With the new Standard format having had its debut at #SCGATL, we got our first look at the impact of Oath of the Gatewatch in competitive play. As is often the case in the first week, the innovation isn’t quite there, with both card availability and time to test posing challenges. Fortunately, both of these things are less of a concern at the FNM level, and this past week saw some really interesting brews at Midgard Gaming in the bustling metropolis of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador.
I believe I’ve mentioned my group of friends before, with whom I spend countless hours bandying deck ideas back and forth. Many has been the heated discussion over cards, combos and deck ideas (generally between me and Mike), but at the end of the day we’re all still friends and we all end up smarter for the discussion. Except Andy.
Not many others in the group are brewers. They tend to take stock lists and tweak slightly, with the odd exception when someone mentions a cool idea. This week was different, with four of us showing up with fresh Standard brews copied from nowhere. You saw mine last week, and I am still in love with how it plays. As it’s so rare to get the other guys brewing and rarer still for me to love all their lists, I wanted to share both the decks and the thought processes behind them with you this week. As a bonus, you’ll also get to know the guys that encourage my mad brew “skills.”
OK, maybe “encourage” is a bit strong. “Enable” might be a better word. “Tolerate” is better still. Heck, there have even been facepalms and solemn head shakes at times. I still say we can make Painter’s Servant and Sphinx’s Tutelage work, dagnabbit!
Adam and His Lands
Adam is the loose leader of the group and the one who does the organizing of pretty much everything. For the last couple of years he has planned and carried out a successful charity tournament in the local area with very little help. He’s been playing U/B Aristocrats since the last Pro Tour and practically has it foiled out. With Kalitas joining Anafenza in the hate camp, he was pretty sure he would end up on tilt if he played his favourite deck. Instead he wanted to play Sylvan Advocate and take it to the max by playing Bant Lands:
- 4 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- 4 Undergrowth Champion
- 2 Halimar Tidecaller
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 4 Wall of Resurgence
Adam went 4-1 with this deck, and I love the concept. I saw him doing some horrible things like Undergrowth Champion on turn 3 into fetch, crack, Explosive Vegetation on turn 4. Conveniently, that also turns on Sylvan Advocate and (if he were playing it) the Awaken cost on Scatter to the Winds. Instead he’s using Wall of Resurgence and Planar Outburst to make lands into creatures, along with the built-in animation of Lumbering Falls. Large hexproof threats are normally quite good, and when they are uncounterable and immune to most sweepers, they get even better. The Wall also does double duty as an effective early-game blocker that Atarka Red has a really hard time removing, and even if they do spend a Roast and an attack to do so, you’re left with a 3/3 (at least) body.
Adam mentioned that the Kioras were underwhelming, which I can see. The plus ability might be great with animated lands, but with no really heavy mana requirements, that ability is less useful. The minus ability certainly isn’t as impressive in a deck with so few creatures and no delve interactions. Personally I’d run something like Roil Spout or the aforementioned Scatter to the Winds here. Coastal Discovery is possible but likely too expensive. The Tidecallers rarely came up, but Adam and I both agree that more removal might be better here.
Getting to seven lands seems fairly easy, so Nissa can do some real work. Her plus ability further develops the game plan and the ultimate is really rather hilarious with a Sylvan Advocate or two. I like this choice a lot, though four copies might be one too many for me. Nissa’s Renewal is a hedge against aggro but might be a little too slow. With only one real way to ramp, I would be tempted to change this out for something a little cheaper, maybe even Jaddi Offshoot.
The sideboard is admittedly a little haphazard and needs some work, but this might be a good place for the Nissa’s Renewals. I also would not hate to see something a little higher on the mana curve, like an Ugin or two, to help in the grindy games when we have a ton of mana available. Definitely a fun deck. I’d be tempted to replace the white with red, giving me access to Embodiment of Fury, a second creature-land in Wandering Fumarole, and the unexplored but undoubtedly powerful potential of Omnath, Locus of Rage. I also want to try playing with more than 30 lands and Animist’s Awakening, but that’s probably a pipe dream.
Mike’s Abzan Lifegain
Mike is a Spike. He’s the Spikiest of the Spikes who ever Spiked. He’s the one that brings my kooky ideas down closer to earth and the one who prefers to play the strongest decks every time. He also plays a great comedic foil to me, making our one-two punch quite formidable in social situations. Sometimes, especially in new formats, Mike likes to do silly things. He has been known to play Ninja Faeries in Modern, for example. Basically he’s not incapable of admiring crazy and fun ideas…he just rarely wants to play them. He also lives by the motto “In Kibler We Trust.”
Mike has a love for green cards that borders on unhealthy, and were it not for another member of our group (Steve) being even more in love with them, we might have some concerns about his long-term health. Mike also loves Mastery of the Unseen, and wanted to combine his two great loves with my new favourite Standard card: Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim.
- 1 Felidar Sovereign
- 2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
- 3 Hidden Dragonslayer
- 4 Den Protector
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
- 2 Liliana, Heretical Healer
- 3 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 3 Sylvan Advocate
Mike built the deck with the intention of exiling permanents with Ayli. He has the Den Protector – Deathmist Raptor package as a recursive way to do that, adding a trio of Hidden Dragonslayers to help bring Raptors back and gain life at the same time. Mastery of the Unseen has proven many times that it can gain a lot of life in a hurry, and it has the added perk of generating face-down creatures for Deathmist Raptor and sacrifice fodder for Ayli. Liliana is just plain good in any deck with a sacrifice engine, and Tasigur is just good, end of sentence.
One place this list feels a little off is the manabase. I played against Mike in Round 1 and he struggled for double green and double black a couple of times. Despite that, he still managed to land a turn 3 Tasigur twice, which was rough. I really like the inclusion of a Felidar Sovereign, as the ol’ Win Cat is very hard for aggressive decks to beat and just as hard for damage-based removal to dispose of. With Ayli protecting it from exile effects, the ability to recur it with Den Protector, and the potential to flip it from face down at end of turn and win in the upkeep, I think it’s worth the somewhat clunky nature. Mike disagrees, but that’s his Spike talking.
The megamorph package might be my favourite part of this deck. I refuse to play it in a Collected Company shell (which Mike believes is wrong) because nothing feels worse than hitting a Den Protector on a Company, but it really ties this list together. Mastery of the Unseen and the seven non-Raptor morph creatures make it trivial to recur Raptors, and Den Protectors recur the rest. With Gather the Pack to fill the graveyard, it might be worth running a couple of silver bullets, especially if they are creatures so that Mastery of the Unseen isn’t better than 50% to hit an unflappable card.
Mike went 3-2 but could easily have gone 4-1 as both losses were very close. There was also a hilarious moment when he stole an opposing creature while having a Liliana emblem and Ayli on the battlefield. That’s a lot of lifegain.
Ryan’s U/W Tempo
Ryan is the closest thing to Silent Bob that we have in the group. He’s hilarious though, and as much as Mike follows Kibler’s advice, Ryan will follow that of Craig Wescoe. Perhaps my favourite thing about Ryan is that he has a great record playing with my decks, even when he misplays horribly and repeatedly. Like putting a Sword of War and Peace on a Spellskite and trying to redirect burn spells to it.
Ryan likes to troll people when playing Magic. He’s a big fan of Death and Taxes, and after seeing Reflector Mage and Eldrazi Displacer he wanted to try and build it in Standard. I don’t blame him. This is what he took to FNM:
- 4 Knight of the White Orchid
- 3 Wingmate Roc
- 3 Dragonlord Ojutai
- 4 Archangel of Tithes
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 3 Eldrazi Displacer
For the record, Eldrazi Displacer plus Reflector Mage is exactly as good as you think it is. Knight of the White Orchid and Wingmate Roc also work rather well with the Displacer, especially when you realise you can blink the Knight in response to cracking a fetch to get extra value (assuming the cracked fetch takes you below the opponent’s number of lands). Sadly, poor Ryan did not cast the Displacer once all night.
That said, I think this deck is very close to being real. Ryan mentioned wanting to cut the Archangels, probably to add some red for early removal and Jeskai Charm. Goblin Dark-Dwellers would also seem to have a home in that sort of list, reducing the blue to a splash. Archangel of Tithes actually works against the plan of keeping the board clear, as the tax to attack is easier to pay with fewer creatures. Dragonlord Ojutai and Wingmate Roc are also on Ryan’s chopping board, though I think Gideon would be a better cut from a tempo list.
Roil Spout is a card I think is underrated right now. One of the fundamental rules of the game puts a new card in the player’s hands each turn, and if we can break that rule for the opponent, we are in good shape. Ryan wasn’t a big fan of the sorcery speed of the effect, hence the two Sweep Away, but I think it’s actually quite good here. Adding Fiery Impulse and Jeskai Charm could be what the deck needs to move to the next level.
In testing against this deck with Ryan, I found it very resilient and hard to finish off. The ability to keep midrange decks off the board while developing its own plan is a solid one, and with a few tweaks it could be a contender. It feels like it could be one or two spells off right now though. Maybe Displacement Wave could be the key? The deck often felt like it was struggling to stay alive instead of slowly gaining control, but I don’t think it’s a write-off. I mean, we can blink the Reflector Mage! Often!
The sideboard likely needed more against aggro, but I am a big fan of the Dragon package here. I will always love Sunscorch Regent, and Icefall Regent is a great way to protect your Ojutai. If we go another direction for the list, we would obviously lose these cards, along with the colourless-producing Haven, which is another aspect I really like about this deck. Evolving Wilds for Wastes is all well and good, but here we also have token-makers, card draw and recursion plus Dragon mana fixing to make our colourless mana. In a combination without painlands, this might be the best way to get your diamond fix on.
It’s Still Wide Open
If we learned anything from #SCGATL, it was that nobody has really broken it yet. The prowess decks are on the verge of being great, and Goblin Dark-Dwellers is just waiting to be a major player in some sort of Mardu or Jeskai shell. The Eldrazi Ramp decks look terrifying but vulnerable. They’re spoilt for choice on powerful creatures to include, and by diluting the base that made the deck a force, they so far haven’t found the best combination.
Control and Atarka Red are still around and still dangerous, and Abzan will be a factor as long as Siege Rhino exists. There’s also a colourless aggro deck, Collected Company, perhaps an Elves deck, landfall, B/W Lifegain, and the incredibly powerful and consistent Four-Color Rally decks.
When the format is so varied, it really opens the door to playing brews. This is the best time to be a brewer, so get out there and enjoy the fruits of your labours!
As always, thanks for stopping by and until next time…Brew On!