Most of you will know me for my love of all things Tron. It is true that the universe hath no greater joy than casting a Karn Liberated on turn three. It’s also true that there is nothing better than restarting a game with aforementioned Karn Liberated with an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in play. You’re right about all of those things. However, there is other Magic: The Gathering to be played! We can’t play modern all day and we certainly can’t just jam Karn into precarious situations all afternoon! There’s no glory to be had there.
Instead, allow us to talk about arguably Magic’s most popular format – standard. Post-rotation world is always fun, scary, and full of opportunity. Cards you either loved or hated fade off into obscurity, and the brewing scene is wide open to all sorts of wacky ideas. For example, say goodbye to this fine fellow:
I absolutely hated this card, but I know a lot of people who are really sad to see him go. I mean, what’s better than being in a top deck war with your opponent and being able to, seemingly out of nowhere, make a massive army that can’t be stopped? I’m sorry Owen Turtenwald, that just wasn’t fun for anyone but you. Just as people hated this card, however, I am sad about the departure of another two cards people hated, Sphinx’s Revelation and Supreme Verdict:
Ahhh. The good old, “You think I’m dead but I’m actually wining by a land slide combo-wombo.” It’s amazing how these two cards enabled the UWx archetype and gave power to it! When we talk about new Khans Standard decks in a moment, you’ll see how the lack of these two cards really corners the archetype into tier 1.5/2 obscurity.
Whatever your opinion of these cards, their departure marks the beginning of a brand new, fresh landscape that will affect our lives for the upcoming year. How exactly will their rotation, combined with the addition of Khans of Tarkir, affect Magic’s most played format?
Khans Standard Going Forward
Now bear in mind when reading my analysis of the format: this is a pre Pro Tour look at decks and all of my analysis will be in light of that. It shouldn’t come as a huge shock to many of you that the Pro Tour has the potential to change everything. Could we see the same decklists that we’re going to discuss here and everything be pretty old hat after the PT? Sure. Is that likely? Absolutely not. Remember last standard rotation Mono-Blue Devotion came out of nowhere and blew all projections to shreds? Don’t be surprised if we see something similar this standard format.
But this past weekend, in both Indianapolis, Indiana and Edison, New Jersey, the Starcity Game Open circuit was alive and raging with post-rotation decklists. Starcity is awesome in the first week after a new format because we get the top 32 lists from both Open Series! That gives us plenty of lists to evaluate and digest to get a grip on where new standard is headed. First, let’s take a look at one of the more expected archetypes from the weekend, Mono-Green Devotion:
Mono-Green Devotion by Sam Jakimovski
This deck was probably the clearest front runner to be expecting heading into the first week of competitive play. The lists didn’t really lose anything in rotation. When that happens, you need to be expecting it to come out in full force. This list was actually my backup plan heading into SCG Indianapolis simply because it’s combo, consistent, and does powerful things. The biggest reason to not play a list like this is that it is susceptible to board wipes like Drown in Sorrow, Bile Blight, or even End Hostilities. Also, hand disruption cards like Thoughtseize or Despise simply pick away the one or two finishers that the player is holding, and all they are left with is a bunch of mana idiots. The most common heard phrase this weekend was, “I died to mono-green because I let it do its thing.” And that’s the truth, if you let mono-green do its thing, you’re just dead. If you can disrupt it, you have a much better chance of coming away with the victory.
Ascendancy Combo by Andrew Baeckstrom
Be still my beating heart. Combo decks have a special place in my heart simply because the first time you ever see a certain combo, you just end up saying, “What in the world was that? Do it again, that was cool!” But this list is simply cool. It combos with Jeskai Ascendancy so you power out a few copies of Twinflame and just kill em dead. You can draw your whole deck with Dragon Mantle and Retraction Helix. Tap your Sylvan Caryatid to put a Dragon Mantle on it, Jeskai Ascendancy triggers and you untap your Sylvan Caryatid. Draw a card off Dragon Mantle. Tap your Sylvan Caryatid to play Retraction Helix. Jesaki Ascendancy triggers and you untap your Sylvan Caryatid. Tap your Sylvan Caryatid to use the Retraction Helix ability on Dragon Mantle. Assuming you have a second Sylvan Caryatid or a Kiora’s Follower or Rattleclaw Mystic, you go infinite with Jeskai Ascendancy and kill him/her dead. It’s sweet.
This deck is super weak to any type of hand disruption. As this deck gets more popular, so does Thoughtseize and Despise (remember, Despise takes their much needed combo creatures!). A turn one hand disruption spell can likely spell doom for your Jeskai combo opponent.
Abzan Midrange by Samuel Valentine
This list was the winner from SCG Indianapolis and it is easy to see why. Commune with the Gods helps you find your Whip of Erebos while putting those big beasts into the graveyard, and everything else is just value. Empty the Pits is one of the most underrated cards in standard because at the end of their turn, you just win the game. Siege Rhino plays much like the new Thragtusk and allows for a six point life swing. Hero’s Downfall out of the board take care of any pesky cards that can’t be dealt with and allows the deck to stall to get to do its reanimation thing.
Jund Monsters by Jordan Kennedy
What? I’m obviously going to use my own top 8 lists to exemplify the power that is GRx monsters (notice that #humblebrag?). Midrange represented over 88% of the metagame this past weekend Most of those lists were featuring everyone’s new favorite three-drop – Courser of Kruphix! This loveable pair represented 70% of the midrange decks represented this weekend.