So we've had some time to digest Khans of Tarkir Standard now, right?
Oh, there have only been two Standard Opens?
Huh...guess that's not really that much to digest, is it?
Well, I suppose that means that we still have some time to brew before the tuned metagame forces us to grow tired of Standard yet again. (It's going to happen, as hard as it is to believe. Remember: there was a time that you thought Pack Rat was a novel idea in Mono-Black Devotion.) The best part? The wide open nature of the format allows us to have some fun at Autumn States this weekend! I don't need to make sure that I'm all tuned up and ready to go; I can bring a deck that's fundamentally sound and that I know inside and out and reasonably expect to do well.
So let's take a look at what that might entail.
The last time we met , we discussed how we could use Jeskai Ascendancy in Standard these days. While the deck isn't close to approaching the power level of the Ascendancy deck in Modern that's all the rage these days, it's still something that's quite fun to play and is potent in a metagame that doesn't expect it. After my last article came out, I stumbled upon a much more enchantment-centric version of the deck that aimed to use Eidolon of Blossoms as a backup way to generate advantage. It also allowed us to run Kruphix's Insight to dig further for Jeskai Ascendancy.
Here's that list, for reference (and no, I'm not claiming I'm the one behind all of these ideas):
The initial list was sent to me two weeks ago after my article made its way onto the interwebs and I immediately liked what was going on; however, one of my biggest issues was the need to have the mana creatures in play prior to going off with the initial version of the deck. Enter Hammerhand and Twinflame: now, when I start to go off with as little as one creature in play, I can actually win that turn, something that wasn't actually possible before.
I'm not here to talk about Jeskai Ascendancy again, though; truth be told, I could go on for days, as I have a blast playing the deck, but I want to cover some different ideas today. Let's start with the weirdest one and work our way back, shall we?
Five-Color Ramp (aka "The Aintrazi")
The catalyst for this deck was a reader of my previous article mentioning a deck idea to me that made me realize a "combo" of sorts:
Most everyone immediately picked up what I'm putting down here, but to review: you cast Narset, Enlightened Master one turn (it lives to the next one due to Hexproof and the lack of a good sweeper effect in the format right now), then cast Liliana Vess and immediately use the -2 ability to find whatever you want to cast for free.
Maybe...one of these?
Notice how Narset simply specifies "non-creature", not "instant and sorcery" (as I previously assumed). This means that we can play a ramp style deck that has the ability to just cast big, fat, game-changing spells for the low, low cost of free. With Liliana, we even have the option of finding exactly what we want to cast the turn we want to cast it.
The one thing that bothers me is the fact that you have to obey timing rules with Narset, meaning I can't find that In Garruk's Wake and cast it before blocks. I still think it's a fine card and, if we wanted, we could even include something like Fated Return to find with Liliana to ensure that our Narset would never leave us hanging.
Enough jibber jabber, let's get that list:
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Narset, Enlightened Master
- 1 Keranos, God of Storms
My god, that's a lot to take in all at once. Even though we're playing five colors, if you look, the red requirement is minimal (Narset and Karanos, God of Storms is all we need red for), so we can focus on the other four colors in our mana base.
This deck is a fun concept to work on; as many of you know, I've wanted to find a good shell for Courser of Kruphix + Kiora, the Crashing Wave for a while now, and this gives me a decent chance of saying "I found one." Include a Keranos for good measure with your fun and it's heavenly and divine, the card advantage.
Also: I finally found a deck I was comfortable including Garruk, Apex Predator in, as we can either focus on casting it or we can simply cheat it into play with Narset. Plus, it's not like we need Liliana to make Narset do some serious work for us; 40% of our deck consists of non-creature, non-land cards, putting us close to two out of four of our top cards being "hits." Add in the fact that Courser of Kruphix will be doing work to ensure there aren't lands on top and the Temples playing an important role in this process as well and we've upped our chances considerably.
This is one that I'll try working on initially as the season matures, but it's not the only deck I've had on my mind.
Oddly enough, this idea started with two cards that are no longer in the list, Hardened Scales and Retribution of the Ancients. I thought that, with Retribution of the Ancients, if I could get dependable counter generation, it would be a very good card. It still may be, but I'm normally not a fan of cards that actually do nothing on their own without the help of other cards, as you always think of the times where your favorite card did serious work in conjunction with other cards, but you never think of the time you plunked Retribution of the Ancients down on turn 1, had it do nothing the entire game, and lost while your opponent was at one life.
The same goes for Hardened Scales, obviously, so despite my best attempt to make Scales work with Sage of Hours and Retribution work with Scourge of Skola Vale and Bane of Heroes, I eventually moved away from that concept altogether.
That's not to say that I moved away from +1/+1 counters; in fact, I want to get more of that going on and I want them to stay on my creatures.
- 1 Abzan Falconer
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
Between Raise the Alarm, Triplicate Spirits, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion, we have ample token production to supplement the usual green suspects (the law firm of Courser, Mystic, and Caryatid). To top that off, we have Abzan Ascendancy, which easily fits in with our token plan on both ends of the stick and Ascendancy's big brother, Ajani Steadfast.
Yes, I do realize that Sorin, Solemn Visitor is in these colors, but for what I'm trying to do, Ajani Steadfast is simply better if you ask me. However, those aren't the cards I'm most excited about in this list. That honor goes to a couple of Chord of Calling tutor targets:
With the counter generation of Ascendancy and Ajani Steadfast, Abzan Falconer has the ability to provide a surprising amount of reach if we're able to jump our team over the opponent's defenses. However, even that isn't as exciting as surprising our opponent with an instant-speed Ob Nixilis in response to a fetchland activation.
"Oh, take eleven...dead yet?"
The "sacrifice a creature" just feels like you're trolling your opponent at that point, and this act growing Ob Nixilis is just rubbing it in.
Not Par for the Courser
OK, I know, everything I've listed so far has had four copies of Sylvan Caryatid in the list somewhere. Well, I'm going to deviate a bit and exclude not only Sylvan Caryatid, but green mana completely.
This is the general list I was looking at developing for Jeskai Tempo when Khans of Tarkir was first released. The idea here is that Prowess is actually just a broken concept if you properly abuse it and I intend to try:
The big card here that I want to call out is Twinflame. Now, this is a card that I never really gave any thought to before a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I honestly forgot it existed until I saw this list:
Andrew Baeckstrom's Ascendancy Combo list that placed eleventh in the Standard Open in Indianapolis has gotten quite a bit of attention (within a couple of hours of being posted, it had well over triple digit "likes" without it receiving official advertisement from anyone, showing Magic players' desires for fun in Standard again), and rightfully so. This is a deck that almost everyone wrote off, and he showed them what could be done in the hands of a skilled pilot. But the part of his list that I absolutely loved the most was his inclusion of Twinflame.
This card was exactly what Ascendancy wanted and needed. I was worried about how I could go off with only one or two mana creatures, but Twinflame easily solves that problem without having to up the creature count (something to be mindful of when you need non-creature spells to trigger Ascendancy). I started playing around with the card in that list and was so impressed I actually thought to create another deck just for Twinflame to fit into.
That list is the one you see above; with Twinflame, you can continue pressing your advantage over your opponent by copying a Seeker of the Way for more damage or you can use Twinflame to get another Heliod's Pilgrim trigger. Even getting a second Goblin Rabblemaster for one combat step can be devastating (but you have to keep in mind that your original will now have to attack as well).
About that Heliod's Pilgrim: I've been trying to fit this card into everything and I think I've finally found a list in which I'm comfortable including a couple. I originally had three, but three mana for a Squire isn't a good value and the amount of mana it takes to get a card and play it is higher than the amount of lands this deck truly wants to have in play.
That being said, between Pilgrim and Twinflame, you now have the ability to dig for whichever auras you need for the situation. Big creature got you down? Go find a Chained to the Rocks. Want to permanently dispose of that Courser of Kruphix? That's where Mortal Obstinacy comes into play. Want to push through damage? Hammerhand!!
Those are the decks I've been working on since the start of new Standard. I'm still curious as to what you guys and gals have been working on. I truly mean it too, as our interactions spawn numerous ideas that I pursue during my small windows of free time these days. Occasionally, like the Narset/ Liliana idea, these ideas make it all the way to seeing print here on StarCityGames.com.
So let me know how your ideas and creations are going now that you've had some time to work on them. Did your Sultai Reanimator deck end up working out? How about that Goblin list you were trying out?
This question also sparked another thought in my head that I want to ask your opinion on before we part ways again: if you have a competitive tournament coming up, something above the FNM level, and it's this early in the season, do you netdeck to try to optimize your chance of winning or do you take the opportunity to be creative before the format becomes a tuned killing machine?