We finally have the full Khans of Tarkir spoiler, and the prerelease will be happening this weekend.
This time in the fall really is my favorite time of the year. Football starts, the weather starts to cool down (usually), and we get a brand new block and big rotations happen in the Standard format. It really is a brewer's paradise.
Sadly, I'm not really much of a brewer. I usually end up playing a bunch of games with a bunch of different decks and identify what I think the best cards or strategies will be and then go from there.
Before we jump into new Standard, I want to talk just a little bit about last weekend and the prerelease.
Last weekend, BBD and I decided to head up to Philly for the PTQ/WMCQ weekend rather than head down to Hotlanta for the Open Series. Normally I would prioritize the Open Series, but since I'm already qualified for the Players' Championship, and because there were two tournaments with awesome prize support happening, I decided that I wanted to head to Philly instead.
And we can't forget about the Reading Terminal Market and awesome people in the area.
I also really want to qualify for the Pro Tour, so even though I imagined the PTQ was going to be about as challenging as it can get, it was still in my best interest to head that way and battle.
The PTQ was M15 Sealed, and while I really love the Draft format, I'm not a huge fan of the Sealed format. I've also had some pretty bad luck when it comes to opening awesome pools and playing against crazy rares/mythics. While preparing online I lost after casting Chandra, Pyromaster and Hornet Queen quite a bit, and a few weeks earlier, I lost with a Goblin Rabblemaster enchanted by a Spectra Ward (thanks Soul of Theros!).
This time around, I had a pretty sweet deck with Spirit Bonds, Avacyn, Guardian Angel, and Hornet Queen. Sadly, I didn't have any Elvish Mystics, Evolving Wilds, or Verdant Havens for fixing, so both Avacyn and Hornet Queen sat in my hand quite a bit during the tournament. I also had very few one and two-drops, which made Spirit Bonds pretty embarrassing. The game where I got to use one of my three rares I crushed my opponent, but most games I just sat around doing nothing. I started out well but then took a bunch of losses and dropped once I had three.
For the WMCQ I was still set on Jund RabbleMonsters. I felt like BBD's PyroRabble deck was a very good call and likely to be the best deck in the room, but I just didn't get enough time in playing the deck to be comfortable making the switch off something that I'm so familiar with, so I ended up just registering the exact same list that I won the Standard Open in Somerset with.
My WMCQ can be summed up with one statement really; I played a bunch of green mirrors, and while I didn't play Elvish Mystic on turn 1, they all did basically every game. Sometimes that kind of thing happens. It's Magic and variance is prevalent.
I did get to play against Ben Stark again, who was on Jund Monsters but had Reaper of the Wilds. I didn't see any Nissa, Worldwaker, Domri Rade, or Ghor-Clan Rampager, so I'm not sure what else he had, but his Reaper of the Wilds did a good job of making my Goblin Rabblemaster look silly letting him scry about a million times. Ugh…
But enough tales of woe from my weekend in Philly. This weekend is the prerelease! It's time for fun and a race to try and acquire cards for the first events the following weekend. I really enjoy playing in the prerelease events, and once I get some experience in with Khans of Tarkir Sealed I will likely put my thoughts and impressions on paper, but for now I would like to share my initial thoughts for those of you who might struggle a bit with this three-color format.
-Red has a lot of removal. Multiple pieces at common even. Beware of this if you are playing against a deck with red in it.
-There are a lot of morphs, even at the common rarity. Remember that they are playable even if you can't unmorph them. Having just a three-mana 2/2 can be good enough. Take your curve into consideration when building and play as many morph creatures as you need to.
-With morph being prevalent, creatures than can tangle with morph creatures and still live are going to be valuable. 2/3s and better are going to be real sweet.
-It seems that they are really pushing playing three-colors with all of the non-basic lands and the cycle of Banners in the set. If you have an absurd amount of fixing, don't be afraid to splash for one or two cards of a fourth color. The prerelease is definitely the time to see if that kind of strategy is viable!
-Scott MacCallum from the Magic Online Community Cup got to play Khans of Tarkir Sealed last weekend and was preaching on Twitter about how playing eighteen lands is a must for the set. I believe it, and will probably plan on doing the same. With three colors and all the morphs, hitting your land drops for the first six or so turns is going to be huge.
I feel like the Abzan's outlast ability is going to end up being very good, and that the majority of their creatures are going to line up pretty well against the rest of the field, so that's definitely going to be my pick come prerelease time. I will be playing 2HG as well because I love that Limited format, and I plan on going Abzan or Sultai with a B/G base.
That brings me to my next point. I imagine it's going to be much more prevalent in draft, but I like focusing on a two color combination which will leave you open for which clan you fall into with your third color. Looking at it, all of the enemy color combinations line up perfectly with two of each clan giving each of them access to two of the different enemy color combinations.
Blue/Red - Temur, Jeskai
Green/Black - Sultai, Abzan
White/Black - Abzan, Mardu
Red/White - Mardu, Jeskai
Blue/Green - Sultai, Temur
How to put this information to best use I think is going to be the key to unlocking the draft format, but I won't really know until I can get my hands on some packs and help the other Roanoke players here in town prepare for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir.
Moving right along to what everyone here came for: Standard! Now that we know all the cards in the set, I think that the format is going to boil down to three crucial three-mana cards.
Aggro, midrange, and control are three of the four commonly used descriptors that are used for Magic decks. While combo is oftentimes the fourth, it has been lacking in Standard for a quite some time, and I don't expect to see it coming back anytime soon. Finding the best decks that utilize some number of these three cards is one of my top goals for preliminary testing. There are other cards that are going to make quite an impact like Thoughtseize and Brimaz, King of Oreskos, but I feel like the above three are going to lead us in the right directions.
Goblin Rabblemaster is a pretty big deal right now, but I think that I just scratched the surface when I put it in my Jund Monsters deck. It showed that you don't have to have your deck filled with a bunch of aggressive one drops for Rabblemaster to shine. Removal spells and controlling the tempo of the game is another way to utilize this "army in a can" since you don't really have to commit more threats to the board and can just use Goblin Rabblemaster to kill in a measly four turns.
Courser of Kruphix is nothing new and we are all used to just how much it facilitates protecting your planeswalkers and filtering lands off the top of your library. With Ghor-Clan Rampager and Rubblebelt Maaka gone, there isn't much that is going to allow them to attack through your Courser of Kruphix and still keep their attacker. Ride Down is one new card that can do this and might end up seeing some play because of it.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver never really got much love in the last Standard format (outside of Gerard Fabiano), but I think that now is the time for the only three-mana planeswalker left in Standard. Ashiok saw some play in the Sultai decks that did well at Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx, but I'm not convinced that's the only shell for the card. Having Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix to protect Ashiok is pretty sweet, but just simply going up to five loyalty immediately makes it tough to kill Ashiok. One of the few talked about reasons that I think Ashiok is going to be very good is that there are a bunch of three-colored creatures that are being pushed that cost only three or four mana, which conveniently lets you put them into play then turn after you cast Ashiok and mill them and still keep the planeswalker around.
The last thought that I have is the potential of burn in the new format. You lose quite a few powerful burn spells, but with fetchlands and painlands being the only way to have access to untapped lands outside of basics, I think that we are still going to be doing quite a bit of damage to ourselves.
Here's where I'm going to be starting, but I'm interested to see what everyone else is thinking about when it comes to Jeskai Burn:
I feel like ten lands that come into play tapped is probably going to be too many, but this is where I want to start. I think that Mindswipe is currently being underrated, and I want to give it a shot, and I really want to Deflecting Palm an attack from a huge Goblin Rabblemaster or from a Polukranos, World Eater.
I know that I want Mantis Rider and Goblin Rabblemaster, but other than that, I'm not sure which creatures I want. I'm going to try Firedrinker Satyr and Eidolon of the Great Revel to start with, but they are likely wrong.
As for sideboard cards, I'm not really sure what I want, but it is important to note that Pillar of Light from M15 hits Courser of Kruphix, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Polukranos, World Eater, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Butcher of the Horde, and a plethora of other creatures that could see some play.
Please chime in if you have been working on this type of deck or if it's something that you've been thinking about. I would really like to see if it has a chance to be something off the radar as a contender.
Lastly, I want to talk about “The Shavening”.
Some of you saw me this weekend in Philly in all my baby faced glory (or gory, however you interpret it). It was quite a ride chasing that win for basically an entire year, but rest assured the fire didn't go along with the beard. It's still there, and my beard will burn bright red like the fire that I still have to learn and continue to get better at Magic.
I will leave you now with the fabulous recording of “The Shavening.” See you all in Jersey in two weeks!