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Magic Origins Innovations from the Weekend

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy, Modern, Standard

{Manager’s Note: This article was originally submitted shortly after the first weekend of Magic Origins’ legality in tournament play. I missed it, and for that I apologize. We are running the article as it was submitted as part of a “TimBomb”, so enjoy this piece, and Tim’s other piece covering the Pro Tour today!}

This past weekend was a big weekend for competitive Magic players: the constructed legal debut of Magic Origins! This isn’t just a big deal because a new set is legal, this set represents the end of an era in Magic history. For so many years, really since the beginning of competitive Magic, core sets have existed to represent the fundamental base cards that would support the next few expansions in a constructed cycle. Alas, for better or for worse, Magic Origins signifies that final core set we can expect to see for some time.

This is no time to be dredging up somber memories of times long past, however! Never have I been so excited to start seeing how a core set would affect constructed formats on the whole. Initially, core sets were just reprints of already existing cards meant to bring either some nostalgia to a Standard format, or add the adhesive with which block constructed decks could bind to other Standard legal cards to form more competitive strategies.

However, that began to change to where actual new cards were being developed just for core sets. I have to say on a personal level, Magic Origins doesn’t even feel like a core set. It feels like a standalone expansion set. There are so many cards that I’m excited to play with and see played that I haven’t even nailed down a strategy going forward that I’m happy with.

Enough pageantry though. This past weekend was not only the premier of Magic Origins in constructed legal play, it was the first large weekend of events to showcase the new format. In Chicago this weekend, there was a Standard SCG Open, as well as Legacy and Modern Premier IQs that each showcased some form of innovation with the introduction of Magic Origins to their respective formats.

In Standard, there of course were the bevy of obvious additions. Things like Goblins and Elves as actual playable decks, along with less than subtle additions to Abzan in Languish and Nissa, Vastwood Seer. I don’t want to talk about them. I want to talk about a sweet deck that was thought to be sub-par up until this past weekend: Jeskai Tokens. This list was piloted to the top 8 of the SCG Open main event by Kevin McLeskey.

With the printing of Dromoka’s Command in Dragons of Tarkir, this former tier 2 strategy was thought to have gone the way of the Dodo. With so many people expected to be maindecking this versatile enchantment removal card, there was no way for an engine deck surrounding a single enchantment to perform well.

The thing is, when people start playing this card all the time, they take for granted that people eventually stop running enchantments, and this makes enchantments good again. Kevin’s innovations on this list are pretty sweet. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy seems like an obvious addition upon looking at the decklist. A cheap creature with a tap effect is pretty good next to the ability to untap it with Jeskai Ascendancy, never mind that the effect helps fuel your Treasure Cruises, and then eventually the creature allows you to cast cards from your graveyard, spells that you will have discarded anyway to Jeskai Ascendancy.

Another innovation is the addition of Ojutai’s Command. This card has been played in the recent Jeskai Aggro/Midrange lists that have sprung up. Adding it to this deck is pretty advantageous. It allows us to bring back a Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy or Seeker of the Way, as well as countering troublesome creatures for the deck in Siege Rhino, Dragonlord Atarka, or Dragonlord Ojutai, and also is able to cycle, which is an amazing thing to do with Jeskai Ascendancy on the battlefield.

In the sideboard is another innovation. Instead of running the clunky yet resilient Elspeth, Sun’s Champion for the control matchups, and playing a grindy gameplan in the grindy matchups, something this deck isn’t that great at doing in the first place, Kevin has added Sphinx’s Tutelage. When your deck is good at drawing multiple cards per turn, this card seems like a no-brainer as an alternate win condition that doesn’t need creatures, which foils the game plan of the grindy decks.

On the weekend, as stated, there was also a Legacy Premier IQ. After the whole debacle that occurred with Khans of Tarkir and Treasure Cruise, I really didn’t expect Wizards Research and Development to make the same mistake twice in making anymore “fixed” power cards. Now, knowing they had done this in the past with fringe playable cards kind of kept me sane. Think Time Warp. I believe the last actual playable card that hit this mark and wasn’t Treasure Cruise was Time Spiral, if memory serves. That dinosaur is still played in Legacy, but is still fringe.

Now, keep in mind, a card like Timetwister and its functional reprints tend to need certain strategies to build around, and can’t go in as many decks as a simple “draw three cards” card. However, there were five copies of Day’s Undoing in the first Legacy IQ since Magic Origins came out. Scott Muir piloted Affinity to 6th place, and Rudy Briksza drove his Omni-Tell deck into 8th.

It shouldn’t be a surprise for a combo deck such as Omni-Tell to want to play this card. When your deck is full of instant speed counterspells, one mana cantrips to set up your combo, and wants to take as few turns as possible to find its combo pieces, a three mana draw seven spell is right up that alley. This also makes the deck a little more resilient to discard spells.

The big one I wanted to talk about was Affinity. Now, I know a guy who absolutely loves Affinity, he’s been playing it pretty much ever since Darksteel was released. He’s also been playing it in Legacy. Now, the deck is essentially a combo deck, but it has a bunch of little pieces that by themselves aren’t all that strong. It’s kind of like Elves without the Glimpse of Nature. Until now it seems.

Affinity is a deck that just tries to put its whole hand on the table as rapidly as possible, and then force its opponent into awkward situations with removal spells, either because Arcbound Ravager is the perfect card to fight single target one-for-one removal spells, or, at least in Legacy, Disciple of the Vault doesn’t care if your artifacts are dealt with.

When a deck gets to unleash its fury onto the board on turn 2, and then with cards like Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum, accelerate right after that into drawing seven cards so it may do the same thing again on turns 3 and 4 is obscene. Now I’m not sure if this card alone will make Affinity as popular or even as competitive as the namesake decks of the format, like Storm, Miracles, Stoneblade, or Delver, but this card certainly doesn’t hurt the deck at all.

I’m really excited to see how far the cards in Magic Origins push the constructed formats. There are so many new build around cards in Standard in this set, along with additions to healthy archetypes in both Legacy and, to a lesser extent as evidenced on the weekend, Modern. I just can’t help but wait to see what other innovations some clever deckbuilders have to show us in the coming weeks.

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