Mirrodin Besieged in Standard

Thursday, February 3 – Adam Prosak, winner of the Standard portion of SCG Open: San Jose, reviews the most interesting cards from Mirrodin Besieged including Green Sun’s Zenith, Thrun, the Last Troll, and Massacre Wurm!

Before you can look at the applications of new cards, you must first assess the environment in which the new cards are going to enter. In this case,
I’m going to look at what Mirrodin Besieged cards will have an impact on Standard.

Anyone who has played Standard knows that it is a format that revolves around one card.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Let’s face it. If you made a list of the best cards never to get banned, Jace would likely top that list. The power level on this card is absurd, and
Standard is bearing that out. Prior to Mirrodin Besieged, the format was dominated by Jace decks and reactions to Jace decks. I tend to think of Magic
as a game of resource exchanges, and Jace offers an exchange of resources at a pace unparalleled by few cards in Magic’s history, let alone current

Take a look at current Standard. How many creatures that cost more than two mana without an “enters the battlefield” ability see play? Almost none. So
while there are appetizing cards in the new set, the majority of them suffer from the same fate as the variety of powerful creatures in Standard that
see no play because of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

The only card that comes close to the power level of Jace is…

Primeval Titan

Specifically the interaction with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. While the Titan is in a few other decks, he’s not nearly as game breaking in decks like
Genesis Wave or Eldrazi Green as he is when fetching Mountains or Valakuts. While Primeval Titan is the best of this cycle, it’s mostly an example of
the powerful things you can do with six mana.

Basically, the Titan cycle serves as the litmus test as to what you can do with a bunch of mana. If your big-mana creature compares unfavorably with
the Titans, then it probably isn’t worth playing. For example, Vengevine doesn’t really see Standard play simply because the Titans trump whatever a
Vengevine deck is trying to do.

There’s a third major archetype in Standard (it always seems like there are three pinnacles of Standard), and it arises mostly from its natural
position against the Jaces and Titans of the world.

Fast Aggro

If Standard was full of nothing but Jace and Titan decks, then aggressive decks would be well positioned to take advantage of this fact. At the moment,
Vampires and Boros are the best aggressive decks, but it seems that the beatdown flavor of the day changes rapidly. For a good aggressive deck to
exist, it must be able to put pressure on the Jaces of the world while killing the Titan decks before they can take full advantage of their
board-dominating six-drops.

With that said, here are the cards from Mirrodin Besieged that will significantly impact Standard

Green Sun’s Zenith

I mention this because it fits so perfectly into the Valakut deck. A deck that relies heavily on Primeval Titan just got a way to put them into play
much more consistently. In addition, the Zenith can function as a ramp spell in the early game by getting an Overgrown Battlement, or if you’re feeling
adventurous, a Lotus Cobra.

For all of the positive impact that Zenith has for Valakut decks, there are some very real negative consequences for playing it. First, it’s a threat
that isn’t a creature that you can hit with Summoning Trap. This is very real for a card that wasn’t exactly a shining beacon of reliability. Second,
it’s not a creature that triggers Summoning Trap when it’s countered, increasing the usefulness of opposing Mana Leaks and Spell Pierces. Given that
Summoning Trap is so important to the Valakut decks’ game plan against Jace decks, something’s gotta give. This is a deck that attempts to combine the
two by cutting all of the maindeck removal, relying on blocking to combat the aggressive decks. It’s possible that Valakut should just remove the
Summoning Traps and gravitate toward the next card on this list.

Thrun, the Last Troll

When I think of Thrun, I think of Baneslayer Angel. When I saw Baneslayer Angel, my reactions ranged from “How is this card printable?” to “There’s
nothing creeping about this power creep” to “I don’t know how I’m going to play this card, but I will find a way.”

From a personal standpoint, cards like Thrun make me very worried about where Magic is heading. This card is so blatantly in-your-face good and fails
the Titan test (easily trumped by Titans), but I still think it might define Standard. While technically it fails the Jace test, its untargetability
prevents the -1 ability on Jace from making this card unplayable.

In reality, the ways to beat this card are few.

1) Play an extremely narrow answer, one that was not previously playable in Standard. I’m talking Wall of Tanglecord type of stuff.

2) Gatekeeper of Malakir, Consuming Vapors, and Day of Judgment. These are answers in the same way that Spell Pierce is a hard counter. They are a nice
line of defense but won’t get you to the Promised Land

3) Go big. There are plenty of things that trump what this card is doing for six mana; Sword of Body and Mind is very good against this at five mana.
If you take anything away from this, it will be that the aggressive decks need to take this guy into account, and the next beatdown deck will likely
have natural resistance to this guy. I’ll be honest; this will likely be the issue that stops Thrun from dominating Standard.

If this card starts being unbeatable, I recommend Khalni Garden, Sword of Body and Mind, or bigger ramp cards (ones that can compete with Primeval
Titan + Valakut, good luck). However, I know that if six-drops fall out of favor (unlikely), this will be the best non-Jace card in Standard. In the
land of Titans, this still has the potential to be a very good card if placed in a deck that can suppress six-drops. Because of Jace, this is what a
four-drop has to be to be playable without an enters the battlefield ability.

Phyrexian Revoker

This card probably has many applications, but its primary application in Standard is directly stopping Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I might be dating
myself, but I think of Tsabo’s Web when I think of this card. You might be able to trick yourself into playing the card because of its other
applications (2/1 vs. draw a card), but you’re really just playing it because Jace, the Mind Sculptor is that good.

Sphere of the Suns

Everflowing Chalice was initially met with rave reviews and saw play during much of last season. However, its playability has dropped steadily since
its release. Sphere of the Suns is basically redundancy on Everflowing Chalice, a card that was rarely played at the full four copies to begin with.
The biggest thing I see for this card is the ability of non-green decks to reliably turbo out four-mana cards. Might I suggest Jace, the Mind Sculptor?
Sadly enough, one of the better cards to accelerate out, Thrun, the Last Troll, is green. Green has better acceleration options than this.

Sword of Feast and Famine

I’m actually somewhat interested in this card but only in decks that start with four Lotus Cobras and four Thrun, the Last Trolls. The ability to untap
lands is very powerful, and if you get in a hit with this and drop something else, you’re in very good shape. It’s not good to compare this to Sword of
Body and Mind, since the other Sword is a huge mana hog, and this is fairly mana efficient. I’m excited to discover what’s possible with this card, but
I’m not sold on this card being great the same way that Thrun or Green Sun’s Zenith is.

Inkmoth Nexus

For everyone who is really excited about this card, it’s not vastly superior to Quicksand or anything, at least for good decks. Tectonic Edge is far
more important as a colorless land given the presence of Valakut and manlands. In reality, this item just exists for me to justify posting the
following pet (aka terrible) deck of mine.

This deck can’t really beat a Jace or a Titan, but it sure is fun to try! I’m mostly excited to have access to a seventh colorless land (that you can
keep all of the time), but some new toys are always fun as well.

All of the poison creatures

Still can’t beat a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It’s rarely about how hard you can hit. It’s about the reliability in which you can hit.

Massacre Wurm

The competition is Grave Titan; the comparison is Inferno Titan. I think the Wurm stacks up fairly well with Inferno Titan in that it comes close to
ending the game against aggressive decks by itself. However, the Grave Titan is still fantastic against most of these aggressive decks while being far
superior against our Mind Sculpting friends and Primeval buddies. It’s interesting to note that this would be the greatest card of all time in most
historical Standard formats.

Phyrexian Rager

Sigh. I remember when you were Constructed playable. May you rest in peace with my BFF Trinket Mage.


Firespout is a heavily played card in all sorts of formats where it’s legal. Slagstorm is almost a strict upgrade of Firespout except for that pesky
second red mana symbol. If the need to suppress aggressive decks continues to be important, I could see Slagstorm picking up over Firespout in some
decks. However, Big Red is not back.

Black Sun’s Zenith

Neither is Mono-Black Control.

Mitotic Manipulation

This is the last card I want to talk about and my favorite card in the set. It’s certainly not the most powerful (Thrun says hello), but I think the
applications of this card are far reaching.

The first thing to realize is that it will be a Rampant Growth a decent amount of the time. If you aren’t willing to play a three-mana blue Rampant
Growth, then you need to look elsewhere. This also requires you to play plenty of basics and not pepper your deck with one- and two-of lands. You also
don’t want to play singleton copies of most permanents, especially those that might be on the battlefield early in a game. This may not seem like a
huge restriction, but it has been very damaging to the Pyromancer Ascension archetype. Flexibility in deck design is important.

The next thing about this card is that it can get your opponent’s cards as well. It will shine in any sort of mirror match or at least in matches where
you share cards with your opponent. You can kill opposing Jaces and Thruns.

There are a ton of applications with this card (Hello, Frost Titan), but most importantly, it functions very well in a Jace-heavy format. It can kill
opposing Jaces while making yours stronger. I’m excited to see what this card brings, although it will likely end up being too unreliable.

Enjoy your Standard games,

Adam Prosak