and having a fantastic match-up with the two other popular decks (BG Elves and Jund) is well worth it. My advice to anyone looking to play this deck is to appreciate Paladin en-Vec and to playtest as much as you can against Faeries. If you can feel comfortable on the other end of Islands and Bitterblossoms, you can win a PTQ with relative ease.

As for me, hopefully this weekend will go better than my last PTQ did. I realize that my last article was met with a good deal of negativity, and I hope that this article made up for it. I'm still improving as a writer, and I think one of the things I need to work on is conveying my sometimes dry sense of humor (last week's article was infested with over-the-top humor that I think most everyone took too seriously), and so I will continue to try and do so in the future.


Until next time,

Chris "Shinjutsei" Jobin

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