Constructed Criticism – Wrath of Gone…?

Read Todd Anderson every week... at StarCityGames.com
Monday, June 29th – There are going to be a lot of changes coming to Standard in the next few weeks. M10 is going to cycle a lot of cards out of Standard from 10th Edition, while bringing a few new weapons to the table. As far as the world is concerned, current Standard is fairly meaningless, so I’ll try to present you with a few deck ideas to start bouncing around your skull.

This article is written assuming that you’ve seen the spoiler for M10, as a lot of these cards are “spoiled” but not confirmed. As of writing this article, over 200 of the cards in M10 have been spoiled on MTG Salvation. While these cards are suspect to change since they are mostly based upon rumors, I have found that MTG Salvation usually gets it pretty close to right when it comes to the new sets. Even if they get a card’s text or name wrong, you get a general idea of what that particular card does. With that being said, there are going to be a lot of changes coming to Standard in the next few weeks. M10 is going to cycle a lot of cards out of Standard from 10th Edition, while bringing a few new weapons to the table. As far as the world is concerned, current Standard is fairly meaningless, so I’ll try to present you with a few deck ideas to start bouncing around your skull.

The elephant in the room is probably going to be the “new” Red deck. With classic favorites like Ball Lightning and Lightning Bolt returning to the Standard card pool, tons of Timmys are going to be grabbing their old school-black-bordered-signed-etc copies to battle with in upcoming tournaments (myself included). I’ve always been a huge fan of Ball Lightning, and many mages have played with worse versions like Blistering Firecat and Incinerate in Extended (guilty again)! That information alone should show you just how much the power level of these cards should affect an unprepared opponent in the new Standard. Combine these two cards with Anathemancer and/or Volcanic Fallout, and you can easily put any deck in a rough position as early as turn 4. On top of everything, your opponent might be playing two of the most popular cards in Standard (that deal damage to them) like Putrid Leech or Bitterblossom, and any of your late game spells can just kill your opponent out of nowhere.

With all of this in mind, I set to work on a new red list. Granted, this might change with the addition of the last remaining cards to be spoiled, but hopefully this will be a useful skeleton for later deckbuilding:

4 Lightning Bolt
2 Magma Spray
3 Lash Out
4 Flame Javelin
4 Volcanic Fallout

4 Figure of Destiny
4 Goblin Outlander
4 Ball Lightning
4 Anathemancer
4 Boggart Ram-Gang

4 Auntie’s Hovel
4 Dragonskull Summit
3 Graven Cairns
12 Mountain

4 Deathmark
3 Chaotic Backlash
2 Magma Spray
2 Manabarbs
4 Blightning

I think this skeleton is a great starting point for the new version of Red and is bound to bash people in the next few months. Ball Lightning and Anathemancer are just incredible against control decks, especially those running Vivid lands. Generally they will both deal 4-6 damage to your opponent, since every deck in the format has previously played close to 5 basic lands.

This deck is a bit different than the traditional version of “stupid Red burn,” but is a lot better against midrange and aggressive decks like W/X Tokens and Elves. Instead of Hellspark Elemental or Mogg Fanatic, you have Lash Out and Magma Spray as concessions to cards like Kitchen Finks and Wren’s Run Vanquisher, giving you added value out of your removal against harder-to-kill creatures. The deck also has a lot of answers to one of the format’s best creatures: Putrid Leech. You turn Putrid Leech into a Grizzly Bears just by having Mountain untapped. They’ll probably fear a Lightning Bolt, Magma Spray, or other removal spell and not pump him in combat, making him far less effective than normal. Reducing the effectiveness of your opponent’s spells is not something Red decks normally get to do!

The only problem I can see is the high density of three-drops. However, with the curve of the deck, you should easily be able to play multiple spells in a turn once you hit your 3rd and 4th land drops. With Figure of Destiny sinking your mana, you should never have extra lying around if you are trying to stay on tempo with an aggressive opponent. The cards that you have sitting on 3-mana are just too good not to play, and virtually replace some of the older staples like Demigod of Revenge or Siege-Gang Commander. I could see trying to incorporate Demigod of Revenge into the deck, since a lot of opponents will probably have mass removal in the form of Volcanic Fallout (including your own), but his high cost is a real turn-off. This is also a format where every white deck plays Path to Exile and usually Celestial Purge (or Unmake-courtesy of Cedric Phillips) to deal with him.

After taking a close look at the spoiler thus far, it is safe to deduce that Wrath of God is probably not going to be in M10. This is very surprising, as the card has seen Standard play for the better part of FOREVER. There is a “replacement” Wrath of God that destroys all non-land permanents for 3WWW, but it is likely too slow for a format full of tokens and Noble Hierarch aggro decks. As I am writing this, there are currently only 4 Black cards yet to be spoiled, but one could easily be Damnation, as they really pushed the Promo Foils over the last few years for player rewards. If they reprint Damnation, you can bet it will shoot from under $10$ to $20+ in a hurry! The promos will probably be worth at least $20 and could easily end up being higher, depending on the decks that spawn from the coming rotation.

But, if neither Wrath of God nor Damnation are reprinted, aggressive decks will become the absolute stone nuts in Standard. There will no longer be anything for them to fear as long as you have Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders, Mark of Asylum, or a few pump effects to keep your squad safe from Volcanic Fallout, Pyroclasm, and/or Earthquake (also getting reprinted). Cedric Phillips may have been a month ahead of his time in saying Kithkin is the best deck, with a brand new Crusade that only effects your creatures: Honor of the Pure. This card is strictly better than Crusade for Kithkin, and I used to be positive that Crusade was too good to reprint. I was wrong.

Cedric’s Kithkin deck had very few bad matchups, and now it should have even fewer. Without Wrath of God to stifle your early aggression, you can just maindeck Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders to protect yourself from red sweepers, and just go absolutely bonkers overextending. Without Wrath of God in the format, “overextending” may cease to exist, or lose its meaning at the very least. There may be a better list once the entire set has been spoiled, but here is my new list for Mono-White Kithkin.

4 Goldmeadow Stalwart
4 Figure of Destiny
2 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
4 Wizened Cenn
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
3 Cloudgoat Ranger

3 Ajani Goldmane

4 Spectral Procession
3 Path to Exile
4 Honor of the Pure

2 Rustic Clachan
4 Windbrisk Heights
1 Mutavault
18 Plains

2 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
3 Guardian Seraph
1 Path to Exile
4 Unmake
3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Ranger of Eos

In a world without Wrath of God, how do control decks have a chance against aggro? Hopefully Wizards of the Coast won’t force us to turn to Hobbits, Elves, and Tokens to be competitive. Turning creatures sideways is fun and all, but I really enjoy countering spells and answering threats. Imagine Standard post-Faeries, as there probably won’t be a good control deck left. I am very aware that PT Kyoto was won by a 5-Color Control deck that played *zero* Wraths in the maindeck, but that was a different format that was much less aggressive and full of mid-range. Boat Brew is fairly dead, and Putrid Leech is running rampant, so control decks can’t rely on bad sweepers to take control of the game anymore. Volcanic Fallout is not the blowout that it once was.

Without Zealous Persecution, BW Tokens could potentially give this list problems, but they will soon be without Caves of Koilos and Glorious Anthem, and will probably die out with the rest of old-Standard. GW Tokens could still pose a threat, since they have a replacement dual land but lose Treetop Village, which gave the deck a important late-game threat to fight through sweeper effects. However, without any Wraths in the format, why would you even need a late-game? The future of tokens may end up being Mono-white (similar to the list that won GP: Sao Paulo), since both of the stock token lists are losing vital lands to facilitate their previous plans of attack. This will also allow the new Crusade to be used to its maximum efficiency, since you are straying away from cards like Bitterblossom and more towards more cards like Wilt-Leaf Liege.

There seems to be a recurring theme of “soldiers” in the White-portion of M10, but I don’t think there are enough powerful creatures with that creature type to make much of an impact on Standard. They did make a new Savannah Lions proxy that doubles as a soldier, as well as a new Cloudgoat Ranger that makes soldiers and pumps them. It has a hefty casting cost of 4WW, but could be all the rage once Lorwyn-Shadowmoor rotates out. With Borderposts, Path to Exile, and Knight of the White Orchid, playing him earlier than turn 6 should not be a very difficult task.

The sideboard could contain a few of the newer cards, but I’m afraid they might not be good enough. Harm’s Way is one of those cards that seems like it could be an absolute blowout against an aggressive deck with burn spells, but relatively dead against decks without them. I want to test out Guardian Seraph before I dismiss it, but it seems incredible against most aggro decks at first glance. On top of having an efficient 3/4 body that conveniently dodges Lightning Bolt, it also flies, and makes racing impossible for your opponent. He could end up being mediocre, but I have high hopes. At the very least, I’ll finally get to play a Seraph (I don’t think I’ve ever actually cast one of those).

There are a few things about the new core set that really bother me. After sending out massive amounts of Remove Soul promo cards, they have made a functional reprint with a different name for absolutely no reason. The card doesn’t do anything new, and nullifies any reason to own the textless Remove Souls. They were not great in Standard, and are next to worthless in Extended. All I ask is why? Why make functional reprints with different names? Is that so you could meet the quota of having half the next core set be “brand new” cards? They also made a new Terror called Doom Blade that can kill artifact creatures. This kind of “reprint” makes sense, because it does something different. While the creature you kill can be regenerated, having the ability to kill Esper-based creatures is a definite upgrade. If they continue to make new cards that are slight upgrades to old ones, I have no qualms. But why make a “new” Grizzly Bears of the Runeclaw variety? It makes absolutely no sense.

Another aspect of the new set that really drives me crazy is that Wizards feels compelled to continue reprinting such amazing cards as Firebreathing, Lifelink (a.k.a. Spirit Link), Holy Strength, and my all time favorite: Jump. Do they not understand how limited works? No one wants to have a Wurm’s Tooth as one of their uncommons. “Hosers” that don’t actually do anything are no use to anyone. I am all for making sub-par cards for limited so that it is harder to get an insane deck, but cards like Burst of Speed have no value in 40 or 60 card decks, and printing this many cards with absolutely no value and are uninteresting seems like a lose-lose scenario. I understand that sometimes you can reprint cards that could teach a newer player a basic fundamental of Magic, but just make it actually DO something. If you actually want people to play Limited with a Core set, make it as good as a normal set for drafting and/or Sealed, if not better. I was really hoping for some great sweeping changes in M10, but there are just too many horrible or outclassed cards for me to be excited. If your goal is to make me be excited about Magic, then give me cards that are worth buying packs for, as well as worth actually trading for. The new dual lands seem like they are going to be fine additions to the format, but they didn’t even make enough to replace the enemy painlands they are taking away.

Like every new set, there will be complaints and rejoicing about certain cards and decisions made, but I am just hoping the new Standard will be fun and interesting. Is that really too much to ask?

Todd Anderson
strong sad on MOL

PS: Limited Criticism

I just finished 10 Rounds of Swiss in the MOL Season 3 Champs, going 8-2 with a fairly mediocre card pool. I’m pretty happy with my performance, and was wondering if you guys would like me to occasionally write a report on major Limited events I play in. It would be a refreshing change for me, and hopefully provide you with some (relatively) valuable Limited information. This direction is fairly unexplored territory for me, so just drop me a line in the forums and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading.