Lessons From The Sidelines: SCG New Jersey

As a service to every mage who couldn’t spend the time watching the whole tape, Ari studied the entirety of #SCGNJ so that he can tell you everything about the Standard metagame that could possibly be deduced from the first big tournament of the season!

Yet again,
I find myself hanging out at home
watching coverage on the release weekend of a set.

There are worse things to do.

Through the thirteen rounds of play at the Open Series in New Jersey this last weekend, a completely new Standard format was showcased. It was barely
recognizable compared to last year’s Standard or even Block Constructed, which is amazing for a week one format. To compare, last year we saw the top three
Block archetypes dominate until the Pro Tour showed us the power of devotion strategies in a world of terrible mana.

Starting from the top, let’s see where Khans of Tarkir is taking us.

Round 1:

Match 1: G/R Devotion (Reid Duke) wins 2-1 versus B/W Control (Dylan Fay)

I’m interested to see how many duals Reid is playing. I would assume that in a devotion strategy the scry off Temple of Abandon is better than the life off
Rugged Highlands, so that makes it seem to me that Reid has to have at least five enters the battlefield tapped lands on top of Wooded Foothills. If he is
“splashing” Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, this makes sense, but I would have to play a bit more to see if that messes up your early curve.

I didn’t see Dylan’s hand to start, but it felt weird to me to be attacking Reid’s mana and Sarkhan with removal and Thoughtseize over just focusing on
managing Reid’s threats, specifically Thoughtseizing Genesis Hydra. Yes, you can attack the green deck’s mana producers and stifle their action, but that
typically works best when you have a clock. Dylan’s deck just doesn’t, and he also had an Elspeth he had to protect through Nylea, God of the Hunt giving
Trample. Dylan ended up getting a couple solid cards with Liliana Vess, but I don’t know if killing the Elvish Mystic when Reid has four mana is really
choking him with cards in hand for that.

The debate over whether to kill Nylea or Chandra, Pyromaster moving into the late game seems fairly easy to me. It looked like Dylan had removal to clear
Reid’s board, and Nylea is pretty bad if you can do that. Chandra actually lets Reid represent multiple threats a turn or find a Sarkhan to control Dylan’s

Post-board Reclamation Sage against white decks is likely a trend we will continue to see in this format. Banishing Light is a great card, but I remember
Brian DeMars talking to me about his Esper list last year and hating on Detention Sphere and Banishing Light for this exact reason. They are great removal,
but it is very easy to get blown out on tempo/timing with an instant speed enchantment removal spell or on value with Reclamation Sage. This mattered a bit
less last year as Sphinx’s Revelation created a hard end game wall that your opponents had to race, making conditional answers to answers a liability, but
this year if you can handle Elspeth, Sun’s Champion ,control is really lacking in a Cruel Ultimatum style card to just end games. Games will still be
fights deeper into the game, and there will be more time to set up the Disenchant blowout.

Xenagos, the Reveler is exceptional against these new control decks. There aren’t good ways to make up the immediate two for one advantage it provides, and
there aren’t a lot of ways to eventually make up mass card advantage like there were last year. It also works towards ending the game quickly, as opposed
to extending it. Dylan’s game 2 Thoughtseize taking Courser of Kruphix over Xenagos seemed backwards to be. Courser fights for a longer game where you play
more lands and gain fractions of card advantage a turn, which seems to favor the Orzhov Control deck. Xenagos just goes to town trying to kill you in a way
that is hard to answer with removal, and beyond that, provides burst mana that allows Reid to cast his expensive threats fast. Note that Xenagos isn’t the
only card of this style, but Nissa, Worldwaker comes down later, and the control deck is more likely to have the mana to play two answers immediately and

PSulli’s comment on Green Devotion (or Devotion in general) versus Thoughtseize and Despise is spot on. The Devotion deck needs a lot of pieces in a given
hand to work, and in general, is a little short on all of them. Thoughtseize can topple the house of cards real fast. Of course, as per the above note on
attacking their mana producers, the card gets way worse the longer the game goes. You can’t Thoughtseize the top of their deck, and if you aren’t
capitalizing quickly on their now poor draw they will get out of it.

Round 2:

Match 1: Abzan Midrange (Brian Braun-Duin) wins 2-0 versus Sultai Delve (Todd Anderson)

There’s a pretty interesting debate over whether you actually want Elvish Mystic in some of these tri-color decks. It does enable turn 2 Courser of Kruphix
and helps cast some of the high cost threats (read: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Hornet Queen), but the mana to cast it early isn’t great. BBD seems to
think the mana is good enough, but I have my reservations about what it costs you in terms of life paid.

Sorin, Solemn Visitor as a four of seems aggressive, but the numbers on it do work out such that multiple copies aren’t terribly dead. Similar to Jace,
Architect of Thought, you have four starting loyalty and the -2 ability. Also worth noting is that the +1 applies on your opponent’s next turn too, which
does create some odd interactions with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and some otherwise conveniently sized creatures like Brimaz, King of Oreskos. Also note that
the +1 offsets some of what I said above about the life total issues with Elvish Mystic.

Necropolis Fiend is coming into play with a lot of empty graveyards here. The activated ability on that thing isn’t looking too promising.

Pat and Matthias kept listing delve cards and not naming Dig Through Time or Treasure Cruise. That just seems odd to me.

This match went about as expected. Delve is cool and all, but Siege Rhino on rate is basically a delve creature that always is delved for near max. You
aren’t really buying anything too far above the curve by going down this road. While Todd is playing a few suboptimal cards to make his good ones do
things, Brian just gets to jam more good ones in. This isn’t to say there aren’t graveyard cards that do go over the top of the “normal cards”
(Nighthowler), but Todd’s deck just doesn’t feature them.

Match 2: G/R Devotion (Andrew Boswell) wins 2-1 versus Sultai Delve (Brad Nelson)

Pharika, God of Affliction becoming a creature isn’t something I’ve seen for a while. As per Thassa, 5/5 indestructible is a lot of indestructible.

That said, Brad wasn’t really getting anywhere going long. Andrew kept playing big threats, Brad didn’t have trumps to fight back on the same level.

The Polukranos monstrous versus removal thing is real funny when Andrew has approximately all of the mana. If he just wanted to clear some creatures, he
could monstrous for half of everything assuming it’s enough to kill them, then if Brad responded with removal Andrew could respond with another monstrous
activation. The first monstrous to resolve then triggers the “fight” on Polukranos, killing all the creatures that matter before the Hydra dies.

These bogged down board states seem like they could happen a ton in this format. If I remember correctly, there were multiple matches towards the end of
Pro Tour Journey into Nyx that went way too long just because there were so many answers and so few trumps. The removal is just good enough that a lot of
the things that could break these standstills just don’t work because Hero’s Downfall takes care of them, so there’s definitely a puzzle to be solved here.

Round 3:

Match 1: Jeskai Tempo (Jadine Klomparens) wins 2-1 versus Mono-Black Aggro (Lance Alvarez)

Maindeck Magma Spray looks real smart here against the all one drops start. At the very least, I expect that card to see a lot of sideboard action as one
of the few one drop removal spells around.

The no third land versus flooding issue was the big problem for Mono-Black in Block. You had a lot of great three drops between Herald of Torment, Mogis’s
Marauders, Hero’s Downfall, and Master of the Feast. All of these cards let you hang with the bigger threats of the format moving into the middle turns of
the game, but there’s a bit of a pickle here. If you lean too hard on these cards you need more lands than the one drop side of your deck wants and you
slow your game play down a lot to fit everything in. Once you push a little too far in that direction suddenly the one drop plan falls apart as there isn’t
a critical mass of threats and you start going into long games where you draw Tormented Hero while they are drawing Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. At the same
time if you cut these cards your deck has issues bashing past the first Courser of Kruphix or Siege Rhino that gets in its way. If Mono-Black Aggro is
going to succeed in this format it has to find a very precarious balance in its mana curve.

That said, I have no idea if Lance’s deck has found that because Jadine’s deck wasn’t built to capitalize on issues in either direction. It doesn’t really
have the brickwall blockers the green decks have to beat the small cards, or the removal plus trump threats to beat the three drop and land heavy hands.
Lance’s small threats were all viable going late and having removal stuck in his hand wasn’t too punishing as Jadine did still have to resolve a fragile
threat to add up to the full twenty damage.

Seeker of the Way is an interesting two drop. It doesn’t scale well going later the way Fleecemane Lion, Rakshasa Deathdealer, or even Sylvan Caryatid
might, but it certainly works in the early game and against aggressive decks.

Deflecting Palm was decidedly awesome for Jadine here, and it was only a Lightning Helix both times it was cast. If there’s a lot of Elspeth, Sun’s
Champion as the finisher of choice the card likely won’t shine, but if there are more green creatures, I expect Deflecting Palm to be a lot of eight or ten
point life swings.

Empty the Pits out of the Mono-Black deck was awesome this match. I expect it to be decidedly less awesome if the reason you can’t attack is Courser of
Kruphix and not Lightning Strike (clogged boards versus trading cards), but as a sideboard option, it handles the removal heavy decks very well.

Round 4:

Match 1: Mono-Black Aggro (Craig Krempels) wins 2-0 vs Abzan Midrange (Ethan Ansorge)

These slow draws like Ethan had game 1 out of Abzan are exactly what Mono-Black is trying to capitalize on. No one drop, no two drop, and I don’t even
think he had a three drop. Even with just a one drop and a Mogis’s Marauders, Craig was able to put Ethan into a nearly unwinnable scenario fast. The
drawbacks of tapped lands and too many three drops.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is a great way to stabilize, but the Black deck is very prepared for it between Bile Blight, Herald of Torment, Mogis’s Marauders,
and even just the attack burn from Spiteful Returned.

Pat talked down a bit on Fleecemane Lion here, but I think that’s more “Sylvan Caryatid is better” than an actual issue. You still need as many low drops
as possible to stabilize at a high life total as well as threats to win with.

Nyx-Fleece Ram is definitely one of the better anti-aggro cards in the format. Don’t forget about it. Also don’t forget that it can get Abzan Charm
counters or Sorin pumps and attack, especially after that exact thing won the last Pro Tour with Archangel of Thune as the source of power.

Game 2 is a caution against going too low on lands in this deck. The one mana operations here get bad fast as you need your three drops to combat their
three and four drops.

Ethan ending up on the losing side of game 2 comes down to two things. First, his deck as configured for game 2 has a lot of conditional blanks to draw
between Nyx-Fleece Rams versus fliers, lands, Caryatids, and two toughness removal against 3/x fliers. If he doesn’t draw his Rhinos or big threats, Craig
can easily get a threat or two ahead and start winning.

Also worth noting: Silence the Believers has non-Strive text, and the fact that card was so prevalent in Block was another big strike against the black
deck. If people start moving towards Abzan Charms and Utter Ends expect more of them to die to Bestowed Herald of Torments and switch back fast.

Round 5:

Match 1: Jeskai Tempo (Luis Alfonso) wins 2-0 versus Mardu Tokens (Matt Ferrando)

Mana Confluence in Block versus here is a big difference. More burn, more lands that cost life, better mana to support cheaper threats, and just more
powerful cards in general means that losing life to be the slightly more aggressive midrange deck is not the edge it was in the Sultai control mirror

This also just may be Burn decks capitalizing on week one manabases. People try to do cool things, you put them to zero for a while, and slowly they
realize that trying to cast three colors of one drops and double colored spells probably isn’t going to work out even if you can actually add the mana to
your mana pool.

Match 2: Jeskai Tempo (Jadine Klomparens) wins 2-1 versus Temur Devotion (Richard Nguyen)

Lesson of the day: Reveal your morphs. Rich should have lost that match 0-2 after failing to do so game 2.

Stormbreath Dragon is going to see a lot less play off the bat as people try to play Sarkhan everywhere, but it looks real nice in this matchup. Jadine is
leaning heavily on the Time Ebb mode of Jeskai Charm to handle fatties and protection from white shuts that down fast.

Rich’s deck has a lot of hard to kill creatures in it between Stormbreath Dragons and Sagu Maulers. Elspeth’s -3 makes them a little more vulnerable than
they first look, but if you are built to handle that card you have some real well positioned fatties.

Deflecting Palm can redirect Stormbreath Dragon damage. That’s cute.

Deck Tech: G/B Devotion (Ross Merriam)

The Green Devotion shell appears to be pretty set in stone besides the additional constellation subtheme here, but the one thing that really sticks with me
from this whole thing is that Doomwake Giant is a retrump for Hornet Queen, and sometimes Elspeth, though I know from Block that Elspeth can also win that
fight if it hits second.

Round 6:

Match 1: Temur Devotion (Jim Davis) wins 2-0 versus Abzan Midrange (Matt Costa)

The removal shift up the curve really benefits green devotion strategies. It is much harder for opponents to pluck apart your early game while still
presenting a relevant threat or clock.

I’m not sold on Seeker of the Way over Fleecemane Lion here in Costa’s Abzan deck. This Seeker in game 1 looks real sad across from Courser of Kruphix, and
Nissa lands while a monstrous Lion would be a big player. That said, he may just need the lifegain to support his manabase and Thoughtseizes and Abzan
Charms and Herald of Torments.

Wingmate Roc was definitely putting in work this game, if only just because it can’t be blocked by Courser of Kruphix. That said, Matthias’s comment about
there only being seventeen creatures in Matt’s deck made me think he might be short on raid.

Pat mentioned Herald of Torment in context of this deck, which makes a lot of sense with Seeker of the Way. Trigger it off the bestow, attack for six
flying lifelink, and keep a 5/5 flier seems like a good play. The random 3/3 flying body also works well for triggering Wingmate Roc’s raid.

There was some hype about turn 3 Elspeth off of Rattleclaw Mystic unmorphing, but turn 3 Nissa, Worldwaker plus attack might be more threatening. Having a
4/4 attacking that early is quite absurd.

The post match discussion about Hornet Queen is really interesting. The most interesting part to me is specifically how it can make removal bases rotate.
Bile Blight or Arc Lightning main doesn’t work in these Courser of Kruphix and Siege Rhino battles, but if people are Hornet Queening you want your removal
to clear the way.

Round 7:

Match 1: Mono-Red Aggro (Kendall Kasper) wins 2-1 versus Abzan Midrange (Chris VanMeter)

This is your daily reminder that fetchlands just for deck thinning is not mathematically profitable, let alone in a deck that is seeing only a handful of
extra draw steps per game.

There was a lot of discussion about blocking a Monastery Swiftspear with a Sylvan Caryatid on turn 2. In the game 1 scenario where Chris lead on Elvish
Mystic before casting the Caryatid it’s a snap block in my mind as he still hits four mana the next turn off the Mystic, but in the game 2 scenario it
depends a lot on how Chris’s hand curves out if the Titan’s Strength hits.

There was a discussion about how mulligans work in this matchup game 3, and obviously Patrick Sullivan knows how to interact with red decks correctly.
Spells and lands are bad because it’s easy to die with cards in hand here. Spells that do things early is way better, even if you are down on cards. This
is especially true if you can press the Siege Rhino easy mode button.

Eidolon of the Great Revel is a two drop worth discussing, but I have concerns about your deck being all things that trigger it when Siege Rhino makes
racing very much an option for the decks you are racing.

Harness by Force seems excellent here, especially because it is super easy for red decks to come out under a Siege Rhino and create a ten+ damage swing. It
seems even more excellent when you randomly have enough lands and creatures in play to make a strive work.

Round 8:

Never change Todd. Giving good advice (play four Drown in Sorrow) and laughing when your friends lose because they don’t listen is one of the finer joys in

Match 1: G/B Devotion (Ross Merriam) wins 2-0 versus Jeskai Tokens (Jospeh Scalco Jr.)

Ross Merriam in his deck tech: “Yeah, I’m not sure how I lose to tokens”.

This match: Hordeling Outbust, meet Doomwake Giant. Maybe we can trigger Jeskai Ascendancy on his turn and give us a small amount of hope.

Todd’s analysis of Ross’s record given his now seven matches against Tokens or Red Aggro is fairly accurate. Seven byes makes seven wins.

Game 2 of this match is great. Joseph got so far ahead by getting Nylea’s Disciple off the board for virtually free, and then Doomwake Giant just ends your
hopes. But then he had Jeskai Ascendancy to kinda go off, except there’s another two for one waiting to get it. Brimaz gave you another big threat
that might be able to get you somewhere with a removal spell, and then you just don’t have creatures due to the second Doomwake Giant.

As the cherry on top, Ross got to further deliver a crushing victory by winning with Hornet Queen tokens. Tokens? That’s my theme!

Match 2: Jeskai Tempo (Jadine Klomparens) wins 2-1 versus Orzhov Warriors (Michael Benyei)

Lesson learned from the ten seconds of this game: The burn deck probably has the burn spell when you are at three and they have multiple cards in hand.

Round 9:

Match 1: Jeskai Tempo (Kevin Jones) wins 2-1 versus Abzan Midrange (Scott Robins)

Ajani’s Pridemate is a cool one, but I’m unsure if the downgrade from scry to lifegain on the tapped lands is worth it. Of course, it does offset a lot of
the life loss we have seen with these Abzan decks all day, so it may just be that the life gain is necessary and because it is Pridemate gets good.

We see the big drawback on Mantis Rider when it and another copy of it get Bile Blighted. It’s an absurd clock, but x/3 opens up the possibility of instant
speed two mana removal trading for your creature. Fortunately Bow of Nylea only does two damage to it, so this isn’t a complete nightmare matchup, but that
interaction is very awkward if your opponent shows up prepared for aggressive decks.

Siege Rhino is just comically perfect against so many things. Jeskai Charm it? Drain you again. Sarkhan? 4/5. Not a deck that cares about the lifegain?
Pseudo-haste should do.

I’m not 100% on Drown in Sorrow here. Sure, it kills Goblin Rabblemaster, but it seems like an easy brick a lot of the time if Kevin has a Mantis Rider
heavy draw or just Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker as a threat.

Thoughtseize is excellent here as opposed to against last year’s burn decks where it was just okay. Previously it was +one or +two life at the cost of
giving them mana. Now it actually kills the haste flier (Mantis Rider) as opposed to doing nothing against it (Chandra’s Phoenix). There is a lot of
aggressive life loss here, so it may just be too much to have Thoughtseize with your painlands against a burn strategy.

Dig Through Time is absolutely better than Treasure Cruise here, despite the potential for the second blue to strain the manabase. Usually when you are
digging for cards you want to just find burn. Three cards on average is probably less damage than the presumed two burn spells you can find off the average
Dig through Time.

“He’s not trying to gain life, he is trying to remain net neutral.” “You aren’t playing these lands because of the Ajani’s Pridemate, you are playing the
Ajani’s Pridemate because of these lands.” Pat Sullivan dead on yet again.

Round 10:

Match 1: Jeskai Tempo (Kevin Jones) wins 2-1 versus Abzan Midrange (Daniel Mckelvey)

The early lack of a threat is a big deal for the tempo burn deck, just the same as it was last year. You need to convert your cards into multiple hits of
damage to actually do lethal, and as the game extends it’s less likely your opponent can’t just leave up removal of some kind and stop all of your threats
as you draw them.

Another fringe benefit of Courser of Kruphix: When your opponent is playing the game for a marginal chance of victory and you reveal something completely
unbeatable to seal it up, it’s extremely tilting.

Thinking about it, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is basically only good for Hero’s Downfall in these Abzan decks. It’s definitely better than the first Swamp,
but I can easily imagine a deck where you don’t want the first Swamp to begin with.

Todd brought up the Abzan Charm versus Sarkhan prompting a no-activate similar to the no-attack into a Neck Snap in Limited. Worth noting is that this also
applies to Silence the Believers and somewhat to Jeskai Charm, though that last one has good utility and other blue or red instants to make use of the open
mana if you don’t prompt them to use it.

Boarding out Brimaz against this Jeskai deck is an interesting decision, but I have two very reasonable purposes for it. The first is that it could be
about mana. The card is likely very painful to cast and makes you play mana in ways that isn’t conducive to casting things like Sylvan Caryatid into Siege
Rhino or an early Hero’s Downfall on Mantis Rider. The other is that the card might just not be good here. It doesn’t block the flying threats and it dies
to a Sarkhan -3. I’m not sure it’s 100% right, but it’s within reason.

If Daniel tries to make the control role happen on the Abzan side, Narset, Enlightened Master is the perfect counter on the Jeskai side. I don’t think
Drown in Sorrow is actually boardable here as you will look real dumb with it facing down Mantis Riders, and it only answers Goblin Rabblemaster after the
damage is done. The only reasonable way to handle it is Thoughtseize and…Lifeba–too soon?


Match 1: Mardu Midrange (Jon Goss) wins 2-0 versus Jeskai Tempo (Jadine Klomparens)

As mentioned in the coverage, Jon’s Temple heavy, painland-light manabase is a huge boon in this matchup. We watched a lot of players choose to start games
at significantly reduced life totals and get punished by Mantis Riders and Jeskai Charm. Jon was able to win game 1 despite Jadine having sixteen points of
burn because he made her cast all four spells to win and denied her the time to do so.

Out of the board it seems like Jon doesn’t have a lot of options. Nyx-Fleece Ram is not doing a lot of blocking against fliers and token swarms, so I guess
if you want Ajani’s Mantra you can have it. I would snap off the Despise though. Attacking Jadine’s creatures or planeswalkers (basically also creatures)
prevents her from getting you into burn range.

On Jadine’s side, she definitely wants Deflecting Palm as it is a four or five point burn spell against almost all of Jon’s threats with the exception of
Goblin tokens where the Rabblemaster doesn’t attack. Gods Willing is also likely to be good as you need to keep your creatures in play, even if it doesn’t
stop Crackling Doom. The cards I’m borderline on are Negate and Dig Through Time. The former seems like it could leave you with too many non-action spells
as the beatdown deck, and the later could easily be too slow when Jon can turn the corner real fast with all of his four power fliers.

Jon winning game 2 via Lightning Strike on his own Goblin Rabblemaster in response to Deflecting Palm is a good one. I’m reminded of killing your own
creature with Stab Wound on it in Limited.

Match 2: G/B Devotion (Ross Merriam) wins 2-1 versus G/R Devotion (Chris Kvartek)

Crater’s Claws seems like a huge breaker here. If the boards stall out you can easily get to twenty mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Voyaging Satyr.

Out of the board, Setessan Tactics seems great on both sides as it breaks mana creature parity. Ross seems a bit behind as Hero’s Downfall is clunkier than
Hunt the Hunter or Arc Lightning even if it is potentially better in a few situations.

Nylea, God of the Hunt plus Pharika, God of Affliction is a real cute combo. Trample deathtouch is an ability combo I haven’t seen in Constructed since…
Kessig Wolf Run and Nightshade Peddler? Deathtouch is a shockingly powerful ability and always seems to do a lot of great things beyond the obvious trading
up in combat.


Match 1: Jeskai Tempo (Kevin Jones) wins 2-1 versus G/B Devotion (Ross Merriam)

I actually wanted to see the other matchup more as it seems more telling on some of the trump/answer play of the format, but you can’t pass up two names
from the Players’ Championship race.

Pat and Matthias failed to mention Hornet Queen as a blocker for Mantis Rider. Seven is a lot of mana, but it’s a lot less if you start Nykthos-ing.

“A lack of reach to handle Mantis Rider” as a line had me confused for a good 30 seconds before I remembered that could reference the ability and not the
concept of burn and evasion to steal stabilized games.

I like Kevin’s aggressive board clearing with the Rabblemaster in play game 1. Polukranos landing on turn is unfortunate for this plan, but it’s not like
Lightning Strike was getting that out of there anyways.

Kevin played a Steam Augury in game 1 revealing Stoke the Flames, Mantis Rider, Magma Jet, and two lands and split it Stoke plus lands versus Jet and
Rider. This Steam Augury split implies that Stoke is Kevin’s best card. Rider actually seems better as I think it is worth more damage, and unless Kevin
secretly wanted the lands I think he could have gotten a better pile out of this card.

Out of the sideboard, Kevin almost certainly wants Magma Spray and likely Anger of the Gods to stunt Ross’s mana. He may also want Sarkhan and Ashcloud
Phoenix as flying threats similar to Mantis Rider, and Disdainful Stroke might be worth it if he thinks he can keep mana up for it. Boarding out Goblin
Rabblemaster as per Psulli’s suggestion makes sense, especially if Anger of the Gods is coming in. It’s not like the tokens would get in on the ground here

Ross on the side wants Hero’s Downfall, Arbor Colossus, and some number of Nylea’s Disciples. That last one depends on how much he expects to gain off the
trigger. If it’s just four to six it might end up being non-interactive against a repeatable damage source like Mantis Rider or Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker.
If he thinks he has enough interaction or can gain huge amounts of life regularly, he likely wants all of them he can fit in. Setessan Tactics looks
attractive at first given the comments about needing interaction for Mantis Rider, but since you need a big threat in play to make a guy that can fight
Rider down I’m not a huge fan.

Stoke the Flames plus Mantis Rider is a real nice interaction. Steward of Valeron would be jealous.

Having Pharika, God of Affliction in this matchup seems terrible. I would rather have all the fatties just to get into a race as opposed to Pharika which
is only getting active as a win more and is making near irrelevant bodies given that there aren’t fatties to block with Snakes.

The shock over Banishing Light still being in the deck is odd given how much the Arbor Colossus versus Mantis Rider fight was discussed. I also really like
Kevin’s choice to play two of that card. It’s enough that with Dig Through Time you can find it if you need it, but not enough that opponents boarding in
enchantment removal will have definite targets.

Looking at it in play, I’m unsure how good Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is in this matchup as the -3 doesn’t kill a lot of Ross’s high end threats, but I
guess it’s just a pseudo-Warleader’s Helix if they have to attack it down which actually might be good enough.

It looked like Kevin had Narset, Enlightened Master in his hand at the end of game 3. If he is boarding into Anger of the Gods and Disdainful Strokes that
seems excellent as you can resolve the card on a relatively stable board and easily win.


Match 1: Jeskai Tempo (Kevin Jones) wins 2-0 versus Mardu Midrange (Jon Goss)

Disregard my previous comments about Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth being potentially mediocre in certain decks. I forgot how it interacted with Mana Confluence
and fetches to prevent you from paying life.

Kevin’s hand game 1 seemed absolutely insane. I expect a lot of decks will have these hands where if they are on the play they can curve out perfectly and
make the game near unrecoverable very fast.

I agree with Pat that Mountain plus Sarkhan in two turns off this Magma Jet scry game 1 (with Jon at a virtual one life when Sarkhan hits) seems worse than
two random draws. I guess you can just wait and force Jon to always leave up mana for removal, which likely slows down all of his high end threats, but if
he has a Goblin Rabblemaster or Brimaz…

I talked about Jon’s sideboard in his quarterfinal against Jadine, but I think Kevin wants to board into a slightly more controlling deck. Narset is quite
bad due to Crackling Doom, but Disdainful Stroke, Keranos, God of Storms, and Ashcloud Phoenix seem great.

Goblin Rabblemaster from Jon trading for Magma Jet and Lightning Strike seems absolutely miserable. Get that card out of here.

Contrary to my expectations, Narset came in and shined. The Souls were supposed to be the spiritual successor to the Titans, but if anything this card
feels like the actual next card in that lineage. Attack, trigger, good game.

Overall Lessons:

-This is a new world. Three color decks are easily playable and likely the norm. Just be aware that taking too much pain off your lands has a real cost.

-Aggro had a very poor showing. Out of the 64 decks from both Open top 32s, only four of them really could be classified as aggro. On the flip side, count
those Circle of Flames. One deck even had four main! The hate was out in force, and it looks like it was easily enough to handle all the 2/1s for one.

-The big winners of this event were Jeskai Tempo and Green Devotion, though the splash there is still to be determined. Abzan Midrange and Monsters decks
put up reasonable showings, there’s still a lot of flux around non-burn Mardu or Boros midrange decks, and as per above, red and black aggressive decks are
the big losers.

-This is more of an Innistrad-Return to Ravnica Standard than a Return to Ravnica-Theros one. The there is so much room for customization and such broad
archetype options that I expect we will see huge metagame evolutions on a regular basis. Instead of a best deck for a year, we will see a best deck for two
weeks, then a different well positioned one, and so on with a rotating cast of top tier options.