A Second Look At Magic Origins

With more than half the set spoiled, GerryT feels confident that it’s going to pull Standard in one specific direction and has started building new decks with that in mind.

Since we last saw each other, a lot of cards have been spoiled for Magic Origins. A lot of them are quite good!

Let’s start with my favorite.

You could Intuition for three copies of this thing in Legacy or you could slot them into a Whip of Erebos deck, a strategy that I am very familiar with.

The goal is to mill yourself and take advantage of that in any number of ways, and those ways are typically creatures. At this point, self-mill decks are incredibly resilient to sweepers, at least ones that aren’t Anger of the Gods. With Languish around, that can only be a good thing.

Since we have the Den Protector + Deathmist Raptor engine, the Undead Servant engine, and are even playing Risen Executioner, we don’t even necessarily need Whip of Erebos anymore. However, it’s a potent tool to have in a racing situation, and Whip of Erebos is quite good with Undead Servant. Since we have so many cards that are great in the graveyard, Commune with the Gods makes a return.

If we hit any Undead Servants, that can make up for the tempo loss of playing a card that doesn’t affect the board. There’s also the chance that a turn-three Commune with the Gods turns up a Gurmag Angler that we get to play ahead of schedule thanks to some early fetchlands and/or Thoughtseizes. A Murderous Cut could also spend that third turn’s extra point of mana quite efficiently.

As always, Torrent Elemental steps in as the finisher of choice. While putting a bunch of ground pounders onto the battlefield might be nice for swarming past our opponents, it doesn’t solve all the problems. If people build their decks with X/5s and Languish, the board might get clogged up enough you can’t effectively swarm them. The problem becomes even more difficult if their X/5s are Siege Rhinos, keeping them at a healthy life total.

Then again, we haven’t played with Undead Servant quite yet. Perhaps it makes enough Zombies that we can actually swarm around those creatures. Risen Executioner helps in this regard, especially if you’re able to delve the excess creatures away. Even a six-mana Risen Executioner isn’t a bad deal.

There has never been any real shortage of playable cards for Whip of Erebos strategies, and that certainly remains true. I can see any of the following being a part of this deck as well:

Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Liliana, Heretical Healer
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Sylvan Caryatid
Courser of Kruphix
Hero’s Downfall
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Gilt-Leaf Winnower
Priest of the Blood Rite
Graveblade Marauder
Evolutionary Leap

Basically, the transforming planeswalkers and cards with enters-the-battlefield effects are pretty nice with Whip of Erebos.

The second card I’m excited to talk about is the last of the planeswalkers to be spoiled: Jace!

“Merfolk Looter sucks.”

“It dies to everything.”

“Sorcery speed Snapcaster Mage isn’t even good.”

Pfft, yeah, OK. And Den Protector sucks because it costs five instead of three. Let’s talk about what Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy actually does.

  • He loots away excess copies of himself, so drawing multiples isn’t a big issue.
  • He fuels delve, at least for a little bit. Delve can also keep Jace around if you want to keep looting.
  • He synergizes with cards like Deathmist Raptor and Undead Servant that you might not want in your hand, or at least are better off in your graveyard.
  • He can be Whip of Erebosed back into play and transformed that turn, possibly giving pseudo-flashback to something like Murderous Cut. That’s a pretty big turn.
  • He’s a playable two-drop, which many decks have been lacking. That means Ojutai’s Command is quite good with him.

I’m sure I’m even missing some stuff. Regardless, that’s quite a laundry list. Try this:

Before Magic Origins, the format was in a place where Valorous Stance and Disdainful Stroke were very maindeckable. With the transforming planeswalkers and new Tribal strategies like Goblins and Elves, it’s possible that the format will normalize a bit and neither Valorous Stance nor Disdainful Stroke will be good enough to maindeck. Wild Slash might be making a comeback.

Either way, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy seems like an excellent fit here. You can loot away removal that doesn’t line up in your current matchup, loot to hit your land drops, fill your graveyard for Dig Through Time, and eventually ignite your spark and become a Stoke the Flames-flashbacking badass.

There are probably a lot of places Jace can do work, but Jeskai appears to be the most obvious.

Remember when I mentioned that a lot of the cards that have been spoiled are pretty good?

Uh, I think there might be a deck here…

It’s possible that this deck should go one of two ways: either you add more tokens, which are good with Kytheon, Hero of Akroas, or you go with a more creature- and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx-heavy variant featuring lots of Vryn Wingmares.

Either way, Knight of the White Orchid is one of the best possible cards to help this archetype. It counts towards Devotion, can help you break serve, and can provide card advantage. It’s also one of the few early-drop white cards that is good at most stages in the game.

Archangel of Tithes is a great midrange creature for the deck. It’s safe from the playable damage-based removal (and Languish) and provides a huge benefit in combat regardless of whether you’re on offense or defense. It is kind of a non-bo with Gideon, Battle-Forged, because you can’t exactly keep it back in the hopes of eating their creature that you just “forced” to attack. Hopefully you can just attack with the Archangel of Tithes!

How about Hangarback Walker? Is that card any good? It seems a little difficult to get it big enough to be a real threat that’s worthy of a removal spell, but that will happen in time. I’m mostly interested in it as a mana sink (although Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx isn’t required, but is an added bonus) or as something I can play on turn two, invest some spare mana in, and use as a card that fights sweepers. If you have a Spear or Dictate of Heliod, those Thopters are actually rather threatening.

I feel like this card could be a potential sleeper:

Goblin Piledriver has always been overrated. Goblin decks that have done well through Goblin Piledriver’s tenure typically won through card advantage with Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader. Of course, Goblin Warchief also helped facilitate the draws that made Goblin Piledriver powerful.

Right now, we don’t have any of those cards. What we have are Goblin Piledrivers that are very similar to Goblin Rabblemaster, except that they don’t make their own armies. Without any support, Goblin Piledriver is fairly miserable. The question then is whether you’ll be able to keep that support around.

We’ve seen this before with Shorecrasher Elemental – will Blue Devotion make a comeback? Even though Shorecrasher Elemental was a big gain, it wasn’t enough to sustain the deck as a tier-one archetype. With Harbinger of the Tides, Blue Devotion seems to have enough reasonable things on-curve to actually be competitive.

Let’s take a look at a couple lists:

Prior to Magic Origins, I would have leaned toward the Dragon Devotion deck, but with Harbinger of the Tides we now finally have a two-drop worth playing again. The need for something along the lines of Silumgar’s Scorn no longer exists. Instead, I’d go back to the Collected Company version that made the Top Eight of SCG Portland and went 7-1 at the Season Two Invitational.

The Collected Company version is lower to the ground and more of an aggressive variant, but I like that, especially when we’ve got a potential Man-o’-War to Collected Company into. If that ever happens, you will probably catch up if you’re behind, get ahead if you’re on parity, and cement your lead if you’re already ahead. That sort of tempo play is likelier to have a big impact in a more-aggressive deck.

If Blue Devotion doesn’t have a mini-resurgence because of Harbinger of the Tides, I’m not quite sure what the deck actually needs to be competitive.

It’s worth noting that despite Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy being a low-casting-cost blue creature, he doesn’t exactly fit into the deck. What a shame.

How do we abuse this card? Here are some options:

Perilous Vault Dromoka's Command Sultai Charm Void Snare Reclamation Sage Jace, the Living Guildpact Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

There is also the option of winning the game before it matters. Is it worth investing four mana for a potential six-for-one? Is it worth it if one of those cards you’re up needs to spent on saving you from losing the game? Ideally, we’d rather be bouncing and reusing the Demonic Pact than destroying it, but is there a good source of continual bounce? Jace, the Living Guildpact hardly stands out. I guess we could try going ham with Void Snare and Den Protector or Jace, Telepath Unbound, but that hardly seems worth it consider the amount of nonsense you’d have to play.

Who knows? I think this is one card that I’m going to let someone else do the legwork on.

For six mana, I want a better body than this, even if it does come with something awesome attached. This isn’t Broodmate Dragon and it’s not even Genesis Hydra. For six mana, I think we can do better, at least for now. Even See the Unwritten is going to be more impressive than this thing at most points in the game, assuming you have enough Dragonlord Atarka-level stuff in your deck.

I’m going to pass. For now.

Closing Thoughts

What will the format look like going forward?

I don’t think I can answer that question in its entirety, but I certainly think a couple of things are going to become apparent quickly. Decks are going to be putting pressure on you sooner than you’ve been used to. It’s not like they’re necessarily going to be curving one-drops into two-drops, but they are going to start presenting you with threats that either must be dealt with or ignored.

Cheap removal is going to be very important because of all the planeswalkers, but it’s very unrealistic to assume that you’ll be able to kill everything that matters. Instead, I’m going to focus on being the person presenting the threats. A solid general plan for a new format is to utilize a proactive strategy with some amount of interaction to deal with large problems. It’s often best to be able to ignore the marginal stuff, since you never know exactly what to expect. Just do things better than they do and you should be fine.

Since players will be incentivized to build decks that are threat-heavy instead of answer-heavy, cards like Goblin Rabblemaster might get a shot in the arm. Any red deck with Wild Slash, Lightning Strike, and Stoke the Flames should be able to clear the way relatively easily for a large Goblin attack.

I’m definitely looking at Nissa, Chandra, and Jace for Pro Tour Magic Origins. Goblin Rabblemaster will probably end up being great again. If I want something a little more grindy, Liliana might be where I end up. I’m probably going to shy away from cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and its ilk because it doesn’t appear to line up with where I think the format is heading.

It’s time to get low.