This weekend is #SCGCOL and I'm pumped! The first Standard tournament after the release of a new set is always exciting, and I'm confident this one will deliver. Eldritch Moon has some real power cards in it, and I can't wait to see just how people build around them and how they slot into existing archetypes.
As many of you have heard, emerge is a new mechanic that is looking for a good home.
While there are others, these three look the most promising. Elder Deep-Fiend is similar enough to Mistbind Clique that we already have an idea of how to play with it, and it seems to fit nicely in a blue deck alongside Wretched Gryff. We have two good reasons to sacrifice creatures, they can both trigger Kozilek's Return, and they have solid effects and reasonable stats. Now all we have to do is find a good home for them.
Luckily for us, Gerry Thompson and Michael Majors have been doing just that.
- 2 Pilgrim's Eye
- 4 Elder Deep-Fiend
- 4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 1 Thought-Knot Seer
- 3 Wretched Gryff
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
This deck is new and flashy, and two very strong players are working on it and writing about it. I expect it to show up in the hands of some skilled pilots this weekend. If you're planning on attending #SCGCOL, then you need to be prepared to beat this deck. There are a number of ways to attack it with conventional means, but you also need to be aware of some of the trickier things the deck can do.
For starters, this deck puts a big emphasis on triggering Kozilek's Return, but they can only do that consistently if they're able to emerge one of their big threats. Taking out their small creatures the turn before they untap with all their mana is key but can be difficult to do. Their Eldrazi Skyspawners and Matter Reshapers love getting hit with removal spells because they still have some value left over.
Make sure that you have access to removal that can exile creatures to reduce the advantage gained by interaction. Incendiary Flow is a bit clunky due to being sorcery-speed, but I think it is good enough to see play in high numbers in a variety of decks. It just so happens to be great against many of the more annoying threats in the format. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is also a decent threat against all forms of emerge. Shutting down effects that trigger when a creature dies will be key in gaining an edge on these types of strategies.
Instant-speed cards are also important for dealing with Elder Deep-Fiend. This alone should make Stasis Snare come back in a big way. G/W Tokens and other variations of white decks have played it in the past, but it started to fall off in popularity thanks to a rise in Dromoka's Command. But with the threat of emerge, G/W and other white-based decks will need to reevaluate their plan of defense. Do you want to be good in the G/W mirrors, or against the field? At the moment, I'd take the field. I don't think many people will want to keep playing G/W Tokens when there are so many cool new toys at their fingertips.
I Ain't in Love with the Coco
While emerge is a great mechanic that might actually break up the monotony of the current metagame, some other decks got a decent amount of help.
While Bant Humans might be the current favorite for a Collected Company deck, I wouldn't be surprised to see Spell Queller show up in old-school Bant Company. People want to play with new, powerful cards, and Spell Queller is exactly that. To boot, Spell Queller gives the Bant Company deck another form of defense against some of the more powerful cards against your deck. You need cheap interaction alongside a powerful clock to beat Bant Company, and Spell Queller has a decent chance to stop either side of that.
When you have access to Spell Queller, Bounding Krasis, Collected Company, and even Archangel Avacyn, it can be impossible for your opponent to make the “right” decision when playing around your flash spells. And these are the major reasons to actually play Bant Company. If your deck is more complex than people are used to, you can gain a significant advantage without a lot of work. They will make bad plays that wouldn't necessarily be bad in a vacuum but are just backbreaking given the right context of flash-speed cards.
- 4 Bounding Krasis
- 1 Den Protector
- 4 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 2 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
This list is close to the one Brad Nelson used in our VS. Video last Friday, but I don't think much has changed since then. His deck looks good on paper, and played quite smoothly. It might have trouble with strategies that go above the range of Spell Queller, since it can't counter spells that cost more than four mana. Stopping their Languish or whatever is usually enough, but you have to be careful. Bant Company can take advantage of medium-sized tempo swings but doesn't actually kill the opponent quickly. In effect, stopping a Languish might mean stopping a Languish for just a turn.
I love the fact that Spell Queller can protect other Spell Quellers, though it does tend to create a house of cards that can come tumbling down if one of them dies. This is one of those spots where I am really starting to miss cards like Gods Willing.
The maindeck is solid, though I desperately wish we had one or two ways to flip Archangel Avacyn on command. Eldrazi Skyspawner is a pretty big sacrifice to make for a deck like this, but I could definitely see a more flying-oriented version that took advantage of the Eldrazi Scion to make Archangel Avacyn a little better. But since we're mostly an aggressive deck, we don't really need Archangel Avacyn to do too much. Just protect our creatures and present a big, flying body that they have to deal with.
I think this deck is fairly weak to the Gerry Thompson special of U/R Emerge, mostly because they can trigger Kozilek's Return pretty easily while presenting you with a big threat. Luckily, the tap-down ability of Elder Deep-Fiend is slightly negated thanks to having so many cards that can be played at instant speed. The real problem is trying to claw our way back into the game once our battlefield has been wiped. Collected Company can help with that, but only so much.
Believe in The Boss
Tom Ross has been on quite a tear with W/R Humans, leveling the field in whatever Standard tournament he decides to attend. Luckily for you guys, most other players don't do nearly as well as he does with the deck. Perhaps that's one reason to give the deck less credit, but I'm starting to come around. I never knew how much I liked Anointer of Champions until Tom beat me senseless with it.
Once you lay the deck out and start trying to add new cards to it, you slowly realize how delicate the balance is for a deck like W/R Humans. A low land count helps prevent flooding, so adding three-drops to the deck like Thalia, Heretic Cathar will end up hurting more than helping. Making sure you can present an early clock is key, and keeping your pieces growing is more important than anything else. You have to make combat difficult for your opponent, because you can't really afford to fall behind. Your deck is not built to claw its way back into a game.
While W/R Humans definitely has its downsides, playing an aggressive deck in the opening weeks of a format is a big deal. You're streamlined, and you can easily punish people trying to bumble their way through a tournament with a worse version of a deck that might be good a few weeks from now. New cards lead people to try new things, and those new things aren't always coherent or stable. That's one of the reasons why aggressive red decks have done so well in the last few opening weekends of Standard.
But now that many of the more powerful red cards have rotated out of the format, and the mana got significantly worse at supporting Atarka's Command, red decks aren't exactly dominant. If you want to go aggressive in the first week, definitely take this for a spin.
- 3 Anointer of Champions
- 4 Dragon Hunter
- 3 Expedition Envoy
- 2 Hanweir Militia Captain
- 4 Knight of the White Orchid
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Town Gossipmonger
- 3 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
You might notice here that nothing has changed. No new cards, and that's entirely intentional. We don't want to mess around with three-drops, and nothing was really offered to us in the form of efficient threats. We want to flood the battlefield with Savannah Lions proxies and pump them with various effects until our opponent is begging for mercy.
On paper, I was a believer of Collective Effort. I wanted to like it. But over time, I started to see that you need to balance your pump effects, removal spells, and threat density. If you have too many of one of those three elements, you're going to regret it. Collective Effort is worse than Always Watching and overcosted and too situational as a removal spell. But I also won't blame you for trying it out for yourself. Who knows? You might actually like it. The card isn't bad; it's just worse than what we already have.
And I'll also admit that I may be missing something. Like most people trying to evaluate a new set, I am wrong about this type of stuff quite often. But I've played with and against W/R Humans featuring cards from Eldritch Moon, and I was just not impressed, and that's all there is to it.
But if you're looking to play W/R Humans, note that you will have difficulty beating some specific cards. Kozilek's Return, and the ability to trigger it from the graveyard, will be tough to beat. Many of your creatures will die to the front half of Kozilek's Return, even if you've cast Thalia's Lieutenant or have an Always Watching on the battlefield. If they use the back half, things can get a little messy.
Languish can also be tough, but it is beatable. To boot, your sideboard plan of Reckless Bushwhacker, Needle Spires, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is solid against that plan. And having a plan for tough matchups already puts you ahead of the curve in terms of other decks when talking about a new Standard format. Do you really think most people have had time to test out U/R Emerge? No. They're going to copy/paste Gerry's list and hope that it's good enough. Maybe they've played a few matches, but nowhere near as many as someone who's been playing W/R Humans for the last few weeks or months.
#SCGCOL and After
These are the three decks I'm heavily considering for #SCGCOL, but I'm mostly looking to learn something. I've been stuck playing variants of Pyromancer's Goggles for months, just because it was something I enjoyed playing. I'll be the first person to admit that, despite my dedication to the archetype, it just wasn't good enough. And once other decks started to come into their own (G/W Tokens, Collected Company) and figure out optimal builds, things only got worse.
So this weekend I'm looking to expand. I want to play a powerful deck that takes me out of my comfort zone. I've been in something of a rut, both mentally and as far as results go. Hopefully trying out a new strategy will give me some peace. I think that all three of the decks I talked about above are viable candidates, and will give you a solid shot at doing well in the tournament. Each has strengths and flaws, but they've also had some great minds working on them. Luckily for me, those are people I call friends.
Hopefully I can learn a thing or two from the people who've put in the most work on these archetypes in preparation for this weekend. And in the future, maybe I'll get back into the swing of things and be able to return the favor.