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Arena Diaries #1 – My Name is Lukka

I’m staring at an 0/4 token, with defender, and I’m terrified. There’s a Shatter the Sky in my hand. A four-mana sweeper. I slam it and the token dies. Next turn, Lukka ticks up and I can breathe a sigh of relief. 

Standard in May 2020 is a strange new world.

When we first saw Ikoria cards make their entrance to the format, everyone was talking about companions, and rightly so, the mechanic is something so new, so unique in Magic, that it’s natural to be excited, and a little nervous.

Gyruda came first, grasping the first weekend of Ikoria standard in its monstrous tentacles and throwing giant moths, gods of the sea and King Kong onto the board together on turn four.

Gyruda however, was small potatoes, the appetizer to what has become an incredibly powerful format. This week, after the second weekly championship of MagicFest Online Season 2, we’re seeing the meta settle. The main course has arrived in Yorion Fires and Cycling

What’s an amateur such as myself to do in the face of such reckless power? Well, if you can’t beat them, join them.

Standard Yorion Fires Deck List - James Keating

I’ve been running Jeskai-Yorion-Fires-Lukka and Jeskai Cycling most of the week, and both have been extremely strong, but the Lukka deck just feels a cut above the rest of the format. 

It feels unbelievably powerful when it runs as planned, turn 2 Birth of Meletis into Teferi, Time Raveler, then Fires of Invention and finally, Lukka turns your 0/4 into an Agent of Treachery AND Yorion can come down and flicker it. Your opponent ends up on two lands and really, how do you lose from there?

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way, but sometimes you just delay long enough to play Agent of Treachery from hand and win the game that way. Sometimes you manage to dig for the combo of token plus Lukka’s -2 with Omen of the Sea or Narset. Narset also shuts down the cycling deck quite effectively. 

It’s actively hard to lose if you draw remotely well. Of course, I find my ways.

Cycling feels similarly strong, just not quite on the same level. The right draw however, is near unbeatable. It’s an aggro deck with the power to burn your opponent for lethal from a double-digit life total. Who knew uncommons could be that powerful?

Standard Tour De France Deck List - James Keating

As the week wore on, everyone seemed to be converging on those two lists, which got me wondering what could beat them. 

Luckily, I was given a fun suggestion. Esper Dance, said TigerZord on Twitch, eats Fires for breakfast. I threw my wildcards at what I needed, making a few changes to the list I was sent because I, uh, ran out of wildcards. I replaced some Sorcerous Spyglasses with Murderous Riders, they both deal with planeswalkers so it seemed reasonable-ish.

The deck revolves around Doom Foretold controlling the board and Dance of the Manse bringing back a huge number of artifacts and enchantments – Omen of the Sea, Treacherous Blessing, Spyglass, Guild Globe, etc. and sweeping creatures away with Kaya’s Wrath and Shatter the Sky. 

Standard Esper Dance Deck List - James Keating

My first game with the deck was an unmitigated disaster. I had no real idea when to play Doom Foretold. I forgot the symmetrical element, meaning I would play it out with nothing else in play, and be forced to sacrifice it on my next upkeep. I also messed up with Dance, playing it too early to get full value. 

I lost, of course. 

A few more practice games later though, and the deck was running smoothly. In the meantime I had managed to kill myself with an Omen of the Sea, playing it at one life, forgetting Treacherous Blessing was in play. Another kind of treachery beating me in Standard. 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t eating Fires for breakfast. Lukka just proved too much, too fast. When Doom Foretold came down, on curve, directly after Fires did, then it was great. That was too rare. While the Fires lists were able to win easily without Fires, this deck simply floundered without Doom Foretold. 

I can see a better control player having a great time with it, but while I could win matches, I couldn’t chain victories. Lukka kept getting me. I could get rid of the Birth and Omen tokens, but then a 2/2 shark would drop into play at instant speed and turn into an Agent next turn. 

I had fun with Esper Dance, but I had to give up. At least I learned something about the bottom of Diamond – you can’t fall back into Platinum. So I did what any reasonable person would do – I took this opportunity, where the stakes were as low as possible, to try something stupid. 

I somehow had success in Artisan, the common and uncommon only format, at the previous FNM at Home on Arena – playing a planeswalkers only deck. 37 lands, 43 uncommon walkers. Why not try that in standard? 

OHNO OHNO Deck List - James Keating

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Upgrading to rare and mythic walkers, playing better lands and adding Umori for discount walkers could work – certainly it would be fun. And it was. I even won a game, but the deck was terrible! It does give me hope that it could be tuned into something strong, a pillowfort that stops Lukka… but then what if we add Lukka, and Agent… and use Teyo instead of Omen of the Sun… wait… maybe we just use Omen…

We’ve come full circle, and here I was thinking that was a cycling thing.

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