Something Old And Something Brewed

Since Magic 2013 will be legal this weekend (including at SCG Open Series: St. Louis), Valeriy Shunkov has been working on a few Standard decks with new cards in them: Reanimator, U/G Delver, and Bant Hexproof.


#MTGM13 becomes legal in Standard in a matter of days, so it’s time to look at new cards and their possible applications. I clearly understand that the format will likely continue to be dominated by the duo of Restoration Angel and Huntmaster of the Fells, but new strategies are going to emerge. Brewing is always far more interesting than tuning, so today I’m going to present some coarse ideas which may end up not working, but I’m sure they are at least worth consideration.

Before I start speaking about new decks, a quick note goes to a creature from M13 which is, in my opinion, significantly underrated while being a good addition to the very popular G/R Aggro and Naya decks. Everybody is excited with Thundermaw Hellkite and Thragtusk, but Silklash Spider is good with Birthing Pod: it shuts off any air-based aggression, it just kills opposing fliers (including Restoration Angel and Thundermaw Hellkite!), and finally, Silklash Spider can block Borderland Ranger or Birds of Paradise paired with Wolfir Silverheart. Many G/R/x mirrors are won in the skies, and the Spider would be very good improvement to G/R’s weak point where an opposing 3/4 or 4/5 flier just wins in a couple of attacks.

Lotus Bloom

In terms of brewing, the most interesting card in M13 is Gilded Lotus. Standard’s high mana options of the past two years were heavily suppressed by the Titans cycle; now R&D is clearly going to replace them with the variety of five-, seven-, and eight-mana threats. Gilded Lotus perfectly supports ramping from five to eight because it allows you to ramp and to have a mana for removal or sweepers. But you can’t have more than a playset of Lotuses in your deck, so there definitely needs another way to deliver threats to the battlefield.

Unburial Rites does the same job as Gilded Lotus, so these two cards are interesting to combine. The existing Frites deck uses Birds of Paradise and Avacyn’s Pilgrim to accelerate into green graveyard-filling spells and threats, but that deck’s five-colored mana base causes some losses even without the opponent’s participation. M13 introduced a new interesting way to put a monster into the graveyard: Wild Guess. Did they finally fix Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded?

Between two red spells allowing you to throw a fatty to the bin and two spells to put a fatty to the battlefield, it’s probably possible to build Reanimator deck without an ugly five-colored mana base and fragile mana dorks. The following list is rough and definitely requires a lot of fine-tuning, but I hope I’ve caught the right idea.

This deck is unable to produce fast starts leading to turn 3 Unburial Rites, but it’s much more realistic to survive early turns against either Delver of Secrets or any G/R/x deck with Slagstorm, Lingering Souls, and Solemn Simulacrum. I’d also like to have 1-2 Day of Judgment, but the mana base would not allow for it so Bonfire of the Damned is included instead.

The worst enemies of Reanimator are Zealous Conscripts, Vapor Snag, and graveyard hate (with the recent additions of Ground Seal and Tormod’s Crypt). Zealous Conscripts is probably the main factor preventing me from playing Reanimator: there are no ways to win in the turn the fatty came to the battlefield while stolen Griselbrand looks like an auto-loss. Gilded Lotus partially solves this problem too, allowing playing a threat immune to both Vapor Snag and Zealous Conscripts: fearsome Army of the Damned. Zombie tokens are bad against Bonfire of the Damned instead, but the red sweeper can easily be sided out (at least until your opponent realizes that you’ve sideboarded into a kind of tokens deck with Timely Reinforcements, Grave Titan, and Army of the Damned).

Ancient Rancor

Fun fact: the words “grudge” (in Ancient Grudge) and “rancor” are translated into Russian identically to a word which is more likely “malice” in English than “grudge” or “rancor.” So I’m going to speak about a deck that consists of two very old cards and a new mechanic associated with very old villains of Magic. The credit for drawing my attention to the idea goes to Alexander Privalov, Modern U/W/R Delver inventor who recently won a WMCQ, breaking his curse of losing in the semifinals and confirming the Russian Team will be a strong contender at Magic World Cup. Ladies and gentlemen, Quirion Dryad and her Phyrexian Rancor!

Quirion Dryad saw some play last time in G/R decks growing her with cheap burn spells. One mana for one +1/+1 counter and some effect was good (especially in combination with other fast beaters like Tarmogoyf and Countryside Crusher), but now we can have even better ratio: free spells! Quirion Dryad, as with many other creatures, is weak to Vapor Snag, but we have a unique chance to make Phyrexian mana even more broken with her. The phenomenon of Phyrexian mana and its influence on Standard could easily be a topic for another article, but right now I just want to use free spells to grow Quirion Dryad, especially powerful free spells like Gut Shot and Gitaxian Probe.

The natural second color for a Quirion Dryad deck is blue because ability to cast free spells for mana to save life is important, so two free blue spells will be in our deck—Mental Misstep is essential protection from Vapor Snag. So let’s try to pack Dryad into a Delver-like core.

Rancor is in the deck along with the usual Runechanter’s Pike due the necessity to give some sort of evasion to our primary beater. Artful Dodge has the same purpose (and pumps Dryad twice), but Rancor is better with other creatures.

A quick note about Rancor: I heard about multiple mistakes with it at Prereleases, even from experienced players. Everybody knows that if a creature that’s targeted by Rancor is killed in response, the aura goes directly from the stack to graveyard; but everybody misses the fact that if Rancor is destroyed by, for example, Naturalize, it goes to its owner’s hand. I have no idea why people make this mistake, but this is why Erase exists in M13 (and why Revoke Existence is good).

Unfortunately, this U/G deck is unable with a white splash, so I included Naturalize and Natural End instead. The latter would be too expensive, but life gain seems to be good against some decks (especially against ones with Swords). This is also the reason to have Sheltering Word instead of additional Apostle’s Blessing. I’m not totally sure this life gain is necessary because nineteen-land Delver (and the mono-blue version) somehow works without it, but these cards are worth consideration.

The Hex of Rancor

The last deck for today is the most established one: Hexproof Bant. It attracted some attention after Avacyn Restored’s release, but it ultimately wasn’t able to compete against other decks due to some embedded inconsistency and vulnerability to Bonfire of the Damned. Rancor gives the deck some additional speed and the ability to use lategame mana dorks better, so let’s try to give a non-Dungrove Elder hexproof deck another chance. Mono-Green will surely exist, but I hope that it will be covered by other SCG authors—Rancor is just too interesting to avoid it! For example, you can read Jesse Smith opinion of Rancor in G/R Aggro here or a similar piece from Patrick Chapin here.

Rancor makes the otherwise worst creature in the deck (Strangleroot Geist) better and reasonable as three copies and allows us to play in fast beatdown style. While Spectral Flight is still an all-star with Geist of Saint Traft, Rancor is usually better with any other creature due to its reduced mana cost (accidental mistake, as MaRo said in his recent column).

The list is unfortunately still weak to Bonfire of the Damned, so don’t be surprised to see Outwit and Divine Favor. The enchantment is also an interesting way to win the face-to-face race because it allows you to attack with Geist of Saint Traft fearlessly, upgrading it from Flame Javelin into an actual threat. I may be too optimistic about this card, but it’s at least a fifth worse copy of Spectral Flight.

That’s all for today; I wish you happy brewing and some good topdecks at the SCG Open Series in St. Louis!

Valeriy Shunkov