Brewing For Week One Of Magic Origins

There is nothing quite like the first week of a new Standard format, and Mark Nestico is super excited for #SCGCHI this weekend. He explores both extremes of the format, mono-red and U/W, in search of the perfect Week One deck.

I just realized I’m too old for this.

Prereleases used to be my bread and butter. For those of you who are old enough or have been playing long enough to remember, prereleases used to be a magical time of the year. Usually limited to big cities, they were grand spectacles held at hotels that ran from midnight Friday until late Sunday. It was an amazing time to be a Magic player: 32-person flights bled in to each other as you battled not just your opponents but to keep your eyes open, and when you finally succumbed to sleep you’d wake up three hours later, way too excited to remain dormant. Then you’d hobble back to the tournament hall and keep going, infusing your blood with energy drinks and whatever food was available.

And you’d play.

Guys and gals, you’d play Magic in a world where spoilers were a minimum and people cracked packs and saw cards for the first time. I remember watching a kid next to me open up a foil Birds of Paradise during Ravnica’s release and look around the table with tears in his eyes because of how stoked he was. He called a judge over immediately and asked if he could use a card as a proxy because of how important it was to him, and the judges convened and gave him a resounding “yes” and he looked like his entire world was complete.

You would drive home afterwards with your new cards in tow, decklists brimming in your mind to brew with everything you just opened, windows down with the night air coursing through your veins… and you’d be happy. Guys and gals, you’d be happy.

This weekend saw, to my estimation, the end of an era for me. I ran to my local game store Friday at midnight an elated young man and by 3AM I was a defeated old man. I had played a match that involved me defeating double Languish, Liliana, Heretical Healer, and Nissa, Vastwood Seer. I was fried. Afterwards I beat the old double-Embermaw Hellion draw in two matches. 2-0. Drop. Sleep. Goodnight, moon.

I can’t hang like I used to, and it was a pretty awful realization. This gave me some perspective, though, and a good night’s sleep. I awoke from my slumber renewed to get the fun out of a prerelease that I deserved, and sometimes that means working on things other than sealed decks.

Right out of the gate, Week One is a tenuous and fascinating time in Standard. I love getting the drop on a new format, and with the Open Series in Chicago this weekend we’re in prime territory to get things figured out.

My first stop is here:

I think people are grossly underestimating Goblin Piledriver and the effect it may have on Standard. I see many builds playing Goblin Glory Chaser, yet I don’t think it has enough impact on the game, nor does it bring any kind of synergy to the table. Subterranean Scout fits the bill extremely well in this deck, letting you dole out massive chunks of damage by targeting your Foundry Street Denizen, Goblin Rabblemaster, or Goblin Piledriver. This deck is very aggressive, so I wanted to maximize the strong parts of it and lean a little less on novelty. Do I feel like Obelisk of Urd has a place in Goblins? It’s a fantastic card to curve in to, but I’d rather just kill them early in the game and Convoking can give your opponent a precious turn to possibly stabilize. The burn aspect has always been paramount in this strategy, and I think Exquisite Firecraft complements it quite well by giving the deck some closing power if things do escape into the late-game.

The sideboard is only meant to accentuate to finer points of Goblins: Act of Treason to steal Siege Rhinos blocking our way, Searing Blood for aggro matches or against Green Devotion. Eidolon of the Great Revel is a red staple, and always a way to heap on damage. Roast kills Siege Rhino and Courser of Kruphix, and well… I just can’t quit you, Outpost Siege. You are bae.

Yeah, I used the “b” word.

Red decks are always a fantastic place to be the first few weeks of a format. I’ve preached this before, but it deserves repeating: when new cards come out, people always try to battle with their new pet cards and experiment. When they do that, you can just kill them. See how easy that is? They want to play their Nissa’s Revelation? Cool! Take ten on turn four. Ya dead!

Next up, I wanted to see if I could put a spin on an old favorite of mine.

The results were… I don’t know? You tell me!

U/W Control is almost always a format staple, but it has recently fallen completely by the wayside in favor of Esper Dragons and U/B Control. I believe the addition of Knight of the White Orchid and Clash of Wills can give this deck the tools it needs to compete once again!

The power of Knight of the White Orchid is hard to understand unless you’ve played with it in the past, but being on the draw with it in your hand and the white sources to cast it feels like Christmas. Your opponent’s third land drop will allow you to cast the Knight on your third turn, search up a Plains, and then drop it on the battlefield along with your land drop for turn – putting you ahead on cards and with the mana advantage! What can you do with that? Disdainful Stroke or Clash of Wills on their four-drop into your own five a turn early seems like a huge tempo swing, doesn’t it?

This deck also has a ton of hits for Narset Transcendent, and it might just be the shell for her to finally shine. U/W Control has always been naturally weak to planeswalkers, so that’s why I wanted to go more the Perilous Vault route, and it’s possible that End Hostilities should just be another Perilous Vault. Picking your spots to cast your win conditions will be very important, and when you finally have a stranglehold on your opponent winning should be fairly easy.

The one card I’m most interested to put to work is Radiant Purge. For a while I’ve been advocating it in various sideboards, but I think we’re finally in a good spot to put it to work. A small nuisance to U/W Control is Rakshasa Deathdealer, and this card conveniently takes care of it along with a host of other annoying threats like Siege Rhino, Fleecemane Lion, Dragonlord Atarka, attacking copies of Dragonlord Ojutai and plenty of other things out there.

I really like the addition of Brimaz in the sideboard because opponents have historically sided out their removal against you for sideboarded games and that’s where Brimaz tends to shine brightest. Other creatures I wanted to include were Stratus Dancer, which does a ton of heavy lifting in control-on-control matches or even against midrange decks, and Hidden Dragonslayer, who can take out things like Whisperwood Elemental or Dragonlord Atarka. I also wanted Arashin Clerics because I fully expect red decks to be out in force and I don’t want to give any games away to them by being underprepared.

One thing I thought about trying would be four copies of both Omenspeaker and Master of Waves in the sideboard ala the flash in the pan deck of the last Standard format, Five-Color Dragons. The one thing I really enjoyed about that deck was the sideboard felt much better than the deck itself, and Master was a huge reason for that because of how heavily he could stonewall various decks.

These two decks may represent opposite ends of the spectrum, but I like getting the juices flowing and trying to see if these kind of things are possible. Will U/W be Chicago’s darling? I think it would be fun! One of the hallmarks that this Standard format has taught us lately is that there is an abundance of excellent decks out there, and on any given Sunday one of them can take home the trophy. Sure, Abzan Aggro and G/R Devotion are still going to be the juggernauts everyone expects them to be, but that doesn’t mean the format is solved. In fact, Magic Origins is going to infuse new life into an already robust format and make it even more wide open. Mark my words on that.

Well, kiddies – my gas tank is officially on empty. After a weekend flush with brewing and prereleases, I think I can safely say I’m Magiced out.

Just kidding.

There’s no such thing as too much Magic!

Happy brewing, and good luck in Chicago! Tell us what you’re playing this weekend, and just what decks have set off your alarms.