Looking Forward: Standard With M12

Brian Kibler takes a look at the future of Standard, particularly Mono Red with Grim Lavamancer and U/B Tezzeret with a surprising two-cost artifact that could make some waves in the new world.

They’re gone. They’re really gone. The StarCityGames.com Open in Baltimore last weekend marked the last major event in which Jace and
Stoneforge Mystic were legal in Standard. The duo proved why they earned their extended vacation (or vacation to Extended), taking eleven of the Top 16
slots, including both of the finalists and, obviously, the eventual champion.

But no more. The Jace and Mystic-free Standard environment has already begun on Magic Online, which gave the two troublemakers the boot as of this
week’s downtime. While it’s been too soon to look at the results of any of the events as of the writing of this article, we still have the
benefit of more information than we had last week, since so many cards from M12 have been revealed.

It’s sort of strange, really. There are two separate new Standard formats over the next month. For two weeks, we have post-banning
Standard—just the world we used to live in without Stoneforge and Jace. And then just like that things change once again, as M12 hits the shelves
and a flood of new cards shake things up yet again.

As a quick aside, I want to point out just how happy I am with the way Wizards is handling the core sets nowadays. The shift from Xth Edition to the
M10 style sets has been simply awesome. While I initially had quite a few reservations about the idea of printing cards that would rotate so quickly,
WotC has done a great job of keeping around popular staple rares and mythics, like the dual lands and the Titans, so players don’t feel cheated
about investing in cards that rotate faster than those in any other kind of expansion set. The influx of new cards over the summer keeps Nationals
season interesting, which would otherwise be tremendously stale after months of playing with the same sets. Core sets used to be little more than a
list of what cards were legal in Standard, but now they’re fun, exciting sets in their own right. Three years later, I think the experimental
change in core set philosophy has proven itself to be a resounding success.

Like M10 and M11 before it, M12 looks poised to seriously shake up Standard. There are lots of exciting new cards, like Chandra, the Firebrand and her
trusty Phoenix, but the card I think is going to make the biggest impact, at least in the short term, is a reprint that hasn’t gotten nearly as
much attention as it deserves; Grim Lavamancer.

I was pretty shocked when I first heard that Lavamancer was being reprinted. After all, it’s a card that shows up in Legacy decks, and it’s
one of the standout cards of those decks in which it appears! Lavamancer is not only a key reusable source of damage for decks that rely on assembling
twenty to the face, but it’s also a permanent form of creature control that serves to punish decks that rely on small creatures that can’t
cough up removal of their own, and fast.

At first Lavamancer being in M12 seemed completely insane to me, but I have since tempered my view a bit. Sure, when Lavamancer joins the cast of
Goblin Guide-fueled mono-red decks for the few brief months during which they’ll both be legal, Patrick Sullivan will be leaving a trail of
smoking corpses in his wake. But Goblin Guide is going to be rotating out soon, and taking along with it both the best burn spell in the format,
Lightning Bolt, and the best Lavamancer fuel around, as fetchlands leave with Zendikar block as well. Without that kind of supporting cast, it’s
much harder for Lavamancer to efficiently light up the opponent’s grill.

But in that brief window, just how sick does this kind of deck look like it will be?

Now that’s a lot of damage, and fast! This is a very quick and dirty port of Pat’s deck from the invitational, adding Grim Lavamancer and
Incinerate over Furnace Scamp and Staggershock. It’s possible that you want to keep the Staggershocks and replace Flame Slash instead, but it
seems like having a cheap, single card answer to Spellskite is a good idea, since I imagine a lot of decks will be packing it in anticipation of
Splinter Twin, not to mention just how good it is against red decks.

Speaking of Spellskite, a lot of people have asked me about updating my Tezzeret Metalcraft deck that I played at GP Singapore. Unfortunately, I
can’t imagine showing up to a tournament with sixteen one- and two-toughness creatures in my deck with Grim Lavamancer around. Now, Spellskite
may be one of the best anti-Lavamancer cards there is (and Phyrexian Revoker isn’t so bad either), but it’s hard to justify putting a bunch
of effort into updating a deck that was built to beat a deck that was just gutted by bans for a new environment that promises to be incredibly hostile
to it. The deck was solid against Caw-Blade and Splinter Twin, but had some holes against Valakut and aggressive decks, both of which will certainly be
quite popular early on in the new format. I had a blast building the Certarch deck, but it’s quite low on my list of brews to work on over the
next few weeks.

That said, there was one card in the Certarch deck that I think is going to prove to be solid gold in the new Standard environment. Patrick Chapin said
in his article earlier this week that he couldn’t imagine building a Tezzeret deck without the second coming of Jens Thoren, but I think the
power of Torpor Orb is a good reason to eschew Solemn Simulacrum in favor of the card that turns him off.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I think Torpor Orb is going to prove to be a very important card in the coming months. With Valakut and Splinter Twin poised
to be the defining decks of the format, having access to a two-cost artifact that largely shuts them down seems remarkably powerful. Sure, Torpor Orb
doesn’t completely shut down Titans, since they can still possibly attack, but it’s a lot safer to rely on killing a Primeval Titan than it
is to counter one, thanks to Summoning Trap.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Venser decks spike in popularity now that Jace is gone. It’s important to note the splash impact on the
popularity of certain cards that will come about as a result of the loss of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. What I mean by that is that Jace was a card that
was so powerful that it allowed decks to play a lot of otherwise narrow cards primarily intended to fight over getting him into play, like Spell Pierce
and Into the Roil, which were strong cards against strategies like Venser. With Jace’s departure, cards like these will inevitably show up less,
meaning that cards that were weak to them have much more room to find a home in the new Standard format. Amusingly, while the Jace Test may have kept
costly non-Titan creatures oppressed, it was the cards people played to deal with Jace that kept cards like Venser from making a splash.  

Torpor Orb not only shuts down Exarch and Titans, but Simulacrum and Blade Splicer and Wall of Omens, too, all of which I expect to see make a splash
in Venser decks in the not-so-distant future. Last week I briefly touched on a Forgemaster Tezzeret deck with Torpor Orbs, but that’s only one of
the many directions I can see taking with the card. Look at Shouta’s deck from GP Singapore:

Shouta only played two copies of Jace, TMS to begin this, but four copies of Torpor Orb! This is a deck that was obviously very heavily metagamed for
the Caw-Blade filled metagame, but is one that I could easily see transitioning over into the post-Jace world. Consider something like this:

The combination of Torpor Orb and Tumble Magnet makes it much safer for this kind of deck to tap out against either Valakut or Splinter Twin, since the
typically scary creature combo-kills are no longer lethal. This is the kind of deck that’s best set up to take advantage of Jace 1.0, since it
can use cheap discard and removal to keep the board clear early and draw cards, something that is much harder for decks like U/W.

Interestingly, this is also a deck that could potentially take advantage of the new Jace, Memory Adept. Yes, I know that the new Jace has nothing on
the old Jace, but it’s a more powerful card than the old(est) Jace, since it can draw cards while gaining loyalty. Drawing a card every turn
doesn’t compete with brainstorming every turn, but it’s still an extra card at no cost past the initial investment of five mana. At the
risk of dating myself, I remember when Jayemdae Tome was a tournament-level card drawing effect, and Browse was an absolute powerhouse. We’ve
been spoiled in recent times by Mr. Mind Sculptor, and while the new Jace isn’t quite on that level, he isn’t banned either, so
there’s that.

Another thing I like about this build is that it seems like it’s the sort of deck that can actually take advantage of Consecrated Sphinx. As
we’ve already established, this deck is better set up to actually tap out and not die than most others, and Sphinx is one of the best cards to
tap out for. It’s competing for space with Wurmcoil Engine and Grave Titan, but Torpor Orb makes playing Grave Titan a bit silly, at least in the
maindeck. It’s not clear we’d even want Titan over the Sphinx in most matchups anyway now that we don’t have to worry about how it
matches up against Jace. Sphinx is obviously insanely powerful against other control decks if it doesn’t die immediately, and is probably the
best card left in Standard to put a game out of reach of the opponent now that Jace is no more. I would not be surprised to see Sphinx start showing up
much more than it has been, in decks like this and elsewhere.

I’m going to take a stab at pre-M12 Standard over the next few weeks, since it’s all we’re going to have on MODO for quite a while,
and I think U/B Tezzeret control seems like the best place to start. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to get a good enough version to make some
videos up and running for next week!

Until then,