Mr. January’s Key Notes – Dark Ascension in Standard and More

Hello everyone. I’m back with another Key Note that I have gathered up after participating in two Dark Ascension Game Days. I managed to Top 8 one of them but I also went 0-3 in the other.

Today is an article about the top dogs in Dark Ascension for Standard and a few tidbits for Legacy and Modern. As I write, I reflect back on how Luis Scott Vargas writes about the set reviews and how helpful they are to me. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to go over every single card in the set, but I will be writing about the break through cards with a little twist on mine. This review will be like the Facebook Pro Tour Fantasy Game that Wizards of the Coast held during Pro tour Hawaii. Basically, I will select one breakout card from Dark Ascension in categories like Small Creature, Medium Creature, Large Creature, Enchantment, etc. Let’s get to it.

Small Creature:

Gravecrawler – The creature is nuts on turn one. It has created a whole deck alongside another zombie that will be talked about later in the article. Gravecrawler is a one black mana creature that has a 2/1 body and can also be played from your graveyard if you have another zombie on the board. He has fantastic synergy with Liliana of the Veil. With her first ability, you can discard him then just replay him, or if you are playing against Liliana you don’t lose as much tempo as your opponents want. Zombie aggro with this guy has been putting up good standings on the top 8 lists for major events. The deck can be played as a Mono Black or a UB list.

Honorable Mention: Drogskol Captain- He is part of the UWb Spirits list that Jon Finkel Top 8ed with at the Pro Tour. When you combine him with the best one drop in Standard, Delver of Secrets, and Phantasmal Image, you have one hell of an aggro deck. If you copy Drogskol Captain with the Image, you can have two 3/3 Flying, Hexproof critters running around that give other Spirits +2/+2 too.

Medium Creature:

Huntmaster of the Fells – You are probably wondering why he is a medium creature since he is only a 2/2. He can be killed by Slagstorm, Whipflare, and a 4 mana Black Sun’s Zenith. Sure, when he transforms he is a 4/4, but any good player makes sure he doesn’t transform. However, the tempo he creates in life gain, number of bodies and damage done is unlike any other creature before his time. This guy has made it into the Kibler Wolf Run list that won the Pro Tour, as well as Jund Wolf run, RG aggro, RUG tempo, and other random decks throughout tourneys. He is just that good. He doubled in price to be the second most expensive card in the set (stupid planeswalkers) to $30 a piece. He, as a whole including the Ravager half, nets you two life, two bodies with a total of eight power and toughness, and two damage to your opponent and their creature. He is the total package.  He has slowly made it into some Modern decks by the way, including Jund.

Honorable Mention: Strangleroot Geist – This little dude is only mentioned because he does not die. Mix him with Phantasmal Image and your Image can copy any creature on the battlefield when he returns due to Undying, plus a +1/+1 counter. The RG aggro theme allows you to run sweepers with Slagstorm and Whipflare, so you can wipe the board and not lose creatures.

Large Creature:

Havengul Lich – A 5 mana 4/4. Seems weak right? It can recur a Snapcaster Mage and Snapcaster Mage can bring back a sorcery or instant from your graveyard or the Lich can just bring back a big ass creature and punch you opponent in the face. This creature alone has made the Heartless Summoning deck a top contender. I have also seen it played a UB control decks which are running rampant in different type of builds. Also, you can play your opponent’s creatures from the graveyard, provided you have the right colored mana. He is a new kind of creature that loves the graveyard like the rest of this set.

Honorable mention: Geralf’s Messenger – Along with Gravecrawler, Geralf’s Messenger makes Zombie a real contender. With a 3/2 body then a 4/3 body, he is an aggro player’s dream. Once again the Phantasmal Image works well with Messenger, and players have noticed this synergy, with players adding blue to their deck to abuse this. He is another annoying creature that just won’t die and, as a plus, deals damage to the face.


Lingering Souls – This is a landslide win for this spot. Lingering Souls makes the UWb and BW spirit decks 100% better. It makes four bodies off of the flashback and it goes amazingly with the spirit theme. Mana cost of 2W and flashback of 1B is just two powerful. I don’t think I mentioned it is an uncommon, so the cost of this card is cheap but goes amazingly with the most expensive card in the format: Sorin, the Lord of Innastrad. A lot of the pros are trying to fit it into Modern and even Legacy.

Honorable Mention: Faithless Looting – This card is nuts. I have played with this card in every format now and I love it. It fits in almost every deck that runs red, even straight burn to get rid of those pointless cards in your hand. It helps in the Frites lists and RUG tempo lists in Standard. The flashback ability is also red so it is four cards for four mana and the red player gets toquer discard what he/she wants. The synergy with the graveyard in this set alone has created nightmare match ups and this card alone has created nut draws and late game wins.


Tragic Slip – One black mana to kill a first turn Delver is really good in this format, not to mention all the one drop aggro creatures running around. It also plays around with the morbid ability and the number 13 theme in the block. For one mana you can kill a creature as big as 13 toughness. The card goes great with the undying theme of attack with small kill a biggie for one mana, plus great synergy with Geralf’s Messenger, since they are in the same colors. This is another card that is creating waves in Modern and Legacy.

Honorable Mention: Thought Scour – Another one drop for Standard and possibly other formats to come. You get to mill two cards off of target player’s library and you draw a card – seems good right? Imagine your opponent Ponders on turn one and they leave the two on top. You play Thought Scour, mill those two cards and you draw a card. Seems good, right?

The only Planeswalker in this set is Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. He has only really made a huge splash in the Block format. You can create lifelinked Vampires with his +1 or for -1 loyalty, you can give your creatures +1/+0 permanently.  He is very impressive and fits in plenty of decks. Unfortunately they are not tier one material, yet.

The enchantments in this set are terrible and have not made any type of splash or hype in Standard. Artifacts, on the other hand, have Grafdigger’s Cage which has made its potential felt in all three formats and alters a lot of decks and in some cases, completely shuts them down. It stops Green Sun’s Zenith, Flashback, and Undying. The card is only really for sideboard use though.

I hope this helped a lot for you guys that needed it, like I said before, I probably left some stuff out. I am not LSV, I cannot cover every card in the set. But as an added bonus I will list the top 5 for Modern from Dark Ascension and top 5 from the Innistrad Block.


5.  Huntmaster of the Fells – Jund

4.  Grafdigger’s Cage – Sideboards

3.  Stromkirk Captain – Do you remember all those awesome vamps from Zendikar block?

2. Strangleroot Geist – Aggro with green in it – easy mana fixing in the format helps getting double green, and the little dude named Noble Hierarch says Hi

1.  Sorin, Lord of Innistrad – BW tokens was really good in Standard a couple years back, and he helps the deck a lot again


5. Lilliana of the Veil – Her ability to make players sacrifice their Emrakuls did not go unnoticed by Legacy players.

4.  Grafdigger’s Cage – Sideboards

3. Witchbane Orb – the 25 cent rare is making splashes in sideboards

2. Geist of St. Traft – Hexproof and shroud are the new big thing in Legacy right now.

1.  Faithless Looting – LED Dredge won an SCG open thanks to a man named Adam Prosak.

Well that’s the end of another article by yours truly. I will be taking a hiatus from Standard a bit to focus more on my aggro Jund Modern build for the PTQ in Phoenix, Arizona on March 17 at ManaWerx. This is a chance to go to Barcelona – a vacation my fiancé and I have been waiting for. Let’s I can keep on this streak of top 4s and 8s for the PTQ. Until next week, I leave with a Standard Jund list by Eric Susak from Flagstaff.

Creatures (19)
Primeval Titan
Inferno Titan
Huntmaster of the Fells
Bloodgift Demon
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Rune-Scarred Demon
Acidic Slime
Solemn Simulacrum

Spells (16)
Karn Liberated
Sphere of the Suns
Rampant Growth
Green Sun’s Zenith
Doom Blade
Go for the Throat

Lands (25)
Inkmoth Nexus
Kessig Wolf Run
Rootbound Crag
Blackcleave Cliffs
Woodland Cemetery
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