What can I say? Time Spiral. I have never been this excited about a set. Of course, it is jam-packed with the best memories of cards from the past. Fourteen years, some in new packages (Ancestral Vision!), some original (Psionic Blast!), and so many mechanics raging from Flash to Flashback to Buyback to Baby Got Back.
However, there is a subtle beauty to its design. Necropotence? Yawgmoth’s Will? Force of Will? Keiga? Oath of Druids? Blastoderm? Fireblast? Goblin Piledriver? Land Tax? Armageddon? Winter Orb? Interesting, isn’t it, which cards do not return, or at least not in a tournament form? The power level is very high, but absent are all the quick kill / hard lock / insurmountable edge for almost no cost cards. This is truly a beautiful thing.
It is as if Wizards R&D sculpted Time Spiral to allow the greatest possible variety of strategies, which is impressive on the heels of Ravnica. I may be wrong, but I hope I am right, and so far, it looks that I am.
By pointing the highest concentration of tournament cards ever (Ravnica and Visions are close), but pushing in a million directions and avoiding degenerated effects, Time Spiral is a gold mine that will likely not be fully tapped by the time it rotates out.
I’m sure I don’t need to sell you on Time Spiral, though. Heh.
Today, I would like to share ten new Standard decks I have sketched out, with Time Spiral in the mix. I have so many ideas and hardly know where to start.
Without the benefit of any living, breathing, playtest partners (other than Bruno, but he wants to playtest “non-Magical games”) and the inability to call Flores, Heezy, edt, etc. for a week (phone privileges are a tricky business), I have little to go on regarding a possible metagame. One thing is for sure: I need to take it easy on the fifty-word sentences.
In any event, it is still feasible to work out cards and decks with inherent synergy. Hopefully, some of the ideas will resonate with you and can provide part of an initial gauntlet to test your Weapon of Choice ™ with. They are all also fine places to start work on new Standard decks.
Keep in mind that these are fairly rough builds and may have glaring flaws or oversights. They are intended to help “start conversations,” as well as provide some ideas of what others may be up to.
Due to the volume of decks today, I will list each one and say a few words, but will save deep elaboration for those that spark interest.
I have played some games with all of these decks, but there is no space to explain matchups today. One theme I noticed, as I was building these decks, was that there seems to be a large pool of cards to support mid-range decks that try to build both tempo and card advantage.
It is truly an exciting time!
Deck 1 – Chapin Sligh (Mono-Red)
First, I want to thank Wizards for going to great lengths to promote the viability of an old school Jay Schneider Geeba strategy without pushing turn 4-5 kill Red Decks.
Finally, a return to mid-range board control Red creature decks! I cannot tell you how much more enjoyable this strategy is to play with, as well as against.
Rather than play the most aggressive creatures available, true Sligh selects creatures that gain card advantage and control the board.
I could dedicate this entire article to this deck and not do justice to all the synergies and card choices, though admittedly, the 2s and 3s are random and should be adjusted with testing.
Orcish Librarian is totally insane! He single-handedly paid for my college education (well, Black Vise helped…) at Pro Tour: Dallas. He is like an Impulse every turn. Try this guy. Seriously, he is quite possibly the second-best two-drop in Standard.
If your opponent figures out to make one pile good, the other bad, use him on the opponent’s end step. Then, if all the cards are bad, use him again on your upkeep. Now picture him with Scrying Sheets (which, I might add, is a fine card in random mono-color decks just by itself with Snow-Covered basics).
Prediction? Guaranteed mainstream strategy. Must overcome a million protection from Red creatures, though, plus Green creatures are always rough. Still it has powerful weapons and versatility. Its biggest strength is that it can out-card-advantage almost anyone, despite playing all weenies and burn. A deck of this variety must be in your gauntlet.
Deck 2 – Smallpox (B/r)
This is basically an updated B/r control deck, employing the age-old formula of discard, creature elimination, and card advantage. Skeletal Vampire is a premier finisher these days, and Urza’s Factory is a solid backup plan.
Many players will look at mono-Black initially, which is fine for Bad Moon.dec, but Void is so exactly what you are looking for. It does Disk duty without destroying your Arena, and can even randomly combo with Mishra’s Bauble (You know a card’s mana cost, etc.)
Curse of the Cabal is an interesting card that can heavily disrupt the opponent at any stage of the game. It is a little slow though, so it must be complimented with many tempo cards. Obviously, it is almost always suspended. In a pinch you can always kill your Arena with it. Playing it turn 4 forces your opponent to slow play, giving you a chance to rip his hand apart.
One of the advantages this build has is its huge amount of removal. While only running four strictly anti-creature cards, it packs 25 ways to deal with them, some that kill multiples, plus card drawers and token generators.
This build could use some work and must be adjusted to better fight whatever field emerges, but this deck has huge promise. Traditional problems for Black, like Protection from Black and Circle of Protection: Black are no trouble at all. With 12 ways to kill a Paladin En-Vec, and Urza’s Factory to get around the Circle, this deck’s real weakness is its own card drawing. It’s got a Necrop, but no Consult. Diabolic Tutor is too slow. I’d play Scrying Sheets if it were not for Void, but Void is simply too important. Maybe a little more Blue for Ancestral Visions and possibly Compulsive Research? Suspend cards themselves are a potential problem for the deck.
Prediction: The jury is still out on Mono-Black versus B/r (or even Blue or White) but one way or another, this is a powerful strategy that needs to be in your gauntlet. Its versatility may prove it the defining control strategy if it can solve its card drawing problem, while retaining Void and developing an anti-Vore plan.
Deck 3 – White Weenie (Mono-W)
What is there to say? Thirty-two efficient fighters, six enhancers, and some land. The Rebel and Snow engines offer some middle game, but this is clearly a beatdown deck. Tons of Protection are par for the course for White. Serra Avenger is hardly used to her full potential here, but she is still great. The real star here is Icatian Javelineers. This guy is totally ridiculous. You will not even miss Isamaru.
It should be noted that White Weenie can easily pick up another color. Red offers burn, of course; Blue Skies and a little countermagic; Black for disruption and Bob; or Green for even better men.
I went with a straight WW as it has seen less play than any of those, ever since the arrival of Ravnica. I wanted to see if it was reasonable to forgo the support color.
Prediction: I predict W/r, W/U, and W/b weenie decks may be more popular. All dorks is hardly a scary strategy. Mise well scoop to Wrath, am I right? Still, it may be a useful stock deck, especially if your deck may be vulnerable to Protection from Red or Protection from Black. It could also be the starting place for a powerhouse hybrid, though it is not a must for your gauntlet.
Deck 4 – Vore (U/R)
Losing little from the rotation, Vore will surely continue to compete. However, its biggest set-back was the paradigm shift from 5’s, 6’s, and 7’s to 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s.
Vore was committed to the Tidings plan anyway, and now it can draw its cards without having to spend a big turn tapping out. Ancestral Vision and Wheel of Fate are incredible in Vore, as stalling for time is Vore’s specialty.
Prediction: Obviously Tier 1. Wheel of Fate may prove so good you want four of it as well. Must be in your gauntlet, as it will help define the format.
Deck 5 – Fish (Mono-Blue)
Unlike Sligh, this deck just seeks to attack. The card choices could use some work, but the underlying theme is Blue beat-sticks and quality removal (so, Rosewater, about that color pie…)
Predictions: More likely a Tier 2 strategy, it is a solid alternative and one “less hosed” by White and Green summons. The unprecedented removal eases the loss of countermagic, but at the end of the day, you are still just playing a Blue weenie deck. Fun and an outside shot, worth putting in a large gauntlet, but can skip a smaller one.
Deck 6 – U/W Control (U/W – duh)
Sorry to rain on your parade Mike, but it’s just “U/W Control.”
Good ol U/W Control…
This version is a hybrid of Finkel’s CounterPost strategy and Buehler’s Cuneo Blue, running nineteen counters, max Plows + Wraths, thirteen card drawers that require no investment, and a lone Windreaver doing Rainbow Efreet duty.
Over a dozen cantrips find Wrath fast and Spell Burst is a soft lock; however, this build cannot take advantage of Ancestral Vision. As such, it may be inherently flawed. It may be worth trying a Mono-Blue with Ghost Ship, Boomerang, Fathom Seer, Ancestral Vision, etc.
This build could use work, as it is often hard to properly configure a control deck before the field is known. However, U/W control will surely be a solid choice if one is well prepared.
Magus of the Disk is sexy, but I think U/W absolutely needs to ride its “creatureless edge” to make opponents’ Edicts and Skreds dead. Windreaver is the only reasonable “fatty” that can fight Skred profitably for Blue and White.
I must concede. I have come around to agree with Michael Flores. Skred is the best card in Standard and defines the format.
Prediction: U/W Control will take some work to find the right mix, but should be Tier 1. Many will forget the power of Whispers, but keep in mind, you are not paying six to draw a card. You pay six to draw two cards, and one is Whispers of the Muse. Also, Cycling: U is insane. Whispers gives U/W a legitimate plan for trying to win with a fatty. U/W Control, in some form, must be in your gauntlet.
Deck 7 – Zoo (W/R/G)
A standard archetype that makes only minor modifications; however, its manabase improves a great deal. Icatian Javelineers easily fill Isamaru’s shoes, and Magus of the Scroll is an option, though remember, he is a lot more Grim Lavamancer than Cursed Scroll. Call of the Herd can either compliment or replace Burning-Tree Shaman.
Still, the biggest news is Gemstone Mine. Zoo’s biggest weakness was its manabase, and now it has access to the only ever truly broken five-color land.
Little has changed, though it is a Jitte-free world.
Predictions: Quite possibly a Tier 1 beatdown strategy that is probably better than Gruul. Now that it has Gemstone Mine consistency isn’t an issue. Icatian Javelineers is not to be underestimated. Must be in your gauntlet.
Deck 8 – Glare (G/W)
Glare decks have never been my specialty and this one is certainly janky. Still, Glare should be good – in theory – so I’ve got to start somewhere. This one has some cute tricks, but is certainly a rogue direction. It is quite possibly right to splash a third color.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Loxodon Hierarch
- 4 Selesnya Guildmage
- 4 Ohran Viper
- 4 Scryb Ranger
- 4 Spectral Force
- 4 Yavimaya Dryad
This build is missing the Yosei, Shining Shoal, sex appeal aspect and in return gets… Green dorks? These cards are good, but I suspect you want more “I wins.” Hopefully, a more Savannah-oriented mage will dismiss a better Glare deck soon.
Predictions: Some form of Glare will make for a solid Tier 2 deck. As with most G/W decks, not a must for small gauntlets.
Deck 9 – Haakon (B/u)
A few weeks back, I suggested a deck based on Vexing Sphinx plus Haakon, Stronghold Scourge in “A Day in the Life of a Deck Designer,” and it did not lose much in the transition.
The concept is fairly simple, B/u Aggro with recursive possibilities. There are many good new options, so there is a lot of room to work on this one.
- 4 Dark Confidant
- 1 Garza's Assassin
- 4 Haakon, Stromgald Scourge
- 4 Stromgald Crusader
- 4 Vexing Sphinx
- 4 Looter il-Kor
- 3 Plague Sliver
This deck’s biggest flaw is that it is clunky. Oh, for some one drops! Still, it has some good card advantage engines and Haakon is game over for many, if you can get him going.
Prediction: Unlikely to be a Tier 1 deck, but a solid possibility for Tier 2. Has some rogue advantages and attacks from unusual angles. Not a must to test against, as it is likely not mainstream, but it is useful to know if your deck can beat an active Haakon.
Deck 10 – Angel (U/W/R)
The final deck I have for today is an oddball. It is U/W/R with no permission. You might have noticed four of five Blue decks featured little or no permission. With so many cheap spells now, permission is not as good, though I may be overreacting. For instance, this deck should probably at least try some mix of Spell Snares, Remands, and Cancel. By the way, Remand is much weaker, now that casting costs are lower, but it is the best card in the world versus Suspend… Anyhow, I just wanted to try a sorcery build. This is what I came up with:
Disclaimer: When I built this one, I was hopped up on eight cans of Pepsi. Normally, I am a Mountain Dew man, but they replaced Mountain Dew here with Code Red for the time being. The problem with Code Red is that it’s cherry. A few years back I drank a few bottles of cough syrup. I haven’t been able to taste cherry without gagging since.
The deck plays like a bizarre R/W blow stuff up deck that happens to feature twelve card-drawing spells. Ancestral Visions is, not surprisingly, awesome, keeping mana free to blow stuff up.
However, not surprisingly, it is the Firemane that truly shines here. Without Dragons to overpower her, she is one of the few big dogs that can actually profitably fight Skred.
Prediction: Angel will most likely have to adopt at least token countermagic.
Still, Firemane is has a loyal following, as it should, and will be resurrected. Probably a high Tier 2 deck when tuned, though it has a shot at low Tier 1. It is worth testing against some build of Firemane, though admittedly, this one is a bit rogue.
So, there you have it. That should help provide a set of deck to test against / modify / start with. Unfortunately, I had to write this back in September, so I do not have the luxury of the past month of developments. Still, even if 9 out of 10 aren’t up to snuff, there should be some value.
Mainstream – Chapin Sligh, Smallpox, Vore., U/W Control, Zoo, Rome
Rogue / Rogue Build – WW, Fish, Glare, Haakon, Angel
Sorry there aren’t more Green decks. What can I say? Islands are better than Forests. Always have been, always will be. Please, let me know which of these decks are interesting. Remember, these are all rough drafts. See you next week (man, I sure hope Enduring Renewal isn’t good…)
PS: This is hardly a full gauntlet, but you gotta start somewhere. Everything from Orzhov to Tron to turn 2 Specter to Reanimator to all the new combos to KarstenBot BabyKiller should be considered.