We are knee deep into Khans of Tarkir spoiler season, and all I can think about is how badly I want to use Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker to kill Courser of Kruphix.
So far, Khans of Tarkir is shaping up to be a pretty awesome set with plenty of powerful multicolor cards and a bunch of lands to facilitate that. I still find it pretty interesting that Theros Block was crammed in between Return to Ravnica and the Wedge-themed three-color Khans of Tarkir, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what awesome things we can all come up with for the new Standard format.
Being that I have been jamming Polukranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon almost non-stop for an entire year, that's probably where I'm going to start for my new brewing. However, finding the right home for these monsters is proving to be a bit of a challenge as four very important cards that have been hand in hand with them are leaving along with Return to Ravnica.
With the current list of cards spoiled, there really isn't much in the way of removal for me right now. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is obviously very good, but he is going to be a little lackluster when you're trying to kill an opposing Polukranos, World Eater or anything else with five toughness like Reaper of the Wilds or the new Abzan four-drop…
How is this even a real card? I felt the same way when I first saw Polukranos, World Eater, but this guy is just insane. Its stats are respectable even without the drain when it enters the battlefield. Maybe I'm overestimating this card, but combined with Brimaz, King of Oreskos, I see Abzan giving smaller creature based aggressive decks absolute fits.
With the Jund shard getting no love in Khans of Tarkir, I'm starting to look to Temur for the third color in my Monsters deck to try and find some removal. I've heard mixed opinions on Temur Charm, but I'm a fan. My thought process on the card is that while none of the three modes are absurd and game breaking, much like Golgari Charm it has a lot of utility. I imagine we're going to be using the fight mode a lot as we really don't have another solid removal spell (please WotC give me Flame Slash), but the other two modes have the potential to win the game.
Mana Leak isn't really something that I'm terribly excited about in a deck like Monsters where I'm trying to overwhelm my opponent with a board presence that outclasses the cost that I paid for it, but that was more a thing of the past. Cards like Pack Rat and how quickly the Ravnica cards pushed Mono-Blue Devotion to a point that Master of Waves could overwhelm you made speed and reliability the name of the game. With those types of cards gone we will need some way to interact with the most important card from Theros: Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Countering an Elspeth with a Temur Charm is going to be quite a good feeling and one that I look forward to for some time to come.
The last mode on Temur Charm is actually going to end up being a bit more important that we think. With Mizzium Mortars gone and everyone playing Courser of Kruphix, there are going to be some board stalls. We will still be able to get in some damage with our Stormbreath Dragons and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeakers, but I can imagine a lot of boardstates that are flooded with Sylvan Caryatid, Elvish Mystic, and satyrs from Xenagos, making it so that we can alpha strike for the game is going to be something that people will have to keep in mind while they are jockeying for position in these green midrange mirrors. It also lets us attack through Elspeth's +1 ability to finish her off.
I would have much preferred the four damage to a creature from the Mardu Charm, but we can't always get everything we want. I still like Temur Charm and plan on playing with it quite a bit to see if my initial impressions of the card are right.
The other card that I like isn't really getting the press that it deserves and that's Crater's Claws. With Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Polukranos, World Eater, Savage Knuckleblade, and Stormbreath Dragon, we have an overabundance of creatures that are large enough to satisfy the ferocious trigger on the spell, giving us a +2 damage modifier. This will end up as super important, as it will allow us to kill opposing cheap monsters on curve with ours while still being able to just kill the cheaper threats with and X=1 or 2 before we start deploying the rest of our army.
The last new card that I'm pretty high on right now is Savage Knuckleblade. He's already been talked about at length by one Patrick Chapin on Monday and I definitely agree. Savage Knuckleblade is one of the best cards in the set. It's a great rate, and the haste ability lets us have the same amount of pressure whether we play him on curve or the following turn. Being able to attack through Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix is going to be pretty important as we move forward, and big Knucks does just that and more.
Alright, enough of the teasing. Here's the list that I'm going to start working with. I'm sure it'll change quite a bit as more cards are spoiled and I actually play with the cards.
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Savage Knuckleblade
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 1 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
This is where I'm going to be starting with the maindeck. My primary goals are to see just how good Savage Knuckleblade is and how Rattleclaw Mystic and Temur Charm play. I want to see if Rattleclaw Mystic can be better than Sylvan Caryatid, or if the hexproof and guaranteed survival of our mana acceleration is paramount. I'm concerned at a lack of interactive cards that cost less than three mana, which is something that I hope is fixed with the coming spoilers. It could be that we want to be playing some number of Lightning Strikes or Magma Jets to bridge that gap, but I feel like we can just play Anger of the Gods to help with those matchups.
I also want to experiment with playing more than eight mana accelerants (Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, Rattleclaw Mystic) since there isn't a four mana wrath in the format like there has been previously. Giving us an extra turn with our mana acceleration lets us continue to jam cards like Xenagos, the Reveler and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker until the opponent gives up.
I'm pretty sure the mana can and needs to be changed, but to start out with I want to use four of the new Frontier Bivouac. It may be that we don't need that much blue mana and I can get away with swapping some of them out for more temples.
As far as sideboarding goes, there are a lot of cards that I can think of that I would want for this deck.
I'm sure I'm missing cards, but there are some pretty powerful options at our disposal, and while I'm going to be putting in work on this type of deck, I have one thought just gnawing at me:
The switch that I made from Courser of Kruphix to Goblin Rabblemaster was the culmination of a season of changes for Jund Monsters at making the deck more and more proactive, which is where the current Standard format pushed us. We had to be proactive. We had to attack our opponents' resources before they got out of control with the devotion mechanic. We had to attack our opponent directly, or their hand, before Sphinx's Revelation took over the game. We had to lower our curve significantly to try and keep pace with the Rakdos Cackler and Soldier of the Pantheon decks. The new Standard feels like it's going to be a bit slower, which can facilitate a build like this, but it might be that Polukranos and Stormbreath are still better suited in a more proactive deck.
With all of the mana fixing that we have access to, we can really play any G/R/x deck if we want to. Naya gives us Banishing Light and Suspension Field for removal/interaction and two powerful versions of Ajani (Steadfast and Mentor of Heroes). Naya also gives us the Theros Block defining Elspeth, Sun's Champion.
Jund really doesn't give us much for now since there isn't a two-mana removal spell available yet. I'm hoping that there is. With all my little bearded heart.
I think that Naya is going to be my next project. The G/R Elspeth deck from Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx was very popular, and I imagine that it will be a popular strategy in the new Standard format too.
The rest of my "bucket list" for my Standard brewing are as follows:
Green Devotion (with Red and/or Blue)
Finding the best Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker deck
Finding the best Goblin Rabblemaster deck
I've definitely got a lot on my plate as we move forward, and I would love your help! Please let me know any ideas you may have for the new Standard or any cards that you would like to see me work with. I really love this time of year when we have a big shake up in the format with sets leaving and a new set coming in, and as awesome as Khans of Tarkir seems, being heavy on the three-color theme without hybrid mana, it might be a bit tough to figure out the correct shells for the obviously powerful cards.
This weekend I will be playing in the PTQ/WMCQ weekend in Philly so make sure you stop by and say hi!