New formats are so exciting, aren’t they? Viewer numbers soar as FNM grinders and Pro Tour Champions alike tune in to see the hot new tech as the SCG Open Series runs on the two weekends between the release of Magic Origins and the Pro Tour. This set release would be no different as five-digit viewer numbers witnessed… a format still dominated by G/R Devotion and Abzan Control. Huh.
On the bright side, this Standard format is nowhere near as bad as the dark days of Mono-Black and Mono-Blue Devotion. SCG Chicago did have some fun and innovative decks that, with tuning, might prove to be legitimate contenders in the metagame. Richmond followed that up by refining a couple of innovations. It’s hard to beat a season’s worth of tuning with a deck that has just one week of iterations behind it, but hopefully the Pro Tour will spice things up a little.
Last week, everyone and their dog wanted to talk about Matthew Tickal’s 5-Color Rally deck (which likely doesn’t need all five), Jeff Hoogland U/W Control (I love it but needs more artifacts) or James Newman’s TurboFog (please, cut the Day’s Undoing). Ray Tautic clearly knew what he was doing with Rally the Ancestors, narrowing the deck down to three colors and winning the whole darn thing just this past weekend in Richmond, so the room to innovate is still there even if the key card really is just a reprinted common. We even saw the return of an old favorite, Constellation, in the hands of John Taylor as he rocked both Herald of the Pantheon and Starfield of Nyx plus the reprinted Sigil of the Empty Throne.
They can keep those decks, though I will likely take a stab at them in weeks to come. The ones that really interested me were Gerry Thompson Jeskai Aggro deck and Kevin McKinsley’s Jeskai Tokens. Both Harlan Firer and Robert Stanley took the Jeskai Aggro road to Richmond and a Top Sixteen finish was their reward. None of these decks would have interested me before Magic Origins, but the addition of a couple of cards have me itching to sling some red and blue spells.
Fire! I Made You To Burn!
For the first FNM with Magic Origins legal, I figured Goblins would be the best deck. I never play the mono-red aggro deck, so showing up with something like that would surprise a fair number of people, and having Goblin Piledriver join his younger, bigger brother the Rabblemaster, was actually quite appealing.
What a terrible idea that was.
Despite starting off 2-0, I played two consecutive mirrors and lost two consecutive die rolls, meaning I fell to 2-2. The deck was not fun for me and I hated even the games I won. Red beatdown just isn’t the deck for me, I guess. Unless, of course, the red cards are doing something cool and fun while beating down.
Oh, hey Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh! How YOU doin’?
As soon as Chandra was spoiled, my mind went to Jeskai Ascendancy. Flip her with one red spell, you say? Don’t mind if I do! There’s nothing stopping you from, you know, not flipping her if you would rather keep the pinger around, but the Jeskai deck will often appreciate the reach that Chandra provides as a planeswalker.
In the aggro deck I see her filling a different role, helping us clear out blockers when flipped that we couldn’t easily kill otherwise. She loses some value for sure without the added ease of flipping her that Ascendancy gives us, but as a two-of who can finish the game against an opponent who is already on the defensive, I’m excited to give her a try. Given that Gerry was less than happy with Goblin Rabblemaster, maybe that slot can be a split of Rabbles and Chandras? After all, she’s just as good with Stoke the Flames!
U Are Always On My Mind (Sculptor)
Please direct your complaints about the header to Cedric Phillips. It’s all his fault.
Both decks are already running Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and that was the main draw for me. In both these decks, I’m pretty sure he might actually be busted. Ludicrously easy to flip and very likely to get you value when he does flip, Jace started the weekend as a card I was thinking of as a sleeper. It looks like I was wrong, but only insomuch as everyone else seems to be thinking he’s busted too.
Much like Chandra, Jace really benefits from Jeskai Ascendancy in the Tokens deck. Yes, he will probably flip very quickly, but even if the first resolution would flip him you can cast a spell to untap him and add another loot to the stack. Just how many cards did you want to draw this turn? Although a common lament with Jace has been that you don’t want to flip him, he might even be better as the Telepath Unbound in this deck as he can start flashing back all your token-making spells. And convoking a Stoke the Flames, untapping your team with Ascendancy and flashing it back with convoke? Yeah, that might be OK.
Gerry’s deck doesn’t get to do the unfair untapping tricks with Jace, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good home for him. At first blush you might think Gerry has gone overboard on Jace, with four copies of Jace to go with only twelve spells you really want to cast with flashback – fifteen if we really stretch and include Ojutai’s Command. Not only that, he’s running a mere two Delve spells for Jace to fuel. It’s possible four is too many, but more sounds better here. One way we could increase the effectiveness is to ratchet up the number of two-drops we could bring back with Ojutai’s Command, adding a Harbinger of Tides and maybe a Seeker of the Way or two. Increasing the Commands to four and adding a Dig Through Time or Treasure Cruise could also increase our Jace value.
One of the biggest attractions for me to both Jace and Chandra are the synergies they provide with Jeskai-colored activities. We’ve already looked at the extra value we can get from Jeskai Ascendancy with both walkers; of course Chandra goes well with Stoke the Flames while Jace is best friends with Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, but there are a few other cards floating around.
Disciple of the Ring is one such example. I was at a tournament the other day and sitting next to a U/B Control deck that resolved Disciple late in the game. His opponent was then unable to do anything of importance. Removal spells got countered with ease, blockers got tapped… all without spending a card from his hand. I got right up and bought every copy in the store. With Jace to feed her and a bunch of token-making instants, she can do a lot of work. There’s even the sequence of countering their first spell with a Dissolve or Disdainful Stroke then exiling that counter to stop the second spell. You don’t even need any instants or sorceries in your graveyard to make here dangerous, you merely need the possibility of it happening. You cast Ugin, I respond with a small Secure the Wastes, a Jace activation and suddenly you need to pay twelve mana to resolve your planeswalker. Oh, and I can prevent Jace from flipping if I want to.
Disciple of the Ring is not messing around. She just sits there, threatening to wreck your day while she screams at you. Look at that face. She is not having a good day. Those hands are going to mess you up. I can’t wait to see this in foil.
I really like the way Chandra interacts with all the red card draw that’s around right now. She can easily fit into a deck that tops out at four with Stoke the Flames, Outpost Siege and Avaricious Dragon, playing both Ire Shaman and Abbot of Keral Keep along with Tormenting Voice. Casting multiple spells each turn will help you transform Chandra in a hurry, and unlike Jace that’s definitely something you want to have happen. The deck I am envisioning would be able to whip through cards pretty quickly, hopefully overwhelming the opponent with the torrent of spells and Chandra burns. As you have complete control over when you actually flip Chandra, you can safely play a creature version after transforming your first one, giving you a reliable source of damage.
If we want to go a little higher on the curve, I love Embermaw Hellion as a potential Standard player. Much like Jeskai Ascendancy, the Hellion allows us to flip Chandra with only two spells while making out burn better and our tokens (if we play any) hit harder. Heck, playing the Hellion on turn five with Chandra out will flip her that turn and let us hit a creature for three. That it lets us Stoke a Siege Rhino and Roast for six damage is just gravy. Delicious, sriracha-infused gravy.
Could Jace and his pseudo-flashback ability combined with Delve be the thing that makes Rakshasa Vizier a player in Standard? No. Not even Jacques Cousteau went that deep, and he doesn’t trigger from flashback anyway. However, I am not ready to write off Volcanic Vision. In a more controlling U/R/X build, Vision serves the dual role of Plague Wind and Mnemonic Wall, especially if you return something like Dig Through Time. It’s unfortunate that we can’t get back an Ugin, but we have Haven of the Spirit Dragon for that. Jace fits right into this strategy, letting us discard the stuff we don’t need early (like a Vision, a big ol’ Dragon or possibly something like Dragonlord’s Prerogative) to flash back or retrieve later. It’s possible Volcanic Vision is just a single mana too expensive, but I do have this sick dream of casting it with Pyromancer’s Goggles mana…
Another card I am excited to test out with both Jace and Chandra is Magmatic Insight. While I don’t have to sell anyone on the power of Treasure Cruise, very few people I have chatted with seem to think Insight is even worth considering. I don’t get it. Pitching an extra land to refuel on spells, untap your Chandra, fill your yard for Jace, and provide Treasure Cruise fodder… for one mana? How is that not worth testing?
Not Just For Duel Decks Anymore
Jace has been seeing a lot of play in the early days of new Standard, while Chandra has yet to break through. I think she has a role and it’s only a matter of time before someone finds it, perhaps as early as the Pro Tour this weekend. Could she team up with her mom and dad? Will Jeskai Tokens come back to the forefront? Will Ojutai’s Command plus Jace be the most potent one-two punch? I would be surprised if none of these end up happening.
Of course, even if neither card puts on a strong showing at Pro Tour Magic Origins, you can still take them to FNM or #SCGRegionals this weekend! Have some fun, take something quirky with you and give it a run.
Until next time… Brew on!