Greetings. Welcome to the golden age of Standard. In addition to an obvious reference to the colored borders on many of the staple cards from Ravnica Block, this title is also meant to refer to the fact that you will likely never see a more diverse environment in Standard than you will over the next thirteen months. Deckbuilders will have more cards to work with and more mana fixing than at any time in the history of the modern format. Assuming R&D has done their job (which is admittedly quite difficult with a card pool this deep), there should be decent balance as well. Oh, and in case you hadn’t noticed yet, it appears Time Spiral will include more than a few gold and multi-colored cards itself.
Starting today and continuing through Champs, I plan to blanket Standard in coverage like cornerback in man-to-man, or a bum in winter, or like I was the U.S. Army and Standard was a group of relocated Native Americans. Yeah, that last one was just tacky – so what? I’m back, baby! Tacky is my middle name.
Today and tomorrow’s articles are going to cover current Standard in specific. What decks will survive the rotation of Kamigawa block, and what will you need to replace if you want to keep playing your favorite archetype? That’s what I’m here for, my people. Sit back, pop a cold one, and relax, as we review no less than thirteen of the top archetypes in the next two days for future viability.
Sea Stompy / 8 Stone Rain
- 4 Ninja of the Deep Hours
- 2 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 2 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
- 4 Kird Ape
- 4 Trygon Predator
- 3 Ohran Viper
Engine: This is one of those sneaky aggro decks that’s actually better at drawing cards than most control decks. Ohran Viper and Ninja of the Deep Hours give the deck a ton of momentum, as do the six mana accelerators. Once this deck gets rolling, it’s extremely difficult to stop, and the design makes “getting rolling” as consistent as possible.
The 8 Stone Rain version of this deck has a very similar plan; it just changes disruption packages, making it that much more nasty against control decks.
Prognosis: My Magic 8-Ball shows “outlook good” for this one, though there may be some color changes. Ninja is a bit of a loss and is unlikely to have a direct analogue in Time Spiral, while Jitte is Gone Daddy Gone, and (God willing) will never be back again. There’s been some discussion among deckbuilders in recent months that aggressive decks might actually be better without Jitte around, partly because they won’t have to devote any time to fighting Jitte wars with other aggro decks, meaning you also won’t have to deal with holding multiple redundant copies of the stick when all you’d really like to have is a creature or a burn spell. This debate also exists partly because Jitte ruins tempo like nothing else. Anyone who’s ever cast and equipped it in place of their four-drop, only to see the creature wielding it die to a Last Gasp or Condemn, knows what I’m talking about. Much like the extremely hot, extremely crazy girlfriend you have finally given the boot, there are certain elements of Jitte I shall think of fondly, but overall I’m sure my quality of life will be better without it.
As for the deck itself, if rumors are true, I could easily see both this and the G/B/r deck dropping Red to incorporate the missing color necessary to play a certain card-drawing Shadowmage.
I assume you all know what this decklist looks like by now.
Engine: Sakura-Tribe Elder, Kodama’s Reach, Heartbeat of Spring, and Sensei’s Divining Top are the first half of the equation, while Weird Harvest, Early Harvest, and Drift of Phantasms are the second.
Disruption: Muddle the Mixture, Remand, Crime / Punishment
Losses: The entire first half of the equation.
Prognosis: Dead. The deck needs a new mana engine, and while I don’t know the contents of Time Spiral, I doubt we’ll see another Mana Flare reprint any time soon. Then again… stranger things are happening. I would not be surprised to see more decks take advantage of the spicy transmute engine, or for that matter, any transmute engine.
Okay, I might be a little surprised about Grozoth.
Counter Top Control
Prognosis: Not like this. Top going poof means Counterbalance isn’t nearly as sexy post-rotation as it is right now. I guarantee that Blue, White, and Black will probably reconstitute to form a new control deck, but it likely won’t look quite like this. Here’s an original analogy for you – think of these colors like Voltron, except instead of cats – wait for it – it’s formed of cars. Or maybe dogs. Or control cards. Or…
- 1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Hypnotic Specter
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Dark Confidant
- 3 Giant Solifuge
- 4 Ohran Viper
Engine: Ohran Viper, Hypnotic Specter, Dark Confidant and mana acceleration
Disruption: You know you’ve hit on some serious synergy when your entire creature base is nearly as disruptive as your spells. Minus the mana accelerators, this whole deck can practically be considered disruption. There’s just nothing vanilla about it, and that’s a good thing.
Losses: Umezawa’s Jitte; Genju of the Cedars; Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
Prognosis: It’s possible that this deck runs the most efficient set of two- and three-mana creatures ever in Standard, none of which disappear with the rotation. Seriously, I would be impressed by this creature quality in Legacy or Extended, and in Standard you don’t even need to worry about Wasteland screwing with your manabase (which is a good thing, since that’s the weakest part of the deck). Control decks quake in their boots at the thought of this matchup, and if your creatures ever start drawing cards or making them discard… fuggedaboudit.
Losing the cards from Kamigawa Block means the deck is now short of a couple of finishers, but I don’t think those will be too difficult to find. In fact, assuming you are a miser who draws colored mana when you need to, I’d go so far as to say this deck is one of the early decks to beat for Champs Standard.
Prognosis: Not too slithery. Without Sosuke’s Summons, this deck doesn’t have much bite. A snakey revival may have to wait until that rumored Bell Biv Devo reunion kicks in, and let me be the first to say that the tier 1 lifespan of this deck was far too short. Snakes are just that cool.
Engine: Early sorcery bounce and land destruction, then card drawing, decent removal, Wildfire, and hasty Red beatings. There’s less of an engine here and more of a simple, annoying strategy. ‘Vore is the Steve Urkel of Magic archetypes.
Disruption: The entire deck.
Losses: Eye of Nowhere
Prognosis: Uncertain, but likely good. Does the loss of the measly Eye of Nowhere kill this deck? Boomerang is a ready replacement, but does that hamper the Magnivore plus Wildfire plan? It doesn’t have to, but there’s at least an off chance that it will. Regardless, unless something in Time Spiral throws off the deck strategy, this archetype immediately looks like an early contender for Champs Standard. Aren’t we all soooo happy that Wildfire was printed in Ninth Edition?
That’s all for today, but as is tradition with my writing, we’re not done yet.
I have had better months. I addition to being fired for the first time in my life (long, boring story), I also cancelled a trip out to Wizards in order to better look for new employment, thus spoiling a chance to draft what may be the coolest new set of all time – before it premiered – with the guys who invented it. Somehow, seeking out new sources of income seemed more important. (I beg of you, no sympathy in the forums. For serious.)
Additionally, I have decided to let some other poor sap try his hand at writing Magic Academy. The reason for this one is quite simple: it wasn’t fun. Erase my ability to make pop culture references and bad jokes, and replace it with some of the most painful forums imaginable, and you get my experience. You have no idea how excited I got earlier when I realized I could just throw a random link into the text because I felt like it. It’s like when your dog runs outside at the start of spring and pees on literally everything he can, just for the sheer freedom of it. In fact, I’m shocked the entire article isn’t link-riddled and completely nonsensical. Expect that to change in part deux.
Contrary to what some misguided forum ‘foons (over there) have suggested, I worked really hard on the material produced there, all of which was planned and thought out in advance. I hope that what I wrote proves useful in recruiting and teaching new players the game, but it’s tough to tell with that sort of stuff. I’m sure whoever replaces me will do a fine job.
Oh, speaking of supremely annoying forum individuals, if I ever meet this “Zeromant” person, we are throwing down. I don’t care if it’s a dance off, rap battle, thumb wrestling, wet towels at ten paces, or a full-on challenge in Scottish martial arts (which consists mainly of headbutting and kicking the other person in the ass when they are on the ground), but if I meet this [censored], it is officially on.
Aaaanyway, the point to all of this is that writing a weekly article for MTG.com demolished my ability to write for anywhere else. Without a weekly article for MTG.com, the possibility of turning in more consistent articles for… somewhere else *looks around* seems pretty reasonable.
The Star Wars Kid Principle
I didn’t publish my Hall of Fame ballot this year because I didn’t have an actual article to attach it to, but I did submit my votes on time. Voting this year was particularly difficult because the class as a whole was not as strong as last year, so there were fewer obvious picks. In their place were a lot of guys with excellent resumes, but few who screamed You Must Vote For Me from the ballot. I was also conscious of the fact that it was my duty not to simply vote for my friends or people I liked, so I tried to figure out some way of determining whether or not a player was worthy of my vote. Finally I looked at Chris “Star Wars Kid” McDaniel’s resume, and it hit me.
Star Wars Kid now has a pair of Pro Tour Top 8s, and a Grand Prix Top 8 to boot. It’s possible that he’s at the start of a great career, but it’s also possible that he’s just a giant goober who can’t play Limited and who would rather raid than practice slinging spells. What is certain, however, is that Chris is not currently deserving of a vote for the Hall of Fame. In fact, in my opinion, it’s not even close. Thus, if SWK isn’t even close to being a Hall of Famer, people who have similar resumes to him are likely not that close either*. That ruled out three of my top picks in Neil Reeves (perhaps the best man on the Pro Tour), Itaru Ishida (a driving force in Japanese Magic for nearly a decade), and Raphael Levy. Yes, it’s harsh, and yes community factors have a huge weight in my book, but this is the Pro Tour Hall of Fame, and Pro Tour Top 8s absolutely should carry a lot of weight. If a goofball kid like Chris McDaniel can put up two Top 8s in two seasons, then to me it must take three or more to make a player great. Thankfully, the next two classes are loaded, so unless SWK really is the next coming (see also: Gadiel) and posts two more Top 8s in the next two years, I won’t need to revisit this principle.
It’s also interesting that Raphael Levy lobbying over the last year proved that attempting to sway your friends into voting for you can work if you have a) been around forever, b) are a very good man, and c) have solid stats to back it up. It will be interesting to see how this affects voting in the coming years.
For those who care, here was my final ballot:
J. Gary Wisenheimer
See you tomorrow.
Teddy Card Game
* Randy “Sandy Koufax” Buehler might be the exception to this rule.