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Captain Obvious

Written by John Cuvelier on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Battle for Zendikar is finally here. Standard is going to rotate and we get to say goodbye to some of our favorite cards (Elvish Mystic) from the past two years and usher in the next wave of potential favorites. There are some obvious frontrunners of what’s surviving rotation however. Atarka Red, Abzan Aggro, Abzan Control and maybe to a lesser extent Jeskai will be the decks to beat heading in to the new format. But you know the obvious. What I’m presenting today are five not so obvious decks that are either forgotten archetypes of the past, updates to some less than popular lists or potentially brand new ones altogether.

Without Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid everyone is concerned about the lack of ramp options going forward and rightfully so. You have to work with what you’ve got. What we got are Rattleclaw Mystic and Beastcaller Savant. Utilizing the pair of mana dorks to ramp in to some Dragons seems like a reasonable idea. Here’s what I’ve got.

This deck has a lot of good things going for it. In addition to the mana dorks and Dragons there’s a healthy amount of cheap removal in Draconic Roar and Roast. There’s even some pseudo removal in Icefall Regent. Ferocious isn’t a problem in Temur and will make Stubborn Denial a very powerful effect to protect your threats. Having in my opinion the most powerful Planeswalker in standard with Sarkhan Unbroken and the shiny new toy Kiora, Master of the Depths you have some solid options to combat decks with sweepers as well. Since this is Temur we are one of the lucky ones to have access to the amazing man land Lumbering Falls. This will help sure up any control matchups since there isn’t a whole lot outside of Celestial Flare that stops it.

Sidisi Whip just kind of fell off the earth after Ugin, the Spirit Dragon came around. The ability to go over the top of a deck as grindy as that made people put it away. Now with what looks to be a wide open format and perhaps a plethora of midrange decks, it’s possible a Sidisi based deck (without the Whip of course) has a chance to shine once again.

It’s admittedly tough without Satyr Wayfinder to make a dedicated Delve deck currently, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Gather the Pack and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant give us just enough fuel to start filling the graveyard. With all the self-mill it made sense to incorporate the Megamorph package of Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor. This also makes Rattleclaw Mystic more valuable not just as a ramp effect but as another creature with Morph for Deathmist Raptor. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is very powerful in this shell and can flip quite fast. Again you can see the synergies here and how well it fits right in with the self-mill plan. Murderous Cut and Ruinous Path offer a great removal suite that can be used over and over again thanks to Jace and Den Protector. Tasigur, the Golden Fang is a pretty easy inclusion as both a threat and another source of card advantage. I went with Dragonlord Silumgar as the top end threat as I figure if Eldrazi end up being popular this is a way to fight that in addition to being a way to deal with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. This is certainly the deck I look forward to trying out the most.

Towards the end of the previous standard I was working on a Blue White control deck that was gaining popularity. My only gripe with the deck was how long it to actually win the game in a reasonable time frame. I went ahead and took a stab at what that might look like, with a faster clock this time around.

There are a lot of new and neat tools from Battle for Zendikar. The most exciting addition to me is Stasis Snare. Solid removal at instant speed that exiles is a very exciting premise for a control deck. Hangarback Walker isn’t a problem when you have access to Stasis Snare. There’s a whopping 11 counterspells to decide how you want to play a game out. You’ve got sweepers and card draw just like every control deck wants. The Ojutai’s Command-Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy combo is showcased in here as well. I’m not sure if this or Esper control will be the go to control deck of the format, but this was the obvious transition to me.

Gone are the days of Blood Artist and Falkenrath Aristocrat. However with some new (and old) replacements we might finally get to relive the shenanigans all over again.

Butcher of the Horde and Nantuko Husk are the glue holding the deck together. As such, everything in the deck is on board the sacrifice theme train by gaining incremental value. Carrier Thrall and Hangarback Walker give you creatures for their tribute. Liliana, Heretical Healer gets you a Zombie for your troubles and a rebuy option on a Zulaport Cutthroat or Carrier Thrall. Bloodsoaked Champion doesn’t mind getting eaten for the greater good and comes back for more. This reminds of Bloodghast and Kalastria Highborn from the last time Zendikar was in standard. Bloodsoaked Champion can push through damage even when your opponent has good blocks thanks to Zulaport Cutthroat. Crackling Doom, Bone Splinters and Act of Treason are the removal spells for the deck. Although Act of Treason isn’t always going to do the trick, having eight effects that sacrifice creatures it should work that way the majority of the time. The Outpost Sieges should also generate some late game card advantage and even set on Dragons you can finish your opponent off very quickly and especially with a Zulaport Cutthroat in play.

The final build I have for you today is an update to Elf Rally. I was definitely a supporter pre-rotation and although this deck certainly did get worse, as did everything else that’s still standing and shouldn’t scare us away from it.

To fuel the graveyard since Satyr Wayfinder is now gone I went with the reliable Gather the Pack. This will also help increase the quantity of Shaman of the Packs we draw and will be a nice buffer for the loss of Chord of Calling. Elvish Mystic being gone probably hurts the most, but I replaced that with Beastcaller Savant and Leaf Gilder to get some ramp back to the back. Gnarlroot Trapper was a consideration but being almost incapable of casting it turn one makes me think it’s not worth including. The majority of the other numbers stayed intact to give the deck a similar feel to before. It’s possible that cutting the Siege Rhino’s, Rally the Ancestors and Gather the Pack while adding Collected Company and more elves and Dwynen might be correct. But I suppose that’s a different deck altogether at that point.

These are some of the brews I’ve got that could be real contenders coming out of the gates. With new formats there’s certainly lots of room to innovate. What sort of decks do you have in mind? Hopefully it’s not an Atarka Red deck…..

John Cuvelier
@JCuvelier on Twitter
Gosu. on MTGO

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