Before moving onto the decks, I would like to begin by thanking everyone for their support last weekend at Grand Prix Cleveland. I had been stuck in a rut of middling finishes that through a swift attitude adjustment and several fortunate games I was able to break. I am now locked in for Silver after Pro Tour Magic Origins and can look forward to making a push towards Gold if not this year, then certainly the next.
As a cost of grinding Grand Prix over the last two months, I had to sacrifice my standing in Season One of the Open Series. After Pro Tour Fate Reforged I had already fallen significantly behind Jim Davis and felt it more prudent to focus on pro points and worry about later seasons or an at-large bid as my path to return to the Players' Championship. Jim made this decision look even better by continuing to dominate the Open Series, making what was once a four or five man race into a runaway before the Season One Invitational next weekend in Richmond. Congrats, Jim. You deserve it.
Still, I am going to need to pick up plenty of points over the next month where I plan on playing several Opens (Syracuse, Providence, and Cleveland) after the Invitational before returning to the Grand Prix circuit in May. All three of those Opens feature the Standard format so gaining an early edge with Dragons of Tarkir is crucial. To that end, this week's article will feature some of my early brews, while next week's will have commentary on how these decks performed as well as more tuned lists after a week of testing.
Note that while I discuss sideboarding, all these decks are presented without explicit sideboards because I still do not have a reliable gauntlet. Next week's article will delve deeper into sideboarding as my expected picture of post-DTK Standard becomes clearer.
The first deck I have is an update on the Jeskai deck that has been a contender at various times since the inception of Khans Standard. The deck performed very well last weekend at the Dallas Open as a response to G/W Devotion and is thus poised to emerge again.
In an article I wrote two weeks ago evaluating the early DTK spoilers, a commentator noted that Narset Transcendent would fit nicely into the Jeskai shell as a means to dig for powerful removal and card draw spells and then rebound them. The high starting loyalty on Narset is also perfect for this deck since it typically will not want to expend many resources protecting it, instead favoring a more aggressive gameplan. Any resources your opponent devotes to attacking Narset translate into more attack steps for your creatures and more draw steps in which to find burn. The list I currently have is as follows:
With only 22 hits for Narset in the maindeck this may be a little light, but before sideboarding I am more concerned with using the -2 ability, which is what motivated the inclusion of a singleton Jeskai Charm. With a typical control plan in the sideboard you could easily make Narset's +1 a reasonable card advantage engine, but Outpost Siege is so powerful that you still likely want access to it. Still, it's possible that Narset fits well enough into this shell that you no longer need the edge gained by the transformational sideboard.
The even split between Valorous Stance and Roast was motivated by my desire to test the latter. Roast has the ability to kill smaller creatures, whereas Stance can protect your own threats, and the latter is likely more relevant given the abundance of cheap removal already in the deck.
With an additional answer to Siege Rhino in Roast and the additional card advantage from Narset as a means to fight midrange and control decks, I could very easily see Jeskai making the leap from metagame deck to perennial contender.
My next deck is an attempt to find the best home for Dromoka's Command. While it will typically function as an undercosted Hunt the Weak, the extra modes on Dromoka's Command are both useful enough to make the card a potential staple of the format. At various times in Khans Standard players have played enchantment removal in the maindeck, so gaining it for essentially no opportunity cost is perfect. The other mode can set up some huge tempo swings against the powerful red removal spells in the format.
The obvious home for Dromoka's Command is Abzan Aggro. An aggressive deck filled with creatures that are large enough to fight effectively seems perfect, but it is frequently difficult for a deck with as many lands that enter the battlefield tapped as that one to play multiple spells in one turn, and Command will likely be best played on turns 4 or 5 to expand an early advantage. Thus, I eschewed the black since G/W has access to enough removal already, and you drastically improve the fluidity of the deck's mana.
- 2 Den Protector
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Fleecemane Lion
- 4 Heir of the Wilds
- 4 Warden of the First Tree
- 2 Wingmate Roc
- 4 Boon Satyr
- 4 Surrak, the Hunt Caller
Between Warden, Fleecemane, and Boon Satyr we have many ways to mitigate flood, which is incredibly important for an aggressive deck with 25 lands and mana creatures. Surrak is a serviceable replacement for Siege Rhino since it should almost always have haste in this deck and is large enough to fight a Rhino when aided by a +1/+1 counter from Dromoka's Command.
I used the last two slots on Den Protector over extra Wingmate Rocs for two reasons. First, Wingmate Roc may be difficult to cast on only fifteen white sources. Second, Den Protector is a great way to increase removal density in a deck that does not typically have space for much interaction. As a minor note, Den Protector is a nice target for Boon Satyr's bestow.
Hunt the Hunter is a great sideboard option against devotion decks to kill mana creatures and possibly larger creatures with your own fatties. You will also want more Wingmate Rocs to fly over a clogged ground. This deck will likely struggle against End Hostilities and Crux of Fate, so my testing with it will focus on fighting control strategies. The Elvish Mystics decrease your threat density against removal-heavy decks, but the added speed and better/less painful mana should make up for that against more aggressive decks.
This next deck is a rehash of a deck I brewed around the release of Khans of Tarkir: Mono-White Devotion. The primary issues the old list had were the weaknesses of its early creatures and lack of interaction. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Valorous Stance fill those roles admirably so I would like to revisit this idea to see if there is something there. Drawing heavily on my initial list I arrived at the following:
- 2 Hidden Dragonslayer
- 3 Ojutai Exemplars
- 4 Wingmate Roc
- 4 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
- 4 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 2 Ephara, God of the Polis
- 1 Heliod, God of the Sun
Mastery of the Unseen is another great addition to the deck, giving it an excellent mana sink and resilience to sweepers as well as synergizing nicely with Anafenza and the anthems. I am trying a couple copies of Hidden Dragonslayer as a convenient way to increase my ability to interact without interfering with my desire to play to the board, much like Den Protector in the G/W Aggro list.
Ojutai Exemplars is an interesting card that has not received much press for a mythic rare because it is tough to find a home for an aggressive creature that rewards you for playing with non-creature cards. This shell seems to have the necessary tools to leverage all of its abilities, especially the lifelink against aggressive decks to buy time for your devotion engine to take over the game.
I kept the light splash for Ephara which works well with Brimaz and gives the deck a much needed source of card advantage. The high density of enchantments is somewhat worrisome if removal for them becomes more popular, but in decks like this you need to maximize your power level with every slot. This deck was super fun to play the first time and has some incredible draws, so I am excited to see if the new cards turn it into a contender.
The last brew I have today is my attempt to find a home for Sarkhan Unbroken. The card is obviously powerful but does not slot easily into the current aggressively-slanted Temur decks. However, I believe the card may be powerful enough to demand a home to be built for it, which is certainly possible with the Caryatid + Courser shell and the printing of Roast giving you an easy answer to a wide swath of creatures.
This list may actually have too much card advantage, and Outpost Siege is not at its best here with all the planeswalkers. I will definitely err towards adding more removal if the deck seems too slow. Wild Slash is particularly good because it can be used on the same turn you cast Sarkhan. There is not much special going on here, just a pile of good cards with removal, planeswalkers, and creatures that can play defense before attacking.
This deck may struggle with opposing Stormbreath Dragons, especially if it kills your Kiora on its first attack. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is a reasonable answer there, but with all the other fliers introduced with this set it is likely you want a more flexible answer for various dragons, such as Plummet. Anger of the Gods is a solid option for lower curve aggressive decks and devotion strategies. Against control I would prefer having some counterspells to force through the many great threats the deck already has, so some combination of Disdainful Stroke and Negate are likely good.
Now this deck likely is not competitive, but you never know. The wackiest ideas can sometimes pan out if someone believes in them.
I am not sure if this deck wants to be more controlling or aggressive, but it certainly needs to move in one of those directions. I am leaning control since that leads to better sequencing. In an aggressive shell you try to land threats first, which would make the damage enchantments less effective. In a control shell you can sculpt your pseudo-combo while dealing with opposing threats and then set up huge turns once you have amassed a reasonable number of lands. As such, it is possible that Goblin Rabblemaster should be replaced by more reactive cards, but I could not pass up such a powerful card in the initial build.