The Magic Show #142 – Alara Reborn Standard Incoming!

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Friday, May 8th – Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re going to be delving into Alara Reborn Standard. The pundits have spoken, our first PTQ results are here, and it’s time to delve into Alara Reborn’s hidden gems. Let’s go! [ Due to unforeseen circumstances, there’s no video content this week. Instead, Evan has written a normal text-only article. Normal business will be resumed next time out. – Craig]

Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re going to be delving into Alara Reborn Standard. The pundits have spoken, our first PTQ results are here, and it’s time to delve into Alara Reborn’s hidden gems. Let’s go!

[ Due to unforeseen circumstances, there’s no video content this week. Instead, Evan has written a normal text-only article. Normal business will be resumed next time out. — Craig]

Alara Reborn Standard

Okay, so the set’s officially out, I’ve had some time to actually playtest a little block and Standard, and our first PTQ is here. So what’s hot?

First of all, let’s take a look at the recent Dallas PTQ results. While these are obviously extremely preliminary, they also give us some direction in the new Standard. Here’s the Top 8 archetypes. Now you’ll notice a pretty big influx of B/W Tokens in this Top 8, and the reason is two-fold: Firstly, it’s an incredibly powerful deck that has performed extremely well before the release of Alara Reborn. You’ll notice that every time a new set comes out, no matter what the power level, the ole standbys will usually prevail while new technology is unearthed. The second reason you don’t see a Top 8 flooded with new, exciting archetypes is simply card availability and lack of testing time. You see, the power level of Alara Reborn is extremely high – high enough to throw Block Constructed for a loop and then some for the upcoming Pro Tour: Honolulu – but tournament players aren’t going to just cozy up to any old 75-card pile the weekend after the set is released. They want the best, the most honed and powerful weapon they can bring to the gauntlet, and while Bloodbraid Elf is incredibly sexy and terribly exciting, there’s not thousands of hours of playtesting with a deck that features him yet. But Spectral Procession, Bitterblossom, Glorious Anthem, and Cloudgoat Ranger? Those guys have been taken to task every day of every week for months now. The best build of tokens is not only known it’s taken second place at the most recent Pro Tour via Luis-Scott Vargas.

So with that said, the only changes in this first place build from the de facto B/W Tokens template include two Alara Reborn cards: The Mind Shatter upgrade Identity Crisis and a cool uncommon that snuck up on everybody, Zealous Persecution. This card is basically the ultimate blowout in the mirror match, allowing you a Wrath of God and feature another Glorious Anthem all in one card. It’s both a finisher and a card that can buy you a turn against aggro decks if need be. It kills Tattermunge Maniacs and Mogg Fanatics the same as it does Spectral Procession tokens, while giving you three or more damage with just two mana.

Identity Crisis is, as said, Mind Shatter with Upside, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. There are few things as demoralizing as flipping up an Identity Crisis from underneath your Windbrisk Heights, so I’d suggest you pick these up while they’re still going for cheap.

In second place we see Jund Ramp, an archetype that was really missing a key component for winning games: dealing with Planeswalkers. Before Alara Reborn, they were forced to smash into the red zone to remove loyalty counters, or use precious burn spells on them. Now they’ve got Maelstrom Pulse and all is right with the world. The deck now has ample game against Planeswalkers and an effective instrument against B/W Tokens. I expect to see a lot of new ideas flow through the Jund Ramp skeleton in the coming weeks, and 4x Maelstrom Pulse is simply the beginning of that trend.

Moving down the lists, we don’t see any new Alara Reborn cards until we hit the old U/W Reveillark deck. What does it feature? A land-shorting method of running four Fieldmist Borderpost and just 21 lands. This deck is going to give you an inkling of what Borderposts are capable of. In fact, I’d say that Borderposts are my number one breakout hit of the set. They are incredible tools for a huge variety of decks. In regards to my own evaluations and deckbuilding, I consider Borderposts as 1/2 a land when constructing decks. So if you have 21 lands and 4 borderposts, you are effectively running 23 lands in your deck.

I’ve used this in my own playtesting for G/R aggro, going as far down as 18 lands and 8 borderposts, giving you 22 effective lands and two full boats of enablers for your 3/2 hasty Jund Hackblade. The issue is, of course, that these Borderposts aren’t helping you play out Nom Noms (Tattermunge Maniac) and Figures of Destiny on Turn 1, but the trade-off is that you are drawing gas more often and are less screwed on land. I just love how one-land hands are suddenly not instant mulligans when that land is basic and you have two Borderposts staring at you. Another cool feature is that due to their alternative casting cost, you can simply play one of them tapped and pass the turn, effectively picking up and playing the same basic land. This shortcut will be used frequently, and I suggest you get used to it.

The final deck in the Top 8 was G/B Elves, and it features all sorts of goodness. We see in this deck a full boat of Maelstrom Pulses, again, probably the best card pound-for-pound in Alara Reborn across all formats, but we see some other interesting inclusions as well. The first is Lord of Extinction as a 2-of main, a creature I’ve been touting for weeks as underrated, whose once $5 pricetag is now $15 and climbing. Those who listened to me back then can rest assured their money was not spent unwisely. This guy is the real deal and is doing well in competitive decks. But that’s not the hotness. You want to know what the real hotness is? Take a look at the sideboard. Do you see what I see?

That’s right baby. Avatar of frickin’ Might. Who’s. Yo. 8/8. Tramplin’. Daddy? Avatar of Might, that’s who. I pity the fool who doesn’t respect a two mana ass-whoopin’ that I’d bet each and every tokens opponent he played it against had to read it.

An 8/8. That tramples. That you just played for two mana. Oh boy. And…if they don’t have the Path to Exile, that’s game boys.

But this PTQ? This PTQ is peanuts. In the grand scheme of things, a whole PTQ season ahead of us, these results will ultimately prove to be quite worthless. These archetypes may very well be represented the whole season long, but we will most likely see drastic changes to the make-up of winning decks.

What I’m excited about are cards that have fared well, cards that are sneaking around, quietly gaining value as playgroups discuss the viability of this card and that card. So how about some goodness? Here is my current G/W Little Kid block deck:

4 Island
2 Bant Panorama
6 Plains
7 Forest
4 Seaside Citadel

4 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Qasali Pridemage
4 Knotvine Paladin
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Rhox War Monk
3 Battlegrace Angel
2 Rafiq of the Many

4 Bant Charm
1 Finest Hour
4 Oblivion Ring
2 Behemoth Sledge
1 Reborn Hope

Lookout for Knotvine Paladin. All I’m saying, is that this deck has shown me the power of a bear that reaches ridiculous proportions thanks to Exalted. The best way to think of him is that each other creature you control gains Exalted…which, of course, stacks. A frequent play of this build features Turn 1 Noble Hierarch, Turn 2 Knotvine Paladin, Turn 3 Qasali Pridemage, smash with a 5/5 Paladin. That’s a two mana 5/5 ladies and gentlemen, who only gets better the more dudes you play, such as Rafiq of the Many and Battlegrace Angel, who also have Exalted of course.

But that’s block, you say. You’re not going to Hawaii, give me something I can use. So how about a Standard G/W deck? This deck has proven incredibly powerful and fun:

4 Windbrisk Heights
1 Plains
5 Forest
3 Treetop Village
4 Wooded Bastion
4 Brushland

3 Gaddock Teeg
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Qasali Pridemage
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Wilt-Leaf Liege

2 Behemoth Sledge
2 Oblivion Ring
4 Path to Exile

1 Gaddock Teeg
3 Dauntless Escort
1 Behemoth Sledge
1 Reveillark
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Naturalize
4 Guttural Response

The other breakout hit in the G/W deck is of course Behemoth Sledge. Welcome to the reason you need to have artifact destruction maindeck in your Constructed concoctions of the next few years. This artifact is nuts and makes every creature a legitimate scary monster that will swing the tempo in a hurry. Just one swing from this, thanks to the power of Exalted and cheap monsters like Kitchen Finks and Qasali Pridemage, and you can easily turn a frown upside down.

And as I’ve said before, Qasali Pridemage is the absolute bomb-diggity. I’m a little shocked we didn’t see one in the PTQ Top 8, to be honest, but that will change. This Watchwolf with Upside is just bonkers. It’s like you play a 3/3 on Turn 2…that also helps your existing one-drop. Or pumps your best creature when you drop it late game. It will often two-for-one and even if it is only used as a slightly tougher to play Disenchant, you’re okay with that, ain’tcha? He pumps, he smashes for three damage, he gets rid of those pesky enchantments and artifacts…the more I test, the more I love.

How about the Blightning side of Standard?

4 Auntie’s Hovel
4 Graven Cairns
4 Sulfurous Springs
3 Ghitu Encampment
8 Mountain
1 Swamp

4 Boggart Ram-Gang
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Hellspark Elemental
4 Mogg Fanatic
2 Anathemancer
3 Goblin Outlander

4 Blightning
4 Flame Javelin
1 Banefire
3 Terminate
3 Volcanic Fallout

Now the obvious inclusion in this deck is Anathemancer, also known as What Five Color Will Always Name With Runed Halo, but hey, he’s still awesome. However, two things: First, this deck has a mistake. Can you spot it? It’s right… there. Yup, the Terminates. They suck right now. You know why? One little, stinkin’ creature. Yup, Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender. That ugly lil mug has been ruining this deck’s day since it was first printed, and now they give us back Terminate only to not let us really utilize it until Lorwyn finally rotates.

Man… can you imagine? No more Cryptic Command… no more Bitterblossom… no more Reveillark! Oh, the fields of joy we will toil as we go through a world not dominated by Elves, Kithkin, Faeries and… more Kithkin… I’m excited for that day.

Okay, so that’s all we have time for this week. Remember, Legion Events is still rocking out the 2010 Magic Cruise, and signups are still up and running here. And here’s something really cool: If you go ahead and book the cruise, and win a cruise qualifier which of course a Magic player of your caliber is well capable of, you get a refund for your cruise! I’ll be there, so will Luis Scott-Vargas, and Patrick Chapin once again. Speaking of Patrick, have you heard of his upcoming strategy guide? Yup, the Innovator himself is dropping some knowledge on the Magic populus in the form of an e-Book. Yes, these words will in fact make you a better Magic player, and it’s only available at StarCityGames.com. In fact, excerpts from this guide are being posted every week until its launch on Memorial Day. Go ahead and bask in the goodness that is Next Level Magic and pick up your digital copy when it hits digital shelves on Memorial Day.

Next week we’ll delve even deeper into Standard, talk about the deck or decks I’m thinking about rocking for Regionals, and more. Until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards… so you don’t have to.

Evan “misterorange” Erwin
eerwin -at- gmail =dot= com
twitter dot com slash misterorange