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The Hoog: BUG Primer



  • I was bored. Nothing in the Standard format was catching my interest, and I had resigned myself to simply playing a deck I felt was powerful, even if I didn’t find it all that interesting. Standard changes so often, with the introduction and subtraction of cards, that it rarely stays “solved” for long. In my spare time I am constantly writing out deck lists, trying to find something new that can compete with a majority of the best decks that already exist.

    About a week before the Star City Games Invitational I had a list of cardboard that I felt confident piloting against mono-Blue, mono-Black, and U/W/x control. It was a BUG-colored midrange deck. The following is the list I registered for the Invitational:

    CREATURES
    3 [[Polukranos, World Eater]]
    2 [[Prognostic Sphinx]]
    2 [[Reaper of the Wilds]]
    3 [[Scavenging Ooze]]
    4 [[Sylvan Caryatid]]

    PLANESWALKERS
    3 [[Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver]]
    4 [[Jace, Architect of Thought]]
    1 [[Vraska the Unseen]]

    SPELLS
    4 [[Abrupt Decay]]
    2 [[Far-Away]]
    1 [[Golgari Charm]]
    3 [[Hero's Downfall]]
    4 [[Thoughtseize]]

    LANDS
    4 [[Breeding Pool]]
    3 [[Forest]]
    4 [[Overgrown Tomb]]
    2 [[Swamp]]
    4 [[Temple of Deceit]]
    4 [[Temple of Mystery]]
    4 [[Watery Grave]]

    SIDEBOARD
    2 [[Dark Betrayal]]
    2 [[Doom Blade]]
    2 [[Duress]]
    2 [[Gainsay]]
    2 [[Golgari Charm]]
    1 [[Hero's Downfall]]
    1 [[Mutavault]]
    2 [[Notion Thief]]
    1 [[Ultimate Price]]

    If you are more of a visual learner, I did a video deck tech with Ruben Bresler (just note that the decklist at the start is a bit wrong):



    After playing a dozen rounds of Standard this past weekend I came to a couple conclusions about the above list. First, I needed a plan against [[Pack Rat]] out of the mono-Black deck. Second, I was playing too many cards that cost four or more mana. Even with the [[Sylvan Caryatid]]s I was having some really clunky draws. Of all the expensive cards I was playing, [[Reaper of the Wilds]] felt the clunkiest. In a good number of matchups I didn’t want to cast Reaper until I had six mana and against the aggro decks it didn’t make a large enough impact to the board state.

    Moving forward I am intending to play these colors again at the SCG Open in Indianapolis at the start of January. The following is my current list after this weekend:

    CREATURES
    3 [[Nightveil Specter]]
    2 [[Polukranos, World Eater]]
    2 [[Prognostic Sphinx]]
    3 [[Scavenging Ooze]]
    4 [[Sylvan Caryatid]]

    PLANESWALKERS
    3 [[Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver]]
    4 [[Jace, Architect of Thought]]

    SPELLS
    4 [[Thoughtseize]]
    4 [[Abrupt Decay]]
    2 [[Far-Away]]
    1 [[Golgari Charm]]
    4 [[Hero's Downfall]]

    LANDS
    4 [[Breeding Pool]]
    3 [[Forest]]
    4 [[Overgrown Tomb]]
    2 [[Swamp]]
    4 [[Temple of Deceit]]
    4 [[Temple of Mystery]]
    4 [[Watery Grave]]

    SIDEBOARD
    2 [[Dark Betrayal]]
    1 [[Doom Blade]]
    1 [[Duress]]
    2 [[Gainsay]]
    2 [[Golgari Charm]]
    1 [[Mutavault]]
    2 [[Notion Thief]]
    1 [[Pithing Needle]]
    2 [[Ratchet Bomb]]
    1 [[Ultimate Price]]

    First, I’d like to talk a bit about the card choices I’ve made and then talk a bit about how I like to sideboard in the more popular matchups in the current format.

    The Removal



    The removal suite we have access to in BUG is easily the biggest draw to these colors. [[Abrupt Decay]] is the most powerful piece of two-mana removal in the format. It kills the most popular creature ([[Nightveil Specter]]), almost any early play from the aggressive decks, and has the added bonus of removing [[Underworld Connections]] from the Black deck and [[Detention Sphere]] from the U/W/x control decks.

    [[Hero’s Downfall]] needs no explanation. It is the best removal spell in the current Standard format. [[Far//Away]] allows us to save our own creature from a removal spell while simultaneously killing an opposing creature. It also provides us with an effective way to kill [[Blood Baron of Vizkopa]].

    The Threats (Creatures/Walkers)

    [[Sylvan Caryatid]] serves a dual purpose in our deck. The first is it allows us to power out our four drops a turn early. The second is it provides a wall against aggressive decks that is difficult to remove thanks to being hexproof.



    Curving this defensive creature on turn two into [[Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver]] on turn three puts aggressive decks in a really rough spot. If they don’t invest resources in trying to kill Ashiok then she is going to flood the board with their creatures. If they do this though, they will be wasting valuable time not lowering your life total. Against control strategies Ashiok ensures they only have a finite number of turns to close the game against us -- [[Elixir of Immortality]] doesn’t shuffle in cards from your exile zone.

    The plethora of removal we play makes [[Scavenging Ooze]] a fairly consistent source of life gain against aggressive strategies. The fact that we are a three-color deck that also has access to Sylvan Caryatid means that we can produce all five colors of mana fairly consistently to cast spells our [[Nightveil Specter]] finds, and Polukranos provides a reasonable clock against control decks while being an additional removal spell against the White Weenie and mono-Blue decks.

    Finally, we get to my favorite threat in the deck:



    [[Prognostic Sphinx]] is a threat we can deploy on turn five against removal heavy decks like Esper and mono-Black without much fear of it being removed. Because we play [[Sylvan Caryatid]], the [[Devour Flesh]] and other edict effects are not an effective method of killing the Sphinx. Against U/W/x decks you need to wary of Verdict, though thankfully [[Golgari Charm]] allows us to play into this spell so long as we leave two mana open.

    Did I mention that so long as you attack every turn with the Sphinx you are likely never to draw another bad card for the rest of the game?

    The Sideboard

    Sideboarding is more of an art than a science. I firmly believe you should never have hard and fast sideboarding rules for any deck. That being said, having a plan is never a bad thing. The following is how I board against stock versions of the more popular decks in the current standard environment.

    U/W/(r) Control

    Out:

    4 [[Sylvan Caryatid]]
    2 [[Far-Away]]
    2 [[Abrupt Decay]]
    1 [[Scavenging Ooze]]

    In:

    2 [[Golgari Charm]]
    2 [[Notion Thief]]
    2 [[Gainsay]]
    1 [[Duress]]
    1 [[Pithing Needle]]
    1 [[Mutavault]]

    Against decks with sweepers we board out our [[Sylvan Caryatids]] and bring in the 26th land out of the sideboard. The easiest way to win this matchup is sticking an early Ashiok or snaking a large [[Sphinx’s Revelation]] with a [[Notion Thief]].

    Esper Control

    Out:

    4 [[Sylvan Caryatid]]
    3 [[Abrupt Decay]]
    2 [[Scavenging Ooze]]

    In:

    2 [[Golgari Charm]]
    2 [[Notion Thief]]
    2 [[Gainsay]]
    1 [[Duress]]
    1 [[Pithing Needle]]
    1 [[Mutavault]]

    Against Esper we leave in [[Far-Away]] so we have an out to Blood Baron resolving. Worst case, they aren’t playing Blood Baron and we can then use [[Far-Away]] to save one of our threats from a removal spell.

    Mono-Black

    Out:

    4 [[Sylvan Caryatid]]
    2 [[Far-Away]]
    1 [[Golgari Charm]]
    1 [[Scavenging Ooze]]

    In:

    2 [[Dark Betrayal]]
    2 [[Ratchet Bomb]]
    1 [[Ultimate Price]]
    1 [[Pithing Needle]]
    1 [[Duress]]
    1 [[Mutavault]]

    Mono-Black doesn’t have any early threats we need Sylvan Caryatid to block and we want as many of our top decks to be as live as possible in the late game, so we trim down our mana sources some. [[Far-Away]] is fairly lackluster against decks with [[Mutavault]] and even though [[Golgari Charm]] can kill an [[Underworld Connections]], we are boarding in more diverse answers to this card in its place.

    Mono-Blue

    Out:

    2 [[Far-Away]]
    2 [[Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver]]
    2 [[Jace, Architect of Thought]]
    1 [[Golgari Charm]]

    In:

    2 [[Gainsay]]
    2 [[Ratchet Bomb]]
    1 [[Ultimate Price]]
    1 [[Doom Blade]]
    1 [[Pithing Needle]]

    Our goal in this matchup is to keep them off of a reasonable devotion count. We do this by lowering our curve with more cheap removal spells.

    R(w) Devotion

    Out:

    1 [[Golgari Charm]]
    1 [[Nightveil Specter]]

    In:

    1 [[Doom Blade]]
    1 [[Ultimate Price]]

    Our main deck configuration is pretty well setup to battle against this style of deck. It is possible we may want to bring in a [[Ratchet Bomb]] or two in addition to the two extra pieces of spot removal.

    G(r) Devotion

    Out:

    1 [[Golgari Charm]]
    2 [[Nightveil Specter]]

    In:

    1 [[Doom Blade]]
    1 [[Ultimate Price]]
    1 [[Pithing Needle]]

    White Weenies

    Out:

    2 [[Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver]]
    2 [[Far-Away]]
    1 [[Thoughtseize]]
    1 [[Prognostic Sphinx]]

    In:

    1 [[Doom Blade]]
    1 [[Ultimate Price]]
    2 [[Golgari Charm]]
    2 [[Ratchet Bomb]]

    Be very aware that you need to play around around [[Brave the Elements]] in this matchup. That means you should be playing most of your instant speed removal on your turn!

    G/W Aggro

    Out:

    2 [[Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver]]
    1 [[Golgari Charm]]
    1 [[Thoughtseize]]

    In:

    1 [[Doom Blade]]
    1 [[Ultimate Price]]
    2 [[Ratchet Bomb]]

    Wrapping Up

    I feel like the BUG colors have all of the tools needed to be successful in the current Standard metagame. We play a collection of powerful spells in our main deck, while having access to the best sideboard against the most powerful decks in the format. If you have any questions or if I failed to cover something please feel free to leave a comment below.

    With the holidays coming up I’m looking forward to a few weeks off of tournament magic to just relax with my family. I’ll still be writing every week, though -- so be sure to check back here next week when I’ll be going over a primer for the Deadguy Ale legacy deck I’ve been working on and played in the SCG Invitational this past weekend.

    Cheers,
    ~Jeff Hoogland

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Comments

9 comments
  • Jeff Hoogland
    Jeff Hoogland Bomb and Needle are good options. If they play it before turn five you can just kill it. If they are waiting till turn five, thoughtseize it out of their hand.
    December 18, 2013
  • Scott Peitzer
    Scott Peitzer I love it. I've been playing a BUG deck for a few weeks and having a blast. I had totally forgotten about Prognostic Sphinx as an option, which I now need to try. As far as answering Pack Rat, have you considered Gaze of Granite? It kills all of their Ra...  more
    December 18, 2013
  • Harrison Porobil
    Harrison Porobil A friend of mine and I have been tinkering with this deck almost since the start of the format.
    I've found that while Polukranos is often an incredible card, Deadbridge Goliath does the same and more. I barely ever get to more than six mana with the deck ...  more
    December 19, 2013
  • Xander Au
    Xander Au i realized the deck has 1 extra card....
    January 5