"Thanks for all the fish."
Rotation is in the air, you can feel it everywhere! Rotation season is my favorite time to play Magic. The puzzle is out there for all us lucky mages to solve, and it's the lifeblood that keeps the heart of Magic pumping. It's what makes our game unique to others in that it's constantly evolving. And soon enough we'll be rotating twice as fast, a change which I can only welcome with open arms, as our puzzle will be in a higher state of flux so that we'll all have to F5 just a little more to see the new technology in our 60 card decks.
But what does all this mean for us? Well we no longer have to be dealing with, among others, those four cards you can see up there. That's probably the biggest draw. So it's a whole new world out there with new horizons to pursue filled with Wedges and Khans and more new decks than you can shake two spears at; as long as you enjoy playing with Courser of Kruphix or Goblin Rabblemaster, of course. Courser and friends ruled Block, our entry point for the new Standard season, and if you haven't checked the results of any Opens recently, let's just say that I've moved the buy price for Goblin Assault V2.0 from $1 to $6, and I don't think too many more will be opened, so make your decisions now if you want to play it.
But you didn't come here for old cards and decks, you came here for new ones, right? Actually I'm not sure why you came here at all. Let us preserve what must be preserved, perfect what can be perfected, and prune practices that ought to be prohibited.
If I can quote both Disney and Harry Potter in the same paragraph, I can't ask for more.
First off, let me say that the mana we have right now is good. And I mean good. It can't quite support the curve of Esper Charm, Cryptic Command, Cloudthresher, and Cruel Ultimatum in the same deck like days of yore, but it's dang close. But that's what happens when we're in a wedge set. I personally don't like mana this good, as it devalues the importance of color. When you can play at least three colors no problem in any deck, where's the risk? We have no more Mutavault to promote one or two colored decks like before, so you can just jam all the good stuff together and call it a day. You might love Nutella, Funyuns, and cheeseburgers, but jam them all together in the same meal, and you won't like the monster you've created.
So do we have to be at least three colors? No, and if you want to ensure you hit your land drops painlessly and on time, you shouldn't be! Here's something I sketched up that leaves me in familiar territory, without adding any more colors to an already perfect color combination.
We've seen this strategy before, but mainly in M15 limited (which happens to be one of my favorite environments of recent memory solely due to the fact that I could finally stop playing Theros Limited).
The key card that we're trying to enable here is Shrapnel Blast. We all know how much more four is than three (Stoke the Flames versus Lightning Strike), but five is huge compared to four. We just have a few more hurdles to jump through. Well we recently lost Trading Post, but that's not too big of a loss, and we gained a little bit too! Ghostfire Blade is like a tiny Ensoul Artifact that makes our Ornithopters and Chief Engineers actually able to brawl and can even suit up a Rabblemaster to make him beat opposing Rabblers or Coursers. Like I said, these two creatures are going to be everywhere.
Speaking of Chief Engineer, he's there for one real purpose: to pump out some Scuttling Doom Engines. Yeah we could play some Soul of New Phyrexias, but when you sack that one to Shrapnel Blast it doesn't deal 11 damage. Also the first guy has a silly name. He'd go well in my deck filled with Hypersonic Dragons and Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gores. Goblin Rabblemaster also helps this purpose, as his engine can bring an engine into play quicker than normal. Ingenious!
However, the real reason why this deck even exists is because of Howl of the Horde. Yes, we're going to attack, and yes we have some cheap spells. The hidden "combo" of this deck is getting to five mana and casting Howl followed by Shrapnel Blast. Can you say three-quarters of your starting life total? And if the artifact you sacked was a Doom Engine, that's the ball game right there! No combat damage required!
I suppose you can also triplecast a Stoke the Flames by tapping four creatures and tapping just three lands. But that's only twelve damage. Come on, we can do better than that.
If there's one deck that Daring Thief is good in, it's this one. We get to trigger its inspired without it having to enter the red zone thanks to Springleaf Drum and Chief Engineer, and we can give away a worthless Goblin or Ornithopter (hey, that's mean!) to get a Polukranos, a Stormbreath Dragon, or really any creature we want. We can even "give" away an Ensoul Artifact to get a Courser of Kruphix or other magical beasty of Theros. They may own the Ensoul Artifact, but it sure doesn't stop our 5/5 indestructible creature land from killing them!
"That deck looks janky" or "You're doing too many things" or "Stop just making U/R decks over and over, you look like Shaheen Soorani and his Esper obsession." These are all things that you are probably thinking and are probably right about. But our job right now isn't to talk about preexisting staples of older formats. It's to figure out what new ideas can be cultivated, and to explore! Hey, I explored in college, and I turned out alright! Right?
This next deck came about from a single card's existence. Do you mind guessing? Hurry, before I swipe the answer away from you.
Jeskai Counterburn is here! We're sort of like R/W Burn from last season but with a bit more staying power. We can control their creatures with burn spells, then fireball them out thanks to Mindswipe and Deflecting Palm. We only have six or so creatures, but they all have haste, and spells always have haste, so really they're just spells that, if you're lucky, have Rebound and let you get that obv DI positive value snap #payme.
Mindswipe might be my favorite card from this set. Just staple Syncopate and Fireball together and call it a day! Oh, and they always take X, even if they can pay for it. So yeah most of the time you'll only be casting it for one or two (to stop a Polukranos, random burn spell, or pure power personified: Siege Rhino), but if the game is going long, you just kill them with your counterspell. Do you know how badly I've wanted to kill somebody with a counterspell? I tried using Essence Backlash back in the days of Thragtusk, but Unburial Rites would just undo all my work. Now nothing can stop me from now from world domination!
Oh, and obligatory post that says I only want three, because it costs 3-10 mana, and I don't really want two in my opening hand.
Eye for an Eye was only two mana, but you took the damage anyway, and nobody actually played Magic back then anyway, so who even knew what was going on when you were Black Lotusing into Craw Wurms.
Reflect Damage is actually the same card. But for three more mana. Turns out if you reduce a card's mana cost by 60%, it makes it better.
Let's talk about the best case scenario for this card. Your opponent attacks with Polukranos and activates the monstrosity for two as you have no creatures on board.
You cast Deflecting Palm, thereby fogging the damage, and dealing seven damage to your opponent.
Then their eyes widen, and realize that they are at three.
Then you cast any spell in the deck.
Then you win.
Worst case scenario is that it's a sort of a Lava Spike/Lightning Helix hybrid. But if I can prevent and deal two damage for two mana. Well that's not too bad.
And I'm sure there are some decks out there that don't have creatures, but that's what sideboard are for!
Hurray! An actual deck for Steam Augury! This card is actually serviceable in this deck because as you create your piles, and it's much harder for your opponent to give you a bad pile as the deck is mostly homogeneous. Most everything is burn! It also plays well with Dig Through Time. Dig gets the nod over Treasure Cruise, as two cards of your choosing (from a pool of seven!?) is generally much better than three random ones. You might just draw three lands, and at this point in the game, lands are what you don't need. Sure you have Mindswipe, which still lets you work with mana flood some, you'd rather just get 7-8 damage in your two card you pick. These big delve drawing spells are awesome. If you get about 50% of the spell's mana cost from your graveyard, you're doing fine. Any more and it starts to get disgusting. And I hear burn spells often end up in the graveyard…
We've got my usual sideboard cards. Burn for creature decks and counterspells for noncreature decks. I've yet to find a problem that burn or counters couldn't solve.
If you're faced off against any sort of creature rush deck, Anger of the Gods is one way to turn your L into a W. You keep in the Mantis Riders, because they usually nug for three, then eat a Strike or a Stoke, but it does match up well against Rabblemaster so that's good for it I guess. Incidentally, you can just board out your six actual creatures versus Hero's Downfall decks and go completely creatureless. Sarkhan doesn't die to kill spells, unless it's Hero's Downfall or Utter End, so plan your choices accordingly.
Disdainful Stroke is unique in that it is brought in for the both the big green fatty decks and the spell based decks as it can stop both Nissa and Polukranos. It pretty much counters any planeswalker, and that's usually what Negate does. I expect this card to be quite popular in the years to come.
"This deck is boring, and doing exactly what WotC wants you to do." "You're just using old ideas" "Are you seriously about to write about another blue and red deck?"
Enter: Jeskai Ascendancy.
Hmm Untap your creatures you say? All of your creatures? Well what if our creatures make mana?
And…what if we cast lots of cheap spells that cantrip?
Now how would we go about killing them? Our huge mana dorks probably wouldn't be able to connect for damage.
Now if there was only a way we could search for all of the above cards…
By the Gods! We might actually be on to something here!
Now this is down the rabbit hole.
WotC doesn't want us to have combo decks in Standard. I get it. Newer players get confused, the game ends abruptly, and it's much less interactive than normal Magic. But man do I love playing them.
To be fair, this deck is also a little janky. It does absolutely nothing without the namesake card in play. That card can be Thoughtseized, Sultai Charmed, Banishing Lighted, heck you probably still lose to a Kiora's Dismissal. You generally don't combo off safely until turn 5. You can even lose after you combo off.
But we're not here to dismiss ideas before they even get started!
The idea is that with two mana dorks and an Ascendancy active, every one mana cantrip you play nets you a mana. If you have three dorks out, even the two mana ones give you mana.
All the meanwhile your mana guys are getting larger.
All the meanwhile you are looting cards, pitching uneeded lands and creatures.
With only two creatures and an Ascendancy out. Retraction Helix plus Dragon's Mantle lets you draw your entire deck, eventually hitting your Twinflame to get that third dork, and then getting enough mana/untaps to kill them with Burning Anger (hopefully cast on your Caryatid, so they can't even kill it in response).
Alternatively, you can do it with two Ascendancies and a creature, it's just more complicated and you have to add mana carefully.
Clever Impersonator, besides being my favorite card in this set for Commander, lets you have that second mana creature or that second Ascendancy.
The mana is just good enough to run a fully three colored deck that wants a fourth color on turn 2 and pretty much only then.
Important Note: It's pronounced bivooak or "Bivwhack".
Yeah, this deck looks dumb in multiple meanings of the word. But give it a try! You get to count mana (in Standard) and have a lot of fun trying to piece out this puzzle. It's actually a fairly difficult deck to play and probably won't win you as much as if you played Caryatid with the more usual suspects.
Khans of Tarkir is here! It seems I have chosen a clan and have ideas for the three classic archetypes of decks: Aggro, Control, and Combo.
Now it's your turn to come up with some of your own!