Kala-Dashing Into Kaladesh Standard!

Brad Nelson is grinding SCG Tour® stops, the Magic World Championship, and Pro Tour after Pro Tour! But he still has time to get the decklists you want for #SCGINDY weekend! If you still need to find your identity in Kaladesh Standard, you can count on Brad to help you out!

Next weekend marks the first time Wizards of the Coast’s ideas about the new way to release sets will converge with reality. When this idea was first announced, some thought it was Madness, a deliriously Fabricated idea and a plan lacking Energy. On the flip-side, a large Cohort of players embraced the change. This Surge of support was the Vehicle that brought everyone together to Rally behind our Magic overlords. No one knew what would Emerge from this, but the unknown gave the community one last hope. Now Awakened, we finally see how amazing the world of three-block Standard is going to be!

From Clues to Crews, we have found ourselves in an exciting format where anything imaginable is possible. We are not limited by our options, even though only five sets are currently legal. I have no clue where this format is going to take us, but I do know we have to start with taking a look under the hood. Today we get into gear and start figuring out how this baby runs!

It wouldn’t be me if our first stop on today’s wild journey wasn’t taking a look at the biggest and baddest green creature in the set!

Now that’s what I call a Spectral Force I’d like to untap! Verdurous Gearhulk looks to be the most powerful card from Kaladesh and for good reason. At its worst, this card isn’t castable due to not having enough green mana or a minimum of five lands, but when you do, it’s an 8/8 trampler! That’s not bad at all! Having additional creatures on the battlefield is just pure upside! Being able to strategically distribute four counters is the type of Travel Preparations I’m interested in when the night is dark and full of tiny baby Spiders.

Remember all those battlefield stalls from last Standard? Well, Verdurous Gearhulk doesn’t have time for that! This green goliath is going to be smashing up battlefields as early as #SCGINDY and will very likely be one of the most influential cards in Standard for some time. When asked what I will be playing in Indianapolis, my only response has been, “I don’t know, but it will probably have four Verdurous Gearhulks in it,” and I meant it.

I’ve seen a lot of talk about slotting this card into skeletons of G/W Tokens, but I’m not sold that will be the card’s best home. I mean, I get it. Planeswalkers that produce tokens should be a perfect fit for a curve-topper that puts counters on them, but I feel that’s stifling Verdurous Gearhulk’s true potential. If the Marvel Universe has taught me anything thing, it’s that there’s only one way to get the green man to truly come out, and that’s pure volcanic rage!

Now there’s a lot going on with this list that we could talk about, but the most important thing to mention here is Bristling Hydra.

I’m actually shocked this card isn’t getting the attention I feel it deserves. On the surface, it looks born ready to drop life totals, but people keep on forgetting what a good green card looks like. Sure, this card isn’t Polukranos, World Eater or Siege Rhino, but it doesn’t have to be. This card can grab all those delicious counters from Verdurous Gearhulk and use stocked-up Energy to protect it from removal. It also comes down before most planeswalkers and threatens to kill them without fear of dying to their built-in protection.

One of the more subtle aspects of this deck is the symbiotic relationship between Bristling Hydra and Harnessed Lightning. In creature-based matchups, the Energy supplied by Bristling Hydra can be used for hadouken-level removal spells. Against control decks, this usually dead removal spell can do its best “Vines of Vastwood” impression by targeting the Bristling Hydra in response to a removal spell but dealing zero damage to it. This influx of Energy can then be spent protecting the Hydra. Science! And no, I’m not going to spend all article talking about a mediocre creature like I usually do. Now we are going to move onto the belle of the ball: Chandra, Torch of Defiance!

It looks to me like Chandra really cared about her high school reunion, because she is on point this time around! This is easily the most powerful iteration of Chandra we’ve seen since she sparked into the minds and hearts of Magic fans across the Multiverse. Sporting four abilities that can all be great depending on deck configuration, but at the same time only costing four with the ability to kill a creature…y’all know that’s busted, right? We’ve rarely seen a four-mana planeswalker be able to do this, but at the same time, they usually are multicolored and still have a worse ability than this. Chandra being one color and dealing four damage is out-of-this-world good, but ironically she’s from this world, so my previous statement is now invalid! Anyway, this card is good.

My only issue is finding the right home for her. Well, not home, because she just got back home and rekindled her relationship with her mother, but more like what deck she belongs in. My initial prediction is that Chandra, Torch of Defiance will fit perfectly into a ramp-based strategy given how well she helps bridge the gap between removal spells and accelerants, all the while drawing cards when the fuel tank runneth dry.

I started looking into G/R Ramp since World Breaker and Kozilek’s Return are most likely still great. In actuality, World Breaker seems to have gotten even better, thanks to Vehicles and the Gearhulk cycle all being artifacts for it to gobble up. Something interesting I discovered when looking into this strategy is that both Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Nissa, Vital Force accelerate you to seven mana the turn after they enter the battlefield. That’s exactly the amount of mana you need to cast World Breaker! Isn’t that Gruul? Sorry, I meant to say cool, but started typing great.

I’m very interested to see a format where the best acceleration spells have multiple uses while also being disruptible. It will give “ramp” strategies a whole new dynamic and feel while also not having that “feel bad” playstyle it normally has when people can’t interact with it. Now, this list looks rough, because it very clearly is, but it’s where I’m beginning the journey to the Promised End!

I don’t even know where to begin with this deck. I wanted to utilize Drownyard Temple as an acceleration “spell,” so I included Noose Constrictor as an early defensive body and Cathartic Reunion to filter some of the poorer draws and work well with Chandra, Torch of Defiance’s mana ability the turn she enters the battlefield. Since discarding Kozilek’s Return is also nice in a deck like this, it seems justifiable to make Fiery Temper the deck’s main removal spell. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of this card, but having a way to interact with a Thopter driving a Smuggler’s Copter seems valuable. Only testing will tell if this is passable in such a power-laden format, but you don’t have a ton of options in this color combination.

The best aspect of adding Chandra, Torch of Defiance to a deck like this is that she’s actually a good planeswalker to include in a ramp strategy that hinges on a delirium sub-theme. This makes it more convenient to fill the deck with each card type in Standard without feeling the pain of adding each card type to a Standard deck. Six mana for Emrakul, the Promised End is pretty messed up, and this deck is capable to doing that fairly consistently thanks to Chandra, Torch of Defiance and the Cathartic Reunion with her mother.

Now, you may have noticed that both of these decks have a sideboard card in them that has seen very little play since its release. It’s one that was shut down by the abundance of Dromoka’s Command and Spell Queller, but I feel like those days are behind us and the true potential of Nahiri can be unlocked.

If you’re skeptical of this card’s potential, just cast it. Just put it in the sideboard and bring it in when you play against either a collection of members of the Gatewatch or Verdurous Gearhulk and friends. The color combination formerly known as Gruul does not have good answers to big monsters or planeswalkers, which is exactly why this card is so important. It may eat up a decent portion of your hand to cast it, but the effect it has on a game is, well, game-changing.

Changing Gearhulks, we move on to a color combination that has had no issues killing planeswalkers in the past. G/B Delirium is already a defined strategy from the previous Standard format that seems to have just needed a rotation and few additions to be potent in Kaladesh Standard.

Reinvent the wheel I did not, but that doesn’t mean this deck should go unmentioned. Ignoring the power of new cards is never a winning strategy, but neither is including too many of them for the first wave of tournaments. Oftentimes the most successful strategies are those that identify great inclusions for already highly functioning decks, which G/B Delirium most likely is.

One major loss this deck suffered was the rotation of Languish, but it might end up being a blessing in disguise. We are about to live in a world where creatures have become too lazy to simply walk to the battlefield themselves. Instead of daily exercise, they’ve chosen instead to purchase Vehicles that get them from point A to point B. My Supreme Verdict is that this lack of ambition poses a serious threat to acts of God, global Damnation, and catastrophic events we hold near and dear to our hearts. Soon we may even have to stop destroying planes altogether, and start identifying individual threats and picking them apart one by one like in the old days. Sad times indeed.

Did someone say “destroy the world?” That’s barbaric! Maybe in days past you could get away with total annihilation, but in this day and age you’ve got to think more environmentally friendly. Hi, my name is Brad Nelson, and boy do I have just the product for you! It’s cleaner, cheaper, and even more efficient than those other store-bought enders of days! If you’re in the market for the best way to erase an entire civilization, you’d best not click away! For just the low, low price of $2.99 (prices may vary), you can rid yourself of any and all pesky organic and non-organic lifeforms! Why annihilate when you can Fumigate!

Fumigate, when acts of nature just aren’t enough!

It’s probably too ambitious of me to think that it’s time to go back to old-school draw-go-style strategies, but I have to try with something as powerful as Torrential Gearhulk seeing print. This card feels like the real deal in my initial testing, and for good reason. This might not have the flexibility that Snapcaster Mage has, but Tiago Chan doesn’t have the body Torrential Gearhulk does.

I’ve been thoroughly impressed with how easy it is to cast this card and completely take over the game on the spot as early as turn 6. I’m not sold on this list, but I am selling the strategy and I’m not alone. You control masters out there have something to work on!

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Standard is fresh to death right now with so many new and exciting cards to work on. There’s no way for me to cover them all this week, so now that cop-out comment has given me enough fuel to write about more of them next week! Who knows what wild and wacky adventures we will find ourselves on in seven days? Maybe I’ll break open a Vehicle or two and go for a spin. Possibly we will discuss Goblins and where they Dwell! Anything is possible as long as you tune in next week! Same time, same place!