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Drake Haven: A Love Story

Written by Mike Keknee on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Drake Haven: A Love Story

Mike Keknee

Mike Keknee is a Magic grinder from the Columbus area. He has managed to put together a solid resume with four StarCityGames Open top 8s, including a win, as well as a Pro Tour appearance. He is also a co-host of the At Your End Step podcast available on iTunes and MTGCast.

On a Friday night, when I was still in high school, I remember nervously activating a Nantuko Monastery and attacking my opponent for what would be lethal damage. My opponent tried to cast Chain of Vapor targeting my insect monk, but Chain of Vapor, unfortunately for him, couldn’t target lands. My opponent argued vehemently that it was allowed because Nantuko Monastery was now a creature, but as we all know, creature lands indicate specifically that they remain lands.  My opponent sulked, took four damage, I won the match, and, for the first time, I prized at FNM.

You may be wondering why I would start an article, which is obviously about Drake Haven, with such a random anecdote.  Good question astute, but impatient reader. I started with that glimpse into the past because the deck I was playing in that tournament focused on a card called Astral Slide. Oh Astral Slide, I remember the first time we met. I was just some high school kid, looking for good decks in all the wrong places. Then one day, there you were, peeking at me from the corner of an Onslaught booster pack. It was love at first sight. I started small, cycling Renewed Faith to flicker my Teroh’s Faithful, but soon, we were making real Magicby flickering morphed Exalted Angels for full value.  Sadly, ours was a love that couldn’t last. Standard is as fickle as spring’s temperate weather, but for one glorious season, Astral Slide and I were perfect.

I feel as if I have been chasing that same feeling ever since. Some decks have made me happy, but they just don’t feel the same. After years of trying to feel something, anything, I saw light at the end of the tunnel: Amonkhet was welcoming cycling back as a mechanic. I forced my heart to be still, yet I couldn’t help but hope that Wizards of the Coast would bring my love back to me. I should have known though, you can never truly go back. Sam Stoddard dashed my hopes in his weekly article series, and I was, once again, heartbroken. But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is east, and Drake Haven is the two suns of Amonkhet. While Astral Slide couldn’t come back, the gods of Amonkhet saw fit to bless us with some of their ambrosia. Drake Haven is here, the cycling enabler of a new era.

Astral Slide required a delicate balance of creatures and cyclers to function properly; instead, Drake Haven brings the creatures. While Onslaught arguably had the better cycling lands, Amonkhet has more one mana blue enablers to get the job done. Suddenly, the fog has lifted, and I foresee a new era of cycling dominance.

So where do we start with Drake Haven? The obvious answer is with a lot of cycling cards, but let’s get into some specifics. Blue and white certainly seem like the colors that got the best cycling cards. Between Censor, Curator of Mysteries, and Cast Out, the shell seems very strong. Here is where I would start:

This list could be wrong for ignoring Torrential Gearhulk, but so much of the deck is enchantment based that it feels underpowered. The key for the deck will be if it can survive the initial onslaught from the vehicles decks. Learning when you should cycle something like a Cast Out is also going to be pretty important. What is great about cycling in a deck like this though is even cards like Forsake the Worldly are considerable as well.  Cycling allows narrow cards to become much more useful and playable than usual.

This build feels like an old school draw/go deck. It can play mostly on your opponent’s turn, it has a draw X spell, and it can load up on countermagic. I honestly can’t figure out if that’s going to be a good thing in the format. Regardless, it definitely matches a play style that has been sorely missed by some. This also feels like the safest way to play Drake Have, but I didn’t wait for over a decade to play conservatively.

When looking to create Drake Haven (and Faith of the Devoted), Wizards of the Coast had to fix the templating for Astral Slide (and Lightning Rift). In doing so, they added another way for players to trigger these enchantments. Drake Haven and Faith of the Devoted both also see any time their controller discards a card. This makes for some interesting interactions for cards that have been at the fringe of the format. Poor Shadows over Innistrad block has been overshadowed (yep, deal with it) by the other blocks in Standard. With an unprecedented fourth block entering legality, it would be easy to just dismiss Innistrad, But wait, didn’t that block have a sub-theme focusing on discarding cards and madness? Don’t these cards interact favorably with Drake Haven? Much like Ludevic, Innistrad’s resident mad scientist, I have stitched together a list that pushes this synergy to the edges of what may be considered sane.

Isn’t is beautiful? Descended from drake heaven and gifted to your eyeballs. The game plan is to curve Drake Haven into a turn four that consists of either Cathartic Reunion (make two drakes) or return a Haunted Dead/Stitchwing Skaab (make two drakes, trigger all Prized Amalgams). The deck can be disgustingly explosive. It also compliments this engine with quality removal. Lightning Axe does everything you want here, and it often makes a drake too! This deck has brought joy to me like only one other ever has. I make no guarantees about this deck’s place in the metagame, but in light of the Felidar Guardian banning, I feel like now is the perfect time to try something new.

For me, Drake Haven’s status in the format is irrelevant; I am telling a love story here, and loves stories are rarely rational. Amonkhet has offered me a chance to rekindle something that has for too long been dormant. Astral Slide will always have a place in my heart, but we’ve gone our separate ways. We still see each other for the occasional cube or EDH game, but the torch has been passed. I am now ready to make many drakes, and as the wise philosopher Huey Lewis once said, That’s the Power of Love.
Thanks for reading!

-Mike Keknee



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