I think my happiness outweighs my sadness when things get spoiled early. While it certainly decreases the amount of time we get to spend refreshing the mothership at midnight every night it's nice to know everything we have to look forward to in new Standard.
I've spent the last couple weeks testing new brews against Brad Nelson in our Brad vs. Gerry playtesting video series. In that time we've played Zombies Jund U/W Miracles Zombies White Weenie Grixis Control Mono Red Zombies Junk Reanimator and Junk Midrange. Of those the most promising is Zombies which is why we've played it so much.
I've done my fair share of battling with Zombies over the last few weeks. B/G is my favorite at the moment especially since Golgari Charm has been spoiled. Knight of Glory is the obvious hate card for Zombies and Golgari Charm gives you another useful answer to it. Cower in Fear is fine and Flames of the Firebrand is excellent but again I like B/G.
Zombies looks like the best deck post-rotation and none of the other decks we've played with looked like they can take that mantle. There have been some promising hate decks but nothing attacks as quickly and on as many different angles as the Zombie deck.
Cards like Lotleth Troll and Dreg Mangler provide solid Geralf's Messenger impersonations. Before Zombies had powerful cards like Gravecrawler Messenger and Falkenrath Aristocrat but the filler in between wasn't impressive. A pile of Blood Artists and Highborn Ghouls isn't going to impress anyone and it's rarely going to kill them.
However when your curve is filled with hard to deal with efficient threats a lot of the matchups become a joke. I've tried B/R and Jund Zombies but B/G is where it's at at least for now. B/R has the reach with Blood Artist and Falkenrath Aristocrat which you could splash into B/G but the staying power is what's truly important. You don't need the reach if they never stabilize in the first place.
The Jund deck is certainly powerful but the mana base is painful. If the mirror is prevalent and it should be then that's a risk you probably shouldn't take. So if the choice is either B/G or B/R I choose B/G.
Brad and I have experimented with Rakdos Cackler and playing the full twelve one-drops but I didn't like that. Past a certain point (and sometimes that point is turn 2) Rakdos Cackler is another one of those creatures that is outclassed by their bigger creatures. With green you can use Rancor to mitigate that but what happens when you don't draw Rancor? Why not just play Rancor and better creatures?
The sad truth of the situation is that a one-mana 2/2 creature isn't breaking any industry standards. Rakdos Shred-Freak has also been unimpressive against other creature decks. Against control decks these guys are all-stars for sure but with Standard becoming more combat-oriented you really want dudes who are going to dominate the red zone. Therefore we play green. Dreg Mangler and Lotleth Troll are the winners but as I said Rancor and Golgari Charm are also reasons to be green.
I've gotten a lot of flak for not playing Abrupt Decay in my Zombie decks but there isn't much that needs killing. Destroying Oblivion Ring and Detention Sphere is certainly good especially since it's one of their only answers to Geralf's Messenger but how important is that? Clearly that exchange is favorable for Zombies but what about when they don't draw Oblivion Ring? On top of that Golgari Charm is another answer for those cards and Supreme Verdict.
Zombies also has Gravecrawler Lotleth Troll Geralf's Messenger and things like Dreg Mangler or Rakdos Shred-Freak to make a Wrath of God about as ineffectual as possible. The creatures truly are better than the removal spells.
While I strongly feel B/G is the way to go I can't exactly argue with wanting to play Falkenrath Aristocrat. That card is super powerful and dodges most of the format's anti-Zombie threats like Centaur Healer Loxodon Smiter and Thragtusk aka anything they can use to brick wall your ground guys and gain a little value in the meantime.
Still I haven't had much of a problem grinding through those with Messenger Mangler Troll and Rancor. The problem arises when they've built their deck to stall into something such as Angel of Serenity—it's tough to beat that card. Some might say that you can just Fireball the Zombie deck out but I'm not a firm believer of that strategy.
Of the decks we've built for our playtesting videos I feel like Reanimator is the second best deck to come out of them. That said I'm not quite sure how to build it. Deathrite Shaman has thrown a wrench into our plans. Brad and I were happy with our Junk build but we would have loved to splash Faithless Looting if possible. Deathrite Shaman makes that possible but it obviously doesn't work that well with Mulch. If that means we have to play Tracker's Instincts instead so be it. At least we get Looting!
One of the main draws to Reanimator are the Angels: Angel of Glory's Rise and Angel of Serenity. For a while I've been waiting for a Reanimator target that gives you some value or does something when your opponent has lethal damage and a removal spell. In that spot something like Griselbrand or Gisela just dies. At least with Angel of Serenity their team gets bounced and you can return another Angel or something like Thragtusk to your hand.
Out of the sideboard or hell even in the maindeck Angel of Glory's Rise is super awesome against Zombies. I could imagine that being a problem for my B/G version of Zombies but Ari Lax posted a Zombies list with Tormod's Crypt in the sideboard. I'm starting to like that idea. If Reanimator is one of your biggest foes you should probably sideboard it against them even if it's narrow.
You could also build the Reanimator deck to utilize Angel of Glory's Rise like the PT Avacyn Restored version but it's less powerful overall. You do have some infinite combos with Fiend Hunter but those are a lot harder to set up.
Rest in Peace is a fantastic card against these strategies but it's one that you can easily sideboard against. Rather than side in Disenchants you should probably just side out your Deathrite Shamans and Unburial Rites and side in a reasonable threat. One of the best things about Standard Reanimator is that it doesn't necessarily need to utilize its graveyard to win.
A lot of people told me to play Grixis Control and I'm glad I listened.
You should definitely check out our Grixis vs. G/W video when it goes up. Not only did it display exactly just how fun control is but I got to destroy Brad in a few lopsided games. However Thragtusk proved troublesome. In some games I managed to kill each Thragtusk with three removal spells (typically two Pillar of Flames and Dreadbore) but when he managed to protect it with Blink effects I was drawing pretty slim.
Gilded Lotus into an eight-drop was the big reason I was winning those games. With these control decks it's hard to get ahead unless you nearly double your mana supply. Thankfully Lotus exists and right now no one is really playing hate for it. If that changes the deck could end up being a lot worse. That's not the case right now so I recommend seeing how much fun untapping with a Lotus is.
Thragtusk is the hardest problem I faced but do I really need to play Hover Barrier? Gavony Township would prove troublesome regardless. Pacifism would be a fine answer but then you get blown out by Restoration Angel. Honestly I'm tempted to play Essence Scatter since there are a lot of creatures and few people are playing Cavern of Souls.
Syncopate is a fine Magic card and is definitely what you want to play if you're worried about various sorts of permanents. Sometimes you want a general answer and Syncopate is perfect for that. Cancel would be cheaper most of the time but Syncopate gives you added utility. You can never Cancel something on turn 2 which is arguably when you're most vulnerable. Late game it probably doesn't matter if you need three mana for Cancel or five for Syncopate.
I have some ideas for this card but much like the Storm deck I don't know if they actually work. Despite my best efforts Brad declined playing versus Epic Experiment in a playtesting video. My idea was to treat the deck as a velocity-based soft control deck that wins by casting Epic Experiment for value and then another that will equal victory. The easiest way to do that is to Experiment for nine and hit a Worldfire and a burn spell.
In order to make that happen I needed some kind of ramp either Farseek / Ranger's Path or Gilded Lotus. Even though the green ramp works best with the early game Epic Experiment for value I think Gilded Lotus is the turbocharge that you need.
This is what I was thinking:
The other option is using Increasing Vengeance to copy Epic Experiment hopefully revealing another Increasing Vengeance to continually copy the original spell. If you're using the Worldfire kill it requires eleven mana to set up but that's not that difficult if you have two Gilded Lotus. I wanted to build a "normal" version to see how it does but I haven't gotten to play with it yet.
Finally some real things to populate! We have Call of the Conclave Selesnya Charm Geist of Saint Traft or even Armada Wurm. Those are a whole hell of a lot better than populating 1/1 fliers. Maybe there's a deck or two here but I'm not sure what it would look like. An army of 3/3s that grows nearly every turn is certainly powerful but I'm worried that Zombies might be able to outlast them.
Splashing Geist seems like a necessity because you'll be weak to fliers otherwise and populating Angels is good way to lock up the air. Geist is also a very powerful card on its own and there are very few ways to deal with it.
Parallel Lives is certainly interesting as well...
I played Mono Red in a playtesting video and did surprisingly well. However I did notice a few problems. The first was that my creatures were not good in combat aside from Ash Zealot. My creatures were big by weenie standards but everyone else's were bigger. In order to swing that in my favor I needed cheap removal which I didn't really have access to.
The games I won were when I was able to play multiple spells on turns 3 and 4. Rakdos Shred-Freak plus Pillar your blocker was a good start. Brimstone Volley your other guy plus another one-drop usually locked it up. Problems arose when I was flooded with three-drop burn spells as I didn't have anything powerful like Shrine of Burning Rage to deal seven to ten damage.
Surprisingly Vexing Devil and Thunderous Wrath were pretty good. My burn spells weren't as powerful as years past so having those cards that did four or five on their own was valuable. Hellrider would have been another card that can deal a lot of damage for its mana cost but I think it might be too expensive at least for this version.
Gore-House Chainwalker might actually be good enough but two toughness is low and I think the other two-drops are better. Maybe the deck could benefit from splashing a color but I'm not sure which would be best.
Of course Zombies can power through a bunch of Centaur Healers and Thragtusks whereas this deck will fall flat. Maybe it's just a metagame choice when people don't have many big creatures in their decks?
I've played a few different Delver variants but the best version I've seen is one by Max Tietze. This is my updated version of his list:
I like that Goblin Electromancer brings the beats while also turning cards like Talrand's Invocation Bonfire of the Damned and Desperate Ravings from playable to awesome. Guttersnipe also does a solid Geist of Saint Traft impression at least in its damage output.
Overall I don't have much to say except that I want to try those cards in that list.
This is the first new format where I've been in Roanoke heavily playtesting before it comes out and it's been incredibly helpful. I feel like between Brad and me we're going to have some sick tuned lists for you by the time the format starts!