We got a fantastically fresh format in Atlanta this past weekend and what a wild one it was! Many people thought there would be little to check the stranglehold that The Scarab God had on the format, but if you look at the Standard Classic from the weekend, you will only find one deck even capable of casting The Scarab God and zero copies of it in any deck. We went from most of the field doing crazy things like main decking Struggle//Survive to help fight The Scarab God to zero copies in the first premier level Constructed event.
Good riddance old friend!
So, what in the heck happened? People were complaining for a long while asking why such a seemingly oppressive card hadn't been banned along with all the other nonsense we've dealt with over the past year. A card like The Scarab God isn't one to be displaced very easily, and it seems to have all but vanished. I can assure you it wasn't that everyone was too distracted by the new and shiny things from Dominaria; it was because Dominaria gave many decks the tools to fight back, and a control deck that has game against the field that doesn't care in the slightest about creatures.
This past week I moved to Denver, Colorado where I started working at Direwolf Digital designing cards for the Eternal Card Game. It's a full-time job and has been the reason I've been slacking on my usual Magic social interactions via Twitter and Twitch. I'm still technically homeless, as I haven't quite gotten the lay of the land yet and am currently taking residence in the lovely home of one Mr. Josh Utter-Leyton while looking for an apartment. That all being said, getting to Magic events and getting back to Denver for work Monday morning for those of you with real 9-5 jobs, can be a little tricky.
Long story short, I was 7-1 in the swiss of the Standard Classic and was in first seed after the swiss and then immediately had to drop from the event to catch my flight home.
So, who knows what that would have meant for me if I had the time to play out the top 8 of the event. My deck felt amazing and was a little different from the version I played at the Team Constructed Open itself, but we'll get to that in a second. Let's get the elephant out of the room really quick.
Welcome to the new best card in Standard! I would like to point out that I made this tweet about our hero nearly three weeks prior to it exploding on the scene.
Okay okay enough about me, let's get to it.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria might just have been the hero we both needed and deserved for this Standard format. From humble beginnings of merely drawing a card to insane combinations such as untapping Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin after a main phase activation, Teferi does it all. Heck, I even discovered a secret mode in a mirror match against eventual winner Rudy Brikzsa in minusing him on himself to win the decking war. I think I targeted my own Torrential Gearhulk with Teferi more often than any of his permanents as it both fills your deck and gives you more cards that do things, as the game 1s are usually decided by who has the more controlling of the two builds.
Teferi is the reason that The Scarab God is gone. Imagine tapping out for a copy of The Scarab God just to have an opponent put a planeswalker onto the battlefield and get rid of your card that's supposed to end the game when it resolves. That matchup has got to be a joke...if anyone is still casting The Scarab God that is.
Some of the interesting differences between my list and the version that Rudy used to take down the Open--with a very good record from what I've been told--are subtle but meaningful.
We have drastic opinions on which of these two four-mana card draw effects are better. I went with Hieroglyphic Illumination because of the threat of early aggressive decks potentially running me over that being able to cycle just to hit my land drops to make sure I got to cast my spells on time was huge. For that reason, I think Hieroglyphic Illumination is superior since it doesn't matter which cards you've drawn or scry'd to the bottom if you ensure you're casting Teferi on time. It really is the most powerful thing you can be doing, and I'd imagine a lot of people are going to either adapt to the U/W Control deck or get utterly destroyed by it.
One card that I did not register for the Team Constructed Open that I thought I'd give a try to fight the mirror was History of Benalia. While I played against countless copies of this card on day one from various aggressive decks, I would venture to say that this is perhaps the best control card in sideboarded games. There are plenty of matchups where just sticking a threat on turn 3 and protecting it while people are preparing for a long game against you can just be lights out. I caught countless people off guard by beginning my game with History of Benalia on curve, interacting on turn 4 and then ending the game on turn 5 with Teferi plus interaction. It's a lot to handle, and I imagine that many people will adopt this sideboard plan if the mirror is prevalent.
While many of you aren't ready to sleeve up and fight a control versus control mirrors all day long this weekend in Baltimore, fear not! There are plenty of tools to fight U/W Control.
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 3 Resilient Khenra
- 3 Thrashing Brontodon
- 1 Rhonas the Indomitable
- 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 3 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Now hear me out. I know we just saw that the deck to beat is one with three Settle the Wreckage and three Fumigate as well as one of the most powerful planeswalkers we've seen in a while, but let's look a little closer shall we?
One thing I overlooked and wasn't pointed out to me until I walked straight into it on day one was that little line of text that grants the owner hexproof. Sure, you can't get hit with Lightning Strike and something along the lines of Doomfall is completely blank against you now, but what I didn't realize was that a card that hinders players in this format from attacking into open mana a lot is also one that targets! When Shalai, Voice of Plenty is on the battlefield, you can't get targeted by Settle the Wreckage by an opponent. You can imagine the look on my face when that happened to me in a critical game 3 in round seven and it wasn't pretty. All is fair and well with that and a card like Fumigate is still going to get you with Shalai on the battlefield, but as long as you don't attack with it, there's little a U/W Control deck can do to remove it since Seal Away requires it to be tapped, and it's unlikely that Teferi is going to want to come down and throw himself away just to have Shalai back in a turn or two to wreak havoc all over again.
The main deck inclusion of Nissa, Vital Force might seem a bit odd for a deck like this since there will very certainly be decks trying to go under U/W Control and Nissa struggles there, but I can't imagine a worse card to be facing down from the control perspective than an immediate answer to Teferi on five loyalty. It's possible that Lyra Dawnbringer deserves this slot, but I'm trying to take full advantage of Llanowar Elves and play as many untapped green sources as I can. And let's not ignore the addition of Adventurous Impulse giving the deck some much needed filtration and fixing for the light white splash.
Out of the sideboard we get access to even more cards that give U/W Control fits in Prowling Serpopard, making all the blue cards usually designed to make the midrange decks have nightmares into totally blank cards. Calling in aid in midrange mirrors from the king of the jungle himself, Ajani Unyeilding, this little G/W deck that could has a lot of resiliency to it.
There are boundless amounts of things to explore in Dominaria, and one last deck I have for you gave me some pause in the early rounds of the classic and could have some legs to it if given the time of day.
While I've been trying to make Herald of Anguish decks function for nearly a year now, the addition of historic and some killer new tools to fight with make me a believer. One card that brought it all together for me was Rona, Disciple of Gix. It seems like a do nothing long game card with some sweet implications against control decks, and it is, but it's so much more. Often, you'd want to hold your Walking Ballista to cast for more but need to kill their Llanowar Elves on turn 2. With Rona, Disciple of Gix you get the best of both worlds being able to recast your Walking Ballista on turn 4. Better yet, imagine recasting one of your planeswalkers super late in the game! Let's not forget its 2/3 body is enough to brawl with the History of Benalia tokens if they're not getting the buff.
Back to Herald of Anguish. This card might be the best it's ever been positioned right now. Having an opponent discard is no joke when they're struggling to keep up with all that's going on in this deck and if you never attack with it, it's hard for a Seal Away or Settle the Wreckage to do much until they must discard them. Strangely enough, Herald of Anguish can fight the good fight against everyone's new favorite finisher in Lyra Dawnbringer even if you don't have any removal after sideboarding.
Now to something new for the deck. I'm going to make a statement that's true and people need to listen up. It's about this guy.
Karn, Scion of Urza is the beat down. People trying to build their control decks and use this as a card advantage engine in Standard are doing the card a disservice. Here we have a deck that has a ton of artifacts and makes use of them by having Karn be "Make two */*" and have their opponent dead quickly. Yes, I understand that you can draw cards with it and that's great and all, but if I see a deck and my first inclination with Karn isn't to use his -2 ability, I'm not interested in the slightest.
That's all. Here's to an even more exciting weekend in Baltimore where operation "Get Tannon a Trophy" will be in full effect! Calling my shot now, trophy number four is coming my way!