So let me get this straight. The latest set is about how Sarkhan travels back in time to Tarkir's past in order to save Ugin from dying in his battle with Nicol Bolas so he can reshape the future and bring dragons back to the plane?
This sounds like it's right up my alley.
I'm actually a little disappointed that the upcoming Pro Tour is Modern rather than Standard, simply because I've been having a blast in the current Standard format, and I'd love to play more of it at a high level. The good news is that because the Pro Tour is Modern, I don't have to be tight lipped about any of my Standard ideas. So today I'm going to share some of my brews with you!
One card that has gotten a very mixed reception from reviewers is Tasigur, the Golden Fang. I've seen quite a few people claiming that the card is just too slow and too weak to have much potential, while to others it's one of the most exciting cards in the set. I'm in the latter camp.
Tasigur is the first really exciting delve creature we've seen in Khans block. Necropolis Fiend, Hooting Mandrills, and company out of the first set were all overcosted for what they did, especially when the alternative is using your graveyard to cast things like Murderous Cut, Treasure Cruise, and Dig Through Time. It was a little weird to me that all of the top delve cards in Khans were removal spells and card drawing - two of the latter with the exact same converted mana cost, no less. It seems like creatures are both a much safer and much cooler way to leverage the delve mechanic, since they can be interacted with through normal means, and creature decks don't naturally fill their graveyard nearly as quickly as spell heavy decks. Not to mention that drawing on the power of your graveyard to summon powerful creatures is a lot better story than…whatever it is you're doing on a Treasure Cruise.
Anyway, enough of that. Here's some ideas on how to use Tasigur:
- 3 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Siege Rhino
- 4 Soul of Theros
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Wingmate Roc
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
- 2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
This deck is an adaptation of a list used by Chris Anderson to win a PTQ in Columbus, Ohio. The deck aims to exploit many of the most powerful cards in Standard across four colors, ramping into both Siege Rhino and Sidisi, Blood Tyrant at four mana. Sidisi and Commune with the Gods both fill your graveyard with fuel for Murderous Cut and Tasigur, along with the game-breaking Soul of Theros.
Tasigur acts as a lategame card advantage engine, as well as a potentially significantly undercosted threat in the midgame. Being able to cast a 4/5 creature for just a single mana can be a huge tempo swing, much like Murderous Cut removing a creature for the same cost. If you play a Sidisi off of a mana accelerant and a fetchland on turn 3, and your opponent kills it, on your fourth turn you can play both Siege Rhino and Tasigur. That's a pretty huge swing.
One interesting thing about Tasigur is that he makes you think strategically about what cards you want to remove with delve. Because your opponent chooses which card you return with each Tasigur activation, and they can only choose non-lands, you'll want to remove your lowest impact cards first. In this deck, for instance, you probably want to prioritize removing mana accelerants, followed by Courser of Kruphix, leaving you with heavy hitters like Siege Rhino and Wingmate Roc, as well as utility spells like Murderous Cut, depending on the matchup.
Unfortunately, this deck probably isn't going to be well-positioned in week one of the Fate Reforged metagame, since Abzan Aggro was the deck to beat at the tail end of Khans. Anafenza is absolutely brutal for this deck, shutting down Sidisi's triggered ability as well as stifling your ability to pay delve costs.
This deck is probably more like something I would try out week one:
- 2 Fanatic of Xenagos
- 4 Heir of the Wilds
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Savage Knuckleblade
- 4 Shaman of the Great Hunt
- 3 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Boon Satyr
- 2 Yasova Dragonclaw
I previously abandoned Temur for G/R at Grand Prix Denver, but I'm reconsidering my allegiance once more. Why? Shaman of the Great Hunt. Shaman seems like an absolute monster of a card that can snowball any early advantage into a victory. Prior to Shaman, an aggressive version of Temur could get in some early damage against a deck like Abzan but would find itself outclassed once the Rhino parade started rolling into town. With Shaman of the Great Hunt though, your early hits can start piling +1/+1 counters on your creatures, giving them the oomph to press on even once Siege Rhino hits the table.
While you can certainly play Shaman in straight G/R, I think it is more at home in Temur. Shaman is at its best when you have a lot of naturally large cheap creatures that your opponent is unlikely to be able to block early on, which means it works particularly well with Savage Knuckleblade. Having more cheap creatures with naturally high power also means that you can better utilize the Shaman's card drawing ability in games that go long.
Shaman is also great with Heir of the Wilds. Heir is a card that your opponents will often have a difficult time blocking, since it can trade up with anything thanks to deathtouch. If your opponent has a Courser of Kruphix - as so many opponents seem to - your Shaman will trigger your Heir's ferocious ability to make it a 3/3, so your opponent can only chump block, and then Shaman will give Heir a +1/+1 counter when it gets through. In just a couple hits, the Heir will be big enough to trigger its own ferocious power.
This particular desire to keep connecting with the opponent's face makes me want to play more removal than usual, which explains the three copies of Lighting Strike alongside the three Crater's Claws. More than most similar builds, this deck wants to be able to clear the way on the ground for Shaman and friends, so it's even possible that you want more ways to break through - which is why there are some creative choices in the sideboard.
You read that right - Void Snare. Now, I could be completely crazy, but Void Snare seems like a great card if games against other creature decks can be decided by powerful tempo plays like bouncing your opponent's blocker and swinging in to get a bunch of Shaman triggers. It also conveniently doubles as a way to shut down a pumped Heroic creature for just a single mana. Remember when Vapor Snag was oppressing Standard in Delver decks? This is just like that! Okay, maybe not quite, since I don't have any three power fliers for one mana, six power half-fliers for three mana, or Snapcaster Mage - but still! Shaman of the Great Hunt makes connecting with your opponent's face extra-valuable, which makes me want to try to find cheap and efficient ways to make that happen.
This deck also has some other neat tricks, like Boon Satyr pumping Yasova to let you steal whatever opposing creature you might want, or just getting a Shaman trigger with Yasova to let you actually take opposing Rhinos. I guess all the trickiness is with Yasova and Shaman, and the rest is just good old-fashioned face smashing - and who doesn't like that?
If you're not sold on Temur and want to go the Gruul route, there's this version:
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Fanatic of Xenagos
- 4 Heir of the Wilds
- 2 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Shaman of the Great Hunt
- 3 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Boon Satyr
- 2 Yasova Dragonclaw
This deck sacrifices the power of Savage Knuckleblade for the speed of Elvish Mystic and the consistency of a two-color manabase. This is pretty much a straight update to my Grand Prix Denver deck, with Shaman of the Great Hunt and Yasova Dragonclaw taking the place of Goblin Rabblemaster and Ashcloud Phoenix, and Wild Slash helping fill out the sideboard.
It's possible that I'm crazy to cut Rabblemaster, especially with its potential synergy with Shaman of the Great Hunt - each goblin getting bigger every time it hits! That said, Rabblemaster was the worst performing card in my entire deck all weekend. The one time I actually played it on the second turn off of an Elvish Mystic, it was great, but every time I drew it when I lost the die roll or was even the slightest bit behind on the board, it was downright terrible. I sideboarded it out in almost every creature matchup when I was on the draw, which is certainly not something that I would tend to do with most cards.
One card that I've strongly considered but have not included is Flamewake Phoenix. The Phoenix is pretty attractive as a repeated evasive source of damage, and it matches up well against a lot of decks that are full of removal spells and ground creatures. That said, it's a terrible defensive play in a format that I expect may skew quite aggressive. Between the new Soulfire Grand Master and Monastery Mentor, I would be shocked if Jeskai wasn't one of the most popular decks in the first few weeks of Fate Reforged Standard, and a 2/2 flier that has to attack every turn isn't exactly the most exciting card against that style of deck.
Preparing for the new Jeskai decks is precisely why I have the full four copies of Wild Slash in the sideboard. All three of Seeker of the Way, Soulfire Grand Master, and Monastery Mentor are excellent targets for the new and improved Shock. And while Polukranos does not match up well against black removal, it is excellent against red decks, which is why three copies of the World Eater are waiting in the sideboard. Hydras like eating puny white creatures.
The last card that I really want to build a deck around is Brutal Hordechief. I'm not entirely sure how the deck ought to look just yet, but I think starting with the Mardu Midrange shell that was popular this past season is a reasonable jumping on point:
This is basically just an adaptation of Brad Nelson's old Mardu deck that trades Sorin and one copy of Wingmate Roc for four copies of Brutal Hordechief. The Hordechief works exceptionally well with Hordeling Outburst and Goblin Rabblemaster, triggering the life drain effect with every token attack. That can stand to end games very quickly if left unchecked, especially with all of the damage a lot of decks deal to themselves in this format.
On top of its ability to end games in the early turns, Brutal Hordechief can close things out in games that go long too, thanks to its activated ability. With so much removal, Mardu has the tools to play long games, and Brutal Hordechief is another trick up its sleeve. If you have enough mana, you can simply play and activate Brutal Hordechief and force your opponent to make terrible blocks when you attack that turn, either outright killing them or at least rendering them crippled.
I'm not totally sold on whether the 3/3 body for four mana will ultimately be good enough to earn its keep in Standard, but Brutal Hordechief has a powerful collection of abilities that work very well together. I would not be surprised to see it help put Mardu back on the Standard map.
What do you think? What new deck are you looking to sleeve up for your next Standard event?