Zareth San, the Trickster Art by Zack Stella

Standard 2022 Rogues Deck Guide: A Bad Penny Always Turns Up

What this proverb means is that a disreputable or prodigal person will always return. More generally, this proverb refers to the recurrence of any unwanted event… Perhaps, in the sense that, if you pass a bad penny, it won’t be long before it comes back to you in your change. “What goes around comes around”.

Since the first moment rotation appeared on the horizon, a lot of people have tried to figure out which of the tier one decks from Standard lose the least possible amount of cards. The first answer was always Izzet Dragons, and with the incredible power of the deck this statement eclipsed other answers that we could let pass without notice… until now!

Yes, Dimir Rogues is going to lose incredible and powerful tools post rotation like: Thieves' Guild Enforcer, Drown in the Loch and the amazing Into the Story. Yes, Ruin Crab + Fabled Passage is not an option anymore. But hey! Merfolk Windrobber and Soaring Thought-Thief, core creatures of the archetype are going to remain legal so, dear Rogue enthusiasts, not everything is lost!

Even if the removal in Standard 2022 is less effective compared to the general efficiency of creatures, we still have good options to defend ourselves in the early stages of the game, good card drawing spells, and we even have the ability to play two mana counter magic. This added to the fact that we still can play reactively most of the time even with our creatures, makes this deck something that is really far from being forgotten. Especially when Izzet and Dimir are two forces to be reckoned with. 

As always, we start doing some research. Chris Rodgers was the first to take Rogues to a tournament: 

[sd_deck deck=”a2QCDV3fY”]

When we started toying around with the idea of playing rogues (DoggertQBones helped a lot), my initial lists had Ruin Crab and Evolving Wilds and I’d even mentioned the idea of including Tasha’s Hideous Laughter but, after some games, Doggert made me realize that the plan of milling our opponents wasn’t a tenable win condition. We have to focus on what rogues does best, so… After checking my initial list and some testing he came up with this:

[sd_deck deck=”2HAcIpIHr”]

He made a pretty easy 11-3 losing just to color screw or the occasional flood, something that made us realize we were heading in the right direction.

After some discussion, the only card that was underperforming was Reject. So, considering that card as a flex spot, and after a lot of testing, I finally came to this:

[sd_deck deck=”nijXB3S_Z”]

Explaining the changes

In

Out

Doggert explained that a second Negate would be something that he would like to add, and would choose over a Reject. I was playing two on my list so, I took out both, added the Negate and then started thinking on what I could do with the other free space.

If you are familiarized with my other columns, you probably know that I’m against the idea of playing “dead cards” in BO1. With this I mean the fact of playing a card that could be a dead weight in hand in certain matchups. Good examples are: Power Word Kill in black based decks or Portable Hole in White Weenie. Amazing cards against certain matchups but just “air in your hand” against others. 

Crippling Fear could follow in this category too, but… When the card could even force a very early “gg” in the right situation, it’s something that we can’t overlook. It’s REALLY powerful against aggros, and with the predominance of lesson access in this format, lets us fight against a Mascot Exhibition that passes through our counter magic and pesky Bird tokens from Alrund’s Epiphany.

So, even against Izzet, Dimir or other non creature based decks, it’s functional from time to time. Besides, Doggert said when we started brainstorming about the deck that it’s also one of the big advantages of playing Rogues, and after playing with it I can surely confirm that he was right!

Card Choices

Nighthawk Scavenger Art by Heonhwa Choe
Nighthawk Scavenger Art by Heonhwa Choe

I know Merfolk Windrobber excels when we can play Lurrus of the Dream-Den, letting us block and draw a card almost every turn, but even without our little cat nightmare, Merfolk Windrobber still does a great job. It can mill cards early, something that is extremely important, due to having Zareth San, the Trickster as our main win condition.

A flying body that lets us “ninjutsu” Zareth San, the Trickster, mill cards when it hits, and that can replace itself on later stages of the game, all for one mana, synergizes really well with our plan.

One of the great abilities of our deck is the fact that we can play proactively or reactively, depending on the situation. Soaring Thought-Thief is a creature that lets this happen with its flash ability. Multiples can mill a lot of our opponents deck in a snap, giving us plenty of options for our Zareth San, the Trickster opponents lose cards making their strategy stumble.

Besides also fueling our plan of taking opponents permanents from their graveyard, Soaring Thought-Thief is another evasive creature that lets us cheat Zareth San, the Trickster into play on really unexpected turns. Flashing in this 1/3 at the end of a turn plus attacking into Zareth San, the Trickster, the next one could end games on its own.

Nighthawk Scavenger is an amazing rogue! The fact that the regular Standard Rogues plays Lurrus of the Dream-Den didn’t let this incredible creature make the cut, but now is its chance to shin! (and one of our best tools against aggro too!)

Against slower decks, it could end games in two or three turns due to its incredible synergy with milling our opponents out, something that boosts it’s power to 5+ easily. Against Mono Green, White Weenie and other aggro strategies, this lets us race them, hitting in the air while gaining life, making them have a hard time attacking, or letting us block our opponents bigger threats and killing them thanks to Deathtouch when we want to play defensively.

Does anyone remember Vampire Nighthawk? It was incredibly powerful in its Standard, and now is the time for their little child joined by Tarmogoyf to shine.

Zareth San, the Trickster is our last creature, and the main reason this deck works. I started with 2, then increased the number to 3, and finally Doggert made me realize the best choice is to play a full set. I mentioned earlier some advantages of having creatures that let us “ninjutsu” this Merfolk, and how it is one of our main win conditions. Now it’s time to make clear that our main plan is to hit with this creature asap.

Let me quote Paulo Vitor: “My deck leans even more heavily towards Zareth San than Stan’s build — in fact, I’m still undecided between three or four copies. It’s an expensive legendary creature, so I’m stuck with three at the moment, but it would not surprise me if four was correct; it’s really an absurdly strong card in today’s metagame and it lets you get around a lot of the hate because you don’t need to play a grindy game where you mill half their library. You need to mill a couple of cards, and then you connect with Zareth San and the game is often over.

So… Yes, this is extracted from a regular Standard column from September 2020, but the facts remain relevant to this article. Standard 2022 tends to be a format driven by bombs. Izzet has: Goldspan Dragon and Desert Doom”]. Dimir does not fall behind with: Mordenkainen or Professor Onyx. Mono Green plays a lot of 3+ creatures, and powerful drops like Esika’s Chariot.

We are not playing against hate most of the time because the nature of the format BO1 shape, but even so, the fact that Zareth San, the Trickster lets us win by just milling a couple of cards and then connecting with it makes us almost forget the lack of milling wins driven by Ruin Crab + Fabled Passage + Thieves’ Guild Enforcer.

Having made clear the power of Zareth San, the Trickster and our plan, let me explain the reason behind our non-creature spells.

The removal is divided in two copies of Bloodchief’s Thirst, three copies of Flunk, two Soul Shatter, and three Crippling Fear.

Bloodchief’s Thirst is something close to Portable Hole. A sorcery speed removal that takes out small threats. Yes, we can’t take out other permanents like Portable Hole does but, it can get rid of planeswalkers, and the fact that we can “upgrade” it by paying the kicker, there in letting us take care of any creature or planeswalker is enough reason to play it. It’s functional in every match, and the flexibility is great. Against Mono Green or White Weenie you sure want one in your opening hand, and against slower decks it’s not a bad draw.

Even if we don’t have discard outlets, having the best two mana interactive cards is mandatory in this deck so Flunk was our removal of choice. Playing this outside Rakdos made me a little bit skeptical at the beginning and yes, it shines in the later turns of the game, but being able to kill a turn two curved Werewolf Pack Leader is enough to consider this over any other card. We play 3 instead of the full set because we need 1 slot for the third Crippling Fear.

Soul Shatter is one of the best removals in the format as slower decks tend to pressure with one threat at the time. With this card,+ we can check incredible powerhouses like Desert Doom”], Goldspan Dragon, Mordenkainen, or the biggest threat on the curve of an aggro deck. The fact that it is an Instant is really important too. Playing the “draw-go” game could make a lot of opponents scared and make bad choices trying to play around us. Having almost all instant-speed cards makes this possible.

I already explained the power of Crippling Fear, but want to clarify something. I took out the two Reject flex spots for them (plus one land) so, if you want to adapt and change something, these slots would probably be the first I take out (but trust me, the more you play with Crippling Fear, the more you want the card in our 60).

Negate and Saw it Coming are our counter magic. We really miss Drown in the Loch but having the chance to play a two mana counterspell is great. I had doubts about Negate in the beginning, but even the aggro decks have some targets for it like Portable Hole, Esika’s Chariot, Paladin Class or Ranger Class

Behold the Multiverse is our card drawing spell. I know it’s not close to Into the Story, but trying to compare one card to the other is nonsense. In fact, the closest card to Into the Story could be Graven Lore but, if we play 4 Saw it Coming, having the ability of bluffing a counter with this spell foretold is something that givess our opponents doubt about playing their best cards and gives us time when needed.

Agadeem’s Awakening is our modal land. It’s almost an auto include in every regular Standard Rogues deck because we can revive two creatures for 5 mana or even three creatures for 6, something that is true in Standard 2022 too. Playing a pair instead of just one is possible.

In matters of creaturelands we play one blue and one black (Hall of the Storm Giants and Hive of the Eye Tyrant, giving us reach in long matchups. Doggert plays just a black one, but playing two (taking out a swamp and putting an Island instead of the blue one) could be possible too.

Why do we have a lesson board even if we don’t play any “Learn” spell? If you hit with Zareth San, the Trickster and revive creatures like Eyetwitch or Professor of Symbology, or any permanent that “Learns” like a Sparrin Regiment you could go to your sideboard for a lesson if you have one so, a prepared man is worth two. 😉

Flex Spot Card Menu and Other Card Considerations

Poison the Cup Art by Colin Boyer
Poison the Cup Art by Colin Boyer

Baleful Mastery is a solid removal overall, but nevertheless, Flunk tends to get most of our problems out. If you want to play this card over any of our removal options it’s not a bad option.

Krydle of the Baldur’s Gate and Yuan-Ti Malison were in my first lists of 2022 Rogues. Both are good and could set up great Zareth San, the Trickster attacks. After a lot of testing both had to leave, giving us enough room for stronger spells.

Don’t get me wrong, I like both cards and you can play them, but the list is really tight and we didn’t want to play more than 16 creatures. We need enough space for our reactive non-creature spells, so that’s the reason for not playing both of these new rogues. Swapping out a Zareth San, the Trickster plus some Nighthawk Scavenger and/or Crippling Fear (preferably if we are in a BO3 environment) is possible. 

Poison the Cup is really good when we have other foretell cards, letting us bluff different foretell spell so playing 1 to 3 copies could be possible and not a bad choice if you prefer this removal and strategy over any other of our options. 

Playing Divide by Zero in the mainboard was another thing I was doing during testing. I’ve said in my other columns that having access to the lesson board in BO1 could give us the upper hand against decks that don’t have “Learn” spells, and this card gives us the possibility of great tempo plays, so playing 2 could be something to consider. 

Like I mentioned before in this column, Graven Lore is the closest card to Into the Story in Standard 2022. It costs one more mana and draws one card less, but the fact that let us do a big scry before could indeed dig further than Into the Story. Playing 1 or 2 is possible if you want powerful drawing spells.

Hagra Mauling and Jwari Disruption are two modal cards that go in and out a lot during testing. Having two untapped lands on turn two is really important most of the time, something that makes this spell/lands fall behind a little. Nonetheless, you could play 1 Hagra Mauling and 1-2 Jwari Disruption without any problem. Just have in mind that the minimum amount of lands the deck needs is 24. Using the flex spots and these cards to have a total of 25-26 total lands is another good approach.

Notable Exclusions

Rogue Class is in a strange situation. I tested this card, I really wanted to make it shine in this deck, but it is a weird card. The first level makes all our rogues mill more cards, something that is not bad, but we made clear that winning by milling our opponent out is not our choice. Like we stated before, we just have to mill a few cards to get Zareth San, the Tricksterr good targets.

The 2nd level gives all our creatures menace… if we are the aggressor this could be a good ability, but most of the time we are playing reactively trying to pass with mana open. Even if we play proactively, we prefer to do other things with our mana and most of our creatures already have a form of evasion, ensuring us hits.

Lastly, the 3rd level is a form of card advantage, but is slow. It requires a nine mana investment plus some hits with our creatures, something that is really hard to accomplish against aggressive decks and situational against slower ones. The only way I could imagine this card is as a sideboard option vs control, and even there maybe there are better options.

Power Word Kill is another card I never like to play on the mainboard in this format. Drawing it against Izzet Dragons or Orzhov Angels is mostly something that we never want. So, I would never recommend it unless you are playing BO3 and want to have 1-2 in the sideboard.

Best of 3 List + Sideboard Guide

Test of Talent Art by Lie Setiawan
Test of Talent Art by Lie Setiawan

I can’t leave this section out. I know that most of you are going to play this format only on its BO1 ladder form. But for those of you that are going to try this format in a tournament environment, I got you covered!

Let me share with you the BO3 list with an updated sideboard:

[sd_deck deck=”ZAF10IA-R”]

As usual, let’s cover the big three: Izzet Dragons, Dimir Control and Mono Green (this is useful because it gives us an example of a midrange deck, a control, and an aggro one, so, adapting this to other matchups becomes an easier task for you).

Izzet Dragons

INOUT
+3 Check for Traps-3 Crippling Fear
+2 Disdainful Stroke-2 Bloodchief’s Thirst
+2 Test of Talents-1 Flunk
+1 Lolth, Spider Queen-2 Saw it Coming

Disdainful Stroke and Test of Talents are amazing in this matchup. Disdainful Stroke has 12+ targets most of the time, and Test of Talent are incredibly good at ripping apart any Expressive Iteration attempts, taking big amounts of possible card selection from our opponents. Plus, getting one Alrund’s Epiphany out with Test of Talents could mean the end of any kind of powerplay by our opponent.

Targeted discard effects like Check for Traps are really good when we play against decks with a lot of Instants. Izzet Dragons tend to play at least 18+ instant speed cards. Getting information about what cards we are playing lets us prepare our plays better, plus getting the best card of our opponent hand could give us the advantage we need in the right moment.

Lolth, Spider Queen is something that gave me good results against Izzet when I was playing 2022 Rakdos. Taking that in consideration the addition of 1 here could do miracles in the matchup. The two 2/1 bodies with menace and reach are great! But more importantly, the ability to keep the gas up in this kind of gridy matchups let the Spider Queen shine.

Dimir Control

INOUT
+3 Check for Traps-3 Crippling Fear
+2 Disdainful Stroke-2 Bloodchief’s Thirst
+2 Test of Talents-3 Flunk
+1 Lolth, Spider Queen-2 Saw it Coming
+3 Skyclave Shade-1 Zareth San, the Trickster

The reason behind why we take out one Zareth San, the Trickster, even if it’s our main win condition, is the fact that including all their really powerful planeswalkers (or Desert Doom”] in case it’s played), most of the time should be close to 3-5 cards. We have to wait most of the time a little bit longer than other decks to get these targets in our opponent’s graveyard. Having tools to reach the mid/late game in better shape lets us prepare “ninjutsu” attacks in better ways.

We take out a couple of Saw it Coming for better counter magic, and all the removal because Dimir is almost creatureless. Soul Satter could save us against versions with Iymrith, Deset Doom, Mordenkainen, and the creaturelands too.

Check for Traps and Skyclave Shade are auto inclusions against any control deck. We’ve discussed before the benefits of discard against decks with many instant speed interaction and powerful spells but, in this particular case (and against any other deck with Blood on the Snow), the fact that it exile the card could be incredibly relevant (another reason for playing just 3 big Merfolk).

Skyclave Shade on the other hand lets us exert pressure against slower decks even if they try to use removal. It’s an incredibly resilient creature, just be careful of Shadows' Verdict.

Mono Green

INOUT
+1 Flunk-2 Negate
+2 Lullmage’s Domination-2 Saw it Coming
+1 Crippling Fear-1 Flunk

We are almost pre boarded against Mono Green and any other aggro deck. Regular Standard Rogues tends to stumble against Mono Red and other really aggressive strategies. Learning from that, we are playing 3 Crippling Fear in the mainboard giving us an amazing edge against these kinds of decks.

We just board out Negate because it doesn’t have many targets and Saw it Coming because it is not amazing on the play and we prefer removal overall.

Lullmage’s Domination is incredible here. Maybe it’s not the fastest card available, but getting one of our opponents threats out the way while we get an extra body could be a game changer.

Tips and Tricks

The best possible hands of this deck are well balanced between creatures and interactive spells. A keep with a heavy non-creature spell hand could be possible if you are almost sure of what you are playing against.

Rogues is a hard deck to play properly. The reason for this is the fact that most of the time you have a wide variety of options to choose from. Play carefully remembering our plan. Hit with Zareth San, the Trickster.

Try not to expose our rogues without a reason. Example: Try to save Soaring Thought-Thief for a turn when you can sneak it in on the end step of an opponent’s turn when they are tapped, ensuring us a Zareth San, the Trickster hit the consequent turn.

Nighthawk Scavenger has Lifelink and Deathtouch. Don’t forget that. Especially the deathtouch part… 

Crippling Fear should always name “Rogue”. 

Zareth San, the Trickster has flash so, even if you can “ninjutsu” it with another creature, you could play it at the end of an opponent’s turn if safe and get a safe hit.

For some of you that have never heard about the “Ninjutsu” ability, it’s a keyword from the Kamigawa block that lets you play ninjas from your hand, tapped and attacking, returning an unblocked ninja to your hand. :b

Final Notes

Uff. Working on this deck was challenging… (beside the fact I was sick last week 😅). Let me quote Paulo one last time:

Be warned though that it is quite tricky to play and you might find yourself losing a lot before you can win with it; once you master it, however, it’s very rewarding, and the concepts you learn with it will be useful throughout the entirety of your Magic career.”

This quote is referring to the Regular Standard Rogues Deck, but most of the concepts from that deck remain valid in this 2022 Standard iteration of it.

This deck has a learning curve that you have to respect and dominate, it makes you take decisions as soon as turn 1… but like PVDDR said, playing it and mastering it is incredibly rewarding!

This much is true: If you want to grow as a player you need to challenge yourself, and dominating a deck like this one is surely something that could do it greatly.

And remember: A bad penny always turns up!

Card Kingdom - Double Masters 2022
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Bohe

A full time MTG content creator. Started playing Magic in 99’ with the release of Urza’s Destiny, 3 times Grand Prix attendant (1 as a player ending #78 and 2 as a judge). Mexican, lover of coffee, Korean culture, languages and ex-LoL coach.
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