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.
One of the shining pillars of the Theros Block Constructed format is the awesome White planeswalker Elspeth, Sun’s Champion though that doesn’t necessarily lend itself easily to just White deck choices. This deck was one which realized how to harness that incredible power while finding support for it in other colors. What emerged was a Gruul based Naya deck that went down a very Aggro beatdown route. There are strong ramp elements to power out monstrous creatures and incredible planeswalkers working hard to seal the deal as fast as possible. And although there are different combinations to build this deck there are key elements which emerge from all of them.
It all starts with the trio of ‘mana’ dorks with Voyaging Satyr and Sylvan Caryatid into Courser of Kruphix. These three are crucial to the plan of deploying huge Midrange threats well ahead of the curve, and those threats come in the form of some truely monstrous beasts. The first of which we find Polis Crusher which is a fine beatstick as a 4/4 for four but also has a relevant ability in this format with Protection from Enchantments, and when you activate his Monstrosity becomes a 7/7 that destroys enchantments the damaged player controls which with its Trample should connect often. The next step on the Monstrosity curve comes with Stormbreath Dragon which with Flying and Haste will often be a surprise to skirt around sorcery speed removal, and against control style decks blasts to the dome of your opponents equal to their cards in hand when he becomes monstrous. There is also a one of Polukranos, World Eater as a value five power four drop that can go monstrous to act as additional instant speed removal for the deck. Yuuki chose to run with a trio of planeswalkers but it all centers around a full set of the decks namesake Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which unchecked by the opponent will easily start to dominate the board with its soldiers, remove large threats en masse or even beef up and raise your entire army to the air with her emblem. He also went with a pair of Ajani, Mentor of Heroes to strengthen your soldiers, it can gain some advantage by finding any of the decks 28 creatures or planeswalkers, and given enough time even gain you 100 points of life. The other planeswalker we find in the deck is Xenagos, the Reveler who’s ramping ability in conjunction with the decks dorks will help power out the big monsters quickly unless you need him to bring some of his satyr friends to the party, or if you do get to ultimate with him with 45 creatures and lands in the deck the top seven is bound to share a bounty of wealth. The deck is wrapped up simply with White based removal using the catchall enchantment answer Banishing Light to remove a plethora of permanent threats and also Chained to the Rocks which is the reason why we find the deck with a substantially larger amount of Mountains then in similar decks of this style.
There was also another RG Elspeth list by Andrea Mengucci which finished in sixth place. While it did follow the same line of attack there are some fundamental differences starting with the manabase where Andrea not using Chained to the Rocks opted for much less Mountains and went for Temple of Triumph instead of Mana Confluence and a singleton Plains. In order to add in a varied array of spells he cut a Voyaging Satyr and the singleton Polukranos from the creatures but was able to pack a more robust removal package. He decided upon only two Banishing Light and then went with direct damage with a set of Lightning Strike, a trio of Destructive Revelry and a singleton Magma Jet. He also opted to forgo Ajani to go up to three Xenagos instead. While neither list is necessarily better then the other they do play along a slightly different line and you should run with the one you feel compliments your style of play better.
I have very little doubt that we will see this as one of the top decks at the Grand Prix in Manchester. We have already seen in Standard that this combination of Green and Red monsters is a winning style. And with the addition of Elspeth to that equation there is little to prevent the raw power of this deck from shining. I expect that we will see this not only as a superstar in the Block format but also continuing into the next Standard season as well. I would definitely stock up on the cards for this deck if you enjoy this style of Midrange monster beatdown.
The opening strategy is focused on your mana dorks to come and ramp to the fatties. We find full sets of Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix all of which can speed you plan up by several turns. Also, removal aimed at them means less removal to deal with the big boys. As far as those ‘big boys’ are concerned there is Polukranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon who’s ability to become Monstrous will often spell certain doom for your opponents well before they’re ready to deal with them. Then there are a few support creatures with Reaper of the Wilds with a Scry ability helpful when the opponent is removing your creatures or chumping with his, Ghor-Clan Rampager which can turn a game saving chump block into a game ending surprise, Scavenging Ooze with incidental lifegain and graveyard hate, and Xenagos, God of Revels pushing the beatdown plan into high gear. Speaking of Xenagos we find the same standard package of Planeswalkers as in Gruul with Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler which both are invaluable in a creature heavy deck both accelerating and digging for them while also working hard to control the battlefield. The addition of Black is what allows an interesting one of Vraska, the Unseen which can spell certain doom if her assassins are able to infiltrate through the enemies defenses but will most often be used as removal of various types of threats. And speaking of removal the deck is completed with a minor removal suite which consists of a pair of Dreadbore and pair of Mizzium Mortars but is also somewhat supplemented by the Monstrous ability.
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 2/22/2014
So a few months ago a new brick and mortar gaming shop opened up in the heart of my beloved city’s downtown core. I was there the day it opened and couldn’t thank the owner enough for doing something that was so risky. See, shops in our city’s downtown region don’t usually last long unless they serve coffee or cigarettes, so this guy was taking a huge risk. But it was a necessary one because if you wanted to game and you lived downtown there was nowhere to do so without hopping on a bus for a 20 minute ride or so.
So you can imagine my excitement when this shop opened up, and how excited I was to hear that they were going to be starting a Born of the Gods league if they got enough DCI numbers before the release. Well they managed to accomplish this and I’m now entered into this league.
But what is a league you ask? Well this league is a WotC sanctioned series of events. You start with a seeded sealed pool. Meaning that they are using Born of the Gods pre-release overstock packs to start our limited decks off. So, I chose white again seeing as I had such great luck with it last time, but I will get to that in a bit. From this sealed pool of three Born of the Gods boosters and three Theros boosters you make your deck of 40 cards (minimum) and then you play at least 3 matches against others in the league within a weeks time.
After the first week you get to choose either a Born of the Gods booster or Theros booster and add those cards to your pool, and keep going. This goes on for 5-6 weeks and then prizes are handed out depending upon how you did. The store keeps the decks in their shop to ensure that nobody cheats by modifying the contents in between matches, but after the first week you can opt out of the league and take home everything you pulled. Though I don’t know why someone would do this.
So, like I said I picked the white seeded sealed pack and went to town opening up my product to see what I could manage to pull off.
First I will get to my rares:
Plea for Guidance – This was in my seeded pack, and I couldn’t have groaned any louder upon pulling it. I am not a fan of this card, though it might not be that bad if I could pull something else to compliment it, such as a god, but overall at sorcery speed I can’t be happy with this.
Mindreaver – I didn’t really look twice at this card. It’s not that bad as a mill engine with it’s heroic ability, but it’s second ability holds almost no relevance to the limited format because you don’t generally see multiples of cards in within your top 23.
Chained to the Rocks – This card I was happy to see. One of the best white removal spells in the format. Though it is not as good with Born of the Gods bringing in Revoke Existence, but it is straight up cheap removal.
Xenagos, the Reveler – The planeswalker, not the god. I was quick happy to see him show up in my pool. If things went my way I could easily pull off an awesome deck if I got cards to compliment him. Either way I had found my money card.
Arbor Colossus – Another great card, cheap beats with a monstrous ability that can take out every pre-release promo except green. Awesome!
Felhide Spiritbinder – This guy is a beast for abusing enter the battlefield abilities. Not to mention a ¾ body for four mana isn’t bad at all.
Overall I wasn’t too pleased with my pulls, I mean I certainly wasn’t pulling off the Blue/White heroic deck like I did at the pre-release, but from the rares I pulled it looked like I might have been able to pull off a monster Red/Green deck. So let’s take a look at what I did pull that didn’t make it into the deck.
And then I had the deck. I resorted to playing Red/White with the use of Chain to the Rocks and the Felhide as the champion rares. The deck looked to be as fast as I could possibly make it with a quarter of the deck being only a single converted mana cost, the next stage up had another six, after that there was one three CMC card with only a handful beyond.
Come back for Day 2 and beyond as I take the deck through the league. If you have any suggestions or see something I missed please leave a comment and I will look into it. Thanks.
~ Gerald Knight