Our First Top 8 With Oath Of The Gatewatch

#SCGPC Champion Jim Davis has been on the sidelines long enough! He’s battling the field at #SCGCOL this weekend, but before he does, he has some studying to do! See Jim’s analysis of last weekend’s top 8 decks!

While I wasn’t able to make it down to #SCGATL last weekend for the first Oath of the Gatewatch Standard event, I can’t really complain about where I did end up.

Yes, I live a charmed life.

Yes, I live a charmed life.

When Nicole suggested that we run away from Long Island and get snowed in at Atlantic City she was definitely joking, but after a minute or two of talking about it we realized that it was actually a pretty awesome idea and all of the logistics worked out perfectly. So rather than waking up to battle on Saturday morning, it was room service breakfast in bed with Cedric Phillips and Patrick Sullivan. I don’t get to watch a lot of SCGLive coverage because I’m usually battling on The SCG Tour® itself, but it was fun to have a weekend off and spectate the action rather than make it.

While there was only one new card in the decklist that won the event, the effects of Oath of the Gatewatch were felt all weekend. The Top 8 featured two new archetypes, U/R Prowess and Mono-Green Eldrazi (a deck with lots of colorless cards as a “second color”), and had eight different decks in all! That’s pretty amazing for week one of a Standard format. While once again a red deck took down the first event of a new format, Korey certainly had some surprises in his list.

Just like Brian DeMars did in the first Standard event with Khans of Tarkir legal, Korey threw everyone a curveball. Amusingly enough, they did it in completely opposite ways.

I can only imagine how many players Brian DeMars killed out of nowhere with his brand-new Temur Battle Rage and Become Immense combo kills. At the time it was an unknown quantity, and if you are not prepared to play around it, you are going to die to it very quickly. This sort of first-week information advantage is amazing.

Korey did the opposite. I can only imagine how many players Korey played against who slowed down progressing their board in fear of a Temur Battle Rage combo kill that wasn’t even in Korey’s deck. When Brian played the deck, Temur Battle Rage was an unknown and he took advantage of it, but last weekend Korey took advantage of everyone having months and months of learning how to play around Temur Battle Rage and then used that to his advantage.

Of course, the combo was cut from the deck to make room for a new card that made going wide a more appealing option. Reckless Bushwhacker looked amazing every time I saw it played on camera and it is a perfect addition to the deck. Otherwise the deck is pretty standard until you get to the sideboard.

And what a sideboard it is.

That Anafenza, the Foremost you thought was going to hold down the fort for you? Sorry, take two and a swing from the team. Self-Inflicted Wound is such a great red card that splashing it feels very natural in this deck. It is one of the major reasons I preferred Jund Burn to Naya Burn in Modern, and it’s simply the best answer to huge green creatures that are in your way.

Painful Truths is also an awesome way to gas up in the more grindy matchups, as the life will be almost irrelevant. Being able to side into more powerful cards when your opponent will be trying to overload on sweepers and Arashin Clerics is an excellent thing to have access to. However, with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet becoming more popular, it might be necessary to mix in some Murderous Cuts or Roasts as well.

Once again, though, we have our baseline aggressive deck for the format. Don’t show up to #SCGCOL if you don’t have a plan for beating this deck.

Chris Brickey’s second-place deck is on the completely opposite end of the spectrum.

While most of the Eldrazi decks in the room were splashing red for Kozilek’s Return, Chris opted for the more straightforward “mono-green splashing colorless” plan.

This deck definitely has its advantages over the red version of the deck, as it is much faster. Having eight two-mana ramp spells is fantastic but very format-dependent. The mana creatures lead to much faster goldfishes and some truly scary fifth turns, but they also open you up to being burned pretty badly by cheap spot removal spells that would normally not be good against the deck. If you think that Fiery Impulse is on a downswing, mana creatures are the way to go, but if you are expecting a reasonable amount of one- and two-mana removal spells, the slightly more expensive ramp spells may prove more reliable.

Otherwise, Chris got past his lack of red removal by using some colorless removal instead. Between Ugin, the Spirit Dragon; Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger; Spatial Contortion; and Titan’s Presence this deck has more removal than perhaps any other mono-green deck in the history of Magic.

I don’t know if this is the best version of Eldrazi Ramp, but it is certainly the most explosive. Make sure your deck can keep up with it, or at least has a good sideboard plan!

SCG’s own Gerry Thompson unsurprisingly showed up with a grindy version of Jeskai Black, but not without some spice.

Chandra, Flamecaller looked amazing every time it was on camera, providing very fast closing speed on a difficult-to-answer permanent that can also mop up the garbage that slipped through Crackling Doom. Chandra is one of the more underrated cards in the set.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is another card that had a nice coming-out party last weekend, and while it doesn’t excel at any one thing, it performs a number of good roles. Obviously good against Four-Color Rally, Kalitas is also just a difficult-to-kill threat that can gain you some life back to help stabilize the midgame and pay for those Painful Truths.

Last, Gerry properly recognized how important the card Disdainful Stroke would be in Atlanta. With Eldrazi Ramp decks obviously the new flavor of the week, Disdainful Stroke would be very helpful against them, but it is also superb against the current “best deck in the format” Four-Color Rally, as it counters their two most important spells. Disdainful Stroke was once a huge factor in the format, and it looks like a card that needs to be considered again.

Gerry’s list will likely be the jump-off point for future versions of Jeskai Black, but be aware of how flexible the deck is and how many ways you can tinker with it.

Deathmist Raptor, where have you been hiding? Once a pillar of the format, Deathmist Raptor has been seriously missing in action lately. This was always somewhat surprising to me, given how good Deathmist Raptor is against Jeskai Black, but the card didn’t really have a home.

Now it does.

There’s no doubt that Collected Company is a very powerful Magic card, but it hasn’t always been that easy to make work in Standard. The best green card in the format, Siege Rhino, costs four, and it was at times hard to get to the proper density of good hits to make the card work. Andy Ferguson has made it work, and this deck looks awesome.

A lot of this has to do with a bunch of new additions from Oath of the Gatewatch. I’m a huge advocate for Sylvan Advocate, as I think the card is a fantastic two-drop that is very relevant in the late game. Matter Reshaper is another extremely powerful card, and while I’m skeptical that eight colorless sources is enough to reliably cast it, the payoff is certainly there. Finally, Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim is another quality two-drop that is great early and has a lot of utility late.

These new additions join an already solid cast of creatures like Anafenza, the Foremost; Warden of the First Tree; and Den Protector to form a very robust creature suite.

I’m a little skeptical of Dromoka’s Command in this deck. Because of all the lands that enter the battlefield tapped and three-drops, I worry the deck won’t always curve smoothly, and you really need to be ahead and operating smoothly to make Dromoka’s Command work in the face of all the removal in the format. I wonder if something like Silkwrap or Murderous Cut wouldn’t be better in that slot.

Overall, though, this deck definitely provides a very fresh look at Abzan in the format and I’m excited to see how it pans out. Next time your opponent doesn’t cast Siege Rhino on turn 4 and just passes without making a play, instead of being happy they didn’t have the Rhino, be scared about what their Collected Company is going to hit.

Marcel Strautz brought a fairly basic R/B Dragons deck to #SCGATL, and it paid off with a Top 8 berth.

R/B Dragons has been a fringe deck for a while now, and Marcel’s list is mostly par for the course: some powerful top-end dragons; some early token plays that are good with Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury; and a bevy of quality removal spells. The new Grasp of Darkness makes an appearance, as it is a powerful card for any deck that can cast it.

Most of the Oath of the Gatewatch cards in the deck are in the sideboard, as each has a pretty specific purpose: Goblin Dark-Dwellers for grindy matchups; Kozilek’s Return for red decks; and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet for Four-Color Rally and red decks.

Otherwise, this list is relatively unexciting. These sorts of decks have been floating around for a while but never really made great progress, and I don’t think there’s much here to change that. While you may not play against it often, making sure your deck can deal with a bunch of large fliers is not a bad thing.

I love this deck.

When I first saw Stormchaster Mage I thought it was amazing. Then I thought about it more and realized you are paying double the mana plus a color to get +0/+1 and flying on Monastery Swiftspear. This certainly makes it sound less impressive, but the fact that it is so difficult to kill and block more than makes up for it.

When watching this deck on coverage over the first few rounds, it really felt like I was watching a Modern deck. The deck was capable of casting quite a few spells in a turn, drawing three cards for one mana with Treasure Cruise, and providing a quick and difficult-to-block clock. The deck’s velocity is impressive, and the fact that it can provide a quick aggressive clock but also draw a bunch of cards and interact well is great.

There are definitely many questions about how this deck should be built. Jace or no Jace? Splash a color? Other threats? Temur Battle Rage?

But it’s important to realize that this is week one and this deck is in its infancy. When Return to Ravnica was released, Todd Anderson won the first SCG Open of the format with a Jeskai Control deck that had zero copies of Sphinx’s Revelation in the decklist. Week one decks are not perfect, but they often lay the groundwork for what is to come. Don’t be surprised if the person who is able to figure out the proper colors and cards for U/R Prowess wins an Open in the coming weeks.

Don’t sleep on this deck.

Sometimes players just have their deck. They crush tournament after tournament and nobody else can win a game with the deck. For me it was Goblins and Khans of Tarkir U/W Control, for Craig Wescoe it’s White Weenie, for Jeff Hoogland it’s any deck he registers, and for Joe Lossett it’s been Five-Color Bring to Light.

This deck has always looked mopey to me, and while it has a ton of powerful cards in it, the card Bring to Light just doesn’t impress me at all. The “silver bullets” in the deck feel more like bronze musket balls, and I just don’t think the payoff is there.

However, Joe is a great player and has made it work time and time again. Sometimes you just can’t explain it, but I would either make sure your name is Joe Lossett or get some serious reps in with this deck before I would ever consider playing it.

Our final deck for the day is Willie Porges’s Abzan Blue deck, and I am very impressed.

Willie has somehow managed to fit blue in his Abzan deck without going over 60 cards, and he has done so with a few new Oath of the Gatewatch cards.

Oath of Nissa gives the deck more functional copies of its lands as well as its threats, and this is very important for assembling all four colors and making sure you have enough gas in the late game. It’s almost impossible to miss with it, which makes it very close to a one-mana Impulse.

Reflector Mage is also new and exciting technology, and Willie was not shy about running the full playset. Reflector Mage is a great tempo card, but it’s also great because it dodges so much of the format’s removal. With so many other strong tempo tools like Warden of the First Tree; Anafenza, the Foremost; and Siege Rhino; Reflector Mage fits in quite nicely.

The other big tempo additions do the deck are Stubborn Denial and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Any time Abzan can answer something for only one mana it is a huge swing, and Stubborn Denial can put away games very quickly when combined with your powerful threats. The deck has ten naturally sized four-power creatures and can produce more if need be.

Tasigur is one of the best threats in the format, and with all the fetchlands this deck runs, he should be entering play early and often. Tasigur turns on Stubborn Denial, allows for early double-spell turns, and provides a late-game mana sink. He is the ideal threat.

While it seems a little light on two-drops, I’m a big fan of this deck and would not be surprised to see it be the future of Abzan Aggro. This is a deck you must be prepared for.

Let’s Go to #SCGCOL

I will be battling at #SCGCOL this weekend, and I am overwhelmed with what to play. There are so many awesome decks from last weekend that it is going to be tough to choose just one to work on. Even outside of the #SCGATL Top 8, there was a Mono-Black Eldrazi deck, Mardu Green decks, and more.

There are a lot of things that I need to be prepared for, and trying to beat them all is going to be quite the task…