I hate country music, but I loved #SCGNASH.
It’s a dilemma to say the least.
As usual, my focus was mostly on the evolution of Standard since the hype surrounding Born of the Gods was less than warmly received by a lot of the Internet community. I love proving naysayers wrong, and luckily there was just enough of the new set out in full force in the early goings to make it seem like Born of the Gods will have a bigger impact than people initially thought.
You know what they say about the haters?
They have an extreme propensity for abhorrence.
We did learn a lot from this past weekend, however, which says a lot about what we can expect from the next few weeks as things emerge a little bit more.
Things We Learned #1: Reports Of Mono-Blue Devotion’s Demise Were Greatly Exaggerated
One complaint that a lot of people made was that Mono-Blue Devotion seemingly got the shaft when it came to Born of the Gods while other decks gained a few new tools.
- 4 Judge's Familiar
- 4 Frostburn Weird
- 4 Cloudfin Raptor
- 4 Nightveil Specter
- 4 Tidebinder Mage
- 4 Thassa, God of the Sea
- 4 Master of Waves
Eric Gray apparently didn’t get the memo that a new set came out.
In my head, I imagined him showing up and palling around with his friends upon entering the tournament hall.
Friend: "Hey! What’s up Eric? What are you running this weekend?"
Eric: "Mono-Blue Devotion, man. The deck is good!"
Friend: "Sweet. What new Born of the Gods cards are you running? Thassa’s Rebuff?"
Eric: "Huh? Born of the . . . what?"
Friend: "Gods, man. Born of the Gods. New set. Just came out. Bro, you were at the Prerelease with me."
Eric: "Are you sure?"
Friend: "We drove together."
Eric: "Pretty sure I’d remember that. Pretty sure I’d remember a new set coming out."
Friend: "Have you been drinking?"
Eric: "It’s six in the evening somewhere, broheim!"
Sporting exactly zero cards from the new set, Eric’s take on Mono-Blue Devotion is what we’ve come to expect from the last few months of watching Master of Waves whiz in everyone’s Cheerios, much to my delight.
His numbers are by the book, and there aren’t any innovations to speak of. What made his win so special?
In theory, these cards should give a deck like Mono-Blue Devotion fits, but I’m pretty sure Eric subscribed to a very basic philosophy:
They have to have it.
It might sound presumptuous, but when a deck gains as many new tools as Mono-Black Devotion did, it’s easy to postulate that a deck that relies on a bunch of small and basically just there for their mana symbol creatures is going to face an uphill battle against powerful removal and a new pseudo-sweeper. One thing that makes the blue deck so strong however is that unchecked it presents board states that are almost unbeatable.
Specifically, Mono-Blue Devotion presents a strong matchup against G/R Monsters, which was out in droves this past weekend, giving Eric a matchup that if played properly he’d be able to prey on all day long.
This is exactly what Eric did, as seen in the finals where Kent Ketter was handily dispatched by Master of Waves.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Things We Learned #2: Innovation Is Gonna Be A Thing!
Something amazing usually happens when a new set comes out: people play new cards!
Am I serious?
I am Totes McGotes serious.
We all knew that lands like Temple of Enlightenment, Malice, and Plenty would see play, and they smoothed out mana bases across the tournament.
What we didn’t know however was just how much of an impact that some of the new cards would make. Luckily, that impact was a bang instead of a whisper.
Helping to spawn new and innovative archetypes, Born of the Gods gave deckbuilders the tools to flex their creative muscles and show us what the new face of Standard is going to look like.
In my opinion, the breakout deck of the tournament was played by none other than fellow bald brother Brian Braun-Duin. To say he was duin it, and duin it, and duin it well would be an understatement. LL Cool J would be proud of you, BBD.
Basically this deck is an infant, but it’s a baby that packs a lot of punch.
The early stages of this deck show that it has an extreme amount of power, subscribing to the philosophy that if an opponent is going to Thoughtseize you they are going to have to agonize over the decision that they make and ensuring that regardless of what they take you’re going to have a powerful play despite what is taken.
While this deck isn’t exactly a direct upgrade to U/W Control, it does take the deck in a very interesting direction. The addition of green gives a few very potent things; extra on-color scry lands is never a bad thing, and being able to maximize their advantage at all points was one of the things that made Esper an attractive option but now lends itself to Bant without a hitch. Among other things, Kiora, the Crashing Wave is just absolutely amazing in this deck.
She provides a sorely needed dimension to U/W-based control decks, and that is constant protection, a win condition that is easy to reach, and resource enhancement all in one package. I heard the stories from the floor of people scooping to her ultimate as soon as she reached it. That’s some savage strength.
Green also gives the added benefit of Mistcutter Hydra from the board, which sways the control matchups while also being a great threat against Mono-Blue Devotion.
Keeping the Bant train choo-choo-chooing was Ryan Hipp.
- 2 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 1 Heliod, God of the Sun
- 3 Fleecemane Lion
- 3 Ephara, God of the Polis
- 4 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
I wouldn’t call this deck aggro as much as I’d call it midrange, but nonetheless it showcases the power of Born of the Gods with cards like Brimaz, King of Oreskos; Ephara, God of the Polis; and that new sexy land base we were talking about earlier.
I like this deck because it takes advantage of what Ephara can do for you, which like UPS is a lot.
She seems extremely easy to turn on in this deck, with cards like Spear of Heliod giving you everything you want in lots of devotion, an anthem effect, and a way to deal with creatures. Detention Sphere is amazing in this deck, doubling as a devotion machine and removal spell, and the creatures are straight out of Value Town, U.S.A. They’re cheap and powerful, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Another deck that really gets the juices flowing is one that I talked about last week but with some really awesome spins on it!
- 4 Frostburn Weird
- 4 Nightveil Specter
- 3 Thassa, God of the Sea
- 4 Master of Waves
- 2 Ephara, God of the Polis
Chase Cagle, I love you!
Ephara, God of the Polis has me so excited to play this format, and this deck seems like it could have a definite future.
While we took different paths, I strongly believe that Chase’s build echoes the early Theros deck that I was so high on, and I think that is truly amazing.
Everything about this deck hits hard, and it can curve perfectly into a turn 4 Ephara that is already fully devoted, meaning that not only are you dropping 6/5s into play but you are drawing cards along with it. Your backup plans are okay too I guess. Just Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Sphinx’s Revelation. No biggie.
I want to call this deck "The Power Glove" because it makes me feel like I’m playing with the Power Nine.
Things We Learned #3: Brimaz & Kiora Are The Real Deal
Two of the most hyped cards from Born of the Gods decided to live up to their initial praise by entering the format in a big way.
"Look at me, look at me, I’m king of the cat-sle, king of the cat-sle."
I said it once, and I will say it again: Brimaz is the cat’s pajamas.
Bromaz, King of Broeskos was the breakout card this weekend, and I don’t feel like I’m overstating things even slightly.
The Super Sunday Series Championship saw multiples of it out in force, and with 580+ players jamming new decks, the Kitty Kat King was the one spooking everyone in the room.
This card is the reason to play white.
Brimaz, King of Oreos (and yes, Oreos was intentional) is the best midrange, aggro, and control threat that Standard has to offer, and we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg that our feline pharaoh is going to showcase.
Dodging the two newest and most powerful removal spells that aren’t named Hero’s Downfall (Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow of course), Brimaz feels like Joakim Noah when the referees make a bad call and try to eject him: unstoppable. Outside of a handful of cards, there isn’t a ton of ways to shut him down, and the scariest thing about him is that his power hasn’t even been fully unlocked, although I suspect that a deck like the one Ryan Hipp sported is a good start to really push this card’s limits.
Next on this list is scaly faced planeswalker Kiora, the Crashing Wave.
"Mark liked me before it was cool."
Brian did a great job of getting the ball rolling, but there are a lot of reasons to keep being excited about Kiora. Early in the tournament the nicest Magic player in the history of the game, Tannon Grace, was beaten by a Maze’s End deck that put Kiora into play, protected her with Fogs, and proceeded to drop extra Guildgates to speed up the clock exponentially, which is exactly what she did. That’s just the beginning however.
As we talked about earlier, BBD gave you a glimpse into the future with his take on Bant Control, and watching his match and hearing about the power his deck was presenting from the floor was a true pleasure.
In his deck tech, when asked about how good she was, Brian went into detail about all the good things Kiora did for him throughout some of his matches, and same as with Brimaz, we haven’t even seen what she is truly capable of.
You see, with Kiora things are a little different. She’s certainly more elegant, and nailing down her place is going to take some time, trial, and definitely error. Brimaz can be jammed in a ton of different decks, but I have a feeling that when Kiora finds her place she’s going to be very difficult to beat in a way that we haven’t seen from other planeswalkers.
Believe that. Believe in the Shield (that she puts on things).
Things We Learned #4: Expect The Unexpected
Only a week in we have to take card availability into account. Not everyone was fortunate enough to have access to the new spells they wanted to sling, but as time passes on and more packs get opened, you’re going to see the flood gates open and even more things change.
Six different decks were present in the Top 8 of Nashville, and an even larger number appeared in the Top 32, breathing life into a Standard format that people thought was growing stale with the dominance of Mono-Black Devotion.
You’re in a catch-22 type of situation now. This is a rare time where you can pretty much play any style of deck and do well with it.
Everything is good!
That’s also the problem.
Everything is good . . .
It’s going to be harder to pin down a format in such flux, so make sure your sideboard is equipped to deal with a large portion of the field. As you saw in the early rounds of coverage, players sporting unpolished Mono-Black Devotion decks were dispatched by new innovations, like Brad Nelson’s take on R/W Burn.
You’re going to be caught off guard.
You’re going to be challenged.
Rise above it and make sure that you’re ready for anything.
. . .
. . .
. . .
Having to sit at home and watch coverage instead of playing in a tournament this past weekend felt torturous at times, but thankfully it seems like my kidney issues are going away. Hooray!
There’s a lot to look forward to, especially with Grand Prix Richmond right around the corner.
I’m going to make an honest effort to go there, so soon enough I’m going to start having to learn about Modern at a more in-depth pace.
Remember that time I asked you guys to teach me how to play Legacy and you chose Shardless BUG for me?
Yeah . . .
That’s not happening again.
This time I’m going to pick a deck I like, battle with it, and crack skulls.
For now, though, I’m going to get back to brewing.
After all, I learned a lot this week.