Like most Magic players at this time of year, it’s hard for me to go an hour without hitting refresh on my favorite Magic spoiler website. While I don’t consider myself the best deck builder or brewer, which is something I’ve been trying to work on recently, I do enjoy thinking at a high level about what strategies may be competitive when the new cards hit.
There’s a trap though that a lot of people seem to fall into, myself, of course, included. This trap is set when people (you, me, pros writing preview articles, people making podcasts about previewed cards) look at cards and try to evaluate them in a vacuum. In recent memory, Battle for Zendikar being spoiled and released had this same effect on people, where there seem to be some sort of build-around cards that people tried to play in constructed.
I fondly remember two such decks in particular. There was a set of spells with the new Awaken mechanic that tried to control the board. This led to an Esper flavored Awaken deck featuring Halimar Tidecaller. While the deck was cute, and obviously had a strategy, it never took off. This is because the cards that were already in Standard, that Battle for Zendikar was adding to, was already stacked with powerful spells and creatures and lands that just set the bar far out of reach for these new archetypes to exist.
The second deck had to do with people breaking rules. The rules of having no more than four of any card in your 75+ other than basic lands. I was guilty of playing this deck as well. The ol’ Bring to Light 8-Rhino deck. Dutifully named because alongside the initial four Siege Rhino, the deck had four copies of Bring to Light using the Converge mechanic alongside the new dual lands featured in Battle for Zendikar to serve as pseudo-Rhinos 5-8. Those of us playing the deck weren’t actually breaking any rules (except maybe Joe Lossett. He’s apparently so good, he just wins with the deck anyway when no one else can. *Note this was a joke and I’m not actually accusing anyone of rule-breaking).
Neither of these decks really got off the ground, but they were decks that people were going bananas over for the month leading up to and a few weeks after the release of Battle for Zendikar. Other cards from that set that got really high praise for constructed but have yet to catch on include the (price-spiking) Drana, Liberator of Malakir, Quarantine Field, Woodland Wanderer, and Fathom Feeder, to name a few. These cards seem powerful, and they may have had some success in Standard, but they never became big players in the format because of cards like Crackling Doom, Siege Rhino, and Dromoka’s Command just being much better cards in general, and in context of the rest of the cards in Standard.
So this article is meant to provide a starting block for people like myself who get very excited about playing with new cards, and need a cold hard slap of reality. The cards you think you want to play with are probably not going to be worth their sticker price after the second week of the new Standard after their hype dies down a little.
Instead of going over new decks, I want to talk about old strategies that I think are good places to add new cards than just brand new decks with new cards only and like seven from older blocks. Essentially, what I’m saying is, probably don’t play your B/R Vampire deck past week 1; it probably won’t be as good as you think.
What a better way to choose a starting point than to begin with a strategy I’m using in Standard right now, and plan to work with primarily into the new Standard. Since the dawn of Dragons of Tarkir, Maternal Witness (Den Protector) and the gang from Jurassic Park (Deathmist Raptor) have been no worse than tier 2. They’ve almost always been competitive. Let’s not forget that Bant Megamorph was one of the premier strategies when Battle for Zendikar forced a rotation. The value that you get out of these creatures and the cards they allow you to play with is often overlooked just because the bodies aren’t impressive.
While cards like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Hallowed Moonlight seeing play right now because of the Rally decks, when that deck loses its premier card in Rally the Ancestors, I suspect that splash damage for the Megamorph strategies will decrease, thus making the Megamorph strategies especially powerful once more. They have the ability to play the aggressor with an early curve of creatures, and can gain value from their creatures like Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor, as well as from stellar Modern all-star Collected Company to play a longer, grindier game.
So these are all things we already know. What thoughts do I have moving forward without Fate Reforged and Khans of Tarkir? The biggest thing we lose is the ability to easily play Bant. Right now, that’s the best color combination for the Collected Company deck, because of the ridiculous power of Reflector Mage, as well as access to amazing sideboard cards like Valorous Stance and Disdainful Stroke.
However, I do think that playing three colors is a necessity with this deck, as we play very well with white cards like Dromoka’s Command and Hidden Dragonslayer. I think a third color is necessary also because I think we want the added value of a man land with our Sylvan Advocates, which I have no intention of cutting in the future.
The goodies that we get from Green, assuming we’re still on a Collected Company plan, include cards like:
Creature – Human Scout
Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, investigate.
Whenever you sacrifice a Clue, put a +1/+1 counter on Tireless Tracker.
I like this card in this strategy. He’s part of the camp of playing both an aggressive strategy, as he’s a decent rated creature, but also allows us to play a longer game by allowing our land drops to later be used as card advantage with the new Investigate mechanic.
Not only that, but essentially his second ability reads “2, sacrifice a clue: Draw a card, put a +1/+1 counter on Tireless Tracker.
Inexorable Mass (translation)
Creature – Ooze
Delirium – Whenever Inexorable Mass attacks and there are at least four card types among cards in your graveyard, put a 3/3 green Ooze creature token onto the battlefield tapped and attacking.
This is a good card if we’re playing with Delirium, obviously, since that’s really the only text on the card. I do think though that if we can get Delirium, this card could be really good in our deck. The strain on Delirium and building around it in Standard though is really made obvious with this deck though. We want to have at least 4 spell types in our graveyard, which isn’t that easy if you’re playing Collected Company, because that requires most of your deck to be creatures in order for Collected Company to be worth playing. Sure, you could always trim Collected Companies, but I think at least for week 1, it will be the best card in Standard, and playing less than four is probably a mistake.
While I don’t think we’ll want this card right away, I could see it finding it’s way into our sideboard as part of a grindy gameplan, where we side in maybe Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and some other non-creature pieces, and side out some Collected Companies.
Since we’re probably going to play white, we can go over a couple of cards I think could find their way into our deck as well.
Hanweir Militia Captain
Creature – Human Soldier
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control four or more creatures, transform Hanweir Militia Captain.
Westvale Cult Leader
Creature – Human Cleric
Westvale Cult Leader’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of creatures you control.
At the beginning of your end step, put a 1/1 white and black Human Cleric creature token onto the battlefield.
I think this card could be insane in a Collected Company deck. It speaks for itself and is an obvious attempt at inclusion, at least to me. His synergy as well with token generators like Eldrazi Skyspawner is actually insane. Imagine we play this creature on turn three with Dispel backup, and on turn 4, we Collected Company into Eldrazi Skyspawner and something else. We get a 4/4 guy that starts making tokens and gets bigger. The card actually also has pretty good synergy with the Deathmist Raptor plan, since a single morph creature of the top of your deck later in the game can lead to five creatures in play (itself plus up to four Deathmist Raptors in your graveyard) thus flipping the Captain.
Creature – Spirit Cleric
Whenever you cast a creature spell with converted mana cost 3 or less, investigate.
Another card that rewards us for playing Collected Company. We literally get paid to play this strategy. Not only does he turn our creatures into more drawn cards later on if that’s the sort of game we want to play, he has pretty good synergy with a card I have already mentioned, Tireless Tracker. This is something to keep an eye on moving forward.
As an additional cost to cast Angelic Purge, sacrifice a permanent.
Exile target artifact, creature, or enchantment.
This is more of an honorable mention card. If we choose to down the route of Bygone Bishop and Tireless Tracker, we would have a surplus of Investigate tokens. These would be an easy thing to sacrifice, and not really a cost at all, to exile some troublesome non-Planeswalker permanents. Planeswalkers won’t really be a problem anyway post rotation, since we’ll be putting creatures on the board faster than most decks (except maybe token decks or the werewolf/vampire decks), so we could just attack them anyway.
I’m actually pretty sure this is just worse than Dromoka’s Command anyway. Still, if we decide to go down a path in deckbuilding that shows us a lot of investigate tokens, this may be something to keep in mind.
That’s it for this week. Stop by next week when I go over additions to other pillars of the coming Standard, Esper/UW Dragons, and GW Tokens!
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