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Ten New Zendikar Rising 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 Wednesday and are my first stabs at the Zendikar Rising Standard format. Most are brews jam packed with Zendikar Rising 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!

*Cue movie voiceover guy voice*

Imagine a world... where War of the Spark... is no longer legal in Standard...

That world is now a reality! Zendikar Rising is here, bringing with it a whole host of intriguing new Magic cards and a much needed Standard rotation. We've got old favorites like landfall and Lotus Cobra, along with new mechanics to try and figure out like modal double faced cards. Seriously, how many lands are we supposed to play?

Today as per usual we're going to go over all ten decks I built and played on my stream Wednesday 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: 3-0

Deck's Grade: A+

Deck Potential: Extremely High

Talk about a lead off home run... Ricky Henderson would be proud!

Lotus Cobra

Look, here's the deal. Maybe you weren't around the last time he was in Standard, but this is a Lotus Cobra's world and we're just living in it. If your deck can't kill a Lotus Cobra or do something fundamentally broken, you're going to be in trouble in this new Standard format. Even without the original Zendikar fetchlands like were available the last time around, the mana generation that Lotus Cobra creates in concert with the ramp already in the format and Fabled Passage is just absurd. Ramp was already the best Standard deck and Lotus Cobra slots in perfectly.

But this is much more than just a Lotus Cobra deck. With Yorion, Sky Nomad as both our companion as well as in our main deck, we've got tons of room to do a whole host of broken things.

Omnath, Locus of Creation
Phylath, World Sculptor
Genesis Ultimatum

Omnath, Locus of Creation is the real deal, a very 2020 Magic design concentration of size and toughness, card advantage, mana production, and a win condition. If you have an Omnath in play for a turn or two the advantage is unbelievable. Phylath, World Sculptor also sits on the top of the curve to provide an amazing amount of threats that can go tall or wide, while Genesis Ultimatum provides combo like potential alongside all of the aforementioned cards.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

Did I mention this deck also plays Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, probably the best card in the format that will almost assuredly be banned in the coming months?

If you're looking for a serious early contender, look no further.


Deck's Record: 1-2

Deck's Grade: C

Deck Potential: Low

Okay let's come back to earth.

Aside from the return of landfall, one of the bigger mechanics in Zendikar Rising is the Party mechanic, which wants to see you control some combination of a wizard, cleric, rogue, and warrior. It's a very clever take on tribal themes, which usually just devolve to "collect em all" deck-building. There's just one major problem.

"Base Camp enters the battlefield tapped."

...are you $#!%ing me?

Oko, Thief of Crowns, Once Upon a Time, and Teferi, Time Raveler are all okay, but god forbid we allow the scrappy creature deck which is going to be fundamentally underpowered anyway to cast it's spells on time!?! Was Tournament Grounds or Unclaimed Territory just too good? As such, our mana isn't great and we felt it a ton in the games.

Concerted Defense
Archpriest of Iona
Acquisitions Expert

Still there are some good cards here, with Concerted Defense as the standout, allowing the deck to play a bit of a tempo game. Archpriest of Iona and Seasoned Hallowblade are good beaters, and Acquisitions Expert is another decent piece of interaction.

If only the mana wasn't so bad.


Deck's Record: 1-4

Deck's Grade: C+

Deck Potential: Better Than Record Indicates

Unfortunately, sometimes Magic is Magic and our games with this deck were ugly. We mulliganed a bunch and didn't play lands in over half these games, which made it hard to draw a clear picture of how the deck performed. Still, this is definitely a scrappy deck that's much more in line with 2010 Magic than 2020 Magic; Lots of cheap spells, small ball card advantage, and no big way to go over the top.

Still, it did that job pretty well.

Sea Gate Stormcaller
Jace, Mirror Mage
Roost of Drakes

The card advantage is certainly there, with Sea Gate Stormcaller and Jace, Mirror Mage overperforming. Roost of Drakes was also quietly very nice, providing good value for a cheap investment that could also be an enabler later in the game. The interaction was good, but you've gotta make your land drops and keep your opponent off balance.

Clearwater Pathway
Temple of Deceit

This was the decks biggest problem. While the average converted cost of the deck is very low, the reality is that you need a good amount of mana to kick your spells and have plenty to do with it. This deck needs at least two more lands, if not three.


Deck's Record: 3-1

Deck's Grade: A

Deck Potential: High

Theros Beyond Death gave us a very interesting enchantment-based land engine that was powerful but never had much to do. Well, thanks to Zendikar Rising, it now has a ton to do!

Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
Nessian Wanderer
Setessan Champion

Nessian Wanderer finds lands while Setessan Champion draws you cards, and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove triggers both while allowing you to deploy those lands rapidly. There are a number of good enchantments that play into this constellation-based engine, like Banishing Light for removal and Wolfwillow Haven for some additional ramp.

Felidar Retreat
Phylath, World Sculptor
Valakut Exploration

If constellation is the engine, Zendikar Rising straps it to some booster rockets. The synergy between Felidar Retreat and Phylath, World Sculptor is obvious, further helped by the fact that both cards are great by themselves. Adding in Valakut Exploration further turbo charges everything; once the engine is fully assembled you get to plow through your deck.

It's possible this should be a Lotus Cobra deck, but it was very impressive regardless.


Deck's Record: 4-0

Deck's Grade: B+

Deck Potential: Surprisingly High?

Look, "Boros Equipment" has been an attempted and failed theme almost half a dozen times at this point. As such, I didn't expect much from our equipment deck. Boy was I surprised!

Shadowspear
Maul of the Skyclaves
Fervent Champion

Frankly, we just ran people over. Fervent Champion and Seasoned Hallowblade, backed up by Maul of the Skyclaves did some serious work, with Alpine Houndmaster flooding the board and attacking for a bunch. We beat our opponents up so bad that we never really had time to get Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients going.

Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients

This is somewhat of a common occurrence during the Early Access events, as if you're doing aggressive things your opponent's untuned decks just fold over; We won all four games in less than 20 minutes. We will see how this deck fares and if it wants Winota, Joiner of Forces going forward.


Deck's Record: 3-1

Deck's Grade: B-

Deck Potential: Medium

Speaking of surprises, our second attempt at partying hard actually worked out pretty well.

Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats
Nighthawk Scavenger
Tajuru Paragon

I called Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats my "best in show" for multicolored cards in my set review, and while that's going to look stupid in the future thanks to how good Omnath is, Zagras really overperformed. Nighthawk Scavenger was also good, although it didn't look as good at other points during the event. Tajuru Paragon was the true gem, being good early and late and helping everything else to run smoothly.

Bloodchief's Thirst
Deadly Alliance
Agadeem's Awakening

Throw in some quality removal spells and perhaps the best of the mythic spell lands and we've got a nice little beatdown deck. We still have the problem of having very awkward mana, but it doesn't really seem like there is a solution to that one at this time.


Deck's Record: 3-1

Deck's Grade: A-

Deck Potential: Medium to High

Vindicated!

Slitherwisp

You may not remember, which is probably for the better, that I was extremely high on Slitherwisp during the Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths preview season. Of course, Dimir Flash just didn't have the tools and therefore crashed and burned, leaving Slitherwisp as a forgotten bulk rare.

No more!

Soaring Thought-Thief
Merfolk Windrobber
Zareth San, the Trickster

Rogues are a major theme in Zendikar Rising, with a number of powerful elements that run in the same spaces that flash synergies do. They're cheap, efficient, and now thanks to Soaring Thought-Thief and Zareth San, the Trickster can actually hit hard as well and close out a game. All these incidental mill effects play perfectly into a few cards that we already have in Standard to make a very interesting synergy-based aggro deck.

Drown in the Loch
Thieves' Guild Enforcer
Brazen Borrower

Drown in the Loch is the real prize, which quickly becomes a Counterspell / Terminate split card, while Thieves' Guild Enforcer is the perfect 1-drop enabler that is also a threat later in the game as well. Round it out with some high quality cards like Brazen Borrower and Eliminate and you've got a very nice little brew.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is definitely a major concern, but there's something real here.


Deck's Record: 2-1

Deck's Grade: B-

Deck Potential: Medium

Unfortunately, I had some ISP issues while playing this deck and streaming that impacted the results a bit, but it still was quite impressive as an aggressive synergy deck.

Conclave Mentor
Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager
Luminarch Aspirant

Conclave Mentor has been waiting for the day it could step out of Winding Constrictor's shadow, as it is a very powerful card that just needed the right home. Well it certainly has some new friends! Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager is exceedingly impressive even outside of +1/+1 counter synergies, providing a durable threat that is hard to kill and pushes the theme. Furthermore, Luminarch Aspirant is one of the big sleepers in Zendikar Rising and is amazing in this deck.

Swarm Shambler
Wildwood Scourge
Mythos of Nethroi

Otherwise the deck is filled out with a great supporting cast. Swarm Shambler is all you could ask for from a 1-drop, and it joins other great counter cards like Wildwood Scourge and Stonecoil Serpent to help push the theme. Mythos of Nethroi also gets to find a home as a really good removal spell.

The mana is a little rough, but there's something very nice here.


Deck's Record: 1-3

Deck's Grade: D

Deck Potential: Low to Medium

I do love a good Izzet deck, but we really struggled with this one.

Magmatic Channeler
Sea Gate Stormcaller

Magmatic Channeler and Sea Gate Stormcaller were nice, but both wanted to play a nickel and dime card advantage game against decks that were often going huge. Once Magmatic Channeler became a 4/4, which was pretty quickly, it often just wasn't really enough to get through. It's possible the deck just wants to be aggressive and play Sprite Dragon.

Rielle, the Everwise
Kazuul's Fury
The Royal Scions

There were some nice things happening with Rielle, the Everwise and either the Fling effect on Kazuul's Fury or the trample on The Royal Scions, but the deck felt like it wasn't sure if it wanted to be a card advantage deck, an aggro deck, or a pseudo-combo deck.

This one needs some work.


Deck's Record: 3-1

Deck's Grade: B+

Deck Potential: Medium, higher if decks focus on ramp and not interaction

Our last deck is something of a throwback, to a combo we played during the Core Set 2021 Early Access Event.

Underworld Dreams
Peer into the Abyss

If you have an Underworld Dreams out and play Peer into the Abyss targeting your opponent, you should win the game on the spot. While this worked out very poorly in a world of Teferi, Time Raveler, Wilderness Reclamation, and infinite interaction, if everyone is focusing on going over the top of each other with big ramp payoffs then having a two card combo kill is very appealing.

Bloodchief's Thirst
Nighthawk Scavenger
Pelakka Predation

We never actually executed the combo in our four games, but won most of them anyway on the back of a solid fair gameplay with a bunch of new cards. Bloodchief's Thirst is one of the best cards in the set, while Nighthawk Scavenger did a good job of keeping our opponent busy. The spell lands in Pelakka Predation and Hagra Mauling were excellent, letting us play the necessary large amount of lands without flooding.

Mazemind Tome
Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Throw in some card draw from Mazemind Tome and good ole Gray Merchant of Asphodel and we had a nice double threat deck here.

Kick Flip Off The Party Ramp

While Ramp does certainly seem to continue to be extremely strong in Standard, we had a lot of fun across all ten of these decks with a pretty wide variety of strategies. Here's hoping that Zendikar Rising Standard is a fun a flexible format.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

The one wrinkle left is Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, which they really should ban sooner rather than later. Uro is already stupid, but alongside Lotus Cobra and all the other good ramp options in the set it just feels like a foregone conclusion it will eventually be banned. Pull the bandaid off now and get it done with.

Regardless, I can't wait to brew more! Look for an updated version of one of these decks in my video article on Monday right here on CoolStuffInc.com!

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