It’s always a glorious time when a new set is released. We get to see new cards and get a chance to get the cranks moving on stale Constructed and Limited formats. I didn’t get a chance to play the prerelease and wasn’t really too concerned due to the faction packs, but the set looks great so far.
It’s not all fun and games, because this is the time where an abundance of bad decklists are released. I have already seen too many articles that discuss how poison is going to be the next big thing. The same articles also discuss artifact decks that are built around Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. This is going to be one of those articles where I will probably end up eating my words when one of these archetypes wins the Pro Tour, but I am saying it anyway.
We tend to get too wrapped up in trying to break the new format and forget about all of the archetypes that still exist. Keep in mind that we only got 155 new cards and many of them are just flat out worse than cards that are already legal. I always made a point to play a good deck at Friday Night Magic when a set is released because most of the players end up with janky brews.
You may be wondering why I am throwing so much hate on the poison deck since it did get a lot of great new creatures. Phyrexian Vatmother is extremely undercosted since it effectively has eight power for four mana. The five toughness makes it immune to Lightning Bolt and even a kicked Burst Lightning. Inkmoth Nexus reminds me of a card that used to be dominant in Standard and Extended, and is exactly what the poison deck needs to not be completely dominated by Day of Judgment. Phyrexian Crusader is an extremely efficient creature that’s better than Paladin en-Vec and he saw tons of play in Standard. Protection from white and red are very relevant since Boros is a popular deck and it can swing past Wall of Omens. While all of these things are true about the new poison creatures, the deck still fails the Jace test.
This list was in an article written by Frank Lepore. I think Frank did a good job of building a poison deck that is the closest to being playable. It has a Blue/Black Control shell with some inherently powerful cards.
A four mana 4/5 with infect is powerful in a vacuum, but it won’t beat a deck that can destroy it for two mana. The creatures are getting better, but the removal is also more powerful. Have you seen Go for the Throat? What if you tap out for Phyrexian Vatmother and your opponent calmly plays Jace, the Mind Sculptor and bounces it? If you’re not playing against a control deck with Go for the Throat, you will certainly face Day of Judgment, and that’s just as bad for you. There aren’t any good infect creatures that also have haste, so they are very vulnerable to removal. I know you can play a Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon for 3BBB, but that’s it.
The deck has counters to protect your creatures, but you have to tap out for the creatures so it doesn’t work out well in practice.
Ok, I realize I am high on Jace, but what about playing this deck against RG Valakut Ramp? They play Primeval Titan the turn you play an 8/5. This is hardly fair since you have nothing but a midrange deck. Goblins is also playable now, and I would not want to play against it since they can chump block when they’re almost poisoned and win faster to begin with.
I have thrown enough hate on infect, all of you who were on the fence are probably persuaded at this point. The artifact deck is also something I would like to discuss since it’s been getting a lot of press as well. There have been many lists since I have seen so many articles about it, but they all lack enough removal to stop the aggro decks.
This list was created by Adam Yurchick. As you can see, the removal involves a single Brittle Effigy that you can fetch with Trinket Mage. A deck like this does not have a prayer against any of the aggro decks, so I can’t see it being viable. There is also a lack of disruption so the control mage is free to do whatever they want as long as they can kill some of your creatures along the way.
Please note I am not attacking either player, but I am merely trying to point out that even the best minds cannot come up with lists I think are viable in Standard. It’s my opinion that these two archetypes don’t have the proper tools at this point. We get another set in this block, so both decks will probably be good enough at that time.
This article has been pretty negative so far since all I have done is criticize the creativity of others. There are plenty of options for Standard and I want to talk about the decks that I think have a chance.
I think this is the premier control deck for sure because of what we gain from Mirrodin Besieged.
The most important addition for this deck is Go for the Throat. There was always the question of how many Doom Blades you can play since Vampires and the mirror exist. Now we get one of the best removal spells that have been printed in years. Unless the artifact deck gets popular for some reason, this card is a 4-of.
Black Sun’s Zenith also plays an important role in the deck. Black didn’t have a real Day of Judgment until now. This card is better than Consume the Meek, since you can kill Lotus Cobra and Steppe Lynx in a pinch. It also shuffles your deck which makes Jace better than it already is. One of the most problematic creatures for this deck was Avenger of Zendikar because the mass removal was lacking, but we now have an effective answer.
This deck has good matchups across the board because all of the answers are so general and efficient. The new removal spells give this deck an even better matchup than it already had against the aggro decks. The six discard effects and six Jaces give you a strong control matchup. The Spreading Seas, hand disruption, and Memoricide also make the Ramp matchup good.
It’s not all fun and games for Blue/Black because the tools it acquired can also be used against it. Grave Titan is not as powerful as it was in the past, because any black mage can simply destroy it for two mana. This is the reason that Precursor Golem made the cut. It’s difficult for the opponent to leave in removal for Grave Titan and Precursor Golem because they require different spells to be answered.
Clone is an interesting sideboard card that can answer Thrun, the Last Troll. It also copies Grave Titans and Precursor Golems in the mirror match. I would board it in against the mirror as well as any decks that are packing some sort of titans.
I was a champion of Blue/White Control for a long time, but it sadly didn’t get any new cards with the exception of White Sun’s Zenith. I did try out a new version of it that had a unique spin.
This was more of a concept deck since I really like Gravitational Shift in this format. It is good against Blue/Black Control since it stops Grave Titan and Creeping Tar Pit from being an issue and cannot be removed once resolved. There is a goblin deck that is on the rise that plans to swarm you with goblin tokens. Vampires don’t get bigger than two power in the red/black version.
You could play Squadron Hawk in the maindeck over Luminarch Ascension and be even better against aggro decks. It’s pretty much a hard lock if you get out Gideon Jura and Gravitational Shift and continue to use the +2 ability. The reason Ascension is in the deck is because the control matchup that don’t rely on Grave Titans seem very bad. There are many anti-creature cards so a matchup needs to suffer as a result.
Leyline of Sanctity plays an important role in protecting your life total against Valakut. I lost a match at worlds with Titan Ramp against U/W because they had Ascension and Leyline. It’s better game one because they cannot remove it from play. You also have four Day of Judgments to clear their Avengers and titans which is the only way they can win.
The Leylines are also a way to keep Vampires from killing you. It prevents Lightning Bolt, Kalastira Highborn, and discard from targeting you. Once a Gravitational Shift enters play, they are locked out of the game.
If you think I only like Jace decks for this format, you are sadly mistaken.
We get some cool new cards to try in the Ramp decks. As if we didn’t already have the tools to build an insane deck, it got even better. Green Sun’s Zenith is a way to ramp in the early game and win the late game. For this reason, I have included a Lotus Cobra against control decks to fetch. Against aggro, I want a blocker was well as ramp so I also added an Overgrown Battlement. Being able to cast Zenith for one is a good option to have so there is also a Joraga Treespeaker. I don’t want too many Treespeakers because you can get blown out by a timely removal spell, but being able to get it after a Harrow is good value.
When we get Green Sun’s Zenith, we also lose spaces for Summoning Trap. I still like them against the mirror and control so they are still in the deck. Getting caught up in the hype of the new cards can sometimes make you lose focus on what the deck is trying to accomplish.
A new sideboard card I am excited about in the aggro matchups is Viridian Emissary. You will want to sideboard out the Joraga Treespeaker and Lotus Cobra when you want Pyroclasm. There are so many ways for him to die and still get value by trading with a creature or being a chump blocker.
There are so many new ways to build this deck and time will tell what cards make the cut. It may happen that the Zenith is not what you want, but the creature acceleration package seems quite good to me.
Vampires is another good deck from the last Standard format that gets better. The biggest problem against U/B Control was that it didn’t have a good way to kill Grave Titan. Go for the Throat makes this the best aggro deck.
This deck is fast enough to race Valakut Ramp decks and has enough removal to have a solid aggro matchup. The only card from the new set we want is Go for the Throat because most of the new black cards are for poison.
I don’t have many games with this deck under my belt, but I know it’s not fun to play against with control decks. The other candidates for aggressive strategies at the moment are Boros, W Quest, and Goblins. Vampires offers the most resiliency against all three types of decks in the format.
Poison and artifacts are not within the realm of playability due to the new set, but Goblins may be pushed over the edge.
Here is a list that was piloted to a top 4 finish by CamilleSalat in a Magic-League master. I mentioned this deck had what it takes before and it gained Goblin Wardriver and Signal Pest from Mirrodin Besieged. It plans to generate many creatures in the early game so your opponent needs mass removal spells to stabilize. If you are looking for a cool Standard deck to play that uses the new cards, please try this one.
I understand that we all get excited about new cards, but we must remember that there is a metagame to consider. If I had a nickel for every time I read an article about how Mono-Black Control is playable again after a new set is released, I would be a very rich man. I have read at least five articles about poison and artifacts, but much less about decks that are actually playable. I may seem like a scrooge, but I am merely keeping us on planet earth.
Thanks for reading!