Archetypes For #SCGBALT Next Weekend

What will the debut decks be at #SCGBALT’s big Shadows over Innistrad coming out party next weekend? Mike Sigrist shares the decks and strategies he thinks will kick off the new SCG Tour® Season!

Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease April 2-3!

It’s an exciting time for Magic. We’re heading back toInnistradand I couldn’t be more thrilled. We finally have a full spoiler list to peruse, and from it, we get to create some new sweet Standard decks. There are a lot of new cards to look at, and old cards that were overshadowed by more powerful cards from Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged get to have their day in the sun. There are a few sweet new archetypes that we can make prototypes of, so let’s take a peek, shall we?

R/B Vampires

First off the bat is a deck on everyone’s mind, R/B Vampires. This seems to be the aggro deck du jour, so I won’t get into it too deeply as there is plenty written about it right now. Incorrigible Youths combined with either Heir of Falkenrath or Ravenous Bloodseekers is a quick seven damage on turn 3. To me, this combination of cards and Olivia, Mobilized for War are the big draws to the deck. I think this deck has some interesting aggressive aspects to it, but it may be lacking in resiliency. It’s possible that Elusive Tormentor should be included maindeck to get around some of the sweeper effects, such as Planar Outburst or Chandra, Flamecaller, but I expect to see some Languishes as well and that is an issue for the Insidious Mist.

I included the Elusive Tormentors in the sideboard for some matchups against decks loaded with spot removal and the other sweepers. Fiery Temper is a nice way to use our madness outlets. It’s not something that is a real draw to play the deck, but it does give us a little reach, which is important. Being aggressive early in a format is a good place to be. We can attack inconsistencies of decks that maybe haven’t been fine-tuned, giving us an advantage against unprepared opponents.

B/G Delirium

I find this next deck extremely appealing. Maybe I’m delirious, but I’m a sucker for graveyard synergies. Gather the Pack and Mindwrack Demon were made for each other. Gather the Pack has the ability to instantly turn on delirium, find a Mindwrack Demon, and start filling our graveyard with Deathmist Raptors alongside spells to recur with Den Protector. Traverse the Ulvenwald acts as a creature Demonic Tutor in the middle turns of the game and fixes our mana early. It’s possible this deck can have some more toolbox creatures to go with Traverse the Ulvenwald. I included a few one-of high-impact creatures in this list.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer provides us a potential planeswalker we can tutor for with Traverse. Against a tapped-out control player, this would be an ideal choice. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a way to gain back some much-needed life now that we don’t have Siege Rhino around to save us. It’s possible we should have a maindeck Pulse of Murasa to go with our Regrowth effects as well.

The Gitrog Monster is probably my favorite card from Shadows over Innistrad. I’m not entirely sure how much play it will see, but I can’t wait to see this bad Frog get its feet wet. The Gitrog Monster allows us to turn lands into much-needed spells, all the while giving us a good-sized creature for our mana. I’m always perplexed when they put deathtouch on unusually large creatures, but I digress. It’s a Spiritmonger with a built-in card-drawing engine, plain and simple. I think The Gitrog Monster will have its place to shine, though I don’t think it’s quite a four-of in a deck with so few lands. It’s still a nice one-of to find with Traverse the Ulvenwald.

Greenwarden of Murasa was a card I initially liked when it was printed in Battle for Zendikar. It has quite the powerful effect but wasn’t quite good enough in previous Standard. I think it’s an excellent target for Traverse the Uvenwald and might see some play in decks like this from here on out.

As for the removal suite, it’s a little bit of a mixed bag right now. Usually when I build new decks I start with a mixture of removal to find out what I like best in testing, or until I find out what the metagame will be to customize it. We’re not entirely sure what our major enemy will be, so playing a mixture of versatile removal spells is usually a good place to start. We don’t want to play a full playset of Ultimate Price and be left dead to a Mono-Red Eldrazi deck that’s been gaining in popularity and losing very little post-rotation.

To the Slaughter is a card I’m a bit skeptical about initially. I think this Standard will have an uptick of planeswalkers played because of how many good options we’ve been given to work with, but its inability to target a creature I want to kill is a bit frustrating. It’s possible the card just doesn’t cut it and we have to lean more on Ultimate Price, Grasp of Darkness, or Ruinous Path to do the job, but I think To the Slaughter Requires a bit of testing first. Ob Nixilis Reignited is a card that I think also gains a lot from a big rotation. It saw a little play in prior Standard but I think this new Standard will slow down a little and Ob Nixilis Reignited will find his sweet spot.

Decks like this always provide us game against a wide variety of decks because they are built to both go long and control the early game with cheap removal. The fact that a deck like this can provide us so much card advantage throughout the game in a variety of ways is very exciting and I’m super-excited to explore this kind of deck going forward.

U/B Reanimator

Time to dig a little deeper into the graveyard synergies. Here we have a U/B Reanimator build. I was pretty excited when I first saw Ever After. The problem we’ve had recently with reanimating creatures is we’re just saving two or so mana casting a Necromatic Summons on a Dragonlord Atarka or something of the like. We’ve worked really hard to at most empty their battlefield and get a 10/10. The 10/10, however, is pretty easy to dispatch and then we’ve worked really hard and have to start over. Ever After lets us put two creatures onto the battlefield, making it much more difficult to remove all our huge threats.

Kozilek, the Great Distortion is a sweet reanimation target, especially with Ever After. We can bring back a Dragonlord Atarka and Kozilek to wipe the battlefield (or at least clean it up nicely) and have a walking Force of Will to counter any way our opponent may have to disrupt us. If we are well-versed in addition, we can also figure out that adding eight and twelve gives us twenty.

Not getting the draw trigger off of Kozilek, the Great Distortion is obviously a bit annoying, but the deck is mostly keeping cards in its hand while casting cards like Oath of Jace and Catalog in the early turns, which keeps our hand size the same. Mindwrack Demon is another way to fill our graveyard and provides us with a big body early in the game to both block early creatures and eat a potential removal spell, buying us a turn to “combo.”

This deck may be a little fringe, but I think it’s something worth trying initially and will certainly be a lot of fun.

B/W Planeswalkers

B/W Control decks had some success in Standard of the past, so it’s worth looking at again because we’ve lost very little. The idea of this deck is to keep the battlefield clear and then land a planeswalker to take complete control of the game. Both Sorin, Grim Nemesis and Ob Nixilis Reginited have the ability to clean up a remaining creature on the battlefield, and Sorin can even combat an opposing planeswalker. Sorin, Grim Nemesis also provides us with a card-drawing engine on a clean battlefield, keeping the game out of reach for a struggling opponent.

Linvala, the Preserver plays a role of stabilizer in this deck. We have a few ways of costing ourselves life, such as Read the Bones and Anguished Unmaking, so Linvala helps keep us out of reach while stabilizing the battlefield, and if we’re too far behind we’ll get a bonus angel on top. Declaration in Stone isn’t great in a control deck because it is card disadvantage, allowing the opponent to replace its threat with another random card. This card will ideally fit into an aggressive deck where we can close the game out before they have time to cash in their Clue for a card. I’ve included one for Wasteland Strangler synergies and the ability in the mid-game to double-spell and either kill two threats or kill one and follow up with a planeswalker of our own.

This is just a deck full of good cards, so I expect something similar to it to be competitive moving forward.

U/W Flash

U/W has some sweet cards that may work together for some kind of flash tempo shell. The most notable addition for this deck is Archangel Avacyn. A 4/4 flier that can come down and eat an attacker at instant speed with indestructability is no joke. One of the weak points of a deck like this is not being able to use Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy because a majority of its spells will want to be cast on the opponent’s turn. That said, I added some Swift Reckonings that can both be cast at instant speed with spell mastery and during our own turn without. This gives us a removal spell that we can cast with the flip side of Jace, without having to give our opponent too many cards off a few copies of Declaration of Stone. Reflector Mage plays nicely with counterspells as we can bounce a creature and then hold up mana the following turn for Ojutai’s Command when the opponent plans to recast.

It’s certainly likely we need some kind of big draw spell. I think our best options would be between Dragonlord’s Prerogative and Epiphany at the Drownyard. Epiphany at the Drownyard needs to be cast for a large amount to be worth the poor card selection, so I think Dragonlord’s Prerogative would be my choice. I added a pair in the sideboard with a transformational Dragonlord Ojutai sideboard plan against decks we can punish for tapping out.

Ojutai is a much more resilient threat than Archangel Avacyn, so it’s possible we can lose the whole flash gimmick and concentrate on just a U/W Dragons strategy. I’d think we’d need a couple more Dragons in our deck to include Silumgar’s Scorn in that scenario, and Icefall Regent would be our next-best option if we wanted to go that route. We lost Arashin Cleric but still have Cleric of the Forward Order to play that role with Ojutai’s Command against low-to-the-ground aggressive decks. Westvale Abbey seems like a really powerful land if we can ever get it online, and Secure the Wastes is an excellent way to do so. I think one copy is warranted since the cost of including one colorless land is pretty low.

This deck list is obviously very rough, but I think it’s a decent starting point to try a Flash strategy.

G/R Ramp

Confession time. The last deck I want to talk about, I spent a lot of time looking at but am not confident it’s even close to the correct build. The reason I don’t have a deck list I’m comfortable with is because I had about 57 different lists. Well, maybe not quite that many, but I had a lot of them. I kept going in circles on how we could approach rebuilding the deck to replace Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. The loss of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon may very well be the death knell of a solid Eldrazi Ramp strategy. The deck was extremely reliant on Ugin to wipe the battlefield for us. That said, there is some good news.

Chandra, Flamecaller got much better with no more Siege Rhinos charging around. One card I think could be good in ramp is Corrupted Grafstone. It’s not a good card to get us from two mana to four mana in one turn. Basically the only way we do that is with Traverse the Ulvenwald, which is a card competing in the same slot as Oath of Nissa. What it does allow us to do, however, is go from two to three to six mana by turn 4. We can cast Corrupted Grafstone on turn 2 and then a Nissa’s Pilgrimage or Natural Connection on turn 3, both turning on our Corrupted Graftstone and giving us up to six mana on turn 4. If six is the new eight because Chandra, Flamecaller is our new sweeper, then this may be a good plan.

Ruin in Their wake is another possibility but I’ve tried the R/G with Wastes strategy before and it seemed extremely difficult to have enough red mana and Wastes to be consistent. Maybe with Traverse the Ulvenwald this problem is resolved because we have Traverse in addition to Evolving Wilds to assure we have a Wastes by turn 2. Another effective plan we have to sweep the battlefield is to rely on Kozilek’s Return followed up by a World Breaker. This is a less consistent plan but extremely effective when it’s put together.

There’s no reason we can’t fit both four Chandra, Flamecaller and one of these plans into our deck, but I think it comes at the cost of our other potential battlefield sweeper, Dragonlord Atarka. Dragonlord Atarka, while being a great card, was never really enough to win the game on its own except against maybe Atarka Red. Dragonlord Atarka was more the bridge that stabilized us until we could land an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.

Other six-mana spells that have potential to be good in a Corrupted Grafstone build would be Oblivion Sower and “the new Primeval Titan,” Ulvenwald Hydra. No, it’s not even close to as powerful as Primeval Titan. It can effectively net us two mana, however, by searching for a Shrine of the Forsaken Gods. This plan would likely require us to play multiple Ulamogs and I’m not sure the format is slow enough for this plan to work without another set of sweeping effects. Here’s a rough list for Corrupted Graftstone Ramp:

It’s possible we just want Sylvan Advocate maindeck now in a slower format where we have more time to develop our mana and the battlefield. It doesn’t die to Kozilek’s Return like Deathcap Cultivator, but at the same time it’s not netting us mana, which is something we desperately want our early plays to do in a ramp deck. Shrine of the Forsaken Gods lost a lot of its luster since it no longer allows us to play Ugin, the Spirit Dragon a turn earlier. Really it’s only useful to cast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, so I’d scale the number of Shrines with the number of Ulamogs you intend to play.

We have a lot of options with ramp right now and we can mix and match both our ramp spells and big threats to sweep the battlefield and close the game. This is just one of many iterations of ramp we can try, and, if you have the time, I’d do a lot of experimenting with this deck if it’s one you intend to play in upcoming events.

Wrapping Up

All of these decks and sideboards are rough starting-points for some archetypes we could try to work on. We obviously haven’t had much time to playtest with anything yet, so all we can do is brew some decks and speculate until the real cards come out. I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor to compare and contrast different players’ opinions on decks early in a format and urge you to do so. As I say week after week, discussion and debate are the keystones to improvement and there’s no better time than now to have these discussions and debates. Until next time!

Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease April 2-3!