Preparing For Week 1 War Of The Spark Standard

War of the Spark makes its SCG Tour debut this weekend with Standard at SCG Richmond! Get Tom Ross’s aggro option, Shaheen Soorani’s Esper Control list, and the list that made Emma Handy say, “Just play this broken deck.”

Welcome to What We’d Play! With SCG Richmond this weekend, many are unsure what they’d play in such a high-profile tournament, especially one with new cards from War of the Spark. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this last-minute advice aids in your decision making! Be sure to vote for who you agree with in the poll at the end!

Autumn Burchett – Simic Nexus

My heart wants to play Mono-Blue Aggro and there’s actually a reasonable chance the deck could be well-positioned. After all, the addition of a set full of powerful planeswalkers to Standard could just be seen as the addition of a set full of premium Spell Pierce targets. That said, I am terrified of Blast Zone and its ability to answer the majority of Mono-Blue’s threats in a way that gets past all your counterspells and protection. Especially in Week 1, when people are excited to try out the new cards, the prospect of a lot of copies of Blast Zone seeing play makes me at least a little nervous about playing a deck that is so weak to that card.

Simic Nexus, however, gained a lot from War of the Spark. The aforementioned Blast Zone makes the deck much better at answering problematic permanents, especially considering Wilderness Reclamation lets you charge up Blast Zone and activate it in the same turn. Meanwhile Tamiyo, Collector of Tales massively speeds up transforming Search for Azcanta, thins out your library to accelerate you towards going infinite, and lets you significantly slim down your win condition package. No longer do you have to play a fluther of Hydroid Krasises, which were honestly always at least a little mopey and awkward in the deck. Instead, a single copy of Callous Dismissal recurred as many times as needed with Tamiyo’s Regrowth ability should kill your opponent through most game states.

On top of gaining a lot from War of the Spark, Simic Nexus is also just a strategy with a lot of raw power behind it and the exact sort of deck that is primed to take advantage of others bringing untuned brews in an effort to try out new cards.

Abraham Stein – Big Red

There’s still some time to go between now and when I actually lock myself in, but if SCG Richmond were tomorrow, I’d play this build of Big Red. Chandra, Fire Artisan and Sarkhan the Masterless are two unexplored additions to Red’s midrange options and this deck makes great use of them. The amount of damage they begin to represent after just a turn or two on the battlefield has been extremely impressive to me.

Between Treasure Map, Chandra, Karn, and Ugin, it sometimes feels like you can never run out of resources once you have enough mana. Usually before you achieve a state of card advantage euphoria, though, your opponent dies to a kicked Fight with Fire or a Chandra ultimate, which can be kind of a buzzkill. So far for me, this deck has not only been consistently good on Magic Online, it’s also been a blast to play, and for those of you looking to try it out, I posted a bit of a sideboard guide in my article this week.

Dylan Hand – Simic Nexus

One of Standard’s best decks last format only gets better with War of the Spark, thanks to a couple of powerful cards that help solve some of the deck’s past problems:

One of the easiest ways to lose games when playing Simic Nexus historically is just by getting run over by aggressive decks. Blast Zone works very well at staving off the multiple-one-drop starts of Azorius Aggro, and also can help you deal with deal with problematic cards that prevent you from comboing off, like the new Teferi, Time Raveler, as well as cards like Niv-Mizzet, Parun. The interaction with Wilderness Reclamation is strong as well, as it lets you charge up Blast Zone before untapping it to threaten the activation.

Tamiyo is the much splashier addition to the deck, as it serves both functions of helping facilitate your mid-game but finding your missing combo pieces, while also letting you recur your win condition, which, as far as the maindeck is concerned, is a single copy of Callous Dismissal.

I first saw this idea from Bryan Gottlieb, who earlier this week tweeted out that this serves as a much better win condition over Commence the Endgame, since it allows you to consolidate spell slots in the deck to fit more action in. With Callous Dismissal, your Blink of an Eye is now also your win condition, letting you use it early before buying it back later with Tamiyo.

The sideboard has been the hardest part of this deck to build, namely what to play as an anti-aggression card, but for now I’ve settled on Bond of Flourishing, as it’s a way to both gain life and keep you consistent as you dig through your deck to set up your combo.

If you play this deck this weekend, your two biggest concerns are Teferi. Time Raveler and Mono-Red running you over. If you feel comfortable combating these issues, this is easily the best deck to play in Richmond.

Tom Ross – Mono-White Legends

Week 1 I want to play something proactive, established, and yet playing enough new cards and fresh angles to keep opponents on their toes. Mono-White doesn’t gain many aggressive options from War of the Spark, but it does gain some strong midrange options.

Gideon Blackblade is seeing Legacy play already and I expect him to be one of the stronger Turn 3 plays in War of the Spark Standard moving forward. Mobilized District hasn’t found a home quite yet, but coming as it is from a set filled to the brim with planeswalkers and legends, it shouldn’t take long for the next coming of Mutavault to shine. This Mono-White version utilizes Mobilized District to hang in the later stages of games while still providing aggressive starts that transform Legion’s Landing.

After sideboard it can convert into a Divine Visitation deck, another unexpected axis for the opponent to face when they’re positioned to deal with a swarm of small creatures.

Todd Anderson – Temur Reclamation

Wilderness Reclamation is a dumb Magic card, and I’m going to continue pushing it with every new set until someone tells me I can’t do it anymore. It works well with all the crazy instants running around right now, and I’m genuinely excited for every new set because I want to see what tools I might get for Temur Reclamation.

This time around, we have Ral’s Outburst, a perfect pairing with Wilderness Reclamation. It kills a creature, digs for more stuff, and costs exactly four mana at instant speed. What else do you want in a card? And as for Ral, Storm Conduit himself, all his abilities are strong in the archetype. Ever copied an Explosion for X=10? What about just copying a Ral’s Outburst to kill two creatures and dig four cards deep for some more action? Plus, the ping damage Ral generates allows you to contain troublesome opposing planeswalkers.

Blast Zone is also a new addition that is somewhat speculative, but I think treating it more as a spell than a land is important to understanding the card. Often in Magic, we get a land that acts a lot like a spell, but in the meantime, we get to tap it for mana (and in a deck featuring Growth Spiral, having a land to put onto the battlefield is hugely important). We can worry about cashing it in later to sweep up something from the opponent, but just making sure we don’t whiff on the Growth Spiral is huge.

I think Temur Reclamation is the best deck in Standard. While this might not be the final form, all the pieces work well together and I’m incredibly excited to play it this weekend.

Kevin Jones – Dimir Midrange

Augur of Bolas is back!

Blocking with blue creatures in Standard is one of my favorite pastimes. So much so, in fact, that I wrote a few different introductions to this segment. They all sounded like I was reminiscing about memories with good friends, but I was talking about a two-mana 1/3. My first ever SCG Tour Standard Top 8 came in 2013 with an Azorius Flash deck featuring the full four copies of Augur of Bolas and I’m very excited to jam the card into my controlling War of the Spark Standard decks. If SCG Richmond was tomorrow, I’d be registering this Dimir Midrange deck, though I recognize it’s far from perfect.

This deck is very similar to other decks I’ve advocated for in the past. Kaladesh/Dominaria-era Dimir Midrange played similarly to how this deck plays. This list also plays similar games to the Izzet Phoenix and Izzet Drakes decks that I’ve been playing basically nonstop since Guilds of Ravnica was released. This deck is incredible against almost any creature deck and your Game 1 against Nexus of Fate and dedicated control decks is basically unwinnable. You have roughly twelve dead cards in Game 1, but your sideboard is heavily skewed to beat those matchups with three Duresses, a few counters, and the full playset of Thief of Sanity.

I’ll be writing about Dimir Midrange in depth later in the week, but there are two main reasons I would register this deck if SCG Richmond were tomorrow – it’s good against aggressive decks and it has a good manabase. Oh, also, it plays my favorite 1/3 Wizard!

Good luck this weekend!

Emma Handy – Simic Nexus

Simic Nexus will be the best deck in War of the Spark Standard.

Most of the list is fairly stock at this point, but Tamiyo, Collector of Tales really just pushes the consistency of this deck to a whole new level. Anything that isn’t immediately pressuring Nexus’s life total is inevitably going to give it enough time to thread a needle and go over the top of whatever the opponent is doing.

This list in particular has the fingerprints of a few friends that I’d like to give credit where due: Bryan Gottlieb was on Twitter shouting the praise of Callous Dismissal as the lowest-cost kill condition in the deck, and with Tamiyo in the list, he’s absolutely right. It may end up taking a long time, but it’s genius. It’s akin to when the Standard Azorius Control decks realized that they didn’t actually need to play a kill condition and that Teferi was good enough on its own. This gave that deck a lower fail-rate, and with a deck as combo-oriented as Simic Nexus, that’s exactly the kind of innovation that puts decks over the top.

Secondly, the sideboard plan is mostly the work of Eric Johnson (better known as Scooter222 online). Spell Pierce is absolutely a mirror-breaker, doubly so during the early weeks of a format when people are less likely to be playing around a single open blue mana. Kefnet is also an incredible upgrade to Murmuring Mystic when adapting a pseudo-Protect the Queen strategy in sideboard games, as it actually forces the opponent to act, where Murmuring Mystic doesn’t quite put the same onus of action into effect.

Just play this broken deck. It’s very rare that there’s something truly broken in Standard, and even rarer that we have the foresight to know that it’s going to be the best thing to be doing. This time next year, you’ll be wishing that you were just playing the deck that people talk about being one of the most miserably powerful Standard decks of all time.

Trust me.

Shaheen Soorani – Esper Control

Esper Control returns in War of the Spark Standard as the current heavyweight champion. This is a negative for control fans heading to Richmond this weekend. Luckily for the heroes, it doesn’t matter how many people prepare to defeat Esper Control because it has increased in power level with the new set. Cards like Teferi, Time Raveler; Ugin, the Ineffable; Oath of Kaya; Dovin’s Veto; Despark; and Enter the God-Eternals have revolutionized Standard control as we know it.

Before all these new powerful options, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria did all the heavy lifting for the deck. Some decks like Simic Nexus wasn’t scared of our win condition/card advantage machine/answer-all planeswalker, so the matchup proved to be quite tough. With an instant-speed, two-mana removal spell, and a cheap planeswalker that kills them effectively on Turn 3, that matchup has now flipped. Even decks like Mono-Red Aggro that were scary before now run for the hills when an Oath of Kaya has resolved.

Good luck this weekend, my fellow competitors, because the Esper Professor is in town.