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5 Decks You Can't Miss This Week - #MTGBFZ Edition

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Battle for Zendikar is finally here. It’s prerelease weekend, which means it’s time to crack some packs, find out how the set plays, and figure out which cards will be the big players for the new Standard. This is the most exciting time in the Magic year; It’s a time before the Pro Tour defines the metagame and Magic Online starts churning away at the new set. This is a time when anything is possible, and I can’t wait to see what the coming months may hold. This week is all about the new Standard format, and we’re featuring five decks that you may want to keep your eye on.

 


 

We’ll start with a deck from Magic Origins Standard that doesn’t lose much in the rotation. Earlier this spring, Mike Flores put together an awesome Five-Color Dragons deck featuring a giant pile of counterspells to win midrange wars, backed by Haven of the Spirit Dragon and Crucible of the Spirit Dragon to gain an edge in the more controlling matchups. Neal Oliver thought the metagame was prime for this deck to make a comeback, and managed to take down the last World Magic Cup Qualifier with his new take on Five-Color Dragons:

This deck is very much in the style of the Mystical Teachings decks from Time Spiral Block. A huge part of this deck’s power comes from Crucible of the Spirit Dragon. This card allows you to leave up mana turn after turn to represent counterspells, but still progress your game plan if your opponent doesn’t cast a spell into your open mana. You can just sit back and charge up your crucible until you can drop one or more Dragons and still leave up enough blue mana to protect them.

The availability of efficient counterspells all the way up the curve is the reason this style of deck can be effective. It’s not unreasonable to use the combination of Silumgar's Scorn, Dissolve, and Clash of Wills to keep the board relatively clear while you prepare your mana engine so you can start jamming Dragons.

The success of this deck is exciting largely because it loses so little in the rotation. It won’t be difficult to replace Temple of Enlightenment with the likes of Lumbering Falls and Prairie Stream, or Dissolve with Scatter to the Winds. Perilous Vault may be rotating, but it wouldn’t be too difficult to fit Crux of Fate into the deck, and you also have the ability to use Clutch of Currents, Rush of Ice, or Tightening Coils to shore up the weak matchup against more efficient aggro decks.

Abzan and Jeskai are powerful decks that don’t lose much in the rotation. This is a deck that does well against that type of midrange strategy and even picks up a number of interesting tools from Battle for Zendikar. As long as the format isn’t overwhelmingly aggressive, this seems like a deck that could easily define the early weeks of the format.

 


 

Of course, the new Cinder Glade lands aren’t just for control decks. The combination of fetchlands, Evolving Wilds, and these new lands provides a robust mana base for all kinds of decks, and may enable all manner of crazy splashes in control and midrange strategies. That’s not enough for Kyle Boggemes though. He’s taken the mana in this format a step further, and is trying to overwhelm the opposition with all of the best threats in the format. Check out Kyle’s take on Five-Color aggro:

This is an interesting deck because it represents an extreme of what may be possible with the new dual lands from Battle for Zendikar. This deck plays a full fourteen fetchlands with only five fetchable basics. The thing is, if you can fetch up two basics early on, it’s possible that you will have perfect mana for the rest of the game with just one or two dual lands to back it up, particularly if you add something like Rattleclaw Mystic or Beastcaller Savant to the mix.

It’s important to recognize this deck will not frequently cast multiple spells a turn. When trying to take over a game, you are relying on the raw power of your spells rather than the velocity at which you can deploy them. It is not unreasonable that this deck could curve Heir of the Wilds or Rattleclaw Mystic into Mantis Rider into Siege Rhino or a hasty Savage Knuckleblade. That kind of curve backed by a Crackling Doom or Dromoka's Command would be enough to overwhelm many midrange decks.

It remains to be seen what the appropriate split of fetches, basics, and duals would be for this style of deck, and whether the addition of the fifth color is really as free as it appears; but, there’s certainly something to this style of deck if the mana end up working out. If you can cast all of the best spells in the format, that’s generally a recipe for success.

 


 

Of course, not every deck in Battle for Zendikar Standard will rely on swingy haymakers like Dragons or Siege Rhinos; some decks are going to be built on powerful, synergistic interactions. In his preparation for the new Standard, Matt Higgs has come up with an awesome new take on Jeskai Tokens featuring Zada, Hedron Grinder. Let’s find out what Zada can do:

Matt’s deck is an exciting new take on a token strategy that uses Zada as a pseudo Overrun. In this shell, it’s not hard to use Dragon Fodder, Hordeling Outburst, and the splashed Unified Front to flood the board with tokens and stall out the ground. Once you’ve done that, it’s easy to cast Zada plus either Might of the Masses or Become Immense on the same turn to overrun your opponent and close out the game.

In addition to this straightforward, over-the-top game plan, Matt also has the ability to grind out games with Unified Front, Catacomb Sifter, and Abbot of Keral Keep, allowing him to keep up with the card advantage of Siege Rhino and other haymakers.

The most exciting part about this deck is that there are plenty of ways to build it. You could easily shift the deck to be base R/W for extra copies of Unified Front and the addition of Monastery Mentor as another token generator and Defiant Strike as a card advantage engine. There are a lot of ways to build this style of deck, and I think Matt has only scratched the surface of what is possible.

 


 

Not every deck can stretch into four or even five colors to play all the best cards. Some decks are going to overwhelm opponents with efficiency and speed rather than raw power. The problem with these aggro strategies is that you risk being outclassed by more powerful threats like Siege Rhino and Mantis Rider. Find out how Mark Nestico’s take on B/R Aggro tries to avoid this issue and trump the midrange decks:

This is a deck that is built around using Bloodsoaked Champion, Carrier Thrall, and Hangarback Walker to take advantage of Merciless Executioner and Smothering Abomination and apply pressure to your midrange opponents. These resilient threats allow you to sacrifice your creatures to keep up with your opponent on cards and put your opponent further behind on the board. It also gives you the ability to more easily flip Liliana, Heretical Healer.

In addition to the plan of using tokens to value your opponent out, you have the ability to go wide by flooding the board with Goblin tokens and using Drana, Liberator of Malakir as an anthem effect. Sure, you’re probably going to lose some tokens on the attack, but after a hit or two your tokens will be trading up with Mantis Riders or attacking through Jace, Vryn's Prodigy.

This aggressive backbone combined with a handful of midrange engine cards will give you the ability to go bigger than aggro decks while managing to pressure the midrange and control decks of the format. You also have the ability to sideboard cards like Ob Nixilis Reignited and Outpost Siege to go big or board into efficient removal spells to tune your deck after sideboarding. This kind of proactive plan with enormous flexibility out of the sideboard is especially valuable in a new format, and may be a great place to start out in Battle for Zendikar.

 


 

Our final deck for this week is a new take on the deck that defined the early weeks of Khans of Tarkir Standard: Jeskai. These decks ranged from aggressive builds featuring Goblin Rabblemaster and Jeskai Charm to more midrange takes featuring Dissolve and End Hostilities. These decks don’t lose a whole lot in the rotation, and actually gain quite a bit from Magic Origins and Battle for Zendikar which may make Jeskai a dominant force in the early weeks. Check out Josh Silverti’s take on Jeskai:

This deck does a lot of awesome things. Mantis Rider and Thunderbreak Regent are your primary aggressive threats, functioning both as enormous roadblocks in more aggressive matchups and damage-efficient threats in controlling matchups. These are backed up by Hangarback Walker and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, which are awesome at fighting the attrition wars that Abzan decks prefer. Given the power of new mana bases, it’s not unreasonable to expect that most people are going to be playing grindy, three-or-more-color midrange decks, so these threats which can generate damage or cards when they trade with removal spells are absolutely critical.

In addition to this suite of resilient creatures and efficient, interactive spells, Battle for Zendikar gives this deck a number of very interesting tools. For starters, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is absolutely busted. He is a resilient threat unto himself, can stall out the ground in attrition matchups, or can just anthem up your board of Mantis Riders and Thopter tokens to force through lethal. Gideon is a powerful role-player, and this may be the deck best suited to take advantage of all his abilities early on in this new format.

Similarly, this is the deck that seems best poised to take advantage of two of the more powerful spells in Battle for Zendikar, Radiant Flames and Brutal Expulsion. Radiant Flames can be used in a myriad of ways, particularly because you can choose the number of colors used to cast the card. You can sweep away small creatures while leaving your Mantis Riders and Dragons intact or attack into larger threats and use Radiant Flames to deal the last few points of damage.

Brutal Expulsion is terrifyingly similar to Cryptic Command in the way that it can lead to enormous swings in tempo, which is especially potent on the turns after you play Mantis Rider. The ability to Remand a spell and kill a creature to swing the race in your favor, or kill Ob Nixilis Reignited and bounce your guy in response to Ob Nixilis’s -3 ability is super powerful. If you’re ahead on board, this card is always going to help you stay ahead. If you’re in a close race, suddenly you can generate an enormous swing. If you’re behind, this is a card that can easily catch you back up and even put you ahead. It’s hard to say if the abilities are generally powerful enough that you’ll want the full four, but it’s hard to argue that it isn’t powerful enough to be at least a three-of in most U/R tempo shells.


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