Remembering every single deck that's been "almost" good enough is tough. Every time a new set comes out, there are a few hundred new things changing the context of what is and isn't "good." Ravnica Allegiance is no exception and there's a card near and dear to my heart that's breathing new life into some decks that may have previously died off or not quite been enough during their earlier time in Standard:
My love for all things Simic isn't much of a secret, but in addition to Breeding Pool, Ravnica Allegiance is giving us some new tools that do wonders for cards from Ixalan block that haven't given their proper time in the spotlight.
The low-hanging fruit here is the enchantment that fell off with the rotation of Winding Constrictor. The Simic mechanic this set, adapt, has been conspicuously worded to not be particularly picky in how counters end up on creatures sporting the ability. That makes Hadana's Climb a natural fit in anything looking to generate some extra value from the enchantment.
There are certainly some frills in this deck, but the purpose is to try out several small synergies and seeing which ones play the best.
These are the cards that have the most immediate upside whenever counters are placed on them. Outside of their own activated abilities, they have enough upside to justify cards like Sparring Construct in the deck.
Our own Andrew Elenbogen already talked about Growth-Chamber Guardian as a roleplayer last week , but this is a list that's interested in abusing it even more. Growth-Chamber Guardian is the best green two-drop we've had in a long time, and the closest analog in recent memory is Sylvan Advocate.
The reason that Sylvan Advocate was good is because it helped shore up some of the more aggressive matchups while also translating well into the lategame as a result of it giving purpose to controlling several lands. Growth-Chamber Guardian does the same thing.
Controlling several lands, however, isn't the only way that Growth-Chamber Guardian is abusable. Imagine the following curve:
- Turn 2: Cast Guardian.
- Turn 3: Hadana's Climb, put a counter on Guardian. Grab another.
- Turn 4: Cast a fresh Guardian, put a counter on it with Hadana's Climb, fetch and cast another.
That's a lot of action from two cards.
Incubation Druid is pretty great even though its own ability isn't completely intuitive at first. The first place to look for something similar is its adapt ability putting it close to Gilded Lotus in functionality. However, that isn't the case if it's getting counters placed on it for less than five mana.
A second-turn Incubation Druid into third-turn Hadana's Climb gives some serious mana on turn 4, and that's if the Druid doesn't develop anything else onto the battlefield the turn that Hadana's Climb beefs it up.
One of the cards with the most buzz around it from the upcoming set is this absurd mana sink. With Incubation Druid, having access to six mana on the fourth turn is easy, and casting Hydroid Krasis for anything more than six mana is starting to get into modal-Kozilek, Butcher of Truth territory.
Krasis is something that fits in with the rest of the deck in that it's simply trying to generate resources for the sake of converting those resources into pressure in the form of power and toughness. Rather than having a "true" adapt ability, it asks you to pay up front, then gives you cards and life in exchange.
In a deck looking to invest a ton of mana into things and have ways to distribute +1/+1 counters on its creatures, Song of Freyalise is a natural fit. It's likely the deck wants to sacrifice something in the middle of its curve to make its Song of Freyalise draws more explosive.
This deck is an example of something that's trying its hardest to abuse the adapt mechanic to its fullest potential, and explores a few ways to do it. For something a little closer to tournament-ready, I'd look at something like this:
- 3 Carnage Tyrant
- 4 Growth-Chamber Guardian
- 4 Gruul Spellbreaker
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 2 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 2 Zegana, Utopian Speaker
The first thing to note about this deck: It's a Gruul deck.
As more and more sets are introduced to Standard, the better the damage-based removal spells are going to be towards the beginning of the format as people are going to be aggressive, and these are ways to make favorable exchanges in terms of mana.
In order to have enough red mana sources in order to support a deck that wants to cast Shock on the first turn, some concessions must be made when looking at color requirements of the deck.
Rather than being as invested in the guild's mechanic, the idea here is that Hadana's Climb is a nice tool for the ol' "Get em dead" strategy. Carnage Tyrant is much scarier when it's attacking for fourteen, and planning to slowly distribute counters for the sake of pressure, rather than for the sake of value, is the primary gameplan here.
Luckily, the riot mechanic also plays with +1/+1 counters, and it isn't exactly difficult to transform a copy of Hadana's Climb. It just takes two turns instead of one.
Hadana's Climb isn't the only card from Rivals of Ixalan that's been neglected for a few months. Although it's a fan-favorite tribe, Merfolk hasn't really seen much play since the first couple of weeks that Rivals of Ixalan was legal, and that's predominantly due to the fact that it was always one or two cards short of being a full deck of Constructed-playable cards.
Benthic Biomancer is dumb.
One of the issues with these styles of decks is that they need a mix of their effects, and that frequently means redundant copies of their cards. Tribal decks live and die by their lords, and it's rare that there are three different lords that are all legal in the same format. The issue that the deck had before is that it had enough lords to be worth consideration but not enough lords to always have several of them.
With those cards thrown into the mix, almost every card in the deck is something that pumps Merfolk, digs, or is exactly Merfolk Trickster. This redundancy creates situations in which rather than feeling like it's drawing to specific cards, it's much closer to flipping coins.
Very few of the draws with this deck are going to be particularly flashy but take note of the fact that Spell Pierce is the only interaction in the deck. Given a few turns, this deck can outsize creature decks that it plays against and just needs to dodge a Wrath of God effect or two in the process of killing its opponent.
The Simic-based Nexus of Fate decks are the last place that Breeding Pool easily slots into upon set release, and I've been playing a ton of the deck on Magic Arena lately, getting just a hair below Diamond playing exclusively with and tweaking the following list:
At this point, this is within five cards of what I'd consider a fairly stock list of the deck. With Ravnica Allegiance, the deck is getting some new tools:
Growth Spiral is the card that fits the most naturally into the deck, working in a slot similar to Gift of Paradise. It doesn't work quite as well with Teferi's untap ability, but being a two-mana cycler is something the deck is very excited about. Between the new lands and Growth Spiral, this is the way to update the archetype with changes that are fairly cosmetic:
The updates to the deck are somewhat uninspired and more in the interest of preserving the deck in the way it currently plans to execute its end game. Growth Spiral isn't the only card that can play well with Nexus of Fate:
Wilderness Reclamation changes the value of some cards in the deck fairly dramatically. There's the obvious "float mana during my end step, untap my lands, cast Nexus of Fate ahead of curve" tricks that come with Wilderness Reclamation, but the card also increases the value of four-mana cards in the deck pretty dramatically, as the Wilderness Reclamation-into-four-drop is such an intuitive play pattern.
This version of the deck isn't leaning into Fog as hard but is very interested in playing several copies of Settle the Wreckage. It's pretty hard to adequately pressure an opponent while also respecting Settle the Wreckage, especially if their entire strategy revolves around untapping lands during the end step.
The other point in this deck is just how powerful Chemister's Insight is when mana is a near-infinite resource. The filtering it provides is amazing, and in a deck that needs as many raw resources as the Nexus decks do, having a source of real card advantage is a huge boon to the deck. It was harder to justify in older builds as the deck spends all its mana so well, and getting choked on mana is a general concern. Wildness Reclamation circumvents this issue, and the above list is a great starting point going into #MTGGRN Standard.