Did you survive your Prerelease?
Folks, I’ll tell you something: there isn’t a better indicator of age than a midnight Prerelease. I remember being able to go from Friday night to Sunday evening on four hours (maximum) of sleep when it came to slinging new spells. It wouldn’t even hit me until I finally put head to pillow just how much Magic I had played and then…out like a light. Now, with 30 only five months away, I find myself struggling to sling spells into the wee hours of the morning.
Ah. Those were the days, though. Getting older has its perks.
All this money to buy Magic cards…just like I always wished I could when I was younger.
Yea, adulthood is pretty nifty.
I partook in 2 Drop’s midnight Prerelease after doing a bit of homework on Oath of the Gatewatch. I really want to understand this set as well as I can so I can improve my last Limited Pro Tour performance, which was slightly better than average, but still, we shouldn’t strive for something as mundane as that when we’re capable of so much more.
My Sealed pool was okay. It had a good curve, double Bone Splinters along with a couple of other removal spells, and several ways to produce Eldrazi Scion tokens. Endbringer was my promo and a clear no-brainer to play. I also had Woodland Wanderer, Baloth Null, Gladehart Cavalry, Reality Smasher, Catacomb Sifter, and a blue splash for Eldrazi Skyspawner and Cyclone Sire.
Okay, I was kidding. It was pretty savage. No chill.
The first thing that jumped out at me was how grindy many of the games appeared to be. My rounds usually ran 30-40 minutes while others went to time. A clear indicator of this can be attributed to the large number of excellent three-drops Oath brings to the table, many of which that have a toughness of three, as well as fours with impressive defensive capabilities. Creatures such as Stalking Drone or Slaughter Drone are able to break that parity, but other than that it looks like games will be decided by who brings the better removal or tricks to the table. Support in particular does a nice job of that, so make sure your pick order reflects the ability to punch through stalemates effectively.
Wastes mana, as we all anticipated, will appear to be a pillar of the format. A multitude of powerful effects are granted by Wastes and Eldrazi Scions by proxy. I am fascinated with how this will play out in Draft and what effect it will have on pick order.
But enough of all this Limited talk.
Let’s start delving into Standard, because I think we have a real winner on our hands.
SCG is heading into Atlanta for #SCGATL this weekend and I’m completely ready to unleash the fun and present you the two decks I’ve been fiddling around with since the full spoiler came to fruition. Rest assured that if I were attending the upcoming Open, I would be battling with one of these two offerings.
First up we have Jeskai Prowess.
“I thought I was clever,” I whined to myself. “I guess I’m just a big fuddy-duddy.”
As flashy as some of the cards emerging from Oath of the Gatewatch are, two that jumped out at me right off the bat were Slip Through Space and Expedite. Single-mana cantrips with these effects are exactly what a deck like this wants, and granting an Abbot of Keral Keep haste or making a creature unblockable is going to be invaluable. Monastery Mentor is an absolute beast in this deck. If you are able to untap with him, the huge selection of one-mana spells is going to let you create a very difficult-to-defeat army.
Where Slip Through Space becomes so important is the fact that it can allow this deck to “go off” as it were. Almost all of the spells in this deck offer some form of card advantage, and if they don’t, they serve as removal or a kill condition. A Slip Through Space is often followed by a Titan’s Strength or Temur Battle Rage on an already double-Prowessed creature, which can end the game on the spot.
The primary reason I opted to not play Seeker of the Way was because of Stormchaser Mage. Flying, haste, and prowess is extremely aggressive, making it my two-drop of choice. It may give up one power to Seeker, but it makes that up by being harder to kill and much harder to block. I used to love Seeker in decks able to play more high-powered burn spells that could clear creatures out of its way, but those days are past, and the best you can do is play it in something like Jeff Hoogland’s B/W Control deck with plenty of removal spells to pave the way. This choice might seem close, but in reality it isn’t, especially with how big the chunks of damage you can get off of Stormchaser Mage.
I won’t lie to you: the manabase feels wrong and that is one of my biggest hurdles to overcome when it comes to deckbuilding. The ten card drawing spells incentivize us to play around ten fetchlands, and because of the aggressive nature of the deck I wanted to play at least six painlands. The concession to reliably casting our spells is a single Mystic Monastery and Needle Spires. These numbers should increase or decrease based on further testing. When I am playing Monastery Swiftspear and Stormchaser Mage I want as few lands that come into play tapped as possible, but that may just not be possible. So far the numbers feel and play out very well, but there are people out there way better than I am when it comes to crafting manabases and I’d love to hear their takes.
Last is the sideboard, which focuses heavily on saving the creatures you have on board. Dispel is perfect in this role and often allows you to do multiple things in a turn while continuing your game of “Protect the Queen.” Roast is because Siege Rhino is a huge brick wall that you may have difficulty breaking through, even with Prowess, so I wanted to make sure there were plenty of cheap ways to get rid of those roadblocks.
Treasure Cruise might seem out of place, but it has been exceptional so far. One trick that this deck performs is burning through tons of cards in the early going of a game with all your cheap spells, so Treasure Cruise (which was originally in the main deck) does a great job of refilling your hand. Hallowed Moonlight is for the many Rally decks out there and may need to be increased, but thankfully that is a good matchup to begin with.
Next up, we have the hype train!
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
- 1 Conduit of Ruin
- 1 Kozilek, the Great Distortion
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 2 Thought-Knot Seer
I find it crazy that most iterations of this deck that I’ve seen aren’t playing this Oath of the Gatewatch card:
My boy Anthony Lowry would be proud.
Chandra does everything that this deck wants and has always needed. Her cost isn’t prohibitive, nor does she infringe on the gameplan that G/R Eldrazi is attempting to execute. The double red in casting her is probably the most difficult measure of including her, but it’s one remedied by the nine ways to search for red mana on top of Crumbling Vestige and Wooded Foothills. Sea Gate Wreckage might be too greedy, and to accommodate Chandra with more ease it could be cut for an additional Mountain or Vestige; either change I wouldn’t argue with.
Another innovation I feel puts this deck on a strong path is the inclusion of Sylvan Advocate. A 2/3 for two mana does a great job on defense, which is something this deck always needed, to the point that it was playing Jaddi Offshoot in the main. Advocate having vigilance is another boon to it, which gives you the option of offense and defense. Getting to six mana happens with great ease around turn 4, turning your two-mana investment into a 4/5 powerhouse that can put a lot of pressure on an opponent and all future draws of Advocate at a much higher premium. To me this is what put this deck over the tipping point.
Thought-Knot Seer is another extremely strong addition to this deck, and a card that I’m honestly surprised that they printed. His body is huge compared to the mana investment, not to mention how good his effect is. Exiling your opponent’s best card from hand will almost always be better than a random card from the top of their deck. One issue this deck had was with the opponent’s ways to interact directly with your huge monsters or planeswalkers, and Thought-Knot Seer remedies that as best as this color combination allows for.
Out of the sideboard is crowd favorite Jaddi Offshoot, in case red decks continue to be prevalent, and in combination with Sylvan Advocate forms a very, very difficult wall for them to break through. Kozilek’s Return shores this up as well…notice how every creature in this deck, including your early drops, can survive it? Last is a card I just can’t seem to quit: Whisperwood Elemental. It’s always been a very reliable creature and has huge upside in this deck when it can flip an Eldrazi or other delightful surprise. Honestly it’s probably the first cut I would make based on how the metagame turns out to be. It’s possibly safer as another Void Winnower or World Breaker, both of which are better in the mirror match.
Much like you, I’ll be glued to coverage this weekend when I’m not working, anxiously awaiting the new technology to arise from #SCGATL.
This is the best time to be a Magic player! Everything is fresh and new and exciting.
But for now, it’s bed time.
I’m an old man, ya know.