Many stereotypes float around about the pro players in our community, but one that I don't perpetuate myself is never owning the cards. I currently own only a quarter of the big Modern decks, but my pride and joy has always been having a complete Standard gauntlet available at all times. I rarely use most of the cards outside of practice, but the idea of knowing I can build any deck in Standard at any time soothes my soul.
I've gone as far as owning multiple copies of high-profile decks like Four-Color Saheeli, Bant Company, and Temur Energy. Sure, it's annoying when they get banned, but the important thing is having the cards when I need them. Well, in theory. In practice it's usually just the rest of Team Genesis happily building terrible decks with my collection. It's always such a wonderful treat getting to dismantle all the terrible decks they came up with during our weeks of Pro Tour preparation.
The best part about owning every card in Standard is now I can build Brawl decks to battle with in my free time! I've started organizing my cards in preparation for Dominaria, not only to figure out what I'm missing that I'll want to pick up but also to make room for all the amazing cards this new set has to offer.
Whenever a new set comes out, I often buy roughly eight to twelve cards right off the bat that I believe will see Standard play. Sometimes those investments pay dividends as those cards increase in value as soon as the first tournaments are played. Other times I buy cards like Deadlock Trap.
Just like modern medicine, it's not yet a proven science, as you win some and you lose some. That's why I thought it would be fun to go through my StarCityGames.com® shopping cart and let you in on what I'm buying, what I'm not, and most importantly why!
Let's see how good I actually am at this game!
Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp hasn't really trended since it was previewed. And you know what? That makes perfect sense. It looks like a cheesy gimmick for artifact decks, yet also sits on top of both Karn, Scion of Urza and Tezzeret the Schemer as a "four"-drop. I never thought I'd see the day that so many good artifact-themed four-drops were in Standard that they'd cannibalize each other, but I guess that's where we are.
Well, that's if you don't dig a little deeper to find a home for this gigantic flier:
U/R God-Pharaoh's Gift, if it continues to be a competitive deck, is a perfect home for Zahid. Maybe not in the maindeck, but certainly something this deck could be interested in after sideboarding. Think about it: everyone is trying to stop the deck from finding a way to put God-Pharaoh's Gift onto the battlefield while putting as much pressure on the deck as possible. That means more graveyard interaction, Abrade, and counterspells.
Big removal like Vraska's Contempt isn't what anyone's interested in having against this deck after sideboarding, either. Sideboarding in three copies of Zahid just makes perfect sense. It will allow the deck to present real pressure and defend against larger threats while trying to set up combos, and it will usually line up very well against the interaction the opponent now has access to. If not, then it can get discarded to Champion of Wits or Bomat Courier!
If Mono-Red Aggro is playable, Goblin Chainwhirler will be good in it. This card might even become the reason why Mono-Red Aggro stays competitive. It's just that good. Sure, the deck will have to reduce the number of utility lands it plays, but that will be worth it. Scavenger Grounds is all the deck "really" needs anyway for utility lands. There are just too many good creatures in this format that die to Goblin Chainwhirler's enter the battlefield trigger to justify running Sunscorched Desert over this new Goblin.
Even if a few creatures stick around, that only means your earlier threats will get to "trade up," given the opponent's creatures will have one damage on them. At the least, just having access to this card will make it easier for you to run cards like Earthshaker Khenra into their Winding Constrictors, threatening a second main phase casting of this impressive Goblin.
I'd be surprised if maindecking four Goblin Chainwhirler turns out to be the correct number as the metagame adapts, but even more shocked if no copies ended up in the starting 60. I'm also confident that Mono-Red Aggro decks will want access to all four copies in the 75.
The truly interesting aspect of this card is what it does in the "mirrors." I clearly don't have the answers right now, but I can assure you that the way the Mono-Red Aggro mirror is played now will have to change. One guess is Soul-Scar Mage comes back, replacing Fanatical Firebrand, as it not only dodges a Goblin Chainwhirler death but also interacts favorably with your own copies.
I don't know when, or in what deck it will be, but I know for a fact I'll eventually play with Lyra Dawnbringer. Those of you that don't remember Baneslayer Angel may doubt these words, and maybe that's why this mythic rare is only $19.99 as I write this article. I do remember Baneslayer Angel, though, and that it was one of the most expensive cards to ever see Standard play.
Now, I do understand that Standard has changed a lot in these past eight years, but insane stats are still insane stats. If you can't kill Lyra immediately, she takes over the game. It's like a white version of The Scarab God, but even better in certain situations, like when your opponent wants to kill you with damage as quickly as possible!
Yeah, yeah, cards like Pia Nalaar and Ahn-Crop Crasher still exist, but not forever. When those cards rotate, we may see Lyra spike big time. At the very least, it shouldn't plummet in price, even if all my predictions are wrong. I seriously think it's foolish to not bite the bullet and pick up a couple of these early before the price doubles (or maybe triples).
Two dollars? Yeah, I'm scooping Yawgmoth's Vile Offering up at that cost, especially after reading Patrick Chapin's article about it. There are many cards out there to help facilitate this card's restrictions and even more awesome cards to bring back.
It doesn't even have to be your card! If you're struggling to pimp out your own graveyard, you can just bring back something from theirs! I've talked a ton in the past about how much I love Gonti, Lord of Luxury, and the main reason has always been getting to do things my colors shouldn't. Yawgmoth's Vile Offering provides that possibility while also killing another permanent of theirs.
There's a good chance that this card will be overshadowed by The Scarab God for the next few months, but that doesn't mean picking up some copies on the cheap now isn't a wise choice.
Siege-Gang Commander, to me, is like mainlining nostalgia. I loved this card eight years ago and I'll love it just as much now. The only issue for me is that I'll have to wait until SCG gets four Scourge copies in stock.
Yeah, I'm picky about what set my cards are from, but I already said this card means something to me.
Luckily, I don't think the wait is going to be an issue. Siege-Gang Commander might be able to overcome the giant shadow cast by Glorybringer, but my gut says it won't. Glorybringer is a proven powerhouse, as it's a great way to generate tempo, kill creatures, or fly over for extra damage. It's not great when behind, but not many cards are in this format.
Siege-Gang Commander is better for crewing Vehicles and blocking creatures, and against spot removal. All that may make it a better sideboard option than Glorybringer, but I can't see a deck wanting Siege-Gang Commander over it unless Gate to the Afterlife is involved. For now, I believe Siege-Gang Commander is a card to sit on until we see a rotation.
Another card that intrigues me. Maybe Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle's meek stats are why it's less than half the price of Shalai, Voice of Plenty, because it's for sure not due to having a worse ability. Shalai looks good on paper, but I don't see it being that good. I could very well be wrong, but only having four toughness as a four-drop just makes me think it won't be good enough. The ceiling on it is also pretty low, as we know exactly how good this card can be, especially since it's easy to understand that its "Gavony Township" ability is clearly worse than the actual land.
So, what potentially makes Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle good enough for Constructed? After all, the card has a pretty steep cost on how its decks will have to be built. We'll need cheap creatures worth bringing back from the dead, access to enough historic spells, and the ability to turn this motley crew of cards into something that can win games. That's a large order in this format, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.
So, we first need to find cards that not only synergize with Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle, but also with each other.
These two could work? They work well together but also trigger Teshar's ability. Metallic Mimic is also the type of card that opponents would rather not be on the battlefield, meaning they will often kill it on sight. This is exactly what you want to happen in your vaguely recursion-themed deck.
It's pretty cool to think about how, if you have a Metallic Mimic in the graveyard, you can follow up a freshly resolved Teshar with a Walking Ballista where X=0, return Metallic Mimic to the battlefield naming Construct, and resolve the Walking Ballista with a single counter on it. No clue if that will in fact be good enough, but it's at least cool!
I'm just spitballing here, but maybe there's something to Sram, Senior Edificer now that Teshar exists. It's another creature they most likely want to kill, but it also can be brought back and trigger Teshar. That's what you're looking for, after all.
Now, I'm not going to die on this hill defending Teshar, but I will say I believe it to be one of the more interesting cards in Dominaria. It's at least something I'll want to brew with in the first days on Magic Online.
I'm going to bend the rules here a little bit so that I can talk about Damping Sphere, because I won't in fact be buying any copies of this card. It's only for my Modern collection and I will be drafting this set with the rest of Team Genesis an absurd amount before Pro Tour Dominaria, so I'm pretty sure we will open enough of this card to go around. I guess I could have titled the article "The Seven Cards I'm Adding to My Collection," but that doesn't really have a good ring to it.
Anyway, I guess we can talk about why I want this card.
Damping Sphere will not be a must-play sideboard card, but certain decks may end up wanting it. Upon reading, it's pretty obvious that this card will target Tron, Ironworks Combo, and Storm. Therefore, the card will want to end up in a deck that dislikes all of these matchups but also where artifact hate isn't usually brought in against it.
The first place that comes to mind is Jund, but more important is G/R Eldrazi. I'm still not sold that G/R Eldrazi is worth playing but it's something I've been working on. That said, my next Modern event is the MOCS Quarterly on Magic Online, where I don't expect many to venture out with Ironworks Combo. It does, however, feel like a good decision to find room for two of these in G/R Eldrazi.
Here's my current list if I were to play it in real life soon.
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 4 Eldrazi Obligator
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
I like the idea of Damping Sphere, as it's a great card to cascade into via Bloodbraid Elf yet also can be found off Ancient Stirrings. G/R Eldrazi is also a deck that struggles in all three of these matchups. Now, if only it didn't struggle with so many other decks out there! I will say I've liked it against both Humans and Hollow One, which isn't a bad place to be!
Last up is a card I'm not buying, but probably should be.
I never know what to do when it comes to powerful but expensive planeswalkers. On one hand, I've been conditioned to think they're always overpriced initially, but that rigid line of thinking has caused me to get burned in the past.
The last time I got extremely punished was with Liliana, the Last Hope. I didn't want to spend $25 on the card right off the bat. Then I didn't want to spend $40, even though I was pretty sure I'd be playing it at the Pro Tour, but I wasn't absolutely sure. Then I eventually bought three copies at $70 each, as they were going straight into my Pro Tour deck. The same deck took me to Worlds that year thanks to my strong finish, but that's only an excuse that lets me brush off the mistake of "wait and see"-ing on purchasing the planeswalker.
I just never thought Liliana would rocket in price that high, that quickly. I didn't really think about the fact that the card would not only see Standard play but also get some Modern love. The same can be said about Karn, as many are considering it good enough for Legacy and Vintage play.
I would've thought that to be crazy talk, if not for the fact that I've seen the card in action on the VS. Series already. Coming down on Turn 4 and creating a decently large creature so early is much better than I originally thought it would be. I don't know for certain, of course, but I do think this card will see play. I just don't know how much.
In the present, I feel fine letting future Brad get mad at me for not picking Karn up now, as I currently hope for it to come down some. I just don't think that's too likely. Maybe I just open a few in my drafts and never need all four.
Here's to hoping!
What do you think I missed? I guess Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is a good guess, but who am I kidding? I won't be playing control at the Pro Tour! Anything you think is going under the radar right now? Anything on my list that I'm over-hyping? I'm curious to know what you're thinking!