The first card I saw when I opened the set list of Core Set 2019 was Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, and its text box is just as impressive as its artwork.
Winding Constrictor immediately comes to mind since the +1 ability closely resembles that of the enters-the-battlefield ability from Rishkar, Peema Renegade, already a notable combo with Winding Constrictor. Additionally, it has the upside of pairing well with Winding Constrictor even when the opponent kills it. For as long as Winding Constrictor has been legal, players have been forced to adapt to its power; either kill it immediately or hope to find a way around its continued advantage each turn, one that requires no further mana investment.
I can already hear the skeptics who might look at this deck's potential manabase and call it risky, but it does have a few built-in advantages in Blooming Marsh, Concealed Courtyard, and Aether Hub. The fastlands from Kaladesh are the best value dual lands you're going to get right now, so because Abzan is a three-color shell that can use multiple, it could potentially live in a space that Temur Energy previously occupied (though clearly not as powerful).
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 3 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 1 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
This is my own version of B/G Constrictor infused with white for Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants. Most of it should look stock, but the main thing about other Constrictor lists that confuses me to no end is why they don't play Scrapheap Scrounger.
Cards that have have put 24+ copies in multiple Pro Tour top 8s:— ajlvi (@ajlvi) June 3, 2018
Wasteland (24 at ptrome98, 24 at worlds99)
Grim Monolith (24 at ptny99, 28 at ptno03)
Rishadan Port (28 at ptny00, 28 at worlds00, 25 at ptchi00)
Scrapheap Scrounger (31 at ptaer, 24 at #PTDOM)
Scrapheap Scrounger meets a standard of quality that I deem too high to be excluded from a black-based aggressive deck in Standard. It even does double duty against control, as it can turn Fatal Push from a dead card into an almost counterspell-like effect when they go for a Seal Away or Vraska's Contempt on the Construct. Simply point the removal spell at your own creature to neutralize the exiling effect on either removal spell, something that constitutes for a huge part of the value of those cards. I'd also like to add that once you play Jadelight Ranger and reveal Scrapheap Scrounger for the first time, it feels like everything in the world that could be bothering you is all going to be okay.
This should be your level one Zombies list, but I'm uncertain if it's better or worse to splash for something like The Scarab God or maybe even Abrade. Graveyard Marshal is the all-star addition the archetype needed to get new life. Or new death? Undead?
I have no idea, Owen.
There were a few Pro Tours last season where I tested Zombies builds that weren't quite as strong as ones that ended up getting played in major tournaments, but part of the fun of the Pro Tour is trying out all your whacky brews because sometimes you strike gold and end up playing Temur Emerge in a field of people who don't believe Emrakul, the Promised End is one of the best cards in the format. I loved Zombies, but I struggled with it since it was missing a two-drop creature with raw power. I was so invested in getting the deck to work and finding the two-drop that was the missing piece of the puzzle that I eventually discovered Walking Corpse was in one of the beginner's decks. That meant it was Standard legal, didn't show up in mass release booster packs I would use for draft, and it's unintuitive that it's legal so players may miss it entirely. I had a deck with 4 Shambling Goblin, 4 Walking Corpse, and I splashed 4 Collected Company. Poor Jelger Wiegersma played game after game casting Collected Company and hitting two vanilla do-nothing Walking Corpses until he was satisfied my idea was not suitable for Pro Tour play.
Hey, at least we worked as a team to eliminate it as an option!
Lord of the Accursed and Liliana's Mastery are incredible cards and were instrumental in Gerry Thompson's upset victory over Yuuya Watanabe in the finals of Pro Tour Amonkhet. If these two cards are strong enough to defeat the former World Champion, Player of the Year, and easily in the top five players in the modern era of Magic, you know they're good. It's also worth mentioning that during that match, Yuuya was wielding Aetherworks Marvel in combination with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, something we all know now was one of the strongest decks in the history of Standard.
Finally we have old faithful: my Grixis Energy list I was championing before Dominaria was released and The Chainwhirler ran roughshod over the metagame, making a card choice like Dual Shot look fairly foolish. I bring this deck back into the spotlight because it looks like the perfect home for the newly printed Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if you took my old list and cut two copies of Gonti, Lord of Luxury and one copy of Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh for three copies of Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and the deck would hold its own against a tuned version of R/B Midrange. I'm not saying you should take my list from three months ago and hope to be tier one overnight, but I do believe Core Set 2019 has many tools to revitalize old strategies and although it's looking like The Chainwhirler will finish off Kaladesh-based Standard with less of a fizzle and more of a bang, I say stay strong and explore the new options. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager actually seems to check all the boxes here as it's an on-curve threat that produces card advantage and works extremely well with The Scarab God. I'm already planning to use The Scarab God to reanimate Nicol Bolas at the end of my opponent's draw phase to lock them out of a card, turning a game I'm 99% to win into 100%.
Now that's what I call having fun playing Magic.
One time Corey Baumeister came up to me at a Grand Prix and wanted me to settle a debate he had been having with his brother, Brad Nelson. He went on to ask, "In Four-Color Energy, would you prefer to have two Scarab Gods and one Glorybringer or just three Scarab Gods?" and it was clear to me the two of them had gotten into many heated debates about it. I responded, "I choose four Glorybringer" and he was visibly displeased.
I went on to elaborate that you don't need to ask me what I believe the best deck is because when I go to a live tournament, whatever I'm playing is my way of betting my hard earned dollars on what I believe is best. Those hard earned dollars, of course, go towards the cost of airfare, hotel, tournament registration, and the cost of acquiring cards. People are under the assumption that professional players get all the cards for free and are paid to be at the events they play in, but that simply isn't the case. I live a full life with many responsibilities to different companies in exchange for compensation, and at the end of the day, it's up to me to spend my own money going to tournaments, so I take on some risk each time I show up at an event.
The point I tried to drive home to Corey was if you'll look at the deck I played at Worlds or Pro Tour Ixalan, I had four copies of Glorybringer each time, and I didn't put those cards in sleeves by accident. I did it because I believed it was the optimal configuration to lead to the highest win percentage against the metagame I expected. Why argue about two versus three copies of The Scarab God when in reality it should have been zero all along?
This weekend is US Nationals and for the second week in a row, I've made the last minute decision to attend. I'm glamorizing my poor planning a bit, but I'm still excited to play. The needle was pushed a bit more in the direction to attend because I'll have two byes which are used in the Standard portion of the tournament, the area where I feel my edge is smallest. There's also a Dominaria draft, which I'm very excited to play, as it's a format Ultimate Guard Pro Team working with The Pantheon has completely solved.
Normally I would see Nationals as an opportunity to get extra Pro Points, but I'm already locked for Worlds and Platinum. I'm currently in third place in the Player of the Year race with 63 Pro Points, and I would usually take this opportunity to travel a bit harder and make a run at winning the title for a third time to further demonstrate I'm one of the all-time greats, but that dream is dead because my good friend Reid Duke is in first place with 74 Pro Points. Since the final Pro Tour of the season is Team Constructed, he and I will compete together as The Peach Garden Oath. Therefore, we're locked into earning the same number of Pro Points, and I'll be incapable of passing him. It would be an honor to win Player of the Year again, but I'm pleased to report that from now until the team Pro Tour, I will do everything in my power to help my friend win that particular title.
To the competition? Good luck.