In the year 2014, information is more compulsively abused than any drug, and why shouldn’t it be? We have dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, doppler radar, and all the world’s newspapers at our fingertips at all times. With the click of a button we can learn our most casual acquaintances’ opinions on every single hot button news issue, where they ate lunch, or who they went on a date with. (“We’re so connected, but are we even friends?”) With so much information readily available, we’ve truly cultivated a “false expert” culture. 1 billion Facebook users. 1 billion experts on every single conceivable topic. That can’t be right. It makes me increasingly skeptical of anyone’s advice. Is this person an expert, or just one of the many people who thinks that, just because they have a voice via social media, they have opinions worth listening to? I’m certain that the collective intelligence of our society is regressing at an alarming rate due to our tendency to glean our knowledge of the world by scrolling through the “expert” opinions of others. (how else could humans with the entirety of the world’s knowledge at their fingertips still believe that climate change isn’t man-made or that the Earth is only 6000 years old?) I’ve personally reacted to this recent realization by reducing my Facebook friends list from 370-something to fewer than 60. There is no greater peace in our age than having an hour pass without something popping up in my Facebook news feed.
In fact, the only reasons why I didn’t delete my Facebook entirely is so I can keep up with a few people who are too scattered to reliably maintain phone contact with, promote our podcast, and participate in team discussions on our private Facebook group. In those discussions the talk has inevitably turned to Khans of Tarkir Standard. The same holds true for articles on every major MTG site. Everyone is chiming in on which decks will have the most impact week 1, which cards are worth picking up now, and which cards are overhyped or just plain bad. The experts are all experting at once, and our addiction to instant life has us compulsively clicking away, once again filling our heads with the opinions of others and calling them knowledge.
But what does it look like when someone elects to reject this stream of information? When I was younger I used to despise “net decks” and brewed all of my decks in a vacuum. I’ve since wisened up to the usefulness of at worst knowing what to expect when building these sort of decks, and at best finding any number of competitive lists that are far superior to my own ideas. Still, I settle on these established decks with a heavy heart, and pine for a time long gone where information didn’t travel so far so fast. In fact, I’m not a big fan of ANYTHING traveling far and fast. I hate flying, and notoriously made Star City Games put me on the Greyhound bus for all of my SCGLive commentary gigs during my brief stay on that roster. This past weekend my friend Dave got married in York, PA, and I naturally booked myself a 3200 mile bus trip to attend. Knowing that this trip would be a perfect time to piece together an article, I decided to take the stubbornness of my younger self and apply it on a macro level to the upcoming Standard season. Leading up to the trip, I refused to look at any articles on Khans Standard, and didn’t participate in any group discussions on the subject. While the slightest pieces of information couldn’t be avoided (like seeing that Kibler was brewing Mono Green, which was already my obvious best deck post-rotation), I created what I think the entire Standard format will look like based solely on the available card pool, which I actually printed out instead of using an online database. I occasionally checked online for card clarifications when I had a data connection, but for the most part did the entire brewing exercise analog, pen-to-paper.
What I’ve come up with isn’t perfect, nor is it meant to be. I’m sure I’ve missed entire decks and card interactions due to my limited information. One thing I’ve never claimed to be in any forum is an expert. I just loved the idea of doing this exercise and I’m pretty happy with the results. At first I had the idea of doing 1 deck in every State that I traveled through, 14 in total, but that didn’t wind up working out. Some of these decks are awful, but I’m going to present the ideas I came up with in full, in order to properly show my thought process as the trip went on. This is where my eloquence ends, as the remainder of this article is transcribed from scribbles in a notebook.
Mono Green Devotion
That’s right. I think the best deck in Standard after Khans rotates in will contain 0 main deck cards from the new set. Most of the time, a new format compels many players to play the most aggressive deck in the format, since this sort of deck will punish players fumbling with awkward manabases in order to do unproven things. This is a strategy that has proven to be successful for many years. The problem I have with this strategy this time around is that many of the cute things these decks will be trying to cast will have 4 and 5 toughness, stopping the aggro decks in their tracks as soon as they are able to stick something. For me, the best approach is to mimic the consistency of a linear aggro deck while still going as big as the expected Clan decks.
Mono Green Devotion does everything I want to be doing week 1. It accelerates into threats that are as big or bigger than the decks with mostly ETB tapped lands, Chord of Calling allows for a little more of a toolbox to deal with certain unknowns, and my favorite interaction right now involves Hornet Nest and Setessan Tactics. Here’s the set up:
3) I fight the big creature with MY OWN HORNET NEST (It has defender, but can still fight, and Tactics is one of the few fight cards that doesn’t specify that I must fight a creature I don’t control)
4) I get 6-7 Hornet tokens minimum
5) I use my big creature to fight one of my opponent’s creatures, or just swing in.
The best follow up turn to this play is to cast another Setessan Tactics targeting all of the Deathtouch creatures and wipe my opponent’s board, but even without that I have so many blockers that not much is getting through or an air swarm that will kill my opponent in just a couple turns.
Considering that I think this deck, GR Monsters, and Temur Monsters will probably be the 3 most popular decks week 1, Hunt the Hunter is probably a good card to consider out of the sideboard. I also really like Noble Quarry and Roar of Challenge both as 1-ofs as a better Trample ability vs. the battle cruiser decks that won’t allow much Trample to go through. It’s not something I want to waste too much sideboard space on, but Chord allows for 3 virtual copies of Quarry post-board, and Roar allows me to keep my opponent guessing.
Speaking of GR Monsters…
Just the thought of using Generator Servant to power out a huge Genesis Hydra that hits a Stormbreath Dragon or a Sarkhan has me absolutely floored. This list is arguably just as consistent as Mono Green Devotion and there is a compelling argument to be made that this deck might even be superior. I like Crater’s Claws in this list as a finisher once Xenagos clogs the board with tokens, as I’ve seen his mana ability generate a ridiculous amount in a board stall. Also I forgot about Fanatic of Xenagos completely so that could be an option in a more aggressive version of this list. Fanatic seems like it would go better in Temur though, since it creates a conundrum for the opponent when Temur Ascendancy is on the battlefield. (assuming the interaction works like I’m thinking it does)
First of all, I noticed after building this list that Polis Crusher plays nice with Ferocious, we just won’t know how useful a card like that will be until the format shakes out over the coming weeks. I think I just want Genesis Hydra in every deck. Casting 3-color creatures for GG + CMC seems like a way to fix the mana! I’ve never been the biggest fan of nor the most skilled at creating 3-color manabases, but the sheer power level of Rattleclaw Mystic, Savage Knuckleblade, and Surrak Dragonclaw can’t be denied. Also, building this manabase with the current mana fixing makes me think that the Clan decks won’t be auto-including 4-ofs of the fetchlands, which makes me think that the fetches could drop down to reasonable price levels briefly before taking off again. I’m selling mine as I open them for the first 2 months of Standard, and then aggressively picking them up for the next 2. Also, I hate Embodiment of Spring but I feel as though I should include it here, although it would be more appropriate in the next list. (which of course I didn’t include it in)
Since we’re already being relentlessly pushed into 3-color decks, I wondered about the possibility of stretching into 4-color territory. Since Temur is clearly the strongest Clan, the question became, “do I want to add Sultai or Jeskai?” Based simply on the Clan mechanics of both, Jeskai seemed be an obvious choice since Sultai seems very all-in with its strategy. Plus I want to play Flying Crane Technique so I can call the deck…
That is one UGLY manabase. It is impossible to run any basics at this point, so the fetchlands definitely don’t have a home here. Nearly 80% of the lands ETB tapped, and I think that statement could be true about Standard for the entirety of Khans’ legality. The question I SHOULD be asking right now is, “is replacing Temur Ascendancy with Mantis Rider worth it?”
Instead, I’m wondering just how far down the rabbit hole we can go.
5-Color Bad Stuff
If all the lands are going to ETB tapped, why bother acting like the mana is any good? I honestly like this manabase quite a bit. If I play the Mana Confluences on key turns when I need an untapped land I think this wouldn’t feel much worse than most of the 3 color manabases. Losing the scry will hurt a bit but the cool thing here is that most of these creatures trigger Temur Ascendancy so the value train can just keep on chugging along. Unfortunately, the reality is that this is an awful idea and no one should try this ever.
That last deck hurts my brain so much that I want to cleanse my palate with a deck I think is actually playable:
Mono Black Aggro
Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! Bloodsoaked Champion is an amazing card, and will make the loss of Mutavault mostly painless. Grim Haruspex is a Dark Prophecy worth playing! That makes me a happy boy. I think this is the best aggro deck for week one. Grey Merchant could be squeezed into the top of the curve here as a finisher, but I don’t think so personally.
Stephen made me aware of this interaction on the podcast, but raid is active if a creature attacked this turn, even if it is still attacking. So I can sacrifice Bloodsoaked Champion to Butcher to give it haste, attack, and then use the Raid ability to bring back Champion and sacrifice it again for Lifelink, for example. Stephen is convinced that Mardu Warriors is going to be a real deck in Standard, and as much as I like to laugh at his ridiculous ideas he winds up being right more often than he’s wrong. I’m just a little more excited about this deck as well as another Mardu deck I’ll post later in the article.
I’m even more excited about this tokens deck:
There is definitely a pileup at the 3-drop spot, but once Jeskai Ascendancy is active things can get ugly fast. Also, activating Raid, casting Howl of the Horde, and then casting one of the 3 creature generating token spells with Purphoros out is 18 damage, Just sayin.
This is a deck that I think a lot of people wanted to make work before rotation but couldn’t because of the existence of UW Control. The lack of a 1-drop makes me sad and makes me wonder if there should be some scry lands in here as well to act as a pseudo 1-drop. I keep feeling weird about making all these decks that don’t have much it any removal. It just seems like without knowing the format we just don’t know which removal is maindeckable. The best plan is to just play my plan out and see if the opponent can answer it, then sideboard into more specific answers to their deck. Making an Ember Swallower Monstrous against a lot of the 3-color decks seems like the meanest possible strategy. I love it.
Speaking of Control, I spent a lot of time on the bus compiling a list of what I thought were the viable control cards for each color and each Clan. This was a very boring exercise, and somehow got me thinking about Abzan Aggro.
I keep wanting to put Caryatid in every single 3-color list running Green, but I don’t think it belongs in a list like this that is definitely more aggressive. I’m admittedly terrible at constructing 3-color manabases, as I’m sure is obvious looking at some of these lists. Since I’m not allowing myself to read other writers’ articles on the format, I’m unable to template my manabases from those lists, which is what I would usually do in this situation. I really enjoy this mix of creatures here as a replacement for last Standard’s GW Aggro list. Rakshasa Deathdealer is going to be a major pain for the foreseeable future.
Back to the subject of Control, Stephen thought at first that Control simply wouldn’t exist in this Standard. I heard rumblings of a UB Control list running Empty the Pits as a finisher, as well as a Sultai Control list abusing Aetherspouts and the following up with Villainous Wealth. Those are both compelling ideas, but I think the best Control deck out of the gate is going to have a mix of board wipes, hand disruption, card draw, and several strong finishers. I think Mardu has the best card pool to fulfill these requirements.
The numbers here are pretty awkward, but the problem with Control week 1 is not having a solved format to control. Eventually half of the 2-ofs in this list become 4-ofs and the rest become 0-ofs main as we become more confident in what we’ll be facing most often. The sideboard for this deck would likely consist of completed playsets of a lot of the main deck cards.
I had just about finished this article when I spoke to Stephen over text about Sultai. At first I didn’t even bother brewing a list for Sultai because I’m afraid it’s just not very good. Stephen has a hunch that the Sultai mechanics might be really broken and we’re all just being lazy. Sure, I’ll chase that dragon.
Finally, a 3-color deck that wants the fetchlands! This does seem like it has loads of potential, but there are so many various self-mill strategies possible in Standard that selecting the right one is a daunting task. Also, the question that keeps coming up is how many Delve cards are too many? Eventually the graveyard is going to be empty and most of these are not a good value at full cost.
So that’s my thought process going into week one of Khans of Tarkir Standard. We’re playing in the TCGPlayer Diamond Event in Waco this weekend so I better climb out of this bubble I’ve kept myself in and start preparing.
Here is a list of all of the albums I listened to on my bus trip:
Amen Dunes – Love
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Baths – Obsidian
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I See A Darkness
Born Ruffians – Birthmarks
Casiokids – Topp stemning pa lokal bar
Chromatics – Kill For Love
Classixx – Hanging Gardens
Codeine – The White Birch
Codeine – When I See The Sun: Frigid Stars
Cotton Jones – Tall Hours in the Glowstream
Danny Brown – Hot Soup
Danny Brown – XXX
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
Fugazi – Instrument Soundtracak
Future Islands – SIngles
godspeed you! black emperor – ‘ALLELUJAH! DON’T BEND ASCEND
Green Day – Dookie
Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors
Holograms – Forever
Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!
Japandroids – Post-Nothing
Javelin – Hi Beams
Jefferson Starship – Greatest Hits (Ten Years and Change 1979-1991)
Jono El Grande – Neo Dada
Liars – Mess
Lone – Galaxy Garden
Lone – Reality Testing
Lower – Seek Warmer Climes
Lust For Youth – Perfect View
Mount Eerie – Clear Moon
Mrs. Magician – Strange Heaven
Nightmares on Wax – N.O.W. is the Time
Owen Pallet – In Conflict
Pattern is Movement – Pattern is Movement
Smashing Pumpkins – Adore
Smashing Pumpkins – Bullet with Butterfly Wings (single)
Smashing Pumpkins – Gish
Smashing Pumpkins – Thirty-Three (single)
Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight (single)
Telephone Jim Jesus – Anywhere out of the Everything
Tennis – Ritual in Repeat
The Death Set – To
The Death Set – Worldwide
The Frogs – Bananimals
The Get Up Kids – Four Minute Mile
The National – Alligator
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The Smiths – Meat is Murder
Tony Molina – Dissed and Dismissed
Tool – Undertow
Touche Amore – Is Survived By
U2 – Songs of Innocence
ullnevano – I WONDER What Color I’ma Use Next
United Nations – The Next Four Years
Warpaint – Warpaint
William Basinski – Melancholia
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