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It's Always Darkest Before the Dawn


Mike Radecki
Mike Radecki

About Mike Radecki

Mike started playing Magic during Mirage and quit shortly after Counterspell was announced as not being reprinted in 8th Edition. He started up again during Zendikar and has been working towards winning PTQs on a tight budget. Mike has been a long time member of Blackborder, originally joining in 2003 and promptly returning once he started Magic again in 2009. Mike is a proud father of two girls and a devoted husband of 12 years... Which is why he's on a budget.

It's Always Darkest Before the Dawn

Dark Ascension is finally upon us and apparently it's time to dust off some artifacts. Namely Ratchet Bomb and Nihil Spellbomb. Even those seem like poor answers to the seemingly insurmountable number of tokens and stuff that just won't stay dead. While I haven't had much time playing DKA in Standard, I've had plenty of Limited experience already and let me tell you Undying is annoying. I'm the kind of player that hates having to deal with the same card more than once. In my DKA prerelase I had answered the same Grimgrin, Corpse-Born 4 times before it finally did me in. And that guy didn't even have Undying!

In this article I will bring you a couple of Standard decks as well as my top 10 list for deck builder's DKA must haves. Nope, B/R Vamps isn't one of the decks, sorry still no low cost aggressive Vamps. And I can't do Mono-Black Zombies because Gravecrawler shot through the roof in terms of price and the deck kind-a-sort-a needs help from Obliterator anyhow. I refuse to write about B/W tokens because the deck builds itself and you can find lists on any Magic site on the web... So instead I have another crazy concoction I came up with and a really competitive list a couple of my teammates came up with while watching my Patriots roll over and die in the Super Bowl... :(

Like a Sacrificial Virgin... Sac'd for the Very First Time!

For at least a month or two, Black and White are going to be slapped together in just about every other list. And rightfully so. DKA brought a lot of synergy between the two and, not looking at tokens, there are some creepy things that like to eat humans.

Blood Offering

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I apologize for the rough list, I've been bouncing back and forth with this list for a week now and it's gone from crazy shenanigans to pricey competitive lists. I couldn't get testing in due to some crazy schedules, so this remains the rough draft. But that doesn't mean we can't talk about it right? Right off the bat you should notice the absence of Fiend Hunter, who was in my original list. He won't fare too good in a deck that needs to eat humans to win. Although you can do shenanigans with the stack and an Aristocrat, she's really only there as Plan-B 'surprise I win'. And for the initial weeks after DKA, I'd take a lot of stock in Elite Inquisitor holding off some Zombie beats so he got the slot over Fiend Hunter.

Now playing the deck is simple, start out looking like White Weenie Humans with a splash for removal and when it comes time for late game reach.... BAM! There's a Demon! Flip, sac, trigger Morbid, a whole lot of good stuff happening. Best part is, you control when to flip him, so at worst he's a vanilla 4/4 for 5 but that should be few and far between because the aggro weenie start should get your opponent close enough to 9. The Sun Titan offers a bit of a fall back and works insanely well with a flipped Demon and a Doomed Traveler in the grave (in case things get out of hand).

The deck has a lot of great sideboard humans too. Thraben Heretic for graveyard control and Skirsdag Flayer for spot removal. Fiend Hunter if it makes you feel good, but I'd just go with the ole reliable Oblivion Ring to get the job done (not to mention it answers Curse of Death's Hold which, if left unchecked, would wreck the deck). You could also go for the not so transformational sideboard and run Honor of the Pure and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and turn into a solid White Weenie deck.

The deck checks in at a little under 100. Cut the Chapels and the Sun Titan to bring the price down if needed. The Aristocrats aren't a key piece, but they are undeniably powerful in a deck filled with food and will win games on their own, so I highly suggest keeping them in.

Leave but a Shred of Flesh, and it Will Return...

Mono Green lists have been cropping up lately and a bunch even placed well at SCG Open Richmond. And while time will tell if the archetype will get a solid foot hold, I really feel the deck needs help from a second color to provide a more consistent performance. So did my teammate Chris, who recently came up with this list:

Gb Undying

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Glissa has always been a strong card. Good on offense, great on defense, amazing at recurring Artifacts that can give you answers. She's just never had a home. Mostly since her cost is highly prohibitive and unattractive, but she's a must answer for your opponent. Ironically, she's the easiest thing to kill in the deck so she probably won't be sticking around once your opponent can lock in on her with spot removal. Everyone else either has Undying, Hexproof, or is Indestructible. Eventually your opponent will run out of answers and the tide of nasty green monsters will overcome him.

The decision to play Black was heavily weighed, as it is the deck wants to hit GGG on turn three more so than it needs Black in the first three turns. Aside from Glissa, Black offers spot removal with Tragic Slip and Go for the Throat and even brings in card advantage with Altar's Reap which can be used to blank your opponent's removal or draw cards off an undying guy that will just come back stronger anyhow. Black also has strong sideboard cards like Curse of Death's Hold and Deathmark.

The artifacts work with Glissa to provide a seemingly endless source of Land fetching, Grave cleaning, and Ratchet Bombing. Which will be enough to keep a lot of decks at bay. Especially if Tokens or DFCs are huge in your meta, being able to recur Ratchet Bombs is what you want to be doing. Once you get two and a Glissa, it's game over for anything with a converted mana cost of zero.

Crushing Vines in the main handles what little you can't block. The choice of Vines over Beast Within was that the 3/3 token was actually relevant as it can stop some of your guys from swinging in. However, if you are destroying anything larger than a 3/3 then the point is moot.

Dungrove Elder was my suggestion. I felt that if you draw an Ooze in the late game it's very disappointing as it needs a few turns to get rolling. Dungrove Elder is a bit easier to cast and so long as you have at least three Forests, he's worth it. Although the odds are you'll have a few more than that if you're using the Horizon Spellbombs and Evolving Wilds to find them.

The deck is pretty expensive compared to the Standard decks I usually showcase, so if you like the shape of the deck, send me a message and I can offer you some budget replacements. Overall though, the deck is much cheaper than the Mono Green lists that appeared in the top 16 of the SCG Open in Richmond which one checked in at $465 (this deck checks in at about $125).

Dark Ascension Top Ten

Here in my hand I have this set's Top Ten list. These are the cards I feel every deck builder should have a playset of. Mind you, I'm often wrong but it's still fun to do, so let's do it! Barring Mythics here's the list:

10. Pyreheart Wolf

Aggro is going to be very strong in the near future and I feel this little guy is going to be the centerpiece of some of those decks. Being able to cut the number of blockers in half is nuts.... Especially if some of your guys can come back with a +1/+1 counter on them.

9. Geralf's Messenger

The triple Black cost keeps him low on the list, but getting in for 4 damage no matter what's on the field is incredibly powerful. Just look at Legacy Burn running Keldon Marauders for the guaranteed  2 points of damage as an example. This guy is going to show up in heavy black lists for sure.

8. Tracker's Instincts

We all saw some lists that used Lead the Stampede for a green draw source. And while Tracker's Instincts digs one less deep and only nets you a card, it also costs one less and puts things in your grave. Considering that the flashback is Blue, this card will surely find its way into some U/G decks that are looking for a great way to fill the yard for good old Splinterfright!

7. Strangleroot Geist

You can almost count the number of Mono Green Creatures that have unconditional Haste on one hand. Strangleroot Geist is insanely powerful, but his cost is very prohibitive as you're always going to want to drop him on turn two. Undying just adds to the fun and punishes any deck that doesn't run a lot of creatures and relies on spot removal to control the board.

6. Gravecrawler

If you are anything like me, you hated seeing a Bloodghast on the other side of the board. It just meant that you'll be dealing with this guy for the entire game. Gravecrawler follows that same suit, although it doesn't come back for free, it still comes back for next to nothing. Whether you're an Aggro player or a Combo player, you're going to need a set of these nasties for sure!

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Dark Ascension (Foil)

5. Tragic Slip

This card is going to rise in stock as more and more deck lists become creature heavy. Things die real easy in this format so the Morbid condition is easily met. Being able to take out any creature in the Standard format for a mere Black at Instant speed earns Tragic Slip a spot in the top half.

4. Lingering Souls

Remember what I said earlier about White and Black being pushed together? Well, here is another reason! Four 1/1 fliers is nothing to sneeze at and more than likely they won't be mere 1/1's for long. I was lucky enough to run this in my Prerelease sealed deck and while the format is different, the power level of this card is apparent.

3. Faithless Looting

This is the Dark Ascension card I have the most experience with. It's absurd to think I actually brought Red into a U/B control deck for draw, dig, and filtering. It does good early game and it does good late game. As an old school player, I'd never thought I'd see the day that Red got a good card quality spell. This card will be used in just about every format, so picking up a set is a no brainer.

2. Grafdigger's Cage

I've bounced back and forth between placing this as number one and Thalia as number one. But I feel that while this card is inherently strong, the decks it shuts down should have answers ready as every deck is going to be cramming some of these in the sideboard. It is on the same level as Null Rod and it's price should hold for a while so I'd pick up a set if you play more than Standard for sure.

1. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

While I said decks are moving more to the creature heavy side, Thalia is going to be a thorn in any ones side. In a tight race making Noncreature spells cost more is going to slow down your opponent. Especially if you weigh your deck to play around this. A 2/1 First Striker for 2 is already a strong card, not to mention her creature type is extremely relevant. Thalia just takes it over the top and that's why I feel she gets the top spot.

Would you make any changes to the list? I'd be interested to hear if there are any sleeper cards you feel got overlooked in this set. Just comment below and we can all talk about it.

As for my next article, I really want to make it a Deck Check episode. I got a lot of positive feedback from the last Deck Check I did and I'd like to continue the series. However, I need your deck submissions to make it happen! So please use the contact me feature and send me your lists! Any format, any budget, any experience level! Just send them in! I will also answer every submission I get! So if you don't make it into the article you still get my response! Just keep checking your email after you submit because my response will be sent there. You can find my last Deck Check article here if you're wondering what they are like.

Deck Check: The Evolution of Mankind


I had the opportunity to help out a user with his Deck Check submitted list and, since he's had some success and the deck he submitted is an up-and-coming archetype, I'm going to go ahead and take you from his initial list and bring you to the final list step-by-step, as well as share Chris's FNM report.

Thanks all!


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