This is my first article for ChannelFireball, and I will put my best into this column and hope that you will like it.
Let me introduce myself, I have been playing Magic: the Gathering for over 14 years, 11 at the Pro Tour level, and I was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year at the World Championships in Rome. With more than 50 Pro Tours, about 100 Grands Prix, 14 Nationals and 4 Invitationals, I guess I became quite a seasoned veteran; I will share my experience with you.
Scars of Mirrodin’s prereleases were held last week end all over the world, and those presented a great opportunity to discover Magic’s new set. Now, it is time to try and exploit the fresh cards and concepts in Constructed formats.
Today, I will focus on the bright new Standard, as a hint on which cards and decks rotated out, I suggest you to take a look at LSV’s article on the subject.
Please keep in mind that I had a very short time to build decks. My goal here will not be to post killer decklists, as such would need more work and the Standard field still needs to be created to adapt my decks to its metagame.
I decided to focus on 2 themes: Polymorph and Affinity, the first because it was really good before the rotation and I would like to see if it somehow survived it, and the second because it introduces many Scars of Mirrodin cards, and the new set’s artifact mechanism.
First I needed to find token engines. Besides the obvious Khalni Garden and Awakening Zone, Elspeth Tirel was really attractive. I started building decks with it, but the manabase was too much of a problem. I still played a few games, to figure out that the white planeswalker was far from being as good as I expected. More, the deck was based on 1 card: Mass Polymorph, and without a lot of card drawing, I would just lose because I simply wouldn’t draw it, or just cast it too late.
The deck required mana acceleration, card drawing and tokens. With a lot of mana acceleration, the deck would be able to pay for the opponent’s Mana Leak against control, and to race to get the combo in place before getting killed by aggro.
The tokens would be used not only for the combo, but also to slow the opponent’s attack down and earn time to develop your board..
The deck usually plays Mass Polymorph on turn 5 for 2 creatures or on turn 6 for 3. I decided to run only 3 creatures that I would reshuffle into the deck either with Jace, the Mind Sculptor or See Beyond if I happened to draw them. I needed to always hit winning guys, and quickly understood that Platinum Emperion would be the perfect adding to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Iona, Shield of Emeria.
I wanted to see if Polymorph survived the rotation. Even if this deck does end up good, it looks more like a Tooth and Nail deck rather than the control one with a combo kill that I ran at my Nationals. With a 6 mana sorcery for the win plus the additional cost of exiling creatures, the essence of the deck had to evolve.
The main problem of the deck is that it has no way to interfere with the opponent’s game plan. It has no counterspell nor [card]Into the Roil [/card]nor Ratchet Bomb. Tuning the deck and adapting it for the format will come later once the metagame is settled. The Same goes for the sideboard, Venser’s Journal needs to be tested but the card itself is definitely interesting.
Two cards in Scars of Mirrodin are sick against his deck: Ratchet Bomb, since it kills all the tokens in response to Mass Polymorph, and Lux Cannon. If those two cards end up being played (odds are high), then the deck will need either artifact removal, Into the Roil, or Ratchet Bomb main deck.
In case you do not already know, with Platinum Emperion on the board you are not allowed to pay life, so you cannot sacrifice a fetchland for instance.
A lot of people, including myself, are happy that Jund is not in the format anymore. Everyone seems to forget that it was the same with Faeries the year before or Affinity just a few years ago. I could not write about Scars of Mirrodin Standard without focusing on artifact decks.
Of course, with 2 extensions to come, the deck has beautiful days ahead, and will only be complete by summer 2011.
As a Mono-Brown version would just be terrible, I had to decide on which color(s) to run:
-Black: Phylactery Lich and Painsmith are the only synergistic cards with artifacts … not so sexy. A black control deck with artifacts might be possible in the future, but black is the worst color to play in Standard nowadays with the lowest quality cards by far.
-Red: Kuldotha Phoenix and Galvanic Blast are super sexy, but as far as I looked, the synergy with the artifacts in a red deck is low as you would rather play efficient cards to reach your goal than trying to do cool stuff. Maybe a control deck will be possible in the future, or a multicolor one, but having a bicolor manabase that supports the Phoenix seems tough. Kuldotha Rebirth is cool; maybe the card will be played a bit.
-Blue: There has to be a deck featuring Trinket Mage + Voltaic Key + Everflowing Chalice + Lux Cannon, and maybe even Inexorable Tide. Grand Architect and Riddlesmith (which allows you to play 4 Mox Opal) definitely are excellent cards as well. The deck might be aggro, control or even combo.
-White: Glint Hawk and Tempered Steel might just be the two best cards in the set when it comes to play an affinity beatdown deck. Myrsmith is interesting as well but may be a bit slow. Some people also like the Quest for the Holy Relic/Argentum Armor “combo,” which is more funny than efficient.
White seems the best color when it comes to aggressiveness, synergy and efficiency, so I decided to test the beatdown decks.
I needed to review the Scars of Mirrodin aggro artifacts:
–Chimeric Mass is way better than I expected. It provides artifacts in the early game to use with Mox Opal or play Glint Hawk, then, in the late game it is a big creature that cannot be killed by sorcery-speed removal spells such as Day of Judgment.
–Darksteel Juggernaut: too expensive, too bad.
–Glint Hawk Idol: Almost playable.
–Mox Opal: the nuts, too bad you can only play 3 as drawing 2 of the legendary artifact is just bad.
–Origin Spellbomb: Ok in some decks I guess, but a 1/1 for 3 mana in a beatdown deck is terrible.
The first deck I built was this one:
I decided to splash Trinket Mage, keeping in mind that a second color would be great in the sideboard. This deck was good, had great synergy, but definitely had a lack of aggressiveness. It was neither control nor aggro, but rather just simply doing some cool stuff. Any game I had either Steel Overseer early or Tempered Steel, the deck was great, but without those two, I would just accumulate an army of 1/1 Myr, 0/2 Ornithopters, and overall just weak guys.
The one good thing was that the deck was surprisingly not dying to [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] as much as a Mono-White version of the deck. The bad thing was that the deck was not fast enough.
Then, after a few failures, I decided to build the most aggressive and synergistic deck I could. I came up with this:
One card should surprise most of you: Hedron Scrabbler. I decided to go for a landfall ability deck, and that card just happened to be the best I found. Plated Geopede could have made it, but I needed artifact creatures to go along with Tempered Steel. 15 is not a lot, but giving +2+2 to just 2 creatures is already great. If you play a Chimeric Mass on turn one, with the enchantment it is a 2/2 whenever you activate it if you did not bounce it before with the white fliers.
Turn 1 Adventuring Gear + Ornithopter or Memnite is the nuts, and you can even activate your Mox Opal, cast a Glint Hawk, bounce the Mox back, replay the Mox, cast a Steppe Lynx and pass the turn. This is of course a rare situation, but there are so many of those that you actually have obscene draws. With this example, a fetchland on turn two and your opponent will already be at 10 while you having only played a single land.
Having fliers + Adventuring Gear puts your opponent on a fast clock where every topdeck is good, as both spells and lands will be winning.
I really like the deck and will definitely test it more in the future. In an unknown field, playing aggro is always a good choice.
I was amazed to discover that Affinity seems to be back for real. I just hope the two upcoming sets in the block will not turn it into a monster.
Guillaume Matignon gave me this decklist after we played a few games together:
[deck]3 Renegade Doppelganger
4 Necrotic Ooze
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Fauna Shaman
1 Joraga Treespeaker
4 Hedron Crab
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Enclave Cryptologist
1 Molten-Tail Masticore
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Drowned Catacomb
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Darkslick Shores[/deck]
The deck still needs a lot of work, but [card]Necrotic Ooze[/card] might be a very nice addition to the deck that definitely missed a little something before the rotation. Its ability to turn any crap creature into a 7/7 with [card]Gigatomancer[/card] seems as cool as it is efficient in the deck.
As a reminder, the goal of this article was to show interesting decks and mechanisms. The metagame will emerge soon and once it does, the decks will evolve , the best ones will stay, and doom others to exist elsewhere that at the bottom tables of a tournament or just a friendly casual game.
Quick hints Sealed deck
This was my prerelease deck. I made it reg/green and tried to base it around Furnace Celebration and artifact removal, as that used to be pretty efficient in the former Mirrodin Limited format.
People in Paris did not seem to understand 2 things about the format:
-Metalcraft is good, but adding 4/5 bad cards to your deck to have 13 artifacts does not make sense at all. Nothing guarantees that you will have 3 of those at the same time on the board. Unless you have a very good pool for that, there is no need to force yourself into playing artifacts that have no impact on the game.
-Infect seems more like a draft ability to me. I saw the whole day people winning games with 2 life and 9 poison counters. Mixing normal damages and infect damage helps your opponent a little too much in my opinion.
Props and flops of the tournament:
+ I killed a big creature equipped by Grafted Exoskeleton by casting Tel-Jilad Defiance on it.
Molten-Tail Masticore is probably more fun to play than to play against.
I went 5-2.
Thanks for reading, please post in the comments and I will answer ASAP!