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Exploring Kaladesh in Standard


Collected Company
Hey everyone!

The Kaladesh spoiler is complete and we have a lot of options in Standard. Most articles highlight decks that are built around new cards and push their synergies to the limit; that’s not how I build. My ultimate goal in exploring the new Standard environment is to do well at Pro Tour: Kaladesh. I want to go over some decks you might expect to face at SCG Indianapolis on October 1. My strength as a deck-builder comes from working on existing archetypes so let’s get to it.

What’s the level 1 metagame going to look like?

Bant Company loses both Collected Company and Dromoka's Command. This means it’s hard for the new Bant decks to play at instant-speed. This deck is still full of powerful cards that weren’t lost in the rotation.

Black/Green Delirium lost Languish so it will have to speed up and be more creature-oriented.

Emrakul ramp decks lost Nissa's Pilgrimage and Explosive Vegetation which means it has to be more interactive. Emerge decks lose Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, but can be replaced by Vessel of Nascency.

U/B Zombies lost Jace and that’s about it. G/W Tokens can play Gearhulks instead of Tragic Arrogance. They need to play a faster game because Hangarback Walker and Evolutionary Leap have rotated. U/R Fevered Visions is still a great deck to play if you want to crush slower decks. They even picked up Chandra, Torch of Defiance to increase the overall power level.

Whew! That’s a lot of action and barely touched on any new cards. Most of the decks I described were tier 2 thanks to the dominance of Bant Company so this rotation is sure to shake things up.

Let’s get started by discussing what Bant might look like going forward:

Archangel Avacyn
Thalia, Heretic Cathar isn’t always a main deck card in Bant decks, but I see a large move to creature-oriented strategies. This is because Languish rotated and Black control needs to speed up. Tragic Arrogance was another reset button versus creature decks that rotated as well. There are new sweepers like Fumigate, but destroying creatures is weak against Selfless Spirit and Archangel Avacyn. I don’t know about you, but I want to be on creature side of things.

Tamiyo, Field Researcher is an obvious replacement for Collected Company, but I doubt 3 or 4 copies is the correct number. I don’t want to draw multiples and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is still a fantastic card. The idea with this list is to operate like a G/W deck splashing some of the strongest Blue spells in Standard — Spell Queller and Reflector Mage.

Duskwatch Recruiter is still a strong card, but loses some of its luster with Collected Company out of the picture. It’s still possible to play at instant-speed thanks to Avacyn and Spell Queller, but my 4-drops are now Planeswalkers. It’s not that I am in love with Duskwatch Recruiter, but it’s a good late-game top-deck that doesn’t raise my curve too much.

Selfless Spirit is a fantastic 2-drop, but has some issues against B/G Delirium. Liliana, the Last Hope is still a hell of a card in Standard and playing 1-toughness creatures is a liability. With that being said, I want to have game against sweepers.

Declaration in Stone is going to be a serviceable removal spell, but it’s no Dromoka's Command. Since this is going to be the default removal spell in White decks the matchup against Kozilek's Return decks will be better for Bant than in the previous Standard environment. Elder Deep-Fiend is tough to kill in a fight.

I can see G/W creature decks taking a sweeper approach in the sideboard which should be reminiscent of the Tragic Arrogance plan out of Bant Company and G/W Tokens. Cataclysmic Hulk gets around opposing Archangel Avacyn and Selfless Spirit so it has its strengths. Fumigate is bad against Avacyn and Selfless Spirit, but plays well with your Selfless Spirits. Keep in mind that if creatures have indestructible you don’t gain a life for destroying it. Maybe there’s a new version of W/B Control that plays Fumigate as a sweeper and Liliana, the Last Hope to embarrass Selfless Spirit.

Noose Constrictor is my new anti-creature sideboard card. Smuggler’s Copter will be everywhere, so I need to be able to block flyers. I used to be a big fan of Lambholt Pacifist, but it has been significantly weakened since reach will be key. The constrictor is also good against potential Fevered Visions decks. U/R used to be very weak to Dromoka's Command, but now is it’s chance to shine. I expect this deck to show up in the early weeks because it’s an obvious foil to Emerge and Emrakul strategies. Noose Constrictor can also be brought in against B/G Delirium to swap out Selfless Spirit because I don’t want 1-toughness creatures against Liliana. I’m mentioning a lot of matchups I want Noose Constrictor so it might find a home in the main deck. I hesitate to play it in the main deck because when Emrakul controls your turn the last thing you need is a creature that discards your entire hand! Sigarda, Heron's Grace gives you hexproof to prevent Emrakul from stealing turns, but she isn’t better than Avacyn or Verdurous Gearhulk.

Now let’s move over to another strong contender from old Standard:

Traverse the Ulvenwald
This deck is going to be a key player that didn’t gain many new cards, but it must adapt due to Languish rotating. Since I can’t easily sweep the board it’s important to be more proactive than before.

Grim Flayer and Sylvan Advocate are two great early creatures that play well in the later turns. The early game is rounded out with some solid removal spells — Grasp of Darkness and Dead Weight. Transgress the Mind is key because I want to be the midrange deck that beats Emerge and Emrakul strategies. Kozilek's Return is typically favored against midrange Green, but Black cards attack their hand to even the playing field.

Traverse the Ulvenwald gets some interesting new silver bullets to find from Kaladesh. Verdurous Gearhulk is a great card that also happens to be an artifact for delirium. I imagine myself tutoring for this bad boy often because it allows Sylvan Advocate and Grim Flayer to be the largest creatures on the battlefield. I wish I could play more copies, but I still need room for Ishkanah, Grafwidow and other haymakers. I’m going to try a Distended Mindbender as a silver bullet against Emerge and ramp decks. Emrakul is my key to going over the top in midrange matchups. The final bullet is Noxious Gearhulk; I’m less high on this threat, but it’s worth a shot.

Ruinous Path is my answer to Chandra, Torch of Defiance, which I expect to show up in force. It’s also a removal spell that scales well (awaken) and is able to kill any creature while the rest of the removal focuses on toughness (Grasp and Dead Weight). Remember that Awakened lands get +2+2 from Sylvan Advocate.

The sideboard has some interesting additions:

Since Llanowar Wastes rotated, it’s hard for Black decks to pivot with Eldrazi against ramp and control. This means Reality Smasher’s stock takes a hit, but fear not, Nissa, Vital Force can hit hard, too!

I want to be able to remove Emrakul and Elder Deep-Fiend from the game with Infinite Obliteration, but it rotated. That’s all right because we get a new toy — Lost Legacy. Rather than only being able to hit creatures, it can take non-artifact spells. It’s not all upside because each copy I remove from the hand allows my opponent to draw a card. I only bring this in for matchups where taking a specific card from their deck cripples them. This won’t come up often, but I can also target myself with Lost Legacy to cycle a card and thin my deck of a useless spell.

Flaying Tendrils saw little play because it was overshadowed by Languish. Now that this is the best Black sweeper effect I can see myself boarding it in versus the hyper-aggressive decks that utilize Smuggler’s Copter.

The last deck I want to discuss is one that will be favored against the midrange Green decks: Cryptolith Rite.

Eldrazi Displacer
This list was inspired by Gerry Thompson. It’s a great way to abuse Verdurous Gearhulk which is almost certainly going to define the format. This deck will miss Collected Company, but will be strong enough without Dromoka's Command in the format. My initial concerns with this deck is the weakness to Liliana, the Last Hope and Cataclysmic Gearhulk. I can play around Chandra, Torch of Defiance by pumping Verdurous Gearhulk to a 5/5 when it enters the battlefield. These are the three cards to consider in deck-building to begin the format.

Selfless Spirit is here to avoid getting swept by Kozilek's Return and Fumigate. I also want some creatures with evasion because I can fly over blockers and attack for massive damage with Verdurous Gearhulk’s ability.

The main draw to playing this deck is Eldrazi Displacer. I can’t say enough good things about this card when there is so much mana generated from Cryptolith Rites. When the board stalls I will be able to easily crash in for enough damage by blinking out Verdurous Gearhulk or Reflector Mage. I was considering adding Spell Queller, but decided against it on account of the mana requirements.

Aether Hub already has gotten plenty of love and for good reason. I could splash Black for Catacomb Sifter if Liliana gets too popular. This is because Eldrazi Skyspawner would be the cut. If I play Abzan instead of Bant I get 2 fast lands — Concealed Courtyard and Blooming Marsh. This might be enough of a draw to drop the Reflector Mage.

Modern Updates

I’m spending the most time thinking about Standard, but I haven’t forgotten about Modern. There are plenty of decks I want to talk about, but this one is super fun so I at least wanted to get the decklist out. A teammate of mine, Stu Parnes, has been tearing up the local Modern scene with this bad boy and I’ve decided to follow suit:

This list plays out like the Naya Company deck from last year except it has a sweet combo finish. Thanks to Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch the following sequence can occur:

Retreat to Coralhelm
The idea is to use Retreat to Coralhelm to untap Knight of the Reliquary so she continues to search for fetch lands and forests/plains. Each time you do this another land goes to the graveyard to make knight larger and it can net a mana to cast the other spells in hand. Since the fetch land gets an additional trigger it’s possible to tap all opposing blockers before swinging with a huge knight for the win. I don’t want Kessig Wolf-Run because trample isn’t required; especially if it means adding a fourth color. In fact, once you’re comboing off there isn’t a specific land needed. There can be some corner-cases where Sejiri Steppe is needed to make knight protection from a color since you can’t tap creatures with hexproof. Even in that scenario you can simply attack with the large knight on the following turn.

I can play Gavony Township over Westvale Abbey, but I think it’s less powerful. Both colorless lands shine in similar situations so I don’t need both. If I have a lot of creatures both of these lands will take over the game quickly. Westvale Abbey is able to close out a game faster against burn and unfair decks. There are plenty of gold cards in the deck so I don’t want too many lands that only add colorless.

There are plenty of basic Plains and Forest because they can be sacrificed to Knight of the Reliquary. Since this is a combo deck I do need to make some concessions. If playing a bunch of basics in Modern is wrong then I don’t want to be right.

Spellskite and Voice of Resurgence disrupt fair decks so I can attack with a large knight. The disruption is continued with Spell Queller. I can kick it Standard-style and cast Collected Company into Spell Queller to counter their spell. Spellskite and Selfless Spirit out of the board can protect the ? flyer against removal-heavy decks.

This is a solid deck for a Modern tournament because the creatures can fight against a wide range of threats. Qasali Pridemage and Scavenging Ooze also provide the tools to fight a variety of unfair strategies.

Courser of Kruphix and Collected Company round out the fair component of the deck. I like playing creature decks that can hang with Jund and Abzan. It can be frustrating trying to assemble a combo that can be easily disrupted by a timely Lightning Bolt or Path to Exile.

Knight of the Reliquary
Retreat to Coralhelm and Knight of the Reliquary give this deck a powerful angle of attack that is competitive in any Modern event. You need a good reason to play a deck that lacks the ability to kill from nowhere and all that’s needed is 3 Retreat to Coralhelm. When I play a deck it’s important to have cards that are powerful in a vacuum. Retreat to Coralhelm is a “bad” card by itself, but not unplayable. I can sit tight with a fetch land in play and tap a creature on my opponent’s turn. If I have Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise in play untapping a creature can net me a mana by having a land enter the battlefield (it’s basically a Lotus Cobra). The scry component is also not irrelevant either. When I draw too many lands I want the ability to find my powerful effects.

I like this deck because it feels like my old friend, Splinter Twin. The only difference is I can play my Splinter Twin card onto an empty battlefield and have it affect the board. The only downside to going for the win is that I have to expose Knight of the Reliquary to a removal spell. That’s a pretty small cost since I was going to cast my spells at some point anyway.

There are a lot of directions to take this deck so this is only the beginning. My primary focus when building a deck like this is to try and remove as many unnecessary cards to support the combo as possible. Collected Company and Knight of the Reliquary can tempt me to be too cute, but I want a lean Modern deck.

Once Standard settles down I hope to talk about this deck more and will have an updated list.

Also, before I go I wanted to share my most recent Jeskai Flash deck as it has been performing well for the select few who have picked it up:

The main deck is basically the same (swapped a Sulfur Falls for a Glacial Fortress). I added Blade Splicers to the sideboard to fight against midrange and Eldrazi decks. I don’t want Vendilion Clique versus Lingering Souls, so a grindy 3-drop is exactly what I need. Splicer is also good against Affinity because I can put a colorless blocker into play for Etched Champion; I only want 2 for the matchup. My matchup against dredge suffered as a result because I cut down to 1 Grafdigger's Cage.

I added another Runed Halo to the board because I want more against Eldrazi, Infect, Boggles, Dredge, and most importantly, TitanShift.

Izzet Staticaster was also great for me so I added another to the sideboard. Elves could be a troublesome matchup without the sweepers so I want as many pingers as I can possibly fit.

Thanks for reading!


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