Well, the summer Pro-Tour has come and gone and we have seen the full evolution of Standard. The match play was terrific with some hugely entertaining matches both at Draft and at Standard. Congratulations must go out to all the players, and especially Ivan Floch for his display of prowess and winning the Pro-Tour with his Blue/White control deck. It is no small feat and he had to play some tremendously high caliber matches to win the title.
As cool as the pro-tour was to watch, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that it was Blue/White control that was the winning deck. I have no problem with the strategy and can clearly see that it is effective, but there were a number of really interesting decks running around that were much fresher and newer. I would have loved to see one of these newer decks win the day simply for the novelty, but at least it wasn’t Mono-Black Devotion. There was plenty of variety in the Top 8 decks, which was nice, but still, to see an archetype that has been as consistent from last Fall to now still prevail is a little bit…I don’t know…I guess boring. However, the days of Blue/White control in Standard seem to be coming to a close, so get your fill now folks because I suspect we may not see it for a while.
This first portion of my article today is strictly a prediction. I have no inside source at WoTC or anywhere inside the Magic community. However, based on a few observations I can pretty safely declare that Blue/White control or U/W/x control will be taking a back seat. We will be watching as Return to Ravnica rotates out of Standard in about 7 weeks leaving two HUGE holes in the U/W control strategy. The first gap is Sphinx’s Revelation. Sphinx’s Revelation is a major key to the strategy because it just allows for massive card advantage and life gain allowing the control player to reload their hand with answers and gain valuable life. I would be shocked if something comparable was printed in Khans for the simple reason that it is such a powerful card. Notice I say “powerful”, not “broken” because I fundamentally feel that Sphinx’s Revelation is a fair card and a player who casts it can still be beaten, but it is a very powerful card that can turn the tide of the game very quickly. I would expect some measure of mass card draw, or life gain, but NOT both together the way that Sphinx’s Revelation does it. No, the days of easy living on Sphinx’s Revelation will be drawing to close at Standard for a while.
The other piece is a little trickier, and that’s Supreme Verdict. For ages now we have just come to accept that there will be a 4 mana sweeper in white. Please see exhibit A- Wrath of God. Exhibit B- Day of Judgement. However, when they printed Supreme Verdict they raised the bar a touch. 4 mana sweeper…and can’t be countered. Well, that’s a big upgrade and pretty much makes Verdict the Cat’s Ass of wrath effects. However, since Supreme Verdict was released there has been steady trend. Removal has got progressively more expensive. Think about it…in Theros we were given a large number of removal spells, all of them quite pricey (thank you Sip of Hemlock). Inexpensive removal consists of things like Hero’s Downfall…which is still a 3 mana removal spell. Sure, it hits Planeswalkers too, but in most situations it is used to wipe out a creature. Bile Blight is a thing, but it is also conditional because if the creature is too large, Bile Blight just shrinks it (and you hope to heavens you can block the creature profitably). Ulcerate is 1 mana…but costs you 15% of your life total just for casting it. Fated Retribution, Planar Cleansing and Mass Calcify are other removal type spells…and cost 6 or 7 respectively. Even Red has not been spared. Apart from Lightning Strike, Red has started to see burn spells creep up in cost as well. Bottom line, the price of removal is getting a tad higher. So, combine the fact that Wizards has already given us the Cat’s Ass of mass removal, and that removal is getting more expensive, I would honestly be surprised to see a 4 mana sweeper once Khans of Tarkir is released. There will be mass removal of some sort, but I would expect to see the coverted mana cost climb to 5 , or if it is staying at 4, would require all three colours from the respective wedge. In either scenario, the requirement to cast the spell has just increased. This slight increase, coupled with the loss of Sphinx’s Revelation might be enough to knock U/W control down from a top tier deck to being a reliable but somewhat lacking tier 1.5 deck that just won’t command the same level of respect at any given event during the Standard season.
So, U/W may be taking a back seat for the next while, but there will absolutely be a control strategy of some sort that will come around. It’s a bit tricky to try and pick up on what exactly that strategy will look like, but I am prepared to take a look at some new options, and one in particular, that you might be interested in keeping an eye on as Khans of Tarkir starts to be spoiled in the next couple of weeks. For many a season now we have seen U/W/x be the dominant control strategy but what if we removed the White from that mix and instead replaced it with Black? We would move away from the Esper or Jeskai (did you notice the new wedge name?) and move towards Grixis as a potential control strategy. Let’s explore this strategy a tad.
First off, land. This colour combination could very well have the appropriate land base to make a go at it. There are Temple of Deceit (U/B) and Temple of Malice (R/B) and Temple of Epiphany (R/U) from Theros block to give you at least 12 on colour Temples to start your deck off. From M15 we also have Shivan Reef, meaning that you are pushed to 16 total on colour dual lands for your deck. Add in Mana Confluence and you could be as a 20 lands for your deck to cast your spells and have access to the right mana. So, the land looks good.
Next, you have your removal package which is still very strong. With access to Hero’s Downfall, Bile Blight, Ulcerate, and Silence the Believers you have a pretty robust suite of removal with which to handle most creatures that are on the table. I agree, this is all targeted removal and not a sweeper meaning Hexproof creatures or other creatures that are difficult to interact with could be a problem. The solution would appear to be, in the absence of a true sweeper, sacrifice effects. Devour Flesh may be rotating out, but there will undoubtedly be another sacrifice type effect that could at least be sided in if the need arises. I’m hesitant to include In Garruk’s Wake, the 9 mana sorcery that is an asymmetrical board wipe, but if you are playing a control deck you could get there in a long game and then drop this thing to just devastate an opponent. I’m skeptical myself, but it warrants some investigation. Red would also give you access to Lightning Strike, Anger of the Gods, and Magma Jet and Magma Spray meaning you would have a pretty beast set of removal spells to lock your aggressive opponents out of their creatures.
Lastly we have the permission package and M15 gave us a sweet option. Dissolve is a very solid 3 mana counter spell, but now with the addition of Dissipate we have as many as 8 hard counters to use. That could be pretty devastating to deny your opposition of a crucial spell or to protect some resource of your own.
I can think of very few creatures that you would be truly excited to play in this deck because control decks are usually pretty light in the creature department, but those that they cast can protect themselves. Aetherling played such a role perfectly for months after it arrived on the scene from Dragon’s Maze, but Prognostic Sphinx could play a similar role. The 3 power makes it JUST small enough to avoid getting killed by Elspeth, Pillar of light or other spells. The high toughness means it survives most burn spells. You can even grant it Hexproof to help protect it. And the best part is the Scry 3 whenever it attacks basically ensures you can draw exactly what you need. Other options could include Indulgent Tormentor because the triggered ability is useful in all three modes, or Chasm Skulker because the more cards you draw to bigger it gets…and when it dies it spits squid tokens everywhere making it a real pain to contend with.
The last consideration is Planeswalkers and the Grixis control standard colour combo could have some good ones. Chandra Pyromaster is the best Chandra yet printed and she could be extremely useful in this deck. Lilianna Vess is another viable option and her ability to tutor up an answer makes her invaluable. Jace, the Living Guildpact could also be a very solid control card and offer some very good versatility to filter your draw and bounce permanents. The last is Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver who might be an ideal Planeswalker in this sort of deck to give you a true win condition of milling out your opponent.
So, the pieces sort of fit and so I have put together a rough list of a deck that start down the Grixis control standard path for when Khans of Tarkir is released. It is not going to be perfect because it only includes cards that are from Theros and M15. Without knowing exactly what Khans could hold for this deck it’s tricky, but I figured I would give it a stab and see what i can put together as a framework for the deck and add when Khans is released.
There we have our shell for a Grixis control deck. Of course, this is not written is stone but is something that you might be willing to brew up and test out. I haven’t put together a sideboard yet either because you might have your own direction you want to take it in. The beauty of this time of year, as we prepare for the Brave New World post rotation, that anything is possible and lots of interesting new twists on decks could emerge.
Let me know what you think about the deck. What would add? What would you take out? Would you go another direction all together? Some of the beauty of playing Magic is that the possibilities are endless, so let me know what possibilities YOU see. Send me a tweet and let’s exchange some ideas.
Thanks for reading and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
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Another weekend of SCG Standard has passed and sitting at the top of the heap we find a successful jumble of acceleration into monstrous beasts and powerful planeswalkers. What we find there is essentially the GR Monsters shell that’s been prevalent in Standard for quite a while, but dipping into White for additional planeswalkers and some removal options. And judging by the popularity of this archetype in the Theros Block format it looks like it has quite a future ahead.
It is no stranger that the most prevelant duo of Green mana dorks both in Standard and Block is Sylvan Caryatid into Courser of Kruphix. This not only fixes your mana and even effectively draws you additional cards but also gains you vital life points which are so crucial in this aggressive metagame. The downside is that Courser provides your opponent with nearly perfect information which can foil you bluff when playing off the top of your deck. As an additional accelerent there is also Voyaging Satyr which won’t help if you are missing a color but will still allow you to gain extra mana. All of that goes towards powering out some monstrous fatties quickly so you can activate their Monstrosity abilities and close out games quickly. The two we find in the deck are Polukranos, World Eater which also acts as much needed removal in this deck and also the hasty flier Stormbreath Dragon which peeled off the top is often the recipie for certain doom. If those monsters are the meat of the deck we then find the fine wine pairing in the foursome of planeswalker to accompany them. The main player is party animal himself Xenagos, the Reveler who not only brings his satyr buddies with him but also helps acheive Monstrosity fast with his ramping ability. Next to join the party is Ajani, Mentor of Heroes who has a dual purpose between pumping up your creatures and digging into your deck to find more threats, but also when protected can threaten its ultimate to bolster a diminishing life total. There is also a major contribution from Elspeth, Sun’s Champion with her legion of soldiers following her, but be wary of her second ability as your bombs tend to be destroyed as well as the opponents. And why not a misers Chandra, Pyromaster as well to add a little card advantage to the deck and her first ability helps slip your big boys past their chump blockers handily. The rest of the deck is rounded out by some varied pieces of removal. There is Keening Apparition which is able to destroy any enchantment the opponent presents to the board such as Chained to the Rocks or even Underworld Connections. As a great sweeper Mizzium Mortars is able to be overloaded to deal four damage to all the opponents creatures and cast aside any would be blockers for your giant monsters. Then the last piece of the puzzle comes with the flexible Selesnya Charm that can either pump and grant Trample to a creature to rampage for a win, exile a creature that has power greater then five, or even add another threat to the board with a vigilant knight token.
So here we find that the GR Monsters deck which has already been a force in Standard continues to have room to grow and adapt as it proves it is a major player in Standard. What really interests me with this list is that the core of the deck is all from Theros Block and will undoubtedly continue to be a force into the next rotation of Standard. If you are looking for a deck to invest in as a long term prospect then this is undoubtedly the one.
Oh burn…ever since the printing of Lightning Bolt there have been Red mages looking to blast their spells straight to the dome. Each block there is always a Mono-Red or R/x deck that is straightforward, efficient and appeals to highly aggressive players. This deck is just one like that exactly.
While this deck is Boros by strict definition Red is the primary color with White a splash to add a few excellent cards. The creature package is is set with a tight curve building from Ash Zealot which can be a highly effective beater and the First Strike coupled with burn allows you some utility. Boros Reckoner has always been interestingly unique with his ability often making combat math complicated enough to hold off enemy attacks from even happening. Then with seventeen burn spells in the deck and additional help from Chandra her bird Chandra’s Phoenix is able to attack with impunity knowing that getting it to rise from the grave back to your hand is an almost guarantee. There is also a pair of Stormbreath Dragon which help the deck just go straight over the top when the games start to run long and can also be a huge surprise you’re dead. Because of the primarily Red base to the deck it can squeeze Mutavault into the manabase easily to get additional ground pounders. Then we find Chandra, Pyromaster who is the only source of card advantage in the deck and if you can ultimate it is doubtless that she’s going to hit the paydirt on that roll of the dice, and incidentally can prevent a big blocker from thwarting your attack while building loyalty. For straight removal we have Standards newest best impression of a Swords to Plowshares in Chained to the Rocks which should not have issue with the enchant Mountain clause given 15 copies in the deck. The rest of the deck consists of a plethora of burn spells which can double as either removal or damage right to the dome. We find a mix of Lightning Strike and Searing Blood as simple burn for the deck while the others carry some utility with them. Magma Jet helps to filter through your deck which is a key ability for this style of deck as draw isn’t one of these colors strengths. Warleader’s Helix is a beast of removal with four damage it’s able to get into those bigger creatures and coupled with First Strike creatures can surprise a chump block into the removal of a huge creature. And finally the ‘Boros’ deck would not be complete without the utility from Boros Charm which can either be that knockout punch taking down four points of life, can save your army from sweepers or is able to turn one of your creatures into a formidable fighting machine to Double Strike your opponent to the death.
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 1/18/2014
Winning the SCG Standard Open in Columbus this weekend we have a Red/White Midrange deck that its pilot liked to refer to as Big Boros. It’s a pretty sweet concoction which had the stamina to make it to and take down the final table. There was some luck handed to him in the shape of an epic misplay in his quarterfinal match when his opponent minused Elspeth and destroyed his own Ætherling but that should not downplay how good this deck actually is.
The core of the deck consists of a wide range of threats capable of performing across a varied field. The heavy hitters come in the form of Elspeth, Assemble the Legion, Stormbreath Dragon, Purphoros and Chandra which are able to attack from different angles. The only issue lies with the very limited card selection engines which only come from Chandra and the Scry from Magma Jet. For supporting characters there are two sets of three drops in Boros Reckoner and Chandra’s Phoenix. We find some incredible synergy with Young Pyromancer and Purphoros working with the dozen instants to quickly work away your opponents life total one . Speaking of those instants there is a robust burn package with Magma Jet, Lightning Strike and Warleader’s Helix all of which double as removal. For true removal there’s a pair of both Chained to the Rocks and Mizzium Mortars to help clear out any opposition.
Putting it all together we have a a resilient package that works hard to diminish the opponents life total quickly and efficiently. Definitely give this deck a whirl if you like aggresive midrange style decks, you won’t be disappointed. And we will see if Born of the Gods has any new toys which will continue to push this deck to the forefront. Perhaps Archetype of Courage, Searing Blood or Brimaz will find a spot. Only time will tell.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
|Set Name||Magic 2015—Core Set|
|Number of Cards||269|
|Prerelease Events||July 12-13, 2014|
|Release Date||July 18, 2014|
|Launch Weekend||July 18-20, 2014|
|Game Day||August 9-10, 2014|
|Magic Online Prerelease Events||July 25-27, 2014|
|Magic Online Release Date||July 28, 2014|
|Pro Tour Magic 2015||August 1-3, 2014|
|Pro Tour Magic 2015Location||Portland, Oregon, USA|
|Pro Tour Magic 2015Formats||Swiss:
|Official Three-Letter Code||M15|
|Initial Concept and Game Design||Aaron Forsythe (lead)
|Final Game Design and Development||Billy Moreno (lead)
|Languages||English, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish|
|Available in||Booster Packs, Intro Packs*, Clash Pack*, Fat Pack*
(* – Not available in all languages)
Boros Aggro Devotion – Midrange
Carlos Davi Montenegro
15 sideboard cards
We have another Boros deck that made Top 8 this weekend, but this one was in Chile at Grand Prix Santiago. The first one piloted by Benjamin Lundquist was like a White Weenie deck with red splash for Boros Charm and more answers in the Sideboard. You can check it out here. This version borrows from Mono-red devotion and RDW with a splash of white. Boros Charm is used again, but this time in the board. Chained to the Rocks is great and cheap white removal that demands using Mountain. Assemble the Legion, also in the board, can get quickly out of hand against decks without an answer.
The creatures are all red with as much red mana symbols to abuse the four of Fanatic of Mogis. Purphoros, God of the Forge in the Board mut also get activated quickly in this strategy. This deck is not like the other devotion or aggro decks, because it borrows from the control strategy. Using the Mizzium Mortars to sweep the opponents board is a powerful strategy in this aggro meta.