At SCG Dallas, we saw that everyone in the room was determined not to let G/W Devotion drag out the event like it did at Grand Prix Miami. Sultai Control came out on top in the hands of Mike Miller, and we saw a resurgence of the more traditional Jeskai Aggro decks with Mantis Rider and sometimes Stormbreath Dragon as a means to blow past the huge ground creatures of G/W Devotion.
The way I went about the expected metagame was to dust off my W/U Heroic creatures and do what others had in mind - circumvent their creatures with evasion. I wanted to hit for large numbers with a hero wearing an Aqueous Form while having a plan to hit even harder past the ridiculous lifegain that Mastery of the Unseen can provide. To compete, there needed to be an element of double strike as seen by the recent popularity of Jeskai Heroic. Much like this list by Jason Crone:
I've never been a fan of stretching a manabase. I prefer the consistency that less colors bring, albeit at the sacrifice of raw power. I wanted a huge burst damage effect like Temur Battle Rage but without the painful mana and color requirements. After a bit of research I came across a few lists running Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest in their W/U Heroic decks, and it seemed like the perfect fit. I made a few alterations to my previous list, namely replacing some spells that cost two mana for some that cost only one in order to trigger Shu Yun with the cheapest spells possible.
This is what I came with to SCG Dallas:
I didn't get to play against any G/W Devotion decks and instead played a bunch of decks that also aimed to beat the draw-inducing menace. G/R Aggro, Jeskai Aggro, Four-color Soul…not matchups meant for maindeck Shu Yuns. One could blame my poor performance on poor matchups, but I went into the tournament knowing that Texas was a very aggro-centric area when it comes to metagames and that G/W Devotion wouldn't be as big as advertised.
Overall I was unimpressed with Shu Yun, and it feels like his spot is in the sideboard. I was siding him out in every matchup for Monastery Mentor, which was absolutely great every time it hit play. Although the deck doesn't want to go wide all of the time, it's good against all of the decks trying to kill every single one of your creatures. Monastery Mentor is basically the four-drop the deck wanted all along.
The maindeck Mortal Obstinacy (not Mortal's Ardor) was very good and never dead like a card like Erase can be. Its inclusion was mainly as another concession to G/W Devotion, but I was surprised by how many targets the card has. Anything from Outpost Siege, Jeskai Ascendency, Whip of Erebos, or a different Courser of Kruphix deck. Heck, it's even passable in the mirror.
What W/U Heroic Is Missing
Dragons of Tarkir is now officially completely spoiled, and it looks like there are plenty of new toys to try out. Never have I seen so many playable (or close to it) auras, and it looks like Wizards of the Coast is trying to make a push for something. It's unclear yet which auras will make the transition into Standard. All I can do is give them a little spotlight in playtesting and see how it goes. So let's quickly take a look at what I feel W/U Heroic has been lacking in the past before analyzing which cards from Dragons of Tarkir help the archetype.
You have little to no interaction with your opponent's creatures. Valorous Stance is fine but situational and can't be searched up with Heliod's Pilgrim. Chained to the Rocks is the best aura removal spell in Standard, but sadly, W/U Heroic can't access that without reconstructing the deck altogether.
Heliod's Pilgrim is good. It's a way to grind out attrition-based matchups and to find your most key aura when you need it. You can shave on auras like Ordeal of Heliod and Aqueous Form while still being relatively confident that you'll have access to them in any given game. Heliod's Pilgrim is good at blocking 1/1 creatures, most notably Goblin Rabblemaster tokens, and is good at chump-blocking larger creatures in a race.
What Heliod's Pilgrim is not good at is being a threat on its own. Fetching an Ordeal then trying to attack three times is way too slow. What Heliod's Pilgrim needs is a four-drop aura to curve into. As of now, Jeskai Runemark and Spectra Ward exist, but neither are that magical four that the deck desperately needs. If Marked by Honor was slightly better, it'd take the slot for sure.
The New Toys
Pacifism is a card that W/U Heroic has wanted for a long time. Formerly, if the deck was to play an aura that interacted with the opponent, it had to be Singing Bell Strike or Pin to the Earth. It's not good against every creature, but it hits enough. With Mantis Rider appearing in more and more decks, this is exactly the card I want access to game 1.
Mind Control would be great, but sadly, Illusory Gains isn't quite that. There is some chance that you play this on a lesser threatening creature and then your opponent is prevented from casting their better creature, but more often than not, Illusory Gains will be switched for a manifest or goblin token.
Auras have come a long way since Holy Strength. Similar to Hammerhand in that it provides a nice boost plus evasion, I can see Glaring Aegis being better than it looks at first glance. I believe that this card isn't a one-of that wants to be fetched, but rather a four-of in an aggressive shell that likely features a bunch of Seeker of the Ways and Shu Yun.
This one is pretty complicated to analyze. Gleam of Authority does a bunch of small things, none of which are worth the price of a card on their own but when clumped together, may be strong enough. The problem is that with W/U Heroic you often want to load up on a single creature rather than distribute your +1/+1 counters everywhere. I think the home for this card would be a Heroic shell with Phalanx Leader and some token generators like Monastery Mentor or Launch the Fleet.
Another blue pseudo-removal in the same vein as Singing Bell Strike, Pin to the Earth, and Encrust. If the metagame is just full of large bodies that you want to solve, you're better off with Valorous Stance. What a card like this needs to be good is make the target lose all abilities.
A strange little card. It plays a little bit like a Splinter Twin and a little bit like a Guard Duty. I'm not sure where this goes, but there could be a home in the long-term future in some deck. Splinter Twin, for example, was completely useless for a long time after it was first printed.
This has been in Standard the whole time and has always been inches away from playable in my opinion. The resurgence of Devotion strategies that gain huge amounts of life and likewise hit just as hard has brought a need for Heroic to dabble in double strike effects like Temur Battle Rage and Shu Yun. Currently I still feel that Battle Mastery just isn't a strong enough card to warrant a slot, even as just a sideboard one-of.
A reasonable one-of out of the sideboard. Encase in Ice is your best answer to Stormbreath Dragon. Sadly though the creatures in Standard aren't just big enough, and they tend come with various value effects like giving you free lands, manifest creatures, or draining for three life.
Not an aura, but worth mentioning. The more expensive of the command cycle are getting less attention, deservingly so. Ojutai's Command is rather situational. To want this card, you can't really sit around and wait for a two-for-one by countering a creature and drawing a card - you have to play it in a deck that can make use of the first mode. Even though it's one-mana more expensive than what I'd like on the curve, I can see Ojutai's Command pulling serious weight against decks like Mardu or Jeskai Aggro.
Heroic's New Face
All said, there are definitely quite a few options in Dragons of Tarkir to give W/U Heroic the extra push it needs to become tier 1. Without straying too far from what I know to be successful, this is what I'd play if there was a big new Standard tournament tomorrow (like the Season One Invitational):
- 4 Battlewise Hoplite
- 4 Favored Hoplite
- 4 Heliod's Pilgrim
- 4 Hero of Iroas
- 1 Monastery Mentor
- 1 Seeker of the Way
Moving forward, I'll be experimenting with Gleam of Authority more than any other card from Dragons of Tarkir since I really think that the card packs quite a punch in a small package. The synergies just have to be there. It will likely take a complete reconstruction of what W/U Heroic currently looks like before the card reaches its full potential. I just hope there's enough time to find it before the Season One Invitational next weekend or before I give a little stateside advice to players in Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir in Belgium.