Green got the goodies that most caught my eye in M14, so I'm going to start my exploration there.
The colors did not get treated equally. In lieu of a larger discussion I don't have space for here, I'll go through the others quickly now:
White's take is a 2/2 version of Fiend Hunter named Banisher Priest, Brave the Elements and the curious Imposing Sovereign. Blue's most interesting developments are a homeless Tidebinder Mage and the return of Opportunity. Black did get back Corrupt and Doom Blade, plus Lifebane Zombie and the very tempting Xathrid Necromancer, and Sam Black, who is closely related, got Dark Prophecy. Red might possibly have Awaken the Ancient, I see some potential in Ogre Battledriver, and both Burning Earth and Young Pyromancer could be quite good. And of course, Mutavault is neat and Encroaching Wastes has potential as colorless lands.
Now, on to a discussion of a few new green cards, starting with the one I'm most excited about.
Kalonian Hydra is my type of Magic card. Sam Black already took a crack at it, but I don't think he had the right approach. Savageborn Hydra costs too much mana to make it effective, and you don't have space in the deck to both reinforce the counter plan and give him proper pumping and trample. The best cards with Savageborn Hydra are Rancor and Ghor-Clan Rampager. Focusing on Double Strike rather than on +1/+1 counters is an approach that could be looked at more seriously, but it is a different deck.
There are two other approaches to using Kalonian Hydra that seem to offer far more promise: you can play an all-out Evolve deck, or you can try to accelerate out of the gates using Arbor Elf and Elvish Mystic.
The first approach is straightforward. You take the Dark Simic deck from Decks of Future Past and you replace the out-of-place Thragtusk with Kalonian Hydra. That gives the deck one more piece with which to assemble its nightmare puzzles:
- 4 Cloudfin Raptor
- 4 Corpsejack Menace
- 4 Experiment One
- 4 Gyre Sage
- 4 Kalonian Hydra
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Renegade Krasis
- 4 Shambleshark
- 4 Vorel of the Hull Clade
The maindeck is unlikely to change more than a tiny bit. You need to maximize your synergy, and even one card that doesn't reinforce that can seriously disrupt what you're trying to do. It's possible that Varolz is too good not to play one or two copies of but I don't think he reaches that level, although he is a sideboard option against control for that reason.
The sideboard is new, a combination of guesses about what is to come. Kraken Hatchling is the best card in your board, acting as a one-mana Evolve trigger and excellent blocker of men, allowing you to speed yourself up without interfering with the deck's primary engine. Abrupt Decay hangs on as the removal spell that you want when you want a removal spell. Scavenging Ooze should allow the deck to target graveyards without forcing it to play cards that don't work with what you're trying to do; a 2/2 isn't the best body to be Evolving with, but it does the job while getting counters for all your various interactions.
Finally, there's Appetite for Brains and Duress. With Kalonian Hydra added to the deck, you're even more afraid of Supreme Verdict and less afraid of other things, so the question is: If Supreme Verdict is your enemy, which discard spell do you want? I'm not sure. I do know that against Junk Reanimator I want some discard and it can't be Duress, and that in general I don't want to overboard, so it will be good to give you the choice of which spell to bring in. Against Supreme Verdict, you can bring in both.
In general, this should blow past anyone who isn't either trying to blitz you or is playing the few control cards that make you cry, so your job is to solve those twin problems. Kraken Hatching and Abrupt Decay are a good early defense package, while discard and Scavenging Ooze go after the cards you fear most other than raw aggression, which are Supreme Verdict, Olivia Voldaren and Angel of Serenity.
Approach number two is to use mana acceleration. While the blue version of the deck tries to abuse as many synergies as possible, Kalonian Hydra isn't a card that needs much help. As nice as it is to have Corpsejack Menace and attack for the first time as a 24/24, or use Vorel of the Hull Clade and attack for 16/16 or 32/32 as your first shot or boost your other attackers as well, on its own Kalonian Hydra will attack as an 8/8 and then a 16/16, killing in two shots. If you get him out on turn three, that's a fifth turn kill and you didn't expose much. If they kill it, they kill it, and you move on.
We start like this:
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Arbor Elf
4 Kalonian Hydra
At this point, we know our mana will be heavily green, and we get one other color at a reasonable price but no more. That color seems clearly like it should be black, and we should be an evolution of Kibler's green/black decks from this past year now that we have second turn Predator Ooze as a reliable thing we can be doing. With twelve creatures already that are 1/1, we won't be Evolving, but we clearly do have:
There's more danger in missing first turn green than there is in missing three green, so there's no need for tapped lands. Right now that's 22 lands in the deck, which depending on the rest of your curve may or may not be enough, and 23 spells, leaving fifteen slots. If you do decide to invest fully in Corpsejack Menace, you can do that by going for Varolz, like this:
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 3 Corpsejack Menace
- 3 Dreg Mangler
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Kalonian Hydra
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Predator Ooze
- 3 Strangleroot Geist
- 4 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
- 4 Rancor
With both Lotleth Troll and Varolz, the Scar Striped, every card that isn't a creature works against your cause, so even without the Evolve engine you want to minimize how many of them you run. A decent number of games, you'll have an open win by dumping everything into counters, so you want to keep that alive. Rancor is too important to your theme not to play, since trample is vital to Varolz, the Scar Striped and Predator Ooze, but I see no reason to run maindeck removal. Your curve is very low, to the extent that I worry this is one land too many, but you can plow it back into Scavenging.
Note that this is now highly resistant to sweepers that aren't Terminus, since Predator Ooze is Indestructible while Varolz, the Scar Striped and Lotleth Troll both regenerate and both Strangleroot Geist and Rancor come back. It's possible Corpsejack Menace is simply too cute here, but I don't think it is. The sideboard offers the usual green/black goodies, with discard and removal aplenty, along with Ulvenwald Tracker. I don't think you can be maindecking another 1/1, but there are decks that either can't handle it or must use a removal spell on it, both good causes that I approve of. I don't want to have Sever the Bloodline here with Doom Blade available, but Doom Blade doesn't kill Olivia Voldaren, and she must die.
Having played a bit with Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014, I have a few complaints. Why does Chandra look and sound like a 13-year-old anorexic girl asking her parents to go beat up the neighborhood bullies for her? Her cards may suck, but as a personality she's better than that – she's even played by Felicia Day! In addition, there are way too many encounters to get through rather than battles, and asking me to unlock cards at a rate of only one per battle is ridiculous after they spoiled us two years ago with a more reasonable progression, especially if you're going to give me cards that are actively worse than everything in my deck about half the time! I mention this, however, because Duels 2014 gave me the chance to play with Enlarge, and that card is way better than it looks. Your opponent is forced to throw a creature in the way and you get in for a lot of damage. This is a way to get a lot of reach. It's not good enough that I'm looking aggressively to run it, or anything like that, but it could be a hidden gem for the right deck.
This is very much a Garruk, and is very similar to the current five-mana version, and it also resembles a supercharged Domri Rade. You pay more, but you get a lot more. By the time you have six mana, you're looking for spells and not lands, so the +1 ability is a lot like drawing 3-4 cards for decks that are mostly creatures, perhaps with no spells besides this and Domri Rade. Then they have to take down a five-loyalty planeswalker or you get to do it again, and the ultimate is both strong and reasonably priced. There's also the option to sneak him in while playing a green creature to act as protection, or to accelerate you to Craterhoof Behemoth. Going for something a little bigger is not practical given the other tools you have.
The problem is that all-creature decks don't have much call for a six-mana card drawing spell, even one that is this good. The other problem is that Somberwild Sage is the route you'd want to take to getting Craterhooth Behemoth into play on schedule, and you can't use that to cast a planeswalker, nor can you reanimate one, which makes the interactions awkward.
Whenever creatures are reprinted, people forget that creatures have gotten much better. Scavenging Ooze is good when you need to go after your opponents' graveyard, but when that isn't relevant, things move too fast and are too big these days for Scavenging Ooze to be impressive. Filling your graveyard with creatures is helpful, but decks that are doing that usually have other tasks for those creatures as well, although a little supplementation can be helpful. Hate bears tend to be stronger in older formats, where opponents are trying to do more strange things with other zones and the creatures tend to be smaller, while in Standard the creatures hit hard but do it in a straightforward manner. There is a place for this, especially if you're looking to play +1/+1 counter games, but remember that mostly it's a maindeckable hate card and nothing more.
This is no Voice of Resurgence. It looks like a hate card, and it has text to that effect, but it is very much not a hate card, except insofar as Bant Hexproof makes you hate Magic and/or life in general. It's a very solid body for Bant Hexproof to use to complement its current choices, which is unfortunate, but it also doesn't offer anything besides a hexproof body to work with, so this will make the deck more linear and take away some of its remaining flexibility.
The Loss Of Dual Lands
I am a big fan of the base set dual lands when the Ravnica Shocklands aren't available. They aren't free, since they interact badly with other non-basic lands, and lead to interesting checks and balances while letting those who want more color get it at a reasonable price. The problem comes when the other dual lands are both excellent and enablers for your base set duals. This resulted in a world where your third color wasn't quite free, but it was extremely cheap, and it got out of hand. I suppose it had to stop, but I hope they'll be back once we're back in the clear and that there is a high quality (new or old) dual land cycle waiting for us in Theros.