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Standard with Magic 2015

Magic 2015 preview season has begun! With Theros block coming to a close, and a busy summer of Magic ahead, it’s time to dig into Magic 2015 previews and see what the newest base set has to offer. Over the years the role of the base set has changed dramatically. A long time ago, the base set was compromised completely of reprints from other sets. Now, things are very different. While old mechanics often make a return, there are very exciting new cards, even planeswalkers. The core sets are also created with Limited balance in mind, which has gone very well. M14 was one of my favorite sets to draft in recent memory.

In this article I’m going to explore a couple Standard decks using M15 cards and see if we can find some starting points when release time rolls around. Note that while there have been a few cards officially previewed, there are more that have been rumored. While in the past, I’ve found the rumors correct, I cannot personally guarantee their accuracy.

Mono-White Tokens

Due to the return of the convoke mechanic in M15, it isn’t a major surprise that many of the white cards have a token theme. Raise the Alarm is being reprinted, years after its initial printing in Mirrodon, and it looks like it will have a lot of synergy with some of the new cards.

Triplicate Spirits

As a six-mana sorcery, Triplicate Spirits doesn’t seem that powerful on its surface. But with the convoke mechanic, the ability to cast it as early as turn three, and then use the Spirits to cast more convoke cards, gives it the potential to be a very potent threat. In combination with Raise the Alarm and effects that can pump a mass of creatures, Triplicate Spirits can provide a very potent flying army capable of ending the game very quickly. I only included three copies of Triplicate Spirits because I was afraid that we’d end up drawing too many copies in the early game, cluttering up our hand.

Obelisk of Urd

Obelisk of Urd is another payoff card for having a lot of creatures with which to use the convoke mechanic. One thing you’ll notice about this White Weenie deck is that every creature and token, with the exception of Triplicate Spirits, is a Soldier. Taking a turn off from attacking to give all your creatures (and Mutavaults!) +2/+2 for the remainder of the game is almost definitely worth it. I do dislike the lack of synergy between Triplicate Spirits making Spirits and everything else being Soldiers, but it’s likely that if we have several of each type of creature in play, we can just use the type we aren’t going to name to convoke the Obelisk of Urd, and get a great attack right away. And remember, no matter what creature type we name, Mutavault will always get pumped.

Ajani, Steadfast

Ajani, Steadfast is an exciting new planeswalker. The plus ability provides a nice bonus to an attacker for a turn, and the ultimate can make us or some of our creatures more difficult to finish off, but what this deck is going to be really interested in is the -2 ability. Ajani provides another effect that will pump our creatures en masse. The more creatures we have in play, the more powerful the effect will be. Given that we intend to overload the battlefield with an army of creatures and creature tokens, Ajani is where we want to be. Four mana is going to be at the high end of our curve, and of course the legend rule applies to planeswalkers, so I decided to only include three, but it’s possible that the card will overperform expectations and we will end up wanting the fourth.

For 1-drops, I included the eight 1-drop two-power creatures to try to stay as aggressive as possible. Precinct Captain and Brimaz are both very powerful aggressive cards that double as token generators, which made them easy inclusions. The one copy of Phantom General might be more cute than it is effective, but with tokens coming from Triplicate Spirits, Raise the Alarm, Precinct Captain, Brimaz, and Launch the Fleet, I thought it was definitely worth trying out.

Green Devotion

Green Devotion is one deck that seems to get a lot of cool new toys in M15, starting with a new planeswalker!

Nissa, Worldwaker

Nissa, Worldwaker is a multipurpose tool for the green devotion deck. Both plus abilities are very powerful and provide a lot of value to the deck. First, for a “cost” of plus one, Nissa can turn any land into a 4/4 trampler. This will allow Green Devotion to build up threats in the midgame at no mana cost. It can also provide a valuable finisher if we’ve fallen victim to something like Supreme Verdict. It is made especially powerful against decks that rely on sorcery-speed removal spells, since if the land we target has already been in play to start the turn, our 4/4 effectively has haste.

The second plus one ability untaps up to four Forests. Given that the green devotion deck can and does play large expensive threats, it’s rare that this mana will go to waste. And lastly, if we are able to ultimate Nissa, we take all the basic lands out of our deck, and put them into play as 4/4s. This could be dangerous against some decks, like those with Supreme Verdict, but even then, at least we don’t have to draw any lands later in the game, which dramatically increases the power of our draw phases as well as the plus ability on Garruk, Caller of Beasts.

Genesis Hydra

Genesis Hydra is somewhat similar to Genesis Wave. The biggest difference, of course, is that Genesis Hydra only puts one permanent into play. Also, that permanent can’t be a land. However, in the case of Genesis Hydra, we are guaranteed to get an X/X creature no matter what happens with the cards we reveal from our deck. Typically, we are going to want to cast Genesis Hydra for at least 6, so that we have access to our highest converted mana cost cards and also the greatest chance to find them, but in a pinch, there could be situations where we cast it for less, and settling for Elvish Mystic or Sylvan Caryatid. In some of the most explosive situations, I could also see casting it for absurd amounts, as high as 15 or 20, in which case we almost get to Demonic Tutor for a permanent and put it into play.

Soul of Zendikar

One problem a deck like Green Devotion can have is that it is capable of drawing a ton of mana, and not a lot to do with it. If the only major threat you draw is something like Polukranos or Arbor Colossus, the opponent might be able to race it by blocking every turn with a Xenagos token or just playing and blocking with small creatures they find with their Domri Rade. However, a card like Soul of Zendikar is a threat in and of itself, while also being able to add more and more 3/3 creatures to the board. Also, against a deck like Black Devotion, if the opponent is able to deal with the Soul of Zendikar, it can be activated from the graveyard, giving us another 3/3, which certainly adds value.

Devotion to Dragons!

Okay, I admit this deck might be a little more fun than it is competitive, but so what? I am definitely going to build this deck once M15 is released and I really hope something like it turns out to be good. There is something particularly fun about playing a Dragon tribal deck.

Crucible of Fire

Once I saw that Crucible of Fire was going to be reprinted in M15, the first thing I did was look at all the Dragons legal in Standard. I wanted to put as many as I could into a deck, and a red devotion shell seemed like the perfect fit. But mostly, I really wanted to put Crucible of Fire into a deck with Mutavault. Mutavault was likely the best card in Standard before M15, and when Mutavault is a 5/5 it will obviously be even better! Particularly against a deck like blue/white control which relies on cards like Supreme Verdict, Detention Sphere, Planar Cleansing, and Last Breath to deal with creatures, having a land that can turn into a 5/5 for one mana will be close to unbeatable, forcing them to rush to deal with the Crucible itself. Dragon Hatchling, which is by far the cheapest Dragon in Standard, also can do some serious damage when it suddenly gets +3/+3 on turn four.

Hoarding Dragon

Hoarding Dragon is another reprint in M15. The ability isn’t great in this deck, but Hoarding Dragon is still a 4/4 flying Dragon for five mana and it does allow us to put a Hammer of Purphoros “in the bank.” It’s possible that it’s worth including an additional artifact, even as a one-of in the main deck, but there wasn’t a lot of space. I included the one Pithing Needle in the sideboard partly as a plan against Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. If we play Hoarding Dragon and put Pithing Needle under it, and our opponent uses the minus on Elspeth, we can play Pithing Needle on it and prevent Elspeth from overrunning us with a Soldier army.

I’m very excited to see the cards as they continue to be previewed. Hopefully these decks will give you some good starting points for figuring out the Standard format early on. Pro Tour Magic 2015 in Portland at the end of July is Standard, and I am looking forward to getting to work on the format with my team. So far, the set looks really fun to draft as well, and I’m eager to give that a try too. This weekend I’m heading to Grand Prix Washington, DC for my last Grand Prix of the season. On Friday night at 5:30 p.m., Reid Duke and I will be giving a Sealed Deck seminar at the site. It’s open to everyone, so if you’re going to be in DC, please try to attend!

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