Now that almost all of Return to Ravnica is known we can begin the process of building decks. Sacrificing Thragtusk to Disciple of Bolas is still the thing I'm most excited about doing in the upcoming Standard format so I want to look at some decks that can let me do that and consider what concerns they might have.
I'm not necessarily committed to playing only green and black; I just want to have both of those colors. Red and white are easy to add from there. Blue is possible but is the least likely third color. I think I want to start simple. I'll see what I want in green and black and then consider what that might not be able to deal with and what the other colors could do for me.
I'm not interested in building Zombies. Everyone else will be working on that and an excellent list will be developed very early. I could try to build it right away to get a jump on other people by having a better list but since I'm not playing in a Standard tournament right after the set is released it's much better for me to just wait and see what other people do. Instead I'd like to focus on decks that won't necessarily be built if I don't build them myself.
Since I want to play Thragtusk and Disciple of Bolas I'm going to be gaining a lot of life. I'm also playing reasonably expensive spells. Arbor Elf works well with expensive spells and Underworld Connections works well with gaining life and Arbor Elf. It seems like it would be irresponsible not to try to combine these interactions.
So now I know that I'll be trying to get a steady stream of card advantage as well as large bursts of cards later on. It sounds like I'm going to want some one-for-one exchanges to happen to pull me ahead. The cheaper the better since Underworld Connections taxes my mana. Also that's just how Magic works. The best cheap one-for-ones in my colors are Duress Appetite for Brains Abrupt Decay Naturalize / Sundering Growth depending on how many tokens I have Dead Weight Tragic Slip Victim of Night (doesn't seem safe early because of Zombies) Ultimate Price (might be ok with only one dedicated gold set but it's definitely risky in large numbers). Golgari Charm might work depending on how good the Nausea and Demystify modes end up being. Prey Upon is an unlikely but possible option as is Murder which I hope is too expensive but could see playing one or two.
I'd also like some other creatures that I can sacrifice to Disciple of Bolas. Borderland Ranger and Strangleroot Geist are possible options but I'd like more than two cards. Rancor could let me do that as could Chronomaton. It doesn't feel like a Constructed card but I've had great experiences with it in Limited. With Vapor Snag and Gut Shot rotating maybe Chronomaton has a chance. Desecration Demon is a huge threat and if they can keep it locked down it's absolutely crazy with Disciple of Bolas. Scavenge could let me build a big creature but that mostly seems like too much work. Still Dreg Mangler might be worth considering. Outside of that I could always use Rancor to let anything draw two extras.
Urban Burgeoning is an interesting card. It's a one-mana mana source that can't be killed by creature removal and can function as another Underworld Connections (I like the flavor of those names working together). For it to be worth it you have to have a good plan to consistently spend mana on your turn and theirs which isn't likely but Grisly Salvage is definitely the kind of card you'd need if you were committed to making it happen.
I don't know what I'm building toward yet. I'm actually reviewing the spoiler as I write about what kinds of cards I want so this is the most pure form of watching me brew that I can bring you. I think I want to start with a more midrange/aggressive/creature-centric version and move to be more controlling from there.
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 2 Desecration Demon
- 4 Disciple of Bolas
- 2 Dreg Mangler
- 2 Scorned Villager
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 4 Thragtusk
- 2 Wolfir Avenger
- 1 Wolfir Silverheart
Building this deck I think the haste creatures and Rancors make it aggressive enough that I'm not trying to grind people out with Underworld Connections. It's just too slow. Wolfir Silverheart is another sweet way to draw a ton of cards with Disciple of Bolas but you only have room for so many fives and Thragtusk is pretty important.
Golgari Charm is an excellent answer to Bonfire of the Damned that can also kill all the mana dorks in the Bonfire deck if you happen to not have them but Gruul not existing yet does make Elf/Bonfire decks less likely. It's also possible this sideboard wants Curse of Death's Hold or Naturalize to answer your opponent's Curse of Death's hold.
This also feels like a deck that wouldn't mind splashing red for Falkenrath Aristocrat and Pillar of Flame if Zombies proves to be a problem despite large creatures life gain and removal (I hope that's not the case).
Note that this deck is heavily base green because of Strangleroot Geist.
Let's try a bit grindier:
I'm not sure about Jarad but he seems like he might be what's going on in grindy matchups. In a late game he can be the biggest guy around and doesn't die to Abrupt Decay Victim of Night Human Frailty or Ultimate Price. And if they can kill him anyway sacrificing two lands to get him back isn't bad at all. Being able to throw Thragtusks and Desecration Demons at the opponent seems like it would be lethal pretty often.
It's possible I should be working harder to abuse this guy. Maybe something like:
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 2 Borderland Ranger
- 2 Dawntreader Elk
- 3 Disciple of Bolas
- 2 Ghoultree
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 3 Slitherhead
- 1 Thragtusk
- 4 Veilborn Ghoul
- 2 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
I'm not sure what the number of discard outlets needed for Veilborn Ghoul is. It's awesome with Liliana Lotleth Troll Faithless Looting Wild Guess if you can support the mana and a lot of other cards. This deck is designed to make Lotleth Troll huge which can let you sacrifice it to Disciple of Bolas to get to the point where Jarad and Ghoultrees take over. Gravecrawler and Slitherhead are great to discard to Looting and Lotleth Troll in addition to the Veilborn Ghoul. Grisly Salvage Faithless Looting and Disciple of Bolas let you get everything together.
The biggest cost here is that I'm giving up maindeck removal but in exchange I get some synergies that might start to feel like my Legacy Zombies deck. I've also moved away from Thragtusk main but with Thragtusk and Huntmaster in the board you should be so good at that kind of effect after sideboarding that you'll be excellent against decks that don't want to play against that.
Going more controlling we could consider something like:
It's a little weird that my sideboard has fourteen red cards and I have zero maindeck but I realized that I am worried about planeswalkers and Zombies so I want Pillar and Dreadbore. Bonfire is pretty awesome with Underworld Connections since I can always draw my extra card on my opponent's turn and Rakdos's Return seems like an important card to have access to against other control decks.
Next just for fun I want to look at a G/W/B dedicated life gain deck. It's a weird premise but the cards just seem to be there to make it interesting:
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 2 Borderland Ranger
- 3 Disciple of Bolas
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 2 Rhox Faithmender
- 4 Thragtusk
- 2 Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
This is a midrange token deck that makes excellent use of Restoration Angel and moderate use of populate. It's basically set up to beat up on other creature decks and after sideboarding it can go even bigger with Angel of Serenity and Collective Blessing. Rootborn Defenses is there to give you some hope against sweepers although realistically Thragtusk Lingering Souls and Disciple of Bolas aren't bad at that either. If the format early on is just Zombies and other creature decks this kind of deck might be really well positioned (if it's REALLY full of Zombies Knight of Glory will be happy to join the sideboard). Things would go a lot less well against decks like the Mutilate control deck above. (Sorry Rootbound Defenses better luck next time.)
There's a lot here to explore and these decks are really only scratching the surface. Abundant Growth and Chromatic Lantern let you play five colors pretty easily but I'm not sure why you'd want to just yet. That sounds like the kind of thing that will be more exciting once the format is known and you know exactly which bullets you need from every color. Alternatively it might be a good way to get all the planeswalkers into the same deck if that's something you think you want to do.
I'm definitely excited about the possibilities of each of these decks which might mean great things for this format.
And seriously that Jarad guy—he might be a lot better than we think.
Thanks for reading