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Ten New Core Set 2021 Standard Brews!

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Warning!

The decks you are about to see are mostly untested first drafts! They were played live on stream during the special Early Access event on MTG Arena this Thursday and are my first stabs at the Core Set 2021 Standard format. Most are brews jam packed with Core Set 2021 cards, while there are also a few updates to previously established archetypes, but it's important to note that these are the first steps and not finished products! Use them as stepping stones for your own deck brewing process, but play them card for card at your own risk!

Core Set 2021 is here, bringing with it a breath of fresh air into a somewhat stale Standard format.

It's been an unbelievably bumpy ride in Standard over the last two years, which makes Core Set 2021 all the more welcoming as it appears to be lacking any sort of Oko, Thief of Crowns/Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath/Teferi, Time Raveler nonsense. It is a set full of nice complementary pieces and themes, which helps to flesh out archetypes and create new ones without hammering you over the head with power creep. This is something Standard needs right now!

Today as per usual we're going to go over all ten decks I built and played on my stream yesterday during the Early Access Streamer event, briefly going over each list and my thoughts on how it was, giving it a letter grade, and talking about what kind of potential it has going forward. I played between three and five games with each deck in best of one so the deck's record will also be included.

Let's go!


Deck's Record: 3-2

Deck's Grade: B-

Deck Potential: Surprisingly High

Okay, let's be real. I would have played a Conspicuous Snoop Goblin deck even if it was just 30 Mons's Goblin Raiders, 26 Mountains, and 4 Conspicuous Snoops. It's an awesome new Goblin... how can I resist? But the surprising part was how well the deck performed!

Conspicuous Snoop
Goblin Ringleader

Conspicuous Snoop was gooooood. Like, really good. Having a decent 2-drop that has a massive impact on the game is incredible, as Conspicuous Snoop is the kind of synergy card that makes playing a bunch of cards that are weak in a vacuum but amazing when you hit critical mass really work. It joins Goblin Ringleader which plays a very similar role to form the backbone of what ends up being an almost Red Weenie deck.

Icon of Ancestry

Icon of Ancestry also fits the deck perfectly, as it helps to turn all of the material you draw into real threats. Glorious Anthem effects can backfire when you're just playing a creature on curve each turn, as if they kill your creatures one for one you're left with an enchantment that doesn't do anything. White decks are notoriously bad at drawing cards, which makes for an awkward spot. This deck draws cards by the fistful, and turning your wimpy Goblins into real threats is amazing. It also plays super well with Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin and Legion Warboss.

Is Goblins going to take over Standard? Well, we will see on that one, but this deck was the biggest surprise of the entire stream.


Deck's Record: 2-2

Deck's Grade: C+

Deck Potential: Low to Medium

When Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths came out, I was huge on Slitherwisp and Sea-Dasher Octopus.

Slitherwisp
Sea-Dasher Octopus

Unfortunately, they were both a pretty big letdown. It wasn't necessarily either card's fault. A combination of lack of support, an awkward mana base, and of course Teferi, Time Raveler (with a side of Mystical Dispute) had the deck mostly doomed before we got started. Both cards are great card draw engines, but it was just too hard to get them going effectively.

Thieves' Guild Enforcer
Eye Collector

Now we get a new flash 1-drop in Core Set 2021, Thieves' Guild Enforcer. Thieves' Guild Enforcer is pretty much everything that the Dimir Flash deck could want, giving it another good flash card as well as an early game play and help enabling Drown in the Loch. This build tried to get more aggressive with Eye Collector as a synergy card to aid Drown in the Loch and Sea-Dasher Octopus, but the results were mixed. These sorts of decks really need to have a smooth first few turns and would kill for Darkslick Shores.

If you like this style of deck it's worth working on, but for now just send an angry letter to Wizards of the Coast for reprinting Temples and not Fastlands.


Deck's Record: 2-2

Deck's Grade: B-

Deck Potential: Medium to High Post-Rotation

Another deck that felt like a meme going in, but another pleasant surprise.

Setessan Champion
Nessian Wanderer
Calix, Destiny's Hand

The constellation package from Theros Beyond Death was always pretty solid, but never got all the way there. Setessan Champion was an awesome card draw engine, but despite being tried multiple times it just couldn't really keep up with the other powerful things going on. Making a big creature and drawing enchantments just wasn't really enough.

Enter the new shrines.

Sanctum of Calm Waters
Sanctum of Stone Fangs
Sanctum of All

"Let's get all the shrines lolz" sounds silly, but they are quite powerful once you get them going. Being able to graft the shrines easily onto the already solid constellation engine helps to solve both of their individual problems. The constellation cards set up well and give your opponent something to deal with, while the shrines are able to create a cascading advantage that becomes too much to overcome. The fact that Sanctum of Tranquil Light and Sanctum of Stone Fangs are so cheap makes them easy to deploy and quickly gain value with constellation triggers.

While it may not have the raw power needed to compete right now, once War of the Spark and Core Set 2020 leave the format we may have something serious on our hands.


Deck's Record: 1-3

Deck's Grade: C

Deck Potential: Combo Is Great, May Not Be Best Shell

Splinter Twin returns to Standard!

Underworld Dreams
Peer into the Abyss

When Underworld Dreams was reprinted in Theros Beyond Death, it was mostly an amusing trinket; a relic of older times when players were very bad at evaluating how good cards were. Well it looks like the joke is on us, as it is now the centerpiece of a pretty simple two card, game winning combo. Here's how it works:

Step 1: Play Peer into the Abyss targeting your opponent with Underworld Dreams in play.

...

Oh, that's it.

They lose half their life, then draw presumably at least 20 cards and die.

This is very powerful, as many decks can't interact well with an enchantment and a sorcery without special tools, and Black has other ways to both pressure and protect the combo.

Cultivate
Thought Erasure
Teferi, Time Raveler

Our devotion-centered build here tried to make use of Underworld Dreams beyond just a combo piece, but we ran pretty bad during this four game set. Gray Merchant of Asphodel is good and we were very much able to win games without comboing, but a shell with either Green for ramp, Blue for Thought Erasure and Narset, Parter of Veils, or even Esper for Teferi, Time Raveler may perform better.


Deck's Record: 3-1

Deck's Grade: B+

Deck Potential: Medium to High

Why are Izzet Spells decks just so appealing?

Stormwing Entity
Sprite Dragon
Riddleform

The good news is that we've made significant strides since Stormchaser Mage and Adeliz, the Cinder Wind when it comes to prowess threats. Stormwing Entity is likely the best card in the entire set and is poised to see play in just about every format. It's huge, cheap, hits hard, and sets up your draws... and doesn't die to Fatal Push in Modern and Pioneer! Sprite Dragon is the best Izzet 2-drop ever, and Riddleform is a welcome reprint that solves the problem prowess threats usually have in that it's also a non-creature spell itself!

It's not all storm clouds and lightning bolts however, as the deck still lacks a good 1-drop like Soul-Scar Mage or Monastery Swiftspear. This can be a bit worrisome on the draw, especially against Teferi, Time Raveler. The spells themselves aren't all amazing either, but there's definitely something nice here. An aggressive and evasive deck that has access to countermagic and some good grindy options is very nice.

Another option would be to try Arclight Phoenix, which is definitely worth exploring.


Deck's Record: 1-2

Deck's Grade: C

Deck Potential: Medium

Gruul decks in various forms have been floating around Standard for a while, but this take with a bunch of new cards experienced medium results. We've got a lot of new cards here, but have a similar issue to the Stormwing Prowess deck in that we don't have any good 1-drops, which can make us a bit slow on the draw.

Marauding Raptor
Garruk, Unleashed
Terror of the Peaks

Still, there's a ton of raw power and beef here. Our creatures are huge, and Garruk, Unleashed was an awesome way to push through damage as well as trigger Terror of the Peaks the turn it enters the battlefield. With cards like Bonecrusher Giant and Garruk's Harbinger helping provide card advantage and the always awesome Questing Beast, it's hard to get this deck too wrong. Drowsing Tyrannodon was also surprisingly effective.

There's something here but it needs to be tuned properly.


Deck's Record: 3-1

Deck's Grade: A-

Deck Potential: High

This may have been one of our most impressive decks.

Village Rites
Hunted Witness
Dreadhorde Invasion

Village Rites is a major shot in the arm to a deck like this, providing an amazing amount of velocity at an extremely low cost. With so much food for it we do a great job hitting critical mass, which then leads us to our Cruel Celebrant effects to drain our opponent out from the double digits.

Woe Strider
Liliana's Standard Bearer

This deck definitely wants the fourth copy of Woe Strider as it facilitates all of your combo-esque kills, and being two bodies for one card with escape as a backup plan is awesome. Liliana's Standard Bearer underperformed, as the turn we sacrificed a lot of cards was usually us trying to kill them and needing to spend mana on other things. The numbers here all weren't perfect, but this deck did a great job of providing some beats with a lot of value and great endgame reach.

Village Rites is the truth!


Deck's Record: 4-0

Deck's Grade: B+

Deck Potential: Medium to High

Like constellation, proliferate and +1/+1 counters was a theme floating around in Standard that was operating just outside competitive viability. Once again, Core Set 2021 is here with reinforcements!

Conclave Mentor
Basri Ket

We've all see how format defining Winding Constrictor was when it was legal in Standard (while also making some waves in Pioneer and even Modern), which brings us to Conclave Mentor. Trading a point of toughness for some lifegain shenanigans isn't great, but the reality is that if Conclave Mentor lives your cards get turbo charged. Basri Ket is also a very solid threat that synergizes perfectly with the deck while also providing protection against Shatter the Sky.

We steamrolled people in our four games with this deck, but it is important to note that typically people are trying synergy decks that are light on interaction when they are brewing for a new format. We didn't play against decks playing piles of removal and Shatter the Sky, which could prove difficult. Still, there's some pretty solid beats happening here. Things start to get big and it only escalates from there very quickly. We even beat Ugin, the Spirit Dragon because we had a 6/6 Chamber Sentry in play which was able to finish it and then them off!

Wildwood Scourge

We did overlook Wildwood Scourge, which we would play against later in the event, which is just bananas with Conclave Mentor. Without Mentor it isn't that impressive, but it is definitely a card to keep an eye on.


Deck's Record: 1-3

Deck's Grade: D+

Deck Potential: Low, Much Higher If Black Is Added

Ajani, Strength of the Pride is a powerful planeswalker, but despite all the lifegain synergy cards they keep throwing at us it just doesn't really come together. White is just so lacking in velocity or any way to manipulate your deck that things just feel awkward.

Griffin Aerie
Speaker of the Heavens

Our new cards didn't really impress. Griffin Aerie was just too difficult to trigger consistently, while Speaker of the Heavens was only good if things were really going right. This just added to the laundry list of the cards in the deck that only work sometimes, and without of velocity to pull it all together it didn't feel great.

However, I think there is hope for the archetype.

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Revival // Revenge

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose is already impressive at face value, but also forms another two card instant kill with Revenge. With Revival also being solid and Vito playing very well with the normal fair lifegain elements, there's something spicy here.

I played this one for my upcoming CoolStuffInc.com video article which goes live this Monday, so keep an eye out for it!


Deck's Record: 0-4

Deck's Grade: F

Deck Potential: Very Low

This deck was mostly just a thought experiment to see how Alpine Houndmaster functioned in an actual game of Magic.

Alpine Houndmaster
Alpine Watchdog
Igneous Cur

A 2/2 for two that draws two cards, especially in Boros colors, is phenomenal, but of course those cards are draft commons. Is the allure of a three for one worth the trouble? We tried to tie together a tribal dog deck with some Winota shenanigans but the pieces just aren't there. Pack Leader is one of the best two-mana tribal lords ever printed on rate, but there just aren't enough impactful dog cards to put a deck together.

There may be some way to make Alpine Houndmaster work in Constructed, but avoid this attempt at all costs.

Not Reinventing The Wheel

Core Set 2021 is not a set that reinvents the wheel, but given the current state of Magic this is a good thing. Rather, it does an excellent job putting nice treads and rims on the wheel, helping out already established themes at a relatively modest power level.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

While I question the wisdom of adding Ugin, the Spirit Dragon to a Standard format that already contains some of the best ramp we've ever seen, the set is overall a hit for me. Most of these brews were fun to play and I'd imagine that things are going to get even better post-rotation when a lot of cards have more room to breathe.

For now though, I'll be brewing!

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