Identifying the Enemy
It’s autumn in the Northeast, and that means changing leaves, changing weather, and changing of Standard. Theros is finally legal, and that means an influx of 249 new cards in Standard. And just as importantly, our 896 friends (and enemies) from Innistrad, Dark Ascension, Avacyn Restored, and Magic 2013 are leaving us. So what is a mage to do in a brand new format?
Identify “the enemy.”
Tackling a brand new format means picking out what “level zero” is: the deck that is so obvious in power that it’s going to be played by a large percentage of the room. Once you have a target, you can start molding your game plan to take on the expected metagame.
One of the early favorites is Esper. Sphinx’s Revelation was one of the most powerful cards before rotation, but it was most often played in Flash archetypes that played a more tempo-oriented game. “True Control” wasn’t really playable. But with the exit of many of Esper’s natural predators like Restoration+Angel and Thundermaw+Hellkite control players are pouncing on the chance to play with their blue, black, and white cards.
“There’s a lot of Esper here,” says 2-time Grand Prix top 8 competitor Mogan Chang. He credits those numbers to one of Theros’ planeswalkers. “People finally realized just how good Ashiok%2C+Nightmare+Weaver is. At first, a lot of people were like, ‘it doesn’t protect itself,’ and stopped there… but it’s a three mana planeswalker that goes to five loyalty right away. I remember Jace+Beleren; there’s more than one way to protect a planeswalker.”
The tools to protect Ashiok include Far//Away, Azorius+Charm, Doom+Blade, and Theros’ hot property Thoughtseize backed up by the raw power of Sphinx’s Revelation, Jace, Architect of Thought, and AEtherling are too much for many to resist.
Another early favorite is Selesnya Aggro. Voice+of+Resurgence, Loxodon+Smiter, and friends, and Theros brings some excellent new toys for the big beaters. Namely, Fleecemane+Lion has brought a lot of attention to the archetype. “Even just the threat of Monstrous is good enough,” says StarCityGames.com writer Advent+of+the+Wurm and Boon+Satyr (or “Boom Satyr,” as Anthony calls it), the regeneration on Experiment+One, the two lives of Voice+of+Resurgence, and hard to deal with permanents like Ajani%2C+Caller+of+the+Pride and Spear+of+Heliod make the archetype surprisingly resilient.
Another popular choice week one has been red aggro. Mono Red, particularly “Big Red,” is a very popular choice this weekend for a few reasons. Among them, Purphoros%2C+God+of+the+Forge gives red a card they’ve sorely needed in the past: a card that makes the ‘bad’ late game top-decks like Rakdos+Cackler and Burning-Tree+Emissary good again! Similarly, Fanatic+of+Mogis has been popping up in the four slot as well. Firedrinker+Satyr, aka ‘Jackal Pump,’ gives red another two power one-drop to apply pressure, while both Magma+Jet and Lightning+Strike slot in nicely alongside Mizzium+Mortars to deliver the beats.
One problem that many have with the Mono Red decks is that it has an inherent weakness to the G/W Aggro decks I mentioned earlier. Those Selesnya decks, in turn, are slightly weaker to Esper Control… and Esper, as you might have guessed, traditionally has trouble with quick red decks.
All three of these decks have popped up in big numbers today. Will one of week one “enemies” take the title, or will an unexpected champion arise? Tune in all day at #SCGWOR to find out!