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Silvestri Says – Week Zero M14

This will be our first weekend of Magic with 2014 legal and I’m excited to see what makes the initial cut in existing strategies along with any new decks coming out. Today’s article will be a bit of a deck dump in certain places, so bear with me when talking about all the new humans that came out.

Silvestri Says Rant Machine

Feel free to continue on if you just want to read the article. Today I present to you the Silvestri Says Rant Machine (AKA: A Podcast). Note that this is meant to be a supplemental piece to the articles. Today’s cast is on Bant Auras, my general feelings about that, and what M14 has in store for the deck.

(Note this is an experiment with short casts and you’ll only be hearing my lovely monotone voice, so excuse me while I get the kinks ironed out.)

Bant Auras

Let’s start with the two main additions to Bant Auras: [card]Gladecover Scout[/card] and [card]Witchstalker[/card].

[draft]gladecover scout
Witchstalker[/draft]

[card]Gladecover Scout[/card] has some evasion problems, it’s a poor topdeck, and overall it’s a weak creature. For example, unless you stuff a [card]Spectral Flight[/card] on the Scout, people have no qualms with just blocking and trading early. Yes, [card]Rancor[/card] plus [card]Ethereal Armor[/card] or [card]Unflinching Courage[/card] is usually good enough, but sometimes you’ll just have a hexproof creature you can’t attack with until you get 2-3 auras out. This is exasperated by cards like [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], [card]Golgari Charm[/card], and [card]Ray of Revelation[/card]. Throwing down with your 1/1 with auras isn’t exactly intimidating when they can destroy one at will.

In Modern this is a bit more reasonable because there are more combat-relevant auras and fewer relevant blockers. In Standard, there’s a good chance you’ll need to battle through larger creatures nearly every single match. The other key is that when you suit the Scout up, you are invested in it. Liliana or any Edict effect is a massive blow and even [card]Farseek[/card] into [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] is usually a 3-for-1.

Of course, the biggest problem with Gladecover has to be that it’s a complete letdown after turn one. There will sometimes be hands with a Glade that can’t play it on turn one and odds are good you’ll play more relevant hexproof creatures on following turns. It competes badly with the other 1-drops ([card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card], [card]Elvish Mystic[/card], and [card]Arbor Elf[/card]) since those typically power out more better creatures and allow aura critical mass to come online quicker.

So while I do think [card]Gladecover Scout[/card] is worth trying, I don’t believe it’s actually what Bant Auras is interested in. Part of the appeal of Bant Auras is the lack of interaction and Gladeover Scout presents many opportunities to do so.

[card]Witchstalker[/card] doesn’t suffer as badly, due to the 3 toughness allowing any non-[card]Rancor[/card] enchantment to get it out of range of the majority of creatures. You’ll still need to commit more resources to beat a tusk, but everything else will be outclassed in a hurry. Being three mana may not be what you want on the curve, but you’ll suffer through it for another reasonable hexproof guy with a decent body.

The key with [card]Witchstalker[/card] is that even with one enchantment, decks need to respect the clock it represents. It also has a side bonus against control decks when you just want to nickel and dime them out of the game without suiting up. It isn’t a really impressive creature against midrange or even normal aggro without help, so keep that in mind before jamming 4 in the main.

I like [card]Fiendslayer Paladin[/card] except against [card]Azorius Charm[/card]—every other commonly played removal spell can’t hit Paladin or costs four mana or more. Paladin plus an aura can create a very effective threat with the built-in life gain, and on D if you get it to 4 power it blocks down practically everything. You still have to respect [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] from the aggro decks, but any double aura set is going to be very difficult to beat. This also alters racing situations in your favor instead of just trying to plow aggro decks with [card]Unflinching Courage[/card] or sheer speed.

While I originally considered this for the sideboard, I’m starting to think it may be the best choice for the maindeck until Island decks constitute a higher percentage of the metagame. [card]Azorius Charm[/card] is a massive beating and something you absolutely can’t run into when taking this route, but [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] and [card]Terminus[/card] don’t care what hexproof creature you have and [card]Pillar of Flame[/card], [card]Searing Spear[/card], and [card]Warleader’s Helix[/card] don’t touch him. Every other deck has major issues trying to take out Paladin in the same vein as a hexproof creature.

Here’s my current test build until M14 comes out on Magic Online. Oh, and if Worth is reading this I’d really appreciate getting the prerelease a week early to make up for the boring M14 paper release. Even if you make it beta-only.

[deck]Main Deck
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
2 Elvish Mystic
3 Voice of Resurgence
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Witchstalker
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Spectral Flight
4 Unflinching Courage
4 Rancor
1 Abundant Growth
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Breeding Pool
4 Temple Garden
4 Hinterland Harbor
4 Sunpetal Grove
2 Forest
Sideboard
4 Ray of Revelation
3 Rest in Peace
3 Advent of the Wurm
4 Fiendslayer Paladin
1 Voice of Resurgence[/deck]

Once I have a reasonable avenue for testing online, I’m sure the specifics will be swapped around. For week one, I’d be comfortable playing something along these lines, and depending on the metagame I expected, I’d consider swapping Paladin and [card]Witchstalker[/card]. I like ‘Stalker a bit more this weekend, because I suspect Islands will have a big showing against the Jund/Hexproof flood week one. This is also why my sideboard is biased against slower control strategies. If you want to piss people off and don’t want to commit to Bant, then you still have other options.

[deck]4 Invisible Stalker
3 Fencing Ace
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Fiendslayer Paladin
4 Madcap Skills
4 Spectral Flight
4 Ethereal Armor
2 Gift of Orzhova
4 Boros Charm
2 Syncopate
2 Azorius Charm
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Sulfur Falls
1 Slayers Stronghold[/deck]

Even if this shell is outdated, there are enough ways to go with this deck that it’s worth looking into the strategy past straight Bant.

Jund and Reanimator

No new lists are necessary for either of these lists, since the first week they’ll remain largely the same. Sure, they’ll add [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] to the mix, but outside of those I see very few changes popping up. Jund itself will likely need more relevant [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card] removal due to the legend rule changes, and [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] will see more play against Bant Auras. We may even see [card]Barter in Blood[/card] make an appearance if the auras see as much play as many expect. For Ooze in Jund, 2-3 in the main deck will likely be the norm until people figure out exactly how many they want. In essence, you have graveyard interaction on a creature that can end the game versus just drawing a random card.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Jund took home the first week opening accolades over hexproof and the various aggro swarms. It’s definitely one of the best decks in the format right now and only looked to get better with the release of M14. You absolutely need a plan against [card]Burning Earth[/card] or every game will end with playing [card]Thragtusk[/card] and then dying the next time you decide to cast a spell. Even if it ends up being a narrow card, you really need something that can hit it. My guess is [card]Golgari Charm[/card] will be used in some while others take the Reanimator plan of using [card]Acidic Slime[/card]. My guess is you’ll see more than a handful locked by this card after stabilizing the board.

In Reanimator I suspect the same will be true, since the card provides another source of life gain against aggro and midrange while providing a solid trump to the Rites plan and Angel loops in the mirror. [card]Acidic Slime[/card] will still be a major factor and likely be the ideal trump, but Ooze provides a card that can outgrow anything in the mirror and the deck can power it up regardless of opponent. Outside of that, I’ve heard some rumblings about a handful of M14 cards, but none of them look very interesting to me except [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] for the mirror.

Humans, Aristocrats, and Blitzing

[deck]Main Deck
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
3 Skirsdag High Priest
4 Cartel Aristocrat
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Lingering Souls
4 Xathrid Necromancer
2 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
2 Garruk Relentless
1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
4 Tragic Slip
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Overgrown Tomb
3 Woodland Cemetery
2 Temple Garden
2 Plains
3 Cavern of Souls
2 Gavony Township
Sideboard
2 Abrupt Decay
3 Fiendslayer Paladin
3 Unflinching Courage
2 Golgari Charm
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council[/deck]

This is the Humans take on The Aristocrats deck, and I like the first look of it. The mana isn’t anywhere near as crippling, and if [card]Varolz, the Scar-Striped[/card] isn’t carrying it’s weight, it doesn’t take much to swap it out for something on-color. In fact, if [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] and [card]Gavony Township[/card] weren’t so good, I wouldn’t even bother with green. [card]Xathrid Necromancer[/card] and [card]Champion of the Parish[/card] provide a better clock against midrange decks and even more resilience against sweepers.

Many will notice I’ve removed [card]Blood Artist[/card] from the deck. This is in part due to [card]Xathrid Necromancer[/card] taking it’s place and part fixing the mana of the deck. With the addition of [card]Champion of the Parish[/card], removal of Artist and addition of Necromancer we can now have color focus in the deck. No longer are you split amongst three colors, you can focus on WB with splashes of green and run Cavern of Souls as an additional fixer!

How many times outside of the mirror do you actually get into stalled board states? For me it doesn’t happen all that often between Cartel Aristocrat/Voice/Varolz/PW/Township. If they aren’t playing Lingering Souls or stalled out an aggro match where you have a significant board vs. [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], odds are pretty low on this being a normal occurrence. People always remember the times where they grind the game out and [card]Blood Artist[/card] provided enough of a life swing to win or where they drew a 2nd and just killed the opponent. They tend to undersell the number of games where BA is a blank.

Even if you like Blood Artist more than Xathrid, my argument isn’t just ‘Necromancer does more’, my full argument is that by dropping Artist and Young Wolf, you can embrace the Human sub theme which leads to fixing your mana. Which to me is worth it even if Artist is superior. Not only do you get the option to run [card]Cavern of Souls[/card], but just by giving the deck a main set of colors instead of ideally having GWB by turn 2 every game.

I still think Junk ‘Crats is a good choice for the metagame and if we keep tweaking it until the mana isn’t embarrassing then it will be a top tier deck. [card]Ray of Revelation[/card] may end up the best sideboard card I’m currently not playing, and I could easily see it switching places with [card]Fiendslayer Paladin[/card] or another SB card to help the Bant Auras match.

[deck]4 Experiment One
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Boros Elite
4 Lightning Mauler
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Mayor of Avabruck
4 Imposing Sovereign
3 Frontline Medic
3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
2 Boros Charm
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Temple Garden
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Stomping Ground
2 Clifftop Retreat
2 Sunpetal Grove[/deck]

[card]Imposing Sovereign[/card] gives this deck a new lease on life by removing the precious early blockers many decks rely on. [card]Firefist Striker[/card] is obviously a similar card, but far worse against the likes of [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and [card]Restoration Angel[/card]. Sovereign is also on-color (every land makes white) and while it can’t be powered out by BTE, that’s not a big complaint when you have this many cards that are.

I bring Blitz back up because I think it was unfairly discarded while people fawned over straight red decks. However I do see the downside of running a 19-20 land aggro plan and either running fours (blech) or dropping [card]Hellrider[/card] (a very strong end game). Let’s see if we can split the difference with something like GW Humans.

[deck]4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Imposing Sovereign
4 Mayor of Avabruck
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Frontline Medic
4 Sublime Archangel
3 Selesnya Charm
3 Rancor
3 Mutavault
4 Temple Garden
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Plains
4 Forest[/deck]

You can definitely make this deck more aggressive or focused around a particular keyword like exalted or soulbond, but I wanted to be conservative with the deck to start with. [card]Frontline Medic[/card] may be too ambitious for this build and could be better off as [card]Silverblade Paladin[/card] or [card]Fiendslayer Paladin[/card], but I’m a big fan of [card]Frontline Medic[/card] and [card]Imposing Sovereign[/card] against the barrage of [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card]s, [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card], and [card]Thragtusk[/card]s I expect non-aggro to be on.

I’ll probably stick to what I know with Jund or Junk Aristocrats, but who knows—I could be convinced to play a deck playing unfair games of Magic. Whatever deck you choose this weekend, I cannot stress how much better off you’ll be if you have a coherent sideboard. M14 has brought a slate of very good sideboard options to every good deck and if you treat them like their pre-M14 counterparts, you’ll be in for a rude awakening when you battle post-board.

Good luck and good battling!

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: [email protected]

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