I Spy With My Little Eye…

Between Goblin Chainwhirler, The Eldest Reborn, and Sorcerous Spyglass, Standard is wild! Patrick Chapin scopes the MOCS results ahead of SCG Minneapolis!

“Wizards of the Coast is going to regret printing Llanowar Elves.”

“Lyra Dawnbringer goes in everything. She’s even better than Baneslayer Angel”

“Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is getting played over Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Modern.”

“Karn, Scion of Urza is the busted card in the set, and it’s colorless. Standard is doomed.”

“History of Benalia makes W/B scary… we’re talking Energy levels of good.”

My, how quickly the winds of change blow a new direction…

Goblin Chainwhirler is no joke. A 3/3 first striker for three is already a whole thing, and then you get that AOE for free?

And it’s not just the ability to sweep tokens that’s so sick. There’s a lot of incentive to try to arrange a planeswalker’s loyalty situation in such a way so as to end up with the planeswalker at one loyalty after an all-out attack from the opponent.

Attacking planeswalkers involves “chunky” amounts of damage. If they end up having to attack a planeswalker with one loyalty with a 4/4, you’ve effectively gained an extra three life. If their attack gets the planeswalker to one instead of zero, that’s at least one more activation you’ll get out of it.

Goblin Chainwhirler specializes is throwing off the math. A point of damage can be exactly what you need to finish off a Karn, Scion of Urza or Chandra, Torch of Defiance.

The Chainwhirler has some mondo combos, too. With Soul-Scar Mage on the battlefield, Goblin Chainwhirler’s one damage translates into -1/-1 counters for each enemy. It already comboed with Chandra, Glorybringer, and burn. Besides, Prowess on a 1/2 for one is not trivial.

Goblin Chainwhirler decks really washed over the format last week, frequently splashing black for Unlicensed Disintegration.

R/B’s popularity has persisted through this past weekend, including an 8-0 performance in the MOCS by FestiFan with a slightly amusing evolution…

FestiFan’s big step forward? While many players were talking about going a little bigger, like cutting Bomat Courier or two-drops, FestiFan cut Karn, Scion of Urza to make room for Hazoret the Fervent! How… retro?

Okay, okay, don’t worry. Karn is still here, hanging out in the sideboard, so I guess this still counts as a “deck.”

Not only did FestiFan bring Hazoret back, they even traded their Heart of Kirans in for Kari Zev, Skyship Raider for even more reliable early beats.

Kari Zev hits reasonably hard for a two-drop, and with Fatal Push on the decline, she gets beaten with tempo less often than she used to.

Standard red decks have moved into a space defined by their incredible four-drops: Hazoret, Chandra, Karn, and probably most importantly:

Rekindling Phoenix is just amazing against Fumigate, and it can actually be surprisingly hard for Gideon of the Trials to deal with. On the surface, it seems like Gideon should do all right in the exchange. After all, Gideon can hold a creature off indefinitely without actually needing to kill it.

However, the red decks are capable of presenting so intense a battlefield that the Gideon deck often must Fumigate to stay in it. Now, not only does the Phoenix come back, but it’s not currently targetable by Gideon and will be coming back with haste.

Settle the Wreckage is already great, but its importance will only increase this week. Between Rekindling Phoenix, Hazoret the Fervent, Glorybringer, Scrapheap Scrounger, and Earthshaker Khenra, this deck is basically a who’s who of cards that punish Fumigate, yet can be answered by Settle the Wreckage.

Matt Brown’s surprising sideboard tech puts up another big finish! The Eldest Reborn is a card built for grinding. After sideboarding, most opponents go a little bigger. Having cut their small creatures, The Eldest Reborn is more likely to hit something big. Since they cut their least effective cards, The Eldest Reborn is more likely to snag something good with the discard ability.

Some players went even farther with the whole “retro-red” movement. Makism finished 7-1 with a full-on red aggro deck, with Ahn-Crop Crashers instead of Glorybringers or Rekindling Phoenix (relying on a playset of Hazorets and a lone Chandra in the four-slot).

What’s this? Lo and behold, a deck with three Ahn-Crop Crashers

Well, sometimes you only want seven three-drops, and there’s no question that Goblin Chainwhirler is first chair.

Going all the way up to three copies of Fight with Fire makes a lot of sense in this Lyra Dawnbringer-heavy format if you don’t have access to black mana for Unlicensed Disintegration. It’s also an important tool for combating Steel Leaf Champion, since we’ve got close to zero shot of beating Ghalta, Primal Hunger if it hits.

Ghalta has continued to thrive in this new Llanowar Elves / Steel Leaf Champion world. Mono-Green (or nearly Mono-Green) gets to play Llanowar Elves on Turn 1 more often, and there is an unusual amount of both card advantage and utility available to green creature decks.

For instance, take the list bgoose321 went 7-1 in the MOCS with:

Merfolk Branchwalker does at least a halfway decent Silvergill Adept impression (if you squint), and Scrapheap Scrounger continues its basically ubiquitous presence in aggressive decks.

Jadelight Ranger is tempting, but Steel Leaf Champion and Rhonas the Indomitable are more “on-plan,” and Thrashing Brontodon is still just excellent in the format.

In fact, it would still be hard for me to play one of these decks without a full playset of Brontodons. The body is just conveniently sized and Naturalize effects are particularly good right now.

Greenbelt Rampager is an interesting choice that sees a fair bit of play but is hardly universal. Unlike dedicated energy decks seeking to abuse it as a source of energy, this style of green deck is just using it as a 3/4 for three that you can pay for in installments. With no other one-drops in the ZIP code of Llanowar Elves, we’re a little short on productive things to do on the first turn in the non-Llanowar games. Greenbelt Rampager lets you leverage that “extra” mana to effectively give you a 3/4 for two.

I’m not suggesting you want to cast Rhonas’s Last Stand on Turn 2 or anything, but all these big numbers make me wonder about using it as an additional Ghalta enabler.

Turn 1: Llanowar Elves

Turn 2: Steel Leaf Champion

Turn 3: Rhonas’s Last Stand; Ghalta, Primal Hunger.

Even without Llanowar Elves, it just seems like Rhonas’s Last Stand makes a great Turn 4 play with Ghalta in the same turn (and at that point, who cares about untapping your lands next turn?)

There aren’t many compelling alternatives for one-mana plays. Really, it’s mostly just tapped lands and Adventurous Impulse, such as those found in the G/B Constrictor deck Jeff “Ffej” Cunningham (the greatest Magic storyteller of all time) piloted to a 7-1 record in the MOCS.

Four Verdurous Gearhulks, plus Adventurous Impulse, Merfolk Branchwalker, and Jadelight Ranger to find them more often? What has this format become?

Err, oh. Umm, okay, I… Okay, I guess I wasn’t expecting that to be the answer…

DaibloXSC piloted this intriguing combo deck to a Top 32 finish in the MOCS, aiming to punish all the midrange players slowing their decks down to win the mirror.

I love Zhalfirin Void! It can make a one-land hand surprisingly keepable. Remember how good scrylands like Temple of Silence were? Zhalfirin Void may be colorless, but it’s also untapped and is one of the most underrated cards in Dominaria.

And while running eighteen lands isn’t exactly a lot, Renegade Map, Traveler’s Amulet, and Prophetic Prism all help.

Besides, with so much improvise, everything is sort of a mana…

Even Mox Amber!

Seriously, though, it takes some nerve to run Mox Amber and no legendary creatures or planeswalkers to power it up. Obviously, it’s for Improvise, but at least there are a couple of Baral, Chief of Compliances and a Padeem, Consul of Innovation in the sideboard, so that we at least tap it for mana once in a while.

So what’s the combo?

Well, Glint-Nest Crane, Reverse Engineer, and Paradoxical Outcome can give us a lot of raw material to work with, and even Baral’s Expertise can function as card draw when you bounce enough cards with enters-the-battlefield triggers.

Then, once you have a critical mass of material, a moderately large Paradoxical Outcome with Aetherflux Reservoir on the battlefield can make it relatively easy to chain enough spells together to 50 the other player.

I’m still wondering if there’s a way to get Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain in here?

I don’t think you’d have to be all-in on Jhoira to get your money’s worth. I mean, just draw two extra cards and you’re already kind of doing it. If you can Paradoxical Outcome on your opponent’s turn (maybe after lots of blocks), and then untap and drop Jhoira into everything else, well, the ceiling is pretty high.

Sorcerous Spyglass is a really fancy Pithing Needle that is particularly good at putting a stop to Karn, Scion of Urza or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Remember, you can name anything you want, not just cards in their hand, so even if the Spyglass doesn’t come down until after the planeswalker, you can still get yourself out of the jam (and effectively shut off every copy in their deck).

Sorcerous Spyglass has been working so well in the format that it’s even starting to show up in some maindecks. For instance, Hall of Famer (and basically Mono-Dimir player) Shota Yasooka’s latest update to U/B Control:

I love the use of Cast Down here. In terms of being able to regain some percentage against these Goblin Chainwhirler decks, Cast Down is one of the better ways to do so while holding onto percentage against Llanowar Elves decks of all shapes and sizes.

Besides, with so many fewer Lyra Dawnbringers and Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mages this week, Cast Down functioned a lot closer to Terminate.

It’s been really interesting, seeing all these forms of pressure on the format lead players to diversifying their threat suite. For instance, check out the diverse mix of bombs featured in Tedpanic’s MOCS 7-1 list:

That’s right: two copies of The Scarab God, two Teferi, a Karn, and a Liliana, Death’s Majesty, to say nothing of all the small threats.

Between Kitesail Freebooter, Doomfall, sideboarded Duress, and (of course) Sorcerous Spyglass, this list has a lot of ways to check if the coast is clear, remove counterplay, and execute a careful plan of attack.

This was actually a pretty good weekend for The Scarab God. The one-time Standard menace had all but fallen off the map a few weeks ago. Now, here we, are a short couple of weeks later, and what do you know? Half a dozen decks in the Top 32 are packing the card. It’s hardly the format-defining monster it once was, but that’s pretty respectable.

Here’s another The Scarab God deck of interest:

Sailor of Means… Business!

That’s quite the accelerator you got there.

All the better to power out a Turn 4 The Eldest Reborn

Bonus Mardu “Vehicles” Decklist (for Folks Still Sleeping on Construct Tribal)