What Should I Play?
Or more to the immediate point, maybe... What should I buy?
Last Friday night I played some kind of strange Magic: The Gathering where you only shuffle up forty cards instead of sixty (rather, seventy-five). I felt somewhat familiar because, just as in proper Magic: The Gathering including Core Set 2020, Nightpack Ambusher was still the best card in my deck. But with a head-scratching 1-2 finish at FNM... Let's just say this is not the kind of spellcasting one might want to make a habit of.
I actually think I might have played every single Friday Night Magic of War of the Spark Standard (and a handful of Saturday Standard Showdowns, even!); and while I know I'm not going to be able to repeat that with Core Set 2020 Standard due to planned travel logistics, I still need to be armed for the weeks I can show up, don't you think?
I tested out the three most interesting decks of the format that I'd seen so far, to try to get a read on where I should obtain new cards. For me, those three decks were...
Here's what I found...
Simic Omniscience | Core Set 2020 Standard | PYKAPOWER
I played exactly PYKAPOWER'S 5-0 deck list from last week's MTGO League results. PYKAPOWER's deck at the top end was the most exciting of the new options. It's rare that a viable infinite combo deck is available in Standard.
One of the things I loved about this deck was that, assuming people don't start playing a lot of permission spells, the deck is going to just go unopposed in Game 1s. The previous "Big Spell" strategies from War of the Spark Standard are kind of a joke compared to what PYKAPOWER's deck can do. It doesn't matter if the opponent steals all your key permanents. It doesn't matter if they Command the Dreadhorde to an indomitable zombie army.
Even if you don't go off-go off to completely infinite combo the game, you will generally leave yourself in a vastly superior position to the opponent after a key Flood of Tears.
... But of course that's not what you're trying to do.
Setup here is to run out at least four non-land permanents. Urban Utopia and Risen Reef can help you get ahead on cards while putting non-land permanents in play. Gift of Paradise accelerates your mana. Any Planeswalker is a permanent that can help you get closer to your key cards of Omniscience and Flood of Tears; but Tamiyo, Collector of Tales is the most important one.
The simple combo is to cast Flood of Tears with four permanents in play, ideally including a Tamiyo [which has in a perfect world already gotten you an Omniscience]. Resolve Flood of Tears, drop Omniscience; free spell out Tamiyo to re-buy the Flood of Tears. Rinse. Repeat.
If all you have is an Urban Utopia or Risen Reef, you'll draw your deck. If all you have is a Gift of Paradise, you'll pass the turn with a trillion life. End game is generally drawing a card with a the lone Jace, Wielder of Mysteries in play... Which is of course lethal for the other player. It's also spectacular to see, if somewhat time consuming. Not since the days of Thawing Glaciers, Turnabout, and Time Spiral have we been so able to lay our entire decks on the table.
- Is Risen Reef even good in this deck? Risen Reef and Leafkin Druid seem more cute than good... But on the other hand I was glad to be testing some Risen Reef deck, given the popularity of the card.
- How about Bant? Teferi, Time Raveler seems like just what this deck wants (and can ape a lot of what Risen Reef provides)
- That Overflowing Insight seems g-d terrible. Spoilers! I sided it out every single match.
4-1 is a heck of an opening swing.
I was actually relatively impressed with the mini-Elementals aspect of the deck. I don't know that splashing for Teferi is actually the best way to go. Like I said before, I sided out Overflowing Insight every single match (usually for a permission spell). Though the deck was powerful going very long, it felt like a lot of work to get there.
I played XFILE's deck, which is mostly an Angels deck, that happens to play Feather ,the Redeemed alongside thirteen other Angels:
Boros Angels | Core Set 2020 Standard| XFILE
- Creatures (25)
- 4 Bishop of Wings
- 4 Resplendent Angel
- 3 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
- 3 Lyra Dawnbringer
- 3 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
- 4 Feather, the Redeemed
- 4 Tomik, Distinguished Advokist
- Instants (4)
- 4 Reckless Rage
- Sorceries (4)
- 4 Lava Coil
- Enchantments (2)
- 2 Prison Realm
All the creatures in this deck have at least 3 toughness, meaning they all combine effectively with Reckless Rage. Feather is the best, of course; but the deck is much less a Feather deck than an Angels deck generally.
- I wasn't sure about those Lava Coils. Shock seems great to me main deck; and I was a little concerned about the non-presence of anything to interact with Planeswalkers (other than just attacking). Lightning Strike maybe? At the same cost at least it can take out one of these fancy new Elementals-brand Elves.
- On that note, there are no real takeover powerhouses in the deck's sideboard. I would have liked to see a couple of copies of The Immortal Sun or some such.
- This is not the fastest beatdown deck or the grindiest midrange deck. If it gets behind, it's probably going to stay behind. Among other things, outside of two Prison Realms, XFILE's build can't deal with large creatures at all.
Or, at least, good enough for 4-1 again!
Gimme some contrast...
I finished off my initial testing with Simic Flash.
Simic Flash | Core Set 2020 Standard | URZA2109
- Creatures (20)
- 4 Brineborn Cutthroat
- 4 Frilled Mystic
- 4 Merfolk Trickster
- 4 Nightpack Ambusher
- 4 Spectral Sailor
- Planeswalkers (3)
- 3 Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer
This is a deck we focused deeply on Top Level Podcast last week. I think it offers something very different from the rest of the format, and that something is especially good against the Planeswalker-based decks of War of the Spark Standard.
With the exception of three Planeswalkers, the entire Simic deck plays at instant speed. It can get a clock on you with Spectral Sailor or 1- of the 2-drops, but the signature creature is Nightpack Ambusher. Unless something is going grievously wrong (or you get an opening gift wrapped on your turn), the biggest Wolf essentially guarantees a steady stream of power and toughness while leaving all your mana open.
If you get any clock in play - even a 1/1 - most decks have real problems keeping pace. They have to play into your mana. You might snip them with a Syncopate or gain a small tempo advantage... Or you might land a Frilled Mystic and essentially end it. Playing a lot of Mono-Green Superfriends last season, I felt like a well-placed Frilled Mystic would consistently be game-ending. A 3/2 isn't literally the end of the world, but the combination of mana (my whole turn, probably), my best card, and them putting a decent clock in play swung the advantage bar dramatically. The other deck has to play catch-up but you have a hand full of cards that stop them from catching up.
- Do I want the last two copies of Temple of Mystery?
It felt really crappy to finish my fifteen games on a manascrew loss, but all the decks performed exactly the same.
What deck(s) should I invest in, then? It seems I'll want to own four copies of Risen Reef, right? But the Omniscience deck "felt" like the most work, and was the most shaky. The fact that any deck with removal can screw up your combo if you're banking on returning a Risen Reef or Leafkin Druid as one of your four permanents is no small matter.
Boros is of course the most "me" deck of the three; but it has some structural problems that still have me wondering. Any deck that wants to beat you will. On the other hand, there is no deck I've seen yet that is better at beating the decks I liked the last season. Crush Red and crush Nissa? Come on!
The "best" deck from my non-quantitative perspective is Simic Flash. Basically, if you're not behind, I feel like this deck is built to assemble a winning position. Specifically the Ambusher can help you catch up when you are behind, and the deck's flashy Quirion Druid is going to be one of the most exciting new cards to watch.
If I could only make one deck it would be the third. But crazy that they all went 4-1, no?