Our prayers have been answered and the wicked Cat is dead!
No this isn't going to be an article about how happy I am that the Felidar Guardian / Saheeli Rai combo is gone and that I was right and Wizards wizened up this past week in a shocking turn of events. I just needed to get that out of the way.
But in all honesty, though, it's been a whirlwind of emotions, ranging from despair to pure inner ecstasy. I'd spoken with a few friends about whether I'd want to keep the grind going into next season or not because I wasn't having as much fun as I used to playing Standard. I'd considered making up some excuse (jokingly) to see if I could have my Pro Tour invite deferred to perhaps another time when Felidar Guardian had been banned. All of those things and nothing could have prepared me for this week, but I'm beyond excited for all that it means.
So what does it mean?
It means this is going to be the most untested competitive tournament I believe there's ever been! Not only do we have a whole new set of cards to explore, but also we have little to no reference point to work from, seeing as the entire previous format would have looked almost nothing like what it did without Felidar Guardian being legal!
Amonkhet has suffered much of what Aether Revolt had suffered the same way from Emrakul, the Promised End. Everything in Amonkhet was overshadowed by the overpowered combo's stranglehold. Most of our card evaluation was based on how it fought Saheeli Rai and if it was worth tapping out for in the mid-game.
Now, even I slept on this card a bit too long, which is unusual because I've been pretty spot-on since Kaladesh was released, calling the dominance of Smuggler's Copter and Walking Ballista at first sight. Glorybringer is the defining card from Amonkhet and I'm sorry to say that it might be too late if you've missed the boat on this one. While the price may have gone up since its initial preview, I think this is a card, much like the aforementioned Standard powerhouses, that is well worth its price tag. It can kill multiple permanents, it's versatile, and it's a Dragon! I think Glorybringer is here to stay and, for the time being, might be the defining creature in Standard, if only kept in check by such mythics as Archangel Avacyn and Ishkanah, Grafwidow. If you're not ready to beat Glorybringer, you must have some great Sunday plans at SCG Atlanta this weekend, because you won't be making it to Day 2.
One of the big questions I've heard people ask the past day or two: “Is Walking Ballista even good anymore?” The short answer is yes. If you look back to a match I played earlier this year in Columbus in the Top 4 of the event, I played B/G Delirium Aggro against Hunter Nance, who was playing G/W Tokens.
Even though the combo was nowhere to be found in that matchup, Walking Ballista dominated the battlefield, as it does wherever one person is lacking a bunch of removal. In many ways, Walking Ballista functions as an Umezawa's Jitte of sorts. By no means is Walking Ballista as good as Umezawa's Jitte at dominating combat, but it's certainly up there! It's a mana sink that scales into the late-game and can serve as an extremely fast clock in conjunction with Verdurous Gearhulk. Walking Ballista is here to stay and may have been given a new lease on life come Amonkhet!
Aside from Glorybringer, another five-drop has shown to have some promise from this set and it's none other than this Egyptian planeswalker…
…er, I mean this one!
Without the fear of having millions of 1/4 Cats attacking you out of nowhere, tapping out on turn 5 never felt so good! I fully expect a resurgence of more traditional B/G Delirium decks to make an appearance this weekend. Of course, there are more exciting things to be doing with Liliana, Death's Majesty, but in a more practical sense, as highlighted by Michael Majors on Premium earlier this week, returning Ishkanah, Grafwidow over and over again is certainly nothing to scoff at.
Long has there been a debate (since last week) over whether you want Liliana, Death's Majesty or Ob Nixilis Reignited as your five-cost planeswalker in your Delirium decks. In my book, the jury is still out on that one. With the removal of some of the need to play an instant-speed game dealing with Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai, I do expect there to be an increase amount of play of cards like Ruinous Path and Never//Return. Now we can play more at sorcery speed and have more powerful effects, leading me to think that Ob Nixilis Reignited may have lost some of its luster, since it's answered by a single card. Unless the value of the creature killed or card drawn is incredibly high, it's likely easier to recover from than Liliana, Death's Majesty reanimating your best threat.
If I do play a Delirium deck this weekend, you can bet Liliana, Death's Majesty will be somewhere in the 75.
- 1 Noxious Gearhulk
- 3 Walking Ballista
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 1 Manglehorn
- 2 Mindwrack Demon
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Quite normalizing after what's been a wacky season. I fully expect at least one copy of something similar to this to make the Top 8 of SCG Atlanta this weekend, based on the sheer power of the deck and the fact that it's relatively easy to build in this fresh format!
Another pet deck of mine and many others that has been given new life in this format is a Sultai version of Delirium.
- 1 Noxious Gearhulk
- 3 Torrential Gearhulk
- 2 Walking Ballista
- 1 Manglehorn
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
While the biggest issue for this deck has always been the inconsistency of the manabase, the power level and resiliency of the deck can't be understated. If it's running on all cylinders with its mana coming out early and untapped, no deck in the format can keep up with the advantage this deck is generating. While there are very few new cards for this deck, it's one of many decks that just gains a lot by there not being a two-card combo in the format anymore. Liliana, the Last Hope gets the nod here over Liliana, Death's Majesty just because this deck wants more early interaction and picking off a one-toughness Veteran Motorist, Walking Ballista, Toolcraft Exemplar, or the like can make all the difference.
Some cards that I've been super-high on these past few weeks are some Gods and monsters I've only had the pleasure of reading about in the past!
While it's been a bit since we've had a dedicated creature beatdown deck, a few new cards are extremely resilient to removal and offer a big punch if cast on-curve.
Now this deck can pack a punch! The curve this deck can produce can easily kill turn 4 if left undisrupted, even through blockers!
Turn 1: Cast Flameblade Adept.
Turn 2: Cast Furyblade Vampire, attack with all (discard) for two damage.
Turn 3: Cast Ahn-Crop Crasher, attack with all (discard, no Exert) for nine damage
Turn 4: Cast Hazoret the Fervent, attack with all (discard, Exert) for fourteen damage.
If we had more one-drop creatures that synergized with the rest of the deck, I could see it really becoming a force to be reckoned with. As it is, a Fatal Push on your Bloodrage Brawler certainly feels pretty bad, but I'm hopeful for the future! This deck is no slouch; if anything, I've learned that Hazoret the Fervent and Rhonas the Indomitable are real problems for a lot of decks to deal with, especially Delirium!
One last deck I'll leave you with here on the first day of a whole new world in Standard is one I had a ton of fun playing and that led to one of the craziest game states I've ever been a part of.
Now, this is by no means a conventional deck. To say this is for the highly competitive scene would be an egregious misnomer. This deck has a lot of good things going for it, but its win conditions could be better ironed out. One inherent weakness this deck has is dying to noncombat damage, like a Walking Ballista or Ishkanah, Grafwidow. Such noncombat damage sources are the reason we want to exile cards with our Void Shatter to make sure what's dead stays dead! I do like the idea of having Fevered Visions as well as Bounty of the Luxa to fuel the deck, much like the days of Owling Mine, but having a card such as Approach of the Second Sun, along with everything else white has to offer, could go a long way.
There's so much information to take in and literally no time to piece it all together. I have no idea what to expect and that notion couldn't be more exciting! Good luck to everyone in Atlanta and I'll see you all there!