This past week saw both Modern and Legacy get shaken up quite a bit with the recent banned and restricted announcement. Modern had three of its top performing cards axed (Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Birthing Pod), while Legacy just had one. However, it was the big one:
With Treasure cruise gone, the format will certainly get shaken up, but maybe not as much as you may think. About two weeks ago I went to battle at the Open Series in Philadelphia with two of my friends, Josh Taylor and Ted Felicetti. Both of them did not have that much experience in Legacy, so I decided to spend extra time to help build their decks and discuss strategy with them. They were excited for my input, and they both decided to play decks I previously wrote about. Josh played Angel Prison (you can read about ithere or watch Josh's deck tech), while Ted decided to play the Abzan Midrange deck I wrote about leading into the event.
I was excited that they both wanted to give the decks I wrote about a try, and I was really pulling for both of them. Ted had some decent success as he made day two but just missed out on making the money. Josh was on a tear early, but picked up a few late round losses and finished with a solid money finish. Josh admitted that if he knew the format a bit better, a few of his losses would have been avoided. Regardless, I was super proud of him on his strong finish.
As happy as I was for my two friends, I was just as disappointed with my finish. I ended up playing Sultai Control to a tenth place finish, which I normally would be really happy about. However, a costly mistake in game 3 of the final round cost me top 8 and left a bitter taste in my mouth. I was sad, disappointed, and angry all at the same time. The only thing I was actually happy about after the tournament was the list I played.
After the loss I went to get dinner at Moe's Mexican Grill with Josh and Will Parshall. After some good chats, I started to feel better and knew I wanted to continue to improve as a player and just figured that it would be best to use this as a learning experience. I plan on playing in the Standard Open this weekend, but if things don't work out for me, I'll be playing in the Legacy Premier IQ on Sunday and would feel comfortable with either Sultai or Angel Prison. Though I was quite happy with the list I got tenth place with in Philly, with Treasure Cruise exiting the format, some things need to be changed:
As you can see, this list is pretty close to the one I played in Philadelphia, with only a few minor changes. With the banning of Treasure Cruise, a handful of decks that previously fell off the radar will almost assuredly make a comeback. Two decks that stick out to me the most are Jeskai Delver and Temur Delver. Both decks were big players prior to Treasure Cruise and not much has changed. It seems that there's a good amount of talk of Wasteland and Stifle making their return in Legacy and both fit very nicely in those decks. In addition, I think Miracles will rise in popularity, as the deck already played Dig Through Time over Treasure Cruise, and not having to fight against opposing Treasure Cruises will make things much easier. Lastly, I feel Pyroblast in players' maindecks will become less common because there are no Treasure Cruises to fight over.
All of these factors make playing Sultai a great choice moving forward.
Taking a look at my decklist, I decided to change things up a bit by adding an Echoing Truth to the sideboard. One of my opponents at SCG Philly had a copy in his sideboard, and we talked about the utility it provides. I think where I want it most is in the Miracles matchup, as having a solid instant speed answer to Entreat the Angels is really important. I had one copy of Pernicious Deed in my sideboard for a while, but it never really impressed me. It doesn't have the upside of being able to remove to Force of Will, and sometimes it's a strain on your board presence. Another upside to Echoing Truth is that you can use it on planeswalkers, whether it's to handle theirs or to save yours.
The other card that was added to the maindeck was Force of Will. I'm normally not a big fan of Force of Will, since it normally leads to card disadvantage, but since I also added a second copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor to the maindeck, coupled with the fact that U/R Delver will presumably decrease in popularity, starting two copies seems fine to me. To make room for Force of Will, I decided to let go of the two copies of True-Name Nemesis, since that was the card I would almost always take out after game 1. Don't get me wrong, TNN is a fantastic card, but without equipment or ways to increase the clock, I feel it's just not needed.
Overall I'm a huge Sultai enthusiast! I enjoy playing these types of midrange controlling decks in Legacy and have a large amount of experience with them. If you also enjoy discard, card draw, and counters, I suggest you try out this build of Sultai, though it is very difficult to play, and the exact configuration is constantly changing.
Now that I have covered Plan B (Legacy), let's talk about Plan A (Standard). I really enjoy when a new set comes out and shakes up a format, but I'm not certain that Standard will be impacted heavily with the addition of Fate Reforged. I'm currently set on playing Sultai and have been for some time now, but finding a build I really like is tough to do because there are so many options. Initially, I looked into playing a list with Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid, as they're the consensus best green cards in Standard, but I quickly realized that I wanted to give Crux of Fate a try, and neither creature combos well with the sweeper. After talking to a few more friends about Sultai, this is where I'm at for this weekend:
- 2 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
- 1 Garruk, Apex Predator
- 2 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
- 1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
This take on Sultai definitely has some interesting card choices, but I think for the most part they all play an important role with how the deck is built. The main way I expect to win game 1 is through my planeswalkers. In order for this to happen, I have to make sure I'm able to handle any threat my opponent will throw at me. Between Bile Blight, Hero's Downfall, Crux of Fate, and Sultai Charm, I'm confident that I can answer almost any permanent that hits play.
Thoughtseize and Rakshasa's Secret play a few roles. Both help disrupt your opponent's gameplan by limiting their resources while also fueling your graveyard for help with delve spells. Rakshasa's Secret also seems particularly strong against any Jeskai-style deck, as they often need all their cards to set up their plan. In addition, Thoughtseize is a great way to make sure the coast is clear for your planeswalkers.
Disdainful Stroke in the maindeck and Negate in the sideboard helps to keep your opponent's spells in check at a very cheap cost. I would like to play Dissolve, but I think it is a bit tough on the mana. In a lot of cases, Disdainful Stroke will be able to handle whatever Dissolve would have wanted to anyway.
Since this will be the first tournament with Fate Reforged, there might be a few scenarios you didn't anticipate, and I built my sideboard with this thought in mind. Feed the Clan is here to help combat any burn type strategy or when you are facing a deck that might get you low early on. It may seem like a weak card, but that is not necessarily the case. In one of my interviews from the Players' Championship, I stated that Thoughtseize is a type of card that makes your other cards better. I feel this holds true for Feed the Clan as well. With all of your card-drawing spells, Feed the Clan helps out with your life total so you have a better chance of being able to play all your good spells that you have drawn. The deck can definitely use some form of lifegain, and I think Feed the Clan may just be the best option. The surprise factor can also give you an edge, as most people won't really be expecting it. It's also not all that unlikely that you'll be able to turn on ferocious, since in the matchups where you're going to bring it in, you're likely to bring in Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Rakshasa Deathdealer along with it.
So that's my take on Legacy and Standard for the weekend. I want to try and come prepared for whatever is going to be thrown at me, and though my lists may move around a bit before it's game time, I'm pretty comfortable with where I'm at heading into Washington DC. Hopefully I'll see you there, but if not, long live Sultai!