We're merely hours from the Prerelease of Amonkhet, yet even with the set having been fully previewed for nearly a week, it's difficult to say what decks might be good going forward. There's a whole new set of mechanics and some cards that are just plain good on their own. That all being said, we still don't know the fate of a certain 1/4 Cat that's been pouncing all over Standard since its printing.
I am slightly confused as to why the Banned and Restricted update is after the Prerelease.
It seems a bit odd that people don't know what cards they should be preordering locally or from an online store such as StarCityGames.com® because of a looming potential ban. Overall, I think it's just poor timing, but it's something we're just going to have to deal with. Not only that, but it's giving players like me who are attending the SCG Tour® stop in Atlanta the following weekend only four days to know what the metagame will look like.
It may not seem like much, but every decklist we've seen in the past three months has been completely warped by the legality of this annoying two-card combo of Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian. The testing I've been primarily doing is under the assumption that Felidar Guardian has rightfully earned the axe and we don't have to live in fear of dying on turn 4 in Standard anymore.
Aside: I would like this to be the last time this is up for debate. I'd love for Wizards to take a stand and not keep people guessing each new set release as to whether or not Felidar Guardian will be banned. Either ban the Cat this time around or forever hold your peace on the matter.
Moving right along into what I've been testing for a Cat-free format…
This deck is all about sticking a planeswalker and defending it until you overwhelm your opponent. Gideon of the Trials feels much like the original Gideon Jura in this deck as he helps defend your other planeswalkers. While his ability to snowball isn't quite as impressive as that of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, there's not much more you can ask of a three-mana planeswalker.
Glorybringer has done nothing but exceed expectations in every aspect. I tend to view it as a giant Searing Blaze effect that has a creature attached to it. If I get to untap with it, awesome! But primarily its job has been checking medium-sized creatures and killing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
Much like most non-blue control decks, this deck does lack any real card advantage engine such as Glimmer of Genius or Torrential Gearhulk. Painful Truths, however, fills that role rather nicely and I could see playing up to two more in a sideboard just to help grind.
Now, this next deck is almost entirely from Amonkhet and has me wondering if something similar could be viable if given the proper attention.
This is a wild one, no doubt. The goal of this deck is simple: cast New Perspectives, cycle through most of your deck, and use Vizier of Tumbling Sands to untap your lands in order to cast Shadow of the Grave and generate more cards in hand and more untapping of the lands so that, when all is said and done, you have a fist full of cards. Then jam Noose Constrictor, pitch enough cards to make its power greater than your opponent's life total, and Fling it at their face!
To say this deck is a glass cannon would be an understatement. It virtually is dead to any way for them to counter Fling; even if they just have an emblem from Gideon of the Trials, this deck can't win. That all being said, I'm not sure how many people would be expecting something like this Week 1, which could make for a great choice.
Another route we could go down is making delirium work but in different colors. With the introduction of cycling, it's no secret the delirium just got infinitely easier to achieve, so I wanted to find out if we could make Ishkanah, Grafwidow work in a non-B/G controlling deck.
Playing out much like a U/W Control deck, this deck with its copies of Ishkanah, Grafwidow can really put a squeeze on an opponent trying to hold back and play around Fumigate. Gideon of the Trials might just be one of the best control cards they've printed in a while. Not only does it effectively Pacifism a creature, it can attack troubling planeswalkers at a moment's notice.
Note these decks are all assuming the Felidar Guardian / Saheeli Rai combo has been banned. I don't know what to say if, come Monday, we still live in a world where they're legal. Probably just join them, in all honesty. It was a mistake for them to print Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic, and if you weren't playing them while they were legal, you were doing yourself a disservice in not doing so.
I don't see how this is any different. Here's hoping they come to their senses!
Another deck for you die-hard Golgari mages that's been quite promising during testing uses a card that hasn't gotten nearly enough hype!
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 2 Walking Ballista
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 4 Mindwrack Demon
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 3 Rhonas the Indomitable
- 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
Having the ability to attack on turn 3 with Heart of Kiran Crewing off Rhonas the Indomitable has got to be one of the more powerful things going on in the next Standard. Follow that up with a Tireless Tracker and a land drop and you're crashing for nine damage while generating value from Clues!
Mindwrack Demon has been one of my pet cards since it's been legal. In tandem with our new Godly friend, he seems well-poised to see more play. This deck seems like it's rather light on ways to hit delirium, but with a full ten artifact creatures, combine one with a land and a spell and you're there. There are plenty more avenues you can take with delirium, and without having to worry about Felidar Guardian ruining everyone's day, we'd be open to a lot of midrange decks to have their times to shine.
We don't have a lot of time before SCG Atlanta next week, certainly not enough time to find a deck as well-tuned as the ones we were seeing at the back-end of this past season. I'd be hard-pressed to say someone would manage a control deck that will be able to handle all the wacky things this format can throw at you. So where does that leave us if we want to be aggressive?
We really haven't gained all too much in the form of aggro creatures for red since the days of Monastery Swiftspear and Goblin Rabblemaster. Those creatures had a very high ceiling and not too low of a floor. So did red get a boost in this set? Let's look at our God!
While many have dismissed this card, I'm not quite sold on it not being fantastic. The stat line of a 5/4 indestructible, haste creature is something they obviously could never print without a drawback, but how much of a drawback is having one or fewer cards in hand when you're planning on giving them the beatdown?
This is about as straightforward as it can get: an aggressive curve with some removal and a bunch of haste at the top.
Harsh Mentor will be more annoying in older formats than anything else due to the amount of Sensei's Divining Top spinning that goes on, but making Walking Ballista a costly card to use effectively definitely has a lot of merit.
I'm excited to see what it can do for Standard as far as bringing a red deck back to the top.
A lot of the cards in this list have snowball elements, meaning they only get better if left unanswered as the game progresses. I wasn't too fond of Combat Celebrant at first, using the common dismissive logic of “dies to Walking Ballista," but when they don't have a way to answer it, then what? While this deck doesn't have a ton of burn in it, being able to attack twice with Glorybringer and trigger its Exert twice when you deploy it is no joke.
While I'm not sure you'll see me sleeving up a deck like this for Week 1, mainly because it really doesn't suit my play style, I can certainly say that a variation of a Hazoret the Fevent deck will show up for sure.
Like many of you, I'm getting ready to take a mental break from all that is Standard until Monday and just sit back, relax, and enjoy the Prerelease! I hope you do the same and tune in next week, where I'll hopefully have settled on the 75 I'll be registering for SCG Atlanta!