A New Standard Is Born!

SCG Invitational winner Todd Anderson talks about some of the new cards he thinks will make an impact on Standard and other formats. Are you excited for Born of the Gods yet?

With Born of the Gods coming out soon, I figured it would be a great idea to start building decks with some of the new cards spoiled so far. While nothing much has caught my eye for Eternal formats, I think Standard could use a shot in the arm. Luckily, I’ve already seen a lot of new cards that can do just that. Some archetypes will be getting a bit of a boost, but I’m confident that we could see plenty of new(ish) archetypes coming in the next few weeks. I’m already looking forward to the first SCG Open Series in Nashville featuring Born of the Gods and have been putting together some interesting lists. Today we’ll be talking about some of them, and keep an eye out for our Versus videos next week, which will feature brews by Brad Nelson and myself with new cards.

Pack It Up, Pack It In

First let’s talk about some of the new goodies for Mono-Black Devotion.

As you can see, not a whole lot will change. We’re getting upgrades in the removal department with Bile Blight and some sweet sideboard cards, but most of the deck will stay the same. However, that doesn’t quite describe the impact that Bile Blight will have on the deck as a whole since I think it’s quite an absurd Magic card.

If you have ever played with Echoing Decay, you know that it isn’t just your average removal spell. In the current Standard format, one of the major goals is to flood the board with small creatures to fuel devotion. This means things like Cloudfin Raptor, Pack Rat, Burning-Tree Emissary, and a host of others. Any draw featuring multiple of these cards is generally pretty strong against Mono-Black Devotion and can easily overwhelm the one-for-one removal plan. The addition of Bile Blight can help prevent these draws from obliterating you.

From playing with Mono-Black Devotion for the last few months, I can tell you from experience that there are many draws from virtually any deck in the format that you can’t normally beat. The draws from Mono-Blue Devotion that feature multiple copies of Master of Waves or Cloudfin Raptor can be hell. With Bile Blight in the format, the opponent is going to have to think twice about casting additional copies of creatures they already have in play. This alleviates a lot of potential damage even if you don’t draw the Blight. And if they happen to gamble a bit and you do have it, then the game can fall in your favor pretty easily.

It’s also a two-mana removal spell that can kill Nightveil Specter, which is huge for game 1 against Mono-Blue and Mono-Black Devotion because the Specter is one of the most important cards from either side of the table. It also gives you some help in the mirror against Pack Rat, which is one of Mono-Black’s defining cards. I don’t know if I should be building the deck differently now that everyone will have access to Bile Blight. My gut says yes, but I obviously haven’t had a chance to play with the new cards yet so it ‘ hard to tell.

Not having access to the B/G scry land is disheartening because Abrupt Decay is one of the best cards you can have in this style of deck since it answers Underworld Connections, Nightveil Specter, Pack Rat, and a lot of other early drops out of various decks. The fact that it also kills Detention Sphere is pretty sweet, but alas—we’ll just have to wait until Journey into Nyx.

The upgrade to the sideboard is a pretty sweet one:

A virtual reprint of Infest with a bonus is absurd. Infest was always one of my favorite sideboard cards, and now it gets scry?! I know that many of you will view this card with discontent, but I can assure you that having access to a sweeper effect in Mono-Black Devotion is quite ridiculous. I’m looking forward to sideboarding something other than Shrivel to help out against white-based aggro decks. The fact of the matter is that a lot of people are trying to play out as many creatures as possible against you, so any spell that can two-for-one your opponent (with upside) is worth some sideboard space.

If white-based aggro decks become more popular due to the printing of Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Drown in Sorrow will be the premier sideboard card for Mono-Black, giving you ways to interact with their early threats so you can save your other removal spells for Brimaz himself. Of course, the removal suite will have to change based on what decks people play at the beginning of the season, as it always does. Some number of Doom Blades or Ultimate Prices might be necessary since Brimaz is just a bonkers creature.

All Xenagos All the Time

Next we have a bit of a spicy brew featuring my new favorite God!

Yes, this deck looks a little rough. Like all new brews, it takes time and work to make things click. There are probably too many scry lands in the deck since ten feels like too many, but I’m not playing any one-drops except for Chained to the Rocks so I think it’ll be fine. I’m not sure if the deck wants to play Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx because you don’t really have a ton of cards to cast off of it in the late game. We aren’t playing Stormbreath Dragon because I think the God version of Xenagos is just a better threat. The fact that he gives a creature haste makes any creature you play after him just absurd.

The maindeck looks pretty similar to the R/W Devotion decks that have been running around lately except we’re also playing green. I think that splashing white for Chained to the Rocks and some sideboard cards is necessary because Master of Waves is annoying and we don’t have a lot of other ways to deal with it. Without an actual answer, it’s pretty easy for Mono-Blue Devotion to overwhelm you since Master of Waves will generate an absurd number of Elementals if left unchecked.

This deck could be built much differently, focusing on just R/G with the full complement of Domri Rades and playing more copies of both Xenagoses, but I think the white splash helps out a lot against the more popular decks in the format. Assemble the Legion is almost unbeatable against Mono-Black Devotion if you can play it on turn 5, and the addition of Chained to the Rocks in this particular shell also gives you a cheap removal spell for so many of the various threats in Standard. Being able to exile Thassa, Master of Waves, Pack Rat, or even Desecration Demon for a single mana can be a huge boost to tempo in a game, as well as just giving you a safety net so none of those cards get out of hand.

After board you can transform into much more of a controlling strategy. Anger of the Gods, more removal spells, and threats that are harder to deal with give you an alternate game plan against decks like Mono-Black Devotion, and having a lot of permanents that aren’t creatures makes your Esper Control matchup a lot better. If you can take Supreme Verdict out of the equation, then you should be fine.

Burning-Tree Emissary doesn’t look all that impressive in the deck, but it gives you an early threat that can help with your green splash as well. It’s also a random body to help protect Domri Rade on turn 3, which is a highly underestimated quality. Yes, it’s just a 2/2, but it’s a free 2/2, which can go a long way when you’re trying to establish board control with planeswalkers. Ever since they announced that there would be multicolored "lesser Gods," I’ve been itching to see the R/G one so that I could build a deck featuring it alongside Burning-Tree Emissary. The new Xenagos does not disappoint.

Speaking of the new Xenagos, let’s examine exactly why it’s good and how we can abuse it.

First of all, it bears a striking resemblance to Fires of Yavimaya, which was a card that absolutely dominated Standard when it was legal. Obviously it costs more mana, which is an issue, but it also has an additional ability as well as a large body attached to it (and is indestructible to boot). Giving a creature you control haste as well as making it pretty large can be troublesome for many opponents that focus on sorcery-speed answers. Cards like Supreme Verdict can only do so much, as any threat you put into play after Xenagos will gain haste and deal an extra few points of damage.

Xenagos can also make combat very awkward for the opponent. Making your Ash Zealots into 4/4s with first strike can make blocking difficult, not to mention you can just pump your Frostburn Weird, trigger Xenagos, and then pump it some more.

One of the coolest aspects of this particular deck is that you have a lot of planeswalkers (and sideboard cards) that are permanents for devotion but aren’t creatures. This allows you to dodge a surprising amount of removal in the format while progressing your board. If your opponent is playing a deck that can’t proactively attack your planeswalkers, you should have a significant advantage.

The upside to playing a lot of cards with devotion is that you get to run blowouts like Fanatic of Mogis. While you don’t have the explosive power of Nykthos (though the deck could easily play a few), you can still use devotion to your advantage. With so many cards that cost RR or RRR, I think it’s important to focus on being able to cast your spells and building up your board turn by turn rather than have the erratic draws that Nykthos can produce. Decks that rely too much on Nykthos are subject to high-variance draws that often lead to mediocre starts and are vulnerable to a wide range of disruption via removal, Thoughtseize, and Supreme Verdict.

Making Waves

While some cards have already caught my attention, there are a few others that could eventually see play, though they definitely need a good home. The first on this list is:

Fated Conflagration




Fated Conflagration deals 5 damage to target creature or planeswalker. If it’s your turn, scry 2.

Five damage to a planeswalker is definitely the sweet spot. It kills nearly every single planeswalker as long as they haven’t gotten to use their abilities an additional time and also has the added benefit of killing nearly every single relevant creature in the format. It’s a red spell so it can’t kill Master of Waves, which is a pretty big problem for red decks, but having a spell that can aggressively attack Jace, Architect of Thought and other nuisances could be huge for red decks. Scry 2 is just an added bonus.

While the card seems reasonable, I don’t know what kind of deck would want such a spell. Aggressive strategies want their spells to be able to dome their opponents, so it may end up being a full-fledged control card. The fact that it’s instant is awesome for decks featuring counterspells, but the triple red requirement might be too much to handle.

I’m not going to write an entire article on why Pain Seer seems good but actually isn’t good. I’m going to assume most of you know that playing Springleaf Drum in your aggro or midrange creature deck isn’t going to do what you want it to do. However, I do think the card is interesting. It’s certainly not anywhere close to Dark Confidant in terms of power level, but it could see some play. I think this card feels very much like Blood Scrivener. It feels like it should be good, but I just don’t think it will ever do what you want it to do.

U/W Control decks have been playing off-color scry lands already, so having access to on-color scry lands can only make the deck better. This land could push the Esper Control decks into a more devoted U/W shell, utilizing removal spells such as Ratchet Bomb and Last Breath and focusing more on counterspells like Syncopate and Dissolve.

At the moment I think that Supreme Verdict and Sphinx’s Revelation are two of the best cards in Standard, though I absolutely hate the rest of the spells that all of the decks run. Your draws can be clunky, and you can easily lose to an aggressive deck if you fail to draw a Verdict. With access to on-color scry lands, you can dig for your important spells more easily, as well as have a better mana base to support the vast array of double-white and double-blue spells that the deck normally plays.

Rakdos’s Return is due for a resurgence. I think that the addition of Temple of Malice to the already solid mana bases of the format could result in a revival of Jund or Grixis and end up making the B/R/W Midrange decks viable again. People want to cast Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Anger of the Gods in the same deck, so let them! Temple of Malice will likely be one of the cards from Born of the Gods that makes the most impact on Standard, as lands tend to do.

I already posted this card in the Naya list above, but I don’t think that deck really does it justice. After all, it’s basically a mono-red deck that splashes green and white. I think we’ve already seen that G/W Aggro can be a viable archetype without Temple of Plenty, but it certainly can’t hurt to have a land in your deck better than Selesnya Guildgate.

At the very least it might lead to G/W decks that are way more curve oriented. The value of having lands that scry allows you as an aggro or midrange deck to have a curve that starts at one and ends at five fairly easily. Until now the G/W decks have been much more aggressive than they probably should be, but that’s mostly because they can’t afford to become flooded. With the addition of Temple of Plenty, I’m assuming that we’ll see many more G/W decks centered on Elvish Mystic as a means of acceleration.

Impact On Older Formats

Born of the Gods has also spoiled a few cards that I think could be playable in Modern and Legacy. While nothing has really promised to become a staple, utility in bigger formats is definitely a plus. When a new card will make an impact on formats this big, it says a lot about how good the card actually is regardless of how it impacts Standard.

First up:

I think this may be one of the best cards printed for Legacy in quite some time. Death and Taxes, aka White Weenie, aka No Brainstorm Stoneblade has been around for a while, but it’s always looking for new "hate bears." I think that Spirit of the Labyrinth will eventually make the cut. So many decks play Brainstorm that it’s pretty hard to argue against a 3/1 for two mana that shuts off your opponent’s ability to dig out of a land flood or land screw. Brainstorm is one of the best cards ever printed, and a creature that has reasonable stats accompanied by an ability that shuts down the most basic Legacy function could prove critical.

Ponder; Gitaxian Probe; Jace, the Mind Sculptor; and Brainstorm are all cards that see regular play in Legacy, whether it’s in combo, tempo, or control decks. Spirit of the Labyrinth threatens the ability for all of these decks to run smoothly and can be a blowout when you sneak it in via Aether Vial. While Spirit of the Labyrinth feels pretty similar to Notion Thief in the format, it happens to cost half as much mana and fit into a deck that wants to aggressively attack the resources of the opponent, whether it’s through Thalia, Guardian of Thraben; Wasteland; or Rishadan Port.

While Spirit of Labyrinth won’t make the cut in every single Legacy deck, I think it has the potential to be a new tool for an existing archetype. Can we see a pattern forming for Born of the Gods yet?

Next we have one of my favorite cards in a while:

I know I talked about Brimaz briefly in Standard, but I think that Modern is actually where it will shine. The majority of the removal in the format comes in the form of Lightning Bolt, and being able to use Noble Hierarch or Deathrite Shaman to accelerate into this mini-monster could be game ending on its own.

Unfortunately Brimaz is a legend, which makes running multiple copies a liability, but it’s hard to argue with such a large creature for such a small amount of mana. One that has an impact like this on the game just seems overpowered. The similarities to Hero of Bladehold are evident, but as we’re all aware, three mana is so much less than four mana in a format like Modern.

Nashville Star!

With Born of the Gods on everyone’s mind, Nashville will be the center stage once the set is released. It will be the first major tournament featuring the new set, and you can bet that people will be not only excited to brew but excited to watch the coverage. This kind of tournament always debuts some new archetype or reinforces how good older archetypes are, allowing us to prepare for upcoming tournaments. It’s also a good litmus test to see if we were "right" in our testing about what cards and what decks end up being playable.

With so many different decks in Standard, it will be a delight to see how many cards from Born of the Gods actually make an impact on Standard. Mono-Black Devotion is mostly set in stone, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. With Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrows sure to make an appearance, I’m looking forward to the spoilers that give us a bit more. The same goes for Mono-Blue Devotion, Esper Control, Mono-Red Aggro, and all the other decks in Standard.

And if some new archetype happens to rear its head? I’ll be right there battling against it. If you’re going to Nashville, watch out! Because I’m going be there, and you can bet the house that I’m going to do everything in my power to come with a weapon no one is prepared to beat.