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5 Decks You Can't Miss This Week

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The holidays are upon us, but the evolution of Magic technology slows for no one. This week we have five decks from Standard, Modern, and Legacy featuring the latest developments, exciting new strategies, and fresh takes on old favorites. We’ll start in Standard with a Crumble to Dust ramp deck and a W/B Planeswalker control deck. In Modern, we have interesting takes on Scapeshift and Lantern of Insight Control. Finally, we turn to Legacy to find out whether Grenzo, Dungeon Warden can revitalize the classic Legacy tribe. Let’s get started!


Leave Them in the Dust

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen the power and diversity of ramp strategies in Standard. Between mana creatures and Explosive Vegetation as ramp effects and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon at the top end, there’s no question ramp is a viable deck. The question is how to maximize the consistency, power, and resiliency of the ramp deck against cards like Crackling Doom and Ojutai's Command. Conley Woods may have solved this problem with an interesting way of bridging the gap between the 4-mana ramp spells and the 10-mana payoff cards:


This deck has three identifying features which set it apart from the other R/G ramp decks we’ve seen in this Standard format. The first is Conley has maxed out on both Leaf Gilder and Rattleclaw Mystic. This deck wants more than anything to curve a 2-drop into either From Beyond or Explosive Vegetation to really get the mana flowing. From Beyond is particularly important as a way to ensure you have access to both reasonable ramp as well as the ability to tutor for giant colorless monsters to close the game out.

Speaking of giant colorless monsters, this deck plays an Eldrazi which received a lot of hype during preview season but never really panned out: Oblivion Sower. This card is a pseudo-Primeval Titan as it is a 6-drop which will generally net you some number of lands and gum up the ground. The difference is Oblivion Sower combos with Crumble to Dust to help ensure you can jump directly from 6 mana to 10 mana. Additionally, since so many decks rely so heavily on fetchlands to find relatively few battlelands, it’s not entirely unreasonable to think Crumble to Dust could cut players off of much-needed colors.


Back in White-Black

Over the last weekend, we saw the meteoric rise of Painful Truths as one of the defining card advantage engines in Standard. Whether the deck is Epser Dragons, Jeskai Black, Abzan, Mardu, or even Temur, Painful Truths has made its presence known as a powerful means of fueling up after trading resources in the early game. We also saw a new midrangey, control deck prominently featuring the powerful Planeswalkers available in Black and White:


There are a number of very interesting things about this deck. At its core, it’s a W/B removal deck which uses Silkwrap and Murderous Cut to keep the board under control, Painful Truths to stay ahead on cards, and powerful Planeswalkers like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, and Ob Nixilis Reignited to pull ahead and generate ongoing advantages over the course of the game.

The most interesting piece of this deck is its ability to suddenly shift gears and end games on the spot. Between Sorin and Gideon to pump your creatures’ power and the ability of Secure the Wastes and Hangarback Walker to give you tokens at the end of your opponent’s turn, it’s not hard to imagine trading resources for the first few turns and then suddenly dealing your opponent upward of twelve damage to put the game away.

Additionally, the fetchland-battleland mana bases of this format make it easy for this deck to touch Blue. This gives you a third color for Painful Truths as well as powerful sideboard options such as Negate, Disdainful Stroke, and Dragonlord Silumgar. This flexibility, combined with the raw efficiency of the Black and White interaction in this format, give this deck a lot of ways to create favorable game states and generate openings for Planeswalkers to take over the game.


Less Blue, More Valakuts

Scapeshift has been a force in Modern since the format’s inception as one of the premier combo-control decks in the format alongside Splinter Twin. Typically, Scapeshift decks are U/G, just touching Red for Mountains and Lightning Bolts. Of course, there are other ways to Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle opponents out of the game. This week, Luis Scott-Vargas explores a straight R/G build with more Mountains, more Valakuts, and more Primeval Titans.


Scapeshift usually has the problem of being pretty anemic as a combo deck. There are very few business spells which actually matter, mostly the namesake Scapeshifts. This deck compensates by cutting the Blue nonsense like Cryptic Command and Peer Through Depths for more ramp, more Valakuts, and Primeval Titan to tie it all together.

The advantage of this build lies in its ability to consistently ramp up to 6 or 7 mana by turn four. Additionally, this deck is more capable of just assembling Valakut plus mountains and killing opponents without the need for Scapeshift at all. While other Scapeshift decks risk running out of Mountains, this straight R/G build is able to run Primal Command, which can put lands sacrificed to previous Scapeshifts back into your deck to deal more damage.

The most exciting card in this build is Commune with Lava. Commune is a way for this deck to leverage early ramp to ensure you can find the gas you need to close out the game. Whether you hit a Valakut and some ramp spells, a Primeval Titan, a Scapeshift, or just a powerful sideboard card, having access to an instant-speed draw spell gives this deck enormous opportunities to either pull far ahead of opponents or to force the combo through.


Lantern Control and the Art of Zen

Lantern Control may well be the most aggressive do-nothing deck in Modern. This eclectic combination of cards is more than capable of making sure your opponents won’t be doing anything at all even though you may not be doing very much either. That said, because the deck is relatively new, there’s still plenty of room to explore and figure out what an optimized list looks like. To that end, Jidden has a few ideas:


The goal of this deck is the same as it has always been: Find a Lantern of Insight, flood the board with Ghoulcaller's Bells, and stick an Ensnaring Bridge with your hand empty. From that point, you can use the knowledge of the top of your opponent’s deck to manipulate their draw steps and ensure they don’t draw relevant cards for the rest of the game.

There are a number of interesting choices in this deck, starting with Trinket Mage. Trinket Mage and Ancient Stirrings give you additional opportunities to find Lantern of Insight to start forcing your opponent to draw more and more blanks. The second interesting choice is the inclusion of Pyxis of Pandemonium, which is a functional Ghoulcaller's Bell which exiles instead of putting cards into the graveyard.

Lastly, Jidden includes Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas as a win condition over a card like Ghirapur Aether Grid. Tezzeret is vulnerable to removal like Maelstrom Pulse, but he provides life-gain against Lightning Bolt decks and can threaten to kill your opponent after being in play for just one turn. Additionally, Tezzeret can gum up the ground by animating various baubles or help dig for Ensnaring Bridge as necessary.


Goblin Jailbreak

For many years now, Elves has easily been the most powerful Tribal deck in Legacy. That wasn’t always the case. In previous years, Merfolk were ready to beat up on the Blue-based combo decks and midrange decks. Before that, Goblins were a top tier midrange, aggro deck. It’s been a long time since the little Red Creatures were a viable strategy, but Caleb Durward thinks it might be time to revisit the original flagship tribe of Legacy:


The shell of the deck is largely the same as when Goblins was last visited. Aether Vial and Goblin Lackey are the foundation of the deck, allowing you to cheat on mana and get ahead of your opponent on spells while also protecting key Goblins from counterspells. These cards are backed up by the attrition engine of Goblin Matron plus Goblin Ringleader to help pull you ahead on raw card advantage. Finally, you have the suite of Goblin Warchief and Goblin Piledriver as your explosive beat-down cards, backed by Siege-Gang Commander and Krenko, Mob Boss to help go over the top of other fair decks.

The more the metagame shifts toward decks like Miracles, the more powerful this strategy becomes. Goblin Lackey gives you a chance to win the game before Miracles can really get going, while Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls give you a powerful means of fighting through Counterbalance and Force of Will. Perhaps most importantly, Terminus doesn’t do a lot against this deck since it just lets you recycle your Matrons and Ringleaders to reassemble a threatening board presence.

The most interesting inclusion in Caleb’s deck is Grenzo. Grenzo is a powerful engine in attrition-oriented matchups. It’s a reasonable aggressive creature early in the game, but is also a gigantic threat later in the game once you’ve flooded out. Not only that, but Grenzo is also a powerful engine if you don’t feel like committing mana to casting threats on your main phase. Even Grenzo for 2 mana hits most of your Goblins, particularly when effects like Terminus, Vendilion Clique, and the new Vancouver mulligan can help you gain knowledge of the bottom of your deck.


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