Frustrated with the format? Maybe.
Addicted to it? Can't really deny that.
After getting my first taste of Khans of Tarkir, I have been working extra hard on Standard decks in hopes of finding something I would be extremely happy with for this weekend's Open Series in New Jersey. Trust me, there is a lot to take in when a format completely rotates: new cards hit the scene, some cards that were not previously played become all-stars, and some cards that were once dominant become barely playable.
Many questions also come up and many obstacles arise during deckbuilding. For example, what should my sideboard look like? How do I start building a deck without four copies of Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid? What cards do I want to build around? When is Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver going to hit $30?
A few weeks back I wrote about how an Abzan graveyard deck will be a big player in Standard. With new powerful delve cards, big monsters in the form of Hornet Queen and Ashen Rider, along with easy access for getting cards in your graveyard including See the Unwritten, the sky's the limit.
Last night I continued to playtest and work on the deck with previous Invitational winner, Erik Smith. After fidgeting around with the numbers and a few card choices, I found that the deck was good, but it was still missing something. It felt like I wanted to play 75 cards in the maindeck because there were so many cards I wanted to give a shot. Cards like Satyr Wayfinder are forced into the deck because of the synergy, but that leaves less room for more powerful cards I would rather play, like Thoughtseize.
Even though the deck was solid, more testing showed that it was nothing too special, as I split most of the matches I played with Erik. One main thing that I learned was how powerful Hornet Queen actually was. Erik was playing a G/R Devotion deck that can have huge turns which would swing the game heavily in his favor. This was normally due to the power of Xenagos, the Reveler ticking up or a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx activation into a giant Genesis Hydra. Some games were very close, but eventually they only came down to Hornet Queen for two main reasons:
- Erik's threats were spread out over many creatures, and it was too tough to either break through or blunt the assault.
- Since Hornet Queen acts as five creatures instead of one, Erik's next Xenagos activation would be even bigger, and he would follow up with a second Genesis Hydra or a Polukranos, World Eater activation so big that my board would be wiped out.
G/R Devotion is clearly a big contender in the format. Since I expect it to be popular, I decided to try to figure out the best way to attack their gameplan. My thought process was to build something that could both apply pressure and have a fair amount of disruption in the form of Thoughtseize alongside efficient removal spells. I put together three decks that match up fairly well against not only G/R Devotion but also against the decks that I expect to see early in the season. But with three decks to choose from and the Open Series in New Jersey being just a day away, what should I do?
Stay up all night and test or listen to you each and every one of you?
This works out perfectly! If I win I have you guys to thank and the win would be for all of us. If I lose then I'll have you guys to…..
What I'm saying is that we aren't going to lose! At the end of this article, make sure you vote on what I should play, as the voting will end Friday at midnight. The deck with the most votes will be what I play this weekend.
First up is Abzan Midrange!
This is a pretty straightforward list that I have been very comfortable with and have a good amount of confidence in. There's nothing really too innovative here. The list pretty much builds itself as it plays all of the best black, green, and white cards in the format. Thoughtseize is a card I know I want to play four of, as it's most likely still the best card in Standard. My thought process is that the more powerful cards become, the better Thoughtseize becomes. Being able to hit a planeswalker before it comes down and has an impact on the board is extremely important; so important, in fact, that I added a couple of Despise to the sideboard to bring in against the midrange planeswalker decks.
The deck is pretty solid against everything, with most of your games being fairly close, win or lose. The deck doesn't have a real engine like some devotion decks and is more just a pile of rares and mythics mixed together, but those rares and mythics are really powerful. As far as uncommons go, Abzan Charm is one of the best to come out of Khans of Tarkir and is one of the main draws to play this deck due to its versatility.
As far as the mana goes, it hasn't been an issue yet. Because this deck has four copies of Mana Confluence, casting the multi-colored spells is rarely difficult. It's unfortunate that this will take a toll on your life total, but you have ways to gain life in the deck like Siege Rhino. Remember: if there's an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in play, you have the option of tapping Mana Confluence for a black mana without taking any damage. This interaction almost made me play two copies of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, and it's actually something that I'm still considering.
The other difference you may notice about this build of Abzan compared to others is that I've gone for more of a mana ramp version with Elvish Mystic rather than Fleecemane Lion as I feel the Lion gets outclassed pretty quickly and doesn't speed you up to your bigger threats. Overall, this is what I feel to be a pretty solid deck that plays powerful cards and has a solid chance against the expected field of midrange, aggressive, and devotion decks.
The next deck that I put a fair amount of time into, and I have a great amount of experience with, is Esper Control. As you may know, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is my favorite planeswalker, and I wanted to try an Esper shell with it for the new format:
This is a deck that really fits my play style and one that I have a great deal of experience with. The draw to this deck is being able to play a control game by having a lot of answers to what I think the metagame will look like this weekend. Because cards like Abrupt Decay and Detention Sphere are out of the format, Ashiok gets much better because it's less likely to removed. I also feel Esper Control won't really be on many people's radar, and they won't really know what to expect when playing against it. I really think Green Devotion decks will be extremely popular and having access to counters, discard, and mass removal is a good way to attack their plan.
The drawback to playing Esper is that it could be a bit slow, and without Sphinx's Revelation, the deck might not be able to come back as well as it used to. Dig Through Time is a great card, but it's not on the same power level of Sphinx's Revelation. On the other hand, the opposing decks might not be as streamlined and powerful as they were last season, so it's just really difficult to tell whether or not Esper will be a good choice.
Which is why I'm having you decide!
The final deck I have been working on and would be excited to play is an aggressive Mardu deck. I really wanted to call it Team Italia but Cedric will like me better if I call it Mardu. [CEDitors Note: Good job GFabs!]
Black, white, red has always been a color combination I have enjoyed playing, but for a while now it wasn't really a viable deck due to its lack of very powerful cards. But with the introduction of Khans of Tarkir, that has all changed:
This is the deck that I have the least experience with. I wanted to build a midrange Mardu deck, but none of the builds were working out for me so I decided to take a more aggressive route. I think this deck has the potential to really shine, and there are many cards that could go into this shell, but I wanted to try to keep the curve low while still having enough power to compete against the other midrange decks in the field.
Now it all lies in your hands. I'm willing to play any of these decks this weekend at the Open Series in New Jersey, so make sure you vote and let me know why you chose what you did!