This weekend the StarcityGames.com Open Series will be in Atlanta, Georgia. On Saturday, Patrick Sullivan, Glenn Jones, and I will be bringing you coverage of the first major Standard tournament with Gatecrash. And Gatecrash is bringing a lot of new toys:
This weekend the StarcityGames.com Open Series will be in Atlanta, Georgia. On Saturday, Patrick Sullivan, Glenn Jones, and I will be bringing you coverage of the first major Standard tournament with Gatecrash.
And Gatecrash is bringing a lot of new toys:
Powerful card is powerful.
Powerful combo is powerful.
Bye-bye Sphinx's Revelation?
Does it find a home?
Is it better than people think?
Is evolve the real deal?
I'm here to bring you a spoonful of reality. While everyone is trying to find a home for the cards above, a handful of players will have absolutely no interest in doing that. That group of players is led by this man:
Speak of the devil and he shall appear.
Why is Ari so happy? Because he already knows what card he cares about from Gatecrash:
Nice Thragtusk, doofus.
As interesting as Gatecrash looks for Standard, I expect SCG Standard Open: Atlanta to be won by Mono-Red Aggro, and I expect it to be done so in impressive fashion.
Because it doesn't have to play bad cards anymore!
Consider the following decklist that Ari took to the Top 4 of Grand Prix Atlantic City:
When analyzing this decklist, you will notice that there are some fantastic cards (Ash Zealot, Hellrider), some above average ones (Lightning Mauler, Stromkirk Noble), some role-players (Searing Spear, Rakdos Cackler), and some real stinkers (Pyreheart Wolf, Stonewright).
There are certainly some noticeable changes here, so let's talk about them.
If you read my article last week, you know that I was a big supporter of Boros Reckoner, and my stance hasn't changed one bit. It's important to remember that aggressive red decks have never had access to a card like this before. Boros Reckoner is the kind of card that puts the opponent between a rock and hard place.
Are they supposed to block it? If they don't, you have a 3/3 unblockable creature for some duration of the game. A 3/3 unblockable creature when you have reach in your deck isn't something they can really afford to ignore.
And if they do block it? The worst case is Restoration Angel. Ignoring that, giving Boros Reckoner first strike is likely going to kill the creature that is blocking it. And if first strike isn't going to get the job done (let's say a Ravager of the Fells is blocking it), the damage that the opposing creature is dealing to it is going to be beneficial.
Keep in mind that Pyreheart Wolf was a card that I played and loved on my way to 67th place at Grand Prix San Antonio. It was a card that provided a unique effect and allowed me to steal some games that I had no business winning. But at the end of the day, Boros Reckoner is just a better Magic card than Pyreheart Wolf is both on paper and in practice.
And I think the influx of Pillar of Flame is going to drive that point home further in the coming weeks.
How many Pillar of Flames maindeck?
Speaking of Pillar of Flame, this is a card that Ari played three of. And while I agree that that was right for the previous format, four is the correct number now for a whole lot of reasons:
The above is a list of all of the one-drops you can expect to see moving forward. They all die to Pillar of Flame. Some others that are also taken care of by this efficient removal spell include:
- Silverblade Paladin
A few months ago, Gerry Thompson decided that Pillar of Flame was so well positioned that he splashed red in his U/W Flash deck primarily for it and how favorably it worked with Snapcaster Mage. That led him to an 11th place finish at Grand Prix San Antonio.
Pillar of Flame was good then. It's great now.
Pillar of Flame this, Gerry!
Isn't Skullcrack a sideboard card?
Assuming that people are still going to be blindly casting Thragtusks to defeat red strategies, Gatecrash has provided red mages with a trump. No longer does one have to play terrible cards like Archwing Dragon to go over the top of Thragtusk. Now a two-mana spell exists that not only trumps Thragtusk but similar life-gaining haymakers like Huntmaster of the Fells and Sphinx's Revelation.
Don't get me wrong. There is a bit of a trade off with a card like Skullcrack. It isn't especially great in red mirrors or against other aggressive strategies, but that's a risk I'd be willing to take this weekend simply because I expect a lot of Naya Midrange decks with Thragtusks in Atlanta.
At the end of the day, the worst Skullcrack will ever be is two mana for three damage. But with that comes a whole lot of upside.
I've seen a lot of people with Hellion Crucible in their Mono-Red Aggro decklists. I was even guilty of playing three copies of it at Grand Prix San Antonio. I was warned by many that the card was a trap, but I was too proud to admit that they were right.
"How can a land that becomes a 4/4 with haste when I'm mana flooded ever be bad?"
"What if the 4/4 is always outclassed?"
In Standard, controlling strategies like Naya Midrange and Bant Control aren't stabilizing with instants and sorceries. They're stabilizing with creatures like Thragtusk, Restoration Angel, Huntmaster of the Fells, and Olivia Voldaren. As a result, those pressure counters that you're adding to catch your opponent off guard aren't really going to do anything.
Hellion Crucible might as well have a sign on it that says: "DEAR OPPOSING PLAYER! DO NOT FORGET ABOUT ME!"
Rogue's Passage, on the other hand, is a hard card for controlling strategies that stabilize via creatures to interact with. The things that made Pyreheart Wolf playable (making blocking difficult/awkward) are the exact same things that make Rogue's Passage playable.
Yet people are still hoping their opponent doesn't see the sign on Hellion Crucible.
Make the change already!
Volcanic Strength? Really?
This is a card that Ari had two copies of in his sideboard at Grand Prix Atlantic City. When I first saw it, I had to hold back a grin since Volcanic Strength is a card that has never seen a lot of Constructed play for various reasons (read: narrow creature enchantments are typically bad Constructed cards).
So what's different now?
For the past few months, players have been dying to play Gruul and Boros strategies but couldn't due to the lack of the necessary dual lands (unless you were Andrej Selivra in San Diego a few weeks ago). With that restraint finally lifted, you can expect to see Ghor-Clan Rampagers, Flinthoof Boars, Spark Troopers, and Boros Charms all over the place.
And the things those decks have in common?
They're brand new land is also a Mountain.
The creatures in Mono-Red Aggro may not be better than those in Gruul and Boros, but they don't have to be. Because if they can't interact with a Mountainwalking four-toughness creature—something that is extremely hard for these decks to do—it doesn't matter how much better their mana base has become.
As Patrick, Glenn, and I progress through the Standard tournament on Saturday, I expect Mono-Red to rise to the top of the standings. With the new additions from Gatecrash, no longer does a red mage have to play inferior cards like Pyreheart Wolf and Stonewright. Now they are able to welcome powerful new additions like Boros Reckoner and Skullcrack to their 75.
And if my prediction is correct, you're going to have one very happy magician on our coverage team.
Isn't he perfect?
Until next time!