I hope that everyone had fun at their local good old-fashioned “whodunnit?” Prerelease. Seeking Clues and investigating the madness that is happening on Innistrad has been one of the most fun set releases in quite some time, and I’m excited, not only for the up-and-coming Standard format, but also to see just what exactly happens on Innistrad when Eldritch Moon comes out in a handful of months.
Before we hop into Standard, I just have one thing to say about what happened with Modern.
Sword of the Meek in particular has been one of my favorite cards for quite some time, especially with its interaction with Thopter Foundry. I am no stranger to the card in older formats; in fact, fellow StarCityGames.com Select columnist and powerful wizard Chris Andersen and I did our duty to make Transmute Artifact worth more than $15 a few years ago.
In addition to Eye of Ugin deservedly getting the axe, they decided to unban Ancestral Vision. I expect this card to also see a lot of play, maybe even alongside Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry. Ancestral Vision was one of the key pieces to the success of U/B Faeries, and with Bitterblossom already off the initial Modern banlist, we may very well see a resurgence of that archetype. It also helps that U/R Twin is gone, which was basically in the same wheelhouse of blue-based tempo but also with a combo kill to close the door in bad matchups.
Eldrazi Temple is still around, so I can imagine that there may be some sort of Eldrazi Tron-style deck similar to what people were trying out towards the end of the previous Modern era, but without Eye of Ugin providing the insane turns where you get to cast eight or nine mana worth of spells with just a few lands. I think that the Eldrazi strategy will see some play but likely end up as a Tier 2-ish deck.
Enough about Modern, though; all eyes are on Standard as we start gearing up for #SCGBALT. I know that all the teams are hard at work, so I’m pretty excited to see just what everyone comes up with.
The Roanoke Crew, Team Bolas, Team Lotus, the crews from Nerd Rage and Next Ridge… this is just a small sample of the talented teams that I am expecting to make at least some sort of showing at #SCGBALT, and even though there are a lot of people who have a vested interest in not spilling all of the beans in Baltimore and saving it up for the Pro Tour, I have to imagine that, with the SCG Points being so valuable to the players at the top of the leaderboard — Jeff Hoogland, Gerry Thompson, Andrew Tenjum, Joe Lossett, and the rest — I think that we’re going to see some top-level decks from the respected teams trying to help their teammates get as many SCG Points as they can this coming weekend.
Where are they going to be? That’s the fun of trying to figure everything out!
The biggest mover in the last week, Standard-wise, has got to be Westvale Abbey. Going from just a couple bucks to twenty dollars almost overnight isn’t unheard-of but definitely struck me as unusual. I was hot on the card from the start, writing about it as early as the first week that it was spoiled and touting that it would be a great addition to Mono-Red Eldrazi, which I still do, by the way.
Westvale Abbey has correctly been identified as almost being free in the two-color decks, reminding me of Mutavault during the Magic 2014 Wild West days. I even felt comfortable enough playing some in the three-color Jund Monsters deck. Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, and the shocklands definitely helped, but I think that we are just as safe with our two-color manabases to play Westvale Abbey as ever. How many is going to end up being the toughest question.
I expect that we will see two, maybe three in the beginning, but I believe that we will quickly be up to a full four copies in our two-color decks. The opportunity cost on Abbey is notably low for a card that can impact the game in such a way. There are even going to be enough games for it to be relevant where we just make a bunch of 1/1’s with our Abbey and keep our opponent in a tough spot by threatening to transform into Ormendahl, Profane Prince.
I especially like how Westvale Abbey’s play pattern lends itself to some other cards that I think are going to be premier threats and stabilizing cards in the new Standard.
Both of these cards are going to make it extremely difficult for our opponents to attack, which prolongs games that we aren’t absolutely crushing, which makes our Westvale Abbeys all the better. The biggest kicker for me is how well Archangel Avacyn and Secure the Wastes can transition from defense to offense and the other way around when needed. A 4/4 with flash, flying, vigilance, and a bunch of other relevant text and “instant-speed 1/1 tokens for X mana” do surprisingly well when we need to attack our opponents to death quickly.
With Archangel Avacyn and Westvale Abbey being some of the biggest looming threats, I suspect that we will see a lot of Stasis Snare being played at #SCGBALT, and even though it’s only sorcery-speed and won’t be able to interact right away with these cards if they are used with it in mind, I think that Declaration in Stone is also going to see lots of play.
Exiling stuff has never looked so pretty.
Where do these cards all fit in, though?
I already talked last week about how I thought that G/W Megamorph seemed like it could be very well-positioned, but when looking at all of these powerful and perceived as important cards for the first week, we basically just have to be base white and can play whatever we’d like.
These are the cards that I’d want to be playing if I were going to #SCGBALT, but that gives us a lot of options.
Going with R/W would give us access to probably the most powerful card in Standard: Chandra, Flamecaller. Red also has a lot of other sweet options for us if we wanted. With plenty of removal available and some great aggressive and sticky creatures, let’s list out what we might want out of red for a deck with the above white cards.
Those are all some pretty powerful cards. I especially like how Thoper Engineer and Pia and Kiran Nalaar play very well with a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar / Secure the Wastes idea alongside Westvale Abbey.
Chandra, Flamecaller just adds a lot of late-game power to any deck that is packing copies of her. I can see times when we are purposely trying to push the game to go a bit later so that we can navigate to a position where Archangel Avacyn into Chandra, Flamecaller just outright kills our opponent.
Jeff Hoogland spent almost the entirety of the last Standard format playing his B/W control deck and accumulating a large number of SCG Points along the way. With the multicolor shenanigans from Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged gone, we can get back to our two-color roots, and B/W is a deck that is poised to take advantage of it.
Black gives us access to a lot of removal, all at differing mana costs and all seeming to be quite efficient. The issue with that is that white already has a ton of great removal, so do we need more? Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and the planeswalker team of Ob Nixilis Reignited and Sorin, Grim Nemesis definitely give us an overly healthy amount of late-game planeswalker action, which might be just what we need to free up disruption for our Secure the Wastes.
I actually really like the idea of being able to turn on delirum for To the Slaughter with cards like Dead Weight and Hangarback Walker. To the Slaughter has a pretty huge upside if we are willing to invest some slots in diversifying our card pool, but I’m not quite sure if it’s worth it yet.
The extreme control role that we get pushed into as B/W can be complementary with our Archangel Avacyn and Secure the Wastes, but I think that we’re going to have too much going on to really ever take advantage of Westvale Abbey in a deck like this.
As I mentioned last week, going green with a megamorph game-plan seems like it could be very well-positioned and I still believe that. Here are the payoff cards for being green.
G/W gives us Dromoka’s Command, which I think will be criminally underrated the first week of Shadows over Innistrad Standard. There are going to be so many Silkwraps and Stasis Snares to be sacrificed next weekend that, if there was ever a time to be on a Dromoka’s Command deck, it might be this weekend.
Den Protector is still great and so is Deathmist Raptor, but what really gets me excited about this strategy is being able to use Evolutionary Leap to grind through your opponents that decided to bring too much removal to the table, like the B/W Control decks.
Elvish Visionary is great if we end up in a more dedicated tokens strategy, similar to what Shaun McLaren wrote about a few weeks ago on Premium, but I think Raptor and Company (non-Collected) is likely better.
Going with blue, or (as I like to call it) the Shaheen Soorani route, has a lot of potential, but I think that the better U/W style of deck is going to be akin to what Tom Ross and pals have been working on over on Premium.
In their Premium VS. video, both decks seemed to run into some issues, but I really like the base idea that Tom had going on here. All of the powerful white cards that I want to see, but also with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Ojutai’s Command in the mix?
This week is pretty exciting for me. Not only do we get some sweet new Standard coverage action from SCGLive for #SCGBALT, but I’m getting married on Thursday! This has all really been a great journey, and Nicole and I want to thank everyone who has given us well wishes over the last couple of years. We love you all, and may even have a tipsy married stream at some point over the weekend.
Before I go, a lot of you have asked me for an updated Mono-Red Eldrazi list for this weekend. Here is what I would sleeve up in order to smash my opponents’ reality this weekend.
- 2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 4 Thopter Engineer
- 4 Vile Aggregate
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 3 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Hedron Crawler
Good luck in Baltimore, everyone!