Welcome back, fellow Magicians! This last weekend was quite an eventful one. Not only did we have the amazing Oath of the Gatewatch Prerelease and my Seahawks lost, but we also got the Banned and Restricted announcements a little early.
I hear the outcries. It was very unexpected for most, but come on, really? Did you not expect Cloud of Faeries to get banned in Pauper? Have you played with that card? It’s insane and it’s everywhere.
Things are a-changing and all we gotta do is adapt.
I’m sure there will be plenty of writers talking about what the implications of the ban are for the format leading into the Pro Tour and Regionals, but what I wanna look at is #SCGATL and Standard. Things are going to be shaken up quite a bit, I think. There are some extremely powerful cards that require colorless mana in their cost and I think it’s going to be worthwhile I slim down on the mana and try to make them work.
Last week I looked at the potential for some aggressive Eldrazi-based decks. It feels like there is some promise with the decks, but I don’t think they are quite there. Sadly, I haven’t really put more time into them since my infatuation has recently been rekindled for a certain Red Hot Hottie.
We have seen many versions of Chandra in the past, one of which has even seen some Modern and Legacy play (Chandra, Pyromaster). While I don’t think that the newest version of everyone’s favorite pyromancer is going to be making waves in the “non-rotating” formats, I think that there is huge potential in Standard. Much like how I felt everyone was sleeping on Elspeth, Sun’s Champion early on in Standard, I think that Chandra, Flamecaller is going to be slow to kindle and then erupt in a blaze of glory once she starts to catch on.
Shortly after I finished filming the first BBD vs CVM in which we cast Elspeth, Sun’s Champion during Theros preview season, I said that I wanted to find whatever the best 4x Elspeth deck was in Standard, and I feel like I want exactly the same thing with the new Chandra. The issue is figuring out where we want to go with it. My first instinct is to try and ramp her onto the battlefield ASAP, but taking advantage of her –X ability to clear the board isn’t very conducive to using mana creatures to accelerate her out.
Thankfully, we do have some spell mana ramp, but then that begs the question, “Why not just play Eldrazi Ramp?”
There are already some decks that Chandra, Flamecaller might just fit right into; Jeskai Black could easily play a copy or two of her, as could any of the larger, more midrange Mardu decks. I also like how her zero ability plays very well with Delve cards, particularly Murderous Cut, Treasure Cruise, and Tasigur, the Golden Fang.
There are so many cards that we could potentially play in a Mardu deck like this that it’s kind of tough to pick a starting point, so let’s go over some options that I omitted and why.
With seven planeswalkers, there are going to be a large number of bricks with Abbot. Because of this I think that going with Hangarback Walker is a bit more sensible. We are wanting to get into the late game and Hangarback Walker facilitates this better. I like how Abbot can help us hit our land drops, but hitting something like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Chandra, Flamecaller isn’t really something that I’m looking forward to.
I think that I definitely want to have some of these in the 75 somewhere, as they are great against aggressive strategies and dedicated control decks, especially Esper Dragons styles. Being able to protect yourself or just wombo-combo with a Gideon emblem is pretty sweet, but some things had to be moved to the sideboard for starters.
I want to talk about these cards in particular in Mardu because this color combination gains access to something valuable, much like the Abzan clan does: double painlands. Both Caves of Koilos and Battlefield Forge are playable in Mardu and can give us a large number of colorless mana sources if we want to branch out and play these colorless cards. I think that could definitely be a possibility, but trying to find room for which ones to play will largely hinge on if we are wanting to build our deck to try and take advantage of Chandra, Flamecaller or not. Since Chandra is the type of card that can stabalize, generate card advantage, or just kill our opponent very quickly, I want to start by going that route.
Either way I think that we want to have access to a lot of Radiant Flames and Infinite Obliteration in our sideboard. It may even be possible to build a B/R deck that focuses on Chandra, Flamecaller or a Mono-Red version even. If we were to go outside of Mardu and play just one or two colors, I think it has to start with Hedron Crawler. This card will help us bridge the gap to the point where we are dropping Chandra, Flamecallers and taking over the game.
Now, this is just a very high-level view of what a deck like this could possibly look like, but having cheap ways to interact, resilient creatures that also interact with our opponent, powerful late-game spells that can win all by themselves, and the potential to run away with the game with an early mana accelerator are all things that I like about the deck.
Also, being monocolored means that we can try to run a full four copies of Sea Gate Wreckage. I’m not quite sure just how many red sources and colorless sources that we need to make it all work, but twelve land and the four Hedron Crawler for colorless mana and seventeen sources for red seem like they might be enough. If needed, we still have some number of Shivan Reef that we can put in somewhere to change the numbers around.
The power that these colorless creatures bring to the table adds a very interesting twist to deck design, but we still have to keep in mind that powerhouses like Abzan, Esper Dragons, and Four-Color Rally are still going to be playable and very good for #SCGATL.
If we look at the results from the last large Standard event, the Classic at #SCGCHAR, we see that the Top 8 was dominated by Four-Color Rally decks, but the newest addition was the surge of Mardu Green decks, basically Jeskai Black without the Blue involved and playing Siege Rhino and sometimes some number of Den Protector.
With how easy it is to have the mana for three- and four-color decks, there must be something extremely strong going on to want to stay to one or two colors.
Atarka Red is a deck that’s been around for quite some time. It’s won a few Pro Tours and every now and then it sneaks up and catches people slipping. I generally like aggressive strategies for the first week of a new format, and this deck has gained an extremely powerful new card.
This new incarnation of fan-favorite Goblin Bushwhacker has quite a bit of potential and I’m excited to see what the first iterations of the deck look like. The aggressive strategies feel like they have been looked over a bit because of how plentiful the multi-color midrange decks are, but sometimes you gotta just run people over.
- 4 Monastery Swiftspear
- 1 Lightning Berserker
- 3 Zurgo Bellstriker
- 4 Abbot of Keral Keep
- 3 Reckless Bushwhacker
Here we still keep some of the combo with Temur Battle Rage and Become Immense, but we also get to add a little more of a “going wide” element with Reckless Bushwhacker. Alongside Atarka’s Command with our Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst, Reckless Bushwhacker has the potential to do a whole lot of damage, and with a lot of one-mana spells in the deck, getting the surge bonus is a near-guarantee.
Another route that we could go would be to remove the Temur Battle Rage combo entirely and max out on Reckless Bushwhacker and Hordeling Outburst. If we went this route I would likely want to go up to 22 lands and get some more burn in the deck to give us a bit of reach. Exquisite Firecraft is an all-but-forgotten card that is very good at finishing off opponents who think they are safe and out of reach.
Last, I want to take a crack at an Eldrazi Ramp deck. I have to imagine that this deck is going to be public enemy number one in the first week, so figuring out the right mix of threats will be paramount. Fortunately, I think that the core is still very good and we just get to add a couple of awesome spells.
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 2 Dragonlord Atarka
- 1 Den Protector
- 3 Hangarback Walker
- 1 Oblivion Sower
- 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
- 4 Jaddi Offshoot
- 1 Kozilek, the Great Distortion
This is where I plan on starting with my G/R Eldrazi deck. I think that Four-Color Rally is still going to be very popular, and having access to Hallowed Moonlight for the blow-outs is going to be pretty important.
Numbers on a lot of the spells vary, and I’m not quite sure what is 100% correct yet. We are pretty lacking in the five-drop area for Kozilek and Hangarback Walker could honestly just not be needed anymore. We might just want to go with Kozilek’s Return in the maindeck since it works so well with Jaddi Offshoot.
I’m going to start with one Kozilek and go from there, and I think that Matter Reshaper and Thought-Knot Seer might have some potential in the deck somewhere too. We might even want to just try and transform into a colorless deck post-sideboard with Reality Smasher for the full hat trick.
Unlike Ulamog’s on-cast ability that can handle two troublesome permanents, I don’t think that we’re going to need to cast Kozilek multiple times, which is why I’m going to start with just one in the deck. Being able to find it with Sanctum of Ugin is very nice, and there are going to be some situations where we find a Kozilek off casting an Ulamog and our opponents just aren’t going to be very happy.
I still feel like there has to be the potential for a ramp deck using Ruin in Their Wake alongside the rest of the ramp that’s available, but making room for ample numbers of Wastes seem like it’s not going to be worth it. Evolving Wilds may help, but outside of the first turn, having the land enter the battlefield tapped is going to hurt us quite a bit.
If you’re looking for more sweet brews, I suggest checking out Patrick Chapin’s Premium article from Monday, and these are just the “White” decks! I really love all the ideas he throws around when new sets come out.
I know I’m going to have my eyes and ears glued to the screen this weekend to check out the hot new Standard decks from #SCGATL! I hope someone will break it, or at least come close so we can all keep on tweaking – there are just so many possibilities!