2, Jun, 24

Overperforming MTG Standard Deck Abuses Spicy Skeleton Synergies!

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Article at a Glance

Over the weekend, another round of Regional Championships has been taking place. Players in the U.S. as well as South America and Southeast Asia are competing for glory, prizes, and the opportunity to earn their spots at the upcoming Pro Tour and World Championship. There’s a ton at stake here, so unsurprisingly, the vast majority of participants are wielding top-tier Standard decks.

However, as we’ve seen before, some players have chosen to stray from the norm. In a recent Regional Championship in Australia, one player piloted a unique archetype built around the power of Calamity, Galloping Inferno and Smuggler’s Surprise all the way to top eight. This weekend in Southeast Asia, another player barely missed top eight utilizing a sweet Orzhov midrange deck abusing the power of Hunted Bonebrute. This deck is too cool to ignore, so let’s take a closer look at what it’s trying to accomplish.

Maximizing Hunted Bonebrute

Hunted Bonebrute

Orzhov midrange is a strong strategy right now in Standard. However, most decklists feature playsets of cards like Caustic Bronco and Wedding Announcement that help you win attrition battles. This deck deviates from this plan and is a bit more focused on synergy and aggression. No card highlights the deck’s main objective more than Hunted Bonebrute.

Hunted Bonebrute hits hard but is a bit awkward for most decks to make use of. Even though it technically costs three mana, most decks won’t want to cast it as a three-drop face-up. This is because the opponent will then get two blockers out of the deal that can conveniently trade for your Menacing 6/2. The typical work around is to pay three mana to Disguise Bonebrute, then flip it up to make sure the opponent doesn’t get any tokens. Unfortunately, this exchange requires a lot of mana investment, which isn’t ideal in a format dominated by cheap removal like Go for the Throat.

Luckily, this deck has a few tricks up its sleeve. First and foremost, a full playset of Doorkeeper Thrull makes an appearance here. Doorkeeper Thrull messes with enters-the-battlefield triggers from Artifacts and Creatures. This effect can be useful against Archangel of Wrath decks and Boros Convoke, but it also shuts off the downside of Bonebrute. Curving Thrull into Bonebrute puts a ton of pressure on the opponent if they can’t kill Bonebrute right away.

The second card that combos well with Bonebrute is Corpses of the Lost. Corpses of the Lost is a sweet card that creates a Skeleton token upon entering, then provides a permanent buff to all of your Skeletons and gives them Haste. This Enchantment is a solid value engine that you can often return to your hand and replay in the late game.

On top of that, though, it works well in conjunction with Bonebrute because Bonebrute is a Skeleton. If the opponent ever taps low on mana and doesn’t have multiple blockers back, you can slam Bonebrute and get a huge swing in the same turn. As such, despite being a midrange deck, this package allows you to close the game quickly when necessary.

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The Grindy Elements

Case of the Stashed Skeleton

Besides Bonebrute, this deck also produces evasive Skeletons with Case of the Stashed Skeleton. Case is a great card, but not all decks can maximize it. The card’s main problem is that the Skeleton token you create when it enters can’t block. With this in mind, if your opponent is playing an aggressive deck, they may just be able to ignore the Skeleton token and never give you the opportunity to get value off of the Case’s final Demonic Tutor ability.

Because of this deck’s assertive nature with Corpses of the Lost and Bonebrute in the mix, the opponent will often be pressured to kill your Suspected Skeleton. From there, you have the luxury of tutoring up some elite one-of options like Aclazotz, Deepest Betrayal or Farewell. In some games, you can even set up Case of the Stashed Skeleton yourself by sacrificing the token to Treacherous Greed. As you can see, this deck is more synergistic than it might appear at first glance.

Of course, this deck is still more than capable of winning longer games. There are ample removal spells present, as well as potent Planeswalkers like The Wandering Emperor and Liliana of the Veil. In grindy games, killing your opponent’s threats and replaying Corpses of the Lost multiple times presents a reasonable avenue to victory.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Knight-Errant of Eos

At the end of the day, this deck has a lot going for it besides just looking cool. This deck is fully capable of holding its own in midrange pseudo-mirrors, and there are plenty of removal spells present to keep Raffine, Scheming Seer and the like in check. However, this deck also gains some extra percentage points against Boros Convoke and ramp the way its constructed.

Against Boros Convoke, Doorkeeper Thrull is just a house. Between Imodane’s Recruiter, Knight-Errant of Eos, Novice Inspector, Resolute Reinforcements, and more, this deck relies on triggered abilities from Creatures.

Meanwhile, versus ramp, having access to burly Hasty Skeletons to close the game with is a huge boon. As good as cards like Wedding Announcement are in the long game, you’d much rather have early pressure against ramp decks that can go so far over the top of any midrange strategy. Backing up your pressure with efficient ways to kill Nissa, Resurgent Animist is a decent plan versus Temur. Doorkeeper Thrull is also quite good against Domain ramp, blanking the triggered abilities of Archangel of Wrath, Topiary Stomper, and Atraxa, Gran Unifier.

Of course, not having Wedding Announcement against other midrange decks is certainly a weakness. On top of that, most of your threats, including Bonebrute, have very low toughness. This makes the mono-red matchup much tougher. Not only are your Creatures bad blockers, but they also almost all die to Play with Fire.

In this sense, there are definitely tradeoffs for building your Orzhov deck this way. Still, given how prominent Convoke and ramp strategies are right now, this deck is pretty appealing. Seeing an underappreciated card like Hunted Bonebrute pull its weight is awesome, too. So, if you’re a fan of spooky Skeletons, look no further. This deck should be right up your alley.

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