Brad Versus Magic 2015

Brad has started exploring the new Core Set and the upcoming Standard format, and he shares his thoughts on the new set’s best cards as well as decklists for what excites him going forward from here.

When did Core Sets get so awesome? M15 is quickly becoming one of the best as well as most flavorful Core Sets of all time. Sure flavor doesn’t “really” matter in the competitive scene, but it is something I started to value ever since Innistrad rolled around. Regardless, I didn’t think Standard was going to get that much of a shakeup for the next couple months, but this set is proving to be just was the doctor ordered. And by doctor, I mean engineer.

Chief Engineer is very intriguing feller and a great starting point for today. He might not be able to pick many fights or be as impressive as Grand Architect was a few years ago, but this card does present some interesting questions. First and foremost, why does he exist? Was he sent here along with Shrapnel Blast, Phyrexian Revoker, and Hoarding Dragon to hint at all the artifact goodness awaiting us in Khans of Tarkir? Dragons do in fact love their artifacts!

He could also just simply be here because M15 looks to be a set designed for the players, by the (previous) players. This set could just be one that has something for everyone, a smattering of cool cards where everyone will find something of personal value to them. Wizards R&D knows what they are doing by now and we can truly see that in the sets that are coming out. Is this the most powerful set to every show up? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean that’s what we want! Not every set has to have unbelievably powerful cards that just win games on their own. Hell, Theros block was filled with must-answer spells and look at what the Standard format became!

When the cards get too powerful, the format won’t evolve. It simply can’t.

I personally believe that the evolution from a good player to a great one is realizing that the cards won’t do all of the heavy lifting. Each time someone complains about the power level of the cards being too low in the upcoming set, I imagine them actually meaning, “I want it to look like I am amazing at this game, but really I just want the cards to do all the work.” It’s also not like anyone else out there gets to play with these “powerful” cards. It’s a level playing field and a much more interesting one when the cards don’t just straight-up win games because they were cast.

M15 is taking a much different approach than the most previous sets. Instead of every card having a comes-into-play effect or creating virtual card advantage right away, this set is filled with activated and triggered abilities. This is most easily seen when looking at the new “Titan” cycle.

These Mythic creatures can be compared to the Titans of M11, but unlike their progenitors they do not gain any immediate value when they are cast. Sure, they inherit the same abilities of gaining true and virtual card advantage, but at a much steeper cost than simply coming into play. This doesn’t mean they will be too weak to see Constructed play, but they will need an actual reason to be played instead of jammed for their power, much like all of the cards in this set.

Cost is the defining word of this set. Many of the new cards have the ability to do powerful things, but only at a reasonably high cost. These costs could be anything from time (tempo), additional resources (synergy), to even needing to keep permanents on the table (board position). These cards do not win games on their own when they are cast, but more importantly they do not create multiple forms of resource advantage when they come into play like many of the other cards currently in Standard (I’m looking at you Elspeth, Newb Champion!)

So what does this mean when looking at current Standard? Well, to be honest, I don’t know if much is going to change right off the bat. Sure, decks will have more options thus potentially making them stronger, but this set plays right into the hands of cards like Thoughtseize. Even worse, the Thoughtseize decks got some great new tools!

Death and Taxes has been a staple in Legacy for a long time, and one of the main reasons for this dominance is the oppressive abilities of Phyrexian Revoker. This little guy might lose almost every back alley brawl he gets into, but his ability to shut down key cards in almost every matchup makes him worth the slot. My guess is he will find a great home in Mono-Black Aggro.

This aggressive strategy has up to eight ways to see an opponent’s hand to be able to preemptively name the most threatening card while also delivering some beats. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion just met her new worst enemy!

Read the Bones is just too slow for most strategies. We tried to make it work for the past year, but the addition of scrying for the steep cost of one mana did not make the card better than the original. Thankfully, R&D understood our pain in trying to make a Mono Black strategy strong enough for competitive play and delivered to us one of the most powerful card advantage spells the archetype has ever had access too. I don’t know how many copies of this card Mono-Black Devotion will end up wanting, but I can say with confidence that it will be more than zero! I have signed plenty of match slips in blood due to the power level of this card, and I can assure you I will do it some more in the very near future.

Playing two copies of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth might be on the aggressive side, but the ability to produce black mana off of Mutavault is far too valuable to start it as a one-of. Also the ability to go Thoughtseize into Sign in Blood might not be as powerful as Pack Rat, but can oftentimes be just as devastating. The whole idea behind Mono-Black Devotion is to get a superior advantage over an opponent, and playing Sign in Blood gives your Thoughtseizes the liberty to target a larger variety of spells in an opponent’s hand.

Grand Prix Louisville was the last time I strongly considered playing Mono-Black Devotion, but I feel like this will change in the near future.

Enough talk about the most oppressive deck in the format. Let’s get into what has to be the most hyped card in the format!

That’s right Trading Post fans, we finally have a win condition! It has been so long since Wurmcoil Engine was a thing and Trading Post decks had a way to actually end the game. Now we finally have a card that not only crushes anyone trying to do cool things with planeswalkers but is actually a reliable way to close the games out! I can finally Stop Blaming Worth and start praising him!

Alright, fine, I won’t spend my first article on M15 talking about Trading Post. This is Premium after all!

Now this is a card that can make fetch happen! Chord of Calling has been a tournament staple from the moment it hit Standard almost ten years ago and has still continued its dominance in Modern. Well, whenever Birthing Pod isn’t drawn, that is. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this card was getting reprinted. I even had numerous discussions with people about whether this card would be reprinted ever since Convoke was spoiled. Needless to say, this card will dominate Standard. It is just far too powerful not to. The only question we must ask ourselves is what the best shell for this card will be.

“Why not Zoidb.. I mean Prophet of Kruphix?”

Prophet of Kruphix has been on the cusp of playability ever since its printing, but it has never had a powerful enough thing to do with the mana on the opposing turns. The decks that wanted Prophet of Kruphix wanted planeswalkers even more, making the card unnecessary. Times are now changing and finally Prophet of Kruphix has a new friend to play with.

Nine permanents. That is the number you will need including the Prophet of Kruphix to be able to Chord of Calling for Aetherling. That’s it! Turn-four Aetherling will not only be a thing, but it will be rather consistent. “Beatable” is a word players use for this card, but I don’t think anyone has ever tried to do this starting on turn four. I’m just glad Phyrexian Revoker is in this set to help out at trying to mitigate against this powerful start.

There are a lot of other things going for this deck. You might be wondering where the Garruk, Caller of Beasts are, but I can assure that Chord of Calling is going to change the game. Garruk once helped this deck overpower an opponent by gaining an inordinate amount of card advantage, but that just isn’t a necessity anymore. Instead of trying to dig for what we need, we can now simply tutor for it. Chord of Calling is going to allow any deck that wanted Garruk, Caller of Beasts to simply tutor up a win condition and just get on the offensive. The most obvious one is Aetherling, but I will let you guys take the reins here and find all of the sweet ways to win the game with Chord of Calling. I assure you there are many!

Lastly, I want to talk about what I think is the card that has the most potential to be broken. Graveyards have always been one of the most powerful zones if utilized correctly, and M15 has brought a pretty amazing card for doing just that.

This card has “break me” written all over it. Now there are many things that you can try to do with this card, but the simplest starting point is to just bring back all of your aggressive creatures. Selesnya Aggro has been so close to being good enough to compete in this format, and even StarCityGames’ own Andrew Shrout has still not given up hope on the archetype. It just hasn’t had a broken form of card advantage until now.

So what can this card do? Well, for starters, it can allow you to be more aggressive than the older builds of these decks. Instead of having to figure out how to exactly win the game with the resources you have in front of you, this card will allow you to just jam. Opponents will already be fearing the plethora of tricks a Selesnya deck has to offer, but in reality you won’t care if your creatures die since they will be returning to the battlefield in your second main phase.

There are downsides to a card like this. For starters, you might just get overpowered in the mid-to-late game. Cards like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion don’t care how many times these small creatures are returning to the battlefield just as long as they don’t find a way around her wave of loyalist soldiers. Let’s be honest, how scary can a Soldier of the Pantheon be on turn eight? This makes me believe that the best shell for a card like this will also run Brave the Elements, allowing you to crash in with an undead army of unblockable white guys.

White aggressive decks have never looked better. Not only does this new amazing Convoke card allow this deck to attack on many fronts, but it has never been a better time to get aggressive. The mana in this format has gotten to a point where I want to consider it “too good” since it deals so much damage to an opponent. This is the perfect time to exploit these shockland + painland manabases by being hyper-aggressive with decks that can consistently get a reasonable force onto the battlefield. This deck will be able to consistently present reliable threats that can get damage across the board no matter what stands in their way.

That’s all I have for you guys this week, but before I go I have to ask you for some help. I want to know: what cards excite you the most for the new Standard format? Please share with me here in the forums below what cards you want to see me doing battle with in the upcoming VS videos. Not only do I want to showcase exactly what you guys want to see, but I also want to crush BBD and Todd while I do it, so don’t make it too off-the-wall.

Wait, scratch that. Make it as crazy as you want because I know I can just outplay them!

I think…