Before I write this thing, I want to make the reader aware of, that I’m not a dedicated ”standstill player” I love the dark depths combo more than any other combo in magic and I think that for many years it has been a very underestimated combo. I’ve learned through the years, that Dark depths isn’t just something you jam into an already existing deck and hope to draw it from times to times and save you.
History, I started with the combo in Mishra’s Workshop oriented deck, first at a Bazaar of Moxen which went pretty bad, tweaking and tuning the deck, when I started playing mtg online, I had a lot of practice with it against different archetypes, and I made a top 8 in a premier event with 90+ players. Before the restriction of Lodestone Golem happened I was already working on making a blue version of deck, I wanted more protection for my Marit Lage token against all the removal, specially swords to plowshares and path to exile. I wanted to be able to play force of will, to have more answers when being on the draw, so I developed Standstill Depths, which I played also at Prague Eternal and made top 8 with it. Below here I have put some links to some of the lists, that have been stored on different sites, on top you will see a BUG version tuned by Efro in his final against Shuhei Nakamura. It’s obvious that he went with the green splash for abrupt decay because he knew the chance of Shuhei being on Oath. I have several other 4-0 & 3-1 finishes in the daily event with both BU and UW version, but unfortunately not all data is kept.
Eric Froehlichs version in VSL:
01/04/16 (white version)
27/08/16 vintage premier top 16
The meta today, so whenever you choose a deck for a tournament you’re looking at how the current meta has evolved from a restriction/unrestriction or from new cards entering their way into vintage. Sometimes you might have patience to wait for the meta to settle in and see how the balance end up with what archetypes are affected the most, what matchups has changed and what decks have become weakened or stronger. So where is the meta at today? With Aether Revolt came the most important card we see in today’s MUD builds; Walking Ballista, while this card doesn’t hurt us much on its own, except for shooting vampire hexmage and being a good clock, the fact is, that is has increased popularity for MUD decks, ofc mtg online and paper events are different, since people don’t have access to the same cardpool, but my prediction is, that we will see a good number of shop decks at Eternal Weekend Europe in march/april. One of the worst cards for depths, is wasteland, and if they bring in crucible recursion for g2-3, but I will get to the specific matchup later. Another deck that is equally popular at the moment is Gush Mentor. The deck prey on other blue decks with its great draw engine and its ability to close the game rather quickly with Monastery. Paradoxical Outcome is the best storm deck currently, so if you play against Tendrils of Agony, this will most likely be the version you run into. Decks that haven’t been seen much lately are Dredge and Oath of Druids, but you can be sure to run into these at Vintage Championship Europe.
I’ll talk about the different matchups in my sideboard sections.
Why should you play depths? The deck has the element of surprise, since it will be categorized as a fringe deck. If people expect you to play a certain archetype or have put you on a specific deck, they tend to keep hands that are suboptimal against you. The deck is in my experience very consistent, because of the blue core. Some hands you will have the combo right away and other times, you’ll take a more controlling role of the game, until you manage to summon Marit Lage. There definitely is a learning curve to the deck regarding all the choices and lines there is, so I recommend testing either online or with a friend (making a gauntlet) to get the hang of it. Depending on your local meta, it will alternate how the deck will perform. I think it’s a plus, that the deck is not a glass canon, and it’s able to adapt to each archetype and have game against all the tier ones. And if you’re nervous about picking up a deck, that is outside the ordinary netdecks and scared of leaving your comfort zone, just remember this:
“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” Paulo Coelho
So let’s start looking at how this deck functions and why you are probably interested in playing it. I’ll break down each single card for the build.
Dark Depths, name of the deck. Depths is uncounterable by the common used counterspells, so unless your opponent is playing stifle or trickbind you can win the game without ever casting a spell. This is good in particular when you get Standstill in play, because you can patiently wait until you have all the pieces you need for comboing off, meanwhile loading up on your own counterspells. Normally Mishra’s Factory is used in Standstill Shells, but being able to kill your opponent in one swing rather than ten attacks is quite powerful. Other reasons why depths is better than factory is that it doesn’t get hit by artifact removal and burn spells, which some decks run maindeck. Against Oath of Druids you can wait to make the marit lage token until end of their turn to avoid triggering oath, usually EOT is the best play, also avoid getting bounced with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. A reason to do it your own turn, if you know your MUD opponent is playing Phyrexian Metamorph, but not many are playing this card currently. Or if you are playing vs Merfolk which run Phantasmal Image, but both of these decks run wasteland though.
Thespian Stage, the other part of the combo. But Stage is also very good on its own. You can copy opponents Forbidden Orchard, to prevent them from triggering their oath, then wasteland their Orchard. In response to wasteland targeting it, you can fetch an Island in your deck, so you make it a basic and wasteland will therefore fizzle, or copy opponents basic. In response to a pithing needle on the stack you copy any land and let needle resolve, if your opponent names stage, it doesn’t stop you from copying dark depths, with this other land you now have on the board. You can also copy library of Alexandria to draw multiple cards a turn or copy your own wasteland/strip mine to lock down opponent’s mana base if necessary.
Wasteland / Strip Mine
Wasteland/strip mine, helps you remove opponents own wastelands to clear the path for the combo. Also getting a turn one Mishra’s Workshop can sometimes cripple the MUD player for the rest of the game, so they can’t cast their threats. Takes out Karakas if this gets boarded in g2-3. If you get a null rod down, always go for opponent’s white mana source to prevent them from casting swords to plowshares on marit lage.
Island, is great against MUD, because you can have them in play to cast your reactive spells on their turn. Plus, the synergy with thespian vs wasteland attack.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, makes you cast vampire hexmage turn two with dark depths and turn three with stage & depths.
Library of Alexandria
Library of Alexandria, is just good to draw you cards and get ahead in the game.
Tolaria West, is mainly an uncounterable tutor when you transmute it, which also can be done under Standstill without breaking it. Then you can find the combo piece you’re missing or a needed wasteland. Bonus that it can also find Tormod’s Crypt vs. Dredge.
Standstill, freezing the board is a good position when you are able to create your win condition without casting a spell. It’s a draw three cards for 1U. Sometimes opponents will use Force of will on standstill, which I’m often fine with, since its 2 for 1 and often means they don’t have a second Fow to protect their removal spell against marit lage. Against MUD it’s good too, because they are forced to break it, to get some threats on the board.
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Leo Tolstoy
Vampire Hexmage, the third part of the combo. Can also be descent in defense against a semi agro deck until we find our combo. Really strong against planeswalkers since it can instant kill them, and planeswalkers are generally bad for us, specially early on in the game.
Preordain / Ponder
Preordain/Ponder, I know not everybody will agree on playing these cards, since they don’t have the best synergy with Standstill, but in a deck with only the 2 on color moxen and black lotus, we don’t have many explosives plays, and rarely have a turn one standstill, so here I think it’s good to have cheap card, that you can use to dig in your library for what you need. A turn one Preordain can help sculpt your hand for a better turn two play and setting up a potential Standstill. It can also help find FoW or Misstep to interact with your opponent on their turn.
Ancestral Recall / Brainstorm
Ancestral Recall/Brainstorm, great draw spells. Can be used eot to break Standstill, if it’s favorable for us.
Time Walk, yes I know some will call it an explore, but land drops in this particular deck can be lethal and sometimes the difference between winning or losing. Also great with LoA. And if you have enough mana, you can sometimes create marit lage and walk into the winning turn.
Demonic Tutor / Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor/Vampiric Tutor, excellent cards for finding our combo pieces. Imperial Seal was considered, but I think it’s not good enough, because other decks in the meta are so fast.
Dig Through Time
Dig Trough Time, very strong spell mid/late game. Can also be used to break our own standstill on opponents EOT if necessary.
Crucible of Worlds
Crucible of Worlds, great for the wasteland/strip mine lockdown and equally good for recursion of thespian stage, dark depths and fetch lands vs. those same cards. If you manage to get this card down vs. MUD you should feel good, because it will increase your chance of winning by a lot.
Null Rod, I think this card is very good currently and should probably be played as a 2-3 maindeck with another 1 in the sideboard. It’s strong against MUD and also kills the Storm matchup together with your wastelands. When playing only 3-4 artifact accelerants, this card should always be included, because if we can slow down the game, we will win on our card quality, because they will draw more “dead” cards than us.
Force of Will
Force of Will, one of the reactive spells to have on the draw, because you can stop an insane start from the opponent, this is the card you want when MUD is on the play.
Mental Misstep, probably the best card to protect our combo. Bonus that it stops a lot of broken cards in vintage. I still think that this deck wants to play the full playset, because it’s really good in the blue matchups. If I’m on the play and have a Standstill in my hand and my opponent plays a cantrip, I like to use my misstep on this most of time, depending on if I see mox’en and lotus first and misstep is my pitch card to FoW. Preventing them from looking at two cards and scry, is good if you can freeze the board.
Mindbreak Trap, I think that it’s a judgement call if to play this card and how many copies to play. Its busted against P.O storm and can also be really good vs shops if they go mox, mox into their taxing cards. I would probably want 1-3 split between main deck and sideboard.
Flusterstorm, so this is probably a card I would consider cutting for now, because of how strong shops is, maybe I want 1-2 in my sideboard, but I think Mindbreak Trap is just better right now.
Other counterspells to consider are, Spell pierce (good when you have null rod down and wasting opponent.) Spell snare (good vs oath, MUD, walk, demonic etc.) Steel Sabotage/Annul (could defend 1-2 main to improve the shops MU.) Ceremonious Rejection (vs shops and eldrazi) Mana Leak (same principle as spell pierce, and this deck doesn’t always support double blue well enough for cards like Mana Drain.)
A card that I haven’t had the chance to test yet, is Kira, great-glass Spinner. This card works like a permanent counterspell once we decide to summon marit lage, this means for example that the mentor deck needs to have double swords to plowshares not to die and possible need misstep or fow on top of that.
Dredge is possibly the worst MU for this deck, we don’t have a high percentage of winning g1. Hexmage is good against dredge, since it can exile bridge from below. Wasteland and Strip Mine is also good vs dredge, because it can destroy their engine, but also for killing the rainbow lands which they use to cast their removal for our anti-dredge cards. If you choose to have an extra crucible in your sideboard I would definitely bring this in. A very important thing to remember for g2 & 3 is that some dredge players use the option of having a transformational sideboard with their own combo package of dark depths, thespian stage and hexmage. Here it’s wise to be careful with your land drops, because if you put your own dark depths into play first without being able to activate the combo, your opponent might play a stage on their turn and simply copy our depths. It’s reasonable to have a bounce spell in your sideboard too, to tutor for, when facing “the mirror”. Another bonus in our deck, is that we can tutor for Tormod’s Crypt with Tolaria West. I think we need to dedicate at least 5 slots in our sideboard vs Dredge, but again, this is an estimation on the day. Against dredge you take out Standstill and null rods.
P.O. Storm can also be a tricky matchup, because the deck is so explosive in all the bombs it has. Here it’s important to get down an early null rod, but keep in mind, that they have chain of vapor and hurkyl’s recall so you need mental misstep and fow to defend it. This is the MU where Mindbreak trap is broken if you place it at the right time. Arcane Laboratory in the sideboard is another way to fight the combo matchup. Here I would take out crucible and time walk, maybe a land.
Against Oath we don’t change much, we take in our grafdigger cages and take out time walk, null rod, unless they are on the bomberman plan. And a mana source.
When facing MUD, we bring in all our anti artifact cards and take out all our dead cards as mental misstep, flusterstorm if you run it, misdirection. If we have an extra crucible, then this also goes in, wastelands are our biggest concern, but we can also hurt their manabase with our own together with null rod, which they usually have no way to remove, unless they are on Stax, and not many ravager lists run’s Spine of Ish Sah. Phyrexian revoker can name hexmage, so there are situations where we want to force this. Tangle wire can also cause us a great deal of trouble, even after we successfully animated marit lage, because we went down one permanent.
Against blue control builds we don’t change a lot, depending on what design they are going with. A deck to watch out for, is Blue Moon, this is also why I have Annul in the sb, but it’s not a deck that have seen play in many months.
Tribal/ White Eldrazi, a bit the same as MUD, but you really want to counter Eldrazi Displacer, but with Cavern of souls this can become a serious problem and it’s why we need hard removal in our sideboard. They also have Karakas which we will need to have our Wasteland ready for, unless you decided to have a couple of pithing needle in your sideboard.
BUG fish decks and the like are also played in moderate amount. Here we want to slam a Standstill as fast as possible before they get a threat down. Lucky for us Abrupt Decay has minimal impact on our construction. We board out null rod and bring in removal.
The white version, I worked on this version with my friend JP Kohler. JP brought this idea to my attention, and we have talked a lot about pros and cons regarding the color choice. I want to credit JP for his inspiration and for his help and feedback on the deck, without his insight I would have been able to broaden my horizon on deckbuilding.
White splash takes away the ability to make a turn two marit lage with urborg, tomb of yawgmoth plus vampire hexmage, this also makes thespian stage the only combination to win the game with. This is the biggest downside of the change. I’d like to run some creatures maindeck as plan B or simply to buy time to find the combo.
The positive things are, that white have so many great cards against the tier one decks in the meta, and the sideboard gets improved a lot.
I’m sure there are some things I have left out or forgotten, but I strived to make it as user friendly to new pilots as possible. There are other decks out there to take into consideration, so please let me know if you have any questions about a specific matchup. Otherwise I hope you have enjoyed reading it, and hopefully learned a bit about the fantastic combo that Dark Depths is.