Missing Elvish Mystic

For the first time ever, Brian Kibler has to wait until turn 2 to power out some creature mana! Find out which #SCGIndy decklists are helping him cope the most!

Battle for Zendikar
marked the first time in quite a while that I didn’t participate in a Prerelease event. The dates unfortunately conflicted with TwitchCon weekend, which
meant that I was up in San Francisco talking about playing games online instead of sitting down and playing games in person. I was bummed to miss out on my
chance to play with the new cards, but I made a point of dropping by a local store in the area – VS Games – to see them in action. Everyone seemed to be
having a great time, and the event was so popular that players were overflowing into the pizza parlor next door. Not bad for a set that had a bad rap among
many in the community before it even came out, now isn’t it?

While I wasn’t able to play with the new cards over the weekend, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about them. With Pro Tour Battle For Zendikar coming
up in just a few short weeks and the Standard format thrown into massive upheaval by the rotation of Theros and M15, there’s any number
of new puzzles to solve. This is always my favorite time of the Magic year, and it’s even more exciting to think that it’s going to be coming twice as
often with the new rotation policy!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves to thinking about the next rotation just yet – we’ve only just made it to this one! Today, I wanted to talk about some
of the new decks I’ve been brewing for the new Standard.

Building decks in the new Standard has made me feel a strange emptiness inside. Like thousands of mana elves all cried out at once, and then were suddenly
silent. Way back when, I used to build decks with both Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise, and I had no idea just how good I had it. The new Standard
marks the first time that I can recall that there was not a single one cost mana acceleration spell available.

The most recent Standard format had any number of factors working against the power of Elvish Mystic. Many of the most powerful green creatures, like Siege
Rhino and Savage Knuckleblade, were so colored mana intensive that they were difficult to ramp into using a mana elf. All of the best mana fixers around
entered the battlefield tapped, making it that much more difficult to accelerate to three mana on the second turn. And yet Elvish Mystic was still arguably
one of the best cards in the format, which is really saying something.

The departure of Elvish Mystic has left a hole in my heart, as well as an opportunity for me to finally build decks without them.

Let’s start with one that’s near and dear to my heart: Temur.

Temur was the first deck I tried to make work around rotation last year, but it never quite came together. It was always somewhat clunky, in part because I
kept trying to build it as an Elvish Mystic deck despite all of the issues that card has in three color decks, as I described earlier. I tried any number
of versions over the months, but never really found one I was happy with. It always seemed like a bad version of some other G/R deck.

This deck doesn’t have many actual Battle for Zendikar cards in it, but is more of a look at cards that struggled to find a home in the last
Standard format that might be more viable now.

With the rotation, though, many of Temur’s biggest problems have gone away. It comes to reason that a clan with an entire mechanic built around controlling
creatures with four or more power might have some trouble with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. With her gone and decks forced to rely much more heavily on
creatures and removal spells, a card like Savage Knuckleblade is able to have a much bigger impact. Similarly, Surrak the Hunt Caller is an extremely
powerful creature, but so often in the old Standard, he simply found himself running endlessly into Soldier tokens. No more.

All of the interaction spells in this deck can be cast for a single mana, which can enable huge tempo swings when you’re able to use them effectively.
Whenever a new set releases, people often get caught up in messing around with all of the fancy new cards without paying proper regard to their mana curve,
which is one of the reasons that decks like Mono-Red tend to perform so well right out of the gates. Wild Slash isn’t as good against Hangarback Walker as
its predecessor Magma Spray, but it’s still solid against cheap creatures. With Fleecemane Lion gone, two damage can reliably kill most early drops. It’s
also an all-star against Jace, who is also certain to get a lot of face time in the new format.

The only new non-land card in the maindeck is Undergrowth Champion. One of the things I like about Undergrowth Champion here is that alongside Frost Walker
and Savage Knuckleblade, it’s a low cost creature that can trigger ferocious to use Crater’s Claws and Stubborn Denial more efficiently. It likely isn’t at
its best in this deck, since this list only has four fetchlands to really abuse the landfall triggers, but it’s entirely possible that the manabase should
be changed to accommodate more. In any case, the Champion is a very powerful card that I expect to see a lot of in the new format. Interestingly, Wild
Slash’s anti-damage prevention clause may prove to be relevant against Undergrowth Champion, since it can actually kill him even when he’s gotten to 3/3,
since his damage prevention ability won’t work, but he’ll still lose a counter.

Now, it’s possible that the Deathmist Raptor/Den Protector shell is just straight up more powerful, and that the ferocious cards aren’t worth abandoning
them. It’s also possible – and perhaps even likely – that it’s better to be one of the old allied Shard color combinations to take advantage of the
incredible mana fixing made possible by the fetches and new Battle lands.

So now for another old favorite.

Frankly, this looks a lot better to me. As much as I might want Temur to work someday, the painlands seem much worse than the fetch plus Battle land
combination when it comes to getting your mana going, and they’re pretty much mutually exclusive.

Here, Undergrowth Champion goes from being a marginal inclusion to an absolute all-star, with the ability to grow to outrageous sizes thanks to a mix of
ten fetchlands. Similarly, the ease of colored mana made possible by the fetch and battle lands makes Woodland Wanderer easily a 5/5 every game, and
sometimes even a 6/6 when you cast him off of Rattleclaw Mystic making blue mana.

The growth potential of the two of those is the motivation behind the inclusion of Heir of the Wilds at the two-drop slot even if the deck doesn’t
naturally have any creatures with four power. I can see the argument that perhaps it should be Hangarback Walker instead, and that might be correct, but I
like Heir’s ability to attack through any blocker around, as well its ability to actually put on a lot of pressure early in the game as a three power
attacker. It’s possible that the existence of Deathmist Raptor and Gideon outweigh those considerations, however, as even if Heir can kill whatever might
block it, there are quite a few ways for opponents to take it out for value regardless.

Speaking of Deathmist Raptor, this deck takes advantage of the Raptor plus Den Protector synergy, alongside cheap interaction spells to make use of Den
Protector’s ability. It may seem strange for Wild Slash to be the only red card in the maindeck, but one mana removal spells are extremely powerful with
Den Protector. Dromoka’s Command and Valorous Stance round out the removal effects as well as offering a bit of additional utility.

But if we don’t think Wild Slash is worthwhile, perhaps Bant is a better direction…

It’s pretty interesting just how easy it is to shift cards around inside these multicolor shells thanks to the new Battle land manabases. Literally just a
couple of cards different and all of a sudden it’s a totally new deck – give or take.

This version clearly uses the same shell, but is aimed at a more controlling metagame, where Stubborn Denial and Dragonlord Ojutai are likely to outperform
Wild Slash. I’m a huge fan of Stubborn Denial, and think it’s been egregiously underplayed during its time in Standard – perhaps more due to a lack of
solid shells in which it can fit than anything else. This list might not have quite enough big monsters to support it consistently, but it’s certainly

But what matters more here is the thought experiment. How far can we stretch this same core green creature shell?

As the internet likes to say so often – why not both?

Changing literally one land in the maindeck and adding a single Cinder Glade suddenly gives the deck access to thirteen sources of red mana – four
Rattleclaw Mystics, and eight fetchlands that can get that one Cinder Glade.

Now, Wild Slash is a much less exciting card against when you can’t play it off of your first untapped land against an
aggressive deck to kill their turn 1 play, but some re-jiggering of basics could get even that to work out how we want. The greater point is that virtually
anything is possible with the mana in the new Standard. We might not be in Vivid Land plus Reflecting Pool world like back in Lorwyn block, where
you could cast Boggart Ram Gang and Cryptic Command on back-to-back turns, but we are certainly in a place much closer to that than we have been in a long,
long time.

And as someone who made his first Pro Tour Top 8 playing a Naya deck that splashed Tsabo’s Decree against Rebels, I’m feeling right at home – even if my
buddy Elvish Mystic is gone. Naya? Temur? Abzan? Why not just play them all!

What do you think? What’s the best way to take advantage of the sudden bounty of mana fixing in Standard?