If you look at most of the formats that are currently (except draft, but draft’s special), one thing you might notice is a sizable list of cards that are restricted associated with them. Today, I want to start off with talking about a couple of the cards that are currently banned. Then, we’ll take a look at why Wizards bans cards. Finally, we’ll wrap up withby talking about current events relating to bannings (namely talk of soon to be banned cards and cards that players have been calling for a banning of for a long time).
It’s interesting to go through and look at the various card restriction lists for the various formats, because of how much they change from format to format. There are cards that are eternally restricted in every format such as Black Lotus, some that are restricted in lower formats but open to play in higher formats such as Ancestral Vision, and some that are restricted in higher formats but open in lower formats such as Trinisphere. Let’s just look at some of these cards and try to understand why they were restricted when they were. First, let’s talk about the first restricted cards in Magic’s history, the cards that have stayed in this spot since 1994 are Shahrazad and the Ante cards. The reason for the banning of these cards was that Shahrazad often times made tournaments run way too long causing a series of games within a game. Ante cards made you ante or gamble cards against your opponent meaning that the game could no longer be played by kids and also allowed you to skirt the 60 card minimum to your deck if you ran 1 in your deck without playing ante. The other two cards on the original ban list were Time Vault, a card that has had its rules text changed more times than any other card in the game, and Divine Intervention simply due to it not seeming like a fun card for players (Tying games doesn’t really feel good). I’m sure there are some readers out there pointing out at this point that Standard doesn’t have a banned list, but that’s why I said that all formats, except for draft and sealed, have card restrictions, and this does hold true for Standard. Its card restriction list is all of the cards not currently in Standard. Let’s talk about some of the more modern card restriction lists. In modern, a couple of the cards that you have are Brainstorm and Ponder, Second Sunrise, Jace, the Mind sculptor, Skullclamp, and Mental Misstep. The first cards that we’re going to talk about are Brainstorm and Ponder. The banning for these two cards came after a modern season with a showing of Storm that was just too strong and fast for other decks to compete with. The field became almost untenable for other decks in the format and it wasn’t too long before Brainstorm and Ponder were on their way to being banned. The next card on my list is Second Sunrise, and as a player who’s played against the Eggs decklist in tournament, it’s a good fit for the modern banned list. The Eggs deck was just way too oppressive when it had its time in the sun. It was a deck that would take up an entire round worth of time to go off and was very hard for other players to respond to. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a strong card that finds itself a home in many Legacy, while Skullclamp is a card that was deemed too strong for even Legacy and found itself a banning in the format. These cards are banned for power level reasons; they just make certain decks far too powerful for other decks to compete with them. Understandably, the power level of the two is different, but both have the ability to completely warp the format. Jace, the Mind Sculptor has the ability to maintain a game state extremely efficiently, being able to both control your opponent’s draw, having the ability to remove creatures from the field, a draw engine and even having the ability to act as your win condition if you can maintain the board state well enough. It’s pretty obvious that this card is a great addition to control, but Skullclamp acts as the foil to this card making aggro decks completely warped. The idea behind why it breaks decks is that all deck archetypes are supposed to have some fundamental weakness built into the deck, and for agro decks, the weakness is that they run out of cards pretty frequently. Skullclamp is just too much of a fixer for this problem and breaks Modern aggro too much. It’s in the mindset of Wizards of the Coast that every deck archetype should have a weakness, and for aggro that weakness comes in the form of a very limited draw base, with decks running out of cards a lot to keep the deck balanced against other deck builds. This is exactly the problem Skullclamp fixes for those decks. Finally, there’s Mental Misstep, a card that is almost a hex against faster decks in the format and can be run in any deck for its phyrexian mana allowing decks to do things that they shouldn’t be able to do.
Now that we’ve talked about some of the more restricted cards in the game and why they’re restricted, we begin to see a few trends emerging from the whys of the various cards that are restricted. Magic is a game and the first reason that cards tend to get banned is for making the game un-fun for players, an excellent example of this is the card Second Sunrise. We mentioned the Eggs deck before, but just mentioning it doesn’t do just to the shear amount of pain that opponents would feel while playing against the deck. It was a combo that would take almost a whole round of time to go off and had your opponent just sitting there for a long period of time. The second reason that cards get banned is for the health of a particular format. Wizards of the Coast has long maintained that to keep the game fun there should be a variety of decks in a format, so that players may while still being competitive be able to use various decks. This can be seen through the cards Brainstorm and Ponder, cards that made one deck archetype far too powerful in the format, or through Jace, the Mind Sculptor, a card that made playlists that weren’t Blue control a hard deck to succeed with. The third major reason that cards get banned is if a card is so good that it can be run in any deck and does something that the deck shouldn’t be able to do. This principle can be seen though Mental Misstep, a card that found a home in almost the entire format before its banning. There is one more suspected principle, but we’ll examine its validity in the next section.
The last principle and one that I want to talk about before we talk about our first suspected future banned card. The principle of price is one that people always hint at when people guess at what are going to be banned next. The justification for this believed principle is that high price is something that bars individuals from entry into a format and this may in some way be hurting the health of a format. I personally disagree with this idea, because there will always be replacements for the “most expensive” cards, and banning these cards could cause general mistrust from the secondary market in Wizards of the Coast’s ability to maintain the prices of their products. Additionally, Wizards of the Coast (or more importantly in this case, Hasbro) is still a business and the ability to pump up their sales exponentially is to include 1 or 2 of these expensive cards in their set. Nonetheless, the first cards that everyone always tries to shove onto this list are the fetch lands. I doubt that this will happen as Wizards just released a set chock full of these cards, and players have the ability to pick up any number of them at less than $20 a card, and I feel that this is the best way to deal with cards that are “too expensive”. As a player, I feel that banning these cards would be inherently bad for the game and hurt it in ways that many of us may never understand. The cards changed the game forever when they were printed, allowing 3 to 5 color decks to be run in multiple formats (even if they’re still rarer), and allowing 2 color decks to become far more consistent than they would be otherwise. On top of the various consistent decks that these cards bring to the table, they also bring advantages to mono-colored decks and have hidden cards that they combo with that just add to the complexities of the card. All of this basically means is that while these cards are very powerful cards that have far-reaching effects on the game, and a price tag to match, they also contribute much to the health of the game and as such I hope that they do not earn themselves a banning or restriction at any point in the near future. It looks like Wizards of the Coast is going to answer my hopes with exactly what I want also, as a reboot of Zendikar is right around the corner (supposedly with a reprint of the enemy fetches) and with the ally fetch lands just being printed in Khans of Tarkir. Tarmogoyf is a card that falls perfectly in line with the fetch lands; it works well in combination with them and falls into an even higher price gap than the fetch lands. Same as the fetches though, it looks like Wizards Is more than happy to reprint this card and I’m even looking forward to seeing another iteration of it in Modern Masters II that is supposed to be happening at some point in the near future. The other 3 cards that are supposedly on the chopping block are Jeskai Ascendancy, Treasure Cruise, and Dig Through Time. Dig Through Time has been making a powerful showing and has made appearances in decks throughout the Modern format. It does help control and combo decks quite a bit, but having played against it, I like the fact that its ability can’t be played too early and acts as a foil to cards like Snapcaster Mage, and Past in Flames that typically want to keep cards in the yard. The card is a strong contender for sure, but I feel that it hasn’t quite earned itself a banning even with it being so good. Treasure Cruise is in a different boat, while Dig Through Time has made a strong showing in Modern, Treasure Cruise has made a strong showing in all formats. If we look at history, Wizards doesn’t like players drawing 3 cards off of 1 card and for good reason, just look at Brainstorm. The card is powerful, and while like its counterpart Dig Through Time, I’m not sure letting this card run free is such a good idea. Still, whether it gets banned or not a year or two from now, I don’t see it getting banned in the immediate future. The last card we have to talk about is Jeskai Ascendancy, this is a card that I absolutely loved when I first saw it, thought that if someone figured it out it would be broken and it is.
This deck has been boasting an impressive, consistent turn 2 or 3 win rate. The basic idea of the deck is to get Jeskai Ascendancy and a mana producer such as Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, or Sylvan Carytid online, and then just win. The mana producers not only play well into the combo, but can also act as an accelerant for your deck. The land-base needs to be straight-forward for the deck, either being fetches, lands that tap for any colors, lands that count as green (for the mana-producers) and one of the colors for Jeskai Ascendancy. Most of the sorceries and instants in the deck are just draw for your deck, with the instants pulling double duties for cool creature effects like haste or untap and also mana acceleration with the Ascendancy and some creatures. The Ascendancy also acts as a filtering engine on top of its untap ability, allowing you more filtering power. The biggest piece of secret tech for this deck is the Glittering Wish, it can count as an answer to a question you didn’t even know you had to answer, counts as 4 extra Jeskai Ascendancy’s in your deck, and in this decklist is also your only way to access your win condition. In the board are mostly targets for Glittering Wish, the only other 2 cards in the board besides these solutions are Leyline of Sanctity, a solution to a lot of decks including the deck I currently use in Modern, and Swan Song, because it’s a pretty good solution to control. The question is, is this deck too good for Modern? My answer is yes, probably. Combos like this are of the speed and consistency of Affinity, and unless we are about to enjoy a season that will see a ton of unbannings, we are about to see a Modern season that will see at least a banning. So that brings the next question, will Jeskai Ascendancy see banning? My answer to this question is almost an affirmative no. We can look at the history of the ban list for proof. When Wizards thought Jund was too powerful for Modern did they ban Tarmogoyf? No, they banned Bloodbraid Elf. What about when they thought Affinity too powerful, a banning of Cranial Plating or even Arcbound Ravager? Nope, let’s ban artifact lands and Disciple of the Vault… to be fair banning Disciple of the Vault is probably more relevant to the deck than the rest of the cards, but still. It can be shown that pretty consistently if Wizards thinks that a deck is too powerful, they will ban a card that is typically used as a major piece of the deck without getting rid of the engine that allows the deck to function. Another quality that these cards should possess is the fact that the card is run almost exclusively in the deck and a banning won’t affect other decks too much. There is a card in the deck that fits the bill on all of these and that is Glittering Wish. Through the banning of this card the consistency of win for the deck would drop and even the deck’s ability to find its combo would be hampered. Additionally, this card is one that doesn’t see that much play in the format besides this deck.
In today’s article, we took a look at the modern banned list. What it takes to get on it, some of the cards that are on it and why they’re there, and some potential future additions to the list. In our next article we’ll aim to look at what makes a good card store, a good card store.
By Daniel Clayton – the Will of the Floral Spuzzem
@DC4VP on Twitter
Today I wanted to take a moment and share some of my other random thoughts that I’ve had since I last sat down to write. I’ll be honest, getting back into the grind of the school year has been a challenge and left me without too many chances to sit down and play Magic, let alone write. However, I’ve had lots of thoughts and ideas and finally had a chance to collect some of those thoughts. So, I apologize if my ideas jump around a little, but that’s the stage I’m at this point in my playing.
So, I wanted to share just how excited I was the other day when I opened up my email and was notified that apparently I was selected to win one of Garruk’s Axes from the M15 pre-releases. SWEET! My brother and I took a terrible photo at our pre-release event and were certain we’d never win. However, when there were only 22 entries from across Canada and 16 potential axes to win, the odds were pretty good. So, when the email landed in my inbox I was pumped. Sure, the odds were pretty much in my favor, but it is still neat to be selected. I can hardly wait for the axe to arrive at my house because it is going to be hilarious. My wife is going to ask why there is a giant foam axe at my house and just roll her eyes! Just priceless. Also, it will get carted to every Casual card night we play as just another ridiculous MTG thing in my collection. I can hardly wait.
So, as the fallout from my brother and I placing second at our Two-Headed Giant pre-release in July we had something extra nice come our way. The Local Game Store we go to holds an invitational tournament for all players who finish in the top 4 of a “premier event”. Basically, any “premiere event” (as defined by the store) is an event played on the Weekend such as a GP trial, Game Day, or even a Pre-release. So…my brother and I, for inadvertently placing second at the Pre-release got invited to play at another event. Sweet!! The issue becomes this…I’m more of a Casual/Limited sort of guy and this event, which is hosted October 11th in conjunction with Canadian Thanksgiving, will be a Constructed event. That leaves me in a bit of a quandary. I don’t have the deepest of pockets and can’t spring for cases of Khans…so I’m, in a bit of a tough spot rolling into the new Standard environment with only a few weeks to brew and get set up. Also, I sort of pride myself on the home brew/budget approach to playing Magic but am concerned that my deck building skills won’t be up to that sort of a test.
With that said I think I’m on to something that could be pretty useful. I’ve been struck with the combination of aggressive creatures and controlling nature of the Abzan clan from Khans and feel like they might lead to something in the upcoming Standard format. Basically, I like the ground and pound game the Abzan provide and immediately said “there’s my boys”. That means I’ll need to learn to play some Black for a change, but that is likely healthy for me in order to continue to grow and develop as a player. Here’s what I’ve got as an early decklist.
This game plan is actually pretty straightforward. Sylvan Caryatid and Courser come down early to play some early D and help you ramp up to some of your more expensive things. The fact that half the mana base comes in tapped is an issue so the ramp could be pretty key. Fleecemane is pretty beast as a 3/3 for 2 mana that is even better once Monstruous. Anafenza comes down as a 4/4 for 3 mana and hates out graveyards pretty hard. Polukranos is just about the best thing you can do for 4 mana and then can act as a Pit Fight if you need it. Dawnbringer Charioteer is a disgusting 2/4 with Heroic, Flying, and Lifelink. I feel like this is a card that is a little under utilized, but could be just what this sort of deck wants and needs to gain back a little life, and if you can trigger the Heroic ability things could get out of hand…fast. Siege Rhino is just another efficient fatty and enters with a gross Enter the Battlefield trigger. Nylea is an automatic because she could just tip the scales in your favour so badly. The High Sentinels synergize nicely with all the creatures that make +1/+1 counters through a number of methods and can just be a killer. The last piece is the Abzan Falconer, because nothing is scarier than when all your creatures with +1/+1 counters take to the skies and can overload the air born defense of your opponent.
The removal package is pretty robust. Abzan Charm has three relevant modes including an exile mode for other creature with power 3 or greater. Banishing Light is a nice catch all, and Hero’s Downfall just crushes just about anything. The Abzan Ascendancy is a nice addition because it can dump counters on all your creatures to enable the Falconer (or just pump your team), but the second mode, that of making 1/1 flying spirits is pretty useful and could totally enable a plan B approach with Pharika (out of the sideboard) to flood the board with tokens. Reap What is Sown again enables all sorts of Counters and Heroic stuff. Elspeth and Lili are just too powerful to overlook for a number of reasons and I’m sad I can only squeeze in a pair.
Now, I am absolutely aware that this is not a Budget deck…heck, the mana base alone ensures that it isn’t a budget deck. However, there are some interesting options to help bring the budget factor of the deck down. The Fleecemane Lions can totally be subbed out and replaced with the Ajani Pridemate. The Pridemate is very realistically a 3/3 for the same two mana…but likely a turn later. The way this works is you drop some of the Temples and replace them with the Refuge lands from Khans and every time you gain a life when they enter the Pridemate grabs a counter. So, turn 1 drop a land…turn 2 is better if your land is untapped and cast Pridemate. Turn 3 drop a Refuge land and your Pridemate is now a 3/3 and you are basically on par with the Lion. Siege Rhino can be dropped in favour of the Reaper of the Wilds and there are lots of other options at the 4 slot to play perfectly viable creatures instead of Nylea. There are really no alternatives to the Caryatid or the Courser, but things like Voyaging Satyr or Golden Hind can do reasonable approximations of these all-stars but at a fraction of the cost.
The sideboard is whole other issue that I’m not sure about. I’m not 100% sure I know what the meta will be playing, and seeing as I am only dabbling in Constructed I’m likely pretty screwed so I might just pack a sideboard full of removal and some Ajani’s Presence…and some Nyx-Fleece Ram to put the crews to Burn decks everywhere. It isn’t a perfect fix, and I’m open to suggestions from anyone out there in the community.
Well, there we have another week. The good news, I’ve picked up some Khans boosters and some Crack a packs are on the way for those who love to draft. For those out there with a penchant for Constructed, let me know what you think about my deck for the Invitational. Do you have some suggestions? I’m all ears. Let me know because I at least want to put up a reasonable result (i.e. not embarrass myself). And we’ve got a Casual night coming up complete with a Fresh Hobo deck to share with all of you. Lots to come, that’s for sure.
Until next time, keep it safe, keep it fun…keep it casual.by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
1st at SCG Indianapol
is Standard Open on Sep 27th 2014
And so we have the winner from that other SCG Open happening in Indianapolis. As it wasn’t broadcasting live it would seem that some of the hype was lost in the shuffle, especially with the Jeskai Tempo deck causing financial ripples in the secondary market. But this is not a deck to dismiss as it placed 11 similar decks between both top 32, including the second place at this tournament, and Midrange strategies added another 7 to pull just over 28% of the field. This could be the dawning of the Age of Midrange, or just anomalous opening weekend numbers. Regardless you can be sure that this is a deck you’ll need to beat if you want to be victorious of the next few months at least.
Eric J Seltzer @ejseltzer on Twitter Email: email@example.com
What motivates you to Brew? Is it a card? Is it a mechanic? Is it a colour? Brewing up a deck takes as much creativity as any other creative output, whether it is writing the next piece of great literature, or composing the next symphony, or even painting a masterpiece to be displayed. No, regardless of what you do in your life, if you brew up decks at Magic, you need some sort of inspiration. Let’s explore some of those sources of inspiration and where you go looking for creative ideas to make a deck.
There are lots of different types of decks out there and lots of different people out there brewing things up. Not every one brews up first rate competitive decks…and that’s fine. Let’s be honest, the very creative and best are rare and hard to find. If it was easy to be creative there would have been more Mozart’s, Rembrandt’s, or Shakespeare’s. The same theory applies to creating a deck…the top deck builders are the top deck builders for a reason. They “see” things that the average player misses, and that’s what makes them special. However, we can learn a process, we can all improve, and the fact that we aren’t that special talent does not invalidate our own efforts to build decks. In fact, there is a great deal of satisfaction in building your own deck even if it is never going to be used at more than a game at your kitchen table. Building decks is a creative activity that brings with it its own level of enjoyment and joy regardless of how talented you are.
So, when you sit down to brew, where do you start? For me there are a couple of ways that often kick start the process. The first and most obvious jumping off point is you open up an automatic “build around me” card that it is just too tempting to turn up. These are usually super powerful mythics or rares and come in a variety of colours and shapes, but these present an opportunity to exploit something very explosive and powerful. However, sometimes these are commons or uncommons that can yield a more consistent result because you likely have a playset to fill out in your deck. One such example would be the card Aqueous Form from Theros. “Huh?” you ask, but let me run down how this could be such a card. We have seen that unblockable creatures are super hard to contain and interact with…and the only thing harder is an unblockable creature that is also hexproof. Basically, I took one look at Aqueous Form and said “ well…let’s make my own Hexproof/Unblockable creature and make the game totally degenerate”. So, I next needed to find hexproof creatures…and I was off and running to build a deck all on the back of 4 common Aqueous Form cards.
Another approach for inspiration is looking at the decklists of others for ideas. This does NOT mean straight out copying the deck list. As much as that is a very popular form of building decks, it is not really inspiration because there is very little of your own creative thought that goes into the deck. No, the idea spawned by the decklist is a decent place to start but you need to take that idea and then build around it by substituting and replacing pieces of your own. This may be done on account of you not having the same pieces as the decklist that was posted, but sometimes it is to reflect your own interests. Perhaps you want to push the linear mechanic in the deck further. Perhaps it is to reflect your playgroup and you make changes to deal with particular decks. Whatever your reason, you move away from the standard decklist that you found somewhere on the internet and take it in a different direction. On occasion I have done this as well mostly to get a sense of some core pieces that can fit nicely together that interest me, but I then go around and fill out the shell with the cards that I want.
A third way to find some inspiration is looking at decks from previous formats and then modifying them with the use of cards that are currently in the Standard format. The nice thing with Magic is that often similar cards get printed that have the same or similar effects. This isn’t always the case, but you can find most effects you want printed in one form or another. As a result, the same style of decks and archetypes can exists, but with slightly different cards and with some slight differences. One such archetype that I have been enjoying is the Hexproof/Auras decks…particularly the Bant Auras deck that was played while Geist of Saint Traft and Invisible Stalker were in Standard. Both of these cards are effectively broken and to arm them up with Auras makes for a potent deck. My immediate thought when they rotated out was that Theros could NOT support such a strategy again because the deck was pretty degenerate. Honestly, who wants to play a deck that allows for almost 0 interaction and races you with devastating effectiveness? Not me…unless I’m the one running the deck! Then I saw a deck tech on the coverage for the Theros Pro-Tour that was a W/G Hexproof auras deck and my hopes were renewed as I took inspiration from source #2 (someone else’s deck). This is where my interest in Aqueous Form, an idea for a current deck in the Meta, and a previous archetype coalesced to form one common deck idea.
Now, once you have a deck idea the actual brewing process can be very quick or it can take a long time to assemble the cards you want/need. I’ve sat down and in 25 minutes put together a perfectly reasonable deck with a variety of synergistic pieces. That’s fine so long as you are prepared to play with a bunch of common and lower price tag cards. However, I have also been building a deck for the better part of the last 8 months in an attempt to assemble all the cards I want. Now, the prime reason it has taken me so long to build the deck is that I have been looking to pick up the premium rare cards and lands to make the deck go. When you play Magic on a relatively tight budget it takes time to trade, acquire, scrimp and save enough to acquire the pieces you want for you deck. That is exactly the situation in which I find myself and have had to piece together the cards for my latest deck.
2015 Core set Standard
So, that’s the deck I’ve been building since September. It is a combination of all three forms of Inspiration that I usually use. The common playset of Aqueous Form, the W/G Hexproof shell from Pro-our Theros, and some of the main tenets of Bant Auras as it existed while Geist and Stalker roamed the battlefield. I’m actually proud of this deck because I have yet to actually see a deck that looks like this in Standard anywhere. Now, that likely means it is likely no good, but it is nice to think that is entirely my own brew and not copying or emulating any other deck running around Standard currently. It is also a long way from being a budget deck. That’s part of the reason it has taken me so long to build this deck and to take it out for a test drive. Inspiration is great to give you direction…but sometimes the old bank account can hold you back from some of those goals. It has taken me 8 months to put together the pieces for this deck and will likely continue to evolve.
I haven’t included much in the way of discussion around tribal decks because they are almost self evident. You open up a bunch of Goblins…you make a Goblin deck. Horsemen (Centaurs), make a Horsemen deck. That’s easy enough, but just because it is easy doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. Sometimes the simplest source of inspiration is the best sort.
I built a rather wonky casual deck around this one common and the interaction with Spark Trooper. What could be more fun than a recurring Ball Lightning with Lifelink! Sometimes finding cards that extend across sets separated by a number of years can yield some fun and unexpected interactions and fun inspiration for a deck.
Sometimes I wake up and want to build a deck that will totally cause nothing but grief for my opponents. It is not normally my style, but there is a sort of sick satisfaction from just hosing your opponent and locking him out and then crushing him. Mill. Counter decks. Land Destruction. This can be immensely enjoyable…but only in small doses.
I have to say that a Monte Cristo sandwich is really quite delicious. If you’ve never tried one, if you see it on the menu of a restaurant near you, give it a whirl. Think Grilled cheese sandwich meets French Toast…and 100% delicious. That’s some solid food to Brew on!!
Thanks for reading…if you have any other ideas on what motivates you brew I’d love to hear about it. Everyone is different and maybe you have a trick that you could share with the other readers. Shoot me a tweet and let me know.
Until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
Bruce Gray @bgray8791
Grand Prix Manchester Champion – Theros Block Constructed on June 1st 2014
Winner of ‘the other’ Theros Block Constructed tournament was Fabrizio Anteri playing a powerful BUG Midrange deck. This deck is the flip side of the Elspeth, Sun’s Champion coin and as such runs the means to beat it rather then join it. As was proven at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx that the battle lines were drawn with the majority taking sides between either Elspeth and Prognostic Sphinx then jamming in the formats Green acceleration package.
In this format the most commonly played cards it turns out are a pair of Green mana accelerants which most likely are going to become the dynamic duo come the next Standard season. This decks ideal opening lies with a turn one Scry land into a turn two Sylvan Caryatid followed by a turn three Courser of Kruphix before making your land drop. That provides the deck with the possibility of rushing out that early five drop which is where the deck plays into. The main avenue of attack lies in the Prognostic Sphinx which was discovered to be the main foil to Elspeth as it not only will fly over her ground forces but also is able to skirt her destroy creatures ability by virtue of being not too powerful. There is also additional beatdown provided by Reaper of the Wilds which sports great stats as a 4/5 for four mana able to protect itself if necessary, but also provides some added bonus with a Scry whenever another creature dies. A pair of planeswalkers are included with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver doing a lot of heavy lifting by not only milling away possible threats and answers from the opponent but also stealing some of those threats away, and Kiora, the Crashing Wave which can add extra draw and acceleration, lock down a particularly troublesome creature or even ‘Call the Kraken’ if allowed to build up enough loyalty. As this deck chose the Midrange route instead of Control the only disruption in the deck is provided from a set of Thoughtseize to not only strip them of their most bothersome card but also provide you with all the information about their plans so you are able to set yourself up properly. Then we have the removal suite which is as robust as they come. Centering around the formats best there is a full set of Hero’s Downfall to rid the board of creatures or planeswalkers alike, a trio of the pseudo-sweeper in Silence the Believers which can often hit two or three necessary targets, a pair of Bile Blight that is extremely good at taking care of an army of Elspeth tokens, and a misers Unravel the Æther to deal with any troublesome artifacts or enchantments including Gods as they are shuffled back into the library. A solitary Read the Bones provides the deck just a tiny bit of draw power to help dig for the cards it needs.
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.
We had on one side of the Theros Block coin the RG Elspeth deck and other White based decks like Patrick Chapin’s winning Junk Midrange running the powerful planeswalker Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. But the flip side of that coin has the decks which were able to figure out its natural enemy was Prognostic Sphinx. That second pillar which emerged in the format was BUG Control which used the Sphinx to attack into Elspeth through her natural defense, ramp up quickly with the staple Green creatures and dipped into Black for efficient removal. This is definitely going to be a player at Grand Prix Manchester.
It is no surprise to see that as a Green deck the creature package starts with both staples of the format in Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix there to help ramp quickly into an early Sphinx or getting multiple planeswalkers out. The only other creature is Prognostic Sphinx who’s main goal is to fly over defenders to beatdown Elspeth and conveniently skirts her destroy ability, not to mention is already able to protect itself well with its Hexproof granting ability. Moving into planeswalkers there is first Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver that while there is a low threat density in the deck from creatures can often steal one of the opponents fatties to bring down the beats upon them. The other is Kiora, the Crashing Wave who plus is able to lockdown the biggest threat on the other side of the board, can do a fantastic impersonation of Explore, and realistically will be able to create an emblem to ‘Free the Kraken’ if you can offer he a bit of protection. The title is a bit misleading as it does not play a big permission role as a Control deck but more of a board control through removal which is why there is only the misers copy of Dissolve in the main deck. As far as removal though there’s a full set of Hero’s Downfall to smash either creatures or planeswalkers, the pseudo-sweeper Silence the Believers to banish at times two or three nuisance creatures, Bile Blight which is an excellent way to rid the board of an overwhelming amount of Soldier Tokens or any other creature they have out in multiples, and also Unravel the Æther which will save you from enchantment or artifact alike especially an Indestructible god that’s ruining your day. It wouldn’t be right for a Control deck running Black to not include some discard and for that we have a full set of Thoughtseize to not only strip away the opponents most relevant threat but also to provide you with some extremely valuable information about their game plan.
It’s going to be very interesting to see what configuration of this powerful deck emerges as the most dominant. I’m sure we will see some tweaks shake out to mold to the expected meta. As three different copies were able to make the top 8 at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx I would be surprised if it doesn’t show itself in Manchester. Definitely going forward into the next Standard season this is well positioned to be a powerplayer there as well.