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5 Decks You Can't Miss This Week

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The holidays are upon us and soon Oath of the Gatewatch previews will be in full swing, but we've still got plenty of Battle for Zendikar Magic left to play. This week we have five decks that show that there's still plenty of room to explore in your format of choice. We'll start in Standard with a pair of decks featuring Bring to Light and Temur Ascendancy as ways to value your opponents to death. Then we'll head to Modern to find out what Black has to offer hatebears and what the new face of Knightfall combo may look like. Finally, we'll go into Legacy to find out where you stand on the Food Chain. Let's get started.


Bringing the Value

Who doesn’t love a good value engine? One of the most interesting and frustrating thigns about this Standard environment is the prevalence, power, and efficiency of card advantage engines. Between Treasure Cruise, Read the Bones, Painful Truths, Dig Through Time, Outpost Siege, and Planeswalkers, it’s not hard for midrange decks to trade haymakers turn after turn without running out of cards. This leads to an interesting guessing game wherein you can almost always find something bigger to do, but if you go too big you risk getting smashed by the aggro decks. Joe Lossett has an interesting deck that uses Bring to Light to make sure he has all the tools to grind out midrange while still keeping up with Aggro:

Where do we even start? Just take a quick look down the list for cards that aren’t two-for-ones. Every card in this deck is either an efficient or catch-all answer, a Siege Rhino, or a two-for-one. This means that between Treasure Cruise and Abzan Charm, plus Jace and Den Protector to buy them back, you will always have access to more cards than your opponent. Bring to Light ensures that you have the right answers, and allows you to play singletons that either break open particular matchups, answer especially problematic cards, or provide a gamebreaking advantage going long. Or you can just chain Siege Rhinos until your opponent dies.

The power of this deck comes from its ability to ensure that it always has the right answers and threats given enough time and preparation. Planeswalkers are a problem, so you have access to Silumgar's Command as a Bring to Light target and multiple ways to buy it back when games run long. Similarly, you have a singleton Kolaghan's Command, which is a great two-for-one against aggro decks, but also a crazy value engine with Den Protector for control matchups. Even sideboard cards gain a lot of value when you can consistently find and reuse your most powerful answers. Crackling Doom, Anafenza, and Infinite Obliteration are all cards you want to be able to find, but don’t necessarily want to play a lot of copies of.

This is not an easy deck to build, and I can’t imagine it’s easy to play. However, if you predict the metagame correctly, this style of deck is rewarded with an enormous edge against the rest of the field.


The Eldrazi Ascend

We’ve got a handful of ramp strategies in Standard, ranging from Green-Red with Ulamog to Green-Blue with Part the Waterveil or Drowner of Hope. Some builds have gone as far as to combine Crumble to Dust with Oblivion Sower to gain more of an edge against control decks and in the ramp mirror. This week, I’m excited to look at Matt Higgs’s take on ramp, which is completely different than any other flavor I’ve seen in Standard thus far. Here’s Matt’s Temur Ascendancy ramp deck:

Temur Ascendancy has a lot of value in a shell like this because it helps you overcome the biggest weakness of Ramp strategies. Often, ramp decks are rather anemic. You spend a few turns ramping, cast a giant bomb, and if your opponent has the right answer, you sit around hoping to draw another threat. Over the years, there have been many strategies to alleviate this issue, whether it’s ramping into cards like Ulamog that affect the board immediately, ramping into hasty threats like Thundermaw Hellkite, or ramping into Wurmcoil Engine, which generates extra cards or bodies whether it lives or not.

Temur Ascendancy does all of these things all at once. Suddenly all your threats are hasty, cantripping monsters that your opponent will be hard-pressed to fight through if you’re given the time to set up shop. Matt’s build does that through a combination of mana creatures like Rattleclaw Mystic and Leaf Gilder plus Kiora, Master of the Depths. Kozilek's Channeler is particularly powerful in this deck as a ramp effect with Kiora and as a cantrip with Temur Ascendancy.

But none of these things compare to the best part of this deck: the inclusion of Desolation Twin over Ulamog. That choice may seem a little strange until you recognize that Desolation Twin plus Temur Ascendancy allows you to draw to cards and present twenty points of hasty damage. This gives this deck the same kind of potential as Become Immense/Temur Battle Rage decks to just kill opponents out of nowhere. The difference is that people have learned to play cautiously against the Become Immense decks, while this strategy is much more likely to catch people by surprise.


Bring on the Hate

At this point, most players are familiar with the White-based hatebears strategies in Modern. Most builds are Green-White, featuring Voice of Resurgence and Wilt-Leaf Liege, but some opt to go Red for Magus of the Moon and other non-basic land hate. CLYDE THE GLYDE DREXLER has opted to go in a different direction, relying on Black to get the job done:

There are two big pickups this deck gains from a Black splash: one-mana disruption in Thoughtseize effects and Dark Confidant. If Modern is pushing further and further towards unfair decks, then the early disruption of Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek is indispensable in making sure you have enough time to deploy disruptive threats like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Leonin Arbiter. However, the problem with this approach is that it becomes easier to run out of gas and give your opponent opportunities to weather your aggressive start and draw out.

Enter Dark Confidant. Early discard effects backed by disruptive creatures can buy you all kinds of time to try to get your opponent dead. If you have a Dark Confidant in play for a few of those turns, it becomes much easier to make sure your opponent can’t find a critical mass of resources to battle back, especially if they are trying to assemble specific combos like Splinter Twin.


In the Company of Knights and Mages

Since the printing of Retreat to Coralhelm, we've seen a handful of takes on the combo with Knight of the Reliquary[/card]. These decks have generally been midrangey Bant affairs that focus on beating down with the likes of Geist of Saint Traft or valuing opponents out with Eternal Witness and Collected Company. Matt_Rogers has a more combo-centric take with a few awesome bullets for the unfair matchups. Let's take a look:

This take is very interesting largely due to the inclusion of two unique cards as four-ofs: Meddling Mage and Voice of Resurgence. These cards are important because they function effectively both as part of the beatdown plan and as protection for the combo plan. Meddling Mage can name any removal spells you're concerned about, like Abrupt Decay which hits both combo pieces. Voice of Resurgence ensures that your opponents will be eating a ton of damage if they are able to interact with your combo during your turn. the best part? Both of these pseudo-protection creatures can be found off of Collected Company, giving this deck consistent access to both Knight of the Reliquary and some means of preventing your opponent from interacting.

The other strength of this deck is the addition of Red for powerful bullets. Chord of Calling and Collected Company do an awesome job of letting you dig through your deck to find powerful singletons and sideboard cards. Things like Magus of the Moon and Izzet Staticaster are not cards you're always going to want, but can be absolutely unbeatable in the matchups where they are good.

All told, this is an interesting take on the Knightfall combo with a lot of interesting ideas. Proactive protection that helps with the beatdown plan is awesome. Splashing for hateful creatures to find with Chord and Collected Company is fantastic, and can help with some of the matchups that were previously a problem. Is this the next big evolution of the Knightfall combo deck? There's only one way to find out!


Going up the Chain

Legacy is full of wacky combo decks, but Food Chain has always been one of the strangest. Before the printing of Misthollow Griffin, the deck relied on chaining together evoke creatures like Mulldrifter and Slithermuse to work your way up to Myojin of Seeing Winds, Myojin of Night's Reach, or Emrakul off of Fierce Empath. Since Misthollow Griffin entered the format, the deck has become a lot more resilient and efficient, but has still never really made its way into the spotlight. k_f_chicken is looking to change that:

There are so many strange synergies in this style of deck. The key idea is to use Manipulate Fate to exile a bunch of Misthollow Griffins from your deck and then resolve a Food Chain. From there, any Misthollow Griffin you cast lets you generate infinite mana of any color, as long as you're using it to cast creatures. From there, you can chain together cantrip creatures and Fierce Empath to find a Tidespout Tyrant. Since you can cast infinite Griffins, you can bounce your opponent's board and win at your leisure.

The strength of this deck lies in its ability to grind out enormous amounts of value against the midrange and control decks of the format. It may not look like it, but Misthollow Griffing is an absurd card advantage engine when games go long. You can use it as fodder to pitch to Force of Will or Misdirection for free. If your opponent is leaning on Swords to Plowshares as their removal spell of choice, you get to slowly grind your opponent out of removal spells with your 3/3 fliers.

It may not look like it, but this is a reasonably fast combo deck with a fair gameplan that is completely capable of grinding out the fair decks of the format. If you're looking for something a little off the wall to try at your next Legacy event, this may just be the deck for you!


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