Playing Off-Meta in Standard, A Quick Look at Orzhov Control

Written by Jesse Haulk

My Introduction

I’ve been playing since the Ice Age, literally, and I’ve seen the ebbs and flows of fun Standard formats and just awful ones. In the days of Cawblade, prior to the banning of Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, garnered more than 50% of the metagame. My first big tournament win was with Burning Psychatog, a simple Dimir control deck that splashed Anger for the Upheaval turn, and 6 of the top 8 also played the same deck. Does anyone remember Pickles from Time Spiral? Rebels in Masque? Siege Rhino meta? Thragtusk? And so on and so forth, for just about every Standard format. So when I hear is the Standard format is so unfun, I wonder, what is fun? The last great Standard, in my opinion, was Innistrad-Return to Ravnica. And since then we’ve had to deal with energy from Kaladesh, Teferi, all of Eldraine, and the Ikoria companions. And now, Mono-Green/Gruul/Temur and URx Dragons/control make up close to 50% of the meta powered by 3 main cards: Esika’s Chariot, Goldspan Dragon, and Alrund’s Epiphany. After those, there’s also the multitude of Mono-White Aggro.

A Different Approach

What then should you play? I climbed to mythic in Arena this month in my fastest climb with Jeskai Control. Devastating Mastery and Doomskar for creature decks, Test of Talents for Alrund’s, and my own Alrund’s as the win condition. But that’s not the deck I want to talk about today, because Alrund’s is boring and should be banned, along with Chariot and Goldspan.

Orzhov Control

This deck autoloses to Izzet, so I wouldn’t necessarily climb with this deck, but performs well in the Standard event where Izzet isn’t plaguing yet. So let’s imagine a world without Izzet, and that’s where this deck shines.

4x Doomskar
3x Meathook Massacre
Against Mono-White, you really need a turn 3 board wipe or you just lose the game. And sometimes you need another wipe on turn 4-5. 7 sweepers is the solid number I’ve come across to deal with these very aggressive decks.

Spot Removal/Creatures with Death Benifits:
2x Rite of Oblivion
2x Vanishing Verse
2x Kaya the Inexorable
2x Elite Spellbinder
4x Eyetwitch
4x Shambling Ghast
This is for troublesome enchantments like Ranger Class, an opposing Meathook, or Planeswalkers. They’re also great for sticky dudes like Old-Growth Troll and Immersturm Predator. Kaya is both spot removal, but also recursion on Eyetwitch and Shambling Ghast for more sacrifice fuel, and if you get the ultimate off, it’s almost always GG. Elite Spellbinder also acts as pseudo-removal for maybe 2 turns.

Card Draw/Lifegain:
2x Sunset Revelry
2x The Celestus
2x Reidane, God of the Worthy/Valkmira, Protector’s Shield
4x Deadly Dispute
2x Skullport Merchant
1x Lolth, Spider Queen
I bucket these together because of the first two cards above. I’ve run into quite a few Boros face decks, where they just throw burn at your face until you die. Even a single sunset can throw off their gas long enough for them to fizzle out, and a ticking Celestus can surely get you past their burn threshold. Reidane/Valkmira also plays an important role in stalling out the damage. Deadly Dispute and Skullport Merchant round out the card draw. And lastly, Lolth. I rarely use her to make spiders, I really just need to pay life to draw cards most times.

4x Field of Ruin
2x Hive of the Eye Tyrant
4x Brightclimb Pathway/Grimclimb Pathway
4x Shineshadow Snarl
5x Plains
5x Swamps
Field of Ruin – There are too many creature lands in the format, and you definitely need a full suite to deal with them. Hive of the Eye Tyrant, might as well have our own creature lands, and eating the graveyard is good against the snow mirror with Blood on the Snow. Brightclimb Pathway/Grimclimb Pathway for mana fixing, as well as Shineshadow Snarl (I can’t wait to replace these with Shattered Sanctum in Crimson Vow). And finally your basic Plains and Swamps.

Best of 1 Arena Sideboard/Learn Board:
3x Confront the Past
2x Environmental Sciences
1x Introduction to Annihilation
1x Mascot Exhibition
Confront the Past for the Kaya recursion, until you have the board long enough to use her ultimate. Environmental Sciences to hit those land drops. Introduction to Annihilation for the pesky sticky targets. and Mascot Exhibition as another win condition.

In Closing

I had a lot of fun with this deck as a nice change of pace from the usual suspects of this current meta on Arena. I highly recommend giving this deck a try if you are looking to get away and try something different in Standard, and please let me know what you think of it in the I Rebel Discord (Linked below)

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