It's beginning to feel a lot like brewing season.
With the Oath of the Gatewatch Prerelease only a few days away, it's time to start turning our attention to a new Standard format in preparation for #SCGATL. Not only will this event mark the return of Patrick Sullivan to the SCG Tour®, it will also be the first major tournament where Oath of the Gatewatch is legal.
Oath of the Gatewatch has been a set release surrounded by both controversy and excitement. Undoubtedly there are a lot of powerful new inclusions into the standard format, but where should we begin?
In situations like this, a good place to start is often the mana. Battle for Zendikar introduced the powerful Battle lands which have changed the way that we look at and build Standard mana bases. While Oath of the Gatewatch will make a much smaller impact in comparison, that doesn't mean there aren't some significant new entries.
The new enemy-color creature-lands are certainly a big deal, and all three look to be impressive. However, the biggest shakeup is certainly the introduction of Wastes and the new colorless mana symbol. Normally colorless cards are capable of being placed into just about any deck, but the colorless Eldrazi in Oath of the Gatewatch are far more powerful than normal, due to the restriction of requiring actual colorless mana.
This is by far the most dramatic aspect of the set, and is something I'd immediately like to start exploring.
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 4 Bearer of Silence
- 4 Catacomb Sifter
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 2 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
This is my first draft of an aggressive Eldrazi deck, which utilizes some of the best new colorless cards from Oath of the Gatewatch.
These four new creatures are incredibly powerful. All of them are far ahead on rate by having both serviceable stats and unique abilities.
Matter Reshaper is the card that gets me the most excited in a vacuum. What you'll notice about my aggressive Eldrazi deck is that nearly every single element, even in this rough draft, is built for resiliency. Not only does the Reshaper pose a massive threat in conjunction with Ghostfire Blade, but it is also capable of generating card advantage should it be destroyed, with the possibility of it also being a massive tempo swing should it hit a permanent that costs three or less.
Bearer of Silence is the major push towards making the deck “base black.” Not only does Bearer fill a nice spot on the curve, but its Edict effect is especially powerful in this Standard format shifted toward creatures that are low in quantity but high in impact.
Thought-Knot Seer is a strange hybrid of Brain Maggot and Vendilion Clique. Normally these utility creatures are built to be pure disruption where the body is a nice bonus, but the Eldrazi think differently. A 4/4 is huge on this type of effect and removing the problem card indefinitely is a big deal. I'm also pretty excited to play this card in Modern where two lands can cast it and it is immune to most of the popular removal of the format.
Reality Smasher is a card I'm not entirely sure about. The numbers all look great, but perhaps the prevalence of Crackling Doom in the format means that this card just isn't particularly well positioned. That being said, the fact that it can't be removed by any targeted removal without generating its owner an additional card is a big deal when its rate is already so strong.
The rest of the curve is largely filled out by the best colorless cards available. My play time with Rally the Ancestors these last two weeks has certainly given me a huge appreciation for Catacomb Sifter, and between the new creature land and preexisting interest in playing black, touching the green necessary for Sifter looks like a no-brainer to me.
Spatial Contortion is the eldritch version of Nameless Inversion, and with the ability to remove all of Jeskai Black's creatures, clear the way for Bearer of Silence, and serve as a pump spell in a pinch, it should be a staple of any similar archetype.
The last spell I want to touch on is Warping Wail, the “Eldrazi Command.” It's actually hard to say whether this card is better in Standard or Modern but the ability for it for it to exile Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is certainly no joke. When this is coupled with the versatility of countering Painful Truths or simply creating a Scion to power out a Reality Smasher or become a 3/3 with Ghostfire Blade, I can certainly see the card having legs.
If there's anything that I feel like I may have screwed up the most, it's the deck's mana. You may find that statement to be a bit silly when the deck is largely devoid of colored mana requirements, but look at all the options we have now in Standard for producing colorless!
Crumbling Vestige and Corrupted Crossroads are great options for not only satisfying our colored requirements but also creating colorless mana. In a similar vein, painlands also have additional utility than they did in the past.
Choosing the right numbers of lands like Sea Gate Wreckage, Tomb of the Spirit Dragon, and Ruins of Oran-Rief is particularly tricky due to how diverse they are. Sea Gate Wreckage certainly gets me the most excited, as it is “free” way to give an aggressively slanted deck additional steam in the late game, but Tomb of the Spirit Dragon is another powerful effect in a completely different direction. What I do know for certain is that these diverse abilities will help Eldrazi decks avoid flooding, which gives them an additional degree of potency.
There is one massive negative implication for these colorless decks, however. That's their sideboard. However you build your deck or which base color you use, it is likely that you will only be able to draw on a rather narrow range of sideboard cards, which is certainly a strike against the strategy.
That being said, we are clearly just scratching the surface here and the printings from Oath of the Gatewatch are incredibly exciting for creating a new potential archetype.
This next deck might be a little out there, but I have big expectations from Wall of Resurgence.
I was a little taken aback when I first saw Wall of Resurgence. Even now I basically have no concept of how the card can be beaten in Limited, but that's another matter.
The creature-lands alongside Wall of Resurgence give your opponent has the potential be smacked for seven or ten damage out of nowhere. Wall of Resurgence is also very good at blocking both Siege Rhino and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, some of the scariest threats in the format.
This deck is fairly linear though. The Magmatic Insight/Treasure Cruise engine is borrowed from Sphinx's Tutelage, but those cards' main purpose, besides granting the deck velocity, is enabling Crush of Tentacles.
Crush of Tentacles is actually super exciting to me (and I feature it in a Jeskai Black deck that will be in a VS Video coming very soon) with its ability to both reset the board and present a huge threat. Combined with keeping a powered-up creature-land on the battlefield while also potentially bouncing our Wall of Resurgence to make another, that's a powerful interaction.
It may also be possible to move the deck towards an Esper direction, but that would make it more difficult to include a high density of cheap spells to power up Surge. Shambling Vent is exceptional with Wall of Resurgence, however. I could also see a world where I was using Crush of Tentacles in combination with Demonic Pact.
The last deck I want to look at explores potential options for updating Four-Color Rally:
- 2 Fleshbag Marauder
- 4 Grim Haruspex
- 3 Nantuko Husk
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Sidisi's Faithful
- 4 Zulaport Cutthroat
- 3 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 1 Liliana, Heretical Healer
This iteration of the deck, while potentially clunky, is good at keeping the board stable. Ayli's deathtouch is huge for managing threats like Anafenza, the Foremost and Siege Rhino, while Reflector Mage is incredible for keeping the former off the battlefield and borrowing time elsewhere. It's not even unreasonable for me to believe that the Eternal Pilgrim is capable of “going ultimate” and machine gunning an opponent's entire board after munching on some Sidisi's Faithfuls.
While we are entirely Esper except for Collected Company, cutting that card just isn't an option. As I discussed last week, Collected Company is the best card in the deck. We do get to shift the mana around just a little bit, though, since we don't need green until the fourth turn.
Not to sound like a broken record, but Wall of Resurgence could also be another great addition to a list like this. Rally wants to buy as much time as possible to work into its “unbeatable” endgame, and a 0/6 Wall that can gain a ton of life with Ayli to help enable her Vindicate ability is no joke. Perhaps even more importantly, Wall of Resurgence generates two bodies, an effect that will be sorely missed should Catacomb Sifter actually make its way out of the deck. Four-Color Rally also tends to have extra fetchlands lying around as it enters the mid- to late game.
These are just some of my first impressions of Oath of the Gatewatch, but I think it will prove to be a dynamic set with an interesting variety of constructed implications. I can't wait to get working in preparation for #SCGATL.
What new decks are you brewing up? What cards do you think players are underrating?