“Finally, we can breathe! They did it. They banned Emrakul, the Promised End; Smuggler’s Copter; and Reflector Mage in Standard so that we could have a more diverse format. The exodus of popular and oppressive cards combined with a new set coming in should make this Standard format a brewer’s paradise!”
These were my thoughts before the SCG Tour stop in Columbus for the Standard Open, and I still had high hopes going into SCG Richmond this weekend for the Standard Open, but it is blatantly clear right now that G/B (types: Aggro and Delirium) and Jeskai (types: Saheeli and Control) are the decks that everyone is playing right now.
The knee-jerk reaction to this is to be unhappy about the Standard format, but I’m here to say that we should give it a little bit more time. There’s a Pro Tour coming, for crying out loud. A lot of people felt like there wasn’t much innovation after PT Kaladesh because of the prevalence of Week One/Two decks there. Outside of Aetherworks Marvel being validated, it really was just a lot of early SCG Tour deck updates.
Even though we saw a dominance of these two archetypes these last two weekends, I think that we’re going to see some very interesting things from the PT. Not having a ubiquitous two-mana colorless card does open a lot of things up, and rather than being in a situation where one of the best ways to fight a card is to play your own (the Jitte dilemma), this current Standard is about finding the right ways to position yourself against the perceived field.
You know who does well in those kinds of formats? Brad Nelson does. I’m eager to see what he comes to PT Aether Revolt with.
There are so many cards in Standard, and Aether Revolt particularly, that just do interesting things. There is a lot of stuff that can be done, and I think that Saheeli Rai / Felidar Guardian and G/B Aggro are just the obvious decks. Not to say that people haven’t put in time trying to make other decks work, but the top decks right now are also the most obvious and easiest to build.
Let’s see what Sam Black and Matt Nass can come up with. Let’s see where Brad Nelson’s crew lands for the Standard portion.
Here are my predictions for Pro Tour Aether Revolt:
1. Torrential Gearhulks as far as the eye can see.
Torrential Gearhulk had its coming-out party at Pro Tour Kaladesh and as we have seen over the last two SCG Tour stops it has found a home in all sorts of Jeskai decks, with or without Saheeli Rai, and in the U/B Control deck that Jim Davis piloted in Columbus.
I’ve thought that Torrential Gearhulk was absurd even before the last PT, but there was always something looming over us. Emrakul, the Promised End has always just been the best and biggest end-game, but now with her gone, I think that Torrential Gearhulk is free to run rampant.
2. Humans is going to Top 8.
I don’t know what the secondary color will be, although it’s likely Black or Red, but Humans will Top 8. It has kind of been written off, since there is more one-mana removal seeing play in Shock and Fatal Push along with Walking Ballista being potential trouble, but I think Always Watching is good enough to outpace it. Enough one-drops can overwhelm spot removal.
There was a W/R Humans deck that placed in the Top 16 in Richmond, which seems like a good place to start, but by one concern is Fumigate. Having a sweeper that also gains a bunch of life will end up being very troubling. It’s not as bad as Sphinx’s Revelation, but it still lends to the same line of thinking. Lifegain tacked onto an effect that is already good for them and bad for us ends up being extra rough in the control vs. aggro matchup.
3. There is going to be at least one weirdo artifact in the Top 8.
I think this will happen with or without Tezzeret the Schemer. I believe cards like Inspiring Statuary and Lifecrafter’s Bestiary are underrated and there is so much potential with Aetherflux Reservoir, Paradox Engine, and Gonti’s Aether Heart that at least one of the teams is bound to break something. At the very least, I think we are going to see more Lifecrafter’s Bestiary in sideboards to combat control strategies.
Metalwork Colossus also falls into this camp. I know that Joe Lossett worked on and played a U/B Tezzeret-Colossus deck in Columbus, and although he didn’t do so well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Japanese team pick it up and perfect it for the PT.
Our own Patrick Chapin talks about this in his article earlier this week. I was the most inspired by his take on Improvise and I feel the same way. This leads into why I am still so high on Inspiring Statuary. Don’t forget that Trophy Mage can fetch Inspiring Statuary, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary, and Aethersphere Harvester!
4. Either Saheeli Rai or Felidar Guardian gets banned after the PT.
Now, I know that I talked a lot at the beginning of this article about the hope for diversity and new things coming out of the PT, but the fact of the matter is that Jeskai Saheeli is too good and there will be a lot of people playing the deck.
Unless we are all completely missing something, I don’t think that the Saheeli combo was supposed to be in this Standard. I think that it was missed. I think that Felidar Guardian was originally only able to blink creatures, and somewhere in development, it came up that it would be cool to be able to blink artifacts with enters-the-battlefield abilities and it had some cool synergy with the Oaths and was changed to blink all permanents without fully considering that it could blink planeswalkers.
I will admit, when I first saw the card, I thought: “Oh cool, we can blink Reflector Mage.” Then I thought: “Oh man, blinking the Oaths is sweet!” Then I thought, “Oh wow, we can make two Ally tokens with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.” And then I moved on.
It’s not intuitive, but the interaction is clearly powerful. There are ways to interact with us, but the opportunity cost is very low to play the cards, and it doesn’t take up too much space. Playing the deck really does feel like Splinter Twin, but everyone else is operating at a slower speed. Thankfully Anticipate is nowhere near as potent as Ponder and Preordain, or even Serum Visions.
5. Elder Deep-Fiend is coming back!
That’s right! You heard it here. Elder Deep-Fiend is going to be back. I believe this is so for a few reasons. First, I think it’s a great way in the Four-Color Saheeli deck to push through your combo.
We have a bunch of value creatures that we can sacrifice for the emerge cost, which is great, but we can also make use of the large size. Imagine casting an Elder Deep-Fiend on your opponent’s end step and then using Saheeli Rai’s -2 to crack in for ten damage worth of Elder Deep-Fiend goodness.
Second, I think that Kozilek’s Return has the potential to be great. Not having Emrakul, the Promised End as an end-game in our Kozilek’s Return deck is rough, but if we remember correctly, we don’t exactly need her.
Remember this gem from PT Kaladesh by Raphael Levy?
I’m not sure what the update should look like, but I think that an update to this deck for PT Aether Revolt could be the ticket.
Last, we also saw some Eldrazi action last weekend in Richmond.
- 1 Drowner of Hope
- 4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 2 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 2 Wretched Gryff
- 4 Elder Deep-Fiend
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 3 Rogue Refiner
Metallic Mimic with Eldrazi creatures? All right, I kind of get it. Wait, Eldrazi Scion tokens are still Eldrazi creatures? Man, curving Metallic Mimic into Eldrazi Skyspawner puts a lot of power onto the battlefield! You don’t have to do a whole lot to sell me on Reality Smasher and I particularly like the sideboard Baral’s Expertise in conjunction with Thought-Knot Seer making a creative answer to any permanent.
What do you think is going to happen at the PT? How far off-base am I on my predictions? Please let me know in the comments below!
The last thing I want to talk about this week is Legacy! We have the Baltimore Team Open coming up in a few weeks and I’m sure everyone is trying to figure out what decks to play for each format. I’ve long been known as a huge proponent of Show and Tell, but recently I can’t in good conscience recommend that to anyone, partly because of the growing popularity of Aluren, but mainly because of this beast that I picked up and played to a Top 8 finish in a local Legacy 1K this weekend.
This deck has been picking up steam on MTGO, and I just played the same list that got second place in Louisville. I can say that we are all underestimating this deck for sure; in particular, we are underestimating Chancellor of the Annex and how insane Griselbrand is. This is a weird sentence to type because I think that most people feel they have a grasp on just how good Griselbrand is, but you don’t even have to be playing blue. There are free spells in other colors, and even without blue in the deck, Griselbrand is busted.
I’ve also never played a deck that mulligans as well as this one, which is another misconception. Your gameplan is basically the same against every deck in Legacy, so mulligan decisions are straightforward, and with the amount of redundancy in the deck, you can win off just four cards. I don’t think I’ve ever played a deck with this much turn 1-2 power in Legacy before. Obviously decks like Storm, Belcher, and All Spells can combo on turn 1-2 as well, but this deck just feels like it has more raw power.
One of the big keys is that the configuration, especially with Dark Ritual, allows for you to put Griselbrand onto the battlefield without using Reanimate. This leads to drawing fourteen cards, which leads to Unmask protecting Griselbrand, and the mana we can generate with Lotus Petal and Chrome Mox alongside Dark Ritual will generally let us put a Chancellor of the Annex on the battlefield.
Go ahead and read it if you need to.
Until the pieces started spiking recently (Reanimate and Unmask), this deck was budget-friendly. You can even get by using shocklands over actual duals if you needed to, which is neat.
I honestly can’t quite articulate exactly why I feel this deck is busted, but after playing an event with it, I know that it is. I’m going to keep playing and learning all the nuances of the deck so that I can break it down better for everyone, but this is the first time that I have felt close to invincible while playing a deck since they banned Dig Through Time.
Speaking of which, I have found some local Frontier events that I am going to start playing in and would love to be pointed in the right direction for a sweet Torrential Gearhulk / Dig Through Time deck for Frontier! Raise The Beard Signal!