The other day I was looking at my calendar and noticed that the StarCityGames.com® Standard Open comes to my home town of Richmond really soon — next weekend! How exciting that it falls just a week after Magic Origins becomes legal for tournament play; the metagame will surely still be in flux. This weekend's tournaments will be the first where Magic Origins is legal and I have no doubt we'll see some sweet new brews popping up here and there in deck techs and maybe tournament coverage, but card availability will still be a factor in what people choose to run. The new Standard will be far from solved by the time the Open pulls into my backyard the following weekend, which means it's a sweet time for brewers to pull out a few surprises.
Personally, I don't think I'm going to get too crazy with my deck choice in Standard. Magic Origins seems to be bringing some sweet options for red-based aggressive decks, so my instinct is to fall back to the archetype that served me so well against many of those sorts of decks at the State Championships this spring, earning me a Top Eight berth: G/W featuring Mastery of the Unseen. Currently I'm planning only one big change and one little change, featuring cards from Magic Origins. The big change?
Four copies of Nissa, Vastwood Seer!
I think she adds some fantastic reach for this archetype. The enters-the-battlefield ability is nice to keep the land drops coming, and she can trade early with a Goblin Rabblemaster or Goblin Piledriver. Once you've got seven mana, any copy you draw - or manifest from the top of your deck, or rescue from the graveyard with Den Protector - becomes a powerhouse Planeswalker that gives you massive card advantage and another angle of attack rather than relying on simply casting your creatures. She's great as an early draw and fantastic late.
The small change? One Evolutionary Leap!
I featured that enchantment in some cool brews a few weeks back, and I think it's powerful enough to earn a spot in my G/W deck. I had a lively discussion with a friend comparing Mastery of the Unseen to Evolutionary Leap, and I come down on the side that Mastery of the Unseen is a more powerful card, and it's certainly one that has value in multiples when life totals matter. Also, if you've gotten into a grindy resource-exhaustion battle against a control or mid-range deck where you've got an empty board and an empty hand, would you rather rip a Mastery of the Unseen or an Evolutionary Leap from the top of your deck?
While I wouldn't be totally bummed to draw a second Mastery of the Unseen, I'd love for it to be an Evolutionary Leap instead, allowing me to turn a random manifested 2/2 land into an actual creature card. Not to mention the utility that comes with resetting the top of your deck for Courser of Kruphix and Nissa, Vastwood Seer considerations, or trading in a creature that's dying to removal or forced to chump in combat for a new creature card from the top of your deck. I think the best balance here is a 3/1 split favoring Mastery of the Unseen.
Of course the problem with running Evolutionary Leap in a heavy creature deck is the chance that you could be trading a dying Polukranos, World Eater in for an Elvish Mystic — not exactly something to be excited about. In the G/W deck I ran at States, I only had four mana accelerators — the awesome Voyaging Satyr. I liked the Satyr better than Elvish Mystic because he could block token creatures and survive. While he'd be a little bit better to Evolutionary Leap into than an Elvish Mystic, he's still not going to be turning many games around, so I've decided to skip the mana acceleration altogether to make sure that every creature in the deck is a potent threat. Unlike other Devotion decks I don't have a lot of expensive creatures I'm looking to accelerate into, but if I do have Nykthos primed there are plenty of ways I can use the mana each turn - Mastery activations, Den Protector flips, Monstrosity and Manifest can all spend that mana well. Instead of four mana accelerators I'm going to run four copies of Avatar of the Resolute. Hit hits hard for his mana cost, trample is nice, the fact that he blocks fliers is helpful and between the Megamorph creatures and Dromoka's Command it's entirely possible he gets some free +1/+1 counters here and there. For two mana, not only can he block tokens and survive, but he can also block down Goblin Piledriver and Goblin Rabblemaster. Here's where I am currently:
- 4 Avatar of the Resolute
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
- 4 Den Protector
- 4 Whisperwood Elemental
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
The sideboard is entirely pre-Magic Origins right now, but that is likely to change. A big consideration going into Richmond will be what makes a big splash this weekend at the Chicago Open. Some cards that are potential inclusions:
The double-white cost hurts a bit in this version since I'm running Avatar of the Resolute and Nissa, Vastwood Seer, but it might be just the ticket if I'm dealing with Stormbreath Dragons breathing down my neck.
I'm curious if the tax required by Vryn Wingmare can help complicate things for control decks, making it sufficiently harder for them to to stabilize the board with their big spells.
If I were playing a more heavily devoted Devotion deck then I'd be all about packing a few of these in the sideboard. As it is, I'm a little bit leery about boarding in a seven-drop, though seven is the magic number for Nissa shenanigans.
Do you have any good sideboard card suggestions? Please let me know, share your thoughts in the forums below!
Outside of the brews I presented a few weeks back and the G/W deck above slightly updated with Magic Origins, there are a lot of other new cards that have my attention. Let's do some quick hits!
These two potent cards have everybody revisiting Theros Block's powerful Constellation themes. Or as I like to call it, “please don't have Back to Nature in your sideboard.” Starfield of Nyx actually provides some resistance to enchantment destruction along with just a very potent win condition (eventually) all on its own. Herald of the Pantheon is chock full of great abilities rolled into a cheap two mana 2/2, shaving mana costs off your enchantments and gaining some life to boot — alongside its brother Courser of Kruphix, you can really pad your life totals to buy time for your Constellation synergies to take over.
There are a lot of different ways to approach building around Constellation, but I really liked Sam Black's idea of mixing in Heliod's Pilgrim and Chained to the Rocks with Nylea's Presence as a way to ensure there's a Mountain to Chain opposing creatures to. I also liked the idea of fetching up a Gift of Immortality with Heliod's Pilgrim - when the immortal creature dies and comes back, Gift will come back as well and trigger Constellation. Here's my sketch of such a deck:
- 4 Fleecemane Lion
- 4 Heliod's Pilgrim
- 4 Herald of the Pantheon
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Eidolon of Blossoms
I wish that Herald of the Pantheon gave us life whenever an enchantment card came into play under your control rather than when you cast it, but I really shouldn't complain that an awesome card wasn't just a little bit more awesome...
This is quite a potent and mana-efficient answer to token decks. Going wide with tokens has been really strong for a while in Standard so it's good to have a cheap tool that works against them here. I'm pretty sure this is just sideboard material, but I think it's a great sideboard option depending on the metagame and what weaknesses your deck might have.
This card really makes me want to play blue for two reasons: Torrent Elemental, and Ojutai's Command. Obviously not necessarily all in the same deck - if we're playing white we'd probably want to run Dragonlord Ojutai over Torrent Elemental. I've been strongly considering a tempo-oriented Sultai deck that plays Surrak, the Hunt Caller into Torrent Elemental, gives that Torrent Elemental Haste, and when you attack with your team the Elemental taps down any potential blockers. Tapping down blockers turns on Harbinger of the Tides. There's a lot of moving parts trying to brew this deck so I haven't come up with a list I'm happy with yet, and I'm not entirely sure I want to be moving in this direction if we're moving into Piledriver Summer with Protection from Blue all over the place, but there could be something here. Bounding Krasis might even have a home here.
Like many of you, I'm intrigued by the possibilities of this card. Also like many of you, I'm skeptical that this will ultimately be any good despite being a flavor home run. Unlike many of you, I've had some experience running Daring Thief in Standard, so I've been pondering the idea of sucking the Pact dry of all its good stuff and then trading it to my opponent with Daring Thief in exchange for an enchantment they control so they get to make that very last trade with the demon in your stead, losing the game. The problem with this plan of course is that your opponent may not cooperate and even have an enchantment for your Thief to exchange Demonic Pact for, but there are some options. One option is playing one of my favorite wacky cards that no one plays, not even me (though I've tried) – Perplexing Chimera, though he's big enough to eat Daring Thief so you'd have to deal with that. Another is to play some number of enchantment creatures and hope your opponent has a creature you can swap with Daring Thief first, hopefully one that won't be too big to attack into, like say Nyx-Fleece Ram. Ultimately I'm pretty sure the best way to play Demonic Pact is alongside cards like Silumgar's Command that can bounce the Pact back to your hand before it kills you, giving you the option of recasting it and getting three more uses out of it to work that Pact even harder.
You know I love me some graveyard recursion, so these cards definitely hit my sweet spot. They are also two great Black Devotion enablers. I'm not entirely sure these are quite as good as I want them to be, though, since they both have a not-insignificant cost to them. Despoiler of Souls wants to loot your graveyard of creatures, which cuts into other uses you might have for your graveyard (Delve, Whip of Erebos). I could see Despoiler of Souls end up being a better sideboard card to combat those decks I've nicknamed “mono-removal” – durdly decks that load up on killing everything in sight over and over again but rarely have a way of winning an actual match of Magic in the allotted time if their opponent knows how to play against that sort of deck. Erebos's Titan's abilities are kinda cool but I'm not sure they're going to prove to be all that relevant in a metagame that is very creature-dependent, leaving it “just” a 5/5 for four mana. Even when things go right and a creature card leaves an opponent's graveyard somehow, you still need to have a card in hand to discard in order to get back the Titan.
Merciless Executioner was sweet but Fleshbag Marauder has the much more relevant creature type. However, why not play both? Here I was just talking bad about durdly mono-removal decks and now I'm thinking about a shell with Bile Blight, Merciless Executioner, Fleshbag Marauder, Languish... and some way to eventually win. I'm not sure what the rest of the deck looks like but I won't be surprised if I play against it at the Open and it wrecks me. Oh, and we'll run out of time no doubt.
I really dig this card. I like that you can usually get both abilities out of this card: just attack with your Elves and the threat of giving one of them deathtouch will be enough that your opponent won't want to block. After your Elves get in unblocked, you still get to tap the Trapper for mana and cast another Elf. Let me go on the record though that I'm fairly confident we do not have enough good Elves to build a top-tier Elf deck in Standard. The Elf cards are individually powerful but they require a lot of synergy to be worth playing, and as good as they are the effects aren't exactly back-breaking. Plus, relying on keeping a critical mass of Elves in play is probably a losing proposition in Standard right now. Once some of the sweeper cards rotate out then maybe – I'm looking at you, Drown in Sorrow - but that's a maybe that likely also requires some addition powerful Elves to be added to the mix in an upcoming set.
Now this is a Warrior I want to give double strike to with Arashin Foremost!
When I wrote up my Evolutionary Leap deck ideas a couple weeks back, I don't think this was spoiled or else I'd definitely have brewed up something with Priest of the Blood Rite as the only creatures in the deck. Chaining into 5/5 flying demon tokens over and over seems like it could be a thing.
This is a really nifty card — I love that it's cheap, and that it really only fits in a creature deck. Sure, Reaper of the Wilds never got a whole lot of traction in Standard, but Shadows of the Past feels like a different sort of card entirely. I'm not sure where it's going to land yet but I feel confident it might, at the least as perhaps a sideboard card against control decks. In a way it reminds me of a black Mastery of the Unseen. Stay tuned.
I kinda want to run a deck with Chandra's Ignition alongside both Heir of the Wilds and Deathmist Raptor to destroy all other creatures, or a deck with Chandra's Ignition and some huge creature (say, Polukranos) while I have a Hornet Nest in play to destroy all other creatures and leave me with a gaggle of angry hornets. Maybe they can all go in the same deck?
This is a cheap enchantment with an activation that costs no mana, so it's worth taking a hard look at. One point of damage for each activation is small, but it can add up - especially if you have something like Shrapnel Blast in the deck as well. While a deck with Ghirapur Aether Grid in it probably has a fair number of artifact creatures (Thopters for sure), let's also not forget we can run equipment cards (Ghostfire Blade) that can be tapped to pay this cost without affecting its usability.
I'm a huge fan of this card, though the “non-legendary” clause is a bit of a head-scratcher. Was it really too powerful to be able to fetch Nissa and potentially the seventh land you need to flip her? Here's an interesting combo to try out over the summer — Skybind! Fetch up an enchantment creature with Woodland Bellower (say, Courser of Kruphix), trigger the constellation on Skybind to exile Woodland Bellower, and then at the beginning of the next end step return Woodland Bellower to the battlefield to do it all over again.
So I played in the Origins prerelease last weekend and while I sadly did not open a prerelease foil Nissa, Vastwood Seer I did open her (nonfoil) Sword of the Animus. One game I managed to get both the Sword and Zendikar's Roil into play at the same time, and I can attest the combo was pretty sweet. In the current Standard I don't think the Sword is particularly amazing – though the ability to offer both ramping and color-fixing in non-green decks isn't something to overlook – but if we do get more Landfall cards when we return to Zendikar this fall, I'm going to keep an eye out for shells that might include the Sword and Zendikar's Roil.
This is not an unreasonable body and a relatively cheap sacrifice outlet when considering shells to build around Liliana, Heretical Healer.
This card is expensive and probably only good in Limited, but here are two things to consider: we still have Chief Engineer in Standard for a few months to help pay for this beatstick... and seven is the magic number for Nissa. If we can get one attack in, it can kill just about any blocker and knock down a full third of your opponent's life total. Find a way to give it vigilance we can ignore the drawback altogether, or find a way to untap it for cheaper than seven: Kiora's Follower perhaps? Prophet of Kruphix? Jeskai Ascendency? Disciple of the Ring?
So tell me: what Magic Origins cards have your attention, not only in Standard but for Modern, Legacy or Commander?
Tonight I'm probably not going to be able to make Friday Night Magic, but instead my intention is to go home and fire up some Magic Online! If you're going to be around and would like to play some fun games of Commander, hit me up — find me name as blairwitchgreen.
And if you're going to be at the Standard Open in Richmond next weekend, please come by and say hello! I still have The Complete Commander copy tokens to hand out if you want one.
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I've done (and links to decklists):
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice ( new player-friendly)
Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)