We all love going 'over the top' especially against an irritating deck like U/W Delver or Esper Midrange. Of course as Standard players one of the first things we do when a full set is spoiled is to search for that next 'big' archetype since being able to play such a deck in a tournament before its known can present a significant advantage! There are a variety of ways to approach a new set but the first and most tempting step is to look at the ubiquitous red deck.
There will be a small window of time as we all know when M12 and M13 both are legal sets and in this small window much like U/G Turboland prior to Time Warp's rotation there is an opportunity to take advantage of unique strategies. The first of these I'll cover is Goblins.
On the surface it doesn't appear as though Krenko is a playable card because he needs to survive for a turn before having an impact on the board and because he sometimes is just a Hill Giant. However envision the following not-unrealistic sequence of plays:
Goblin Chieftain is the juice that Krenko Mob Boss needs to be effective. There is a powerful fundamental difference between creating tokens on the fourth turn and creating them on the fifth turn and there is an even more significant difference when the tokens are 2/2 creatures rather than 1/1 creatures. However even in less-than-ideal circumstances the deck has the most powerful burn spell in the format in Goblin Grenade and is able to run eight copies of Incinerate. Searing Spear gets the nod over the new Arc Lightning because in a deck with 22 lands three of which require 'charging' to become useful that additional mana probably isn't worth the added utility.
Haste is so powerful in this deck that we might even consider running an otherwise do-nothing (or combo-only) card like Fervor but I'm not sure we should be going that deep yet. Initial tinkering with this shell suggests that it has the potential to be a contender during its short lifespan this summer.
The second summer Standard deck that piqued my interest is significantly less competitive but it doubtless will appear at a few FNMs and perhaps even a PTQ or two for those brave enough to attempt it.
That's right: I'm looking at Battle of Wits.
We have access to several cards pre-rotation that significantly strengthen our ability to play the deck although the Tutors are not nearly as powerful as the transmute cards that fueled previous small format iterations of the deck. There is a not insignificant group of four Tutors that can immediately fetch a Battle of Wits and it is here that our deck should begin.
Although we'll undoubtedly play a variety of cantrips draw spells and control elements to survive the pivotal turns until we can win the game we also need to consider the abstract cost of these cards (the cheapest at four mana). This suggests that we need some acceleration.
Putting it all together in a control-ish shell we get a first pass at a potentially playable Battle of Wits deck:
- 4 Alloy Myr
- 4 Palladium Myr
- 4 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 4 Augur of Bolas
- 4 Consecrated Sphinx
- 4 Oculus
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Rune-Scarred Demon
- 4 Snapcaster Mage
- 4 Treasure Mage
- 4 Vampire Nighthawk
- 1 Contagion Engine
- 4 Elixir of Immortality
- 4 Manalith
- 4 Pristine Talisman
- 4 Sphere of the Suns
- 1 Spine of Ish Sah
- 1 Staff of Nin
- 4 Battle of Wits
- 4 Dismember
- 4 Dissipate
- 4 Doom Blade
- 4 Forbidden Alchemy
- 4 Go for the Throat
- 4 Mana Leak
- 4 Murder
- 4 Think Twice
- 4 Thought Scour
- 4 Vapor Snag
- 4 Amass the Components
- 4 Barter In Blood
- 4 Black Sun's Zenith
- 4 Devastation Tide
- 4 Diabolic Revelation
- 4 Diabolic Tutor
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 4 Increasing Ambition
- 4 Mutilate
- 4 Ponder
It's rather tough to break down the essence of a Battle of Wits deck because there are so many decisions that go into its construction. With the high volume of Tutors for example it may seem tempting to add a lot of singleton cards but there rarely will be cases when the correct card for which to search is not Battle of Wits so a redundant Tutor effect that can't fetch the deck's namesake is preferable when including singletons (i.e. Treasure Mage). The deck itself is fairly simple to play in some regards—mulliganing is one of the hardest decisions to make followed by deciding how to shuffle the deck. If you've never played a Battle of Wits deck even at a small tournament like FNM I highly recommend trying it as it's one of the more enjoyable ways to play Magic.
While we're still in the realm of 'big things' let's take a look Mono-Green Aggro.
One reason that mono-green decks have declined in popularity aside from the fact they don't run Islands is that they lose some of the reach provided by a red splash (i.e. Bonfire of the Damned) and can't run one of the best four-drops in Standard: Huntmaster of the Fells. However we might consider the reprinting of Rancor to be a unique call of nature after which we don't even need to leave our chairs.
In addition to Rancor's added power and versatility mono-green gains Thragtusk which while easily Mana Leaked (if they haven't tapped out to deal with our other threats) is extremely problematic for Delver if it hits the table. Even their most "elegant" solution Vapor Snag leaves us with four life and a 3/3 Beast token. The additional power from Wolfir Silverheart also looks significantly better when it more easily can push past 1/1 tokens in the red zone.
Green also gains excellent anti-Snapcaster and anti-Solar Flare tech in Ground Seal with the release of M13; unlike many other limited scope answers found in green Ground Seal immediately replaces itself. Silklash Spider is likewise a viable sideboard card since it blocks nearly every relevant creature in Standard and easily can clear the air at instant speed.
Finally with two potentially competitive aggro decks out of the way let's return to a place closer to Battle of Wits to close out the article.
While it is unclear whether Omniscience is better than Dream Halls in Legacy because Dream Halls actually can be casted (though its effect is less powerful in the abstract) little mind has been paid to it in Standard…being a ten-mana enchantment and all.
As long as Primeval Titan exists in Standard though there is always a chance. If we want to try to win with Omniscience we need to be fairly certain that the game will end as soon as it hits the table. To do this we need to borrow a page from Delver's playbook and fill our deck with cantrips. An initial shell for the deck might look like this:
While this deck falls closer to the casual FNM side than to the competitive side it is designed so that a resolved Omniscience frequently enables a chain of spells that will win the game with little interaction from our opponents. This build is less resilient to aggressive decks than traditional ramp builds (i.e. no removal) but in the absence of disruption it actually has a reasonable clock.
Whichever direction we choose to go after M13's release competitive or casual it is clear that Wizards has done a good job of shaking up the format even before the fall rotation.