I have been focused on the Modern format recently, and even though #SCGORL this weekend will be Modern, I wanted to talk about my observations so far from Kaladesh. I love spoiler season as much as the next person, so let's dive in and see what the new Standard format may look like.
Speed of the Format
All signs are pointing to a much faster Standard format than what we have had this past year. The departure of Languish from the format will eliminate the primary sweeper that control decks have been relying upon. Even though Languish isn't necessarily a hard sweeper, it was most of the time and was still a much better option than the five-mana unconditional sweepers. Before, playing creatures with five toughness was a key to be able to survive a Languish, and now that bar will be lowered to three toughness to survive Kozilek's Return and Flaying Tendrils. Radiant Flames is still in the format, though, and may see a resurgence to help three-colored control decks.
Besides the loss of the format's primary sweeper, having playable red cards printed again will also speed up the format.
Kaladesh will bring the resurgence of red, appropriately led by Chandra, Torch of Defiance. I have seen many players talk about how Chandra will not be as strong because red is a weak color in Standard, which was true for last season, but I think that red will be quite strong post-rotation. Eldritch Moon introduced plenty of powerful red cards, such as Collective Defiance and Incendiary Flow, into the format and Kaladesh will continue to complement them.
Chandra has essentially five different playable abilities, and actually the first ability is what I'm most excited about. Even without casting the card that Chandra exiles, using her as a repeatable source of two damage is quite strong, as we have recently seen from Fevered Visions. In fact, being able to curve Fevered Visions into Chandra, Torch of Defiance can really add up damage in a hurry and turn every burn spell that you draw into quite the threat.
Speaking of burn spells, Flame Lash was just spoiled as I was writing this, and I could see this being a Standard staple. Again, red aggressive and burn decks will absolutely be a part of the metagame, and Flame Lash fits right in. An instant-speed way to deal four damage to a creature or planeswalker is a very effective way to deal with Archangel Avacyn and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, two cards that red has struggled with in the past. Instant speed is important enough that I would rather play Flame Lash over a card like Exquisite Firecraft, which just rotated; compare Hero's Downfall and Dreadbore. Cards like Archangel Avacyn and Spell Queller require instant-speed answers, and Flame Lash is what we have.
Another reason why the format will speed up is the lack of cheap, quality lifegain cards such as Courser of Kruphix and Siege Rhino. Our last format did not have those either, but Collected Company paired with Reflector Mage and Languish could still hold down aggressive decks. However, if Chandra, Torch of Defiance brings aggressive and burn decks back to the forefront, then cards that have the ability to gain life will be at a premium.
If you are playing green, then you need to seriously consider having Pulse of Murasa in your sideboard. Gaining six life against a burn deck is worth at least a card and a half, and Pulse of Murasa also replaces itself. Pulse also works quite well with self-mill cards such as Vessel of Nascency and Grapple with the Past, which is a strategy that is traditionally weak to aggressive decks. Blessed Alliance has already made its presence felt in Modern, and I think now is the time for the versatile instant to be put into Standard sideboards. Even cards with just a little lifegain, such as Collective Brutality, go up in value when considering them for the maindeck.
There are many creatures with beneficial enters-the-battlefield abilities in Kaladesh and even in Standard in general. Some cards I want to build around with Eldrazi Displacer in Standard include:
The main problem that Eldrazi Displacer will face is having a coherent manabase. The painlands are leaving the format at the exact wrong time, as playing a “blink” strategy has never been so appealing to me. Eldrazi Displacer works particularly well with Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, as Displacer is the perfect size to Crew the floating city and a repeatable source of three damage to creatures or planeswalkers should not be ignored. Arborback Stomper is an easy card to overlook but is a wonderful source of lifegain and an easy sideboard addition to decks that may need it.
Bant isn't Going Anywhere
Sure, Collected Company and Dromoka's Command are rotating out of Standard, but Bant decks will continue to be a big part of the metagame. I'm not sure if Bant Humans will be the best version of Bant or if playing cards like Sylvan Advocate, Selfless Spirit, and Spell Queller will be better, but I have more experience with Bant Humans, so I'm starting with that. There is still so much power and synergy with the cards, and it's the first deck that I'm trying out when testing for new Standard.
- 1 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Lambholt Pacifist
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 2 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Archangel Avacyn
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Tamiyo, Field Researcher has proven to be an outstanding card and is the successor here to Collected Company. Archangel Avacyn and Verdurous Gearhulk can also fit in as top-end bullets now that there isn't a soft requirement of creatures having converted mana cost three or less. Verdurous Gearhulk in particular is an intriguing card that can have a huge impact on combat, either swinging the race in your favor or slamming the door shut on your opponent.
Declaration in Stone is just a replacement for Dromoka's Command, but the +1/+1 counters will truly be missed, especially with Lambholt Pacifist. To this end I've added an Always Watching to try out, which will not only allow the Pacifists to attack but also help get our smaller creatures out of range of various sweepers, including Archangel Avacyn's transform trigger. I'm not sure on the manabase at all yet; this is just the rough draft that I'm starting with, and I'm positive that it needs some work. I do like playing 26 lands, though, especially with the loss of Knight of the White Orchid. We consistently want to hit land drops, and playing only 25 is probably too little.
Over in the sideboard, I think that Heron's Grace Champion will be a very important card to have. As noted earlier, Chandra, Torch of Defiance will bring red aggressive decks to the format, and the lifegain from Heron's Grace Champion will be vital in those matchups. A variety of different expensive cards can attack control decks from different angles. Natural State is a card that many people have probably forgotten about but may be a valuable sideboard card now to destroy Always Watching, Fevered Visions, or various artifacts and Vehicles from Kaladesh.
We got hit with quite an announcement on Monday, as there is now a Masterpiece Series in every set moving forward. For Kaladesh, these are known as the Kaladesh Inventions that help bring the flavor of the Inventors' Fair to life.
I've heard different viewpoints and the pros and cons of having these printed in every set, but overall I believe it to be good for the game. More booster packs will be opened as people chase these cards, which will increase the overall supply of Standard cards, making Standard more affordable to the average player. Also, the feel-good stories of people opening up a Masterpiece during a Prerelease or at an FNM makes them worth printing in my opinion.
The Masterpiece Series does make other formats such as Modern more accessible as well, even if they don't reduce the price of the reprinted card much. For example, it would be easy to look at Scalding Tarn's price not being reduced because of the Expedition printing and think it wasn't a success, but what's hard to tell is how expensive Scalding Tarn would be if there wasn't the Expedition printing. It's very possible that, if the Expedition printing didn't exist, the Zendikar fetchlands would be much more expensive than they are now.
The one thing that I am worried about with having the Masterpiece Series in every set moving forward is that there are a finite number of cards that will be valuable reprint targets, and that they may be printing them too quickly. There will be 54 total Kaladesh Inventions in this block, a number that I believe to be far too high. The Zendikar Expeditions reprinted nonbasic lands and the Kaladesh Inventions reprinted artifacts, but how many sets will it be in the future until they have run out of different cards to reprint?
Comments from Last Week
I'm finishing the article this week by highlighting some of the comments from last week's article, The Complete Guide to Playing Bant Eldrazi, which gave a detailed sideboard guide for Bant Eldrazi against almost every deck in Modern. If you would like to be featured in next week's Comments from Last Week section, then leave a question or comment below and be sure to come back next week to see if you made the cut!
How do you sideboard against these new Abzan decks? The same as Jund?
- Bugra Alp Cal
I would sideboard similarly, but one card differently.
One of the biggest differences in Abzan and Jund is their primary removal spell of choice. Jund has Lightning Bolt, which matches up well against Eldrazi Displacer but not so well against World Breaker. Abzan has Path to Exile, which makes playing World Breaker less appealing. Engineered Explosives is still being brought in as not only a way to deal with multiple two-drops but also the Spirit tokens from Lingering Souls.
- Sam Lswanson
Using a Spellskite to protect another creature from Lightning Bolt would definitely be beneficial, but there are so many hurdles to jump for that scenario to happen that it isn't worth having Spellskite in the deck in those matchups. First, many of those red decks are also playing Kolaghan's Command, and I really don't like having Spellskite in my deck against any Kolaghan's Command deck.
Additionally, Spellskite fits a weird place on the curve and I don't necessarily want to take the turn off playing it early in these matchups. Finally, the games in these matchups can go quite late and Spellskite is an awful card to draw in the late-game, and I want to reduce the amount of late-game dead draws here.
When you are building your powerful midrange deck that's full of mythics, make sure you have a plan for aggressive decks with a bunch of burn spells pointed at your face. Many people won't be ready for the red decks, so this is your warning! Don't be underprepared!