Ladies and gentlemen; the Time has come to take a look at the new Standard metagame. And I plan on throwing a perfect Spiral pass… at… the format? That doesn’t make any sense. At least I tried.
I played in the prerelease this past weekend, as I’m sure most of you did, and I must say I really like this set. I’ve only drafted the set a couple of times, so I don’t have much to say on that, but I think the Constructed implications of the set are much more interesting. I don’t think the power level of the set is as high as either Champions or Ravnica, but I think there are a lot of really solid cards that are going to make Constructed very interesting for some time.
Being the Constructed junkie I am, I started to think of deck possibilities as soon as I saw the spoiler for the set. Today I’ll look at three decks archetypes that have been around since the beginning of Magic, made fresh thanks to Time Spiral.
The first deck I’m going to look at is something straight out of 1999. A mono-Black discard deck that features… The Rack. When I first started playing Magic, one of the first decks I played was a mono-Black list that featured cards like Pox, Funeral Charm, Stupor, and The Rack. While they didn’t reprint them all, they came quite close. Mike Flores already mentioned how much he liked the new card Smallpox, and I was as enamored with it as he was. The fact that they reprinted the rest of my old favorites made it easy for me to come up with a new list on an old theme…
The deck is clearly not as powerful as its predecessor. You don’t have the powerful discard elements that you once had, so you’re forced to play a slower, more attrition-based game. Thankfully, some newer cards make this a very viable strategy. Phyrexian Arena is the engine of this deck; without it, I don’t think this strategy would even work. One of the things I like about this deck is its removal base, which I think is very well suited for what the environment should look like. Funeral Charm was one of my favorite cards back in the day, because it was great against control decks and beatdown decks. Granted, making a control player only discard one card isn’t back-breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it was the first instant speed discard – you could take away your opponents draw step once you went to work on them. The Charm is great in this format because it kills Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise a turn before Last Gasp.
Sudden Death is another great Time Spiral commodity that gives us a way to deal with Ghost Council of Orzhov and Loxodon Hierarch. The Split Second mechanic will probably be more and more useful as the format becomes better defined. Like I said earlier, your discard isn’t too strong. Stupor is solid, but Persecute and Muse Vessel are your main tools to help you get The Rack on-line. Skeletal Vampire was the only threat I could think of that was a solid clock as well as something that worked well with Smallpox. You have a wide array of removal spells against beatdown decks, as well as a variety of “must counters” against control, so I think the strategy is something you could end up seeing come October. The sideboard is another aspect of the deck I like.
4 Psychotic Episode
1 Muse Vessel
1 Last Gasp
4 Tendrils of Corruption
4 Plague Sliver
Psychotic Episode is not an incredibly strong card, but in combination with Smallpox, I think it can be solid against control. I’ve never like Coercion, but this card is slightly better. First of all, it has madness, which can be useful in a number of different situations. Second, it allows you to look at the top card of their deck. If they have a hand free of permission, you can make sure they won’t topdeck one. Third, it doesn’t make them discard the card, but simply places it on the bottom of their library. The benefit of this is that you can eliminate Dredge cards and it also gives you a way around the newly reprinted Dodecapod.
Smallpox placed certain restrictions on me in terms of what threats I could play. However, one deck I felt Smallpox would not be good against was R/G land destruction. If I boarded that card out against them, what could I bring in? Time Spiral gave me the perfect answer in the form of Plague Sliver. A 5/5 body is already difficult for them to deal with, and the newly reprinted Juzam Djinn seemed like a great sideboard option.
I had some post-board options against control and mid-range control; I wanted something more against aggressive decks like Zoo and the hip new Dark Zoo. Tendrils of Corruption seemed like a solid fit in this deck; with 22 Swamps, I could kill pretty much any threat on turn 4 and get a much needed boost in life.
This deck is proactive, which is something I look for in a deck when going into a new format. A combination of powerful cards and a streamlined strategy makes me think this deck could be a strong contender at your State Championships.
The next deck I want to look at is a deck that was popular in my neck of the woods for about a month, but quickly fell off the radar. However, with Ninja of the Deep Hours being shown the door, and with some new Time Spiral goodies arriving, I think this deck is poised for a comeback.
Once again, a classic archetype gets a much-needed facelift thanks to Time Spiral. I love control decks, so you can imagine how excited I was when I found out I could play Whispers of the Muse again. I know there is a lot of hype around Ancestral Visions, but I’m actually more excited by Whispers. I haven’t played much with the Suspend mechanic, so I don’t really know what impact it will make on Constructed. The only thing I know for sure is that I don’t like Ancestral Visions as much as Compulsive Research, so that choice was easy. The next decision was: do I really want to play this card over Whispers of the Muse? I decided to run Whispers because I think it’s going to be better for me more often than the Visions, especially in the early game when having an early cantrip might be vital in ensuring I make my land drops. The deck is a lot like the old-school U/W control decks: a lot of counterspells and only a few very strong and resilient win conditions. Windreaver is a powerful threat that I think is going to start seeing a lot more play now that the big fat legends are gone, and it is a perfect fit in this deck. The one Debtors’ Knell is there for value (more or less) and a splash of variety. Time Spiral made more of an impact on the sideboard than the maindeck.
3 Faith Fetter’s
4 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
4 Looter Il-Kor
Seven anti-beatdown cards is more than enough for a deck that already features Wrath of God. The anti-control package is Teferi and Looter Il-Kor. Teferi was a card I really liked when I saw the spoiler, but the more I started thinking about it I wasn’t really sure where it would fit in the new Standard. Teferi is only really absurd against other Blue decks, so I felt like, for this deck at least, the sideboard was the best place for it. Looter Il-Kor is one of those little commons that I feel will have a big impact on Constructed. It’s a very cheap creature with evasion and an awesome ability. Against control deck it will chip away at their life totals while filling your hand with counters and making sure you don’t get land flooded.
One deck I am concerned with is R/G land destruction. Once again, this deck seems like it could give me fits. I don’t have an answer to a turn 2 land destruction spell if I’m on the draw, and with the possibility of them having twelve LD spells main, I could lose the game before it even begins. However, all hope is not lost. The main way you lose that matchup is if they are on the play and have a one-drop mana accelerator and a three-mana land destruction spell. If they don’t, you can easily win the game. If you expect to see a lot of that deck in your area and it is proving to be too much of a headache, Sacred Ground is always an option.
The final deck I want to look at it is probably the one that has changed the least of all the ones I mentioned, but the new additions make it so much better. R/G land destruction is another archetype that has been around for ages that recently started to regain popularity, thanks to Frank Karsten.
This list is very similar to Frank’s list but instead of Sensei’s Divining Top, I added Avalanche Riders. Thanks, Time Spiral! Now R/G has eight land destruction spells at three mana, eight turn 1 mana accelerants, and Darwin Kastle to top of the curve and increase your LD options. This deck is starting to pop up everywhere, and I can’t imagine Time Spiral won’t make it more attractive to people come States. The sideboard has a splash of some old favorites.
4 Call of the Herd
2 Stalking Yeti
4 Wreak Havoc
Call of the Herd is one of the best reprints, and I am glad to see it back. I think it is a solid sideboard replacement for Cryoclasm when playing against non-Blue and non-White decks. Beatdown decks in particular have never liked playing against Call tokens, and this card should be quite good against both Zoo and Orzhov. The other new addition is Scragnoth, which is probably… I’ll be honest – I just wanted to put Scragnoth in a deck.
There are so many new decks that could arise thanks to Time Spiral, and I for one look forward to States to see which rise above the rest.
Until next time,
Osyp “Joe Black” Lebedowicz