As of the time of writing, Shadows over Innistrad is approximately 70% spoiled. This does include most of the rares and mythics, so now is a reasonable time to get started on decks and be confident that additional cards won’t affect your judgment very much.
Over the last two weeks I’ve written about early impressions and archetypes. This got the creative juices flowing and I am glad to have started thinking about Standard early in preparation for #SCGBALT, the last Open on the SCG Tour® this season.
Today I’ll be talking about just one deck that I feel should and will be a player in Standard once Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged are replaced with Shadows over Innistrad.
- 4 Knight of the White Orchid
- 4 Dragon Hunter
- 2 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
- 3 Archangel of Tithes
- 4 Consul's Lieutenant
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
Dragon Hunter is a “generic” 2/1 Human for W. Better than the other option of Expedition Envoy since Mardu Woe-Reaper rotates out. If you ever play against a deck with Dragons, you’ll be happy to have them. The Dragon Hunters often get sideboarded out so you don’t get caught by cards like Minister of Pain, Avacyn’s Judgment, and Boiling Earth.
Of all the cards from Shadows over Innistrad, Thraben Inspector is the card I’m the most excited about. But why?
I love me a Striped Bears.
Thraben Inspector replaces itself without having to dedicate early resources.
Often it won’t matter what one-drops are in the deck, just that you have them. I’m happy to draw Thraben Inspector in my opening hand and wouldn’t be upset if I started with three or even four. I don’t mind drawing Thraben Inspector in the mid-game or late-game either.
The Clue that Thraben Inspector creates helps to draw extra gas later on and makes it more likely that you’re using all of your mana efficiently every turn. I think that Thraben Inspector is secretly one of the more powerful cards in the set.
Kytheon, Hero of Akros is at his best in a deck that wants early creatures that are Humans. A critical mass of early creatures raises the potential that Kytheon will flip. Sadly, Kytheon’s flipside is rather medium. Kytheon also clashes with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar due to the planeswalker legend rule. Running a couple of copies of Kytheon, Hero of Akros and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar hasn’t been too clunky just yet, but I could see it getting annoying. Would not want to play Expedition Envoy, though.
Knight of the White Orchid has been great in the soon-to-be-obsolete Standard in decks that were up to three colors and didn’t make use of the Human subtype. It’s especially nice that none of the lands enter the battlefield tapped and the deck is naturally full of plays for two mana. It seems like the strong removal spells and creatures are two-costs, which means you can cast Knight of the White Orchid on turn 3 on the draw before you play your land and then follow up with a one-drop. The Clue that Thraben Inspector makes is also a common and useful use of the extra mana.
Thalia’s Lieutenant is the only card in the deck that benefits you from running a Human-heavy creature-base. After playing a little with the card, it’s a good enough reason.
The best part about Thalia’s Lieutenant is related to its timing in the game. There’s rarely a bad time to cast Thalia’s Lieutenant as it’s good both before and after you play out your Humans. However, you can of course choose to cast Thalia’s Lieutenant at the most optimal time, when you previously didn’t have good attacks or blocks and now do.
Oh, and Westvale Abbey makes Humans.
Definitely the weaker lieutenant of the two. Consul’s Lieutenant is the next-best two-drop Human but is not far off the chopping block.
Consul’s Lieutenant does have some relevant uses. Increasing its power allows it to attack and thus connect to renown more often. First strike pairs well with the first strike from Knight of the White Orchid to create a Wall of Spears on the ground that is hard to get through. Gideon, Battle-Forged gets a little better when the forced attack is more likely to be bad for the opponent.
The closest creature to Consul’s Lieutenant’s slot was:
And I’m certain the Consul’s Lieutenant is better. Things ought to be going well if you’ve hit four creatures.
Archangel of Tithes is going to make a comeback in a big way. It matches up well against the field, like Olivia, Mobilized for War and Archangel Avacyn. The 3/5 body lives though Grasp of Darkness and the flying dodges Roast. Both ends of Archangel of Tithes are great by taxing attacking creatures and making blocking extremely hard or even impossible.
Archangel of Tithes is especially good with its “combo” card:
Endearingly nicknamed Tangible Virtue, Always Watching works very well with real-card creatures, especially ones that would like to gain vigilance. Archangel of Tithes is number one on this list. Also notable is how well first strike creatures work on both offense and defense.
With Always Watching alongside Thalia’s Lieutenant and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar’s emblem, you have a lot of ways to boost your creatures and a lot of control of how big you want them. Always Watching isn’t wonderful in multiples, but not awful either.
As with all white decks, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar deserves a slot. Simply a very strong card. Gideon doesn’t even function at his maximum potential here. The 2/2 Knight Ally tokens aren’t Humans and they don’t get the bonus from Always Watching. Also, there’s the conflict between Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Gideon, Battle-Forged. It could be right to not play GIdeon, Ally of Zendikar at all, but that feels very strange.
Silkwrap has been one of the better removal spells in Standard basically since Week 1 of Battle for Zendikar last October, a couple of #SCGINDYs back. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is probably the best creature to nab with Silkwrap, but Deathmist Raptor, Hangarback Walker, Relentless Dead, and Olivia, Mobilized for War aren’t far behind. Basically every deck runs some form of cheap creature. What Silkwrap misses, Declaration in Stone cleans up.
Declaration in Stone is a little like Maelstrom Pulse and a little like Path to Exile. I don’t even think about trying to get two creatures with this card. If it happens, great, but that shouldn’t change the playability of the card. Obviously, Declaration in Stone is great to mow down a swarm of Thopter or Zombie tokens but will mainly get the big creatures like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.
Close to a freeroll in a deck with 22 Plains. Westvale Abbey makes 1/1 Human Cleric tokens in the late-game when things get stalled out. If things are stalled, then it’s entirely possible to have five creatures on the battlefield. A 9/7 flying, haste, lifelink, indestructible creature does wonders to break open a battlefield stall.
The deck could possibly afford to run more colorless lands like Westvale Abbey, but I’m staying on the safer side of the fence on this one. The deck has some “one-drops into two one-drops on turn 2” draws as well as eight cards that cost WW. An early Westvale Abbey could cause a stumble, which the deck is largely immune from.
The sideboard is rather flat, offering different removal options and late-game threats. Often Declaration in Stone will be upgraded to a more efficient removal spell like Surge of Righteousness. There’s Archangel Avacyn if you need more flying beef. The sideboard could likely use an extra land for when it cuts the Dragon Hunters in favor of four- and five-drops. Hidden Dragonslayer enters against hyper-aggression and… Dragons. It’s hard to say what a sideboard really needs without the full spoiler and a developed metagame, so it’s filled with usual suspects.
Other cards to keep in mind for Mono-White Humans:
Or an Ally theme featuring:
It’s possible to play red for these cards.
…and some smattering of equipment. I’m currently off that idea, though there could be a thing there. Knight of the White Orchid not being a mana-fixer is a big issue to me.
Blue offers two great cards in particular:
Dragonlord Ojutai is outrageous with Always Watching and Reflector Mage goes into your Human tribal deck. Knight of the White Orchid pulls out Prairie Stream, so the blue splash should be accessible off just four Prairie Stream and four Port Town. Would likely have to let go of Westvale Abbey, but whatever.
New Standard on the Horizon
This weekend is Easter. There are no tournaments. The weekend after is the Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease. #SCGBALT is three weeks out, which gives everyone plenty of time to gather initial ideas of the new Standard format. If it were up to me, new Standard would start today (yeah, with half a spoiler), as I’m ready to get a move on the format.