I had grandiose plans for my article this week, I really did. I was planning on regaling you all with great tales of success in both the Standard and Legacy portions of the StarCityGames Open Weekend in Washington DC this past weekend.
I'd decided that I liked R/W Burn, even though it wasn't my usual style, and got to play with Shardless BUG in Legacy which would be an absolute blast. I planned to test extensively on Magic Online all week leading up to the event and at least top 8 one of the two tournaments.
Only... reality has a way of catching up to even the greatest of dreamers.
Last week was one of the busiest weeks of my adult life, as the course I teach was putting content online (to alleviate the crammed nature of the classroom instruction time), and I mistakenly volunteered to do the voiceovers for all of that content. Unfortunately, that also meant editing all of the information into script formats that both made sense and flowed.
Then recording that content was, if you've never done voiceovers before, trust me, a pain in the ass.
Long story short, I spent many hours in the office (or driving to Quantico, VA, to actually do the recordings in what amounted to little more than a closet) and never really got a chance to get any testing in. Also, my college classes started up again in the middle of the week, further reducing any free time I may have.
No bother, I thought, as I'd previously played a ton of games with R/W Burn and generally understood the matchups. Plus, it was really just one big math problem after another, right? I love Math, so it shouldn't be that hard…
As for Legacy, I'd get to play Shardless BUG again, a deck in which I've had success with in the past and that hadn't changed much since then. In fact, even the expected matchups hadn't really changed all that much, so I felt decently prepared for Sunday's festivities.
Saturday came along, and I sat down for round 1 against Mono-Green Devotion. While the round went to a third game and was challenging, I managed to take it down through the power of Satyr Firedancer.
The funny part for me was that I sat down with Jared Boettcher to my left, Dave Shiels to my right, and Ben Friedman next to him. Dodged some serious bullets there, and I thought my luck was going to work out in my favor on that day.
Yet… that's the last time I thought that all weekend.
The following round, my opponent and I both mulligan down to six, and while he shipped his back for five, I kept my one-lander with a Shock and two Magma Jets on the draw, as going to five there seemed unlikely to be any better.
It was all downhill from there, as I lost that match and the following to drop to 1-2. I checked the "drop" box due to my disgust at my own performance.
No matter! I had Legacy the next day and Custom Cubing all day to look forward to!
The next day, I return to play in the Legacy Open... well, I started to when a thought dawned on me. "Didn't these things get changed so that they start earlier?" I thought at 8 AM at the beginning of my hour and twenty minute drive. A quick phone call (and heartbreak later), my thoughts were confirmed. I hadn't played a Legacy Open since the change and wasn't even actively playing when they announced it, so I wasn't aware that morning that I needed to leave earlier.
Nonetheless, I arrived late and signed up with a round 1 loss. Oh well, guess I'm battling back from this to my top 8!
I asked the judge if I had time to fill out my decklist, to which he replied that he needed the decklist right away, to go sit at the closest table, and fill it out quickly. I did as I was instructed… but I really should have just taken my time...
...as before I play a game of round 2, a Judge informed me that I misregistered my deck, forgetting to write "2 Thoughtseize" in the maindeck. So, before even playing a game, I had already lost one and a half rounds.
My U/W/R Miracles opponent and I split the two games we played. My frustration at the morning's events caused me to again drop in disgust.
So many delusions of grandeur, so little realization of those delusions.
Oh well, guess we're moving on!
So what I mean by that is: that was pretty much the last big Standard tournament I'm going to play prior to the release of Khans of Tarkir, and I've already moved on mentally from the current iteration of Standard. The first thing I did when I started thinking about non-Cube Magic was think about the great cards that would be available post-rotation.
Unfortunately for me, but quite fortunately for you guys, Shaun McLaren already covered this in-depth in his article earlier this week; I recommend checking that out before continuing, as he has a pretty decent list of "good cards we'll carry over to new Standard" in there that I won't regurgitate here.
So let's take a moment to examine what we know so far about our upcoming Standard environment.
We know that the enemy wedges are going to receive their day in the sun, with new names for each wedge (so we can finally have a name for U/W/R and B/W/R). In case you haven't seen them yet, somehow:
So I guess I need to start telling people I'm a Temur player instead of RUG. What a sad day. Long live RUG!
It makes a lot of sense why M15 only included enemy painlands and not ally painlands, as each wedge gets two mana fixers without the allied painlands providing much improved manabases for some of Standard's current decks pre-rotation.
Most of this information you guys already know, I'm sure, so why is it that I'm covering it again?
To obviously start looking ahead to playing… Temur.
Yeah, that does feel weird...
If you've followed me at any point during my writing career, you know of my love for RU... Temur. Lotus Cobra will always be one of my favorite creatures, and Explore is still my favorite card of all time despite the negative connotation attached.
Now, I've tried to make fetch happen a couple of times since Cobra's exploratory glory days with little success. First, I tried this during Thragtusk's heyday:
It was my way of playing Jund while not actually playing Jund last year; the deck wasn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it was simply a worse version of another deck, a cardinal sin in competitive Magic. This despite my love of its color contents and the extra turns that belong to me.
Then recently, I tried doing the same thing again (I apparently never learn), playing Niv-Mizzet and Stormbreath Dragon along with Xenagos, the Reveler and Kiora, the Crashing Wave in a midrange "try to do all the things but really do none of them well" deck. It was basically Blue Jund. Again.
It lasted one FNM before I disposed of it accordingly. Turns out, Niv-Mizzet is rather embarrassing when your opponents play 6/6 demons for four mana.
However, the interaction I was trying to maximize, Kiora with an active Courser of Kruphix, was still good, it just had to deal with the fact that the stuff that other people were doing was simply better a lot of the time. Perhaps more tuning could have helped that particular deck, as I was playing tuned tier one decks, but my discouragement led me to shelf the idea.
However, with Khans coming out soon and Temur being slated as the "midrange fatties" wedge, I'm pretty excited again. You see, the reason I love the color identity of Temur is that it contains a little of everything:
Control Elements (removal, counters).
Big Creatures that hit hard.
No, no, Big Creatures that hit even harder than that.
The Cobra RUG list was amazing because it attacked from so many different angles simultaneously, though it sure as hell didn't hurt to have the best card printed in the past fifteen years, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, in the deck. You never seemed to run out of gas, as your ramp spells either cantripped or were 2/1 creatures.
You could power out a turn 3 Inferno Titan or drop a Jace on turn 3, both of which win you the game; the difference is how the games play out, obviously. It was so difficult to prepare for that deck, as if you focused on one aspect, the others would get you.
It's impossible to replicate decks of old; truth be told, the metagames won't be the same just like the card selections won't be nearly the same. However, I think that if Khans gives Temur some "fatties" worth ramping into early that Temur Midrange may just have that special something, so much so that it'd be called "RUG" despite the dictation of the inhabitants of Tarkir.
Let's take a gander at what tools we have, shall we?
...with the Temur tri-Land and Evolving Wilds bringing up the rear if need be. Obviously, it stands to reason that there could be more to the lands available in Khans than we currently know, and this could change accordingly.
Starting with the industry standard Mystic and Caryatid, we'll be looking to play our powerful spells ahead of time, as always; the downside to these cards, Caryatid in particular, is that they have the ability to be completely dead, something we never had to worry about with Cobra or Explore. Again, we can't replicate that beauty, so I'm not too concerned to be honest.
However, what we don't have in those two cards is explosiveness. With RUG Cobra, if you were playing the Precursor Golem builds, you could easily have nine power worth of creatures on turn 3, and a turn 3 Titan was feasible and fully possible. With these creatures, the best you can hope for is five mana on turn 3 after curving out from Mystic to Caryatid, but there's nothing in the format that allows for the kind of pressure Precursor did back in those days.
We can recoup some of that explosiveness in the form of Generator Servant or Satyr Hedonist; the downside, obviously, is losing those creatures in order to progress our board, which isn't something I'm overly interested in if one of my concurrent gameplan is always going to be grinding the opponent out.
While I'm not interested in everything on this list, you will always see Kiora here, as my love for her knows no bounds. Pair her with Courser of Kruphix for added fun.
My one issue with her in this deck is the inability to continue to grind out card advantage every turn like Jace, the Mind Sculptor could. Sometimes, you have to just cash in Kiora for a card when it means losing a planeswalker, something ol' Jace never asked of us, and it feels as terrible as it sounds.
Xenagos, the Reveler is another obvious inclusion to me. We need to win, we want to be able to grind out opponents, and we want some semi-explosive draws. Xenagos gives us all of that and much more.
Chandra, Pyromaster allows us to further abuse the top of our deck, with obvious Courser and Kiora synergies, so we're going to play at least one. I can see adding more at some point, but knowing I want to play Kiora and Xenagos - and Polukranos - I've got to be smart about how many more four mana spells I include.
This isn't a comprehensive list by any means, but we do see the ability to play some pretty nice threats once Standard rotates.
I personally am a fan of playing Souls in a deck like this, as it gives us big threats that moonlight as great mana sinks, especially the ones available to our colors. I remember when I first started pushing for Consecrated Sphinx to see play, it was such an insane card that no one was giving any credit; while I don't feel that it's in Consecrated Sphinx's league, Soul of Ravnica is a card that screams out to me that it's much better than it's been given credit for.
I mean, it's a 6/6 flyer for six mana. At the very least, you've got a very fast clock.
Soul of Shandalar is the soul I've wanted to play since I saw it; a similar card to Inferno Titan?! Sign me up! It seems like it could easily take over the board by itself, dominating pretty much everything in combat and allowing for easy board control.
Stormbreath Dragon and Polukranos will go together like peas and carrots until the day they rotate, and I see no reason to break up a happy home in this deck. Both have the added benefit of also being great mana sinks, which is something I love having available: cards that are good early yet give you things to do lategame.
Keranos… now there's a spell I can't believe I haven't played more of in Standard to this point. It's perfect for a deck like this, one that I aim to be able to control (or at least know the contents of) the top of my deck. Even without access to scrying, knowing the top of our deck from Courser allows us to plan ahead for our upcoming Keranos trigger.
I'll be keeping a specific eye out for one-mana spells, the kind of thing that Kiora is looking for. Void Snare seems like a great way to ensure that you're not falling behind on tempo after activating the Crashing Wave for an Explore. The temples and tricolor lands are also great "one mana spells" to play after Kiora activations.
We're really just trying to provide ourselves with some bit of control through counters and removal spells. While draw spells weren't necessary back in the day, as that's how truly ridiculous Jace was, I think we might venture into that realm if Kiora doesn't end up being the end all, be all in this deck. Other than that, the spells simply aim to augment our primary plans of "drop huge fatty" or "grind opponent to pulp."
Additionally, anything that lets me scry I'm also happy with, as I want to be able to set up my Courser/Kiora shenanigans as much as possible. This makes me lean more towards Magma Jet than Lightning Strike in this list in order to maximize how much I can abuse the top of my deck.
So, knowing our core focus of this deck is going to be getting ahead early, either by dropping a fat creature or leveraging planeswalkers, it's important to remember that we need to play our spells before their designated time. This means not skimping on ramp spells, playing the full playset of Mystics and Caryatids.
Casting Kiora on turn 4 is much worse than on turn 3.
What would a build of such a deck look like?
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 1 Soul of Ravnica
- 1 Soul of Shandalar
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
- 1 Keranos, God of Storms
Add in four copies of the Temur tri-land and this is what I'm going to have in mind as more cards are released in the Khans of Tarkir spoilers; however, I'll also have BUG... ugh, Sultai... as an option, since BUG is the only wedge that'll have access to two painlands for green mana, allowing us greater access to green on turn 1 while not skimping on mana fixing and playing basic Forests.
Which wedge are you most looking forward to? Which decklist are you keeping in the back of your mind as cards are being spoiled?
Or are you an "open minded spoiler-follower" who simply looks at the card objectively to determine which will be insane pickups in the future?
I look forward to seeing what you guys want to happen in a month or so!