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5 Decks You Can't Miss This Week


Fate Reforged prereleases start this weekeend, which means all kinds of exciting news for Standard - at least next week. For now, we've got five exciting decks featuring new takes on classic strategies in all your favorite formats. We'll start with a new take on control in Standard, and then head into Modern for fresh takes on Primeval Titan and Cranial Plating. We've also got an exciting Legacy deck featuring the return of a classic one-drop and a new Commander deck featuring Atarka, World Render. The technology is interesting, the decks are awesome, and there's something for everyone; these are five decks you just can't miss.

Just as control is shifting out of favor in the Standard format, Andrew Cuneo returns with a new take on classic Blue-White Control with a splash. Instead of being base Blue-Black for discard and Hero's Downfall, Andrew has opted for the powerful finisher in Elspeth, Sun's Champion and other strong White removal spells. Is this the new face of control in Standard? Let's find out:

Andrew's list returns to the roots of Blue-based control: all counterspells, all the time. Of course, it was easy to play counterspells like Force of Will and Counterspell back in the day. Now that you're casting Dissolve, Dissipate, and Nullify, you know that someone means business when they start countering your spells. Andrew even has a pair of maindeck Negates to get any errant Planeswalkers and Disdainful Stroke for the bigger spells in the format.

The biggest boon that White gives you over black is a real finisher in Elspeth. Of course, you can combo Elspeth with something like Devouring Light to be mana efficient. Andrew has instead opted for less efficient but more flexible removal spells: Pillar of Light and End Hostilities are backed up by the more efficient but less powerful Red counterparts, Lightning Strike and Anger of the Gods. The red splash even gives you Keranos, as even more inevitability when the game goes long.

Backed the the typical suite of Jace's Ingenuity, Dig Through Time, and Perilous Vault, Andrew's deck has the tools to beat most of Standard if you draw the right pieces in the right matchups. The trick, as always, is to make sure you're playing the right combination of answers in your 75 for a given weekend.

Remember when Amulet of Vigor was just a cute thing some people were doing in Modern? Stephen Speck may have changed all that with his second place finish at Grand Prix Omaha piloting the only deck in Modern capable of regularly casting turn two Primeval Titans. How'd he get it done? Let's take a look:

The plan, as before, is to combine Amulet of Vigor with bouncelands like Simic Growth Chamber and extra land drops to generate absurd quantities of mana in the first few turns of the game. The marquee opening of this deck involves a turn one Amulet of Vigor, followed by a Green bounceland on turn two to cast Summer Bloom. If you pick up your bounceland each time, you can use your land drops to generate enough to cast Primeval Titan. The titan fetches Slayer's Stronghold and Boros Garrison to haste him up. That means you get to attack and set up a Sunhome, Fortress of Legion hit on the following turn. In case you missed it, that's the potential for a turn three kill, or to generate an enormous amount of mana and card advantage early in the game.

When things don't go quite that well, you've still got plenty of options to pressure your opponent. Extra land drops and bouncelands is a naturally powerful ramp engine, even without Amulet of Vigor to go completely broken. Tolaria West plus Simic Growth Chamber gives you a way for Primeval Titan to tutor for Pacts to function as removal, countermagic, or additional copies of Primeval Titan. If that's not enough, you've got the backup plan of Hivemind plus pacts to kill your opponents without even entering combat.

This deck has a ton of explosive potential and plenty of backup plans for when things don't go quite the way you expect them to. It's been a fringe deck for quite some time now, but maybe this is the push it needed to become part of mainstream modern.

This deck, on the other hand, is already a big player in Modern. Affinity has been the default aggressive deck in the format since it's inception at Pro Tour Philadelphia. Since then, there's been a number of different takes on the archetype, primarily revolving around small shifts in Thoughtcast, Galvanic Blast, and Master of Etherium. S_B_I_R_U has a different take that's not just shifting some numbers, and it all relies on an interesting Land choice.

Most Affinity lists play a pile of Blinkmoth Nexuses and Inkmoth Nexuses to fight through the Pyroclasms, Ancient Grudges and other powerful removal spells that you're bound to face throughout any long Modern event. These manlands give you extra reach, a higher threat density, and the option to threaten a poison kill, sometimes out of nowhere. S_B_I_R_U has eschewed this plan in it's entirety in favor of Contested War Zone.

Contested War Zone does a lot of interesting things in this deck. First off, it's less powerful than options like Steel Overseer. That said, it is more immediate, since you can play and activate Contested War Zone in the same turn. This has the potential to make Affinity about a turn faster in a lot of games, since you can focus on dumping your hand and close things out with a surprise battle cry trigger. It also encourages you to play the actual affinity cards, like Frogmite, rather than the stand-alone threats like Steel Overseer.

The problem is that planning on overextending makes you even more vulnerable to the sweepers that plague Affinity. S_B_I_R_U has a solution to that problem as well. Instead of just one or two Welding Jars, he's playing the full four plus Scale of Chiss-Goria to protect key creatures from things like Electrolyze and Pyroclasm. This means that you can get hyper aggressive, dumping your hand without fear of sweepers or removal and threatening lethal hits with Contested War Zone. As the format has become more midrangey and defined by Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time decks, it may be that this more aggressive take is a better place to be.

If you've been paying any attention at all to Legacy in the last few years, you're familiar with the Temur Delver of Secrets archetype. For the better part of three years, this was the defining tempo deck of the format, using Nimble Mongoose and Delver of Secrets backed by powerful countermagic, Stifle, and Wasteland to keep your opponent from ever resolving a relevant spell while you attacked them to death. That plan has become less effective in a world of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time because your graveyard is so much more relevant, and because Wasteland and Stifle are less desirable when your opponent can just Treasure Cruise to find the lands they're missing. This weekend, Daryl Ayers may have solved the problem and found a new backup one-drop. Here's where he ended up:

Kird Ape makes a triumphant return to Legacy as an aggressive one-drop that beats up on Young Pyromancer and Deathrite Shaman, survives Pyroclasm, and doesn't depend on the graveyard. This means that you can attack freely into most of the creatures of the format, can delve away your graveyard at will, and consistently apply pressure to the combo decks of the format.

Beyond the inclusion of a new one-drop, the deck hasn't changed particularly much. Forked Bolt has increased in value in a world with Young Pyromancer and Elves taking up such a large portion of the metagame. Taxing counterspells like Daze and Spell Pierce had been falling out of favor and been replaced largely with maindeck Pyroblasts and similar cards that hate on Blue. Daryl's list goes back up to nearly the full number of soft counters, since he now has consistent access to aggressive one-drops that can kill an opponent almost entirely on their own.

I don't know that Kird Ape is the threat that Temur Delver needed to stay relevant in Legacy, but I love that it was enough for this weekend, and I can't wait to see Kird Ape backed by Force of Will at a table near me sometime soon.

The Fate Reforged Prerelease is this weekend and it will bring with it an awesome new aggressive general: Atarka, World Render. Atarka's ability is a fun, splashy one that enables you to do cool things with Dragons that like to hit your opponents a la Balefire Dragon or Mordant Dragon. Alternatively, you can head in the direction that Vash9177 did and build your deck around giving Atarka haste and +5/+0 and to one-shot your opponents.

[Cardlist title= Atarka One-Shot - Commander | Vash9177]

I love decks that have focused, cohesive themes, and this is certainly a great example of that. You have an enormous amount of ramp here, utilizing not only mana rocks but also mana creatures and actual ramp spells. The goal is to generate enough mana that you can set up Atarka plus a haste enabler plus a pump spell of some variety all in one turn, preferably with backup Seize the Day or Relentless Assault to try to kill the table all at once. I'm not sure that this plan will earn you a ton of friends, but it's definitely a pretty exciting way to build a deck.

Vash9177's build is heavily focused on cheap, permanent-based ways to double up on the damage produced by Atarka. Things like Xenagos, God of Revels and Inquisitor's Flail let you easily generate the requisite 21 points of damage in one combat step. Dictate of the Twin Gods is particularly interesting because you can flash it in once your opponents have decided not to block for the surprise kill. Outside of the permanent-based buffs, Vash9177 also has access to a handful of pump spells: Stonewood Invocation, Rush of Blood, and Become Immense for example. These five-power pump spells in particular are super important because you're looking for the cheapest possible way to get to 11 power, the magic number to kill your opponents with double strike. An interesting direction this list could head in is to be more dependent on effects like Cathedral of War or Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers so that more efficient effects like Invigorate and Might of Old Krosa are still lethal. In that same vein, Primal Bellow is probably awesome in this style of deck with all the Forest tutors like Farhaven Elf and Wood Elves.

Last but certainly not least are the haste enablers. There are four really good ones in this list: the obligatory Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots, but also Hall of the Bandit Lord and Flamekin Village as uncounterable sources of haste.

All told, this is an exciting new Commander that poses a lot of interesting deckbuilding questions, and I can't wait to see how they get resolved. Here's hoping to seeing some one-shot attempts at a table near me!

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