It’s Time To Brew

Looking for some ideas of what to play at your first Standard tournament with Born of the Gods? Then read about the decks 2010 Player of the Year Brad Nelson’s been brewing!

Born of the Gods is finally upon us. This weekend card shops around the globe will be filled with excited Magic fans ready for their first crack at the new Limited format. It’s sure to be a fun-filled experience for all, but it’s not what I’m most thrilled about. I’m just happy Standard is going to get the shakeup it’s needed for months.

I undoubtedly believe I’m going to be wrong about this since I always am, but I don’t think Born of the Gods is going to have as high of an impact as I was hoping for. Many of the most powerful cards are already in print, leaving just some synergistic add-ons to be placed in preexisting decks. This means that the best place to start with Born of the Gods Standard is to understand exactly where we left off before the gods chose to give birth to an expansion.

The fight for best deck in the format was between U/W Control and Mono-Black Devotion. Both of these decks had unbelievable stats right up to the end and proved that they were not going anywhere. The reasons for this level of dominance were because both decks ran the best cards in the format that also did not force them to run a high volume of low-impact cards to make them good.

Mono-Blue Devotion and R/W Devotion are prime examples of decks that are forced to play very low-impact spells to help make their best cards more powerful. These decks continued to put up good numbers but had a tough time winning as consistently as the non-devotion decks. This is because of a golden rule of Standard that existed long before the gods began their reign.

Power > Synergy

When Standard is at its smallest during the fall, the more powerful Magic cards will always prevail over the more synergistic ones. This is because the synergy-driven spells don’t have enough tools to be consistent enough to put up the numbers. Sure, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx decks are extremely powerful now, but just wait until there are three more sets in the mix! This card is destined to only get more ridiculous as time goes on.

Don’t believe me?

All three of these cards are not only tournament staples but are widely considered frustrating to play against due to their power level. Was anyone complaining when Innistrad was still in Standard? It’s not because they were underpowered compared to Innistrad spells but rather that they just couldn’t take the heat in such a synergistic world due to the sheer amount of options in the card pool. Once the rotation occurred, these cards went from binder filler to all-around stars.

As time goes on, we will see a shift from power level trumping synergy to the other way around. Soon we will have enough tools to make the “payoff spells” like Master of Waves and Nykthos, Shrine of Nyx more potent since there will be better options for the decks they belong in.

Now, this doesn’t mean U/W Control or Mono-Black Devotion will not be role players in the format, but they will have to make changes to keep up in the fight for StarCityGames.com Standard Open Series trophies. Good thing both decks got new toys!

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this card might in fact be one of the most impactful cards in the set. I don’t know for sure where its home is going to be, but it seems like exactly what I want to be doing with Mono-Black. Three mana for a 3/3 flyer is not terrible in this Standard environment, but being able to also bestow for five mana is what makes this card a real threat. Two mana symbols is actually what pushes this card over the edge for me since it will allow Mono-Black decks to have impactful Gray Merchant of Asphodels. This is extremely important due to the fact that Underworld Connections will no longer be a card you can rely on as a maindeck spell. It will end up being too slow and clunky from now on.

This deck is much more aggressive than previous Mono-Black lists, but I feel that it’s exactly where the deck has to go. Many other decks got new and exciting tools to play with, making the slow board control version of Mono-Black almost obsolete. I just don’t see the old version still being powerful or fast enough to keep up.

Things have to change, and the easiest way to do that is to get faster and race. Lifebane Zombie and Herald of Torment do a great job getting early pressure started, and the backup of Whip of Erebos and Gray Merchant of Asphodel keep the deck alive long enough to get the last couple points of damage in. Whip of Erebos hasn’t seen that much play due to the speed of the format, but that should change once it’s more important to deal damage than control the board.

One of the more dangerous things about this decklist is the complete disregard of Blood Baron of Vizkopa. I personally don’t think this card will see much play. The era of board control decks is over since everyone is getting a little bit more aggressive. Thoughtseize still exists so I might be wrong, but I feel that decks will be picking up in speed even with the powerful rare still in rotation.

U/W Control is the more interesting deck to look at. Tomoharu Saito recently posted a decklist that not only got me a Top 8 at the Standard Open in Baltimore but also allowed Alexander Hayne another opportunity for a miracle in Vancouver.

This decklist was amazing but unfortunately does not play well with the new toys this deck is getting in Born of the Gods. One of the most impressive cards from the set for U/W Control is Fated Retribution.

The only reason I played U/W Control last weekend in Baltimore was because I saw this card spoiled the week before. I knew I wanted to play with this gem and started learning the ways of the Sphinx almost immediately. I mean, just look at it! Isn’t it beautiful?

I like to consider myself one of the best players in the world at fighting against Sphinx’s Revelation decks. Not only do most of the decks I design crush them, but I always feel like I know exactly how to beat them. I’ve only lost to a Sphinx’s Revelation deck one time in a Grand Prix, Pro Tour, or Invitational since it’s printing, making me very confident against those types of decks. You want to know my secret?

I always have an awesome card to play the turn they want to cast Sphinx’s Revelation.

They say go with a ton of mana, and that’s the moment I jam some spell they’re either forced to counter or don’t have answers for even after they cast Sphinx’s Revelation.

Well, that plan doesn’t work anymore.

Just think about it. Your opponent plays their seventh land untapped and passes the turn. This used to be the prime time to get that Stormbreath Dragon or planeswalker into play, but now it could be a trap. Now they have access to an instant speed mass removal spell that not only kills every creature on the board but picks off Mutavaults and planeswalkers as well. Trust me when I say this card will be metagame warping!

I’m not quite sure, but I think Rakdos’s Return will start to see play again solely because of how powerful this card makes Sphinx’s Revelation. It will be easier to just take all of their cards instead of trying to dance around this disastrous duo.

One of the ways to build a control deck around Fated Retribution is to look all the way back to the version that William Jensen played at Grand Prix Dallas-Fort Worth.

This might not be exactly where U/W Control is going to want to go, but hey, I never said I was Gerry Thompson! All I know is this is the first place I’m going to look when testing for SCG Standard Open: Nashville.

Moving to the synergy side of the metagame, I believe green-based devotion decks have found their new favorite toy in Kiora, the Crashing Wave.

I originally thought this card was going to suck. That was before I actually played some games with her.

This card is exactly what green-based devotion decks needed. Sure, Domri Rade was decent, but it never played defense that well and was only powerful when you were ahead. It also didn’t help ramping into big spells. These are all things Kiora has no problem doing!

Kiora, the Crashing Wave has this unbelievable ability for Nykthos, Shrine of Nyx decks to be able to find an alternative way to cast their big spells. Much like Solemn Simulacrum would help Primeval Titan based decks in the past, this planeswalker allows for some impressive ramping. On turn 3, Kiora comes down and draws a card along with an additional land drop. Even if it dies, the effect it leaves on the game allows you to cast Garruk, Caller of Beasts on turn 4. Who needs Burning-Tree Emissary for busted starts?

The most impressive thing about this deck is its ability to get to seven mana. Either by crazy Nykthos, Shrine of Nyx starts or a steady pace of mana guys and Kiora, the Crashing Wave, this deck can easily cast Sylvan Primordial as early as turn 4. It has never felt better to bin a planeswalker!

One thing that this deck has that the G/R Devotion decks could only dream of is the power of Cyclonic Rift. Devotion-based decks don’t want to worry themselves with too many removal spells, making a timely Cyclonic Rift very important. Even if the game doesn’t end on the spot, it’ll sometimes be difficult for the opponent to come back from such a devastating loss of tempo.

The only black sheep in this deck is Courser of Kruphix, mainly because of how dependant its power level is on what the metagame looks like. Sure, this card works best with Domri Rade, but I still think it has potential in the matchups you’re forced to play a slower game against, not to mention the life seems rather important against the aggressive decks. It also blocks Frog Lizards for days!

I highly suggest you add this decklist to your testing.

To Pay Or Not To Pay?

The last thing I want to talk about today is tribute. Most of the tribute creatures are far too weak to see Constructed play, but there are two everyone is talking about.

These creatures are especially interesting because they gain haste when the opponent doesn’t pay tribute to them. This can either be a good thing or bad depending on the matchup.

If these creatures are in fact powerful enough for Constructed play, then I’m willing to bet that Azorius Charm will start to see a lot more play since it interacts so well against them. The control player will have the option if they have haste or not, and as a result they’ll be able to have much more impactful Azorius Charms. Every once and a while an Azorius Charm gets awkwardly stranded in a hand at the wrong time. Opponents will play big threats that the control player wants to deal with but cannot until they get into combat. Instead of a huge tempo boost, they get stuck wasting mana until the next turn. This isn’t the case with these two creatures.

The control player can just not pay tribute to allow the creatures to attack right away. This causes the creatures to end up on the top of the deck for a whole turn and gives the control player an opportunity to play a planeswalker and then pay tribute the next turn, causing the creature to have summoning sickness.

Since I fully believe U/W Control is just getting started as one of the most powerful decks in the format, I would tread lightly when trying to fit these guys in any deck you’re building. I do however think Fanatic of Xenagos belongs in a more aggressive version of G/R Monsters.

Born Of The Gods Prerelease

I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record at this point, but I always find it necessary to bring this up when the Prerelease is right around the corner. Millions of Magic players will venture out to local card shops to get their first taste of the new set. Some of those players will be experiencing tournament Magic for the very first time.

I urge all of you to make this weekend the best possible experience for those newer players. I understand that many of us have been bred in this competitive world and look for nothing more than to win as many packs of the new set as humanly possible. I’m not saying you should deviate from this plan, but I do urge you to think about the newer players in the room and reach out to them. Ask them how their day is going or even if they would like any assistance with their overall experience.

This is a great time to get more players involved in Magic, so go out and be ambassadors to the game you love so dearly. I promise you it’ll be worth it in the long run!