The Power Of M14

Instead of looking backward with a tournament report, 2010 Player of the Year Brad Nelson decided to look ahead and reveal the cards in M14 that have caught his eye for Standard.

"If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker…or you played against Reid Duke."

I was planning on writing a tournament report about Grand Prix Miami. I played some of the most amazing matches of Magic in recent memory and was prepared to go in depth about some of my misplays, why Reid Duke has become one the best players in the game, and why I’ve got the fire to go for Player of the Year this year. Then I started looking at M14 spoilers, and the deckbuilder inside of me started popping out. I’m sorry to those who wanted to hear about boring ol’ Miami, but I gotta do what I gotta do.

Let’s talk M14!

There’s a long list of cards that are going to have a major role in the development of Standard this summer. That is why it is important to look at the cards individually and find the best homes for them—so we can get a better understanding to how the entire format is going to shift. First we find the toys; then we decide how we want to play with them!

Burning Earth



I’ve been claiming that control is dead for about a year now, so even though I think this card is going to be the final nail in the coffin, I’m probably wrong. One thing is for sure, and that is that this card is going to have a major impact on Standard this summer.

Manabarbs was once one of my favorite cards because of how hard it was for a control deck to beat it. There really wasn’t a way around the card except for removing it from the game. This meant that control players always had to be afraid of it out of a red deck because it was one of the best ways aggressive decks had to beat control decks in the late game.

Some of you that aren’t familiar with cards like this might be wary of them since they are universal effects. "I don’t want to take damage from my own spells!" All I have to say to you about that is, "Do not worry my children; everything is going to be ok." Although this effect will deal some damage to you, it does not mean it will cost you many games. The role of Burning Earth is to force the game to end as soon as possible. The faster both players continue to burn, the less mana a controlling deck is able to use, making it difficult for them to win via having more resources. So when the game goes long and the aggressive deck is drawing one-drops off the top that do very little, the controlling player is drawing bigger spells they can no longer cast without dying. Doesn’t "Draw 5, take 3" sound much better than "Draw 5, gain 5"?

You might be thinking that this card is much worse than Manabarbs since it only targets decks with a high number of nonbasic lands. This is true in the abstract but not when it comes to current Standard. Control decks could potentially try to go down to two colors and play a high number of basics to get around this card, but the power level of aggressive creatures is just too high. Two-color control decks don’t have the card selection to be able to answer all the unique threats in the format. This makes it crucial for any deck trying to react to play three colors, making this card an absolute beating.

Burning Earth is going to be a very good card against decks like Jund Midrange, Junk Reanimator, U/W/R Flash, Esper Control, and Bant Control.

The first place I see this card going in is the sideboard of Naya decks. Naya Aggro has always had reasonably good matchups against the more aggressive decks in the format since it is filled with cards like Voice of Resurgence, Boros Reckoner, Loxodon Smiter, and Huntmaster of the Fells, but it’s had a difficult time with the Hollowed Fountain decks. They were forced to run a sideboard filled with unique individual threats and answers to Supreme Verdict just to have a chance of beating control decks. Now they have Burning Earth against every tough matchup, making it much easier to streamline a sideboard in every matchup.

Another great thing is that Burning Earth will not be a good card against Naya strategies from the smaller aggressive decks since the deck is filled with very good beatdown creatures to begin with. The time it takes for a deck like R/G to play Burning Earth will allow Naya to simply take an aggressive role and force the opponent into awkward spots.

Scavenging Ooze

Scavenging Ooze is going to be big! REALLY BIG! The card has already seen Legacy play, and Standard is all about the graveyard. I don’t understand why this card is under $20 still, but I already got my playset and suggest picking up yours as soon as possible before it gets too expensive. I don’t normally dive into the prices of Magic cards simply because I’m an idiot when it comes to them, but I do know this card will be amazing. Standard is all about graveyard interactions, flashback, creatures that are constantly dying, racing, and trying to use your mana as efficiently as possible. This card has the ability to play a significant role in all of these aspects, making it a very good two-drop to play.

Finding a home for this card is the most difficult part. You want to put it in a deck that doesn’t have a million other things going on with extra mana. It is important to be able to activate Scavenging Ooze as much as possible to allow it to get in the red zone. My first thought is a Predator Ooze deck.

This is a version of Predator Ooze I’ve wanted to try for a while now, but the lack of turn 1 acceleration was its biggest weakness. Now the deck has the ability to consistently unload its opening hand onto the battlefield with access to both Elvish Mystic and Arbor Elf. Ghor-Clan Rampager gives the deck the ability to send in Predator Oozes that are smaller than the defending creatures yet still get over the top of them. This makes blocking very difficult for opposing decks since Ghor-Clan Rampager will not only allow this deck to kill a creature but boost Predator Ooze’s power as well. Not to mention how well it works with Scavenging Ooze since you can bloodrush into eating the Ghor-Clan Rampager to gain a life and make the Ooze bigger.

Scavenging Ooze fits perfectly in a Predator Ooze shell. The deck wants to trade resources quickly via combat, allowing Scavenging Ooze to pick up random corpses along the way to grow its power and toughness. Ooze decks also have a glaring weakness in the fact that they run out of things to do with their mana very quickly and oftentimes cannot interact with an opponent’s graveyard. Scavenging Ooze helps out on both of these fronts while becoming the biggest creature on the board in the meantime.

Bonfire of the Damned seems like it’s going to get better once M14 comes out. Aggressive decks are going to be better than ever at making games extremely high variance, allowing a miracled Bonfire of the Damned to be as backbreaking as possible.

I’m not that confident in the sideboard yet, but those are the cards I want to try out initially.


Wizards has made it very clear that they like the hexproof mechanic, and we’ll just have to deal with it. I, for one, am actually happy this card got printed. It might seem weird since I have always disliked Bant Hexproof as a deck, but it wasn’t because of the games I had to play against it. I never really liked it because it was too inconsistent for me to enjoy playing with it. I never like being at the mercy of my deck, which is why I often play consistent archetypes. Witchstalker allows Bant Hexproof to become a much more consistent deck, making it a bigger force to reckon with.

Now that Bant Hexproof is going to become a "real" deck in the metagame, more decks will have to respect the strategy and sideboard against it. It will no longer be a deck people just hope to dodge or get lucky against but rather one you must have a coherent plan against if you expect to win a tournament.

Welcome to the big leagues, Bant Hexproof!

This is the first version I will be working on for the StarCityGames.com Invitational in Somerset, New Jersey.

Now that Witchstalker exists, we can theme our deck entirely around hexproof creatures. Ascended Lawmage is the slowest of the group, but Gerry Thompson thinks that this guy deserves a spot in the deck due to the need for a high density of hexproof creatures. I can’t argue with him.

Sigarda, Host of Herons feels like a very good sideboard card for this deck now that it plays more than four mana accelerators as well as Abundant Growth to be able to get to five mana. Sigarda, Host of Herons is the easiest way for this deck to get around decks like Jund Midrange since they will no longer be able to force this deck to sacrifice creatures. That pretty much leaves decks with Supreme Verdict to threaten this deck’s existence. Good thing everyone else will be packing Burning Earth!

Doom Blade

The card that will probably have the most impact on Standard is Doom Blade. This removal spell was once played in everything that supported black cards—and for a good reason. It isn’t situational like most of the removal played today. There isn’t an instant speed removal spell that can kill Boros Reckoner and Thundermaw Hellkite without some form of condition.

That time is now over, and Doom Blade will see a lot of play. This card gives every deck running black the ability to kill creatures consistently again and may even allow the rebirth of U/B Control. Burning Earth will have a huge impact on what a control deck can do, so making a control deck just two colors may be ideal. Doom Blade and Snapcaster Mage used to be best buddies, and I don’t see why they can’t rekindle their friendship.

Archangel of Thune

The last card I’m going to talk about might not have an immediate impact on the format, but it is one that I am going to be working on pre- and post-Innistrad rotation. Baneslayer Angel has been my favorite Magic card since it was spoiled simply because of how good it is. This card looks very similar to Baneslayer Angel in the sense that it can win a game all by itself but also has the ability to play a very synergistic game. This is my initial draft of a deck that I want to play with Archangel of Thune.

The first place I thought to put Archangel of Thune was in Junk Aristocrats. The interactions between Blood Artist, a sacrifice outlet, and Archangel of Thune seem absolutely amazing. Maw of the Obzedat was one of the early creatures in Junk Aristocrats because of its ability to have alpha-strike turns by sacrificing a couple tokens and the Maw itself to deal lethal. All of this is possible with Archangel of Thune—but without the one-time deal. The counters stay on forever, allowing you to turn an army of 1/1s into a platoon of 5/5s. This gives a deck like Junk Aristocrats some serious play against the bigger creature decks in the format.

This is just a rough draft though. I haven’t been able to test any of my theories because I flew across the United States back to North Dakota to enjoy some explosions with my parents. Next week I’m going to go deeper into what the metagame will look like once M14 comes out and take a look at what I want to play in Richmond for the StarCityGames.com Open Series. I also plan on making as many Magic Online Standard videos as Cedric will let me once the set is released online.

Before I go, I have one thing I must admit that I am not very proud of. Last year I procrastinated when it came time to vote for the Hall of Fame. I didn’t submit my ballot until the last day possible and carelessly submitted my nominations from memory. It wasn’t too difficult since I knew everyone I was voting for except for one person: William Jensen.

I mistook William Jensen for Eugene Harvey for some reason and submitted my ballot. Later that month William Jensen missed the Hall of Fame by one vote. My vote.

I was a bit distraught at the idea that my carelessness caused someone to miss the Hall of Fame and immediately told Gerry Thompson about what I did. He wasn’t amused in the slightest. Gerry was the reason I decided to vote for Huey in the first place since he told me I was an idiot if I didn’t vote for him. He then informed me that I was going to meet Huey that weekend at a StarCityGames.com Open Series we were going to. CRAP!

I was a bit nervous around Huey at first, but I then came to realize he is one of the most awesome and kind people I have ever met. I ended up telling him about what I did, and his reaction was one I will never forget. HE LAUGHED! I understand that the weight of him missing the Hall of Fame wasn’t entirely on my shoulders, but you would think someone would be a little ticked off to hear that my stupidity kept them from the Hall of Fame. Nope, he laughed it off and said," Well, maybe next year."

Since that weekend I have spent numerous times with Huey and found him to not only be an amazing human being but a true master of Magic. He has become a dear friend of mine and one I confide in before many tournaments. He has been a driving force of #TeamSCG even when he wasn’t qualified for the Pro Tours.

I urge all of you with a ballot to strongly consider voting for William Jensen if you are on the fence. I am not simply trying to correct a mistake that I made but to get someone into the Hall of Fame that truly deserves it. He is one of the game’s greatest on and off the table and is still contributing to this day.

Time to break Standard once again!

Brad Nelson