There's a lot to be said about Dominaria. One of the primary things to look at when a set is previewed is to identify any new cards that seem pushed or break the fundamental rules for the game of Magic and the best ways to exploit them. With the Dominaria leak we have a bit more information than we're used to working with at this stage of the game, but all that means to someone like me is more time to break the format with all the powerful cards we get to play with! This set in no exception, and I'm here today to get the framework for the card I'm most exited about in the set so far and all that it means for the next time we visit Standard in Atlanta!
It's no secret, I love love love Llanowar Elves! On top of it being the first card I ever opened from a pack (foil!) back in the days of 7th Edition, it's been a part of some of my favorite decks over the past decade. When we got Llanowar Elves' long lost and grammatically corrected cousin Elvish Mystic, there wasn't a deck in Standard that I didn't begin with four copies of this little accelerant that could! Long ago I learned the lesson that being ahead on mana was an easy key to success in any given game of Magic, and I leaned on my forest friends to do just that time and time again and well, here we are!
Amplifying the stress of how important and back breaking fast mana can be in a match we were also gifted with another accelerant that only some of the decks in the format can utilize in Mox Amber.
While there may be restrictions for this Mox just like there was for Mox Opal out of Scars of Mirrodin, that doesn't mean that there aren't ways to make this card completely backbreaking. With the restrictions being such that all you have to do is fill your deck with legendary creatures and planeswalkers I'd say that's a bargin! No this Mox wont be powering out a two-drop on turn 1 (unless you have multiple along side a one mana Legend) but it will be doing a ton of work at powering out the four and five drops in any given deck making them all the more powerful and capable of keeping pace with the formats most aggressive decks and getting under the hardest of control decks!
I'd like to begin with a few archetypes that improve with the addition of these two power houses that we're blessed with! Here's my first shot at Simic.
3 Karn, Scion of Urza
4 Mox Amber
3 Blink of an Eye
Here's a little old and a little new.
When Kaladesh first released I was pretty high in Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter since it fit with a lot of the style of games that Standard was about…. Until the discovery of Aetherworks Marvel and Smuggler's Copter. That being said, Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter is one of the keys to this deck and a curve that I don't think anyone who isn't interacting on turn 1 on the draw could have any dream of keeping up with.
Turn 2 cast Karn, Scion of Urza and extend the hand.
Karn, Scion of Urza - 4
Legendary Planeswalker - Karn
+1: Reveal the top two cards of your library. An opponent chooses one of them. Put that card into your hand and exile the other with a silver counter on it.
-1: Put a card you own from exile with a silver counter on it into your hand.
-2: Create a 0/0 colorless Artifact creature token with "this creature gets +1/+1 for each artifact you control.
While I don't know how good Karn, Scion or Urza will be, I do know casting powerful card advantage engines in the form of a planeswalker on the second turn of the game should all but be lights out for any opponent. That's just one of the things that can happen in this deck that's truly broken. With whispers and card art of a new green planeswalker we've never seen before on the interwebs, one can only hope for more green friends to get along with and play nicely alongside Llanowar Elves!
" But Brennan, having four copies of a Legendary Mox will have you getting stuck with redundant copies more often than not!"
Well that's true, but we have plenty of ways to mitigate that downside with Llanowar Elves and Mox Amber's best friend, Champion of Wits! What card could possibly play better that is a good early game play that helps filter your draw while being a giant mana sink late in the game that can help take over the late game if things aren't going your way? Champion of Wits is a card that I think is still underplayed in the format and with the addition of fast mana, it can only get better.
Nissa, Steward of Elements has always been right on the border of being great with splashes of it here and there back in the Temur Energy days as a terrific card to resolve on turn 3 on the play after picking off their early Servant of the Conduit or Longtusk Cub on the second turn of the game. Now imagine being able to skip all that and just cast a planeswalker with little to no difficulty on the second turn of the game that not only filters your draws, but can win the game with an over the top ultimate in short order. Planewalkers are insanely powerful cards and casting them early and often give advantages that are hard to come back from.
Another card that might seem like it doesn't belong but one I've been impressed with the idea of is Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp. While yes, it's merely at best an over stated flying creature, that sixth point of toughness has my fancy tickled. With so much of Standard being about being able to beat Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God, being able to tussle with those two is pretty much a bench mark for any creature at four or five mana. As far as ways to help cast this card ahead of curve, the Simic deck above had Walking Ballista, Mox Amber and the tokens that both Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter and Karn, Scion of Urza make to provide the additional two mana for the powerful flyer.
Another shell that Mox Amber as well as Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp might give legs to is an old favorite of mine: Grixis Improvise!
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
2 Mox Amber
It's been a while since we revisited the mainly Kaladesh themed archetype as it's difficult for many important artifacts that fit the bill for what this type of deck would be looking for outside of that which is specifically in place for such things.
This deck doesn't have nearly as many things that help turn on Mox Amber as the other deck, but Herald of Anguish and Maverick Thopterist don't care. As long as it's an artifact that you're not embarrassed to put into your deck and it's on the battlefield, it'll virtually tap for mana either way. Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp slots right here as an early play to both help stabilize against bigger creatures as well as any Rekindling Phoenix giving you trouble, but also pressure that most control decks don't have great answers to outside of Vraska's Contempt.
Where Karn, Scion of Urza was a pure card advantage play in the Simic deck, here it stands as an army in a can when put side by side with Treasure Map flipping and producing all those Treasures as well as the other random artifacts this deck has to help with the Improvise mechanic. There's a ton of things this card can do and adding layers and layers of dimensions to what an opponent has to do to interact with you in any meaningful way is all the better with how Standard is shaping up.
There are so many new cards to consider with the new format we'll be experiencing but maybe it's better remembering the common saying "the more things change, the more things stay the same" in this instance.
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Rekindling Phoenix
- 2 Resilient Khenra
This deck hasn't changed much since the Grand Prix winning list, but it might be the deck that gets the biggest improvement with the addition of Llanowar Elves to the format. I thought it would be a dogs' age before we'd see it back in Standard, but I'm happy they're back.
It's been a hot minuet since we've had access to this card in Standard and even though times have changed, I'm going to guess we'll be seeing plenty of Cedric Phillips tokens on coverage over the next two years. Siege-Gang Commander is a Fodder Cannon with all the ammo already in it!
What's not to love? It's a Goblin, it brings a cousin to put in a cannon, and it's already found another cousin!
Diversifying the threats in the Monsters deck is all that you can do to give control decks fits and being able to get to the earlier means you'll be even further ahead when it comes time to cast your expensive spells. All in all, I'm exited to see what other cards we can accelerate to with Llanowar Elves in just a month's time, but we have a lot of information to work with already and that's got me itching for more!
While it won't be until a month from now that I get to test my theory about how we're going to be living in a world defined by Llanowar Elves and friends, I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm right. My only dream is that Llanowar Elves gets to be reunited with its best buddy Birds of Paradise one day and then we can really get to business with all kinds of shenanigans casting five-drops on turn 3 once more. I suppose that's currently possible with the help of more than one Llanowar Elves in the opening hand as well as Servant of the Conduit...a guy can dream can't he?
Until we meet again Standard, I had my fun casting Torrential Gearhulk and The Scarab God in Cincinnati this past weekend, but I'm a green mage at heart, and I'm happy to be able to get back to my roots come Dominaria.